Mormon bean counting doesn’t always add up …
I just received my annual copy of the Church Almanac for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and am struck by just how precise it is when it comes to counting its worldwide membership.
Let’s start with the statistical profile at the start. It says total membership as of Jan 1, 2009, was 13,508,509. That’s pretty specific for a headcount that exceeds the population of many of the world’s countries.
Membership in the United States — the birthplace of the Mormon faith — was put at 5,974,041. Mexico has the second largest national membership at 2,092,389. It would seem no rounding up or down with these folks though total membership in South America was a nice roundish 3,278,400.
In Africa, a growth area for Christianity and Islam, the flock was put at 280,828. The Middle East is a region where, unsurprisingly, the Mormons have made little headway. There the faith’s numbers were put at 3,161.
On a national level, it is only when the number falls below 100 that an exact figure is not used. So, just looking at some of the Ls, one finds church membership in Latvia of 1,025, in Lesotho 606, in Liberia 5,039 and in Liechtenstein “fewer than 100.”
But they even include specific population percentages and ratios. Thus we are told that Mongolia’s 8,444 members account for 0.28 percent of the population or one in every 360 Mongolians. Moldova’s 285 members are 0.006 percent of its national population or one in 15,161 Moldovans.
In the western U.S. state of Utah, which is the Mormon stronghold, 68 percent of the population is LDS.
Many faiths try and tabulate their numbers though I know of few which attempt to do it in such a finely-tuned manner.
However, I did catch one error in their bean counting. The statistical profile on the front gives the worldwide total and then two breakdowns — one regional, the other by administrative area.
The total membership by administrative area adds up to the 13,508,509. But the regional breakdown adds up to, well, 14,446,054.
A mortified spokesman for the church checked the numbers as well and confirmed the error. After he made some checks with the LDS statistical staff they determined the regional totals had been botched by the publisher.
So I had not uncovered a few hundred thousand extra “Saints”. The error would only be noticed by someone who bothered to count up the regional numbers and is of course absolutely harmless. But with such a precise organization one would expect it will not be repeated in the future ….