NEW YORK CITY—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, informally ‘the Mormons’) is on track to become the largest church both in the United States and in the world at large, and the second-largest religious body in the world, with well over two billion members, during the next hundred years. The “Mormon moment” is morphing into the Saints’ century. So says Mark Koltko-Rivera, Ph.D., an award-winning social scientist, in his latest book, The Rise of the Mormons: Latter-day Saint Growth in the 21st Century (7th Street Books), after analyzing Mormon membership figures, global population, and social trends. (See book website, URL below.)
Dr. Koltko-Rivera found that, contrary to popular belief, over 90% of Mormon growth is the result of the baptisms of converts—not the baptisms of children raised in the faith. Mormon missionary work has a major effect on Mormon growth.
Dr. Koltko-Rivera—who has taught over a dozen statistics courses at NYU—found that Mormon growth slowed after 1990 because the Saints expanded their missionary efforts into many new areas where missionary work initially was simply more difficult than in the western hemisphere, such as the former Soviet Bloc nations, and other countries in Asia and Africa. However, several of these countries now show huge LDS growth, such as Russia, which saw an 83% increase in Mormon membership from the end of 1999 through 2009.
Dr. Koltko-Rivera also found that the slowdown of Mormon growth is about to end. A combination of factors—a forthcoming increase in missionary numbers; improvements in missionary preparation; the recent formation of Mormon “stakes” (dioceses) in places like Russia and India—has set the stage for major Mormon expansion worldwide.
Assuming an LDS growth rate less than what the Saints actually achieved in the 1960s, Dr. Koltko-Rivera projects that the Mormons will grow to over 2.6 billion members worldwide by 2120. The Latter-day Saints would be the largest church on Earth, and the second-largest religious body in the world, following Islam.
In the United States, assuming a growth rate no higher than what the Mormons actually attained in the 1980s, Dr. Koltko-Rivera predicts that the LDS will grow to become America’s largest church by 2106.
Dr. Koltko-Rivera explains in his book that future Mormon growth will happen, in part, because several aspects of Mormon thought mesh especially well with the obsessions of Western societies, as those are shown in everything from scientific literature to movies and comic books. These Mormon positions include their positive attitude towards science, their doctrine of humanity’s potential for exaltation to godhood, and LDS teachings about a plurality of inhabited worlds in our universe.
In his book, Dr. Koltko-Rivera describes what a “more Mormon” world would be like: healthier, better educated, with more stable families, more concern for the poor and needy, and the right atmosphere for a new Renaissance in arts and letters.
Mark Koltko-Rivera holds a doctoral degree from the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University. For his scholarly research, he has been elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. A Latter-day Saint convert himself who is an active member of the Church, as a young man Koltko-Rivera served for two years as a Mormon missionary in Japan.
Softcover, 6 x 9, 412 pages, $16.95
Ebook: Kindle, $9.99 (Nook pending)
Amazon ASIN: B009OOWUP6
7th Street Books
PO Box 20223, New York, NY 10023
Publication: October 8, 2012