So I was sitting in Priesthood a few weeks ago when good ol’ Wilford Woodruff was quoted as to saying something about the Church’s amazing growth. This, of course, sparked positive comments from the Elders including the classic false superlative “fastest growing Church.” After a few more comments / proverbial pats on the back for our Church’s amazing growth, I made my comment.
I recently finished reading Creating the Millenium by Kent Huff (father of Times and Seasons permablogger Ben Huff). While I have future posts in the works to discuss some of the fun issues brought up by Kent, I want to focus on the first half here.
Kent sets the stage with a fairly extensive analysis of church growth. The following points stand out the most:
1) Church growth is around 3 percent
2) This growth does not seem to account for deaths or inactivity
3) Church growth is lower than national and world growth (we are shrinking as a percentage of the world population)
4) In 1997, the Church began reporting only births of children and ceased reporting eight-year-old baptisms. This coincided with a large drop in reported child baptisms. Thus, the change, of course, made growth look much better (historically, about 65 percent of children born into the Church are baptized).
So back to my comment in Priesthood:
Trying to be tactful, I gently made mention of items 1 through 3 above and, for good measure, mixed it in with the fact that Woodruff was around for quadruple digit percentage growth and probably wasn’t thinking of our measly three percent when musing aloud.
Two responses arose from the brethren, which side stepped the issue almost completely. The first response used the classic tactic of turn-a-negative-into-a-positive with an extremely general statement of “all the more reason why we should do better in life!” And the second response went something like this, “Well, we ARE a peculiar people after all. We have to remember that no matter how hard we try, we have to realize the fact that everyone has agency and many will choose not to follow.”
Everyone seemed to nod in agreement with these two statements, and that was that; the conversation moved on. Where do we go if we want to bring up an issue like this (we’re shrinking!) and/or study real facts without the Church-is-true bias that, to me, can seem downright damaging (hey everyone, let’s have an uplifting lesson by making up facts that support our interpretation of powerful words spoken by a dead prophet! Am I the only one bothered by this mentality?)? Of course I couldn’t comment again without seeming rude, so I’m posting my thoughts here.
Kent’s done one better; he’s written a book. Are there any other avenues for dispelling falsehoods while spreading truths no matter how painful?