On May 1st, 2012, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) released its 2010 U.S. Religion Census, which includes county-level data on congregations for 236 American religious bodies, and includes data on adherents available for 153 participating bodies. Primary media sources for this post include the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.
The ASARB compiles this study once per decade; consequently, the 2010 version measures growth from 2000-2010. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported an increase from 4,224,026 U.S. members in 2000 to 6,144,582 members in 2010, a 45.5 percent jump. While only second overall to Muslim growth of 66.7 percent during the same period, the LDS Church was the fastest growing Christian denomination. The LDS Church is also the largest religious body in 107 counties of the United States, and not all of them are in the Utah-Idaho corridor.
Here's a navigational guide to the ASARB study, which is spread out between the ASARB website and the Association of Religious Data (ARDA) archives where the raw numbers are posted:
-- U.S. Religion Census 2010: Summary Findings
-- ARDA Portal Page for membership breakdowns. From this page, you can browse reports stratified by state, county, and metro area.
-- Salt Lake Tribune's LDS Census Map
Information on the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) is also available through the ARDA Portal Page.
LDS Membership as a percentage of total population:
|Click map or go HERE for larger version|
LDS Membership Penetration:
|Click map or go HERE to download larger version as a ZIP file|
It should be noted that the LDS Church defines membership differently than most other denominations. Because records are centralized, this means that when a Mormon moves from one ward to another, that person still remains on the Church membership rolls. In contrast, if a Southern Baptist moves from one church to another, the person must affirmatively join the new church to still be counted as a Southern Baptist. Once one joins the LDS Church, one is considered a member until death, excommunication, or voluntary resignation, even if one becomes totally inactive.
Official LDS Church Reaction: "Surveys and statistics are sometimes helpful in understanding various aspects of the church, but, ultimately, we reach out to individuals, not numbers," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter. "By all indicators — including the church’s building program — the church is growing and we are grateful that people are embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Dr. Marie Cornwall, a professor of sociology at BYU, made an interesting observation. She noted that the most interesting LDS data in the Religion Census is seen while looking at the membership penetration map (posted above) and seeing where the church is not growing. "There are areas in the heartland of America where there has been an LDS presence for a long, long time, but we just don't seem to be growing much," she observed. "We've never really appealed to the blue-collar industrial demographic. These are the same people that Mitt Romney can't seem to impress. Why is that? I think that's something the church is probably taking a good long look at."