Editor’s Note: The article originally read there was a 98% drop in convert baptisms, which was due to a calculation error (and would obviously represent nearly 0 baptisms). We apologize and regret the error.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quietly released its annual statistical report during the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference, and numbers fell across the board compared to 2019, something many expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While these reports were previously read from the pulpit, during the presidency of Russell M. Nelson they have typically been released online with less fanfare at some point during the conference weekend.
Latter-day Saints regularly wait excitedly to learn about the total number of members of the global faith, especially when approaching major milestones, such as when church membership will likely cross 17 million worldwide in a few years.
Unfortunately, due to a massive slowdown with in-person missionary work, a reduced number of missionaries, and a scarcity of in-person meetings during 2020—all due to the pandemic—many of these beloved numbers have taken their largest hits in a generation.
Total church membership at the end of 2020 was 16,663,663, a mere 0.6% increase since 2019. 125,930 converts were baptized into the faith, a full 49% drop from 248,835 the year prior. In addition, many missionaries who came home during the initial phase of the pandemic and opted to delay the rest of their missions likely reduced the number of full-time missionaries in the field from 67,021 to 51,819 a 23% drop.
On the upside, the number of church service missionaries barely declined, from 31,333 to 31,136. The number of stakes increase from 3,437 to 3,463.
And as one might expect, only one temple was dedicated in 2020, the Durban South Africa Temple, which occurred prior to pandemic-related closures. A number of temples are now finished with construction or renovation but sit idle.
Many might latch onto these numbers as a sign of decline for the church, but they defy recent trends. Although growth rates have declined, they haven’t cratered this much at any point in recent history. Assuming the world approaches something resembling normalcy during the back half of 2021, we can expect numbers to improve in next year’s report.