The numbers bounced back from 2020 levels, but are still behind pre-pandemic levels.
Growth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rebounded last year after falling off a coronavirus cliff in 2020, but the bounce remained far below pre-pandemic levels.
Overall membership rose by 141,737 to 16,805,400, according to 2021 statistics released Saturday as part of the faith’s 192nd Annual General Conference, a nearly 0.9% bump.
While that outpaced 2020′s 0.6% gain, it finished far below the 1.54% increase reported the prior year.
Full-time missionaries started returning in stronger numbers after tens of thousands of proselytizers were pulled back in 2020 due to COVID-19. The pandemic remains a barrier, but restrictions are being eased in many parts of the world.
The church noted it had 54,539 full-time proselytizers at the end last year and 36,639 service missionaries, up from 51,819 and 30,527, respectively, at the conclusion of 2020.
Even so, church leaders apparently desire to see those ranks grow by much more. Saturday’s conference speakers repeatedly emphasized the importance of young Latter-day Saints going on missions. Church President Russell M. Nelson called it a “priesthood responsibility” for young men (who can depart at age 18) and a “powerful” but “optional opportunity” for women (who can enlist at 19).
Thanks partly to its bolstered missionary force, the church saw an uptick in convert baptisms in 2021, to 168,283, a 35% spike from the previous year’s 125,930 — but, again, way behind the 248,835 in 2019.
Many members delayed baby blessings in 2020 and, to a lesser extent, last year — since Sunday services halted and then took place only remotely for long stretches of time — so fewer children were added to the faith’s rolls.
In 2020, the church reported 65,440 of these “children of record.” That number swelled by 36% to 89,069 last year and drew close to the 94,266 cited in 2019.
Despite the continuing COVID-19 struggles, the number of Latter-day Saint congregations around the world expanded last year to 31,315, a nearly 0.6% rise — similar to 2020′s upswing.