Put your money where your mouth is

For those who aren’t familiar with this phrase, it basically is asking someone who is bluffing, particularly in gambling – to ante up. To prove they can back up their boast.

I would like to officially ask why, in the twenty first century, with all the data and resources available to reporters and reviewers that the Utah LDS church is still being called “one of the fastest growing churches worldwide”. (Please see the attached review on Salon.com for an example of these types of claims).

Andrew O’Hehir’s review of People of Paradox by Teryl Givens

While Andrew O ‘Hehir doesn’t mention the “fastest growing” claim, he does cite the number of LDS worldwide as 13 million.

I would like LDS Inc. to put their money where their mouth is. I think many of us in the exmormon/post mormon community would like to see independent verification of the thirteen million number.

I would like to see this fact verified by reputable auditing firms with no financial stake in the outcome.

It may be true. LDS Inc. may be one of the fastest growing religions on the planet. Unlike an opinion like “LDS Inc is the world’s best religion” or “Aerin is the world’s best Mom” – the membership numbers can be counted and proven.

I would hope if LDS Inc. does decide to hire some sort of independent auditing firm, that there is a clear definition of who is and is not a member.

I would hope that I would not be included in the 12 million number (seeing as how I officially had my name removed in 1999). Or Natalie’s (of Trapped by the Mormons fame )- who has repeatedly tried to have her name removed and has not been successful.

I would hope that only living people would be included. I would also hope there was some sort of one year/seven year attendance policy. I would assume that someone who hadn’t attended a ward meeting in seven years is not considered a member. And if they are, it seems to me that’s an issue between that person and their bishop.

LDS Inc. claims to be the fast growing church is the world. In comparison, lots of Fortune 500 companies claim lots of things – increasing sales, growing markets, etc. Typically they are required to back up those claims – particularly for their shareholders. Many LDS shareholders/members might argue that the exact number doesn’t matter. Whether or not LDS Inc. is the fastest growing religion is not important to them. And that’s their right.

But I believe it’s important because it’s dishonest to make a claim you cannot prove. If one person joins mormonism/LDS Inc. because of this possible lie/exaggeration (13 million people can’t be wrong) that’s unethical. It goes against everything I was taught growing up Mormon – to be honest and true. To show integrity in all my dealings.

Particularly with the current US Presidential campaign, I’m certain that we may repeatedly hear this statistic. I would like to point out that it’s an empty statistic until there are valid numbers that can prove it.

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5 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    Yeah, I was frustrated with that Salon article as well (even though it’s really just a book review). It’s yet another fluffy “aren’t Mormons amusingly wacky” piece that recites the numbers from LDS Inc.’s press releases without a hint of a question.

    It’s exactly the same as that article that ran in The New Yorker around the time of the olympics: they threw in some of the standard negative “issues” to make it balanced and completely ignored the question of LDS Inc. cooking the books on membership figures and hiding the books financially, which is a far more interesting story than any of the tired chuckles over ballroom dancing or funeral potatoes or whatever…

  2. exmoron says:

    Well, I want to agree with this article, but it misses the deeper issue: this is a religion.

    As you said, “it’s important because it’s dishonest to make a claim you cannot prove.” Um, that’s religion in a nutshell. That’s what they do!! Basically I think most people don’t give a shit about the claimed number of Mormons because no one gives a shit about Mormonism, aside from Mormons and ex-Mormons.

    So, yes, I agree that it’s disingenuous and the religion shouldn’t make that claim, but that is really the equivalent of saying that President Bush shouldn’t claim he cares about saving taxpayer money because he has threatened to veto insurance programs for kids when the real issues surrounding his bogus claims are: (1) the trillion dollar war we are fighting in Iraq over oil, (2) the tax cuts he has passed for the wealthy that cut Clinton’s surplus into a deficit, and (3) the enormous increases in spending since Bush took office.

    Mormonism is dishonest for a number of reasons. The claimed number of members is a drop in the bucket!

  3. chanson says:

    I agree that lying about the membership numbers is not that big a deal compared to other things they’ve lied about. But I disagree about this point that the membership numbers are uninteresting to anyone but members and ex-members.

    Both the Salon article and the New Yorker article had the LDS church’s claimed growth as a major sub-theme: not just “here are some amusing wacky people” but “OMG, they’re taking over!!!” (more precisely: “But Mormonism just may be the first major world faith since Islam.”) If it’s not true and you fail to even mention that the numbers are questionable, then that’s sloppy reporting.

    I think that the relative sizes and growth trajectories of the various religions actually is an interesting topic in general, moreso than the particulars of the odd claims. For example: why is Pentacostalism growing — what’s its particular appeal at the moment? If it’s true — as appears to be the case — that Mormonism was experiencing real growth up through the ’80’s, and now is stagnating or even shrinking (yet is sitting on an ungodly amount of money…), that’s interesting and it’s news.

  4. Hellmut says:

    In my opinion, your analysis is a little off target, Exmoron.

    Claims about metaphysical matters are one thing.

    The problem that Aerin is invoking goes deeper than that. It is possible to determine membership numbers. Demographic statistics are not a matter of faith but of observable facts.

    As Daniel Patrick Moynihan quipped: “You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.”

    Faith might warrant statements about the nature of god and eternity. Faith does not warrant statements about verifiable facts.

  5. MoHoHawaii says:

    It’s pretty clear if you look at the church’s published numbers that they are cooking the books. For example, people who resign from the church are still counted as members.

    My back-of-the-envelope calculation gives about 3,000,000 people who consider themselves LDS. This number is approximately flat, despite aggressive recruitment.

    For me, the church’s misrepresentation of its membership statistics is an indicator of its overall character.

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