10 million members worldwide

Sometime during the first week of November, the 10-millionth member will come unnoticed into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a quiet milestone of great significance.

This event, based on recent growth trends in the Church and estimated by the Church's Member and Statistical Records Division, comes within a constant stream of conversions that has continued since the organization of the Church in 1830.Statistically, the 10-millionth member is most likely to be a young adult in Latin America converted after taking missionary lessons. But the stream of new humanity within the Church ranges from a baby born in Utah to a convert baptized in the Ukraine: it could be a person in any of 160 lands where the Church has a presence.

However, because of the very size of the Church and the complexity of record keeping, no one will ever know who the 10-millionth member is, no more than was known of the 9-millionth member in 1994, or the 8-millionth member in 1991. Nor will any know who the 11-millionth member is in 2000, or the 12-millionth member in 2002. Of much more significance, however is that each convert to the Church comes with an individual and deeply personal account of his or her spiritual experience.

In the United States and Canada, the Church has an annual growth rate of about 2 percent, as compared with the national population growth rate of .89 percent. In the United States, the Church increases about the equivalent of one new stake every week and a half, or the equivalent of about one ward every other day, according to current statistics released by the Member and Statistical Records Division.

Outside the United States and Canada, the Church annually increases at the rate of about 5.6 percent, which amounts to enough new members to comprise one-and-a-half stakes a week, or about one-and-a-half wards a day.

The combined annual growth rate of the Church is about 3.8 percent, as compared with the world yearly population growth of 1.5 percent. The Church presently comprises about .17 of 1 percent of the world's population of 5.9 billion.

But in most countries and in the world as a whole, Church membership is small, a tiny minority of believers among an endless sea of faces. And no matter how big the Church grows, its story will continue to be a story of individuals, not of numbers. The gospel exerts its powerful influence on people one by one. Illustrative of this is the small group of individuals gathered randomly to represent the international nature of the Church on the cover of this week's Church News. The following is an account of how some of them joined the Church:

Roy Allen and LaVay Talk, the parents of Brad Roy Talk, 8, a Native American, are former Indian Service Placement students who were baptized at age 8. Both sets of their parents were baptized in the 1950s on the Navajo Reservation at Sheep Springs, N.M.

"The branch at Sheep Springs was dedicated by Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve," said Brad's mother. "He left a lasting impression on my grandparents. The challenge of being a Native American and living on the reservation has been smoothed by their paths."

Waisea M. Lesuma explained that his parents and family joined the Church in Fiji during a 10-year period, from 1971-81. "A little corrugated iron building was built on our piece of land so a few families in the village could come and worship," he said. His mother was buried near that little building as she requested, instead of her ancestral burial ground, because, she said, "These are now my family and friends."

Winston W. Wilkinson and his family had been searching for the right Church for years. "Through prayer we were brought to a person who introduced us to the gospel," he said. "We knew this was the right Church." They joined the Church in Maryland.

Jenneth B. Doria was in her homeland of Manila, Philippines, one evening. "I just finished reviewing for my final exams. I sat down and felt such a gnawing, hollow feeling inside. I thought that there was no reason for me to strive because of the recent loss of my father. I questioned the meaning of life. After several days, the missionaries came and taught me the gospel.

"It took a few weeks before I agreed to baptism because I had to sort out in my mind the different anti-Mormon materials I was given at the university I attended. However, I sincerely prayed and I received a very warm and good feeling that indeed the Book of Mormon is true."

Hector David Perez Parra, 6, is the son of Hector Parra and Marta Parra de Perez of Bucaramanga, Colombia, who are in Utah taking graduate courses. Sister Parra is in a chemical engineering doctorate program at the University of Utah.

Brother Parra learned about the Church when he began dating Marta, who was LDS, and she invited him to attend seminary and institute classes. "Having the gospel in our lives has made our family even happier and strengthened our values. Christ is the center of our lives," said Sister Perez.

Maritza Cruz joined the Church with her family in September 1993 in Mexico. "I didn't know anything about the Church before we joined. We made a change for the better, thanks to the gospel. Now we receive many blessings from Heavenly Father, especially as my brother is serving a mission."

Mark Sa'o-Iomanu Ahmu is a fourth-generation member whose ancestors joined the Church in Samoa. It was on land that his great-grandfather deeded to the Church for $1 that the Apia Samoa Temple and Samoa Apia Mission home now stand.

Kailee Elise Andersen's father and his parents and sister moved to the United States from Denmark in the early 1950s to join the Church. On her mother's side, she has pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains.

Tony and Maria Sciammarella, natives of Italy, immigrated to Brazil in 1974. "I searched for a long time to find the right Church," he said. "One day I was taking the bus home and the missionaries approached and asked me if I would like to know more about the Bible. I said, `Sure, why not.' We talked on the bus for one hour. When it was time for me to get off, I asked them to come to our home. We met with the missionaries for six months, and then I was baptized."

Fernando Caballero was introduced to the Church by his sister in Chile in 1961. He was baptized in 1962, and in 1967 filled a mission to Uruguay. After returning, he served as bishop, stake president and was the first Chilean mission president.

"I have the feeling that the Church will continue to grow in Chile," he said.

Katie Sarika Bergstrom, born in Goa, India, was adopted by Gaylyn and Shirley Bergstrom. "I am in the 9th grade taking seminary," she said. "I have a testimony of the Church and it has grown over the years."

Bertina Jacobsen is the granddaughter of a British convert, Anna Mariah Wilson, who was disowned at her conversion in 1852, and so traveled alone to America.

"Grandmother was a woman of great courage and determination," said Sister Jacobsen. Her grandfather, Thomas Fenton, was a nurseryman who helped with landscaping Temple Square before the temple was completed.

Such personal accounts are threads woven into the tapestry of the Church. Each is a distinct and important part of the Church, as well as being similar in tone. The important thing about the Church multiplying is that more and more people are gaining for themselves a testimony of the restored gospel, and their lives are changing because of it.


Church membership

1830-1950 1.1 million

1960 1.7 million

1970 2.4 million

1980 4.6 million

1990 7.8 million

1997 10.0 million

Church membership worldwide

United States: 4,890,000

Canada: 150,000

Mexico: 775,000

Caribbean: 95,000

Central America: 395,000

South America: 2,220,000

Europe: 390,000

Africa: 110,000

Asia 635,000

South Pacific: 340,000

Membership distribution

United States: 48.9%

Canada 1.5%

South Pacific 3.4%

Africa 1.1%

Asia 6.3%

Caribbean 1.0%

Mexico 7.7%

South America 22.2%

Europe 4.0%

Central America 3.9%

Church membership

Converts Born into the Church

United States and Canada 45% 55%

Outside the United States

and Canada 90% 10%

Total membership 67% 33%

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