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Fastest growing U.S. mainstream religion

2.25 percent increase cited

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to be the fastest growing mainstream church in the United States, according to the National Council of Churches.

The council's "2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches" notes the LDS Church grew by more than 2.25 percent over the past few years.

By comparison, Assemblies of God congregations grew 2 percent, while there was 0.75 percent in the Roman Catholic Church and just over 0.5 percent growth for the Southern Baptist Convention, according to the yearbook

"We see . . . a rather impressive and unparalleled growth rate (in the LDS Church)," said yearbook editor, the Rev. Eileen Lindner.

Worldwide LDS Church membership is close to 11 million in more than 160 nations. President Gordon B. Hinckley recently told a gathering of American news reporters that he believed the Church has grown and prospered more than any other faith that has risen from American soil.

The recent growth has occurred at a time when other churches are flat or losing members, the Rev. Lindner said.

The difference, she added, is in the programs.

"Many Americans, and particularly those rearing families, are looking for a religious tradition and community which will enforce their strong family values and will encourage unity and strength," she said. "Everything we see about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really demonstrates to us that the Church has an effective program, as well as an abiding commitment."

The Rev. Lindner said she did not want to suggest that other faiths don't have a similar commitment, "but I don't think all have been as successful in translating that commitment into programs that local congregations and families can utilize."

She noted the LDS Church has developed an effective pattern of reaching out to American communities via its successful public service announcements on radio and television. Between the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the number of Latter-day Saints in the United States grew by more than 22 percent, versus 15 percent for Roman Catholics and 7 percent for Southern Baptists, according to the council.

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