The Mormon Moment
The Church of Latter-day Saints grows by leaps and bounds
God's image. Critics contend that while Latter-day Saints may use much the same vocabulary as mainstream Christians, they frequently attach radically different meaning to the terms. While both Mormons and non-Mormon Christians accept the biblical statement that humans are created in God's image, for example, Christians traditionally have interpreted that to mean that humans, like God, are free moral agents. Mormons, on the other hand, teach that God has a physical body, is married, and begets children; humans are made quite literally in God's image. Mormon founder Smith even declared in 1844 that God "is an exalted Man" who "was once as we are now" and that humans, in the afterlife, may progress to become gods who create and sustain universes of their own.
It's unlikely that conflicts between Mormons and other religious groups will go away anytime soon, as the church continues to expand. And so far, experts say, there is little reason to expect a reversal of Mormonism's fortunes. "The nation," wrote The American Religion author Bloom, "will not always be only 2 percent Mormon. The Saints outlive the rest of us, have more children than all but a few American groups, and convert on a grand scale, both here and abroad. . . . Their future is immense."
Mormons around the world...and in the United States
Nearly half of the world's 11 million Mormons live in the United States. The church's growth rate over the past 30 years far outstrips those of other major U.S. denominations.
Worldwide members in 1999
United States 5.1 mil.
South America 2.5 mil.
Central America 455,000
South Pacific 355,000
Sources: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; National Council of Churches; American Jewish Year Book
Growth of major religions in the U.S. 1998 members Growth since 1970
Mormon Church* 5.1 mil. 220 pct.
Southern Baptist Convention 15.7 mil. 33 pct.
Roman Catholic Church 62.0 mil. 29 pct.
Jewish congregations 6.0 mil. 3 pct.
United Methodist Church 8.4 mil. -21 pct.
Episcopal Church** 1.6 mil. -28 pct.
Presbyterian Church (USA)*** 2.6 mil. -36 pct.
U.S. population 271.6 mil. 34 pct.
***Figures based on a 1983 merger of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
With Peter Hadfield and Rena Singer