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Radio Free Mormon: 35: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics Pt 1

RFM todays tackles the growth of the Church.  In this part 1 episode RFM dives into how the Church used growth as a witness of the truthfulness of the Church in past decades and utilized the Book of Daniel and the Stone cut out of the mountain without hands.  Then he takes multiple General Conference talks and other media soundbites to show that the Church as an institution most assuredly framed itself in this way.  He concludes setting up episode 2 where now that Church growth has become stagnate and perhaps even receding, that the Church is in the process of removing such a framework and creating a new narrative.


24 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 35: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics Pt 1”

  1. Hey we can always bounce back on track, right?
    Besides you are forgetting all the work for the dead that we are doing. You just wait another 40 years, the Church will prove it to you by then.

    In any case, this reminds me when I expressed my doubts about this prophecy coming true during a special fireside with a well respected authority in the Church Agricol Lozano back in 1997 where I stated do you really think the church will fulfill this prophecy? He told me to wait at least year and to compare it with previous years of the church growth and that then I would be able to attest this for myself. Well after 20 years of membership the church has practically doubled itself in nominal size, but one would have to wonder the % of active LDS instead of book numbers.

    My suggestion to you would be get ready for the second coming, it’s going to happen soon you know, so we need to prepare and build his Kingdom for his arrival. So glad you’re not being left out. As a Latter-day Saint you get to have front row tickets for that event.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, David.

      And as to the Second Coming, I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jesus hasn’t come back in 2,000 years, odds are the whole thing has slipped his mind by now.

    2. Dear David, I paid 10% for my front row tickets for decades (and obeyed and did not question), but stopped paying recently due to the conflicts in this doctrine of tithing. Are my tickets less valid than those bought by a person just converted and paying a few months before the second coming? Will I get send row seats, back row seats, or…?

      Is my Gift of Holy ghost, Patriarchal Blessing, Priesthood, etc all reduced or just null and void if I don’t keep paying as commanded by men? Or, is it like multilevel and if I miss a payment or three I lose my whole downline for eternity?

      Does my action put my whole family, ancestors and progeny at jeopardy for my not paying? How does Mormon 8: 32-41 play into all of this?

  2. Joseph Smith discussed the Daniel prophecy in the Council of Fifty minutes. He states that the kingdom that will roll forth is not the Church, it is a literal kingdom, the kingdom that he was made king over when he became the Prophet, Priest and King. I can send you the page number and text from the Joseph Smith Papers volume that was published, if you would like.

    1. Yes, that is very interesting, Shawn, and the actual quote would be great.

      I have not taken the time to familiarize myself with the subject as you have apparently done, but my understanding is that Joseph sought with the Council of Fifty to commence a political government that would ultimately rule the world, which was separate and distinct in his mind from the religious government which was instituted to rule the church.

      These two entities seem to have been amalgamated into one institution (i.e., the church) in subsequent years.

      Do I have that about right?

      1. Inside the front page of the Administrative Records of the Council of Fifty, Minutes March 1844-January 1846, the volume editors said the following about the Council of Fifty. “On 11 March 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith organized a council that he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the government of the literal kingdom of God on earth. The council, known both as the Council of the Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty, operated under Smith’s leadership until his murder less than four months later…..Participants saw the council as distinct from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and anticipated that the council would ‘govern men in civil matters'”

        It’s hard to say how the council operated after January 1846, since the minutes after this date haven’t been published. How or when the council was dissolved and all the ways it influenced the modern day government of the Church is unclear to me. Here’s the quote from Joseph regarding Daniel’s prophecy, page 128 of the volume.

        “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship. Any thing that would tolerate man in the worship of this God under his own vine and fig tree would be tolerated of God. The literal kingdom of God, and the church of God are two distinct things. The gifts of prophets, evangelists &c. never were designed to govern men in civil matters. The kingdom of God has nothing to do with giving commandments to damn a man spiritually.”

        The minutes also suggest that it was Brigham’s intention to make Salt Lake a temporary stop and then make way to California coast. Exactly when that plan changed might be clearer in the next volume of the minutes.

  3. As Joseph Smith explained to the council in April 1844: “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God [or Council of Fifty]. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship.”Council of Fifty, Minutes, Apr. 18, 1844, in JSP, CFM:128

    1. Thanks for the quote, Jan!

      It is an interesting distinction Joseph Smith was making here.

      I guess if we apply the Daniel prophecy to the Council of Fifty, the fulfillment of its growing to fill the earth is even more dismal than the track record of the church.


      1. True but more importantly this quote makes it clear that the Kingdom of God is NOT a church. The church is a spiritual entity but the kingdom of God is a government! (like the brass, gold , etc of the other parts of the body.). It never was or can be the LDS Church so the notion that it is part of this revelation is off the mark.
        Like many other things, Joseph Smith ambitiously tried to create that government and epically failed. Perhaps God will be more successful with it when he wants it to be fulfilled;)

      2. True. I think it was an ambitious attempt by JS to create a government (Counsel of Fifty with non-members) that epically failed However, I think what is significant is the distinction it makes is that the church is NOT the Kingdom of God. (Like the brass, gold and clay were governments, so is the Kingdom ofGod). This prophecy is talking about something much greater than members of LDS inc.

  4. Great podcast. Thanks for all the hard work. I assume in the next episode you will talk about the pivot that has occurred where Daniel’s prophecy has been abandoned and we have changed the conversation to the “even the very elect will be deceived” and that the shrinking of the church is the sign that the Second Coming is imminent (usually talking about how Nephi saw that the saints of the church were few in number). A few thoughts on some of the other comments. 1. A lot of people argue that Jesus’ statements about the Kingdom of God on the earth in the New Testament were about establishing an alternative to the oppressive institutional systems of the day with a better social order, caring for the poor, promoting equality and justice. I find that extremely compelling and would love to see the church shift its focus to promoting that goal. Imagine all the good work we could do with our missionary force and resources. 2. People have been thinking the Second Coming was imminent since the time of the New Testament. JS thought it was any day and a lot of the kingdom building he did was not for an eventual event, but for something that would happen in the next 10 years. I’ve noticed a big shift away from the Second Coming rhetoric that was big when I was growing up in the 80s. That would make for an interesting future episode.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Felix!

      I am working hard on part 2. I have heard on a local basis the shift being made from a growing church that would fill the whole earth to one of a small church as predicted in Nephi’s vision in the Book of Mormon.

      Or alternatively, as you put it, “even the very elect will be deceived.”

      But I have yet to hear this spoken by a general authority. Instead, the change is something even more interesting, and I will give you a hint.

      It was spoken by President Eyring at the public announcement of the new First Presidency.

      He shifts the growth predicted for the church from being one of membership growth to something completely different.

      I don’t want to give too much away, but if you go and listen to what President Eyring has to say, I think you will likely pick up on it.

      Thanks for listening!


        1. LOL! And that’s another expression I commonly heard in the 1970’s to describe the Latter-day Saints.

          An expression I haven’t heard in a long, long time now.

          At least nor from any General Authority.

      1. The phrase “even the very elect will be deceived” is 180 degrees from what it actually says in scripture. If you read the whole verse in context it says, “If it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived” which clearly suggests that they won’t be deceived if they are elect. But the deception would be so successful that anything less than being one of the Lords elect would render you deceived. When we leave a few words out of the verse it changes the meaning, and in this case it changes it 180 degrees from what it actually says.

  5. I will look forward to your episode and would put a fat stack of my casino chips on building temples being the sign of growth. When I was X years old, there were only 4 temples, now there are 150 . . .” We can’t control people being baptized, but can control the number of temples announced and built.

  6. This just in. It looks like that particular revelation (not temples!) is going to have to wait for part 3, because I already am filling up part 2 with evidence that the Q15 are perfectly aware that the church is hemorrhaging members, and has been hard at work over the last six years designing programs to try to stop the bleeding.

    Programs that are having no discernible effect, unfortunately.

    This is a huge joy ride of a podcast!

    It is the gift that keeps on giving.

    1. RFM,

      I believe they are open to suggestions.
      Any bright ideas on how to stop the bleeding?

      How would coming clean have an effect on the church?
      If you were a member of the Q15 or Q70 what would you recommend?

      I know people that refuse to believe anything but what comes out of the top 15. It even tops revealed scripture, but they are quickly becoming a minority at least less and less. These are the brightest and strongest members and they get mad when you tell them otherwise, but like I said. There are only a handful left in every ward.

      1. I think church leaders need to tell the truth to the members about everything; including and especially about how they have not been telling the truth to the members for a long time.

        I think telling the truth is the best course for the church. Not only to try to keep members from continuing to jump ship, but because it is the right thing to do.

        As to the consequences of telling the truth and doing what is right, I think we have a song about that . . .

        1. RFM and David,

          RFM – I was saved from tremendous boredom by getting your great podcasts today! Love them!

          You and David say that church leaders should come clean in order to “stop the bleeding,” as David wrote.

          But isn’t that what Pres Uchdorf did in his conference talk that you play in part 2? (He acknowledges that wrongs were done by church leaders, etc,)

          And look what happened to him…

  7. Hey RFM,

    Love your podcast episodes! However, I wanted to point out an incorrect quotation of President Hinckley just before the 12 minute mark of part 1. You’re talking about Daniel and King N’s dream of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands. You say as a church we seem to be “de-emphasizing” this vision for some reason, and you quote Hinckley: “I don’t know if we teach about it; I don’t know if we emphasize it.”

    If my memory serves me, I believe President Hinckley made this exact statement in an interview after being asked about our doctrine of “As man now is, God once was…” If I am correct, you are quoting Hinckley out of context and it could be misleading to an uninformed listener that Hinckley was speaking about the vision of King N and Daniel, with your choice of placement of the quote.

    Just thought I would note this! And love the effort and research you put into your podcast!

    1. Hi, AP.

      First, you are correct on your facts; that is where the President Hinckley quote derives.

      Second, I was using it not to show that President Hinckley said this about the de-emphasizing of Daniel Chapter 2, but rather that the same principle President Hinckley enunciated about God once being a man seems to be at work here, as well.

      I have talked about this in some detail in prior episodes. I try to make my episodes sequential and incremental in nature; in other words, subjects covered in prior episodes may be referred to glancingly later on, as I did in this instance.

      I am depending on my listeners to be as educated as you, AP.

      And if they listen to all my episodes, they should be able to get these references, just as I think you did.

      Thanks for listening!


  8. I was a convert and active Mormon from 1979 to 1989. Church growth was OFtEN cited as a “sign of the Church being true”. Of course, even then, I KNEW that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam (all sects), Baha’i, Assemblies of God, and HUNDREDS of other churches/faiths were growing MUCH FASTER than the LDS Church. I pointed this out once in Sunday School, and was laughed at. Today, the LDS Church has a yearly growth rate of about 1.4 per cent. DISMAL, especially with such a huge full-time missionary force.

  9. The West Wing!! Yes, just figured it out. S1:E21 “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”… had to google it, but also too lazy to check if anyone else in episode 2 or 3 posted on this subject. That’s all 🙂

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