12 Million Members or 4-6 Million Members?

The Church often touts its membership numbers and growth. There is considerable pride amongst members of the Church every time we hit a new milestone such as 12 Million members. Media reports speak about the fast growth of the Church. However, there are some interesting data available regarding the convert retention rates in the Church. Several published articles have discussed the disconnect between the number of members listed in LDS membership records and the actual self-reported religious affiliation seen in country Census reports. Usually the self-reported LDS population is 30-50% of the membership reported for that country by headquarters. Based on that information, the actual number of active members is somewhere between 4-6 Million. While this number is considerably more accurate a measure of actual members, why doesn’t the Church report this number? Why not report the number of recommend holding adults? What about the number of full tithe payers? What about average weekly sacrament meeting attendance? While each of these numbers is something the Church could report, it chooses total baptized members regardless of whether they recognize their Mormonness or not. The problem is that the Church could not suddenly report that they had lost 2/3 of their membership as that would be poor PR. So what should the Church do? Does it matter that we are overrepresenting our actual membership?

I think that the Church has to continue to report total baptized members as that is what has always been reported. I think it would also be useful to report total average weekly sacrament meeting attendance (by country or area would be great). By doing this the church could more accurately portray what the membership is doing regarding growth. It would give members a measurable metric to measure our work against. For example, we could see year over year if the concerted efforts on retaining more converts were actually working. If not, then members could reassess and try new approaches. As it is, the only data one has is anecdotal in our local branches and wards. Thoughts?