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April 10, 2013

(Musical) Mormon Demographics

If you’ve been following The Bag for a while, you know how fond we are of photos that suggest an age, race or gender breakdown of particular movements or groups. For example, we’ve looked at Pro-Life gatherings; the 113th Congress; Herman Cain followers; the Tea Party, and Occupy, as well as Appalachia primary voters. I can’t say how directly representative this photo is of the greater Mormon population (more integrated? less?) but it’s been making the rounds of the photo galleries. I imagine that’s at least partly do to the racial (and gender) make-up of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

(photo: Rick Bowmer/AP caption: Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir look on during the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Salt Lake City. The Mormon church is planning to build two new temples in Rio de Janeiro and Cedar City, Utah. The faith’s president, Thomas S. Monson, announced the new temples on Saturday during the 183rd semi-annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More than 100,000 members of the church have gathered in Salt Lake City to hear words of inspiration and guidance for daily living from the faith’s senior leaders.)

  • Thomas

    It would be interesting to know if any polling has been done on what effect, if any, Romney’s campaign has had on mainstream attitudes toward this ridiculous religion.

    • Stan B.

      And… uh… which isn’t?

    • bytebear

      I would think people like Donnie and Marie, Gladys Knight, Ricky Schroeder or Brandon Flowers has more influence on people’s perceptions of Mormons. And don’t forget Harry Reid is also a prominent Mormon politician. Why do you assume he has less influence?

  • black_dog_barking

    Sing a song of sixpence,
    A pocket full of rye.
    Four and twenty blackbirds,
    Baked in a pie.

    When the pie was opened,
    The birds began to sing;
    Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
    To set before the king?

  • bill

    No Mormon supporter here, but the MTC is NOT a men’s choir, so musically speaking, is balanced between bass and treble voices, and hence between male and female singers. And as in most choirs, voices are arranged by voice range, and hence by gender. Obviously this picture is showing just the men’s section of the MTC. So the fact the males and females are separated just says it’s a choir, nothing more or less.

    However it is definitely predominantly white, in keeping with Mormon demographics.

    • bytebear

      Utah demographics are not necessarily Mormon demographics.

  • val

    Worldwide, more members of the LDS faith speak Spanish than English. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir members are predominately from Utah, historically not a racially diverse area.

    • Duwayne_Anderson

      Mormon membership claims are highly overstated in many Spanish speaking countries. For example, according to a study by the IBGE, the government statistics agency, the number of Brazilians who self identified (2010) themselves as Mormons is a bit over 200,000. But the Mormon Church claims over 1 million members. The situation is similar in other Spanish speaking countries, including Chile and Mexico.

      The LDS Church has long been known to inflate their membership figures. When non-biased data from independent surveys are used, they almost always (including in the US) find far fewer people who are willing to self identify as Mormons, than are claimed by the Mormon Church as members.

  • bytebear

    Looks like it represents the demographics of Utah. Similarly, it would reflect the demographics of North Dakota, Idaho, or Maine. I am sure if you took a picture of a Mormon Choir in Nigeria, it would reflect the demographics there as well.

  • Thomas

    I’m aware there will always be a relatively fixed number of people who can’t tell the difference. But I am curious if Romney’s understated though extended and high-profile presentation of Mormonism succeeded in moving any numbers among those who can.

  • Will

    Worldwide, there are more member outside the states than inside the US. However, I don’t think there are more Spanish speakers than English speakers.

    Without going into minutiae, the LDS Church counts its members like most religions do; persons baptized into the faith are counted as as members. That includes the actives who attend weekly and those who attend less frequently. People’s church attendance in any religion is often very fluid and some who aren’t attending regularly now will later on and vice-versa. Activity levels in the church go up as income and education level increase so they see greater activity in developed areas than in the third-world.

    Having spent time as a missionary 20 years ago in the Caribbean teaching those of African ancestry in spanish and having sent a son to west Africa on a mission, I personally don’t buy the discrimination angle. Most of the early saints were converts from western Europe and they are the ones who settled in Utah. Now, the most fruitful fields for converts are in area like Africa, Central and South America, Philippines, and parts of Asia. The racial make-up of the church is changing significantly.

  • Duwayne_Anderson

    Will wrote: “Without going into minutiae, the LDS Church counts its members like most religions do…”

    Not true, Will. Most religions only count who actually attend “worship” services.

    And, at any rate, if all the other church’s *did* pad their membership numbers, would that make it right for the Mormons to do it to?

    But the LDS Church takes membership manipulation far beyond what any other mainline church does (more inline with what cults do). For example, the Mormon Church does not remove a person’s name from their membership records when they formally resign. Annually there are tens of thousands of Mormons who formally resign, but the LDS Church just keeps on counting them in their membership statistics.

    In addition, when the Mormon Church loses track of “members” who have stopped attending, the church continues to count them until they are over 100 years old. This means that many of the “members” counted by the LDS Church are actually dead.

    If the LDS Church counted only active members, and stopped counting dead members, and those who have resigned, their actual membership would be around 5 million, and the vast majority would be (no surprise here) in the US (see the following article by ABC).

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