Let’s go back 90 years.
I have sitting on my desk, Missions (Vol. 12-No. 4, April 1921), A Baptist Monthly Magazine published by the General Board of Promotion of the Northern Baptist Convention. I have a whole stack of these, saved by my grandfather.
(To give you a little context: The Northern Baptist Convention was forged about a decade earlier. But in the 1920s, there were monumental clashes between the liberals and fundamentalists in the Convention.)
In this magazine, the Rev. George L. White, Joint Division Secretary of the Home Mission and Publication Societies wrote an article entitled, “The Astonishing Growth of Mormonism”.
If you hear the total membership of the Mormon church in a certain district stated, the figures are interesting, but they do not mean so much as they do when placed in comparison with others more familiar to us. For that reason I have taken the last United States Religious Census and have made the following tables which show the number of Mormons in the West as compared with the number of Baptist church members.
We have read much about the progressive Baptist missionary work in the State of Idaho, and we have been quite proud of it. The last census shows that we have 61 churches in that state, and 5,682 members. We are somewhat shocked when we learn that the Mormons have 235 churches in Idaho, with 73,065 members. It is truly surprising to learn that in that part of our Northern Baptist Convention which lies west of the Mississippi River, sixteen states, the census shows that the Mormons have 391,653 members, as compared with 284,640 Baptist church members, or 107,013 more than we have.
Mormon and Baptist Church Membership in Those States of the Northern Baptist Convention Which Are West of the Mississippi River:
Arizona – Mormons (47 churches – 12,624 members) vs. Baptists (44 churches – 2,927 members)
California – (31 – 5,482) vs. (279 – 42,639)
Colorado – (23 – 5,555) vs. (121 – 18,548)
Idaho – (235 – 73,065) vs. (61 – 5,682)
Iowa – (74 – 10,274) vs. (403 – 47,863)
Kansas – (25 – 2,601) vs. (533 – 60,756)
Minnesota – (8 – 849) vs. (239 – 28,624)
Montana – (15 – 2,099) vs. (44 – 4,073)
Nebraska – (22 – 2,251) vs. (216 – 20,994)
Nevada – (13 – 3,429) vs. (7 – 356)
North Dakota – (6 – 385) vs. (90 – 6,268)
Oregon – (15 – 3,469) vs. (229 – 15,666)
South Dakota – ( . . . – . . . ) vs. (102 – 8,852)
Utah – (463 – 258,282) vs. (14 – 1,305)
Washington – (12 – 1,787) vs. (185 – 18,246)
Wyoming – (29 – 9,501) vs. (35 – 1,841)
Totals – (1,018 – 391,653) vs. (2,606 – 284,640)
Let us take another section. We will include the eleven Mountain and Pacific Coast States which lie west of the western boundaries of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas. In these states the census shows that there are 376,777 Mormons and 118,004 Baptists. Immediately some one says: “The Mormons have more members than the Baptists in that territory because there are so many Mormons in the state of Utah.” We will therefore deduct from the totals just given the number of Mormons and the number of Baptists who are in Utah. We will take out Utah and consider simply the ten remaining Mountain and Pacific Coast States, and we find that in that territory there are still more Mormons than Baptists. The following table gives the exact figures:
Mormon and Baptist Church Membership In That Part of the United States Which Is West Of The Western Boundaries, Of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas, Both With and Without Utah.
Montana – Mormons 2,099 vs. Baptists 4,073
Wyoming – 9,501 vs. 1,841
Colorado – 5,555 vs. 18,548
New Mexico – 1,484 vs. 6,721
Idaho – 73,065 vs. 5,682
Nevada – 3,429 vs. 356
Arizona – 12,624 vs. 2,927
Utah – 258,282 vs. 1,305
Washington – 1,787 vs. 18,246
Oregon – 3,469 vs. 15,666
California – 5,482 vs. 42,639
Totals, including Utah – 376,777 vs. 118,004
Deduct membership in Utah – 258,282 vs. 1,305
Totals, without Utah – 118,495 vs. 116,699
We are inclined to think of the Baptists in the West as comprising a large constituency, and that we are sending missionaries to work among the Mormons, who are comparatively few in number. The reverse is in fact true, even when we consider so large a territory as that of our Northern Baptist Convention in all of the states west of the Mississippi River. It should be said, however, that the Mormons count a larger percentage of their constituency in their membership than we Baptists do.
The above figures are not encouraging, but they should be known by our people so that still more earnest efforts may be made to evangelize the Mormons. We feel that though it cannot be said that large success has followed our efforts in the past, still much good has been done which cannot be shown statistically. The Mormon people have changed decidedly in regard to certain views, from what they taught even twenty-five years ago. Possibly the covering of a few of their most ugly doctrines and the presenting of a better front may in fact make that system of religious teaching more dangerous than before. It is not my intent to discuss such matters here, but simply to give facts relative to the growth of this peculiar sect.
The last religious census shows that during the ten years previous to the time it was taken, there were the following percentages of increase in the United States: Roman Catholics increased 10.6 per cent; the Northern Baptist Convention increased 17.1 per cent; the three large Baptist bodies, namely the Northern Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Baptist Convention (colored), combined, increased 29 per cent. The Mormons, two bodies, increased 80 per cent.
We may well consider these figures seriously. Our needs are as follows:
1. Well-trained young men and women who will consecrate their lives to an intelligent, sympathetic missionary work among the Mormon people just as missionaries commit their entire lives to a foreign field.
2. The organization of an aggressive, positive work which is definitely constructive and which will set forth clearly and attractively the great principle of our denomination.
3. A literature, especially adapted to the needs of these people, which does not abuse them but which seeks to give in terms which they can understand the saving truths which they most need.
4. A cooperative arrangement with other evangelical denominations whereby the whole Mormon question will be studied thoroughly and unselfishly from a real missionary point of view.
5. A united work that will reach every Mormon community constructively with the true Gospel message.
Now I am really curious. What are the statistics of Baptists and Mormons in the West today as we approach 2010?
It might get complicated. I would be interested in the Western statistics of the following groups: The Reformed Baptists, The Southern Baptists, The North American Baptists, The General Association of Regular Baptists, The Baptist Bible Fellowship, The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, and the many other self-proclaimed Independent Baptists, etc.