Baptist-Mormon Statistic Wars (and proposals) in the West – 90 years ago

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:

ArizonaMormons (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.

MontanaMormons 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.


  1. Idaho Baptist Congregations (?):

    Reformed Baptists – 4

    Southern Baptists – 78 Associational Churches & Missions (150 in Idaho-Utah)

    Click to access Web%20Directory%202-23-09.pdf

    North American Baptists – 2

    General Association of Regular Baptists – 13

    Conservative Baptist Association – 6

    Baptist Bible Fellowship – 1

    Fundamental Baptist Fellowship – 4 churches and missions

    Independent Baptist congregations, miscellaneous – 42 (definite overlap and needs updated)

    This makes a rough approximate of 152 Baptist congregations in Idaho that are not included among the liberal mainline American Baptist denomination (34 – )

    Hmmm . . . see what we have done in 90 years as Baptists in Idaho.

    And how many LDS wards are there in Idaho, today?

  2. Ah yes . . .

    115 stakes overseeing the 936 wards in Idaho . . .

    So in congregations, LDS have quadrupled and Baptists have doubled and a half during the 90 years. Right?

  3. Todd,

    Looks like the Baptists are ganging up on the Mormons — can we add all the Mormon off-shoot religions in with the numbers for the Mormons? (ha,ha — sorry couldn’t resist)

    Serious question — why so many different Baptist congregations? Is it just a location thing with different names like LDS wards and stakes or are there doctrinal differences between the congregations?

  4. Why so many?

    Some are grounded in historical confessions of faith, reformed in their hermeneutics, and Calvinistic in their soteriology.

    Some are dispensational in their hermeneutics and either Arminian or Calvinistic in their soteriology.

    Some are not theologically orientated but very strict on what they consider true orthopraxy and methodology.

    Some are very progressive, striving to be continually culturally relevant in their church services for attracting the seekers.

    But saying all that, I do not think all these Baptists differ in quite the vast range as do LDS on theology.

    And in Idaho, Baptists do not have the problem with nominalism like LDS. I would surmise that there might be in upcoming days, a mounting number approaching 100,000 LDS who would be jack-mormon in this state. Would that be an exageration?

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