I am a geek.
Some of you already knew that about me but I thought I would get that right out front on this topic. I am also considered by many to be a religious man; I attend my church meetings without fail. I try, and fail many times, to live the teachings of my chosen religion; but continuing to try is what sets a believer apart from the non-believer in my opinion. Nobody gets it right all of the time. I like to think that on most days I am doing a better job than I did the day before and when I know that isn’t true I look forward to tomorrow to be better than today.
The Bible, I believe in the King James Version, can be hard to read and understand. You don’t have to take my word for it just open the Yellow Pages and look in the Religion category and you will see that there are more choices than at a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store. There is a “story” in the Bible that talks about a King Nebuchadnezzar and a dream that he has. It is identified and interpreted by Daniel. The King dreamt of a great image. This image is made of lots of things and is finally destroyed by a stone. Daniel describes this portion of the dream like this (see Daniel 2:35):
35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
Daniel goes on to interpret that portion of the dream like this (see Daniel 2:44-45):
44 And in the adays of these bkings shall the God of heaven cset up a dkingdom, which shall never be edestroyed: and the fkingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall gbreak in pieces and hconsume all these ikingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the astone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made bknown to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
Obviously the dream interpretation describes the Kingdom of God (ok, it is obvious to me; since God set it up it is His kingdom. Right?). This Kingdom will stand forever and will not be given to another, so if you believe the whole Bible thing you have to have to give some belief to a “kingdom” that will be established and will eventually be (or is currently) on the earth. So where is it and how would you know it?
I, of course, have my own opinions on this but am quite certain that you will find others that disagree with me; to each his own, I am sure there is a Latin phrase that goes with that but I don’t know Latin. But let me make a case for this with some interesting information (hint, here’s where the numbers come into play).
Here is a nice little video clip that shows the progress of the LDS Church in a rather interesting perspective. It shows the creation of the LDS Stake, an administrative unit of the Church that typically covers a number of smaller local groups that meet together. The Stake is typically about 2500 members of the Church and each of the little lights shows when each of those was created. It is a little dated but It helps us jump to the numbers. My apologies to those of you that can’t see YouTube because it is blocked in your country (you know who you are, try viewing it on your VPN).
So, in 2007 the Church was roughly 13.5 Million people and it had about 2875 Stakes. In October 2013 it was announced that the Church had reached the 15 Million member mark in September 2013 and had roughly 3600 Stakes.
Now we mentioned at the beginning that a Stake has roughly 2500 people but a bit of quick math shows that reality says something completely different. There are nearly 4700 people per Stake in 2007. Even in our September numbers there are almost 4200 people per Stake. But what we do see is the trend going down. What is really happening out there is the rest of the world is that the area covered by a Stake is vastly too big to just keep the numbers to the desired 2500 per Stake. Where we see the typical and desired sizes in the Western United States and much of Central and South America we don’t often see in the rest of the world. But that is changing. That change is happening faster and faster; my argument is that the stone is rolling faster and faster, filling the earth.
There are some who work for the Church that spend their careers projecting how and where the Church will grow and how fast it will grow. That makes sense when you consider that these people are helping a global Church figure out where is needs to be building buildings that will provide places for these people to worship and attend meetings on Sundays throughout the world. Those people are estimating and projecting that the Church’s growth will be somewhere between 100-200 million people in 40 years, I know that is a pretty wide range considering we are only at 15 million right now. But we are only at 15 million right now too; a lot of factors are certainly being taken into consideration.
If you consider the expectation is for 2500 people per Stake then you would have to expect that the number of stakes at the 150 million people is going to be more than 10x the current 3600 per 15 million that currently exists. I would hazard a guess that it is likely going to be closer to 50 to 60 thousand give our take a few thousand (staggering when you consider we are only talking about 3500 right now). The real story is what kinds of people need to be prepared to make that happen.
I don’t think that it a coincidence that the Church has changed a number of things in the past 2 years related to the youth in the Church (these “kids” are going to be the old men, like me, 40 years from now). The Church is changing how it helps these “kids” learn in their Sunday meetings, it is sending the out sooner and more of them on missions throughout the world, it is preparing them to BE the leaders for this growth. It is amazing when you think about it. The number of people necessary to make these Stakes and the 5-8 Wards and Branches that will belong to each of them will require a huge number of people that know how the gospel of Jesus Christ works and functions. How to minister in the kingdom requires knowledge not only of Jesus Christ but also of how to provide meetings and services that enrich the lives of the people that attend those meetings, millions upon millions of them.
The stone, cut out of the mountain without hands, that Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel saw is fulfilling that dream today. I am grateful to be and to have been a part of that in my lifetime. When I consider the little video and see the growth that occurred in my lifetime and the little dots that appeared all over the earth during my 50 years, how can I not expect that growth to continue and accelerate over the next 40 years. What it really interesting for me is that if I live to be as old as my grandmother who past away this year at the age of 93, I will live to see all of that and more.
That is a number (being 93 and 150 million Mormons) that I am looking forward to seeing and being a part of. Yes, I know it isn’t about the numbers but the numbers represent something that is hard to explain otherwise, but 150 Million looks a lot more like a mountain than the 15 million does today. Each of those numbers represent something important, in my case the age I would be some 40 or so years from now, the 150 million Mormons represents a person, and individual, a family, that knows that Jesus IS the Christ. They will know as I know that he is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. That is way more important that the sum of all the numbers.