Monday, September 2, 2013

Seminary Activity Rates by Country

Activity World Map
God really did create people equally.  There is no chosen people, at least in the sense that they are spiritually superior to others.  Differences in devotion are the product of political, economic and religious institutions of each country.  My purpose in estimating seminary activity rates by country is to enable a search for institutions that might impede Church growth and devise methods to overcome their influence so as to maximize the number of sons and daughters of God who win exaltation through the atonement of Christ Jesus.  Just as there is no superior people, the Lord does not play favorites for he “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not publish attendance records for units, countries or other geographic regions.  The lack of direct data has not deterred researchers interested in activity by country.  They have devised several useful ratios using published data and interviewed General Authorities to gain insights into activity rates.  As I was measuring the correlation of a couple of these ratios: the membership to stakes and the membership to seminary enrollment I hit upon a method to directly estimate activity rates for seminary by country using membership and seminary data from the Church and demographic data from Wolfram, a software company. For those interested, the derivation of the seminary activity rates formula follows the post. 
The map, “Activity Rate by Country,” shows the activity rates for seventy-three countries.  The hue of each country is dependent on its activity rate.  The countries with the highest activity rates are shown in blue, which turns to green, yellow, brown then red as the rate falls.  Countries with insufficient data or no data are shown in red.  The data used to build the map is shown below in the table, “Activity Rate by Country.”
Activity Rate by Country
Country Activity Rate Country Activity Rate Country Activity Rate
Africa Denmark 49.0 Oceania
Cape Verde
Finland 87.3 American Samoa 52.1
Cote d’Ivoire
France 24.7 Australia 42.4
DR Congo
Germany 49.6 Fiji 42.7
Italy 46.6 French Polynesia 64.7
Netherlands 28.5 Kiribati 21.8
Norway 49.8 Marshall Islands 19.4
Portugal 15.5 New Zealand 37.3
Russia 34.4 Papua New Guinea 12.3
R of Congo
Spain 41.3 Samoa 31.4
Sierra Leone
Sweden 47.7 Tonga 40.4
South Africa
Switzerland 60.8 South American
Ukraine 64.2 Argentina 25.6
Asia UK 22.3 Bolivia 29.0
Hong Kong
N. America Brazil 24.5
Canada 51.9 Chile 18.6
Costa Rica 29.1 Colombia 27.2
Dom. Rep 21.3 Ecuador 22.5
El Salvador 22.8 Paraguay 20.4
Guatemala 25.0 Peru  41.0
Haiti 12.2 Uruguay 15.9
South Korea
Honduras 27.2 Venezuela .38.9
Mexico 25.8
Nicaragua 23.3
Europe Panama 28.7
Puerto Rico 17.4
USA 56.1
I cannot verify my estimates directly because the Church does not publish this data.  The estimates do seem to mirror occasional comments made by General Authorities or other researchers.  For example, the Ukraine (Matt Martinich. “LDS Church Growth Case Studies: Government Restrictions and LDS Growth”), has a relatively high activity as measured by high retention rate while Portugal and Chile (Matt Martinich.  “LDS Church Growth Case Studies: Assessing Member Activity”) have low activity as measured by reports from members.  Mauss reports higher rates of activity in the Central Europe Area than in other parts of Europe (Armand L. Mauss, “Can There Be A “Second Harvest”? : Controlling the Costs of Latter-day Saint Membership in Europe”), a finding also supported by my estimates. These are rough comparisons and my estimates are far from perfect.   For example, Finland, with an activity rate of 87.3% is certainly too high and the United Kingdom at 22.3% is too low. 
The seminary activity rates probably overestimate Sacrament Meeting attendance rates.  Using the seminary rates as if they were Sacrament Meeting attendance rates, worldwide attendance is approximately 5.9.  This compares to estimates ranging between 5 and 6 million with the mean closer to 5 than 6 million so my estimates appear to be a little high.  Reduce the seminary activity rates by 15% to get a rough estimate for Sacrament Meeting activity rates.  It is reasonable to believe that Seminary activity rates would be higher than Sacrament Meeting attendance rates because disaffiliation probably increases with age.  Estimates of activity using Primary age children might have suggested even higher activity rates and estimates using Single Young Adults, lower rates.   
Future efforts will concentrate on estimating activity rates using institute enrollment.  I expect to find lower general rates of attendance but relatively higher rates in wealthy countries where young adults can afford to attend college and take advantage of institute programs.  I will also examine varying activity rates by state in the United States; my guess is that activity rates are higher in areas with high concentrations of Latter-day Saints.  Estimates of activity over time would be useful to measure the effectiveness of pilot programs used by the Church to increase retention and activity.  Most importantly, data on regulations used by different countries that hinder Church growth might help in developing programs to remove or mitigate their influence. 
Derivation of Seminary Activity Rates by Country
Activity formula
The Wolfram country data set provided the demographic data by country. The youth population was found by determining the under 15 population of each country and dividing this population by the entire population to estimate the approximate number of children born each year.   Multiply this number by four to estimate the seminary age population of each country and then multiply this fraction by the membership of the church to arrive at an estimate of the number of seminary age youth by country.

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