LDS Church Growth, Member Activity, and Convert Retention:
Review and Analysis By David Stewart

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Chapter II-03: Sources of Data: Dependent Research

Examples of sources which rely upon official church-reported data include the Glenmary survey, the Hartsem Faith Communities Today study, the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, and some other sources. It is essential to recognize that these sources do not represent original data sources on Latter-day Saints, but merely report and analyze official statistics provided by different churches with no independent data collection. This can lead to confusion and erroneous conclusions when statistics obtained from different denominations, using each denomination's own definitions and reporting standards, are compared inter-denominationally without efforts to standardize reporting or even to disclose the varying definitions used by different religious groups.

As inactive members are not removed from LDS rolls, LDS membership statistics remain stable or even show gradual increases in regions where church attendance is stagnant or declining. LDS membership statistics therefore generally look more favorable than those of denominations which report only active or participating members. This can lead to invalid or misleading conclusions when differences in reporting definitions among different denominations are not considered. Inter-denominational comparisons which rely upon church-reported data should be viewed with extreme caution because of widely different membership definitions and reporting standards. For studies which do rely on church-reported data, full disclosure and assessment of the different membership definitions and reporting standards is essential before data can be analyzed and valid conclusions can be drawn.