By Richard Packham
Of course there is no precise way of knowing how many ex-Mormons there are in the world, or in the US. But I have been playing around with the numbers published here by the US government related to the census, especially Tables 79 and 81 on religions in the US.
Table 79 lists all the religions in the US and shows how many Americans consider themselves to be adherents, giving the figures for 1990 and 2001. The number of Americans who claimed to be Mormon in 1990 was 2,487,000, increasing in 2001 to 2,787,000, an increase of 300,000, amounting to 12% over the eleven years. (The table lists 24 religions who had greater increases - often much greater - than 12%).
Table 81 lists the number of members claimed by various religious organizations in 2001, with the term "member" being defined by each organization. The Mormon church reported that it had 5,311,000 members in the US. (The church considers anyone a member whose name is on their membership records as having been baptized who has not officially resigned or been ex-communicated.)
Notice the difference: of the 5 million members claimed by the church (and apparently listed on their membership records), only a scant half actually consider themselves Mormons. The other 2,524,000 people apparently do NOT consider themselves Mormons, even though the church claims them as members. Who are they? Obviously, they are ex-Mormons! They were once Mormons, but no longer consider themselves Mormons, even though their names are still on the records.
But there are more ex-Mormons than that, because many people resign their membership and get their names removed from the church records when they stop believing, and in recent years that number has been estimated to be presently at 100,000 per year. Between 1995 and 2002 approximately 595,000 names were removed by the church, according to an anonymous inside source (until the mid-90s it was about 30,000 per year). A fair estimate of how many people requested name removal (or were excommunicated) between 1990 and 2001 would be 640,000.
Adding these two figures (640,000 who officially left, and 2,524,000 who don't call themselves Mormons but are still on the records), gives us an estimate of about 3,164,000 ex-Mormons in the US in 2001, compared to the 2,787,000 who consider themselves Mormon. And notice that this estimate disregards those who may have had their names removed before 1990, but who are still alive, which would make the number of ex-Mormons even higher.
The figures for some other countries show an even greater ratio of ex-Mormons to Mormons. Some countries, as part of their official census, ask citizens to specify their religion. Here, too, the Mormon church has on its records large numbers of people who apparently at one time were members, but no longer consider themselves Mormon. They are, then, ex-Mormons.
Here are the numbers:
Mexico Members claimed by church (1999): 846,931 Mormons in census (2000): 205,229 Difference (ex-Mormons): 641,702 This shows that in Mexico there are over three times as many ex-Mormons as Mormons
Chile Members claimed by church (2001): 520,202 Mormons in census (2002): 103,735 Difference (ex-Mormons): 416,467 This shows that in Chile there are four times as many ex-Mormons as Mormons
These numbers are probably typical for many other third-world countries. Armand Mauss (Mormon sociologist) has estimated that in third-world countries only 25% of Mormon converts are still active one year after baptism. That is, 75% have become exmormon within a year.
Thus it appears that there are more ex-Mormons than there are Mormons! (Not that this proves anything, but I find it interesting.)
(with apologies to Mark Twain)