The Church of Jesus Christ was restored as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, with only six baptized members (though several others were present at the organizational meeting). By the end of 1830, 280 were members of The Church of Jesus Christ, and by the end of 1832, membership exceeded 2,600. When the Church completed its first decade, membership numbers were at 16,865. In 1873, Mormons numbered 100,000, and 75 years later, in 1947, the Church reached one million members. As of October 2013, Church membership topped 15 million. As of April 2018, the Church had over 16 million members.
Joseph Smith, first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, knew that the Church would grow in this way. Joseph often received revelations from God, and the Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of many of those revelations. Several of them speak to the exponential growth of the Church:
“For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth–the gospel must be preached unto every creature, with signs following them that believe” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:64)
“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2)
“And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:37)
The Book of Mormon (a record of nations in the ancient Americas translated by Joseph Smith) also contains prophecies about The Church of Jesus Christ and its growth:
“In the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed” (1 Nephi 15:13)
“And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men” (2 Nephi 25:17)
“Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them” (3 Nephi 16:7).
Even the Bible contains prophecies about The Church of Jesus Christ filling the earth and gathering God’s children:
“That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee” (Deuteronomy 30:3)
“And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6)
“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day” (Ezekiel 34:12)
The Church of Jesus Christ has placed heavy emphasis on missionary work ever since its restoration in 1830 — it is the “great commission” of the Lord. In the early days of the Church, Mormon missionaries went to Europe to teach, and soon after that, entered Asia and the Pacific islands. In 2012, Mormon leadership lowered the minimum age for full-time missionaries from 19 to 18 for men, and from 21 to 19 for women. As of 2013, The Church of Jesus Christ had over 80,000 full-time missionaries serving all around the world. This missionary force is key in the fulfillment of prophecies about the spreading of the gospel around the world.
During his ministry as prophet, Joseph Smith prophesied powerfully about the influence the gospel would have on the world:
The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done (History of the Church, 4:540).
Why Would Anyone Want to Join Such a Church?
Skeptics can’t deny that something has to account for the rapid growth of The Church of Jesus Christ, especially with the lifestyle changes new converts have to make. Anyone baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ is required to give up coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol, and commit to live the law of chastity, which in many cases, requires converts to marry their significant other or end their relationship. Some converts even encounter harsh disapproval from friends and family members.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, one of the general leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ, said that converts to the Church have powerful reasons for doing so. These reasons include love for the Savior, opportunities to make a difference, and paths to dear blessings like guidance, healing, and knowledge. (Read this talk given by President Uchtdorf.)
Mormons bear a unique and powerful message of peace and redemption. Mormon missionaries encourage people to ask God for themselves whether or not the message they share is true. The Church of Jesus Christ teaches each member that he or she needs to develop a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Mormon missionaries are not called to convince or prove to investigators of the truth; anyone can receive his or her own personal witness of the Mormon message through studying the Book of Mormon and sincerely praying about it.
At the very end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni, the last of the Book of Mormon prophets, extends this invitation:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:4 – 5).
The rapid growth of The Church of Jesus Christ is not evidence of highly trained salespersons or polished marketing (most missionaries are young men and women in their late teens and early 20s). The exponential rise in membership is explained by the fact that the message Mormons have to share is true, that its promises are real. Millions of people all over the world have put the message to the test, and God has answered them personally. If you’re interested in what Mormons have to say, you can chat with missionaries here. You can order a free Book of Mormon by clicking here.