Deseret News Church Almanacs and the Liahona were used as the data sources. The almanac started in 1974 as an annual publication, then became biennial in 1984, then annual again in 2002. With access to records and the LDS Church Historical Department, the almanac prints some material not available in other publications. It contains history and membership statistics of geographical areas for the year ending before the previous year (e.g., the 2009 almanac includes data up to the year-end 2007).

Japanese LDS membership 1930 to 1971

Japanese LDS membership 1930 to 1971 from the 1975 Church Almanac

There was no membership data for Japan in the 1974 edition. In 1975, membership was published for each decade from 1930 to 1970, plus the years 1965, 1967, and 1971. The almanac of 1976 offered no new information for Japan. The 1977 to 1983 editions yielded data for 1975 to 1981 respectively, except for the 1978 almanac, containing data for 1976, to which I do not yet have access.

The biennial almanacs run from the 1984-1985 edition to the 2001-2002 edition. For the biennial years we only get membership totals every two years. The 1986-1987 edition to the 1999-2000 edition rounded the membership numbers but this ceased in the 2001-2002 edition.

The 2009 membership data comes from the Japan country profile at LDS Newsroom.

In these comments Jonathen posted additional membership information. Below is page 63 from Seito no Michi, June 1982. See the comments for his sources.

Japanese LDS membership 1901 to 1981

Japanese LDS membership 1901 to 1981 (click to enlarge)


Table of Japanese Membership

I have used Jonathen’s data as the primary source. For some of the years we only have the Almanac source. Where both sources are available but yield different totals, Jonathen’s source prevails but the Almanac numbers are noted. In some instances it appears that one of the sources may be off one year. For example, see 1966 and 1967, and 1970 and 1971.

Year Members Notes
1902 3
1905 17
1910 41
1911 51
1912 51
1913 57
1918 105
1920 127
1924 166
1925 Mission closed
1926 Mission closed
1927 Mission closed
1928 Mission closed
1929 Mission closed
1930 Mission closed
1931 Mission closed
1932 Mission closed
1933 Mission closed
1934 Mission closed
1935 Mission closed
1936 Mission closed
1937 Mission closed
1938 Mission closed
1939 Mission closed
1940 60 Mission closed
1941 Mission closed
1942 Mission closed
1943 Mission closed
1944 Mission closed
1945 Mission closed
1946 Mission closed
1947 Mission closed
1948 Mission closed
1949 211
1950 433 Almanac = 211
1951 709
1952 946
1953 1,117
1954 1,209
1956 1,315
1957 1,811
1958 2,341
1959 2,783
1960 4,157 Almanac = 2,502
1961 5,203
1962 5,976
1963 7,695
1964 8,599
1965 9,012 Almanac = 7,963
1966 9,484
1967 10,110 Almanac = 9,484
1968 11,487
1969 12,485
1970 14,890 Almanac = 11,868
1971 13,010 Almanac = 14,890
1972 19,902
1973 22,653
1974 24,840
1975 27,516
1976 29,374
1977 31,948
1978 34,969
1979 45,958
1980 52,576 Almanac = 57,093
1981 69,809 Almanac = 65,682
1983 70,998
1985 82,000
1987 85,000
1989 91,000
1991 99,484
1993 103,000
1995 106,000
1996 108,000
1997 108,000 This may belong in 1996
1999 110,987
2001 117,329
2002 118,508
2003 119,267
2004 120,197
2005 121,068
2006 121,774
2007 122,442
2008 123,245
2009 124,041

Last updated 29 May 2010

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Country information: Japan
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  1. Jonathen says:

    1901: 0
    1902: 3
    1903: No data available
    1904: No data available
    1905: 17
    1906: No data available
    1907: No data available
    1908: No data available
    1909: No data available
    1910: 41
    1911: 51
    1912: 51
    1913: 57
    1914: No data available
    1915: No data available
    1916: No data available
    1917: No data available
    1918: 105
    1919: No data available
    1920: 127
    1921: No data available
    1922: No data available
    1923: No data available
    1924: 166
    (Japan mission closed from 1924 until 1948)
    1949: 211
    1950: 433
    1951: 709
    1952: 946
    1953: 1,117
    1954: 1,209
    1955: No data available
    1956: 1,315
    1957: 1,811
    1958: 2,341
    1959: 2,783
    1960: 4,157
    1961: 5,203
    1962: 5,976
    1963: 7,695
    1964: 8,599
    1965: 9,012
    1966: 9,484
    1967: 10,110
    1968: 11,487
    1969: 12,485
    1970: 14,890
    1971: 13,010
    1972: 19,902
    1973: 22,653
    1974: 24,840
    1975: 27,516
    1976: 29,374
    1977: 31,948
    1978: 34,969
    1979: 45,958
    1980: 52,576
    1981: 69,809
    1982: No data available
    1983: 70,998
    1984: No data available
    1985: 82,000
    1986: No data available
    1987: 85,000
    1988: No data available
    1989: 91,000
    1990: No data available
    1991: 99,484
    1992: No data available
    1993: 103,000
    1994: No data available
    1995: No data available
    1996: 108,000
    1997: 108,000 (?)
    1998: No data available
    1999: 110,987
    2000: No data available
    2001: 117,527
    2002: 118,508
    2003: 119,267
    2004: 120,197
    2005: 121,068
    2006: 121,774
    2007: 122,442
    2008: 123,245
    2009: 124,041

    For years 1901 through 1981: “Nihon no Dendou 81 Nen no Shinten to Kyoukaiin no Zouka” Seito no Michi, June 1982, Page 63

    For 1991: “Nihon ni okeru Kyoukai no Hatten,” Seito no Michi, September 1991, Local News, Page 3

    For 1996: “Kyoukai, Rekishiteki na Ippo wo Shirusu,” Seito no Michi, May 1996, Local News, Page 1

    For 2001: “Beyond the Century,” Page 314
    ldschurch.jp/images/stories/PDF/history_chapter7-9.pdf [Dead link, Ed.]

    Everything else has been filled in with the numbers you provided from the almanacs. “Seito no Michi” is the name of the old Japanese Ensign before it was changed to the current title, “Liahona.” Thank you for helping me fill in many of the missing years – I could hardly find anything that told of the growth in the later 1980s through the 2000s on my own.

    • It will be years 1991 and 1995 I expect to be able to fill in. Some of our numbers where we both have data don’t seem to match, for example 1950 and 1960. The years I have data for are the actual years, published in an almanac from a later year.

      Thank you for the information. I may incorporate it on the page if the graph will fit.

      • Jonathen says:

        Yeah, I was wondering what was up with some of the years being off by one for some of those numbers between our information. You can check out the information in the links I provided above (the first is probably the easiest to understand although the magazine is in Japanese, because if you go to page 63 the graph and numbers are all easily readable). Also, the information for my 1996 and your 1997 being the same got me thinking; in the May 1996 issue of the church’s magazine (again, visible in the link provided above), it says that the church in Japan has 108,000 members as of 1996. I am not sure how the almanacs are counting the years, but there is obviously something different from the way the Japanese Ensigns are doing so. Do you have any idea what might be making these numbers be displayed on differing years?

        • I will recheck my years. Also, I may see something that will give me a clue when I consolidate your numbers with mine.

        • Sometimes the years are stated, for example, as of December 31, 1990. Sometimes as of 1 January, 1991. So the January date would still be 1990.

    • I just received the 1997-98 almanac and added the 1995 numbers.

  2. Jonathen says:

    Thanks for the update – I am still going over various sources and trying to figure out what is causing the discrepancy in the numbers between the Church’s magazine and their almanac. I recently found an article that said that the year end numbers for 1984 were 70,998, which the almanac says is the number for 1983. The article also filled in a number for 1990, saying that the church had 96,000 members as at the beginning of 1991 (these are the “year end” numbers for 1990). Here is the link:

    It seems that during the 1980s as well as parts of the 1990s the almanac lists numbers for a year behind what they are supposed to be… at least that is all I can figure.

    Also, the church apparently had about 114,000 members in 2000 according to this link:

    I am very curious at to what caused the giant leap in membership from 1984(83?) to 1985, where it goes from 70,998 to 82,000 – 11,002 converts in one year. Although this is not as impressive as the 17,233 converts of 1981 (which are kind of shady because of what Delbert H. Groberg did in the Tokyo South Mission during that era), it is still a huge jump when compared to the couple of years preceding it. I would be interested to see what the numbers for 1982 and 1983 are, but I have not been able to find any data on that yet.

    Thanks again for your help with this, and I will continue to post information as I find it.

    • Jonathen says:

      I actually just noticed this, but in the chart on page 63 of the June 1982 “Seito no Michi,” it says:

      3月末現在の教会数 (Current Membership as of the end of March)
      日本 (Japan) 71,551
      韓国 (Korea) 29,689

      Therefore, although the 71,551 is not the final membership count for 1982, it shows that the membership was more in March of 1982 than it was over two years later at the end of 1984 (70,988 members). I am not sure if that was caused by the aftermath of President Groberg, but it makes me want to know the year-end numbers for 1982 and 1983 even more than before.

    • One thing I can do is to recheck my readings of the almanacs, especially the ones that cover two years in one publication. I mentioned in a prior comment that I plan to do this. Perhaps tomorrow I will get to it.

    • For anyone reading you might want to summarize what Delbert H. Groberg did in Japan to increase baptisms. I have read a little about this but the source does not seem to be reliable.

      • Jonathen says:

        I am not sure if I should go into the details of the Groberg era, because there really was a lot of unethical things that went on under him. I think it suffices to say that he was a *little* too ambitious; here is a quote from his doctoral thesis, which he completed in 1986 and was awarded his doctorate in 1987; he wrote this soon after he served as the mission president of the Japan Tokyo South mission (1978-1981):

        “Elder Kikuchi came out to our home and we talked from 3:30pm until 7:00pm. He really has high expectations of me. I had thought that 10 times as many baptisms as they are getting now would be a good goal to shoot for (about 10,000). Before telling him, I asked him what he felt I should do. He mapped out the progress as he expected and it turned out to be 25 times as much as what is currently happening minimum! (And he stressed minimum!) That seems like a lot, but I believe we can make it.”
        -Toward a Synoptic Model of Instructional Productivity, Delbert H. Groberg, 1987, Page 51

        Groberg was basically more worried about statistics than he was about converts who understood the Gospel and who would continue coming to Church. During the last 6 months of the time he was mission president, Groberg’s mission baptized 4,718 converts – more than 4 times the number of baptisms the second-highest-baptizing mission in the area under Elder Kikuchi’s supervision saw during those six months (Korea Seoul West Mission: 1,055 members), and almost 10 times the number of baptisms of the second-highest-baptizing mission in the country (Japan Okayama Mission: 542). Even now, the activity rate continues to hover around mid-20% in Japan largely as a result of the methods Groberg implemented, which damaged the church’s reputation in the country. Here are some graphs showing the sacrament attendance rates (the grey lines are attendance rates; the black lines are home teaching completion rates) for Japan (bottom left), Korea (bottom right), and the region (top left):
        ldschurch.jp/images/stories/localpages/2005-08.pdf [Dead link, Ed.]

        I think that is enough information about Groberg. I should say, however, that this is why I am curious about the 11,002-member jump from 1984-1985, because David B. Haight (who was in charge of the missionary program at that time) knew what had gone on in the Tokyo South Mission and switched to a much more conservative style of proselytizing in the country after that point – one where missionaries valued what they were supposed to (the people) and not what they weren’t (statistics). The only other thing I am aware of that was controversial in the least was the “Ammon Project,” but that was in the 1990s, so it couldn’t account for the jump in the mid 1980s.

        • You did a great job explaining about Elder Groberg, thank you. One of the reasons I asked for your input is that when I searched for information about Groberg in Japan the website at the top of the results was one that is actively working against the Church. It is better to have more balanced information out there if it is to be there at all.

          You mentioned the Ammon Project. I have never heard of that. On searching it seems to be centered on the Fukuoka mission and involved rotating missionaries less often, expanding free English classes, and more support for new members.

  3. Jonathen says:

    Yes, the “Ammon Project” was implemented under Cyril Iwamura Amorozo Figuerres, who was the president of the Japan Fukuoka Mission from July 1991 until June 1994. As President Figuerres puts it:

    “The Ammon Project was my attempt as mission president to achieve “real growth” and establish the Church in Japan. To be sure, it is one and not the only approach. Elder Neal A. Maxwell visited my wife and me in February 1992. He was concerned that there had been no “real growth” in Japan for decades. He asked us to identify the root causes and then learn how to preach the gospel to the Japanese people who are non-Christian and whose culture is so different from ours. He said that this was a time to learn how to establish the first-generation church in Asia where half of God’s children live. We were to experiment fundamentally and pilot test widely. He asked us to avoid quick fixes and cosmetic changes. We proceeded to adapt the “negotiables” (e.g., church programs, activities, policies, training, supervision), without tampering with the “nonnegotiables,”such as doctrines and ordinances.”
    “Challenges of Establishing the Church in Japan,” Cyril I. A. Figuerres, August 16, 1999

    As I had mentioned with the Groberg era and its various issues (which the other missions in Japan tried to imitate), the Church in Japan had seen a lot of superficial growth during the 1980s, but it wasn’t “real growth.” For example, in the Japan Fukuoka Mission, there were 1,901 active members and 1,842 inactive members in 1980. However, in 1990 there were 1,661 active members and 4,329 inactive members. In other words, the active membership of those living within the Fukuoka Mission boundaries grew by -13% over ten years, while the inactive population grew by +135%. Basically, people were being baptized, but the retention rates were much less that 50%. Even so, on a surface level it appeared as though there had been growth in the mission because the gross total of members had gone from 3,743 in 1980 to 5,990 in 1990.

    What President Figuerres did was to have missionaries work amongst the people they were serving, much like Ammon did – hence the “Ammon” Project. For example, if missionaries came across a group of youth playing basketball, they would ask to join in, and would try to become friends. There was no rush to see baptisms like Groberg had pushed for; only contacts. Accordingly, missionaries were living much like normal people amongst the Japanese (of course, they were still expected to obey the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, etc) and were not actively “proselytizing.” The results were amazing: Retention rates went from 45% in 1991 to 74% by 1993, and convert baptisms over that time went from 236 to 324 (the average in Japan being 171 in 1993).

    Unfortunately, Elder David E. Sorenson, who had been serving as the Second Counselor to the Asia Area Presidency from October of 1993, was called as the President of the Asia Area Presidency at the 164th Annual General Conference in April of 1994. President Figuerres, who had begun the Ammon Project in the Fukuoka Mission, was released two months later and replaced by President L. Dwight Pincock. Elder Sorenson had disliked the Ammon Project from the beginning, not only because he apparently wasn’t a fan of that type of proselytizing, but also because President Figuerres had been in direct contact with Elder Maxwell, which left Elder Sorenson and the Asia Area Presidency out of the loop. Accordingly, when President Figuerres was released, his successor was not able to manage the pilot program effectively, and although he tried to keep up the progress that President Figuerres had made, things just didn’t work out. He was unable to keep missionaries in line like President Figuerres had, and so having them go out to be part of the people like Ammon led to many missionaries being very liberal with how they interpreted this; many would go to clubs and parties to “submerge” themselves in the culture. This, much like what Groberg had done, again caused harm to the Church’s image in the country. Elder Sorenson saw this as his chance to scrap the program that he had disliked from the outset, and thus the Ammon Project never ended up making it past the pilot stage.

    It should be noted, however, that missionaries are now using “Preach My Gospel” instead of the old lesson plans. This new book is in many ways similar to what President Figuerres was shooting for, because it matches the pace of the lessons to the investigator instead of the other way around (going over the same material at the same speed for every investigator). I hope this has helped to shed some light on the not-so-well-known portions of the Church’s history in Japan.

  4. I am beginning to recheck my numbers and I will post some scans of the actual pages so that others can check. As you can see from the portion of the 1975 almanac I have posted today that it matches the numbers in the table. It is interesting that there is a forecast of membership totals for 1980 and 1990.

  5. Hi Ricky, thank you for always posting something like faith promoting stuff i really appreciate it. I just want to ask if you are aware of this site? [the Academy for Creating Enterprise] it is an institution that is being founded by an LDS couple.It has been helping returned missionaries from the Philippines to become Self reliant by teaching them the basics of business for 10 years now.I am one of the students that was blessed by the kindness of this institution.

  6. adiscipleofchrist says:

    I am looking for a graph of church membership within and without the US. or american and foreign?

    Have you seen such?


    • I haven’t.

      • Douglas says:

        I know this comment is not in direct reply to the immediate thread; however, it refers to comments made earlier regarding the Groberg era of missionary service in the Japan Tokyo South Mission. For years I have refrained from commenting with respect to this topic. I have refrained from commenting because I have felt that it would be a waste of my time to articulate the truth. I find many generalizations are made of the Groberg era and usually they are made from hearsay or from outright ignorance and lies. There are a few Mormon bashing websites where this topic is thoroughly discussed and most of what is said is comical. Frankly, if you did not serve in the Japan Tokyo South Mission during that time period you have no idea what happened. Because I was one of those missionaries who served under President Groberg from early 1979 to early 1981, I saw from start to finish the spike in baptisms that were performed. Yes, it is true there was great pressure to baptize and it is true that many elders saw the statistic as more meaningful than the convert, yet, to generalize and say that all missionaries fell among that category and that what occurred during that time period was, in effect, a black mark on the church is a falsehood, a misconception, and is wrong. Among those elders can be found tremendous stories of faith, diligence and hard work. I still have dear friendships with members I baptized during that time that have remained active and hold leadership positions in the church in their respective wards and stakes. As for how President Groberg handled his stewardship, that is between him and the Lord. The purpose of my writing this comment is not to make an attempt to defend his methods or disqualify them, it is only to state that much of what occurred in the Japan Tokyo South Mission occurred because of hard work, diligence and faith. Personally, I know of no instance of where an investigator was baptized before being taught all of the lessons and were properly interviewed. Did abuse of the system occur? I’m sure some did. Was it the norm? No! Were there elders who lost track of the concept that we were there to plant a testimony and convert the investigator? Sure. But there were many who just plain worked their butt off and never forgot what it meant to be a missionary!

        Now, as to a comment I made earlier, it goes without saying that the pressure to baptize was extreme and President Groberg implemented various rules to keep the elders focused on this goal. There were some elders that were crushed under this pressure. There were some elders who lost focus of the individual versus the number. But there were just as many who didn’t and they also experienced great success. I believe some of those elders who were crushed under the pressure left the mission, fell away from the church, and have circulated many lies about what occurred. That is unfortunate. I also believe there are some elders that look back on that time and have regrets over how they handled certain situations. But, I believe that the majority of the elders that served under President Groberg look back at that time and have fond memories of the work they performed and the success that they had and are not ashamed of anything that they did because they know the truth of what happened and they know that they were part of something extraordinary.

        In conclusion, I have written in generalities, not specifics; and lest you paint me into the corner of one of President Groberg’s mindless robots that “threw candy into the font and watched the kiddies jump in after it and called it a baptism” elder — which, by the way, never happened! — you have already misjudged me. During the time I served under President Groberg, I often struggled with some of the pressure to baptize that was applied on me as a missionary; and as I have held leadership positions in the church I have always remembered my experience as missionary for a guiding principle of what can happen when too much pressure is applied to achieve a seemingly worthwhile goal. On the other hand, as I was a missionary serving under President Groberg I also learned that I was capable of doing some extraordinary things if I worked hard and never gave up. That is a lesson that has proved useful to me everyday since I have returned home and I am eternally grateful that I learned it in the Japan Tokyo South Mission.

        • I appreciate very much your comment. Thank you for sharing. I remember when I was baptized in less that 3 weeks of first contacting the missionaries people wondered if it would last. 38 years later it now appears that it has lasted. People are responsible for their own destinies. No-one is forced into baptism.

        • I too was in Japan from ’79 thru ’81, but in the Okayama (now Hiroshima) Mission. What I vividly remember about that time was being constantly reminded of what faith was being shown in the Tokyo South Mission and how we needed to mirror their dendo style, etc. so that we too could post great numbers. The only problem we had was that our mission president would have nothing to do with the baptizing of a Nihonjin who had no clue what they were getting into. We had a few elders who tried to mimic the methods used in TSM and they did have some significantly increased numbers, but the retention rate of those new members were a joke. I remember transferring into a city as the DL where an egotistical ZL from Utah had baptized many young boys who had no idea what they had gotten into and the missionary didn’t even bother keeping records of who they were, the dates, ANYTHING! It took me forever to get things cleaned up there. Our mission president went as far as to have potential baptisms read expansive amounts of the BofM prior to allowing them to interview. It slowed things down significantly, but they usually ended up sticking around for a MUCH longer time. After arriving home to Mesa I met another ex-missionary who had been in TSM at the same time I was in Okayama. His stories of what was expected of them and what missionaries were willing to do to get baptisms made me ill to listen to. I felt so sorry for this guy because whereas my mission made me a stronger member, his experiences actually caused him to question everything he believed and he ended up leaving the church. There were times when listening to his stories that I wondered if I was just listening to the distorted views of a disgruntled member, but time and the internet have allowed me to find out just how truthful he was being. I’m sure that there were good things going on in the TSM during those years, but that mission and its president have been tainted for a long time to come.

        • Thank you for your truths I was also there during the same time early 79-81 I had a similar experience and have to agree with your assessment, there are those who hear that’s when I served and roll their eyes and say oh you were one of them….. Well don’t use a broad brush to tarnish all the elders f that era… There were many great stories of conversion and faith , families and youth strengthened ….

  7. I was a missionary under Groberg, and before him, Price. I can tell you from personal experience that Groberg was a jerk. I returned to Japan and had to deal with the aftermath of this used car salesman mentality. We literally had thousands of inactive in the ward in which I served in the bishopric. It was a nightmare. Elders sleeping with girls, dating, getting sent home. The church was severely damaged by a man whose only goal was to be made a General Authority at whatever cost. President Price was a gentleman and a spiritual giant and the contrast between the two men could not have been greater.

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