The Worlds of Joseph Smith : A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress
Brigham Young University Press
The subject of church growth is difficult to approach and should not be oversimplified by a numerical explanation. The nature of theology makes religion a "thick" material (not easily reduced to straightforward evaluation). Rodney Stark's predictions for further Church growth, although encouraging to some Church members and leaders, do not take into account many other changing forces, including the response and future expansion of other denominations. In debating the LDS Church's status as a world religion, Davies discusses the dynamics and constraints of growth. Elements adding significantly to this religious movement's success include Mormonism's view of death conquest, European converts' willingness and desire to immigrate and establish the New Jerusalem, Joseph Smith's martyrdom, believers' adaptations to social and political circumstances while following Brigham Young, the Church's emphasis on personal endeavor, and the increased level of faithful involvement arising from the distinction between local church meetings and temple ritual. Davies argues that current constraints to church growth prevent viewing the Church as a world religion. A highly centralized church often views diversity as dissent and church leadership becomes less directly involved with the general membership; relationships throughout the hierarchy are depersonalized. As an American institution, the Church has shared in the success currently enjoyed by the American nation extending its influence worldwide. However, if America's global influence were to decline just as did the United Kingdom's in the nineteenth century, the result might be disastrous for the Church. Davies concludes that because of the difficulty of understanding even self-awareness in this complex world, statistics must be viewed alongside personal "courage of confidence" in any examination of future growth.