Latter-day Saints living outside the United States now represent a majority of the church's worldwide population of 9.4 million.
The LDS Church welcomes an average of 950 new members each day - or one new member every 90 seconds.Because of the church's proliferation around the globe, it would be difficult to tell exactly when membership outside the United States took the lead. But church statisticians estimate baptisms into the church abroad tipped the scales sometime Sunday, said spokesman Don LeFevre.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized in upstate New York in 1830. Foreign proselyting efforts in England saw the church's membership there surpass American membership in the 1850s at the time when the church was establishing its current headquarters in Salt Lake City.
But many of those English church members, and members from other northern European countries, emigrated to the United States. The main body of the church has been located in the United States since.
Recent trends show the church's annual growth rate of about 6 percent abroad has tripled its domestic growth rate.
Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced in October that U.S. membership would soon drop to second place. "Our statisticians tell me that if the present trend continues, then sometime in February 1996 . . . there will be more members of the church outside the United States than in the United States," he said at the church's semiannualgeneral conference.
"The church is growing in a marvelous and wonderful way," President Hinckley said in a statement released Monday. "It is spreading over the Earth in a miraculous manner, and a million new members are added to the rolls every 31/2 years."
The next demographic milestone is anticipated just before the turn of the century.
English is currently the most spoken language in the church. But that should change in 1999 when church statisticians estimate non-English-speaking members will outnumber English-speaking members.
Spanish is currently the second most spoken language in the church, with 32.7 percent of the church's membership located in Mexico and Central and South America. Of those members, more than half live in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. Portuguese is the church's third most spoken language.
The church is organized into more than 22,000 congregations in 156 nations and territories.
After the United States and Latin American countries, the greatest concentrations of Latter-day Saints are found, in order, in Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, Canada, Africa, the Caribbean and Scandinavia.
"We have a demanding religion," President Hinckley said. "We have great expectations concerning our people. We have standards that we expect them to live by, and that is one of the things that attracts people to this church: It stands as an anchor in a world of shifting values."
Church membership: CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
United States: 4,719,000
Central America: 360,000
South America: 2,000,000
South Pacific: 320,000
United States 49.9%
South Pacific 3.5%
South America 21.0%
Central America 3.7%
Japanese 102,223Comment on this story