Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Morning Number Fun

I had an entertaining time running some (admittedly extremely rough) numbers this morning.
I was reflecting on how the LDS church is very proud of its exponential growth curve, and started thinking that it might be interesting to plot the percent of the world that is LDS over time, rather than the straight-up population.

Here's what I found:

So, it seems the church can still boast a nice exponential growth in terms of the portion of the world they can call their own.  The fit, by the way, is (% of world)=0.001*exp(0.03*(year-1830)).

Now, a few comments before I go further.  Obviously, you can't go above 100%, so this can't be a straight-up exponential, it'd have to reach an inflection point up to some point.  That being said, up until about half the maximum value the church will reach, the fit should be reasonable.  So we have to make some assumptions about the church's maximum size (in proportion to the world) to know how far we can set any kind of store whatsoever by this fit.

In addition, world population may reach an inflection point at any time, and further screw with our model.  However, as I said, for the time being, hopefully we can trust the fit for a few years.

Finally, there is an obvious anomaly in the data right at the end where the growth rate seems to drastically drop, which might be an indication that the inflection point has already been crossed.  However, for the sake of fun, I'm going to give the church the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to noisy data.

So with that stuff out of the way, we can have a bit of fun.

One of my favorite elder's quorum discussions is "when do you brethren think the second coming will be?"
We always get the mandatory 2012 (the current favorite end-of-the-world for any crackpot theorist), and there are a lot of guesses between 10-30 years in the future.  It is universally assumed that it will happen in our lifetime, or at the very latest our kids'.

I believe it is generally held in the church that a significant fraction of the world must be LDS before Jesus decides to show.  I'm sure some would insist on 50% or something like that, but let's assume a smaller fraction is sufficient.  Say... 10%?

Given the (idiotically optimistic) fit I've found for the church's growth rate, the church should reach 10% of the world's population at around 2130.  We probably won't be around anymore.  Our kids probably won't either... but maybe our grandkids.  Maybe.

Anyway, like I said, the numbers pretty much explode after this, and we'd have to come up with a much better model if we want to predict any further out.  In any case, if the church needs even 10% of the world before Jesus comes a-knockin, we've got a little while to wait.

Basically, the point of all this is, I can't wait for the next time someone brings this up in elder's quorum.  I want to see the looks of discomfort when I tell people it seems unlikely that Jesus will be around any time in the next century, give the church's historical growth and generally-held teachings.

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