pale emperor, I am not as interested in the Book of Mormon and the doctrines as you are. I am more interested in the sociology, history and culture Mormonism. I have attended a number of their services and events including general conference. Overall I can’t say I enjoyed it. It is a pretty controlled atmosphere, with a very American vibe. They are clearly in decline in the UK, because the congregations I visited are supposed to be large congregations, yet there were few local people in attendance. Plus some congregations have closed because of lack of local support. It was mostly missionaries and Chinese students, for some reason, at the services.
Some advantages Mormons have over JWs:
1. They have a much more extensive programme for young people, including early Mormon Bible groups, so I gather. So the hours of contact, among devout young Mormons, is much greater for Mormons than JWs. This is important because it fosters a connection with the church and the culture that the ever-changing world of Watchtower, with its disorienting adjustments, and lack of programme catering for youth and other groups, lacks.
2. Having a large strong family is part of Mormon culture and theology. It gives a sense of mission even in the family and provides a larger number of potential recruits from within. JWs on the other hand have at various times discouraged having children or even getting married. Large JW families tend to be by accident rather than design, and many born in leave the religion anyway.
3. Mormons are much better are providing a sense of purpose and goals for young people. Often they go on mission for two years and return to study, get a career and start a family. This is a very stable and reliable route for young Mormon people into adulthood. JWs on the other hand may have haphazard notions about pioneering or going to bethel, without much emphasis on career. Then as far as bethel, the rug may be pulled from under them, and if a good job doesn’t materialise they have problems starting a family.
4. Mormons have been much better at raising money and investing it for a return. On the other hand Watchtower had a property windfall in Brooklyn, but this was a one off and probably only provided a temporary boost. (Or stay of execution, as the case may be, depending how their financial crisis turns out) Mormons have a wealthier membership, more concentrated in the US, and with a greater tendency to contribute to the church.
5. Mormons have academics and research groups that attempt to defend Mormon beliefs. JWs have nothing comparable to this, and the rare efforts of JW apologists are frowned upon and denigrated by Watchtower. So Mormons with doubts at least have somewhere to turn that will support their view of pre-Columbian history for example. Whereas a JW having doubts about 607/1914 doesn’t have much to fall back on to give it credibility. (I think if JWs dropped 1914, and fostered independent defences of their Bible teachings, they would be in a far stronger position as a result)
1. Mormons make a partcicularly ludicrous set of historical claims that are pretty difficult to defend. Online they are probably taking a greater hammering for their beliefs than JWs. Although former JWs may view JW beliefs as peculiar or falsifiable, they are more like a variation of historical Christianity, based on the Bible, than Mormonism which includes a whole new set of unlikely propositions. Plus they have an embarrassing history of racism, polygamy, dubious characters, and even a massacre, to defend.
2. The Mormon church makes greater efforts to appear mainstream and part of society than JWs, even having a Mormon run for president. But they simultaneously oppose gay marriage which leaves then in a awkward postion. JWs are just as opposed to homosexual activity as Mormons, but they make no attempt to appear mainstream, so their stance doesn’t impact them as badly. The Mormon church may soon face a clear choice between being a mainstream church or continuing to stigmatise homosexuality.
Judging by their declining baptismal figures and stagnating congregation numbers, Mormons appear to have entered decline worldwide. In Europe and the UK they have already been declining for some time. In many ways JWs have outperformed them because JWs have far more congregations, spread far more widely across the globe than Mormons. Plus the higher baptism figures for Mormons are not really comparable to JW baptisms, because Mormons have a much lower threshold for baptism, and many Mormon converts have little or no engagement with the church following baptism. Only around 40% of Mormons are active or turn up for important gatherings like general conference. (49% is a generously high estimate) That means up to 8 million (but probably fewer) Mormons tuning in to hear the prophet twice a year. Compared with around 20 million who turn up for the Memorial, JWs appear to have a larger engaged worldwide membership than Mormons.
So overall JWs have done better than Mormons to date in attracting converts and spreading globally. But Mormons have stronger finances, better connections with society at large, and a stronger culture of retaining large families in the church. This is probably more the case inside the US than overseas, where the culture in the church may be weaker. So overall the Mormon church has had slower growth than JWs, but they have a more solid financial and organisational basis for retaining members in the future. The JW organisation is currently in crisis and struggling to survive.