Friday, April 24, 2015

Central Eurasian Mission to be Created in July

Today the Church announced that a new mission will be organized this July from a division of the Bulgaria Sofia and Russia Novosibirsk Missions. The Central Eurasian Mission will be headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey and include the following nations within its boundaries: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. Although the Church did not explicitly state that Turkmenistan will be included in the Central Eurasian Mission, a graphic supplied in an LDS Church News article suggests that this nation will also be included within the new mission. The realigned Bulgaria Sofia Mission will subsequently only administer Bulgaria whereas the realigned Russia Novosibirsk Mission will solely administer central Siberia. The Church currently reports four branches in Turkey, two branches in Kazakhstan, and one branch for expatriate members in Azerbaijan. Full-time missionaries have served in Kazakhstan since 2004 and Turkey since 2012.

The announcement of the new mission came as a complete shock to me. All but two of the countries (Kazakhstan and Turkey) have never been assigned to an LDS mission before. All of these nations experience governmental and/or societal restrictions on religious freedom. Governmental restrictions on religious freedom have intensified within Central Asia during the past two decades as a result of the resurgence of Islamic identify following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, political efforts to curb the emergence of radical Islamist groups in the region, and concern that nontraditional Christian groups pose threats to local cultures and national identities. The Church missed its window of opportunity to establish a presence in most Central Asian republics and Azerbaijan during the 1990s when conditions were more favorable to missionary-focused Christian denominations. Consequently efforts to establish the Church in Kyrgyzstan were unsuccessful in the mid-2000s. There have not appeared to be any recent efforts to establish the Church in additional nations in the region such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan.

The decision to organize the new mission stands as the most audacious and proactive initiative by the LDS Church to expand its outreach into vast unreached areas of the world since the 1990s. The Church has organized no new missions within an area with as few members and congregations since the organization of the Russia Vladivostok Mission in 1999. No LDS scriptures have been translated into languages indigenous to Central Asia or Azerbaijan and only the Book of Mormon has been translated into Turkish.  Many of the most commonly spoken languages have no translations of LDS materials available such as Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Tajiki, Turkmen, and Uzbek. The organization of the new mission will provide the Church an exciting frontier to pioneer Muslim-specific outreach if determined by mission and area leadership as the percentage of Muslims in the population range from as low as 70% in Kazakhstan to as high as 99.8% in Turkey.

The new Central Eurasian Mission will have over 150 million people within its boundaries. The mission will tie with the Uganda Kampala Mission as the mission with the fourth largest population in the world after the India New Delhi, Indonesia Jakarta, and India Bangalore Missions.

Case studies on cumorah.com pertaining to the nations within the new Central Eurasian Mission can be found below.
I will write a case study on cumorah.com in the coming month or two providing further analysis of this exciting and unprecedented development.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Countries with the Highest Members-to-Units Ratio: 2014 Figures

The members-to-units ratio is a statistic ascertained by dividing church-reported membership by the total number of congregations. Countries with high member-to-unit ratios invariably experience low member activity rates as there are an insufficient number of active members to create additional congregations.

Below is a list of the 20 countries and dependencies with the highest members-to-units ratios for 2014. The 2013 list can be found here.

  1. Chile - 959
  2. Nicaragua - 870
  3. Northern Mariana Islands - 789
  4. Bolivia - 760
  5. Ecuador - 744
  6. El Salvador - 734
  7. Colombia - 725
  8. Honduras - 723
  9. Uruguay - 720
  10. Peru - 720
  11. Panama - 720
  12. South Korea - 688
  13. Mexico - 685
  14. Hong Kong - 669
  15. Paraguay - 653
  16. Brazil - 646
  17. Kiribati - 646
  18. Dominican Republic - 622
  19. Venezuela - 612
  20. Guatemala - 607
Member activity rates have appeared to worsen in most countries during the past decade as evidenced by substantial increases in the members-to-units ratio. This finding is supported by only two nations in 2003 reporting members-to-units ratios of over 600 (the Northern Mariana Islands and Chile). The Church reported improvement reducing the members-to-units ratio in only one of these 20 nations within the past year: Hong Kong (a decrease from 721 to 669). Uruguay was the country in the top 20 with the largest increase in the members-to-units ratio for 2014 (+53) due to slow membership growth combined with a net decline in the number of congregations.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The 10 Countries and Dependencies with the Most Members without a Temple Announced, Under Construction, or Operating

I have updated the list of the countries and dependencies with the most members without a temple. Membership data is as of year-end 2014 whereas stake, district, and congregational data is current.  Temples that service stakes, districts, and mission branches in each country are identified. Old lists are also available for 2013, mid-2011, late 2008, and late 2007.

1. Nicaragua
  • 87,880 members
  • 9 stakes, 6 districts
  • 101 congregations
  • Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple
2. Zimbabwe
  • 26,156 members
  • 6 stakes, 2 districts
  • 66 congregations
  • Johannesburg South Africa Temple
3. Puerto Rico
  • 23,064 members
  • 5 stakes, 0 districts
  • 42 congregations
  • Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple
4. Papua New Guinea
  • 22,982 members
  • 2 stakes, 11 districts
  • 71 congregations
  • Sydney Australia Temple
5. Russia
  • 22,472 members
  • 2 stakes, 2 districts
  • 97 congregations
  • Helsinki Finland Temple, Kyiv Ukraine Temple, Seoul Korea Temple
6. Kiribati
  • 16,795 members
  • 2 stakes, 1 districts
  • 26 congregations
  • Suva Fiji Temple
7. American Samoa
  • 16,621 members
  • 5 stakes
  • 40 congregations
  • Apia Samoa Temple
8. Sierra Leone
  • 14,776 members
  • 1 stake, 5 districts
  • 42 congregations
  • Accra Ghana Temple
9. Uganda
  • 13,248 members
  • 1 stakes, 1 district
  • 27 congregations
  • Johannesburg South Africa Temple
10. Cambodia
  • 12,882 members
  • 2 stakes, 5 districts
  • 30 congregations
  • Hong Kong China Temple

Updated List of the Countries with the Most Members without a Stake

Below is an updated list of the countries with the most Latter-day Saints without a stake. Membership totals are as of 2014 and congregational and district totals are current. Membership totals for mainland China and Pakistan are estimates as no official statistics are available. The number of branches and districts in mainland China is not provided due to the sensitive nature of the Church in that country.  Previous lists of the countries with the most members without a stake can be found here.

  1. China - 11,500 members?
  2. Malaysia - 9,476 members - 34 branches - 8 districts
  3. Liberia - 8,929 members - 24 branches - 3 districts
  4. Vanuatu - 6,693 members - 31 branches - 4 districts
  5. Guyana - 5,575 members - 13 branches - 1 district
  6. Belize - 4,807 members - 11 branches - 2 districts
  7. Pakistan - 3,900 members? - 13 branches? - 3 districts
  8. Romania - 2,993 members - 16 branches - 2 districts
  9. Czech Republic - 2,455 members - 13 branches - 2 districts
  10. Bulgaria - 2,392 members - 9 branches - 0 districts
  11. Malawi - 1,931 members - 8 branches - 1 district
  12. Benin - 1,898 members - 14 branches - 1 district
  13. Ethiopia - 1,854 members - 6 branches - 1 district
  14. Cook Islands - 1,844 members - 5 branches - 1 district
  15. Poland - 1,821 members - 14 branches - 3 districts
  16. Swaziland - 1,768 members - 4 branches - 1 district
  17. Angola - 1,684 members - 8 branches - 1 district
  18. Cameroon - 1,498 members - 7 branches - 1 district
Prospects appear most favorable for the formation of stakes within the next few years in Malaysia, Liberia, Vanuatu, Guyana, Belize, the Czech Republic, Benin, Swaziland, and Angola as all of these countries has at least one district that is close to reaching the minimum qualifications for a stake to operate.  Low member activity rates, an insufficient number of branches in individual member districts, and few full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders will likely continue to delay the organization of stakes in other countries for several more years to come.

Missionaries report that the original plan to organize the first stake in Vanuatu this month will be delayed due to the impact of Cyclone Pam on the island nation. However, the organization of the stake appears imminent once the nation recovers from the aftermath of this storm. Missionaries report that the first stake in the Czech Republic may be organized in June whereas the first stake in Benin may be organized in October.

Congregational Growth by Country: 2014

Below is a list of the countries where the Church reported a net increase of four or more units for the year 2014.  The annual percentage increase for the number of wards and branches for each country is also provided:
  1. United States +152 (1.1% increase)
  2. Ghana +39 (23.2% increase)
  3. Nigeria +38 (10.1% increase)
  4. Philippines +33 (2.9% increase)
  5. Brazil +24 (1.2% increase)
  6. Cote d'Ivoire +22 (30.6% increase) 
  7. Mexico +18 (0.9% increase)
  8. Democratic Republic of the Congo +15 (11.5% increase)
  9. Sierra Leone +9 (30.0% increase)
  10. Australia +7 (2.4% increase)
  11. Mozambique +6 (30.0% increase)
  12. Cape Verde +5 (16.1% increase)
  13. Kenya +5 (12.2% increase)
  14. South Africa +5 (3.2% increase)
  15. Botswana +4 (50.0% increase)
  16. Guatemala +4 (1.0% increase)
  17. New Zealand +4 (1.9% increase)
  18. Taiwan +4 (4.0% increase)
  19. Zimbabwe +4 (6.7% increase)
The net increase in the number of wards and branches in these 19 countries totals 398; a larger number than the net increase in the number of wards and branches for the entire Church for the year 2014 (368). Six countries experienced a net decrease of four or more units during 2014 including:
  1. Argentina -27 (3.4% decrease) 
  2. Japan -12 (4.3% decrease)
  3. Chile -10 (1.6% decrease)
  4. Uruguay -9 (5.9% decrease)
  5. Ukraine -5 (8.9% decrease)
  6. Bolivia -4 (1.6% decrease)
Decreasing numbers of congregations in Argentina are particularly concerning as the Church has experienced a net decrease in congregations for several years notwithstanding church membership increasing by tens of thousands during this period. However, the Church has slowed its rate of discontinuing congregations in Argentina within the past few months and also organized a new branch during this period.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Membership by Country Statistics Released for 2014

2014 membership and congregation totals for nations with a reported LDS presence are now available on the Church's official website and can be found at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics. Data is available under the country profiles on the right side of the site.

Countries with the highest annual membership growth rates in 2014 (10% or greater) are listed below. Lists for nations with the most rapid membership growth rates are also available for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The percentage next to the country name is the annual growth rate percentage which is followed by the country's LDS membership at year-end 2014 . Countries in bold experienced a membership increase greater than 200. 

  1. Benin - 31.9% - 1,898
  2. Burundi - 28.6% -526
  3. Rwanda - 27.1% - 281
  4. Turkey - 24.5% -397
  5. Zambia - 21.8% - 3,359
  6. Togo - 21.4% - 2,801
  7. Cote d'Ivoire - 19.8% -27,052
  8. Angola - 17.3% - 1,684
  9. Kazakhstan - 17.1% - 281
  10. Malawi - 16.8% - 1,931
  11. Central African Republic - 15.5% - 216
  12. Saint Lucia - 15.2% - 303
  13. Mozambique - 15.1% -7,943
  14. Luxembourg - 13.1% - 405
  15. Solomon Islands - 13.1% - 638
  16. Sierra Leone - 13.0% - 14,776
  17. Micronesia, Federated States of - 12.9% - 5,643
  18. Democratic Republic of the Congo - 12.6% - 42,689
  19. Ireland - 12.4% - 3,451
  20. Saint Maarten - 12.1% -260
  21. Grenada - 11.9% - 376
  22. Marshall Islands - 11.0% - 6,865
  23. Tuvalu - 10.7% - 227
  24. Liberia - 10.5% - 8,929
  25. Cameroon - 10.2% - 1,498
  26. Cape Verde - 10.2% - 11,898
  27. Nigeria - 10.0% - 129,989
Below is a list of the top ten countries by numerical increase in membership for the year 2013. Each country is provided with the national increase in membership and the percentage of this increase out of total Church membership increase. Lists are also available for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.  72.6% of 2014 LDS membership increase can be attributed to the following 10 nations. 
  1. United States - 67,378 - 23.2%
  2. Brazil - 39,303 - 13.5%
  3. Mexico - 24,236 - 8.3%
  4. Philippines - 22,647 - 7.8%
  5. Peru - 13,459 - 4.6%
  6. Nigeria - 11,850 - 4.1% 
  7. Argentina - 10,036 - 3.5%
  8. Ecuador - 9,047 - 3.1%
  9. Guatemala - 7,797 - 2.7%
  10. Honduras - 5,116 - 1.8%
I will post an analysis of 2014 congregational growth in the coming days.

Monday, April 6, 2015

April 2015 Temple Announcements - Analysis

The Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple
As soon as President Monson indicated that he was going to announce three temples yesterday morning, I immediately told my wife that one of them would be in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. The Church in Cote d'Ivoire has experienced some of the most rapid LDS growth worldwide within the past two decades. The number of congregations (wards and branches) mushroomed from 40 at year-end 2010 to 103 in March 2015, the number of stakes has more than tripled from two in 2005 to seven in 2014, the number of cities with an official LDS congregation more than doubled from seven in early 2012 to 18 in early 2015, and annual membership growth rates have steadily increased to as high as 21.4% in 2013. The Church organized a second mission in Cote d'Ivoire in 2014 to accommodate recent trends in accelerating rapid growth. Some stakes within the Abidjan area have had the number of wards double within less than one year. The Church has also implemented effective church-planting tactics when opening cities to missionary work. The Church simultaneously organized six branches in the city of Daloa in early 2014 - a city where no branches previously operated. Lastly, some of the Ivorian stakes have historically numbered among the Church's stakes with the highest percentage of adult members who have submitted family names for temple ordinances within the past year. A case study that examines effective strategies implemented by mission and stake leaders to achieve rapid growth in Cote d'Ivoire can be found here.

Prior to yesterday's announcement, Cote d'Ivoire was the country with the third most members without a temple according to year-end 2013 membership data with 22,576 members.

The Bangkok Thailand Temple
Thai members and returned missionaries have reported efforts for many years to increase the number and activity rate of Thai membership to the point that a temple announcement would become more likely. Former President of the Church Gordon B. Hinckley predicted that a temple would be announced one day in Bangkok during a visit to Thailand in 2000. Thailand and Southeast Asia have pertained to the China Hong Kong Temple district since the temple was completed in 1996. The Church in Thailand has recently achieved several noteworthy church growth developments including significant increases in the number of full-time missionaries serving in the country, sizable increases in the number of Thai members serving full-time missions, improvements in church attendance, accelerating numbers of convert baptisms, the organization of a second stake in Bangkok in 2014, the creation of a new district in Bangkok in 2014, and preliminary plans to organize a stake in the northeastern highlands in mid-2015. A case study that examines recent LDS growth developments in Thailand can be found here. There have also been many significant growth developments within Southeast Asia during the past five years such as the creation of the first two LDS stakes in Cambodia and Indonesia and the organization of new districts in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Prior to yesterday's announcement, Thailand was the country with the eighth most members without a temple according to year-end 2013 membership data with 18,071 members

The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple
This temple announcement was a major surprise to me. The Church in Haiti has experienced steady growth within the past two decades and today numbers among the most self-sufficient nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Only Haitian natives have served full-time missions in Haiti within the past decade due to safety concerns for foreign missionaries and low living standards. The number of stakes in Haiti doubled in 2012 from two to four - all of which are located in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. A case study that reviews recent LDS growth developments in Haiti can be found here. The reasons why this announcement came as such a surprise to me were the low levels of economic development in Haiti, severe problems with corruption in government, the relatively small size of the Church in the country, and the relatively close proximity of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple. The Church has usually delayed the construction of temples in nations with similar characteristics until there are five or more stakes within a metropolitan area such as in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The construction of the new temple in Haiti will likely face significant challenges with finding skilled labor, acquiring construction materials, and maintaining adequate security and building maintenance following its dedication.

Prior to yesterday's announcement, Haiti was the country with the seventh most members without a temple according to year-end 2013 membership data with 19,216 members.

In conclusion, yesterday's temple announcements were historically significant. None of these three countries previously had temples announced, under construction, or in operation. The Bangkok Thailand Temple will be the Church's first temple to be built in mainland Southeast Asia where hundreds of millions of people reside. The announcement of the first temple in Haiti suggests that the Church may announce additional temples in countries with an emerging LDS presence where there are low standards of living such as Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Three New Temples

President Monson announced three new temples this morning in the following locations:
  • Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Port-au-Prince, Haiti
With this mornings announcement, this brings the total number of temples announced, under construction, or in operation to 173. I will provide analysis of this announcement tomorrow.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2014 Statistical Report

This afternoon, the Church reported the following statistics as of December 31st, 2014.

  • Membership: 15,372,337 (increase of 290,309 from 2013; a 1.92% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 29,621 (increase of 368 from 2013; a 1.26% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,114 (increase of 64 from 2013; a 2.10% annual increase)
  • Districts: 561 (a decrease of 10 from 2013; a 1.78% annual decrease)
  • Convert Baptisms: 296,803 (increase of 13,858 from 2013; a 4.90% annual increase)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 116,409 (increase of 923 from 2013; a 0.80% annual increase)
  • Full-time missionaries: 85,147 (increase of 2,112 from 2013; a 2.54% annual increase)
  • Church service missionaries: 30,404 (increase of 6,372 from 2013; a 26.5% annual increase)
The significant increase in the number of church service missionaries constitutes the greatest growth development within 2014 as evidenced by an annual increase of 26.5%. It is unclear what has fueled this growth, but larger numbers of North American Latter-day Saints reaching retirement age and desiring to serve church-service missions from their homes may be a source for this unexpected increase. The trend in decreasing the discrepancy between membership and congregational growth rates continued in 2014. This suggests higher convert retention rates and possible improvements in member activity rates in some areas of the world. However, the number of convert baptisms remained disappointingly low compared to the number of missionaries serving for 2014. The average number of converts baptized per missionary inched upward from 3.4 converts baptized per missionary in 2013 to 3.5 converts baptized per missionary in 2014.

There were several indicators that "real growth" accelerated in 2014. The net increase for the number of stakes was the highest the Church has experienced in 16 years and the net increase for the number of congregations was the highest the Church has reported in eight years. The Church also set a new record for the most members serving full-time missions and church service missions.

Another interesting finding with the 2014 statistical report was that the Church set a new all-time record for the largest increase in the number of members added to its records within a single year (413,212). However, the Church also set a new record for the largest difference between the number of members added to its records and the net increase in membership for the year (112,903). In other words, the number of children added to church records and the number of converts baptized during 2014 was 112,903 shy of the net increase of these two statistics. This suggests that there were a significant number of individuals removed from church records during the year. Most of these removals were likely due to renewed efforts in many areas of the world to update local membership records.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Districts in Brazil and Slovakia

Brazil
The Church organized a new district in Brazil on March 15th. The Leopoldina Brazil District was organized from the Juiz de Fora Brazil Stake and the Brazil Juiz de Fora Mission. The new district includes the following five branches: the Cataguases, Leopoldina, Muriaé, Ubá, and Viçosa Branches. There are now 253 stakes and 39 districts in Brazil.

Slovakia
The Church organized its first district in Slovakia last Sunday. The Bratislava Slovakia District was organized from a division of the Brno Czech District and includes the following four branches: the Bratislava, Kosice, Trenčín, and Žilina Branches. The creation of the new district has appeared possible due to a sufficient number of active priesthood holders to staff both branch and district callings. The large number of branches in the former Brno Czech District also appeared to contribute to the decision to establish a separate district to administer Slovakia. Multiple member groups also appear to operate within the new district such as in Banska Bystrica and Nitra. Slovakia was previous the 26th country or dependency/territory with the most members without a stake or district according to year-end 2013 membership data. The statistical profile for Slovakia on cumorah.com can be found here whereas a map of branches and member groups in Slovakia can be found here. The Church published its first translation of the Book of Mormon into Slovak in early 2013.