Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Stakes Created in Australia, New Zealand, and Nigeria; New Districts Created in Lebanon and Macau; Districts Discontinued in Brazil, Germany, and Venezuela

The Church organized a new stake in the Sydney area on May 17th. The Gosford Australia Stake was organized from a division of the Newcastle Australia and Sydney Australia Baulkham Hills Stakes. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Gosford, Normanhurst, Ourimbah, Toronto, Toukley, and Tuggerah Wards. There are now 38 stakes and eight districts in Australia.

New Zealand
The Church organized a new stake in Auckland on May 17th. The Auckland New Zealand Penrose Stake appeared to be organized from a division of the Auckland New Zealand Mt Roskill and Auckland New Zealand Panmure Stakes. Information on the names of congregations in the new stake is currently unavailable. There are now 29 stakes and three districts in New Zealand.

The Church organized a new stake in Calabar on May 17th. The Calabar Nigeria South Stake was organized from a division of the Calabar Nigeria Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Egerton, Etta Agbor, Mbukpa, New Airport, Uwanse, and Yellow Duke Wards. There are now 27 stakes and 20 districts in Nigeria

The Church organized a new district in Lebanon in late April. The Beirut Lebanon District was organized from a division of the Amman Jordan District. The new district appears to include two congregations: the Beirut Branch and the Cairo Branch. It is unclear why the Church decided to divide the Amman Jordan District as the district had only five branches prior to its division. The new Beirut Lebanon District appears to be the first district of the Church ever organized in this nation. Prospects appear favorable for passive missionary activity in Lebanon as there is no legislation barring proselytism or changing religious affiliation. Lebanon has the highest percentage of Christians among Middle East nations as 40% of the population is Christian.

The Church organized a new district in Macau on May 17th. The Macau China District is the Church's first district ever organized in this special administrative region of China. The new district includes the Macau 1st, Macau 2nd (English), and Macau 3rd Branches. The Macau 1st Branch administers Cantonese speakers whereas the Macau 3rd Branch administers Mandarin speakers. Missionaries are optimistic that the district can become a stake in the foreseeable future as there are currently 1,400 members in Macau - just 500 shy of the minimal criteria for a stake to operate. The branches previous pertained to the China Hong Kong Mission. The Church has experienced startling progress reactivating members and organizing new congregations in Hong Kong and Macau within the past year.

The Church recently discontinued the Teófilo Otoni Brazil District. The district was originally organized in 2006 and had two branches for many years. Branches in the former district were reassigned to the Nanuque Brazil District. There are now 253 stakes and 38 districts in Brazil.

The Church recently discontinued the Erfurt Germany District. The district was originally organized in 2004 and had seven branches. Four of the branches were discontinued due to extremely few active members. Local members report significant problems with low receptivity and active members moving away from this economically depressed area of Germany. Retained branches were reassigned to the Leipzig Germany Stake and the Erfurt Branch became a ward in the stake. There are now 15 stakes and two districts in Germany.

The Church recently discontinued the Calabozo Venezuela District. The district was originally organized in 2005 and had two branches. The district had two if its branches recently discontinued. The retained branches have been reassigned to the Venezuela Caracas Mission.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Missionaries Withdawn from Burundi

Missionaries serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Lubumbashi Mission report that all young full-time missionaries have been removed from Burundi due to civil unrest and a coup. Plans have been made for the three branches in the country to have branch missionaries continue teaching and baptizing new converts.

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Stakes in Chile and Utah

Yesterday the Church organized a new stake in Chile. The Talagante Chile Stake was organized from the Talagante Chile District and includes the following five wards and three branches: El Monte, Melipilla 1st, Melipilla 2nd, Talagante 1st, and Talagante 2nd Wards and the Bollenar, Isla de Maipo, and La Islita Branches. The Church previously operated a stake in Melipilla from 1993 to 2002 and a stake in Talagante from 1997 to 2002. Both of the stakes were downgraded to districts in 2002 and consolidated the districts into a single district in 2014. The Church in Chile has made some minor advancements with strengthening local leadership and advancing districts into stakes within the past couple years. The Church in Chile organized a new stake for the first time in 15 years in 2014 when the Coquimbo Chile District became a stake.

There are now 76 stakes and 20 districts in Chile.

The Church organized a new stake in Draper, Utah on May 3rd. The Draper Utah Meadows Stake was organized from a division of the Draper Utah Mountain Point Stake and includes the following seven wards: the Bellevue Park, Bellevue, Bridle Pointe, Brown Farm, Creekside, Lone Rock, and Willow Springs Wards. There are now 576 stakes and one district in Utah.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Full-time Missionaries to Return to Liberia and Sierra Leone This Summer

The Church announced yesterday that full-time missionaries will return to Liberia and Sierra Leone this summer. Missionaries were removed from these two nations in August 2014 as a result of the Ebola outbreak that claimed over 8,500 lives and infected approximately 22,000 people in the region. It appears that mission presidents and young full-time missionaries will restart formal proselytism efforts in July.

It was initially unclear as to whether the Church in these two nations would continue to sustain rapid membership and congregational growth following the removal of full-time missionaries and mission presidents. The Church in these two nations has historically struggled with local leadership development, member-missionary participation, member activity, and convert retention. However, the Church has appeared to experience steady "real growth" in these two nations during this period, particularly in Sierra Leone. The Church in Sierra Leone has organized seven new branches since full-time missionaries were removed. Reports from members in the nation indicate that local members have been effective at continuing missionary work despite the absence of full-time missionaries. Some congregations have continued to baptize new converts on almost a weekly basis within the past nine months.

Although it will become more clear within the next six month as to what progress the Church has achieved in these two nations since full-time missionaries were removed, membership and congregational growth trends have been encouraging and suggest that the Church may have turned a corner in developing a self-sufficient Church led by indigenous members. The advancement of districts into stakes within the next couple years will be a key indicator to assess real growth, the maturation in local leadership development, and the self-sufficiency of members and church leaders.

The Church currently reports one stake and five districts in Sierra Leone and three districts in Liberia. See below for links to statistical profiles for these two nations.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April Newsletter

We have posted our April edition of our newsletter for cumorah.com providing updates on church growth and missionary work. The newsletter also includes a synopsis of new or updated resources on our website. Click here to view the newsletter.

New Stakes Created in Cote d'Ivoire, Mexico, and Taiwan; New District Created in Cote d'Ivoire; Stake Discontinued in South Korea; Districts Discontinued in Argentina and Australia

Cote d'Ivoire
The Church organized its first stake in Cote d'Ivoire outside of Abidjan on April 12th. The Yamoussoukro Cote d'Ivoire Stake was organized from a division of the Yamoussoukro Cote d'Ivoire District and includes the following five wards and two branches: the Agbanou, Bouafle, Koko, N'Zuessy 1st, and N'Zuessy 2nd Wards and the Habitat and Kokrenou Branches. The two remaining branches in the stake may have become wards although this cannot be confirmed. The district was originally organized in 2009. It is interesting to note that all three branches in the city of Bouafle became wards despite all of these units being organized since 2012.

The Church organized a new district from six branches in Daloa that previously pertained to the Yamoussoukro Cote d'Ivoire District to establish the Daloa Cote d'Ivoire District. All six of these branches were organized in early 2014 in what appeared to be one of the most successful examples of aggressive LDS Church planting initiatives.

There are now eight stakes and three districts in Cote d'Ivoire.

The Church organized a new stake in Quintana Roo State on April 26th. The Playa del Carmen Mexico Stake was organized from a division of the Cancun Mexico and Cancun Mexico Kabah Stakes and includes the following six wards and one branch: the Cozumel 1st, Cozumel 2nd, Petén, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Zacil Ha Wards and the Puerto Morelos Branch. There are now five stakes in Quintana Roo State.

The Church created its third stake in the city of Taichung on April 26th. The Taichung Taiwan South Stake was organized from a division of the two original Taichung stakes and includes the following five wards and one branch: the Chungming, Nantun, Peitun, Wuchuan 1st, and Wuchuan 3rd Wards and Taichung Branch (English). There are now 14 stakes and two districts in Taiwan.

South Korea
The Church discontinued a stake in South Korea for the second time in the Church's history in this nation. The Seoul Korea Gangseo Stake was discontinued and consolidated with the neighboring Incheon Korea Stake (renamed the Seoul Korea West Stake). Four wards were discontinued as part of the realignment, three of which were located in the Incheon Korea Stake. Having served as a full-time missionary in both of these stakes during the mid-2000s, it was not surprising that the stakes were consolidated due to many of the wards reporting few active members. The Church in Korea has continued to struggle with low member activity rates and many active members moving out of the country. There are now 15 stakes and six districts in Korea.

The Church recently discontinued the Trenque Lauquen Argentina. The former district was originally organized in 1993 and had three branches. Two of the branches now report directly to the Argentina Bahia Blanca Mission whereas one of the branches now pertains to the Santa Rosa Argentina Stake. There are now 73 stakes and 30 districts in Argentina.

The Church recently discontinued the Mildura Australia District located in Victoria, Australia. The former district was originally organized in 1975 and had four branches. All four branches were reassigned to the Adelaide Australia Firle Stake and one of the branches became a ward (Mildura). There are now 37 stakes and eight districts in Australia.

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.