Saturday, August 24, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Timor-Leste (East Timor)

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Timor-Leste (East Timor). Timor-Leste is a small island nation in Indonesia inhabited by 1.3 million people that has a homogeneously Christian population (98% Roman Catholic) with a Portuguese colonial history. This profile underwent a major overhaul due to several significant Church developments, such as the dedication of the country for missionary work by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and assignment of the first senior missionary couple to Dili in 2015, the completion of the first Church meetinghouse in 2017, and the first convert baptisms in 2019. A member group has operated in Dili for four years. See below for the Future Prospects section of this profile:

The Church has established a strong foundation among less than one dozen Timorese members in Dili – all of whom appeared active as of July 2019. Continued mentoring and fellowship of these members by one another and by senior missionaries will likely result in the development of local leadership that can one day sustain an official branch. The reason why the Church continues to lack official government recognition remains unclear as there do not appear to be any legal obstacles that prevent registration. It is unlikely that the Church will experience significant growth until such registration is obtained and young, full-time proselytizing missionaries are assigned. In the meantime, growth will most likely consist of high-quality converts who self-refer for information about the Church or who have personal connections with senior missionary couples or local members. Distance from mission headquarters in Jakarta, a comparatively tiny population, no translations of Church materials in Tetun, and an extremely small Church membership pose long-term challenges for future proselytism efforts through traditional means.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Monday, August 19, 2019

Africa Central Area Details

Details on the new Africa Central Area released, with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. https://www.mormonnewsroom.co.za/article/africa-central-area-office-to-be-in-nairobi--kenya

Sunday, August 18, 2019

New Stakes Created in Colombia, Ghana, Mexico, and Peru

Colombia
The Church created a new stake in Colombia on August 4th. The Ibague Colombia Stake was organized from the Ibague Colombia District (originally created in 1978). The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Campiña, Chicoral, Girardot, Montealegre, and Piedra Pintada Wards, and the Melgar Branch. Several branches in the former district were closed in 2012 when the Girardot Colombia District (organized in 1993) was consolidated with the Ibague Colombia District (click here for more information). However, the area appears to have finally met the minimal qualifications to become a stake, albeit this required two districts to be merged seven years ago.

There are now 30 stakes and 10 districts in Colombia.

Ghana
The Church organized a new stake in Ghana on August 11th. The Winneba Ghana Stake was reinstated from the Winneba Ghana District. Additionally, part of the Accra Ghana Kasoa Stake was included in the new stake. The Winneba Ghana District was originally organized in 1989 and became a stake in 2014. However, the stake was discontinued when the stake was divided to organize the new stake in Swedru in 2018. The reinstated Winneba Ghana Stake includes the following five wards and three branches: the Ansaful, Buduburam 1st, Buduburam 2nd, Kojo Bedu, and Winneba 2nd Wards, and the Apam, Awutu Breku, and Winneba 1st Branches.

There are now 25 stakes and 11 districts in Ghana.

Mexico
The Church created a new stake in Veracruz, Mexico on August 4th. The Veracruz Mexico Puerto Stake was organized from a division of the Veracruz Mexico Villa Rica Stake and the Veracruz Mexico Reforma Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Altamirano, Buenavista, Constituyentes, Libertad, Reserva, and Tecnológico Wards. The new stake is the Church's fifth stake in Veracruz. Prior to the creation of the new stake this month, the most recently organized stake in Veracruz was created in 1995.

There are now 222 stakes and 47 districts in Mexico.

Peru
The Church organized another new stake in Lima, Peru - the fifth new stake to be created in Lima thus far in 2019. The Lima Peru Santa Clara Stake was created on August 11th from a division of the Lima Peru Campoy Stake, Lima Peru Vitarte Stake, and the Lima Peru Chaclacayo Stake. The new stake includes the following four wards and two branches: the Cajamarquilla, Jicamarca, Santa Clara, and Praderas Wards, and the Carapongo and Nicolas de Pierola Branches. Following the pattern of other recently organized stakes in Lima, the Church has created new stakes from two or more stakes, and has often created additional wards or branches following the creation of new stakes. It is likely that the two branches in the new stake have become wards or will soon become wards. The Church in Lima has not created stakes with fewer numbers of wards than historical averages. Furthermore, the number of active members per ward or branch in Lima has significantly increased within the past decade to generally 100-200 active members (compared to 50-150 active members per unit previously).

There are now 49 stakes in the Lima metropolitan area - more than any other metropolitan area outside of the United States. There are only five metropolitan areas within the United States that have more stakes than Lima, including the greater Salt Lake City, Utah metropolitan area (approximately 180 stakes within Salt Lake County); the greater Orem, Utah metropolitan area (approximately 165 stakes within Utah County); the greater Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area (approximately 80 stakes); the greater Ogden/Roy/Layton/Farmington metropolitan area in Utah (approximately 80 stakes); and the greater Los Angeles, California metropolitan area (approximately 65 stakes).

There are now 110 stakes and 18 districts in Peru.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

First Young, Proselytizing Missionaries Assigned to Mali

Local members report that young, proselytizing missionaries were assigned to Mali for the first time in Church history. Two young Black African missionary companionships from the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Mission were assigned to the Bamako Branch and will begin teaching dozens of prospective members in multiple locations within the Bamako area. There are also additional villages near Frako (Mountougoula) that have as many as 1-2 dozen interested individuals. The Church currently has approximately 80 people who attend church meetings spread across one branch and one member group (Frako). Essentially all members on church records are active.

There have been small numbers of Malians who have joined the Church over the past several decades, but there were no overt efforts by the Africa West Area Presidency to establish an official Church presence until the past few years. Elder David A. Bednar visited Mali in May 2017. The Church organized its first branch in Mali, the Bamako Branch, in July 2017. The Bamako area was assigned to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Mission around this time. The first convert baptisms occurred in February 2018. There were 42 members in Mali in April 2018, and likely as many as 70 members in Mali by year-end 2018. The Church obtained official recognition from the government in January 2019. Other proselytism-focused Christians have maintained a presence in Mali for decades. However, these groups report few members and slow growth rates. Religious freedom is supported by the government in government-controlled areas of the country.

Prospects appear highly favorable for rapid initial growth with the introduction of full-time missionaries given sustained interest in many who wish to join the Church. However, language barriers and illiteracy pose challenges for growth. Leadership development also appears a challenge. Most individuals interested in joining the Church speak Bambara and demonstrate little fluency in French. Only two Church materials are translated into Bambara, and no Latter-day Saint scriptures. Local members fluent in French, English, and Bambara have been instrumental in the establishment of the Church in Mali. Only Black African missionaries appear likely to be assigned to Mali within the foreseeable future due to safety concerns with terrorism as non-Africans are often more suspeto these attacks.

Mali is the second West African country to have had full-time missionaries assigned for the first time in the past 18 months. Senegal is the other country where full-time missionaries were first assigned in 2018. Both Mali and Senegal have homogeneously Muslim populations. However, converts have come from a mix of religious backgrounds.

Monday, August 12, 2019

July 2019 Newsletter

I know this is almost two weeks late, but please click here to access our July 2019 monthly newsletter for cumorah.com. I wanted to wait until the site was back up to post the newsletter so the links for the updated country profiles would work. I will include profiles updated in July in the August monthly newsletter since the links will not work at present, and I have not been able to post the updated Timor-Leste profile (where the Church has had some significant recent developments with convert baptisms). We are getting closer to fixing the issue with the site, and hopefully it will be back up in the next few days.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Cumorah Website Down

I have received many inquiries into www.cumorah.com as the site is currently down. We had a hosting problem and hope that the site will be back up soon. I will publish the July newsletter once the site is restored so that way the links are active for the country profiles updated during the month, which include Bangladesh, Brunei, and Timor-Leste (East Timor).

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Rapid Church Growth in Mozambique

A recent Church Newsroom article noted that there has been significant progress with church growth in Mozambique. Some highlights from the article include:
  • Increasing numbers of convert baptisms in Beira after Cyclone Idai destroyed 90% of the buildings in the city four months ago
  • Thirteen convert baptisms in the Luaha Group in northern Mozambique (Luaha operated as a branch until a couple years ago)
  • Average attendance in sacrament meeting nationwide is nearly 70%
  • Three new stakes anticipated to be organized within the next year if current growth rates are sustained
  • Eleven of the thirteen branch presidents for branches outside of stakes have received temple ordinances since early 2018. Some areas where members live in the country require 100 hours of travel to reach the nearest temple.
  • Hope from members that a temple will one day be constructed in Mozambique
The two facts reported in the article that were most surprising to me were the high percentage of members who attend church services and plans to organize three new stakes within the next year. Even countries in Africa with moderate or high member activity rates generally report church attendance that constitutes only 50% of membership on church records. Although these percentages may be artificially higher due to large numbers of nonmembers in attendance, this nonetheless indicates significant progress with strengthening Church membership and activity. Also, the Church in Mozambique has historically struggled with inactivity and leadership development, particularly prior to the establishment of stakes in the country for the first time.

The Church created its first two stakes in Mozambique in 2015 (Maputo and Beira) followed by a third stake in 2017 (Beira Manga). Currently, only the Maputo Mozambique Stake has enough congregations to divide to create a new stake (10 wards, 2 branches), whereas the other two stakes do not have enough congregations to divide to organize new stakes (the Beira Mozambique Stake has seven wards, whereas the Beira Mozambique Manga Stake has five wards and two branches). The only district in the country, Nampula, has six branches although three of these branches were organized earlier this year. Thus, Nampula appears unlikely to become a stake given the recent establishment of most of the branches in the city (five of the six branches have been organized since October 2017). Therefore, many new wards appear likely to be organized soon if there are any realistic prospects for more stakes to be created. The Church reported 12,274 members, 22 wards, and 12 branches at year-end 2018. If 70% of Church membership attends sacrament meeting, then the average ward or branch may have as many as 250 people in attendance. Membership growth rates have accelerated in recent years from annual membership growth rates of 4-7% a year in the early 2010s to 13-15% for most years in the mid and late 2010s. In 2018, church membership increased by 13.3%. The Church was first established in Mozambique in the late 1990s. There were 200 members and one branch in 1997.

Click here for more statistical data on the Church in Mozambique.

Updated Country Profile - Bangladesh

Click here to access the updated country profile for Bangladesh, the world's eighth most populous nation inhabited by approximately 160 million people. No other sovereign nation in the world has as large of a population and only one Latter-day Saint congregation. Only one other country in the world has a larger population and no mission (Pakistan). The Church in Bangladesh has experienced essentially stagnant growth since the early 1990s when the first and only branch was organized in Dhaka. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

The lack of local leadership among the handful of Bangladeshi members in Dhaka continues to delay greater progress with the establishment of the Church. Additionally, no full-time missionaries have been assigned to the country, which appears out of concern of the Church’s legal status in the country and the influence of Islam on local culture. Given security and cultural concerns, only South Asian members appear likely to serve proselytizing missions in Bangladesh. Moreover, missionary activity would likely rely on member referral rather than traditional missionary finding tactics if full-time missionaries are assigned one day. The Church’s growth and progress in nearby Pakistan suggests similar results may be achieved in Bangladesh if the proper vision and consistent outreach is maintained that specifically focuses on the development of local leadership and helping greater numbers of young single adults serve full-time missions so one day there can be a native full-time missionary force capable of meeting local proselytism needs. Bangladeshi members who join the Church in other nations may return to their homeland and help build up the Church. A senior missionary couple from the India New Delhi Mission assisting with leadership development and humanitarian appears likely in the foreseeable future.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Brunei

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Brunei. With a small population of less than half a million, Brunei has a predominantly Malay population and some of the most significant religious freedom restrictions in Southeast Asia. The Church had two member groups in Brunei approximately 10 years ago, although it is unclear whether these groups both continue to operate. The Church's district based in Miri, East Malaysia administers to Church members in Brunei. See below for the Future Prospects section of this updated article:

With a small population and heavy government restrictions on non-Muslim faiths, Brunei is unlikely to experience significant church growth in the medium-term future. No other Muslim nation in Southeast Asia is as intolerant towards Christians. Government restrictions and Malay cultural customs limit missionary efforts among religious minorities to personal contacts of Church members in Brunei. Prospects exist for groups to mature into independent branches under the Miri East Malaysia District if foreign members with leadership experience remain active and stay in the country for extended periods of time. Greater progress will not occur until local members join the Church in greater numbers. Additional foreign members who relocate to Brunei may help strengthen congregations if they are able to locate them. Information on meetinghouse locations accessible upon request to Church Headquarters or mission headquarters may have a tremendous impact on better organization and accounting of members in the country, and help establish a more permanent Church presence in the long term.