Thursday, February 8, 2024

First Branch Organized in Timor-Leste (East Timor)

The first branch in the nation of Timor-Leste (East Timor), the Dili Branch, was organized in January after many years of the congregation operating as a group under the supervision of the Indonesia Jakarta Mission. The branch appears led by a local priesthood leader. It is unclear whether government recognition for the Church was obtained and played a role in the organization of an official branch in Dili. In 2015, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland dedicated Timor-Leste for missionary work, and the first senior missionary couple was assigned to perform humanitarian work. The senior missionary couple held a private sacrament meeting in their home, and the first baptism of a child of record was in 2016. In 2017, the first meetinghouse was dedicated and used primarily for English classes. However, the first convert baptism in the country did not occur until 2019. By mid-2019, there were approximately one dozen Latter-day Saints in the country, and all of them appeared to be active in attending church regularly. Updated in mid-2019, the following Future Prospects section of the country profile for Timor-Leste on cumorah.com sums up the situation with the Church in the country pretty well, which is as follows:

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.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Two New Stakes Created in Utah

Two new stakes were recently organized in Utah which appear to be the first new stakes organized in 2024.

The Herriman Utah Mirabella Stake was organized on January 14th from a division of the Herriman Utah Pioneer Stake (organized in 2015) and the Herriman Utah Butterfield Canyon Stake (organized in 2003). The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Mirabella 1st, Mirabella 2nd, Mirabella 3rd, Mirabella 4th, Mirabella 5th, Mirabella 6th, and Mirabella 7th Wards. There are now 10 stakes in Herriman.

The Hyrum Utah Central Stake was organized on January 21st from a division of the Hyrum Utah Stake (renamed the Paradise Utah Stake and organized in 1901), the Hyrum Utah North Stake (organized in 1979), and the Hyrum Utah West Stake (organized in 2021). The new stake includes the following seven wards and one branch: the Hyrum 6th, Hyrum 7th, Hyrum 8th, Hyrum 9th, Hyrum 11th, Hyrum 15th, and Valle Hermoso (Spanish) Wards and the Blacksmith Fork Branch (Care Center). There are now seven stakes in the southern Cache valley.

There are now 635 stakes and two districts in Utah.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

New Stakes Created in Mexico (2), the Philippines (2), Angola, Argentina, California, Chile, Colombia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Utah; Stakes Discontinued in California and Utah; New Districts Created in the Dominican Republic and Mozambique; District Discontinued in Argentina, Serbia, and Slovenia

This is a massive blog post on many new stakes organized. Please let me know if you notice any errors or if I missed any stake/district creations/closures in 2023.

Mexico

Two new stakes were organized in Mexico.

The Los Tuxtla Mexico Stake was organized from the Los Tuxtla Mexico District on November 12th. The district was originally created in 1982. The new stake includes the following five wards and three branches: the Isla, Lerdo de Tejada, San Andrés Jardín, San Andrés Mirador, and the Sihuapans, and the Baxcaxbaltepec, Catemaco, and Juan Rodriguez Clara Branches. The new stake was the Church's second new stake organized in Mexico in 2023. 

The Monterrey Mexico Lincoln Stake was organized on December 3rd from the Monterrey México Valle Verde Stake and the Monterrey México Mitras Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Fraile, Los Parques, Modelo, San Bernabé 1st, San Bernabé 2nd, and Villas del Poniente Wards. The Church discontinued the Monterrey México Morelos Stake in 2018 which is nearby the newly organized Monterrey Mexico Lincoln Stake.

There are now 230 stakes and 44 districts in Mexico.

The Philippines

Two new stakes were created in the Philippines - both of which were organized from districts on December 3rd.

The Aguilar Philippines Stake was organized from the Aguilar Philippines District (organized in 2001). The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Aguilar 1st, Aguilar 2nd, Bugallon, Mangatarem, and Urbiztondo Wards and the Bantocaling Branch. There are now eight stakes in the surrounding areas of the soon-to-be-dedicated Urdaneta Philippines Temple.

After decades of preparation and work, the Toledo Philippines District was finally organized as a district. Organized in 1990 as a district, the Toledo Philippines Stake is the Church's first stake on the western side of Cebu Island. The new stake includes the following five wards and three branches: the Aloguinsan, Balamban 1st, Balamban 2nd, Toledo 1st, and Toledo 2nd Wards, and the Lamac, Lutopan, and Tutay-Pinamungahan Branches. There are now seven stakes and one district on Cebu Island.

There are now 128 stakes and 53 districts in the Philippines.

Argentina

The Church organized a new stake in Argentina. The Corrientes Argentina Stake was organized from the Corrientes Argentina District (organized in 1991) and the Goya Argentina District (organized in 1993). The Goya Argentina District was discontinued when the new stake in Corrientes was organized. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Armenia, Costanera, Goya, Laguna Seca, and Mendoza Al Sur Wards and the Bella Vista Branch. Of the five wards in the new stake, four are located in the city of Corrientes. Also, the two branches in the city of Goya were consolidated into one congregation which was reorganized as the Goya Ward.

There are now 79 stakes and 25 districts in Argentina.

Angola

The Viana Angola Stake was organized from the Luanda Angola Stake (organized in 2018). The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the Cacuaco, Kilamba, Terra Nova, Viana, Vila Pacifica, and Zango Wards and the Cazenga and Luanda Sul Branches. The Viana Angola Stake previously operated as a district from 2016 until 2018 when it merged with the Luanda Angola District to create the first stake in Angola. The Church announced the Luanda Angola Temple in October 2023.

There are now two stakes and one district in Angola. Within the past 2 years, many additional cities have had the first branches organized, including Benguela, Caála, Kuito, Malanje, and Menongue. Also, two new wards and two new branches were organized in the Luanda metropolitan area when the Viana Angola Stake as organized.

California

A new stake was organized in California. The Temecula California North Stake was organized on December 3rd from a division of the Temecula California Stake (organized in 2003). The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Chaparral, French Valley, La Paz Ward (Spanish), Lake Skinner, Meadowview, Rancho California, and Temecula YSA Wards. The new stake was the Church's second new stake created in California in 2023. 

The Church discontinued one stake in California in 2023. The El Centro California Imperial Valley Stake (organized in 1980) was discontinued. The stake had only three wards and one branch when it was discontinued, although for many years the stake had four wards and one branch. Thus, the closure of the stake has been long overdue due to few congregations in the stake. There were only two wards and two branches from the El Centro area that remained when the stake was closed, and these units were reassigned to the El Cajon California Stake. 

There are now 147 stakes in California.

Chile

A new stake was created in Chile. The Colina Chile Stake was organized on from the Colina Chile District (organized in 1994). The new stake includes the following five wards and two branches: the Batuco, Colina, Lampa, San Martin, and Valle Grande Wards and the Isla Juan Fernández and Til-Til Branches. It does not appear that the Colina Chile District ever previously operated as a stake, as none of the previously discontinued stakes in Chile appeared to include cities and towns within the boundaries of the current Colina Chile Stake. 

There are now 78 stakes and 11 districts in Chile. The new Colina Chile Stake was the fourth new stake organized in Chile in 2023 - the most new stakes created in Chile since 1998.

Colombia

A new stake was organized in Colombia on December 10th. The Medellin Colombia Centro Stake was organized from a division of the Medellin Colombia Stake (organized in 1988) and the Medellin Colombia Belen Stake (organized in 1996). The new stake includes the following five wards: the Belén, Buenos Aires, El Prado, Floresta, and Villa Hermosa Wards. The new stake is the first new stake organized in Colombia since 2019.

There are now 31 stakes and 10 districts in Colombia.

Mozambique 

A new stake was organized in Mozambique on November 19th. The Zimpeto Mozambique Stake was organized from a division of the Maputo Mozambique Stake (organized in 2015) and the Matola Mozambique Stake (organized in 2019). The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the CMC, Circular, Magoanine, Matendene, T-3, and Zimpeto Wards and the Boquisso and Marracuene Branches. There are now three stakes in the Maputo metropolitan area. Five new wards and four new branches were organized in the Maputo area when the new stake was organized, including two wards that were organized from member groups (Boane and Catembe). Also, two branches were reorganized into wards (Beluluane and Circular). 

The Church also organized a new district in Mozambique on November 12th. The Maxixe Mozambique District was organized from three mission branches, and one new branch was also organized when the district was created for a total of four branches in the new district. These branches include the Expansão, Homoine, Inhambane, and Maxixe Branches. The Church organized a branch in Maxixe in 2013, and the first branches were organized in Homoine and Inhambane in 2022. It appears likely that additional districts will be organized in Mozambique in the foreseeable future in Tete and Xai-Xai.

There are now seven stakes and two districts in Mozambique.

Nigeria

The Church organized a new stake in Nigeria. The Ondo Nigeria Stake was organized from the Ondo Nigeria District (organized in 2015). The new stake includes the following six wards: the Adeyemi College Road 1st, Adeyemi College Road 2nd, Ondo 1st, Ondo 2nd, Yaba 1st, and Yaba 2nd Wards. The creation of the new stake stands as a major accomplishment given the few congregations in the area, the relatively recent growth of the Church in Ondo, and the Church having previously operated a district in Akure (discontinued in 2009 and reinstated in 2018) that once included two branches in Ondo.

There are now 71 stakes and 14 districts in Nigeria.

Sierra Leone

A new stake was organized in Sierra Leone on December 10th. The Freetown Sierra Leone Hill Station Stake was organized from a division of the Sierra Leone Freetown Stake (organized in 2012) and the Freetown Sierra Leone East Stake (organized in 2017). The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Hill Station 1st, Hill Station 2nd, Mount Aureol, Tengbeh Town, and Wilberforce Wards and the Regent Branch. There are now six stakes in the Freetown metropolitan area - all of which have been organized since 2012. 

There are now 10 stakes and two districts in Sierra Leone.

Utah

A new stake was organized in Utah on December 10th. The South Weber Utah Pioneer Stake was organized from a division of the South Weber Utah Stake (organized in 1988). The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the Pioneer, South Weber 1st, South Weber 7th, South Weber 8th, South Weber 9th, and South Weber 10th Wards and the Canyon Meadows Branch. 

A stake was discontinued in Utah. The Midvale Utah East Stake (organized in 1968) was discontinued and had five wards in the stake before its closure. It appears that three of the five wards were discontinued. Retained wards were reassigned to the Midvale Utah Union Fort Stake (which now has six wards).

There were 633 stakes and two districts in Utah as of year-end 2023. 2023 was the year with the most stakes ever discontinued in Utah (seven). Nevertheless, there was a net increase of four stakes for Utah in 2023, as there were 11 new stakes organized during the year. Moreover, two new stakes have been organized in Utah in January 2024 which I will report on in another post.

Dominican Republic

The Church reinstated a previously discontinued district in the Dominican Republic on November 5th. The Monte Plata Dominican Republic District was reinstated (originally discontinued in 2010) and includes the following four branches: the Bayaguana, Gonzalo, Monte Plata, and Sabana Grande de Boyá Branches. These branches have been reassigned to one of the stakes in Santo Domingo or directly to the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East Mission.

There are now 22 stakes and nine districts in the Dominican Republic.

Serbia and Slovenia

The Church discontinued the Beograd Serbia District (organized in 1992) and the Ljubljana Slovenia District (organized in 1992) in late 2023. None of the branches in either Serbia or Slovenia were discontinued when these districts were discontinued. All branches were reassigned to the Adriatic North District (which used to be the Zagreb Croatia District). There are now 13 branches in the realigned district which covers the entire Adriatic North Mission, including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Extremely slow membership growth has occurred in the former Yugoslavia for many years. The decision to have all branches in a single district was likely made to help consolidate extremely limited leadership manpower in the area. Altogether, the combined membership of these countries as of year-end 2022 was 1,548, with most members living in Croatia and Slovenia. Thus, the region is unlikely to become a stake for many years or decades given current growth trends.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Mormonland Podcast Apperance

Today, the Salt Lake Tribune published an interview I had yesterday for their Mormonland podcast series. The podcast can be accessed here. The interview reviews the recent announcement regarding changes for organizing new wards and stakes as well as discussion regarding the recent Cragun, Bull, and Phillips study on self-affiliation of Latter-day Saints in Utah.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Response to Mormons Are No Longer a Majority in Utah: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for the Sociology of Religion

Introduction

Published online on December 19th, 2023, the article Mormons Are No Longer a Majority in Utah: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for the Sociology of Religion by Ryan T. Cragun, Bethany Gull, and Rick Phillips reports a recent study conducted to ascertain the percentage of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the population of Utah. This is a significant study that highlights the discrepancy between Church-reported membership and the actual numbers of self-identified Latter-day Saints. Declining fertility in the Church, higher numbers of non-Latter-day Saints moving to Utah, and secularization were identified as factors that have contributed to the declining percentage of Latter-day Saints in Utah in recent decades.

It is important to note that the article does not focus on the member activity rates of Latter-day Saints in Utah, but instead focuses on self-affiliation among Latter-day Saints in Utah. Thus, there are individuals who may not self-affiliate as a Latter-day Saint who are reported on Church records as members. Furthermore, some self-affiliated Latter-day Saints are inactive (i.e., do not attend church). Nevertheless, self-affiliation is a useful metric to ascertain member activity rates. Similarly, member activity rates can also provide useful and accurate information regarding self-affiliation. However, these terms are not interchangable.

Self-Affiliation and Member Activity

The Cragun, Bull, and Phillips study concluded that 42% of the population of the State of Utah in 2022 self-identified as a Latter-day Saint. Member activity rates in Utah have generally averaged approximately 50% with significant variability depending on county and region in the state. For example, the Utah South Area had the highest sacrament meeting attendance in the worldwide Church in the year 2000 of more than 54% of total membership. Some stakes and wards in Utah today have member activity rates of 80-90% of total membership, whereas others may be as low as 20-30% of total membership. Overall, approximately 40% of Church-reported membership in the United States is active which I am defining as attending church on a regular basis (this activity rate estimate is based on thousands of surveys completed in the past 10 years from local members/leaders and returned missionaries). Assuming 50% of Church-reported membership in Utah is active (as member activity rates in Utah are higher than most states outside of Utah), then 32.1% of the population in the State of Utah would be active members. The Cragun, Bull, and Phillips study reported that 42% of the state population self-affiliate as Latter-days Saints. Therefore, Church-reported members who are inactive and who still self-affiliate as a Latter-day Saint would be approximately 10% of the state population, or 338,080 people. Therefore, three-quarters of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints would be estimated to be considered active, whereas one-quarter of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints would be estimated to be inactive. These data also indicate that 22% of the state population are on Church records as members but who are inactive and do not self-affiliate as Latter-day Saints. Therefore, approximately one-third of the population of the State of Utah are active Latter-day Saints, one-third of the state population are inactive Latter-day Saints (of whom approximately one-third still self-affiliate as a Latter-day Saint), and one-third of the state population are not Church members at all

Trends on Growth

The population of the State of Utah increased from 1.72 million in 1990 to 3.38 million in 2022 per US census bureau statistics and estimates. Utah's population grew by 29.6% in the 1990s, 23.8% in the 2000s, and 18.4% in the 2010s. Church membership in Utah increased from 1.31 million as of year-end 1989 to 2.17 million as of year-end 2022. Therefore, the population of the State of Utah grew by 96.2% (1.66 million) between 1990 and 2022, whereas Church-reported membership for the State of Utah grew by 66.6% (868,560 members) between year-end 1989 and year-end 2022. In other words, for everyone one Latter-day Saint added in Utah there were approximately two non-Latter-day Saints added in Utah. Annual membership growth rates in Utah generally averaged around 2% for most of the 1990s, 1.5-2.0% in the 2000s, 1-5% in the 2010s, and less than 1% in the 2020s. By decade, Church membership in Utah grew by 23.0% in the 1990s, 17.4% in the 2000s, and 12.8% in the 2010s. It is important to note that the rate of growth for both Church membership and the state population has decelerated during the past three decades.

The number of congregations in Utah has increased every year since the Church began to publish the number of congregations in Utah in 1987 (except for 2011 when there was a significant realignment of young single adult [YSA] wards and student wards with the advent of YSA stakes). The rates for congregational growth have closely mirrored membership growth rates during the past 20 years. Consequently, the average number of Latter-day Saints per ward or branch in Utah has remained stable for the past 20 years at approximately 400 members. The number of stakes in Utah has also consistently increased year-over-year for the past several consecutive decades, indicating increasing numbers of active members, as both stakes and congregations require certain numbers of active members to operate and to create new congregations. Since 2000, the Church in Utah has reported a net increase of 7-8 stakes on average per year, with one year reporting a net increase of as few as 2 stakes (2012) whereas other years reporting a net increase of as many as 13 stakes (2000). In 2023, there have been seven stakes discontinued and 11 new stakes organized in Utah based on the most recent updates I have received on stake creations and consolidations for the year.

Have Latter-day Saints Ever Been a Majority in Utah?

I argue that active Latter-day Saints have been a minority in Utah for the entire past 100 years. If using a member activity rate of 50% since 1920, there has never been a year when active Latter-day Saints have constituted a majority of the population in the State of Utah (the highest year would have been 1987 when 39% of the population appeared to be active Latter-day Saints). If we were to assume that the rates of self-affiliation among all Church-reported members (which would be 66.6%) have been stable during the past 40 years, then the only years when this number was over 50% were from 1987-1993, with the highest percentage being in 1987 at 51.3%. However, it is probable that the rates of self-affiliation among inactive Latter-day Saints has decreased in recent decades, especially given rates of self-affiliation reported by other students cited in the Cragun, Bull, and Phillips article. For example, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) estimated that 53% of population of the State of Utah were Mormon in 2001. The Cragun, Bull, and Phillips study assumes a linear decrease between 2001 and 2022, and this would therefore indicate that the percentage of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints in the Utah population fell below 50% in 2007.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any studies that have exclusively assessed self-affiliation of Latter-day Saints with an appreciable sample size in the thousands of participants. Thus, the Cragun, Bull, and Phillips study provides a major contribution to ascertaining self-affiliation in Latter-day Saints through original research (we have generally had to rely upon government censuses for data on self-affiliation). It is a clear finding that the percentage of Latter-day Saints in Utah has steadily decreased. Per official Church records, the percentage of Latter-day Saints in Utah declined from 77.7% in 1987 (an all-time high for the percentage of Latter-day Saints in the past century) to 64.2% as of year-end 2022. Non-church sources have also reported a decline in the percentage of Latter-day Saints in Utah. Given increasing numbers of non-Latter-day Saints and inactive members, the Church has appeared to place a greater emphasis on missionary work in Utah through the assignment of larger numbers of full-time missionaries and the creation of new missions. In 1987, there were only two missions in Utah, whereas there were only five missions in Utah between 1999 and 2009. However, there have been 10 missions in Utah since 2015, with plans to organize three more missions in 2024. Thus, the Church has begun to treat Utah much more like any other state in the United States in regard to missionary efforts, albeit that Utah now stands out as having a disproportionate number of missions for its comparatively tiny population. For example, 13 of the Church's 120 missions in the United States that are anticipated to be operating by July 2024 will be in Utah (10.8%) even though the population of Utah constitutes a mere 1.0% of the population of the United States. In contrast, California is the most populous state in the United States with 39 million inhabitants (11.7% of the national population), and 13.3% (16) of the Church's 120 missions will be based in California. These efforts to concentrate a disproportionate amount of mission resources to Utah appears geared toward the reactivation of inactive members who appear to number more than one million and proselyte the more than one million people who are not on the records of the Church.

Monday, December 25, 2023

36 New Missions to be Created in 2024 Analysis: North America

This is the fourth and final post in a serious of posts regarding the 36 new missions to be organized in 2024. This post provides an analysis of new missions to be organized in North America.

There will be 10 new missions organized in North America in 2024 - all of which will be located in the United States. Seven of the new missions have never previously operated, whereas three of the new missions will be reinstated from missions that previously closed. The number of missions in the United States will total 120 once the 10 new missions are organized. Even though the Church will report a new all-time high for the number of missions once the 36 new missions are organized in 2024, the number of missions in the United States will not be an all-time high. The Church reported its all-time high for the number of missions in the United States in 2016-2017 when there were 125 missions. Thus, the Church has been decreasing its percentage of worldwide missions in the United States within approximately the past decade from 29.7% in 2017 to what will be 26.7% in 2024. This decrease reflects greater efforts to redistribute missions worldwide from less productive and/or less populated areas to more productive and/or more populated areas and also increases in the number of full-time missionaries serving from countries outside of the United States. In 2024, the average mission in the United States will have 2.8 million people within its geographical boundaries.

CALIFORNIA MODESTO

The California Modesto Mission will be a reinstatement of the previous California Modesto Mission that briefly operated from 2015 until 2018. The new mission will likely be organized from the California Fresno Mission (organized in 1975) and the California Sacramento Mission (organized in 1942) and include six stakes within the Modesto and Stockton area (which was what the boundaries of the mission were when it operated from 2015-2018). The Church announced a temple for Modesto in April of 2022). Slight decline or stagnant growth has occurred for the Church in the Modesto area of California for decades, although no stakes have ever been discontinued in what will be the likely boundaries of the new mission. The most recently organized stake in the area is the Turlock California Stake which was organized in 1986. With the creation of the new mission, there will now be 16 missions in California, with the average mission having 2.4 million people within its geographical boundaries. The Church in California has experienced a significant decline within the past decade (2013-2022) in particular, as Church membership has decreased from 780,200 to 728,995 (6.6%), the number of congregations has decreased from 1,355 to 1,134 (16.3%), the number of stakes decreased from 157 to 146 (7.0%), and the number of missions has decreased from 19 to 15 (21%) even though the state population has increased from 38.4 million to 39.0 million.

FLORIDA TALLAHASSEE

The Florida Tallahassee Mission will be a reinstatement of the previous Florida Tallahassee Mission that operated from 1971 until 2019. The new mission will probably be organized from the Alabama Birmingham Mission (organized in 1979) and the Florida Jacksonville Mission (organized in 1987) and will probably comprise the same boundaries of the original Florida Tallahassee Mission with six stakes - four in the Florida panhandle and two in Alabama. The Church has experienced slow growth in this area of Florida and in southern Alabama during the past several decades, with the most recently organized stake being the Fort Walton Beach Florida Stake (organized in 1996). The Tallahassee Florida Temple was announced in April 2020 and construction is nearly complete. There will be five missions in Florida once the new mission is organized (which is the previous all-time high for the number of missions in the state). The average mission in Florida will have 4.4 million people within its geographical boundaries. A second mission in the Orlando area appears most likely if the Church organizes a sixth mission in Florida in the foreseeable future due to significant growth in this area in terms of congregations and stakes.

MONTANA MISSOULA

The Montana Missoula Mission will be the Church's second mission to ever operate in Montana following the Montana Billings Mission (organized in 1950). The new mission will likely include at least four stakes in western Montana and probably additional stakes between Missoula and Billings. The most recently organized stake in the Missoula area was created in Frenchtown in 2017, whereas the Missoula Montana Stake is the oldest stake in the Missoula area (organized in 1957). The average mission in Montana will likely have approximately 560,000 people within its geographical boundaries. The Church announced a temple for Missoula in April 2022.

NEVADA HENDERSON

The Nevada Henderson Mission will be the Church's fourth mission in Nevada following the Nevada Las Vegas Mission (organized in 1975), the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission (organized in 1997), and the Nevada Reno Mission (organized in 2012). The new mission will likely have eight stakes within its geographical boundaries - the oldest of which was organized in 1956. Steady growth has occurred in the Henderson area and in southern Las Vegas for many years, and the two most recently created stakes were organized in 2015 and 2017. No missions have ever been discontinued in Nevada. With the creation of the new mission, the average mission in Nevada will have 794,000 people within its geographical boundaries.

SOUTH CAROLINA CHARLESTON

The South Carolina Charleston Mission will be the Church's second mission to ever operate in South Carolina following the South Carolina Columbia Mission (organized in 1975). The Church has never discontinued a mission in South Carolina. The Church only operates one stake in Charleston which was created in 1972. However, the stake has steady grown to 10 wards and three branches and appears likely to divide in the near future. The new mission will likely include 4-5 stakes on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, the most recently organized of which was created in 2019 in Hilton Head. Charleston is a less likely location to have a temple announced. The average mission in South Carolina will have 2.6 million people once the new mission is organized.

TEXAS DALLAS SOUTH

The Texas Dallas South Mission will likely be organized from the Texas Dallas Mission (organized in 1961), the Texas Fort Worth Mission (organized in 1986) and possibly the Texas Dallas East Mission (organized in 2020). The new mission will probably include 5-6 stakes in the southern Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area which is an area of the metropolitan area that has fewer Latter-day Saints than most other areas of the metropolitan area.

TEXAS EL PASO

The Texas El Paso Mission will be organized from the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission (organized in 1975) and may also include the Fort Stockton Texas District that is currently assigned to the Texas Lubbock Mission (organized in 2002). The new mission will likely include the three stakes in El Paso and the stake in Las Cruces New Mexico (organized in 1974). The first stake in El Paso was organized in 1952 followed by two additional stakes created in 1982 and 2016. The new mission may also include the Silver City Mexico Stake (organized in 1983) which is assigned to the Arizona Tuscon Mission (organized in 1990). With the creation of the two new missions, there will be 12 missions in Texas. Thus, the average mission will have 2.5 million people within its geographical boundaries.

UTAH SALT LAKE CITY EAST

The Utah Salt Lake City East Mission will be a reinstatement of the Utah Salt Lake City East Mission which operated from 2013 until approximately 2019 when there was a realignment of missions in the Salt Lake City area and the mission was merged with the Utah Salt Lake City Mission (organized in 1980). The new mission will likely include 30-40 stakes within its geographical boundaries. The Church has reported a slight decline in the number of stakes in this area of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area within the past decade.

UTAH SARATOGA SPRINGS

The Utah Saratoga Springs Mission will be a new mission that has never operated before in Utah. The new mission will likely be organized from Utah Orem Mission (organized in 2015). The new stake will likely include 20-40 stakes in northern Utah county. Rapid growth has occurred in this area of Utah, with often multiple new stakes organized each year due to significant home construction.

UTAH SPANISH FORK

The Utah Spanish Fork Mission will also likely be organized from the Utah Provo Mission (organized in 1989). The new mission will likely have 30-40 stakes within its geographical boundaries. Steady growth has occurred for the Church in southern Utah county.

There will be 13 stakes in Utah once the three new missions are organized - an all-time high for the number of missions in the state. The average mission in Utah will include a mere 260,000 people. Given Church membership constitutes 64.3% of the state population, the average mission may include less than 100,000 people who are not Latter-day Saints on Church records. These Utah missions will likely be heavily involved with reactivation work among less-active and inactive members which likely number over one million for the state. The number of stakes and congregations has steadily grown year over year with only one exception in 2011 when there was a decline in the number of congregations due to massive realignment of stakes and wards to organize young single adult (YSA) stakes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

New Missionary Training Center to Open in Bangkok, Thailand

Today, the Church announced plans to open a new missionary training center in Bangkok, Thailand in January 2024. Likely a long-term plan part of the large newly dedicated Bangkok Thailand Temple, the new Thailand MTC will likely service missionaries assigned to serve in Southeast Asia. The missionary training center is reported to provide instruction in English, Thai, and Russia. I am not sure why Russian is one of the languages that is provided for training in this MTC. The Church has never operated an MTC in Thailand before. With the new MTC, there will now be 10 MTCs in the worldwide Church, although there are a couple of unofficial MTCs that functioning in countries without an official MTC (such as in Kinshasa, the DR Congo).

Sunday, December 10, 2023

36 New Missions to be Created in 2024 Analysis: Latin America

This post provides an analysis of new missions to be created in Latin America in 2024, as announced by the Church on November 1st. 

All new missions to be organized in Latin America in 2024 are new missions that have never previously operated. The Church in Latin America has experienced steady growth in the number of missions with only rare instances when a mission has been discontinued. The number of missions in Latin America has increased from 64 as of year-end 1989 to 103 in 1999, 108 in 2009, 150 in 2019, and 152 at present. There will be 161 missions when the nine new missions are organized in 2024.

ARGENTINA TUCUMAN

The Argentina Tucumán Mission will be created from a division of the Argentina Salta Mission (organized in 1988) and possibly also part of the Argentina Cordoba Mission (organized in 1962). The new mission will probably include four stakes and one district located in Tucumán, Catamarca, Santiago del Estero, and La Rioja Provinces which have a combined population of 3.6 million. There are two stakes in Tucumán that were organized in 1980 and 1994. Provinces likely to be assigned to the new mission have some of the lowest estimated percentages of Latter-day Saints in Argentina (less than 1% of the population). Stagnant congregational growth has occurred in the Tucumán area for many years. Slow membership growth has occurred in Argentina for many years, and annual membership growth rates have been less than 1% for several consecutive years now. As of year-end 2022, the Church reported 474,985 Latter-day Saints and 78 stakes in Argentina. There will be 14 missions in Argentina once the new mission is organized. The Church has only once ever discontinued a mission in Argentina, which was the Argentina Posadas Mission (operated from 2013 until 2019). When the new mission is organized next year, the average Argentine mission will have 3.3 million people within its geographical boundaries.

BOLIVIA COCHABAMBA SOUTH

The Bolivia Cochabamba Mission will be created from the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission (organized in 1977) and possibly the Bolivia La Paz El Alto Mission (organized in 2015). There are currently seven stakes in Cochabamba which were organized in 1979, 1984, 1993, 1995, 2012, and 2017 (2). The new mission will likely include multiple stakes in Cochabamba as well as stakes and districts in southern Bolivia, such in Tarija (two stakes organized in 1996 and 2016), Sucre (organized in 1996), and Potosí (organized in 1995), and three districts in Bermejo, Tupiza, and Yacuiba. It is unclear whether the stake in Oruro (organized in 1980) and the district in Llallagua may be reassigned to one of the missions in Cochabamba. The new Bolivia Cochabamba South Mission will be the Church's sixth mission in Bolivia, and each of the three largest metropolitan areas in Bolivia will have two missions. The average mission will have 2.1 million people once the new mission is organized. Annual membership growth rates in Bolivia have typically ranged from 1.5-2.5% in the past decade. Slow congregational growth has occurred in the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission for many years. There were 221,030 Latter-day Saints and 33 stakes in Bolivia as of year-end 2022.

BRAZIL MANAUS SOUTH

The Brazil Manaus South Mission will be the Church's 37th mission in Brazil. One of the most highly anticipated new missions to be organized, the new mission will be organized from a division of the massive Brazil Manaus Mission (organized in 1990) which at present has 12 stakes and one district. The mission currently has approximately seven million people within its geographical boundaries. Thus, the new mission will likely include approximately 3.5 million people, half of the nine stakes in Manaus, and stakes in Porto Velho (organized in 1996) and Rio Branco (organized in 1995). The first stake was organized in Manaus in 1988 followed by additional stakes in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. The Church in Brazil has been the country with the second most missions (after the United States) for many years. Once the new mission is organized, the average Brazilian mission will have 5.8 million people within its geographical boundaries. The newest missions to have been organized in Brazil after 2013 include the Brazil Rio de Janeiro South Mission (organized in 2018) and the Brazil Recife South Mission (2020). Annual membership growth rates have slowed significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil to approximately 1% a year. Stagnant congregational growth has occur in Manaus for many years. There are nearly 1.5 million Latter-day Saints, 285 stakes, and 39 districts in in Brazil.

CHILE LA SERENA

The Chile La Serena Mission will be the Church's 11th mission in Chile. The new mission will be organized from a division of the Chile Viña del Mar Mission (organized in 1979) and the Chile Antofagasta Mission (organized in 1988). The new mission will likely include three stakes and three districts in northern Chile. There are two stakes in the La Serena area which were organized in 1988 and 2014 (the latter of which was first organized in 1993 but was discontinued in 2002). The new mission was likely organized to reduce long distances to travel for mission leadership and missionaries in northern Chile. Essentially stagnant growth has occurred for the Church in northern Chile for decades. With the creation of the new mission, the average mission in Chile will have 1.8 million people within its geographical boundaries. The Church most recently organized a new mission in Chile in 2013 (Chile Santiago South). Annual membership growth rates in Chile have typically ranged from 0-1% for the past 20 years. The Church reported 604,302 members and 572 congregations as of year-end 2022. There are currently 77 stakes and 12 districts in Chile.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC SANTO DOMINGO NORTH

The Dominican Republic Santo Domingo North Stake will be the Church's fourth mission in the Dominican Republic following the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission (organized in 1981), the Dominican Republic Santiago Mission (organized in 1987), and the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East Mission (organized in 1991). The average mission in the Dominican Republic will now have 2.8 million people within its geographical boundaries. There are 14 stakes in the greater Santo Domingo area. The two missions headquartered in Santo Domingo currently administer six districts and one stake in the southern Dominican Republic. The new mission will probably include 4-6 stakes in northern Santo Domingo as well as one district just north of Santo Domingo that was recently reinstated (Monte Plata). Moreover, the new mission may also include one or two districts currently assigned to the southern Dominican Republic Santiago Mission (Bonao and Cotuí). As of year-end 2022, the Church reported 147,566 Latter-day Saints, 22 stakes, and 8 districts in the Dominican Republic. Slow membership growth has occurred for most years in the past couple decades in the Dominican Republic, especially since 2020. The Church most recently created a stake in Santo Domingo in 2019.

ECUADOR QUITO WEST

The Ecuador Quito West Mission will be the Church's seven mission in Ecuador following the Ecuador Quito Mission (organized in 1970), the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission (organized in 1979), the Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission (organized in 1991), the Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission (organized in 2013), the Quito Ecuador North Mission (organized in 2013), and the Ecuador Guayaquil East Mission (organized in 2020). The new mission will likely be created from a division of the two missions in Quito. There are currently eight stakes in Quito which were organized in 1979, 1981, 1995, 1998 (2), 2009, 2013, and 2017. Currently, the two missions headquartered in Quito service a total of 15 stakes in northern Ecuador. Thus, it is likely that the new Quito Ecuador West Mission will include approximately five stakes - two of which would be outside of Quito in Esmeraldas (a stake which is about to divide) and Santo Domingo. The Church has also expanded into the rain forest interior of northeastern Ecuador in the past couple decades, such as in cities like Coco, Nuevo Loja, and Shushufindi. The average mission in Ecuador will now have 2.6 million people within its geographical boundaries. The Church reported 261,767 members as of year-end 2022, and there are currently 44 stakes and 4 districts. Annual membership growth rates in Ecuador have been approximately two percent for many years.

MEXICO MEXICALI

The Mexico Mexicali Mission will be organized from the Mexico Tijuana Mission (organized in 1990) and perhaps also the Mexico Hermosillo Mission (organized in 1960). There are two stakes in Mexicali which were organized in 1977 and 1987. The new mission will likely also include the San Luis Río Colorado Mexico Stake (organized in 2009). Some districts in the northern portion of the Mexico Hermosillo Mission may be also included in the new mission. The Church in Mexicali has experienced stagnant congregational growth for decades, and it ranks as the Mexico-United States border town within Mexico that has arguably experienced the slowest growth of any city in this region notwithstanding its significant population (854,000 people as of 2020).

MEXICO PUEBLA EAST

The Mexico Puebla East Mission will be organized from a division of the Mexico Puebla South Mission (organized in 1988) and the Mexico Puebla North Mission (organized in 2012). Four new stakes and one new district have been organized within the combined areas of the two Puebla missions since the second Puebla mission was organized. There are currently nine stakes in Puebla, three in Nealticán, two in the Tlaxcala area, and one stake each in Atlixco and Tehuacán. The new mission will likely include 5-6 stakes and 1-2 districts.

With the creation of the two new missions in Mexico, there will be a total of 34 missions in Mexico, thereby resulting in the number of missions tying the previous all-time high for the most missions that have ever operated in Mexico (which was 34 from 2013 until 2018 when the Church discontinued the Mexico Ciudad Obregon Mission [organized in 2013] and the Mexico Reynosa Mission [organized in 2013]). The average mission in Mexico will have 3.8 million people within its geographical boundaries once the two new missions are organized. The Church in Mexico has reported very slow membership growth for many years. There were 1.5 million Latter-day Saints in Mexico as of year-end 2022. There are currently 229 stakes and 44 districts in Mexico.

PERU LIMA NORTHEAST

The Peru Lima Northeast Mission will be the Church's 15th mission in Peru and the seventh mission in Lima. Other mission headquartered in Lima include the Peru Lima South Mission (organized in 1959), the Peru Lima North Mission (organized in 1977), the Peru Lima East Mission (organized in 1988), the Peru Lima Central Mission (organized in 1994), the Peru Lima West Mission (organized in 2010), and the Peru Lima Limatambo Mission (organized in 2019). There are 49 stakes in the greater Lima metropolitan area - more stakes than any other metropolitan area in the world outside of Utah. The Church most recently organized new stakes in Lima in 2019. The six missions in Lima currently service a total of 55 stakes, suggesting that each of the Lima missions will have 7-8 stakes once the seventh mission is organized. The average mission in Peru will now have 2.3 million people within its geographical boundaries. Annual membership growth rates have typically ranged from 1-4% within the past 20 years. The Church reported 630,099 members as of year-end 2022. There are currently 115 stakes and 17 districts in Peru.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

New Global Standards for Creating New Wards and New Stakes and Realigning Ward and Stake Boundaries

INTRODUCTION

The Church announced via letter on November 30th, 2023, to church leaders worldwide that the minimum standards for the creation of new wards and new stakes and the realignment of wards and stake boundaries will be updated, effective January 1st, 2024. Unlike previous guidelines, the new requirements will be standard for the entire Church and not have a differentiation between the Church in the United States and Canada and the Church outside of the United States and Canada. Criteria for creating and realigning wards and stakes will also include a new "participation measure" which is to aid in the assessment of the strength of wards and stakes when new units or boundary realignments are submitted for approval to Church Headquarters. The participation measure is designed to help identify "members who participate in a meaningful way and to help evaluate the strength of a boundary proposal." Participating members are considered members on Church records who:

  • Pay a full or partial tithe
  • Hold a current temple recommend
  • Have a calling in the Church
  • A new member who attends sacrament meeting in the first year after confirmation
  • Enrollment in seminary for youth

The new minimum numerical requirements to create a new stake will be as follows:

  • MEMBERSHIP: 2,000 (previously was 3,000 for US/Canada and 1,900 for other countries)
  • ACTIVE, FULL-TITHE-PAYING MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS (AFTPMPH) CAPABLE OF SERVING IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS: 150 (previously was 180 for the US/Canada and 120 for other countries)
  • PARTICIPATING ADULTS: 500
  • PARTICIPATING YOUTH: 100 (recommended but not required)
  • NUMBER OF WARDS: 5 (unchanged requirement)

The new minimum numerical requirements to create a new ward will be as follows:

  • MEMBERSHIP: 250 (previously was 300 for US/Canada and 150 for other countries)
  • AFTPMPH CAPABLE OF SERVING IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS: 20 (previously was 20 for the US/Canada and 15 for other countries)
  • PARTICIPATING ADULTS: 100
  • PARTICIPATING YOUTH: 20 (recommended but not required)

ANALYSIS

This announcement marks the most significant update to the minimum standards for the creation of new stakes and wards in decades. Previous updates have periodically occurred, and these updates have usually required higher standards for wards, stakes, and branches to operate. These updates have focused on the creation of high-quality new wards and stakes that are more resistant to future problems with sustainability with leadership. Efforts to make these standards more stringent have appeared to have been effective, as it is now rare for a stake to be discontinued within 10 years after its organization (and this has usually occurred due to members moving away). The November 30th letter does not mention whether there will be any changes to the current requirement of a certain ratio being achieved of AFTPMPH to general membership (which has been one for every 20 members). Furthermore, these changes do not appear to change the minimum requirements to organize branches in stakes (currently 20 total members and four AFTPMPH) which has been the same for the entire Church. As for standards for branches to operate in missions or districts, there is no minimum standard, although it is advised that there are at least one AFTPMPH and four total priesthood holders (of any office). There is no minimum number of branches required to create a district, although districts usually have at least three branches. No information was provided in regard to whether these changes may affect the requirements for the organization of language-specific wards and stakes.

The following information is based upon my own observations and opinions of more than 20 years of research and study regarding the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Why Make the Requirements Universal and Why Now?

The Church outside of the United States in most countries has significantly strengthened within the past 20 years. This has been attested by the increase in the number of stakes and thousands of reports from returned missionaries and local members and church leaders. It is now common for many wards in Latin America to be the same size (in terms of active members) as wards in the United States, whereas this use to be uncommon. In most countries with the most Latter-day Saints, conditions have improved to where it is more feasible for higher standards to be implemented for new stakes and wards than it was previously. The Church has made increasing efforts to bridge the gap between the Church in the United States and Canada and the rest of the world. Some other examples include severing ties with the Boy Scouts of America and introducing a standardized program for youth and children for the entire Church, the announcement of scores of new temples in recent years outside of the United States and Canada in locations that previously would have been unlikely to have temples announced, and the implementation of worldwide post-secondary education programs to name some of the prominent examples I can think of). The decision to make the criteria the same for new stakes and wards to be organized regardless of geography will help continue to break down different standards and expectations for Church administration in the United States and Canada versus elsewhere. Also, there are many areas in both the United States and Canada where the previous minimum requirements to create new stakes and wards were too high to be met or were barely met with some creative boundary realignments and "gerrymandering" (such as in the maritime provinces of Canada, the Traverse City Michigan District, areas in New England with few members and slow growth). Finally, these changes will also result in a greater focus on ensuring congregations have a sizable number of active youth to permit greater fellowshipping with adolescents and children - a sensitive age group that requires special attention and care from local leaders.

How Will These Changes Affect Future Growth?

  • These changes will undoubtedly result in fewer stakes and wards being organized outside of the United States and Canada, as it will take longer for total and active membership to grow to the point of being able to meet the minimal requirements.
  • It is likely that stake, mission, and area leaders will organize more branches instead of wards due to less stringent criteria to organize branches instead of wards. 
  • Fewer branches will be reorganized into wards outside of the United States and Canada, but more branches in the United States and Canada may not be able to be organized as wards.
  • Prospects for most branches in Europe that have been approaching previous standards to become wards are now unlikely to become wards due to small memberships and slow growth that have placed the new standards outside of reach to achieve within the foreseeable future.
  • Significant boundary realignments to create many new wards and stakes in the United States and Canada appears unlikely except for areas that experience significant membership growth usually due to new move-ins (new-build communities in the Intermountain West in particular). Oftentimes, wards created in new neighborhoods have higher activity rates than in more established/older neighborhoods, so the reduction in the minimum number of members needed to create a ward may result in creating congregations that are not too large because the total number of members on the records is insufficient to create more wards. Moreover, the Church may discontinue fewer wards in areas where membership has dwindled due to move-outs and gentrification of membership.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

36 New Missions to be Created in 2024 Analysis: Asia and Europe

This post provides an analysis of new missions to be created in Asia and Europe in 2024, as announced by the Church on November 1st. 

New missions to be created in Asia and Europe in 2024 fall into three categories: reinstated missions that had previously closed (Germany Hamburg, Japan Sendai, Portugal Porto), a second mission in a country that previously had just one mission (Cambodia Phnom Penh East and Thailand Bangkok East), and new missions to be created in the Philippines (Philippines Dumaguete, Philippines General Santos, Philippines Tuguegarao). In 2010, the Church operated 36 missions in Asia, whereas there were 45 missions in Asia as of year-end 2022. However, this increase in the number of missions was primarily due to the Philippines, where the number of missions increased from 16 to 23 during this time period. In Europe, the number of missions decreased from 44 in 2010 to 37 in 2023. The Church in Europe reached an all-time high for the number of missions in 1997 when there were 55 missions. Most of the missions in Europe that have closed in the past 25 years have been in Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and Spain. 

The three new missions to be organized in the Philippines is a major accomplishment that has come from significant increases in the number of Filipino Latter-day Saints serving full-time missions. The Philippines Area, which includes just the country of the Philippines, set a goal in May of 2021 to have 4,600 Filipino members serving full-time missions by the end of 2022. In May 2021, there were only 1,900 Filipino members serving full-time missions, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only half of the congregations in the Philippines had a full-time missionary companionship assigned. Therefore, the number of Filipinos serving full-time missions increased by 142% within 2.5 years. In a letter from the area presidency dated November 3rd, 2023, the area presidency stated: 

Brothers and Sisters, we express our deepest gratitude to you for heeding this call of [President Russel M. Nelson] by achieving the area goal to reach 4600 missionary applicants. We recognize the remarkable efforts of parents, leaders, and our dear youth to strengthen the rising generation and gather scattered Israel

CAMBODIA PHNOM PENH EAST 

The Cambodia Phnom Penh East Mission will be created from a division of the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission (organized in 1997). The Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission services only the country of Cambodia with its 16.9 million inhabitants. The new mission will likely include one stake and 1-2 districts. With such a small number of stakes and districts in Cambodia altogether at present (two stakes, three districts), the creation of a second mission in Cambodia likely signals efforts by the Church to expand outreach into additional areas of the country. Currently, the Church operates official branches in only six of the 24 provinces in Cambodia. The Church in Cambodia initially experienced rapid growth in the 1990s and 2000s, although annual membership growth rates have since slowed to 3-4%. The Church reported 16,317 Latter-day Saints in Cambodia as of year-end 2022. The first two stakes in Cambodia were organized in 2014, and the Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple was announced in 2018 and is currently under construction.

GERMANY HAMBURG 

The Germany Hamburg Mission will be a reinstatement of the former Germany Hamburg Mission (operated from 1938 until 2010). The new mission will likely be organized from the Germany Berlin Mission (organized in 1961), and it is unclear whether any areas of the Germany Frankfurt Mission (organized in 1938) may be included in the new mission. There are 83.3 million people in Germany and three missions (one of which also services Austria and areas of Switzerland). The Church used to operate six missions in Germany between 1991 and 2000. It is unclear why the Church did not reopen previously closed German missions in 2013 when there was a significant increase in the number of full-time missionaries serving, although the decision to organize a fourth mission in Germany may be attributed to greater receptivity and productivity of missions in the country in many areas. The Church in Germany has experienced stagnant membership growth since 2017, with church membership hovering around 40,000 during the past five years. The Church reported 39,748 Latter-day Saints and 14 stakes in Germany in 2022. Local member reports have noted several encouraging developments in Germany in the past couple years, such as an increase in the number of convert baptisms and several branches maturing into wards due to increasing numbers of active members. The Church announced plans to build a temple in Hamburg in April of 2023. Interestingly, only one stake has ever been discontinued in Germany (Neumünster Germany Stake in 2018), and this was what used to be a second stake in the Hamburg area. Since the stake was discontinued, there has been progress with branches becoming wards in the Hamburg Germany Stake, with the stake now having nine wards and six branches, making it one of the largest stakes in Germany. The new Germany Hamburg Mission will probably have 2-4 stakes within its boundaries when it is organized.

JAPAN SENDAI

The Japan Sendai Mission will be a reinstatement of the former Japan Sendai Mission which operated from 1974 until 2019. The new mission will likely be organized from a division of the Japan Tokyo Mission (organized in 1937) and the Japan Sapporo Mission (organized in 1970) and include one stake (organized in Sendai in 1980) and four districts (all organized between 1974 and 1987. The reinstatement of the mission in Sendai will likely help relieve the administrative burden on the Japan Tokyo Mission. Stagnant congregational growth has occurred in northern Honshu for decades. The Church most recently organized a new mission in Japan in 2013 when there were 58 new missions organized worldwide. There are currently six missions in Japan that service the national population of 123 million. The Church reached an all-time high of 10 missions in Japan from 1990 to 1996. The Church in Japan has reported extremely slow membership growth for decades of 0-1% per year, although there has been stagnant membership growth in Japan since 2019. The Church reported 130,251 Latter-day Saints as of year-end 2022 (which was nearly unchanged from the 130,340 Latter-day Saints reported as of year-end 2019).

PHILIPPINES DUMAGUETE

The Philippines Dumaguete Mission will be organized from a division of the Philippines Cebu Mission (organized in 1987), the Philippines Cebu East Mission (organized in 2013), and the Philippines Bacolod Mission (organized in 1974). The announcement of a mission in Dumaguete came as a surprise to me since the Church is relatively small in the Dumaguete area. The Dumaguete Philippines Stake was organized in 2014, and there is only one district that is in relatively close proximity to Dumaguete (Tanjay). It is likely that the Philippines Dumaguete Mission will include one stake and two districts in southern Negros Island. It is unclear what the Church may do to reconfigure the boundaries of other missions in the area, such as which mission will be assigned Bohol Island (one stake, one district) and northeastern Negros Island (one stake, one district). It is my opinion that Bohol Island will likely be assigned to the Philippines Dumaugete, which would result in the new mission having two stakes and three districts. The sole stake on Bohol Island was organized in Tagbilaran in 2015. The Church has experienced slow growth in southern Negros Island and Bohol Island, although there has been progress within the past decade such as organizing the first two stakes and creating the first branches in five cities (one of which was the first branch created on Siquijor Island in 2016). Also, the southern portion of Cebu Island may be assigned to the new mission given its long distance from Cebu City and no currently established branches in this area (municipalities in the extreme southern tip of Cebu Island have a combined population of 287,000 people and no congregations). If the mission includes the provinces of Negros Oriental, Bohol, Siquijor, and the southern tip of Cebu Island, there would be 3.2 million people within the mission boundaries.

PHILIPPINES GENERAL SANTOS

The Philippines General Santos Mission will likely be primarily organized from the Philippines Davao Mission (organized in 1977), although the letter from the Philippines Area Presidency from November 3rd noted that the new mission will result in a realignment of all three current missions on Mindanao (the others being the Philippines Butuan Mission which was organized in 2006 and the Philippines Cayagan del Oro Mission which was organized in 1988). It is probable that the new mission will include at a minimum southern Mindanao Island where there are two stakes (General Santos [organized in 1995] and Digos [organized in 1992] and three districts (Cotabato, Kidapawan, and Marbel) and the Zamboanga Philippines Stake (organized in 1985). It is possible the new mission may also include the Pagadian Philippines District. The new mission will likely include most of the traditionally Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, such as in the Cotabato area and the Sulu Archipelago (the latter of which has no official Church presence). The Sulu Archipelago has a combined population of 2.0 million people, Zamboanga Sur Province has 2.0 million people, and provinces in southern Mindanao near General Santos have 2.5 million people. Thus, the new mission will probably have 6.5 million people within its boundaries. Slow growth has occurred within this area of Mindanao, with no new stakes or districts organized for nearly 30 years. The new mission will likely allow for greater mission outreach in the area which has probably been lesser reached due to greater growth that has occurred in other areas of Mindanao, such as in Davao and in the Philippines Butuan Mission. Moreover, the General Santos Philippines Stake is also close to dividing to create a second stake in the city.

PHILIPPINES TUGUEGARAO

The Philippines Tuguegarao Mission will be organized from a division of the Philippines Cauayan Mission (organized in 1990) and the Philippines Laoag Mission (organized in 2004). A fun fact with this new mission is that a previous Philippines Cauayan Mission President once played an April Fool's Day joke on his assistants and office missionaries that a mission would be organized in Tuguegarao (that was about 5-7 years ago if I remember correctly). The new mission will likely include the two stakes in Tuguegarao (organized in 1989 and 2011), the Ballesteros Philippines Stake (organized in 2019), and two districts (Aparri and Gonzaga). It is also possible the new mission may include the Ilagan Philippines Stake (organized in 2000) and the Roxas Philippines Isabela District, although this stake and this district are within close proximity of Cauayan. It may make sense to relocate the Philippines Cauayan Mission to Santiago to be in a more central location (and also be in the same city where the temple will be built which was announced in October 2022). The announcement of the new mission in Tuguegarao further supports the trend of having temples and missions headquartered within the same cities (the Tuguegarao Philippines Mission was announced in April 2023). The Church has experienced steady growth in the area covered by the current Philippines Cauayan Mission and the Philippines Laoag Mission (of the 11 stakes in the two missions at present, six have been organized since 2011).

There will be 26 missions in the Philippines once the three new missions are organized. There has only been one other year when there has as many new missions organized in the Philippines (1990). The Church has never discontinued a mission in the Philippines. The first mission in the Philippines was organized in 1967. The number of missions in the Philippines increased to two in 1974, three in 1977, four in 1979, five in 1986, six in 1987, eight in 1988, nine in 1989, 12 in 1990, 13 in 1992, 14 in 2004, 15 in 2006, 16 in 2010, 17 in 2011, 21 in 2013, 22 in 2018, and 23 in 2019. The most recently created missions in the Philippines have been the Philippines Cavite Mission (2013), the Philippines Cebu East Mission (2013), the Philippines Legaspi Mission (2013), the Cabanatuan Philippines Mission (2018), and the Philippines Antipolo Mission (2019). The Church reported 853,254 Latter-day Saints in the Philippines as of year-end 2022. Currently, there are 126 stakes and 55 districts in the Philippines (soon to be 128 stakes and 53 districts on December 3rd when districts in Aguilar and Toledo will become stakes). Thus, the average Philippine mission will have five stakes and two districts when the three new missions are organized in 2024. There are 117 million in the Philippines. Thus, the average mission in 2024 will have 4.5 million people within its geographical boundaries.

PORTUGAL PORTO

The Portugal Porto Mission will be a reinstatement of the former Portugal Porto Mission (which has gone through multiple iterations of closing and reopening). The mission was first organized in 1987, closed in 2011, reinstated in 2015, and closed again in 2018. A third mission once operated in Portugal from 1990 until 2002 (Lisbon Portugal North). The Church currently has seven stakes and one district in Portugal. The reason why the Church has decided to open and close the Portugal Porto Mission is likely due to the relatively large number of congregations in Portugal that have made it challenging to administer with a single mission. It seems that this mission has reopened when there are sufficient numbers of full-time missionaries to staff a second mission in Portugal. The Church reported 46,849 Latter-day Saints in Portugal as of year-end 2022, making Portugal the European country with the third most Latter-day Saints after the United Kingdom (186,933) and Spain (63,524). Variable membership growth have occurred for the Church in Portugal in the past decade, although these annual membership growth rates have often ranged from 0-3%. There are approximately 10.2 million people in Portugal.

THAILAND BANGKOK EAST

One of the new missions that I have most anticipated for decades, the new Thailand Bangkok East Mission will be the Church's second mission in Thailand to be organized from a division of the Thailand Bangkok Mission (organized in 1973). The current Thailand Bangkok Mission includes the entire country of Thailand as well as neighboring Myanmar and Laos for a combined population of 134 million people. The new mission will likely include two stakes and one district in Thailand as well as Laos (where there is one branch in Vientiane), whereas the realigned Thailand Bangkok Mission will likely include two stakes and one district in Thailand and three mission branches in Myanmar. Currently, there are four stakes and two districts in Thailand. There were 23,450 Latter-day Saints in Thailand as of year-end 2022. The Church does not publish membership figures for Laos or Myanmar. The first stake in Thailand was organized in Bangkok in 1995, followed by two additional stakes in Bangkok that were created in 2014 and 2016. A stake was created in Ubon in 2015. The creation of the new mission in Thailand will likely help with the expansion of the Church into dozens of unreached provinces. The Church in Thailand has achieved variable membership growth rates in the past decade, although membership growth rates have typically been slow.