Saturday, May 21, 2016

New Stakes Created in Argentina, Arizona, Australia, Benin, Bolivia, the Czech Republic, the DR Congo, Nigeria, Tennessee, and Utah; District Reinstated in Ukraine; Stake Discontinued in Idaho; Districts Discontinued in the Czech Republic and Papua New Guinea

I have gotten a bit behind with all of the new stake creations. Here we go!

Argentina
The Church organized a new stake in Cordoba Province on May 8th. The Bell Ville Argentina Stake was organized from the Bell Ville Argentina District: The new stake includes the following five wards and four branches: the Arroyito, Bell Ville, General Paz, Lamadrid, and San Francisco 1st Wards, and the Las Varillas, Leones, Marcos Juárez, and San Francisco 2nd Branches.

There are now 75 stakes and 29 districts in Argentina.

Arizona
The Church organized a new stake in the Mesa area on May 1st. The Mesa Arizona Flatiron Stake was organized from a division of the Apache Junction Arizona Stake (renamed the Peralta Trail Arizona Stake) and the Mesa Arizona Salt River Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Boulder Mountain, Ironwood, Ocotillo, Signal Butte 1st, and Twin Knolls Wards, and the Adobe Branch (Spanish).

There are now 105 stakes in Arizona.

Australia
The Church organized a new stake in the Sydney area on May 1st. The Sydney Australia Prairiewood Stake was organized from a division of the Liverpool Australia and Sydney Australia Fairfield Stakes. So far, confirmation is available for only four of the wards assigned to the new stake: Green Valley 1st, Green Valley 2nd (Samoan), Prairiewood 1st, and Prairiewood 3rd (Samoan). It is likely that one or two additional wards are assigned to the new stake.

There are now 40 stakes and eight districts in Australia.

Benin
The Church organized its first stake in Benin on April 24th. The Cotonou Benin Stake was organized from the Cotonou Benin Stake. Missionaries report that the new stake includes eight wards and six branches. However, there is currently only confirmation on four branches that have become wards: Cococodji, Fidjrosse, Finagnon, and Menontin.

There is now one stake and no districts in Benin.

Bolivia
The Church organized a new stake in southern Bolivia on May 15th. The Tarija Bolivia Tabladita Stake was organized from a division of the Tarija Bolivia Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Central, Cuatro de Julio, Panamericano, Senac, and Tabladita Ward. Tarija now numbers among four other cities in Bolivia where the Church operates at least two stakes within a single city.

There are now 28 stakes and eight districts in Bolivia.

Czech Republic
The Church organized its first stake in the Czech Republic on May 15th. The Prague Czech Republic Stake was organized from the Prague Czech Republic and the Brno Czech Republic Districts. The new stake includes the following six wards and seven branches: the Brno, Hradec Kralove, Jicin, Ostrava, Prague, and Plzen Wards, and the Ceske Budejovice, Jihlava, Liberec, Olomouc, Trebic, Uherske Hradiste, and Zlin Branches. As part of the creation of the new stake, the Brno Czech District was discontinued.

There is now one stake and no districts in the Czech Republic.

DR Congo
The Church organized its fourth stake in the Kasai Region of the central DR Congo on April 24th. The Mbuji-Mayi Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake was organized from the Mbuji-Mayi Democratic Republic of the Congo District. The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the Bipemba, Dibindi, Diulu, Misesa, Muya 1st, and Muya 2nd Wards, and the Tshikama and Tshitenge Branches. Mbuji-Mayi will also headquarter the Church's third mission in the DR Congo this July.

There are now 14 stakes and three districts in the DR Congo.

Nigeria
The Church organized a new stake in southeastern Nigeria on May 1st. The Ikot Eyo Nigeria Stake was organized from the Nsit Ubium Nigeria Stake (renamed Ukat Aran Nigeria Stake) and the Ibesikpo Nigeria District. The new stake includes the following four wards and six branches: the Ikot Ekwere, Ikot Eyo 1st, Ikot Eyo 2nd, and Ikot Eyo 3rd Wards, and the Ikot Akpan Abia, Ikot Ebre, Ikot Esen, Ikot Oku Iyan, Ikot Udofia, and Ndikpo Atang Branches. It is likely that one or more of these six branches have also been advanced into wards but this information may not be available due to delays in the Church updating this information. It is significant to note that Ikot Eyo is the location of the Church's first branch organized in Nigeria in 1978. The population of the local government area (LGA) of Nsit Ubium may be as high as 5-10% LDS at present due to steady growth within the past three and a half decades.

There are now 34 stakes and 19 districts in Nigeria.

Tennessee
The Church organized a new stake in Tennessee on May 1st. The Cookeville Tennessee Stake was organized from a division of the McMinnville Tennessee and Madison Tennessee Stakes. The new stake includes the following six wards and three branches: the Burgess Falls, Cookeville, Crossville, Jamestown, Lebanon 1st, and Tompkinsville Wards, and the Lebanon 2nd (Spanish), Livingston, and Sparta Branches.

There are now 12 stakes in Tennessee.

Utah
The Church organized a new stake in Utah County on May 15th. The Saratoga Springs Utah Mount Saratoga Stake was organized from a division of the Saratoga Springs Utah Crossroads Stake. The new stake includes the following eight wards: the Riverside 1st, Riverside 2nd, Saratoga Springs 7th , Saratoga Springs 10th, Sunrise Meadows 1st, Sunrise Meadows 2nd, Sunrise Meadows 3rd, and Sunset Haven Wards.

There are now 579 stakes and one district in Utah.

Ukraine
The Church reinstated a district in central Ukraine. The Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine District was organized from four mission branches that pertained to the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission. The new district includes the following five branches: the Dnepropetrovsk Livoberezhna, Dnepropetrovsk Pobedy, Dnepropetrovsk Tsentralny, Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine District, and Zaporizhzhia Branches.

There is now one stake and four districts in Ukraine.

Idaho
The Church recently discontinued a stake in Idaho. The Moscow Idaho University Stake was discontinued. Most wards in the former stake were student married wards and these congregations were consolidated with family wards in the Moscow area.

There are now 126 stakes in Idaho.

Papua New Guinea
The Church recently discontinued a district in Papua New Guinea. The Kuriva Papua New Guinea District was discontinued and all four branches in the former district were reassigned to the neighboring Gerehu Papua New Guinea District. Over 500 members attended the conference when the districts were consolidated (click here to access a news article on this conference). The decision to consolidate the districts appeared motivated from continued declining LDS growth in the Port Moresby area and a possible effort to organize a second stake in the region within the near future.

There are now two stakes and 11 districts in Papua New Guinea.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Progress in Mongolia

Missionaries serving in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission report several significant church growth developments. The Church will organize its second stake in Mongolia in late May from the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia East District. Most, if not all, six branches in the district are expected to become wards. Additionally, two new wards will be organized in the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia West Stake - one of which from a branch advancing into a ward. The Church also organized a new ward in the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia West Stake within the past month.

These developments signal good progress with strengthening local leadership, augmenting the number of active members, and addressing problems with convert attrition and member inactivity that have stifled the growth of the Church in Mongolia within the past decade. The Church previously experienced some of its most rapid growth in a Buddhist country in Mongolia during the 1990s and 2000s. However, membership growth rates continue to be very low compared to previous years. Nonetheless, the Church reports one nominal member per 266 people in Mongolia - higher than any other country in mainland Asia.

Click here to access the LDS statistical profile for Mongolia. A map of LDS units in Mongolia can be found here. Click here to access a case study on stagnant LDS growth in Mongolia (written in 2013).

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New Locations for Humanitarian Service Missions

The Church publishes a weekly newsletter entitled "Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin" that contains up-to-date information on current needs for senior couples to serve full-time missions. All types of senior missionary couple opportunities are listed in the bulletin such as with the Church Education System, the Temple Department, Welfare Services, Auditing Department, and so on. The weekly newsletter can be accessed here.

Recently, the Church has added several new locations for humanitarian service missions in the bulletin. These locations include:
  • Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Kurdistan, Iraq
  • Senegal
The Church has never appeared to assign senior missionary couples on humanitarian assignment to these three locations. Although these assignments are focused on humanitarian service and development projects, often times the assignment of humanitarian senior missionary couples proceeds or coincides with the establishment of an official church presence. Notable examples include Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma (Myanmar), Gabon, the Republic of Georgia, Kosovo, Laos, Macedonia (FYROM), and Turkey. Although the prospective assignment of senior missionary couples to these three locations is encouraging for the Church to expand its worldwide influence to meet humanitarian needs and lay the groundwork for an official LDS presence one day, only Senegal appears to have realistic prospects for proselytizing, full-time missionaries to be assigned. Iraqi Kurdistan presents many safety and religious freedom challenges, whereas the Church in Kyrgyzstan has experienced challenges with obtaining legal recognition for over a decade. However, the 2014 Kyrgyzstani court ruling that the law requiring 200 adult citizen members for a religious group to register with the government as unconstitutional suggests improved prospects for the establishment of a member group or branch in Bishkek (click here to access a case study on the Church in Kyrgyzstan).

Monday, May 9, 2016

First Stake to be Created in the Czech Republic

Missionaries serving in the Czech/Slovak Mission report that the Church will organize its first stake in the Czech Republic in a special conference on Sunday, May 15th. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf will preside at the meeting and the new stake will be organized from the Prague Czech and Brno Czech Districts. With approximately 2,500 members and 13 branches, the Church in the Czech Republic is currently the country with the ninth most members without a stake. It is anticipated that five of the 13 branches will become wards, namely Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Plzen, and Hradec Kralove.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Request for Updates on Stake and District Creations/Dissolutions

I have greatly appreciated all of the excellent feedback, updates, and comments on this blog over the years from visitors and long-term contributors. With so many new stakes and districts organized thus far in 2016, and reports of many more to come in the near future, I would appreciate any information on new stakes or districts to be organized, or stakes or districts to be discontinued.

I have confirmed the organization of 31 stakes that have been organized thus far in 2016, with an additional nine stakes to be organized in the next two months. There have been 10 districts organized thus far in 2016. Four stakes and four districts have been discontinued since the beginning of the year.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Apostasy in Armenia - Sole LDS Stake in Armenia Discontinued

Multiple missionaries serving in the Armenia Yerevan Mission report that last Sunday the Church discontinued the Yerevan Armenia Stake in a special stake conference. Organized in 2013, the stake has been returned to district status and all wards have been downgraded to branches. Missionaries report that the primary reason the stake was discontinued was due to improper handling of church administrative responsibilities by members and local church leaders. Many of the previous church leaders were released from their callings during the conference. Missionaries indicate that a large portion of members attending the conference, perhaps as large as one-third to one-half of those in attendance, left the conference early after the announcement was made that the stake was discontinued in protest of the decision.

This marks one of the few times in LDS Church history that the Church has discontinued a stake in a nation where only one stake previously operated. Most recently, the Church discontinued its sole stake in Monrovia, Liberia in 2007 due to similar problems as reported in Armenia. The news of the stake discontinuation in Armenia is disappointing and points to chronic problems with a lack of "real growth" and spiritual maturity among many members in the region. The Church in Eastern Europe has experienced similar problems with local members and church leaders becoming inactive after similar administrative changes have been made. It appears that the Church has yet to adequately address the cultural challenge of retaining church leaders in the region after they are released from a calling, or properly rectifying problems with church leaders not following policies for local church administration.

Click here to access the LDS statistical profile for Armenia.

Monday, May 2, 2016

April 2016 Newsletter

Please click here to access the April edition of our monthly newsletter from cumorah.com.

First LDS Branch Created in Senegal

Members living in Senegal report that the first official LDS branch was recently organized in the capital city of Dakar. The Church has operated a member group in Dakar for at least one year. In mid-2015, the Dakar Group appeared to entirely consistent of foreigners who temporarily lived in the country for employment purposes. Senegal is not currently assigned to an LDS mission. The country is directly administered by the Africa West Area. In late 2015, the Church noted that it had plans to assign senior missionaries to serve in Dakar.

The Senegalese population is 94% Muslim and 5% Christian, with most Christians concentrated in the Dakar area. Most speak French and Wolof. There are no restrictions on religious freedom. Other missionary-focused Christian groups such as Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses have maintained a presence in Senegal for many years.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Africa West Area Projects 16 New Stakes in 2016

Senior missionaries serving in Ghana recently reported that Africa West Area leadership predicts a total of 16 new stakes to be organized in the Africa West Area during 2016. The Africa West Area includes seven countries with an official LDS presence including Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Togo, and Sierra Leone. Thus far, there have been two stakes organized in the Africa West Area in 2016: the Mpintsin Ghana Stake and the Cotonou Benin Stake. Therefore, it appears that as many as 14 new stakes will be created by the end of the year in the Africa West Area.

Below is a list of 38 stakes and districts in the Africa West Area that appear likely locations for the formation of new stakes.
  • Cote d'Ivoire
    • Abobo Cote d'Ivoire East Stake (12 wards)
    • Cocody Cote d'Ivoire Stake (11 wards)
    • Daloa Cote d'Ivoire District (8 branches)
    • Port-Bouet Cote d'Ivoire Stake (12 wards)
    • San Pedro Cote d'Ivoire District (7 branches)
  • Ghana
    • Abomosu Ghana District (7 branches)
    • Accra Ghana Adenta Stake (9 wards, 4 branches)
    • Ashaiman Ghana Stake (9 wards, 3 branches)
    • Assin Foso Ghana Stake (9 wards, 4 branches)
    • Cape Coast Ghana Stake (13 wards, 1 branch)
    • Koforidua Ghana District (9 branches)
    • Kumasi Ghana Bantama Stake (11 wards, 6 branches)
    • Kumasi Ghana Dichemso Stake (10 wards, 8 branches)
    • Twifu Praso Ghana District (7 branches)
  • Liberia
    • Monrovia Liberia Bushrod Island District (9 branches)
    • Monrovia Liberia District (6 branches)
    • Paynesville Liberia District (6 branches)
  • Nigeria
    • Aba Nigeria Ogbor Hill Stake (10 wards, 5 branches)
    • Abeokuta Nigeria Stake (10 wards, 1 branch)
    • Abuja Nigeria Stake (14 wards, 1 branch)
    • Asaba Nigeria District (7 branches)
    • Eket Nigeria Stake (11 wards, 3 branches)
    • Ekpoma Nigeria District (10 branches)
    • Ijebu-Ode Nigeria District (8 branches)
    • Ikot Ekpene Nigeria District (7 branches)
    • Ile-Ife Nigeria District (11 branches)
    • Nsit Ubium Nigeria Stake (10 wards, 4 branches)
    • Ogwashi-Nsukwa Nigeria District (7 branches)
    • Onitsha Nigeria District (11 branches)
    • Port Harcourt Nigeria East Stake (14 wards)
    • Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake (11 wards, 2 branches)
    • Yenagoa Nigeria District (8 branches)
  • Sierra Leone
    • Bo Sierra Leone East District (7 branches)
    • Bo Sierra Leone West District (8 branches)
    • Freetown Sierra Leone Stake (10 wards) 
    • Kenema Sierra Leone (7 branches)
    • Kissy Sierra Leone District (9 branches)
  • Togo
    • Lome Togo Stake (9 wards, 7 branches)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

10+ New Stakes to be Created Each Week?

LDS apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was recently quoted in a meeting with young single adults in the Dallas area in regards to unprecedented growth in the number of new stake creations. This meeting occurred last Sunday, April 24th. A video of the conference can be found here. Elder Holland begins to discuss stake growth around 54 minutes into the video. Here are some quotes that I found particularly interesting:
  • "[Growth] is the single greatest problem we have."
  •  "We are reeling under the implications of the growth that we have in this Church."
  •  "A week ago Thursday we created 15 stakes...the week before it was 12." [in reference to temple meetings at Church Headquarters]
  • "We are talking about double-digit stakes every week of our lives."
  • "It is like a bucking bronco."
  • "In the middle of all that occasionally, rarely...we dissolve a stake. That is so unusual..it doesn't happen very often."
When I first watched this video, I first thought that Elder Holland was reporting that 12 new stakes were created on April 10th and 15 new stakes were created on April 17th. However, after reviewing the video it appears that he is referring to meetings to approve new stakes in the coming months. Based upon reports and research I have conducted, most of these new stakes appear most likely to be organized in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, and Sub-Saharan African. Many of these new stakes appear likely to be districts advancing to stake status, particularly in locations such as the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

I have made previous posts on this blog regarding accelerating stake growth in 2016. So far I have confirmed 27 new stakes that have been created in 2016 with an additional seven stakes that will be created or that may have already been created. To put this into perspective, the Church has reported an average net increase of 47 stakes within the past 10 years. If the Church were to organize at least 10 new stakes every weekend for the rest of 2016 (excluding the weekend of the October 2016 General Conference, the month of July when few, if any, new stakes are organized, and the last two weekends of the year), the Church would organize an additional 280 stakes during 2016 for a grand total of over 300 new stakes for the entire year. If this were to occur, it would be twice the Church's previous record for the most new stakes organized in a single year set back in 1996 when 148 new stakes were organized. I can verify from my own research that the process of discontinuing stakes is unusual for the Church as a whole (aside from the early 2000s when dozens of stakes were discontinued in Latin America). The Church has discontinued an average of 4.5 stakes a year since 2008.

The creation of new wards and branches has slightly accelerated thus far in 2016, with an average of nearly 14 new wards or branches organized a week. However, the rate of wards and branches being discontinued appears to have slightly increased as approximately seven wards or branches have been discontinued a week. New wards and branch creations have occurred all over the world, but mostly in the United States, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Nearly all wards and branches discontinued thus far in 2016 have been in the United States and Latin America.

I am not sure if Elder Holland's comments on "double-digit stakes every week of our lives" means that this will literally happen or be consistent (even though he uses the word "every" in the comment). He acknowledges in the video that the rate of stake creations frequently fluctuates.
Time will tell to determine whether stake growth will continue to accelerate, or whether this acceleration in 2016 is a temporary one. Accelerated congregational growth will be absolutely essential for the Church to accelerate the creation of new stakes in the coming months and years ahead. Stakes generally administer five to 12 congregations.