Friday, May 30, 2008

Countries with the Highest Membership Growth Rates for 2006

I have not yet created a post about the fastest growing countries for the Church yet because I thought I already did. Unfortunately the Church has not yet published membership totals for 2007 yet for countries around the world, so I will use data from December 31st, 2006. Here is a list of the 15 fastest growing countries in the Church by annual growth percentages. Keep in mind this does not take the activity of members into account. Furthermore the countries with the highest growth rates tend to have few members. These percentages are found by taking the difference from year end 2005 and 2006 data and dividing by the 2005 data. The countries in bold are ones where membership has increased at least by 200 people.

  1. Benin - 67.4% - 159 members
  2. Georgia - 40.0% - 126 members
  3. Cameroon - 31.6% - 492 members
  4. Malaysia - 24.6% - 3,633 members
  5. Estonia - 16.4% - 874 members
  6. Ethiopia - 15.7% - 708 members
  7. Zambia - 15.6% - 1,905 members
  8. Sri Lanka - 15.1% - 1,108 members
  9. Armenia - 13.6% - 2,359 members
  10. Ghana - 12.5% - 32,965 members
  11. Guyana -12.3% - 2,072 members
  12. Namibia - 12.2% - 440 members
  13. Latvia - 11.8% - 920 members
  14. Turkey - 11.4% - 186 members
  15. Aruba - 11.3% - 395 members

I did not include two countries (Niue and St. Lucia) in the top 15 fastest growing countries because their membership is only around 100 and has also fluctuated over time.

Ghana has experienced some of the most impressive growth on this list. Membership increased by around 3,000 in 2006. Two new stakes were organized in 2006 and 2007 and a temple was dedicated back in 2004.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stakes and Districts in Africa

One of the best indicators of growth and activity in the Church is the presence and increase of stakes. Africa now has 46 stakes and 41 districts. As you can see in the map above (yellow squares are stakes; green squares are districts), the Church is strongest in Nigeria and Ghana. Even in these two countries, members are found in "pockets" among a large population. Working in just one or two cities in an entire country allows missionaries to train leadership while building up a large member population. A returned missionary from Madagascar explain this was the case in his mission, with almost all the missionaries serving in Antananarivo. "Building centers of strength" was the motto for missionary work in Madagascar and is a method used in many other poor, unstable countries for security issues as well. This is one of the reasons why we can see now five stakes in the Kinshasa-Brazzaville metropolitan area, and not even a branch of the Church in cities with over 100,000 people in the surrounding region. Before a new city opens for missionary work and a branch established, there usually needs to be active members currently living there.

Recently some members of the Church and others in academia have criticized the Church for being too American/Western European in Africa and have stunted growth. Examples of attacks made are missionaries wearing suits, no drums being used in worship services and a lack of native culture being integrated into LDS beliefs. The Church does not prohibit members from taking part in cultural activities and traditions. It does seek to keep the doctrine of the Church intact as possible. Based on countless missionary blogs from Africa as well as around the world I have never encountered a statement like "if only we had drums in our worship services more people would join the Church here." The statements that I find center on wanting more senior couple missionaries to help train local leadership and compliants on travel between cities that constrain training and mission resources.

Something interesting that have developed in the past five years in Africa is a trail of stakes and districts stretching from the center of the DR of Congo to South Africa. Considering this area has a large population, it could quite possible prove to become the powerhouse of Africa in the Church in the coming 10 years.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Update on Church Growth

City opens for missionary work in Greece
The city of Kavala opened recently for the preaching of the Gospel. This is the first city to be opened for missionary work in over a decade. Membership growth has been slow in this European country increasing by only 20 or so members a year. There are now six branches in the country and almost 700 members.

Districts combine in Peru in preparation for new stake

The La Oroya Peru and Tarma Peru Districts were recently combined in preparation for making a new stake in the near future. Last year a new stake was organized from a district to the southeast in La Merced and five new stakes were created in the entire country. When this new stake is organized, there will be 88 stakes in Peru. Only three countries have more stakes: the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. The above map shows stakes in yellow squares, and districts in green squares. The black square is the district that was combined.

City opens to missionary work in Trinidad and Tobago

The city of Point Fortin on the island of Trinidad recently opened for missionary work. A group has been organized and missionaries have been assigned to the city.

Church meetings now in Bushlot, Guyana

Near the city of New Amsterdam, missionaries have recently secured a building for Church members in Bushlot. The first Sunday meetings were held up to 50 people attended services. I am still unclear as to whether it is a group or a new branch, but will become a branch soon if so many members are attending.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Stake Created in the Philippines

The Catarman Philippines Stake was recently created from the Catarman Philippines District. There are at least five wards and one branch in the new stake, which brings the total number of stakes in the Philippines to 78 and drops the number of districts by one to 86. This is the first stake ever to be created on the island of Samar, which is north of the island of Leyte and to the southeast of the extreme southeast portion of the island of Luzon. Church growth has been strong in this area of the Philippines, with a new stake created last year in Tacloban (on Leyte Island). For more information on the Church in the Philippines, look for my post about this country further down the page or visit .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Church in Argentina

Argentina has the seventh largest number of Church members in the world and is one of the few countries to have at least 10 missions (which well serve a country of 40 million). Church growth in this South American country has been consistant and strong from 297,000 members back in 2000 to almost 356,000 at the end of 2006. The number of wards (large congregations) in Argentina rose from 393 to 458 during this time period and the total number of congregations rose by 54. No new stakes have been organized in nearly four years and the number of convert baptisms has declined in the past couple years. Only one temple is in the whole country, located in Buenos Aires. Some of the stakes in the western portion of the country attend the Santiago Chile Temple and in the north, the Asuncion Paraguay Temple. Possible locations for future temples in Argentina include Mendoza and Cordoba.
The yellow squares are stakes and the green squares are districts.

New Temple Announced in Phoenix, Arizona

The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has announced plans to build a temple in Phoenix. This will be the 140th temple in operation, announced or under construction and the third new temple announced this year. Church activity and growth is strong in the Phoenix metro area, with some 74 stakes currently assigned to the temple in Mesa. I was very surprised to see another temple announced in Arizona considering President Monson announced the Gilbert Arizona and Gila Valley Arizona Temples last month. This new temple will likely serve members in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Peoria, Buckeye, and more rural areas like Prescott and Payson. The total number of stakes that could potentially be assigned to this temple would be in the range of around 20 or 30 depending on where the line is drawn between the Mesa Arizona and Phoenix Arizona Temple Districts (each temple has a certain geographical area in which members are assigned to). Today Church membership in Arizona is around 370,000 in 88 stakes. Arizona now has the third most temples in one state (five). Utah has the most temples (13), California has the second most temples (seven), and Texas has the fourth most (four).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stakes in Guyana and Trinidad

According to Sister Robison, wife of President Robison of the West Indies Mission, paperwork for the first stake in Trinidad was approved by the area presidency. Paperwork has been sent to Salt Lake and if all goes well the stake will be organized this summer. Furthermore, Sister Robison stated that the first stake in Guyana will be organized in the near future as well. She did not specify where in Guyana it would be located, but most likely will be in Georgetown. The West Indies Mission website can be found at .

So far this year 13 new stakes have been organized worldwide.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Philippine Church Growth

If you ask members today where the Church has grown the most or has grown the fastest, you will likely hear them respond with South America, Mexico and the Philippines. Unfortunately, these three areas have high inactivity as well but have seen impressive growth in the past 30 years. The Philippines was opened for missionary work back in the mid 1960s. Now the Church has 77 stakes, 87 districts and 15 missions in the country. No other country has as nearly as many districts as the Philippines does, which is due to the expense and lack of transportation throughout the islands along with member inactivity. Almost every major city has a Church presence in it. A second temple was announced in Cebu City and as of April 2008 was 15% finished.

Membership growth slowed in the Philippines in the early 90s as well as in the late 90s. In 2001, membership increased by 5.44% to 496,000 members and in 2003, membership rose by only 1.7%. The reason for the dramatic drop in baptisms was due to increased standards for converts to be baptized as well as a stronger focus on retention and reactivation. Elder Dallin H. Oaks lived in the Philippines for a couple years and helped train leadership. Baptisms have risen since and membership stood at over 572,000 members in 2006, increasing at a rate of 3.53%. Only one new stake has been created in the Philippines since 2003, which was in Tacloban last year. Currently, membership is around 600,000.

It is likely more temples will be constructed in the Philippines in the coming years. There are a large number of members which live in the northern part of Luzon (the island where Manila is located). I would not be surprised to see a temple announced in the Dagupan area or in the city of Cagayan de Oro on the large, southern island of Mindanao.

General Authorities and Church members with connections in the Philippines have stated that activity is on the rise along with baptisms and tithe payers. The Church News featured an article about how over 40 converts were baptized at once in one family in the Tacloban area. The first missionary to serve in Taiwan from the Philippines has recently begun her mission there. It will be exciting to see how the Gospel spreads and enriches the lives of people in this country of 90 million.
In the map above, the pink squares are missions, the yellow squares are stakes, and the green squares are districts.

New Branches in Russia and China

New Branch in Russia

Another new branch was recently created in the city of Privolzhski, which is located near the city of Samara. This branch was likely formed from a division of the Engels Branch. There are somewhere around 125-130 branches in Russia today.

New Branches in China

The Beijing China (English) Branch was recently divided into three branches. Beijing is the first city in China to have more than two branches in it. This brings the total number of branches in China up to at least 12. All of these branches are only attended by foreigners in the country. I wrote an earlier post about a new international district created in Shanghai, which you can find further down the page.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Church in Italy

Although membership growth has been only around 2% a year for the past five years in Italy, there have been three new stakes organized since 2005. Now Italian members are organized into six stakes and seven districts. Along with France, Italy is in need of a temple but land has been difficult to find as well as obtaining government permission. Furthermore, most of the members in Italy live in the north which is fairly close to the Bern Switzerland Temple. It would be most likely that a temple would be built here (because there are four stakes) but Rome is another possibility. Districts in the south would be closer to a temple in Rome. Three of the seven districts are on Sicily and Sardinia the rest are in Calabria, Florence, Naples, and Rimini. It is quite likely that the districts in Florence and Naples will mature into stakes within the next five years. The yellow squares are wards and the green squares are branches.

Friday, May 9, 2008

New posts of U.S. and Canada Blog

I have added two new posts on my other blog, about two new stakes created in Nevada and Texas as well as the Church in California.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Exciting developments in Africa

The Church has just given authorization for a branch to be created in Gulu, Uganda. This will be the first branch over 100 miles away from the capital, Kampala. Currently, a group functions in the city and has high attendance at Sunday meetings. The formation of a branch in this city has been delayed due to conflict in the region. Missionary activity has not been authorized for Gulu yet (as well as Rwanda which had its first branch organized in March).
The Mission President for the Uganda Kampala Mission has recently been given approval to look for member activity in the Sudan. Reports on member activity in this war-torn country are limited, but there may be as many as a couple hundred members meeting in the South of the Country (possibly in the vicinity of Juba). Many Sudanese refugees have been baptized in the United States (for example, a branch temporary functioned in Omaha, Nebraska in Nuer which is a language from this area). Some of these members have returned to their homeland. The southern part of Sudan is predominantly Christian, while the north is Muslim.

The Church in France

France is one of the first countries in Europe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was established in. As of the end of 2006, there were almost 34,000 members. Today there are nine stakes and two districts in the country. There is no temple in France, but President Hinckley told members in a meeting five or so years ago that a temple will someday be built. There are only two missions in France now. Even though there has been a dramatic drop in the number of branches in the country (from 82 in 2000 to 63 in 2006), new branches have been created in the past few years in places where branches did not function previously (Like the city of Gap). Wards have also increased during this time period from 43 to 61. So the overall number of units has not really changed since 2000. As for possible new stakes, the Nice France Stake is rather large and could split someday (it's had around 10 wards and a few branches, but for quite sometime). Yellow squares represent wards; green squares represent branches.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Church in Spain and Portugal

Some of the strongest growth the Church has experienced in Europe in the past 10 years has been in Spain. In 2000, Spain had 31,695 members in seven stakes and 40 wards. There were a total of 124 branches as well and 16 districts. In 2006 Spain had 41,188 members, the most out of any country in Europe except the United Kingdom. Today there are 66 wards, 55 branches, nine stakes, and nine districts. The stakes in Madrid have growth fairly large (around 18 wards and six branches in two stakes) as well as the Elche Stake (10 wards and four branches). New stakes are likely to be organized in these two regions of the country. The northern portion of the country still does not have a single stake in it, but rather five districts. Up until a year or two ago there were three districts in the Canary Islands but these have all been consolidated into one (perhaps to create a stake in the near future, but growth rates have been relatively stagnant here). The temple in Madrid was dedicated nine years ago.

Portugal is an interesting story. Growth was very strong in the late 80's, but has slowed significantly in the 90's. Membership increased from only 35,146 in 2000 to 38,130 in 2006. Yet Portugal has the highest percentage of members out of any country in Europe (0.36%). There are six stakes in the country with 35 wards as well as four districts (two are on islands). Portugal is the country with the second largest membership with no temple after Nicaragua. I imagine a temple will be built someday in Lisbon to serve the Cape Verde Islands as well. Portugal is probably the European country with the highest inactivity.

The yellow squares represent wards and the green squares represent branches

Thursday, May 1, 2008

New International District Created in China

The Church recently organized the second district in China, the Shanghai China International (English) District. I made a recent post about the Church and China, and please refer back to that post for more information. Something else I wanted to add is that there are around 40 million Christians in China, but no Chinese citizens attend the branch services in China; only foreigners do.