- -The Brazil Teresina Mission will be created from portions of the Brazil Belem and Brazil Fortaleza Missions. This area of Brazil is one of the highest baptizing and has seven of the 10 largest cities in Brazil without a congregation or missionaries serving in the city. By adding a third mission to the area, we will likely see many of these cities open to missionary work over the next few years.
- -The Brazil Belo Horizonte East Mission will be combined with the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission. Belo Horizonte is located in one of the most populous states in Brazil and now will only have one mission to serve most of the people in the state of Minas Gerais. The Church still grows steadily in the Belo Horizonte area, with the newest stake in the city being created just a few months ago. However we have not seen as rapid growth in Minas Gerais as we have seen in most other states in Brazil.
- -The Brazil Rio de Janeiro North Mission will be relocated to Vitoria and renamed the Brazil Vitoria Mission. Stakes in the northern part of the Brazil Vitoria Mission will be taken from the Brazil Belo Horizonte East Mission and stakes in the southern part of the former Brazil Rio de Janeiro North Mission will be transferred to the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission. In other words, the mission in Vitoria will mainly include the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo, which has 3.5 million inhabitants. The missions in the Rio de Janeiro area were actually some of the lower baptizing missions in Brazil and now members in the three stakes and one district in Espirito Santo will have much more training and attention from a mission president than before. This will hopefully allow for more cities to open for missionary work in Espirito Santo which currently do not have a Church presence. The sole mission in Rio de Janeiro will serve some 15.5 million people.
- -The Mexico Guadalajara and Mexico Guadalajara South Missions will have their boundaries redrawn and the Mexico Guadalajara South Mission will be renamed the Mexico Guadalajara East Mission. The one thing I have to say about this change is that the area east of Guadalajara has several of the largest cities without a Church presence in Mexico and the realignment could facilitate their opening to missionary work. Such cities include La Barca, Arandas and San Juan de los Lagos.
- -The two missions in Lagos, Nigeria will be combined into one mission. One mission used to exist in Ibadan and a few years ago was transferred to Lagos. Church growth in the area in and around Lagos has been slower than in other areas of Nigeria. There are two stakes in Lagos and five districts to the northeast of the city. I imagine that a mission will be created in the near future in Benin City (which is between the missions in Lagos and Enugu) considering the city is seeing some of the most rapid growth in the country.
- -The three missions in Taiwan will be consolidated into two with the dissolution of the Taiwan Kaohsiung Mission. The two remaining missions will cover the country of 23 million and 10 stakes and 2 districts. The number of missionaries serving in the country will also decline with fewer missionaries called to serve in Taiwan.
- -The California San Francisco Mission will be combined with the California Oakland Mission and renamed the California Oakland/San Francisco Mission. The area around San Francisco has seen very little growth in terms of new congregations created. However mission leaders report throughout California that missionary work is going as strong as ever despite opposition for the Church's support of Proposition 8 last year. For the first time in several years, membership in California actually increased from the previous year some 6,000 members, indicating that this is likely the result of fewer members moving to other states and possibly an increase in convert baptisms.
- -The Pennsylvania Harrisburg Mission will be combined with the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission. There will now be just two missions in the state, with the other based in Philadelphia. Membership and congregation growth have remain constant for the past several years.
With these changes there will be a total of 344 missions in the Church; down from 348. This should not come as too much of an alarm to see a decrease in the number of missions for the Church. In 2001, we saw the number of missions in the Church fall from 334 to 333 and in 1981 we saw the number of missions fall from 188 to 180 and then drop to 178 the following year.
One of the reasons for this drop in missionaries is due to a demographic drop in the number of young men that are mission age in the United States. We might see a drop in the number of full-time serving missionaries for the year 2009, but should only be temporary. There might not be a drop at all considering areas like Central America and South Africa are seeing large increases in the numbers of missionaries serving just in the past year.
The Church News credits these changes in missions to "an ongoing effort to increase efficiency, balance needs and manage resources" (article can be found here). Unlike most times when missions are combined, this year it does not appear that this is due to these areas being unproductive for the Church, but rather less productive. For instance, in Taiwan the Church is seeing continued success with several congregations created a year and membership increasing by around 2,000 a year. Most congregations had four missionaries serving in each one and with the changes there will be just a companionship for each congregation.
In Brazil, the Church had a great year for growth last year. According to the Church's newest apostle Elder Neil L. Andersen, over 40,000 converts where baptized in Brazil in 2008. The number I was particularly excited about was the increase in congregations. There was an increase of 53 congregations last year in Brazil, the largest increase for one year in 10 years. The change in missions this year will hopefully allow for greater growth in the affected areas for years to come.