Between 2000 and 2009 stakes increased by 323, half of which were created in the United States. Districts fell by around 20, congregations increased by around 2,650, missions climbed slightly from 333 to 344, and temples in operation jumped from 68 to 130. The number of full-time missionaries serving has likely dropped by 5,000.
Stake growth in the 2000s was significantly lower than in the 1990s when 803 new stakes were created. Congregational growth was also much higher in the 1990s, when 8,488 new congregations were created, more than three times as many as the 2000s. Missions also increased much more rapidly, growing by over 100. Instead of missionaries decreasing like in the 2000s, they increased by almost 19,000!
The Church experienced large differences between the 1990s and 2000s. In the 1990s the Church was established in most African countries it currently operates in and entered Eastern Europe. Greater establishment and outreach of the Church occurred in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile dramatic congregational and membership growth occurred in Latin America with greater outreach to smaller towns and rural communities. Congregations were often created with the bear minimum of active members to provide more opportunities for leadership and Church responsibilities for new converts in an effort to improve retention.
In the 2000s the Church spread to few new areas. Only a handful of countries were opened to missionary work, most of which have small populations and have seen limited Church growth (like Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Togo, and Benin). Few cities were opened for missionary work worldwide. Massive congregation consolidation occurred throughout Latin America, Eastern Europe, and areas of Central Europe. Greater emphasis began to be placed on member-missionary work. New congregations were often not organized until local members were self-sustaining. Missionary numbers dropped, likely due to a drop in the number of young men mission age combined with raising the standards for missionary service. Although the quality of missionaries and their teaching improved, this resulted in a drop of 10,000 in the missionary force.
I believe that the 2000s was a time for the Church to focus on developing greater local leadership, reform the missionary program, and strengthen the large number of new converts gained in the 1980s and 1990s. This occurred in the early 2000s when we saw a decline in the number of stakes in 2002 and increases of total congregations worldwide of less than 100 for two years in a row. During the 2000s the Perpetual Education Fund began in disadvantaged nations, providing education loans to members to improve their economic stability and provide greater wealth and skilled labor for their native countries. The decrease in missionaries serving is discouraging and requires greater focus from the Church in the United States and internationally in order to see greater increases in missionaries serving to allow the opening of new missions while continuing to maintain already operating ones.
The 2010s will be very exciting for the growth of the Church. In the past two years we have seen a major change in the outreach of the Church in Africa, Asia and Latin America with new cities opening for missionary work at an increased rate. Significant increases in missionaries serving from outside the United States have occurred, particularly in Africa and Asia. In Mongolia, the number of missionaries serving from that country increased from 30 two and a half years ago to around 226 currently. Problems with member involvement in missionary work will likely continue but hopefully improve, especially in the United States. One of the great keys I believe for greater health and growth in the Church will be in renewed, continued dedication of its members to have greater faith and involvement in the Church's missionary efforts.
In the 2010s I predict that we will see the following based on recent trends and my impressions:
- Temples announced, under construction or in operation will reach 200
- The number of missions will stay stagnant or slightly increase as missionary resources continue to shift from less productive to more productive areas.
- Convert baptisms will exceed half a million.
- The opening of nations in sub-Sahara Africa to the Church, mainly Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Mali.
- Greater growth of membership and congregations in countries for which the Church does not publish its presence.
- Many of the 430 unreached Brazilian cities of over 20,000 inhabitants opening for missionary work.
- Countries with over 100 stakes also including Peru, the Philippines, and maybe Argentina.
- An increase in the number of full-time missionaries serving exceeding 2000 levels.
- Greater outreach among unreached cities in India, Africa and Colombia.
- Steady congregational and membership growth in the United States continuing.
- Another period of rapid growth in Central America and South America in terms of membership and congregational growth. Rapid growth has begun again in Peru, Brazil and Mexico in the past few years.
- Greater mission outreach in the United States among minority groups, especially Iranians, Asians, and Africans.
- Congregational growth exceeding 500 most years.
- The ratio of membership to congregations continuing to increase, perhaps reaching 500.