Friday, February 27, 2009

New Mission in Brazil

Missionaries in northern Brazil report that a new mission will be created in July 2009 from the existing Brazil Fortaleza and Brazil Belem Missions. The new mission will be the Brazil Teresina Mission and will comprise the state of Maranhão. This will be the 28th mission in Brazil and the 349th worldwide. Very few of the cities in the new mission currently have a Church presence in them. This mission will likely allow the opening of dozens of remote cities which have 50 to 100 thousand inhabitants.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Stake In Peru

For the first time since 2003, a new stake was created in Peru from a division of existing stakes. Since that time, every new stake has been created from a district. The new stake is the Chimbote Perú Buenos Aires Stake and was created last Sunday. This becomes the third stake in Chimbote, which has had around 20 wards and a few branches in two stakes, and the 88th stake in Peru. Only three other countries have more stakes than Peru, which are the United States (1,438), Brazil (224) and Mexico (212). The country with the most stakes after Peru is the Philippines with 78.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Stake In Brazil

The first new stake of 2009 was created last Sunday in the city of Belo Horizonte, located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The Belo Horizonte Brazil East Stake was likely created from the existing stakes in the city. There are now five stakes in the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area. The last new stake created in Belo Horizonte was the Belo Hortizonte Brazil Pampulha Stake back in 2000.

The Church has not grown as quickly in the state of Minas Gerais as it has in other states of Brazil. There are two missions which serve Minas Gerais' population of 20 million as well as nine stakes and eight districts.

There are now 224 stakes in Brazil

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Membership Growth in 2008

The Deseret News published the membership of the Church as of October 1st, 2008 in the 2009 Church Almanac to be 13,428,061, or an increase of around 234,000 members. This would mean an average of 26,000 people joined the Church a month for the first nine months of 2008. Assuming that membership growth rate did not change for the last three months of 2008, this would mean that Church membership as of the end of 2008 would be slightly over 13.5 million, or and an increase of 312,000 members from 2007.

Membership growth slowed in 2008 and will likely be around 10,000 people less than the previous year. Yet this still indicates a continuation of accelerated membership growth during the past few years. For instance, membership increased by only 263,700 in 2002 and 290,000 in 2003. During 2002 there were 61,600 missionaries serving around the world and in 2007 that number was only 52,700. This indicates that the number of converts per missionary has improved from 4.6 converts per missionary per year to 5.3 converts per missionary per year.

The decline in growth in 2008 from 2007 is due to fewer people joining the Church in Brazil. The 2009 Church Almanac provided the membership of Brazil in October 2008 to be 1,040,000. Considering there were nearly 1,020,000 members at the end of 2007 (a year in which almost 50,000 joined the Church in that country), this indicates a sudden decline in converts baptized, likely to number 20,000 less than 2007 for 2008.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

First Stake in Trinidad and Tobago to be Organized The Weekend of February 28th, 2009

Sister Robison of the West Indies Mission reported that approval for the first stake in the West Indies Mission was given and the stake will be created the weekend of February 28th. In addition to strengthening the existing branches in the country for the past year to prepare for stakehood, a new branch was created last Fall in Port Fortin. Converts are joining the Church more than ever before in Trinidad and Tobago and missionaries are doing their best to keep them active. Last year the West Indies Mission baptized over 2,000 converts, most of whom where in Guyana.

Sister Robison's blog can be found here.

Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Togo

I wanted to group these five countries together because they have a lot of similarities pertaining to the Church. Each currently have 600-800 members, between 2-4 congregations and proselyting missionaries serving in them from around the world. All of these countries have not had the Church established for very long. Membership in 2000 for these countries was the following: Angola (510), Cameroon (155), Ethiopia (344), Malawi (274), and Togo (117). At the end of 2007, membership grew to the following: Angola (759), Cameroon (639), Ethiopia (784), Malawi (705), and Togo (733).

From what I could find, only Ethiopia and Togo have been dedicated for the preaching of the Gospel, which occurred rather recently (2004 and 2007 respectfully). Ethiopia was dedicated by Elder Nelson and Togo was dedicated by Elder Bednar. All of these countries do not have a district organized in them yet but likely to have their first districts organized in the next year or two I believe. Another similarity they all share is that each have added a new congregation in the past 18 months.

It will be exciting to see how the Gospel spreads in these nations. The conditions appear to mirror Mozambique six years ago when once membership reached 800, rapid growth took place bringing membership in the country to over 4,000 in 2007. Branches were greatly multiplied in the country from 5 to 16 during that time as well. For that reason I think it is likely that if any new missions are announced in the coming month or two (most missions of the Church are announced in late February/early March and organized in July), these countries would be prime candidates in Africa. Other African countries I see as likely to gain additional missions in the near future include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Lubumbashi), Nigeria (Benin City), and South Africa (Port Elizabeth).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Strength and Size of the Church in Different Brazilian States

I performed this exercise with the different states in Mexico and figured I should repeat it with Brazil. The Church does not publish membership totals for each Brazilian state, but taking the population of a state and dividing it by the number of stakes and districts produces an estimate for how large and active the Church is in the state.

Overall around one in every 183 Brazilians is a member of the Church. However, Brazil's states differ in terms of the strength and size of the Church just like everywhere else in the world. For instance, the state of Minas Gerais has over 19 million people, seven stakes and eight districts while the state of Rio Grande do Sul has almost 11 million people, a temple, 21 stakes, and nine districts.

Much missionary work is yet to be done Brazil as a whole, considering there are 440 cities with over 20,000 inhabitants without missionaries assigned to the city or a congregation of the Church. To put that into prospective, Mexico only has 60 such cities which fall under the same category. I am currently calculating how many cities the United States have with over 10,000 inhabitants without a congregation or missionaries (which is looking to be around 50).

Below is a list of different Brazilian States and the population (from 2005) per stake. Stakes are counted as one and districts as 0.5.

Distrito Federal
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Norte
São Paulo
Espírito Santo
Santa Catarina
Rio de Janeiro
Minas Gerais
Mato Grosso
Mato Grosso do Sul

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Branch In Angola; City Opens For Missionary Work In Greece

Luanda, Angola

The existing Luanda Branch was divided and a second congregation was created in Angola. The country has over 700 members, yet until now has had only one congregation. Angola is currently part of the Mozambique Maputo Mission and has had four full-time missionaries serve in the capital since the end of last year. Many baptisms are happening.

Patra, Greece

The Greek city of Patra (or Patras) now has missionaries serving in the city. However it does not appear a branch has been organized. Other cities open for missionary work in Greece include Athens, Kavala, and Thessaloniki. Church growth has been very slow in this nation despite a mission operating in the country for close to 20 years. Today less than 700 members reside in the country, many of whom are not native Greeks and include many Albanians and Chinese. It is exciting to see Patra open for the preaching of the Gospel considering so few cities are opened for missionary work.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Church In The Middle East and Muslim Nations

I understand that talking about the Church in the Middle East is a delicate issue. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe in following the rules and regulations set forth by governments even if they restrict our freedom to share the Gospel. However the Church does operate, sometimes in the privacy of members' homes, in areas of the world in which we are not welcome. Yet we know from prophecy that the Gospel will go forth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. This would include the Middle East. President Monson stated the following last General Conference which I feel is pertinent to this discussion:

There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over 32 years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas, that we might share with them the joy of the gspel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray with faith.

These areas of the world are being prepared now for the Gospel to go forth to them. I urge those reading this blog and sympathetic to the Church to pray for those areas to open to missionary work. In this post, I wish to discuss the extent of the Church's presence in the Middle East and predominately Muslim countries.

The Middle East Africa North Area

Last Summer the Church reorganized two of the areas in Europe into one area and created the Middle East Africa North area. According to the Deseret News 2009 Church Almanac, this area had about 2,800 members organized into one stake and two districts at the end of 2007. The stake is the Manama Bahrain Stake and one of the districts is in Israel. I do not know exactly where the second district is, but I suspect it is in Jordan. To get information about exact meeting times and locations for the congregations in this region, contact the Middle East Africa North Area Desk at 1-801-240-2146.

Below is a list of countries in which there are congregations of the Church. These congregations are almost, if not entirely, made up of members from foreign countries, specifically the United States, Europe and the Philippines.









United Arab of Emirates

Currently the Church is growing rapidly in the United Arab of Emirates where, just a couple years ago, there was only one congregation. Now there are four I believe. There are also several congregations in Saudi Arabia and branches or groups in Yemen, Egypt, and Morocco. There are branches or groups for those in the military in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the mid-1970s a mission operated in Iran for a few years. Most of the few converts fled to other countries.

Asia and Europe East Areas

Many of the predominately Muslim countries in Asia and Europe have a smaller LDS presence than in the Middle East. There are members of the Church, both natives and foreigners, which meet in the name of the Church in Kazakhstan in a couple cities and in a group in Kyrgyzstan. A couple years ago a news article about the Church in Eastern Europe reported that a congregation existed in the capital of Tajikistan. A branch or group for those in the US military operates in Uzbekistan. Other than what I wrote above, this appears to be the limit of the Church's presence in Central Asia.

Pakistan is probably the Muslim country with the strongest LDS presence. There are two districts in the country and probably somewhere around 2,000 members and 10-20 branches. Pakistan is part of the India New Delhi Mission and only native Pakistani missionaries serve in the country. There are Church built meetinghouses and strong activity among members. Many of the members live in Christian communities. There is also a branch of the Church in Bangladesh, where the first baptism in that country recently took place.

In Europe, the Church does have a small presence in the predominately Muslim country of Kosovo where the first baptism occurred in the past year or two. Members meet in at least two locations: Pristina and Gjakovë. Albania has its own mission and close to 2,000 members in almost a dozen congregations. I have not been able to find any Church presence in Azerbaijan. In Turkey, the Church has four branches and recently began translating General Conference into the Turkish language.