Friday, May 29, 2009

First Stake In The Marshall Islands!

Missionaries serving in the Marshall Islands Majuro Mission report that the first stake in the country will be organized sometime in June. The new stake will be created from the Majuro District, which comprises seven branches as of right now. Missionaries and Church leadership have been preparing the district for stakehood for several years. The Church News reported that while serving as missionaries in what was then the Micronesia Guam Mission, Max and Annette Martin were assigned in 2004 to serve on Majuro with the specific task of teaching the members how to function as a stake (link to Church News article). The Marshall Islands Majuro Mission was created in 2006 from the Fiji Suva and Micronesia Guam Missions and primarily administers to the Marshall Islands and Kiribati.

The Marshall Islands became independent from the United States in 1979 and maintains close ties with the United States today. The population of the islands is estimated to be only around 60,000, with the vast majority of people living in the islands of Majuro (where the capital is) and Ebeye. Another district of the Church with four branches currently functions on Ebeye in the Kwajalein Atoll, named the Kwajalein Micronesia District. The Marshall Islands are well known for nuclear tests conducted after World War II.

There are about 4,500 members of the Church in the Marshall Islands as of the end of 2008. There are also four Marshallese speaking branches of the Church in the United States located in Arkansas, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Washington.

New Stake In Florida

A new stake of the Church was recently created in the Tampa Bay area. The Bradenton Florida Stake was created from stakes in Fort Myers, Brandon, and Tampa. The new stake likely has eight wards and four branches (which is one of the largest new stakes I've ever seen created). This is a trend I have noticed with new stakes in the United States in the past year, with most having eight or nine wards. In the past most new stakes in the United States have five to seven wards when the stake is first organized. We do see some smaller stakes in the United States still created, such as the Pleasant Grove Utah West Stake which only had six wards when it was organized.

There are 25 stakes in Florida and over 131,000 members of the Church. The only area in Florida where we might see a new stake in the near future is in the Jacksonville area.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New District In Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

View Stakes and Districts in Africa in a larger map

A new district of the Church was created in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The Yamoussoukro Cote d'Ivoire District comprises four branches in the city and becomes the first district created outside of Abidjan, the largest city in the country. Yamoussoukro is located in the center of the Cote d'Ivoire and is also the official capital of the country. The population is estimated to be between 200 and 300 thousand and is the third largest city in Cote d'Ivoire.

As for the Church in the rest of Cote d'Ivoire, there are three stakes in the Abidjan area, which is on the coast in the south portion of the country. The first stake was organized in 1997. There are also mission branches in Divo and San Pedro. A couple mission branches used to exist in the second largest city of Bouaké (which is just north of Yamoussoukro) until the outbreak of the Ivorian Civil War in 2002 and as of this time I do not believe the Church has a presence in the city. Non-African missionaries were withdrawn from the country during the civil war and as of last year have returned (see this post for more information). The Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission also includes Togo and Benin as of last year.

As of the end of 2008, there were 13,200 members in the country.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Stake In Mexico: Every State In Mexico Now Has A Stake

With the creation of the Colima México Stake, every state in the country of Mexico now has a stake of the Church within its boundaries. The Colima México Stake was created from the Colima México District last Sunday and becomes the first stake of the Church in the Mexican State of Colima. Only one other district currently exists in the state of Colima in the city of Manzanillo. Missionaries have worked hard to establish this stake in Colima and it is exciting to see its creation (click here to view previous post on when this stake was a district and other districts working towards stakehood at the end of last year). There are now 213 stakes and 40 districts in Mexico.

First Stake In Mongolia Creation Postponed To June 7th

First off, I apologize for announcing that the first stake in Mongolia was created last Sunday when apparently it was not. The Mission President reports that the stake was originally to be organized on the 24th of May, but was postponed for two weeks due to elections. Again, I apologize for the misinformation.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

First Stake In Mongolia Created Today

The first stake in Mongolia was created today from the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar District. I already wrote a post about the news when I received it towards the end of last month (follow the link for more information). According to senior missionaries serving in Mongolia, the new stake does not include all the branches in the district and a new district was created on the same day for branches in the eastern part of the city, named the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia East District.

Growth has increased in the past year or so in Mongolia, with missionaries indicating that the mission has recently broke previous records for convert baptisms in a month and Church attendance. Most of the members live in Ulaanbaatar (the capital) or in the Darkhan Mongolia District which is to the north of Ulaanbaatar. Missionaries have reported that branches in the isolated towns of Choibalsan, Erdenet and Hovd have grown to around 150-200, making it likely for more congregations to be organized considering branches typically have 50-100 or so active members.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Military District In Afghanistan

According to the LDS Church News, a district of the Church was created in July of 2008 to administer to members of the Church serving in the military in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Military District comprises four branches and several groups for the 400 some members of the Church in the country. Afghanistan is a part of the Middle East Africa North Area, which was created last year.

The Church does not proselyte in Afghanistan, but does have a few members of the Church who are native Afghans in the country. Afghans have been baptized in countries near Afghanistan which have proselyting missionaries after approval from the mission president in the area.

District Dissolved In Brazil

The Aracati Brazil District has been dissolved. Located near Fortaleza, the district was organized in 2003 and had three branches. It is likely that most, if not all, the branches were absorbed in the Fortaleza Brazil East Stake (which recently split at the end of last year). Unlike many of the districts in northeastern Brazil, the district in Aracati did not mature into a stake. This consolidation might have been done in order for some of the branches to become wards, but there were not enough branches in the district to make it into a stake. A similar situation recently occurred in Mexico in the Acambaro México District, where two of the branches in the district transferred into the Morelia México Stake and became wards (one of which was the branch in Acambaro, suggesting that the district might be renamed considering the city the district is named after is now not in the district). However in the latter example the district is still operating. There are now 51 districts in Brazil.

New Stake In Utah

A new stake was created yesterday in Utah. The Pleasant Grove Utah West Stake was created from a couple stakes in Pleasant Grove and becomes the 11th stake created this year as to my knowledge. There are now 532 stakes in Utah.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Church In Papua New Guinea

View Stakes and Districts of the Pacific in a larger map

I realized the other day that I have not written very much about the Church in Papua New Guinea. Unlike many countries where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is established, most members do not know about the Church's presence in Papua New Guinea. I have had a hard time finding information about missionary work currently occurring in the country and most of the information I have gathered comes from the Church's official websites and the LDS Church News.

The first congregation of the Church in Papua New Guinea was created in 1979. The Church was recognized by the government two years later and was dedicated for the preaching of the Gospel in 1983 by Elder L. Tom Perry. In 1992 the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission was created from the Australia Brisbane Mission and three years later the first and only stake was created in Port Moresby when there were around 4,000 members in the entire country. When the Port Moresby Papua New Guinea Stake was created, Elder Merrell challenged the members to do what they needed to create a second stake the following year (which did not happen). Since then membership has grown to about 16,600 members organized in one stake, seven districts and 53 congregations. Some of the greatest factors limiting growth of the Church in Papua New Guinea include high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. Nearly all the missionaries serving in the country are natives and most mission presidents who have served in the country are Polynesian.

Papua New Guinea is currently the country with the most members with only one stake (the country with the second most members with one stake is Thailand). This is likely due to growth in the past 10 years in remote areas of the country as well as inactivity around the capital. The most recent district was created last year in Rigo, which is about 50 miles southeast of the capital. In a recent article in the Church News on the Daru Papua New Guinea District, the mission president reported that the district is preparing to become a stake after the Isumo District was combined with it last year. Daru has been an example of rapid growth in remote areas of the country. Located on a small island near the border with the Indonesian side of the island, the Church was first organized there back in 1991. A city in the country which I believe is most likely to see a new district in the future is Angoram, located in the northern portion of the island. I do not think we will see a temple announced for Papua New Guinea until several more stakes are organized.

This is all the information I have about the Church in Papua New Guinea. If you have current information about the Church in this country not mentioned above, please leave your comments.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Stake In The Democratic Republic of Congo

A new stake was recently created in the city of Lubumbashi, DR Congo. The Katuba Democratic Republic of Congo Stake was created from the pre-existing stake in the city. The original Lubumbashi Democratic Republic of Congo Stake was created in 1997 and had 15 wards before the Katuba Stake was created. The new stake likely comprises six congregations on the west side of the city, which would include Gecamines. There are now six stakes in the country and over 20,000 members of the Church.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Stake In Brazil

A new stake was created in the city of Cuiabá, located in the state of Mato Grosso. The Cuiabá Brazil Industriário Stake was created from the Cuiabá Brazil Stake, becoming the second stake not only in the city but in Mato Grosso as well. The first stake was created in Cuiabá back in 1995 and a mission was created in the city just a couple years ago. There are now 226 stakes in Brazil.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New District In Nigeria

Another new district was created in Nigeria. The Ikot Ekpene Nigeria District comprises seven branches and was created from mission branches in and around Ikot Ekpene in the state of Akwa Ibom. The city of Ikot Ekpene has over 200,000 inhabitants and sits in one of the most densely populated states in Nigeria. This is the third new district created in the state of Akwa Ibom in the past six months with other districts organized in Ibiono and Oron. There are now 16 stakes and 17 districts in the country.

The area in southeastern Nigeria has become a pillar of strength for the Church in Africa. Below is a map of the stakes and districts in this portion of the country, where the temple is also located in Aba.

View Stakes and Districts in Africa in a larger map

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mission Realignments In Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Taiwan, and the United States

The Church News reported that the following changes will occur in the following countries pertaining to new missions and mission realignments:


  • -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.

United States

  • -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.