Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Missions in the United States: New Mexico Farmington and Utah St George

Two of the 10 recently announced missions to be created this summer are in the Western United States in New Mexico and Utah. I was surprised to see that these missions will be created at the same time since they border one another and since Utah, with 2.7 million inhabitants, already has four missions based in Ogden, Provo, and Salt Lake City. Like many of the locations which will receive new missions this summer, the missions in Utah have some of the largest numbers of convert baptisms and highest retention worldwide. Both the Utah Ogden and the Utah Salt Lake City Missions had over 2,000 baptisms last year. The New Mexico Albuquerque Mission had the highest number of convert baptisms recorded since 1975 at around 500. I also wanted to note that several missions had a very successful year in 2009 in the United States, most of which were in the West and South.

Utah St George Mission

The Utah St George mission will be created from the Utah Provo Mission and include the following Utah counties: Beaver, Carbon, southern Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Juab, western Kane, most of Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, some of southern Tooele, extreme southern southern Uintah, Utah, southern Wasatch, and Washington. Northern portions of two Arizona counties (Coconino and Mohave) will also be included in the new mission. The Utah Provo Mission currently has the most stakes within its boundaries out of all the missions of the Church.

The high number of baptisms in the missions in Utah look less impressive when they are divided by the number of stakes within the missions. Assuming the Utah Provo Mission had 3,000 convert baptisms last year (which is just a generous estimate as I was unable to find how many baptisms occurred in the mission in 2009) and the mission likely had around 200 stakes within its boundaries, an average of only 15 converts joined the Church last year per stake in the mission. However most missionary companionships have multiple stakes within their areas which indicates that the missions is indeed productive in terms of converts per missionary (perhaps as high as 15-20 converts per missionary per year). Missionaries may also be involved in reactivation work. Missionaries in other Utah missions report that many of the converts are referrals from members and that in many areas members have increased their willingness to conduct member missionary work.

New Mexico Farmington Mission

The New Mexico Farmington Mission will be created from portions of the New Mexico Albuquerque, Arizona Phoenix, and Arizona Mesa Missions. The new mission appears to be a renewed effort to increase missionary activity among Native Americans (particularly the Navajo) as perhaps two thirds of the mission area is the Navajo Nation. The population of the Navajo Nation is around 180,000 however, and the population of the entire mission area is around 675,000. Slightly over half the population of the new mission is in New Mexico (350,000). The population of the Arizona areas are about 300,000 while the Utah areas have only 20,000 people.

The decision to create the new mission also likely indicates that this area of the United States needs additional care and support from full-time missionaries as there are a large number of less active or inactive members on the reservations. A missionary serving in the small town of Teec Nos Pos (in the four corners in Arizona) reported that his branch likely had enough members to create two wards but only 40 attended Church meetings weekly. Apparently many of the inactive members lived with LDS families in Utah for placement programs when they were youth, joined the Church and returned home and stopped attending Church. Senior missionaries often assist in the smaller branches and help strengthen members and provide teaching and mentoring. Despite inactivity problems, two stakes function on the Navajo Nation in Chinle and Tuba City, both of which were created in the 1990s. Other stakes take in portions of the Navajo nation, such as the Kirtland New Mexico Stake and Holbrook Arizona.

Lastly the new mission will allow for increased effort in the already existing missions, the two in Arizona in particular numbering among the most productive.


WestBerkeleyFlats said...

Participants in the Indian Placement Program had to already be members of the church.

Matt said...

Interesting. I had never heard of the program until a few days ago and did not know whether it was a Church or civic program. I gather than such a program would likely be more beneficial than detrimental to Native American members if they were already members prior to living with an LDS family as this could be a time for teaching and encouragement. Thank you for your comment.

Brandon Plewe said...

According to the map in the Church News, the St. George Mission will include Spanish Fork and Salem, but Springville, Payson, and Santaquin will stay in the Provo Mission. Because the SF stakes stretch all the way to Utah Lake, Provo missionaries will have to leave their mission to get to its southern cities. Isn't that odd?

WestBerkeleyFlats said...

The Indian Placement Program is obviously somewhat controversial, and somewhat may be an understatement. Religion aside, it was beneficial in that it provided educational opportunities for young people that did not exist at the time on most reservations. On the other hand, some people feel that it excessively encouraged Native American youth to assimilate into white (and LDS) culture at the expense of tribal identity, thus leading to a certain amoung of cultural alientation. NPR had a report on the program awhile ago.

WestBerkeleyFlats said...

Unknown said...

Brian is correct, although I knew a guy who basically his mom consented to have him baptized so he could get the better schooling with the placement program.
This man was my Deacons Quorum Advisor, so the program worked.
On the other hand, I have known at least two others who were involved and later went inactive.
There are some who actually would allege that the program had a detrimental effect since it exposed Navajos to white members who were often overtly or covertly racist, and ended up souring them against the Church.
The Tuba City stake actually also includes the Hopi Reservation. The Hopi and Navajo are historical enemies and still dislike eachother. They are in different congressional districts since the Hopi do not want to vote in the same district as the Navjo. Since the Navajo reservation surrounds the Hopi Reservation, this leads to very odd shaped districts. A small part of the Navajo Reservation, with virtually no residents, is in the district with the Hopi. The congressional district the Hopi Reservation is in is actually has 2/3rds of its population in Phoenix and the West Suburbs, then goes over to the western edge of Arizona and then stretches back across the state.
Tuba City itself was founded by Euro-American Mormon settlers and named for Cheif Tuba, a Hopi convert to the LDS Church who was sealed to his wife in the St. George temple shortly after it was built.
There was a missiony in my mission (Las Vegas, Nevada) from Tuba City, and he was white.
From about 1996-2004 the Chinle Stake had a white man as its stake president. On the other hand he was the son-in-law of a Navajo code talker (his wife's mother was also Navajo, and his wife was raised on the reservation). I know about that man because his daughter was in my Native American History to 1900 class at BYU and her grandfather and parents came in and spoke to us on one occasion.
Navajos are not the only Native Americans that reside in the boundaries of the Farmington Mission. I already mentioned the Hopi. The Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado will be in the mission. I am not sure, but the Zuni Reservation may be, and I have a suspicion that some Pueblo tracts in Colorado. The Paiute lands in Southern Utah have been incorporated into the Navajo reservation, and many Paiute have mixed with the Navajo, but there may still be Paiutes in the area who report being such.
Beyound this there has been a growth in missionary work with Spanish speakers in some of these areas in the last few months. Farmington's Spanish branch is only a few years old and the one in Bloomfield was organized in just the last few months.
One other factor that you did not mention is that this is a case of 4 missions becoming 5, with a little bit from another mission being thrown in where the other mission is also being split in half.
The Fourth mission is the Arizona Tucson Mission. This mission previously included the souther tip of New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
El Paso's two stakes are being transfered to the Albaquerque Mission. This partly may relate to the fact that there was recently a new stake created in Tucson, and El Paso is much closer to Albaquerque than to Tucson.