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.