Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ireland Dublin Mission to be Discontinued

The Ireland Dublin Mission will combine with the Scotland Edinburgh Mission to create the Scotland/Ireland Mission. The mission will be headquartered in Edinburgh and serve members in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland in seven stakes, one district and several mission branches in northern Scotland. Since 2000 membership has increased from 2,333 to 2,772 in 2008 and there has been no change in the number of congregations.

Member activity may have increased substantially in the past decade. Those who identify themselves as LDS on the census increased by 48.5% between 2002 and 2006 whereas total membership rose by 3.8% during this time period. Greater numbers of active members lessen the role missionaries serve in countries with a small Church presence. The Ireland Dublin Mission has only served members in two stakes and one district. Most missions generally have five to 15 stakes. Missions in areas where the Church has recently arrived, experience high member inactivity, and an expanding Church outreach can have only a couple districts and no stakes within their boundaries. The Greece Athens Mission had no stakes or districts within its boundaries until 2007 when the Nicosia Cyprus District was created. The Russia Vladivostok is the only regular proselyting mission without a stake or district.

In addition to the small LDS membership and population, low growth rates, and increasing independence of Irish membership, the Scotland Edinburgh Mission also experiences slow growth and has had the number of congregations drop by seven during the 2000s. Membership grew by only 1.7% between 2000 and 2008. The consolidation of the two missions will likely not decrease the few numbers of converts the Church gains in Ireland and Scotland and allow for greater mission resources to be utilized in more needy areas of the world.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taking the Gospel to the Nations: Country Reports

For the past several months David Stewart and I have been developing an international almanac that details LDS Church growth in countries around the world, exploring the Church's history in these nations and opportunities and challenges for future growth. The almanac will not be completed until mid-2011 and in addition to being printed into a book, David Stewart will provide the profiles online at his site, Two profiles have already been posted for Angola and Bangladesh.

District Discontinued in Alaska

The Anchorage Alaska Bush District was discontinued and the seven branches were reorganized under the Anchorage Alaska , Anchorage Alaska Chugach , and Anchorage Alaska North Stakes. The district was created in 1979 and has stood out among the districts of the Church due to its remoteness and challenges. Members living in the same congregations have sometimes never met due to large distances between members' homes and video or telephone conferences are routine. Members residing in the former district now have the benefits of living within the boundaries of a stake which include the ordination of high priests, a patriarch, greater independence from mission leadership, and increased responsibility for temple and missionary work. It is unclear which branches will be assigned to each stake, but some of the larger branches may become wards in the coming years as they belong to a stake.

There are now 1,452 stakes and 11 districts in the United States.

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Japan Hiroshima Mission to be Discontinued

This July the Japan Hiroshima Mission will be discontinued, bringing the number of missions in Japan to six. The Okayama Japan Stake and the Takamatsu Japan and Matsuyama Japan Districts will fall under the jurisdiction of the Japan Kobe Mission. The Hiroshima Japan Stake and Yamaguchi Japan District will join the Japan Fukuoka Mission.

Japan has seen slow membership growth since 2001 and congregations have fallen by 30 since 2000. A large number of the congregations discontinued were small branches. The decision to discontinue the Japan Hiroshima Mission was likely in part was due to low productivity for the large number of missionaries in this region of Japan over the past decade. However the mission president of the Japan Kobe Mission points out that his mission nearly tripled the number of convert baptisms in 2009 compared to 2008. Nationwide there was an increase in convert baptisms in 2009 compared to 2008. 2008 ranks slightly above several other years in the past decade for membership increase, growing at a rate of 0.66% (years with lower membership growth rates include 2003, 2006, and 2007 -- the lowest rate was 0.55% in 2007). Initial reports on membership growth and convert retention in 2009 may indicate that the Church has begun to see a small reverse in the declining trend of membership growth.

President McIntyre of the Japan Kobe Mission further points out that the reduction in the missionary force in Japan has already occurred and will likely not continue. Other missions to consolidate this summer have also reported that their missionary forces have already been reduced and may not continue to see additional reductions. The Church continues to mature and slowly grow in Japan as manifest by the recent temple announcement for Sapporo and two operating temples in Tokyo and Fukuoka. Japan also sends out many local missionaries with some Japanese missions having local missionaries in the dozens. When I served my mission in South Korea, we had one of the larger missions in terms of missionaries serving and only had around a dozen Korean missionaries.

Lastly the mission consolidation also reflects continued emphasis for local members to find and prepare investigators to have missionaries teach and baptize.

New Stake in Mexico

A new stake was created last Sunday in Mexico. The Tulancingo México Stake was created from the Pachuca México Centro Stake. Tulancingo is the second largest city in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. I do not have specifics on the number of congregations in the new stake yet. There are now seven stakes in Hidalgo, three of which have been organized since 2007. Mexico has 221 stakes and 35 districts.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Two New Missions in Peru

Before I begin this post, I wanted to note that I will be providing information and analysis concerning each of the new missions or missions to be discontinued over the next couple weeks. For a full list of the new missions and mission consolidations, visit the Church News article which can be found here. There are also missions not mentioned in the article that will be realigned which I will also provide posts for.

Peru Cusco Mission

The Peru Cusco Mission was created from the Peru Arequipa and Peru Lima Central Missions and includes the regions of Puno (formally in the Arequipa mission), Cusco, Madre de Dios, and Apurimac (formally in the Lima Central mission). The new mission will serve a population of three million which has seen less outreach than many other areas of Peru due to its remoteness. The greatest potential for growth will be in the most populous regions on Cusco and Puno. Several new dependent branches or groups have been organized recently in locations such as Desaguadero and Chinchero (the latter has around 15 investigators attending Sunday meetings and very few members). Several new congregations in the Puno region have also been organized recently. Six stakes and seven districts are within the mission boundaries, the most recently created being the Andahuayles Peru District in 2008. Missionaries will likely use Spanish, but a large number of the population speaks Quechua.

Peru Lima West Mission

The Peru Lima West Mission will be created from the Peru Lima East and Peru Lima North Missions and include the northwestern portions of the city of Lima and the northern half of the Lima region. I do not know how many stakes in the Lima area will be included in the new mission, but four new stakes were organized last year in northern Lima. Only one district and one stake will be in the northern reaches of the new mission. The new mission was likely created to alleviate the heavy demand for missionaries in the northern portions of the Lima metropolitan area and allow for greater outreach to smaller villages in mountainous areas. The new mission likely serves between one to three million people.

With the creation of these two new missions, there are now nine missions in Peru. Peru has the second largest percentage of members attending institute and seminary in Latin America at 7.2%. The nation with the largest percentage is Venezuela with 8.3%. This may indicate the Peru does not just enjoy more rapid membership and congregational growth than many other Latin American nations, but also higher member activity. Most Latin American countries have 3-5% of membership attending seminary and institute.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

10 New Missions to be Created, 14 to be Discontinued

I do not have the names of all the missions to be created or discontiued, but I have learned that the Ireland Dublin Mission, one of the missions in Chicago, and a mission or two in Australia will be discontinued. Additional new missions to be created include Peru Cuzco and Democratic Republic of Congo Lubumbashi. The mission in St George will stretch all the way to Farmington, New Mexico. I will provide more information once it becomes available. The total number of missions worldwide will fall by four from 344 to 340.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Mission in Guatemala

Missionaries report that the fifth mission in Guatemala will be organized this summer from the Guatemala Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City Central Missions. The new mission will be named the Guatemala Retahuleu Mission. The decision to create a second mission in the highlands of western Guatemala was likely due to continue to expand outreach into small, Amerindian communities. Many of these communities have members, some of which meet in small branches or groups. Like the creation of Chile Concepcion South Mission in the mid-2000s, the new mission will likely be created to have mission leadership and missionaries work with areas with high inactivity. There are also several districts close to becoming stakes which the new mission may facilitate becoming stakes in the coming years.

New Mission in the Philippines

Missionaries report that a new mission will be created in the Philippines. The Philippines Bacolod Mission will divide to create a mission that will only serve the islands of Panay and Guimaras. Missionary work has just recently taken off on Guimaras with many reported dependent branches and groups. Missionaries have not reported the name of the new mission, but I imagine that it will be called the Philippines Ilolio Mission. Several of the districts currently in the Philippines Bacolod Mission are close to becoming stakes. Baptisms have increased in recent years, but not to pre-2000 levels. Congregational growth continues to be weak, but this may be due to higher standards for new congregations to be created and more dependent branches and groups in order to establish greater local leadership.

To recap, the following missions will be created this July:

  • Democratic Republic of Congo II (Lubumbashi? exact location not yet known)
  • Mexico Mexico City Northeast
  • Mexico Villahermosa
  • Nicaragua Managua (II)
  • Philippines (Ilolio? exact location not yet known)
  • Utah St George
The following missions will be discontinued this July:
  • Germany Hamburg
  • Italy Catania
  • Korea Seoul West
  • Ohio Cincinnati
  • Spain Bilbao
  • Switzerland Zurich
There may be as 10 more mission that get discontinued according to a report I received from a senior missionary couple. However with reports coming in from missionaries it appears that the massive changes in missions this summer are more than a consolidation and increasing outreach is being prepared for many areas which have had a Church presence for decades or just a few years.

More New Missions and Missions to be Discontinued

New Missions in Mexico

Missionaries report that at least two new missions will be organized in Mexico this summer.

The sixth mission in the Mexico City area will be created from a division of the Mexico Mexico City North and Mexico Mexico East Missions and will be named the Mexico Mexico City Northwest Mission. The new mission will include 10 stakes. Mexico City experiences some of the highest numbers of baptisms in the Church and regularly sees additional congregations created. The highest baptizing mission in Mexico last year was the Mexico Mexico City East Mission with over 3,000 converts. Retention has been a persisting problem in this area for decades and appears to have only slightly improved as congregational growth is less than membership growth. An additional mission will allow for greater focus on retention and increasing member activity by more frequent visits and training from mission leadership to local leadership. The new mission may increase the likelihood of a future temple in Pachuca in the coming years.

The Mexico Villahermosa Mission will be created by a division of the Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission. An additional mission in southern Mexico will provide greater missionary resources to open additional small cities and towns. These areas also have many Amerindian groups who have received increasing outreach such as in the San Cristobal de las Casas area. Several stakes in the Villahermosa area may split as they have added several new congregations over the past couple years.

Missions to be Discontinued in Europe

A member in Central Europe reported that the Switzerland Zurich and Germany Hamburg Missions will be discontinued. Central Europe has seen a trend of decreasing mission outreach over the past two decades. I will provide additional information once it becomes available. Like other areas experiencing mission consolidations, the number of missionaries serving in these areas have likely already been reduced over the years to prepare for consolidation. Many areas in Central Europe have seen small increases in convert baptisms with fewer missionaries through outreach to young adults. The Central European country which experienced the greatest increase in growth in 2009 was the Czech Republic.

A full report on which missions will be discontinued and created this summer will be included in the Church News this weekend.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another New Mission to be Created

Missionaries report that a new mission will be created in Utah. The Utah St George Mission will likely be created from a division of the Utah Provo Mission. St George has a large non-LDS population that is rapidly growing. I will provide more details once they become available.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Mission to be Discontinued

Missionaries report that this July the Korea Seoul West Mission will be discontinued. I am a returned missionary from the Korea Seoul West Mission and it does not surprise me that the mission will be absorbed into the Korea Seoul Mission not because the mission has been unproductive but rather because of the small number of missionaries serving in the Korea Seoul Mission and the few baptisms they have had over the years. The Korea Seoul Mission will also include stakes formally covered by the Korea Seoul West Mission with the exception of the Suwon Korea Stake which will go to the Korea Daejon Mission. The Seoul West Mission typically has around 300 baptisms a year while the Seoul Mission has had around 100 to 200 a year.

Furthermore missionaries report that as many as 16 missions may be discontinued this summer. As noted by the mission president in the Spain Malaga Mission, reasons for the large number of missions to be discontinued include the decreasing number of men mission-aged in North America and realigning missions in less productive areas to shift resources to more productive areas. It appears that the decision to discontinue so many missions this year was a decision that has been considered for many years and linked to the 2002 announcement of the discontinuation of stake missions and missionary programs with a ward and branch mission focus. Areas experiencing mission consolidations have so far been ones which have or will soon have stakes established, indicating that one of the purposes of missions is to not only teach and baptize converts but to also mentor local members in order to become self-sustaining. Once members become more self sustaining in less productive areas the number of missionaries and resources are reduced.

With so many missions to be discontinued we may see a few more missions organized. Likely candidates include Africa and Central and South America as these regions have many areas which experience rapid growth and rely on foreign missionaries. I also wanted to stress that many areas of the world with high retention and rapid growth do not have foreign full-time missionaries, suggesting that oftentimes members grow too dependent on foreign missionaries to run the Church.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Two More Missions to be Discontinued in Spain and Italy


Missionaries serving in the Italy Catania Mission report that the mission will be discontinued this July. The mission will be absorbed into the Italy Rome Mission. Missionaries were notified that this consolidation will occur in part due to preparing members for the building of the Rome Italy Temple. The decision to consolidate the two missions was also likely influenced by the consolidation of the two districts on Sicily last year in preparation to create the first stake on the island. The Palermo Italy District may become a stake prior to the combining of the missions but no announcement has been made. Once the consolidation occurs there will be around 120 missionaries in the Italy Rome Mission. This consolidation will allow for greater missionary resources to be utilized in areas with more rapid growth and increase the responsibilities for local members in sharing the Gospel with others.


The Spain Bilbao Mission will be discontinued this July and a massive realignment of the three remaining Spanish missions will occur. Districts in Leon and Vigo will transfer to the Spain Madrid Mission and the Vitoria Spain Stake will become part of the Spain Barcelona Mission. The Canary Islands will become part of the Spain Madrid Mission and the Elche Spain Stake, La Mancha Spain District, and a couple mission branches will belong to the Spain Malaga Mission. Missionaries were very surprised about this change considering that the Spain Bilbao Mission had its most successful year in 20 years as the first stake within the mission was created and convert baptisms were up 81% from 2008 in 2009. The Spain Barcelona Mission also had a very successful year as measured by convert baptisms with 402 baptisms. The missions in Madrid and Malaga have also seen good success in the past year. The decision to combine the decision is an inspired one which has come as a result of greater leadership development and maturity among the local members. The establishment of the first stake in northern Spain was a result of local members taking greater responsibility in conducting the Church.

Below I have the letter from the mission president of the Spain Malaga Mission informing missionaries concerning the changes.

The First Presidency has determined that on 1 July 2010 the Spain Bilbao Mission will be dissolved and the boundaries of the Spain Barcelona and Spain Madrid Missions will be realigned to include the areas now served by the Spain Bilbao Mission. President Richard R. Clegg (from the Bilbao Mission) will be the new mission president of the Spain Málaga Mission. In conjunction with these changes, the Elche Stake (from the Barcelona Mission) and La Mancha district (from the Madrid Mission) will be associated with the Spain Málaga Mission. The Canary Islands (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Spain District) will be associated with the Spain Madrid Mission presided over by President Watkins.

This consolidation, together with many others, will be announced in the Church News on 13 February 2010. While these changes will impact certain missionaries this summer, the move will not affect our role as missionaries to baptize worthy converts. Rather, it is a reflection of the great success which we are experiencing in the growth of the Church in Spain.

This is an exciting and positive move as the Church continues to expand throughout the earth and as ward and stake leaders and members take a more active role in missionary work and the growth and development of the Church in Spain. It is an inspired response to a number of important changes in the work in Spain.

First of all, as you well know, the number of missionaries worldwide and the number of missionaries serving in Spain has been decreasing. This decrease is driven largely by a reduction in the total number of 18 and 19-year-olds in the population throughout North America and Europe. We started our mission with 120 missionaries and by July will have 74. Other missions are going through similar reductions. Overall, the number of missionaries serving in Spain will be less than 300 this year. This is a dramatic decrease from several years ago when we had nearly 800 missionaries in five missions in Spain.

Second, the growth of the stakes in Spain has reduced the amount of Church administration done by the missions. Before the creation of the Madrid Stake in 1982, mission presidents served as the ecclesiastical leaders of all members of the Church in Spain. With the recent creation of the 10th stake in the country - the Spain Vitoria Stake, created out of the Bilbao District of the Spain Bilbao Mission - most Church members now live in stakes led by local stake presidents, and missions have responsibility for fewer mission districts.

Finally, in 2002 the First Presidency announced certain changes which gave stake presidents and bishops the responsibility for missionary work in their stakes and wards. The stake presidents and bishops in Spain have taken on that new responsibility in a very effective way, so that even with the reduction in full-time missionaries, the work of baptizing worthy converts has increased dramatically.

We are excited about this coming change and what it says about the growth of the Church in Spain. While we look forward to welcoming into our mission the great missionaries and members of the La Mancha District and Elche Stake, we will deeply miss the wonderful missionaries and members of the Canary Islands. We know that this inspired change will help the work move forward in a country which we all love deeply. I have had the tender privilege of knowing and working alongside Presidents and Sisters Clegg and Watkins. I am confident those of you who will share that privilege will be greatly blessed by their dedication and love. I invite you to include them in your prayers now as they anticipate and prepare for these new assignments.

May God bless each of you with continued success in this great work of gathering the children of our Father in Heaven into His Kingdom through the waters of baptism.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Stake in Utah

A new stake was created in Utah last Sunday. The Spanish Fork Utah River Stake was likely created from a division of the Spanish Fork Utah South Stake. I will provide information on the number of congregations in the new stake once it becomes available. There are now 537 stakes in Utah.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Church Growth Updates

New mission in Nicaragua

Missionaries serving in the Nicaragua Managua Mission report that the mission will be split this summer to create a second mission. The mission has seen tremendous success over the years and continues to show impressive results. Missionaries report that 60% of converts have been retained over the past year, much higher from previous years. Hundreds of baptisms occur monthly and the amount of growth has overwhelmed currently mission leadership for a nation with over 64,000 members, 100 congregations, and high inactivity. Nine stakes and six districts currently function.

Mission to be discontinued in Ohio

Missionaries report that the Ohio Cincinnati Mission will be discontinued and combined with neighboring missions this July. I will provide further analysis and background once more information becomes available including official announcement from the Church.

Additional countries added to the Uganda Kampala Mission

Recently arrived missionaries reported that two additional countries have been added to the jurisdiction of the Uganda Kampala Mission. The mission originally included Uganda and Ethiopia when it was created in 2005 and added Rwanda and Southern Sudan in the past couple years. Djibouti and Eritrea have also join the mission, bringing the total of countries served by the mission to six.

Mission realignment in South Africa

The South Africa Durban and South Africa Johannesburg Missions will be realigned in the next week. The Johannesburg mission will lose the southern portion of Free State Province and Lesotho which will fall under the mission in Durban. This decision was likely done due to the rapid increase in baptisms and missionaries serving in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, which baptized over 1,700 converts in 2009. The realignment will allow for greater balance of responsibility for the two missions. Lesotho has also seen increasing success in the past year and a third branch may be created in the near future.

Full translation of the Book of Mormon in Laotian nearing completion

A senior missionary couple serving in Laos report that the first full translation of the Book of Mormon in Laotian is nearly complete. Most Laotian speaking members live in the United States in four congregations. A branch does meet in the capital of Vientiane with around 70 active members.

New branches in Botswana

Branches have been created in two cities in Botswana. Mochudi received its first missionaries at the end of last year and had its first branch organized. Kanye has also received its first missionaries and branch. Increased mission activity in Botswana likely contributed to the mission realignment with the South Africa Johannesburg and South Africa Durban Missions.

New stake to be created in Cote d'Ivoire

Missionaries report that in the coming weeks a fourth stake will be organized in the Abidjan area from a division of the Yopougon Cote d'Ivoire Stake which currently has 11 wards. I will provide more information once it becomes available.

Stakes close to splitting in Mexico

The mission president of the Mexico Leon Mission reported that the Leon Mexico Stake may divide to create a second stake in the city this spring. The Celaya Mexico Stake is also very close to dividing as well but is still struggling to meet certain requirements in order for a second stake to be created in the city.