Missionaries serving in Mexico report that the Puebla Mexico Mission will divide into two missions this summer to create a second mission to service the state of Puebla. With the creation of a second mission in Puebla and a new mission in Xalapa, there will be 26 LDS missions in Mexico - the same number of missions the Church operates in Brazil. The Church in Mexico will tie with Brazil as the country with the second most LDS missions after the United States with 100.
Over the past two years, congregational growth rates in Mexico as a whole have been stagnant notwithstanding the Church adding approximately 80,000 new members during this period. The Church experienced steady congregational growth in Mexico throughout most of the 2000s despite most countries in Latin America experiencing stagnant growth or decline in the number of LDS congregations. The dramatic slowdown in congregational growth in Mexico may be due to convert retention issues or may be compensated by rapid congregational growth this year and next year. Higher standards for congregations to operate may be another reason for the slowdown in congregational growth.
The immediate motivation for the Church to open two additional missions in Mexico notwithstanding noncommensurate congregational growth rates over the past two years appears linked to the strength of the Mexican LDS missionary force and focus from mission and area leaders to utilize full-time missionaries for reactivation efforts. Thousands of Mexican Latter-day Saints are serving missions and other Central American nations have experienced an increase in the number of members serving missions in recent years - which may suggest that the same is occurring in Mexico. In regards to retention and reactivation issues, the Church created a new mission in Chile in the early 2000s (Chile Concepcion South) notwithstanding the dramatic slowdown in membership growth and the consolidation of hundreds of wards and branches at the time. Perhaps the decision to create a second mission in Puebla and a new mission in Xalapa may be to address these issues.
Lastly, the Church in Mexico over the past two decades has achieved significant growth as the number of members more than doubled from half a million to 1.23 million, the number of stakes increased from 106 to 223, and the number of congregations nearly doubled from 1,133 to 2,000. Receptivity to the LDS Church remains high and many areas are lesser-reached or unreached. 40% of the national population is unreached and generally lives in small cities, towns, and rural communities. The organization of two additional missions - both of which in locations with large numbers of Nahuatl Amerindians - may prove timely in terms of utilizing maturing Mexican missionary manpower and reaching receptive, lesser-reached populations.