Friday, August 31, 2012

Government of Gabon Recognizes the LDS Church

Missionaries serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa Mission report that the government of Gabon granted official recognition to the Church and that the Church may send full-time proselytizing missionaries and participate in any of its religious practices in the country.  The Church has attempted to establish an official presence for several years but was unable to receive the necessary government permissions to do so.  Mission leaders report that a small group of members in Libreville were just authorized to hold sacrament meeting services and invite others to join church services.  It is unclear when the Church will assign its first proselytizing missionaries, but based on the recent establishment of the Church in Burundi two years ago it appears feasible for the Church to assign missionaries for the first time sometime within the next six months. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Stake Created in American Samoa

Last Sunday a new stake was created in American Samoa.  The Pago Pago Samoa Malaeimi Stake was created from a realignment of the four preexisting stakes in American Samoa and includes six wards.  Church leaders indicate that the creation of the new stake was possible due to consistent numbers of Samoans joining the Church and successful reactivation efforts.  The last new stake to be created in American Samoa was in 1997.  For more information, visit a news article on the creation of the new stake here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stake Discontinued in Arizona

A stake was discontinued in Mesa, Arizona last Sunday.  The Mesa Arizona West stake included only four wards due to recent ward consolidations and the stake was combined with the neighboring Chandler Arizona Alma Stake.  Members in the area report that virtually the entire population of the former stake resides in low-income housing and that the area has become increasingly more industrialized within resent years resulting in many active members moving elsewhere. 

There are now 94 stakes in Arizona.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Church Growth Survey for Members

We recently launched another survey for Latter-day Saints to aid our research of church growth and missionary work.  Please complete our survey here.  Both our member survey and returned missionary survey can also be accessed on the top of the right-hand column of this blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Second Stake to be Created in Russia in September

Missionaries serving in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission report that the Church's second stake in Russia will be organized in St. Petersburg this September.  The Church reconfigured the boundaries of the St. Petersburg Russia District at the end of 2011 to include outlying branches nearby St. Petersburg thereby helping the district qualify to become a stake.  The district was organized in 1993 and there are currently nine branches.  Missionaries report that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will organize the stake; the same apostle who dedicated Russia for missionary work in 1990.  The first stake in Russia was created last year in Moscow.

The organization of the St. Petersburg Russia Stake is a significant development for the growth of the Church in Russia as the Church has struggled for over two decades to retain converts, keep former branch presidents and other church leaders active upon their release from their callings, and form ward-sized congregations.  For example, the Church once operated 15 branches within the city of St. Petersburg alone in the summer of 1994 used to operate two districts.  Over the years the Church consolidated the two districts and combined branches until just four remain today.  Many anticipated the creation of the first stake in Russia to occur in St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, but reduced receptivity resulting in fewer convert baptisms and member activity frustrations have prevented the formation of a stake until this year.  Although the Church has faced many challenges with missionary work and church growth over the years, there appears to be some improvement in ameliorating these issues to qualify for a stake to operate.

For a detailed analysis of LDS growth in Russia, please refer to the Russia country profile on

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Map of LDS Missions Created and Discontinued Since 2000

I am currently working on a case study for examining how changing numbers of full-time missions influence church growth trends around the world.  As part of the case study, I made this map that identifies each mission created or closed by the Church since 2000.  Click here to access the map.

Some general trends to note over the past 12 years is that the Church has experienced a net increase in the number of missions in Africa, Central and South America, the western United States, and the Philippines; no change in the number of missions in the Caribbean and Oceania; and significant decreases in Europe, the eastern United States, and East Asia. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Is the LDS (Mormon) Church Growing?

One of the most frequent questions I receive from interested readers and journalists is whether or not the LDS Church is currently growing.  I believe that the Church is slowly growing on a worldwide scale and there are several statistical figures to back this claim, but that there is no straightforward to-the-point answer to this complex question.  Some areas of the world experience strong growth such as Africa and some areas of East Asia whereas other areas experience stagnation or even slight decline.  Furthermore there are some statistical measures that suggest the Church is currently in a period of stagnation where there is neither growth nor decline.

Below are some statistics that indicate that the Church is growing.
  • Increase in Membership: The Church counts baptized members and children on record (children under age eight within LDS families) on official church membership totals.  In 2011, worldwide membership increased by 309,879 and grew at a rate of 2.19%.  Within the past decade the Church has added 304,682 members a year on average.  Year-end 2011 membership totals were 14,441,346.  Membership statistics provide no insight into activity rates and whether nominal members affiliate as Latter-day Saints.
  • Increase in Congregations: Congregations require certain numbers of active members to operate and divide to create new congregations once a single ward or branch can longer effectively administer an area.  New congregations can also signify expansion of the Church into new areas where no congregation previously functioned.  In 2011, the number of wards and branches increased by 124 or 0.43%.  Within the past decade the number of congregations increased by 261 a year on average.
  • Increase in Stakes: Like congregations, stakes require certain numbers of active members to operate and an increase in the number of stakes suggests an increase in active membership.  In 2011, the number of stakes increased by 50, or 1.73%.  The number of stakes increased by 33 a year on average within the past decade.
  • Increase in Temples: General Authorities have indicated that the construction of new temples is warranted when church membership in a given area is determined adequate to staff and utilize a temple.  Temples also require more mature and seasoned church membership to provide needed personnel to properly operate.  In 2011, the Church announced nine new temples bringing the total number of temples operating, under construction, or announced to 166.
Below are some statistics that suggest the Church is experiencing stagnation.
  • Number of Full-Time Missionaries Serving: There remain fewer members serving full-time missions at present than 10 years ago.  In 2011, there were 55,410 members serving full-time missions worldwide; approximately 6,000 fewer than in 2002.  A growing church would suggest a steady annual increase in the number of members serving as full-time missionaries but a variety of factors have contributed to a decline in the number of full-time missionaries such as increased standards for full-time missionary service, convert retention problems for youth converts outside the United States, and the increasing influence of secularism on LDS populations in the United States.  A slight reduction in the number of missionary training centers (MTCs) worldwide over the past decade also suggests stagnation as a growing church would need to increase the number of MTCs worldwide to accommodate a growing number of members serving full-time missions.
  • Number of Cities Opening to Proselytism: Notwithstanding nearly 29,000 wards and branches worldwide, the Church in recent years only opens a few dozen new cities to proselytism a year.  I have not completed an extensive analysis of the number of cities closed versus opened to proselytism year-to-year, but I would estimate that these numbers would nearly equal one another.  A growing church would suggest a steady increase in new cities opened to proselytism notwithstanding some locations closing to missionary activity and wards or branches consolidating with neighboring units.
  • Membership Growth Outpacing Congregational Growth: The worldwide Church has experienced an increase in the average number of members per unit over the past decade from 437 members per ward or branch to 502 members per ward or branch.  The influence of branches (smaller congregations) maturing into wards (larger congregations) on this statistic appears minimal.  Rather, low convert retention rates appear the primary reason for noncommensurate congregational and membership growth.  
  • Decreasing Percentage Growth Rates for Membership and Congregational Growth: The annual percentage growth rate for membership has declined over the past decade from approximately 2.9% to 2.2%.  Annual congregational growth rates have fluctuated from a high of 1.62% to a low of 0.23%.  Although growth is still occurring in both these statistics at present, slowing growth rates can be interpreted as an impeding sign of stagnation.
  • Stagnant Numbers of Districts: Districts are an administrative unit similar to a stake generally formed in areas with a more recently established church presence.  Districts do not require a certain number of active members to function but do possess some aspects of self-sufficiency like stakes.  The number of districts worldwide has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade at slightly more than 600.  Although it may seem strange to consider district growth as a sign of overall healthy church growth as the maturation of districts into stakes points to increase in active membership, no worldwide increase in this statistic indicates a lack of progress introducing the Church into new areas.  
In conclusion, my intention with this post was to provide a brief synopsis of how we can measure growth and determine whether the LDS Chuch is growing.  The worldwide Church continues to experience growth, but this growth remains relatively small and has slowed within the past decade.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Stake in Utah

A new stake was created in Utah last Sunday.  The Provo Utah YSA 19th Stake was created from the Springville Utah YSA Stake and includes the East Bay YSA 1st, East Bay YSA 2nd, Hobble Creek YSA, Kolob YSA, Mapleton YSA 1st, Mapleton YSA 2nd, Slate Canyon YSA, Spring Creek YSA, and Springville YSA Wards.  There are now 560 stakes in Utah.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Stake in Mexico

A new stake was created in Mexico last Sunday.  The Church created the Puebla México Nealticán North Stake from five wards in the Puebla México Nealticán Stake (Atexcac, Citlalli, Citlaltépetl, Ixtazihuatl, and Yetlaneci) and one ward in the Puebla México Cholula Stake (Huejotzingo Ward).  Half of the wards in the new stake are located in Nealticán whereas the other half operate in nearby small cities and towns.  Nealticán is a small town west of the city of Puebla that has one of the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.  With only 11,500 inhabitants, Nealticán has nine wards or one ward per approximately 1,300 people.

There are now 225 stakes and 36 districts in Mexico. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Returned Missionary Survey

At, we are asking returned missionaries to fill out our survey regarding church growth.  The survey can be accessed here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Stake in Samoa

A new stake was created in Samoa last Sunday.  The Upolu Samoa Malie Stake was organized from the Apia Samoa West and Upolu Samoa Faleasi'u Stakes and includes the Faleula Uta, Faleula, Malie 1st, Malie 2nd, and Uiliata Wards and the Levi Branch.  The new stake becomes the second new stake created in Samoa this year.  There are now 18 stakes in Samoa.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LDS Growth Accelerates in Cape Verde

The Church has recently experienced an acceleration of growth in Cape Verde that has been unprecedented since the early 1990s.  Within the past year, the Church organized the first stake in the capital city (Praia) and has organized five new branches and one new group (the Ponta do Sol, Praia 5th, Relva, Ribeirão Manuel, and São Filipe 2nd Branches and the Calheta Group).  Furthermore, local leaders report that the number of members serving missions from Cape Verde has doubled within the past year.  This recent surge of congregational growth comes after years of stagnant congregational growth and significant member activity and convert retention issues.  Although Cape Verde continues to experience mediocre member activity rates, the Church appears to have made noticeable progress in improving convert retention and restarting mission outreach expansion efforts.  Today about two percent of the population is nominally LDS.

Cape Verde is an island archipelago nation off the coast of West Africa inhabited by slightly more than half a million people.  The Church was first established in the late 1980s and experienced rapid growth during the first five years of proselytism.  The country profile can be found here and the LDS International Atlas map can be found here.