Monday, April 8, 2013

Unreached Countries

Church leaders frequently noted the importance of taking the gospel to "all the earth" and "to all nations" during General Conference this past weekend.  In response to online discussion on which countries are unreached by the Church, I have provided our encyclopedia entry on "unreached countries" from  Our encyclopedia on missionary work and church growth (missiology) will be posted on in the near future once website upgrades and complete.  This encyclopedia entry will be posted on my blog until we get this resource up and running on

Unreached Countries 

Unreached countries include nations that neither have a ward, branch, or group functioning nor a known official or unofficial LDS presence. The Church does not extend any official missionary activity in unreached nations and many of these nations do not pertain to a mission. These countries remain a priority to outreach to fulfill the divine commission of Christ to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people as approximately 390 million people reside in unreached countries, or six percent of the world's population. Christians do not comprise the majority in most unreached countries; Christian-majority nations rank among the least populated unreached nations by the Church. In 2012, there was only one predominantly Christian country with over one million people that was unreached (East Timor or Timor-Leste) with only 1.2 million inhabitants. 

In mid-2012, there were 33 sovereign countries without an LDS presence; 16 in Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, and Sudan), six in the Middle East and North Africa (Algeria, Iran, Libya, Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Yemen), four in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), four in East Asia (Bhutan, Maldives, North Korea, and Timor-Leste [East Timor]), and three in Europe (Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino). Provided with 2012 population estimates from the CIA World Factbook and world population ranking, the three most populous unreached countries are Iran (78.9 million people; 18th most populous), Algeria (35.4 million people; 35th most populous), and Sudan (34.2 million people; 37th most populous) whereas the three least populous unreached countries are Monaco (30,510 people; 216th most populous), San Marino (32,140 people; 213th most populous), and Liechtenstein (36,713 people; 212th most populous). 25 of the 35 unreached countries have at least one million inhabitants. In August 2012, nine of the 35 unreached countries were assigned to a full-time mission (Bhutan - India New Delhi Mission, Equatorial Guinea - Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa Mission, Liechtenstein - Alpine German-Speaking Mission, Maldives - India Bangalore Mission, Monaco - France Lyon Mission, San Marino - Italy Milan Mission, Sao Tome and Principe - Mozambique Maputo Mission, Sudan - Uganda Kampala Mission, and Timor Leste - Indonesia Jakarta Mission). 

The Church does not have a presence in unreached countries for a variety of reasons. Most unreached countries experience low levels of religious freedom. Muslims constitute a strong majority in 23 of the 35 unreached countries and Islam strongly influences government and legislation in most these nations. Consequently there is little, if any, tolerance for Christian proselytism and the conversion of Muslims to non-Islamic religions. Several unreached countries exhibit good conditions for LDS missionary activity but possess relatively tiny populations that are not within close proximity of countries with a strong LDS presence. It is unclear why some other countries remain unreached by the Church as proximity, small population, political instability, and government restrictions do not prevent a church establishment. A lack of mission resources and vision from area and mission leaders appears responsible for no LDS presence in these locations. 

Conditions to establish an LDS presence were once more favorable in several nations but the Church missed its opportunity to gain a foothold before political and religious freedom conditions deteriorated. For example, there were few restrictions to proselyte and send missionaries to several Central Asian countries (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) in the 1990s but the Church failed to initiate missionary activity in all three of these nations. At present there are no realistic prospects for the Church to establish a presence in any currently unreached Central Asian nations due to the decline in religious freedom and the increasing influence of Islam on government. If the Church fails to establish a presence in other unreached countries without insurmountable religious freedom restrictions, the Church may miss its window of opportunity. For example, the Church may not be able to establish a presence in Mongolia today if the Church did not act in the early 1990s when political conditions were more favorable as religious freedom conditions deteriorated during the 2000s and early 2010s. Other proselytizing Christian faiths such as Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses have more aggressively established a presence worldwide when opportunities to enter new nations arose. Consequently Adventists and Witnesses report a presence in all but approximately a dozen countries notwithstanding both these denominations based in the United States and being founded decades after the LDS Church. 

Opportunities to establish an LDS presence appear most promising in countries where government and society permit nontraditional Christians to proselyte the indigenous population. In 2012, these countries included all six Christian-majority unreached countries (Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Monaco), six tolerant Muslim-majority unreached countries (Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, the Gambia), and two countries where there is no religious majority (Chad and Guinea-Bissau). Missionaries stationed in nearby countries visit Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Monaco periodically to meet with isolated members or teach investigators. These three city-state countries experience religious freedom but their tiny populations make the assignment of full-time missionaries infeasible due to few mission resources and low receptivity in the region. However, holding cottage meetings and organizing groups for church services may be warranted to improve outreach and spur growth. 

In addition to unreached countries there are also unreached territories or dependencies. Territories and dependencies pertain to a sovereign country but receive some aspects of self-rule and autonomy. In mid-2012, there were 17 territories, dependencies, or overseas collectivities with populations over 1,000 without an LDS presence; seven in North and South America (Anguilla, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Sint Eustatius), four Oceania (Christmas Island [Australia], Norfolk Island, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna), four in Europe (Aland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, and Svalbard), and two in Sub-Saharan Africa (Mayotte and Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha). Nearly all of these locations experience widespread religious freedom and have predominantly Christian populations, but tiny populations that are not within close proximity to current mission outreach centers deter outreach.


Brandon Plewe said...

Now that boundaries are visible on the map, we can see some patterns in these unreached countries:

Monaco: W M
Liechtenstein: W M
San Marino: W M
Faroe Is.: A M
Aland Is.: W M
Gibraltar: W M
Belarus: B M (is it open now?)
Bosnia-Herzegovina: B M (open??)
Montenegro: A M (open??)
Macedonia: M ()

Melilla & Ceuta: W M
Morocco: ()?
Algeria: -
Tunisia: -
Libya: -
Egypt: E A
Mauritania: A
Senegal: A
The Gambia: A
Guinea-Bissau: A
Guinea: A
Mali: A
Niger: A
Chad: A
Sudan: M
South Sudan: M
Eritrea: -
Djibouti: E M
Somalia: -
Sao Tome et Principe: M
Equatorial Guinea: A M
St. Helena: -
Comoros: M
Mayotte: A M
Seychelles: -

Turkey: B E M (it was open in 2012-still open??)
Syria: ()?
Lebanon: B
Jordan: B
Iraq: ()?
Iran: -
Azerbaijan: A
Israel: B
Saudi Arabia: (E)
Kuwait: E
Bahrain: E
Qatar: E
Oman: E
Yemen: -
Afghanistan: E
Turkmenistan: -
Uzbekistan: -
Kyrgyzstan: -
Tajikistan: -
Pakistan: M (B)
Nepal: M ()?
Bhutan: M
Bangladesh: M (B)
Maldives: M
Timor Leste: W M
Myanmar: M
Laos: M (B)
Vietnam: M (B)
China: E (B)
Brunei: M
North Korea: -

Norfolk Isl.: -
Wallis & Futuna: M
Tokelau: M
Pitcairn: M
[Matt, you list Christmas Island, but the site shows 2 branches there]
Palmyra: -
Johnston Atoll: - ()?
Jarvis Is.: -
Midway: -

St. Pierre & Miquelon: W M

Cuba: B (the east end of the island is in the Jamaica Kingston Mission??)
Anguilla: W M
St. Berthelemy: W M
Saba: W M
St. Eustatius: W M
Montserrat: W M

Falkland Islands: A
South Georgia Is.: -
South Sandwich Is.: -

B=shows a local branch, but no missionaries
W=part of a ward or branch centered in a neighboring country
M=assigned to a mission (but may not have missionaries)
A=assigned to a regional "administrative," "mission," or "area" branch
E=shows English or Military units
()=local units are known but are not shown

Not sure what it all means, but it's interesting. Some of these combinations are due to how we make peace with the government (esp. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and China). Others, like the Sahelian countries of Africa, are just waiting for us to be ready.

John Pack Lambert said...

It appears there is a branch in Nepal, at least this is what the Church Almanac has reported for several years.

Additionally many Nepalese have joined the Church in the US. However msot of these are ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan, so they probably would not be able to get in Nepal as missionaries any easier than anyone else, although they might have more success if they do enter.

John Pack Lambert said...

The more I learn about Elder Edward Dube, the more excited I am about his call as a general authority. As stake president in Zimbabwe he managed to send at least one senior couple on a mission. This might not sound all that exciting, but if there is one thing holding back church growth world-wide more than anything else, it is a lack of senior couples from anywhere but North America and Oceania.

Elder Dube was not only the first stake president from Zimbabwe, and later a mission president, but he was one of the earliest Zimbabweans to serve as a missionary.

Mike Johnson said...

The three European microstates probably shouldn't be included on this list. None of them have border crossings with their respective neighbor and all three are fully inside a ward or branch. That said, I understand the methodology of no ward, branch, or group inside a country. I included them on my list for the same reason, but the more I think about it, these three really are reached and there are members inside them. Missionaries are inside them.

San Marino is inside and completely surrounded by the Rimini Branch, Rimini District, Milan Mission. It is about 4 miles from the branch building to the crossing into San Marino. Note, the Rimini Province has almost 300,000 people surrounding the microstate with 30,000. One branch covers the entire area.

Liechtenstein is completely inside the Chur Branch, St. Gallen Switzerland Stake, and again there are no border checks (I have driven across) between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is about 15 miles to the branch building.

Monoco is completely inside the Nice Ward of the Nice France Stake. It is about 10 miles to the ward building.

In all three of these wards/branches there are populated areas inside the congregation that are quite a bit further away than people living in the microstate.

There is another European microstate that probably should be included in the list and that is the Vatican. It has the same legal and political status as any of the others and it is not part of a ward or state and the inhabitants belong to only one religion.

Mike Johnson said...

John, your point about senior missionaries is interesting. I would submit there are senior missionaries coming from Western Europe in some numbers as well.

Why would significant numbers of senior missionaries be important?

Typically, when the church is new in an area, it primarily attracts young people--teenagers and those in their 20s. Many of these go on missions and when they return they help their native lands. Although sometimes their relatives who are older are baptized, the Church seems to go through a few phases:

1. A lot of young people
2. Young families
3. Older families
4. Multi-generational Church

In general, senior couples don't go out until we reach a point where either those born in the Church or converted young grow up. I have heard several general authorities talk about these phases being seen throughout the Church. The sheer numbers of Latin American mission presidents being called show, in my opinion, that Latin America is starting to emerge as a multi-generational Church as well.

Mike Johnson said...

That is a very interesting feature of the Jamaica Mission covering a small portion of Cuba, at and in areas surrounding the US Guantanamo Naval Base. I wonder if that is real or a mistake.

That said, almost the entire country, except the Guantanamo Naval Base itself, is in the Havana Branch.

Mike Johnson said...

Turkey has four branches. They are in the Bulgaria Sophia Mission:

Istanbul, Anakara, Izmir, and the Adana Military Branch at Incerlik Air Base.

Mike Johnson said...

The Church has partial recognition in Belarus and there are a couple of recognized organizations. But, to be fully recognized, the Church needs to have had a presence for 20 years (which will be up in January 2014) and to have enough official, recognized organizations in enough of the Oblasts. So, yes a presence, but no rights for such things as proselytizing. Maybe as early as next year, if the Church can get a few more recognized organizations.

Mike Johnson said...

As for Bosnia-Hercigovina, there are two branches--Sarajevo and Banja Luka. They are both in the Adriatic North Mission.

There is an administrative branch (Montenegro Branch) in Montenegro in the Adriatic South Mission. This means that one or more groups under the branch are operating in Montenegro. The Mission President (who resides in Albania) is the administrative branch president.

Palmyra, Johnston Atoll, Jarvis, and Midway are essentially uninhabited US territories. Occasionally they are visited by US federal government employees (such as the Fish and Wildlife Service). They are primarily useful for the large Exclusive Economic Zones (water) around them.

dastew said...

I was going to mention Vatican City. I think the prospects for proselyting there are not very good for some reason.

Mike Johnson said...

China (not including Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan) has 17 English speaking international branches in 4 districts. Elder Steven L. Toronto, an Area Seventy, lives in Beijing and presides over the international districts.

Note, these districts are not under a mission, kind of like districts in the Africa North/Middle East Area and military districts in Japan and Korea in the Asia North Area.

As the Church's recently posted website indicates there is a separate system for Chinese citizens converted outside China who have returned to China. But it does not disclose where they are or how many branches.

Mike Johnson said...

I remember a Moslem lady who was totally upset when the Vatican turned down a request to allow a Moslem group to build a mosque in the Vatican. I pointed out that that would be akin to the Catholic Church trying to build a church inside Masjid al-Ḥarām in Mecca. She was very much offended at the thought of such pollution of the very sacred site and went so far to say that it would be pollution if they built one anywhere in Mecca. I pointed out that there were several mosques around Rome. She continued to express that the Catholic Church was being exploitative and anti-Moslem for not allowing a mosque inside an area completely owned by the Catholic Church. I hope they don't ask to put up a mosque on Temple Square. A block away, maybe, but actually on land owned and used by another church as their world wide headquarters.

Mike Johnson said...

Looking at the European microstates again.

An average ward or branch in Italy contains about 609,000 people (61,482,297 divided by 101 congregations). Thus, it shouldn't be too surprising that San Marino with an estimated 32,448 people should represent a relatively small part (1/20th) of an Italian congregation.

Similarly, the average population covered by a French ward or branch is about 610,000 people (65,951,611 divided by 108 congregations). Monaco with 30,500 should be a relatively small part (1/20th) of a French congregation.

Finally, in Switzerland, the average population covered by a Swiss ward or branch is about 222,000 people (7,996,026 divided by 36 congregations). Liechstenstein, with 37,009 should still be a small part (1/6th) of a Swiss congregation.

Similarly, Andorra with respect to Spain. Yes, there is an Andorra Branch, but Andorra itself is less than 10% of the area of the branch and the meetinghouse is in La Seu D'Urgell, Lleida, Spain, about 7 miles outside of Andorra. There are about 340,000 people per LDS congregation in Spain (47,370,542 divided by 139 congregations). Andorra, with 85,293 is still relatively small compared to the average population covered by an LDS congregation in Spain. Andorra has about a quarter of the average population covered by a Spanish congregation. A mostly Spanish congregation is named after Andorra, included wholly inside the branch.

Mike Johnson said...

Even on Conference Sunday, the Church created a new ward. The Tungying Ward of the Taichung Taiwan Stake was created on 7 April 2013. The stake now has 6 wards and 2 branches:

Chungming Ward
Nantun Ward
Taiping Ward
Tungying Ward
Wuchuan 1st Ward
Wufeng Ward
Taichung YSA Branch
Wuchuan 2nd Branch (English)

Mike Johnson said...

Matt's write up is quite good. We can haggle about whether some European microstates should be counted or not, but overall it is well done.

I did find that the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission Branch has a group on Mayotte, which is a French overseas department located between Madagascar and mainland Africa, with a little over 200,000 people.

While several of small island territories are located inside an existing unit, it would be very hard to actually go to church, unless that unit has a dependent branch or group on the island itself.

wheels said...

Hi Uncle mike... from Stephen and Terri

wheels said...

@Mike, My girlfriend is from cuba, from the city of Guantanomo (north of the naval base) and she only knows of church presence in Havana.

Matt said...


How did you find out there is a group on Mayotte? Any confirmation would be great as the Mayotte Branch was closed a few years ago.

Mike Johnson said...

Stephen, the LDS maps shows the Havana branch covering almost all of Cuba except the US Navy Base. Meaning that the branch is Havana, but its boundaries go throughout the island.

Benjamin said...

Hold up, so at the beginning of the post there are 33 unreached countries, and for the rest of the post there are 35. According to your list there are 33 correct?

Nils Bergeson said...

Would be interested in seeing a write-up of "less reached" countries. Places where there are branches (local or expat) but no missionary activity allowed (i.e. Azerbaijan, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, other states in the Middle East), as well as countries that are "in flux," where an on-again-off-again or semi-missionary relationship exists (Vietnam?, Sri Lanka).

I also wanted to mention, as a resident of Central Asia, that I think perhaps there was wisdom in the Church's decision not to go into places like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan when they had the chance. These are nations in ongoing states of instability (Kyrgyzstan has had two massive revolutions since 2005), with stabilizing governments. It's true that they have restrictive religious laws now, but I suspect they will improve in time, and the Church will be able to enter and provide a much stronger, more stable, and legal foundation.

Mike Johnson said...

Two branches were created in Africa on 7 April 2013.

The Obantoko Branch was created in the Abeokuta Nigeria District, Nigeria Lagos Mission. The District now has 7 branches:

Abeokuta 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
Idi Aba

The Bar Dege Branch was created in the Uganda Kampala Mission.

The Chatelain's said...

Any information on the Rostov and Volgograd district consolidations? Preparing for one stake between the two seems unlikely, because they're more than 300 miles apart.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to agree that it is very encoraging that a great many of the mission president in Mexico are Mexicans. The same is true of Brazil. I also noticed that the president of the new mission in Guatamala is a Guatamalan. All the mission presidents in Venezuela are Venezuelans, but that I was brought about by changing all at once as the Chavez government became more anti-American.

Many of the mission presidents in Ghana and Nigeria are also from those countries.

The most intriguing is that two of the newly called mission presidents, one from Korea and one from Japan, are current members of the 1st quorum of the 70.

John Pack Lambert said...

When I was at BYU I met a member of the Church who was a student at LDS business college from Sri Lanka. For him I got the impression that the Church probably had multiple branches in Sri Lanka, but I cannot speak to the level of missionary work. I know the government there is fairly militantly Buddhist.

Mike Johnson said...


My conclusion that there is a group on Mayotte was drawn from LDS maps. The Madagascar mission not only includes Madagascar, but ten island groups around the main island. Two to the east have branches on them (Reunion--district with 5 branches, and Mauritius with 2 branches)

For seven other island groups, the map only indicates that it is in the Madagascar Mission and the Africa Southeast Area.

One island group is actually more than one--mission boundaries surround both Mayotte and Comoros. There is a branch boundary drawn between these groups. Comoros again only shows the mission and area, but Mayotte also shows the administrative branch. Thus, LDS maps shows the administrative branch covering Mayotte, but not Comoros or other islands--many of which are uninhabited so that might not be a surprise. The map drawing branch boundaries around Mayotte and indicating the administrative branch usually indicates one or more groups are active in side the boundaries.

This led to my conclusion that there was a group on Mayotte.

I have found a blog by the mission president for the past 9 months ( He has made a few trips to Reunion and Mauritius, but no mention of Mayotte. Then again, there are other branches and groups not mentioned in the blog, but absent a specific mention, I am starting to doubt my original conclusion.

Mike Johnson said...

The Belle-ville Ward, Cocody Cote d'Ivoire Stake was created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 8 wards and 2 branches:

Abobote Ward
Belle-ville Ward
Cocody Ward
Deux Plateaux Ward
Dokui Ward
Riviera 1st Ward
Riviera 2nd Ward
Vallon Ward
Ahoutoue Branch
Bingerville Branch

The Heritage Ward, Meridian Idaho North Stake was created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 10 wards:

Banbury Ward
Bristol Heights Ward
Centennial Ward
DeMeyer Park Ward
Edinburgh Ward
Heritage Ward
Hickories Ward
Hobble Creek Ward
River Heights Ward
Vienna Woods Ward

The Iona 9th Ward, Iona Idaho Stake was created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 11 wards:

Iona 1st Ward
Iona 2nd Ward
Iona 3rd Ward
Iona 4th Ward
Iona 5th Ward
Iona 6th Ward
Iona 7th Ward
Iona 8th Ward
Iona 9th Ward
Iona 10th Ward
Iona 11th Ward

The Kamas 4th Ward, Kamas Utah Stake was created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 10 wards and 2 branches:

Francis 1st Ward
Francis 2nd Ward
Kamas 1st Ward
Kamas 2nd Ward
Kamas 4th Ward
Oakley 1st Ward
Oakley 2nd Ward
Peoa Ward
Rhodes Valley Ward
Woodland Ward
Kamas 3rd Branch (Spanish)
Kamas Valley YSA Branch

The Santaquin 18th and 19th Wards, Santaquin Utah North Stake were created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 8 wards and 1 branch:

Santaquin 1st Ward
Santaquin 4th Ward
Santaquin 5th Ward
Santaquin 6th Ward
Santaquin 9th Ward
Santaquin 14th Ward
Santaquin 18th Ward
Santaquin 19th Ward
Santaquin 11th Branch (Spanish)

The Shadow Creek Ward, Friendswood Texas Stake was created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 8 wards and 1 branch:

Alvin Ward
Baybrook Ward
Friendswood 1st Ward
Friendswood 2nd Ward
Manvel Ward (Spanish)
Pearland Ward
Shadow Creek Ward
Silverlake Ward
Sunnyside Branch

The Leribe Branch, Bloemfontein South Africa District, South Africa Durban Mission, was created on 14 April 2013. The district now has 13 branches:

Bethlehem Branch
Bloemanda Branch
Bloemfontein Branch
Botshabelo Branch
Kimberley Branch
Leribe Branch
Maseru Branch
Masianokeng Branch
Phahameng Branch
Phuthaditjhaba Branch
Rocklands Branch
Thaba Nchu Branch
Welkom Branch

The Providence 2nd and Westerly Branches, Providence Rhode Island Stake were created on 14 April 2013. The stake now has 10 wards and 4 branches:

Ashford Ward
Central Falls Ward
Groton Ward
Narragansett Ward
Newport Ward
Norwich Ward
Providence 1st Ward (Spanish)
Scituate Ward
Warwick Ward
Waterford Ward
Providence 2nd Branch
Quaker Hill Branch (Spanish)
Warwick YSA Branch
Westerly Branch

Pascal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray said...

To Mike Johnson:

Thanks for all the information on the new units created in the last few days. I'm curious if you have learned the name and location of the new branch in Wyoming that was announced a week ago or so. Thanks!

Mike Johnson said...

Ray, are you talking about the Great Divide (Correctional Facility) Branch in Rawlins, Wyoming, in the Laramie Wyoming Stake, created on 24 March 2013?

Ray said...

Mike, yes. Thanks!

RS said...

You shouldn't include the Palestinian Territories in this list. I have previously visited the West Bank and know that there is a official group of native Palestinian church members that meets in Bethlehem, authorized by the area presidency.

John Pack Lambert said...

I am very excited to read about a third ward in Kamas. That is where my ancestors lived for some time. I also had a friend at BYU who had relatives in Kams who were either totally inactive or very maginally inactive, so I would like to think a new ward there is a sign that reactivation efforts are working there, maybe combined with convert baptisms. but I really ahve no clue.

Pascal bida said...

This info is very inspiring. May GOD bless you.

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