Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Missionary Training Center to Open in Mexico City This Summer

Yesterday the Church announced that it would open a new missionary training center (MTC) in Mexico City at the location of its current Benemerito de las Americas high school.  The Church currently operates a MTC in Mexico City that offers a two-week program for native Spanish speakers assigned to serve in one of the Church's 26 Mexican missions.  The church high school is scheduled to close this June to make way for the new Mexico City MTC.  Once opened, the new MTC will have capacity to house native and nonnative missionaries destined for missionaries in Spanish-speaking Central and South America.  Local members report that the new MTC may house as many as 1,500 missionaries a month whereas the current Mexico City MTC appears to presently house only a couple hundred missionaries a month.

It is unfortunate that the Church will have to close its high school in Mexico City - a facility that international church leaders have acknowledged has had a significant impact on Mexican Latter-day Saints.  The founding and continued operation of church schools is closely related to the degree of self-sufficiency of the Church in a country and the establishment of LDS community.  For example, the Church continues to operate schools, colleges, and universities in the United States, Tonga, Kiribati, and a few other nations.  The Church has achieved some of its most pervasive growth in these nations after the establishment of these institutions.  The decision to close the church high school continues the trend of church school closures that was initiated following the introduction of the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) approximately a decade ago.

The significantly expanded size of the Mexico City MTC provides exciting opportunities for church growth in Mexico that have been largely undeveloped.  For example, a large MTC may have sufficient resources to instruct some missionaries in Amerindian languages commonly spoken in Mexico such as Maya, Tzotzil, and Nahuatl if instructors can be located and mission and area leaders collaborate to designate some missionaries as speaking indigenous languages.  Full-time missionaries report that the Mexico Area Presidency has advised mission presidents to discourage door-to-door proselytism and instead focus on reactivation and member work.  The Church initiated a similar change in the Philippines approximately a year ago and has experienced widespread changes in convert retention rates and sacrament meeting attendance increases.  The decision to change proselytism tactics in Mexico is interesting as it occurred shortly before the announcement of relocating and expanding the Mexico City MTC to become the Church's second largest and the introduction of a similar program in the Philippines.  This may point to improved inter-area communication and consultation regarding missionary approaches that are more effective to achieve "real growth." 

The Church in Mexico has unfortunately experienced sluggish growth over the past couple years as the number of wards and branches has declined.  For example, last year the Church discontinued two stakes in Guadalajara and discontinued approximately a dozen wards and branches in the city.  Success in reversing this concerning trend will hinge on greater member participation in missionary work, opening additional locations to missionary work, initiating ethnic-specific proselytism efforts among Amerindian peoples such as the Tarahumara and Nahuatl, maintaining reasonably high convert baptismal standards, and utilizing a church planting approach rather than a church-splitting approach to growth.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Church Growth Developments in Rwanda

The Church has recently experienced significant church growth developments in Rwanda including the assignment of proselytizing missionaries in September 2012 and the organization of new branches within the past six months.  These developments have occurred due to changes in the law regarding the registration of religious groups and permitting religious groups to operate in the country while awaiting official government recognition.  In 2008, the Church organized its first branch in Rwanda and reported 17 members by the end of the year.  By year-end 2011, there were 90 members on church records in Rwanda and one branch.

The Church has organized two new branches called the Kigali 2nd and Kigali 3rd Branches.  Member reports indicate that there are approximately 100 currently attending church meetings among the three branches and that the decision to create two new branches was motivated to reduce travel times and spur church growth.  Additional full-time missionary companionships arrived this month and each of the three branches now has its own set of missionaries.  Large numbers of converts have been baptized by full-time missionaries due to investigators regularly attending church services but who had not received the missionary lessons prior to the assignment of full-time missionaries.

The outlook for future LDS growth in Rwanda appears highly favorable due to good receptivity to the Church, the assignment of additional missionary companionships, and outreach expansion vision by mission leaders.  The formation of a district in Kigali and perhaps a new mission that services Rwanda and Burundi may be forthcoming in the near future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Blog

I have started a new blog for tracking congregational growth outside the United States and Canada.  It can be found at:  So far I have posted unit growth information for December 2012 and the first half of January 2013.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Two New Stakes in Australia

The Church created two new stakes in Melbourne, Australia over the past two Sundays.

On January 13th, the Melbourne Australia Gippsland Stake was organized from the Melbourne Australia Braeside and Melbourne Australia Narre Warren (formerly Pakenham) Stakes and includes the following five wards and three branches: The Cranbourne, Devon Meadows (Samoan), Lynbrook, Moe, and Pakenham Wards and the Bairnsdale, Sale, and Wonthaggi Branches.

On January 20th, the Melbourne Australia Craigieburne Stake was organized from stakes in western Melbourne.  Information on the names of wards and branches pertaining to the new stake is currently unavailable.  I will post this information as a comment once I receive it.

The organization of two new stakes in Melbourne came as a total shock to me due to the relatively small number of units in the six preexisting stakes.  The creation of the new stakes has coincided with the organization of at least three new wards, thereby providing a sufficient number of wards for all eight stakes.  No additional stakes appear likely to be organized in the Melbourne area for the foreseeable future.  With the creation of two new stakes in the Brisbane area last November, members in Australia speculate that two new stakes may be in the works for the Sydney area considering a couple of the stakes have a sufficient number of wards to divide.

There are now 36 stakes and nine districts in Australia.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Stake in New Zealand

In late November, a new stake was created in New Zealand.  The Hamilton New Zealand Rotokauri Stake was organized from stakes in the Hamilton area and includes the following six wards and one branch: The Bremworth Park, Dinsdale, Grandview, Hamilton (Tongan), Nawton, and Tuhikaramea Wards and the Raglan Branch.  The new stake becomes the first stake created in New Zealand in 15 years.  There are now 26 stakes and three districts in the country.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

LDS Missionary Application Numbers Remain Twice as High as Prior to October 2012 Announcement Lowering Minimum Mission Age

The Church posted an article on its Newsroom website providing updated information on the number of missionary applications.  The article reports that the number of missionary applications remains twice as high as prior to the October 2012 announcement that lowered the minimum mission age to 18 for men and 19 for women.  The article also indicates that the Church will primarily organize new missions from missions that exceed 250 missionaries. 

Click here for a link to the article.

Below is a list of specific locations where missionaries report plans or potential plans to create new missions:
  • Angola Luanda 
  • Botswana Gaborone (or South Africa Pretoria)
  • Cameroon Yaounde
  • Ethiopia Addis Ababa
  • Liberia Monrovia
  • Togo Lome
It is unclear whether the Church will reestablish many of its consolidated missions over the past decade as a result of the surge in number of missionaries serving.  Missions that once operated in the United States appear most likely to reopen due to the majority of missions in North America receiving 250 missionaries, the bulk of the missionary force originating from the United States, and easier accommodation for missionary housing than many other countries.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Stake in Honduras

A new stake was created in Honduras last month.  The Choluteca Honduras Porvenir Stake was organized from the Choluteca Honduras Stake and includes the following six wards: The Cabanas, Centro, Los Graneros, Porvenir, San Luis, and Tamarindo Wards.  The Church recently experienced rapid congregational growth in Choluteca resulting in the number of wards in the area increasing from seven to 11 within the past couple years.  With the creation of a second stake, Choluteca becomes the third urban agglomeration in Honduras with two or more LDS stakes after Tegucigalpa/Comayaguela and San Pedro Sula.

See below for a map of LDS stakes, districts, and missions in Honduras.

View Stakes and Districts in Honduras in a larger map There are now 22 stakes and seven districts in Honduras.