Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rapid Growth in Cote d'Ivoire Continues

I may seem to be a bit fixated on recent church growth developments in the West African nation of Cote d'Ivoire, but I really want to emphasize how exceptional recent growth developments have been in this French-speaking country of 23 million. Some of these developments include:
  • The simultaneous organization of six branches within a single weekend last month in Daloa. No branches previously functioned in this the fourth most populous city in the country. The Church has never appeared to organize so many new branches within a single weekend in a location that previously had no official wards or branches operating.
  • The simultaneous organization of three branches within a single weekend in July 2013 within the Gagnoa area.
  • The division of the Meagui Branch into two branches in early 2014; less than 18 months from when the original Meagui Branch was created.
  • Since the beginning of 2012, the number of cities with an LDS ward or branch has nearly tripled from six to 15.
  • Since the beginning of 2012, the number of congregations in the entire country has almost doubled from 42 to 82.
  • Between year-end 2011 and year-end 2013, church membership has increased by approximately 40%.
  • Since the beginning of 2012, the number of wards in Abidjan has increased from 30 to 47.
  • In early 2013, the Church reported that two of the five stakes with the highest percentage of adult members who have submitted family names for temple ordinances are located in Abidjan.
  • No non-African members have served full-time missions in Cote d'Ivoire within the past several years, indicating regional self-sufficiency in staffing the Ivorian full-time missionary force.  
Based on these recent developments, it appears likely that the Church will organize a second mission in Cote d'Ivoire due to recent rapid growth and excellent opportunities for continued expansion. Locations that appear most likely include a second mission in Abidjan or a mission headquartered in Yamoussoukro. Additionally, Abidjan appears a prime candidate for a temple announcement in the near future.

What are your thoughts? I am curious to get everyone's feedback on these unprecedented church growth developments.


Ed Clinch said...

Some of the difficulty of Francophone Africa has been the dominance of Islam, poverty, political instability, excessive tribalism. Freedom and prosperity lead to good things. Vivre le Seugner et sa iglesse...

Grant Emery said...

Just curious about how this is counted on the linguistic percentages of the Church. I know that French is about 2% (last time I saw). Do they count Ivoirians as French-speakers, or do they count the various languages that they speak in their homes?

MLewis82 said...

I'd actually be really curious to know how this affects the French-speaking numbers as well. I called the Church's statistics office about a year ago to ask how many members speak a different language (Quechua), and the guy I talked to said the Church doesn't keep track of what languages individual members speak.

When I asked how they came up with the top ten list that they published, he said it was based on the official language of the ward. I suspect that mean all of the Cote d'Ivoire units are counted as French, but just recently a bishop friend of mine informed me that wards can have multiple official languages in the Church's database.

It might be time for another call to the statistics office to get more clarification.

James Anderson said...

On an earlier post I mentioned stake conference attendance locally in Utah, and now I've found a video made by a stake presidency inviting members to come, and they posted the invite on Youtube.

The last speaker in the video (shows the stake presidency throughout), mentions some things about attendance at the Saturday evening session of stake conferences.

Mike Johnson said...

The Saratoga Springs Utah Israel Canyon Stake was created on 23 March. There are 6 wards in the stake:

Fox Hollow Ward
Jacobs Ranch 1st Ward
Jacobs Ranch 2nd Ward
Jacobs Ranch 3rd Ward
Stillwater Ward
Summerhill Ward

Ray said...

Good news! After 4 new stakes and 2 new districts two Sundays ago I was thinking there would probably be at least one new one this past Sunday. However, with Conference so close we may be through for awhile.

Michael Worley said...

The pace of stake creation appears to match 2012, with no stakes consolidated. I'd be interested in YTD numbers with comparison to 2012 and 2013 through the end or march.

Michael Worley said...
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James Crowther said...

It's amazing the The Mount Timpanogos Temple district has almost reached the number of stakes as the Provo Temple. Provo still has the MTC, but northern Utah County is growing. I created a maps of all the new meetinghouses in Northern Utah County. These meetinghouse designs were build after the temple was dedicated in 1996:,-112.014198&spn=0.17936,0.363579&mid=1395877545

Brandon Plewe said...

This news from Cote d'Ivoire is great. Congregational growth is almost always a better indicator of strength than membership. Matt, have you seen some evidence that this is not a repeat of Chile in the 1990s, where they were making lots and lots of very small wards, branches, and stakes that weren't sustainable?

Iris and Craig said...

@Brandon Plewe-interesting observation. It makes me wonder as well.

Ray said...

I was wondering the same thing--whether this huge growth is like what happened in Latin America in the early years of Church presence there.

Is there any record of the early growth statistics in countries like Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, etc.?

All of Latin America is experiencing stagnant congregational growth so far in 2014 (and in a few instances like Chile and Argentina actual decline), except for Brazil, which is moving ahead.

Also, from the International Atlas on I see that there are 65 groups (which are not counted in congregational statistics) in South America.

It could be that these are new "Church plantings," which would mean more positive growth than the CDOL indicates. In Brazil alone there are 26 groups shown in the International Atlas.

Matt said...

While this recent surge in growth Cote d'Ivoire has some similarities to the rapid growth of the Church in Latin America during the 1970s-1990s, there are several salient differences, including:

- No non-African missionaries have recently served in Cote d'Ivoire. To contrast, Latin American missions have historically been reliant on North American missionaries to fully staff their ranks.
- High convert retention and member activity have been achieved in Cote d'Ivoire whereas Latin America has historically had some of the lowest member activity and convert retention rates in the worldwide Church. This is especially evident in the high percentage of adult members who have submitted family file names for ordinance work.
- Although information from Cote' d'Ivoire regarding the number of active members per congregation is extremely limited, there does not appear to have been an agenda pushed to create smaller-than-normal church units. Standards for creating new units is often set by area presidencies. The Africa West Area has not appeared to have been creating smaller-than-normal congregations within the past few years. Rather, the standard for creating new units has increased. This is evident in some member groups reaching as many as 200 members before they become branches or wards (such as recently in Kumasi).

TempleRick said...

Elder Bednar spoke very highly of the Saints in Cote I'voire—specifically mentioning their focus on Family History—and of the Saints of other African nations when he visited our area recently. He had just returned from a multi-nation tour of Africa and seemed a little exasperated with our traditions in the "Western Church." He commented regularly on how the Saints in Africa are living the pure gospel. He also noted that the request for new buildings is far more than is practical to fulfill in the short term, and Church headquarters is almost wanting to put the brakes on the growth a bit.

Anecdotally, there seem to be some major differences between the explosive growth in Latin America and in Africa. Stories from the late 70s and 80s are fraught with questionable baptismal practices and preaching numbers more than conversion. Church leaders have countered by preaching "real growth" in the Church. In Africa, on the other hand, there are numerous stories of Church followers being converted first, living the gospel, and waiting for someone with authority to baptize and organize them: overnight congregations. I receive email from Africa every week from people requesting to have the Church come to their area. It is remarkable. They are a Christ-loving people and very studious in their observation of the gospel.

TempleRick said...

James, I'm astounded at the growth in the Mount Timpanogos Temple District, too. When the Provo City Center Temple was announced, it was mentioned that the Provo Temple is operating at capacity and that the Mount Timpanagos Temple is nearly so. (Maybe it is now.) There is so much growth in northwestern Utah County and southwestern Salt Lake County that a new temple for that area can't be far off.

James Crowther said...

I'm Sorry, That is not the link I meant to include in the post above. Here is the map that I made:

Also, Mount Timpanogos had to cut sessions when the new film was implemented. They used to operate at a session every 30 minutes. I think a temple won't be announced until the Provo City Center Temple is finished.

Mike Johnson said...

The Tobias Barreto Branch, Lagarto Brazil District, Brazil Maceió Mission, was created on 23 March. There are now 5 branches in the district:

Estância Branch
Itabaiana Branch
Itaporanga Branch
Lagarto Branch
Tobias Barreto Branch

Mike Johnson said...

I think when the Payson and Provo City temples are completed, they will take quite a few stakes from Provo. Provo will then pick up stakes from Mount Timpanogos.

While a 5th Utah County temple might be in the near future, I think two temples at capacity will get a lot of relief with two new temples.

James Anderson said...

Payson and Provo will take everything south of Provo Center Street save for one stake, Provo North Park (it's right across Center street from Provo City Center)

Provo Temple already takes the UVU YSA stakes, based on what transpired at the YSA stake conference Saturday night session, as a member of the Provo Temple presidency spoke.

Ryan Searcy said...

I think when Payson and Provo City Center Temples are done (or before), all of the Orem Stakes will transfer to the Provo Temple. This would still make the Mount Timpanogos and Provo about equal in stakes. A temple in Lehi would take about 24 stakes from Mount Timpanogos. A temple in Eagle Mountain woulf take about 11 stakes.

TempleRick said...

If the Provo temple closes for a renovation, demands on the other three Utah County temples will remain high.

Mike Johnson said...

Washington DC Temple needs a major renovation. Currently, there are 43 stakes in temple district and Philadelphia in a couple of years will take about 8 stakes from Washington DC. But, Washington DC may close for a couple of years before Philadelphia. 20 of those stakes are in Virginia.

We don't have comparable options like in Utah County to go to Draper or Oquirrh Mountain or Manti or Salt Lake.

We do have some much smaller temples quite a bit further away.

James Anderson said...

Anecdotal reports, nothing official, indicate that during the last two six-week closuers of the Provo Temple, they did some seismic work and the report is that they possibly found problems large enough to warrant a 18-24 month closure to fix.

Obviously nothing official, but given it's been over 40 years now, they have not had a major project here, save for changing out the spire and adding more landscaping and removing the drive-through in front where you could drop off people before parking. A lot of interior work happened with each six-week closure, including lighting and flooring replacement a remodel of some parts of the baptistry area, and some other things.

TempleRick said...

Bring on the Richmond Virginia Temple!

Michael Worley said...

I think it's time for a pre-conference temple guessing thread.

I think a Lehi temple is an idea whose time has come or will within 3-4 conferences; It'll be West of I-15 to accommodate the exploding growth (It would serve 20-25 stakes or maybe even 30 if it was further North (Thanksgiving Point)).

That Would leave Timp having a smaller district, yes, but 35-40 stakes should be able to keep it busy. Highland is still growing too, so Timp may get 10 more stakes over the next 3-4 decades, and the Lehi temple 20-50 (if Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain keep growing like is planned.

Michael Worley said...

Will Provo City Center be able to help Timp share Provo's burden when/if Provo is renovated? I could see it getting overwhelmed quickly.

Mike Johnson said...

The Presidente Medice Ward, Campina Grande Brazil Liberdade Stake, was created on 9 March. There are now 7 wards in the stake:

Bodocongo Ward
Jardim Paulistano Ward
Liberdade Ward
Malvinas Ward
Prata Ward
Presidente Medice Ward
Queimadas Ward

Mike Johnson said...

Ogden is going through a major renovation. Provo and Washington DC were built at about the same time and both are undoubtedly due.

Rick, I would love a temple in Richmond. I think Buena Vista may get one--there are 4 stakes out there a long way from the Washington DC Temple; 5 if the Waynesboro Stake is counted. I heard a rumor the other day about Williamsburg.

El Mirador said...

Part of the reasoning for renovating the Ogden temple was to help revitalize downtown Ogden. There really isn't a benefit to the community (aside from aesthetics) in renovating the Provo temple. Also, the Church said in 2010 that there are no plans to renovate Provo.

John Pack Lambert said...

I would not be surprised if a temple for Abijan is announced in less than a week, but I also would not be surprised if it isn't announced.

John Pack Lambert said...

One thing about Ivory Coast is that with local missionaries being the driving force, local leadership development is probably happening more than in Latin America.

I also have a sense that current policies are better for retention than they were before President Hinckley began pushing retention in the 1990s.

The high submission of names to the temple in Abijan stakes is an indication that this is more than just baptisms.

John Pack Lambert said...

I remember a few years ago the church started a program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to train returned missionaries to work in building LDS chapels. Does anyone know how that program has progressed? Does anyone know if there are plans to expand that program to other countries?

Lastly, I think a big difference between the 1970s and now is the Perpetual Education Fund. I know the PEF operates in Zimbabwe and other parts of the Africa South-East area since I had a bishop who was called to go supervise it there. Does anyone know if it operates in the Ivory Coast as well. My guess is yes, but I don't know for sure.

James Anderson said...

I know someone who went on his mission to Goiania, Brazil (Goias state) and he at times helped build chapels in that city, was around 700,000 total population then in the 70s, is well beyond that now, and is fairly close to Brasilia (just up BR-060 from Goiania), and probably Anapolis as well but Goiania for sure.

James Anderson said...

Current policies are better.

1. We have in Preach My Gospel a mention of church attendance. When I was out in 1985/87 the investigator only had to attend church once before baptism, now it states the investigator should attend more than once.

2. We have better retention tools too, from the teaching of the first four lessons in Preach My Gospel along with a fifth lesson, to the 'New and Returning Member Form', to several other things, and some of the things in family history are developing to help members have experiences with temple work as more recent efforts have found that is one of the primary things that helps new members stay in the church.

3. 'Real Growth' See the Worldwide Leadership Training, February 2012, and the landmark April 2012 Priesthood session of General Conference.

4, Emphasizing the ward council as the main executive group in the ward. in 1985 holding even PEC was hit or miss, and a meeting with what we now call the ward council was basically a correlation meeting to discuss things we had to correlate with other organizations. PEC as a weekly or near-weekly meeting did not happen until the 1987 satellite broadcast (DVD may still be available) which mentioned that should be the case plus some early mentions of a ward council. It was in the 90s that the ward council as we know it was more fully developed, and Elder Ballard's series of talks from 1999 to 2008 at various conferences helped bring that forward, then the 2010/2011 broadcasts relating to the current broadbooks put that all to the forefront.

PEC now is basically just priesthood matters, and the ward coucil does much of what a PEC did before.

4. Family history is bring brought to the forefront, they want it to be as big a part of things as we consider missionary work today, that's why Family Tree, the upcoming member access to major third-party websites, and other things. That's why the emphasis on family history and temple work in this year's stake conferences, particularly the first half of this year.

Iris and Craig said...

The husband of a friend is the Branch President of Thao Dien branch in Vietnam. And she reports a little over 100 in sacrament meeting which she says is amazing since the branch had split 8 months ago! Exciting stuff.

Iris and Craig said...
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Iris and Craig said...

I noticed that on that it reports 2 branches in Vietnam. Perhaps you haven't had a chance to update it in a while, and probably already know this, but she reports that there are 4 branches in Vietnam, two being in Ho Chi Minh. Awesome news! :D


John Pack Lambert said...

When I was on my mission in 2000-2002 there was only a 1 pre-baptism attendance of sacrament meeting requirement. I saw far too many people not stay active, so I have to say a higher requirement is probably better.

In the MTC I remember listening to a talk by our district president, President Nixon, who had served as mission president in Wisconsin, where he talked about the importance of getting new converts to the temple. I remember most people said it was a year until someone could go to a temple, but the guy sitting next to me in the meeting, also from my home stake here in Michigan, realized the real answer was almost immediately to do baptisms for the dead.

In my mission we did not seem to have this as a concern. My current ward has gone as far as to create Family History Classes primarily aimed at recent converts. The current one has at least four people baptized in the last six months in it, two of whom are women working to get sealed to their husbands who had been members longer.