Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Abobo Cote d'Ivoire Stake: A Case of Unprecedent Rapid Congregational Growth

For those of my followers who may be interested in "extreme cases" in church growth (positive or negative), the Church in Cote d'Ivoire is currently experiencing some of the most rapid growth that I have ever observed in the worldwide Church. In 2014 alone the Church has organized seven new wards and one new branch in the Abobo Cote d'Ivoire Stake, thereby doubling the total number of congregations in the stake to 15 wards and one branch. As congregational growth serves as one of the most robust indicators of "real growth" (i.e. increasing numbers of active members, improving maturity in priesthood leaders, high convert retention), this development stands as one of the greatest successes in terms of rapid growth within the worldwide Church ever documented. I am aware of no other instance of so many wards being created within a single stake within less than a year. To make this achievement even more impressive, the Church in Cote d'Ivoire has been entirely self-sufficient in meeting its full-time missionary needs through local and regional missionary manpower. Just this last summer the Church organized a second mission based in Abidjan to help better administer recent rapid growth experienced throughout the country.

As for some history with this particular stake, the Church organized the Abobo Cote d'Ivoire Stake in 2000. The stake was divided in 2006 along with the original Abidjan Ivory Coast Stake to create the Cocody Cote d'Ivoire Stake. No new wards or branches were organized in the Abobo Cote d'Ivoire Stake between 2006 and 2013, which may indicate that all of the recent new units organized were long overdue.

With six stakes and 57 wards in the Abidjan area, the Church appears posed to have as many as 10 stakes within the next five years.


Unknown said...

I'm embarrassed that I don't comment more on this blog. What great information. I mention this to my Elder's Quorum every Sunday. It's actually my homepage. Thank you for the information.

Will Roberts said...

Here's to hoping they don't find out about 1978 anytime soon!

Pascal said...

Actually, I`ve never met a black member of the Church who had a problem with it. The uproar about the "Priesthood ban" seems to come mostly from white people in North America seeking for an excuse to either leave the Church or to not join it.

I sometimes wonder if the other eleven (twelve) tribes were discontent with the Levites when only them could hold the Priesthood.

Ed Clinch said...

It is cool to see French speaking places grow. A few newer countries that speak it are Rwanda, Togo, maybe Benin, or Dahome as my mom called it. (She lived in Togo back in 1964, before she was baptized in 1968.) I can imagine that an African French speaker going to Quebec or perhaps Haiti, or Tahiti or New Caledonia will have a special experience with other native French speakers. It is great that so many people go foreign speaking and learn new tongues and cultures that way, but it is also awesome to see people stay in their same language but also go new. The Gospel is about good news, which I see with all this growth.

France itself has strong African nations represented in its membership. There are still other countries that are untouched, like CAR, Niger, Chad, Mali, Senegal...Although many of them have strong Muslim roots, there is still opportunities for Christian evangelization, and the spread of French in our faith will enable them to be the next targets of opportunity. Some day. Algeria? May still be a ways off. But we are getting closer.

How is Burkina Faso doing?

Will Roberts said...

@Pascal That's because all the people that did have a problem with it didn't join the church. There are plenty of stories of people having a problem with it that aren't white:

Grant Emery said...

Interesting statistics, especially since they clearly state that Churchwide only 36% attend Church weekly.

Pascal said...

You are not making a lot of sense with that, Will. I have not claimed that every black person on the planet has no problem with the "Priesthood ban" (which is a historically and theologically inaccurate term by the way). Don`t forget that there are people, most of them entirely unaffected, who have any given opinion on any given topic.

What I have claimed, however, is that if those members who have contributed to that growth of the Church in West Africa were to "find out" (which many probably already have), nothing significant would change, based on the observations I`ve made with black members of the Church elsewhere. I might be able to believe you a little more if you show me several examples of black members publicizing statements along the lines of "I was a faithful, active member of the Church until I found out that blacks couldn`t hold the Priesthood until 1978." But it doesn`t happen, at least not in numbers that are statistically significant. The growth of the Church continues undeterred, it actually even speeds up, in Sub-Sahara Africa and most other parts of the world, even though critical sources on the internet are widely available now. Based on my own calculations, I would expect that half of the Church`s membership by 2030 will reside in Africa.

Additionally, there is a convert baptism approximately every 100 seconds (not to even mention new children on record), which is far, far, FAR faster and more frequent than any "information-based apostasy" could ever expand. On the other hand, people who are otherwise willing and worthy and ready to join the Church and don`t do it only and specifically because of the Priesthood ban perhaps number a couple hundred per year at most, or no more than 0.1% of the actual converts.

Christopher Nicholson said...

Between 1946 and 1978, thousands of people in Ghana and Nigeria organized unofficial branches of the Church and corresponded with church headquarters requesting missionaries and baptism. They were well aware that they could not hold the priesthood. Many of these people who still remained after the Nigerian Civil War were among the Church's first converts when missionaries were finally able to come. A couple names to look up: Anthony Obinna and Joseph William Billy Johnson. Also, the 1978 revelation on priesthood is "hidden" in the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the Church's canonized books of scripture that all members are desired to read. Even if a lot of Africans are illiterate, those who aren't are perfectly capable of sharing such things by word of mouth.

Will's statement is ignorant and invalid (to say nothing of his patronizing implication that twenty-first century Africa is somehow isolated and cut off from the information of the rest of the world).

Joseph said...

Regarding the revelation, there is a wonderful essay, by Ahmad Corbitt, that just went up on the Church History site.

Will Roberts said...


I`ve never met a black member of the Church who had a problem with it. The uproar about the "Priesthood ban" seems to come mostly from white people in North America seeking for an excuse to either leave the Church or to not join it.

All I did was provide you a counter-example to your myopic view. There are LOTS of people that have a problem with the priesthood ban. Anecdotal evidence doesn't really mean much either direction though.

which is a historically and theologically inaccurate term by the way

Hmm, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the church itself call it a ban here? (see note 15 in the text)

But it doesn`t happen, at least not in numbers that are statistically significant.

Could you share your statistics with me? Or are we still talking anecdotal evidence? Maybe you should use the phrase "anecdotally significant to me personally" so we can be on the same page.

Will Roberts said...


You, like @Pascal, have quoted some anecdotal evidence that suffers from selection bias. Can you tell me the stories of any of the people who didn't join the church when they found out they could not hold the priesthood? Or do you really think such stories don't exist?

(to say nothing of his patronizing implication that twenty-first century Africa is somehow isolated and cut off from the information of the rest of the world).

This was your assumption. But since you brought it up: Please sort the table by "Penetration" and tell me which continent's countries have the lowest percentage of Internet users. Cote d'Ivoire comes in at 197th place globally with a penetration of 2.4%. The church isn't exactly excited to let people know about the ban and when it does come up, I guarantee they aren't discussing anything Brigham Young said as recorded in Journal of Discourses and History of the Church.

Christopher said...

The point of this post, I think, is that the Church is growing in Cote d'Ivoire and isn't it remarkable! I don't think we need to hash out the debate on blacks and the priesthood here because it's irrelevant. Whatever personal feelings one has about the Church and its influence in Africa, it is vibrant and growing in Sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to do so.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

The influence of the internet on LDS membership growth trends has been insubstantial by country and internet usage. See

Mike Johnson said...

I think the main relevance of the Church's past policy on Priesthood and Temple Blessings when to comes to Africa is that it delayed significantly the Church entering Africa.

Growth in many countries in Africa, particularly West Africa, in Nigeria, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone has been astounding recently.

The Church is one that gathers people and gathers lots of viewpoints and ideas. We encourage people to bring what they have to the Church and we'll add to it. We often absorb ideas from our surroundings, keep those that work for us, and abandon them when they don't. That is the nature of a church or any organization that thrives on bringing in new people. This is a living Church that is vibrant and strong and focuses more on our future--where we are going--than on our past.

Some want us to hold onto past statements and policies and defend them, even when we don't want to. My Church isn't what the critic tells me it is, even when they quote old statements that have long since been abandoned and denounced.

I believe we all go through trials of faith and these trials may be caused by many things. Some emerge from trials stronger and others decide to move on to other things and some decide to spend their time criticizing the Church for things long abandoned. I believe this is what Christ was saying when he told the parable of the sower. And I believe going through trials of all kinds is a major reason we are here on Earth because through trials we grow.

We have always had "apostasy" through our history and we have always had (and continue to do so) more growth--people joining and people rejoining the Church than people leaving. And this is evidenced by congregational and stake growth because of the minimum standards they have--standards which continue to increase and yet we see continued growth in congregations and stakes.

Ed Clinch said...

My parents had a problem with the church's policy of the priesthood and the blacks in 1968, but joined anyway. Helvecio Martins did the same around 1970 in Brazil. I love these people.

Problems do not stop a good, or great thing.

Doubts work themselves out. I have great hope for Africa and the rest of us, despite all the problems.

John Pack Lambert said...

Considering that the founders of the Church in Ghana all joined the Church before 1978, they clearly know about the issues involved. It is the ultimate of western racists assumptions that Africans are a bunch of ignorant people to think they don't know about it.

John Pack Lambert said...

I am glad to see contributions from President Corbitt

John Pack Lambert said...

Mr. Roberts, until you are willing to admit your race I think you have no ground to stand on. I on the other hand am a white Latter-day Saint who is dating an African-American Latter-day Saint.

I know the issues involved, and the hurdles to Church growth among African-Americans are not primarily related to the pre-1978 policies in a direct way. They are related to continued racial division in society to the present, that makes outreach across racial lines difficult.

John Pack Lambert said...

Mr. Roberts also makes the false assumption that race is thing. I am not convinced that learning anything about pre-1978 policies will affect growth in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa. Understandings of race are so different there that it will not affect much. On the other hand, the fact that the Church ended its policies 15 years before the end of Apartheid makes the 1978 change something that puts the Church ahead of society as a whole in South Africa.

The pre-1978 policy is only disturbing to those who view it outside of its historical context. Inter-racial marriage was a crime punishable by prison in many states 12 years before that. I grew up 7 miles from the edge of Detroit, a city with a majority African-American population 10 years before I was born. Yet there were no, and I am not exagerating, African-Americans in my school until I was in 3rd grade. There was a time when the only African-Americans I would see were members of my ward. That was because my ward reached south of 8 Mile.

Even with the exodus of many African-Americans from Detroit over the last 15 years, 8 Mile is still a divider. Also my girlfriend won't travel into Grosse Pointe on her bike because she has been stopped by the police in harrasing ways far too many times.

Will Roberts said...

@John Pack Lambert,

I don't understand what your race, mine, or your girlfriend's has anything to do with the priesthood ban and its effect on church members or potential converts.

Of course members that joined before 1978 are still members. They're the "survivors" in your survivorship bias. Now, tell me the story of all the people that left the church or didn't join when they discovered the priesthood ban. I'll get you started. I asked an African friend of mine who left the church what it was like living in Africa and dealing with the priesthood ban. He writes, "It depends from person to person. I have known many who don't think twice about it and others who have fallen away after hearing. It became a bigger and bigger issue for me and several in my family as I matured, and one of several reasons why I ultimately left." Hopefully you will not continue to marginalize people like this and understand that this is a legitimate problem for many in and out of Africa regardless of their race.

Ed Clinch said...

Things that affect us positively and negatively in all aspects of life are very personal. What may offend or grate on me may have the opposite effect on another person. This is true of art, work, food, politics, religion, etc, etc, etc.

We all need to be careful in determining how or why and what the reasons cause some people to be attracted to some things more or less than others.
When it comes to the 1978 change in priesthood policy, there are some people that can weigh heavily on. Had it been 1968 or 1958 or 1948 or 1938 or 1928, on and on, then maybe the LDS Church would be in much better standing with many more Americans and others. But things happen in their time, and I cannot pretend to happen to have the answers.

But I will say this about what I do know: the strength and power and huge part of the efficasy and force of the Church of Jesus Christ now and forever is when we as Saints are united. When there is dissent and debate, too often we lose our savor. I cannot pretend to know all the hurt of peoples of different cultures. I cannot say what it is like to be Jewish or Arab or Muslim or American Indian (and yes, I think the Redskins will/should change their nickname), but I can speak plainly as a Mormon and say that I feel bad for those who have felt bad about any aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and humans do make mistakes, and I pray that they can reconcile those feelings and embrace what is available to all of us. Grace from the Lord Himself and community with the Saints, the best chance I see that the planet has.

And again, I am glad that my parents who lived in West Africa embraced the faith.