The announcement of the new mission came as a complete shock to me. All but two of the countries (Kazakhstan and Turkey) have never been assigned to an LDS mission before. All of these nations experience governmental and/or societal restrictions on religious freedom. Governmental restrictions on religious freedom have intensified within Central Asia during the past two decades as a result of the resurgence of Islamic identify following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, political efforts to curb the emergence of radical Islamist groups in the region, and concern that nontraditional Christian groups pose threats to local cultures and national identities. The Church missed its window of opportunity to establish a presence in most Central Asian republics and Azerbaijan during the 1990s when conditions were more favorable to missionary-focused Christian denominations. Consequently efforts to establish the Church in Kyrgyzstan were unsuccessful in the mid-2000s. There have not appeared to be any recent efforts to establish the Church in additional nations in the region such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan.
The decision to organize the new mission stands as the most audacious and proactive initiative by the LDS Church to expand its outreach into vast unreached areas of the world since the 1990s. The Church has organized no new missions within an area with as few members and congregations since the organization of the Russia Vladivostok Mission in 1999. No LDS scriptures have been translated into languages indigenous to Central Asia or Azerbaijan and only the Book of Mormon has been translated into Turkish. Many of the most commonly spoken languages have no translations of LDS materials available such as Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Tajiki, Turkmen, and Uzbek. The organization of the new mission will provide the Church an exciting frontier to pioneer Muslim-specific outreach if determined by mission and area leadership as the percentage of Muslims in the population range from as low as 70% in Kazakhstan to as high as 99.8% in Turkey.
The new Central Eurasian Mission will have over 150 million people within its boundaries. The mission will tie with the Uganda Kampala Mission as the mission with the fourth largest population in the world after the India New Delhi, Indonesia Jakarta, and India Bangalore Missions.
Case studies on cumorah.com pertaining to the nations within the new Central Eurasian Mission can be found below.
- Beginning LDS Missionary Work in Turkey
- Missed Opportunities for LDS Outreach in Azerbaijan
- Missed Opportunities for LDS Outreach in Kyrgyzstan
- Missed Opportunities for LDS Outreach in Tajikistan
- Missed Opportunities for LDS Outreach in Turkmenistan
- Missed Opportunities for LDS Outreach in Uzbekistan
- Recent LDS Church Growth Developments in Kazakhstan