Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Apostasy in Armenia - Sole LDS Stake in Armenia Discontinued

Multiple missionaries serving in the Armenia Yerevan Mission report that last Sunday the Church discontinued the Yerevan Armenia Stake in a special stake conference. Organized in 2013, the stake has been returned to district status and all wards have been downgraded to branches. Missionaries report that the primary reason the stake was discontinued was due to improper handling of church administrative responsibilities by members and local church leaders. Many of the previous church leaders were released from their callings during the conference. Missionaries indicate that a large portion of members attending the conference, perhaps as large as one-third to one-half of those in attendance, left the conference early after the announcement was made that the stake was discontinued in protest of the decision.

This marks one of the few times in LDS Church history that the Church has discontinued a stake in a nation where only one stake previously operated. Most recently, the Church discontinued its sole stake in Monrovia, Liberia in 2007 due to similar problems as reported in Armenia. The news of the stake discontinuation in Armenia is disappointing and points to chronic problems with a lack of "real growth" and spiritual maturity among many members in the region. The Church in Eastern Europe has experienced similar problems with local members and church leaders becoming inactive after similar administrative changes have been made. It appears that the Church has yet to adequately address the cultural challenge of retaining church leaders in the region after they are released from a calling, or properly rectifying problems with church leaders not following policies for local church administration.

Click here to access the LDS statistical profile for Armenia.

40 comments:

Christopher said...

Devastating news.

Mike Johnson said...

I don't like seeing these things happen, but I do know that in the long run it will likely to be fruitful.

When I served in Puerto Rico we had one stake and one district, with the district becoming a stake by the end of my mission. Two more stakes were created and then I purchased an Almanac and learned that all four had been discontinued, replaced by 8 districts. My thoughts were immediately for the people of Puerto Rico and the loss of all stakes at once. Today, there are five stakes and they are probably stronger than they would have been.

We take it for granted that leadership rotates. But, when you are new like this that could be hard to understand. It can be seen as an indictment of the local leadership.

I am not sure apostasy is the right word for it. So often this is part of the growing pains.

Mike said...

Somewhat myopic LDS leadership has not yet learned that in some parts of the world, you just can't overlay an American yankee religion on a centuries old tradition of Orthodoxy. Armenian culture may be fairly narrow, but very deep. American culture--and with it, Mormonism--is a mile wide and a half inch deep.

Joseph Heath said...

@Mike, you make good points, but we see strong LDS traditions in other former Soviet states.

Joseph Heath said...

Much more positive news in Eastern Europe: on 15. May leadership will be organizing the Prague Czech republic stake. The following 5 branches will be upgraded into stakes: Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Plzen, and Hradec Kralove.

Christopher said...

@Mike While some aspects of American culture are not easily transplanted in places like Armenia, the gospel is always transplantable. It is not a Yankee religion "a mile wide and inch thick", but true principles that work anywhere they are applied. I served in Honduras and we would always joke about how the chapels had basketball courts set up outside. Members there don't play basketball; they play soccer! Thus was such an arrogant and silly oversight, and one example of American values transplanted in Honduras didn't work; the courts turned into makeshift soccer fields. However, "Mormonism" or the gospel and it's universal values thrives there. As it will anywhere, including Armenia, when it is lived and applied.

ManessDC said...

I think this must have been a hard but necessary decision, likely made in the highest councils of the Church. The lesson for me is that we better take the Handbooks seriously. We don't just make this up to suit they way we like to do things because it's the Lord's church, not ours. Like Mike implies, the local leaders don't own the Church. This is not the end of the Church in Armenia, just a necessary course correction. They will still teach the same gospel, administer the same ordinances, and have the same fellowship. It's too bad that some people are likely to leave over this. I hope they eventually come back.

Eduardo Clinch said...
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Eduardo Clinch said...

Developmental growth issues bring humility and repentance and learning; Armenia, the first Christian nation will continue to conform to the Lord's standards- or not. Many stakes in Chile disappeared (were fused into others) but like changes in our lives help us adapt and learn. The people will turn to the Lord if they truly have it in them.

John Pack Lambert said...

The problems here if they are like those in Liberia would be a case of nepotism. No one who observed the situation from the outside could easily see the leaders in Armenia as in the right.

John Pack Lambert said...

The problems here if they are like those in Liberia would be a case of nepotism. No one who observed the situation from the outside could easily see the leaders in Armenia as in the right.

BYULAW said...

@John Pack Lambert: That is quite interesting that nepotism was the cause of a stake dissolution. Was it based purely on nepotism, or were there other factors involved? In my experience as a Utah resident, I have seen rampant nepotism in many quorums, wards, and stakes throughout the Salt Lake Valley. In fact, the existence of such nepotism and biases has often caused me to question what role revelation really has in giving someone a calling. Does the church have an official position on nepotism in callings? I really wish there was such a policy to discourage nepotism if there isn't.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I guess if people in the true Church are aspiring to callings of power or authority, by definition they are negating the real spiritual powers of those priesthood powers and blessings. That's too bad. But, the Gospel is an evolving instrument for us children of God. It's all a learning and growing process. I guess if someone really wants a "higher" calling they could move to some place where there is not very strong leadership.Be a pioneer in your own way.
Or, just be a humble home teacher, go on exchanges with the missionaries, be a great example of the faith, place a lot of Books of Mormon, and have lots of people over for dinners and family home evenings and be a General Authority in your own home, influencing thousands. Oh, yeah, and pay good tithing and fasts and attend the temple and get facilitate others to go.
Service is the key, and a calling does not limit us to be spiritually powerful. Too bad some guys see the title rather than the power of the priesthood. That is a stumbling block for sure. As maybe the Armenian Saints are experiencing.
They'll continue to repent and grow, and achieve redemption through the grace of Christ.

David Todd said...

It is also worth noting that what may appear like nepotism among general authorities for example is more likely just the result of individuals who have spent their entire lives being prepared for leadership responsibility in the church through the example of their own progenitors. Think about how much more prepared a newly called seventy is for the job whose father was a general authority than one to whom the calling is an entirely new experience. The lord, of course, can work well through both if they are following the spirit, but it will be a more familiar and comfortable situation for the one whose father was a general authority.

ManessDC said...

We're doing quite a bit of speculating here about nepotism. It would be nice to hear some first-hand, or even second-hand information about the motivation of this change.

Dave said...

We're not in a position to comment or even reflect upon the decision to downgrade the stake to district status. It may or may not have been an apostasy. The one thing that can be concluded is that the church is very much constrained as to how fast it can grow.

It takes a long time for the authority of the priesthood to blossom into the power of the priesthood in places the church has no history in before a first stake can be justified.

The good news is that once the power of the priesthood HAS been firmly established, the future of the church is secure. And the church will grow.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Right, Dave, any comments or reflections about Church membership apostasy or excommunication is not really our call as distant observers. However, what we can do is reach out with love and empathy and also call out repentance and its partner forgiveness and help all of us attain the same goal: to come unto Christ through His covenants and ordinances.
Side note: Israel helped out an Azerbaijani fighter plane recently in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Interesting times.
One last thought: Stalin was a Georgian but not very Christian.
The Caucasus region is pretty complex.

Unknown said...
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Margarit Ayvazyan said...

There was no apostasy in Armenia. This is very difficult situation for armenians now with war going on and other...

Eduardo Clinch said...

Does anyone know how the Church/members are doing in Fort Macmurray, Alberta?

Downtownchrisbrown said...

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Canada
Yesterday at 9:33am ·
UPDATE RE: FORT McMURRAY
Re-posted today from our "Visitor Posts", page left and below.

FROM: Edmonton Mormons
Yesterday May 4 2016 at 22:46
"While the fire in Fort McMurray is not done yet, we can tell you that the chapel has so far escaped damage despite buildings nearby, being destroyed. All members have been contacted and are safe. Although several homes of ward members are believed to have been lost, and several damaged. The brand new bishop is calling this his "baptism by fire." With coordination by the Edmonton North Stake, the Lethbridge Bishop's Storehouse has sent 660 hygiene kits up to the evacuees, with help from the Salvation Army. Please keep everyone involved in your prayers."

Thank you, Edmonton Mormons, for providing this update on the situation at Fort Mac. Please post again with further updates whenever they become available. Also, please let us know what LDS Church members across the country may do in our local stakes, wards and branches to assist the recovery efforts. So many have expressed their wishes to assist somehow!

James Anderson said...

Facebook post showing that chapel right at the very end of the clip, this clip has had over 1 million views so far.

https://www.facebook.com/CTVEdmonton/videos/1016124731755914/

Eduardo Clinch said...
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Eduardo Clinch said...
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Eduardo Clinch said...

Thanks for the updates. I cannot remember so many Americans evacuating a city for fires.

Ryan Searcy said...

A couple of years ago, we almost lost a chapel due to a forest fire. The members turned on the sprinklers for the lawn and kept them on for a while to make sure the lawn was extremely wet.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Is that in Show Low, Arizona? Many thousands evacuated their homes in San Bernardino in 2003 but as bad as this fire. The churches in the mountains and the valley were fine.

Ryan Searcy said...

No, it was in Willow, Alaska, which is in the Wasilla Stake.

Matt said...

Tens of thousands evacuated here in Colorado Springs in 2012 and 2013 due to fires.

Ryan Searcy said...

Getting back to Armenia, I noticed that the mission branch for Azerbaijan was discontinued (I don't know if it is related or not. Do you think that the Yerevan District will be split up like it was in Liberia?

Eduardo Clinch said...
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Eduardo Clinch said...

Phone causes double feeds, it seems. I wonder which has caused more LDS church destruction: natural fires or vandalism?

Eduardo Clinch said...

Phone causes double feeds, it seems. I wonder which has caused more LDS church destruction: natural fires or vandalism?

John Pack Lambert said...

In the case of Azerbaijan what happened was they doscontinued most of the mission branches in the Central Eurasian Mission. Since mission branches exist to support local groups and to hold records for members living beyond regular branch boundaries, this might just reflect a decision by President and Sister Toronto, the mission secretarie(s) and other mission leadership that having fewer mission branches was just as easy a way to take care of records. Whatever groups on the ground would not be so affected.

Considering pogroms drove out virtually all Armenians from Azerbaijan 25+ years ago, I doubt there is any connection. I had a home teaching companion who got married to a woman whose family had fled Azerbaijan during the pogroms. She then lived in Armenia, Russia and finally the United States. It was here in the US she joined the Church.

Matthew Crandall said...

In Early June Elder Ballard will be doing a priesthood leadership training for the East Europe area, it will be done from Kiev but broadcast to the area. He is coming to visit Estonia as well on the trip. It's probably a standard thing but it would be interesting to see if he is also going to Armenia and to see if this comes up in the training.

brycen said...

I remember on a trip to Las Vegas about 6 years ago, we drove through a town near the Nevada - Arizona border and saw a chapel with fire damage.

On the subject of nepotism, 4 of the first 6 Church presidents ordained at least one son as an Apostle. Joseph F Smith is said to have have been reluctant to ordain another son in 1910 despite receiving clear revelation on the subject, and Joseph Fielding Smith was called. Despite this, we Latter-day Saints see no reason to doubt the prophetic calling of those men.

Perhaps with local leaders it's easier to question whether it's based on revelation.

brycen said...

I remember on a trip to Las Vegas about 6 years ago, we drove through a town near the Nevada - Arizona border and saw a chapel with fire damage.

On the subject of nepotism, 4 of the first 6 Church presidents ordained at least one son as an Apostle. Joseph F Smith is said to have have been reluctant to ordain another son in 1910 despite receiving clear revelation on the subject, and Joseph Fielding Smith was called. Despite this, we Latter-day Saints see no reason to doubt the prophetic calling of those men.

Perhaps with local leaders it's easier to question whether it's based on revelation.

The Chatelain's said...

I see a play for a district upgrade in Fort Frances with the two branches moving over from Winnipeg, and a potential second stake for that eventual temple district.

Petros said...

Dear friends, with great respect to all who have posted comments here, I believe that the false teachings of the LDS has blinded you from the truth as it is in Jesus. 'Your' God and 'your' Jesus are not the same Holy beings who Orthodox Christians have believed in since the time of Christ. LDS preaches a false message in which ordinary humans have the potential to become gods with their own planets! Don't you realise how absurd this is? LDS places their founder, Joseph Smith, on an equal footing with God the Father and the His Son Jesus Christ...this is heresy! 1 John 5 verse 7 reads, 'For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one'. There is no mention of Joseph Smith here, nor has there been since he himself wrote the Book of Mormon and other works in the 19th century. Whilst you genuinely seek to spread the word of faith to all peoples of the earth, you are unwittingly converting people to Joseph Smith's heresy. I could say a lot more, but now is not the time or place...other than to say that I'm an Australian man who has been living in Armenia for the last 3 years. I embraced the teachings of the Orthodox Church 4 years ago after spending most of my life in Protestant/Evangelical churches. I reach out to you to search the scriptures without referring to your Mormon books as a reference. In particular, please read the four gospels asking God for wisdom as you do so. You use the KJV in your evangelising...so re-read it prayerfully and put the writings of Joseph Smith and other LDS teachers aside.

Many Armenians and peoples from all other nations have forgotten about God and many are blinded by the world. Sadly, this has always been the case since the time of Christ. However, Jesus said in John 3:16,17 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved'. Jesus is our Saviour...but He was never a man before He became God as the LDS teaches. He eternally existed with the Father in glory and consented to be born of the Virgin Mary and became man...but He never ceased to be God the Son! The Orthodox do not believe that we are saved by 'grace alone' as Luther falsely taught. We believe and have always believed that true faith is not just a decision, it's a way of life! Dear LDS friends, please open your hearts and minds to God in prayer...you are good people...He will lead you into all truth if truth is what you seek.

In closing, I am going to pray for you, because I know that you are seekers of spiritual truth and that you truly wish to serve God. So look into your hearts and ask yourselves, "Do I really have peace with God or am I, unwittingly, a slave to the LDS?"

Love in Christ, Peter

cdowis75 said...

Peter,
We accept ALL of the word of God, including the Bible and modern revelation. Why do you ask us to reject prophets and revelation which God has given us?

We do not worship Joseph Smith. we do not worship Paul the apostle. We read and study the Bible, and Mormons are bible believing Christians.

I wish you all the best.