Saturday, April 29, 2017

Second Stake in Liberia

The Church is organizing its second stake in Liberia this weekend according to multiple reports I have received. I have not been able to confirm which district is advancing into a stake, but it appears that it will be the Monrovia Liberia District. The Church reestablished a stake in Liberia in November 2016. There are currently three districts and one stake in Liberia.

I will provide more details on this new stake, as well as other new stakes and districts recently organized in the last couple months, within the near future. I have not posted about new stakes and districts organized in March and April as I am still awaiting details on congregations within several of these organizations.

April 2017 Newsletter

Click here to access our April 2017 monthly newsletter for cumorah.com in regards to recent LDS growth developments.

Friday, April 28, 2017

UPDATED: List of the Countries with the Most Latter-day Saints without a Stake or District

The Church in 2016 and thus far in 2017 has organized its first district in a couple nations where no districts or stakes previously operated, namely Lesotho (February 2016) and Rwanda (March 2017). As a result, I wanted to update my list of the countries with the most Latter-day Saints without a stake or district. Previous lists for this measure can be found here. For those who may be unfamiliar with what a district is, please refer to our Missiology Encyclopedia entry for "district" that can be found here.

Each country or territory with at least 200 members without a stake or district is provided below with the number of members (as of year-end 2016), number of congregations (at present), and current, if any, affiliation with another stake or district. Countries in green appear likely to have their first districts/stakes created in the near future. Countries in yellow generally have a large number of recent converts and few active priesthood holders to hold leadership positions, but have a high likelihood for districts to be organized in the coming years. Countries in red have problems with member inactivity or too few members to create a district in the foreseeable future. Countries in blue pertain to other stakes or districts and do not appear likely to become their own districts due to reasonably close proximity to their current stake or district headquarters. Countries in dark blue have a poor likelihood for the organization of a district due to few members spread over large geographic areas.

  1. Bulgaria - 2,429 members - 9 branches
  2. Bahamas - 1,029 members - 3 branches (includes Turks and Caicos Islands)
  3. Northern Mariana Islands - 786 members - 1 ward - part of the Barrigada Guam Stake
  4. Greece - 772 members - 3 branches
  5. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - 653 members - 2 branches, 1 group
  6. Qatar - 625 members? - 2 wards, 1 branch - part of the Abu Dhabi Stake
  7. Burundi - 604 members - 3 branches 
  8. US Virgin Islands - 597 members - 2 branches
  9. Curacao - 550 members - 1 branch - part of the ABC District based in Aruba 
  10. Turkey - 513 members - 7 branches 
  11. Mauritius - 512 members - 3 branches - part of the St. Denis Reunion-Mauritius District
  12. Palau - 505 members - 1 branch
  13. Luxembourg - 431 members - 1 ward - part of the Nancy France Stake
  14. Grenada - 416 members - 1 branch
  15. French Guiana - 403 members - 1 branch 
  16. Saint Lucia - 351 members - 2 branches, 1 group?
  17. Kuwait - 315 members? - 1 ward - part of the Manama Bahrain Stake
  18. Jersey - 305 members - 1 ward - part of the Poole England Stake
  19. Niue - 301 members - 2 branches
  20. Laos - 300 members? - 2 branches 
  21. Isle of Man - 299 members - 1 ward - part of the Liverpool England Stake
  22. Saint Maarten/Saint Martin - 281 members - 1 branch 
  23. Iceland - 277 members - 2 branches
  24. Republic of Georgia - 265 members - 1 branch, 1 group
  25. Saint Kitts and Nevis - 238 members, 1 branch
  26. Antigua and Barbuda - 230 members, 1 branch
  27. Tuvalu - 229 members, 1 branch
  28. Cayman Islands - 216 members, 1 branch
  29. Central African Republic - 216 members, 1 branch 
  30. Kazakhstan - 212 members - 2 branches
  31. Martinique - 212 members, 1 branch, 1 group
  32. Gabon - 200 members?, 2 branches
Of these 32 countries and dependencies, 10 previously had a district including Bulgaria (2), the Bahamas, Greece, Curacao, Palau, Mauritius, French Guiana, Turkey, Niue, and Iceland.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Percent LDS by Country - 2016

Below is a list of all of the countries and dependencies/territories of the world with the percentage of Latter-day Saints in each location as of 2016. Countries with an asterisk indicate that LDS membership figures are estimated due to no official LDS membership data released to the public. Previous data from 2008 can be found here. Population figures were obtained from the CIA World Factbook for all locations except of overseas departments of France. Population data for French overseas collectivities/departments was accessed via http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/OA.

ASIA

THE CARIBBEAN


EUROPE






MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA


NORTH AMERICA

OCEANIA


SOUTH AMERICA


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Significant Member Activity Improvements in the Philippines

Scores of surveys completed by Filipino members during the past week indicate significant, long-term improvements in member activity rates in the Philippines. Local reports indicate that most wards generally have between 100 and 300 active members, with many wards currently reporting at least 200 members in attendance. This is a significant finding as the number of active members in many Filipino wards is becoming more consistent with the Church in countries where the Church exhibits greater self-sufficiency in leadership and church administration such as the United States and western Canada. Many branches in districts also reported significant improvements in church attendance. Some members state that meetinghouses are unable to adequately accommodate those who attend sacrament meeting services, resulting in some members standing in the back of the chapel due to a lack of seats.

The Church in the Philippines reported that sacrament meeting attendance has steadily increased within the past five years. Sacrament meeting attendance totaled more than 125,000 in late 2013, indicating that the average ward or branch had 109 people in attendance. In contrast, the Church reported nearly 116,000 attending church services in late 2011. However, the average ward or branch had 599 members on its records in 2013 (e.g. total church membership divided by the number of congregations). Thus, no more than 20% of LDS membership in the Philippines appeared to regularly attend church at the time. By late 2015, the Church in the Philippines indicated that sacrament meeting attendance had reached 146,000 - a 26% increase within the past four years. In contrast, LDS membership increased by 10% during this four-year period. These most recent numbers suggest that significant improvements in member activity have occurred within recent years. The average ward or branch in late 2015 had 121 people in attendance. Thus, member activity rates in the Philippines may have slightly increased to as high as 22-24% at present given these sustained recent improvements in sacrament meeting attendance statistics reported by the area presidency and the results of recent surveys completed by local members. More information from the area presidency can be found here.

It is also interesting to note that the Church in the Philippines used to experience high member activity and convert retention rates. During the mid-1970s, the Church in the Philippines appeared to experience activity rate well over 50%. Attendance at some major meetings with church leaders nearly equaled the number of church-reported membership for the Philippines at the time. However, decades of quick-baptism tactics and leadership development problems between the 1980s and 2000s have posed significant challenges for sustaining growth and maintaining acceptable convert retention and member activity rates. These recent developments for the Church in the Philippines indicate that significant improvements in member activity and convert retention rates are possible even in nations with low member activity and convert retention rates, especially if mission and area leaders sustain the needed vision and motivation to help these efforts succeed. However, progress to improve activity rates are often slow, especially in a nation like the Philippines where there are a three-quarters of a million members and comparatively few convert baptisms.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Countries with the Highest Members-to-Units Ratio: 2016 Figures

The members-to-units ratio is a statistic ascertained by dividing church-reported membership by the total number of congregations. Countries with high member-to-unit ratios invariably experience low member activity rates as there are an insufficient number of active members to create additional congregations.

Below is a list of the 24 countries and dependencies with the highest members-to-units ratios for 2016 (more than 600 members per unit). Forty-two percent (42%) of LDS membership in 2016 resided in these 24 countries. The 2013 list can be found here. The 2014 list can be found here.
  1. Chile - 973
  2. Nicaragua - 879
  3. Bolivia - 803
  4. Northern Mariana Islands - 786
  5. Ecuador - 785
  6. Peru - 772
  7. Colombia - 768
  8. El Salvador - 760
  9. Uruguay - 743
  10. Honduras - 733
  11. Panama - 732
  12. South Korea - 730
  13. Mexico - 703
  14. Dominican Republic - 680
  15. Venezuela - 678
  16. Paraguay - 671
  17. Brazil - 659
  18. Kiribati - 656
  19. Costa Rica - 633
  20. Guatemala - 622
  21. Philippines - 616
  22. Portugal - 609
  23. Guam - 608
  24. Hong Kong - 607

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rapid LDS Growth in West Africa Continues

The Church in West Africa continues to experience unprecedented growth. Area leadership estimates that the Church in West Africa will reach 100 stakes by 2018. This indicates that there may be as many as 25 new stakes organized in West Africa during the next 18 months. Growth has been driven by increasing numbers of convert baptisms, leadership development, and increases in active membership. For example, church membership in West Africa increased by 10% during 2016 - the third highest annual membership growth rate for the region since 2002. Thus far in 2017, the Church in Nigeria has reported a net increase of 28 new wards a branches - more than any other country in the worldwide church for 2017 thus far. If this rate of congregational growth is sustained for the remainder of 2017, there may be as many as 100 new wards and branches organized in Nigeria. Since the beginning of 2017, the net increase in wards and branches by country has been as follows: 10 in Cote d'Ivoire, six in Ghana, four in Sierra Leone, one in Benin, and zero in Liberia, Senegal, and Togo.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

UPDATED: List of the Countries with the Most Members without a Stake

Below is an updated list of the countries with the most Latter-day Saints without a stake. Membership totals are as of 2016 and congregational and district totals are current. Estimated membership for mainland China and Pakistan is provided as official statistics are available. The number of branches and districts in mainland China is not provided due to the sensitive nature of the Church in that country. Previous lists of the countries with the most members without a stake can be found here.

  1. China - 11,000 members?
  2. Malaysia - 10,010 members - 33 branches - 6 districts
  3. Guyana - 5,674 members - 12 branches - 1 district
  4. Belize - 5,332 members - 12 branches - 2 districts
  5. Pakistan - 4,200 members? - 13 branches - 3 districts
  6. Armenia - 3,612 members - 11 branches - 1 district
  7. Romania - 3,059 members - 16 branches - 2 districts
  8. Malawi - 2,486 members - 8 branches - 2 districts
  9. Bulgaria - 2,429 members - 9 branches - 0 districts
  10. Angola - 2,123 members - 11 branches - 2 districts
  11. Poland - 1,940 members - 12 branches - 3 districts
  12. Swaziland - 1,940 members - 6 branches - 1 district
  13. Ethiopia - 1,916 members - 4 branches - 1 district
  14. Cook Islands - 1,843 members - 5 branches - 1 district
  15. Cameroon - 1,628 members - 13 branches - 1 district
  16. Suriname - 1,545 members - 5 branches - 1 district
  17. Tanzania - 1,516 members - 6 branches - 1 district
  18. Sri Lanka - 1,436 members - 3 branches - 1 district
  19. Macau - 1,429 members - 3 branches - 1 district
Prospects appear most favorable for the formation of stakes within the next few years in mainland China, Malaysia, Guyana, Belize, Pakistan, Swaziland, and Angola as all of these countries have at least one district that is close to reaching the minimum qualifications for a stake to operate.  Low member activity rates, an insufficient number of branches in individual member districts, slow or stagnant LDS growth, and few full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders will likely continue to delay the organization of stakes in other countries for several more years to come

Saturday, April 8, 2017

UPDATED: The 10 Countries/Dependencies with the Most Members without a Temple Announced, Under Construction, or in Operation

I have updated the list of the countries and dependencies with the most members without a temple. Membership data is as of year-end 2016, whereas stake, district, and congregational data are current.  Temples that service stakes, districts, and mission branches in each country are identified. Previous lists are also available for 2016, 2015, 2013, mid-2011, late 2008, and late 2007.

1. Nicaragua
  • 95,768 members
  • 11 stakes, 4 districts
  • 111 congregations
  • Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple
2. Papua New Guinea
  • 25,856 members
  • 2 stakes, 11 districts
  • 75 congregations
  • Sydney Australia Temple
3. Puerto Rico
  • 23,328 members
  • 5 stakes, 0 districts
  • 41 congregations
  • Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple
4. Russia
  • 23,328 members
  • 3 stakes, 9 districts
  • 99 congregations
  • Helsinki Finland Temple, Kyiv Ukraine Temple, Seoul Korea Temple
5. Kiribati
  • 18,368 members
  • 2 stakes, 2 districts
  • 30 congregations
  • Suva Fiji Temple, Laie Hawaii Temple
6. Sierra Leone
  • 17,671 members
  • 1 stake, 6 districts
  • 59 congregations
  • Accra Ghana Temple
7. American Samoa
  • 16,180 members
  • 5 stakes
  • 41 congregations
  • Apia Samoa Temple
8. Uganda
  • 15,157 members
  • 3 stakes, 0 districts
  • 28 congregations
  • Johannesburg South Africa Temple
9. Cambodia
  • 13,716 members
  • 2 stakes, 4 districts
  • 29 congregations
  • Hong Kong China Temple
10. Cape Verde
  • 13,504 members
  • 3 stakes, 2 districts
  • 42 congregations
  • Spain Madrid Temple

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Congregational Growth by Country: 2016

Below is a list of the countries where the Church reported a net increase of four or more units for the year 2016.  The annual percentage increase for the number of wards and branches for each country is also provided:

  1. United States +65 (0.5% increase)
  2. Cote d'Ivoire +52 (40.0% increase) 
  3. Nigeria +46 (10.1% increase)
  4. Ghana +33 (13.5% increase)
  5. Brazil +17 (0.8% increase) 
  6. Democratic Republic of the Congo +16 (10.5% increase)
  7. Guatemala +10 (2.4% increase) 
  8. Philippines +10 (0.8% increase)
  9. Sierra Leone +10 (15.4% increase)
  10. South Africa +9 (5.4% increase)
  11. Canada +8 (1.6% increase) 
  12. Samoa +8 (5.5% increase)
  13. Liberia +6 (25.0% increase)
  14. Nicaragua +6 (5.8% increase)
  15. Angola +4 (57.1% increase)
  16. Cape Verde +4 (10.5% increase)
  17. Taiwan +4 (3.5% increase)
  18. Zimbabwe +4 (5.6% increase)
The net increase in the number of wards and branches in these 18 countries totals 312; a larger number than the net increase in the number of wards and branches for the entire Church for the year 2016 (288). Six countries experienced a net decrease of four or more units during 2016. The reason that the Church reported a net decrease of five branches in Turkey was due to the discontinuation of administrative branches to service each nation within the boundaries of the Central Eurasian Mission.
  1. Peru -15 (2.0% decrease) 
  2. Venezuela -9 (3.5% decrease) 
  3. Colombia -8 (3.0% decrease) 
  4. Turkey -5 (41.7% decrease)
  5. Dominican Republic -5 (2.5% decrease)
  6. Chile -4 (0.7% decrease)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Membership by Country Statistics Released for 2016

The Church has released 2016 membership and congregation totals for nations with a reported LDS presence. These statistics can be accessed on Church's official website at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics. Data is available under the country profiles on the right side of the site.

Countries with the highest annual membership growth rates in 2016 (10% or greater) are listed below. Lists for nations with the most rapid membership growth rates are also available for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. The percentage next to the country name is the annual growth rate percentage which is followed by the country's LDS membership at year-end 2016. Countries in bold experienced a membership increase greater than 200. 
  1. Montenegro - 35.3% -23
  2. Cote d'Ivoire - 22.7% -39,589
  3. Guernsey - 20.8% - 58
  4. Antigua and Barbuda - 20.4% - 230
  5. Solomon Islands - 19.9% - 952
  6. Israel - 19.4% - 258
  7. Benin - 17.0% - 2,638
  8. Turkey - 16.9% - 513
  9. Togo - 16.0% - 3,804
  10. Malawi - 16.0% - 2,486
  11. Sint Maarten - 15.2% - 281
  12. Liberia - 15.1% - 11,135
  13. Lesotho - 14.7% - 1,001
  14. Rwanda - 13.4% - 390
  15. Saint Kitts and Nevis - 12.8% - 238
  16. Angola - 11.3% - 2,123
  17. Ireland - 11.0% - 3,816
  18. Democratic Republic of the Congo - 10.3% - 52,869 
  19. Cameroon - 10.0% - 1,628
Below is a list of the top ten countries by numerical membership increase for the year 2016. Each country is provided with the numerical national increase in membership. Additionally, the percentage total Church membership increase accounted by each country is provided. Lists are also available for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. 70.4% of the 2016 net increase in LDS membership can be attributed to the following 10 nations. 
  1. United States - 60,539 - 24.4%
  2. Brazil - 27,389 - 11.0%
  3. Mexico - 22,303 - 9.0%
  4. Philippines - 17,664 - 7.1%
  5. Nigeria - 10,870 - 4.4%
  6. Peru - 9,967 - 4.0%
  7. Cote d'Ivoire - 7,331 - 3.0%
  8. Argentina - 7,052 - 2.8%
  9. Guatemala - 6,457 - 2.6%
  10. Ghana - 5,137 - 2.1%
Country-by-country membership statistics shed light unto recent trends in decelerating LDS membership growth rates for the worldwide Church. LDS membership growth rates in the countries with the three most members - the United States, Brazil, and Mexico - continues to decelerate. Annual membership growth rates for these nations in 2016 were as follows: the United States (0.93%), Mexico (1.60%), and Brazil (2.06%). To contrast, the Church during the past 15 years has generally experienced annual membership growth rates between 1.5-2.0% in the United States, 2.0-4.0% in Mexico, and 3.0-5.0% in Brazil. In other words, the rate of membership growth during 2016 in these three nations was approximately half of historical averages since the year 2000. Ineffective proselytism tactics, lack of engagement of ordinary members in missionary activity, increasing secularism and materialism, and decades of low convert retention problems have appeared primarily responsible for this deceleration in growth.

Membership statistics for 2016 also indicate significant accelerations in membership growth in Sub-Saharan Africa - particularly in West Africa. Good receptivity to LDS teachings, expansion of the Church into previously unreached areas, the organization of small branches in lesser-reached urban areas to spur greater growth, strong member-missionary involvement in proselytism in certain nations, and good self-sufficiency in meeting regional missionary needs all appear responsible for this acceleration in growth. Furthermore, most areas also report good convert retention and member activity rates.

The Church in Cote d'Ivoire stands as the quintessential example of the implementation of effective church growth tactics in a nation with a population that is generally receptive to LDS proselytism. Both Ivorian missions are self-sufficient as evidenced by Ivorian members serving as mission presidents and only Black Africans full-time missionaries serving in the country. Church leaders have implemented aggressive national outreach expansion efforts. There are more than three dozen cities and towns with an LDS presence as of early 2017, and the first LDS congregations were organized in two-thirds of these cities within the past five years. Additionally, many congregations report good to excellent member involvement in proselytism and local leadership development. Ivorian members also number among the most active in regards to temple attendance worldwide. For example, three of the five Ivorian stakes in 2012 were among the top 25 stakes in the world for the percentage of adults submitting family names for vicarious temple ordinances. It is therefore not surprising that the Church in Cote d'Ivoire reported an annual membership growth rate of 22.7% in 2016 - the highest reported by the Church in Cote d'Ivoire since 1995 when there were only 2,800 members nationwide. The Church reported 39,589 members, 182 congregations, 11 stakes, 11 districts, and two missions as of year-end 2016.

Analysis regarding 2016 congregational growth trends by country will be posted in the coming days.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Five New Temples Announced

This morning, the Church announced five new temples to be built in the following locations:
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Saratoga Springs, Utah
  • Greater Manila Area, Philippines
  • Pocatello, Idaho
  • Brasilia, Brazil
There are now 182 temples announced, under construction, or in operation.

More analysis to follow in the coming days.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

2016 Statistical Report

This afternoon, the Church reported the following statistics as of December 31st, 2016.

  • Membership: 15,882,417 (increase of 248,218 from 2015; a 1.59% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 30,304 (increase of 288 from 2015; a 0.96% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,266 (increase of 92 from 2015; a 2.90% annual increase)
  • Districts: 556 (decrease of 2 from 2015; a 0.36% annual decrease)
  • Missions: 421 (increase of 3 from 2015; a 0.72% annual increase)
  • Convert Baptisms: 240,131 (decrease of 17,271 from 2015; a 6.71% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 109,246 (decrease of 5,304 from 2015; a 4.63% annual decrease)
  • Full-time missionaries: 70,946 (decrease of 3,133 from 2015; a 4.23% annual decrease)
  • Church service missionaries: 33,965 (increase of 2,186 from 2015; a 6.88% annual increase)
The increase in the number of stakes constitutes the greatest positive development in the 2016 statistical report. The number of stakes increased by 2.90% during the year - the highest annual percentage growth rate for the Church since 1998. Improvements in leadership development outside North America and emphasis on reducing the number of congregations per stake in certain areas of the United States appear to primarily drive accelerated stake growth in 2016. The number of church service missionaries also increased by 6.88% in 2016 compared to 2015.

Essentially all other indicators of church growth reported in the 2016 Statistical Report suggest slightly decelerating growth for the Church as a whole. Congregational growth trends constitute the greatest concern in the report as the increase in the number of congregations (wards and branches) organized in 2016 significantly declined compared to 2015 (e.g. 288 versus 395). The number of converts baptized, increase of children on record, and the number of full-time missionaries serving all declined compared to 2015 although these declines were slight (e.g. 4-7%). In other words, the productivity of the Church as measured by converts baptized, increase of children on record, and full-time missionaries serving has appeared relatively unchanged or slightly less than 2015. The "double cohort" of full-time missionaries serving that resulted in the reduction in the minimum age for missionary service in late 2012 has appeared to have fully come to an end, resulting in no more artificial inflation in the number of members serving full-time missions. Thus, future changes in the number of missionaries serving will reflect the rate of members serving full-time missionaries.

Membership growth for the Church slowed to 1.59% in 2016 - the lowest annual percentage growth in membership since 1937. The net increase in church membership during 2016 was a mere 248,218 - the lowest annual net increase in church membership since 1983. The summation of convert baptisms and increase of children on record was 349,377 - the lowest since 2005.

Not all aspects of membership growth statistics reported in 2016 indicate negative developments. Fewer members appeared to have had their names removed from church records due to death, resignation, or excommunication during 2016. The difference between the summation of converts baptized and increase of children on record and net increase in church membership was 101,159 in 2016. Although this is the third highest number for this statistics, it is less than what it was for 2015 (110,090) or 2016 (122,903).

Friday, March 31, 2017

March 2017 Newsletter

Click here to access the March 2017 monthly newsletter for cumorah.com. Our monthly newsletters summarize significant LDS growth developments and announce new or updated resources on our website.

First LDS Stake in Roraima State, Brazil

I have confirmed from Brazilian members that the Church will organize the Boa Vista Brazil Stake in Roraima State on May 7th. Roraima State is the last Brazilian state without an LDS stake. Currently the Boa Vista Brazil District has five branches that operate within the city of Boa Vista.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

800+ LDS Congregations (Wards and Branches) to Close in Europe?

There have been recent rumors that there are approximately 800 congregations in Europe that are considered "too weak" to continue to function and that will need to close in the foreseeable future. The reliability of these numbers, let alone their sources, appears highly questionable. Although I do not have any official information to refute these rumors from reliable sources, I wanted to make some comments regarding LDS congregational growth trends and congregational decline.

First off, I find it hard to believe that there will be anywhere close to 800 units discontinued within Europe within the next two decades, let alone the next couple years as the rumor indicates. There are only 1,302 congregations (808 wards, 494 branches) within the Europe Area at present, and only 194 congregations in the Europe East Area. If this claim applies just to the Europe Area, which services Western Europe and Central Europe, it would mean that 61.4% of LDS congregations in the area would be discontinued (53% if the Europe East Area is also included). Aside from countries that used to have a more widespread LDS presence but no longer do due to political or military issues (e.g. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam), there has NEVER been as large of a percentage decline in congregations for any country of world region. Provided with the percentage decline in the number of wards and branches from their all-time highs in parentheses, the countries that have experienced the highest percentage declines include Belgium (41%), Panama (37%), and Chile (36%), However, even these countries have experienced these declines over a period usually a decade longer or more, not a mere couple years. Furthermore, all three of these countries, and most countries that have experienced similar significant trends in the decline in the number of congregations, eventually reach a point when consolidations slow until stagnation. Sometimes, trends can reverse or resume given a variety of changes in church policies, receptivity, and other issues.

It is likely that there is a plan to consolidate LDS congregations in Europe. In fact, this has been the trend in most European countries since the early 2000s. However, these unit consolidations are generally carefully considered in order to avoid longer distances to meetinghouses resulting in a reduction in the number of members who attend church services. Furthermore, it is common for unit creations and consolidations to vacillate over time based upon area policies, receptivity, goals for growth, and vision for mission outreach. Eastern Europe is the quintessential example of this phenomenon as the Church in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yerevan, and Sofia has undergone multiple iterations of congregations closing and later being re-created. Unfortunately, this process results in many members lost in the reshuffle due to problems with socialization, assimilation, and longer distances to meetinghouses that discourage some to stop attending. It has been quite the vicious cycle in some area, especially major cities in Russia, that I believe significantly delayed the creation of stakes in several cities for many years.

Recently we have published the number of active members in many wards and branches in Europe based upon thousands of surveys collected from returned missionaries and local members. This data is accessible on cumorah.com via the LDS International Atlas. The most complete data we have in Europe is for Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Like most areas outside of North America, wards in Europe are significantly smaller than in the United States and Canada. Most wards have between 50-150 active members, whereas most branches have between 10-50 active members. There has not been any significant change in the number of active members per congregation for most European countries during the past decade according to reports from returned missionaries and local members.

Lastly, I wanted to emphasize the seriousness of congregations closing and its impact on LDS growth trends. My experience over the years of collecting data and researching LDS growth trends indicates that congregation consolidations often do not result in noticeable improvements with member activity or convert retention rates. The idea sounds good on paper when congregations struggle, especially if it has been for many years, as congregations with more active members may provide greater opportunities for fellowshipping, socialization, and staffing leadership/callings. However, this strategy appears to address the symptom rather than the root issue of the problem for why congregations struggle to grow and maintain self-sufficiency. These challenges should prompt reflection on what needs to change with local members, leadership, and missionary tactics rather than structural and organizational changes that temporarily ward off these challenges. Even small congregations can become productive and serve as important outreach centers to the population they administer after years of stagnant growth or decline. For example, the Church in Indonesia has struggled for years to revamp growth after several decades of essentially extremely slow membership growth and congregational growth. Despite these challenges, the Church has maintained one branch each in Manado, Sulawesi and Medan, Sumatra since 1984 and 1994, respectively. It is quite remarkable that mission and area leadership did not close either of these branches as both have historically had only 20-30 active members, lacked sufficient local leadership to properly operate, and are isolated from the body of church membership and mission headquarters in Java. Despite these long-term challenges, the Church in both the Manado Branch and the Medan Branch has experienced steady growth within the past few years. Today both branches are fully staffed by native branch presidencies. Church attendance has also significantly improved in these units based upon recent reports. These improvements appeared attributed to changes in the way the mission has approached missionary efforts in these cities such as changing the meetinghouse location, the focus of proselytism, and the implementation of more effective teaching and finding tactics. Thus, diligence in maintaining struggling small branches, particularly ones in locations without a nearby LDS congregation, can have high pay-offs for long-term growth if missionary activity becomes more productive and cultural conditions become more favorable for growth. The reestablishment of branches in cities where branches once used to operate can become a much more challenging feat than continuing to maintain struggling congregations.

For more information on effective approaches to proselytism and missionary work, I suggest you listen to the 2014 Dialogue Podcast of a presentation given by me and David Stewart, particularly David Stewart's comments at the end of the presentation.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Second Stake in Sierra Leone Approved

Missionaries serving in the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission report that the Church will organize a new stake in Freetown within the near future. The new stake will become the Church's second stake in Sierra Leone. It is unclear whether the new stake in Freetown will be organized from a division of the Freetown Sierra Leone Stake, or the advancement of the Kissy Sierra Leone District into a stake. The first stake in Sierra Leone was organized in late 2012 and holds the official title as the 3,000th stake in the worldwide church.

The Church in Sierra Leone has experienced rapid growth since approximately 2011. Since year-end 2011, the number of congregations has increased from 24 to 59, the number of members has increased from 10,084 to 16,115, and the number of stakes and districts has increased from zero stakes and three districts to one stake and six districts. Missionaries report hopes that one or two of the three member districts in Bo will become stakes within the next year. Also, three new branches have been organized in Bo within the past few weeks and there are plans to organize additional branches in Kenema in the near future. Mission leadership has also begun to visit isolated groups of members and investigators that meet in locations without official congregations such as in Kailahun and Mogbewa. However, it is unclear when the Church will official organize branches in these locations.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that Sierra Leone has the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints of any country in continental Africa. At year-end 2015, LDS membership constituted 0.27% of the population of Sierra Leone. The country with the next highest percentage of members in the population is Ghana at 0.26%.

Author Request - Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions

David Stewart and I have been tasked as section editors for the upcoming Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. We are looking for qualified authors who have expertise in regards to Latter-day Saint, Seventh-Day Adventist, and/or Jehovah's Witness history, growth, and current issues within individual countries in Latin America. All entries will be attributed to authors although no remuneration would be provided. Please email me at Matt.Martinich@gmail.com if you are interested in helping with this project.

New Temple Prediction Map - March 2017 Edition

I have updated my temple prediction map in preparation for General Conference in April. For this edition, I removed Scotland from the list due to recent reports that the Preston England Temple has been poorly utilized by members within the temple district. Furthermore, there has been no noticeable improvements in LDS growth trends in northern England and Scotland for many years. Vienna, Austria was added to the list of locations that appear likely for a future temple announcement primarily due to the strong, developed core of LDS membership in Vienna and distance to the nearest temple in several nearby nations such as Hungary and Romania. My top 10 picks for the most likely temple announcements during next month's General Conference include:

  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil 
  • Brasília, Brazil
  • Davao, Philippines OR Cagayan del Oro, Philippines
  • Tarawa, Kiribati
  • Lagos, Nigeria OR Benin City, Nigeria
  • Managua, Nicaragua 
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Praia, Cape Verde
  • Rogers, Arkansas

Saturday, March 4, 2017

First LDS District in Rwanda

The Uganda Kampala Mission reports that the first LDS district in Rwanda will be organized on March 26th. Overseen by mission presidents, districts are administrative organizations that service two or more branches within a specific geographical area. The organization of a district signals progress in regards to increasing numbers of priesthood leadership, and improvements in local self-sufficiency for leadership and church administration. Furthermore, the creation of districts often proceeds the organization of additional branches or member groups within an area. Currently the Church reports three branches in Kigali, Rwanda - all of which appear likely to be included in the new Kigali Rwanda District. Currently there is no LDS presence in Rwanda outside of the capital city of Kigali.

The Church in Rwanda has reported strong growth within the past several years. Annual membership growth rates have exceeded 20% a year since the establishment of the first branch in 2008. There were a mere 17 members in Rwanda in 2008, whereas there were 344 members in Rwanda at year-end 2015. Additionally, full-time missionaries serving in Rwanda report that the number of convert baptisms has accelerated in Kigali within recent months. Although recent growth has been steady and strong, a lack of Kinyarwanda translations of LDS materials (including LDS scriptures), proselytism by full-time missionaries conducted only in English, and distance from mission headquarters in Kampala, Uganda pose challenges for more rapid growth and expansion. The creation of additional branches and member groups in Kigali also appears warranted in order to improve accessibility to LDS congregations and spur greater growth.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 2017 Newsletter

Click here to access our February 2017 newsletter for cumorah.com.

Monday, February 27, 2017

New Stakes Created in Idaho, Montana, and Nicaragua

Idaho
The Church organized a new stake in the Idaho Falls area on February 19th. The Ammon Idaho East Stake was organized from a division of the Ammon Idaho Foothills Stake and the Iona Idaho South Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Ammon 12th, Ammon 17th, Ammon 22nd, Ammon 29th, Ammon 32nd, Iona 4th, and Iona 8th Wards.

There are now 129 stakes in Idaho.

Montana
The Church organized a new stake in Montana for the first time in 20 years. The Frenchtown Montana Stake was organized on February 26th from a division of the Kalispell Montana Stake and Missoula Montana Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and three branches: the Frenchtown, Missoula 4th, Polson, Ronan, and St Ignatius Wards, and the Plains, Superior, and Thompson Falls Branches.

There are now 12 stakes in Montana.

Nicaragua
A new stake was organized in Nicaragua on January 22nd. The Matagalpa Nicaragua Stake was organized from the Matagalpa Nicaragua District. The new stake includes the following four ward and three branches: the Guanuca, Jinotega, Matagalpa, and Totolate Wards, and the La Dalia, San Ramon, and Yaguare Branches. It is likely that one or more additional branches have advanced into wards since the organization of the new stake. Nicaragua is currently the country with the most stakes and members without a temple announced, under construction, or in operation. A temple announcement for Managua, Nicaragua appears likely within the foreseeable future. However, the Church in neighboring Honduras did not have a temple announced until there were 20 stakes in the country. Thus, it may be many more years until a temple is announced for Nicaragua, especially given that the Church in Nicaragua exhibits some of the lowest member activity rates in the world

There are now 11 stakes and four districts in Nicaragua.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Corrections

There are a couple corrections I need to make based upon inaccurate information I have previously reported.

First, the Church has not realigned the Africa West Area boundaries. In fact, Chad has continued to pertain to the Africa West Area since its organization in 1998. Furthermore, Chad has been assigned to the Africa West Area Branch since the branch's creation in 2011.

Second, the new stake in Montana to be organized this month will be located in Missoula - not Billings.

I apologize for the misinformation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New Stakes Created in Nevada, Uganda, and Utah; District Created in the Philippines; District Discontinued in the Philippines

Nevada
The Church organized a new stake in Henderson, Nevada on January 22nd. The Henderson Nevada Anthem Hills Stake was organized from a division of the Henderson Nevada Anthem Stake (renamed the Henderson Nevada Carnegie Stake). The new stake includes the following six wards: the Amador, Anthem, Inspirada, Madeira Canyon, Seven Hills, and Summit Wards.

There are now 41 stakes in Nevada.

Uganda
The Church organized its third stake in Uganda on January 22nd. The Kampala Uganda South Stake was organized from a division of the Kampala Uganda Stake (renamed the Kampala Uganda North Stake). The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the Entebbe, Kabowa, Makindye, Nsambya , Kajjansi 1st, and Mengo Wards, and the Kajjansi 2nd Branch. The Church organized its first stake in Kampala in January 2010 and its first stake in Jinja in late 2015. The number of convert baptisms in the Uganda Kampala Mission has recently increased in comparison to previous months. The mission president noted that there were 200 converts baptized within the last two months of 2016. The Church in Uganda has historically struggled with poor convert retention and member activity rates. Currently the Church in Uganda has one of the highest members-to-unit ratios in Sub-Saharan Africa of 529 members per congregation. The organization of the new stake, the advancement of three branches into wards, and the creation of a new ward in the Kampala Uganda North Stake may signal some significant progress for the Church to achieve better growth in Uganda. Mission leadership has also reduced the number of missionaries assigned outside of Kampala and Jinja in an effort to establish stronger centers of strength in these two cities. There were 14,289 members and 27 congregations in Uganda as of year-end 2015.

There are now three stakes and zero districts in Uganda.

Utah
The Church organized a new stake in St George, Utah on January 29th. The St George Utah Washington Fields North Stake was organized from a division of the St George Utah Washington Fields Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Washington Fields 5th, Washington Fields 9th, Washington Fields 11th, Washington Fields 12th, Washington Fields 13th, Washington Fields 14th, and Washington Fields 15th Wards.

There are now 29 stakes in Washington County, Utah. There are now 584 stakes and one district in Utah.

Philippines 
A new district was created on Leyte. The Hinunangan Philippines District was organized from a division of the Sogod Philippines District. The new district includes two branches: the Hinunangan and St Bernard Branches. With so few branches in the new district, it appears likely that additional branches may be organized in the near future. The creation of the new district comes on the heals of significant boundary realignments with the Sogod Philippines District and the recently renamed Baybay Philippines District (formerly the Maasin Philippines District).

The Camiling Philippines West District was recently discontinued and consolidated with the Camiling Philippines East District (renamed Camiling Philippines District). All six branches in the former district were reassigned to the Camiling Philippines District. Prospects appear favorable for the district to become a stake in the near future. The Church once operated a stake in Camiling between 1991 and 2003. There are now 11 branches in the Camiling Philippines District.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 2017 Newsletter

Click here to access our monthly newsletter from cumorah.com detailing recent LDS growth developments.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Significant Developments in West Africa

There are a couple significant developments in West Africa in regards to the expansion of the Church in minimally reached or previously unreached areas.

Senegal
For the first time ever, the Church has assigned Senegal to a proselytizing mission. Senegal now pertains to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan West Mission. Currently there is only one branch in Senegal located in Dakar. Only one senior missionary couple serves in Dakar although there have been several convert baptisms in the city within the past nine months. The Church lacking legal status appears to be the primary obstacle that has prevented the assignment of young, proselytizing missionaries. Senegal is inhabited by 14.3 million people and is 95% Muslim, 4% Christian, and 1% followers of other religions. There are likely less than 40 members in Senegal at present. Other proselytizing Christian faiths operate in Senegal without interference from the government or Muslim majority.

New Branches to be Created
Senior missionaries serving in the Africa West Area report that the area presidency plans to organize the Church's first branches in two additional nations within the Africa West Area during the next month. The Church appears to operate member groups in three nations in the Africa West Area where no official branches operate. I have confirmed the operation of a member group in Mali and it is likely that the member group in Ouelessebougou, Mali may be one of the new branches organized in the near future. The other country that may have a branch organized is unclear, but likely candidates include Burkina Faso, the Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Updates to LDS International Atlas - Number of Active Members

Within recent months, we have begun updating the ward and branch maps on the LDS International Atlas for cumorah.com. More specifically, these updates include new data regarding the number of active members that attend church in individual congregations as reported by returned missionaries or local members. Within the past several years, we have gathered member activity data on approximately 5,000 to 6,000 wards and branches worldwide - most of which are located outside of the United States. Although we currently have data for 25% of congregations or less in most countries, this project has focused on increasing the awareness of member activity rates worldwide. The date of sacrament meeting attendance is also provided to active membership figures. Thus far, we have made updates to the wards and branch maps for the following countries:
  • Albania
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czechia
  • Denmark 
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France 
  • Guam
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kiribati
  • Kosovo
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania 
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia, Federated States of
  • Netherlands 
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Spain 
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
Access the atlas by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Branch in Vietnam

For the first time since the organization of the Vietnam Hanoi Mission in March 2016, the Church in Vietnam has created a new branch. The District 6 Branch was organized from a division of the Than Son Nhat Branch in Ho Chi Minh City. The new branch services the entire western half of Ho Chi Minh City - an area distant from the two LDS meetinghouses located in the northeastern area of the city. Overcrowding in the Than Son Nhat Branch and a need for a separate congregation that assembles in western Ho Chi Minh City prompted the organization of the new branch. Missionaries report that there are small groups of members who reside outside of the established church centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However, there remain no official LDS congregations outside of these two cities. Prospects appear favorable for the establishment of additional congregations within the near future, especially within Ho Chi Minh City and southern areas of Vietnam.

See below for a map of LDS branches Vietnam.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Response to Mormon Stories Podcast - An Analysis of 2016 LDS Church Membership Statistics

Mormon Stories aired a live podcast earlier today regarding a review of a case study I posted on cumorah.com at the end of December entitled Top 10 Encouraging and Discouraging LDS Growth and Missionary Developments in 2016. I listened to the podcast and I was initially excited for this discussion about church growth between John Dehlin, Ryan Cragun, and Rick Phillips. However, I was disappointed with the podcast as a whole given the negative focus of the podcast regarding the participants' views of the LDS Church. More specifically, the analysis and discussion was characterized with disparaging and condescending undertones of active church members and general church leadership. The podcast primarily discussed the participants' view of the Church as a corporation, increasing secularism around the world, problems with inactivity and convert attrition, a reduced birthrate among American Latter-day Saints, the possible influence of American politics on international LDS growth trends, and the assertion that the Church will one day experience stagnant growth and ultimate demise as a religion. This negativity should not come as too big of a surprise given that all three participants in the discussion are former members or critics of the Church, and that similar approaches and themes have emerged in other Mormon Stories podcasts.

I appreciate the interest and time given by participants regarding this topic and raising its awareness to their audience despite their negativity. The participants clearly emphasized problems with member activity, convert retention, quick-baptism tactics, and declining receptivity to the LDS Church due to secularism as significant contributors to current LDS growth trends. However, there were several additional areas that were not explored in the podcast that warrant discussion in order to provide a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of LDS growth. My purpose in this post is to highlight some important areas that were not discussed in the podcast that significantly affect current growth trends in the LDS Church.

First, the Church's long-term struggles with member-missionary participation constitutes its greatest challenge to sustain and accelerate its growth. Thousands of surveys and interviews that David Stewart and I have collected and conducted over nearly the past 20 years substantiate this claim. Even locations where populations exhibit little interest in the LDS gospel message can become productive if ordinary members are involved in member-missionary activity. It is clear that member involvement in proselytism and mentoring new members and investigators has been and continues to be a worldwide problem for the Church to achieve growth. The frequency of General Conference tasks that address this topic suggests widespread problems with member-missionary work. It appears that despite efforts from church leaders to improve member-missionary participation, most members are uncomfortable or unsure of how to engage in effective and appropriate proselytism with acquaintances, friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. Some of the problems with lackluster member-missionary participation appear attributed to LDS cultural views of proselytism. David Stewart noted in our presentation to the Miller Eccles Study group in April 2014 that missionary work in the LDS Church has been regarded as something that one goes out to do in a far away place for a specific period of time rather than a daily activity of vital spiritual importance such as scripture study or personal prayer. I would argue that many recent struggles in the Church to accelerate growth center on a lack of desire, interest, vision, and know-how of ordinary members to appreciate their role in missionary activity, and local church leaders' struggles to likewise train, educate, and mentor members within their stewardship regarding member-missionary tactics and strategies. As a result, many active Latter-day Saints appear to have increasingly limited social interaction with those who are not members of the Church, resulting in social entrenchment of LDS congregations that further challenge effective proselytism programs.

Second, the centers of strength policy has significantly affected LDS growth trends worldwide. The most rapid growth in the Church occurred in the 1970s and 1980s when vast areas opened to proselytism and many major cities around the world were more thoroughly saturated with full-time missionaries. Although receptivity was high to the Church during these decades, the strategic vision for expanding the Church appears to best account for this surge of growth. Starting in the 1990s, the Church began to purposefully restrict its operations to only a handful of cities in most newly entered countries in order to better establish centers of strength. The logic of this approach centers on the development of a self-sufficient core LDS membership within a less dispersed geographical area in order to one day help prepare for expansion of the Church into surrounding areas. Unfortunately, this approach has yielded mixed results as the Church is limited to only a few selected locations - some of which may experience lower receptivity to the LDS gospel message compared to unreached areas. As a result, some of these pre-selected center of strength never growth and mature into a center of strength. The implementation and conservative interpretation of this policy has appeared to reduce the growth of the Church in locations such as Tanzania, northern Brazil, Angola, India, Malawi, and Ukraine - to name a few - due to a more limited field of proselytism.

Third, nominalism in traditional religious faiths and strong ethnoreligious ties to a traditional religious faith is another significant challenge for growth. The Church has experienced some of its slowest growth in countries where the majority of the population exhibits strong ties to a traditional faith. Notable examples include Roman Catholicism in Poland, Greek Orthodoxy in Greece, Islam in the Middle East and North Africa, and Buddhism in Thailand. Ethnoreligious ties wax and wane given changes in culture, politics, and society. For example, resurgence of religious activity and identification, such as in Central Asia and the Caucasus, has appeared to diminish receptivity to the Church in these nations since the dissolution of the Soviet Union as Turkic peoples have explored and rekindled their Islamic roots.

Fourth, the Church has struggled to adapt its teaching methods to meet local cultural needs and individuals from diverse religious backgrounds. There are no specialized materials to teach individuals who affiliate as atheist, nonreligious, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, or followers of traditional Chinese religions to name a few. As individuals raised from Roman Catholic or Protestant backgrounds interact less frequently with members and full-time missionaries, there is an increased need and urgency to tailor proselytism approaches to the relevance and need of their intended audiences.

In conclusion, the purpose of this post was to identify significant areas that influence LDS growth trends that were not mentioned in the Mormon Stories podcast that aired earlier today. Although secularism, inactivity, declining birth rate, and convert retention have significantly affected recent LDS growth trends, low member-missionary participation, a conservative interpretation of the centers of strength policy, nominalism, strong ethnoreligious ties, and the lack of teaching approaches and resources tailored to those who do not come from a Roman Catholic or Protestant background constitute just as significant influences on LDS growth trends in the United States and worldwide. There were many positive developments in 2016 that suggest that the Church is making good strides in its growth - such as increases in the number of stakes, expansion and rapid growth in West Africa, improving LDS growth trends in Central America, and congregational growth in Canada and certain states in the United States. However, significant LDS growth problems persist - including in traditional strongholds such as the United States and Mexico. Furthermore, the expansion of the Church in many of the most populous nations remains at a frustratingly slow or stagnant pace - such as in India and Indonesia. Time will tell what 2017 and beyond will hold in regards to evolving LDS growth trends.

Mormon Stories Podcast - Reviewing 2016 LDS Growth Developments

Today at 12 PM Mountain Time Mormon Stories will be discussing 2016 LDS growth developments and reviewing my article regarding the ten most encouraging and ten most discouraging LDS growth developments in 2016. Sociologists Ryan Cragun and Rick Phillips will be participating in the podcast. Click here to view the podcast.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Stake in Nevada; Stake Discontinued in Guatemala

Nevada
The Church organized a new stake in the Las Vegas area on January 8th. The Las Vegas Nevada Blue Diamond Stake was organized from a division of the Las Vegas Nevada South Stake. The new stake includes the following eight wards: the Charleston Park, Coronado, Desert Hill, Homestead, Manse Springs, Painted Mountain, Sierra Vista, and Southern Hills Wards.

There are now 40 stakes in Nevada, including 25 stakes in the Las Vegas area.

Guatemala
The Church discontinued a stake in northern Guatemala City last Sunday. The Guatemala City Alameda Stake was discontinued and the four wards in the former stake were reassigned to the neighboring Guatemala City La Laguna Stake. This marks the second time in LDS history that the Church has discontinued a stake in Guatemala City. Growth has been steady in southern areas of the city, whereas stagnant growth has occurred in most areas in northern areas of the city.

The Church has discontinued stakes in Guatemala on three previous occasions, namely the Escuintla Guatemala (1994), Guatemala City Monte Maria (2008), and Mazatenango Guatemala East (2008) Stakes. However, the Church reestablished the Escuintla Guatemala Stake in 2013 and essentially reestablished the Guatemala City Monte Maria as the Guatemala City San Cristóbal in 2016. Furthermore, the Mazatenango Guatemala Stake has since rebounded to 11 wards and one branch and appears likely to divide in the near future. Time will tell whether the Guatemala City Alameda Stake will be reestablished one day, but at present prospects appear dim for the foreseeable future given its small geographical size and lack of growth in the area.

There are now 45 stakes and 16 districts in Guatemala.