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.

58 comments:

James Comish said...

I would suggest yet another area that impacts the numbers of new converts. I support your position on member missionary involvement, but in years past, missionaries tracking out prospects and converting them made the difference on convert numbers. Having worked with missionaries for years now in varied capacities, I've noticed a huge shift in their tactics (although not in compliance with "Preach My Gospel"). They have now come to expect member referrals seeing that their role is to teach and baptize only (the finding effort belongs to the members). I have a hard time getting the missionaries to even interact with the nonmember public, making contact with them, talking with people, developing rapport with them, serving them, etc. I spent 11 years as a Senior Army Officer in recruiting, and although referrals were by far our most efficient lead source, we could never abandon face to face prospecting because they constituted our largest source of recruits. The missionaries have essentially abandoned this tactic and what was once the Church's largest source of converts. I have actually seen greater amount of member-missionary efforts from the 1960's forward but not enough to compensate for the missionaries (not the church) abandoning their own finding tactics. Mission Presidents really need to emphasize that "finding" is a shared responsibility and they need to begin to train and track missionary finding efforts. In my small branch, had we relied on member referrals alone last year (typical with previous years), we would have only had two baptisms, but because our challenge to the missionaries to also find, through their face to face finding effort (coupled with our splitting and fellow-shipping support) five more people were baptized. Missionaries through business practice, have dropped their most productive source of converts.

John Pack Lambert said...

I will admit I could do a lot better at sharing the gospel. My girlfriend does good at it. One of her friends was baptized this last year.

At least in Belle Isle Branch in Detroit I have seen missionaries willing to contact people not just through tracting, but through talking to people on the street and other interactions.

On the other hand, there is a couple in Sterling Heights Ward who joined the Church from researching about it on the internet to start with.

David Todd said...

I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that missions don't emphasize finding anymore. I also disagree that missionaries going finding (such as in door knocking) is the most effective source of success in much of the US.

John Pack Lambert said...

I think the internet too often allows us to isolate ourselves to only interacting with people of a similar mind set.

There is much good that can be done through the internet in sharing the gospel, but I do not think we have fully utilized this resource yet.

On the other hand I think that at times we can over focus on numbers. Is it really worth baptizing at high rates if it is done in a way that sees lots of people going inactive?

Growth may now not be large in countries like India, but I have faith that the trajectory over time will get a lot better. The Church is being built on a solid foundation.

John Pack Lambert said...

Back in August I went to a fireside where one of the speakers was a recently baptized woman, about 30, who mentioned that although raised as a Christian, she had given up on belief in God for some years before her baptism. The Church can make headway with people who are not believing.

Jim Coles said...

James, you expressed exactly how I feel at times. Especially in the United States. There seems to be a reluctance at time to make these type of contacts.. I served in Brasil and quickly realized tracting was probably the least effective way to find people to teach. However there were many times the Spirit prompted me to stop and knock on doors (or in Brasil clap at doors.) I will say the time the times the Spirit prompted me these proved to be very effective. I know the Lord needed me to contact them. I remember being challenged by a return missionary and our Ward mission leader to push our comfort limits. This lead my companion and I to inviting people to church on a bus ride, contacting the first person we see coming off of a bus, singing hymns on a train with a handful of missionaries, and many many other ways. Even doing some of these things initially pushed my level of comfort, but I soon realized I could do anything with the Spirit of the Lord. It mad me bolder as a missionary. Now with all that being said, some of the most successful times I had were when we were doing these things and working with members. Helping reactivate members seemed to rejuvenate the active membership. They wanted to help us more. The Ward would feel more unified. I even remember a bishop allowing us to pass out slips of paper during sacrament and challenging members after delivering a talk in sacrament meeting to write down a name and address of a person they felt could use a visit from the missionaries whether it was a non-member, less active, or active member. I still see missionaries doing some of these things with making personal contacts, but it's not all. I get some are more timid or shy and may have a hard time doing things like this. But, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should be wanting to preach like the sound of trumpets. All members should have this joy, this excitement, but especially the missionaries. This is what they are called to do. There should be no timidness about them especially among those that have not heard the gospel. I read this blog to keep me inspired to share with people the Gospel. At times I know I can do more, but reading this blog helps remind me of the excitement of the gospel going forth to everyone.

James Comish said...

David, You are correct -- missionary finding is not the most effective source of success in the US today, because missionaries have in many places reduced those efforts, in some places almost entirely. I believe there needs to be a more balanced approach including all finding methods and lead sources as taught in the "Preach My Gospel" manual. Both members and missionaries share in the missionary effort, especially in the finding area.

John Pack Lambert said...

I think it is too easy to say that door knowcking is ineffective. I have known lots of people who came in contact with the Church that way and some of the people I baptized on my mission in Las Vegas, including the only one who was ordained to the Melchezidek Preisthood before I went home, were found that way.

We need to remember that the worth of souls in great in the sight of God. Some souls may only be findable by tracting.

Jim Coles said...

Completely agree with you, John. I just think some thought and trust in the Lord needs to be used when tracting. I may be opinionated on this only for the fact that I had a companion that put tracting on our schedule. There was not much thought put into this only to fill our schedule. I just remember knocking doors that day while people were walking past us in the street. Not a single person listened to us at te doors, so I turned around and started talking to the people walking down the street. My companion wasn't very happy about that, but it proved to be more productive. I just don't think it should be a default "nothing to do let's knock doors kind of mentality". We could have visited some members instead or said a pray to know where to go or what to do. I remember coming across some missionaries at a park recently. They contacted so many people that day. I think they even taught a short lesson in the park. I thought to myself, they are quite smart. They went to where the people were. I took my sone over to talk to them. He wanted to go with them so he could sit in on a lesson. I was quite proud of that moment.

David Todd said...

I returned only a year and a half ago from my mission. I spent probably an average of 3-4 hours a day knocking on doors and having door conversations and lessons. I knocked on every door at least once in most of the towns I served in. Of those that I taught that were baptised while I was serving in the area or shortly after, less than 1/3 were found through door knocking even though at least 3/4 of our investigators were found that way. I wouldnt change the emphasis that we put on these types of contacts to be more or less. They have great worth, but as missionaries are now learning, there are other ways which prove to be much more effective in areas such as the ones I served in. We couldn't rely on member referrals, as I got maybe 5 throughout my whole mission, but at least 15 people that were baptised, (about 50%) were found through visiting less active/ part member families, stopping by investigators and members homes at unscheduled times when they had visitors over. Members think that in order to give referrals, they need to prepare their friends and also do the scary part of inviting, but really they just need to be a bridge. If their friends see them interacting with the missionaries like normal people, they will be more likely to accept an invitation from them to meet, and they already have a built in fellowshipper.

itsumademoheiwa said...

John, I think you and those on Mormonstories are essentially stating the same thing. where it becomes more difficult is determining correlation vs. causation.

My determination is qualitative and admittedly somewhat speculative, but the way I see it is that most reasons for the decrease in active members, lackluster enthusiasm for missionary work and reduced growth rates of new members involve the fact that people, members and non members alike, have less of a belief in Mormonism overall. For members, their testimonies are weakening causing them to do less enthusiastic missionary work and perhaps become partially or totally inactive. Other members lose their testimony altogether as John Dehlin, and Ryan Craigun did.

On the other side it is more difficult to proselytize towards those non Mormons that have an internet connection and can google the Mormon church beliefs as soon as the missionaries leave to read why thousands of people do not believe in the LDS church.

James said...

Also just noticed that Matt has listed the creation of what was the 7th stake in Henderson Nevada as having happened just a couple of days ago. That is exciting! I am sure more details will be posted as they are known. I do wonder what this mass of stake creations might indicate in terms of the possibility of another temple for Nevada. At this point, nothing would surprise me. Awesome news! Thanks for sharing such amazing Church growth developments, Matt! Your efforts are appreciated!

James Comish said...

Agree, referrals and leads from investigators, new converts and less actives are clearly the best sources and the most efficient way of finding. By contrast, I just reviewed my stats from the mid 70s. We averaged 9 hours a day in doing productive missionary work that included 3 hours of face to face contacting in the morning, four hours in the afternoon and an average of 2 discussions taught in the evenings. Half my converts came through referrals (most from the sources above) and the other half came from our finding efforts that included cold knocks, and street contacting. We tracked through most of my areas multiple times. It may be beneficial for the church to compare and contrast finding techniques and tactics of the past with the current times.

John Pack Lambert said...

I do not for a second believe the claims that the number of active members is in decline orxthe enthusiasm and faithfulness of members is going down. I very much believe it is the opposite. I have seen too many people reactivated and too many people who coasted for years as marginal members become fully committed members of late to believe anything else.

I also do not for a second believe receptivity to the missionaries is doen. At least here in Metro-Detroit if anything our number of baptisms is on the rise. Beyond that I know a set of twins who are now 14 who have been active members for a full year. In the past I have seen too many people in similar situations go inactive that my only way to assess this is to say things are looking up.

Can wexand should we do better? Yes, but to claim faith is avout to die or the Church is on the verge of collapse is to deny the truth of what is happening.

John Pack Lambert said...

I do not for a second believe the claims that the number of active members is in decline orxthe enthusiasm and faithfulness of members is going down. I very much believe it is the opposite. I have seen too many people reactivated and too many people who coasted for years as marginal members become fully committed members of late to believe anything else.

I also do not for a second believe receptivity to the missionaries is doen. At least here in Metro-Detroit if anything our number of baptisms is on the rise. Beyond that I know a set of twins who are now 14 who have been active members for a full year. In the past I have seen too many people in similar situations go inactive that my only way to assess this is to say things are looking up.

Can wexand should we do better? Yes, but to claim faith is avout to die or the Church is on the verge of collapse is to deny the truth of what is happening.

John Pack Lambert said...

I would call the new stake the8th in Henderson. This is because I would count the Warm Springs stake as in the Henderson area more or less. This means thearea has gone from 4 stakes when I started my mission to 8 now. On the other hand over those 16 years no new stakes have been organized anywhere else that was in my mission.

Levi said...

So with the YSA Stake in the D.C. Area that crosses mission boundaries, we have precident other similar YSA Stake creations in the future. I was thinking Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas/Ft Worth, and Seattle Metro areas to be potential locations for more YSA Stake locations. What are your alls thoughts on this possibility.

John Pack Lambert said...

I would call the new stake the8th in Henderson. This is because I would count the Warm Springs stake as in the Henderson area more or less. This means thearea has gone from 4 stakes when I started my mission to 8 now. On the other hand over those 16 years no new stakes have been organized anywhere else that was in my mission.

John Pack Lambert said...

I can see Las Vegas definately. This would cross mission boundaries but make sense. I think Levi's other suggestions all have potential. I could see Boston although as I understand it the Cambridge Stake currently has YSA units entirely beyond its non-YSA boundaries. San Francisco area also has some potential for suxh a unit.

I would not be surprised if the next is New York. Yiu can get 5 wards with the 4 in New York and the one in the Yorktown New York stake. However I think drawing in the braches in Brooklyn, Queens and there is one further out on Long Osland would be good. I even think redrawing boundaries so YSAs in Manhattan and say the Bronx were paired up more would be good overall. There is a danger since you have very different socio-economic groups represented but I am confident of overall good being done.

James said...

Interesting, informative, and inspirational insights as always, John! Thanks!

Levi, as far as the creation of new YSA units, I have very little personal knowledge of what determines the need to form them. However, I do know we have seen an increase in the number of YSA units recently, and I anticipate fully that we will see many more such units created in the not-too-distant future. And the cities you mentioned above seem as likely to have such unit creations as anywhere else. Does that answer your question?

Adam said...

Sounded like John Dehlin was fine in the podcast, it was more the other two that were, as Tony Perkis would say, "negativity spreaders," and he just agreed and went along with it out of courtesy and assuming that they knew more than him on the subject.

I think we will continue to see the congregation to stake ratio shrink until it lines up with where Utah is. I remember thinking that Utah probably had the most wards per stake, but when you look at the numbers they actually have a lot less units per stake than most other places around the country. The United States is at about 9.1 units per stake, while Utah is at 8.7. I think it's safe to assume that how the brethren govern Utah is a model for how they want to govern the rest of the country. Many branches around the country have been getting upgraded to wards, so places like Arkansas don't have 8 wards and 7 branches in a stake anymore. As the wards have increased, the number of units in stakes will go down. Expect this to keep happening as the numbers balance out.

The best hidden number to me in the key indicators is the number of branches and districts being upgraded, because a branch to a ward doesn't increase the number of units, but still signifies strong growth. If we could get a yearly number there I think we'd see just how much stronger the church is getting on a local level.

RunnerGirl20 said...

I do think that a lack of member-missionary work is a significant problem in church growth; I can't think of a single instance in the last five years of a member of our ward bringing a friend to church. But I don't think that the weakness in this area has to do with members not knowing how to do it, or lacking vision. I don't think it's really a lack of desire per se either. I think it largely has to do with what Christian growth experts sometimes call "the cringe factor" concerning our services. 50 years ago, our services were much like those of other Christian churches -- there were pews, hymns, staid surroundings, etc. In the last 20 years or so, however, services at many Christian churches have widely diverged from ours. The services are in modern buildings, with modern music, and an interesting sermon. Top notch childcare. Friendly (volunteer) staff. Just an hour long, naturally. One megachurch in our city that I attend regularly with my sister (who's not a member) is truly impressive in how they run things. It's easy to discount these churches as just commercialized entertainment, but when you go regularly it's hard not to see all the things they're actually doing quite right. They get tons of people to come to church who would otherwise not go at all. And it's very easy for members to ask their friends to come. They love their church, and feel confident others will love it to. Those who are invited feel comfortable coming.

The gap between church experiences is making it even harder for LDS members to do missionary work. The church has never been an easy sell, but when non-members experience with church is more and more like the megachurch, inviting friends to 3 hours of our services in a carpet-walled building with turgid hymns is hard to do. It's embarrassing. My sister invites us to her church regularly (and we enjoy going!), but it's embarrassing for us to invite them to ours. The cringe factor is just too much. And they've said themselves they're not just interested in going to a 3 hour service.

On a different point, while the church is creating stakes, we should keep in mind that it's also been splitting larger wards into smaller wards, and also creating smaller stakes. So even in the growth we do see, not of all it is "real" growth but rather is numerical growth created out of existing numbers.

John Pack Lambert said...

If you have a "cringe" factor with the LDS Church you need to ask yourself if you believe it is lead by a prophet of God and is the unique location of God's priesthood. If the answer is yes, then why a cringe factor?

People in my ward regularly invite their friends to Church. Some come.

Also Catholics and many Protestants still worship in services that are not raucuos.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Phillipines have seen a new district this year. Beyond the several new wards in Henderson there is a new YSA branch in Huntsville Alabama. I am quite hopeful for YSA unit growth. Inviting YSAs to Church is often quite successful.

John Pack Lambert said...

I am hopeful for a change to more branches in some parts of the US. I think if done right they can push growth faster and outreach. Trying to model the rest of the US to Utah is not a good plan.

Come to think of it my ward quite regularly sees family members of members show up.

Christopher Nicholson said...

For me the "cringe factor" in a normal congregation would come from fast and testimony meeting. It's no secret that sometimes people get up and say stuff that's just whacked out. In our branch in New York, my father pointed out more than once that the number of investigators in attendance was directly proportional to the weirdness of the testimonies. That hasn't been an issue in my YSA wards, though. But still, every once in a while, someone in Sunday school or institute says some crackpot thing about how black people are cursed, or we'll all have to practice polygamy in the celestial kingdom, or maybe dinosaur bones are left over from pieces of another planet. It's not very often but I can never predict when it will happen and I would be mortified if a non-member were present when it did. Having said all that, I try to share the gospel anyway but I'm still held back by a more general timidity and fear of rejection.

I agree about Mormons becoming insular and not socializing much with non-members. There is so much untapped potential here in Logan, where people come from all over the world for school, but all those foreigners and the predominantly white American Mormon community of the same age group occupy almost entirely separate social circles with little overlap. It's hard for me to imagine this sort of thing being as much of an issue in most of the U.S. with fewer Mormons, though. In New York ~99% of the people around were non-Mormon so forming a bubble excluding them wasn't an option.

I pass missionaries in town all the time and they almost never attempt to talk to me. I guess it would be frustrating for a missionary in Utah to keep talking to people only to find out they're already members and don't have any referrals for you.

John Pack Lambert said...

I actually think the cringe factor of everything is over stated. Fast and Testimony meeting is the best meeting to invite people to, they are most likely to feel the spirit. I know on my mission there was a member in one ward who had had head trauma and we thought he would not be a good person to introduce investigators to. However we had one investigator who met him and liked him the best of anyone in the ward. She also got baptized, so I think our fear was unfounded.

John Pack Lambert said...

In Charlotte North Carolina a Spanish branch was just made a ward. I think this might be the first Spanish branch in North Carolina. The percentage of Spanish speaking units in the US that are wards has gone up a lot over the last 15 years.

On the other hand I know that back in the 1990s my stake had branches that would never meet the current priesthood requirements, 1 melcizedek priesthood holder in a branch in a stake no longer will cut it. So I hope that there are in parts of the US today Spanish=speaking groups that 20 years ago would have been branches.

John Pack Lambert said...

Here is an article about Al Fox Carroway giving a very positive devotional address. http://universe.byu.edu/2017/01/17/al-fox-carraway-tells-her-story-of-choosing-god-despite-loneliness/ I hope that Carroway's positive message can continue to lift souls. It is messages like hers that tell me the Church is neither in decline, nor as insular as some fear.

We can do a lot better at inviting others, and I am the first to admit guilt in this way.

Levi said...

I looked and the Boston Metro Area only has three YSA Wards and two YSA Branches. That's not much more than the Omaha or Oklahoma City Metro Areas have.

James said...

This continues to be a most interesting conversation to follow. It has been awesome. In the daily process I have been able to follow, I have added a review of changes made in Church units to my multiple daily checks of the Church websites I enjoy so much. It has been awesome to see what is happening there. It is a sobering thought to realize just how very many Church growth developments have occurred thus far this year already, and we are only 17 days into 2017. With one temple groundbreaking already announced, even though it has not been formally confirmed yet, and two or more that may also be announced and scheduled before too much longer. I look forward to what is promising to be an amazing year in terms of all types of temple-related developments. It will also be very interesting to me to see what the Rio temple design looks like and to learn how long construction is anticipated to take. Right now, every one of the temples currently under construction may very well all be finished by the spring of 2019. This opens up the likelihood of other temples being announced and for a high number to have a groundbreaking by that time. I honestly don't think we will ever see a day when no temples are currently under construction.

On another note related to temples, I asked about this in another comment but didn't hear very much on my question. I am wondering if any other temples currently in operation might soon be closed for renovation? With all going well, and assuming that no other temples are set to be renovated by then, we might only have temples under construction and announced. I find that hard to believe in some ways. It seems the Church announces at least one per year that will be renovated. I just don't have any idea if there is any way that the likelihood of future scheduled renovations can be projected or predicted with any degree of certainty.

On the other hand, predicting what new temple sites might soon be announced or when temple-related events might be announced and subsequently scheduled just involves doing the research and making the best educated guesses possible.

The ongoing temple-related developments have kept me busy doing new blog posts regularly. If any of you might have any interest in what those posts have involved, I invite you to visit my blog at the address below. Thanks.

And yes, I know, I introduced in this comment a topic that has not been under discussion for a while, but the mention of YSA wards reminded me of when I joined my stake's YSA ward and subsequently started dating my wife, who I had first met in the temple. That's just the way my mind is working lately. But I would always welcome any insight into everyone's thoughts about this comment of mine. Thanks.

http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com

Gnesileah said...

North Carolina currently has 6 Spanish-speaking branches and now 2 Spanish-speaking wards. Since 2009, five Spanish-speaking branches in North Carolina have been discontinued, whereas one has been created.

Currently, the United States has 383 Spanish-speaking wards and 387 Spanish-speaking branches, for a total of 770 units.

As of 12/31/2009, there were 727 Spanish-speaking units in the United States.

In 2010, 31 were created; 13 were discontinued.
In 2011, 22 were created; 18 were discontinued.
In 2012, 25 were created; 24 were discontinued.
In 2013, 0 were created; 0 were discontinued.
In 2014, 49 were created; 31 were discontinued.
In 2015, 23 were created; 13 were discontinued.
In 2016, 11 were created; 25 were discontinued.

(Before 2014, I used to manually search out unit changes, so the above data could be skewed. For example, apparently I didn't do much in 2013, but caught up in 2014.)

About 5.4% of all congregations in the United States are Spanish-speaking (not counting groups or magnet wards for Spanish speakers), whereas about 12.8% of the U.S. population are native Spanish speakers.

Gnesileah said...

There has been talk that the Mesa Arizona Temple may be closed for remodeling within the next few years, now that the Gilbert and Phoenix Temples have been up and running. Mesa was originally dedicated in 1927, and was rededicated in 1975.

Any number of temples could be up for remodeling (significant enough to require a rededication afterwards). We are now seeing temples dedicated within the last 30 years that have undergone one, or even two, rededications.

Some of the older ones that haven't already been rededicated, like Hamilton New Zealand (1958) and Oakland California (1964), could be candidates.

Gnesileah said...

In 2013/14, 473 known branches were upgraded to wards; 46 wards were downgraded to branches.
In 2015, 248 upgraded / 25 downgraded
In 2016, 278 upgraded / 35 downgraded

John Pack Lambert said...

Large numbers of native Spanish speakers attend English-language Church units. This was quite common in Las Vegas where there were Spanish-speaking units. Here in Metro-Detroit there is a bilingual ward, the Detroit River Branch which as far as I know is just geographical. In Lansing Michigan the Spanish-speakers are in multiple wards. I know in some areas those who are proficient in English are strongly encouraged to go to English-speaking units.

I know in at least the Bronx a high percentage of members in the English-speaking units are Hispanic. The percentage who have Spanish as their first language is probably lower but still significant.

My stake has no Spanish-speaking units but probably has a higher percentage of members who are native Spanish speakers than in the population overall.

James said...

Gnesileah, those are some interesting statistics. How intriguing! Thanks so much for sharing that. Loved reading what you said on those numbers. That's awesome! And I love what you said about the idea of potential renovations for the temples in Mesa, Hamilton, and Oakland. While I have no small knowledge of what a temple status indicates about the potential time period in which it might be completed, and while I have been able to predict with greater accuracy many recent temple sites, and while my blog has become more centered on past, present, and future temple-related developments (to the point where I have been told that my blog has recently become one of the top Google search results for such developments), I have no idea when future temples might be renovated. I was one of the ones who was most greatly surprised by the Church's announced intention to redesign and completely overhaul the Ogden Utah temple, and each time a temple renovation is scheduled, it amazes me. As a former temple worker at the Mout Timpanogos Utah temple, I can attest to the minor changes that are made to temples during their biannual closures that, while not sufficient to warrant a renovation and rededication, still change the look and feel of a temple. I feel certain that we may soon see renovations for several temples, and not just Mesa, Hamilton, and Oakland.

The one question in my mind that has been discussed in the past but not to my satisfaction is whether or not the Provo Utah temple will be renovated and overhauled in the same way that Ogden was. But it is interesting to consider that, barring an announcement of another renovation, we could have no operating temples undergoing renovation by early next year. I think we will see more renovations announced this year, but there's really no solid way to know for sure.

And thanks for the tidbit about wards being downgraded to branches and branches being upgraded to wards. I am glad someone is keeping track of all that. I have, in preparation for April General Conference, assembled a list of what I believe the year-end Church statistics for 2016 were. Two of my favorite things about April General Conference are the annual statistical report and hearing the assertion of the Managing Director of the Church Auditing Department that the Church is still in sound fiancial condition.

I am excited for April General Conference for many reasons. We may see a new Relief Society General Presidency, new General Authority and Area Seventies, and perhaps even a few new temples. I do know that even though Area Seventies do not serve for any set length, we have many that have been in for a while. And while it is next to impossible to figure out how many Area Seventies will be released and sustained, I do know of several that were among those called to be mission presidents, which will make their releases necessary.

In terms of native Spanish speakers attending English-speaking units, we had a prime example like that in my parent's ward growing up. The man's English was sufficient that he could make comments in Sunday School and Priesthood if he wanted to, but when asked to pray during Church meetings, he had approval to do those prayers in Spanish. And it was neat to hear someone pray in a language that was not my own, to realize I understood some of what he was saying, and to feel in my heart that he was praying from his when I didn't understand the words. It was awesome. I will never forget it.

Levi said...

Seeing as we are talking about Spanish units, does anyone know why there were so many Spanish branches discontinued in central/northern Arizona in the last two years. The ones in Flagstaff, Prescott, and Cottonwood were all discontinued. There may have been one in Snowflake too that was discontinued also. Now the only one north of Metro Phoenix but still in Arizona is in Payson. Is there a church policy to discontinue Spanish branches in the United States in favor of Spanish groups within wards in some areas?

Eduardo Clinch said...

In my experience attending a Spanish Branch in California for two years, the younger generations integrate into English pretty effectively, and therefore the numbers are harder to support without more new immigrants and converts.

John Pack Lambert said...

Policies on how to treat the Spanish-speaking population in the Church have gone through various cycles, with different levels of localized integration tried in various locations.

There are lots of ways to do this. One is fully seperate wards/branches. Even these beg the question of how big they should be. Do you cover all of a stake, part of a stake, multiple stakes, etc.

A second is seperate wards/branches that hold some programs jointly with English language units, often Primary and youth programs. This was the relationship of the two Stamford Connecticut units when I visited. The draw back is that this often excludes only Spanish-speaking adults from youth leadership positions, unless high levels of really attempting to integrate the system are engaged in. In theory it might also exclude those adults who know only English from youth leadership positions. It will probably work best if you have a number of people who are both Anglo and Hispanic or at least large numbers of people who are bilingual.

A third method is what is done in the Detroit River Branch and what was done in any Spanish-related units in West Las Vegas when I started my mission. This is having bilingual sacrament meeting. You can either do this with instantaneous translation, which is hard to pull off, and will generally present one group as the main language, or with in sync translation. This is what you need if the group is about balanced, or to avoid anyone feeling special. Someone gives a paragraph of a talk, than the translation in the other language is given, either by the speaker or a translator, probably normally the later but one person could speak both languages. The draw-back to this method is that only half as much is said, and many people do not understand what is said half the time. Of course volume of speech is not always a plus, so maybe allowing/forcing people to make shorter, more concise talks leads to better talks.

Each system has pluses and minuses which is why all three have existed.

John Pack Lambert said...

plan 2 can also be done where instead of seperate English and Spanish wards/branches, you have an English language ward (or branch) with a Spanish-language group under it. You can have two seperate (or in theory more) by language sacrament meetings within the same ward/branch. I believe I once read of a case of a ward in New Mexico where they had seperate Spanish Sunday School, but relief society and priesthood united both English and Spanish speakers.

John Pack Lambert said...

While the changes in Northern Arizona may be due to decisions to move the Spanish-language units from branches to groups, possibly while making more of them so that either A-people have to travel less or B-there is some level of total unity of members in an area without regard to language, there may be other causes.

I have read some reports that suggest that recently there has been a net migration from the US to Mexico, so the number of Spanish-speakers may be declining in those areas. Spanish branches often are built around one key family, so if they move away the branch can no longer function.

John Pack Lambert said...

It is also possible that a rising generation that functions well in English and the death of the older generation that does not has lead to these changes.

Eduardo Clinch said...

In Seaside California we would have translators sit in the back of the congregation and translate into Spanish during sacrament. Then Sunday school and priesthood would separate for Spanish only, except for the 15 or so minutes of combined priesthood. Interesting note, there was a Tongan branch at that building, and a new church building was being planned up the coast in Marina, CA. I should check how those units are now.
A Spanish group in Leesburg VA is trying to move along, but it appears they lack robust priesthood. The Spanish ward in the nearby Oakton Stake seems to be doing okay but not sure of the numbers. It is located in Reston, and there are large numbers of Latinos in nearby Herndon and Reston.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Meant to say large numbers of Spanish speakers in Sterling. Reston, of the 3, probably has the lowest percentage of Hispanics.

Amy F said...

I just love reading all these varying views, opinions and perspectives!! It is human nature to think that the way we see/experience/perceive things is the way it is - and this feed is evidence that those perceptions vary widely. Believe what you want to believe - pick and choose the statistics you like to back up your belief system...and then, respect when others do the same and come to different conclusions, without belittling them. I enjoyed the Mormon Stories broadcast and also enjoyed this additional information. Thank you!

L. Chris Jones said...

My last ward was similar. We had a deaf group. We had interpreters in sacrament meeting. They held their own Priesthood, relief society, and Sunday school. They did join the combined meetings on then fifth Sunday.

Eduardo Clinch said...

So is John Dehlin belittling the LDS Church at almost every opportunity? Okay.
Do people who enjoy other services and claim LDS hymns and LDS practices are too boring or lack Godly or whatever entertainment qualities belittle a few millions of practioners today? Fine.
I hope my thoughts

Eduardo Clinch said...

are not belittling, but rather respectfully express my point of view. Dehlin is pushing for pseudo reform. So be it. As you say, to each his/her own.

James said...

Interesting comments as always regarding the diversity of the Church and the diversity of opinions expressed in response to things posted by Matt. I often think of the fact that the tone of this blog is so very different from the tone adopted by Wikipedia on Church-related matters. I have edited Wikipedia for ten years now, and the differing views there are profound. It is interesting to contrast my Wikipedia experience with this blog. Here comments and diverse opinions are expressed and (hopefully) respected. On Wikipedia, the dialogue is also respectful for the most part, but there is a huge difference. While we freely express on this blog our opinions on the "truth" behind any Church-related developments, on Wikipedia, the focus is not so much on what is true but what is verifiable. There are many things that have been widely accepted by the Wikipedia community in relation to the origins of the Church, the progress of the work, and the lives of its leaders, that, while not strictly true, are nonetheless accepted as truth by virtue of the fact that "reliable" sources have verified that information. In approaching my response to this unique situation, I have adopted an attitude that I share here in the hopes that it can be helpful in the continuing discussions and diverse expressions of opinion. It is the notion that we can disagree without become disagreeable. Differences of opinion are a natural fact of life. What is unnatural is when we belittle, degrade, or deride someone whose opinions may differ widely from our own. When disagreements or misunderstandings happen, as they will, I hope we can remember to be civil to everyone and respect their right to freely express their opinion, even if we may not agree with them in those expressions. For what it's worth, those are my thoughts. I happen to believe that John Dehlin is a very misguided individual whose motivations are selfish and all in view of the cause of discomforting the Church and its practices and discrediting the leaders thereof. As I have before observed, he seems to be one of many apostates who are notoriously known for leaving the Church without being able to leave it alone. Some see him as a renowned Mormon scholar. I accept their right to feel that way, even though I couldn't disagree more. In return, I ask that my opinion, whether it is shared or not, be respected in like manner. Thank you.

John Pack Lambert said...

Would the Aaronic priesthood seperate by language or just Melchezidek? Did the English and Spanish groups have seperate meetings for high priests and elders? With Sunday School did they hold both gospel doctrine and gospel principles in both languages. Did youth from Spanish-speaking families go to English youth Sunday School. If a 13-year old who didnt know English showed up would they send him to touth Sunday School in English and try to translate or would they send him to a Spanish-language class with adults? Was young women all combined without regar ro language?

John Pack Lambert said...

Althogh keep in mind Hospanics percentage and Spanish-speakers percentage are not the same. New Mexico has a high percentage of Gispanics but many know little or no Spanish. In my girlfriends branch there is a Brother Aguilar who is from Arizona and knows no Spanish. Only his Dad was of Mexican descent. I was in one area on my mission with at least two coupkes where the husband came from families that had been in the US sine where they were born was annexed. The one from Texas would say ohrases in Spanish but was fully functional in English. The one from New Mexico, Brother Sedillo, knew no Spanish.

My supervisor for my job with Detroit Schools is a quarter Cuban but knows no Spanish. Come to think of it in that ward I was just mentioning there was another couple where the wife was either fulky or half Cuban. I went on splits with their 16-year-old son and am pretty sure he knew no Spanish.

John Pack Lambert said...

Having served in that area is one reason why I do share the fear of some that Hispanis are not integrating to our culture. Other things that cause me not to fear are things like how tje first person whose conception was a major television event was Desi Arnaz Jr whose mom was as Anglo as they come. Or the fact that I had a friend named Nicole Wojikowski whose mother was ethnically Mexican. Both my scoutmasters were Anglo men with Latina wives.

John Pack Lambert said...

When I was on my mission there is was a Spanish-speaking group in Henderson that has since been progressed to a branch. At one point there was a Spanish speaking group in Northville Ward in the Westland Michigan Stake that consisted of one couple and their children and children in law.

In the neighboring Walled Lake Ward in my stake a year and a half ago the bishop was considering starting a Spanish-speaking group. They had just baptized a man of about 20 whose parents and maybe some of his sibblings were not at all fluent in English.

John Pack Lambert said...

I also have to say the Wikipedia articles on Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith and Ezra Taft Benson give undue weight to controversial matters.

The Wikipedia aeticle on Gordon B. Hinckley gives undue weight to the Mark Hofmann case while neglecting the much more important issue of the crestion of Areas.

James Anderson said...

I just found some stuff on how popular podcasts are, and podcasts critical of the Church are more popular than many major podcasts on religion.

I looked at the charts on stitcher.com, a site that has been around for years that aggregates them and allows you to string them up so they run like radio, and so far, none of the faithful Church podcasts, including feeds set up by Mormon Channel, or others set up by the Church, have ever shown up.

A podcast called the Naked Mormonism podcast shows at #19, then comes Mormon Stories at #59 (I have seen it in the 40s before), then a Bookof Mormon podcast at #90, and that one is likely bad although there was no description on the chart page.

The top religion podcast was about atheism, the #3 and #12 podcasts were also atheist.

John Pack Lambert said...

We need to do more to promote and use postive to LDS media.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Well said. I guess belittling someone's opinions, beliefs, and personal experiences is difficult to separate from attacking or belittling the person that espouses said thoughts, "facts", and feelings.
I feel like Dehlin is pompous, rebellious, and wrong, but I attribute that more to what he espouses more than his actual person and character, but I readily admit that I, for one, find it difficult to figure out where his opinions stop and his character begins.
I think they are reflective of each other. And I don't like either. Respectfully.
If I am wrong for such judgments than I apologize for being incorrect. We all decide how we believe.
Wrong or right, it all boils down to what we choose.
I choose the Lord's faith. The way the Brethren administer it.

Eduardo Clinch said...

John, I just noticed all your questions about the Spanish group in the Seaside 1st Ward, I presume. So all Spanish priesthood holders would assemble on the side of the stage for opening exercises before our respective classes. I am not sure what the youth who spoke Spanish would do third hour, boys or girls. In my experience in the Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Highland with Spanish-speaking Saints, youth generally knew English pretty well and they had adapted enough to US culture to be comfortable in English, but in these Spanish branches they would often have adult leaders that were more comfortable in Spanish, as they were used to speaking to their children that way in their homes.
When I was on the central coast near Monterey I was trying to learn Arabic as much as possible, and pehaps avoided too much Spanish involvement but still got tasked sometimes to translate for sacrament.
One good experience we had with a Latino family there was that an Anglo military family gave us their used car when they were sent to their NY duty station, and when my family left a year or so later we gave it to a humble, hard working laborer in that ward.
I checked for new ward buildings in Marina but no dice. There is a building further north in Watsonville, which from what I recall seemed to be a highly Hispanic community moving up the bay.