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.


James said...

Thank you for this excellent report, Matt! That growth is one of the many reasons why I have felt we might soon have a temple in Lagos, Nigeria. I also feel that we might also have another temple announced in Ghana as well, and perhaps one for Sierra Leone as well. One thing is clear to me: The fact that we have had a new African temple announced every April General Conference for the last three years is a clear indicator of the fact that people in Africa are very receptive to the gospel. As one who has a mother who is a native of South Africa, I have continually been intrigued and gratified to see how much the Lord is rewarding the faithfulness of the wonderful Saints in Africa. I am looking very much forward to all future developments that will happen there. Thanks again.

Tony Teehan said...

But it is not just the LDS church that is growing !The Seventh. Day Adventist church is experiencing much faster growth as is the Assembly of God and Jehovah's witnesses! The reason is very poor underdeveloped countries are more open to religion all religions,so it would be very strange if the LDS church wasn't growing fast in these countries! But it isn't a unique experience!

Tom said...

West Africa is the only major hub of LDS growth left in the world. With every other region slowing down and the western world now largely frozen owing to secularisation, this is definitely only "real growth" area left.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I think there are still places where explosive growth can happen, like southern Africa, for example. Angola and Mozambique may yet see an uptick, among others.
The south Pacific still has area for explosive growth, and parts of East Asia as well as south Asia could evidence some dynamic growth.
A developed world poses problems of secularization, yes, but the LDS Church continues to steadily advance. New countries in eastern Europe are another area for perhaps not robust missionary work, but at least fertile new soils.
The Kingdom will grow whether we are a part or not. So, don't waste your time dreaming of futility; track the growth and keep the faith.
But I could be wrong.

Michael Worley said...

I think that also growth in Africa will help leaven growth around the world...

Christopher Nicholson said...

The phrase "real growth" refers to converts being retained and staying active, not to how many of them there are. So West Africa most certainly is not the only "real growth" area left, though it is by far the best.

Having said that, I think rather than be satisfied with mediocre growth elsewhere and just shrugging it off as inevitable, we should be doing everything in our power to fix it. I'm sure we can do better than we are currently doing. We may need to change our methods to reach different audiences or the same ones differently. The Lord will give us miracles if we work for them.

Switching to East Africa, has anyone seen the news about Amram Musungu running for president of Kenya? He's a native but has lived in Utah for several years, helped translate the Book of Mormon into Swahili and practically created Salt Lake City's Swahili branch.

Christopher said...

The growth of other denominations besides LDS in Western Africa is a wonderful thing. Other Christian churches do a great job of increasing faith in Jesus Christ and often prepare people to receive the fullness of the gospel later on. There is no jealousy here, and the growth of another church doesn't make ours less important. Often we work together with other faiths in building the kingdom of God. And when the time comes when someone has a question their church can't answer, our missionaries will be there. The kingdom moves forward and is far more dynamic than we think.

Adam said...

Africa is the place to be. The best part is that Africa is experiencing real growth from the onset and it is being done right, unlike the booms in the 70's/80's in Chile, the Philippines, etc where it has taken decades to righten the ship. This graph on this site shows why Africa will continue to be the place to be, and is really the future for any global denomination.

I also think that might be God's eternal outlook for putting up with the priesthood ban, but that's a discussion for another time.

Adam said...

^^^ meant to post this link, me culpa.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Africa South-east Area has not yet reached the level of the Church saturating down to small communities as it has in parts of West Africa. Of course this is because in South-east Nigeria the Church is in dinky villages because these people plead for the Church to come over and over from 1960-1978. Evidently in the DR Congo and maybe other countries there are those pleasing with the Church to come to dinky villages but it is not happening yet. Although the Church has with the creation of the mission on the Kasai region of the DR Congo shown a willingness to press forward.

On the other hand paets of Brazil and maybe some other areas are still seeing significant Church growth.

Real net growth over the last 20 years is hard to track based on congregations. The Church has decided to seek in general congregations with more active members and the threshold for being a branch especially in a stake has increased. While in the 1960s or so the Church would make a branch pretty much once baptisms had occured in an area even if this meant full time missuonary branch presidents the current policy seems to be to have groups until a local brother can be made a branch president. This means early growth in areas is often harder to track.

Beyond this requirements for attendance at Church before baptism have been increased. This has lead to fewer baptisms but it is hopefully also leading to fewer people being baptized and then not showing up regularly after that.

John Pack Lambert said...

One thing I noticed in information on Amram Musungu is that he began serving as a missionary at age 17. While this is not unprecedented, Hugh Nibley was 17 when he started his mission, I did not have a clue such ever happened after 1980.

Musungu was born in either 1977 or 1978, so within a year of the revelation on the priesthood. The Church did not have any prsence in Kenya though until about 1986.

John Pack Lambert said...

Information on Musungu is conflicting. This Mormon entry says he was born in August 1978, which would make him 38, which conflicts with say this Daily Mail article saying he is 39.

John Pack Lambert said...

Whatever else I can say about Musungu he is clearly a good member missionary. Here is a Genesis Group Newsletter that mentions during the later half of 2007 he had a significant role in the conversion of 35 African refugees. I have to admit part of me goes "urga schnerga, why can't they mention the countries" but I will take what I can get.

Bryan Baird said...

I think sometime this year Ghana will reach 300 congregations and by 2026 Nigeria will reach at least 1,000 (if they average 100 every 2 years). Also Bo Sierra Leone district will upgrade to a stake.

John Pack Lambert said...

There are actually 3 districts in Bo. I am rooting for all 3 making it to stake status this year, but I might be being a little to enthusiastic.

Eduardo Clinch said...

When looking at growth linguistically it is fantastic to see the French speakers of Cote de Ivoire and the Congos growing well. This could potentially have an effect on other French speaking places in a positive way. I was thinking particularly of some Caribbean Islands as well some in the south Pacific. Guadaloupe and Martinique both have large populations that I believe should support stakes, so perhaps some fluent French speakers from Africa could help, as well as Haiti.
The Portuguese countries of Africa are finally coming along, but Guinea-Bissau is a conspicuous missing part. Sao Tome e Principe, not sure.
It reminds me that I so wish we could publish nationalities of which missionaries go where.
My ward currently has elders in France and Finland, with a sister in the US Spanish speaking.
We should have more but in my opinion a few young men are shirking it.
You can't have everything.
Do we only get yearly reports of full time missionaries or is there some other metric?

L. Chris Jones said...

Some people count their age as rounding up

Christopher Nicholson said...

For some reason I've been thinking of myself as 24 for a couple months now even though I won't be until late June :D

Also, I don't know how common knowledge this is, but multiple church leaders including Elder Glenn L. Pace and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland have mentioned that the Church is very deliberately limiting its growth in West Africa to keep it from growing out of control and becoming unmanageable. We could be baptizing thousands more converts than we currently are but we wouldn't be able to develop leadership or ensure doctrinal purity at the same rate. (And frankly, ensuring doctrinal purity in Africa has been a huge challenge, as converts bring all kinds of deep-rooted but incorrect traditions into the gospel that take a lot of time to deal with, another thing mentioned by Elder Pace and others.)

John Pack Lambert said...

I think we need to avoid assuming ensuring doctrinal purity is a one way street. Members in the DR Congo often but American mel ers to shame with their fervent beliefs on the power of priesthood blessings.

I do think one of the ways to ensure doctrinal purity is to have the scriptures and other Church materials in the language of the people including general conference talks. The whole triple combination is available in Shona (one of the main languahes of Zimbabwe) and I know General Conference is tranlated to Swahili. Part of me thinks it would do the Church in Zimbabwe good if Elder Sube wrote and published a doctrinal book in Shona. He spent his career building up seminaries and institutes in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Another key to the gospel really getting into the hearts and minds of the people is having people well versed to teach it in wards and having served missions is one way to reach this point. I know Zimbabwe has seen a lot of missiinaries serve and the missionary force in Ivory Coast is mainly Ivorians.

Suing a combination of senior missionaries and young missionaries at least broadly from the cultural area has differed Church growth in Africa outside of South Africa from Latin America.

When my Dad served in Brazil in the early 1970s there were no Brazilian missionaries in his mission. When the freeze happened in Ghana in 1989 about the only person who had to leave the country was the missiin president who was an American. The Ghanaian missionaries stopped serving as missionaries 3rd ept Elder and Sister Johnson a Ghanaian senior couple but there were not deportations. Today there are American missionaries in at least Ghana and Sierra Leone but they are only a small part of the missionary force there.

David Todd said...

There are Americans in the Benin/Togo mission too.

coachodeeps said...

One of the missionaries serving from my home ward is serving in Ghana. He is having a great, highly successful mission, but says the food and the heat/humidity are the biggest challenges. He served for a short time before his mission in the military, so he knew somewhat of difficult challenges.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Illness can be a big part of how missionaries serve in West Africa. The Johnsons were a tremendous couple from my home Indiana ward that served in Ghana, after a mission in Denmark and after Africa, China. Sister Greta, (native convert of Denmark), suffered greatly with malaria, I think, but stuck it out and finished her assignment with Hollis. Amazing folks.

My nephew from California was sick much of his mission in Sierra Leone, but managed to wear it well and really enjoyed his time there. Despite all the fevers, headaches, sick days and companions suffering... Part of life, it seems.

I got sick with a mystery illness my first winter in Chile, knocked me out for a month. Years later I got the same symptoms, practically, and it was diagnosed as Epstein Barr virus. I feel fortunate that I was able to return to my mission areas twice and it helped me feel like I did a bit of follow up with some of the members and friends down there. Many Chileans feel like we go down there as North Americans, baptize them and forget them.
Part of my purpose in writing and discussing them is to prove that notion is wrong.

I'll never forget them. Even though some surnames get hazy... Sorry, Jovita!

John Pack Lambert said...

Today I met a woman at my ward from the Central African Republic. I had never met anyone from CAR before as far as I can remember.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Today at work I was discussing east Africa and some problems there. Now that French and more recently Portuguese are becoming bigger languages across the continent, perhaps less Church resources will be spent on those targets as far as having non-natives learn those languages and more can be freed up to learn Asmara and languages that are more non Western. It is a struggle to learn smaller yet significant languages, and make successful missions and branches to grow there.
CAR speaks primarily French, I think, but the native tongues are key to reach thousands of homes, like missionaries in Guatemala who learn Quechi or the other native languages spken there.

John Pack Lambert said...

My understanding is the Church was close to moving forward in CAR when the civil war broke out.

Amheric is spoken by tens of millions of people. Although Ethiopia is heavily Christian the power of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is such that other Christian groups are less than welcomed.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yes, Amheric. Asmara is the capital of Eritrea, which was fortunate to break away from Ethiopia back in the 1990s.
Back to general global languages, super languages continue to take over while smaller languages somewhat get marginalized. Yet, these "mid-major" languages like Amharic, Bahasa, Vietnamese, Bengali, are indeed key languages to target for the future of LDS Church growth. I suppose any language group with more than 5 million speakers should be considered a prime goal to develop talent in. There are dozens of such languages in Africa and Asia, but many are not yet accessed by our missionaries for political, religious, and cultural reasons.
All in its due course. It is exciting to see ground being broken year after year.
Eastern Europe was unheard of when I was a child. Now maybe only Kosovo is the last holdout?
And many of those languages, like Slovakian or Greek, are not spoken by that many natives. Not like in Africa or Asia.
I do believe the superlanguages of English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French are incrementally increasing year by year. Arabic and Chinese, too.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Pack Lambert said...

On the other hand there are 40 million or more speakers of Nepali in India but due to various factors it may soon have been totally displaced by Hindi.

Mike Johnson said...

We often see comparisons with growth in other religions.

This article is about the West Africa Area. I thought I would compare it to the 7th Day Adventists in roughly the same area, in part because they have detailed statistics online. Using the Adventist yearbook data for year-end membership in the West-Central Africa Division, which includes more countries than the West Africa Area, but many are the same, we find that from 2005 to 2015 (the last year end data they have published and won't publish 2016 year end data until October 2017), we find that the division membership dropped by 9.6% over that time from 756,240 at year end 2005 to 683,318 at year end 2015. The division (there are 14 world-wide and is probably the closest comparison to an LDS area) was created in 2003 and has been stable in the countries it contained since then.

Nigeria has dropped 6.3% from 238,349 at the end of 2005 to 223,378 at the end of 2015
Ghana has dropped 7.8% from 314,326 at the end of 2005 to 289,897 at the end of 2015

Now, the years for the drop were 2012 to 2014 and may related to the Ebola outbreak.

But, it is hard to see that Adventists have not been experiencing rapid growth during this decade. In good years, they average 2-3% growth and in bad years about -5 to -10%.

The West-Central Africa Division has every country that the Africa West Area has except Western Sahara and also includes Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.

Of course, they are larger than the LDS presence and have numerous schools, universities, medical schools, and hospitals in the division. A curious stat is that they went from 658 ordained clergy at the end of 2005 to 121 at the end of 2013 (no reports for 2014 or 2015).

Bryan Baird said...

I estimate that Nigeria will hit 1,000 congregations sometime by 2026. If it organize about 100 congregations every 2 years, so far around 33 have been organized in 2017 and it's only May.
Ghana might reach 300 by the end of 2017 which has right now around 284/5 Aso nearest future temples could be Lagos, Benin City Nigeria and Kumasi Ghana probably announced in a year or two or three. It also seems that west Africa as a whole is rapidly growing. Just recently Benin and Toga has seen its first stakes created. Nigeria had around 10,000 new members in 2016 from 142,000 (est) to 152,000 (est)