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.

54 comments:

ScottS said...

Matt,

A new stake will be created in Mount Vernon Washington this Sunday (4/23). I am in one of the stakes that is affected by this so I can confirm it will happen. I will get you the name as soon as I learn it.

Bryan Dorman said...

Nice to see ScottS

And it is nice to see that development in the Phillipines. The focus in Mexico right now is also trying for reactivation as well as teaching new people. Reactivation has been hit-or-miss but finally we aren´t shedding congregations but slowly gaining them. More work needs to be done though.

Bryan Dorman said...
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John Pack Lambert said...

I just noticed an additional ward was added to the Klein Texas Stake through a boundary change. This brings it to 13 wards which makes me think we may see an additional stake on the Houston area on the near future. Klein Texas Stake is the one Bonnie Oscarson's husband was president of.

Joseph said...

Just listened to a couple of great interviews on LeadingLDS.com
One on a book on choices we can make to keep on an even keel focused specifically on missionaries. The Author was a practicing psychologist for 40 years then served two missions as a mental health consultant for missions in Europe and the Pacific. http://www.servestrongbutstaysane.com/
The other on how men respond to the gospel.
The Art of [Mormon] Manliness https://leadinglds.org/the-art-of-mormon-manliness-an-interview-with-brett-mckay/

They are putting on a virtual summit on home and visiting teaching that sounds both interesting and valuable. https://leadinglds.org/motivationsummit/

John Pack Lambert said...

It s 4th ould be kept in mind that sacrament meeting attendance will almost always be below active membership. This is because there will almost always be some people ill and some people who occasionally miss due to their job.

In my mission the mission president seems to have policies to keep missionaries in the same area for a long time. Whether this improves retention is hard to say.

In general I think the biggest key to retention is member connections with investigators during the teaching process, at least by some accounts teaching potential converts in members homes. This is not the aame as teaching potential converta who are members friends, relations or aquaintances. I have seen cases of people who had never met a given member until they first came to Church taught in the member home and baptized by Tue16-year-old in that member household (before he even ever blessed the sacrament) stay active because of this connection.

John Pack Lambert said...

On the other hand Ihave seen people who were very good friend's with at least one member who introduced them to the Church go totally inactive and want no part with the Church after their baptism.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Fantastic news about activation developments in the Philipines. It makes me wonder if the second temple within the country has had this "break the vicious cycle" pattern. In a relatively large and poor nation like the Philipines, or the aforementioned Chile, I think many people outside the capital may feel forgotten or marginalized for a few reasons. It is compounded by the fact that many of these people already feel distanced from the Church writ large, observing foreign missionaries that come from the "land of milk and honey" while many of the local membership feel like second class citizens anyway in a country where the capital is where more value and power is placed financially and psychologically, emotionally. A temple away from the capital should have a huge rejuvenatory effect, in my opinion.
On so many levels a second or third temple, out in the provinces and bringing the blessings to those who have felt neglected for years, all their lives, have a reason for a surge of enthusiasm like they felt when they first met LDS missionaries, or had great relations with faithful members, or had great experiences with service or celebrations within associations among other beloved Latter day Saints. They also can afford to go the temple, literally, and participate in the spirit of Malachi as prophesied for thousands of years.
Yeah, now I should be counseled to calm down.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and its expansion and restoration and rejuvenatory effect is a very beautiful thing.
All the prophets proclaimed and lauded this, those with ears to listen should heed.
Hallelujah.
Calmado, no mas.

Cory Ward said...

I am personally excited for the new Branch in the Chetumal Mexico Stake. I served in the Calderitas Area for a short time, Jan-Feb of Last year. When My mission president made the transfer, he told me that the stake president had a plan to reactivate and that we needed to participate. He assigned three companionships to the Bosque Ward, which was very large in territory and had 200 members attending, with at around 30 Melchizedek Priesthood holders attending. However when I got there and found it was very disorganized. The plan was basically have active or semi active families and couples visit the inactive members close to them. I found that the ward leaders were confused with what the Stake wanted and the members confused with what the ward wanted. To complicate it, most of the names and addresses that were given were impossible to locate because of a complete lack of an understandable address system in this rural area. Most didn't live there anyways or had been quickly baptized years ago and disappeared. A senior missionary serving in the stake even got frustrated that the stake was going off the handbook and doing their own plan, rather than just following the church program of Home and visiting Teaching, which almost never is done is much of the stake.
But despite the challenges, I was pleasantly surprised to see the branch be formed this week. A Branch existed there several years ago, but was discontinued. I counted the amount of active brothers in the area and I didn't think there was enough to from a branch. I think the boundaries also will include some newer housing developments on the outskirts of the city. It's possible that some active families have moved in recently. I think it will help a great deal. Many of the Semi-active members that sat in the back will now be leaders and have to participate more. Both the former Elder quorum president and high priest group leader live in this area, so I assume one of them is the branch president.
So I relate with Bryan Dorman, Mexico has a lot of Challenges, but it is very slightly growing. Since the Cancun Mission was formed four years ago, Branches have been formed in Puerto Adventuras, Chemax, and now Calderitas. There is also a group in Piste, the town next to Chichen Itza. Based on attendance of what I heard from the elders there, it could be a branch within the next year.

Brett Stirling said...

I think the advent of technology and the demise of area and regional conferences has taken the sense of fellowship out of the Church in international areas with low numbers. It made people feel connected and part of a larger cause. Strength in numbers and all that.

Unknown said...

There was some movement of wards between the Klein, Spring, The Woodlands, and Houston North Stakes this past week, which indicates that there may be more than one new Stake to be organized in the Houston, TX area. I'm also curious to see if they will discontinue the last remaining Spanish stake (Houston West) and move the units to geographical stakes like they did with the Houston Stake a while back.

OC Surfer said...

I'm assuming it will be the Oak Harbor Washington Stake, covering Whidbey Island and Anacortes.

Christopher Nicholson said...

As I recall, the missionary age change doubled the number of native missionaries in the Philippines. Maybe now we are seeing the fruits of that.

I have seen a person who was friends with a member and attended church for months before being baptized but stopped coming shortly after. Maybe the branch president scared her away. At her baptism he gave her this impassioned "Do not leave this Church" spiel and if I were her I would have been thinking "Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?"

It's not just international areas that have low numbers - I grew up in upstate New York and I had to travel four hours to dances or youth conferences in Albany to get any "larger cause" feeling. They had TWO congregations that met in the same building! I was astonished! I think technology actually connects people more though. People from every continent can be united in a Facebook group (though if it's in English, usually the majority are American and sometimes discuss local politics and events with the assumption that everyone in the group is American, which doesn't help the Church's image problem any).

John Pack Lambert said...

My understanding is that in the southern Philippines, basically some or all of the island of Mindanao, only Filipino and maybe a few Polynesian missionaries serve, no Americans.

I am hoping that this development means that there are more Filipino missionaries serving. Considering that the only missionary I have known who visa waited to get in the US was a Filipino I am suspecting this is the case. That also shows why Senator Hatch is pushing a bill to end visa waiting to get in the US, although it would benefit any similar program run by any religious group.

The Philippines have a different relationship to the US than anywhere in Latin America. This is because for 50 years they were a US posession. While the US military, esepcially the marines, intervened and occupied in many places in Latin America, and US owned industrial and mining operations had large roles in some of the countries, particularly in Central America, the Caribbean and especially Mexico where the Revolution of 1910 was partly a revolt against the power of these US owned businesses, it is still not quite the same as the situation in the Philippines. Panama that was created by US intervention and had a large chunk of land right down the middle owned by the US for almost 80 years is probably the next closest.

John Pack Lambert said...

The origin of the LDS Church in the Philippines is more similar to that in other East and South-east Asian countries than in Latin America. Like South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam the Church first is established in the Philippines because of US military presence. In fact this sort of makes it similar to the modern origins of the Church in Italy and Spain.

I have also known multiple couples where the husband was a white American and his wife was Filipino that had met due to military assignments. This is also true of South Korea. In both cases I knew cases where the wife was key in converting her American husband to the Church. Of course the couple I know best where the wife is from the Philippines actually met in Germany where the wife had gone to work as a nanny for an American LDS couple who she had first known when they were stationed in the Philippines.

At least at one point half the nurses in the US trained abroad were trained in the Philippines. The US navy also has a specific number of slots for hiering Filipinos.

On another note the majority of members of the LDS Church in many Middle Eastern nations are Filipinos. Also the majority of members in the Hong Kong China district are Filipinos, actually almost all female, although maybe not quite as much so with the increase of the Mandarin speaking districts. The Filipinos very much outnumber the American expatriates in the district.

John Pack Lambert said...

Put another way all the Mexican members I can think of I have known here in Michigan either came with their families, or came as singles. I did meet a member who had worked in a factory in Michigan (Pontiac, maybe 12 miles from my house) while I was in Mexico, but I was only there a week, trying to use Spanish which I was under fluent in, and never got all the details including when it was, if he was a member then, if he ever came to Church here, if he brought his family, etc.

I did once meet a member from Brazil who had left his family back in Brazil. However he was here for a less than a month training to be an executive with GMs support call center in Brazil. If I remember right his wife was a daughter of Helviceo Martins and he was called as an area authority seventy a little later.

On the other hand we had a man in my ward who was her from the Philippines, had left behind his wife and other family members, and was here almost a year working at a factory. He went home largely because the bishop urged him to prioritize being with his family over making lots of money.

True, I lack strong data to make conclusions. However from what I have read some of the Filipino women members working in Hong Kong either have husbands/children/both they have left behind in the Philippines.

John Pack Lambert said...

Considering what happened to the Houston Texas Stake, I am almost positive that the Houston Texas West Stake will not be discontinued. What might happen is it might be realigned to not being a Spanish speaking stake, just a multi-lingual geographic stake. The thing is it is still leading out in organizing new Spanish-speaking units in areas where none exist. In many ways this is probably easier with an all-Spanish speaking stake presidency and high council than being done by stakes where only a few of such leaders would know Spanish.

I have to admit I do not think the advent of broadcast stake conferences has hurt membership much anywhere. The Church had very low retention and activity rates in countries like Chile and the Philippines when it was doing regional and larger conferences.

Anyway, the current system has some such meetings. If you follow the travels of the apostles, which are heavily covered in the Church News, they will often hold live meetings with some groups of people from large areas. These tend to be either meetings of the youth or meetings of young adults, or meetings of all singles adults 18+, but there are other formations used.

Also the Church starting with the Accra Ghana Temple dedication has had the large cultural celebrations before temple dedications. These draw together members from very large areas, usually with the youth being the performers, and with local members being the performers, highlight the strength of the CHurch.

Another program is the For the Stength of Youth Conferences. Sort of like EFY, but organized in a way that they target specific stakes and try to take them all in.

On the other hand, at least in my experience while it was cool to see all the members cammed into the Breslin Center at MSU to listen to general authorities, and maybe gave a sense of the Church being bigger, you didn't meet and interact with that many members there. Some things might have worked better if it had been held in an arena right in Detroit, but for various reasons, we never did.

John Pack Lambert said...

On the "if its in English they discuss local politics and events as if everyone is American" line, I remember I was in an LDS discussion group, sort of an exclusively LDS facebook, and someone posted under the headline "Our president just got the nobel peace prize." I posted on how this was an inappropriate way to refer to Obama on an LDS-related website. Some people accused me of being an anti-Obama partisan, and maybe at least one of being racist, for not wanting to "call Obama my president."

On the other hand I belong to one LDS related facebook group, that is in English, where the majority of people who post are from Africa. I belong to so many groups I don't remember which one, and I never figured out where in Africa per se, but I think we had people from Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa among other countries.

L. Chris Jones said...

I am wondering if the Malad stake will go to the new Pocatello Temple. It is almost equally between Logan, Brigham City and Pocatello; give or take five minutes.

L. Chris Jones said...

The mileage difference is a little more. I am counting time/distance from the stake center to the temple or speculated site.

John Pack Lambert said...

There is also a possible issue of how passable year round each of these travel options is. Some stakes also end up functionally assigned to multiple temples.

L. Chris Jones said...

I was curious about Jackson WY. The Jackson Wards are closer to Afton(Star Valley Temple), but are part of the Drugged ID Stake which is assinged to the Rexburg Temple. Also this past winter the highways into Idaho were impassable and closed at times due to more snow than usual. I don't know how the roads were going towards Star Valley.

L. Chris Jones said...

Driggs stake not Drugged

TempleRick said...

The Driggs Idaho Stake is a split stake. Members on the Wyoming side (the Jackson wards) have their temple assignments in the Star Valley Wyoming Temple, while the wards on the Idaho side belong to the Rexburg Idaho Temple District.

My hunch is that the Malad Idaho Stake will remain in the Brigham City Utah Temple District. The 13 stakes in that district are the same 13 that belong to the Utah Box Elder Area Coordinating Council. A coordinating council is a Church organization between the stake level and the area level that is overseen by an Area Seventy. All of the stake presidents attend the coordinating council meetings along with the mission president and the temple president. They are able to coordinate regional matters, including receiving feedback from the temple president, so it makes sense to leave Malad in that district. I think Brigham City is a tad closer than Pocatello, too, but not much!

L. Chris Jones said...
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Adam said...

Yikes.

"Russia's Supreme Court formally banned Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization Thursday and ordered the state to seize its property in Russia, according to Russian news media."

"The court, after six days of hearings, ordered the closing of the group’s Russia headquarters and its 395 local chapters."

"“They pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security,” she told the court.

Borisova also said the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws."

They'll be appealing.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/04/20/russian-court-bans-jehovahs-witnesses-extremist-group/100701524/

Bryan Baird said...

Russia created its 100th LDS congregation Apr 16, 2017

Cory Ward said...

Scary stuff, What immediately came to mind was this poem:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew."

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me"

I think the church is definitively taking precautions, missionaries there do less and less proselytism, but it's a very slippery slope.

L. Chris Jones said...

We do all we can to stay within the law. It is a slippery slope. We need to support religious freedom, but tread carefully so the samebdoes not happen to us.

Eduardo Clinch said...

One key doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses is that they do not recognize human or non-Jehovah governments. They try not to acknowledge national flags or serve in militaries. I could see how this would not sit well with Russian authorities or regular citizens.
LDS on the other hand dedicated patriots of each land that they inhabit. We are proud and honored to be zealous Canadians, Chileans, Colombians, Germans, French, Zambians, Sri Lankans and Ukrainians.
Even though Alexander Lebed once called Mormons "vermin and scum" some 20 years ago, I hope that sensible Russians observe that Russian Saints salute their flag, serve with dedication in their military, and love their home country. We render unto Caesar what is his, as Jesus discussed.
That all said, it is distressing when governments make draconian rulings that appear to be contrary to our beloved Constitution and seem to in violation of freedom of expression and assembly.I hope that Russian democracy can figure out how to settle this better, and let the right course transpire.

John Pack Lambert said...

I wish the Deseret News would take up the cause and publish an indepth article on the state and condition of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.

The developments in Russia against the Jehovah's Witnesses are too little followed by most of the media. I would hope the Deseret News would buck the trend.

On another note, although that may have been mentioned before, there was a new branch formed in the Moscow Russia Stake that was reported on ldschurchtemples.com today. That brings the stake to 6 wards and 4 branches, including an English speaking ward. I have to wonder if the Russians would distrust the Church as a front for Americanism less if we made all people attend services in Russian, and clearly English is the last language we want services in to avoid the image we are an American Church. I say if American Mormons want to go and live in Russia for a time they should learn enough Russian to attend Church in Russian. This is not my view on the situation with Nigerians in Spain, Mexicans in New York City, Brazilians in Nagoya or even Americans in Hong Kong, but I think in Russia the view that the LDS Church is a foreign American institution needs to be double worked against.

John Pack Lambert said...

Technically the Church does not have missionaries in Russia. The Church has full time volunteers in Russia. Many of them are young men and young women ages 18-22 or a bit higher, and they went through Missionary Training Centers, but their official title is volunteer.

It is hard to get firm statistics, and some I have read contradict eachother, but there are apparently about 30 of these volunteers per mission in Russia. I don't know if there is really a way for the Church to name missions otherwise. In East Germany for a time they got rid of the Mission when they made stakes cover the whole country, but I do not see that working in Russia. I guess China has districts not under a mission if I understand correctly, so such could be done in Russia, with some branches even reporting directly to the area if need be, but I think the Church will hold on to the missions as long as it can, and just hope the name itself is not found offensive.

The 30 volunteers per mission was the rough number about last September. It may have declined since. I have no way to know what percentage are Russians, what percentage are from the USA, and what percentage are from other countries.

John Pack Lambert said...

The problem is that many Russians do not deal with Russian Latter-day Saints at all. They may have interacted with missionaries, who even if they were Russians might have been perceived as Americans. However the Russian right has self feeding anti-Americansism that targets the LDS Church because it is so often proclaimed as the "quintessentially American Church" and the like.

Much of those claims are just plain false. In 1850 there were more LDS in the UK than the USA. Why, because the message of the restoration appealed more powerfully in Great Britain than in the US. True there were 23 million people in the US in 1850 to 27 million in Great Britain, but amount Britain had more Mormons was greater than that, and the first wave of the gathering to Zion from England to Nauvoo had already occurred.

John Pack Lambert said...

One of the newly called Area Seventies this month, Aleksandr A. Drachyov, is from Novosibirsk, Russia. I am not sure if there are any other current area seventies from Russia. Having such people will help in the coming dark days. It might really help if we had a Russian Donny Osmond or a Russian Gladys Knight.

John Pack Lambert said...

Sometimes there is an impression that a lot of the Area Seventies from outside the US work full time for the Church. In the 2016 new area seventies listing I had to go through to the 7th from outside the US to find one who worked full time for the Church. I still think my favorite is P. David Agazzani, the first, who owns a motorcycle dealership in Argentina. Although Quilmer A. Agüero from Lima Peru who works as a technical designer may be one of very few who does not fit under the rubrics of full-time Church employees, educators, doctors, lawyers and businessmen that some seem to be able to shoehorn every mission president and maybe most area and general authorities into. Although businessman covers a huge spread of people. Back in 2016 we also got an area seventy from Kananga, DR Congo whose title VP of training and admission, Bar Council of Kananga suggests he is probably a lawyer, unless I am majorly misunderstanding what the bar council referenced her is.

John Pack Lambert said...

It is analyze the next set of new mission presidents time.

We start off with Steven and Mitzie Allred. They come from Pleasant Grove, and it sounds like we are dealing with a well established LDS family, probably my distant relatives. Sister Allred's maiden name was Medeiros. Medeiros is a Portuguese surname. Sister Allred was born in Madera, California in one area in California that is traditionally heavily Porguguese, the member of congress from there is the grandson of immigrants from the Azores, and so on. Madera is today 75% Hispanic/Latino, and I assume in general people of Portuguese descent do not mark Hispanic/Latino. The next highest noted langauge spoken after English was SPanish, followed by the catch all "other Indic", then Urdu. We are talking about 32,000 Spanish speakers, under 2,000 other Indic speakers, and under 50 Portuguese speakers. However in 2000 the population was 67% Hispanic, and more marked more than one race than in 2010, 5.7 to 4.4%. I have not been able to track back the data on Madera, California further.

However in the 2013 American Community Survey the language after "other Indic" was not Urdu, but Japanese. That is interesting because Sister Allred's mothers name was Gladys Mitsuru Nakata. If her mother was not Japanese American than no one ever was.

John Pack Lambert said...

I took little notice of the Davies, a couple born in Colorado and Idaho from West Jordan, Utah going to preside over a mission in the Phillipines. Brother Davies served his mission in Florida and Sister Davies in Argentina. Which leads me to wonder how many mission presidents are like Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Elder Edward Dube and served as mission president where they served their mission? Points also if it is the mission where the wife served. Double points if they both served in that mission.

Then we come across Michael John Fermanis, an Australian-born man with a Greek last name living in New Zealand. There are lots and lots of Greeks in Australia so no surprise here. He and his wife are being sent to the Manilla Philippines Mission. Brother Fermanis is the registrar with the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand. Does this make him an engineer and not a businessman, educator, LDS Church employee, doctor or lawyer which some posit to be virtually all mission presidents, or as registrar is he something other than an engineer. I have no clue.

There is a couple from Argentina called to serve in Argentina. Then there are the Thompsons, Canadians from Lethbridge, Alberta called to preside over the Congo Brazzaville Mission, and who previously served as missionries in the DR Congo Kinshasha Mission and in Mozambique. Brother Thompson served as a missionary in Belgium before marriage. It gets more interesting, Sister Thompson's maiden name is Montexa and she was born in Panama. She might even have African ancestry, it is a possibility from looking at her picture and I know a high percentage of Panama's residents have at least some African ancestry.




John Pack Lambert said...

Sorry for all the comments. However I just came across this article http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865678264/Mexicos-rich-history-preserved-at-newly-dedicated-records-center.html about the creation of the Church's Record PReservation Center in Mexico, basically the Mexico Area LDS Church Archives. It was dedicated by Elder Valenzuela, a general authority seventy who is a native of Mexico.

Evidently there are "nearly 20" of these centers, including another major one in Sao Paulo. I am almost thinking that this is not the first in Mexico City, but a larger and more state-of-the-art facility replacing an earlier one.

One main goal right now is to get others to follow the example of the family of the late great Agricol Lozano and donate important documents. Of course Lozano actively collected documents to write a history of the Church in Mexico, he actually wrote two.

John said...

The circa-1989 "freeze" in Ghana affected Jehovah's Witnesses as well as Latter-day Saints. I'm also surprised the Deseret News isn't covering more about the Witnesses' new situation in Russia.

John Pack Lambert said...

The DN did run an AP article but I would hope that they would do more and woth their own staff.

L. Chris Jones said...

I understand that the Freeze was because they thought the church was part of the CIA.

John Pack Lambert said...

That was the claim by the government of Ghana. Experts in the politics of the freeze do not believe that the Ghanaian government really thought such. I believe there were 4 religious groups banned and is in generally thought it was am attempt by the government to show control.

The LDS Church has had an official presence in Russia a lot longer now than it had had in Ghama at the time of the phreses. Although if you measure from when the LDS Church first became a recognized institution in Ghana in 1968 not by much. The fact that in 1968 it was Ghanaians who had not been baptized yet organizing and getting the Church recognized is a little interesting. It makes the claims of the Ghanaian government as too why they imposed the freeze when harder to believe.

John Pack Lambert said...

Another thing to note about the employment background of new mission presidents is that their employment at the time they are called as mission presidents at times is just one point in a varried career path. Take Jackson T> Mkabela, current president of the Harare Zimbabwe Mission, who was the first black man to be a stake president in South Africa. He worked for 12 years as a police officer, then worked as a lecturer specializing in criminology at an institution of higher education. His employment when he was called as a stake president was as Area Manager for Physical Facilities in the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. I am not sure if the description I read is using area to mean he was over all physical facilities for the Church in the Africa-South East Area or what. I was thinking the announcement of his mission call might give me a clue, but from that I learned he was by then an attorney.

John Pack Lambert said...

To follow up on Russia, from this article http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865601789/New-Area-Seventies.html unless I missed a release (which is possible) there are probalby 2 Russian Area Seventies. That seems a lot for a country with 3 stakes, but the nature of Area Seventies is they can be drawn from anywhere in an area, and assignments are fairly flexible. Also, Russia does have a lot of districts.

I came across this page because I was looking up information on Walter Chicora. This article would suggest that he is a black South African Area Seventy. However he is better thought of as a Zimbabwean expatriate working as temple recorder in South Africa who is an Area Seventy. Although the details are a bit fuzzy. This https://africase.lds.org/area-seventy-profiles more comprehesive listing of his previous employment goes from his being a school teacher in Zimbabwe to his being the South Africa Johannesburg Temple Recorder, with " a depot manager for the Grain Marketing Board, and a branch manager for Norman Bissett & Associates. From 2004-2009 he worked with Nestlé as an assistant brand manager and a business development manager" put in between, but no clear indication of where he lived when he did any of those things.

John Pack Lambert said...

Actually there are currently 2 Area Seventies who are Zimbabweans who live in South Africa where they work full time for the LDS Church. The other, Tasara Makasi. Elder Makasi used to be CES coordinator in Zimbabwe, I think he took this postion over from Edward Dube when Elder Dube was called as mission president. Elder Makasi is now the area CES director.

I can't imagine there are too many more members of the Church who are Zimbabweans working for the Church full time in South Africa. However considering that about 10 years ago there were violent anti-Zimbabwean migrant riots in some of the pooerest parts of I believe the Pretoria area, I have to wonder if there might be a large number of Zimbabwean Latter-day Saints in South Africa.

Another question that has eluded me is, what percentage of Mormons in South Africa are black. I came across an article in Dialogue in 1991 where the author asserted the majority of South African members were English-speaking whites, not Afrikaneers. English-speaking whites make up about 1/3rd of South Africa's white population.

Of course black/white is too simplitic for South Africa. South Africa's population is 8% white, 80% black, about 4-6% Asian (mainly Indian but some Chinese) and the rest "coloured", which includes the Cape Malay, largely descended from ancestors brought as slaves from Java, but also often having some African ancestors, the remnants of the Khoisan who normally have some European ancestry, and people who have mixed ancestry including both European and Bantu-speakers. I have no clue if the Church has made much progress among the Coloreds or Asians. The only South African Mormon I know personally is Colored, but she is also actually from Swaziland but may have joined the Church in Durban and I know she lived there a while before coming to the US. To make things more fun her husband is a native of Iraq who joined the Church with his family in Spain before coming to the US, they are ethnic Chaldeans. However one person is not enough to build any data set on.

John Pack Lambert said...

In 1978 there were 7,000 Church members in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. Today there are over 64,000 members just in South Africa.

James said...

Interesting discussion as always, guys. Thanks. I too was glad to hear of developments in the Philippines. As of yesterday, it was reported that we are likely to have an official name for the second Manila Philippines Temple announced soon. And that's encouraging, and true to past patterns. We had the official name for Lima Peru's second temple announced within three weeks after the temple was announced, so the announcement of the official name for the second Manila Philippines Temple should be coming any time now. Thanks again.

Brett Stirling said...

The reality is the bulk of active membership still resides in the US. Officially there are more outside, but you only have to look at the stats to see it's still the heartland of active members. As much as the Church technically is a global Church because it has it's presence in so many countries, if you centralise all decisions and resources to Salt Lake City, then distribute according to local need as dictated by Salt Lake City, it stamps itself as a US religion. All that tithing money flowing out of Russia into Salt Lake City Church accounts wouldn't be seen favourably by many countries.

Quoting 1850 membership numbers is completely irrelevant to 2017 Russian internal politics. It has been well written and bragged about by some people that the CIA has drawn upon the RM pool for agents. RM's are disciplined, are accustomed to strict lines of authority and dedicated to their jobs. Russia would have that intel and more. The Church has been using it's political connections for decades to influence decision making overseas to smooth the way for missionaries, worship services and the acquisition of property. Treading carefully with Russia will only go so far. JW's might be the start of something bigger.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Church has over the last 20 years moved a lot of decisions and authority from Salt Lake City to area presidencies. Twice as many of the newly called General Authorities are from outside the US as inside the US.

I don't know what will occur in Russia but there arw some factors including the fact the Church made sure to enter by the front door and has sought to always abide by the law that will help. On the other hand anti-Americanism is widespread in Russia and the Church is seen as American especially by the rabid nationalists that nerd a foriegn scapegoat to attack.

John Pack Lambert said...

Back in 2008 the LDS Church halted sending missionaries from the US to Russia. Some peopke who make it their goal to always say the Church is being dishonest and deceitful and then go around saying Church leaders should be more open Labour failings claimed the Church tried to spin it in a way not to acknowledge the visa laws were thecaause. This is many a show of how dishonest the person doing the spinning was since the Deseret News article explicitly said this was due to visa issues. However the Church operated in Thauland for years with just as onerous laws making missionaries leave so there is more involved. I did xome across a discussion, that seemed to point out that missionaries from Ukraine and the Balkans faced even tougher rules.

I also came across evidence that Elder Wickman in 2008 believed the situation would soon be resolved and Elder Bednar testified that the gospel would grow strong in Russia as it has in east Asian countries. None of this precludes major restriction on the Church in Russia in the short run.

The 2008 policy allowed missionaries in Russia from Russia and from countries where visas were not needed to go to Russia. I have no clue what countries the latter would be.

I have no indication of what the status of missionary assignment to Russia has been since. Anyone know. Myy general impression is the full rime volunteers include foriegmers but I am not sure I have seen anythingofficial on the matter.

John Pack Lambert said...

Last September 6 LDS volunteer were deported from Russia for alledgedly not registering with the proper authorities. The violations alledged did not relat to the law passed last July. However the detenrions and deportations may have reflected the same sentiments that lead to the creation of the law to begin with. This shows that the aumner 2008 stop to most foriegn missionarues in Russia was not a permanent policy.

John Pack Lambert said...

I just got done reading the 2001 BYU studies article by Eric Ericson a BYU folklorist and Gary Browning, first mission president in Russia and a professor of Russian at BYU at the time dealing with the indigenous groups in Russia calked Mormons.

One thing they point out is the misrepresenation of Brigham Young and the false stories of Danites forcing polygamy at the heart of "a study in svarlet" are much more well known to educated Russian readers than educated American ones.

Another is there are various groups in Russia who have been called Mormons that have nothing to do with the LDS Church. Some seem to have been an off shoot of the Khylsty and thus in many ways closer to Shaker beliefs. Although in their discussion of the accusations of Khylsty engaging in sexual orgies as part of worship, which many scholars today see as only existing in the non-Kylysy mind I think Ericson and Browning underestimate how much anti-Mormon literature has tried to claim that temple ordinance are sexual orgies. I met obe pwrson on my mission who claimed LDS temple marriages involved consumation in the temple and I think implied as an act in the service before onlookers. How deeply this entered Eussian thought is a good question.

The most interesting was the Orenberg Russians a group of Russian Orthodox Cossacks thus part of the religious mahority although Cossacks verses serf ancestry still has some meaning 150 years after yhe end of serfdom. This extended family refrained from alcohol or tobacco use and as successful in businees fit a modern stereotype of Utah in the Russian mind. The confusion of then with actual Latter-day Saints was so widespread a Russian scholar writting on the LDS Church then went into talking about the Orenberg Mormons and their success in business without realizing he had misconnected two groups.

The main point here is that the Mormon image on the Russian mind is based on a very long history of knowledge. However it is also true that much of this knowledge is false. Russian reports conflated the Martin hancart company and the Donner Party and accused the former of cannibalism. This might not resonate to the present but lots of false ideas about the Church and its practices do.

John Pack Lambert said...

While false ideas about the Church may both hinder its growth and in some countries make it an especial target for go ernment attack there might be one plus. If the Russian government draws on false ideas avout Mormon teaching or practice to try and outlaw the Church a presentation of the truth might persuade a court to go against the government. Although this may more reflect my knowledge if American judicial independence than the reality in Russia.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Russia's loss will be other places' gain. I have felt for a long time that few places in the history of the planet have been more endowed with gifts and gifted than Russia but have made so many poor choices. Jesus says we will reap what we sew; many call it karma. Truth will go forward regardless of poor choices and evil. We do our best to live by 2 Nephi 25:26; prophecies of God will come true.