Monday, November 6, 2017

Persian (Farsi) Speaking Branch Organized in California

Last Sunday, the Church organized a Persian (Farsi) speaking branch in Del Mar, California. The new branch is the Church's only Persian-speaking branch in the worldwide Church and may be the first branch to ever conduct meetings solely in the Persian language. The Church established several branches in Iran during the 1970s and operated the Iran Tehran Mission to service members in Iran between 1975 and 1979.

Iranians have been uniquely receptive to the LDS Gospel message among peoples in the Middle East. Thousands of Iranian members have joined the Church worldwide during the past four decades and rates of convert baptisms among Iranians have appeared to increase during the past decade. Comparatively few Arabs have joined the Church. Today, Persian-speaking members have joined the Church in sizable numbers in the United States, Canada, Turkey, Sweden, Germany, and several additional European countries. The creation of a Persian-speaking branch is a significant milestone as there appear to be sufficient leadership for Persian members to maintain their own congregation. Prospects appear favorable for the organization of additional Persian-speaking branches, member groups, and Sunday School classes in several countries and locations, especially in Los Angeles, California and Toronto, Canada.

63 comments:

Bryan Baird said...

I wonder if they'll reinstate the Iran Tehran Mission.

Michael Worley said...

Matt, why do you say "may be the first branch to ever conduct meetings solely in the Persian language." How were the old Iranian units different?

Skyline said...

Bryan Baird, I'd say it's highly unlikely unless the country of Iran greatly liberalizes, which in itself some may see as also highly unlikely. Iran applies Sharia law in full and severed relations with the United States and other Western nations, making a church headquartered in the US doubtful to be approved by the country's politics. In addition, "Non-Muslims are forbidden to publicly disseminate religious material or to proselyte Muslims" (from cumorah.com), so this statute defeats the main purpose of the missionary program.

Matt said...

Most if not all of the branches and member groups that used to operate in Iran appeared to have meetings both in English and in Farsi. So this might be the first congregation to solely have church services in Farsi.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have known multiple Church members of Arab descent. Some were from Mexico or Brazil. The ones I knew from Mexico were only partly Arab in ancestry.

Either the Salt,Lake Tribune or Deseret News a few months ago ran an article on a native of Iran who had joined the Church in California, before that she was Muslim. I tgink she is now a lawyer.

My favorite primary teacher was a native of Mexico who served his mission in California and whose wife was of Levanese descent and had served her mission in Texas and often gone on splits with the sisters of her future husband.

The government that has been in power in Iran since 1979 overthrew a US-allied government. Then during the 1980s the US backed Iraq in its war with Iran.

Not only is any proclaiming any religion besides Twelver Shia Islam not allowed in Iran, but the death penalty for keaving Islam exists. How much it is actually enforced is a different story but it does exist.

There were also several Church members, such as Franklin S. Harris who had been president of BYU who worked as advisors to the Shah. I never got the impression that any were very high up in the old government, but I think they would be tainted with colaboration with the old regime.

The Church has made inroads in some majority Muslim nations. However Iran does not look to be one of them any time soon. On the other hand the Church may have a stake in Pakistan soon.

James said...

I don't know how many of you saw this, but Matthew S. Holland, who is both the son of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and currently the president of Utah Valley University, announced earlier today that he would be stepping down in June of next year in view of his call to serve as the president of an English-speaking mission, though his specific assignment will be announced in a few months. In addition to that, I found it interesting to see the article the Church News ran about how Elder Christofferson was the one who reinstated the Slidell Louisiana Stake last month, which was coincidentally the stake that he, as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy responsible for that region of the US, had discontinued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 10 years earlier. And with the Church news and temple-related developments that have been reported so abundantly in the last few days, I have found myself very busy blogging about it all. For any who would like to, I invite you to read and comment on any of the latest posts I have done. The address is below.

http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com

That aside, I was pleased to read this post here. It is interesting to me to see how much the Church is progressing, and I am very grateful that Matt has been so great about bringing developments such as this to us all on this blog. I have heard of the Farsi language before, but I somehow never internalized that that was an endonym for Persian. I find that I continue to learn something new every day.

How grateful I am to see the growth of the Church be reported so extensively. I cannot remember when I first started following Church growth, but it has amazed me to see the Lord moving His work ahead all throughout the world. As I always do, I especially look forward to finding out what the end-of-year numbers look like in terms of Church units. Based on what I see here, it looks like the Church will have quite a few new units in the 8 or so weeks we have left in the year. That is amazing. Thanks to everyone for contributing to my understanding of matters relating to Church growth.

Doug - SLC,UT said...

I'm not sure why this thread ended up with postings about about Iran and Slidell, LA. It seems a bit odd. However, I served all but four months of my mission in Iran and then finished in England. While I was on my mission my father accepted a job offer that moved our family from Pleasanton, CA to New Orleans. Upon returning from my mission and after reporting home to our new ward, the first thing the Stake President did was send me with a high councilor on a road trip to speak in Sacrament meeting in Slidell. It was a small unit, and I can't remember if it was a ward or branch in a small building but well attended by faithful members who were fascinated to hear about my mission experience in Iran.

Nancy said...

The church continues to make inroads in fulfilling the command that the gospel should be taken to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people. Cause for celebration!

twinnumerouno said...

One of my mission companions was the son of an Iranian couple who had joined the Church while studying in Utah, then had gone back to Iran where his mother was a college professor, and then had had to flee the country and had returned to Utah, where he was born. The other missionaries used to joke that he would be the first mission president if a mission was organized in Iran. (As noted, that doesn't seem likely in the near future.)

twinnumerouno said...


His family's issues in Iran would have had to be before the 1979 Iranian revolution, as he was born in Utah and we served together in the mid-90's.

MainTour said...

Southern California has seen a large increase in minority groups/refugee groups from many countries of both the Middle East and Aftica in the last few decades.

John Pack Lambert said...

I know for the first part of this year at least the leading source of refugees to the US was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However most immigrants to the US do not come as refugees, and the US has a very low flow of refugees into it compared to the numbers who go to some countries in Europe.

I have read some stuff about Iranian immigrants and refugees in Germany and maybe elsewhere in Europe converting to Christianity. It seems like we have even seen references in the past to Iranian immigrants being baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany.

I wonder if this might mean that Farsi units in Germany could happen in the near future. On the other hand, I have no clue what the German proficiency levels are of such immigrants. So having them in German-language units might work just as well.

Bryan Baird said...

Can we say that the Del Mar 2nd. Branch is the church's first Persian Branch ever in the State of California and the United States?

Bryan Baird said...

If not the United States

MainTour said...

The new branch president of the Del Mar Farsi branch was with his family originally in Germany after they fled Iran and had Uchtdorf for their Stake President there.

Eduardo Clinch said...

It seems that this is the first fully functioning Persian Farsi branch anywhere. Former branches apparently used English to certain degrees.
I wonder how many Dari speaking Afghans have become LDS. Most of them understand Farsi and perhaps are attracted to Persian groups, too.

John Pack Lambert said...

I swem to recall knowing someone from Fremont California at BYU who was either born in Afghanistan or whose family was from Afghanistan. However I am not sure what hos native language is. I know at one point Fremont, California had one of the largest concentrations of Afghan immigrants in the US.

Third Culture Kid said...

I lived in Tehran mid 1976 to the end of 1978. Once a month the Tehran Branch (larger than many US wards I attended) held Farsi-only meetings for our Iranian members. At the time we only had a partially translated version of the Book of Mormon (which I still have). As a young priest who could speak Farsi I was assigned to attend those meetings and bless the sacrament in Farsi. My brother, a teacher at the time helped to pass the sacrament. As Iranians advanced through the priesthood they began to fulfill this role. It was a beautiful time in the history of the church. It was then pretty sad when the revolution brought that era to an end.
For a picture of the mutual aged youth at youth conference on the Caspian Sea see http://3dculturekid.blogspot.com/2012/11/argo-canadian-caper-and-story-of-young.html?m=1

Brett Stirling said...

Persians aren't Arabs.

Grant Emery said...

True that Persians aren't Arabs, but I believe Dari (a dialect of Persian) is one of the most commonly spoken official languages in Afghanistan. So, it's possible John's friend spoke a Persian dialect. I don't know how mutually intelligible Dari and Iranian Persian are, though.

Bryan Baird said...

Turkey has 8 branches any ideas when the country might be getting a district?

Eduardo Clinch said...

Brett: Lambert talking about Arabs was not trying to conflate Arabs with Persians, but I think he was talking about cases of either ethnicity being Christian or LDS, and differences between Shia and Sunni.

That is cool that there were previous Farsi speaking branches of the Church decades ago. I hope more of them flourish.

Dari is compatible enough to Farsi that Afghans listen and watch Persian programs.

MainTour said...

Mormon Hub has a news article about the Del Mar 2nd branch:
https://mormonhub.com/blog/buzz/lds-news/persian-branch-california/

John Pack Lambert said...

I was talking about Arabs because the article said the rate of Arab conversion to the LDS Church is low. So I pointed out I have known Arab converts.

One of my cousin's husbands is half Iranian. He is a convert to the Church and as of January a contract employee in curriculum development. However his mother is a native of Peru. His parents met in the DC metro area.

John Pack Lambert said...

A new stake was formed in Kentucky.

John Pack Lambert said...

A new stake was formed in Kentucky.

John Pack Lambert said...

A new stake was formed in Kentucky.

Johnathan Whiting said...

New stake created on Nov. 5th in Elizabethtown, KY. Plus a lot of wards and branches were shuffled around in the surrounding stakes.
http://ldschurchtemples.org/statistics/unit/elizabethtown-kentucky-stake/

Bryce .Gillespie said...

That makes the 2nd stake in the last month created with suffering of wards and branches from three or more stakes.
I wounder if there is going to be more shuffling like that before year's end.

Bryce said...

I was reading in Church News that President Nelson conducted a review of the Church’s Europe East Area. He visited 7 countries and the article mentioned Samarkand, Uzbekistan as one of those places. There was no mention that he visited members there, and I've never seen reports of any members residing there (even expats or military), but it sure seems out of the way. Anyone know more about this?
https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865692475/President-Russell-M-Nelson-counsels-members-in-Eastern-Europe-about-faith-hope.html

Eduardo Clinch said...

I bet that the new Kentucky stake will help the Louisville stakes take in less territory and help consolidate the Indiana units better. Really good news.
Having traversed the Ohio River a few times and places, I don't think it would be easy to be divided by such a big river. Then again, maybe the New Albany Stake already covers all its members on the northern Hoosier side.

John Pack Lambert said...

It appears that in the process of making a new stake in the Louisville Area the only unit change was discontinuing a branch. This seems sort of interesting.

A ward was also discontinued in the Santa Rosa California Stake. I wonder a little if this is related to the wild fires but considering the impressions I get on how long the process for such changes lasts I doubt it.

John Pack Lambert said...

I was listening to a news report on the radio where they said I think 150,000 people have left Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit and more may leave, with no prospect of quick returns. I wonder if these population losses will cause any unit consolidations on the island.

Gnesileah said...

Billings Montana South Stake organized today from the Billings Montana Stake by Elder Michael T. Ringwood of the Seventy:

The new stake consists of:

Blue Creek Ward
Canyon Creek Ward
Laurel Ward
Monad Ward
Shiloh Ward
Red Lodge Ward (upgraded from branch)
Absarokee Branch

The Belfry Branch was merged with Red Lodge Branch to form the Red Lodge Ward.

Billings Montana Stake now consists of:

Central Ward
Echo Canyon Ward
Pioneer Park Ward
Rimrock YSA Ward
Sweetgrass Creek Ward
West Park Ward
Harlowton Branch

Bryce .Gillespie said...

Is the Monad building the stake center?
Having sarved in the Shiloh, Monad and blue Creek wards I know Tha new stake has some great members.

Michael Worley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Worley said...


The number of Stakes in Sierra Leone went from 2 to 4 today.

https://www.facebook.com/sierraleonefreetownmission/posts/548558448809698

Mike Johnson said...

Thank you, I wondered when we would start to see stakes in Bo.

1945 in attendance including 500 under canopies in the parking lot. When the Bo North District was created last year, I wondered why 3 districts in Bo. Why not a stake? Well, less than a year later we have the Bo West and Bo North stakes.

And of course Temple Rick already has these stakes:

Bo Sierra Leone East District
Bo Sierra Leone North Stake
Bo Sierra Leone West Stake
Freetown Sierra Leone Stake
Kenema Sierra Leone District
Kissy Sierra Leone Stake
Kossoh Town Sierra Leone District
Makeni Sierra Leone District

James Anderson said...




























another post on the Facebook page about the two stake creations said there are now missionaries in all parts of the country now. That may not mean every last large place quite yet but they are getting there. Still another post tells of a branch of over 100 people being formed from a nonmember group that was meeting like some of the early west Afticans did over 40 years ago, presumably like those earlier ones because someone found a tract or a book or something. They just had to have the missionaries and the whole group was all in from there.

John Pack Lambert said...

In my ward on Sunday we had two converts confirmed. The high council speaker was the Detroit resident high council member who is assigned to our ward, and his wife also spoke. I can only remember one other time the wife of a high council speaker spoke with him, but my memory may be faulty.

Evidently two new stakes were formed in Bo Sierra Leone over the weekend. This puts Freetown, Sieree Leone on my short list of places likely to get a temple in the near future.

John Pack Lambert said...

Here is a Deseret News article about an LDS family in the Salt Lake Area that are refugrees orginally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900003906/a-mormon-refugee-familys-struggle-to-survive-in-utah.html The family has 11 children, and they barely scrape by with the father working as a meat slicer.

Gnesileah said...

I am very pleased with the two new stakes in Bo. It's a wonderful achievement for those Saints. It seems in addition to a new stake in my home of Billings, a new stake was also created yesterday in my hometown of Gilbert.

@Bryce -- the new stake center appears to be the Monad Building like you said. See https://youtu.be/BxiCPAJgBsg

Skyline said...

With the new ward created in the Tongan Provo Stake, it is officially the stake with the most wards. With the Salt Lake and Salt Lake South Stakes (also Tongan), there appears to be 40 wards and 2 branches between them. This could easily be 5 stakes with 8 wards in each and 2 remaining branches. Is there a reason why the stakes have so many congregations and have not split yet?

Mike Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Johnson said...

Gnesileah,

Gilbert Arizona Superstition Springs Stake was created yesterday as well.

John, 4 stakes and 4 districts in Sierra Leone + 2 stakes and 2 districts in Liberia so yes, Freetown could be a near-term temple announcement.

The son of a brother I work with in the temple is serving a mission in Sierra Leone now.

Sierra Leone has a few other potential stakes in the near future. There are two districts (Kenema and Kossoh Town) each with 8 branches and the Freetown Stake has 11 wards and 3 branches. At some point the Bo East District with 5 branches will likely become a stake.

There were reportedly 950 in attendance at the Bo North District conference last August.

Bo is the 2nd largest city in Sierra Leone and is the capital of the Southern Province (1 of 4 (Western Area and Northern, Southern, and Eastern Provinces) and the Bo District (1 of 14 state districts in Sierra Leone). The Freetown and Bo missions districts were originally created the same day 5 November 1991. Both have now grown to 2 stakes and a district.

The thought struck me that maybe Bo might be the site of a temple. It has the same number of stakes and districts as Freetown, the Kenema district is to the east and there are three mission branches just to the west of Bo and Bo is about halfway between Freetown and Monrovia in Liberia. Of course if saints in Liberia fly to the temple, the international airport in Freetown might push the nod to Freetown.

Levi Walpole said...

California is up by only 72 Wards over Idaho now.

L. Chris Jones said...

A young man in my ward just left for the MTC in Ghana and will serve in Sierra Leone.

L. Chris Jones said...

It looks like they could split the stake between Tongan and Samoan stakes. It has 7 Somoan wards and 1 Samoan branch plus 8 Tongan wards. A stake in nearby Salt Lake also has a mix of 14 Tongan and Samoan wards.

L. Chris Jones said...

Correction, the salt lake Tongan stake has only one Samoan unit.

Skyline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skyline said...


There are many Samoan congregations in Utah that belong to normal stakes (non-language specified) Should the Samoan congregations in Tongan stakes assimilate into the normal stakes and promote regional growth? Or should a Samoan stake be created? Now that it's pointed out that the Provo Wasatch Tongan Stake is more like a mix of Polynesian congregations, it just doesn't seem fitting.
I think it would make sense if the Samoan ward in Syracuse was transferred into the Syracuse stake, and the same for the Tongan congregations in Tooele and Layton to their respective local stakes. They seem a bit far out from the heart of the Tongan stakes.

James said...

Sierra Leone has been on my potential temple list for at least the last year, and the fact that these two stakes have been upgraded from districts solidifies my feelings that a Sierra Leonean temple is just a matter of time. One of the two new stakes had its district created less than a year ago (it would have been a year later this month). That is significant by any definition.

It has been a turbulent few weeks for me. When not blogging about or doing further research on Church- and temple-related developments, I have had to take a few personal days to take care of one or two difficult challenges. For any that would like to, and with my thanks to Matt for allowing me to do so, I would like to invite any of you to catch up on the latest posts on my blog. The address follows:

http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com

Additionally, if the information I have received is correct, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is set to preside at the dedication of the Meridian Idaho Temple, and the Pocatello Temple is one step closer to an official site announcement. More on all of that will be coming later this week as I hear of it. Additionally, we have had two apostles celebrate birthdays in the last week or so. What a great time it has been for Church news.

BYULAW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BYULAW said...

The biggest obstacle to Sierra Leone getting a temple may be life expectancy. The estimated average life expectancy is between 46 to 58 years. It has been my experience that typically older individuals who work less or are retired are the ones with time to operate a temple. It might be hard for people to live long enough to get to that point in Sierra Leone.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Part of the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone is infant mortality, which is probably much higher than the average western nation. My mother helped innoculate kids there as a nurse in the 1960s, when maybe one in four kids did not survive beyond five years of age.
While there are not as many aged as the US or Britain, I think Sierra Leone should be able to support a temple with current and growing numbers.

James said...

BYULAW, I have every respect for your opinion, but I know there would be some who might consider what you said to be ageist. The Church would never deny a nation a temple simply because there are not enough "old people" to staff it. Additionally, I don't know what your experience has constituted in terms of your contact with temple workers, but I have had 6 years as a temple worker myself. When i started at the Mount Timpanogos Utah temple in March of 2006, I was the youngest worker there, and the temple president at that time told me I was probably the last young man that would be approved to serve in the temple without having previously served a full-time mission. The temple worker dynamic during that time changed quite a bit. But there were a bunch of young people on the Friday night shift with whom I worked, one of whom would later become my wife. Because there were so many young people in the temple district who were willing to set aside time to staff the temple, in addition to retired individuals and couples, and those who had full-time jobs but were still willing to give of their time, the Friday shift was well staffed. And one thing i observed in that service is that Friday and Saturday were the busiest days. I don't have experience in terms of how that might compare to temples elsewhere, but I did look into the general life expectancy for Africa, which in some places is around where it is for Sierra Leone, and that has not in any way been a deterrent from having temples built in such locations. To paraphrase a famous saying: If [the Church] builds a temple anywhere, the people (both patrons and workers) will come. Ability to staff a temple is one of many factors the Church takes into account when considering potential locations. If that has not been a concern for the African temples announced thus far, sierra Leone should not be a problem either. I know that from both my time working in the temple myself, and from my study of the temple site selection. In my mind, the recent mudslides might be a deterrent to any plans for a temple there, but the average age? I don't think so.

BYULAW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grande Prairie Psychoeducational Assessments said...

For what it's worth Cote D'Ivoire has a life expectancy of 47 and it will shortly be getting a temple.

L. Chris Jones said...

Missionary couples often serve overseas as temple workers. I think especially if it is a new temple in a country and need to train local workers.

L. Chris Jones said...

What do you all think of a potential temple in Cape Verde?

Michael Worley said...

When Assomada becomes a stake, it wouldn't surprise me.

John Pack Lambert said...

However prospects to get 4 stakes in the immediate area seem better for Freetown. I have to admit not jnowing enough of Sierra Leone to say for sure. I have seen people under 50 serve as temple workers. Also life expectamcy does not mean some do not outlive those stays.

John Pack Lambert said...

Toolle is closer to Salt Lake than the areas covered by many stakes in Michigsn are to each other. There is a plus to having seasoned leadership with language skills and cultural understanding and this is received through a Tongan Stake. On the other hand merging the Tongan units into geographical stakes could add the vitality that is needed in some stakes. At least with the Provo Utah Wasatch stake it may be a hard deliberation on how to split. Do they go one Tongan and one Samoan unit, do they go a geographical split, or do they go Houston Spanish and spin off units into newly formed geographical stakes. It would not work like Houston Texas North Stake that ended up being half Spanish speaking and halfEnglish speaking. At best a Tongan and a Samoan unit could be spun off with a new stake that also had a Spanish unit. Such splitting up I could see most easily in Provo, even to the point of repyrposing Provo Utah Wasatch to be a geographical stake in Provo. However this would involve a total of at least 10 stakes,maybe more, having boundary ajustments. I can see why this is a matter of a lot of deliberation that does not move forward fast.