Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Two New Stakes in Monrovia, Liberia and the Expansion of the Church Beyond Monrovia

There are many significant growth developments from Liberia that have occurred or will soon occur.

First, the Liberia Monrovia Mission reports that two new stakes will be created in the country this coming Sunday. Both of the remaining districts in Monrovia - the Caldwell Liberia District and the Paynesville Liberia District - will become stakes in a historic conference. The mission reports that there are approximately 5,000 members in these two districts. Once the new stakes are created, there will be four stakes in Monrovia. The Church created its first stake in Monrovia back in 2000, but discontinued the stake in 2007 due to leadership challenges and member inactivity. The Church reestablished a stake in Monrovia in November 2016, called the Monrovia Liberia Bushrod Island Stake. A second stake was created in April 2017 - the Liberia Monrovia Stake.

Second, with both remaining districts in Monrovia advancing into stakes, the mission has begun to look at aggressive expansion into the almost entirely untouched remainder of the country since resources have been freed from the mission that previously supported and supervised member districts in Monrovia. The Church organized branches in Harbel and Kakata back in 2007, and since this time has added only one additional branch to Kakata in 2016. No other cities have had an official LDS presence. However, there are several cities where members have moved over the years that have requested an establishment of an official LDS presence and the assignment of missionaries. I have personally had members in multiple cities in Liberia contact me asking for advice and support such as from Ganta and other areas in the interior. However, these requests have not yet been granted for the most part due to previous struggles with Ebola and political conflict over the years. Nevertheless, the Africa West Area Presidency has recently approved plans for the mission to expand into new areas outside of Monrovia now that the political situation in the country has stabilized.

Third, the mission president visited members and prospective members in Totota and Buchanan in November 2017 and organized official member groups. Over 30 attended the first sacrament meeting in Totota on November 12th and a member group was officially organized. On November 19th, the mission president met with over 40 people who attended the first sacrament meeting in Buchanan and organized an official branch. A former district president from Monrovia is among isolated members who live in Buchanan. The mission found an apartment to lease for full-time missionaries and assigned the first missionaries to serve in Buchanan at the end of November. Missionaries are anticipated to be assigned to Totota within the next month or so. The mission also reports that the area presidency has already approved the creation of official branches for both Buchanan and Totota. These branches appear likely to be created in the immediate future. The mission created an official member group in extreme southeastern Liberia in the town of Harper several months ago where 15-20 members meet for church services every Sunday. The mission set 75 chairs to Harper to help provide adequate seating for the many who have been attending church services there. However, plans to open Harper to missionary work and organize a branch may require more time due to its remote location.

Fourth, the mission also reports plans to organize two new branches in Kakata and/or Harbel, and the creation of one or two member districts. There are approximately 1,000 members who live in the two Kakata branches and the one Harbel branch. The mission has recently averaged approximately 100 convert baptisms a month for the entire country.

These developments highlight the often sudden and quiet process in which the LDS Church grows and expands. Although little progress can occur for many years or even decades, the right combination of variables can lead to sudden and surprising growth such as what has been recently observed in Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria, and currently in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Conditions in Liberia appear highly favorable for additional expansion and growth that likely keeps up with recent rapid growth that began within the past five years.

See below for a map of LDS congregations in Liberia.


John Pack Lambert said...

I am more convinced than ever that Sierra Leone will get a temple announced next April, but I may be over enthusiastic.

I am hoping missionary outreach to Ganta occurs soon.

This month the Ensign profiled a member in Philadelphia who is a native of Liberia. I had a friendwho who served his mission in Rochester, New York and spent much of his time working with Liberians.

Christopher Nicholson said...

A couple months into this year I described the rate of stake creation this year as "frankly abysmal". I'm happy and excited to have been proven wrong.

David Todd said...

By the time the Abidjan temple is dedicated, there will surely be a need to split that temple district again, considering it will already have 14 stakes in Cote D'Ivoire, 4 in Liberia, and 5 in Sierra Leone with many more likely by then. I am pretty sure that is already double the number of stakes in the proposed district when it was announced. Plus tons of new districts have been created and it looks like several new ones will be.

Michael Worley said...

Does all this make a temple in Bo more likely, assuming it is closer to Liberia than Sierra Leone?

Michael Worley said...

And David, after this weekend, the three nations will have gone from 8 stakes when the temple was announced to 23 now. That's almost 3x as much.

David Todd said...

That's amazing! Personally, I think it makes it more likely for a temple to be announced in Sierra Leone and Liberia individually. While a Bo temple makes sense in the short run, in the long run I think a Freetown and Monrovia temple are much more likely. I expect Freetown to be announced within the next year or two and Monrovia within 5. An additional CI temple could be announced in 5-10 years as well if the districts in the interior of the country progress to stakes at rapid rates and at least one of the cities has multiple stakes (yamoussoukro?). If Cape Verde can get another stake or two we might see a temple announces there as well and certainly another temple or two in Nigeria very soon. Kumasi, Ghana is another one to look for. I think Lubumbashi or Mbuji-Mayi are a possible 5 year candidate also.

L. Chris Jones said...

Liberia has interesting history. It is amazing how growth is doing now. I had a friend from Liberia several years ago here in Idaho. He was one of the most faithful men I know. Haven't seen him in a few years. I think his dad was in the original stake presidency. I am glad the that there is tremendous stake growth the last two years.

Skyline said...

It appears that as of this point, nearly half of all newly created stakes this year were created in the last 4 months. It is likely that there will be more stake creations to come until the year ends.

Michael Worley said...

I think Africa may have an odd schedule for stake creation. Why that would be, no idea.

John Pack Lambert said...

I predict Daloa will have a temple by 2030. Of course it is hard to know how long the Daloa miracle can continue.

I see both Freetown and Monrovia getting temples as David Todd suggested. I also see Bo eventually getting a temple although 2030 might be early for that. A first temple after about 5 or so stakes when you are far from the nearest temple, at least in the first 10 seems standard by now. However what the number is to trigger a second temple is less clear. While Nigeria's 44 stakes akmost certainly will lead to a 2nd temple, and South Africa is getting a 2nd temple with far fewer stakes, Bolivia's about 25 stakes have not yet resulted in a second temple announced but could soon.

Eduardo Clinch said...

When Liberia was created it was in the spirit of American restoration of peoples striving for freedom and democracy. Back in 1994 when LDS missionaries were leaving due to the civil war there, thugs ravaging the country, it was in the downward Book of Mormon cycle of wickedness and debauchery. We all pray that goodness and prosperity spread through Liberia as it was intended millenia ago and centuries ago by American and African forefathers.
What a day when a temple of the Lord be built there! The kindred dead of millions are crying for this day, the Dispensation of the Fullness of times.
Thanks for the updates.
The map clearly shows a lack of integration of the Church across the nation and its various ethnic groups.
Not sure how many there are...

Skyline said...

We should keep in mind that there are many instances where Church growth in a region seemed promising but ended up stagnating/declining to this day. This includes much (if not all) of Europe, South Korea, Japan, some Latin American countries, and even some states, like California. These areas experienced rapid nominal growth when the missions' main goal were a high baptism rate instead of teaching the gospel. As a result, wards in these areas seem to have relatively few members attending sacrament in proportion to their total membership. It's a good thing that most missions have seemingly got rid of this tactic. Perhaps this shift may lead to lasting church growth.

Michael Worley said...

Skyline-- I think the high proportion of same-continent missionaries is helping prevent this in Africa.

James said...

I have previously voiced my opinion that a Freetown Sierra Leone temple seems imminent. In the nations of Africa, the capital cities seem to get temples first. Therefore, I would assume that if and when a temple is announced in Sierra Leone, it would be in Freetown rather than Bo. Surprises happen, but I don't anticipate much variance from previous patterns. I also have a potential temple on my current list for Monrovia Liberia. The developments reported here seem to support the idea of such a temple. And I couldn't agree more with Matt's statement from this post that the Lord moves in small and simple ways to accomplish great things for the work of His Church worldwide.

That said, though I have been hindered slightly by a cold for the last couple of weeks, as I have been able to do so, I have continued to provide my thoughts on the geographical areas of the Church whose cities may get temples in the near future. If any of you would like to read and comment, I welcome the opportunity to discuss such thoughts. In the meantime, the Cedar City Utah Temple dedication is also tomorrow, and the Church News reported that President Eyring would preside and that Elder Holland, a Southern Utah native, would also participate. We know as well from a previous article that 9 of the 14 apostles are going to be participating in dedicatory events for this temple. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

You can catch up on all of that on my blog at the address below. In the meantime, my thanks to Matt, both for this post with such wonderful news, and for allowing me to share such links with you all here. The Lord is at work in advancing His work in His way. It is awesome to see.

David Todd said...

Both of these comments are true to the situation in Africa. While the nominal growth in west Africa has been matched in previous times before in other places, you will see people call it 'unprecedented' growth. While this bothers me sometimes, perhaps this could be in consideration that never before have the issues that led to stagnation in other regions of the world been taken in consideration and addressed so fully while such nominal growth is occurring. This doesn't mean that the growth will never stagnate, but it does mean that it is not necessarily the case that it will and I think it looks promising that growth will continue rapidly for quite some time. We are finally seeing in parts of Nigeria the widespread outreach of the church that could someday happen all across Africa. Won't that be amazing!?

David Todd said...

James, you posted while I was still writing. I don't know what pattern you are referring to with capital cities. Of the three existing temples, Aba, Accra, and Johannesburg, only Accra is a capital city. Of the announced temples, Harare, Nairobi, and Kinshasa are capital cities but Abidjan is not, and Durban is not one of the three capitals of SA either. That is only 50%. You could maybe argue for largest city in the country that a temple is announced with the exception of Aba which makes sense with the history of the church in the Nigeria and Durban, which is the second temple in the country.

coachodeeps said...

Cape Town is the legislative capital, Pretoria is the administrative capital, and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa while the Constitutional Court of South Africa sits in Johannesburg. So, which is the capital city?

L. Chris Jones said...

Guayaquil Ecuador is the largest city I that country and got the first temple. Now 18 years later there is the 2nd temple announced in Quito the capital.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Skyline et al: noted that there are surges and booms of LDS growths and baptisms that are not sustained in robust ways. The original super-boom of LDS, in my opinion, was in Great Britain in the 1840s, mostly say a decade of mass conversions. From those newly joined members came many of the settlers of Nauvoo and later Utah and beyond. England and Wales and Scotland did not directly grow from all that boom of large scale baptisms.
In other places, notably parts of Latin America, like in Mexico and Chile, there have been booms of baptisms that appear to be non-sustained. Mexico, at least, with over a 100 million people and millions of immigrants within the US, has some 10 or twelve temples that have carved out a presence of sustained solid growth that is real.
Chile, on the other hand, a bit like Argentina, has large convert numbers and has seen decades of booms, where it is only now finishing its second temple where in a similar population in the US, Europe, or East Asia, there would have been more temples constructed and supported.
There are always new members lost in retention, as well as the attrition of LDS raised in the faith. There are a thousand reasons to stop attending, and this happens across the planet, and invariably will happen in the boom countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
But I would submit that there is a divine purpose in these conversion and unit creation booms of LDS Church growth, like the temporary settlements of Kirtland, western Missouri, Nauvoo, Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters, Saint George and parts of Arizona and Idaho, San Bernardino, etcetera.
Booms and their subsequent falls appear to be a pattern in the Restoration. Errors do occur individually and collectively, and so goes our imperfect magnificent cause.
Like the original growth of Christianity and any other world movement, the Restored Church advances in sometimes uneven and jolting ways, but ultimately grows as prophesied.
Despite our falling away and faults.

John Pack Lambert said...

We had a convert confirmed in my ward today and another will be baptized next Saturday.

While projections of growth over time can at times be hard, in countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana we have seen sustained Church growth at hogh levels for some time now. Although there are always issues of scalability.

Little of events in California has to do with baptismal retention and a lot has to do with inside the US migration out of California being much higher than to California. Retention of converts has not always been as high as we would like but that is not what has caused the loss of wards and stakes.

Actually in many places there is a close connection between the area where the first missionaries go, where the first stake is and where the first temple is. It does not always go quite that way. However Johannesburg had the first stake in South Africa, for one example, Kinshasa the firdt in DR Congo, Nairobi the first in all of East Africa, Aba the first in Nigeria. It is this oldest stake factor that makes me most expect a stake in Freetown before Bo.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Freetown makes more sense for a temple for a few more reasons. International embassies are there. More federal government assets are there. Ocean traffic, as much as there is, goes there. How much of a population difference is there?

twinnumerouno said...

Also Freetown has the country's only international airport, which would impact the travel of members from other nations nearby.

Mike Johnson said...

The fundamental issue would not be foreign embassies in or near Freetown.

When I first proposed Bo as a possibility, I did state that Freetown might win out because of the international airport, but only if the saints in Monrovia would have an easier time flying than driving. Bo made more sense if the people could easily drive, cutting down the drive time by about half. Membershipwise, the western area now has 3 stakes and a district. Bo has 2 stakes and a district and a large district to the east and three branches in close proxity to the west and another branch to the northeast east. The final district in Sierra Leone is about equidistant between Freetown and Bo. Looking just at Sierra Leone, Freetown and Bo would have roughly equal claims and with Bo more in the central of the country and expansion throughout the country, Bo might win out. A temple would serve both Sierra Leone and Liberia, at least until Liberia received their own temple. So, the deciding factor would be, in my opinion, whether it is easier for the saints in Monrovia to drive to Bo or fly to Freetown. I suspect it would be easier to drive, but I don't know.

Eduardo Clinch said...

From what I can tell Freetown has over a million residents while Bo has closer to 200,000. With recent growth in Monrovia hopefully both countries will have temples announced soon.
I wonder if Bo, in the eastern zone, I think,(out of three total, it appears), has a lower percentage of Muslims than the west or north.
I also wonder about animists and their mixed practictioners.
Incidentally, my mom and dad lived in Bonthe in the 1960s, on Sherbro Island, and finished their Peace Corps service in Freetown, after extending their time there in 1966.
They were not LDS back then, two years from joining.

John Pack Lambert said...

I think Freetown will get a temple first. With the MTC in Ghana or MTCs in orher countries and only having an international airport there members will have to travel there before heading out on their missions no matter what, so that should be dactored in.

Also while most of the building and staffing of the temlle will be done by Sierra Leoneians, the involvent of people from anywhere else will be easier in Freetown. Beyond this it is very rare for temples to be built in a place other than where the mission is headquartered. Aba is an example of such, but also shows the oldest stake tends to get the temple. In fact every temple in Africa except Durban is located in the city where the first stake in that country was organized. In fact it is more than that. In Kenya and Zimbabwe it is the oldest stake in a large multi-national region. In Zimbabwe at least the oldest in 3 countries, maybe 5 if you go coast to coast in that region of Africa. In Kenya Nairobi Stake was the first stake in the 6 counties currently in the Kenya and Ugabda missions. In Kinshasa that city got the first stake in the 6 counties included in missions with Congo in their name.

On another note last week Calabar got another stake and Port Harcourt got an additional ward. I believe both these cities will have temples by 2050, if not sooner, but expect additional temples in other parts of Nigeria first. I still include both Benin City and Lagos on the short list for temlles announced this coming April. I would love to see Benin City, Lagos, Kumasi, Monrovia and Freetown all have temples announced this April. Add in Managua and Auckland and it will be top rated times. I doubt it will hapoen quite like that, but I hope it will.

Mike Johnson said...

Eduardo, looking at the entire population and not just the LDS presence could also be done. This could give an indication of how much the Church could grow. I have looked at it at both the province and the district level and in both cases, Bo comes out as a better choice strictly looking at the overall population.

Bo is the capital and economic center of the Southern province of just shy of 1.5 million. The Western Area with Freetown is also just shy of 1.5 million. The Eastern province to the east of Bo (and further away from Freetown) has about 1.6 million. The Northern Province about 2.5 millions. It isn't just the local administrative boundaries that are important here. Salt Lake City has less than 200,000 people, but Salt Lake County has 1.12 million and the combined statistical area around Salt Lake City contains 2.5 million people.

The Northern Province would have some closer to Freetown and some closer to Bo and the current district in the Northern Province is about equal distance from Bo and Freetown.

The Eastern and Western provinces have over 3 million between them and Bo would be more natural for them than Freetown. The Eastern Province with its capital at Kenema has grown considerably of late. If it takes a few years to announce a temple in Sierra Leone, it may be Kenema that deserves consideration instead of Bo. Kenema is a little closer to Monrovia, but not by much. Bo is a lot closer to Freetown than Kenema is to Freetown, however, so I suspect Bo would win out over Kenema.

Looking at the 14 districts in Sierra Leone, 4 would be closer to Freetown, 8 would be closer to Bo, and 2 would be split (the Makeni District (LDS) is in the Bombali District (administrative) and is about equal distance to Freetown or Bo. There are four branches in the Moyamba district (administrative), 3 clearly are much closer to Bo and one about the same distance to Freetown as Bo, but I still put this district in the split category. The four administrative districts closest to Freetown (including the Western Area Urban with 1 million people and containing Freetown) have a total population of 2,461,084 and the 8 administrative districts closest to Bo have a total population of 3,705,897 and the two districts that would be roughly split have a population of 925,132. So, just looking at the population overall and not at the LDS units, Bo would seem to be the better location for size of the general population in terms of its proximity.

Mike Johnson said...

John, that is an interesting argument for Freetown with the international airport. Today, without a temple in Sierra Leone, they travel to the Ghana MTC and go to the temple there.

With a temple in Sierra Leone, I don't think it would be go to the temple and then to the airport to leave in one trip. It would be more like it is in the US or Canada. New missionaries would go to the temple shortly after their call and perhaps go back multiple times before they leave on their mission.

The international airport is in Lungi and is about an hour and 20 minute drive from Freetown. Lungi is in the Port Loko District, which in population is the 2nd of 14 districts in the country, but the LDS presence is a single branch. It is actually a little quicker for people in Bo to drive directly to the airport in Lungi than it is to drive to Freetown (about 3:20 to Lungi compared to 3:40 to Freetown. So, today, people leaving on missions from Bo (and Makeni and Kenema), probably don't go to Freetown at all).

It is about a 3 hour and 40 minute drive from Freetown to Bo in a different direction than to Lungi. There are numerous wards and branches across southern Virginia that have at least that long a drive to the temple.

Eduardo Clinch said...

This discussion about the LDS numbers in Sierra Leone and Liberia reminds me of a paper that I wrote around 2002 at UCLA for Latin America historical geographer Stephen Bell. After presenting my research paper to him and small class about the spread of the first 60 stakes across Chile. One of Professor Bell's question/comments was "what about comparative growth of other faiths in Chile?"
Yeah, true.
But then again, people with belief in this Restoration are more interested in this faith, which is a topic in and of itself robust and always very interesting. Also, comparative dialogs may have the tendency of seeming a bit competetive and even contentious, which is good to avoid about any spiritually empowering movement, especially when one has so much invested in it.
I do wonder how the main religion of Islam is fairing in Sierra Leone, whether it is expanding in numbers and congregations.

John Pack Lambert said...

I know a couple who when they were missionaries in New York City baptized a man who had been the leader of a large number of Muslims in Sierra Leone, I believe over 1 million. At that time one of the bishops in New York City was a native of Sierra Leone.