Saturday, February 10, 2018

Eight Missions in the United States to Close This Summer: Analysis

The Church reported on February 1st that it will discontinue eight missions within the United States as of July 2018: These missions include:
  • California Modesto (organized 2015)
  • California San Fernando (organized 1994)
  • Illinois Chicago West (organized 2013)
  • Mississippi Jackson (organized 1979)
  • New York New York South (organized 1839 - New York New York North organized 1993)
  • Ohio Cleveland (organized in 1977)
  • Utah Logan (organized 2015)
  • Washington Federal Way (organized 2013)
As a result of these mission consolidations, the number of missions headquartered within the United States (excluding US territories) will decrease from 125 to 117 - a 6.4% decrease. The average population serviced per LDS mission will slightly increase from 2.6 million people per LDS mission to 2.8 million people per LDS mission.

There are several important points to consider in regards to why the Church has decided to close these missions.

First, the number of missions in the United States will continue to be higher than the number of missions in the United States when the minimum age for missionary service was lowered. More specifically, the Church reported 103 missions in October 2012, whereas the Church will report 117 missions in July 2018 after mission consolidations go into effect. The Church organized 17 new missions in the United States in 2013 to help accommodate tens of thousands or more missionaries serving due to the reduced age for missionary service. In 2016, the Church reached an all-time high for the number of missions in the United States of 125 after five new missions were created. Thus, although the Church's resources allocated to formal proselytism in the United States will be reduced in comparison to the past five years, these resources will nevertheless be higher than what was previously allocated to the United States prior to the mission age change. The United States will continue to be the country with the most LDS missions - three times as many LDS missions as the next country with the most missions (Brazil).

Second, the consolidation of missions in the United States is not primarily attributed to the closure of missions initially created to accommodate "the surge" in the number of missionaries serving. This supports church statements (see footnote #7) that the creation of these new missions was done in anticipation of missionary numbers after the double-cohort of missionaries ended. Only four of the eight missions to be discontinued this July were organized after the lowering of the minimum age for missionary service, namely the California Modesto Mission, the Illinois Chicago West Mission, Utah Logan Mission, and the Washington Federal Way Mission. To contrast, there will be 18 missions created since 2013 that will continue to operate in the United States after these mission consolidations occur this July. These missions include:
  • Arizona Gilbert
  • Arizona Scottsdale
  • California Bakersfield
  • California Irvine
  • California Rancho Cucamonga
  • Colorado Fort Collins 
  • Georgia Macon 
  • Idaho Idaho Falls 
  • Idaho Nampa 
  • Kansas Wichita 
  • Ohio Cincinnati 
  • Oregon Salem 
  • Utah Orem
  • Utah Salt Lake City East 
  • Virginia Chesapeake 
  • Washington Vancouver
  • Washington Yakima
  • Wyoming Mormon Trail
Third, the eight United States missions to be discontinued this summer are distributed across the United States and are not primarily concentrated in a specific geographic region. Four missions will closed in the eastern United States, and four missions will closed in the western United States. Missions to be closed range from locations where there is a high percentage of Latter-day Saints, such as the Utah Logan Mission, to locations where there is a small percentage of Latter-day Saints such as the Illinois Chicago West Mission and the New York New York South Mission. This finding suggests that the closure of these eight missions was largely affected by fewer missionaries assigned to serve in the United States as a whole.

Fourth, many missions scheduled to close this summer have reported few convert baptisms compared to other missions in the United States. The Mississippi Jackson Mission has operated for nearly 40 years but LDS membership in Mississippi has increased from approximately 9,000 in the early 1980s to nearly 22,000 as of year-end 2016. As a result, the percentage of Latter-day Saints in the state population has only barely increased during the past 30 years. The number of official congregations in Mississippi has increased from 46 to 52 between 1987 and 2017. Other missions such as the Ohio Cleveland Mission and the New York New York South Mission have also reported comparatively few convert baptisms.

12 comments:

Ohhappydane33 said...

Lots of assumptions here which may or may not be true. First, IMHO, I don't think this will be the end of mission consolidations and would expect to see some more next year. Secondly, the membership in a particular area, IMHO, has much more to do with in and out migration of existing membership rather than covert baptisms. Just look at the growth of Texas which is mostly due to members moving in, and not really because the convert baptism rate in Texas is especially high.

Ohhappydane33 said...

Thirdly, IMHO, it's somewhat shocking that Utah Logan and California Modesto are being closed after just one Mission President (3 years). Is that some kind of record? It just proves that one never knows what is going to happen, and that the assumptions we all make here can quickly and unpredictably change.

Ohhappydane33 said...

Lastly, since the 3 year term of most of the presidents of the 2013 "surge" missions expire next year in 2019, this is a compelling reason to expect some more consolidations next year, hence my first comment above.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Good analysis. Thanks.
Contemplating growth trends of the LDS Church over the decades is always fascinating, especially considering the claims and prophecies given by its leaders since its modern inception. The Church incorporates all the Biblical prophecies and mandates (that are longer term) in existance, which is no small thing.
Jacob 5 applies to the Gospel growth of its people over multiple periods; Western and Central Africa appear to be a new robust olive tree to be grafted into the greater vineyard.
Again, about Chile, its imminent second temple is no small thing, reflecting that so many members will be influenced by its presence.
Many Chileans see Santiago as the overwhelming favored place in most senses, so a new locus of the faith will be a tremendous boon to the faith in the region, country, and continent.
Grafted branches of strong fruit are being placed, while others are cut off. Like short term missions and assignments.
The scriptures teach all this.

Ohhappydane33 said...

So I discovered that 7 out of these 8 missions to be discontinued have presidents that will be released this year. The lone exception is the Federal Way MP, who will be taking over as the Seattle MP for his final year of service since the Seattle MP will be released this year. I do think that the Church generally prefers that MPs serve out their terms without making big changes like this, which is why I suspect more consolidations next year, but I could be wrong.

Eduardo Clinch said...

On a smaller scale I have seen a town in Chile that had a branch and later through apostasy or inactivity was closed down. Many branches and wards have been part of downturns and virtual life support in Chile and elswhere. Yet, the overall faith continues to expand.
Many people leave for opportunities in bigger cities, especially the capital. And many baptized people, including leaders, have shallow roots that never grow, and the less active numbers are large. Yet, 10 missions and a second temple later, the Church will continue to fill the country.

Eduardo Clinch said...

The branch and town that I was referring to is called Quirihue. It is pretty rural and isolated, located on the way to the ocean from Chillan in the 7th Region. Some Chileans with higher aspirations or ideals joined socialist or communist groups, which may seem anathema to a church lifestyle. Many rural Chileans feel more autonomy or comfort belonging to various forms of Protestant faiths, including Evangelical movements that Chileans will refer to as "Canutos".
The non-Catholic church growth of Latin America is a robust phenomenon. The latest Pope (Argentine) probably helped staunch some of those losses, but Latin America is becoming more secular like the rest of the world, and more diverse in regards to all faiths.

John Pack Lambert said...

While some areas have membership that is effected by in and out migrations, Mississippi is most effected by out migrations, but since it was never a recipient of much inmigration the whole matter is more complex.

A look at changes by area is more informative. By that standard 3 areas see no mission adjustments. Utah south, North America Southwest and Idaho. Although the end of the Logan Mission might affect the boundaries of the Pocotello Mission.

San Fernando is not a 2013 mission, but the creation of the Bakersfield Mission did take some from it and changed the boundaries.

John Pack Lambert said...

On the other hand the northern part of Mississippi is split between the Little Rock and Birmingham Missions while the Jackson Mission takes in two stakes in Louisiana. Both of which include parts of Arkansas and the Shreveport Stake also takes in areas of Texas and Oklahoma.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Another consideration about the 18 post 2013 missions that will remain is the fact that some of the bases are in major metropolitan areas like Cinncinnati and Chesapeake, places that deserve major missionary efforts, outreaches to large populations heretofore exposed to LDS approaches. The smaller towns and cities with missions retained is also a great sign, knowing that smaller conglomerations are growing in faith and numbers.
Generally the smaller mission HQs are located in the West with higher LDS populations to begin with.
But the East continues to grow, even in slower growth states like Mississippi.
Some (or many) people have fallen away in progressive regions, meaning politically liberal parts of California or New York, where traditional conservative places like the Deep South pose their own resistance to a more radical form of Christianity in Mormonism.
Slow growth rate or not, any positive growth, 1 or 2 percent, etc., is certainly better than what has happened to traditional mainline Protestant denominations over the last decades, with attrition in the high double digits. Transferred to many Evangelical groups and secular movements, true, but the LDS faith continues to grow. Better for 1 inch of growth than two feet of losses, as some US churches have done.

J S A said...
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J S A said...
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