Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Full-time Missionaries Assigned to Guinea, West Africa for the First Time

The Church recently assigned the first proselytizing missionaries to the West African country of Guinea. A single companionship of young, French-speaking Black African elders from the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission was assigned to serve in the Conakry Branch - the only branch in the entire country. Missionary activity at present appears primarily focused on teaching and mentoring new converts in the branch.

There have been several significant developments in Guinea. The Church organized the Conakry Branch in June 2017 shortly after Elder David A. Bednar visited Guinea in May 2017. The new branch was assigned to the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission although most of the country has remained assigned directly to the Africa West Area. Four members from the Conakry Branch in Guinea, West Africa began their missions at the Ghana Missionary Training Center (MTC) in April 2018 according to a news article from the Africa West Area lds.org page. These members previously served as the young men president, Sunday School first counselor, branch mission leader, and branch music director in the Conakry Branch before beginning full-time missionary service. Local members reported approximately 30 members in late 2017. The Church reported 56 members in Guinea as of April 2018.

Guinea is inhabited by nearly 12 million people. The population is 87% Muslim, 7% Christian, and 6% followers of other faiths. Other nontraditional Christian faiths such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists have historically reported slow growth in Guinea, but in the past 2-3 years have reported rapid growth. French is the official language although most speak their official ethnic languages such as Fulani, Malinke, and Susu.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Saint Lucia

Click here to access the updated country profile for Saint Lucia. The Church initially established a presence in the country in 1984, but the original branch was not self-sustaining and eventually closed in 1994 after significant opposition to the Church and the removal of full-time missionaries. The Church reestablished a branch in 2003. Today, there are nearly 400 members. See below for the Future Prospects section for this article:

The outlook for church growth in the near future appears mixed. The Church has struggled with mediocre convert retention rates and decreasing member activity rates for most of the 2010s. As a result, no new branches have been organized. Nevertheless, the Church continues to report dozens of new converts who join the Church each year in the two branches. Additional congregations may be organized in the most populous lesser-reached areas as well as in Castries and its surroundings. Once three or more branches operate, a district may be created. Self-sustaining growth over the long term will depend on locals serving full-time missions, remaining in their home country, and increasing the number of active priesthood holders to fill leadership positions.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

New Stakes Created in the DR Congo, South Carolina, and Utah

Democratic Republic of the Congo 
The Church organized a new stake in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) on February 10th. The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Lukunga Stake was organized from a division of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Ngaliema Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the Kimbwala 1st, Kimbwala 2nd, Malueka 1st, Malueka 2nd, Lutendale 1st, and Mazal Wards, and the Lutendale 2nd Branch. There are now 11 stakes in the Kinshasa metropolitan area.

There are now 21 stakes and two districts in the DR Congo.

South Carolina 
The Church organized a new stake in South Carolina today. Local members report that the Aiken South Carolina Stake was organized from a division of the Augusta Georgia Stake and the West Columbia South Carolina Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the North Aiken, Augusta, Coker Springs, Gilbert, Lake Murray, and Lexington Wards, and the Barnwell Branch. The Aiken South Carolina Stake is the Church's second new stake to be organized in South Carolina within the past year.

There are now eight stakes in South Carolina.

Utah
The Church created a new stake in Salt Lake City on February 10th. The Salt Lake Utah West Stake (Tongan) was organized from a division of the Salt Lake Utah Stake (Tongan) and the Salt Lake Utah South Stake (Tongan). The new stake includes the following nine wards: the Granger 8th (Tongan), Hunter 13th (Tongan), Hunter 37th (Tongan), Kearns 9th (Tongan), Kearns 13th (Tongan), Magna 2nd (Tongan), Taylorsville 5th (Tongan), Taylorsville 6th (Tongan), and West Valley 8th (Tongan) Wards. The realigned Salt Lake Utah Stake (Tongna) and Salt Lake Utah South Stake (Tongan) now each have seven wards. There are now four Tongan-speaking stakes in Utah. The first Tongan-speaking stake in the state was organized in 1993 followed by additional stakes in 2001 and 2006. There are currently 15 wards and one branch in the Provo Utah Wasatch Stake (Tongan) - seven wards and one branch of which are Samoan-speaking congregations. Thus, it appears likely that the Church's first Samoan-speaking stake outside of the Samoan islands will likely be organized in the near future.

There are now 599 stakes and 1 district in Utah.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

New Branch in Tanzania

Earlier this month, the Church organized its fifth branch in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania called the Tabata Branch (English speaking). Although I usually do not report on the organization of new wards and branches, this development appeared particularly significant as the last time the Church created a new branch in Dar Es Salaam was in 2004. The last new branch to be organized in Tanzania was in 2011. Unlike many other Sub-Saharan African countries, the Church in Tanzania has grown slowly since the first branch was organized in 1992. There were 1,624 members and six branches in the entire country as of year-end 2017, yet the current population of Tanzania is approximately 55.5 million. Latter-day Saint annual membership growth rates have typically ranged from 4-10% in the past decade. To contrast, Jehovah's Witnesses reported nearly 19,000 active members and 455 congregations at year-end 2018, whereas Seventh-Day Adventists reported 568,571 members, 2,832 churches (large or well-established congregations), and 2,374 companies (small or recently established congregations) at year-end 2016. In other words, the total number of Adventist congregations (5,206) is more than three times the total number of Latter-day Saints report on Church records for the entire country. The growth trends of Adventists and Witnesses suggest that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could likely experience similar results if the proper vision and planning is conducted to make the Church accessible and its message properly understood.

A lack of mission resources dedicated to the country and the placement of most of these resources outside of more receptive predominantly Christian areas appears to be one of the major reasons Latter-day Saint growth has been so slow. Also, it was not until the 2010s that the Church officially transitioned to use of Swahili in proselytism and church services - the predominant first or second language spoken by most Tanzanians. Prior to this time, English was the official language for the Church in the country. However, the long-term failure of local members and church leaders to find, teach, baptize, and retain new converts appears chiefly responsible for the lack of growth in the country as other countries who have had few mission resources allocated have reported much more rapid growth than the Church in Tanzania such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. Nevertheless, Tanzania appears an excellent candidate for its own mission in the near future given its large population, relative safety and stability, and predominantly Christian population. Hopefully the organization of the new branch signals a renewed focus from mission, area, and district leadership to implement the proper vision and allocate adequate resources to accelerate growth and expansion.

Click here for historical Church data on the growth of the Church in Tanzania.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

New Stake Created in the DR Congo; District Discontinued in South Dakota

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Last Sunday, the Church organized a new stake in the Kasai Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). The Mwene-Ditu Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake was organized from the Mwene-Ditu Democratic Republic of the Congo District. All seven branches in the former stake were upgraded to wards based upon reports from local church leaders. The seven wards in the new stake are the Aerodrome, Bondoyi, Matshitshi, Musadi 1st, Musadi 2nd, Mwene-Ditu, and Peage Wards. The Church organized its first official branch in Mwene-Ditu in 2008 and organized branches in the city into a district in 2014. Today, there are now five stakes and one district in the Kasai Region of the DR Congo, which is located in the central part of the country. Three new stakes appear likely to be organized in the next few years in this region due to steady growth in Kananga, Luputa, and Mbuji-Mayi. The region appears likely to have its own temple announced within the foreseeable future, especially now that the Church has locally-trained construction teams who helped construct meetinghouses and the temple in Kinshasa, and a recent emphasis to bring temples closer to areas with sizable church membership. Elder Neil L. Andersen requested members prepare for a temple in the Kasai Region during a visit in 2016. Also, the Church is currently in the process of translating the Book of Mormon into Tshiluba - the most commonly spoken native language in the Kasai Region of the DR Congo.

South Dakota
The Church discontinued the Pierre South Dakota District in January. The district was originally organized in 1979 and included 11 branches prior to its discontinuation. Five branches (Cherry Creek, Faith, Pierre, Rosebud, and White River) were transferred to the Rapid City South Dakota Stake, whereas three branches (Chamberlain, Miller, and Winner) were transferred to the Sioux Falls South Dakota State, two branches (Eagle Butte and Gettysburg) were transferred to the Bismarck North Dakota Stake, and one branch (Valentine) was transferred to the Kearney Nebraska Stake. Most branches in the district appear to have 20-50 active members albeit the Pierre Branch had 120 active members in the mid-2010s. This change will permit the largest branches, such as Pierre, to become wards in the foreseeable future. It will also reduce leadership needs for branches in the former district by having stakes meet these needs instead of district and mission leadership.

The Church has reported some of its slowest growth in the United States in South Dakota. The last time a new stake was organized in the state was back in 1979 in Sioux Falls. Church membership has increased from 7,300 in 1987 to 10,626 in 2017, whereas the number of congregations in the state has decreased from 36 to 32 during this period. Church membership as a percentage of the population as slightly increased from 1.05% to 1.21%. The Church has especially struggled with growth on Native American reservations in the state in terms of member activity and leadership development.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

New Stake in Nigeria; New Districts Organized in Nigeria and in Cote d'Ivoire

Nigeria
The Church organized a new stake and a new district in Nigeria.

The Owerri Nigeria North Stake was organized from a division of the Owerri Nigeria Stake on January 27th. The new stake includes at least the following six wards and two branches: the Akwakuma, Amakohia, New Owerri, Ogwa, Orji, and Orlu Wards, and the Mbieri and Umundugba Branches. The new stake is the second stake to be organized in Owerri. The Church created the Owerri Nigeria Stake in 1998. The stake numbered among the oldest stakes in Nigeria that had not divided to organize a new stake. Most of the congregational growth that warranted the creation of the new stake has occurred since 2010. The Church organized its sixth mission in Nigeria in 2016 with headquarters in Owerri. The new mission may have helped accelerate growth in Imo State (administrative division where Owerri is located) to permit the creation of a second stake. There are 5.4 million people who live in Imo State albeit there are currently only two stakes and one district within its geographical boundaries. The Aba Nigeria Temple is within the boundaries of the Nigeria Owerri Mission.

The Gboko Nigeria District was organized on January 20th. However, the Church currently reports only one branch in Gboko. Therefore, at least two new branches were likely organized in Gboko or in nearby cities or villages. The Church organized its first branch in Gboko in 2016. There are now three districts in Benue State - all of which have been organized since 2017.

Many new stakes and several new districts appear likely to be organized in Nigeria within the immediate future due to rapid membership and congregational growth, and good convert retention and member activity rates - all of which has been accomplished without assistance from North American missionaries. New districts likely to be organized may be located in the following cities: Bonny, Bori, Kaduna, Sapele, and Ugep. New stakes likely to be organized within the near future include Aba (5th stake), Abuja (3rd stake), Akamkpa (from a district), Benin City (9th stake), Ibadan (2nd stake), Ijebu-Ode (from a district), Ikot Ekpene (2nd stake), Lagos (7th and 8th stakes), Onitsha (2nd stake), Ukat Aran (2nd stake), and Warri (2nd stake).

There are now 55 stakes and 16 districts in Nigeria. Given growth trends over the past decade, it appears likely that the Church in Nigeria will reach 100 stakes by the year 2025 given conservative projections.

Cote d'Ivoire
The Church created a new district in Cote d'Ivoire on January 27th.

The Man Cote d'Ivoire District was organized from at least four mission branches in Montagnes District. Branches currently assigned to the new district include three branches in Man (Doyaguine, Grand Gbapleu, and Man) and one branch in Logouale. The Church organized its first branch in Man in 2015 and in Logouale in 2017. The Man Cote d'Ivoire District is the Church's first district in Montagnes District where the first branch was organized in Duekoue in 2015. Today there are 10 branches in Montagnes District.

There are now 14 stakes and 13 districts in Cote d'Ivoire. The creation of one additional district appears imminent in Duekoue. Also, several additional stakes appear likely to be organized in the country before the end of the year, including as many as three new stakes in Abidjan.

Friday, February 1, 2019

January 2019 Newsletter

Click here to access our January 2019 Newsletter for cumorah.com. Also, we have completed most of the upgrades to cumorah.com although the International Atlas using Google Maps is still under construction. Enjoy!