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.


Eduardo Clinch said...

Wow, the Adventists are pretty powerful there. I would like to see the top 10 or 20 SDA countries in the world. I worked with some SDA people in Chile; they seem to have quite a few commonalities with members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Christopher Nicholson said...

I don't understand why year after year after year, Tanzania and Ethiopia get snubbed for their own missions. How can a country of 55 million where proselytism is legal not have its own mission?

Eduardo Clinch said...

Good point about countries that allow freedom of worship with large populations. Our faith is unique in how callings are made and given. Many Christian faiths have long term missionaries among places like Ethiopia, Congo, Nigeria.
One could say this is a lack of leadership vision by part of the top missionary committees, i.e. the apostles.
I still blame, if we must attribute some of that, on many individuals who historically should have gone on full time missions and did not. Much of that blame could be levied on the parents or other leaders. I have mentioned that in my home ward in Bloomington, IN families of 4, 3, and two boys/young men did not serve missions. Out of those 9 potential elders, 2 or 3 did serve in the military but that is different than volunteer proseltyzing service, growing a faith.
If another third of them would have served, perhaps countries that have not had much outreach would have had a bigger presence by now.
Do we know church families where none of the kids ever went on missions? From the top and bottom, lack of growth in much of the world is caused by faults of faith that creates less supply, and less available people to expand the religion.
Regular members could do better, too; perhaps those 9 young men's home teachers collectively dropped the ball. Those are not the only families I know where no one served. Also, poor home teaching and ministering has its collective effect on poor expansion.

Eduardo Clinch said...

No one is perfect, except the Messiah. All of us cannot do full time service, but more of should. Ethiopia or Tanzania would have more members by now...

James said...

Eduardo, I see your point in a way. I have spoken before on this blog about my brother and my two brothers-in-law who did not serve missions, and I have a feeling that one day, there will be some accountability they will have to face for failing to be in a position to reach the people they would have been sent out to find. I am glad the Lord judges such circumstances so perfectly. But in another way, as Matt mentioned in this post, the fault may be on the heads of leaders of the mission (from the president on down) who are not allocating sufficient resources (by way of a proselyting missionary force) to such areas of their fields of labor that may be ripe for the harvest. I have unfortunately heard of accounts where the failure of a mission president to give proper consideration to the potential growth in such areas has led to a delay in some of the citizens of those nations hearing and responding to the gospel message. The apostles continue to be inspired in sending mission presidents to certain areas, but if mission presidents fail to appoint inspired mission leadership, or fail to act on things that should have rightly been prioritized, then the Lord promises that those mission leaders, rather than the apostles, will bear the burden of any mistakes made.

I mean no offense by saying this, and I thank you all for your ongoing comments which help enhance my understanding of Church growth topics covered here. I'd also like to thank Matt for this wonderful report. It is my strong and fervent hope that mission leaders and missionaries all around the world will be led to further the work in their own spheres through acting on inspiration to open areas that will be successful, since the promise of the Lord is sure and definitive: "I will hasten my work in its' time."

Ohhappydane33 said...

Did any of the current First Presidency serve a full time mission? My point being don't be so quick to judge others James and Eduardo. This blog has become a self-righteous echo chamber I am afraid.

James said...

To all who may have been offended by the comments Eduardo and I have made in this regard, I think I can speak for Eduardo in saying that neither of us considers ourselves qualified to judge anyone. None of the current First Presidency served full-time, but President Oaks had been planning on serving a senior mission with his first wife June after a 10-year stint on the Utah Supreme Court (which didn't come to fruition in view of his call to the apostleship several years before his 10-year milestone on the court was reached. And President Eyring did not serve full-time, but was a district missionary.

I also wish to clarify that I never said that the Lord would hold anyone who did not serve a mission responsible for those they might have saved, had they done their duty: I merely quoted the Church President who did. And the Lord has given the stamp of approval to that quote, as verified by several apostles and prophets who have shared that quote. Some may construe my quote of the statement as an attack or affront to their honor. But it has well been said that "only a fool takes offense where none is intended."

To those who have taken offense at anything I have said personally (rather than quoting someone else who said what I have subsequently chosen to share here), I would refer all such individuals to the following article:

The message of that talk was timely when it was given, and even more so now. One other thought, if I may: I recognize many may be concerned about how much time I waste advancing ideas on threads like this, and perhaps there is a better use of my time. But I would rather exchange meaningful ideas in a positive and civil way rather than posting criticism of anyone else with whom I interact in such dialogue. The latter course, I fear, seems to be a far bigger waste of one's time. But that's just my own opinion, which anyone can twist any way they like.

James said...

Matthew 7:3-5 might apply here as well. When I am offering my own opinion on this blog, I will try to make that clearer. Most of what I share, including thoughts like the one in my comment from 45 minutes or so ago are supported by both scripture and the words of the prophets. For that reason, I don't know whether or not the Lord will hold Presidents Nelson, Oaks, and Eyring responsible for not serving full-time missions. That's His call entirely. But surely in the case of our Presiding High Priests, the missions they have served since their respective calls to the apostleship surely either substitutes for or completely supplants the effects their full-time missions might have had. But prophets and apostles throughout this dispensation have been just as clear about the doctrine of the Church relating to those men who neglect to serve a full-time mission as they have been about the importance of civility in our public discourse. And if there are some who choose not to follow either directive, the scriptures and prophets make it clear how the Lord feels and will deal with such individuals. Now, if you will excuse me, I for one will get back to working on getting both the motes and beams out of my own eye, and I suggest that all do likewise.

Michael Worley said...

From president packer

Some worry endlessly over missions that were missed, or marriages that did not turn out, or babies that did not arrive, or children that seem lost, or dreams unfulfilled, or because age limits what they can do. I do not think it pleases the Lord when we worry because we think we never do enough or that what we do is never good enough.

James said...

And in the words of Nephi: "I [know] that I [have] spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." This goes back to another well-known proverb that "only the hit bird flutters", which implies that one's conscience is pricked only when the truth of one's faults is pointed out to them.

That said, I am not perfect. Even with the intervention and atonement of Christ, there are many days in my life when I feel like I never will get there. And that is why on days when am too unwell to do much else, I immerse myself in positive pursuits, not the least of which is my efforts to exchange positive thoughts about the Church with those who share my beliefs in settings such as this. I love the words of the prophets and apostles, in ancient and modern times, and I love that we can have positive conversations on various aspects of the growth of the Church and the gospel in general. It's my hope that those who read my contributions to such dialogue will be inspired thereby, but if anyone here is not, I hope that is not in any way due to any ill intent or misconduct on my part.

Michael Worley said...

We're all imperfect, and that should make us slower to call out by name or even in such a way that it is clear who we mean others who have not lived up to an ideal-- even when prophets do so, they attach statements like the one from President Packer, which counsels against over-worry about our own mistakes, never mind those of others.

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.
Who am I to judge another?

And yes, this applies, in my mind, to most mission presidents as well.

James said...

Michael, I love that quote from President Packer. And I recognize that, ultimately, the Lord will judge each of us. I know that my own inability to serve full-time and away from home has left me wondering if I did enough in my own labor, or to wonder if somehow my efforts in that regard were not as acceptable to the Lord as they would have been if I had served a regular mission. That said, the opportunities I had in my part-time labors gave me experiences I would not have had any other way. And the fact that I continued my temple service for years after my formal missionary service time ended directly led me to my wife, and I would likely never have found her any other way. So that was the crown of the many blessings I received in the efforts I could do.

That said, I have heard stories from friends and family who have served full-time in which they have described times when many in their missions were not acting under inspiration, and in those scenarios, the quote I cited would certainly apply. I love the comfort that is brought by the idea that the Lord knows the hearts of each individual, and whether or not each one lived up to their potentials and took advantage of the opportunities placed in their paths. He alone is perfectly just and merciful, and He alone will weigh our actions and motivations in the balance. That is a powerful and well-taken reminder from President Packer, and I thank you, Michael, for sharing it with us all here.

David Todd said...

This has nothing to do with choosing to be offended or not. Get off your high horses. It is just in poor taste to blame the church growth problems on missionaries that didnt serve. Especially when it has become a pattern by some to refer to specific people on this blog (even if not by name). I know I wouldnt want some random guy making comments about me and my life choices in his blog.

Plus the point is just not accurate. The number of missionaries in my mission increased by about 50% after the age change and yet our number of baptisms remained nearly constant before during and after to that surge. It seems that there is not a great correlation to number of missionaries and growth of the church. Other factors, such as church outreach policies and allocation of mission resources are correlated more closely with growth. It has been a pattern that missionaries serve proportionally where the members already are. While it makes sense in some aspects, it really limits growth.

James said...

And I agree that part of that idea is the idea that the motivations of our hearts will come into play as well. I know that I personally have borne many "sorrows that the eye can't see", and for that reason, my heart goes out to any suffering from anything that comes their way as a product of this imperfect mortal life. All of us carry burdens that no one else might recognize or realize, and it is all too easy to judge by appearances or manners of expression. I think we would all be very well served to keep the ideas Michael has shared in mind before speaking hastily about the actions or words of anyone who might have experiences or mindsets that have molded how they speak and act. But I also think that we can all afford to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Differences of opinion are a natural product of differences in perspective. But what is unnatural is for any of us to assume that we are qualified to judge anyone else's thoughts or actions, or that we know better than anyone else what drives such thoughts and actions. It behooves all of us to be most careful before passing favorable and just or unfavorable and unjust judgment on anyone else. The Lord will judge everything and everyone in the last day, and His judgement will be just, and without prejudice, taking into account things about which none of us know regarding those with whom we interact here. Another powerful and timely reminder, Michael. Thank you.

James said...

David Todd, I respect you as well, and your well-taken point. Matt spelled out the issue that he sees in regard to the lack of growth here, namely that there is not adequate distribution of the available resources in the mission to affect the growth of Tanzania, which may be a field ripe for the picking. So in that sense, the quote I shared at the outset of all of this refers to those who might have been inspired to remedy such situations through deploying missionaries to areas such as this where positive growth could have been achieved had there been sufficient manpower to do so. If someone else implied that I was speaking of those who did not serve a mission, that is not in any way what I intended or what I meant. If anything I have said has come across as me being on a "high horse" about what I was saying, I sincerely apologize. As I said, I will now withdraw and spend some introspective time rooting the motes and beams from my own eye before continuing to contribute to this dialogue.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Thanks for judging me for being judgmental! Well played! (Sarcasm).
If your conscience is pricked, great.
Couple missionries are always needed. My mom did two before she died; my step-dad thinks they woyld have gone on a third had it been for liver cancer. Life is tough.
Only God can judge every person, but I can certainly have my free will to speculate as to the lack of full time missionaries that have not gone to make our numbers better. Some xall that simple math. Realism. Practical logic.
Stay on your high horse about judging, but I'll maintain that there are thousands who should have gone and did not. I know some (many) who missed the opportunity and have done great since. That is awesome and their salvation is their own, like you and me.
Some mid level priesthood leaders have made their allication mistakes too, like the rest of us.

Eduardo Clinch said...

*has it not been for terminal cancer.
Pardon the errors. Yes, we are not perfect, got it. Message understood.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Echo chamber. Great on you for your critical allegations. I am talking about growth here. The original point os about slow growth in Ethiopia and Tanzania, one of which has over half a million Adventists! Just opened one of our new branches there.
The anecdotal comparison of increasing a mission by 50 percent personnel and getting the same number of converts has some valid implications. But at the end of the day, we all have our "imperfect" ways of assessing Church growth that may or may not hurt feelings. I guess we could blame Tanzanians themselves for not joining.
In LA my wife and I invited some Tanzanians over for dinner. I think the elders were invited too. The couple never showed up, which hurt my wife's feelings and perplexed me. Perhaps they perceived we were more interested in proselyting than feeding and fellowshipping them. There seemed to be a disconnect on some level. If I am as loathsome as some purport me to be (echo, echo, echo) than maybe they did the right thing by not showing up.
Anecdotes can be representative of greater truthes.
We are discussing faults of church growth, all of us own it together; each has accountability. Nobody is perfect. Numbers help, I maintain.

Christopher Nicholson said...

The surge (of course speaking of the phenomenon itself, not the individual missionaries) seems to have been pretty useless. Only the lasting effects of the age change going forward will matter. I don't know yet what those are supposed to be. The number serving is stagnant and lower than anticipated once again, but there still is a much higher percentage of women serving than before, so that's cool. It didn't help that, for reasons Matt has speculated about on this blog, much of the surge was allocated to the US where it wasn't needed. I wish they could have swapped just two of those redundant California missions for Ethiopia and Tanzania.

L. Chris Jones said...

Just saw a report that missionaries can now call home each week if they want.

Michael Worley said...

Maybe the brethren feel-- as I do-- that Africa will grow best if it is as self-sustaining as possible.

Tony Teehan said...

Someone mentioned growth in the Seventh day Adventist church. This is an article which states they have baptized over a million new members in East, central Africa in the last three years.

Tony Teehan said...

This is the link to the 2014 Seventh day Adventist church statistics. That year they baptised over a million new members. They have about 140,000 congregations worldwide compared to LDS 30,000. The report includes how many schools, universities and hospitals they run. It includes how much tithe paid in and how much they spent on disaster relief.

Downtownchrisbrown said...

The change in Missionary communication is a big deal. Hopefully it will lead to more missionaries being able to complete their missions

Eduardo Clinch said...

The surge numbers in the United States did have some effects, despite the less than impressive convert results. In years when my ward did not baptize very much there was re-activation efforts that resulted in people coming back to church and go through the temple. Young full time missionaries initiated some of that contact.
I think there are still thousands of communities in the US that have little or no outreach from elders or sisters. America in some places got their chances. Africa will grow... Perhaps it does seem unbalanced now, but the strong economic bases (tithe payers with stronger comparitive incomes) will always help members and units in weaker areas. That may be part of what is happening for the long term. I definitely do not have the answers, only speculation. It is fascinating to observe. Try to be a part of it.

Unknown said...

Does anyone think that missions aren't only for converting other people? It seems to me that the most important part of a mission is the conversion that takes place within the individual missionary. For example, the Mormon Battalion and the pioneers' trek across the west allowed those individuals to have a change in mind and spirit. Their whole selves changed.

With the missionary age change, with the communication with family on a mission change, with the emphasis that a service mission is just as important as any other type of mission refocus... I feel that we need to remember that so many more people have now been given an opportunity to have that mighty change of heart. And that is incredible that so many more can now have that opportunity.

But... a mission is not the only way to have that mighty change of heart. Though all that have the chance/ability/opportunity have the responsibility to take advantage of that opportunity given by God.

Let's remember that we all are going through different things. In general, we're all logical beings who are doing the best we know how to live and grow. And we can all do a little better every day to purify our minds and hearts and join the Lord's army in any way we can as President Nelson has asked us to do.

Let us not hold grudges or seek faults in others. We don't know each others hearts or even their true intent. Don't hurt yourself and others with grudges. This has been the most difficult lesson I've had to keep remembering that was taught in the Oct General Conference.

Do your best. Help others do their best. Pray for God to help the leaders we have sustained to know how best to further the Lord's work, whatever that may be.

Pascal Friedmann said...

I think Unknown is making some great points here in terms of the discussion we had earlier on this same post.

Now, what's happening in Tanzania? I like to mentally group Tanzania with Sierra Leone instead of Kenya, as there are a lot more Muslims in the country (perhaps constituting a plurality, perhaps barely not). I believe the Church will eventually thrive there just like it does more and more in Sierra Leone, but for now, it is setting the groundwork by establishing Centers of Strength, particularly in Dar Es Salaam. A stake there may only be a five years out or so, even given current growth trends (which I still expect to be accelerated soon if a Mission is announced there).

Eduardo Clinch said...

Unknown: totally agree, thanks. I was able to baptize a few really great people on my mission, but going back I see their inactivity and it can be crushing to the ego, or psyche, or soul, what have you. Numbers of converts and numbers in general do not define us, and grudges and remorse can be bad things, yes.
This blog is highly numbers driven, however, and I enjoy it. Conjecture may not seem like much to many people but it is interesting to some of us.
Some people make a decent living as analysts. Assessing numbers.

Unknown said...

The general pattern of late seems to be to open missions where the Church already has significant presence.

Things work a lot better when the Church grows in an orderly way.

At times this leads to key questions of when to divide existing units or plant new ones.

I think we need to focus more on member outreach then more missionaries. We also need to see more outreach in Tanzania, but I think this will mainly happen before a mission is organized there. Yet there seem to be large parts of Kenya that are unreached as well.

James said...

Unknown, your points are well taken. In the movie "The R. M.", produced by Halestorm entertainment, the character that is the focus of the movie was asked "How many converts did you have?" His immediate response was, "Just one. Me." Even though the movie is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at the experiences of a returned missionary, the point still stands. If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that the Lord uses a variety of experiences tailored to each individual to enable them, if they choose to do so, to have that kind of "conversion experience". And because no two people are alike, that path of individual conversion, which has rightly been called the process of a lifetime, is different for all who journey thereon. It all comes down to individual choice.

And yes, it is easy for us to draw conclusions, make assumptions, or analyze situations, but at the end of the day, the Lord knows whether or not each of us are headed in the right direction on the path of our individual conversion, and He will be the one to judge. I have often said (and felt) that I am glad I don't personally have that responsibility. But that, perhaps, is the point. The Lord was the only One Being who ever lived free of sin, and as such, only He is in the best position to determine whether each individual's conversion happened in the way He intended that to occur. It is a powerful reminder, and an inspiring thought.

James said...

In the same manner, it may be easy for us to speculate, theorize, or conjecture what the best and most effective strategy would be to increase and improve the growth of the Church in various areas of the world, but in such matters, the Brethren, both those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, and those who are living ans serving in such areas, would certainly, with a first=hand perspective into information we may not have, be in more of a position to judge what the most effective strategies are to ameliorate such issues around the world than the rest of us might be, since we certainly don't have all of the information, insight, and authority to make such determinations that they have.

But with respect to that idea, I think that is why lately, when certain changes have been considered, the Church has run "pilot programs" to test them in various areas of the world. That was true with the change from home and visiting teaching to ministering, with the restructuring of elders' quorums around the world, with the change to the two-hour block and a home-centered curriculum, with the changes to Aaronic Priesthood Quorums and young women classes, and with missionaries having more frequent contact with their families. I have on good authority that the new Worldwide initiative for Primary-aged children and those in the youth quorums and groups is being/will be tested later this year in a similar manner.

And with the way the Church has tweaked the "chain of command" for priesthood responsibilities, particularly in handing more authority for some aspects of the work to local leaders (rather than continuing the practices which were standard around 4 decades ago of having most of those obligations handled by apostles directly), it is obvious that more trust and thus more responsibility is being placed upon the heads of local leaders, since they are familiar with the issues of their areas.

With that in mind, are there things the Church could or should do differently in some aspects of the work in some areas? We can certainly suggest that, but we are doing so as individuals who may not know all the factors under consideration that have led to the current decisions of local or general leaders. Matt, who has rightly been recognized as a Church growth expert, has honed his ability to analyze such things, based on the reports he receives from members, missionaries, and leaders in the areas in which he writes about. For the rest of us, who may not have all the facts in any Church growth matter, we would do well, in my opinion, to remember and clearly state that we speak for ourselves, and that our information may, as a result, be incomplete, which may in turn affect our own analysis. For what it's worth, those are some additional thoughts, just from my own imperfect perception.

Eduardo Clinch said...

No policy is flawless. The Church is complete, not perfect, without flaw. Great Sunday School lesson this week! Teleiono? Yeah, achieving a goal rather than "perfect" composition.