Monday, April 19, 2021

Holguin Branch Organized in Cuba

In a major development, the Church in Cuba has organized its first branch in a major city outside of Havana. The Holguin Branch was recently organized under the Havana Cuba District. The Havana Cuba District now includes five branches including one in the city of Havana, two on the outskirts of Havana in the town of Cotorro, and the district branch to service members who live outside of the Havana metropolitan area and Holguin. Holguin is the fourth most populous city in Cuba and has approximately 300,000 inhabitants. The Church has reported rapid membership growth in Cuba in recent years. There were 357 Latter-day Saints in Cuba according to official Church totals as of year-end 2018 (a 47.5% increase from year-end 2017). Cuba is not currently assigned to a mission, and the country is directly administered by the Caribbean Area Presidency. The number of branches in Cuba increased from one to two in 2014, three in 2017, four in 2019, and five as of April 2021. The Havana Cuba District was organized in 2017. There are approximately 11 million people who live in Cuba.

Monday, April 12, 2021

March 2021 Monthly Newsletter

I just realized I totally forgot to upload last month's newsletter for cumorah.com. The newsletter can be accessed here.

Updated Country Profile - Rwanda

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Rwanda. See below for the Future Prospects section of the report:

The Church in Rwanda has significant potential given a highly receptive population to Latter-day Saint missionary work, increases in mission resources allocated to the country in recent years, official government recognition, the translation of Latter-day Saint scriptures into Kinyarwanda, and the establishment of dedicated and committed local leaders. However, the Church continues to assign few resources to Rwanda, and the country remains under the jurisdiction of the Uganda Kampala Mission. The organization of a separate mission headquartered in Kigali is greatly needed to provide greater mission president oversight and more resources and attention to fledgling congregations which have seen a significant reduction in member activity rates due to the government’s closure of thousands of places of worship. Moreover, the Church will require strategic vision to reach more than 80% of the Rwandan population which lives in rural areas.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Announcement of 20 New Temples: Analysis

As noted last Sunday, Church President Russell M. Nelson announced plans to construct 20 new temples in the following locations:

  • Oslo, Norway
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Kumasi, Ghana
  • Beira, Mozambique
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Singapore, Republic of Singapore
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Cali, Colombia
  • Querétaro, México
  • Torreón, México
  • Helena, Montana
  • Casper, Wyoming
  • Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Farmington, New Mexico
  • Burley, Idaho
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Elko, Nevada
  • Yorba Linda, California
  • Smithfield, Utah

This marks the most temples announced in a single day in which the Church has identified the specific location of the temples announced. The record for the most temples announced in a single day was set in April 1998 when President Hinckley announced plans to construct 32 temples. The announcement of these 20 new temples on April 4th, 2021 increased the total number of temples announced or dedicated to 251 - an 8.0% increase from prior to the announcement. President Nelson has announced 69 new temples since he became President of the Church in early 2018. Fifty (50) of the 69 new temples announced have been in locations that have been typical for most temple announcements in the Church in terms of factors such as geographic distance to the nearest temple, number of stakes likely to be served by the new temple, and the duration of a Church presence in the location. These temples include the following: 

  • Salta Argentina Temple
  • Auckland New Zealand Temple
  • Davao Philippines Temple
  • Lagos Nigeria Temple
  • Mendoza Argentina Temple
  • Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple
  • Praia Cabo Verde Temple
  • Puebla Mexico Temple
  • Red Cliffs Utah Temple
  • Salvador Brazil Temple
  • San Juan Puerto Rico Temple
  • Antofagasta Chile Temple
  • Deseret Peak Utah Temple
  • Neiafu Tonga Temple
  • Pago Pago American Samoa Temple
  • San Pedro Sula Honduras Temple
  • Bacolod Philippines Temple
  • Bentonville Arkansas Temple
  • Freetown Sierra Leone Temple
  • McAllen Texas Temple
  • Orem Utah Temple
  • Port Moresby Papua New Guinea Temple
  • Taylorsville Utah Temple
  • Bahía Blanca Argentina Temple
  • Benin City Nigeria Temple
  • Lubumbashi Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple
  • Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Temple
  • Syracuse Utah Temple
  • Tallahassee Florida Temple
  • Lindon Utah Temple
  • Santa Cruz Bolivia Temple
  • Tarawa Kiribati Temple
  • Belo Horizonte Brazil Temple
  • Casper Wyoming Temple
  • Elko Nevada Temple
  • Eugene Oregon Temple
  • Farmington New Mexico Temple
  • Grand Junction Colorado Temple
  • Helena Montana Temple
  • Kumasi Ghana Temple
  • Oslo Norway Temple
  • Querétaro Mexico Temple
  • Smithfield Utah Temple
  • Torreón Mexico Temple

I believe that 19 of the 69 temples announced by President Nelson have not fit the typical criteria seen for new temple announcements given the small size of the Church in these locations, relatively close proximity to the nearest temple, and/or the short duration of the Church's presence.

  • Feather River California Temple
  • Yigo Guam Temple
  • Budapest Hungary Temple
  • Moses Lake Washington Temple
  • Okinawa Japan Temple
  • Cobán Guatemala Temple
  • Dubai United Arab Emirates Temple
  • Shanghai China Temple
  • Greater Guatemala City Guatemala Temple
  • Port Vila Vanuatu Temple
  • São Paulo Brazil East Temple
  • Beira Mozambique Temple
  • Brussels Belgium Temple
  • Burley Idaho Temple
  • Cali Colombia Temple
  • Cape Town South Africa Temple
  • Singapore Republic of Singapore Temple
  • Vienna Austria Temple
  • Yorba Linda California Temple

Regardless whether you agree with my organization of President Nelson's temple announcements into typical or atypical categorized based upon previous temple announcements, I think that there has been a surprising number of temple announcements in locations that few have considered as likely candidates. Also, the news release that provides information about the new temples announced on April 4th, 2021 included the following statement about how the Church chooses sites for new temples:

Temple sites are chosen by the First Presidency based on several factors, including the number of members in an area, travel time to the nearest temple and the need for additional temple capacity in a region.

See below for an analysis of each of the 20 new temples announced on April 4th, 2021:

Oslo Norway Temple

Norway was the only continental Northern European country not to have its own temple prior to the announcement of the Oslo Norway Temple. Church membership in Norway has vacillated between 4,400 and 4,700 since approximately 2010. The number of members reported on Church records in Norway is comparable to neighboring Denmark (4,466 in 2019) and Finland (4,885 in 2019), yet each of these two nations had temples announced in 1999 and 2000, respectively. However, Norway had only one stake (the Oslo Norway Stake organized in 1977) until 2012 when a second stake was organized in Drammen. Approximately 30% of members in Norway appeared to regularly attend Church as of the late 2010s. Nevertheless, there is a strong core of active members to staff and support a small temple in Oslo. The new temple will likely include just the country of Norway with its two stakes and four isolated mission branches in northern Norway. Norway currently pertains to the Stockholm Sweden Temple. The Church has had a long-term presence in Norway with some congregations operating continuously since the 1850s. Approximately 8,500 converts joined the Church in Norway prior to 1930 of whom 3,500 immigrated to Utah. Prospects for future growth in Norway appear bleak given secularism in society, low birth rates in the Church, and few youth converts who are Norwegian. For more information about the Church's history in Norway, click here. Norway currently pertains to the Stockholm Sweden Temple.

Brussels Belgium Temple

This temple announcement was a total shock to me given Belgium's close geographic proximity to The Hague Netherlands Temple (announced in 1999, dedicated in 2002), the small size of the Church in Belgium, and very slow growth in recent decades. The number of congregations in Belgium decreased from an all-time high of 29 in 1999 to 11 in 2017. This decline was due to the steady discontinuation of all of the 18 branches in the country with the exception of one branch. The Church undertook a massive consolidation of wards and branches in Belgium in 2017 that resulted in the only ward or branch being closed in several cities. Today, there are 12 congregations in Belgium and two congregations in neighboring Luxembourg. Local members have noted that travel to The Hague Netherlands Temple is difficult for many Belgian members due to reliance on public transportation. Moreover, Belgium was the sovereign European country with the most members without a temple announced or dedicated prior to the announcement of the Brussels Belgium Temple (there were 6,605 members in Belgium as of year-end 2019). The new temple will likely service the two Belgian stakes (Antwerp [organized in 1994] and Brussels [organized in 1977]) and the Lille France Stake. Finally, members report that a site for the new temple has appeared to have already been secured. It is anticipated that the new temple may provide greater awareness of the Church in Europe given Brussels' prominence in European politics and cosmopolitan demography. The Church has had a continual presence in Belgium since the late 1880s. Belgium currently pertains to The Hague Netherlands Temple.

Vienna Austria Temple

This temple announcement was also a surprise to me given the recent announcement of the nearby Budapest Hungary Temple in 2019. The Church's growth in Austria in the past decade has been characterized by slow membership growth and stagnant congregational growth. The Church reported 4,693 members and 17 congregations as of year-end 2019. The Church has operated two stakes in Austria in Vienna (since 1980) and Salzburg (since 1997). The first official branch in Austria was organized in 1901. The new temple will likely include the two stakes in Austria, possibly one district each in Croatia, Slovakia, and Slovenia, and possibly the Prague Czech Republic Stake. Austria currently pertains to the Freiberg Germany Temple.

Kumasi Ghana Temple

Kumasi has experienced some of the most rapid growth in the Church in West Africa during the past decade. The number of stakes in Kumasi has increased from one in 2010 to four at present. The first stake in Kumasi was created in 1998. The rapid growth of the Church in Kumasi began after the Ghana Cape Coast Mission initiated an aggressive church-planting strategy in which approximately one dozen member groups were organized in lesser-reached areas of the city. These member groups quickly matured into branches, and many of these branches have since become wards. The new temple will be the Church's second temple in Ghana where the first temple was announced in 1998 and dedicated in 2004. There are currently four stakes and five districts which appear likely to be assigned to the new temple, albeit the number of stakes and districts may be much higher by the time the temple is complete given recent growth trends. The Ghana Kumasi Mission was organized in 2012. 

The Church organized its first branch in Ghana in 1978. All of Ghana is currently serviced by the Accra Ghana Temple. Ghana appears a good candidate for the announcement of a third temple in the foreseeable future in the Cape Coast/Takoradi area where there are six stakes and three districts. There were 89,135 members and 328 congregations in Ghana as of year-end 2019.

Beira Mozambique Temple

The new temple in Beira, Mozambique will be the Church's first temple in the country. The Church organized its first branch in Beira in 1999, and the first branch in Mozambique was created in Maputo in 1996. Beira was likely chosen as the site of the Church's first temple in Mozambique due to its central location and recent rapid growth. Mozambique currently pertains to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. There are five stakes (two in Beira, two in Maputo, one in Nampula) and one district (Chimoio) in Mozambique - all of which will likely be assigned to the new temple once it is completed. The Church organized its first stakes in Mozambique in 2015 with one stake each in Beira and Maputo. This summer the Church will organize the Mozambique Beira Mission from a division of the Mozambique Maputo Mission (organized in 2005).

Cape Town South Africa Temple

The long-awaited temple in Cape Town, South Africa was announced after many years of hopes and prayers by the members of the Church to have a temple announced for their city. There has been speculation for many years that the Church may one day announce a small temple for Cape Town due to long distance to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. There are only two stakes in Cape Town which were organized in 1984 and 2014. However, the new temple may also service additional 1-3 stakes and one district in southern South Africa which currently pertain to the Durban South Africa Temple. The Church has had a long-term presence in Cape Town with the first branch being organized in the 1850s, albeit an official presence was not consistently sustained for many decades. The new temple will be the Church's third temple in South Africa after the Johannesburg South Africa Temple (announced in 1981 and dedicated in 1985) and the Durban South Africa Temple (announced in 2011 and dedicated in 2020). The South Africa Cape Town Mission was organized in 1984. There were 68,772 members and 193 congregations in South Africa as of year-end 2019.

Singapore Republic of Singapore Temple

The Singapore Republic of Singapore Temple will be the Church's first temple in Singapore where the Church operates one stake (organized in 1995). President Hinckley publicly proposed a temple for Singapore in a member meeting in 2000. Singapore currently pertains to the Manila Philippines Temple. The Church reported slow, steady membership growth in Singapore until the early 2010s, and the Church has since experienced stagnant growth or a slight decline in membership from year to year. As of year-end 2019, there were 3,439 members and seven congregations (all wards) in Singapore. Approximately 28% of Church membership attends church on a regular basis. Prospects appeared favorable for the Church to organize a second stake in Singapore until 2019 when three wards were discontinued in order to establish wards with larger numbers of active members. Singapore ranks among countries with the fewest members with a temple announced or dedicated. However, the new temple will also service membership in neighboring Malaysia where there were 10,845 members (only 15% are active) and 31 branches as of year-end 2019 (Malaysia is the country with the most members without a stake when excluding mainland China). Moreover, Singapore will also likely service Latter-day Saints in Indonesia and Timor-Leste where there were a combined 7,600 members, two stakes, and one district as of year-end 2019. The Church organized its first branch in Singapore in 1968, and the Singapore Mission was organized in 1980.

Belo Horizonte Brazil Temple

The Belo Horizonte Brazil Temple will be the Church's 13th temple in Brazil. The new temple will likely include the six stakes in the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area, at least four stakes in neighboring cities, and perhaps two or more districts. The first stake organized in Belo Horizonte was created in 1981, and the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission was organized in 1988. The first branch in Belo Horizonte appeared to be organized as early as 1974. Previously built or announced temples in Brazil include the São Paulo Brazil Temple (dedicated in 1978), the Recife Brazil Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Porto Alegre Brazil Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Campinas Brazil Temple (dedicated in 2002), the Curitiba Brazil Temple (dedicated in 2008), the Manaus Brazil Temple (dedicated in 2012), the Fortaleza Brazil Temple (dedicated in 2019), Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple (announced in 2013 and currently waiting to be dedicated), Belém Brazil Temple (announced in 2016 and under construction), the Brasília Brazil Temple (announced in 2017 and under construction), the Salvador Brazil Temple (announced in 2018), and the São Paulo Brazil East Temple (announced in 2020). The Church in Brazil reported 1.43 million members, 2,142 congregations, 277 stakes, 39 districts, and 35 missions as of year-end 2019.

Cali Colombia Temple

The new temple announced for Cali, Colombia will be the Church's third temple in Colombia following the Bogota Colombia Temple (announced in 1984 and dedicated in 1999) and the Barranquilla Colombia Temple (announced 2011 and dedicated in 2018). The new temple will likely include six stakes and six districts in southern Colombia. The Church has reported slow growth in southern Colombia as no new stakes have been organized in this region of the country since 1997. The Colombia Cali Mission was organized in 1975, and the first stake in the city was created in 1978. The Church in Colombia reported 209,985 members, 249 congregations, 30 stakes, and 10 districts as of year-end 2019.

Querétaro Mexico Temple

The Querétaro Mexico Temple will be the Church's first temple in central Mexico between Mexico City and Guadalajara - a region of Mexico with some of the lowest percentages of Latter-day Saints in the general population. Local members have reported Querétaro is an important evolving center for the Church in the region, and it is the only city between Mexico City and Guadalajara with more than two stakes. The first stake in Querétaro was organized in 1995, and the most recently organized stake in Querétaro was created in 2012. The Mexico Querétaro Mission was organized in 2013. The new temple will likely include the three stakes in Querétaro, three stakes and one district in neighboring Guanajuato State, possibly 2-4 stakes in Michoacan State, and possibly two stakes in San Luis Potosí. These stakes are currently assigned to the Mexico City Mexico Temple or the Guadalajara Mexico Temple. 

The Church in Mexico has previously dedicated or announced 14 temples in Mexico including the Mexico City Mexico Temple (dedicated in 1983), the Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Mexico Temple (dedicated in 1999), the Ciudad Juárez Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Hermosillo Sonora Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Oaxaca Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Tuxtla Gutiérrez Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Tampico Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Villahermosa Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Mérida Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Veracruz Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2000), the Guadalajara Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2001), the Monterrey Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2002), the Tijuana Mexico Temple (dedicated in 2015), and the Puebla Mexico Temple (announced in 2018). The Church in Mexico reported 1.48 million members, 1,843 congregations, 222 stakes, 47 districts, and 32 missions as of year-end 2019.

Torreón Mexico Temple

The Torreón Mexico Temple will be the Church's 16th temple in Mexico. The new temple will likely service the five stakes in the Torreón/Gomez Palacio metropolitan area, the two stakes in Durango, and two districts north of Torreón. The Church has experienced slow growth in this area of Mexico in recent years, and the most recently organized stake that will likely be assigned to the new temple district was created in 1995. The Mexico Torreón Mission was originally organized in 1968.

UNITED STATES TEMPLES

Helena Montana Temple 

The Helena Montana Temple will be the Church's second temple in Montana after the Billings Montana Temple (announced in 1996, dedicated in 1999). The new temple will likely serve approximately eight stakes in western Montana. Slow Church growth has occurred in Montana for much of the past 30 years, albeit two new stakes were created in 2017. The Church in Montana reported 50,552 members, 126 congregations, 13 stakes, and one mission as of year-end 2019.

Casper Wyoming Temple

The Casper Wyoming Temple will be the Church's second temple in Wyoming after the Star Valley Wyoming Temple (announced in 2011, dedicated in 2016) which is located in Afton. The new temple was announced shortly after the creation of a second stake in Casper in 2020. The Church has consistently organized new wards in Casper in recent years. The Church's first stake in Casper was organized in 1962. The new temple will likely service the two Casper stakes, 2-3 additional stakes in Wyoming, and possibly the Rapid City South Dakota Stake. These stakes pertain to three different temple districts: the Fort Collins Colorado Temple district, the Billings Montana Temple district, and the Bismark North Dakota Temple district. The Church in Wyoming reported 67,729 members, 171 congregations, and 17 stakes as of year-end 2019.

Grand Junction Colorado Temple

The Grand Junction Colorado Temple will be the Church's third temple in Colorado after the Denver Colorado Temple (announced in 1982, dedicated in 1986) and the Fort Collins Colorado Temple (announced 2011, dedicated in 2016). The new temple will likely service the two Grand Junction stakes, the Montrose Colorado Stake, and the Rifle Colorado Stake. The Church's first stake in Grand Junction was organized in 1955. Stakes in the likely temple district currently pertain to the Monticello Utah Temple district and the Vernal Utah Temple district. The Church has reported slow growth on the Western Slope of Colorado. Statewide, the Church in Colorado has experienced stagnant membership growth since 2015. The Church in Colorado reported 150,958 members, 305 congregations, 35 stakes, and four missions as of year-end 2019.

Farmington New Mexico Temple

The Farmington New Mexico Temple will be the Church's second temple in New Mexico after the Albuquerque New Mexico Temple (announced in 1997, dedicated in 2000). The new temple will likely primarily service the historic Mormon colonies in northwestern New Mexico, Native American members in the Four Corners area, and southwestern Colorado. The new temple will likely include 5-6 stakes in the Four Corners area. The Farmington New Mexico Stake was organized in 1912. The Four Corners currently pertain to the Monticello Utah Temple and the Snowflake Arizona Temple. The New Mexico Farmington Mission was organized in 2010. The Church in New Mexico has reported stagnant membership growth since 2015. The Church in New Mexico reported 69,488 members, 138 congregations, 14 stakes, and two missions as of year-end 2019.

Burley Idaho Temple

The Burley Idaho Temple will be the Church's seventh temple in Idaho after the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple (announced in 1937, dedicated in 1945), Boise Idaho Temple (announced in 1982, dedicated in 1984), the Rexburg Idaho Temple (announced in 2003, dedicated in 2008), the Twin Falls Idaho Temple (announced in 2004, dedicated in 2008), the Meridian Idaho Temple (announced in 2011, dedicated in 2017), the Pocatello Idaho Temple (announced in 2017). The new temple will likely include seven stakes in the Burley area. The oldest stake in the area is the Oakley Idaho Stake which was organized in 1887. Several of the stakes have operated for nearly 100 years. The number of stakes in the Twin Falls Idaho Temple District will likely be cut in half as a result of the new temple announcement. The Church has experienced slow growth in the Twin Falls area (where a couple stakes are close to dividing), whereas essentially stagnant growth has occurred in the Burley area for many years. The Church in Idaho reported 462,069 members, 1,181 congregations, 132 stakes, and three missions as of year-end 2019. Unlike many states, the Church in Idaho has reported consistent membership growth rates for many years (typically 1-2% per year).

Eugene Oregon Temple

The Eugene Oregon Temple will be the Church's third temple in Oregon after the Portland Oregon Temple (announced in 1984, dedicated in 1989) and the Medford Oregon Temple (announced in 1999, dedicated in 2000). The new temple will likely include approximately nine stakes in west central Oregon which currently pertain to the Portland Oregon Temple. This region of Oregon has experienced essentially stagnant growth for several decades. The Church organized its first stake in the Eugene metropolitan area in 1951 (today the Springfield Oregon Stake). The Church in Oregon reported 153,540 members, 306 congregations, 35 stakes, and 3 missions as of year-end 2019.

Elko Nevada Temple

The Elko Nevada Temple will be the Church's third temple in Nevada after the Las Vegas Nevada Temple (announced in 1984, dedicated in 1989) and the Reno Nevada Temple (announced in 1999, dedicated in 2000). The Church organized its first stake in Elko in 1942. The new temple will likely include the two stakes in Elko, the Ely Nevada Stake, the Winnemucca Nevada Stake, and the Wendover Utah District. The likely temple district is currently divided between four temples: the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, the Reno Nevada Temple, the Cedar City Utah Temple, and the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple (located in South Jordan). The most recently organized stake in the likely temple district was organized in Elko in 1995. The Church in Nevada has reported extremely slow membership growth in recent years. There were 184,703 members, 350 congregations, 42 stakes, and 3 missions in Nevada as of year-end 2019.

Yorba Linda California Temple

The Yorba Linda California Temple will be the ninth temple in California after the Los Angeles California Temple (announced in 1937, dedicated in 1956), the Oakland California Temple (announced in 1961, dedicated in 1964), the San Diego California Temple (announced in 1984, dedicated in 1993), the Fresno California Temple (announced in 1999, dedicated in 2000), the Redlands California Temple (announced in 2001, dedicated in 2003), the Newport Beach California Temple (announced in 2001, dedicated in 2005), the Sacramento California Temple (announced in 2001, dedicated in 2006), and the Feather River California Temple (located in Yuba City) (announced in 2018). This temple announcement came as a complete surprise to me given the Church's decades-long trend of active members moving away from northern Orange County (and much of Southern California in general) as well as several temples with the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. For example, the Church discontinued the Placentia California Stake in 2020 due to steady declines in the number of congregations in the area. The new temple will likely include 8-10 stakes which currently pertain to neighboring temple districts. The Church has reported consistent net decreases in membership in California since 2013 (all-time high for Church membership was reached in 2013 at 780,200). As of year-end 2019, there were 756,507 members, 1,229 congregations, 153 stakes, and 15 missions in California. The Church in California has had at least three distinct periods of membership decline in the past 30 years (early 1990s, mid-2000s, and mid-2010s to present).

Smithfield Utah Temple

The Smithfield Utah Temple will be the Church's 26th temple in Utah. The Church organized its first stake in Smithfield in 1938. The new temple will likely include eight stakes in northern Cache County and four stakes in southern Idaho. It is important to note that many of the stakes in Cache County are rather large at present, and it appears many new stakes will be organized in the area within the immediate future. Previously dedicated or announced temples in Utah include: the St. George Utah Temple (announced in 1871, dedicated in 1877), the Logan Utah Temple (announced in 1876, dedicated in 1884), the Manti Utah Temple (announced in 1875, dedicated in 1888), the Salt Lake Temple (announced in 1847, dedicated in 1893), the Ogden Utah Temple (announced in 1967, dedicated in 1972), the Provo Utah Temple (announced in 1967, dedicated in 1972), the Jordan River Utah Temple (announced in 1978, dedicated in 1981), the Bountiful Utah Temple (announced in 1990, dedicated in 1995), the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple (announced in 1992, dedicated in 1996), the Vernal Utah Temple (announced in 1994, dedicated in 1997), the Monticello Utah Temple (announced in 1997, dedicated in 1998), the Draper Utah Temple (announced in 2004, dedicated in 2009), the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple (announced in 2005, dedicated in 2009), the Brigham City Utah Temple (announced in 2009, dedicated in 2012), the Payson Utah Temple (announced in 2010, dedicated in 2015), the Provo City Center Temple (announced in 2011, dedicated in 2016), Cedar City Utah Temple (announced in 2013, dedicated in 2017), the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple (announced in 2017), the Layton Utah Temple (announced in 2018), the Red Cliffs Utah Temple (located in St. George) (announced in 2018), the Deseret Peak Utah Temple (located in Tooele) (announced in 2019), the Orem Utah Temple (announced in 2019), the Taylorsville Utah Temple (announced in 2019), the Syracuse Utah Temple (announced in 2020), and the Lindon Utah Temple (announced in 2020).

Saturday, April 10, 2021

2020 Statistical Report: Analysis of Major Developments

As promised, I have provided an analysis of the 2020 statistical report. See below for some of the major highlights indicated in this report. These data need to be interpreted within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government and church restrictions on missionary work and church activities appears primarily responsible for significant declines in membership growth during the year.

Significant Decline in Convert Baptisms

The number of convert baptisms in 2020 was a mere 125,930 - a stunning 49.4% decrease from the number of convert baptisms reported in 2019. This is the lowest number of convert baptisms reported by the Church since 1975 when there was 95,412 converts baptized. A significant decline in the number of convert baptisms during 2020 was anticipated given significant restrictions with missionary work worldwide. Most mission in the Church reported a large decrease in the number of convert baptisms during 2020, albeit in late 2020 there were also reports of some missions where the number of mostly convert baptisms surpassed the number of baptisms for the same month in 2019. Nevertheless, convert baptisms dramatically decreased in 2020, and this decreased appeared primarily due to the pandemic.

Significant Decline in Annual Children of Record Increase

Children of record are children under age 8 who are added to church records usually shortly after birth. The increase in children of record in 2020 was only 65,440. The most recent year when the annual increase of children of record was approximately this low was 2001 when 69,522 children were added to church records. The last time the Church regularly reported an increase of children of record in the 60,000s was in the early 1970s. Fewer and fewer children have been added to church records since 2012 when there were 122,273 children added to the records. In 2019, the increase in children of record was 94,266 - the first time this statistic was below 100,000 since 2007. However, the dramatic decline of approximately 30,000 in 2020 appears primarily due to delays in blessing children among infants born to church members (myself included - my son was born in August 2020 and we did not do his blessing until February 2021 which is when he was officially added to church records). Many members have chosen to postpone blessing their infant children and adding them to church records during the pandemic until gathering restrictions are relaxed to permit extended family to visit for this ordinance.

Children of record increase has had previous periods of accelerating and decelerating growth. For example, the Church reached an all-time high for increase of children of record in 1982 at 124,000. Annual children of record increase steadily increased from the early 1970s to the early 1980s and then decreased to the 90,000s in the mid to late 1980s, the 70,000s for most years in the 1990s, 80,000s for most years in the early 2000s, and the 90,000s for most years in the mid to late 2000s. It is anticipated that the increase in children of record for 2021 may be much higher than 2020 or previous years if COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed and conditions continue to normalize. However, the Church continues to report decreasing numbers of annual children of record increase. Lower birth rates among North American Latter-day Saints, married members constituting smaller percentages of overall church membership, and difficulties with establishing full-member families outside the United States are some of the primary causes for recent decelerating growth trends with this metric.

Lowest Annual Membership Growth Rate Since 1857

The year 2020 was the year with the slowest membership growth reported by the Church in more than 150 years. The last time the Church reported an annual membership growth rate that was slower than 2020 was in 1857 when negative membership growth occurred (this was during the time of the reformation movement when church leaders advocated re-baptism to recommit to their covenants and to church teachings). Church membership increased by 98,627 in 2020 - a 0.60% increase from 2019. The last time there was an increase of less than 100,000 for total church membership was in 1973 when there was a net increase of 87,750 members. Despite significant decreases in members being added to church records, the number of members removed from church records in 2020 appeared consistent with recent years. The difference between the summation of convert baptisms and new children of record and the actual increase in church membership was 92,743. This statistic has remained consistently around 90,000-120,000 for most years since 2013 and represents the approximate numbers of members removed from church records due to death, excommunication, resignation, or children of record over age 8 who do not get baptized and confirmed as members of the Church. Thus, the pandemic did not appear to significantly change trends with deaths, excommunications, resignations, or removal of unbaptized children of record over age 8 for the year 2020.

Congregational Growth Rate Surpasses Membership Growth Rate

This is a significant development given that the last time congregational growth rates surpassed membership growth rates was in 1998. Low membership growth rates appear primarily responsible for congregational growth rates surpassing membership growth rates. Nevertheless, it is important to note that congregational growth rates did not fall as significantly as membership growth rates during 2020 to the point that the worldwide average number of members per congregation decreased from 535.4 to 535.2. There were significant periods of time in 2020 when the Church organized or discontinued extremely few congregations (primarily from March until August). Approval to organize new wards and branches often takes months, or even years, to complete, and thus many of the congregations created in 2020 were likely planned and approved before the pandemic began. Many of the new congregations organized in 2020 were in the United States. There was a significant deceleration in congregational growth rates in most of Sub-Saharan Africa with a few exceptions (such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Nevertheless, congregational growth rates have become more commensurate with membership growth rates for most recent years which suggests improvements in convert retention and member activity in the countries with the most congregations (such as the United States and Brazil). However, compounding convert attrition and member inactivity has plagued membership records for decades in most countries of the world. Although the average ward or branch in the Church has 535 members on its records, most congregations in the Church (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) had between 100-200 active members. 

Full-time Missionary Numbers Significantly Decrease

The Church has reported approximately 65,000-70,000 members serving full-time missions for most years since the end of the "surge" in the double-cohort of full-time missionaries in the early to mid-2010s. The Church reported only 51,819 members serving full-time proselytizing missions as of year-end 2020. The number of full-time missionaries widely vacillated during the year due to temporary releases or early permanent releases of full-time missionaries during the year. Many members have appeared to chose to postpone missionary service until conditions further normalize. Nevertheless, many members continue to begin missionary service, albeit their numbers appear less than normal. This is also a likely metric to see a significant and temporary increase in 2021 if conditions continue to improve.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

20 New Temples Announced

This afternoon, Church President Russell M. Nelson announced plans to construct 20 temples in the following locations:

  • Oslo, Norway
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Kumasi, Ghana
  • Beira, Mozambique
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Singapore, Republic of Singapore
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Cali, Colombia
  • Querétaro, México
  • Torreón, México
  • Helena, Montana
  • Casper, Wyoming
  • Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Farmington, New Mexico
  • Burley, Idaho
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Elko, Nevada
  • Yorba Linda, California
  • Smithfield, Utah

With today's announcement, there are now 251 temples announced or dedicated worldwide. This marks the most temples ever announced for specific locations in a single day by the Church. I will provide additional analysis of these new temples announced in the coming days.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

2020 Statistical Report

This afternoon, the Church reported the following statistics as of December 31st, 2020.

  • Membership: 16,663,663 (increase of 98,627 from 2019; a 0.60% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 31,136 (increase of 196 from 2019; a 0.63% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,463 (increase of 26 from 2019; a 0.76% annual increase)
  • Districts: 537 (decrease of 5 from 2019; a 0.92% annual decrease)
  • Missions: 405 (increase of 6 from 2019; a 1.25% annual decrease)
  • Convert Baptisms: 125,930 (decrease of 122,905 from 2019; a 49.4% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 65,440 (decrease of 28,826 from 2019; a 30.6% annual decrease)
  • Full-time missionaries: 51,819 (decrease of 15,202 from 2019; a 22.7% annual decrease)
  • Church service missionaries: 30,527 (decrease of 806 from 2019; a 2.57% annual decrease)

I will post an analysis of these numbers in the coming days.

Rare Insights into Latter-day Saint Demography Shared by Elder Gong

This morning, Elder Gerrit W. Gong shared some demographic data about Latter-day Saint populations. He emphasized that Latter-day Saint membership has become "increasingly internationalized" during the past 40 years. Some of these data appear to have never been released before. These include:

  • Most adults in the worldwide Church have been single, widowed, or divorced since 1992
  • Most adults in the United States and Canada have been single, widowed, or divorced since 2019
  • Latter-day Saint membership in Latin America is anticipated to surpass Latter-day Saint membership in the United States and Canada by 2025
  • The number of Church members outside the United States and Canada surpassed the number of Latter-day Saints within the United States and Canada in 1998 (previously reported statistic)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Significant Growth in the Republic of the Congo

The Republic of Congo Brazzaville Mission is currently in a significant period of growth. The Church recently organized its first branch in the northern city of Ouesso on the border with Cameroon. The mission president reported that the mission receives 20 self-referrals per day from individuals who have learned about the Church online. The mission had 74 baptisms in February despite having few full-time missionaries assigned to the mission and many of these missionaries having little experience. There are 90 people who are not members of the Church who attend the Institutes of Religion class on a university in Brazzaville. Moreover, 17 new wards and branches will be organized by June 2021 in the mission. Currently, there are 28 wards and branches in the entire country. A video on Facebook that provides these details and more (with English subtitles) can be found here.

2020 Statistical Report: Predictions

The year 2020 was definitely an anomaly year in regards to the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tens of thousands of full-time missionaries were released or temporarily reassigned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were several months during the year when there were extremely few new congregations being organized or discontinued. Furthermore, there was a five-month hiatus in new stake creations from March until August. Children of record totals are likely much lower than usual due to many members delaying infant blessings as a result of COVID-19 restrictions which resulted in fewer children added to Church records. Moreover, the number of convert baptisms dramatically decreased in many of the historically highest baptizing missions for at least several months during the year. However, there are many reports that the number of convert baptisms surpassed the number of convert baptisms for at least some months of the year, including in some lower-baptizing mission in Europe as well as historically high baptizing mission in Latin America. Thus, it is very difficult to predict what convert baptism totals were for 2020 given these changes from the status quo for convert baptism rates. It is like some of these metrics will see a noticeable temporary bump in 2021 as conditions begin to normalize in many of the countries where the Church operates, such as with children of record increase and the number of members serving full-time missions. One metric that appears to have noticeably improved in 2020 compared to prior years is the number of individuals meeting with missionaries and lessons taught by missionaries given major changes in online proselytism and remote teaching. However, this is not an official statistic published by the Church.

See below for my predictions for the 2020 Annual Statistical Report:

  • Membership: 16.75 million (increase of approximately 200,00 from 2019; a 1.21% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 31,140 (increase of 200 from 2019; a 0.65% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,464 (increase of 27 from 2019; a 0.79% annual increase)
  • Districts: 537 (decrease of 5 from 2019; a 0.92% annual decrease)
  • Missions: 406 (increase of 7 from 2019; a 1.75% annual increase)
  • Convert Baptisms: 200,000 (decrease of 48,835 from 2019; a 19.6% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 60,000 (decrease of 34,266 from 2019; a 36.4% annual decrease)
  • Full-time missionaries: 54,000 (decrease of 13,021 from 2019; a 19.4% annual decrease)
  • Church service missionaries: 25,000 (decrease of 6,333 from 2019; a 20.2% annual decrease)

Your insights and predictions are welcomed and encouraged. They may take a few hours or up to a day to show up below the post. I approve comments due to recent concerns with spam comments.