Sunday, September 15, 2019

New Stakes Created in Brazil, Guatemala, the Philippines, Texas, and Utah; New District Created in Nigeria

Brazil
The Church organized a new stake in Ceará State, Brazil on August 25th. The Fortaleza Brazil Lisboa Stake was organized from a division of the Fortaleza Brazil Bom Jardim Stake and the Caucaia Brazil Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Jatobá, Lisboa 1st, Lisboa 2nd, Novo Araturi, and Nova Conquista Wards. The new stake is the Church's fourth new stake organized in Ceará State since 2015. There are now 17 stakes in Fortaleza - the second most stake in a metropolitan area after Sao Paulo.

There are now 275 stakes and 39 districts in Brazil

Guatemala
The Church organized a new stake in southern Guatemala on September 8th. The Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa Guatemala Stake was organized from the Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa Guatemala District (organized in 1994). Information on which of the nine branches in the former district have become wards remains unavailable. The Church in Guatemala has recently experienced accelerated growth through the creation of new stakes from both districts maturing into stakes and the division of large stakes. Nine new stake have been organized in Guatemala since 2015.

There are now 51 stakes and 13 districts in Guatemala.

The Philippines
The Church organized a new stake on Luzon on September 1st. The Iba Philippines Stake was organized from the Iba Philippines District (created in 1983). The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Botolan, Iba, Liozon, Palauig, and San Agustin Wards, and the Bulawen Branch. The new stake is the Church's fourth new stake organized in the Philippines Olongapo Mission since 2017. Prior to that time, the mission had only one stake within its boundaries. The two remaining districts in the mission, headquartered in Dinalupihan and Santa Cruz, appear likely to become stakes within the near future based upon reports from local members.

There are now 114 stakes and 63 districts in the Philippines.

Texas
The Church organized a new stake in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area on August 25th. The Little Elm Texas Stake was created from the Frisco Texas Stake and the Frisco Texas Shawnee Trail Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Aubrey, Cross Roads, Frisco 6th, Little Elm 1st, Little Elm 2nd, Little Elm 3rd, and Oak Point Wards. The new stake is the Church's fifth new stake created in the Dallas/Forth Worth area since 2015.

There are now 76 stakes and two districts in Texas.

Utah
The Church organized a new stake in central Utah on August 25th. The Central Valley Utah Stake was created from the Monroe Utah Stake and the Richfield Utah East Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards and one branch: the Annabella 1st, Annabella 2nd, Central Valley 1st, Central Valley 2nd, Richfield 1st, Richfield 11th, and Richfield 15th Wards, and the Central Valley 3rd Branch (Spanish). The new stake is the first new stake created in the Richfield area of Utah since 1977.

There are now 603 stakes and one district in Utah.

Nigeria
The Church organized a new district in Rivers State, Nigeria on August 18th. The Bori Nigeria District was created from a division of the Okrika Nigeria District. The new stake includes the following eight branches: the Asarama, Bori, Bori Nigeria District, Nortem, Sogho, Taabaa, Unyeada, and Zaakpo Branches. The Church has experienced rapid congregational growth in the Bori area during the past few years, and the creation of the new district appeared warranted as the original Okrika Nigeria District had 13 branches.

There are now 58 stakes and 19 districts in Nigeria.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Indonesia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Indonesia. Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country with 263 million people. However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reports only about 7,500 members in Indonesia despite a Church presence for 50 years. Indonesia ranks as the country with the 68th most Latter-day Saints among countries with membership figures reported as of year-end 2018. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Potential for church growth remains high, but Latter-day Saints continue to lack the needed nationwide infrastructure and increase in the number of local full-time missionaries to expand mission outreach and reverse the trend of stagnant growth over the past two decades. Decreases in the number of Indonesians who serve missions in the past three decades has been a major challenge not only for mission outreach expansion, but also with supplying leadership for the future as returned missionaries often provide a significant source for leadership positions. All but three congregations are on the island of Java, and there were only four more congregations in Indonesia in late 2019 than in 1995. Church administrative decisions not to translate any church materials into languages spoken by over sixty million Indonesians, low involvement member-missionary programs, the lack of coherent vision for expanding national outreach into unreached areas, and the failure to reach out to receptive ethnic groups and develop a core leadership among them, all bode poorly for the Church’s prospects to achieve breakthroughs in growth in Indonesia in the medium term. Other denominations that have implemented broader visions for national outreach and have made better use of available opportunities have achieved far more rapid growth in Indonesia than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Government restrictions on visas for foreign full-time missionaries has limited expansion of national outreach over the past two decades. Greater local member participation in missionary activity within the bounds of the law is needed to open additional areas to missionary work, although greater institutional vision could considerably facilitate this process. Other Christian groups have demonstrated that excellent church growth opportunities exist but must be properly approached due to restrictive cultural and governmental conditions. Latter-day Saints have developed a capable, sustained local leadership that can assist in opening new areas of the country to the church if desired by regional church leadership. Due to the creation two new stakes and reduced administrative burden on the Indonesia Jakarta Mission during the early 2010s, additional areas may open to proselytism. However, efforts will likely continue to focus on centers of strength for the Church in select cities on Java, and the establishment of centers of strength in Medan, Manado, and Bali, rather than expansion of the Church into totally unreached provinces inhabited by tens of millions of people. A small temple may be announced in Jakarta within the foreseeable future due to distance and self-sustaining membership and leadership.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Malaysia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Malaysia. The Church experienced rapid membership and congregational growth during the 2000s, but with low convert retention rates. Membership increased from 1,300 members in 2000 to over 7,000 members in 2010. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

The outlook for the Church in Malaysia is noticeably bleaker for the coming decade compared to the 2000s and 2010s. Marked declines in membership growth rates from the previous decade, low member activity rates, leadership development challenges, and no expansion of the Church into additional cities in recent years, as well as a contraction in outreach with the sole branches in several cities closed in the 2010s, indicate that the Church in Malaysia’s focus has been on strengthening the core of active membership and preparing for some of the larger districts to become stakes, such as in Kuala Lumpur and Miri, rather than outward expansion. This approach may yield some long-term results with the formation of stakes in both East and West Malaysia in the foreseeable future. The translation of all Latter-day Saint scriptures and many Church materials into Malay within the past decade also presents good opportunities for testimony development and missionary activity. However, with uncertainty regarding the role of Islam in government and increasing societal intolerance toward religious minorities may result in greater limitations placed on nontraditional Christian denominations such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which may, in turn, result in insurmountable obstacles toward future expansion of the Church. Consequently, the Church may be vulnerable to miss the current window of opportunity to expand into additional cities both in East and West Malaysia if such restrictions come into effect. However, the Church in Malaysia will most importantly need to become self-sufficient in meeting its own leadership and missionary needs without assistance from foreign full-time missionaries or expatriate Westerners in order to develop a more solid membership base that can endure societal and political changes, and perpetuate growth for generations to come.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Singapore

Click here to access the updated country profile for Singapore. The Church in Singapore experienced steady membership growth until the early 2010s and has since experienced stagnant membership growth rates for most years. Nevertheless, there is a strong core of active members in the country with as many as 1,000 active members. Materialism and secularism are major obstacles for growth. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Slow, steady growth will likely occur for the Church in Singapore with fluctuations in growth rates depending most strongly on the ebb and flow of foreign members who temporarily work in the country. Secularism and materialism pose major obstacles for greater growth through Singaporean converts who join the Church and remain active. A second stake may be organized in Singapore if additional congregations are created, albeit recent ward consolidations suggest that a second stake may be many years or decades away from fruition. Additional language-specific congregations may be created, such as for Tamil and Indonesian speakers. Differentiated Chinese-speaking congregations (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkein, etc.) seem a likely possibility. However additional congregations will likely only be created as membership is strong enough to provide leadership and if functioning congregations are operating at capacity given high real estate prices. As hinted by President Hinckley and a former Singapore Stake President, Singapore is a likely location for a future small temple.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Sri Lanka

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Sri Lanka. The Church in Sri Lanka has experienced some of the slowest growth among Asian nations with a Church presence for over 40 years. As of year-end 2018, there were approximately 1,600 members, four branches, and one member group. Only about 25% of members appear to regularly attend church. Nevertheless, there have been some recent positive developments, such as sustained annual membership growth rates of 5% or higher per year since 2015, the full-time missionary force solely comprised to Sri Lankan members (with the exception of senior couples), and the creation of a second branch in Colombo. Also, senior missionaries a couple years ago reported that church attendance in Kandy increased from 15 to 115 in less than six months (albeit it is unclear whether this increase has since been sustained). See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

Accelerated membership growth since the mid-2010s and the organization of a second branch in Colombo point to some recent improvements in growth trends. This has been significant given that only local Sri Lankan members and senior couples have served in Sri Lanka as full-time missionaries during this time. However, missionary efforts have not been able to replicate more rapid membership growth attained by foreign, fulltime missionaries during the 2000s, albeit a higher percentage of recent converts appears to have been retained. Branches in Negombo and Kandy may divide when warranted by sustained growth in active membership. Additional branches or member groups in lesser-reached areas of the Colombo metropolitan area appear most favorable for future efforts to expand outreach due to high population density, proximity to other branches, and difficulty accessing the meetinghouse from more distant urban areas. Once there are at least five branches, over 120 active Melchizedek Priesthood holders, and 1,900 members a stake may be established, although current trends suggest that this goal is far distant especially given low member activity rates. Improving convert retention through approaches tailored to the needs of individuals of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds and careful preparation of prospective converts to ensure that gospel habits are in place will be crucial to achieving real long-term growth.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

New Temple Predictions - September 2019 Edition

I have updated my temple prediction map in preparation for General Conference in October. Data used to identify likely locations for future temples include the number of stakes and districts, the number of wards and branches, age of the oldest stake, trends in church growth, distance to the nearest temple, number of endowment sessions scheduled at the nearest temple, and member and missionary reports regarding member activity, temple attendance, and convert retention. Given President Nelson's comments in a media conference a couple days ago, there will be new temples announced this October. The Church announced 19 new temples during 2018 and eight new temples in April 2019.

In March 2019, I added a new classification for less likely potential new temples to be announced (i.e. locations with few stakes and distant from the nearest temple). I have added this new category given the recent trend for the Church announcing more temples in locations with fewer stakes. Thus, there has been an emphasis on the construction of new temples in more remote locations with comparatively few members to improve accessibility to the temple. Locations I added to the map back in March in this category include:
  • Rosario, Argentina
  • Flagstaff, Arizona 
  • Londrina, Brazil
  • Natal, Brazil
  • Santa Maria, Brazil
  • Sao Jose, Brazil
  • Teresina, Brazil
  • Osorno, Chile
  • Vina del Mar, Chile
  • Cali, Colombia
  • Grand Junction, Colorado 
  • Santiago, Dominican Republic
  • Coban, Guatemala
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Augusta, Maine 
  • Aguascalientes, Mexico
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Culiacan, Mexico
  • Torreon, Mexico
  • Farmington, New Mexico 
  • Enugu, Nigeria
  • Piura, Peru
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • Rapid City, South Dakota 
  • Austin, Texas
  • El Paso, Texas 
  • Longview, Texas
  • McAllen, Texas
  • Tacuarembo, Uruguay
  • Charleston, West Virginia
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin 
  • Casper, Wyoming
I have added the following 58 locations to the less likely list of temples that may be announced:
  • Fairbanks, Alaska 
  • Juneau, Alaska
  • Tirana, Albania 
  • Neuquen, Argentina
  • Trelew, Argentina
  • Hobart, Australia
  • Tarija, Bolivia
  • Campo Grande, Brazil
  • Cuiaba, Brazil
  • Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil
  • Maceio, Brazil 
  • Pelotas, Brazil
  • Rio Branco, Brazil
  • Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Brazil
  • Sorocaba, Brazil 
  • Vitoria, Brazil
  • Punta Arenas, Chile
  • San Luis Valley, Colorado 
  • Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
  • Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire
  • Machala, Ecuador
  • Quevedo, Ecuador
  • Ra'atea, Tahiti, French Polynesia 
  • Kahului, Hawaii
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • New Delhi, India
  • Kingston, Jamaica 
  • Sendai, Japan
  • Busan, Korea
  • La Paz, Mexico 
  • Beira, Mozambique
  • Maputo, Mozambique
  • Elko, Nevada (previously on Likely Potential New Temples list)
  • Christchurch, New Zealand 
  • Abuja, Nigeria
  • Calabar, Nigeria
  • Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Port Harcourt, Nigeria
  • Cleveland, Ohio (previously on Likely Potential New Temples list)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 
  • Cusco, Peru
  • Huancayo, Peru
  • Pisco, Peru
  • Puno, Peru
  • Tacna, Peru
  • Iloilo City, Philippines
  • Puerto Princesa, Philippines
  • Savaii, Samoa
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain
  • Kaohsiung, Taiwan 
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Lome, Togo
  • Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Delta, Utah
  • Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Barcelona, Venezuela
Altogether, the temple prediction map has 140 potential sites for more likely and less likely locations where temples may be announced. Church growth trends in 2019 have appeared to slightly accelerate during the year compared to 2018 in regards to the creation of new congregations and stakes, and also increases in convert baptisms in many missions around the world. However, this significant increase in the number of locations added to the map is NOT due to a sudden increase in church growth, but rather a change in temple announcements to more cities with few members that are distant from the nearest temple (such as Yigo, Guam; Budapest, Hungary; Okinawa, Japan; and Moses Lake, Washington to name a few). As for what I see as the 10 most likely locations for new temples to be announced this October, see below:
  • Benin City, Nigeria
  • Santa Cruz, Bolivia 
  • Monrovia, Liberia 
  • Freetown or Bo, Sierra Leone 
  • Angeles, Philippines
  • Bacolod, Philippines
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Rogers, Arkansas 
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Tarawa, Kiribati
Red squares on the map below are temples which are dedicated or planned. Yellow squares are likely potential new temples that may be announced in the near future. Blue circles are less likely potential new temples that may be announced in the near future. Please share your predictions for new temple announcements in the comments below.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

August 2019 Monthly Newsletter

Click here to access the August 2019 monthly newsletter for www.cumorah.com.

New Temples and Other Announcements in General Conference This October; Rare Church Statistics on Brazil Released

A Church Newsroom article published yesterday noted that President Nelson informed news media that "more temples and other announcements will be made in the October general conference." It is unclear what these other announcements may be, but it appears that a reformation to the Church's missionary program is likely given the new missionary handbook's upcoming release and other matters I have discussed on this blog. Coincidentally, I will be publishing my predictions for temple announcements for this October General Conference over the weekend, which include some significant additions and changes given recent trends in temple announcements since President Nelson's tenure as President of the Church.

Also, the Church Newsroom article I mentioned at the beginning of this post provided some rare statistics published by the Church. More specifically, the article notes that there are currently 5,300 missionaries serving in Brazil at present - the second most of any country in the world after the United States. This indicates there is an average of 151 missionaries per mission in Brazil. The Church does not publish annual country-by-country figures for the number of full-time missionaries serving. There have only been a few other times in Church history that the Church has published information on the number of missionaries serving in a country, such as in the Philippines or Mexico.

Updated Reaching the Nations Country Profile - Myanmar (Burma)

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Myanmar (Burma). The Church has achieved significant progress within the past 5-6 years with the introduction of young, proselytizing full-time missionaries to Yangon, the creation of a second branch in Yangon, completion and publication online of portions of the Burmese translation of the Book of Mormon, and significant increases in convert baptisms and local members who are serving full-time missions. However, total church membership is estimated at only about 250 as of year-end 2018. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Prospects appear favorable for continued Church growth in Yangon due to recent successes with steady numbers of new converts joining the Church, increasing numbers of active members, the creation of a second branch in Yangon, high member activity and convert retention rates, and the forthcoming translation of more Church materials into Burmese. Additional member groups or branches appear likely to be organized to improve accessibility to congregations and spark greater growth. Local members who complete full-time missionary service and return and remain in Myanmar thereafter present the greatest opportunities for expansion and growth. Branches in Yangon may be organized into a district once there is sufficient local leadership to staff both branch and district callings. The Church may organize member groups in additional cities, primarily in areas under control of the federal government. However, expansion of the Church into additional cities appears more likely once a separate mission is organized in Myanmar. Nevertheless, the Church will need to secure full government recognition and become more self-sufficient in its local leadership to better prepare for future opportunities for growth. Translation of Church materials into additional languages, such as Karen, appears needed. However, given trends in language translation efforts among minority languages, such prospects appear dim for the foreseeable future notwithstanding good opportunities for these materials to be utilized in missionary efforts.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Nepal

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Nepal. The Church in Nepal appears to have approximately 200 members on Church records, but only about 50 appear to regularly attend church services. Despite a low member activity rate, the Kathmandu Branch, the only branch in the entire country of 30 million people, has had more than 30 members serve full-time missions since the branch was organized in 2001 as of 2017. However, the vast majority of these returned missionaries have immigrated to India. A sacrament meeting service held twice a month began to occur in Itahari in mid-2019. There are additional cities with isolated members albeit there do not appear to be any official member groups. Government restrictions on religious freedom and the consistent emigration of active returned missionaries are the greatest barriers for growth. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

As local members share their faith with family and friends and missionaries return home and stay in Nepal, greater growth will occur. A second branch in Kathmandu may be organized to reduce travel time for members or from a lack of space in the current renovated meetinghouse. However, recent reports on the number of active members in Kathmandu suggest no imminent plans or prospects for more units to be created given leadership shortages. Additional groups or small branches may be organized in larger cities as returned missionaries move to these locations, share their beliefs with those around them, and have adequate leadership experience to operate congregations. Greater outreach with humanitarian missionaries will likely not occur until greater religious freedom is granted. Translations of additional Latter-day Saint scriptures into Nepali are needed, as well as Gospel study and scriptures translated into additional languages spoken by more than one million people. Literacy programs also present good opportunities for passive missionary service.