Sunday, June 20, 2021

Second Stake in Benin Created Today and Corrections to Updated Benin Reaching the Nations Article

Today, the Church organized its second stake in the West African nation of Benin. The new stake, the Cococodji Benin Stake, was organized from the Cococodji Benin District. The Cococodji Benin District was organized from a division of the Cotonou Benin Stake in late 2018. It is unclear whether any units from the Cotonou Benin Stake were reassigned to the new stake. A video of the conference can be found here. Likely thousands of members appear to be attending the conference in the video. For those French speakers, please try to find where the information is presented on the new stake organization and let me know which units were assigned to the new stake and which branches became wards.

I have received information from local members and leaders in Benin that estimates for member activity rates in Benin contained in the updated Reaching the Nations article are significantly less than what they actually are. Recent numbers indicate as much as 85% of recent converts continue to regularly attend church services. The Cotonou Benin Stake reported more than 80% of members regularly attend church services during early 2021, and there were approximately 100 converts baptized in the stake in 2020. These activity and retention rates stand in stark contrast to reports I had received from returned missionaries 2-4 years ago who reported the emergence of member inactivity and leadership development problems. I apologize for the inaccurate data, and I am very grateful for the updated information which appears likely to be very accurate. As with any updates I provide on this blog, or updates to the Reaching the Nations articles or other resources on cumorah.com, if you ever find inaccurate data please contact me so that way we can do our best to present accurate information. I will be amending the Benin country profile report sometime in the next week to reflect the new data we received.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Late May 2021 Newsleter and Cumorah.com Update

I apologize for the tardiness on the May 2021 Newsletter - there were a lot of significant developments related to Church growth that month. Click here to access the newsletter. Also, the www.cumorah.com website has been restored after we suffered another malicious attack.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Collapse of the Church in Armenia?

Recently, the Church posted on its meetinghouse locator website that both of the districts in Armenia have been discontinued. Also, all of the branches in Armenia except for four branches (the Arabkir, Artashat, Vanadzor, and Yerevan Central Branches) have been discontinued which resulted in the number of branches decreasing from 11 to four. This is an unprecedented development for the Church in Armenia where a stake briefly operated between 2013 and 2016. Some of the branches discontinued were the only branches of the Church in the city where they operated. Moreover, some of these branches, such as Gyumri, had as many as 65 active members 7-9 years ago. The Church in Armenia had nearly 3,600 members as of year-end 2019 which means that, with year-end 2019 membership totals, the Church in Armenia has the highest ratio of members-to-congregations of approximately 900. There has not been any other country in the world to have experienced such a dramatic decline in congregations, national outreach, and active membership as Armenia during the past several decades of the worldwide Church.

I have not been able to find any information about the cause for these most recent developments. In fact, the situation in Armenia had appeared to be stabilizing in recent years given the creation of a second district based in Vanadzor in 2018 and the reestablishment of Alaverdi Branch in 2018. However, the Church in Armenia experienced a major leadership crisis in 2016 which culminated in the discontinuation of the stake and many leaving the Church. Returned missionaries have indicated that the mishandling of Church finances and local leadership development problems warranted the stake being discontinued. The Church in Armenia has struggled with very low member activity rates for many years which have appeared primarily attributed to inadequate prebaptismal preparation during periods of the most rapid membership growth in the 2000s. In the late 2010s, I estimated that only 17-19% of membership on Church records were active. The emigration of active membership in Armenia has been a major long-term challenge for the Church to maintain its stability in the country. In fact, the Church in Bulgaria has experienced similar difficulties with the emigration of active members. Similarly, the Church in Bulgaria is likely the country that has experienced the second most significant decline in the past several decades in the worldwide Church given that the number of branches in Bulgaria decreased by 67% from 21 to 7 between 2007 and 2018

Please comment if you have any information about the current status of the Church in Armenia and why both of the districts and most of the branches in the country were discontinued.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

New Stakes Created in Utah (2), Alaska, Ghana, Indiana, the Philippines, Pennsylvania, Portugal, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe; Stake Discontinued in Idaho; Districts Discontinued in Portugal (2) and Ecuador

Utah

Two new stakes have been created in Utah.

The Lake Point Utah stake was organized on February 7th from a division of the Stansbury Park Utah Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Adobe Rock, Big Canyon, Brigham Park, Lake Point, Oquirrh Mountain, Porter Way, and Rockwood Wards. The new stake is the Church's 12th stake in Tooele County.

The Orem Utah YSA 4th Stake was organized on March 14th. The new stake was organized from a division of the Orem Utah YSA 2nd Stake and the Orem Utah YSA 1st Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Orem YSA 14 (Spanish), Orem YSA 17th Ward, Orem YSA 19th, Orem YSA 21st, Orem YSA 23rd, Orem YSA 32nd, and Orem YSA 33rd Wards. 

There are now 617 stakes and two districts in Utah.

Alaska

A new stake was created in Alaska on March 28th. The North Pole Alaska Stake was organized from a division of the Fairbanks Alaska Stake (organized in 1979). The new stake includes the following five wards and two branches: the Badger Road, Delta Junction, Eielson, Fairbanks 3rd, and North Pole Wards, and the North Slope and Salcha Branches.

There are now nine stakes in Alaska.

Ghana

A new stake was organized in Ghana on April 18th. The Abura Ghana Stake was organized from a division of the Cape Coast Ghana Stake and the Yamoransa Ghana Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the Abura 1st, Abura 2nd, Abura 3rd, Green Hill, Nkanfoa, and Ntranoa Wards, and the Akotokyer and Brafoyaw Branches. The new stake is the Church's third stake in the Cape Coast metropolitan area which appears the most likely candidate for the Church's third temple in Ghana one day. 

There are now 27 stakes and 10 districts in Ghana.

Indiana

A new stake was organized in Indiana on April 11th. The Fishers Indiana Stake was organized from the Indianapolis Indiana North Stake and the Lafayette Indiana Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Fishers 1st, Fishers 2nd, Fishers 3rd, Kokomo, Lawrence, and Noblesville Wards. The new stake is the Church's fourth stake in the Indianapolis metropolitan area and the first new stake organized in Indiana since 2007.

There are now 12 stakes in Indiana.

The Philippines

A new stake was organized in the Philippines on March 21st. The Imus Philippines Stake was organized from a division of the Bacoor Philippines Stake (organized in 2012). The new stake includes the following five wards: the Buhay Na Tubig, Imus 1st, Imus 2nd, Imus 3rd, and Medicion Wards. There are now 118 stakes and 60 districts in the Philippines. 

Pennsylvania

A new stake was organized in Pennsylvania on March 28th. The Gettysburg Pennsylvania Stake was organized from a division of the Chambersburg Pennsylvania Stake, Colombia Maryland Stake, and Frederick Maryland Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the Carlisle, Fairview, Gettysburg, Hampstead, Hanover, and Westminster Wards, and the Cumberland Valley YSA Branch. 

There are now 13 stakes in Pennsylvania.

Portugal

A new stake was organized in Portugal on March 28th - the first time a new stake has been created in Portugal since 2002. The Almada Portugal Stake was organized from the Setubal Portugal Stake and the Madeira Portugal District. The new stake includes the following five wards and two branches: the Almada, Barreiro, Costa da Caparica, Montijo, and Seixal Wards, and the Camacha and Funchal Branches. Moreover, the Church also discontinued the Algarve Portugal District as part of the new stake's creation. Three branches in the former Algarve Portugal District were advanced into wards. These changes resulted in no more districts on the mainland of Portugal. 

There are now seven stakes and one district in Portugal. The sole remaining district in Portugal is in the Azores.

Ukraine

The Church organized its second stake in Ukraine on April 25th - nearly 17 years after the creation of the first stake in Kyiv. The Kharkiv Ukraine Stake was organized from the Kharkiv Ukraine District and the Ukraine Dnipro Mission. There were 10 branches within the boundaries of the present Kharkiv Ukraine Stake immediately prior to the stake's creation. Information on which branches have become wards remains unavailable. The creation of the new stake appeared to be years in the making as the present-day boundaries of the stake once included another district based in Dnipro and there were several additional branches within the former two districts which were gradually consolidated to create larger congregations. There are now two stakes and three districts (four if Crimea is included) in Ukraine.

Zimbabwe

The Church organized a new stake in Zimbabwe. The Bindura Zimbabwe Stake was organized from the Bindura Zimbabwe District. The new stake includes the following six wards and three branches: the Aerodrome, Bindura, Chipadze, Chiwarido 1st, Chiwarido 2nd, and Chiwarido 3rd Wards, and the Avilion, Trojan, and Retreat Branches. The Church in the Bindura area has reported some of its most rapid growth in Zimbabwe during the past decade. The Bindura Zimbabwe District was originally organized in 2012 with four branches.

There are now eight stakes and two districts in Zimbabwe.

Ecuador

The Church discontinued the Jipijapa Ecuador District. Originally organized in 1988, the Jipijapa Ecuador District has experienced no increase in the number of branches for decades. The three branches that previously pertained to the district are now assigned to the Portoviejo Ecuador Stake. 

There are now 42 stakes and 5 districts in Ecuador.

Idaho

The Church discontinued a YSA stake in Idaho. The Pocatello Idaho YSA 2nd Stake (organized in 1998) was discontinued and consolidated with the Pocatello Idaho YSA 1st Stake (renamed the Pocatello Idaho YSA Stake). The sole YSA in Pocatello now contains eight wards. The Church has discontinued 11 YSA wards in the Pocatello area since 2012 - six of which had previously pertained to one of the two YSA stakes before the stakes were consolidated in March 2021.

There are now 134 stakes in Idaho.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Updated Country Profile: Benin

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Benin. So much has changed for the Church in Benin since we originally posted this article on cumorah.com over 10 years ago. See below for the Future Prospects section of the article:

The Church in Benin is currently at a critical point in which compounding convert attrition, leadership development problems, and low member activity rates threaten prospects for sustained “real” rapid membership growth. The Benin Cotonou Mission and the Africa West Area Presidency have appeared to recognize this concern, and steps have been taken to try to ameliorate the situation such as the creation of a member district to service western Cotonou in 2018. Recent experience has demonstrated that there are excellent prospects for rapid Church growth in Benin, but there is a need for strict fidelity to the timeless principles of effective missionary work—namely adequate and careful prebaptismal preparation, local member-led finding and fellowshipping efforts, emphasis on full-time mission preparation for youth, and proper mentoring and training of local leaders who are almost entirely recent converts from the past 5-10 years. The expansion of the Church into additional cities outside of Cotonou since the early 2010s is a welcome development especially given the mission’s focus during this time with the establishment of the first district in 2012 and the first stake in 2016. Nevertheless, additional national outreach expansion appears unlikely unless the current situation in Cotonou is sufficiently rectified so that it frees mission resources from member and leadership support to be utilized in the opening of additional cities to missionary work. The creation of a separate mission for neighboring Togo appears likely in the foreseeable future, and this development may further help strengthen the fledgling Church in Benin.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

April 2021 Monthly Newsletter

 Click here to access the April 2021 monthly newsletter for cumorah.com.

New Temple Announced in Ephraim, Utah

This morning, the Church announced plans to build a temple in Ephraim, Utah. The new temple was announced due to modifications with the upcoming renovation of the Manti Utah Temple in order to better preserve the pioneer craftsmanship of this early temple. The Manti Utah Temple was the third temple dedicated in Utah in 1888. The Ephraim Utah Temple is anticipated to be approximately the same size of the Brigham City Utah Temple which is about 36,000 square feet. The new temple is expected to service 30,000 Latter-day Saints and have four, 30-seat endowment rooms, three sealing rooms, and one baptistry. Moreover, the Church plans to schedule endowment sessions every 30 minutes once the temple is completed.

This announcement was a complete surprise to me, and it is not just because of the timing of the temple announcement on a Saturday not during a General Conference weekend (and less than a month after the most recent General Conference). Ephraim and Manti are less than 10 miles apart from one another. The new temple will likely include only six stakes in the area, including three stakes in Ephraim (two of which are young single adult [YSA] stakes for Snow College). President Nelson referenced Latter-day Saint young adults who attend Snow College as some of the beneficiaries for the new temple. The current Manti Utah Temple district includes 23 stakes in central Utah. It was a major surprise to me that a new temple was announced for Ephraim, but there remains no temple for Latter-day Saints who live in Price (five stakes in the area) or for the three stakes south of Price (Castle Dale, Ferron, and Huntington). The last time the Church announced a new temple not during a General Conference weekend was the Paris France Temple in July 2011.

The new temple will be the Church's 27th temple in Utah and the 252nd temple in the worldwide Church.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Year-End 2020 Membership and Congregation Data by Country Remains Unavailable

The Church has yet to update its Facts and Statistics page on its Newsroom website - the only location where the Church publishes year-end membership and congregation data by country and province/state (for the United States and Canada). This marks the longest the Church has ever taken to update this page after the annual General Conference (the last time it took this long to update the page was in 2013 when it was not updated until April 22nd). Typically, these data are available within 1-2 weeks after the annual General Conference. I have contacted the Newsroom staff about the issue, and the statistics have yet to be updated with year-end 2020 figures. The Church continues to not report membership and congregational data for more than a dozen non-sensitive countries -- most of which have had a recent official Church establishment (e.g., Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Senegal) or a de-sensitization of its previous status during the past few years (e.g., Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kosovo, Lebanon, Morocco, North Macedonia, Vietnam). Other countries have had a long-term, nonsensitive presence and remain missing from the statistics pages on the Newsroom site (e.g., Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, constituent countries in the United Kingdom).

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Two Baptistries in the New Syracuse Utah Temple

Blueprints released today by the City of Syracuse for the proposed Syracuse Utah Temple detail two separate baptistries on the bottom level of the temple. This finding suggests that other large temples in Utah may also include a double baptistry to accommodate the significant demand for this type of ordinance in the temple. Baptistries in many of the large Utah temple are often highly utilized and result in limited opportunities to meet demand for patrons. The groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple is scheduled for June 2021. Click here to access the blueprints for the temple. If you have any confirmation of other temples with a double baptistry, please comment.

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.