Wednesday, July 23, 2008

City Opens For Missionary Work in Romania

Located in southwest Romania, the city of Craiova has recently opened for missionary work. The first baptism in the city occurred in the past week or so as well. With over 300,000 inhabitants, I am surprised it has taken so long for Craiova to open to missionary work, especially because it is not far from the capital, Bucharest, where the mission offices are based. There are six other cities which have over 100,000 inhabitants without a branch or missionaries in Romania from what I know: Braila, Targu Mures, Baia Mare, Buzau, Botosani, and Satu Mare. Most of these cities are in the northern part of the country.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Church in Sudan

The mission president of the Uganda Kampala Mission recently returned from a special trip to a village in Sudan where many were inquiring about the Church and meeting unofficially in its name. He found over 2,500 people assembled to listen to him and his assistants teach them about the Gospel. There are six or seven congregations of these unbaptized Sudanese people located northwest of the city Wau. The Mission President gave the leaders of these unofficial congregations books and pamphlets about the Church, telling them to teach the people about the Church. The Church has no official presence in Sudan and hopes to gain one once conditions stabilize within.

This story excited me because it is the largest gathering of people learning about the Church who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The only other times I can find a comparable situation to this one was when many were meeting in the Church's name in Ghana and Nigeria 30 years ago. Those meetings were only in the hundreds, not the thousands though.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New District Created in Brazil

A new district was recently created in Mamanguape, Brazil. Located in the state of Paraiba, this becomes the third new district created in Brazil this year, the other two were created in Caruaru and Planaltina. The Mamanguape Brazil District includes at least three branches in Mamanguape, Guarabira and Lucena. The district was created from branches that either were in one of the stakes in João Pessoa or where mission branches.

Northeastern Brazil is currently experiencing the highest growth rates in the country. For instance, in 2005 there were only two stakes and two districts in the Rio Grande Do Norte State (which is just north of the state of Paraiba). Today there are six stakes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Update on Growth in the Church

News from the Uganda Kampala Mission

Members have been meeting together in the city of Gambela, Ethiopia and have been hoping for a branch to be established in the city. The mission president of the Uganda Kampala Mission, President Christenen, visited members in the city in the past few days. If a branch is organized in this city, it will be the first in the western part of the country and the fifth in the country.

Also, President Christenen will be travelling to southern Sudan this week to meet with members there. Reports are sketchy at this time, but there may be up to a couple thousand meeting in the name of the Church there.

News from the Kenya Nairobi Mission

Missionaries serving outside of Nairobi in an area called the Kilungu Hills are currently putting paperwork into Salt Lake for a new branch in the Matini area. Currently there are three branches in the hills and many of the youth are preparing to serve missions. This is an area that will probably become a district in the near future I believe.

Growth in the West Indies Mission

The West Indies Mission baptized over 200 converts last month. Sister Robinson, wife of the mission president, says the stake in Trinidad and Tobago will be created very soon. Most of the converts are still in Guyana.

The branch in Tobago has recently grown substantially. Attendance at worship services has been less than 10 until recently (the branch was organized last year). Now there are between 20-30 attending with baptisms occurring.

The Gospel in the Outback

Senior missionaries in Alice Springs, Australia report that many Aborigines have accepted the Gospel recently. A congregation meets out in the rural areas made up of these new converts (but has not been organized into a branch yet I believe). The missionaries are currently working on translating Church materials into very simple English and the local Aboriginal Language. This would be the first time Church materials have ever been translated into a language native to Australia.

Update on Church Suspending Russian Mission Calls

The Deseret News put out a story about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' decision to stop mission calls to Russia. This article can be found at,5143,700243305,00.html . The Church will not give out mission calls to those from countries requiring visas in Russia. Russia now requires those with humanitarian visas to leave the country every 90 days to renew their visas. Russian law actually requires 90 days outside of the country before re-entry, but has not been enforced. This becomes expensive and time consuming for missionaries. Different former leaders of the Church in Russia talk briefly about how the Church has reached greater maturing in Russia and that maybe this decision would motivate members to be more active and introduce friends and family to the Church.

Russia still does not have a stake and instead has 15 districts. Districts closest to stakehood include St. Petersburg, Rostov and Saratov.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Slovakia and the Czech Republic

A new branch has recently been opened in the city of Martin, Slovakia. This is the fifth branch in the country. Furthermore, other cities are likely to open to missionary work in the coming months. Membership in Slovakia is only around 130 as of 2006. Hopefully membership will increase in this Eastern European nation, especially after being dedicated by Elder Uchtdorf back in 2006. Over 30,000 signatures were collected to get the Church officially registered with the government. If you subscribe to the Church News, you can look up the story in the achieves.

There is still no district of the Church in Slovakia, but I imagine a district forming in the next couple years once more leadership develops.

Czech Republic

The Church grew fairly rapidly once it began missionary work back in the early 1990s, growing from nine branches with 600 members in 1992 to 19 branches with over 1,600 members in 2000. Since 2000 growth has slowed, with a little over 2,000 members today in 14 branches. I have not heard anything about a stake being established anytime soon. There are two districts in the country. One is in Prague and the other in Brno.
On the above maps, branches are indicated with green squares.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Countries With High Inactivity

A good indicator for how many members of the Church participate in worship services in a particular country is by taking the ratio of members to congregations. Wards and branches need to have leadership in order to function and if that leadership is absent or small, new congregations do not get formed as often or congregations combine. This indicator works well for countries that have more stakes and districts. In places like Russia or Thailand, it does not provide as accurate of a picture because of the large number of branches in those countries.

Here is a list of the 15 countries with the highest members to congregation ratio. Countries with less than 1,000 have been omitted from the list.
  1. Chile - 888
  2. Hong Kong - 684
  3. Bolivia - 632
  4. El Salvador - 619
  5. Nicaragua - 615
  6. Ecuador - 598
  7. Peru - 588
  8. Colombia - 560
  9. Mexico - 559
  10. Brazil - 553
  11. Honduras - 552
  12. Uruguay - 551
  13. South Korea - 546
  14. Dominican Republic - 543
  15. Philippines - 533

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Potential New Stakes in the Philippines

With 78 stakes and 86 districts, the Philippines has the largest membership out of any country in the Eastern Hemisphere. The number of stakes in the country has stayed between 75 and 83 for the past four or five years while the number of districts continues to increase. Recently the Church has launched a new meetinghouse locator that can be viewed at . This new locator has helped me find the location of congregations in the Philippines much more easily than with the old meetinghouse locator. One can view any place in the world and search for a congregation. I have been able to view maps available at which provide data for Church units five or six years ago and then compare with current data on Church units in the Philippines and other countries in the world. This is one of the tools I use to make predictions on likely new stakes and districts.

You may ask why there are so many districts in the Philippines and one of the big reasons why is because mobility in the Philippines is not easy. This is because of the 100s of islands which constitute the Philippines along with the poverty of the people and lack of infrastructure. Other reasons include inactivity and the large numbers of new members.

That being said, I will provide a list of all the districts in the Philippines which have enough branches to mature into a stake. I will then give a list of likely districts to become stakes along with the number of branches in each of these districts. It is also likely that any of these districts could be divided into two districts as opposed to maturing into a stake. As for large stakes likely to split, the only one I can find is in Butuan.

Districts with at least five branches

  • Agoo
  • Aguilar
  • Alaminos
  • Alicia
  • Aparri
  • Bambang
  • Biliran
  • Bongabon
  • Borongan
  • Bulan
  • Burgos
  • Camiling East
  • Camiling West
  • Catanduanes
  • Dipolog
  • Dumaguete
  • Escalante
  • Gingoog
  • Guimba
  • Iba
  • Kidapawan
  • La Carlota
  • Ligao
  • Maasin
  • Malaybalay
  • Marbel
  • Mati
  • Mindoro Oriental
  • Naic
  • Narra
  • Olongapo
  • Orion
  • Pagadian
  • Pamplona
  • Paniqui
  • Placer
  • Sagay
  • San Antonio
  • San Carlos
  • San Gabriel
  • San Jose del Monte
  • Santa Cruz Marinduque
  • Santa Cruz
  • Siniloan
  • Sipalay
  • Solano
  • Sorsogon
  • Surigao
  • Tagbilaran
  • Tagum
  • Toledo
Districts most likely to become stakes
  • Alicia - 8
  • Camiling (East and West) - 11
  • Dipolog - 7
  • Dumaguete - 7
  • Escalante - 8
  • Gingoog - 7
  • Guimba - 7
  • Malaybalay - 7
  • Paniqui - 7
  • Placer - 7
  • Sagay - 6
  • Santa Cruz Marinduque - 5
  • Santa Cruz - 7
  • Siniloan - 6
  • Surigao - 5
  • Tagbilaran - 8
  • Tagum - 6
  • Toledo - 8
  • Tolosa - 7

New Branch Created in Ethiopia

The city of Awasa received its first branch a couple months ago. The new branch has at least 20 members/investigators attending its first worship service. Awasa is located around 150 miles south of the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia currently has four branches with somewhere around 800 members. On the above map, branches are shown with green squares.

Follow Up on BYU News Article on Russian Mission Calls

The story published about the Church not issuing mission calls to Russia has been removed. It is possible that there was a misunderstanding between the reports and the Church. I will post more information when it becomes available. Looking at missionary blogs in Russia, none of them mention anything about this story.

Church Stops Issuing Russian Mission Calls

According to BYU NewsNet, the Church has suspended mission calls to serve in Russia's eight missions for North American Missionaries. Church spokesman Rob Howell said that all of the missions are fully functioning, if not overstaffed. There are a couple other factors that likely influenced the decision.
  1. Visas are becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain. Missionaries have had to travel to neighboring countries to renew their visas. This would require several days to complete and was expensive.
  2. The number of converts has declined in recent years. When the Church first went into Russia in the early 1990s, many converts joined the Church. Today the Church's growth is comparable to other Western European countries despite the fact that eight missions are in the country.
  3. It would be easier for missionaries to serve in Russia who either are from Russia or other neighboring countries. Hence the announcement was only for North American missionaries. North American missionaries, however, form the bulk of the missionary force in Russia.

Aspects of the preaching of the Gospel are going forth in Russia. New branches have been created recently. Some districts are close to maturing into stakes and it is likely more districts will be created where there are not any currently. Hopefully any problems will be resolved with the government and visas so missionaries can continue to proselyte in the 9th most populated country in the world.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Potential New Stakes in Africa

Here are some predictions for new stakes in Africa. If a country is not listed, it is because I find it unlikely to have a new stake created in it within the next 18 months. However, I am not suggesting all of these new stakes to be organized in the next 18 months, let alone the next five years. These areas have seen growth and are maturing, which would bring them closer to stakehood. Cities in italics currently have a district; cities in regular font already have a stake, but it is likely it will split.

  • Bo - 7
  • Freetown - 10


  • Assin Foso - 8
  • Koforidua - 10
  • Takoradi


  • Eket
  • Asaba - 10 (more likely to be divided into two districts instead of made into a stake)
  • Enugu - 9
  • Ibadan - 7
  • Ile-Ife - 7
  • Umuahia - 8


  • Luputa - 6
  • Lubumbashi (the single stake might be divided into three stakes since there are 15 wards in it)


  • Chyulu - 11


  • Kampala - 10


  • Lusaka - 7


  • Gweru - 7
  • Mutare - 6

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stake Dissolved in Los Angeles Area

The second stake to be dissolved this year was recently dissolved in Walnut, California. Many stakes have been combined in recent years in the Los Angeles area. The Walnut California Stake was combined with the Hacienda Heights California Stake. Each of the stakes had five wards so now the Hacienda Heights Stake has 10 wards along with a branch.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Likely New Stakes in Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama

Here are some likely new stakes to be created in Central America. Districts likely to mature into stakes are written in italics and stakes likely to split are in standard font. Plus signs indicate possible districts combining to form a new stake. I also give a short summary of the status of the Church in these countries as well. These predictions are made to the best of my knowledge and are not guaranteed to happen. If you have any questions or comments, please provide feedback. Lastly, the number of current branches in districts is provided to the best of my knowledge.

PANAMA: Most stakes are small with only around five to seven wards. Some districts close to stakehood.
  • Alcalde Diaz - 8
  • San Blas - 7
  • Concepcion + Puerto Armuelles - 7

COSTA RICA: One of the highest ward to stake ratios in the world - 44 wards in five stakes, or about nine to one. Districts are small and unlikely to grow into stakes in the near future.

  • Alajuela
  • San Jose

NICARAGUA: Seven out of Nicaragua's eight stakes have been created since 2000, all of which were districts maturing into stakes. Like Panama, most stakes have five to seven wards. Most districts have few branches.

  • Chinandega
  • Granada - 5
  • Managua Tipitapa (4)+ portion of a stake in Managua

EL SALVADOR: Almost entirely covered by stakes; most have six to eight wards.

  • Usulutan - 6

Thursday, July 3, 2008

First Stake Dissolved in 2008

A stake in Guatemala City was recently dissolved. The Guatemala City Monte Maria Stake was dissolved sometime in the past month or two. This lowers the number of stakes in Guatemala City to 17. Only one other stake has been dissolved in Guatemala before, which was back in 1988. Conversions have dropped substantially over the years in Guatemala, yet the number of wards has held steady in the country. There are areas where growth is occurring more rapidly. For instance, the Rio Blanco District by Quetzaltenango has seen many conversions according to returned missionaries. Furthermore a second temple in the country was announced just 18 months ago. I imagine that the stake was dissolved for a variety of reasons, and I think that the two biggest ones were active members moving away and inactivity. Lastly, back in 2002 the Guatemala City Monte Maria Stake had only five wards in it (which is the usual bear minimum for there to be a stake entirely made of wards).

New District Created in Mexico

A new district was recently created in Pinotepa, Mexico. The new district was a result of a split in the Puerto Escondido District, located on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican State of Oaxaca. This was likely a result of membership growth in the area (a second branch was organized in the city of Pinotepa in the past couple of years) along with trying to reduce travel times for Church meetings. The Pinotepa Mexico District has a least three branches in it.

New Stake Created in Zimbabwe

The Harare Zimbabwe Marimba Park Stake became the third stake ever to be created in this African nation. The first stake organized in Zimbabwe was back in 1999 in Harare and this was the first time this stake has been split. The second stake in the country was created in Bulawayo back in 2005. The Harare Zimbabwe Stake has been quite large (over 10 wards and a few branches as well) for a couple years and also has high activity. Back in 2004, the Stake President apologized to Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the 12 that only around 70-75% of his stake attended stake conference (which is quite high attendence even in areas of the world with high member activity). Hopefully the Gospel will continue to take hold in this African nation plagued by instability and food shortages in recent years. Membership is over 16,000 and the two districts in the country seem close to stakehood as well. However I have not had any missionaries confirm that. I would not be surprised to see a new district created Zimbabwe in Kwekwe or Kadoma as well. If it were not for the political instability, I would predict a temple to be announced in Harare soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Stake in Tonga

For the first time in 12 years, a new stake has been created in Tonga. The new stake, the Nuku'alofa Tonga Harbour Stake was created in the capital city of Nuku'alofa. This brings the total number of stakes in Tonga to 17. Stakes are generally created in spurts in the South Pacific. For instance, between 1994 and 1997, six stakes were created in Tonga, three in Fiji, two in Tahiti, and eight in Samoa but no stakes have been created since then really. A similar spurt occurred in the 1970s. Only one other stake has been created in the South Pacific this decade, which was last year in Kiribati. The Church continues to grow steadily in all of these nations and in Tonga the number of wards has increased by around 15 from 2000 to 2006. This is impressive considering most of these countries have only around 100-200 thousand people with slowly growing populations. Membership stands around 53,000 in Tonga. The yellow squares are stakes; the green squares are districts.
I imagine more stakes will be organized in Tonga in the next two years considering Tonga has one of the highest ward to stake ratios in the world.