Monday, August 30, 2010

LDS Church Meets With People's Republic of China Officials Regarding the Regularization of Church Activities in China

In a significant development regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the People's Republic of China, apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy met with Chinese officials in February and May in Beijing and August 24th in Salt Lake City regarding the regularization of LDS Church activities in mainland China. Although the possibility of open proselytism in mainland China remains "not even under consideration" according to the article posted on the Church's website, this recent discourse with the Chinese government is preparing the way for Chinese and foreigner Latter-day Saints in China to comply with the law and live church teachings and assemble in a more organized fashion. Although details have not been discussed relating to what changes will take place, possibilities may include greater information provided to the general Church membership regarding the native LDS Chinese membership in China which continues to be not released to the public out of respect for Chinese law and policy. This recent progress has come as a result of 30 years of work and respect between the Church and People's Republic of China.

Currently 14 English-speaking branches organized in two districts meet in China with many more groups in isolated areas. Elder M. Russell Ballard reported in 2008 that around 20 small branches had been established for native Chinese members, none of which appeared to have been operating just eight years earlier. Chinese law requires citizens and foreigners to be segregated for worship services. Foreigners tend to consist of North Americans, Europeans, and Koreans. Chinese Latter-day Saints living in China either joined the Church abroad or through family members in China as permitted by the government. Chinese members and congregations continue to meet privately.

The first full-time male LDS missionary to serve from China completed his mission in 2006. In early 2010, there were 42 missionaries from mainland China serving around the world (but not in their home country).

For additional information regarding the Church in China, please read an article written by me and David Stewart on The original article about the meetings between LDS Church and Chinese officials can be found here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Recent Church Growth News

Four new branches in the DR Congo

Four new branches have been created in the central Democratic Republic of Congo, three of which were organized in the Luputa DR Congo District: The Bondoyi Branch, the Luputa 2nd Branch, and the Contoniere Branch. The Luputa 2nd and Contoniere Branches were both created in the city of Luputa, which now has seven branches. The Bondoyi Branch becomes the second branch in the city of Mwene-Ditu, which received its first branch in early 2008. There are now 10 branches in the Luputa DR Congo District, which will become a stake in the near future. The fourth new branch created in the region was in the large city of Mbuji-Mayi and called the Dibindi Branch. Mbuji-Mayi now has four mission branches which will become a district in the coming months.

New branch in Cameroon

The fifth LDS branch in Cameroon was just organized a couple weeks ago. The Ekounou 2nd Branch was created from a division of the Ekounou Branch and becomes the fourth branch in the Yaounde area. The Ekounou Branch was created just 18 months ago, yet at the meeting to create the new congregation only standing room was available due to rapid membership growth in the area. This instance illustrates that new congregations most often grow the fastest in membership. Cameroon appears highly likely to receive its first district shortly. A sixth congregation meets as an appendage of the Douala Branch, called the Bonaberi Group.

Three new branches in Papua New Guinea

Three new branches were recently created in the vicinity of Kukipi, located in the Gulf Province. There are now five mission branches in the region, which appear likely to be made into a district. Self sufficiency is high as missionary work is performed by local members and South Pacific missionaries.

No increase in congregations in Mexico so far in 2010

Despite having the second highest number of Latter-day Saints, there has been no increase in the number of congregations in Mexico since the beginning of the year. This may be due to poor convert retention or increased standards for the size of active membership per congregation prior to the division of existing congregations to create new wards and branches.

Meeting Language Needs

According to the LDS Church's statistics, ecclesiastical materials are available in 166 languages. The Book of Mormon is translated into 107 languages. Below is a list of the most widely spoken languages without translations of any LDS materials. There are 15 languages with over 15 million speakers without translations of LDS materials. Chinese languages which use Chinese characters have been omitted from this list. Data for the number of native speakers per languages comes from and information regarding languages with LDS materials can be found at here.
  1. Javanese (84.6 million) - Indonesia
  2. Gujarati (46.5 million) - India
  3. Bhojpuri (38.5 million) - India
  4. Awahdi (38.3 million) - India
  5. Maithili (34.7 million) - India
  6. Sunda (34 million) - Indonesia
  7. Oriya (31.7 million) - India
  8. Sindhi (21.4 million) - Pakistan
  9. Uzbek (20.3 million) - Uzbekistan, minority language in surrounding countries
  10. Azerbaijani [North and South] (19.1 million) - primarily Azerbaijan and Iran
  11. Chhattisgarhi (17.5 million) - India
  12. Oromo (17.3 million) - Ethiopia
  13. Assamese (16.8 million) - India
  14. Kurdish (16 million) - Turkey, Iraq, and Iran
  15. Rangpuri (15 million) - Bangladesh
These 15 languages are spoken by 6.6% of the world's population. Seven of the 15 languages are spoken in India, two are spoken in Indonesia, and two are spoken in Iran. I am not aware of any plans for prospective translations of Church materials in any of these languages. Church materials are not currently in these languages as the Church does not have a presence in most areas in which these languages are spoken. Only Javanese is spoken in an area with multiple LDS congregations whereas other languages are spoken in areas without LDS congregations.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New District in Nigeria

Last Sunday, the Mbaise Nigeria District was created from four congregations in the Owerri Nigeria Stake. Each of the congregations in the new district have functioned since as early as 1998 when the Owerri Nigeria Stake was created. The Owerri Nigeria Stake now has five wards and three branches. There are now 16 stakes and 20 districts in Nigeria. Below is a list of all the new districts in Nigeria created in the past two years.
  • Ibiono Nigeria District
  • Oron Nigeria District
  • Ikot Ekpene Nigeria District
  • Okrika Nigeria District
  • Abak Nigeria District
  • Ekpoma Nigeria District
  • Mbaise Nigeria District

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Burundi Opening to Missionary Work In September

Missionaries serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo Lubumbashi Mission report that the country of Burundi will open for formal missionary work in September. Several exploratory trips have occurred in the past 18 months to assess conditions and locate members and prospective converts. On some of these trips, mission leaders reported hundreds meeting in the name of the LDS Church both in the capital Bujumbura and in remote areas of the country. These prospective Latter-day Saint converts have learned about the Church from members living in the country and from pastors who have obtained copies of the Book of Mormon and have begun teaching from LDS scripture. In late 2009, there were as many as a dozen unofficial congregations. The most recent exploratory trip occurred in the past few weeks in which mission leaders met with some members who have been waiting for years for the Church's official reestablishment.

In the early 1990s, Burundi opened to missionary work and had a branch established in Bujumbura in 1993. Due to ethnic conflict and political instability, the Church withdrew missionaries (who were assigned from the Ivory Coast Abijdan Mission) shortly thereafter and stopped reporting membership totals in 2001.

In September, eight young, full-time proselytizing missionaries and two senior missionary couples from the DR Congo Lubumbashi Mission will be assigned to Burundi and reside in Bujumbura. Few if any countries have opened to formal missionary activity in the past decade, let alone with so many missionaries. Neighboring Rwanda has had an official Church presence for about two years, yet only one senior missionary couple was assigned just in the past year. Other African nations which have received their first proselytizing missionaries in the past decade include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, and Togo. Formal missionary activity may begin soon in the Central African Republic.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New District in Nigeria

A new district was created in Nigeria. The Abak Nigeria District was created from the Uyo Nigeria Stake and Nigeria Calabar Mission with seven branches in the Abak area. Two branches in the new district were formerly wards and one new branch was created. With seven wards and two branches, the Uyo Nigeria Stake has experienced strong congregational growth this year as three new wards were created; one of which was from a branch. Several stakes in the area have a large number of congregations and may divide to create either new stakes or districts. Below is the current count for wards and branches for stakes in southeastern Nigeria. Districts created since 2008 are indicated in italics.
  • Aba Nigeria Stake: 9 wards, 1 branch
  • Aba Nigeria Ogbor Hill Stake: 7 wards, 2 branches
  • Abak Nigeria District: 7 branches
  • Akamkpa Nigeria District: 7 branches
  • Calabar Nigeria Stake: 8 wards, 1 branch
  • Eket Nigeria Stake: 9 wards, 2 branches
  • Etinan Nigeria Stake: 8 wards, 2 branches
  • Ibiono Nigeria District: 5 branches
  • Ikot Akpaden Nigeria Stake: 9 wards, 1 branch
  • Ikot Ekpene Nigeria Stake: 7 branches
  • Nsit Ubium Nigeria Stake: 8 wards, 8 branches
  • Okpuala Ngwa Nigeria District: 8 branches
  • Okrika Nigeria District: 3 branches
  • Oron Nigeria District: 3 branches
  • Owerri Nigeria Stake: 7 wards, 5 branches
  • Port Harcourt Nigeria Stake: 7 wards, 1 branch
  • Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake: 9 wards
  • Umuahia Nigeria District: 8 branches
  • Uyo Nigeria Stake: 7 wards, 2 branches
Growth has been significant in Nigeria over the past decade. Below are congregational counts for stakes and districts in the same region in 2002. Stakes or districts which did not exist at this time are indicated by zeros for congregational counts.
  • Aba Nigeria Stake: 10 wards, 3 branches
  • Aba Nigeria Ogbor Hill Stake: 0
  • Abak Nigeria District: 0
  • Akamkpa Nigeria District: 3 branches
  • Calabar Nigeria Stake: 5 wards, 1 branch
  • Eket Nigeria Stake: 7 wards, 4 branches
  • Etinan Nigeria Stake: 5 wards, 4 branches
  • Ibiono Nigeria District: 0
  • Ikot Akpaden Nigeria Stake: 6 wards, 4 branch
  • Ikot Ekpene Nigeria Stake: 0
  • Nsit Ubium Nigeria Stake: 6 wards, 2 branches
  • Okpuala Ngwa Nigeria District: 0
  • Okrika Nigeria District: 0
  • Oron Nigeria District: 0
  • Owerri Nigeria Stake: 5 wards, 5 branches
  • Port Harcourt Nigeria Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
  • Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake: 0
  • Umuahia Nigeria District: 5 wards, 9 branches
  • Uyo Nigeria Stake: 6 wards, 6 branches
With 19 districts, Nigeria becomes the country with the seventh most districts worldwide. There are 16 stakes in Nigeria and the temple in Aba has been reopened for ordinance work.

District Discontinued in Puerto Rico

The sole functioning district on Puerto Rico based in Arecibo was discontinued and its branches were assimilated into the Toa Baja Puerto Rico and Mayagüez Puerto Rico Stakes. This latest development appears part of a nationwide initiative to consolidate the remaining districts as less than a month earlier, the Fajardo Puerto Rico District was discontinued. Each of the former districts had an inadequate number of congregations to become a stake. With the recent realignments, stronger branches may become wards as they will now be part of stakes.

In addition to significant numbers of members relocating to the United States mainland, Puerto Rico has experienced little membership growth and few convert baptisms over the past two decades. Emigration was partially responsible for the discontinuance of all four stakes operating on the island in 1993 and the subsequent formation of eight districts. Four stakes were reestablished by 2000 and a fifth stake was created from two districts in 2006. None of the five stakes on Puerto Rico appear close to dividing in the foreseeable future. A second mission was created in 2007 and discontinued in 2010. However the purpose of the second mission appears to have been focused on other small Caribbean nations rather than expanding missionary outreach in Puerto Rico. In recent years, membership has begun increasing after many years of membership decline.

There has been some discussion on the likelihood of a future temple in Puerto Rico. Currently, members in Puerto Rico can access the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple with few challenges and in a timely manner. With only five stakes, Puerto Rico may not receive a temple for many more years. Returned missionaries report that Caribbean island nations would travel to the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple with greater ease than to a potential temple in Puerto Rico due to visa restrictions and expenses.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New District in Brazil; Districts Discontinued in Saint Kitts-Nevis and Mexico

A new district was created at the end of July in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The Sorriso Brazil District likely consists of three branches in the remote northern portion of Mato Grosso several hundred miles away from Cuiabá. In the early 2000s only one LDS branch functioned in this region north of Cuiabá in Sinop. Two additional branches were organized in the late 2000s in Sorriso and Lucas do Rio Verde. One mission branch now functions in Mato Grosso in Caceres. There are now 51 districts in Brazil.

The sole district in Saint Kitts-Nevis was discontinued earlier this summer. The district was created in 2004 and originally had four branches, one or two of which were on other nearby Caribbean islands. The decision to discontinue the district is likely due to the islands covered by the former district now belonging to two different missions due to the realignment of missions in the Caribbean this past July. The district also had very few members and with the absence of a district, greater focus can now be dedicated to each mission branch.

In Mexico, the Matehuala Mexico District was discontinued. The district was organized in 1989 and had two branches. The two branches now report as mission branches to the Mexico Leon Mission. A lack of growth, few Priesthood leaders, and only two branches in the district likely contributed to its discontinuance. There are now 34 districts in Mexico.