Sunday, January 30, 2011

Protests in the Arab World: Outlook for future LDS Church Growth

Protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern and North African nations over the past month-and-a-half have greatly interested me and their potential impact on the status and growth of the LDS Church in the Middle East. Many of these nations at present permit Latter-day Saint meetings in private but heavily restrict religious freedom by forbidding or strongly discouraging proselytism, banning the dissemination/importation of religious literature, not granting formal recognition to the Church, monitoring the actions of former-Muslim citizens who join the Church, prohibiting public worship services, and refusing or highly regulating humanitarian assistance. Consequently, the LDS Church does not publish information regarding the names and locations of congregations in many of these countries. Members who visit or move to these nations can obtain meeting times and locations by contacting the Middle East/Africa North Desk at Church Headquarters.

Protests calling for revolution and change in government in many Arab nations have potential to facilitate lasting change for the LDS Church if new governments come to power which grant official recognition to the church; permit public meetings; allow greater opportunities for humanitarian and development work; criminalize religious discrimination and persecution; and permit missionary activity to occur on a member-referral basis. The Church has a small community of Arab LDS converts in several nations, such as Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan, which would enjoy greater religious freedom if government policies and laws become more accommodating to religious minorities.

Unfortunately recent political turmoil and prospects for revolution have no realistic prospects for increasing receptivity to the LDS Church or Christianity altogether in Middle Eastern and North African populations for many years. The homogenous Muslim population displays strong ethno-religious ties to Islam resistant to missionary efforts. Change in government policy and administration would likely have little affect on how Muslim communities socially respond to converts to Christianity, which often includes ostracism, persecution, and ridicule. The Afghan government has granted greater religious freedom to non-Muslims than in many other Muslim-majority nations, yet societal abuse of religious freedom remains intense. A relaxation in government restrictions on Christian groups may allow the LDS Church to reach non-Muslims in the region, such as Coptic Christians - a religious group that the Church has yet to perform organized mission outreach among and who number in the millions in Egypt. Sustained religious freedom granted by the government for Latter-day Saints and other religious minorities may impact receptivity over the long term.

Lastly, there is always the threat a more oppressive government regime may come to power and impose greater restrictions on religious freedom. Time will only tell how current world events will unfold, and how the status of the LDS Church in many of these nations may be affected.

New Stake Created in California

Local members residing in the Roseville and Rocklin areas report that a new stake was organized in the area today. The Lincoln California stake includes at least seven wards and one branch in Lincoln and Lomis. Prior to the creation of the new stake, the Roseville California Stake had 12 wards and the Rocklin California Stake had 13 wards and one branch. The new stake becomes the first new stake organized in California since 2007 when the Oakland California East (Tongan) Stake was created. Several stakes were discontinued in California during the 1990s and 2000s largely due to shifting Latter-day Saint populations and Californian members moving outside of the state. There are now 158 stakes in California.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Stake in Utah; Districts Discontinued in Guyana and French Guiana


A new stake was created in Utah last Saturday. The Riverton Utah Harvest Park Stake has eight wards and was created from a division of the Fort Herriman Utah Stake which had 15 wards prior to the creation of the new stake. There are now 547 stakes in Utah.


Full-time missionaries serving in Guyana report that the Canje Guyana District was discontinued at the end of 2010 and branches pertaining to the former district now report directly to the West Indies Mission. Guyana experienced rapid membership and congregational growth in the late 2000s. Growth came to a dramatic halt following the removal of nearly the entire North American missionary force in September 2009 and the implementation of stricter standards for convert baptisms under a new mission president who began serving in July 2009. A combination of low convert retention, inadequate numbers of active priesthood leadership to fill branch and district presidencies, apostasy, and reliance on full-time missionaries for church administrative duties contributed to the discontinuation of the district. Many of the new congregations established in the late 2000s continue to operate under local leaders, indicating that some self-sustaining progress has been achieved in recent years. There are no signs that the Georgetown Guyana District will mature into a stake in the near future and much of the excitement and anticipation for strong church growth in Guyana exhibited only a couple years ago has disappeared. Increasing sacrament attendance has been reported in some branches in the New Amsterdam area over the past couple months.

French Guiana

Organized in 2009, the Cayenne French Guiana District was discontinued and the Kourou Branch was closed. Full-time missionaries serving in French Guiana reported that staffing leadership for congregations in Cayenne has been a major challenge. Inadequate numbers of local leaders appear the primary reason for the discontinuation of the district. The LDS Church has always struggled in French Guiana due to high rates of emigration and a transient migrant worker population.

Friday, January 14, 2011

First Branches Created in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo

Last spring the Church created administrative branches in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro to manage membership records and coordinate small LDS gatherings in the Balkans from the Europe Area headquarters in Germany. However no official branches were organized in any of these countries at the time. Progress has been made less than a year later as the first LDS branches were organized in Pristina, Kosovo and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both branches appear to have native branch presidents and jurisdiction for both countries remains under the Europe Area. Administrative branches continue to function for both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo despite the creation of the two new branches. LDS meetings also appear to occur regularly in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Church dedicated both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo for missionary work last fall. No proselyting missionaries have been assigned, but senior missionary couples regular serve in the area.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Church Growth News

LDS branch officially created in Burundi

Senior couple missionaries serving in the DR Congo Lubumbashi Mission report that the first official branch has been created in the country of Burundi. LDS services have previously operated as a group. A branch once operated in Burundi in the 1990s, but was discontinued as members left the country as a result of war. Dozens of converts have been baptized since full-time missionaries were assigned last September. Prospects appear to be materializing for mission outreach to expand outside of Bujumbura in the coming months and years.

New stakes to be created

Full-time missionaries serving around the world report that new stakes will soon be created in the following locations:

  • Donetsk, Ukraine
  • Kananga, DR Congo
  • Quetzaltenango, Guatemala area
  • Granada, Nicaragua
It is unclear whether First Presidency approval has been granted for each of these potential stakes and I will provide updates once they become available.

Nepal Update

Although not recognized by the government and operating unofficially, the LDS Church in Nepal was reported by the Church to have 133 members in the sole branch headquartered in Kathmandu. No active proselytism occurs in Nepal and Nepalese youth have begun to serve full-time missions in increasing numbers in recent years.

City in Kazakhstan opening for missionary work

Full-time missionaries serving in Kazakhstan report that for the first time in LDS Church history, a second city will have full-time missionaries assigned. Only Almaty has LDS missionaries at present, but next month the capital city of Astana should also have full-time missionaries assigned. There have been plans for years to eventually open Astana for full-time missionary work and it is unclear whether current plans will materialize as past plans never came to fruition.

City in Uganda opens for missionary work; first branch to be created at the end of January

The city of Lira, Uganda has had full-time missionaries recently assigned and the Uganda Kampala Mission President will create the first branch in the city later this month. Full-time missionaries report that sacrament attendance has increased to over 50 and that there are now five priesthood holders.

New missions in 2011 rumors

Although no official plans have been announced, there has been discussion on new missions which may open in July 2011. I announced a couple months ago concerning plans to open a new mission in Lusaka, Zambia. Potential new missions which may be created this year are listed below. These potential new missions have been cited by full-time missionaries serving in the field.
  • Ethiopia Addis Ababa
  • Angola Luanda/Mozambique Beira
  • Togo/Benin
Church planting in the United States

Full-time missionaries serving in Little Rock, Arkansas report that mission and stake leadership have experimented with church planting approaches recently. A group operates in the Little Rock area with a full-time missionary companionship assigned that has grown to 25 some members attending weekly - all of which are recent converts. Missionaries report that they started the congregation from scratch and are hoping to organize an independent branch from the group in the near future as local priesthood leadership develops. This church planting example illustrates the need for such missionary approaches worldwide for the LDS Church in order to improve convert retention, member self-sufficiency, and long-term church growth.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Stakes Likely to Split Outside the United States and Canada

The organization of new stakes is a strong indicator for church growth for the LDS Church as stakes require minimal numerical standards of active members, Priesthood holders, and functioning congregations. Once a stake has ten or more wards, it may divide to create a second stake dependent on the numbers of active members and Priesthood holders being sufficient to staff two stakes.

The last time I provided a list of stakes that may potentially split outside the United States was in September 2009. Below is an updated list of stakes which may divide to create additional stakes due to increases in the number of congregations. Congregation data was obtained from Member and missionary reports from around the world have contributed to the compilation of this list, as well as congregational growth trends in these areas. Some stakes listed currently have an inadequate number of congregations to divide, but based on recent congregational growth trends and missionary reports, will likely divide within the next year or two.

This list is not definitive and does not guarantee that stakes listed will be divided and new ones created. Local and area LDS leaders apply to the First Presidency to divide and create new stakes. The time frame for when most of these stakes will likely be divided is within the next two or three years based on past trends.

Your suggestions and input is valuable. Please offer constructive comments on additional stakes which may divide or be created from districts. The 2009 list can be found here.


Katuba Democratic Republic of Congo Stake: 9 wards, 1 branch
Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Stake: 9 wards
Lubumbashi Democratic Republic of Congo Stake: 10 wards
Takoradi Ghana Stake: 10 wards
Tema Ghana Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Antananarivo Madagascar Stake: 12 wards, 2 branches
Benin City Nigeria Ihogbe Stake: 11 wards
Benin City Nigeria Ikpokpan Stake: 10 wards
Benin City Nigeria New Benin Stake: 15 wards
Lagos Nigeria West Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Roodepoort South Africa: 8 wards, 5 branches, two groups


Newcastle Australia Stake: 10 wards, 2 branches
Butuan Philippines Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Makati Philippines Stake: 11 wards, 1 branch
Apia Samoa West Stake: 10 wards
Pesega Samoa Stake: 10 wards
Savaii Samoa Stake: 12 wards
Paea Tahiti Stake: 11 wards
Raromatai Tahiti Stake: 10 wards, 4 branches
Nuku'alofa Tonga Liahona Stake: 10 wards


Brasilia Brazil Alvorada Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Hortolandia Brazil Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Juiz de Fora Brazil: 11 wards
Recife Brazil Jardim Sao Paulo: 8 wards, 4 branches
Santa Maria Brazil: 10 wards, 1 branch

Central America

Alajuela Costa Rica Stake: 10 wards, 2 branches
San Jose Costa Rica La Paz Stake: 11 wards, 1 branch
San Jose Costa Rica La Sabana Stake: 10 wards, 2 branches
Tegucigalpa Honduras Toncontin Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Managua Nicaragua Stake: 10 wards
Managua Nicaragua Bello Horizonte Stake: 8 wards, 3 branches


Amecameca Mexico Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Celaya Mexico Stake: 11 wards
Chalco Mexico Stake: 10 wards
Chilpancingo Mexico Stake: 10 wards, 5 branches
Coatzacoalcos Mexico Puerto Stake: 13 wards
Ciudad Juarez Mexico East Stake: 11 wards
Ciudad Juarez Mexico La Cuesta Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Culiacan Mexico Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Jalapa Mexico Stake: 10 wards
Juchitan Mexico Stake: 10 wards, 3 branches
Mexico City Anahuac Stake: 11 wards
Mexico City Chapultepec Stake: 11 wards
Mexico City Cuautitlan Stake: 11 wards
Mexico City Culturas Stake: 11 wards
Mexico City Iztapalapa Stake: 10 wards
Mexico City La Perla Stake: 10 wards, 2 branches
Mexico City Tecamac Stake: 11 wards, 1 branch
Mexico City Tepalcapa Stake: 11 wards
Mexico City Valle Dorado Stake: 11 wards, 1 branch
Mexico City Villa de las Flores Stake: 10 wards
Oaxaca Mexico Monte Alban Stake: 10 wards, 3 branches
Puebla Mexico La Libertad Stake: 10 wards
Puebla Mexico Nealtican Stake: 12 wards, 1 branch
Saltillo Mexico Republica Stake: 11 wards
Teziutlan Mexico Stake: 10 wards, 3 branches
Veracruz Mexico Villa Rica Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch

South America (Spanish-speaking)

Buenos Aires Argentina Castelar Stake: 10 wards
Buenos Aires Argentina West Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Jujuy Argentina Stake: 10 wards, 3 branches
La Plata Argentina Villa Elvira Stake: 10 wards, 2 branches
Cochabamba Bolivia Stake: 11 wards
La Paz Bolivia Miraflores Stake: 12 wards, 1 branch
Santa Cruz Bolivia Canoto Stake: 11 wards
Guayaquil Ecuador Pascuales Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Luque Paraguay Stake: 10 wards, 3 branches
Arequipa Peru Manuel Prado Stake: 10 wards
Lima Peru Canto Grande Stake: 10 wards
Lima Peru Villa Salvador Stake: 10 wards
Montevideo Uruguay East Stake: 11 wards, 1 branch
Ciudad Ojeda Venezuela Stake: 10 wards, 1 branch
Maracay Venezuela Stake: 12 wards
Puerto La Cruz Venezuela Stake: 11 wards, 2 branches