Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 Cumorah Newsletter

We have posted our April newsletter for the Cumorah Foundation detailing recent church growth news and additional resources posted to our website.  Click here to view newsletter.

New Stakes Created in Arizona and Mexico

Last Sunday new stakes were organized in Arizona and Mexico.

In Arizona, the Church created the Gilbert Arizona Williams Field Stake from the Gilbert Arizona Higley and Gilbert Arizona San Tan Stakes.  The new stake consists of the following six wards: The Chaparral, Fairview, Gateway, Pecos Park, Maplewood, and Stratland Wards.  There are now 95 stakes in Arizona.

In Mexico, the Church created the Mexico City Alamedas Stake from the Mexico City Valle Dorado Stake.  The new stake has the following five wards and one branch: The Alamedas, Lomas Lindas, Campestre, Colmena, and Nicolas Romero Wards and the Villa del Carbon Branch.  The Mexico City Valle Dorado Stake now has six wards.  The last new stake to be organized in the Mexico City area was in 2008.  For more information on the Church in Mexico City, refer to my case study here.  There are now 44 stakes in the Mexico City area and 227 stakes and 36 districts in Mexico.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Stake in Mexico

A new stake was created in Mexico last Sunday.  The Córdoba México Stake was created from the Orizaba México Stake and includes the Córdoba, Escamela, Huilango, Nuevo Córdoba, and Ojo de Agua Wards and the Huatusco Branch.  The Church in Mexico has experienced stagnant congregational growth for the past several years but has had at least a couple new stakes organized each year during this period.  This suggests that member activity and convert retention rates remain problematic but there may be some progress in leadership development.

There are now 226 stakes and 36 districts in Mexico.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Membership by Country Statistics Released for 2012

Membership and congregation totals for nations with a reported LDS presence are now available on the Church's official website and can be found at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics. Data is available under the country profiles on the right side of the site.

The 20 countries with the highest annual membership growth rates in 2012 are listed below. Lists for nations with the most rapid membership growth rates are also available for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  The percentage next to the country name is the annual growth rate percentage which is followed by the country's LDS membership at year-end 2012. Countries in bold experienced a membership increase greater than 200. 
  1. Benin - 59.9% - 1,081
  2. Rwanda - 34.4% - 121
  3. Solomon Islands - 31.5% - 509
  4. Botswana - 27.1% - 2,152 
  5. Malawi - 22.9% - 1,421
  6. Angola - 20.9% - 1,257
  7. Togo - 19.7% - 1,861
  8. Jersey - 16.7% - 349
  9. Cape Verde - 16.2% - 9,326
  10. Ethiopia - 15.7% - 1,678
  11. Sierra Leone - 15.7% - 11,664
  12. Tuvalu - 14.9% - 200
  13. Madagascar - 14.6% - 9,190
  14. Cote d'Ivoire - 14.5% - 18,602
  15. Liberia - 14.4% - 6,709
  16. Democratic Republic of the Congo - 13.5% - 34,547
  17. Namibia - 13.2% - 763
  18. Malaysia - 13.1% - 8,967
  19. Vanuatu - 12.9% - 5,491
  20. Cameroon - 12.4% - 12.4%
Below is a list of the top ten countries by numerical increase in membership for the year 2012. Each country is provided with the national increase in membership and the percentage of this increase out of total Church membership increase. Lists are also available for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  72.6% of 2012 LDS membership increase can be attributed to the following 10 nations. 
  1. United States - 92,183 - 27.0%
  2. Mexico - 44,501 - 13.0%
  3. Brazil - 36,441 - 10.7%
  4. Peru - 18,947 - 5.6%
  5. Philippines - 13,568 - 4.0%
  6. Argentina - 12,655 - 3.7%
  7. Ecuador - 8,230 - 2.4%
  8. Guatemala - 7,958 - 2.3%
  9. Chile - 6,883 - 2.0%
  10. Honduras - 6,249 - 1.8%
I will provide additional analysis of these country-by-country statistics in the coming couple days.  Some interesting developments with these 2012 statistics include a significant increase in church membership for Guatemala and Ecuador that has not been experienced since the 1990s, church membership in the Central African Republic declining by 50% likely due to updating membership records, and church membership continuing to experience small gains in Norway that first began in 2009 after two decades of stagnant membership growth.

Two Districts Discontinued in Russia

The Church has recently discontinued two districts in Russia.  The Rostov Russia and Volgograd Russia Districts have been discontinued and branches that previously pertained to these districts now directly report to the Russia Rostov Mission.  The Rostov Russia District previously included six branches whereas the Volgograd Russia District previously included four branches.  No branches were closed as part of dissolution of either district.

The Church discontinuing both of these districts suggests that there are no prospects within the foreseeable future for either of these districts to become stakes and that district leadership was siphoning limited priesthood manpower that was in greater need for allocation to individual branches.  I was surprised with the close of both of these districts as both had at least four branches and appeared to have enough leadership manpower for both branch and district callings.  This decision is reminiscent of the Church discontinuing the Canje Guyana District in 2011 as both this district also had a sizable number of branches.  In the Guyana example, leadership development problems was the primary reason for the district closure.  In Russia, low member activity rates, few convert baptisms, and leadership development problems have been responsible for ongoing congregational consolidations and district closures.

There are now two stakes and five districts in Russia.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recently Completed Case Study Essays (October 2012 - April 2013)

It's been a while since I have provided an update on recently completed case study essays.  See below for some interesting topics that I have researched and written about within the past six months.  We will be categorizing these on cumorah.com to make navigation easier as we have now posted over 100 case studies.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Unreached Countries

Church leaders frequently noted the importance of taking the gospel to "all the earth" and "to all nations" during General Conference this past weekend.  In response to online discussion on which countries are unreached by the Church, I have provided our encyclopedia entry on "unreached countries" from cumorah.com.  Our encyclopedia on missionary work and church growth (missiology) will be posted on cumorah.com in the near future once website upgrades and complete.  This encyclopedia entry will be posted on my blog until we get this resource up and running on cumorah.com.

Unreached Countries 

Unreached countries include nations that neither have a ward, branch, or group functioning nor a known official or unofficial LDS presence. The Church does not extend any official missionary activity in unreached nations and many of these nations do not pertain to a mission. These countries remain a priority to outreach to fulfill the divine commission of Christ to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people as approximately 390 million people reside in unreached countries, or six percent of the world's population. Christians do not comprise the majority in most unreached countries; Christian-majority nations rank among the least populated unreached nations by the Church. In 2012, there was only one predominantly Christian country with over one million people that was unreached (East Timor or Timor-Leste) with only 1.2 million inhabitants. 

In mid-2012, there were 33 sovereign countries without an LDS presence; 16 in Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, and Sudan), six in the Middle East and North Africa (Algeria, Iran, Libya, Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Yemen), four in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), four in East Asia (Bhutan, Maldives, North Korea, and Timor-Leste [East Timor]), and three in Europe (Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino). Provided with 2012 population estimates from the CIA World Factbook and world population ranking, the three most populous unreached countries are Iran (78.9 million people; 18th most populous), Algeria (35.4 million people; 35th most populous), and Sudan (34.2 million people; 37th most populous) whereas the three least populous unreached countries are Monaco (30,510 people; 216th most populous), San Marino (32,140 people; 213th most populous), and Liechtenstein (36,713 people; 212th most populous). 25 of the 35 unreached countries have at least one million inhabitants. In August 2012, nine of the 35 unreached countries were assigned to a full-time mission (Bhutan - India New Delhi Mission, Equatorial Guinea - Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa Mission, Liechtenstein - Alpine German-Speaking Mission, Maldives - India Bangalore Mission, Monaco - France Lyon Mission, San Marino - Italy Milan Mission, Sao Tome and Principe - Mozambique Maputo Mission, Sudan - Uganda Kampala Mission, and Timor Leste - Indonesia Jakarta Mission). 

The Church does not have a presence in unreached countries for a variety of reasons. Most unreached countries experience low levels of religious freedom. Muslims constitute a strong majority in 23 of the 35 unreached countries and Islam strongly influences government and legislation in most these nations. Consequently there is little, if any, tolerance for Christian proselytism and the conversion of Muslims to non-Islamic religions. Several unreached countries exhibit good conditions for LDS missionary activity but possess relatively tiny populations that are not within close proximity of countries with a strong LDS presence. It is unclear why some other countries remain unreached by the Church as proximity, small population, political instability, and government restrictions do not prevent a church establishment. A lack of mission resources and vision from area and mission leaders appears responsible for no LDS presence in these locations. 

Conditions to establish an LDS presence were once more favorable in several nations but the Church missed its opportunity to gain a foothold before political and religious freedom conditions deteriorated. For example, there were few restrictions to proselyte and send missionaries to several Central Asian countries (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) in the 1990s but the Church failed to initiate missionary activity in all three of these nations. At present there are no realistic prospects for the Church to establish a presence in any currently unreached Central Asian nations due to the decline in religious freedom and the increasing influence of Islam on government. If the Church fails to establish a presence in other unreached countries without insurmountable religious freedom restrictions, the Church may miss its window of opportunity. For example, the Church may not be able to establish a presence in Mongolia today if the Church did not act in the early 1990s when political conditions were more favorable as religious freedom conditions deteriorated during the 2000s and early 2010s. Other proselytizing Christian faiths such as Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses have more aggressively established a presence worldwide when opportunities to enter new nations arose. Consequently Adventists and Witnesses report a presence in all but approximately a dozen countries notwithstanding both these denominations based in the United States and being founded decades after the LDS Church. 

Opportunities to establish an LDS presence appear most promising in countries where government and society permit nontraditional Christians to proselyte the indigenous population. In 2012, these countries included all six Christian-majority unreached countries (Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Monaco), six tolerant Muslim-majority unreached countries (Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, the Gambia), and two countries where there is no religious majority (Chad and Guinea-Bissau). Missionaries stationed in nearby countries visit Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Monaco periodically to meet with isolated members or teach investigators. These three city-state countries experience religious freedom but their tiny populations make the assignment of full-time missionaries infeasible due to few mission resources and low receptivity in the region. However, holding cottage meetings and organizing groups for church services may be warranted to improve outreach and spur growth. 

In addition to unreached countries there are also unreached territories or dependencies. Territories and dependencies pertain to a sovereign country but receive some aspects of self-rule and autonomy. In mid-2012, there were 17 territories, dependencies, or overseas collectivities with populations over 1,000 without an LDS presence; seven in North and South America (Anguilla, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Sint Eustatius), four Oceania (Christmas Island [Australia], Norfolk Island, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna), four in Europe (Aland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, and Svalbard), and two in Sub-Saharan Africa (Mayotte and Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha). Nearly all of these locations experience widespread religious freedom and have predominantly Christian populations, but tiny populations that are not within close proximity to current mission outreach centers deter outreach.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

2012 Annual Statistical Report

The Church released its statistical report for 2012 in General Conference today.  Below is a summary of church statistics reported in comparison with the statistical report for 2011:
  • Membership: 14,782,473 (increase of 341,127 from 2011; a 2.36% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 29,014 (increase of 230 from 2011; a 0.43% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,005 (increase of 59 from 2011; a 2.00% annual increase)
  • Districts: 591 (a decrease of 17 from 2011; a 2.80% annual decrease)
  • Convert Baptisms: 272,330 (decrease of 8,982 from 2011; a 3.19% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 122,273 (increase of 2,356 from 2011; a 1.96% annual increase)
  • Full-time missionaries: 58,990 (increase of 3,580 from 2011; a 6.46% annual increase)
  • Church service missionaries: 22,961 (increase of 662 from 2011; a 2.97% annual increase)
Notable progress in these statistics for 2012 include the perpetuation of six percent annual growth in the number of missionaries serving that began in 2011, the largest increase in church membership since 1999, and the largest increase in the number of stakes since 1998.  Concerning numbers include congregational growth occurring at less than one-fifth the rate of membership growth, a decline in convert baptisms notwithstanding an increase of 3,580 missionaries serving, and a 2.80% decline in the number of districts.

Full-time Missionary Force Continues to Swell

This morning, President Monson announced that there were 65,634 full-time missionaries serving as of April 4th.  Currently there are 20,000 missionaries who have received their mission calls and an additional 6,000 individuals who are in the interview process.  For more information about the influence of reducing the mission age on future church growth trends in the LDS Church, please refer to my case study on cumorah.com that can be found here.

Two New Temples Announced

This morning, President Monson announced two new temples for Cedar City, Utah and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This will bring the total number of temples worldwide to 170.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Updated Potential Temples Map

In preparation for General Conference this weekend, I have updated my map identifying likely locations for future temple announcements.  Likely stakes and districts serviced by potential temples in these locations are provided. Additional locations identified for possible temple announcements in this most recent update include Auckland, New Zealand; Benin City, Nigeria; and Bangkok, Thailand.

View Potential New Temples in a larger map