Tuesday, February 23, 2016

New Stakes Created in Brazil, Guatemala, and Texas; New District Created in Kiribati; District Discontinued in Colombia

The Church organized a new stake in Goias State, Brazil on January 31st. The Rio Verde Brazil Stake was organized from the Rio Verde Brazil District and the Brazil Goiana Mission. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Bandeirantes, Itumbiara, Jataí, Morada do Sol, and Rio Verde Wards and the Popular Branch. The original Rio Verde Brazil District was organized in 1997. There are now six stakes in Goias State.

There are now 258 stakes and 38 districts in Brazil.

The Church organized a new stake in the Guatemala City metropolitan area on January 21st. The Linda Vista Guatemala Stake was organized from a division of the Amatitlán Guatemala Stake and the Villa Nueva Guatemala Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Alamedas, Eterna Primavera, Linda Vista, Naciones, and Sonora Ward. There are now 21 stakes in the Guatemala City metropolitan area.

There are now 45 stakes and 16 districts in Guatemala.

The Church organized a new stake in the Dallas area on February 7th. The Irving Texas Stake was organized from a division of the Dallas Texas Stake and the Carrollton Texas Stakes. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Dallas 6th, Grand Prairie 1st, Grand Prairie 2nd, Irving, Pioneer (Spanish), and Shady Grove (Spanish) Wards. There are now 19 stakes in the Dallas metropolitan area.

There are now 68 stakes and three districts in Texas.

The Church organized a second district in the Micronesian nation of Kiribati. The Tarawa Kiribati North District was organized from a division of the Tarawa Kiribati East Stake. There are six branches in the new district: the Abaokoro, Abatoa, Buota, Tearinibai, Temaiku 1st, and Temaiku 2nd Branches - two of which were organized since the beginning of the year. Senior missionaries serving on Tarawa have reported over the past year or two plans to organize the district in an effort to ultimately establish a third stake on Tarawa Atoll. Significant progress has been noted on North Tarawa Atoll and this progress has played a vital role in the establishment of the new district.

The Church in Kiribati has good promise for a temple one day to service the Micronesian subregion of Oceania. Church-reported membership accounts for approximately 16% of the national population - a remarkable feat since no LDS presence operated on the islands prior to 1975. The most rapid growth in Kiribati within the past decade has occurred on remote Kiritmati (Christmas) Island where a district was established in 2014. The Marshall Islands Majuro Mission, organized in 2006, has aggressively opened several previously unreached islands in Kiribati during the past five years. Some islands have had as many as three member groups established such as Nonouti Island. However, the Church in Kiribati experiences one of the lowest member activity rates in Oceania. The average ward or branch has 646 members on its rolls - significantly more than the approximately 50-150 active members in most congregations.

The Church recently discontinued the Barrancabermeja Colombia District. All three branches in the former district have been reassigned to the Colombia Bogota North Mission. The district was likely discontinued due to no realistic prospects for the district to organize additional branches and become a stake within the foreseeable future. A shortage of local leadership manpower may have also influenced this decision.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Official LDS Membership Statistics Released for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro

The Church has released official, year-end 2014 membership statistics for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro for the first time. According to the statistics page on mormonnewsroom.org, the Church reported 61 members in Bosnia and Herzegovina and six members in Montenegro. These statistics indicate that church-reported membership in Bosnia and Herzegovina constitutes 0.0016% of the national population, or one LDS member per 63,394 people. Church-reported membership in Montenegro constitutes less than 0.001% of the population, or one LDS member per 107,846 people. The Church assigned the first young, proselytizing missionaries to Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 2012 and to Montenegro in April 2012. Both countries pertain to the Adriatic North Mission.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Exponential LDS Growth in Africa?

On February 12th, the Church published a news release on its mormonnewsroom.org website in regards to rapid LDS growth in Africa. The news release coincided with information on the groundbreaking of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. In the news release the article states:

"Indeed, the Church in Africa has grown exponentially in the past 30 years — a fact surprising even to those who understand best the culture and complexity of this vast region of the globe — whether they are leaders and converts living and serving in Africa, or those who have come to Salt Lake City to help guide the affairs of the global Church."

Some additional noteworthy points in the article include:

"In 2014, more than 12,000 people joined the Church in Southeast Africa (about 4 percent of growth Churchwide) and 24,000 people joined in West Africa (about 8 percent of the 296,000 converts around the globe)."

"To appreciate this rapid growth, historical context helps. In Africa 30 years ago, the Church had 137 separate congregations and about 22,000 members. Today, there are more than 1,600 congregations and half a million members — that’s 11 times more wards and branches and 20 times more members than in 1985."

"What’s more, the Church will soon have a new missionary training center in Accra that can train 400 missionaries at a time to support the faith’s global missionary force."

In addition to the news release, the Church also posted a video providing additional details on LDS growth in Africa. In the video, Elder Joseph W. Sitati of the Seventy stated:

"As we look to the future, this controlled growth will enable the Church to grow in a way that if that had not happened, the numbers would be much higher than what we have today. But I think the Church would be much weaker."

The Church has indeed experienced rapid growth in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa within the past three decades. The most rapid growth has occurred in Nigeria, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), and Cote d'Ivoire. More than half of LDS membership in Africa resides in these four nations. During the 19-year period between 1995 and 2014, LDS membership increased from 28,000 to approximately 130,00 in Nigeria, 14,000 to 62,031 in Ghana, 5,300 to 42,689 in the DR Congo, and 2,800 to 27,052 in Cote d'Ivoire. Between 1995 and 2015, the number of stakes increased from three to 33 in Nigeria, two to 15 in Ghana, zero to 13 in the DR Congo, and zero to nine in Cote d'Ivoire. Rapid congregational growth has also occurred in all four of these nations within the past two decades, suggesting that commensurate "real growth" has occurred in these nations in regards to increasing numbers of active members. The Church in Cote d'Ivoire has recently experienced some of the most rapid expansion of the Church into previously unreached areas ever witnessed in modern church history. Significant increases in the number of West African and Congolese members serving full-time missions has warranted the Church to build a new MTC in Ghana with approximately quadruple the capacity of the original Ghana MTC constructed in the early 2000s.

Despite this progress, LDS growth in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be extremely limited. Overall growth trends have appeared much more modest than the "exponential" growth claims in the recent LDS news release. Here are some figures that support this argument:
  • LDS membership exceeds 20,000 in only six of the 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is an official LDS presence, namely Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, DR Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, and Zimbabwe. Most the population in these six nations does not live in an area where an LDS congregation operates. Entire regions of these nations have absolutely no LDS presence whatsoever. In the DR Congo, the entire northern half of the country was totally unreached until the creation of the Kisangani Branch approximately one year ago. In Ghana, two administrative regions have no official wards or branches. There are approximately 100 cities in Nigeria inhabited by 100,000 or more people that have no LDS congregations, most of which are located outside of traditionally Muslim areas. Five of the 12 administrative districts in Cote d'Ivoire remain unreached by the Church.
  • The Church in Sub-Saharan Africa reports fewer than 10,000 members in 20 countries where there is an official LDS presence.
  • LDS membership and congregational growth rates are best described as linear or cubic in nearly all African nations.  
  • The Church in Ghana and Sierra Leone reports the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints in the population among African nations - a mere 0.25%, or one LDS member per approximately 400 people.
  • LDS growth trends over the past two decades have been slow or stagnant in seven nations, including Angola, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Tanzania.
  • Four or fewer cities have an LDS presence in 17 Sub-Saharan African nations.
  • There are 12 Sub-Saharan African countries where there are no official LDS congregations that operate despite sufficient religious freedom to conduct proselytism and no legal barriers for the Church to obtain government recognition. 
  • Six Sub-Saharan African nations with an LDS presence - Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania - are inhabited by over 10 million people each have no LDS missions headquartered within their geographic borders.
A lack of international church resources allocated to Africa, combined with a conservative interpretation of the Church's "centers of strength" policy, appear the primary causes for an extremely limited LDS presence in Africa today. The interpretation of this policy has vastly differed between the Church's two African administrative areas during the past six years in particular. The Church in the Africa West Area has maintained some of the most successful and efficient policies governing LDS growth in the worldwide Church as evidenced by the organization of the first LDS branches in more than a dozen cities in Cote d'Ivoire during 2015. Recent congregational and membership growth rates have reached as high as 20% in some West African nations with good convert retention and member activity rates reported. However, the Africa Southeast Area has typically implemented policies that have stifled growth. For example, dozens of locations in the DR Congo have groups of isolated Latter-day Saints or prospective members that have been denied permission to organize official branches. The Church in Tanzania reports only six branches despite an LDS presence for over 20 years. The previous area policy that required proselytism and church services to be conducted exclusively in English rather than Swahili was a significant barrier for growth. No LDS mission operates in Ethiopia despite significant language barriers between mission leadership in English-speaking Uganda and an Ethiopian target population of nearly 100 million. Inadvertently, this conservative implementation of the centers of strength policy in the Africa Southeast Area has restricted LDS missionary resources into a handful of select locations, some of which have never matured into true centers of strength despite decades of proselytism, such as Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Blantyre, Malawi; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; Maseru, Lesotho; and Windhoek, Namibia.

Despite these limitations, the Church in Africa has excellent opportunities for continued growth. These opportunities appear most likely to be taken advantage of in West Africa where sizable numbers of LDS missionary resources are allocated and where mission and area leaders regularly open additional cities to proselytism. Prospects for LDS growth in other areas of the continent also appear favorable, but the outlook for growth will depend on the Church assigning more missionaries to these areas, opening more cities to proselytism, and mission and area leaders engendering greater self-sufficiency in local church leadership.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

LDS Congregations Worldwide by Spoken Language

Within the past week, the Church has released a beta version of a new meetinghouse locator website at beta.lds.org/maps. For the first time since the Church has maintained an online meetinghouse locator, information regarding the spoken language of each congregation is provided. This information provides valuable information regarding the study of the growth of the Church among specific ethnolinguistic groups. For example, I was unaware that the Church in Cote d'Ivoire operates two congregations that conduct worship services in Baule, and one congregation each that conducts worship services in Bete and Gwere. Additionally, the website notes scores of congregations in Nigeria that conduct worship services in the Igbo language and dozens of congregations that conduct worship services other Nigerian languages such as Efik, Ibibio, and Yoruba.

I plan to update the LDS International Atlas to include information on the spoken language of each congregation. See below for an example of an updated map for the Nigeria Calabar Mission.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stakes Likely to Split in the United States - February 2016 Version

Below is a list of stakes in the United States that appear likely to split within the near future. Previous lists are available for 2013 and 2009.
  • Anchorage Alaska North (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • Fairbanks Alaska (9 wards, 6 branches)
  • Wasilla Alaksa (15 wards)
  • Chandler Arizona East (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Flagstaff Arizona (12 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Goodyear Arizona (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Mesa Arizona Alta Mesa (12 wards)
  • Queen Creek Arizona (11 wards)
  • Queen Creek Arizona North (12 wards)
  • Taylor Arizona (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Thatcher Arizona (12 wards)
  • Gilbert Arizona Higley (12 wards)
  • Mesa Arizona Desert Ridge (13 wards)
  • Phoenix Arizona (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Queen Creek Arizona North (13 wards)
  • Queen Creek Arizona South (12 wards
  • Los Angeles California Stake (12 wards)
  • Poway California (12 wards, 3 branches)
  • Temecula California (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Colorado Springs North (14 wards)
  • Colorado Springs East (12 wards, 1 branch)
  • Meeker Colorado (12 wards, 3 branches)
  • Sugar Hill Georgia (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Ammon Idaho Foothills (12 wards)
  • Declo Idaho (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Meridian Idaho South (11 wards)
  • Middleton Idaho (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • St. Anthony Idaho (11 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Cambridge Massachusetts (12 wards, 4 branches)
  • Springfield Missouri South (11 wards, 2 branches)
  • Billings Montana (11 wards, 4 branches)
  • Omaha Nebraska (12 wards, 1 branch)
  • Las Veas Nevada South (13 wards)
  • New York New York (13 wards, 2 branches)
  • Oklahoma City Oklahoma (11 wards, 2 branches)
  • Columbus Ohio North (11 wards) 
  • Reading Pennsylvania (11 wards, 4 branches)
  • Providence Rhode Island (10 wards, 5 branches)
  • West Columbia South Carolina (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • Allen Texas (12 wards, 1 branch)
  • Austin Texas Oak Hills (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Houston Texas North (11 wards)
  • Richardson Texas (11 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Hurricane Utah West (12 wards)
  • La Verkin Utah (12 wards)
  • Lehi Utah (13 wards) 
  • Mapleton Utah (13 wards)
  • Morgan Utah (12 wards)
  • Morgan Utah North (12 wards)
  • Nibley Utah (12 wards)
  • Pleasant Grove Utah Manila (12 wards)
  • Pleasant View Utah (12 wards)
  • Provo Utah East (12 wards)
  • Provo Utah South (12 wards) 
  • St George Utah Bloomington Hills (12 wards)
  • St George Utah Washington Fields (12 wards)
  • Salem Utah (12 wards)
  • Saratoga Springs Utah (12 wards)
  • Saratoga Springs Utah Crossroads (14 wards)
  • Spanish Fork Utah Canyon Ridge (12 wards)
  • Ashburn Virginia (12 wards)
  • Fredericksburg Virginia (13 wards, 2 branches)
  • Mount Vernon Virginia (13 wards)
  • Bellevue Washington (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Maple Valley Washington (12 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Moses Lake Washington (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Tacoma Washington (12 wards)
  • Vancouver Washington East (11 wards)
  • Casper Wyoming (12 wards, 2 branches) 
  • Cody Wyoming (13 wards)
  • Laramie Wyoming (12 wards, 1 branch)