Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Exponential LDS Growth in Africa?

On February 12th, the Church published a news release on its 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.


Eduardo said...

Cabo Verde has had pretty good LDS growth, not really mentioned above. I expect other Portuguese nations to begin (Guinea-Bissau and Sao Tome e Principe) and accelerate in Angola and Mozambique.
How is Botswana doing? Zambia?

Mike Johnson said...

The article was about two of the Church's areas: Africa Southeast Area and Africa West Area. Cabo Verde is in the Europe Area. Also the Middle East/Africa North Area is also not discussed.

Now LDS Maps defaults to the new format, which is nice for languages and you can search by sacrament meeting times. To get to the former version which shows area, mission, stake, district, ward, and branch boundaries by clicking on an icon on the lower right.

Andrew said...

Fort Collins Temple Open House Announced: August 19-September 10, 2016, except Sundays
Temple Dedication: Sunday, October 16

John Pack Lambert said...

The organization of multiple branches in Angola last month suggest that things are beganning to pick up in Angola.

Part of me wonders if the Church in Africa would not be better served by the creation of a 3rd area.

I am also hoping that the 3rd mission in the DR Congo will lead to establishment of many more branches.

The Church now has both Swahili and Kamba as well as English units in Kenya. In the Lumbumbashi area in southern DR Congo Swahili units outnumber French. In Kinshasa there is maybe 1 Lingala unit but the rest are all French.

Thanks Mike for the information on how to get to the borders map.

My main grip against the new locator map is there is no way to tell if a dot is one chapel, or if there are other chapels obscured by the dot unless you zoom in.

Unknown said...

Mathematically speaking, growth can be exponential whenever marginal growth rates are increasing. In some cases, this is actually happening (Cote d'Ivoire). It can also be achieved by managing the observed time frame, since exponential and linear growth of any factor run alike in slope for at least a little while right after starting the observation.

So, yes - technically speaking, the Church's statement can be made right, at least in the theoretical short run. Thinking about it though, exponential growth (especially with large base factors) is almost impossible to control. Not something we want, so I'm not unhappy that it is fairly unrealistic in the long run.

Joseph said...

Unit Update
7 Feb
Irving Texas Stake (W:6)
Dallas 6th Ward
Grand Prairie 1st Ward
Grand Prairie 2nd Ward
Irving Ward
Pioneer Ward (Spanish)
Shady Grove Ward (Spanish)

Kentinkrono Branch, Kumasi Ghana Dichemso Stake (B:7, W:7)

14 Feb
Eastfield Ward, Bedfordview South Africa Stake (B:2, W:7)
Sunrise Branch, Coral Springs Florida Stake (B:2, W:6)

YTD 77(11/week*7) +4 - Total 34,245(+5)
Africa 17, 22.1% (+2) - Total 1788 (+2)
Asia 1, 1.3% (0) - Total 932 (0)
America Central 2, 2.6% (0) - Total 3923 (0)
America North 37, 48.1% (+2) - Total 9356 (0)
America South 4, 5.2% (0) - Total 6342 (+5)
Europe 1, 1.3% (0) - Total 1712 (-2)
Pacific 4, 5.2% (0) - Total 2734 (0)
Utah & Idaho 11(8), 14.3(10.4)% (0) - Total 6918(5707)(0)

Totals no-sensitive (Net -4)
Areas Temples Miss Stakes Dist Wards Branch Totals
Global 25 149 418 3,183 543 22,604 7,347 34,269
Us/Can 10 81 131 1,605 10 12,599 2,059 16,495
US n/a 73 124 1,557 7 12,262 1,910 15,933
Utah n/a 15 10 579 1 4,709 325 5,639
Canada n/a 8 7 48 3 337 149 552
Out 15 68 287 1,578 533 10,005 5,288 17,774

Ryan Searcy said...

It appears the anticipated completion of the Rome Italy Temple has been pushed back another year. Current estimates put it in late 2017.

Eduardo said...

I can see the Azores and Canaries as part of Europe but Cabo Verde is more culturally African; I hope that linguistically the Portuguese of Europe and Brazil will help develop the millions of Portuguese speakers across Africa. Each missionary has a symbiotic relationship which will strengthen the faith across the borders and bring the Lord's people together. I wonder how many European Saints are of African origin.

Scott S said...

Andrew, Where did you get the dates for the Fort Collins Temple?

Unknown said...

It looks like the Fort Collins Temple dates were posted by one of the Stake Presidents on the temple Facebook page last night, so I imagine the official press release will be later today. Hopefully they announce the Hartford dedication date too and maybe the groundbreakings for Arequipa, Rio de Janeiro, and/or Winnipeg.

James Anderson said...

@mormonnewsroom just tweeted out the official announcement for Fort Collins. No other temple-related announcements were otherwise included.

John Pack Lambert said...

The next mission president in Angola will be from Brazil. However my impression is that in Africa colonial languages as not as pervasive as in Latin America. Even at that in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay and maybe elsewhere there people learn the gospel better in local Amerindian languages.

Eduardo said...

I can see the Azores and Canaries as part of Europe but Cabo Verde is more culturally African; I hope that linguistically the Portuguese of Europe and Brazil will help develop the millions of Portuguese speakers across Africa. Each missionary has a symbiotic relationship which will strengthen the faith across the borders and bring the Lord's people together. I wonder how many European Saints are of African origin.

Ryan Searcy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Searcy said...

Northernmost District: Oulou Finland District - 64*59' N
Northernmost Stake: Fairbanks Alaska Stake - 64*50' N
Northernmost Temple: Anchorage Alaska Temple - 61*06' N

Southernmost District: Tierra del Fuego Argentina District - 53*47' S
Southernmost Stake: Punta Arenas Chile Stake - 53*09' S
Southernmost Temple: Melbourne Australia Temple - 37*52' S

Ryan Searcy said...

Curious - the groundbreaking has been announced for the Durban South Africa Temple, but still nothing on where it will be located.

Ryan Searcy said...

7 Temples remain in the announced stage, with 2 more very likely to have groundbreakings announced.

Urdaneta Philippines
Winnipeg Manitoba
Arequipa Peru - pre-building stage
Rio de Janiero Brazil - pre-building stage
Abidjan Cote d'Ivorie
Port-au-Prince Haiti
Bangkok Thailand

Ryan Searcy said...

I wonder if the Durban South Africa Temple will be next to the Hillcrest South Africa Stake Center? The stake center in Durban does not have any room, but Hillcrest does for a temple of that size (it appears to be a very small temple). Any predictions on where it will be?

Eduardo said...

There are West African countries showing strong growth: Sierra Leone, Cote de Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria. But there are another half dozen in the region that are underexposed, especially the Guineas. Muslim dominated nations are tougher, like Burkina Faso or Mali and Niger, or Senegal.
Central Africa shows promise but there are multiple countries with little exposure. Gabon, Ecuatorial Guinea, or even Sao Tome e Principe.
East Africa has big potential with Ethiopia and burgeoning Kenya. No go in Sudan but South Sudan seems ample ground. Eritrea should be available soon being close to half Christian. Small but populated nations Rwanda and Burundi should increase. Separate languages like English and French and native tongues make proselyting complicated logistically.

Southern Africa presents even more diversity. Perhaps the whole continent has over 100 languages with LDS congregations? But English, French, and Portuguese still present the biggest target languages, along with their Pidgin counterparts.
The future is large.

illipn said...

Interesting to note that the architectural inspiration for the Durban temple's spire most likely comes from the traditional Coptic design of churches in Egypt.

Grant Emery said...

Good note, illipn! :)

John Pack Lambert said...

The new president of the DR Congo Mbuji-Mayi mission is Kimbabu Alfred Kyugu, who is from Kinshasa.

Eduardo said...

Thinking of LDS growth in Africa, I wonder how involved LDS Charities is in helping with treatable diseases like River Blindness, which may afflict about 100 million people, many of whom are located in places of western and central Africa where we want to expand. In my Chilean mission in the early 90s we had a couple of health missionaries (sisters) that might be the type to do tons of good distributing medicines in those locales. My parents did a lot of Charities work in Cambodia and I would venture that all African nations could use that. Especially terrible treatable illnesses like River Blindness, which like TB and malaria prohibit many peoples from being able to attend church or be productive in the first place. I wonder how many regular elders and sisters are involved in these types of humanitarian projects. I should ask my nephew who served in Sierra Leone, who suffered his own bouts of sicknesses, what he knows about our charities there.

Mike Johnson said...

LDS Maps has an icon for the Durban Temple. The icon sits right in the middle of a park in downtown. The park is called Workshop Park and has large parking lots to the north and west and underground the park. There is a large shopping center to the south built from an old train station.

Now, there are several possibilites:

1. the icon was just placed in the middle of Durban randomly
2. or this marks the site.

It is unusual for a an icon to identify a future temple in LDS maps. It makes me wonder if it is real or not.

This link is for google maps to the park in the center of the image:,+South+Africa/@-29.8548513,31.0243709,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x1ef7aa0001bc61b7:0xcca75546c4aa6e81?hl=en

John Pack Lambert said...

My understanding is that much of the LDS Charities work in Africa has been focused on working to develop water systems in various villages that will be maintined after being built. I do know the Church has sponsored polio vaccinations in Mozambique and some other countries. I am sure there is other stuff, but a lot more that could be done, especially by Church members acting on their own initiative.

Matt said...

There do not appear to be any realistic prospects for an LDS presence in Eritrea within the near future. Eritrea has one of the worst human rights records for religious freedom in the entire world.

There are 2,138 living languages in Africa according to

James Anderson said...

KSL is reporting that a whopper of a cyclone (South Pacific name for a hurricane) hit Fiji, they had moved the cultural celebration for the temple dedication indoors, then had to cut it short so everyone could get to evacuation centers, etc.

So it looks like the temple was unable to be dedicated today, as originally scheduled, since the storm was essentially a category 5 storm, meaning there will be damage mainly to plants on the temple grounds, etc.

So we don't know how soon after the storm passes they will be able to proceed with the dedication.

Will said...

Looks like they did dedicate the Suva Figi Temple today:

Will said...
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Gnesileah said...

The Church operates the Africa Southeast Area - Eritrea and the Africa Southeast Area - Somalia Branches, presumably for the scattering of Latter-day Saints living in those two countries. These two branches appear to report directly to the Area Presidency in Johannesburg.

Fredrick said...

Check out the rendering of the Durban South Africa Temple