Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LDS Stake Reestablished in Liberia

I have confirmed from several full-time missionaries and local members that the Church reestablished a stake in Liberia on November 27th. The new stake appears to have been organized from the Monrovia Liberia Bushrod Island District. The district had nine branches prior to the organization of the new stake. Most of the branches have appeared to become wards in the new stake.

Prior to the organization of the new stake last Sunday, Liberia was the only country in Africa where the sole LDS stake was discontinued. The Church operated a stake in Monrovia between 2000 and 2007 that administered eight wards and one branch. The stake was discontinued in 2007 and two member districts were organized. Leadership challenges, members fleeing the country due to the Second Liberian Civil War, distance from mission leadership in Ghana, and inactivity problems appear primarily responsible for the discontinuation of the original Monrovia Liberia Stake in 2007.

Significant LDS growth developments have occurred in Liberia during the past five years. The number of official congregations has increased from 13 at year-end 2010 to 28 at present. A separate mission headquartered in Liberia was created in 2013. A third member district was organized in 2014 to accommodate growing numbers of branches in Monrovia. Membership growth has significantly accelerated in the past few years to generally more than 10% a year. The Church organized a second branch in the city of Kakata earlier this year, making Kakata the only Liberian city outside of Monrovia with more than one LDS congregation. Missionaries have reported scores of investigators attending some branches since the reintroduction of full-time missionaries in mid-2016. Full-time missionaries were withdrawn from the country in August 2014.

Additional stake creations appear likely in the immediate future. The remaining two member districts in Monrovia have a sufficient number of congregations and nominal members to become stakes. Furthermore, three new branches were recently organized in these two districts within the past few months.

Liberia was previously the country with the second most members without a stake according to year-end 2015 membership statistics. Only Malaysia has more members than Liberia and no stakes. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Potential New Missions in 2017

Below is a list of potential new missions that may be created in 2017. Criteria for identifying potential new missions include recent LDS membership, congregational, and organizational (stakes and districts) growth trends, trends in new missions created within the past decade, population size, and the boundaries of current missions. Several new missions appear likely to be organized despite the number of full-time missionaries falling to 72,000 as of early November 2016. The average number of missionaries per mission is currently approximately 171 - a number within the range of historical averages during the past couple decades. The number of missionaries serving will likely steadily increase in the coming years and necessitate the creation of additional missions. The double cohort that resulted from lowering the minimum age of missionary service appeared to end in 2016. Going forward, there should not be any artificial increases in the number of members serving full-time missions that are related to changes in the 2012 decision to lower the minimum age for missionary service. Missions included with an asterisk appear most likely to be organized in 2017.
  • Australia Brisbane (2nd mission)*
  • Brazil Aracatuba
  • Brazil Manaus (2nd mission)
  • Brazil Porto Velho
  • Brazil Sao Luis
  • Brazil Sorocaba
  • Cameroon Yaounde*
  • Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan (3rd Mission)*
  • Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro*
  • Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa (2nd mission)*
  • Ethiopia Addis Ababa*
  • Ghana Kumasi (2nd mission)
  • Malawi Lilongwe
  • Mexico Chilpancingo
  • Mexico Juchitan
  • Mexico Toluca
  • Nigeria Ibadan*
  • Nigeria Uyo
  • Philippines Bacolod (2nd mission)
  • Philippines Cabanatuan
  • Philippines Davao (2nd mission)
  • Philippines Dumaguete
  • Philippines Lucena
  • Philippines Ormoc
  • Philippines Santiago
  • Rwanda Kigali
  • Samoa Apia (2nd mission)
  • Slovakia Bratislava
  • Solomon Islands Honiara
  • Spain Alicante
  • Taiwan Kaohsiung
  • Tanzania Dar Es Salaam*
  • Texas Austin*
  • Texas El Paso
  • Texas Plano*
  • Thailand Bangkok (2nd mission)
  • Tonga Nuku'alofa (2nd mission)
  • Zimbabwe Bulawayo

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Stakes Created in Arizona, Brazil, and Utah; New District Created in Cote d'Ivoire

A new stake was organized in the Snowflake area on November 13th. The Centennial Arizona Stake was organized from a division of the Snowflake Arizona and Taylor Arizona (renamed Silver Creek Arizona) Stakes. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Casa Linda, Cottonwood, Heritage, Snowflake 2nd, Snowflake 3rd, Snowflake 4th, and Willow Wards.

There are now 111 stakes in Arizona.

A new stake was created in northeastern Brazil on November 6th. The João Pessoa Brazil Centro Stake was organized from a division of the João Pessoa Brazil Torre Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Bela Vista, Colinas do Sul, Costa e Silva, Das Indústrias, Jardim Veneza, and João Pessoa Wards. There are now five stakes in João Pessoa and seven stakes in Paraíba State.

There are now 264 stakes and 39 districts in Brazil.

Cote d'Ivoire
A new district was created from three mission branches in the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Mission on October 30th. The new Abengourou Cote d'Ivoire District includes the following three branches: the Abengourou 1st, Abengourou 2nd, and Abengourou 3rd Branches. The original boundaries of the branches were also adjusted to include neighboring cities such as Agnibilékrou and Niablé, suggesting that member groups may operate in these locations.

There are now 11 stakes and 10 districts in Cote d'Ivoire. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

85 New Stakes in 2016 and Counting

The year 2016 has been an extraordinary year for stake creations. Thus far, there have been 85 new stakes organized since January 1st, 2016. The geographical breakdown of these new stakes is as follows: 39 in North America (46%), 16 in Africa (19%), 13 in South America (15%), 7 in Central America (8%), 5 in Oceania (6%), 4 in Asia (5%), and 1 in Europe (1%). Locations where the most new stakes have been organized include Arizona (10), Brazil (8), Texas (8), Nigeria (6), Utah (6), Honduras (4), Washington (4), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3), and Ghana (3).

The last time the Church had organized as many new stakes in a single year was in 1997 when 125 new stakes were organized. Stake growth is a robust indicator of "real growth" in the LDS Church as stakes require certain minimum requirements to operate (e.g. number of active, full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders [AFTPMP]; number of congregations; ratio of AFTPMP to general church membership; etc). Thus, accelerated stake growth in 2016 constitutes a noteworthy development in regards to the growth of the Church.

I have received firm confirmations of three additional stakes and reports of a nine additional stakes to be organized by the end of the year. Given stake growth trends thus far in 2016 and reports of many more new stakes to be created by the end of the year, it appears likely that the Church may create as many as 100 new stakes in 2016. If you have information about a new stake to be organized in your area, please comment.

Stakes Likely to Split Outside the United States and Canada - November 2016 Edition

Below is an updated list of stakes that may split within the near future. Previous lists are available for December 2012, January 2014, December 2014, and November 2015.

  • Aba Nigeria North (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Aba Nigeria Ogbor Hill (10 wards, 5 branches) 
  • Abeokuta Nigeria (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire Niangon North (11 wards)
  • Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire Niangon South (13 wards)
  • Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire Yopougon Attie (10 wards)
  • Abobo Cote d'Ivoire West (9 wards, 7 branches) 
  • Accra Ghana Adenta (10 wards, 5 branches)
  • Accra Ghana Christiansborg (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Benin City Nigeria Ihogbe (10 wards)
  • East London South Africa (11 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Freetown Sierra Leone (10 wards)
  • Ibadan Nigeria (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Kimbanseke (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Masina (10 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Mokali (10 wards)
  • Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Ngaliema (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Lomé Togo (10 wards, 7 branches)
  • Lubumbashi Democratic Republic of Congo (11 wards)
  • Port Harcourt Nigeria East (10 wards, 4 branches)
  • Port Harcourt Nigeria West (14 wards)
  • Warri Nigeria (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Tema Ghana (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Yamoussoukro Cote d'Ivoire (10 wards)
  • Jakarta Indonesia (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Butuan Philippines (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Hsin Chu Taiwan (10 wards)
  • Iloilo Philippines North (9 wards, 2 branches)
  • Lipa Philippines (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • Mandaue Philippines (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Singapore (10 wards)
  • Tao Yuan Taiwan (9 wards)
  • Verona Italy (8 wards, 5 branches)
  • Guatemala City Stake (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • La Ceiba Honduras (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Managua Nicaragua (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Mazatenango Guatemala (11 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Quetzaltenango Guatemala West (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • San Salvador El Salvador La Libertad (10 wards, 3 branches) 
  • Tegucigalpa Honduras La Esperanza (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Tegucigalpa Honduras Loarque (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Amecameca Mexico (11 wards)
  • Celaya Mexico (11 wards)
  • Chalco Mexico (10 wards)
  • Chilpancingo Mexico (10 wards, 4 branches)
  • Coatzacoalcos Mexico Puerto (13 wards, 1 branch)
  • Culiacan Mexico (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Juchitan Mexico (10 wards, 3 branches) 
  • Mexico City Anahuac (11 wards)
  • Mexico City Chapultepec (10 wards)
  • Mexico City Cuautitlan (11 wards)
  • Mexico City Culturas (11 wards)
  • Mexico City Iztapalapa (10 wards)
  • Mexico City La Perla (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • Mexico City Tecamac (11 wards)
  • Mexico City Tepalcapa (11 wards)
  • Oaxaca Mexico Monte Alban (10 wards, 3 branches)
  • Puebla México La Libertad (10 wards) 
  • Puebla México Mayorazgo (10 wards)
  • Veracruz Mexico Villa Rica (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Ha'apai Tonga (9 wards, 5 branches) 
  • Punaauia Tahiti (11 wards)
  • Upolu Samoa East (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Belém Brazil (9 wards)
  • Belém Brazil Icoaraci (9 wards)
  • Buenos Aires Argentina Castelar (10 wards)
  • Joao Pessoa Brazil Rangel (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Lima Peru Canto Grande (10 wards)
  • Rio Branco Brazil (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Santa Maria Brazil (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • São José Brazil (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • São José dos Campos Brazil (10 wards)
  • São Paulo Brazil Casa Grande (9 wards)
  • São Paulo Brazil Guarapiranga (10 wards)
  • São Paulo Brazil Penha (10 wards) 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Most Thorough Analysis of LDS Growth in Cote d'Ivoire Ever Conducted

I know the title of this post may sound a bit boastful, but I have worked for the past five months on this extensive analysis of LDS growth in the West African nation of Cote d'Ivoire. Read the case study here. Comments, feedback, and discussion would be appreciated!

Monday, November 7, 2016

New Stakes Created in Ecuador, Ghana, Massachusetts, and Texas: New Districts Created in the DR Congo and Ghana; District Discontinued in Italy

The Church organized a new stake in Ecuador on October 9th. The Otavalo Ecuador Imbaya Stake was organized from the division of the Otavalo Ecuador Imbabura (organized in 1997) and Otavalo Ecuador (organized in 1981) Stakes. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Carabuela, Centenario, Cotacachi, Cotama, Imbaya, and Punyaro Wards. The small city of Otavalo is located in the heart of the homelands of the Otavalo (Imbabura Highland) Quichua Amerindians. The Otavalo people have numbered among the most receptive to LDS proselytism in Latin America. Missionaries report that stakes in the city of Otavalo number among the most self-sufficient in Ecuador and have some of the highest activity rates in Latin America.

A case study that examines LDS growth among the Otavalo can be found here.

The Church organized a new stake in Ghana on November 6th. The Kumasi Ghana Asokwa Stake was organized from a division of the Kumasi Ghana Bantama (organized in 1998) and Kumasi Ghana Dichemso (organized in 2013) Stakes. The new stake includes the follow seven wards and seven branches: the Ahenbronum, Asokwa, Ayigya, Freetown, Kwamo, Lowcost, and University Wards, and the Ahyiaem, Aputuogya, Asokore Mampong, Atonsu, Domeabra, Ejisu, and Kentinkrono Branches. The Church has never appeared to organize a new stake with as many congregations in modern times as there are 14 units in the new stake. It appears that the Church has organized the new stake with such a large number of units in preparation to create a separate stake in Konongo one day. There are three wards and two branches in the Konongo area.

The Church organized a new district in Ghana on October 30th. The Tarkwa Ghana District was organized from four mission branches in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission. The branches in the new district include the Axim, Brenu-Akyirim, Nkroful, and Tarkwa Branches.

There are now 18 stakes and 12 districts in Ghana.

The Church organized a new stake in Massachusetts on November 6th. The North Shore Massachusetts Stake was organized from a division of the Cambridge Massachusetts (organized in 1998), Exeter New Hampshire (organized in 1981), and Nashua New Hampshire (organized in 1970) Stakes. The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the Billerica, Lawrence,  (Spanish), Lynnfield, Methuen, Revere 1st (Spanish), and Revere 2nd Wards, and the Lynn Branch (Spanish).

There are now five stakes in Massachusetts.

The Church organized a new stake in Texas on November 6th. The Fort Worth Texas North Stake was organized from a division of the Hurst Texas Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Fossil Ridge, Highland Station, Hurst 3rd (Spanish), Park Glen 1st, Park Glen 2nd, and Saginaw Wards.

There are now 72 stakes and three districts in Texas.

DR Congo
The Church organized a new district in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 6th. The Ngandajika Democratic Republic of the Congo District was organized from a division of the Luputa Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake (organized in 2011). The new district includes the following four branches: the Kabanda, Kalubanda, Ngandajika, and Tshioji Branches.

There are now 16 stakes and three districts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Church recently discontinued a district in Italy. Organized in 1991, the Calabria Italy District was discontinued and its former branches were reassigned to the Puglia Italy Stake and Palermo Italy Stake. Most of the branches in the former district have reported few active members for many years. With the closure of the district, the Church currently reports no districts in Italy for the first time in its history.

There are now 10 stakes in Italy.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Is the LDS Church Growing?

I am frequently asked by interested readers, news media, and personal contacts whether the LDS Church is actually growing or not. This is a complex question to answer in regards to what measurements are examined, the analysis of growth trends over time, and whether growth is examined in a specific area or for the Church as a whole. The following will provide an overview of the most salient findings that suggest the worldwide Church is growing, or experiencing stagnation or decline. A previous analysis from 2012 can be found here.

Here are some statistics that indicate the Church is growing:
  • Increases in the number of countries with stakes: 
    • Since 2010, there have been 20 countries where the Church has organized its first stake. There has never been a time in LDS history when as many countries have had their first stakes organized within as short of a period of time.
  • Increases in the number of countries assigned to missions:
    • The number of countries assigned to missions has steadily increased since 2010. Examples of countries assigned to missions during this time include Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gabon, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Montenegro, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Increases in the worldwide number of active members:
    • Although no official statistics are available, the number of active members in the Church has appeared to steadily increase within recent years as evidenced by the organization of new stakes and congregations. A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribute quotes a church spokesman who notes that "upward growth has continued."
  • Steady increases in the worldwide number of stakes:
    • Stake growth has not only been sustained in recent years, but it has accelerated. The number of new stakes organized totaled 48 in 2013, 64 in 2014, 67 in 2015, and 80 thus far in 2016. The annual percentage growth rate for stakes has also increased from 1.5% in 2013 to at least 2.5% in 2016.
  • Steady increases in the worldwide number of temples:
    • The number of temples announced, under construction, or in operation continues to increase. For example, there were 102 operating temples at year-end 2000. There will be 155 operating temples by year-end 2016.
  • Increases in the number of nations with full-time missionaries assigned:
    • Many countries have had young, full-time missionaries assigned for the first time since 2010. Notable examples include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma (Myanmar), Burundi (until mid-2015 when missionaries were removed due to civil unrest), Gabon, Kosovo, Laos, Macedonia, Montenegro, Rwanda, and Turkey.
  • Increases in the number of cities with an LDS presence:
    • The Church has organized new congregations in previously unreached cities at a more rapid rate than the number of cities where the only LDS congregation has closed. 
  • Improvements in commensurate membership and congregational growth:
    •  Membership and congregational growth rates for the worldwide church have become more proportional. Congregational growth was a mere 1/5 the rate of membership growth in 2011, whereas congregational growth was 4/5 the rate of membership growth in 2015. This finding signals improvements in convert retention and member activity.

Here are some statistics that indicate LDS growth is stagnant or declining:
  • Slow congregational growth rates for the worldwide Church:
    • Congregational growth rates have been very slow for the Church as a whole, ranging from 0.4-1.3% within the past eight years. As the world's population currently grows by 1.08% a year, it appears that the Church's congregational growth in comparison to the world's population growth has been nearly equal during this time. 
  • Steady net decreases in the number of districts:
    • The number of districts has declined every year since 2009. The number of districts has decreased from 622 in 2008 to approximately 551 at present. As district growth is a strong indicator of the expansion of the Church into lesser-reached areas, this finding suggests a slowdown in the expansion of the Church into additional areas.
  • Decrease in the percentage of full-time missionaries in general church membership
    • The percentage of full-time missionaries among general church membership declined from 0.64% in 1977 to 0.37% in 2010, and increased to 0.47% in 2015.
  • No noticeable change in the number of converts baptized a year
    • The Church has reported essentially no significant change in the number of converts baptized each year. The Church has baptized an average of 277,000 converts a year since 2010. To contrast, the Church baptized an average of 287,000 converts a year between 1988 and 2009. The average number of converts baptized per missionary declined from 8.0 in 1989 to approximately 5.0 in 2011 and 3.5 in 2015.
  • Stagnant increases with the number of children of record
    • The increase of children of record has not significantly increased over the past 35 years. The Church reported an increase of 124,000 children of record in 1982 - more than any year since this time. The Church has generally reported an annual increase of children of record between 110,000-120,000 since 2008.
  • Decreasing membership growth rates
    • The Church's annual membership growth rate has steadily declined within the past 15 years from 2.9% in 2000 to 2.3% in 2003, 2.0% in 2013, and 1.7% in 2015. 
  • Lack of growth in seminary and institute enrollment
    • Seminary and institute enrollment has fluctuated from approximately 700,000 to 760,000 within the past 15 years despite an increase of more than four million members during this period.
  • Decrease in the number of MTCs:
    • The Church has reported a net decrease in the number of missionary training centers during the past 20 years. MTCs have closed in Japan, Korea, Samoa, and Tonga.
  • Decrease in the number of church areas:
    • The Church has reported a net decrease in administrative areas from 30 in 2003 to 25 in 2012.