Thursday, February 1, 2018

19 Missions to Close, 5 Missions to be Created in July 2018

This morning, the Church made an official announcement regarding changes to LDS missions worldwide that will go into effect as of July 2018. Nineteen missions will close and combine with nearby missions, whereas five new missions will be created. Of the 19 missions to close in July, 16 of these missions are located in Europe and the United States. Three of the five new missions to be created will be located in Africa. As a result of these changes, the number of missions worldwide will decrease from 421 to 407. Thus, the average mission in July will have 167 missionaries if there remain 68,000 missionaries serving at that time. This number is comparable to long-term historical averages for the Church since the early 1970s of approximately 160-170 missionaries per mission.

The following missions will be closed and combined with nearby missions:
  • Australia Sydney North
  • Bulgaria Sofia
  • California Modesto
  • California San Fernando
  • England London South
  • Greece Athens
  • Illinois Chicago West
  • México Ciudad Obregón
  • México Reynosa
  • Mississippi Jackson
  • New York New York South
  • Ohio Cleveland
  • Portugal Porto
  • România/Moldova
  • Russia Samara
  • Spain Málaga
  • Ukraine L’viv
  • Utah Logan
  • Washington Federal Way
 The following missions will be created:
  • Brazil Rio de Janeiro South
  • Cote d’Ivoire Yamoussoukro
  • Nigeria Ibadan
  • Philippines Cabanatuan
  • Zimbabwe Bulawayo
Reports I had received regarding a new mission in Layton, Utah were unfounded. I apologize for the misinformation.

The decision to close so many missions in the Europe (8) and United States (8) appears attributed to several factors.

First, many of these missions have had few congregations within their geographical boundaries. For example, the Bulgaria Sofia Mission and Greece Athens Mission each report less than 10 branches within their geographical boundaries. To contrast, missions in the Church outside of the Inter-mountain West of the United States generally have between 50-150 congregations within their boundaries. As it is most effective to assign only one or two missionary companionships per congregation, missions with too few congregations, and no plans to expand outreach into previously unreached areas, often experience problems with inefficiency in resource allocation. Consequently, mission presidents and mission leadership in these missions can be often underutilized due to few missionaries assigned.

Second, most missions scheduled to close in July have reported very low rates of convert baptisms for many years or even decades. Many missions in Eastern Europe, for example, have consistently baptized fewer than 100 converts a year for 10-20 years. For example, the Greece Athens Mission has operated for approximately 25 years but there remain less than 1,000 members of the Church in Greece. Although the Church will continue to maintain a missionary presence in these nations where the only LDS mission is scheduled to close, this decision has appeared warranted due to a lack of productivity and in order to conserve resources. Moreover, mission consolidations in less productive or unproductive areas of the world can at times serve as a catalyst for future growth if there is greater member-missionary participation and leadership development in wake of fewer nonnative resources (e.g. mission leadership, full-time missionaries) to support the Church. As a result, increased self-sufficiency in leadership can result from these type of changes.

Third, many of the missions affected by mission closures this July were organized to help accommodate tens of thousands of more missionaries serving as a result of a temporary, artificial surge in full-time missionary numbers due to the reduced age on missionary service. For example, several of the missions created in the United States five years ago will be closed or involved in the consolidation of missions this summer. Nevertheless, most of the 58 missions created in 2013 will continue to operate. However, the number of missionaries serving in 2018 has appeared 5,000-10,000 less than what church leadership initially predicted.

Fourth, nearly all missions scheduled to close this July strongly depend, or almost entirely depend, on North American full-time missionaries to staff their ranks. Thus, the decision to close many of these missions is related to the number of full-time missionaries serving from North America. Moreover, all five of the new missions to be created this July are located in nations or regions of the world where there have been significant increases in the number of members serving full-time missions within recent years.

I will provide more analysis in the coming days.

37 comments:

Daniel Bird said...

They did make a change to Utah Salt Lake City Mission and renamed it the Utah Layton Mission.

Matt said...

MormonNewsRoom 2018: "The initial wave of missionaries has since receded to about 68,000 missionaries, as anticipated."

Jeffery R. Holland 2015: "We're projecting out probably within four years, the base-line number for the missionary force will be something around 100,000."

Cory Ward said...

A young man in my Ward in Idaho is currently in the Ghana MTC learning French in preparation to go to the Ivory Coast. So I think it is also safe to assume that the number of missionaries will increase in part because of this "reallocation" of American missionaries into the Ivory Coast.

R. Jofre said...

Considering the fact that the demographic pyramid in Africa is so bottom heavy, I wouldn't be surprised to see thousands of African missionaries serving in other continents soon.

J S A said...

Huancayo Perú El Valle Stake (2113007) created Jan 28 2018

Chilca Ward (177512) Barrio Chilca
El Tambo Ward (144177) Barrio El Tambo
La Libertad Ward (305189) Barrio La Libertad
Peñaloza Ward (216313) Barrio Peñaloza
San Carlos Ward (134910) Barrio San Carlos

Skyline said...

Wow, looks like I really hit the mark with a previous comment concerning mission consolidations. Not that it's a good thing at all.
>>>I do recall how the Church is planning to discontinue some missions in the immediate future due to the declining number of missionaries since the age change. I presume some missions that may meet this fate include the ones in California, Utah, and Mexico. Wouldn't be surprised if Greece and some Russian missions were also closed. (Timestamp January 8, 2018 at 5:05 PM)

Eduardo Clinch said...

So will Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova be wrapped into one Southeast European mission?

John Pack Lambert said...

My understanding is that the Athens Greece Mission has historically relied on in EU freedom of travel to staff the mission. Brexit may be a factor in discontinuing the mission, but I could be wrong.

If I remember correctly California Modesto was actually formed in 2014, so after the major surge in 2013. This may actually be more new missions in Africa than was seen in 2013.

I am wondering how a new Ivory Coast mission will affect Mali and Senegal.

My guess is Bulgaria will go with the Cental Eurasian Mission. Romania and Moldova will be merged with the Hungarian Mission. Greece will,be merged to the Adriatic South Mission.

San Fernando is a lomg standing mission, but the old San Fernando Mission had lost some to Bakersfield. Bakersfield also took a lot from Ventura Mission. I wonder how much the San Fernando will merge with Ventura and how much it will merge with LA mission.

On another note for the first time ever the new mission presidents chart in the Church news lists the name of each mission president and his companion instead of listing the name of the outgoing mission president.

John Pack Lambert said...

The new president of the Maryland Baltimore Mission is from Kinshasa, Congo. At least I came across a Thierry Mutomba from Congo who was meeting with government officials there for the Church.

John Pack Lambert said...

The new president of the Jamaica Kingston Mission is Fred Parker, an African American Area 70 whose with is ethnic Samoan.

John Pack Lambert said...

The new president of the North Carolina Charlotte Mission, Detlef Adler, is an area 70 from Germany.

John Pack Lambert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Pack Lambert said...

The new president of the Reno Nevada Mission, Taylor G. Godoy, is a current general authority 70. There is at least one other general authority 70, Michael J. U. Teh, who is currently serving as a mission president.

Christopher Nicholson said...

I bet Mali will go to the Yamoussoukro Mission.

I'm kind of surprised that of all the Utah missions they could have closed, they picked Logan. Not only is it fairly new but our university draws students from dozens of countries on every continent of the world, the vast majority of whom are not LDS. Missionaries here have the opportunity to reach far beyond this little town. I certainly hope their numbers won't be reduced too much.

John Pack Lambert said...

With so many members at Utah State effective missionary work should involve member missionary work.

Matt said...

Creating 3 new missions in Africa and somehow getting from 68,000 missionaries to 100,000 lies somewhere between optimistic and delusional, especially considering how the number of missionaries has dropped by thousands every year for the last few years.

Plus if we base our reasoning on anecdotal evidence and assumptions, I have never met an African LDS missionary so it must be safe to assume their numbers are too small to compensate for the young people not going on missions or coming home early. The blog post points out how the current numbers are 5,000-10,000 below the projections so even with a younger age requirement the church is still failing to send out more missionaries, which in turn leads to less converts, significantly affects church growth and future missionary numbers.

Christopher Nicholson said...

I have met an African LDS missionary. She introduced herself thus: "I'm from Madagascar. It's a real place. And I like to move it move it!" For a period of time after the age change we had missionaries from all over the world, and now they're mostly American again except for the Chinese missionaries.

I don't know how things are with the men but it seems like at least two thirds of the YSA females I know have gone on missions and I know it wasn't like that before the age change.

Also, I have started seeing Facebook missionaries again after they all seemed to disappear for two or three years. It does appear that most of the hype about them was premature and unwarranted, but maybe something is happening now.

I believe that in twenty or thirty years at most, the LDS Church will be an "African church" in the same way that it is currently an "American church". It will rely on African leaders and missionaries the way it currently relies on American ones. We'll see.

David Todd said...

I have met at least a dozen African missionaries, plus several dozen LDS African students during my time at BYU. Still, most of the African missionary force right now is being called within the continent, and with good reason, as the data seems to show that attrition rates have been better in African countries when primarily African nationals are servicing their missions as opposed to Americans and other western countries.

As for your comment about Jeffrey R. Holland's statement in 2015, it certainly seems like it was a severe over projection, but that doesnt mean that the 2018 statement you quoted was a lie. When they said that missionary numbers were at 68,000 as projected, they probably were referring to a more recent projection, from which projection they made the decision to open and close the missions that were announced. Probably since last July when the last group of mission presidents went out.

Matt said...

*WHOOOSH* That's the sound of a joke about anecdotal evidence and assumptions flying overhead. My whole point is you cannot base your predictions that there are going to be so many missionaries in the future based off your encounters with African missionaries.

The different numbers for projections are classic gaslighting. You can't tell me that after the GC when the policy changed that everyone, not just leaders, were lead to believe the missionary numbers were going to skyrocket and stay high. I know what I saw and heard in church meetings, stake conferences, and the words of the GA's themselves. It is wrong to make those kinds of statements and then pretend like they never happened when they turned out to be wrong. It is not that hard to just own up to it, which is why I appreciate the candor and objectivity of this blog's author who has no problem pointing out deficiencies or inconsistencies. And please let us know where you can you find this "more recent projection" and explain it somehow negates the fact they were wrong.

For that matter which figure is supposed to be prophetic, Holland's or the Mormon newsroom? If E Holland is a prophet, seer, and revelator, and he made "a severe over projection," then what good are those prophecies if they can be totally nullified by the newsroom?

Matt said...

Matt-

I appreciate the points you make, but the tone of your posts are starting to be unproductive and critical.

This is not the first time Elder Holland has grossly exaggerated projections for future numerical growth for the Church - the other such time was in a YSA conference in Dallas a couple years ago when he claimed that the Church would be creating "double-digit stakes" each week for the rest of our lives. Elder Holland often speaks in hyperbole with numerical projections and as a result, I take his statements about future projections with a grain of salt. Another noteworthy time when future growth projections were totally off was when the Ensign in 1980 predicted there would be 3,600 stakes and 11.1 million members in the Church by the year 2000 (A Statistical Profile: What Numbers Tell Us about Ourselves," Ensign, April 1980: 15). Although the membership projection was right on target, we still have not reached 3,600 stakes in the year 2018 and currently have 3,345 stakes. This primarily due to member inactivity problems and leadership development problems.

The projection of the number of full-time missionaries being in the high-70,000s came from Elder Evans - Executive Director of the Missionary Department - in July 2014 (see http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865606271/LDS-missionary-numbers-to-peak-at-88000-more-to-use-and-pay-for-digital-devices.html?pg=all). So it looks like we are actually about 10,000 less than what was anticipated. I do not think that these projections are made with manipulative intent like "gaslighting" as you indicate. Rather, they are guesses made based upon what data is available. Past experience has shown that it is difficult to predict future growth rates because there are so many factors that play into what makes the church grow or not grow. Unfortunately, the LDS Church, and most religious groups in general, have placed significantly less emphasis on numbers at least based upon what is released to the public.

Here's a good blog providing information on missionaries at the Ghana MTC: http://ldsghanamtc.blogspot.com/

Eduardo Clinch said...

A 1997 book by, I believe James E. Faust, had optimistic predictions about LDS Church growth, especially in Brazil. 20 years later the numbers do not match up to those projections.
The sociologist ¿James Stark, based in Washington state, had sweeping predictions of LDS growth that is not coming to fruition at present, not even the low end estimates as I recall.
Chile is a prime example of expectations raised and lowered. Nevertheless, the LDS continue to grow there, just not as dynamically.
On a different count, look at the BBC article about ancient Mayan structures and populations in Guatemala. "The biggest archaeological discovery in Mesoamerica in 150 years." Using "lidar".
Physical evidence is not conclusive in many spiritual matters, like growth stats and predictions, but I see Joseph Smith's prophecies as being fulfilled.
Call me crazy, but I believe that Jesus and Joseph did not die in vain, and certainly many of their prelates and zealots have exagerated their influence, but in the end their words become fact. So I see it.
And its great to observe, warts and mispredictions and all.

Bryan Baird said...

That's pretty cool, I used to live Baltimore and attend the Inner Harbor Ward, before moving to Utah it would be nice to see the area grow and maybe gain another stake or two.

John Pack Lambert said...

On the other hand the Church used to create stakes with fewer members than they do today. So this is one reason that predictions from the past tend to be off.

Another issue that people seem to avoid in realistic discussions about mission creations and consolidations is that some missions have always been very small. The missions in Russia seem to have operated at 30 missionaries or so per mission for awhile.

The eastern European missions seem to have been set up on a system where it was generally one country per mission.

The Church seems to have decided to take a multi country approach for missions. It remains unclear how much this represents an actual decline in the numbers of missionaries who will be assigned to these countries.

Interestingly all new missions are being made in countries with present missions but 3 countries are loosing their only mission.

John Pack Lambert said...

Zimbabwe getting a 2nd mission is very encouraging. This will proably mean a major increase in the number of places with church presence.

Matt said...

Thank you, Matt. I appreciate your kind words and gentle correction. I am particularly grateful that you are able to include sources for the figures you cite, from which you draw logical conclusions. I will be slower to sarcasm and mockery and faster to patience and understanding.

John Pack Lambert said...

The situation with the new mission presidents in Zimbabwe to me illustrates a new era in the internationalixation of the Church. Neither is an American nor is either called from Zimbabwe. One comes from Uganda. The other comes from South Africa. He is a native of Zimbabwe who was CES director there after Elder Dube but more recently has been CES director for the while Africa Southeast Area and thus living in South Africa.

Ohhappydane33 said...

Illinois Chicago West was always a misnomer because that mission covered none of the actual city of Chicago. The mission should have been called Illinois Naperville or the like.

Peter said...

There is going to be a Utah Layton Mission. The southern part of the Ogden Mission and the northern part of the Salt Lake City Mission will become that mission. The southern part of the Salt Lake City Mission will join with the Salt Lake City East Mission and will be known as the Utah Salt Lake City Mission.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Washington DC South mission includes nothing in Washington itself. The Salt Lake South Mission also does not cover any area in the city of Salt Lake. However I would question calling any of these misnomers. In common usage these terms are often used to refer to areas far beyond the city.

Mike Johnson said...

Correct, the Washington DC South Mission is entirely in Virginia. But, then again, the Washington DC North Mission is mostly in Maryland. The Washington DC Stake is mostly in Maryland with the stake center in Maryland. The Washington DC YSA Stake is mostly in Virginia with the stake center in Virginia.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Good point about Chicago West not covering the Chicago city incorporated or DC South not covering DC (although the new YSA Stake may have changed that slightly, not sure), but the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia metroplex) extends to the pan handle of West Virginia, while Chicago extends every direction including deep into my home state of Indiana that we call The Region, but it is probably over half a million Hoosiers who live in "Chicagoland", ad the call it. Schaumburg IL is not in metro Chicago but it definitely part of the greater Chicago area, as well as many other suburbs.
Anyway, large metropolitan areas are expansive in their coverage.
Being from 5 hours away growing up, when people asked where Indiana was during my South American mission, the best many would understand was Chicago, although some knew the Indianapolis 500, a mere hour away.

Ohhappydane33 said...

Schaumburg is most certainly in metro Chicago. It is only a few miles from O'Hare Airport. The point being is that there is no consistency to mission names. By this logic, one could argue that California Carlsbad could be California San Diego North, that California Roseville could be California Sacramento North, and that California Arcadia could be California Los Angeles East, which IMHO make more sense. Imagine being in the Illinois Chicago West Mission and never seeing Chicago because it is outside the mission boundaries. KIND of absurd if one thinks about it.

Eduardo Clinch said...

So is or was Schaumburg in the Chicago West Mission? The DC South missionaries are allowed to attend the DC Temple, which is actually in Maryland. Did the former Chicago West elders and sisters go to the northside temple?

coachodeeps said...

Often missions are named for where the Headquarters of the mission is (mission home or mission office), I believe. Often the HQ is outside of the actual mission. When I served, Guatemala City missions were all based out of the same office complex and 2 of the mission homes were all in the same high rise. In fact, one of the mission homes took half the floor and the other took in the other half. These and the Guatemala City Central mission home was inside the south mission.

Interestingly, the Guatemala City South Mission at the time took in about 75% of the capital city, and that 75% was the east and north and south parts of the city. The rest of the south mission was west and east of the city.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Lehi Utah Pleasant Pointe Stake has reached 13 wards.

Here in the Detroit Mission the mission office is in Southfield and the mission home is in Northville. The Lansing Mission has its office in Meridian Township, although a lot of people would think of the mission office location as East Lansing.

Both the Las Vegas and Las Vegas West Missions include areas within the city limits of Las Vegas. However most of the strip is outside Las Vegas city limits.

The Detroit Mission was called the Dearborn Mission from its formation in the late 1970s until about 1990. Dearborn is adjacent to Detroit on the south-west, a city that has hovered at roughly 100,000 for several decades and may now be close to having a population that is half Arab, mainly Muslim Arabs unlike the north Detroit suburbs where I live where most of our Arabs are Christian. Southfield where the mission office now is is a city that is over 75% African-American. Dearborn is where Ford Motor Company is headquartered. Southfield has lots of radio stations and office buildings, although it has lost some to relocations back to downtown Detroit. The mission office is located in the Southfield Ward Building.

Unknown said...

The world is changing. Convert baptism won't always net increase. I don't think the scriptures ever promised that. It's heartbreaking that the world is growing more secular.

Oh, and Matt for president 2020.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Oprah will be the next president: Matt would be the first LDS VP, albeit self-critical. I guess after Romney being outdone by Trump we will take a sourpuss Debbie Downer like him.
I recommend that he move to Chile...
Nah, just kidding. Non-profitable meanderings...