Saturday, March 31, 2018

March 2018 Newsletter

Click here to access our March 2018 newsletter for

2017 Statistical Report

This afternoon, the Church reported the following statistics as of December 31st, 2017.
  • Membership: 16,118,169 (increase of 235,752 from 2016; a 1.48% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 30,506 (increase of 202 from 2016; a 0.67% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,341 (increase of 75 from 2016; a 2.3% annual increase)
  • Districts: 553 (decrease of 3 from 2016; a 0.54% annual decrease)
  • Missions: 421 (decrease of 1 from 2016; a 0.24% annual decrease)
  • Convert Baptisms: 233,729 (decrease of 6,402 from 2016; a 2.74% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 106,771 (decrease of 2,475 from 2016; a 2.27% annual decrease)
  • Full-time missionaries: 67,049 (decrease of 3,897 from 2016; a 5.49% annual decrease)
  • Church service missionaries: 36,172 (increase of 2,207 from 2016; a 6.50% annual increase)
Stake growth during 2017 constituted the primary positive development in the statistical report as stake growth rates during the year continued to be sustained at a more rapid rate than during the 17-year period between 1999 and 2015. Stake growth is often considered one of the most robust indicators of "real growth" in the Church has stakes must meet certain member activity requirements to operate. Although it may seem counter-intuitive for stake growth rates to outpace congregational growth rates by more than 3 to 1, many stakes organized during 2017, a well as during 2016, were created from member districts advancing into stakes. When a district is organized into a stake, usually no new congregations are organized as individual branches are upgraded into wards in the new stake. As a result, many new stakes may be organized without any increases in the total number of official congregations.

There were many negative developments contained in the 2017 statistical report. Most alarming, LDS membership growth rates have decelerated to their lowest levels since 1937 at a mere 1.48% during 2017. Annual membership growth rates have steadily decelerated for more than 40 years from an average of 4-6% in the 1970s to approximately 4% in the 1980s, 3% in the 1990s, 2.5% in the 2000s, and 1.5-2.0% in the 2010s. However, this is primarily attributed to membership growth rates in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Chile, and Peru during these decades. Global membership growth rates primarily reflect the Church's membership growth in the United States and the nine countries with the most church-reported members as the Church has historically reported approximately 70% of its annual membership increase in these 10 nations.

Slowing annual membership growth rates appear primarily a function of slightly decreasing numbers of converts baptized a year and slightly decreasing numbers of new unbaptized children added to church records. The number of convert baptisms in 2017 was the lowest reported by the Church since 1987 when there were 227,000 converts baptized. The all-time high for annual convert baptisms was set in 1990 at approximately 331,000 - 100,000 more converts baptized than in 2017 even though there were only 44,000 missionaries serving in 1990. Increase in children of record has remained above 100,000 since 2008 and has typically vacillated between 110,000 and 120,000. To contrast, annual increase in children of record was less than 100,000 between 1984 and 2007. Few convert baptisms has appeared primarily due to a lack of member-missionary participation, allocation of most full-time missionaries to countries with low or modest receptivity, a conservative implementation of the centers-of-strength policy, local leadership development problems, and quick-baptism tactics (e.g. cursory teaching that rushes prospective converts to membership) that sacrifice quality preparation and conversion in order to meet arbitrary baptismal goals on paper.

The difference between the summation of converts baptized and increase in children of record (e.g. converts baptized plus increase in children of record), and church-reported total membership between 2016 and 2017 (e.g. actual membership increase for the year) was 104,748 for 2017. This indicates that there were approximately 100,000 members who were removed from church records during 2017 due to death, children of record who were never baptized at baptismal age, excommunication, or resignation. This statistic has exceeded 100,000 for four years in a row but is lower than the all-time high set back in 2014 (122,903).

Congregational growth rates during 2017 also decelerated compared to 2016 to their lowest levels since 2011. However, worldwide congregational growth rates were primarily affected by scores of congregations closed in California during 2017, along with a slower-than-normal year for new ward/branch creations elsewhere in the United States. As a result, there was no noticeable change in the number of wards/branches in the United States during 2017, whereas there was an increase of approximately 200 congregations outside of the United States during the year. The Church has generally reported an annual increase of 200-250 congregations outside of the United States for the past four years, whereas it reported an annual increase of 100-150 congregations for most years between 2004 and 2013. Historically, the Church in the United States has reported an increase of approximately 100-200 congregations a year until 2016 when there was a net increase of 65 congregations for the year.

First LDS Asian American and Latin American Apostles - Elder Gong and Elder Soares

This morning, the Church announced two new apostles to replace the two vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares. The announcement of these two apostles is significant as Elder Gong is the first Asian American LDS apostle and Elder Soares is the first Latin American apostle. The call of these two new apostles signals a new area in the growth of the Church as prior to this time, only North Americans and Europeans have served in the Quorum of the Twelve. Thus, this development indicates significant progress in the internationalization of the Church in regards to its highest leadership bodies.

Elder Gong was first called as a General Authority Seventy in 2010 and served in the Presidency of the Seventy from 2015 until his call as an apostle (click here for more church leadership information). He has also served in the Asia Area Presidency. Elder Gong's ancestors immigrated to the United States from southern China, and Elder Gong was born in California from Chinese-American parents. He served a mission in Taiwan (1973-1975) and worked in Beijing as a special assistant to the United States ambassador in 1987 (click here for more biographical information). Elder Gong worked in several positions for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., from 1989-2001, and later worked at Brigham Young University immediately prior to his call as a General Authority Seventy. Elder Gong served in the Asia Area Presidency in Hong Kong from 2011-2015 (click here for more information).

Elder Soares was first called as a General Authority Seventy in 2005 and began to serve in the Presidency of the Seventy in 2013. He served a mission in the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission, and served as the president of the Portugal Porto Mission from 2000-2003. He also served in several area presidencies for the Africa Southeast Area and the Brazil Area as a General Authority Seventy. Elder Soares was born in São Paulo, Brazil (click here for more information).

Friday, March 30, 2018

2017 Statistical Report - Predictions

Based upon recent LDS growth trends and information gathered over the past year, the following is my prediction for various statistics to be reported in the annual 2017 statistical report tomorrow afternoon. I foresee no significant differences in global church growth trends for 2017 in comparison to 2016 albeit congregational growth rates (i.e. net increase in the number of wards/branches) in the United States in the United States significantly decreased in 2017 compared to 2016. This was primarily attributed to scores of ward/branch closures in California and a slower-than-average year for congregational growth elsewhere in the United States. Otherwise, information I have obtained thus far suggests no other significant changes in global growth trends in 2017 in comparison to recent years.

This is what I predict for the 2017 statistical report:

  • Membership: 16.1-16.2 million
  • Wards and Branches: ~30,500
  • Stakes: 3,341
  • Districts: 553
  • Missions: 421
  • Temples: 159
  • Convert Baptisms: 230,000-260,000
  • Full-time Missionaries Serving: 68,000
  • Church-service Missionaries: 30,000-37,000
  • Increase in Children of Record (ICR): 100,000-120,000
  • Membership and Convert Baptisms/ICR discrepancy*: 90,000-120,000
*This statistic is the difference between the summation of convert baptisms and increase of children of record, and the annual numerical increase for total church membership. This discrepancy in numbers constitutes members removed from church records due to death, excommunication, unbaptized children of record who reach age 18, and resignations.

Click on the "statistical report" label below to compare these numbers with previous statistical reports provided by the Church in previous years. World data for LDS growth trends since 1975 can be found here.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018 Global Mormon Studies Conference - Challenges and Opportunities for Studying Global Mormonism Video Posted

Claremont Graduate University recently posted a video of the panel Challenges and Opportunities for Studying Global Mormonism, which occurred as part of the 2018 Global Mormon Studies Conference from March 9-10. I participated in this panel along with several other scholars, such as Henri Gooren and Caroline Kline, to discuss opportunities and challenges for studying global Mormonism. There were many other scholars who provided excellent presentations regarding their research. These videos can be accessed on the Claremont Graduate University YouTube channel, which is located here.

See below for the Challenges and Opportunities for Studying Global Mormonism Video.

Monday, March 26, 2018

President Nelson's April 2018 Worldwide Tour: Analysis

The Church announced on March 23rd that President Nelson, Elder Holland, and their spouses will undertake an 11-day international tour that circumscribes the globe from April 10th-23rd. The itinerary for the trip is as follows:
  • London, England (April 12th)
  • Jerusalem, Israel (April 14th)
  • Nairobi, Kenya (April 16th)
  • Harare, Zimbabwe (April 17th)
  • Bengaluru, India (April 19th)
  • Bangkok, Thailand (April 20th)
  • Hong Kong, China (April 21st)
  • Laie/Honolulu, Hawaii (April 22nd)
I provided some observations about President Nelson's first trip as President of the Church in a recent article published by The Salt Lake Tribune. However, I also want to provide some additional analysis:

First, all but two of the eight cities on the list have temples in operation or that are announced. Three of these cities - Bangkok, Harare, and Nairobi - are located in countries where no temple currently operates but where a temple is announced. An artistic rendering for the Bangkok Thailand Temple was recently released to reveal a stunning 44,000 square foot edifice that has even surprised local Thai members given its size for a country that has only four stakes, two districts, and 21,000 members. The temple appears very large even considering it will likely serve an additional 28,000 members in other Southeast Asian countries. Reports I have received from members in Kenya and Zimbabwe suggest that these temples in these locations may begin construction in the near future. It is possible that the Church may hold temple groundbreaking ceremonies in one or more of these locations as part of the international tour. President Nelson's visit to Jerusalem appears more symbolic than functional since there are less than 300 members in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and essentially stagnant growth has occurred for many years. However, it is interesting to note that a temple once functioned in Jerusalem during Old Testament and New Testament times. President Nelson's visit to Jerusalem will be the first in 22 years for a President of the Church since President Hinckley visited Israel in 1996.

Second, an announcement of a temple for India may be likely during this weekend's General Conference or during President Nelson and Elder Holland's visit to India. The Church in India has steadily grown during the past 15 years as membership has increased from 3,428 to 13,141 and the number of congregations has increased from 21 to 44. The Church organized its first stake in India in Hyderabad in 2012 and today has four stakes and three districts. There are also more than 4,000 members and three districts in Pakistan. Currently members in South Asia travel to the Hong Kong China Temple to participate in temple ordinances. However, a future temple in India appears more likely once there is a city with at least three stakes in order to adequate meet temple ordinance worker needs. Currently there are no cities in India with more than one stake.

Third, President Nelson and Elder Holland's trip to Hong Kong may provide opportunities for leadership training and meetings with People's Republic of China (PRC) members albeit such meetings would only be permitted if they were to occur in Hong Kong given prohibitions regarding association with PRC members and foreigners in mainland China. The Church in China has grown significantly since the first branches were organized in Beijing and Shanghai for PRC members in 2004. Most have joined the Church abroad or through family connections within the confides of the law. Today there are branches and member groups in many, if not most, of the 127 cities in mainland China inhabited by one million or more inhabitants. President Nelson also possesses special ties to China and previously studied Mandarin Chinese after feeling prompted to do so at President Spencer W. Kimball's request that members of the Church learn more about the Chinese people in 1979 (click here for more information).

Fourth, President Nelson and Elder Holland's worldwide tour does not include countries with the most Latter-day Saints in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania, nor does it include countries where the Church has reported the most rapid growth during the past 5-10 years. However, the tour does include the two most populous countries - China and India. Thus, emphasis on reaching the world's two most populous nations, in addition to temple building, may be an important theme that emerges from the tour.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Stakes Created in Nigeria (2), Australia, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, and Utah; New Districts Created in Haiti and Nigeria; District Discontinued in Venezuela

The Church organized two new stakes in Benin City on February 18th. The Benin City Nigeria Sokponba Stake was organized from a division of the Benin City Nigeria Ikpokpan Stake and the Benin City Nigeria Oregbeni Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the Ekae, Evbuoriaria, Igun 2nd, Sokponba, Ugbekun, and Upper Sokponba Wards, and the Erediauwa and Idogbo Branches. The Benin City Nigeria Uzebu Stake was organized from a division of the Benin City Nigeria Ihogbe Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and three branches: the Egbon Estate, Evbuotubu, Ogbe, Oliha, Ugboikhoko, and Uzebu 1st Wards, and the Agho, Oguola, and Upper Owina Branches. There are now eight stakes in Benin City - more than any other city in Nigeria.

The Church organized a new district in Ondo State on March 18th. The Akure Nigeria Stake includes the following five branches: Ado-Ekiti, Akure 1st, Akure 2nd, Akure 3rd, and Akure 4th Branches. The Church originally created its first branch in Akure in 1998 and its first district in Akure in 2003, but discontinued the district in 2009. There were originally two branches in Akure and two branches in Ondo, but the district closed in 2009 after one branch each closed in Akure and Ondo. Rapid congregational growth has occurred in these two cities during the past several years. In Akure, three new branches were organized in 2015 (1) and 2017 (2), whereas in Ondo the number of branches increased from one in 2013 to three in 2014 and six in 2017. The Ado-Ekiti Branch was created in 2016.

There are now 48 stakes and 16 districts in Nigeria.

The Church organized a new stake in Queensland on March 4th. The Brisbane Australia Beenleigh Stake was organized from a division of the Brisbane Australia Logan Stake, Coomera Australia Stake, and the Eight Mile Plains Australia Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Beenleigh, Loganholme, Park Ridge 1st, Regents Park, and Windaroo Wards, and the Waterford West Branch (Samoan). There are now 12 stakes in the greater Brisbane metropolitan area.

There are now 41 stakes and 8 districts in Australia.

The Church organized a new stake in Parana State on February 25th. The São José dos Pinhais Brazil Jardim Ipê Stake was organized from a division of the São José dos Pinhais Brazil Stake and the Pinhais Brazil Stake. The new stake includes the following four wards and two branches: the Afonso Pena, Jardim Ipê, Parque da Fonte, and Piraquara Wards, and the Borda do Campo and Guarituba Branches. There are now 13 stakes in the Curitiba metropolitan area, and 22 stakes and 2 districts in Parana State.

There are now 269 stakes and 40 districts in Brazil.

The Church organized a new stake in Junin, Perú on January 28th. The Huancayo Perú El Valle Stake was organized from a division of the Huancayo Perú Stake and the Mantaro Perú Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Chilca, El Tambo, La Libertad, Peñaloza, and San Carlos Wards. There are now three stakes in the Huancayo metropolitan area.

There are now 102 stakes and 19 districts in Perú.

South Africa
The Church organized a new stake in the Johannesburg area on February 11th. The Springs South Africa Stake was organized from a division of the Benoni South Africa Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Boksburg, Kwa Thema, Selcourt, Springs, and Tsakane Wards, and the Secunda Branch. There are now nine stakes and one district in the Johannesburg metropolitan area.

There are now 17 stakes and 9 districts in South Africa.

The Church organized a new stake in Bluffdale, Utah on February 25th. The Bluffdale Utah Independence Stake was organized from a division of the Bluffdale Utah South Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Independence 1st, Independence 2nd, Independence 3rd, Independence 4th, and Independence 5th Wards.

There are now 593 stakes and 1 district in Utah.

The Church organized a new district in northern Haiti on March 11th. The Cap-Haïtien Haiti District was organized from a division of the Gonaïves Haiti District. The new district includes the following four branches: the Cap-Haïtien, Fort Liberte, Limbe, and Vertieres Branches. Of the four branches in the new district, three of the branches have been organized since 2011, whereas the original Cap-Haïtien Branch was created in 1982.

There are now four stakes and four districts in Haiti.

The Church recently discontinued the Los Llanos Venezuela District. Headquartered in Acarigua/Araure, the district was originally organized in 1991 and had three branches when it was discontinued: Acarigua, Araure, and San Carlos. Two of the branches, Acarigua and Araure, were reassigned to the Barquisimeto Venezuela Stake, whereas the San Carlos Branch directly reports to the Venezuela Valencia Mission.

There are now 34 stakes and 5 districts in Venezuela.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Potential New Temples - March 2018 Edition

I have updated my temple prediction map in preparation for General Conference at the end of the month. Two new temple sites were added to the map of most likely locations for new temples to be announced within the foreseeable future: Missoula, Montana and Monrovia, Liberia. I think it is unlikely that new temples will be announced this conference as this conference will likely focus on the sustaining of Russell M. Nelson as president of the Church and the calling of two new apostles. If any announcements are made, my top 10 picks for the most likely temple announcements are as follows:
  • Bengaluru, India OR Hyderabad, India, OR New Delhi, India 
  • Benin City, Nigeria 
  • Davao, Philippines OR Cagayan del Oro, Philippines 
  • Freetown, Sierra Leone
  • Lagos, Nigeria 
  • Managua, Nicaragua 
  • Praia, Cape Verde 
  • Rogers, Arkansas 
  • Salvador, Brazil 
  • Tarawa, Kiribati
 As part of the semi-annual tradition, your lists of top picks are always appreciated :)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

LDS Developments in the Central African Republic

Mission leadership in the Republic of Congo Brazzaville Mission report several recent missionary developments in the Central African Republic. First, increased stability in the capital city, Bangui, has permitted more frequent visits by mission leadership to meet with members in the Bangui Branch. Second, the branch currently has seven branch missionaries who teach investigators and prepare them for baptism. Third, there are now five members from the Bangui Branch serving full-time missions outside of the country - the most that has ever appeared to serve from the branch at a single time. Although approval has not yet been granted to assign the first proselytizing missionaries to Bangui, mission leadership appears optimistic that this may occur in the foreseeable future.

For more information on the Church in the Central African Republic, click on the label for "Central African Republic" below.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Claremont University - Global Mormonism Research Methodology Panel

I will be participating in a panel discussion called Challenges and Opportunities in Studying Global Mormonism at Claremont University in southern California on March 10th. Other panel participants will include Fred Axelgard, Henri Gooren, Caroline Kline, and Colleen McDannell. This event is free and open to the public, but you must register if you wish to attend. For more information, visit the Toward Global Mormon Studies Conference page on the Claremont University Mormon Studies website.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February 2018 Monthly Newsletter

Click here to access our February 2018 monthly newsletter for These newsletters provide updates regarding LDS growth developments around the world.