Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Eight Districts in Mainland China for Mainland Chinese (PRC Citizen) Members

In a recent article posted on the Singapore version of lds.org, Elder Randy D. Funk reported that by the end of his service, there were "38 stakes and 37 districts in the Asia Area." Currently the Church reports 29 districts in the following countries within the Asia Area:
  • Malaysia (6) 
  • China [mainland districts for foreigners] (4)
  • Cambodia (4) 
  • India (3)
  • Pakistan (3)
  • Thailand (2)
  • Vietnam (2)
  • Hong Kong (1)
  • Indonesia (1)
  • Macau (1)
  • Mongolia (1)
  • Sri Lanka (1)
There is a difference of eight districts between the number of districts reported by the Church in these previously noted nations and the overall total provided by Elder Funk. Thus, there are eight districts that appear to function in mainland China that administer to citizens of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as there are no other countries in the Asia area that have a sufficient number of members in order for a district operate. This finding indicates that significant growth has occurred among the PRC Chinese membership to the point that eight districts have been organized even though the first branches to service PRC members were created just 14 years ago. In contrast, the Church in Russia has operated since 1990 with one of the largest full-time proselytism forces of any religious group yet the Church currently reports only three stakes and 10 districts in Russia at present. Roughly speaking, the Church in mainland China has achieved a comparable amount of growth to Russia despite no formal proselytism efforts and within half the amount of time. Member-missionary work among biological relatives, strong proselytism efforts among PRC citizens in countries where full-time missionaries are permitted to serve, local leadership development successes, and a good relationship between the Church and the Chinese government have all appeared to fuel this rapid growth.

Given the sensitive nature of the Church in China, please do not publish comments that provide specific information regarding the location of individual member groups, branches, or districts as this information has not been publicly released.

July 2018 Monthly Newsletter

Click here to access our July 2018 monthly newsletter for cumorah.com.

Updated Country Profile - Oman

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Oman. The Church has maintained a branch in Oman for at least a couple decades that is comprised of foreigners. Omani legislation and government practice permit greater opportunities for Omani citizens to join the Church as conversion from Islam to another religion is not illegal. Furthermore, there are also opportunities for member-missionary work, particularly among foreign Christians, albeit public proselytism is prohibited.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Egypt

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Egypt. Despite a presence since 1974, the Church in Egypt remains unregistered with the government. The Church has appeared to purposefully keep a low profile in recent years order to avoid any opposition regarding its operation of the only LDS branch in the entire country - the Cairo Branch - as significant Muslim-Christian conflict and terrorism has recently occurred. The Cairo Branch is almost entirely comprised of foreign members. There have been a handful of Egyptian converts abroad and most previously affiliated as Muslim. Although Egypt has the largest Christian population of any country in the Middle East or North Africa, of whom 90% are Coptic Christians, there have never been any formal LDS proselytism efforts to reach them. Click here on more information about ancient Christian denominations in the Middle East and North Africa and prospects for LDS proselytism among them.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Eritrea

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Eritrea. The Church has had Eritreans join the Church in Europe, the United States, and other areas of the world. The population of Eritrea is approximately half Christian and half Muslim. However, the Eritrean government has one of the worst human rights records and does not permit the operation of most religious groups in the country. Nevertheless, Eritreans have appeared more receptive to missionary efforts conducted by Latter-day Saints and other nontraditional Christian denominations than most other peoples in the region. Moreover, recent efforts by the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments to reconcile decades of war and conflict may present opportunities for additional positive change that may make conditions more favorable for an LDS establishment one day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Djibouti

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Djibouti. A small, homogeneously Muslim country in East Africa, Djibouti has had an LDS presence for many years among United States military personnel stationed in the country. Area leadership has not appeared interested in pursuing culturally-appropriate missionary efforts in the country despite the government permitting religious freedom and Christian leaders in the country reporting that they are able to operate freely. Nevertheless, strong ethnoreligious ties with Islam pose significant challenges for proselytism among most traditional ethnic groups. Prospects for growth currently appear most favorable among ethnic minority groups and foreigners.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Sudan

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Sudan. Individuals in Sudan have recently reported good relations between Christians and Muslims. However, the Sudanese government has heavily persecuted Christian groups. Nevertheless, most proselytism-focused Christian groups such as Evangelicals, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses, maintain a presence in Sudan. For example, there are eight Witness congregations in the greater Khartoum metropolitan area. As much as 20% of the population may be Christian although figures regarding religious demography in Sudan widely vary between religious watchdog groups and official government numbers. Latter-day Saint foreigners have lived in Khartoum from time to time, and have been successful sharing the Gospel with South Sudanese temporarily living in Sudan.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Somalia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Somalia. The Church previously operated a branch in Somalia in the 1980s that primarily serviced foreign aid workers. However, small numbers of Somalis have joined the Church over the past several decades even though the population of Somalia is more than 99% Muslim. There is no LDS presence in Somalia today.

Updated Country Profile - Mayotte

Click here to access the Reaching the Nations country profile for Mayotte. A homogeneously Muslim overseas department of France, Mayotte previously had an LDS branch that operated from 2005-2009. There are no proselytism restrictions although most the population maintains strong ethnoreligious ties to Islam.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Seychelles

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Seychelles. Located in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, Seychelles has a population of nearly 100,000 people and is Africa's least populous nation. There has never been an official LDS presence in the islands despite a predominantly Christian population and widespread religious freedom.

Updated Country Profile - Comoros

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Comoros. The Church has never maintained a presence in Comoros, albeit very small numbers of Comorians abroad have joined the Church. A couple proselytism materials have been translated into Comorian.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Maldives

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for the Maldives. Given religious freedom restrictions and a highly homogeneous, tight-knit Muslim population spread over approximately 200 islands, prospects for an LDS presence appear unlikely for many years or decades to come.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Bhutan

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Bhutan.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

New Stakes Created in the DR Congo (2), Nigeria (2), Oklahoma, and Peru; Stake Discontinued in Venezuela

DR Congo
Two new stakes were organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Both new stakes were organized in Kinshasa on June 24th.

The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Mpasa Stake was organized from a division of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Kimbanseke Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Bibwa, Makanza, Mikonga 1st, Mikonga 2nd, Mpasa 1st, Mpasa 2nd, and Mpasa 3rd Wards. The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo N'Djili Stake was organized from a division of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Masina Stake and the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Mokali Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the Debonhomme, Fer Bois, Kingasani 1st, Kingasani 4th, N'Djili 1st, and N'Djili 2nd Wards, and the Mokali and Nsanga Branches.

The first stake in Kinshasa was organized in 1996 - 10 years after the first branch was organized in the city. There are now 10 stakes in the Kinshasa metropolitan area as stakes have been organized in 1996, 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012 (2), 2016, and 2018 (2). Currently, Kinshasa ranks as the metropolitan area on the Afro-Eurasian landmass with the third most stakes after Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (12 stakes) and Accra, Ghana (11 stakes). At least one more new stake in Kinshasa appears like to be organized this year as the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Ngaliema Stake currently has 11 wards and 1 branch. Furthermore, the Church's construction on the new temple in Kinshasa - Central Africa's first LDS temple - is nearing completion. The new temple president was also recently announced in the LDS Church News.

There are now 19 stakes and three districts in the DR Congo. 

Two new stakes have been organized in Nigeria.

The Lagos Nigeria Ojodu Stake was organized on June 24th from a division of the Lagos Nigeria Agege Stake and the Lagos Nigeria Ikeja Stake. The new stake includes the following eight wards and one branch wards: the Akute, Ibafo, Igbogbo, Ikorodu, Itamaga, Ketu, Ojodu, and Omole Wards, and the Imota Branch. There are now six stakes in the Lagos metropolitan area.

The Port Harcourt Nigeria Choba Stake was organized on July 8th. The new stake was organized from a division of the Port Harcourt Nigeria North Stake and the Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: Choba 1st, Choba 2nd, Emohua, Omoku, and Ogbogoro Wards, and the Rumuji Branch. There are now six stakes in Port Harcourt.

There are now 52 stakes and 15 districts in Nigeria. As many as 15 new stakes may be organized in Nigeria within the next 2-3 years. There are many stakes with a large number of wards and branches (e.g. Aba North, Abeokuta, Abuja, Benin City, Ibadan, Ikot Ekpene, Owerri, Ukat Aran, Umuahia, Warri) as well as several districts (e.g. Akampka, Ijebu-Ode, Mbaise, Ogwashi-Uku) that appear close to becoming stakes. Stake growth in Nigeria has been among the most rapid in the world during the past decade. For example, the number of stakes in Nigeria has increased from 22 to 52 in the last five years.

The Church organized a new stake in the Oklahoma City area on June 17th. The Edmond Oklahoma Stake was organized from the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Stake and the Stillwater Oklahoma Stake. The new stake includes the following nine wards and one branch: the Cushing, Edmond 1st, Edmond 2nd, Edmond 3rd, Edmond 4th, Edmond 5th, Oklahoma City YSA, Shawnee, and Village Wards, and the McLoud Branch (Correctional Facility). The new stake is the Church's first new stake to be organized in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area since 1982.

There are now nine stakes in Oklahoma.

The Church created its 43rd stake in the Lima metropolitan area on July 1st. The Lima Perú Torre Blanca was organized in northern Lima from a division of Lima Perú Santa Isabel Stake. The following five wards are assigned to the new stake: the El Progreso, Industrial, Los Angeles, Nueva America, and Torre Blanca Wards. Several new wards have recently been organized in Lima, reversing a trend of stagnant congregational growth in the city that has persisted for several years. Local members report that many wards have as many as 250-300 people attending church before they are divided to organize additional congregations. There are now 43 stakes in Lima.

There are now 103 stakes and 19 districts in Peru.

The Church recently discontinued the San Cristóbal Venezuela. Retained congregations in the former stake were reassigned to the San Cristóbal Venezuela Pirineos Stake or the Venezuela Maracaibo Mission. This marks the first time in the Church's history in Venezuela when a stake has been discontinued. Political and economic crisis has been the primary cause for this decline in growth as many Venezuelan Latter-day Saints have sought to leave Venezuela in search of a better standard of living. Twelve wards or branches have been discontinued in 2018 thus far and 49 wards or branches have been discontinued since the Church reached its all-time high for the number of congregations in Venezuela back in 2011. Additional stakes appear like to be discontinued in the near future, especially in the Caracas area.

There are now 33 stakes and 5 districts in Venezuela.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Seven Stakes and 53 Wards/Branches Discontinued in Mexico: New District Created in Mexico

Significant restructuring of stakes and congregations has occurred in several areas of Mexico during the past month and seven stakes and 53 wards/branches have been discontinued within approximately the past 1-2 months. This has resulted in a three percent decrease in the total number of stakes in Mexico as there are now 222 stakes and 44 districts in the country. In contrast, the Church in Mexico had previously discontinued only eight stakes in its entire history prior to the announcement of these recent changes (with the exception of the discontinuation of stakes in the mid-1970s as part of the creation of 15 new stakes in the Mexico City area). The number of wards/branches in Mexico has decreased by 54 since year-end 2017 from 1,987 to 1,933, or a 2.7% decrease. These consolidations are the largest experienced by the country in a country with a major LDS presence since the early 2000s when the Church consolidated hundreds of wards/branches and scores of stakes in countries such as Chile, Peru, the Philippines, Ecuador, Brazil, and Guatemala.

Stakes discontinued in Mexico during the past 1-2 months include:
  • Coatzacoalcos México Puerto
  • Madero México Ampliación
  • Minatitlán México
  • Minatitlán México Tecnológico
  • Monterrey México Morelos
  • Monterrey México Paraíso
  • Tampico México Chairel
The Coatzacoalcos México Puerto Stake was organized in 1990 and had 13 wards and one branch prior to its consolidation with the Coatzacoalcos México Stake. The Coatzacoalcos México Stake had five wards and four branches before the consolidation occurred. There are now nine stakes and two branches in the Coatzacoalcos México Stake. Additionally, the Las Choapas México District was organized on June 17th from five congregations formerly assigned to Coatzacoalcos México Stake. The new district has five branches - two of which used to be wards in the stake (Agua Dulce and Cuatro Caminos). There were no wards/branches discontinued within the boundaries of the new district.

The Madero México Ampliación Stake was organized in 2001 and had six wards prior to its consolidation with the Madero México Stake. The Madero México Stake had seven wards before the consolidation occurred. There are now five wards and two branches in the Madero México Stake. The Tampico México Chairel Stake was organized in 2000 and had six wards prior to its consolidation with the Tampico México Stake. Four of the wards in the original stake were discontinued. The Tampico México Stake now has five wards and two branches. As a result of these changes, the number of stakes in the Tampico/Madero metropolitan area decreased from five to three.

The Minatitlán México Stake was organized in 1977 and had six wards prior to its discontinuation. The Minatitlán México Tecnológico Stake was organized in 1997 and had six wards and one branch prior to its discontinuation. The two Minatitlán Stakes were merged into the Minatitlán México Tecnológico District, which has seven branches. This marks the first time in LDS history where the Church in a city with two stakes has had both of its stakes discontinued and merged into a single district. In contrast, the Church has usually discontinued only one of its two stakes in a city where there are two stakes.

The Monterrey México Morelos Stake was organized in 1980 and had five wards prior to its consolidation with the Monterrey México Anáhuac Stake and the Monterrey México Mitras Stake. Two of the wards in the original stake were discontinued. The Monterrey México Paraíso Stake was organized in 1978 and had six wards prior to its consolidation with the Monterrey México Los Angeles Stake and the Monterrey México Roma Stake. Three of the wards in the original stake were discontinued. As a result of the discontinuation of these two stakes, the number of stakes in Monterrey decreased from 12 to 10.

The decision by the Church to discontinue seven stakes and more than 50 wards/branches in several cities in Mexico during the past 1-2 months does not indicate a sudden drop in church attendance or member activity/convert retention rates. Rather, these changes were likely many months or years in planning due to many wards in these cities with few active members and emphasis from the area presidency for better utilization of meetinghouse space. Data from returned missionary and local member surveys indicate that many, if not most, of the wards discontinued during the past 1-2 months in Mexico had between 40-100 active members. Church leaders in the Mexico Area have also focused on the creation of wards that have at least 100 active members in order to better utilize LDS meetinghouse space to conserve costs and to establish larger wards that provide more opportunities for fellowship and socialization. The creation of wards with more active members has also appeared motivated to address challenges with leadership burnout or difficulties with quality church leadership on a local level.

Most concerning with these developments has been the lack of success of strengthening wards/branches in many cities in Mexico during the last 5-10 years despite a significantly increased missionary presence in many areas. For example, the number of missions in Mexico increased from 24 in 2011 to 34 in 2013, and decreased to 32 in 2018. However, there has now been no net increase in the number of stakes since 2011 and a decrease of 67 wards/branches during this time even though church membership has increased by 162,184 (or 12.7%) from 1,273,199 to 1,435,383. Thus, the Church in Mexico has appeared to experience the lowest "real growth" productivity of any country in the world with a significant LDS presence (i.e. more than 100,000 members) during the 2010s. Local church leaders and returned missionaries indicate low member-missionary participation, poor collaboration between church leaders and full-time missionaries in regards to proselytism and reactivation efforts, and low participation by many active members in fulfilling callings and meeting other member responsibilities (such as regular temple attendance) have appeared primarily responsible for these changes in LDS growth trends. For example, members have appeared to minimally utilize the Mexico City Mexico Temple even though the Mexico City Mexico Temple has one of the largest temple districts in the world with approximately 80 stakes.

The Church in Mexico began to consolidate wards and stakes with smaller numbers of active members as early as 2011 and 2012 although most of these changes occurred in 2017. The Church first began widespread consolidations in Mexico in Guadalajara where two stakes and 17 wards/branches were discontinued in late 2011 and in 2012. These changes have appeared to have had a positive effect on growth as four new wards/branches have since been organized in Guadalajara after these initial consolidations occurred. Moreover, the Church has reported significant improvements in the functionality and strength of the Church in Guadalajara since these changes occurred. The Church reported significant ward/branch consolidations in Chilpancingo, Ciudad Obregón, Culiacán, Juchitán, Mazatlán, Puebla, Salina Cruz, and Tijuana during 2017 albeit these changes necessitated the discontinuation of stakes only in Ciudad Obregón and Mazatlán. However, there has been significant variability in the magnitude of ward/branch consolidations in Mexico during 2017 and 2018. For example, the Church discontinued approximately half of its wards/branches in the Tampico/Madero metropolitan area and in the city of Minatitlán, whereas only 10-20% of wards/branches were discontinued in other major cities such as Monterrey or Puebla. Furthermore, no stakes were discontinued when ward/branch consolidations occurred in Puebla. To the contrary, one new stake and one new district were organized as part of the restructuring of stakes and congregations.

Despite the bleak picture presented by recent trends in national stake and congregational growth, the Church in Mexico has experienced steady growth in several locations which appear unlikely to experience future consolidations or only a minimal number of consolidations, such as Cancún, Querétaro, Mérida, Orizaba, and Xalapa. Variability in growth trends and church strength/stability has also appeared affected by crime and economic opportunities. Nevertheless, the recent trend in nationwide congregation and stake consolidations does not appear to be over as there appear many wards/stakes in the Mexico City area and other cities in northern Mexico that appear vulnerable to closure.

Monday, July 2, 2018

June 2018 Newsletter

Click here to access our June 2018 newsletter for cumorah.com.