Saturday, December 29, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Bulgaria

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Bulgaria. Perhaps the Church in no other country in the world has experienced as severe problems and decline as the Church in Bulgaria. The number of active members in Bulgaria has declined by 80% during the past 18 years primarily due to the emigration of active members. Today there appear to be no more than 200-250 active members nationwide, or a mere 10% of church membership. See below for the Future Prospects sections of the Bulgaria country profile:

A shrinking full-time missionary force, the closure of two-thirds of the Church’s branches in the past decade, and the loss of active members to emigration continue to challenge the scope and vision of Latter-day Saint missionary operations in Bulgaria. At this point, it would take considerable resources, vision, and manpower for the Church resume its previous level of outreach extended at its zenith of missionary operations in the mid- to late 2000s. Increasing materialism, negative views of the Church, and persecution have lessened the receptivity of many and will continue to present challenges despite good improvements in convert retention reported in the past few years. Long-term growth consisting of expanding national outreach, improving self-sufficiency of local membership and leadership, and increasing missionary service and active membership will require wise placement of limited mission resources as well as policies and practices directed toward these ends. The Church may reestablish a district in the foreseeable future as long as active membership stabilizes and there are sufficient numbers of church leaders to warrant the operation of a district again in the country.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Hungary

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Hungary. I believe this profile is among the best we have written to date due to many high-quality sources. Here is the Future Prospects section of this profile:

Hungary will continue to be an important nation for the Church’s establishment in Central and Eastern Europe due to the number and strength of active members and its geographical location. A future small temple in Budapest may be likely within the foreseeable future. Increasing secularism and disinterest in religion threaten membership and congregational growth. A limited number of converts scattered throughout the country challenge future ambitions for the creation of additional congregations. Cities that seem most likely to open to missionary work include Nagykanizsa, Salgotarjan, Szekszard, and Zalaegerszeg, as these cities are the most populous without a congregation or are in counties without a congregation. Additional districts in the southern part of the country in Pecs and Szeged will become more likely once additional branches are established. A branch may be reopened in Vac and additional, small branches created to reduce travel time and increase outreach in suburban areas of Budapest. Additional groups may be organized in cities with missionaries who travel to nearby cities with congregations for Sunday meetings such as Hodmezovasarhely, Kolmo, and Oroshaza. A lack of converts has contributed to no additional congregations and may continue to challenge ambitions for opening and establishing a permanent Church presence. Furthermore, current growth trends suggest little or no interest by mission and area leadership in outreach expansion given declining receptivity and fewer mission resources allocated to the region. Moreover, the Hungary/Romania Mission now services approximately 31 million people in the two countries and as a result resources have become more limited for the Church to expand outreach in Hungary. Success with the establishment of the Church in additional locations will require initiative and vision from local church leadership.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Romania

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Romania. I think the Future Prospects section of this entry sums up the current status of the Church, although I want to add that convert retention rates have markedly improved in the 2010s to 50-70% for recent converts one year after baptism:

The outlook for future growth in Romania appears poor within the foreseeable future. The Church currently reports one of the lowest member activity rates in the world in Romania and consistent efforts to strengthen local leadership and expand national outreach have yielded few results. External factors the Church faces that have posed difficulties for growth include strong cultural ties to Orthodox Christianity and societal suspicion of foreign, America-based religious groups. The closure of the Romania Bucharest Mission and the reassignment of Romania to the realigned Hungary/Romania Mission indicates a significant reduction in mission resources allocated to the two nations despite a combined population of more than 31 million. This decision appears rooted in extremely few convert baptisms in Romania since the early 2010s combined with worldwide efforts to redistribute mission resources from less productive areas to more productive ones. Thus, progress with reversing current stagnant growth trends will require greater participation from local members and leaders in proselytism and national outreach expansion combined with effective vision from mission leadership to strengthen remaining branches.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Moldova

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Moldova. There are approximately 400 members of the Church in Moldova and approximately 100 of them are active. The Church established presence in Moldova later than most countries in Eastern Europe. Although convert retention rates are good at present, the number of converts who join the Church has decreased. Furthermore, there has been no noticeable increase in the number of active members in Moldova during the past decade despite church-reported membership increasing by more than 100. All branches are led by a native branch president, suggesting some progress with local leadership development. Cultural conditions, dependence on full-time missionaries to find new investigators, and lack of active membership increase in the past decade constitute major barriers for future growth.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Potential New Missions and Mission Closures in 2019

There has been no significant change in the number of full-time missionaries serving worldwide during 2018 and this number appears to have slightly decreased. The Church currently reports 65,915 full-time non-service missionaries serving worldwide, whereas at year-end 2017 there were 67,049 full-time non-service missionaries serving. However, there appears to be significant changes to the missionary program and the distribution of worldwide mission resources coming in the immediate future although I am not able to comment more about this development at this time.

Below is a list of locations where I believe as many a 22 missions may be closed and consolidate with neighboring missions in 2019 given church growth trends, the number of stakes/districts serviced by missions, and populations targeted by missionary efforts. I have used no unauthorized sources for these predictions and these predictions are based solely on my own efforts and analysis.
  • Asia
    • Combine Japan Nagoya Mission with Japan Tokyo South Mission
    • Combine Korea Seoul and Korea Seoul South
    • Combine Korea Daejeon with Korea Busan
  • Europe
    • Combine Baltic Mission with Finland Helsinki Mission
    • Combine Czech/Slovak Mission with Poland Warsaw Mission
    • Combine Norway Olso Mission with Denmark Copenhagen Mission
    • Combine Russia St Petersburg Mission with Russia Moscow Mission
    • Combine Russia Yekaterinburg Mission with Russia Novosibirsk Mission
  • Latin America
    • Combine Chile Rancagua Mission with Chile Concepcion Mission and Chile Santiago South Mission
    • Combine Mexico Guadalajara East Mission with Mexico Guadalajara Mission and Mexico Queretaro Mission
    • Combine Mexico Mexico City Northwest Mission with Mexico Mexico City North Mission
    • Combine Mexico City Southeast Mission with Mexico Mexico City Chalco Mission and Mexico Mexico City South Mission
  • United States
    • Combine Arizona Scottsdale Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine California Anaheim Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine California Rancho Cucamonga Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine California Santa Rosa Mission with surrounding missions 
    • Combine Colorado Fort Collins Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine Georgia Macon Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine New York Utica Mission with New York Rochester Mission
    • Combine Oregon Salem Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine Virginia Chesapeake Mission with surrounding missions
    • Combine Washington Yakima Mission with surrounding missions
Below is a list of 36 prospective new missions that appear likely to be organize in the foreseeable future given church growth trends, the number of stakes/districts assigned to current missions, and the size of target populations. Missions in bold appear most likely to be organized in 2019.
  • Australia Brisbane (2nd mission)
  • Bolivia Tarija
  • Brazil Porto Velho
  • Brazil Sao Luis
  • Brazil Sao Paulo (6th mission)
  • Brazil Sorocaba
  • Cameroon Yaounde
  • Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Abobo (4th Ivorian Mission)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa (2nd mission)
  • Ecuador Machala
  • Ecuador Quevedo
  • Ethiopia Addis Ababa 
  • Ghana Koforidua
  • Ghana Kumasi (2nd mission)
  • Guatemala City (4th mission)
  • Malawi Lilongwe
  • Myanmar Yangon
  • Nigeria Abuja
  • Nigeria Onitsha
  • Nigeria Uyo
  • Peru Lima (6th mission)
  • Philippines Antipolo
  • Philippines Bacolod (2nd mission)
  • Philippines Davao (2nd mission)
  • Philippines Dumaguete
  • Philippines Lucena 
  • Philippines Ormoc
  • Philippines Santiago
  • Rwanda Kigali 
  • Sierra Leone Bo
  • Solomon Islands Honiara
  • Tanzania Dar Es Salaam
  • Texas Austin
  • Texas Plano
  • Thailand Udorn/Laos
  • Togo Lome

Saturday, December 22, 2018

New Stakes Created in Mexico (2), Ecuador, and Texas; New Districts Created in Mexico (2); Stake Discontinued in Mexico


Two new stakes were organized in Mexico on December 2nd.

The Mexico City Los Heroes Tecamac Stake was organized from the Mexico City Tecamac Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and one branch: the Bosques 1st, Bosques 2nd, Los Heroes 1st, Los Heroes 2nd, Montes, and Venta de Carpio Wards, and the Jardines de Morelos Branch.

The Tizayuca Mexico Stake was organized from the Mexico City Tecamac Stake and the Pachuca Mexico South Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Plazas Tizayuca, Tizayuca 1st, Tizayuca 2nd, Zumpango 1st, and Zumpango 2nd Wards.

Two new districts were organized in northeastern Mexico City.

The Mexico City Chimalhuacan District was organized from the Mexico City La Perla Stake. The new stake includes the following four branches (which used to be wards): Arboleda, Ciudad Alegre, Plateros, and Xochitenco Branches.

The Texcoco Mexico District was organized from the Mexico City Los Reyes Stake. The new district includes the following four branches: the Chapingo, Chiautla, Coatlinchan, and Texcoco Branches. Of the four branches in the new district, two of the branches were organized when the district was created.

One stake was discontinued in Mexico City.

The Mexico City Centenario Stake was recently discontinued. Retained congregations were reassigned to the Mexico City Industrial Stake or the Mexico City Madero Stake. The Mexico City Centenario Stake was originally organized in 1997.

There may be additional discontinued stakes or created stakes as part of a major restructuring of the Church's congregations in Mexico City. Thus far, there have been approximately 80 wards and branches discontinued, and approximately one dozen new wards and branches organized. Three stakes have been discontinued, and two new stakes and two new districts have been organized. I will provide more updates once I obtain additional information.

There are now 220 stakes and 47 districts in Mexico. There has been a net decrease of 139 congregations (7.0% annual decrease) in Mexico thus far in 2018 - the largest decrease in the number of wards/branches ever reported by the Church in Mexico, and the largest annual decrease in the number of wards/branches ever reported in a single country in the history of the Church. Although this may sound alarming, similar and even more drastic ward/branch consolidations have occurred in the Church in the past two decades in other countries with low member activity rates when one looks at percentage decrease in the number of congregations. For example, the Church reported a net decrease of 137 congregations (16.1% annual decrease) in Chile in the year 2002. There was a net decrease of 121 congregations (9.8% annual decrease) in the Philippines in 2003, a net decrease of 116 congregations (6.2% annual decrease) in Brazil in 2000, and a net decrease of 82 congregations (9.8% annual decrease) in Peru in 2000. Ward/branch consolidations in 2018 in Mexico mark the first widespread efforts in Mexico to establish congregations with larger numbers of active members. In contrast, nearly all other Latin American countries underwent similar congregation consolidations primarily during the early to mid 2000s. Thus, these current changes in Mexico have occurred much later than in most countries in the region.

The outlook for future growth after such dramatic unit consolidations is mixed. For example, the Church in Brazil quickly reversed net decreases in the number of congregations by the mid-2010s (bottoming out at 1,668 congregations) and currently reaches new all-time highs for the number of wards and branches (currently over 2,100), whereas the Church in Chile continues to report decreases in the number of wards and branches (currently less than 600). Time will tell whether these ward/branch realignments and consolidations will reverse recent stagnant growth trends in Mexico. However, returned missionaries report a severe disconnect between members and missionaries, especially in Mexico City, and dangerous proselytism conditions in many areas of the country. Thus, any major turnaround in growth rates appears unlikely for at least several more years.

A new stake was organized in Ecuador. The Machala Ecuador Puerto Bolivar Stake was organized from the Machala Ecuador Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Dieciocho de Octubre, Florida, La Paz, Los Esteros, and Puerto Bolivar Wards. The original Machala Ecuador Stake was organized in 1992. Machala becomes the first city in southern Ecuador to have more than one stake after the Guayaquil metropolitan area. I have received conflicting information for the date the new stake was organized. The two dates I have received are December 2nd and September 23rd.

There are now 42 stakes and 8 districts in Ecuador

A new stake was organized in southern Texas on December 2nd. The Laredo Texas Stake was organized from the Laredo Texas District. Currently, the Church reports the following four wards and one branch in the new stake: the Laredo 1st, Laredo 2nd (Spanish), Laredo 4th, and Laredo 5th (Spanish) Wards, and the Laredo 6th Branch (Spanish). It is likely that the Laredo 6th Branch (Spanish) was also upgraded to a ward but that this information has not been published yet given new stakes usually have a minimum of five new wards. The original Laredo Texas District was organized in 1995.

There are now 75 stakes and 2 districts in Texas. There are now only six districts left in the entire United States.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Slovakia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Slovakia. Slovakia has one of the lowest percentages of Latter-day Saints of any European nation as there is one member per approximately 20,000 people. There are fewer than one hundred active members in the country despite a continuous Church presence since 1993. Strong Slovak ethnoreligious ties to Catholicism, delays in translating Church materials into the Slovak language, minimal mission outreach extended to Slovakia over the past two decades from the Czech/Slovak Mission, and the lack of a Slovakian Latter-day Saint community appear responsible for this lack of growth.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Czech Republic (Czechia)

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Czechia. Slow, albeit steady growth has occurred for the Church in Czechia during the past two decades with annual membership growth rates averaging around two percent in the 2010s. The greatest progress has been in regards to maturing local leadership as evidenced by the organization of the first stake in 2016 and the calling of the first native Czech mission president to preside over the Czech/Slovak Mission in 2016. Also, convert retention rates for one year after baptism have noticeably improved, ranging from 50-70% during the past decade per returned missionary reports. Nevertheless, the number of cities with an official congregation has decreased from 18 to 12 within the past two decades as the emphasis has been placed on the establishment of larger congregations. Low receptivity remains a major obstacle for the Church to achieve greater growth. Other nontraditional, missionary-focused groups report similar difficulties. Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists have both reported stagnant membership and congregational growth in Czechia within the past decade.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Poland

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Poland. The Church in Poland has maintained a full-time missionary proselytizing force for approximately three decades, yet there remain only 1,983 members and 12 branches in the country as of year-end 2017. Active membership in Poland appears to be approximately 300-350 as of the mid-2010s. A lack of diversity and pluralism in Polish society has posed a significant obstacle for effective missionary work and sustained church growth. Poles have appeared more receptive to joining the Church abroad than within their native homeland, and the number of Polish Latter-day Saints worldwide appears significantly larger than the number of Polish members in Poland. Jehovah's Witnesses have by far been the most successful nontraditional Christian group to become established in Poland with approximately 118,00 active members. However, Witnesses have reported major problems in the 2010s as the number of Witness congregations declined from 1,814 to 1,294 in only seven years. Other nontraditional Christian groups have either reported stagnant growth or decline in recent years, likely due to increasing secularism among youth and young adults and emigration.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

First Stake Organized in Angola

Last Sunday, the Church organized its first stake in the African nation of Angola. The new stake was organized from the Luanda Angola District and the Viana Angola District, and includes six wards and six branches. Information on which branches became wards remains unavailable.

Angola is inhabited by approximately 30 million people and had its first branch organized in 1996. However, members had met in groups or for sacrament meeting services since the early 1990s. The first proselytizing missionaries were assigned to Angola in 2008 from the Mozambique Maputo Mission. The Angola Luanda Mission was organized in 2013. At year-end 2017, there were 2,458 members. Prior to the organization of the stake, there were 15 branches in the country. To contrast, the Church in Angola at year-end 2007 reported only 759 members and one branch. Only three cities in Angola currently have an official Church presence: Luanda, Lubango, and Huambo. Annual membership growth rates have exceeded 10% every year since 2009. Although this growth has been significant in the past decade, other proselytism-focused groups report a much larger presence in Angola and also report rapid growth rates. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses reported 1,913 congregations and 143,322 active members as of year-end 2017. Furthermore, the number of active Witnesses increased by 12% alone in 2017 despite a base of more than 100,000 active members. However, these groups have operated for decades longer in Angola than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and operate in many areas of the country.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

New Stakes Created in Brazil (2), Utah, and Venezuela; New District in Benin

Two new stakes were organized in Brazil.

The Feira de Santana Brazil North Stake was organized on November 18th from a division of the Feira de Santana Brazil Kalilandia Stake and the Camacari Brazil Central Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: Alagoinhas,  Conceição do Coité, Feira de Santana 3rd, Nova Esperança, Serrinha, and Sobradinho Wards. There are now three stakes in Feira de Santana, and 11 stakes in Bahia State. The capital of Bahia State, Salvador, was one of the 12 locations where President Nelson announced a new temple during the October 2018 General Conference.

The São José dos Campos Brazil South Stake was organized on November 25th from a division of the São José dos Campos Brazil Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Cicade Jardim, Jacarei, Jardim Satelite, Morumbi, and Parque Industrial Wards. The original São José dos Campos Brazil Stake numbered among the Church's oldest stakes in Brazil that has never appeared to have been divided to organize a new stake since its original creation in 1985. There are now 78 stakes and seven districts in Sao Paolo State. There are now 273 stakes and 38 districts in Brazil.

The Church organized a new stake in Santaquin, Utah on November 11th. The Santaquin Utah East Stake was organized from the Santaquin Utah Stake. The new stake includes the follow seven wards and one branch: the Santaquin 2nd, Santaquin 3rd, Santaquin 8th, Santaquin 12th, Santaquin 16th, and the Santaquin 22nd Wards, and the Santaquin 17th Branch (Care Center).

There are now 596 stakes and one district in Utah.

The Church organized a new stake in Venezuela on October 21st. The Coro Venezuela Stake was organized from a division of the Punto Fijo Venezuela Stake. The new stake includes the following four wards: the Alta Vista, Los Medanos, Manaure, and Puerto Cumarebo Wards. The Coro Venezuela Stake was originally organized as a district in 2005, but was consolidated with the district in Falcon in 2008 to prepare for the organization of a stake. The Punto Fijo Venezuela Stake currently has only four wards and one branch. The decision to divide the stake appears attributed to reduce travel times for members at a time when the Venezuelan economy is in crisis. Surprisingly, the stake appeared to meet the qualifications to operate two separate stakes instead of the stake returning back to district status.

There are now 34 stakes and five districts in Venezuela.

The Church organized a new district in the West African country of Benin. The Cococodji Benin District was organized from a division of the Cotonou Benin Stake. Currently, the Church's meetinghouse website shows only three branches assigned to the district (Agla, Cocotomey, and Hilacondji) albeit there appear to be at least two wards in the stake that appear to have been transferred to the district and downgraded to branch status (Cococodji and Hevie). The Cotonou Benin Stake had nine wards and eight branches prior to the creation of the new district. The Church in Benin has grown most rapidly and efficiently when member groups and branches have been organized rather than waiting for the number of active members to become adequate large to split large units or for branches to become wards. This decision to organize a district instead of waiting to have enough wards to create a second stake in Cotonou appears more likely to help the Church take advantage of good opportunities for growth in Benin where there were less than 100 members in 2005. Today, there are more than 3,000 members in Benin. There is now one stake and one district in the country.