Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Most Encouraging and Discouraging Church Growth Developments for 2019

Click here to access an article I just posted on www.cumorah.com regarding the 10 most encouraging and 10 most discouraging Church growth developments during 2019.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Church Presence Established in Burkina Faso, West Africa

Mission leadership in the Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro Mission report that the Africa West Area has organized a member group in the capital city of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. Moreover, authorization for the member group to become an official branch was also reportedly received from the area presidency. Burkina Faso has been assigned to the Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro Mission and mission leadership have visited members in Ouagadougou. However, the official branch has not yet appeared to have been organized. The Church is not officially registered with the government at present, but registration appears likely to be obtained in the near future. The first convert baptisms have also recently occurred in Burkina Faso as prospective members have been taught by full-time missionaries over the internet.

The establishment of the Church in Burkina Faso has been long overdue given widespread religious freedom, a sizable Christian minority, small numbers of Burkinabe who have joined the Church abroad, and relatively close accessibility to neighboring countries with a Church presence. Approximately 20 million people live in Burkina Faso. The population is 60% Muslim and 30% Christian. Burkina Faso numbers among two other West African countries where the Church has recently established an official presence (Senegal in 2016, Mali and Guinea in 2017). There remain several countries in the region without an official Church presence and no known member groups or branches, such as Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Niger.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

New Stakes Created in the DR Congo, French Polynesia, and the Philippines; New District in Mozambique

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo)
The Church organized a new stake in the city of Kananga in the Kasai region of the DR Congo. The Malandji Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake was organized from a division of the Kananga Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake and the Katoka Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Kamayi 1st, Kamayi 2nd, Kananga 1st, Kananga 2nd, Malandji 2nd, Tshinsambi, and Walikale Wards. The Church organized its first stake in Kananga in 2011 followed by a second stake in 2015. Kananga is the third city in the country to have three stakes in it after Kinshasa (11) and Lubumbashi (4). The new stake is the Church's sixth stake in the Kasai region.

There are now 23 stakes and one district in the DR Congo.

French Polynesia
A new stake was organized that includes Tuamotu Archipelago and Tahiti. The Takaroa Tuamotu District was organized into the Faaa Tahiti Takaroa Stake. The Faaa Tahiti Stake, renamed the Faaa Tahiti Tuamotu Stake, was also divided and five wards in the stake were transferred to the newly organized Faaa Tahiti Takaroa Stake. The Faaa Tahiti Takaroa Stake includes the following eight wards: the Ahurai, Farahei, Oremu, Puurai, Takapoto, Takaroa 1st, Takaroa 2nd, and Vairai Wards. Although information on which branches became wards in the new stake is not available on the Church's meetinghouse website, information from the Church's French Polynesia Facebook page indicates that all branches in the former district became wards in the Faaa Tahiti Takaroa Stake, whereas none of the branches in the Faaa Tahiti Tuamotu Stake became wards. This is the second instance of the Church creating a stake or assigning remote island branches to a stake in French Polynesia within the past five years (the first instance was the inclusion of the Austral Islands into the Papeari Tahiti Stake). This decision may have been made to provide local leadership support to outlying branches and prepare for the creation of a stake that solely operates in Tuamotu one day. Tuamotu is home to some of the oldest Latter-day Saint congregations in the world. For example, the Takapoto Ward was originally organized in 1844 and the Takaroa 1st Ward was first organized in 1851. The Community of Christ has slightly more congregations in Tuamotu than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints per an article I wrote on cumorah.com five years ago. However, Latter-day Saints have a much larger presence on Tahiti than the Community of Christ. Furthermore, Latter-day Saints have reported slow-to-moderate growth rates in French Polynesia within the past decade (increase of 12 congregations and nearly 8,000 members), whereas the Community of Christ has reported a net increase of only two congregations per the Community of Christ's directory to 59 at present.

There are now 11 stakes and two districts in French Polynesia.

The Church organized the Lubao Philippines Stake from the Dinalupihan Philippines District. All five branches in the former district became wards in the new stake, including the Dinalupihan, Floridablanca, Guagua, Lubao 1st, and Lubao 2nd Branches. The original Dinalupihan Philippines District was organized in 1998. The new stake is part of the Philippines Olongapo Mission where the Church has experienced significant progress with the maturation of districts into stakes within the past three years (only one stake in 2016 versus six stakes at present).

There are now 115 stakes and 63 districts in the Philippines.

The Church organized a new district in Mozambique. The Chimoio Mozambique District was created from three branches - two of which were organized the same day as the new district. Branches assigned to the new district include the Baixa, Chimoio, and Soalpo Branches. Chimoio is the fourth city in Mozambique to ever have a district organized after Maputo (2003), Beira (2003), and Nampula (2017). Additional cities appear likely to have new branches organized and have districts created within the foreseeable future, such as Marromeu, Quelimane, and Tete.

There are now four stakes and two districts in Mozambique.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Updated Country Profile - China

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for China. I spent a great deal updating this important profile, which is over 14,000 words long, particularly in regards to the regional profiles for each administrative division of China. Although the Church in China has achieved significant growth among People's Republic of China (PRC) citizens, there remain many obstacles to growth, particularly in regards to religious freedom restrictions that have worsened just within the past couple years. I have received reports that the Church has closed a few of its branches for PRC citizen members due to the tightening of religious freedom in certain areas that forbids the assembly of congregations (even though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very strict to follow local laws and has a positive relationship with the government). Furthermore, in recent weeks we have seen the closure of the Mandarin-speaking branch in Macau, the Macau 3rd Branch, and the relatively recently organized Mandarin-speaking branch on the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong.

Although missionaries report that the decision to close the second Mandarin-speaking branch in Hong Kong was designated to strengthen the Mandarin membership in Hong Kong, it appears that there have been greater difficulties with PRC citizens visiting Hong Kong and Macau, and greater challenges operating more congregations to meet their needs as Mandarin-speaking members are often more transient. Nevertheless, the Church has reported a net increase in Chinese-specific congregations worldwide, particularly in the United States. In the early 2010s, there were fourteen Chinese-specific congregations in the United States (12 Chinese, 2 Mandarin), whereas in late 2019, there were twenty-four Chinese-specific congregations in the United States (14 Chinese, 10 Mandarin). Chinese-specific outreach efforts in the United States continue to be productive in many areas, such as in southern California where the Yale (Mandarin) Ward had 171 convert baptisms, thirteen members served full-time missions, and fourteen families were sealed in the temple all within the first decade of the congregation’s operation. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Government policy and law currently forbid proselytism by foreign or native missionaries and restricts the communication between Chinese nationals and international Church leaders. The greatest limitations for future growth are an insufficient supply of local leadership, limited opportunities for mentoring and training from regional and worldwide Latter-day Saint leadership, restrictions on the importation and distribution of scriptures and church literature, and the significant tightening of religious freedom conditions by government officials and legislation since the late 2010s. Prospects for full recognition of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and permissions for foreign missionaries in the medium term appear to be slim to none. However, there is a more favorable outlook for continued growth through legal means of members sharing their beliefs with family members and the resultant increase in authorized congregations or small meeting groups. The quiet, rapid growth of Latter-day Saint membership in China over the past decade has occurred principally through the relatives of current members and provides an excellent outlook for future long-term growth and sustainability regardless of changes in religious freedom conditions. Furthermore, outreach to Han Chinese outside mainland China continues to expand in vision with the calling of Chinese-speaking missionaries to serve in many nations around the world in addition to the creation of Chinese-speaking congregations abroad. The increase in full-time missionaries who serve from China is a major success that will promote long-term growth, increase future leadership manpower, and provide returned missionaries with valuable experience in Church administration in areas where the Church is most established in the United States and other nations in which they may serve. In contrast to the entry of the Church into Russia following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a basic administrative infrastructure is in place in many regions of China. The Church overall was not fully prepared to meet the needs and opportunities presented when Russia opened to missionary work and consequently experienced low retention, limited national outreach expansion following the first decade of formal missionary activity, and poor local leadership development. The Church has learned many lessons from Russia and has placed a stronger emphasis on member-missionary work in a family setting in accordance with government policy and local laws.

November 2019 Newsletter

Click here to access the November 2019 newsletter for www.cumorah.com.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Stakes Created in Brazil, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Utah; New Districts Created in Cote d'Ivoire and the Philippines

The Church organized a new stake in the city of São Paulo for the first time since 2011. The São Paulo Brazil Sapopemba Stake was organized from a division of the São Paulo Brazil Penha Stake and the São Paulo Brazil Ipiranga Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Jardim Santo Andre, Jardim Tiete, Sapopemba, São Mateus, and Vila Industrial Wards. There are now 41 stakes in the São Paulo metropolitan area.

There are now 277 stakes and 39 districts in Brazil.

A new stake was organized in Anambra State on November 24th. The Akwa Nigeria Stake was organized from a division of the Onitsha Nigeria Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and three branches: the Akwa 1st, Akwa 2nd, Ekwulobia, Obosi 1st, and Okpuno Wards, and the Ihembosi, Nnewi, and Ogidi Branches. The Church has experienced rapid growth in this region of Anambra State since the Onitsha Nigeria District became a stake in 2016. One of the most impressive developments was the creation of the Ekwulobia Ward, which was organized earlier this year from a member group that met in the city of Ekwulobia. In contrast, groups usually develop into branches before they become wards given the higher standards for the number of active members needed for a ward to operate.

There are now 59 stakes and 19 districts in Nigeria.

Today the Church organized a new stake in northern Peru. The Paita Peru Stake was organized from the Paita Peru District. All six branches in the district appeared to become wards in the new stake. The original Paita Peru District was created in 1995.

There are now 112 stakes and 17 districts in Peru.

Sierra Leone
The Kenema Sierra Leone District became a stake on November 24th. No other stakes or districts were included in the creation of the new stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and four branches: the Dauda Town, Hangha Road, IDA, Kenema, Kpayama, and Simbeck Wards, and the Burma, Kailahun, Nyandeyama, and Tongo Branches. The new stake is the Church's seven stake in Sierra Leone, and the sixth stake in the country organized since 2017.

There are now seven stakes and two districts in Sierra Leone.

The Church organized a new stake in Herriman, Utah on November 24th. The Herriman Utah Towne Center Stake was organized from a division of the Riverton Utah Western Springs Stake and the Herriman Utah Pioneer Stake. The new stake includes at least the following five wards: Herriman Rose 1st Ward, Herriman Rose 2nd Ward, Herriman Rose 3rd Ward, Herriman Rose 4th Ward, and the Pioneer 1st Ward. Additional wards may be assigned to the new stake, or creation of additional wards may be imminent given that most new stakes in Utah have between 6-9 wards total.

There are now 604 stakes and one district in Utah.

Cote d'Ivoire
The Church organized a new district in central Cote d'Ivoire on October 27th. The Sinfra Cote d'Ivoire District was organized from two mission branches in the city of Sinfra, and one branch in Bayota that previously pertained to the Gagnoa Cote d'Ivoire District. The first branch in Bayota was organized in 2016, whereas the first branch in Sinfra was organized in 2017. There are three branches in the new district. With the creation of the new district, there are now 14 stakes and 17 districts in Cote d'Ivoire. 

The Church organized a new district on Palawan Island on 29th. The Quezon Philippines Palawan District was organized from a division of the Narra Philippines District (organized in 1996). The new district includes four branches: Brooke's Point, Cabar, Quezon Palawan, and Rizal. There are now two districts and one stake on Palawan.

There are now 114 stakes and 64 districts in the Philippines.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ask a Question about the Growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This is something I have never done before on this blog, but I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to ask readers whether you have any questions about the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that you would like answered. Granted, I do not have all of the answers to some of the questions that may be asked, but I thought this would be a thought-provoking activity to see what interests you regarding the growth of the Church and for us to find the information to answer your questions. Please write your questions as a comment to this post, and I will try my best to answer them or find the information you request. And, of course, fellow followers and readers are welcome to answer questions as well.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Eight New Missions to be Created in July 2020

Today the Church announced plans to open eight new missions effective July 2020. This is the earliest that the Church has announced plans to organize new missions, as these announcements are traditionally made in January. As such, today's announcement proceeded my predictions for new missions that I usually make every year. The world total for new missions will be 407 in July 2020. No mission consolidations were reported in the announcement. There are currently more than 68,000 missionaries serving in 399 missions. There were 65,137 at year-end 2018, indicating a more that four percent increase in the number of members serving full-time proselytizing missions thus far in 2019 - the first year with significant increase in the number of full-time missionaries serving since the "surge" in the full-time missionary force ended in the mid 2010s.

The Church announced plans to open the following eight mission:
  • Brazil Recife South 
  • Cameroon Yaounde 
  • Ecuador Guayaquil East 
  • Ethiopia Addis Ababa 
  • Mozambique Beira 
  • Tanzania Dar es Salaam 
  • Texas Austin 
  • Texas Dallas East 
Of these eight missions, three are located in countries where the Church currently does not have a mission headquartered within the country (Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Tanzania). Today's announcement signals a major development with greater allocation of mission resources to receptive and under-serviced areas of the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, the creation of three of the new missions in Central/East Africa will coincide with the opening of the new Africa Central Area in August 2020.

The Brazil Recife South Mission will be organized from a division of the Brazil Recife Mission. It is unclear whether any additional missions will be involved with the creation of the new mission. There are 11 stakes in the Recife metropolitan area, and the current Brazil Recife Mission has 13 stakes and 1 district, and services most of Pernambuco State which has a population of 9.6 million people. The Brazil Recife Mission currently numbers among missions with the most stakes in all of Brazil. The Church has experienced slower growth in Recife than most missions in the Northeast of Brazil in the past two decades. For example, the most recently organized stake in the Recife metropolitan area was created in 2006. Once the new mission is organized, there will be 36 missions in Brazil - more missions than any other country outside of the United States.

The Church will be reestablishing the Cameroon Yaounde Mission in July. Cameroon has a population of 25.6 million as of July 2018. The Church originally created a mission in Cameroon back in 1992, but relocated the mission to Cote d'Ivoire in 1993. The Church in Cameroon has had a long history of being reassigned from mission to mission and has received little attention from mission and area presidencies in regards to the allocation of missionary resources. More specifically, Cameroon pertained to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan mission from 1993-2005, the Ghana Cape Coast Mission from 2005-approximately 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission from approximately 2008-2014, and the Republic of Congo Brazzaville Mission since 2014. The Church in Cameroon experienced stagnant growth from its initial establishment in the early 1990s until the early 2000s. However, growth rates have been high since the 2000s. Church membership in Cameroon totaled 155 in 2000, 374 in 2005, 1,003 in 2010, 1,480 in 2015, and 2,215 in 2018. Annual membership growth rates have generally exceeded 10% since the early 2000s. There are only two cities in Cameroon with an official Church presence (the first branch was created in Yaounde in the early 1990s, whereas the first branch in Douala was organized in 2004). In the 2010s, the Church has grown most rapidly in Yaounde, where the ninth branch in the city was recently organized.

The creation of the new mission in Cameroon has been desperately needed given the country's large population that has been chronically under-served by mission resources available. Tens of millions have never received mission outreach, including English-speaking areas in the highlands near Nigeria. The new mission will allow for the Church to expand into previously unreached areas. It is likely that the new mission will also include the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea for a total of 32.2 million people within the mission boundaries. Gabon appears most likely to remain assigned to the Republic of Congo Brazzaville Mission.

In 2018, the Church reported 7,903 members in the Republic of the Congo, 2,215 members in Cameroon, approximately 300 members in Gabon, and 239 members in the Central African Republic. There is no Church presence in Equatorial Guinea and likely fewer than 10 members in the country.

The Church will organize its fourth mission in Guayaquil in July. There are 17 stakes in the greater Guayaquil metropolitan area, two of which have been organized since 2017. The Church organized its first mission in Guayaquil in 1978, followed by two additional missions in 1991 and 2013. The Church in Guayaquil has experienced slow growth for most of the past two decades, with only four of the 17 stakes having been created since 2000. Nevertheless, reports from scores of local members in Guayaquil I have collected since approximately 2015 have noted that most wards in the city have 100-200 active members, and there has been a significant increase in the number of active members in most congregations for the past 20 years. Additionally, several new wards have been created in Guayaquil in 2019 to accommodate growing numbers of active members, particularly in northern areas of the city.

With the creation of the new mission, there will be six missions in Ecuador, with an average of 2.8 million people per mission.

The first mission of the Church in Ethiopia will be organized in July. With 108 million people, Ethiopia currently ranks as the country with the third largest population without its own mission, after Pakistan (208 million people) and Bangladesh (159 million people). The Church organized its first branch in Ethiopia in 1994 in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia originally pertained to the Kenya Nairobi Mission until it was assigned to the Uganda Kampala Mission when it was created in 2005. The Church has experienced inconsistent growth rates that have vacillated from stagnant to rapid growth. At year-end 2018, there were 1,933 members and four branches. Unlike most Sub-Saharan African countries, the Church in Ethiopia has significantly struggled with achieving steady, rapid growth and local leadership development. Furthermore, the Church in Ethiopia appears to experience the lowest member activity rate of any country on the continent. In contrast, other nontraditional, proselytizing-focused Christian denominations have achieved rapid, steady growth in Ethiopia. For example, at the end of 2018 Seventh-day Adventists reported approximately 185,000 members and Jehovah's Witnesses reported approximately 10,500 members.

There are several reasons for the lack of growth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ethiopia, such as translations of Church materials only in Amharic, infrequent visits from mission leaders based in other countries, significant challenges with young, full-time missionaries learning local languages, intermittent visa problems for foreign missionaries, negative societal views of the Church, a lack of teaching materials tailored to Orthodox Christians, and internal challenges with long-term convert retention and self-sufficient local leadership. The creation of the new mission will provide many opportunities to rectify these issues with greater mission president oversight and more mission resources allocated to this minimally reached East African country. Furthermore, the mission may also include neighboring Eritrea and Djibouti, which currently are not assigned to a full-time mission.

Perhaps the most surprising new mission announcement for 2020, the Mozambique Beira Mission will open in July from a division of the Mozambique Maputo Mission. South Africa is the only other country in the history of the Church in Africa that had its second mission organized with as few members of the Church as Mozambique at present (approximately 12,200 at year-end 2018). Generally, the Church in Africa does not organize a second mission in a country until there are at least 20,000 members of the Church and 70+ congregations. The Church created its first mission in Mozambique in 2005 from a division of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. The Mozambique Maputo Mission also administered Angola until 2013 when the Angola Luanda Mission was organized. The Mozambique Beira Mission will service northern areas of Mozambique, whereas the Mozambique Maputo Mission will service southern areas of the country. There are 27.2 million people in Mozambique.

The Church in Mozambique has undergone two periods of rapid growth, the first of which occurred in the early 2000s and the second of which has been ongoing since 2013. The Church in Mozambique has grown from 200 members in 1997 to 4,216 in 2007, to 10,835 in 2017. The most impressive recent growth developments in Mozambique have been the proliferation of stakes and congregations. The Church organized its first stake in Mozambique in Maputo in 2015, and there are currently four stakes and one district in the country. Growth in active membership and the number of new converts joining the Church in 2019 has reportedly accelerated in 2019, and the mission president earlier this year anticipated the organization of two additional stakes in the next year. Earlier this year, the Church noted that average sacrament meeting attendance in the country is nearly 70% - much higher than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most extreme examples of growth in Mozambique has been in the northern city of Nampula, where the number of branches increased from one in mid-2017 to six in March 2019. The creation of a second mission of the Church in Mozambique will allow for more penetrating outreach in the two most populous cities of Beira and Maputo, as well as expansion of the Church into additional areas.

The Church's first mission in Tanzania will be organized in the capital and most populous city of Dar Es Salaam, where the first branch in the country was organized in 1992. Tanzania has been minimally reached by the Church despite widespread religious freedom and a highly receptive population. As such, the Church reported only 1,726 members and six branches in the country as of year-end 2018, whereas the estimated population for Tanzania at the time was 55.5 million. The Kenya Nairobi Mission has administered Tanzania since the first branches were organized. Slow growth has generally occurred for the Church in Tanzania since its initial establishment. Most recently, the Church organized two new branches in Dar Es Salaam earlier this year - the first new branches created in the city in approximately 15 years. There are only three cities with a Church presence in Tanzania: Dar Es Salaam, Mwanza, and Arusha. Other proselytism-focused groups originally from North America, such as Seventh-day Adventists, report significant membership in Tanzania. Adventists reported nearly three-quarters of a million members in the country at the end of 2018. Jehovah's Witnesses maintain a more limited presence than Adventists, but nevertheless claim 18,705 active members organized into 455 congregations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tanzania switched its official language for the Church from English to Swahili in 2011, which reportedly made major improvements in the Church's outreach and functionality to meet local language needs. The new mission will undoubtedly permit greater allocation of mission resources and will likely permit the organization of congregations in additional cities.

The Church will create a new mission headquartered in Austin, Texas in July. The Texas Austin Mission will be organized from a division of the Texas San Antonio Mission and likely the Texas Fort Worth Mission. The new mission will probably include nine stakes in central Texas. The first stake in Austin was organized in 1973, and the most recently created stake was organized in September 2019.

The Church's third mission for the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area has been long overdue as significant growth in the number of active members, congregations, and stakes has occurred since the last new mission was organized in this urban agglomeration in 1986. The first mission was organized in Dallas in 1961 when there was only one stake in the metropolitan area. When the Texas Fort Worth Mission was organized in 1986, there were eight stakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Today, there are now 22 stakes in the metropolitan area. The most recently organized stake is the Little Elm Texas Stake, which was organized in August 2019.

With the creation of the two new missions, there will be 10 missions in Texas, with an average of 2.9 million people per mission. The number of missions in Texas will equal the number of missions in Utah - the state that currently has the second most missions of any state in the United States (California has the most with 15). However, Utah's population of 3.2 million is almost the size of the average population served by a mission in Texas. The most recently organized mission in Texas is the Texas Lubbock Mission, which was created in 2002. There are currently 77 stakes and 2 districts in Texas. At year-end 2018, there were 357,625 members and 698 congregations. Much of the Church's growth in Texas has been attributed to members from the Western United States who move to the state, albeit many Spanish-speakers have also joined the Church in the past several decades. These changes will result in the number of missions in the United States totaling 119.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Macau

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Macau. The Church has maintained a presence in Macau for over 40 years, but there remain less than 1,500 members organized into three branches today. Less than 20% of Church members appear to regularly attend Sunday meetings. Secularism, materialism, the gambling industry, and nominalism in traditional faiths are barriers for growth. See below for the Future Prospects section of the updated article:

The growth outlook over the foreseeable future appears mediocre due to the small community of active Latter-day Saints, low responsiveness of the population to the Church’s teachings, and the increasing influence of gambling and secularism on Macanese society. The operation of language-specific branches for English, Cantonese, and Mandarin speakers is meaningful and offers mission outreach support and infrastructure if the population one day becomes more receptive to Latter-day Saint teachings. Macau appears unlikely to become a stake for many years or decades until there are at least five, ward-sized congregations and 500 active members, whereas at present the Church appears only half-way in accomplishing this goal despite over forty years of outreach.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Hong Kong

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Hong Kong. The Church in Hong Kong experiences one of the lowest member activity rates in the world. Membership and congregational growth trends have most closely mirrored Western Europe, albeit nominal church membership accounts for a greater percentage of the population in Hong Kong than any Western European or Asian country except for the Philippines, Portugal, and Mongolia. Nevertheless, convert retention rates in the 2010s ranked among the highest in Asia based on reports from approximately one dozen returned missionaries who served in Hong Kong since 2010. Hong Kong boasts the fifth most stakes in Asia. See below for the Future Prospects section for this article:

Continued strong church participation and activity among church-going Latter-day Saints in Hong Kong has sustained leadership capable of meeting the responsibilities demanded by stakes, but extremely low member activity rates among the general Church membership threaten the stability of Cantonese wards due to comparatively few active members. Quick-baptize policies and practices and low standards for convert baptisms in previous decades have compromised the harvest of the China Hong Kong Mission and have fueled very low member activity rates at present despite significant improvements in convert retention rates in the 2010s. This has posed long-term challenges for strengthening the local church and has drained the resources of local congregations in efforts to reclaim less active and never-active members still on church rolls. Maintaining increased standards for convert baptism and emphasis on the need to develop consistent gospel habits will be key to the Church’s long-term prospects for real growth. Materialism and high cost of living have contributed to low birth rates among Latter-day Saints and exacerbate low receptivity. Local leaders stressing participation in seminary and institute may help address retention and member inactivity issues by providing opportunities for less active members and new converts to socially integrate with active membership and strengthen their testimonies and doctrinal understanding.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Armenia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Armenia. As I noted in a post several years ago, the Church in Armenia holds the distinction as the only former Soviet republic to have had a stake discontinued, which was primarily due to local leadership development problems and the mishandling of finances. Additionally, the Church in Armenia also struggles from very low member activity rates due to quick-baptism tactics implemented in the 2000s when the bulk of Church membership joined the Church. Convert retention has markedly improved in the 2010s due to changes in mission policies, albeit the number of converts who join the Church has significantly decreased. No other nation in the Middle East or Caucasus has as many members, congregations, and missionaries as Armenia. Moreover, no other nation in the region has Church congregations as accessible to the population as Armenia. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

Emigration of Armenian Church members and low member activity rates stunt greater church growth. Continued and consistent implementation of appropriate pre-baptismal preparation is necessary to break low retaining patterns of the past and foster long-term indigenous growth, and retain a Church presence in cities where congregations have been organized. Greater member-missionary efforts will be required to expand national outreach and organize additional congregations. The greatest opportunities for growth appear to exist in the Yerevan metropolitan area, where the Church has discontinued several branches in the past decade to consolidate active membership into congregations with larger numbers of active members. A stake in Yerevan may be reestablished once local leadership has been adequately self-sufficient and accountable to warrant these responsibilities.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Republic of Georgia

Click here to access the updated country profile for the Republic of Georgia. Georgia is located in the Caucasus between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The Church organized its first branch in 2002 and assigned the first full-time missionaries in 2006. Georgia stands as the quintessential example of delays with the translation of Church materials and scriptures into the local language that have had deleterious efforts on growth. It was not until 2018 that the Book of Mormon was translated into Georgian, and this translation remains available only in digital format. The Church reports fewer than 300 members in the country. Significant problems with member attrition and a lack of self-sufficiency in the local Church have also occurred, particularly in the late 2000s when the war with Russia prompted the removal of full-time missionaries for several months. Nevertheless, major improvements with member activity and leadership development have occurred in the past couple years as attested by the number of active members doubling (without noticeable increase in total church membership), the reestablishment of a second branch in Tbilisi, and local members serving as branch presidents for both Tbilisi branches. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

Opportunities for expanding national outreach and proselytism remain abundant. Significant improvements have occurred for the Church in the past decade that suggest better prospects for future growth. Notable examples include improvements in religious freedom, success with strengthening membership in Tbilisi to the point that a second branch has been organized and both branches are led by local members, the translation of additional church materials and the Book of Mormon into Georgian, and the sustained operation of the member group in Rustavi. Prospects appear favorable for the organization of additional branches or member groups in lesser-reached areas of Tbilisi, as well as in additional cities. The member group in Rustavi may become a branch once there are a sufficient number of active members to fill essential callings. Negative social attitudes concerning nontraditional religious groups will likely continue to affect most Georgian’s perception of the Church. Missionary programs targeting youth may help Georgia to send more missionaries who can later return and serve in leadership positions. Self-sufficiency of the Church in Georgia remains a concern given the significant setbacks experienced in the late 2000s following the removal of foreign, full-time missionaries.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Pakistan

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Pakistan. In comparison to the population, the Church in Pakistan has grown much more rapidly than in neighboring India. There are approximately 5,000 Latter-day Saints in Pakistan organized into 14 branches and three districts. The first stakes in Pakistan will likely be organized in the next five years. The Islamabad Pakistan District has almost reached 2,000 members. Missionary efforts occur solely among non-Muslims, particularly Pakistani Christians. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Reliance on local members and church leaders to meet missionary and ecclesiastical needs has promoted moderate retention and member activity as well as generating ongoing growth. However, limited numbers of Pakistanis who serve full-time missions pose a significant barrier for greater expansion and growth as current levels are unable to adequately staff local needs. There also appears a need for greater training and oversight of congregations to help improve member-missionary participation, fellowshipping of less-active and inactive members, and the quality of organization and leadership in some locations. The greatest challenge that will need to be resolved is to permit the organization of additional branches and member groups in cities where no branches currently operate without the foreign mission president directly visiting these locations. Use of district leadership to accomplish these needs appears the most feasible method to expand outreach. Local members note there are many who live in these locations and have requested the Church’s establishment in their area. Cities that appear most likely to have a Church presence established in the near future include Hyderabad and Multan. Prospects appear favorable for continued growth among Christians, although there are no present prospects for expansion among Pakistani Muslims. Districts headquartered in Islamabad and Lahore appear likely to become stakes within the foreseeable future. A mission based in Pakistan seems unlikely until greater religious tolerance from government occurs, or there is a sustained increase in the number of Pakistani members who serve full-time missions.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Stakes Likely to Split Outside the United States and Canada - November 2019 Edition

Below is an updated list of stakes that may split within the near future. Previous lists are available for December 2012, January 2014, December 2014, November 2015, November 2016, and December 2017. Many of these stakes do not have the adequate number of congregations to divide on their own to create a second stake. However, the Church often organizes new wards immediately before or after the organization of a new stake. Also, the Church often creates stakes from the division of two or more stakes in an specific area.

  • Aba Nigeria North (10 wards, 4 branches)
  • Abak Nigeria (9 wards, 1 branch)  
  • Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire Niangon North (10 wards)
  • Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire Niangon South (12 wards)
  • Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire Yopougon Attie (10 wards)
  • Antananarivo Madagascar Ivandry (9 wards, 3 branches)
  • Ashaiman Ghana (11 wards, 3 branches)
  • Benin City Nigeria Ugbowo (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • Benin City Nigeria New Benin (8 wards, 6 branches) 
  • Benin City Nigeria Oregbeni (9 wards, 2 branches)
  • Brazzaville Republic of Congo (10 wards)
  • Cape Coast Ghana (9 wards, 4 branches)
  • Cocody Cote d'Ivoire (12 wards, 2 branches)
  • Dokui Cote d'Ivoire (11 wards)
  • Eket Nigeria (10 wards, 4 branches) 
  • Gaborone Botswana (9 wards, 2 branches)
  • Grand-Bassam Cote d'Ivoire (13 wards, 2 branches)
  • Ikot Ekpene Nigeria (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Katoka DR Congo (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Kumasi Ghana Asokwa (11 wards, 6 branches)
  • Kumasi Ghana Bantama (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Kumasi Ghana Dichemso (9 wards, 4 branches)
  • Lagos Nigeria Egbeda (10 wards)
  • Lagos Nigeria Ojodu (9 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Lagos Nigeria Yaba (10 wards) 
  • Likasi DR Congo (11 wards, 5 branches)
  • Luputa DR Congo (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Mbuji-Mayi DR Congo (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Monrovia Liberia Bushrod Island (11 wards, 1 branch)
  • Onitsha Nigeria (10 wards, 4 branches)
  • Port-Bouet Cote d'Ivoire (10 wards, 2 branches)
  • Port Elizabeth South Africa (9 wards, 3 branches)
  • Tema Ghana (11 wards)
  • Warri Nigeria (14 wards, 2 branches)
  • Ukat Aran Nigeria  (11 wards, 2 branches)
  • Yamoransa Ghana (9 wards, 5 branches)
  • Yamoussoukro Cote d'Ivoire (9 wards, 2 branches)
  • Jakarta Indonesia (9 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Bacoor Philippines (9 wards)
  • Butuan Philippines (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Iloilo Philippines North (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Mandaue Philippines (10 wards)
  • Novaliches Philippines (9 wards)
  • Valenzuela Philippines (9 wards)
  • Mazatenango Guatemala (11 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Apia Samoa Central (9 wards)
  • Faaa Tahiti (10 wards)
  • Ha'apai Tonga (9 wards, 5 branches) 
  • Pago Pago Samoa (9 wards, 3 branches)
  • Upolu Samoa East (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Upolu Samoa Nu'umau (9 wards)
  • Upolu Samoa Saleilua (12 wards)
  • Belém Brazil (9 wards)
  • Belém Brazil Icoaraci (10 wards) 
  • Curitiba Brazil  Boa Vista (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Curitiba Brazil Jardim do Sol (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Curitiba Brazil Luz (9 wards, 1 branch)
  • Curitiba Brazil Novo Mundo (9 wards) 
  • Diadema Brazil (9 wards)
  • Esmeraldas Ecuador (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Joao Pessoa Brazil Rangel (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Palmas Brazil (9 wards, 2 branches) 
  • Ponta Grossa Brazil Campos Gerais (9 wards)
  • Pucallpa Peru (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • Quito Ecuador Calderon (10 wads, 1 branch)
  • Rio Branco Brazil (10 wards, 1 branch) 
  • Santa Maria Brazil (10 wards, 1 branch)
  • São José Brazil (9 wards, 2 branches)
  • São Paulo Brazil Casa Grande (9 wards)
  • São Paulo Brazil Guarapiranga (10 wards) 
  • Sao Paulo Brazil Sao Miguel Paulista (9 wards)
  • Vale do Itajai Brazil (10 wards, 1 branch)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Mormon Land Podcast - Review of Church Growth and Survey Data

Yesterday I participated in a podcast with the Salt Lake Tribute's series, Mormon Land, to discuss the findings of the survey data I presented last month at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in St. Louis, Missouri. This podcast mainly reviews overall growth trends in the Church and by world region, as well as highlights from areas where the most rapid or most slow/stagnant growth occurs. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 2019 Monthly Newsletter

Click here to access the October 2019 monthly newsletter for www.cumorah.com.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Laos

Click here to access the updated country profile for Laos. The Church in Laos has numbered among the most successful among Asian nations with significant government restrictions on religious freedom. There are two branches in Vientiane and converts regularly join the Church. Convert retention and member activity rates have been consistently good. The Church has also made good progress translating Church materials and scriptures into Lao. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Government restricts international missionary outreach, requiring local members to be self-sufficient in ecclesiastical duties and member-missionary work. This has led to intimate involvement of Laotian members in missionary work, and has yielded good convert retention and member activity rates. The two Vientiane branches appear likely to become wards if the Udorn Thailand District becomes a stake. Government recognition may occur in the near future, which would permit the publication of the meetinghouse location in Vientiane. However, government recognition does not appear to currently provide any other benefits to the Church in Laos in regards to proselytism freedoms or expansion into additional cities. Returned missionaries present good leadership development prospects as long as these members do not emigrate. Growth in membership on the outskirts of Vientiane may result in the formation of groups or small branches to serve members in these locations if permitted by government officials. Members who relocate to other cities in the country may also permit the expansion of the Church.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

SSSR Presentation

See below to access my SSSR presentation, entitled: International Saints Missiological Survey (ISMS) of over 6,500 Latter-day Saints, 2012-2019: Key Findings and Analysis.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

First City in Interior Benin Has Branch Organized

For the first time in Church history in the West African country of Benin, a branch has been organized in the interior of the country. The new branch was organized in the city of Bohicon, the seventh most populous city in the country with approximately 100,000 inhabitants. Since the organization of the first branch in Benin in 2005 (the Cotonou Branch), all other cities with congregations have been on the Atlantic coast, including Calavi (organized in 2014), Port Novo (2014), and Hilacondji (2017). Missionaries first began visiting Bohicon to investigate opportunities to organize a member group and teach isolated members and prospective members in 2017. The organization of the new branch is a major development for the Church in Benin as the Church has maintained an extremely limited national presence limited to a few cities along the Atlantic Coast.

See below for a map of Latter-day Saint congregations in Benin:

Sunday, October 20, 2019

New Stakes Created in Alabama, Australia, Brazil, DR Congo, Mozambique, and Peru

The Church organized a new stake in Alabama on September 22nd. The Gadsden Alabama Stake was organized from a division of the Birmingham Alabama Stake and the Madison Alabama Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards and two branches: the Anniston, Attalla, Gadsden, Guntersville, Leeds, and Trussville Wards, and the Locust Fork and Talladega Branches. The new stake is the Church's eighth stake to be created in Alabama, where the first stake was organized in 1968. Prior to the creation of the Gadsden Alabama Stake, the last time a new stake was organized in Alabama was in Madison in 2011.

The Church organized a new stake today in rural Victoria and New South Wales. The Wangaratta Australia District was organized into the Riverena Australia Stake. The former district had eight branches, and most of these branches have appeared to become wards. Australian members report that this is the first "rural" stake to be organized in Australia as there are no cities within the boundaries of the new stake that appear to have more than 100,000 inhabitants. However, the Devonport Australia Stake in Tasmania also does not have any cities with more than 100,000 people within its boundaries. The Wangaratta Australia District was one of the oldest districts in the worldwide Church, as the district was originally organized in 1890.

There are now 42 stakes and 7 districts in Australia.

The Church organized a new stake in Sao Paulo State on October 13th. The Piracicaba Brazil Rezende Stake was organized from a division of the Piracicaba Brazil Stake and the Rio Claro Brazil Stake. The new stake includes the following seven wards: the Limeira, Nova Itália, Parque das Nações, Piracicaba 2nd, Piracicaba 4th, São Pedro, and Vila Sônia Wards. The new stake includes wards based in three cities: Limeira (3), Piracicaba (3), and São Pedro (1).

There are now 276 stakes and 39 districts in Brazil.

DR Congo
The Church organized a new stake in the DR Congo on September 22nd. The Kolwezi Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake was organized from the Kolwezi Democratic Republic of the Congo District. All seven branches in the former district were organized into wards. The seven wards in the new stake are the Dilala, Diur, Kasulo, Kolwezi 1st, Kolwezi 2nd, Manika, and Mutoshi Wards. The Church organized the Kolwezi Democratic Republic of the Congo District in 1991 as Kolwezi was one of the first cities in the DR Congo to have a Church presence established. However, political instability and war resulted in significant setbacks for the Church as many members moved to more stable areas of the country in the late 1990s and 2000s. The Church has since experienced steady growth in Kolwezi for approximately the past 5-6 years.

There are now 22 stakes and 1 district in the DR Congo. The lack of districts in the DR Congo is indicative of the Church's very conservative "centers of strength" model being implemented, as well as high member activity rates in cities with a Church presence that has permitted the rapid organization of stakes in most areas with adequate numbers of congregations and members. Nevertheless, several additional districts appear likely to be organized in the near future in Fungurume, Kisangani, Matadi, and Uvira.

The Church organized a new stake in the Maputo metropolitan area on September 22nd. The Matola Mozambique Stake was organized from a division of the Maputo Mozambique Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Liberdade, Matola, Mozal, Ndlavela, and T-3 Wards, and the Beluluane Branch. The new stake is the Church's second stake in the Maputo metropolitan area, and the Church's fourth stake in Mozambique. The Church organized its first stake in Mozambique in Maputo in February 2015.

There are now four stakes and one district in Mozambique.

The Church organized a new stake in Lambayeque Region on October 13th. The Chiclayo Perú Federico Villarreal Stake was organized from the Chiclayo Peru Stake, Chiclayo Peru Central Stake, Chiclayo Peru El Dorado Stake, and the Chiclayo Peru Latina Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Chiclayo Central 1st, Federico Villarreal, Los Artesanos, Moshoqueque, and Santa Victoria Wards. Chiclayo is Peru's fourth most populous city with approximately 600,000 inhabitants. There are now seven stakes in the greater Chiclayo metropolitan area. Chiclayo is the most populous city, and the city with the most stakes in Peru, without a temple.

There are now 111 stakes and 18 districts in Peru.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sneak Peak at Presentation for SSSR Conference in St. Louis, Missouri

Next week I will be presenting at the annual SSSR conference in St. Louis, Missouri as part of the Variable Patterns of International Growth in Twenty-first Century Mormonism. I will be part of presentations on Friday, October 25th from 3:00-4:30 PM. The SSSR schedule can be found here.

I have been busily analyzing the 6,816 survey responses included in this comprehensive analysis on church growth in preparation for my presentation, which will cover convert retention rates, member activity rates, church growth trends, and other relevant statistics and data in regards to tracking church growth. One of the pieces of data I will present at the conference is the below table, which includes an agglomeration of convert retention one year after baptism estimates given by 3,565 surveys completed by returned missionaries from August 11th, 2012 until October 13th, 2019. the vast majority of individuals who completed the survey served full-time missions after 2010. Fascinatingly, there is no significant difference in convert retention rates for missions outside of the United States versus inside the United States (49% and 50%, respectively). Also many of the lowest baptizing missions have the highest estimated convert retention rates one year after baptism, such as in Eastern Europe. However, many of the qualitative responses to survey questions indicate that convert retention 1-4 years after baptism has been a bigger challenge than retention within the first 12 months after membership in the Church.


Central Eurasian
DR Congo
Cote d’Ivoire
French Polynesia
Hong Kong
Adriatic South
Sierra Leone
South Africa
New Zealand
El Salvador
Marshall Islands/Kiribati
Trinidad and Tobago
Adriatic North
Dominican Republic
Cape Verde
Costa Rica
Puerto Rico