Sunday, June 30, 2019

New Stakes Created in the Philippines (2), Dominican Republic, Florida, Nigeria, and Peru

Dominican Republic
The Church organized a new stake in Santo Domingo on June 9th. The Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Duarte Stake was created from a division of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic San Geronimo Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Las Esperanza, La Yuca, Los Angeles, Los Girasoles, Pantoja 1st, and Pantoja 2nd Wards. The new stake is the Church's 14th stake in the greater Santo Domingo metropolitan area.

There are now 21 stakes and nine districts in the Dominican Republic.

The Church organized a new stake in central Florida on June 30th. The Ocala Florida Stake was organized from a division of the Gainesville Florida Stake and the Lessburg Florida Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards and two branches: the Belleview, Lecanto, Ocala 1st, Ocala 2nd, and Williston Wards, and the Cross City and Ocala 3rd (Spanish) Branches.

There are now 33 stakes in Florida.

The Church organized a new stake in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) on June 23rd. The Abuja Nigeria Wuse Stake was organized from a division of the Abuja Nigeria South Stake (renamed Abuja Nigeria Lugbe Stake). The new stake includes the following seven wards and three branches: the Asokoro, Jikwoyi, Karu, Masaka, Mpape, Nyanya, and Wuse Wards, and the GRA, New Nyanya, and Orozo Branches. Additionally, the Abuja Nigeria North Stake was realigned with the Abuja Nigeria Lugbe Stake and renamed the Abuja Nigeria Kubwa Stake. The Church has achieved rapid growth in Abuja during the past decade. The original Abuja Nigeria Stake was created in 2012 followed by a second stake in 2016. Stakes in Abuja and the Jos Nigeria District, along with most of northern Nigeria, were recently reassigned from the Nigeria Enugu Mission to the Nigeria Lagos Mission.

There are now 58 stakes and 18 districts in Nigeria.

The Church organized a new stake in Lima, Perú on June 30th. The Lima Perú Naranjal Stake was organized from a division of the Lima Perú Los Olivos Stake and Lima Perú El Olivar Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Canta Callao, Huandoy, Los Próceres, Márquez, Naranjal, and Oquendo Wards. The Church has organized several new wards in this area of the Lima metropolitan area within the past 1-2 years. The new stake is also nearby the site for the new Lima Perú Los Olivos Temple. There are now 48 stakes in the Lima metropolitan area.

There are now 109 stakes and 18 districts in Peru.

The Church organized at least three new stakes in the Philippines.

The Orion Philippines Stake was organized on June 23rd from the Orion Philippines District (organized in 1988). All five branches in the former district were advanced into wards, including the Cabcaben, Limay, Mariveles Bataan, Orion, and Pilar Branches. Local members report that the district worked for at least two years updating membership records and as a result of removing deceased members or the records for members who had moved away, the district has recently qualified to become a stake. More specifically, there must be certain ratios of active, full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders to total membership in each unit (one per less than 25 members). Additionally, two additional congregations will likely be organized soon as a result of recent increases in church attendance and leadership maturation.

The Iriga Philippines Stake was organized on June 23rd from the Iriga Philippines District (organized in 1992). The new stake includes the following five wards, two branches, and two member groups: the Bato, Buhi, Iriga 1st, Iriga 2nd, and Iriga 3rd Wards, the Baao and Cotnogan Branches, and the Ibayugan and Nabua Groups. Also, member reports indicate one additional stake was organized in the Philippines in June albeit it is unclear where this new stake was organized.

With the Orion Philippines Stake and Iriga Philippines Stake, there are now 113 stakes and 64 districts in the Philippines

Friday, June 28, 2019

Creation of the Africa Central Area Announced

Today the Church announced the creation of the Africa Central Area, effective August 2020. The new area will be organized from a division of the Africa Southeast Area, which includes countries from Sudan in the north to South Africa in the south, and countries from Mauritius in the east to Cameroon and the Central African Republic to the west. Information on what countries will be assigned to the new area has yet to be released, albeit it appears most likely that the area will include countries from Sudan in the north to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) and Tanzania in the south, to Somalia in the east and Cameroon to the west. Kinshasa, DR Congo appears the logical headquarters for the Africa Central Area as it is the city with the most stakes (11) in Central Africa and East Africa where the only operating temple is located in these region (one temple is also announced for Nairobi, Kenya). The DR Congo is also the country in the region with the largest population with 85 million people, suggesting that placement of area headquarters in this nation would provide for more resources allocated to this area where rapid Church growth has consistently occurred since the Church's initial establishment in the mid-1980s. The establishment of the new area will provide for significant increases in resources to this region of Africa in regards to manpower, financial resources, and attention by international Church leaders regarding missionary work and outreach expansion.

The Africa Central Area will be the Church's third Africa-based area of the Church. The Church organized the Africa Area in 1990 (later renamed Africa Southeast) followed by the Africa West Area in 1998. North Africa was assigned to the Middle East/Africa North Area upon its creation in 2008. Additionally, it appears highly likely that the Church will organize a Nigeria Area in the foreseeable. The Church has reported its most rapid growth in Africa in West Africa during the past decade. Currently, the Church in Nigeria is approaching 200,000 members, 700 congregations (wards and branches), 58 stakes, 18 districts, seven missions, and two temples (one announced, one in operation).

Thursday, June 20, 2019

New Stakes Created in Peru (2), Liberia, and Brazil; New Districts Created in Canada, Kiribati, Nigeria, and Uganda; Stake Discontinued in California; District Discontinued in Uruguay

Two new stakes were organized in Peru.

The Tarapoto Peru Stake was organized from the Tarapoto Peru District on June 16th. All five branches in the former district appear to have become wards in the new stake. These branches include the Aeropuerto, Partido Alto, Shilcayo, Tarapoto, and Yurimaguas Branches. The original Tarapoto Peru District was organized in 1990. The new stake is the Church's first stake in San Martín Region which is inhabited by over 800,000 people.

The Lima Peru Miramar Stake was organized from the Lima Peru Puente Piedra Stake and the Ventanilla Peru Stake on June 16th. Information on which congregations assigned to the new stake remains unavailable. There are now 47 stakes in the Lima metropolitan area.

There are now 108 stakes and 18 districts in Peru.

The Church organized a new stake in Monrovia, Liberia on June 16th. The Gardnesville Liberia Stake was organized from a division of the Caldwell Liberia Stake and the Monrovia Liberia Stake. Information on which wards pertain to the new stake remains unavailable. There are now five stakes in Liberia - all of which are located in Monrovia. The Monrovia Liberia Bushrod Island Stake currently has 11 wards and one branch and appears likely to divide in the near future. The Church has experienced unprecedented growth in Liberia during the past five years as the Church has grown from three districts to five stakes and one district, the number of congregations has increased from 24 to 52, and the number of members has increased from 8,929 to more than 13,275 at present.

The Church organized a new stake in western São Paulo Brazil. The Ribeirão Preto Brazil South Stake was organized on June 9th. The new stake was organized from a division of the Ribeirão Preto Brazil West Stake, which had 11 wards prior to the creation of the new stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Bebedouro, Jaboticabal, Jardim Iraga, Parque Ribeirão Preto, and Vila Virginia Wards. There are now three stakes in Ribeirão Preto. The Church used to operate four stakes in the city between 1993 and 2001. There has been good progress in the past five years with the creation of new wards and steady increases in the number of active members in the city to the point that a third stake was able to be organized. Unlike the 19990s, wards in the city appear to have an average number of active members for Brazil (i.e. 50-150 per ward), whereas wards in the city appeared to have few active members during the 1990s (likely between 25 and 75).

There are now 274 stakes and 39 districts in Brazil.

he Church reinstated a district for Newfoundland and Labrador. The Newfoundland and Labrador District was created from three mission branches in the Canada Halifax Mission: the Bay Roberts, Corner Brook, and St. John's Branches. A member group also appears to operate in Gander. The district operated many years ago and appeared to be discontinued in the early 2000s.
There are now 51 stakes and four districts in Canada.

The Church organized a new district in western Kenya. The Kisumu Kenya District was created from the Kisumu Branch. Three new branches were also organized the same day that the district was created, including the Kisumu 2nd, Luanda, and Nyabondo Branches. Member groups appeared to operate in Luanda and Nyabondo prior to the creation of these branches. In fact, the member group operated in Nyabondo for perhaps as long as eight or nine years before it became a branch. A member group may also continue to operate in Sondu. This is the second district organized in Kenya in 2019, with the first district created this year being the Kitale Kenya District.

There are now two stakes and six districts in Kenya.

The Church organized a new district in Kiribati on June 11th. The Southern Kiribati District was organized from eight mission branches in the southern islands of Kiribati. These branches include the Buariki, Buraitan, Kabuna, Matang, Muribenua, Nuka, Tekaman, and Utiora Branches. Of these eight branches, five have been organized since the beginning of 2019. The islands of Tabiteuea, Beru, Nikunau, Nonouti and Onotoa are included in the new district. The Church once used to operate a district for outer islands in Kiribati outside of Tarawa Atoll that was organized in the mid-1990s and included islands north of Tarawa, but the Church closed the district in 2006. The Church has reported rapid growth in these southern outer islands as indicated by Church-reported statistics and government census records from the most recent census in 2015. Some islands in this region of Kiribati have had the number of census-reported members increase from less than five to as many as 40-50 within a five-year time period. Also, most recent figures reported in Church Newsroom articles indicate that membership in Kiribati has surpassed 22,000. If this is accurate, membership has increased by approximately 10% within the first six months of 2019. The recent success of the Church in Kiribati points to the importance of consistently expanding missionary outreach into previously unreached areas to achieve greater growth.

There are now two stakes and three districts in Kiribati.

A new district was organized in Delta State on June 16th. The Sapele Nigeria District was organized from three mission branches within the Sapele metropolitan area. A fourth branch was also organized the same day the district was organized. The first branch in Sapele was organized in 2014 followed by additional branches created in 2015 and 2018. The new district includes the following four branches: the Jesse, Oghara 1st, Oghara 2nd, and the Sapele Branches.

There are now 57 stakes and 18 districts in Nigeria.

The Church organized a new district in Uganda on June 16th. The Gulu Uganda District is the Church's first district to ever operate in northern Uganda. The new district is within the homeland of the Acholi people. The new district was created from two missions branches and a third branch organized on the same day as the new district. The new district includes the following three branches: the Bardege, Gulu, and Pece Branches. Significant progress has occurred in the past three years with increases in active membership and strengthening local leadership that has permitted the organization of a third branch and a district in Gulu.

There are now three stakes and three districts in Uganda. All three districts in Uganda have been organized since the beginning of 2019.

The Church discontinued a stake in southern California. The Torrance California Stake was discontinued and two of the six wards assigned to the former stake were closed. Retained wards were reassigned to the Palos Verdes California Stake. Active membership has steadily moved away for this area of California over the past two decades, necessitating the closure of the stake and multiple congregations.

There are now 153 stakes in California

The Church discontinued a district in southeastern Uruguay. The Rocha Uruguay District was discontinued and two of the three branches in the former district were closed (Castillos and La Paloma). The Church has reported essentially stagnant growth in this area of Uruguay for many years. The decision to discontinue the district and close these branches appears due to few active members in the district and plans to have the sole remaining branch, the Rocha Branch, become a ward as the congregation was reassigned to the nearby Maldonado Uruguay Stake. At most recent report, the Rocha Branch had approximately 100 active members.

There are now 18 stakes and two districts in Uruguay.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Updated Country Profile - Federated States of Micronesia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for the Federated States of Micronesia. The Church has reported moderate growth in the country since its initial establishment in the mid-1970s. Today, Church-reported membership constitutes six percent of the national population. Since 2000, the greatest growth and progress has occurred in Pohnpei where the first stake in the country was organized in 2014 despite only four branches on the island in 2000 (today there are five wards and four branches). The Church in Chuuk has reported inconsistent progress and no new branches organized since the mid-1990s. However, the Church has tried for many years to strengthen the Church in Chuuk to organize a stake in the foreseeable future. See below for the future prospects section of the article:

The Church has achieved moderate growth in the Federal States of Micronesia despite high church activity and discipleship in other Christian denominations. Much of this growth has come with the Church concentrating large amounts of missionary resources on a nation with a small population that has been historically receptive to Christianity, and the greatest recent successes have been overwhelmingly concentrated on Pohnpei. Receptivity of the Church has varied by island group in recent years, with Pohnpei exhibiting the strongest receptivity and church growth as evidenced by the number of congregations increasing from four to nine since 2000, and other island groups showing little or no growth. Self-sustaining church growth in the coming decades will require less reliance on foreign full-time missionaries in an era of limited missionary manpower to staff island nations of just a hundred thousand like Micronesia. Consistent increase in the number of priesthood holders and the development of fully functioning branches entirely staffed by local members will be required for the district in Chuuk to become a stake over the medium term. Congregation planting approaches in Chuuk and on Pohnpei may lead to greater increases in active membership and national outreach. The few congregations on Yap and Kosrae make branches vulnerable to dissolution unless active members do not emigrate and active membership remains stable or increases. Outreach in the outer islands such as Mortlock Islands, Namonuito Atoll, Nomwin Atoll, Pulusuk, Ulithi Atoll, and Woleai Atoll may occur in the foreseeable future if primarily headed by local church leaders and mission leadership. However, many of these remote, sparsely populated islands will likely remain unreached for years or decades to come if any Church presence is established at all one day.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

New Stakes Created in the Philippines (2), Utah (2), Argentina, and Mexico; Stakes Discontinued in Chile (3) and Taiwan

The Church has organized two new stakes in the Philippines.

The Baliwag Philippines Stake was organized from the Baliwag Philippines District. Organized in 2004, the former district had five branches at the time it became a stake on May 26th. All five branches appear to have become wards in the new stake.

Today (June 9th), the Church organized a new stake from a division of the Lipa Philippines Stake (organized in 2001). The Batangas Philippines Stake includes the following five wards and one branch: the Batangas 1st, Batangas 2nd, Bauan, Rosario, and San Jose Batangas Wards, and the Ibaan Branch.

Additionally, the Church is scheduled to organize at least three more new stakes in the Philippines before the end of the month. Two of these stakes will be located in Iriga and Orion. I have not yet been able to confirm the location of the other new stake to be organized.

Currently, there are 111 stakes and 66 districts in the Philippines.

The Church organized its fifth Tongan-speaking stake in Utah on May 19th. The Orem Utah 2nd (Tongan) Stake was organized from a division of the Provo Utah Wasatch (Tongan) Stake (renamed Provo Utah 1st (Tongan) Stake. The new stake includes the following eight wards and one branch: the American Fork 2nd Ward (Tongan), Eagle Mountain 13th Ward (Tongan), Eagle Mountain 14th Ward (Samoan), Lehi 41st Ward (Tongan), Lehi 42nd Wad (Samoan), Orem 8th Ward (Tongan), Orem 13th Ward (Samoan), and Pleasant Grove 10th Ward (Samoan), and the Saratoga Springs 12th Branch (Tongan). It is unclear why the Church did not organize a Samoan-speaking stake instead of a second Tongan-speaking stake, albeit Tongan and Samoan-speaking units are often included in the same stakes in the United States.

The Nibley Utah West Stake was organized from a division of the Nibley Utah Stake. The new stake includes the following six wards: the Nibley 6th, Nibley 7th, Nibley 8th, Nibley 9th, Nibley 10th, and Nibley 12th Wards.

There are now 602 stakes and one district in Utah.

The Church organized a new stake in southern Argentina on June 2nd. The Tierra del Fuego Argentina Stake was organized from the Tierra del Fuego Argentina District. The new stake includes the following five wards and two branches: the Andino, Austral, Chacra, Monte Olivia, and Ushuaia Wards, and the Puerto Williams and Rio Grande Branches. Church leaders have prepared the district for many years to become a stake. For example, in 2014 the Church discontinued the Ushuaia Argentina District and combined it with the Rio Grande Argentina District to prepare the southernmost region of Argentina for a stake. With two stakes in the Tierra del Fuego region of South America (the other located in Punta Arenas, Chile), prospects appear favorable for a small temple in this isolated region of the world.

There are now 78 stakes and 28 districts in Argentina.

The Church organized a new stake in Puebla, Mexico on June 2nd. The Puebla México Ometoxtla Stake was organized from a division of the Puebla Mexico Cholula Stake and Tlaxcala Mexico Stake. The new stake includes the following five wards: the Almecatla 1st, Almecatla 2nd, Coronango, La Joya, and Ometoxtla Wards, and the Xoxtla Branch. The new stake is the Church's third new stake organized in the greater Puebla city area during the past decade. Unlike other major cities in Mexico, the Church in Puebla has reported steady congregational growth and no discontinued stakes. The Church announced a temple for Puebla in 2018.

There are now 221 stakes and 47 districts in Mexico.

Local members in Santiago report that three stakes were discontinued on June 2nd. These stakes include the Santiago Chile Gran Avenida Stake (organized in 1993), Santiago Chile Las Araucarias Stake (organized in 1995), and Santiago Chile O'Higgins Stake (organized in 1992). Unlike other areas of Santiago, the Church in southern Santiago has struggled with very low member activity rates for many years without noticeable success with improving church attendance. It is unclear how many wards were discontinued as part of the changes, but perhaps as many as 10-20 wards were closed in the process of the stake consolidations. Other areas of Santiago reported average-sized church attendance for South America (generally 75-150 active members) with some improvements in increasing church attendance in recent years. The decision to close these three stakes in southern Santiago does not appear related to any recent church growth developments, but rather a long overdue administration change in an area where mission and stake efforts to revitalize missionary work have been unproductive. Additionally, local members noted concerns with socialization problems at church in some units affected by the changes due to few active members. Several church meetinghouses will be sold due to these changes. This marks the first time since 2005 that a stake has been discontinued in Chile.

There are now 74 stakes and 16 districts in Chile.

For the first time in Church history, the Church has discontinued a stake in Taiwan. The Pingtung Taiwan Stake, organized in 2010, was discontinued and retained units were combined with the two Kaohsiung stakes. Southernmost Taiwan has struggled for many years with lower activity rates and a greater lack of church growth compared to other cities in Taiwan. These changes appeared associated with a lack of growth since the Kaohsiung Taiwan North Stake was organized in 2015, and problems associated with stakes and wards running with fewer than the minimum number of active members needed to properly operate. The Asia Area appeared to make an emphasis about five years ago to organize wards with fewer active members, likely in an effort to reduce travel times and assist in reactivation efforts (such as in Hong Kong). Additional ward and stake consolidations may occur in other areas of Taiwan, albeit reports from return missionaries indicate wards with more active members and with better growth trends in other major cities such as Taichung and Taipei compared to Kaohsiung. Thus, it appears more likely that some additional ward consolidations may occur if the Asia Area is placing an emphasis on the establishment of wards with larger numbers of active members. However, the greatest impact on recent church growth trends in Taiwan is a significant reduction in membership growth rates during the past five years to only 1-2% a year versus 3-10% a year in the 2000s. The Church in Taiwan has also historically struggled with very low member activity rates, which delayed the establishment of stakes in several areas of the country.

There are now 16 stakes in Taiwan.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Updated Country Profile - American Samoa

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for American Samoa. Unlike other nontraditional Christian denominations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in American Samoa has achieved steady, significant growth in recent years. The Church reports more than 16,000 members, five stakes, 43 congregations, and one announced temple despite a tiny population of only 50,000. There are only sixteen villages where the Church does not operate a ward or branch specific for these villages. As much as 95% of the population appears reached by the Church.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

May 2019 Newsetter

Click here to access our May 2019 newsletter for detailing recent Church growth developments and updated resources on our website.