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.