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.