Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 Cumorah.com Newsletter

Click here to obtain a copy of the June 2020 newsletter for www.cumorah.com.

Monday, June 29, 2020

New District in Albania

Last Sunday, the Church organized a new district in Albania. The Elbasan Albania District was organized from the Tirana Albania Stake and several mission branches in the Adriatic South Mission. The new district includes the following six branches: the Berat, Elbasan, Fier, Korçë, Lushnjë, and Pogradec Branches. Of these six branches, three have been organized within the past year. The Church has reported good growth in the recently organized Korçë and Pogradec Branches with as many as 40-50 people attending church services in each branch. The district is the Church's first district to ever be organized in Albania outside of Tirana. For more information about the Church in Albania, click here.

There is now one stake and one district in Albania.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Updated Country Profile - The Netherlands

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for the Netherlands. The Church in the Netherlands has experienced one of the most dramatic declines in the past two decades in regards to the number of congregations and the number of cities with a Church presence. Approximately half of the cities with a Church presence in 1999 currently have a Church presence today. This decline in national outreach has been primarily driven by stagnant growth in the number of active members for many decades combined with concerns that the few active members in smaller congregations may become burned out with leadership responsibilities. Unfortunately, this decision has come at a significant cost that not only retracts the scope of the Church's missionary reach, but it also poses difficulties for Latter-day Saints to assimilate into new congregations and continue to attend church despite longer travel times to reach the nearest meetinghouse. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

Until the 2010s, the Church in the Netherlands reported more significant rates of membership growth than many other secularized European nations, but the outlook for future growth appears bleak given the ongoing trend of congregation consolidations. The doubling of the average number of members per congregation since 1999 points to significant member inactivity and convert retention problems that have compounded for decades. The Church has dramatically halved its national outreach capabilities in terms of the number of cities with congregations. Combined with the consolidation of the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission and the Belgium Brussels Mission into a single mission back in 2002, the Church allocates much fewer resources to the Netherlands than in previous decades even though the size of the population continues to increase and more receptive immigrant groups have become a larger percentage of the national population. Perhaps the greatest failure of the Church in the Netherlands has been the inability for the Church to find, teach, baptize, and retain for life new converts in appreciable numbers to not only expand into previously lesser-reached or unreached areas, but to maintain the cities where the Church has already established a presence. Although recent efforts by stake, mission, and area leaders have focused on the establishment of congregations with larger numbers of active members to reduce member burnout and promote more socializations opportunities at church, the size of active Church membership in individual congregations has not appeared to be the primary barrier for member inactivity and convert attrition in previous decades. Rather, a lack of member-missionary participation, reduced national outreach capabilities, insufficient pre-baptismal teaching and preparation for new converts, reliance on foreign full-time missionaries to staff local missionary needs, a highly secularized society, and the lack of language-specific congregations for immigrant groups appear primarily to blame for the Church’s floundering progress in the Netherlands. Establishing a strong Latter-day Saint presence among immigrant groups will be crucial to improve member activity and convert retention rates among the most receptive populations. Stagnant growth and low receptivity exhibited by the indigenous Dutch population is concerning and appears to be at the forefront of the decline in national outreach in recent years together with fewer full-time missionaries assigned. Greater self-sustainability of full-time missionary numbers as well as minimizing emigration among Dutch members will be required to maintain membership growth, expand national outreach, and preserve what remains of the Dutch Latter-day Saint community.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Updated US State Statistical Profiles

See below for updated statistical profiles for the following US states:

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Updated Country Profile - Mongolia

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Mongolia. The Church in Mongolia used to experience very rapid growth, but has experienced very slow growth since approximately 2010. Member activity rates are also low and are currently estimated at a mere 16%. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article.

The Church in Mongolia maintains stable and stalwart leadership and an unusually high percentage of returned missionaries in general Church membership. However, the Church in Mongolia has experienced a stark deceleration in growth that began during the mid-2000s when leadership sought to reactive inactive members and prepare to organize the first stake. These difficulties were further compounded by increased government restrictions that have prevented proselytism and present nearly insurmountable obstacles to organize congregations in previously unreached cities. Even worse, member activity rates among returned missionaries appear unusually low. In sum, the Church in Mongolia has experienced slow growth for approximately the past decade combined with significant member inactivity problems. The outlook for growth within the foreseeable future appears mediocre given low member activity rates, comparatively few convert baptisms during years when finding has relied on member referrals, and the lack of sustained success with reactivation efforts. Efforts to help Latter-day Saint youth and young adults to marry within the Church, raise and retain children born into the Church, and revitalize Mongolia’s once vibrant member-missionary program will be needed to help reverse the ongoing trend of very slow growth. Mongolia appears a likely candidate for a small temple one day given its remote location and two stakes within a single metropolitan area. However, prospects will significantly improve for a temple in Mongolia once the number of active members consistently increases.

Updated Country Profile - Albania

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Albania. See below for the Comparative Growth and Future Prospects sections of this article.

The Church in Albania stands out as a significant outlier among countries in Southeastern Europe for several reasons. No other country in the region has as many members on Church records as Albania. Albania has the highest percentage of nominal Latter-day Saints in the population of any former communist country in Southeastern Europe or Eastern Europe. No other country in Southeast Europe has as high of a percentage of the population that lives in a city with a Latter-day Saint congregation. Furthermore, Albania is also the only country in the region where essentially all large and medium-sized cities (30,000 or more people) have a Church presence. Also, the Church in Albania has experienced steady arithmetic membership growth rates for nearly thirty years whereas the Church in most Southeast European countries reported rapid membership growth followed by stagnant or extremely slow membership growth since approximately 2010. Excluding countries with a Church presence established after 2010, Albania is the only country in the region where the Church has never discontinued a branch or closed its only ward or branch in a city. The only stake in Southeast Europe is located in Albania. Albania also appears to have the highest number of local members who serve full-time missions among countries in the region. Member activity rates in Albania appear higher than most countries in the region as well...

...The Church in Albania has achieved significant growth and progress within the past decade at a time in Europe when the Church in most countries has experienced stagnation or slight decline. Local leaders have been optimistic that a second stake may be organized in Albania within the next decade given historically consistent membership growth rates and recent progress with leadership development and outreach expansion. However, the Church in Albania continues to struggle with its ability for branches to mature into wards in additional cities—a requirement for any realistic prospects for a second stake to be created anytime soon. The organization of a district to service branches in southern Albania appears a more likely prospect given historical growth trends. Furthermore, prospects for future EU membership for Albania may pose a significant setback for Church growth given the Church’s experience in other former communist nations where EU membership is achieved as many local Latter-day Saints often emigrate and leave significant voids in leadership. Nevertheless, there are good opportunities for additional growth that appear time sensitive before populations become less receptive to the Church. Member groups that currently operate, particularly in Kamez and Kombinat, may become branches in the coming months and years if warranted by stable and increasing numbers of active members and if there is adequate leadership available. Additional cities may open to proselytism and have member groups or branches organized, such as Kavajë or cities in southern Albania. Lastly, Tirana appears a likely candidate for a small temple within the next 1-2 decades given distance to the nearest temple in Rome, Italy, the operation of a stake, and the relatively high percentage of Latter-day Saints in the population.

Updated Country Profile - Ireland

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for the Republic of Ireland. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

Accelerated membership growth rates in the 2010s were achieved despite the consolidation of the Ireland Dublin Mission with the Scotland Edinburgh Mission and the subsequent decrease in the number of missionaries assigned to Ireland. This finding indicates that the Irish population remains more receptive to the Latter-day Saint gospel message than the populations of many other Western European countries. However, the lack of a commensurate increase in the number of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints on the government censuses, combined with no increase in the number of congregations in the country for nearly thirty years, point to significant problems with member retention and member inactivity. Greater member and recent convert involvement in finding, teaching, and fellowshipping investigators will be necessary to achieve greater long term growth. The Limerick Ireland District may become a stake within the next decade although the district at present appears to have the minimum number of members to become stake, if this threshold has even been reached yet at all, and only two branches have enough members to become wards given the most recent data provided by returned missionaries. Consideration to organize congregations that hold services in common immigrant languages appears greatly needed to help improve outreach and foster a sense of community among more receptive immigrant people groups. Furthermore, holding cottage meetings and organizing member groups in the most populous cities without a Church presence also appears needed to expand outreach before greater secularization of Irish society likely results in even lower receptivity in the coming years. A future small temple in Dublin appears likely in the foreseeable future given distance to temples in England.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Updated Country Profile - France

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for France. The percentage of Latter-day Saints in France is comparable to most other Western European nations. Although France boasts the third most members of any country in continental Europe, the first temple in the country was not dedicated until 2017 after many years of preparation and searching for land. The Church in France has experienced comparable growth trends to the Church in Italy as smaller branches have been consolidated in many areas to establish larger congregations to create wards and form new stakes. Today, all of France is covered with stakes, and the number of stakes (10) is the same as Italy. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment in the past two decades for the Church has been further strengthening and maturation of active membership, along with slight increases in the number of active members. However, a rapidly secularizing population in which those who claim no religion or who are atheist is approximately the same size as the number who identify as Roman Catholic poses significant challenges for Latter-day Saint missionary efforts. Furthermore, misinformation about the Church that associates it with fundamentalist polygamist groups in the Western United States and the Amish has posed major barriers with the Church's reputation in France. Additionally, full-time missionaries are often misidentified as Jehovah's Witnesses. Nevertheless, the Church in France reports steady membership growth rates which have remained relatively unchanged for 20 years (see here), together with improving convert retention rates (approximately 60% for converts one year after baptism). See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

The outlook for future Latter-day Saint growth in France is mediocre due to low levels of member activity, inconsistent mission practices regarding the baptism of new converts, persistent congregation consolidations, reduction in the number of full-time missionaries assigned, few local members serving full-time missions, and mission policies isolating Muslims from mission outreach. Emphasizing seminary and institute attendance, developing youth-directed mission outreach, and stronger member-missionary participation may alleviate some of these issues. Emigration of French members continues to frustrate greater long-term self-sufficiency and development of a strong French Latter-day Saint community. France will likely continue its role in facilitating the establishment of the Church in unreached and reached Francophone nations in West Africa by immigrants from these nations joining the Church and returning to their homelands or referring friends and family to study about the Church. Mission outreach centers are established in most major cities, allowing for continued outreach to half the population. The reduction in the full-time missionary force in the past two decades has increased the efficiency of missionary activities, resulting in a slight increase in convert baptisms. Time will only tell whether these modifications will continue to yield increases in convert baptisms without reducing convert retention rates in a nation that has become highly secularized with a significant Roman Catholic minority.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Updated Country Profile - Spain

Click here to access the updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Spain. The Church in Spain has achieved significant membership growth during the past three decades. Today, there are more Latter-day Saints on Church records in Spain than in any other European country with the exception of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the number of congregations in Spain has not noticeably changed in approximately there decades even though Church membership has increased by 160%. The greatest progress that has occurred in recent decades has been the organization of many new stakes and the maturation of branches into wards due to augmentation in the number of active members. Nevertheless, the Church in Spain continues to struggle to sustainably expand its national outreach. See below for the Future Prospects section of this article:

The Church has significantly reduced its outreach in Spain since the mid-2000s as indicated by the closure of three of the prior five missions, the consolidation of approximately two dozen branches (many of which were the only branches that operated in a city), the closure of the Spain MTC, and the reduction of the full-time missionary force to less than half its prior level. With fewer full-time missionaries, low member activity rates, small Latter-day Saint family sizes, and increasing secularism and disinterest in organized religion among the Spanish population, the Church faces significant challenges in expanding national outreach for the long-term. Greater breakthroughs with the native Spaniard population and improved member activity rates are needed to sustain long-term growth. Nevertheless, the Church in Spain continues to report steady annual membership growth rates (i.e. 2-3%) and moderate convert retention levels (slightly more than 50% for one year after baptism). Notwithstanding this finding, the Church in Spain operated fewer official congregations in early 2020 (138) than it did nearly thirty years ago in 1991 (144) even though Church membership has increased by approximately 160%. Local Church leaders must undertake an active role in the promotion of effective member-missionary strategies and laying the groundwork to organize new congregations in lesser-reached or unreached areas within their stakes and congregations to help reverse the longstanding trend of stagnant congregational growth and better reach the Spanish population before societal conditions may further worsen and result in even more diminished receptivity to the Latter-day Saint gospel message.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

New Statistical Profiles Posted - United Kingdom Constituent Countries

For the first time, statistical profiles for the constituent countries in the United Kingdom are available on www.cumorah.com. The Church has not published annual membership totals by year for the constituent countries in the United Kingdom since 2011. However, I have obtained some membership figures since this time from official Church sources although this data has been inconsistent. Overall, the Church has reported stagnant growth or slight decline in the United Kingdom during the past decade. See below for a list of these profiles: