Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Patience and Faith of the “Lost” Saints of Malemba-Nkulu

On May 17th, 2022, the following video was posted regarding the patience of prospective Latter-day Saints who have sought to have a Church presence established in the remote Malemba-Nkulu area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) since 1975. This video provides an excellent and well researched account of the Church's history in the DR Congo, video interview accounts from Congolese Church leaders, as well as the opportunities and challenges for the growth of the Church there. The information provided about the Church in Malemba-Nkulu is absolutely fascinating and inspiring as well as heartbreaking to see that the Church continues to have no official presence despite a second generation of would-be members of the Church now organizing, teaching, and learning the Gospel as best as they are able to do so despite its significant isolation from the nearest city with an official member group (Kamina). Most importantly, it highlights how the Church has achieved excellent member activity and convert retention rates in the country where it has established a presence, and it underscores the urgent need for the Church expand into additional areas of the country where many continue to wait for a baptism and an official congregation of the Church. As I noted last month, the Church in the DR Congo reported the most rapid membership growth rate in the world during the two-year period from 2019-2021 at 29.4% with a net increase of 44 congregations. There were 89,136 Latter-day Saints in the DR Congo as of year-end 2021. The current estimated population of the DR Congo is 108.4 million, indicating that only 0.082% of the population is a Latter-day Saint. The video noted in one map displayed that there is now a member group in the large city of Tshikapa which likely has a current population of nearly one million people. Finally, the video indicated that there are reports that many of the wards and stakes in Kinshasa will divide this summer to create many new congregations and stakes in the city to accommodate the major recent influx of converts.


  1. Elder Keith R Edwards was the area president of the Philippines when I served from 2009-11, he had previously served as a mission president in Zimbabwe. Haven't watched the video yet, but he told a story at a mission conference (don't recall if it was his mission or not) of a region in Africa that had a bunch of pastors preaching and converted to the gospel. They pooled their money with donations to be able to send one of them to a church outpost to ask that they send missionaries. I guess the area was extremely remote, there was significant polygamy going on in the region, and the pastors were getting paid in their responsibilities. At the end of the day they told him the area wasn't ready for the gospel just yet but to keep at it. Not sure which region it was.

  2. Great watch, thanks Matt! Jeff Bradshaw is a fascinating speaker, still have one of his DRC videos from 2018 on my YT favorites list because he gives such insightful and inspiring presentations.

  3. Also, as a stake single adult rep I attended a regional meeting last night where our Area Seventy talked about his experience at the worldwide leadership meeting April 1st and said the Brethren's current goal is to ensure 95% of members are within a 60 minute commute to a temple in the next 10 years.

  4. They keep changing the goal before they've reached the old one. I suppose in two years it will be half an hour.

  5. "Montpelier Idaho Temple site identified, less than 7 weeks after temple’s announcement"

  6. "Elder Ronald A. Rasband meets with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi"

  7. For Montpelier Idaho Temple: If it's not a major street or artery in town, could part of 6th Street (between the highway and the alley/library) be sold to join the Tabernacle property and parking to the temple property?

  8. Fascinating news about Montpelier. Also surprised at the design, a two-story 27,000 square foot temple doesn't quite align with any of the standard floorplans that have been used lately, unless it's a slightly upsized Barranquilla/Arequipa/Tijuana floorplan. Definitely will be unique compared to recently announced temples in the states, perhaps of necessity due to the size of the lot.

    Now if only we could get some announced information from the Church on the Teton River (North Rexburg) temple...

    1. The Querètaro Temple is projected to be 27,500 Sq ft. Since the Church didn't specify if it will be center or end spire, I can only assume it will use this floorplan, as Querètaro and Greater Guatemala City are the only 2-story temples between 25,000 and 32,000 Sq ft.

  9. Also @Bryce thank you for that information. @Christopher Nicholson I thought they were pretty much there on the 80% of members within 2 hours of a temple? They were certainly close if not. I think the new goal is admirable. That would basically have 175 stakes as outliers that don't have a temple within a 60 minute commute. Some stakes, like Ely Nevada, will probably never have a temple in any reasonable range unless it were built to service solely that stake. But it's amazing that it will be such a few number. I think this is encouraging to the vast majority of outlying areas, places like Fairbanks, AK and Iquitos Peru will certainly get temples as a result of multiple stakes in their isolation.

  10. This also means there are going to be an absolutely massive number of temples announced in Brazil over the next 10 years.

  11. Meh, having been accused of making controversial posts myself from time to time, I would leave it to Matt to make the decisions whether to delete posts, which he often does. In the meantime, if you don't like a post, you are under no obligation to address it. Personally, I think this blog tends to be too much of an echo chamber where all hell breaks loose if anyone deviates from the narratives of the few main posters who think they know everything, are easily offended when challenged, and are beyond reproach. Finally, I think any attention seeking is a bit of a stretch for a blog that remains rather obscure.

  12. @Noah thank you for your comment, I totally forgot about Queretaro having been announced as such. So yes, it is likely then that if will follow a similar floorplan, which probably is derived from the temples I listed. Maybe also similar to the Lima Los Olivos Temple. I believe this will be the first time this floorplan is going to be used here in the States.

  13. The "internet" is in far more widespread use throughout Africa than people realize, especially in the big cities where church growth is most s substantial. Asserting that it isn't is really an expression of racism (worst case) or ignorance (best case).

  14. I have enabled comment moderation given ongoing issues with comments that are irrelevant, inappropriate, insensitive, bigoted, and/or abusive. The purpose in being able to leave comments on this blog is to provide updates on Church growth developments and share thoughts and opinions that are germane to the study of Church growth, not to dispute the truthfulness of the Church or antagonize fellow readers.

  15. I think it is a bit sad and embarassing that the church took 30 years to visit the saints in Malemba-Nkulu again after 1991. Specially since they received tithing from some of those saints at a district conference in 2013. The two brothers that delivered the tithing rode a bike for more than 10 days to attend the district conference. But I took the church still another 8 years for a visit. I hope like the people in the video, if no offical church presence can be established yet, that they would at least have one official visist from the church once a year.

  16. I was surprised also that Montpelier was 27,000 sq. Ft. Will it have design elements from Paris Tabernacle? I can’t wait to see the design. Also butterflyandbones made a comment about symbolism with the new visitor centers and patron pavilions at Salt Lake temple a while back and I looked at the areal design and it totally does look like crosses from above and then the others do look like the arch representing ressurection. Pretty cool, and if they put The Savior atop like he said that would definitely be a huge change. I know that is speculation.i

  17. Hi!

    thirty years to delay in returning the Church, if so, it is shameful to say the least, the Church is what it is, thanks to the faith and dedication of the faithful, of those committed, who give of their time without payment any, those are the true heroes of the church.

    The truth, if there is something that the LDS Church should learn from the Organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, it is that there the missionary force is of all those who want it, added to the full-time missionaries, and I say this from my experience. In my childhood I was a Jehovah's Witness, the work of the missionaries is enormous, but more help is needed, that is why the church grows so little or rather decreases.

    Hopefully the church continues to grow in this place and in others, after the time that we did not go to the church in person due to the pandemic, attendance has dropped too much, and also, less enthusiasm is seen when working in the church.

    These are not easy times for the world (war, virus) and it is not easy for the gospel either, more faith and strength is required every day.

    Greetings from Santiago de Chile

  18. When it comes to outreach by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the growth of the Kingdom of God and the prophecies of it filling the earth as believed by those that believe as such, I do believe that God and His Son understand that we have our limitations of faith and the Church of the Son cannot reach all places in the way that would be best.
    The Jehovah's Witnesses have their effective methods in proselytizing, but there are drawbacks to those ways, like any faith or organization.
    The Church of Jesus Christ is limited in its ways, there is no perfect method.

    I think of the primary constraints to our growth and see many imperfect people at many ages. I know children who fail to go to seminary, and sometimes it is the parents' fault. Many different cases. The world and circumstances claim them. Lack of faith and sacrifice.

    No testimony or vision of the work. Same with missions for youth. Same for retired couples.

    I know a couple who served 3 or 4 full time missions, others that never went.

    Many imperfections lead to not reaching parts of Congo and other parts of the world. God knows our hearts. The Congolese will be blessed in due time. The Church is finally catching up in many areas there.

    What have any of us done for missionary efforts lately? It does not just happen with donations to publish Books of Mormon, or Bibles.

  19. Did anyone see the excellent statistical breakdown by state in membership trends by Andy Larsen in the SL Tribune?

    This is the kind of analysis people have been asking for using the Cumorah state data. Some of the basic takeaways:

    Utah had growth of 34,000 in the past two years. The U.S. had a total of 42,000. In other words, 81% of church growth nationwide is in Utah.

    The top 12 states with membership growth came from red states that voted Trump in 2020. 10 of the bottom 12 came from blue states that voted Biden.

    Last two years' growth by state:
    1. Raw numbers, 21 states saw a decline in membership, the most ever. Prior high was 2018 (12 states)
    2. But what about people moving out of California and Washington to Utah? Well, when scaled by overall population, the raw membership in the United States actually decreased overall. In other words, while some individual states lost some and some gained, movement in demographics or location of residence doesn't fully explain membership numbers. Rather, the overall membership is in decline relative to the overall population trends.
    3. The percentage of percentages (growth rate in membership as a percentage of growth rate in overall population, by state) shows that 34 states saw a decline. This last analysis is probably the best approach at real growth trends in my opinion. You have some states like Utah that have raw growth, but as a percentage of population growth it shrunk by more than 1%. On the other hand, Washington DC saw a decline in terms of raw members by population, but a pretty strong INCREASE when comparing growth rates of members to growth rates of overall population (2.6%)

    Now to look at California and Washington specifically.

    California membership declined by more than 20,000 (1.43%). Is that because people are leaving the state overall? Well, no. Church membership went from 1.92% of state population to 1.87%, and a decline in the share of population growth of 1.18%.

    Same story with Washington. It saw a raw decline in nominal membership of ~6,000 members (1.02%). The decline still exists when controlling for population, and Washington's decline in membership is actually WORSE when expressed as a share of population growth (1.82% decline).

    Maybe LDS members are disproportionately moving out of CA and WA to Utah, and THAT is what is driving these numbers? That would be nearly impossible, since (1) the relative decline in membership growth across the U.S. would then see a compensatory bump in membership growth in Utah. Instead, the raw growth rate on a year-by-year basis in Utah is in decline over the past several years, and as a percentage of population growth, Utah experienced a decline in membership growth of 1.23%.

    The conclusion? Although the pandemic plays a role in new conversions, it can't really explain the states where there was a real decline in membership (especially since reported numbers are not based on actual attendance, but just members on rolls. COVID would not have a direct impact on that). Instead, this appears to be a broad trend in stagnant, declining growth across the entire U.S. The growth in membership in the U.S. overall as a percentage of population growth has been stagnant, despite higher Mormon birth rates, over the past 15 years or so. And in the most recent two years, despite all the deaths bringing population growth down, the share of population growth by Mormons has declined in the U.S. by nearly a quarter of a percent.

  20. I was membership clerk in three different wards, followed by sixteen years as stake membership clerk. At least some of this could be attributed to cleaning records up - especially posting more death dates for members assumed to be alive. What I'd like to see is sacrament meeting attendance figures over the years.

  21. The idea of having temples within a 60 minute "commute" for 95% of church membership was mentioned above. That would mean a lot more temples. I really hope they push this idea.

    This would mean a temple in Price, Utah and also one in Delta/Filmore. It would also mean a temple in Baltimore (that is over an hour driving from DC most of the time, and about an hour and a half by public transit, which is more realiztic an estimate for most Baltmore members, it is a bit further the other way to the Philly Temple). It would also mean a temple for either Winchester, Virginia/Martinsburg West Virgnia, even if Buena Vista got a temple.

    It migth even mean not just a Grand Rapids Michigan Temple but also a Lansing Michigan Temple. It depends on how close they want to go. It would really depend on where a Grand Rapids Temple were put.

    I really hope we move towards it.

  22. I'm intrigued by the example of declining (slightly) membership on the west coast, and while some of it may be just cleaning up the records, I think there is another trend here. I speak from related experience: My family moved from Vermont to southern Utah just over a year ago.

    Though I am politically more liberal than many members, I felt increasingly like a duck out of water in Vermont. The social and cultural environment was increasingly challenging from a Latter-day Saint perspective. I've known many Vermont Latter-day Saints who've left for the more traditional societies of the west for the same reason, and I know west coasters who say the same thing.

    Once upon a time our main critics were other Christians who struggled to understand the doctrines of the restoration, but more and more the criticism seems to be coming from those who are wary of our views on the family and social values.