Sunday, November 26, 2023

36 New Missions to be Created in 2024 Analysis: Asia and Europe

This post provides an analysis of new missions to be created in Asia and Europe in 2024, as announced by the Church on November 1st. 

New missions to be created in Asia and Europe in 2024 fall into three categories: reinstated missions that had previously closed (Germany Hamburg, Japan Sendai, Portugal Porto), a second mission in a country that previously had just one mission (Cambodia Phnom Penh East and Thailand Bangkok East), and new missions to be created in the Philippines (Philippines Dumaguete, Philippines General Santos, Philippines Tuguegarao). In 2010, the Church operated 36 missions in Asia, whereas there were 45 missions in Asia as of year-end 2022. However, this increase in the number of missions was primarily due to the Philippines, where the number of missions increased from 16 to 23 during this time period. In Europe, the number of missions decreased from 44 in 2010 to 37 in 2023. The Church in Europe reached an all-time high for the number of missions in 1997 when there were 55 missions. Most of the missions in Europe that have closed in the past 25 years have been in Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and Spain. 

The three new missions to be organized in the Philippines is a major accomplishment that has come from significant increases in the number of Filipino Latter-day Saints serving full-time missions. The Philippines Area, which includes just the country of the Philippines, set a goal in May of 2021 to have 4,600 Filipino members serving full-time missions by the end of 2022. In May 2021, there were only 1,900 Filipino members serving full-time missions, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only half of the congregations in the Philippines had a full-time missionary companionship assigned. Therefore, the number of Filipinos serving full-time missions increased by 142% within 2.5 years. In a letter from the area presidency dated November 3rd, 2023, the area presidency stated: 

Brothers and Sisters, we express our deepest gratitude to you for heeding this call of [President Russel M. Nelson] by achieving the area goal to reach 4600 missionary applicants. We recognize the remarkable efforts of parents, leaders, and our dear youth to strengthen the rising generation and gather scattered Israel


The Cambodia Phnom Penh East Mission will be created from a division of the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission (organized in 1997). The Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission services only the country of Cambodia with its 16.9 million inhabitants. The new mission will likely include one stake and 1-2 districts. With such a small number of stakes and districts in Cambodia altogether at present (two stakes, three districts), the creation of a second mission in Cambodia likely signals efforts by the Church to expand outreach into additional areas of the country. Currently, the Church operates official branches in only six of the 24 provinces in Cambodia. The Church in Cambodia initially experienced rapid growth in the 1990s and 2000s, although annual membership growth rates have since slowed to 3-4%. The Church reported 16,317 Latter-day Saints in Cambodia as of year-end 2022. The first two stakes in Cambodia were organized in 2014, and the Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple was announced in 2018 and is currently under construction.


The Germany Hamburg Mission will be a reinstatement of the former Germany Hamburg Mission (operated from 1938 until 2010). The new mission will likely be organized from the Germany Berlin Mission (organized in 1961), and it is unclear whether any areas of the Germany Frankfurt Mission (organized in 1938) may be included in the new mission. There are 83.3 million people in Germany and three missions (one of which also services Austria and areas of Switzerland). The Church used to operate six missions in Germany between 1991 and 2000. It is unclear why the Church did not reopen previously closed German missions in 2013 when there was a significant increase in the number of full-time missionaries serving, although the decision to organize a fourth mission in Germany may be attributed to greater receptivity and productivity of missions in the country in many areas. The Church in Germany has experienced stagnant membership growth since 2017, with church membership hovering around 40,000 during the past five years. The Church reported 39,748 Latter-day Saints and 14 stakes in Germany in 2022. Local member reports have noted several encouraging developments in Germany in the past couple years, such as an increase in the number of convert baptisms and several branches maturing into wards due to increasing numbers of active members. The Church announced plans to build a temple in Hamburg in April of 2023. Interestingly, only one stake has ever been discontinued in Germany (Neumünster Germany Stake in 2018), and this was what used to be a second stake in the Hamburg area. Since the stake was discontinued, there has been progress with branches becoming wards in the Hamburg Germany Stake, with the stake now having nine wards and six branches, making it one of the largest stakes in Germany. The new Germany Hamburg Mission will probably have 2-4 stakes within its boundaries when it is organized.


The Japan Sendai Mission will be a reinstatement of the former Japan Sendai Mission which operated from 1974 until 2019. The new mission will likely be organized from a division of the Japan Tokyo Mission (organized in 1937) and the Japan Sapporo Mission (organized in 1970) and include one stake (organized in Sendai in 1980) and four districts (all organized between 1974 and 1987. The reinstatement of the mission in Sendai will likely help relieve the administrative burden on the Japan Tokyo Mission. Stagnant congregational growth has occurred in northern Honshu for decades. The Church most recently organized a new mission in Japan in 2013 when there were 58 new missions organized worldwide. There are currently six missions in Japan that service the national population of 123 million. The Church reached an all-time high of 10 missions in Japan from 1990 to 1996. The Church in Japan has reported extremely slow membership growth for decades of 0-1% per year, although there has been stagnant membership growth in Japan since 2019. The Church reported 130,251 Latter-day Saints as of year-end 2022 (which was nearly unchanged from the 130,340 Latter-day Saints reported as of year-end 2019).


The Philippines Dumaguete Mission will be organized from a division of the Philippines Cebu Mission (organized in 1987), the Philippines Cebu East Mission (organized in 2013), and the Philippines Bacolod Mission (organized in 1974). The announcement of a mission in Dumaguete came as a surprise to me since the Church is relatively small in the Dumaguete area. The Dumaguete Philippines Stake was organized in 2014, and there is only one district that is in relatively close proximity to Dumaguete (Tanjay). It is likely that the Philippines Dumaguete Mission will include one stake and two districts in southern Negros Island. It is unclear what the Church may do to reconfigure the boundaries of other missions in the area, such as which mission will be assigned Bohol Island (one stake, one district) and northeastern Negros Island (one stake, one district). It is my opinion that Bohol Island will likely be assigned to the Philippines Dumaugete, which would result in the new mission having two stakes and three districts. The sole stake on Bohol Island was organized in Tagbilaran in 2015. The Church has experienced slow growth in southern Negros Island and Bohol Island, although there has been progress within the past decade such as organizing the first two stakes and creating the first branches in five cities (one of which was the first branch created on Siquijor Island in 2016). Also, the southern portion of Cebu Island may be assigned to the new mission given its long distance from Cebu City and no currently established branches in this area (municipalities in the extreme southern tip of Cebu Island have a combined population of 287,000 people and no congregations). If the mission includes the provinces of Negros Oriental, Bohol, Siquijor, and the southern tip of Cebu Island, there would be 3.2 million people within the mission boundaries.


The Philippines General Santos Mission will likely be primarily organized from the Philippines Davao Mission (organized in 1977), although the letter from the Philippines Area Presidency from November 3rd noted that the new mission will result in a realignment of all three current missions on Mindanao (the others being the Philippines Butuan Mission which was organized in 2006 and the Philippines Cayagan del Oro Mission which was organized in 1988). It is probable that the new mission will include at a minimum southern Mindanao Island where there are two stakes (General Santos [organized in 1995] and Digos [organized in 1992] and three districts (Cotabato, Kidapawan, and Marbel) and the Zamboanga Philippines Stake (organized in 1985). It is possible the new mission may also include the Pagadian Philippines District. The new mission will likely include most of the traditionally Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, such as in the Cotabato area and the Sulu Archipelago (the latter of which has no official Church presence). The Sulu Archipelago has a combined population of 2.0 million people, Zamboanga Sur Province has 2.0 million people, and provinces in southern Mindanao near General Santos have 2.5 million people. Thus, the new mission will probably have 6.5 million people within its boundaries. Slow growth has occurred within this area of Mindanao, with no new stakes or districts organized for nearly 30 years. The new mission will likely allow for greater mission outreach in the area which has probably been lesser reached due to greater growth that has occurred in other areas of Mindanao, such as in Davao and in the Philippines Butuan Mission. Moreover, the General Santos Philippines Stake is also close to dividing to create a second stake in the city.


The Philippines Tuguegarao Mission will be organized from a division of the Philippines Cauayan Mission (organized in 1990) and the Philippines Laoag Mission (organized in 2004). A fun fact with this new mission is that a previous Philippines Cauayan Mission President once played an April Fool's Day joke on his assistants and office missionaries that a mission would be organized in Tuguegarao (that was about 5-7 years ago if I remember correctly). The new mission will likely include the two stakes in Tuguegarao (organized in 1989 and 2011), the Ballesteros Philippines Stake (organized in 2019), and two districts (Aparri and Gonzaga). It is also possible the new mission may include the Ilagan Philippines Stake (organized in 2000) and the Roxas Philippines Isabela District, although this stake and this district are within close proximity of Cauayan. It may make sense to relocate the Philippines Cauayan Mission to Santiago to be in a more central location (and also be in the same city where the temple will be built which was announced in October 2022). The announcement of the new mission in Tuguegarao further supports the trend of having temples and missions headquartered within the same cities (the Tuguegarao Philippines Mission was announced in April 2023). The Church has experienced steady growth in the area covered by the current Philippines Cauayan Mission and the Philippines Laoag Mission (of the 11 stakes in the two missions at present, six have been organized since 2011).

There will be 26 missions in the Philippines once the three new missions are organized. There has only been one other year when there has as many new missions organized in the Philippines (1990). The Church has never discontinued a mission in the Philippines. The first mission in the Philippines was organized in 1967. The number of missions in the Philippines increased to two in 1974, three in 1977, four in 1979, five in 1986, six in 1987, eight in 1988, nine in 1989, 12 in 1990, 13 in 1992, 14 in 2004, 15 in 2006, 16 in 2010, 17 in 2011, 21 in 2013, 22 in 2018, and 23 in 2019. The most recently created missions in the Philippines have been the Philippines Cavite Mission (2013), the Philippines Cebu East Mission (2013), the Philippines Legaspi Mission (2013), the Cabanatuan Philippines Mission (2018), and the Philippines Antipolo Mission (2019). The Church reported 853,254 Latter-day Saints in the Philippines as of year-end 2022. Currently, there are 126 stakes and 55 districts in the Philippines (soon to be 128 stakes and 53 districts on December 3rd when districts in Aguilar and Toledo will become stakes). Thus, the average Philippine mission will have five stakes and two districts when the three new missions are organized in 2024. There are 117 million in the Philippines. Thus, the average mission in 2024 will have 4.5 million people within its geographical boundaries.


The Portugal Porto Mission will be a reinstatement of the former Portugal Porto Mission (which has gone through multiple iterations of closing and reopening). The mission was first organized in 1987, closed in 2011, reinstated in 2015, and closed again in 2018. A third mission once operated in Portugal from 1990 until 2002 (Lisbon Portugal North). The Church currently has seven stakes and one district in Portugal. The reason why the Church has decided to open and close the Portugal Porto Mission is likely due to the relatively large number of congregations in Portugal that have made it challenging to administer with a single mission. It seems that this mission has reopened when there are sufficient numbers of full-time missionaries to staff a second mission in Portugal. The Church reported 46,849 Latter-day Saints in Portugal as of year-end 2022, making Portugal the European country with the third most Latter-day Saints after the United Kingdom (186,933) and Spain (63,524). Variable membership growth have occurred for the Church in Portugal in the past decade, although these annual membership growth rates have often ranged from 0-3%. There are approximately 10.2 million people in Portugal.


One of the new missions that I have most anticipated for decades, the new Thailand Bangkok East Mission will be the Church's second mission in Thailand to be organized from a division of the Thailand Bangkok Mission (organized in 1973). The current Thailand Bangkok Mission includes the entire country of Thailand as well as neighboring Myanmar and Laos for a combined population of 134 million people. The new mission will likely include two stakes and one district in Thailand as well as Laos (where there is one branch in Vientiane), whereas the realigned Thailand Bangkok Mission will likely include two stakes and one district in Thailand and three mission branches in Myanmar. Currently, there are four stakes and two districts in Thailand. There were 23,450 Latter-day Saints in Thailand as of year-end 2022. The Church does not publish membership figures for Laos or Myanmar. The first stake in Thailand was organized in Bangkok in 1995, followed by two additional stakes in Bangkok that were created in 2014 and 2016. A stake was created in Ubon in 2015. The creation of the new mission in Thailand will likely help with the expansion of the Church into dozens of unreached provinces. The Church in Thailand has achieved variable membership growth rates in the past decade, although membership growth rates have typically been slow.


Matt said...

This is a little buried in this post, but two new stakes will be organized on December 3rd from the Aguilar Philippines District and the Toledo Philippines District.

Pascal Friedmann said...

Düsseldorf and Dortmund are becoming part of the new Hamburg Mission (along with Hannover and Hamburg stakes, which is a bit less surprising). Stuttgart will become part of the Frankfurt Mission, meaning that all three current German missions will be realigned. My hope is that this will allow for an increase in resources to open new, lesser-reached cities to missionary work, rather than simply alleviating the (admittedly large) administrative burden on the Berlin Mission.

pressue said...

Matt, do we have any data on what stake reorginization's typically do to affect number of congregations? I had a discussion with a friend yesterday about church growth + demographic shift in Utah. From new stakes and stakes being discontinued in Utah, there's been a net increase of 49 wards + 2 branches. Do we know from even previous years what numbers for reorginizations look like?

I honestly have no clue, thought you might know what those tend to look like.

James G. Stokes said...

Matt, under the Philippines General Santos Mission, you mention the Mindanao region and the "Cayagan del Oro Mission". Unless I am mistaken, I think you meant the "Cagayan del Oro Mission", with the mission name matching the name of the Cagayan del Oro Temple.

By way of information for readers of this blog, a new update on the Cagayan del Oro Temple indicates that a candidate site is being cleared, so hopefully we get something more official on that temple in the next few months. Also, the only temple announcement yesterday was the confirmation that the groundbreaking was held for the Kaohsiung Taiwan Temple on Saturday.

Given the fact that Christmas and New Year's Day are on Monday this year, it occurred to me to wonder if the Church will switch those announcements to Tuesdays starting today. We'll see at around 2 pm today. My thanks once again to you all.

Pascal Friedmann said...

I just talked to a close friend living in Spain. I believe I shared a synopsis of her story a little while ago (perhaps last year), but there are now some new developments I just learned of. My friend is American and she met her Spanish now-husband while working in Madrid as an English teacher. They struggled to get married for several years due to the immense bureaucracy in Spain (made worse by Covid). Eventually, she found that they could get married online through the Utah County Clerk's Office, so that's what they did. Anyhow, through the missionaries serving in their ward, word of this got to the Mission President in Madrid, then spread throughout Spain, and now has reached at least a couple of area offices as well. In essence, the Church has set up an official fund for Spanish investigators to get married online through Utah County, so that they can get baptized. The cost per couple is around $200 assuming that all the birth certificates and such are already there. The program is in active use in all Missions in Spain and is now expanding to several other (southern) European countries and to Israel and Turkey (that was a surprise to me given the lack of full-time missionaries in both countries). It appears that each of the Missions in Spain has a senior couple dedicated specifically to teaching prospective converts about this program and facilitating the process in case one or both of the fiancees do not speak English.

Last year, this program lead to around 300 convert baptisms, and this year to date, about 1,000 converts have been baptized across Spain after getting legally married (this number does not include any converts not involved in this program, of which there are - as I've been told - quite a few as well). The program is somewhat under the radar and the Church is, at least for now, not actively advertising it, but implementing this fund on a more global scale could have a massive impact on Church growth in places like the Philippines and parts of Latin America and Africa, where some of the same issues are prevalent around marriage, cohabitation, and permission to get baptized. Obviously, there would eventually be scaling issues on the Utah County side, but this program could - perhaps along PMG 2.0 - become the most prominent accelerator for Church growth within the last decade.

Chris D. said...

New Ukrainian group of Latter-day Saints now meeting in Austria

A group meets under the direction of a ward or stake and allows people to worship together in their own language
By Mary Richards 30 Nov 2023, 12:22 PM MST

James G. Stokes said...

This just in from the Church News:

Matt, I look forward to your thoughts and analysis on this significant announcement.

John Pack Lambert said...

President Nelson has made lots of strides towards a unified, worldwide Church. The uniform unit creation rules are another great one.

I am not sure what it's impact will be. My branch is much closer to ward status, but we are at least 2 short on active, full tithe paying mekchizedek priesthood holders who can hold leadership callings. I am assuming that all the regularly attending melchizedek priesthood holders are paying a full tithe to even get there, I do not know that. We are maybe 20-25 short on total members. I am not sure where we are at participating adults. We get about 80 any week, including children and those not yet baptized, but many do not come all weeks, so if we can count anyone who comes at least once a month we might be to 100.

This change may slow new unit creations in a few areas, but for stakes it is a change from 1900 to 2000 in most the world, so not big. Unless participation is really low that might not hold up much. It may lead to several new stakes in the US though.

Chris D. said...

My thoughts on the letter is that from a worldwide Church having the new requirement of the new Stakes having a minimum of 2000 members on the rolls, and the new wards to have a minimum of 250 members on the rolls.

We can thus extrapolate that the newly organized Stakes of the Church will have a minimum of 8 Wards/Branches as a new "normal". Specificaly 250 members per Ward multiplied by 8, gives a total Stake of 2000 members.

Also, the article references the fact there are no current plans to change the existing Stakes to the new requirements. At least not in the near future. But applies to any proposed new units in the planning stages to approve or not the recommendation of these.

And as JPL mentions, it may sooner or later, affect the larger 10 or more Wards in a Stake to the new standard of 8, to realign and create new Stakes. Or at the same time cause several mergers of the smaller Stakes with 4 or 5 Wards to combine with neighbors for a minimum of 8 Wards required.

These are my thoughts on the subject as James and John Pack Lambert have expressed above. It will be interesting to see how these come about over the short term period.

David Todd said...

Very interesting news. I wonder if the same standards will then be held to language units or YSA, etc.

Rodrigo Jofre said...

I don't think the minimum will be 8 units for a stake. That minimum remains at 5 wards. If that minimum also changed, it will be announced in a similar manner.

Religlang said...

Thats incredibly interesting!

Jim Anderson said...

Many wards in Utah are large, and by the time they got to splitting there are more than enough in the wards and there are issues in some areas of the Salt Lake metro where there is simply nothing left to build a new meetinghouse. Provo is one of them, so they may look at things differently in the older established areas.

The matter of seminary attendance will also need adjusting in some areas as in my Provo ward we have maybe 15 seminary-age youth. It is a matter of how dense member populations are that will result in some differences here. Demographics will play a major role in some areas.

Unknown said...

I find it interesting that the announcement included the number of youth as a criterion. Was that previously the case? I don't recall it being included in criteria for unit creation in the past, but it surely is an important one, so I am pleased it is now.


Pascal Friedmann said...

I have a lot of thoughts about how this will affect Church growth in many parts of the world. My best guess is that there will be a much higher branch-to-ward ratio in newly-created units. The same might apply to districts-to-stakes outside North America. Meanwhile, places like Utah and Idaho may see a cascade of new stakes created in the coming years.

Outside of the lower minimum requirements for North American stakes, I have to say I don't like the new policy very much. It appears to be very much a doubling-down of the Center of Strength paradigm where burdens on leaders in centers of strength are relieved but leaders with higher burdens in more remote areas are faced with higher standards for ever alleviating their stake or district's administrative burden. In most of the world, distance between units is a much greater strain on administrative resources than the number of members is in the Mountain West. Take temple interviews, for example. In most of the world, members of the stake presidency travel to units to conduct interviews, not members to stake centers. That really adds up in places with limited infrastructure. Now assume that every participating adult wants a temple recommend (not to mention everything else stake leaders would have to discuss and do), you are absolutely sending one member of the stake presidency to an outlying ward per week, sometimes two or all three. That gets really expensive if units are far apart and/or hard to reach.

I think one way to make a bad policy better would be to not have minimum members for stakes and wards at all. If we are now looking at half a dozen indicators that much better reflect the strength of the Church in a certain area than does membership on record, my view is that we should ditch that relatively pointless indicator that will be the biggest stumbling block for new wards and stakes in areas that do well with member activity.

Also, let me add that 100 participating adults is astronomically high. Assume they are accompanied by 50 kids and youth (and that's a conservative estimate in a lot of places), you need attendance of over 300 before thinking about splitting a ward. Most of our buildings in Europe (and probably elsewhere) absolutely do not under any circumstance hold that many people. I was a member in Bonn when we split that ward with about 180 in attendance (numbers are similar again now), and we had several members then who would not attend Sunday meetings due to feeling claustrophobic (I can't blame them). How 300+ looks in smaller buildings like that is hard to conceive.

miro said...

My thoughts a simmilar to Pascal's. I think to include a requirement of participating members is very good. I also think id good that the minimum requrements are the same of the US/Canada and the rest of the world

I completly agree with Pascal about the policy of total membership on record. Only 3 of the 7 wards in my stake fullfil the new requirement of 250 members on record.

This new requirment will prevent many branches from becomming wards for many years in the area where i live. Reaching 150 members on recorde was often the hardest requriment to reach and needing 100 more will need many years.

I also fear that this new requirment will lead to more closures in Europe in the future. Distance is a huge factor for attendance. Last year my ward hat to attend a differenct chapel about 15 Minutes furhter away by car for about 6 months.During that time attendance dropped from 125 to about 80. The meetings where broadast so members could watch from home. After we where back in our own chapel it took a few months for attendance to recover.

James Perry said...

I have mixed feelings about the new policy. On the one hand, it is a global standardisation which is equitable and sensible. On the other hand as a branch president of a small but very active branch (65 on records and 50+ active) the idea of reaching 250 on the records is a daunting prospect. It will now take much longer (we have two more people joining the church this month) and have had a baptism this year (still active), and several reactivations. One particularly pleasing reactivation was that of a mission companion who moved into the branch and is now very active after 8 years out of the church. Ironically we have the tithepayers and Priesthood in the branch just not the total number of members and now we do not have the right number of participants.

We recently started a monthly sacrament meeting in a nearby town and we get 20-25 people attending those meetings. I will continue with these meetings as we get investigators and people who otherwise would be unable to regularly attend.

Really this policy will mean business as usual except for future expansion and development (branches into wards) which will take even longer. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but

Breckenfeld said...

I think Just like that, minimum remains at 5 wards.

Craig said...

Craig Shuler says:
It seems like the biggest impact of the boundary change guidelines couild be an increase in the number of stakes in the U.S.and Canada. Where 2 adjacent stakes each have 3000 members now they could have 3 stakes.

In Utah stakes with declining population, there might be fewer reasons to combine 2 adjacent stakes each with 2500 members and 5 wards.

In international areas, the biggest impact could be to reduce premature boundary changes that in past decades resulted in some wards and stakes being divided too soon.

Craig said...

Craig Shuler says,
I'm not sure I understand Pascal's comment. Do I understand that hundreds of people in Spain are getting married on-line in Utah? Is this an attempt to circumvent U.S. Immmigration laws and increase baptisms in Spanish missions?

Is this just a revenue raiser for Utah County? Does one of the persons have to be in Utah County? Can two European residents get married in Utah County with both in Europe? Is this really legal? Does the Europe Area Presidency approve this?

I can see that there can be legitimate use of the process such as Pascal's friend's example, but it seems like a process ripe for abuse.

Cory said...

Utah County's online marriages come out of the regulations during COVID that prevented people from gathering for weddings. They began offering marriage licenses online, and then began offering the ceremony online as well. For the past 3 years, Utah County has kept up this service. The New York Times, Washington Post, and many international papers have written about Utah County.

Officials in Utah county have expressed satisfaction over helping couples legitimate their relationships, especially where their type marriage is not allowed by local authorities. It probably does help raise revenue for Utah County as well. In Israel, the Jewish authorities regulate marriages among Jews, so it is a way to get around that system. Most of these countries recognized marriages preformed in the U.S. anyways. I suppose that if more officials become aware of this loophole, they could close it. But doing so may have unintended consequences elsewhere.

It is interesting that mission leaders are now using online marriages as a tool. On the surface, it looks fishy and may harken back to the old days when people feared that missionaries were looking to bring back wives to Utah. But if the church insists on requiring marriage for baptism, it sounds like a big help to get around antiquated marriage laws in these countries.

Pascal Friedmann said...

Craig, here is what I know:

You are correct in your understanding that hundreds of people in Spain are getting married online in Utah. This is not related at all to U.S. immigration. Very few if any of these people have any real interest in living in the U.S.

Typically, these are long-term investigators who are, as is usual in Spain, cohabiting and are unable to get baptized for this reason.

The revenue for Utah County is probably negligible in the bigger scheme of things.

It is sufficient if the judge is in Utah County. The people getting married can be physically anywhere, including abroad.

Two European residents can get married in Utah County. It is most comparable with eloping to Las Vegas, which is something that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of foreigners do every year. As long as there is no intent to stay in the U.S., that is legal. It is especially legal if the two people do not even enter the U.S.

The Europe Area Presidency is aware and approving. It is taking an active part in facilitation, expansion, and funding of the program.

I hope this clarifies my earlier message.

Daniel Moretti said...

In the same way: are weddings held in Las Vegas chapels also valid in the European Union? (it's just a joke, don't take this the wrong way... it really seems very strange that the idea of ​​two Europeans getting married long-distance in the USA and that having legal validity)

Pascal Friedmann said...

It actually is, you just need additional paperwork. The complexity varies a little based on EU country.

My understanding is that at least in Spain, the legal validity as accepted by the Spanish government is a secondary concern. In the case of my friend, the government did not accept the marriage, and there will eventually be a second ceremony once the paperwork goes through. However, the online wedding is accepted by the Church just like any other marriage, and therefore, my friend's husband was able to get baptized.

James said...

I expect with the new unit requirements, we're going to see a huge upsurge in wards and stakes created next year. 100+ new stakes.

Only 500 participating members is a loooow bar to hit for a lot of units out there.

James said...

Also, I agree that this will cause issues with non-US units. Personally, I'd like the bar to actually be higher for wards and stakes, but maybe that's just because in practice I see a lot of numbers-massaging by local leaders. The ward I'm in in the Midwest has maybe 50 practicing adults. Not even close to 100. But there has already been talk about getting that number to 100, not through changing anything, really, but simply through making sure everyone is assigned as a ministering companionship.

I'd like to see wards of 150 instead of the one I'm in where the average attendance in the summer months is closer to 60 with children and youth.

David Todd said...

I think it will affect places differently based on activity levels. For some places in Utah for example, there are extremely high activity rates (think about BYU wards). To require 250 on the roster might mean getting 225 active participants at church every week, which would result in many members missing out on opportunities to serve and gain leadership experience, especially as there aren't any youth or primary callings in the YSA wards. I have to think that these wards will be treated as exceptions on an individual basis. There are other places with very high activity rates though as well. From what I've heard, some places in Africa have over 80% activity.

In all, I don't think the new policy will affect the worldwide church as much as it will affect the church in the US or Canada. As others have said, it will probably make it harder to upgrade from a branch to a ward, but probably a negligible difference to creating new stakes.

Adam said...

Can anyone summarize what the requirements were before and after the change?

Matt said...

A blog post is coming about these changes for the minimum requirements to organize new stakes and wards. I'll try to get this done over the weekend, but I have been sick today, so no promises. Also, the Salt Lake Tribune is going to run a story about it - I did an interview today with Peggy about a story she is going to run about it.

Matt said...

Also, the Ondo Nigeria Stake was created last Sunday.

James G. Stokes said...

Matt, I'm sorry to hear that you've been sick. As far as doing a new post about this update, please focus on getting better. Your analysis will be appreciated whenever you're feeling better, so please don't worry about that on our account. We will look forward to your analysis whenever you feel up to providing it here. In the meantime, thanks for all you do to keep us informed on these latest updates. I appreciate you!

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Kimberley in San Diego said...

I'm wondering what the pros and cons of relaxing the criteria are. Does it make much difference if a unit changes from a branch into a ward?

James Perry said...

Kimberley, it can, actually. For example a bishopric are able to conduct temple recommend interview while in a branch only the branch president can do that. It means one man has to interview up to 250 people (in theory) before he gets counsellors who are able to help him.

I think that's the main issue. You also have cultural challenges in some areas with things such as branches being viewed as less desirable to live in because members might be expected to hold one or more callings.

Mike Johnson said...

The new standards for stakes and wards will be uniform world-wide. I have long wondered why they were different. They were the same for active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders in each case, but different for total number of members. I felt like the higher number of members in North America was designed to slow down unit creation, in areas where people have a high level of mobility. Lots of people could move into an area quickly and then could move out quickly.

Old standard, stakes should have at least 24 AFTPMPHs in addition to those needed in the wards and branches. With five wards, that would be at least 99. New standard, stake should have at least 150 AFTPMPHs.

Old standard, wards should have at least 15 AFTPMPHs. New standard, wards should have at least 20 AFTPMPHs.

For membership, old standard--for stakes: 3000 (1900 outside North America). New standard, 2000. For wards: 300 (150 outside North America). New standard 250.

Old standard, stakes should have at least five wards. Not sure if number of wards remains a criteria.

New standard, stakes 500 participating adults. Wards 100 participating adults.

Not mentioned what the standard is for participating youth.

This does not effect any current wards or stakes, but rather when changes occur, all affected and new stakes and wards will need to meet the criteria. If a stake splits, both resulting stakes will need to meet the standard.

In general, I think it will be harder to achieve these standards. The membership requirement is lowered in North America, but the new standards and higher AFTPHPH requirements will more than make up for these. I do think the 3000 for a stake membership requirement has been waived at times. I remember when our stake was getting close to splitting, the standard went from 2500 to 3000 and that delayed us a few years, but I don't believe either daughter stake quite had 3000 when we split.

James G. Stokes said...

If I can interject here, I see these adjustments as another in the series of changes that shouldn't be discouraging to anyone, but should instead invite each of us to take personal responsibility for the health and stability of our wards and stakes, to take a higher and holier approach in how we should minister to and fellowship and support one another. The Church in recent years has urged us in multiple ways to take charge of our own personal and spiritual development and strength, so the next logical step is the welfare and strength of our congregations. In the last days, Zion's stakes are to be a defense and a refuge. But that can only happen to the degree that each of us do our part. Like most changes under President Nelson, this wasn't anything cobbled together and thrown out on a whim. This came after years of thought, prayer, and in the interest of ensuring that stakes worldwide can become a defense and a refuge in the turbulent times ahead. We have the opportunity to take a higher and holier approach to how we strengthen our stakes and congregations and I hope we take it.

Getting off my soapbox about that, I also wanted to mention here that many Church buildings in Utah County have been targeted and vandalized. This includes our own Church building, to which someone set fire this week. Although the damage appears minimal, it joins several other buildings in Utah County which have been targeted. It's now an interagency investigation, with even the FBI involved. So the three wards in our building are relocating until further notice. Definitely a sign of the last days.

miro said...

@Mike Johnson
The old standards you mention are not the most recent old standards. Sometimes the standards change wihout much notice.
The differences in the most recent old standard are:
stakes US/Canada 180 (120 rest of the world) AFTPMPHs -> new 150 AFTPMPHs
wards US/Canada 20 (15 rest of the world) AFTPMPHs -> new 20 AFTPMPHs

John Pack Lambert said...

On the marriage issue, having a marriage online in the US involving 2 non-Americans would bot circumvent immigration laws. It may be a much more economical way to marry than in some places depending on local rates, but it will only affect immigration status if one of the people involved us already a US national.