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Mormons reach growth milestones in Africa, world

Published December 3, 2012 5:52 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The LDS Church organized its 3,000th stake — a group of congregations like a diocese — over the weekend. This one was in the West African country of Sierra Leone.

Though an impressive Mormon milestone, it is far below previous projections, writes LDS growth expert Matt Martinich for Cumorah International LDS Resources.

"In 1980, the official LDS Church magazine the Ensign projected that there would be 3,600 stakes by the year 2000 and 11.14 million members," Martinich writes, "whereas the church reported only 2,581 stakes at year-end 2000 — a thousand less than anticipated."

Membership figures for 2000 — 11.07 million — were much closer, he writes, so the discrepancy between the number of members and the number of stakes "suggests that inactivity and local leadership development [have] prevented the organization [from achieving] a commensurate number of stakes during this period."

During the past 50 years, he writes, the church's annual increase was highest in 1978 at 11.9 percent and lowest in the 2002 at minus 0.2 percent, according to Martinich's analysis.

Still, Africa remains a fertile territory for the Utah-based church.

"In 2012, the Utah-based faith has made significant progress organizing new stakes in countries that previously had no stakes," Martinich writes on his blog. "Earlier this year, the first stakes were organized in Botswana, Cape Verde, India and New Caledonia."

For the past few decades, the LDS Church has focused missionary work and humanitarian aid on that region of the globe.

For instance, the Ouelessebougou Alliance, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization, announced Monday in a news release that it is working with Islamic Relief, LDS Humanitarian services and the LDS Provo Missionary Training Center on a project to send 4,200 education kits and 4,500 health kits to the West African nation of Mali to benefit villagers in one of the poorest areas of the world.

Oh, yes, and a Brigham Young University graduate and Mormon entrepreneur, Yeah Samake, is running for president of Mali.

Peggy Fletcher Stack