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New almanac offers look at the world of Mormon membership

Religion » New almanac offers in-depth look at membership, retention, activity and more.

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• There are at least seven countries or dependencies with member activity rates of 15 percent or less — Chile, Portugal, South Korea, Panama, Hong Kong, Croatia and Palau.

• Within the past three years, the lowest convert-retention rates have appeared to occur within Latin America, where many nations have experienced no noticeable increase in the number of active Mormons within this period.

At a glance

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For online copies of “Reaching the Nations,” go to cumorah.com

LDS activity rates

U.S. » 40 percent

Mexico » 20 to 25 percent

Brazil » 25 percent

Chile » 12 percent

New Zealand » 40 to 45 percent

Tonga » 30 to 35 percent

Germany » 25 percent

Ireland » 35 percent

Japan » 15 to 20 percent

Nigeria » 50 to 55 percent

Source: “Reaching the Nations: International Church Growth Almanac 2014”

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• Ivory Coast appears to have the most successful LDS missionary efforts within the past few years. Only French-speaking African members serve there due to safety and security concerns for non-Africans in this country. Explosive growth has occurred within the past two years. During 2013, the number of Mormon wards and branches, or congregations, jumped from 53 to 72; a 36 percent leap.

• A big obstacle to LDS conversions can be the "ethnoreligious" ties that particular ethnic groups exhibit toward traditional faiths. Examples include ethnic Greeks with the Greek Orthodox Church, the Fulani people of West Africa with Islam, and ethnic Thais with Buddhism. Greece, for example, has seen little Mormon growth notwithstanding proselytizing missionaries serving in the country for more than two decades. There continue to be more active non-Greeks than ethnic Greeks in the LDS Church in Greece, and nominal membership remains under 1,000.

• Tribalism has been a challenge in some areas of the world. In the South Pacific’s Vanuatu, the LDS Church must obtain permission from village chiefs to engage in missionary activity and hold services. Tribal conflicts have resulted, at times, in the church closing member groups and withdrawing missionaries.

• The first full-time Mormon missionary from China completed his service in 2006. By the end of 2010, 42 missionaries from mainland China were serving full-time LDS missions, many in the United States and Canada.

• In 2010, India had more than 150 Mormon missionaries. That number has been greatly reduced due to visa restrictions, but it is close to being self-sufficient with local missionaries.

• In Spain, assimilating Latin Americans and Spaniards into the same congregations presents the most widespread ethnic integration issue. Some congregations with an overrepresented Latin American presence may run into difficulties baptizing and keeping active a Spaniard minority.

• The LDS Church has cut the number of full-time missionaries assigned to Belgium to approximately a third of the levels reported in the 1980s and ’90s. Despite this reduction, Belgium remains reliant on foreign missionaries because few locals serve Mormon missions.

• The United Arab Emirates boasts an LDS stake, four wards and two branches — partly because this Persian Gulf nation provides greater religious freedom for Christians than most Middle Eastern countries.

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• The LDS "Word of Wisdom" (a health code urging Mormons to eschew alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea) and the "law of chastity" (forbidding sex outside marriage) perhaps present the greatest challenges to new converts and seasoned members.

• In sub-Saharan Africa, there have been many instances in which individuals cannot get baptized in some countries because they participate in polygamous marriages per local customs and traditions. These individuals have to divorce polygamous spouses to become Mormons — apparently a rare move. The LDS Church stopped practicing plural marriage more than a century ago.

• Countries with the most members and no LDS temple in place, under construction or announced: Nicaragua (80,605 members), Zimbabwe (23,117), Russia (21,709), Papua New Guinea (21,265) and Puerto Rico (21,174).


Twitter: @religiongal

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