Mormonism is growing in Africa, but is its rise "exponential"? – Salt Lake Tribune (blog)

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Thirty years ago, the LDS Church had “137 separate congregations and about 22,000 members,” the release said. “Today, there are more than 1,600 congregations and half a million members — that’s 11 times more wards and branches and 20 times more members than in 1985.”

Mormon demographer Matt Martinich, though, wonders if that really could be called “exponential growth.”

Martinich, a project manager for, acknowledges the LDS Church’s “rapid growth in Nigeria, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), and Cote d’Ivoire,” where more than half of African Mormons reside.

Despite this progress, Martinich says on his blog, “LDS growth in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be extremely limited. Overall growth trends have appeared much more modest than the ‘exponential’ growth claims in the recent LDS news release.”

The demographer, who lives in Colorado Springs, cites several examples:

• “LDS growth trends over the past two decades have been slow or stagnant in seven nations, including Angola, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Tanzania.”

• “Four or fewer cities have an LDS presence in 17 Sub-Saharan African nations.”

• “There are 12 Sub-Saharan African countries where there are no official LDS congregations that operate despite sufficient religious freedom to conduct proselytism and no legal barriers for the church to obtain government recognition.”

Martinich says “a lack of international church resources allocated to Africa, combined with a conservative interpretation of the church’s ‘centers of strength’ policy, appear the primary causes for an extremely limited LDS presence in Africa today.”

While Mormonism seems to be thriving in Western Africa, he says, it is stalled in the southeast.

Part of that is due to language.

When LDS area leaders in Uganda and Ethiopia required all Mormon services to be conducted in English rather than Swahili, Martinich says, that slowed missionary momentum, especially in non-English speaking countries like Ethiopia.

“Prospects for LDS growth in other areas of the continent also appear favorable,” Martinich concludes, “but the outlook for growth will depend on the church assigning more missionaries to these areas, opening more cities to proselytism, and mission and area leaders engendering greater self-sufficiency in local church leadership.”







Mormonism is growing in Africa, but is its rise "exponential"? – Salt Lake Tribune (blog)