Mormons Living in Developing Countries

Much of the LDS Church’s future growth will be in developing (think 3rd world) countries.  Particular hot spots are Africa, South America, and the Philippines.  A few years ago, a young man working for LDS Humanitarian Services indicated that with the rapid membership growth in the church that by 2050 (if not sooner) over half the members will be living in developing countries.

I travel to Uganda frequently, and the Ugandan Mission there is one of the most successful (in terms of baptisms) in the entire church.  On my last visit to Africa, I attended Fast and Testimony Meeting in Lira, Uganda.  The temporary meeting hall was packed with approximately 140 participants, and the branch presidency was made up of locals.  There was a senior missionary couple present (to help with organizational issues?), but the meeting was conducted in the local tribal language.

“Howard” posting on timesandseasons.org made the following observation about poorer members of the church:

Dr. Brad Walker, who founded and operates the Liahona Children’s Foundation, offers these sobering numbers:  “We estimate 80,000 active LDS children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and about 900 die from malnutrition each year.”

Whether or not these numbers are accurate, they do point to a changing dynamic in the LDS Church demographics.  The majority of the membership is shifting to the poorer corners of the earth.  These numbers are going to worsen as baptisms continue apace in the Southern Hemisphere.

As part of the discussion over the recent Businessweek article on LDS Church finances, Joanna Brooks wrote the following to justify the church leadership’s allocation of monies:

. . . Today, that drive [by the church leadership to maintain self-sufficiency]–is motivated by the need to create an endowment capable of sustaining the global physical infrastructure of Mormonism (temples, churches, universities) even as the bulk of the Church’s population shifts to the global south and tithing revenues flatline or even drop.

But Brooks is dealing with buildings and not people.  It’s much easier for me to think of people.  But it does point to a need for the church leadership to consider the future finances of the church under changing demographics.

But when all is said and done, I wish the church did more for both members and non-members in developing countries.  It looks like more welfare monies would help some members (particularly children during their developmental years); a college or university in Africa and/or South America would be nice; using distance education would be valuable for assisting members and non-members living in isolated locations; and how about more unrestricted developmental aid?

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