Otavalo, Ecuador, and the Changing Demographics of the LDS Church

Updated:  7 Aug 2014

Last Sunday (27 Jul 2014), I attended LDS Sacrament Meeting in Otavalo, northern Ecuador.  Even though the service was not in English, it was a fun meeting.  Many of the members, including all of the sister missionaries, wore traditional dress.  The women had on white embroidered blouses, black skirts that were long with a major pleat (or maybe they are wrap-around), and decorative sashes.  The member directing the service wore a white shirt (no tie) and a dark blue poncho.

Sister Missionaries in Otavalo, Ecuador, in Local Attire

Sister Missionaries in Otavalo, Ecuador, Dressed in Local Attire

The meeting had a late arriving crowd.  The small chapel was about half full at the start of the service, but was almost full after the sacrament was passed.  Those in attendence were mostly young families, and the kids were quite noisy.  (The noise levels were similar to young-married wards in America.)

Otavalo LDS Church Members in Their Traditional Attire

Otavalo LDS Church Members in Their Traditional Attire

The Church is growing rapidly in the Otavalo area (population over 100,000).  Church membership is estimated at 10 percent of the total population.  There are 16 wards and 2 branches in Otavalo and the neighboring communities.  I would hazard a guess that most of the Church’s recent growth is happening in similar, developing-country environments.

I usually spend about 1 and 1/2 months each year in Uganda (eastern Africa).  And the Church is growing rapidly there.  In a recent blog post on sltrib.com, Mormon demographer Matt Martinich noted that the LDS Church has experienced rapid growth in both Sierra Leone and Liberia (western Africa) as more missionaries have been assigned there.

Contrast what is happening in Ecuador, Uganda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone with what is occurring in England.  According to a post by Aaron R. at bycommonconsent.com:

 Since 2000 the church has not been growing in the UK and this seems unlikely to change in the near future.  Taken together, the future looks pretty dim.

And I suspect similar things are happening in many parts of the USA, Canada, and Western Europe.

This demographic trend is likely to have a dramatic effect on the finances of the LDS Church.  The membership is evolving from major tithe payers to comparatively minor ones. But since the senior LDS leadership is unwilling to share financial information with members and the general public, the nature of the fiscal problem (if there is one) is impossible to properly gauge. The membership is also unaware of what is being done to deal with these changes in Church demographics.  Hopefully, this situation will change soon.

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