Change is afoot in the realm of Mormon missions. After announcing in October that the Church would alter its 421 missions, now we have learned that the adjustment involves the creation of 5 new missions paired with the “realignment” of 19 missions, bringing down the total number of missions to 407. The latter is, of course, a euphemism for a mission being essentially absorbed into another mission, or combined with other dissolving missions into a new mission. We should emphasize that adjusting mission boundaries and scope is not uncommon, much like redrawing congressional districts following a census (minus all the partisan gerrymandering). Either way, the council now headed up by Elder Uchtdorf is busy.
So first, here’s where the new action is happening. The following five areas will carve out new missions effective July 2018:
Brazil Rio de Janeiro South
Cote d’Ivoire Yamoussoukro
As you can see, the action is happening in South America, Africa, and an ever-resurgent Philippines. This is keeping with growth trends in the Church.
While new missions undoubtedly represent success in Church growth in a particular area, the contraction of missions unfortunately tends to represent the opposite. But remember, resources are limited, and with the number of missionaries now down to 68,000 from a peak of 88,000 only a few years ago, not every mission can stay.
With that said, here are the missions being “realigned.”
Australia Sydney North
California San Fernando
England London South
Illinois Chicago West
México Ciudad Obregón
New York New York South
Washington Federal Way
To be clear, this does not just mean some boundary shifts. This means these missions are going away. Most of them are in North America or Europe, with an isolated swathe of Australia for good measure. We could analyze every one of these moves without the understanding of the revelation behind them, but since there are 19 of them, perhaps we can cherry pick a few. And the fact that I’m a europhile will have everything to do with my choices!
As you can see, ditching the Romania, Bulgaria, and Greek missions is huge. Goodbye, Balkans. It’s no secret the Church has struggled with growth in these areas. Bulgaria and Romania at least have the excuse of being communist states until the 1990s. Greece, however, is just stubborn, as we’ve had missionaries there for approximately 100 years. And there are still only three branches in the country.
My heart weeps for the Malaga mission of Spain. Dissolving it means Spain will be down to only two missions. Your dear author served his mission in that wonderful country, and when I did, there were five missions there. I do actually find it slightly surprising, considering 5 of Spain’s 13 stakes are stretched across that sun-bleached land. But everyone knew the Malaga mission was the “bad” mission of Spain, so maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. Look at me, throwing mission shade!
Closing the L’viv mission is a huge bummer. The Church was bullish on Ukraine only ten years ago, creating the Dnipropetrovs’k mission in 2007 and the L’viv mission in 2013, bringing the total number of missions in the former Soviet state to four. War in the Donbas resulted in the dissolution of the Donets’k mission in 2015, as well as the Church tacitly recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea in 2016, and now the all-Ukrainian-all-the-time L’viv mission will likely be absorbed by the Kyiv mission.
Elsewhere, New York New York South comprises all of Long Island and Staten Island, so there’s that. The California Modesto Mission was only created three years ago (enough time for it to have the singularly strange honor of having only one mission president over its life), and the London South Mission is going, well, south, just as the London England Temple visitors center shuts down.
To be clear, this is not a five-alarm situation. These changes happen. Ideally, missionary work as well as full-time missionary participation are so gangbusters that we have thousands of missions in the Church. But that’s not our present reality. So basically, if you want your mission back, Illinois Chicago West, get your head in the game!
For those perplexed by this piece, an LDS mission is defined as a geographical area where LDS missionaries serve, with a home office or headquarters in a particular city, which typically gives the mission its name. For example, the Mississippi Jackson Mission is headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, but covers a broader geographic area where missionaries serve across the course of their missions.