The First Presidency has announced plans to create eight new missions - four in the United States and four abroad - effective about the first of July.
The four new missions in the United States are the California San Francisco, Illinois Chicago South, Nevada Las Vegas West and Texas Houston South missions. The other four are the Chile Santiago East, Honduras Comayaguela, Russia Moscow South and Uruguay Montevideo West missions.The eight new missions bring the total in the United States to 95, and the total worldwide to 318. The current number of missionaries serving, some 54,000, made the new missions possible, said Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council.
"We are grateful for the increasing number of young men and women who have answered the call to serve missions," said Elder Haight.
"We appreciate the mature, seasoned couples who leave the comforts of their homes and their beloved children and grandchildren to serve missions. This ever-growing force of missionaries creates the opportunity and need for these new missions that the First Presidency is announcing.
"The Lord is opening the way and making possible to expand His work in its time as He promised He would," said Elder Haight.
"Our Savior's direction is in this work. What a privilege and a blessing to be involved with Him in this great cause! And, although we know there is much work yet to be done, we are moving confidently forward toward the fulfillment of the Prophet Joseph Smith's prophetic declaration that `the truth of God will go forth boldly, . . . till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.' " (History of the Church 4:540.)
California San Francisco
The new California San Francisco Mission will be created from a division of three missions, the California Oakland, California San Jose and California Santa Rosa. Made up of the cities of San Francisco, Menlo Park and San Rafael, the new mission will have a population of 1.7 million people. About 16,100 members in five stakes reside within the boundaries of the new mission.
After being realigned, the California Oakland Mission, which formerly contained the greatest part of the new mission, will have a population of 2.8 million and about 30,600 members in 12 stakes, including the Hayward California Stake that was formerly in the California San Jose Mission.
The California San Jose Mission will have a population of 2.1 million, of whom 32,200 are members of the Church living in seven stakes. The California Santa Rosa Mission will have a population of 1.3 million, including 24,800 members in seven stakes. The Eureka California Stake, formerly in the California Roseville Mission, will be placed in the Santa Rosa mission.
Pres. Phil K. Smartt, president of the California Oakland Mission, said missionary work in California began in San Francisco in 1846, and as a consequence, the Church is well-known and well-established in the area.
The area is also very international. The first Chinese people arrived in California about the same time as the Church members, and many other ethnic groups have followed, including a large number of Russians.
"We have 11 languages in our mission: Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Tagalog, Russian, Samoan and Tongan," said President Smartt.
"People in San Francisco have been very responsive and receptive to our message. We have great member support in the San Francisco area."
Illinois Chicago South Mission
The new Illinois Chicago South Mission, with the same name as a previous mission that existed from 1980-83, will include the Chicago Heights, Joliet and Naperville stakes. Total population for the area is 3 million, with a Church membership of 9,700.
The Illinois Chicago Mission will retain the Buffalo Grove, Rockford, Schaumburg and Wilmette stakes, comprising 12,400 members in a total population of 5.9 million.
Pres. Neal L. Cox of the Illinois Chicago Mission said the new mission will include a "wonderful cultural diversity" that the "common thread of the gospel brings together." The stakes in the new mission draw from inner city areas in South Chicago to farms of Indiana. It also includes the commuter city of Naperville, a more affluent area where a number of Church families have settled.
Referring to the many small towns scattered throughout both missions, Pres. Cox said: "The new mission will give us an opportunity to go places we where we haven't had a missionary presence. More and more, we will have a chance to go into areas where the Church is lesser known."
Where the missionaries have opened new, small areas, he said, such efforts have generally been successful. Regardless of where they are baptized, however, new converts enjoy the fellowship they find.
"We hear lots of people who come into the Church commenting on how warmly received they've felt; what a genuine love the members have had for them." said Pres. Cox.
He mentioned the ratio of non-members to each missionary is about 45,000 to one, a ratio that will improve with the creation of the new mission.
He explained that in the early history of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith visited or preached in several locations within the mission. "We feel some kinship with the Prophet Joseph Smith, even though he lived in Nauvoo, which is not in our mission," Pres. Cox said. "This feels like his country."
Nevada Las Vegas West Mission
With the organization of the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission, to be created from the Nevada Las Vegas Mission, Nevada will have two missions. Both the original mission and the new mission will have 16 stakes. Each mission will have about 900,000 million people and some 50,000 Church members.
Las Vegas has the fastest-growing population in the nation, with a strong increase in jobs and industry, said Pres. Robert H. McKee of the Nevada Las Vegas Mission. The entertainment and mining industries have brought many people to the area, he said. New families without social ties are more open to change. After moving to Las Vegas, new families soon encounter Church members.
"People can't go to work without meeting a member of the Church," Pres. McKee said. "The Church is very visible in Las Vegas. Though we are a relative minority, we have a temple and we have a high profile in every neighborhood. The Mormon presence here is a big reason for the success of the Church; certainly all the benefits of the Church are here."
He said media referrals have helped bring in many people.
"I am personally impressed by the quality of people who are being baptized."
Texas Houston South Mission
A third mission in the city of Houston, Texas, will be created from divisions of the Texas Houston and Texas Houston East missions. The new Texas Houston South mission will include the coastal region south of the city, from the city of Galveston nearly to the city of Corpus Cristi. The new mission will include the Bay City, Friendswood, Houston South stakes.
Parts of the Houston Texas Stake will be included in all three missions.
With an overall population of -- million, the new mission will have -- Church members.
The realigned Houston Mission will be made up of the Bay City, Friendswood and Houston South stakes and have a total population of XX million that includes -- members.
The realigned Texas Houston East Mission will retain four stakes, the Beaumont, Houston East, Kingwood and Orange and have XX members in a population of XX million.
According to Pres. Bruce F. Sorensen of the Texas Houston Mission, missionary efforts in the area are proceeding well.
"I am optimistic that the work is going forward, and that it is going to get better," he said. "Houston is an exciting place to be. It is dynamic with a lot of new people moving in. It is a new city, a growth city. It is going to be a strong bastion for the Church.
"We have strong stakes here in Texas, comparable to those on the Wasatch Front [in Utah]. There are devoted, committed Saints, excellent leadership, committed and focused stake leaders, and great bishops."
He said missionary efforts in some places are based on assistance from members, while efforts in other places consist of tracting. "Missionaries learn quickly how to work their areas. Missionaries are doing a wonderful job of of meeting and contacting people."
He noted d many of the converts are from Latin American areas, especially Mexico. Referrals from the media have been "fairly good."
Although the new mission is slightly smaller than the two missions from which it was formed, the growth in the area should help it reach comparable size in a few years, said Pres. Sorensen.
Chile Santiago East Mission
The Chile Santiago East Mission will be created from a division of the Chile Santiago North, Chile Santiago South and the Chile Santiago West missions.
The new mission, with a total population of 1.8 million, will have nine stakes and 26,000 members of the Church. In LDS membership, it will be the smallest mission in Santiago, but in total population, the largest.
The realigned Chile Santiago North Mission, with some 1.6 million people, will have 37,000 members in 11 stakes. This mission will also include Easter Island and the Juan Fernandez island, also known as Robinson Crusoe Island.
The realigned Chile Santiago West Mission will have 41,000 members living in 13 stakes, and a total population of 1.4 million people. The realigned Chile Santiago West Mission will have 37,000 members in 12 stakes and a population of 1.4 million people.
Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy and president of the Chile area said many converts have been baptized in the city of Santiago.
He said the progressive nature of the people, "who are humble, good, sweet and loving, seems to be a factor in their willingness to hear the gospel message."
He explained that Santiago is a city of between 6-7 million people. "There is a lot of apartment living in Santiago, a lot of apartments about four stories high. Missionaries often go into those small apartments where the people of two or three adjoining apartments come over and listen.
"Sister Hammond and I went visiting with newly converted members, and we got to one of those apartments, and within just minutes they had 35 people crowded into the little apartment to see us and meet us."
He said missionaries, of whom a third are Chileans, are baptizing many entire families.
Honduras Comayaguela Mission
The new Honduras Comayaguela Mission will be a division of the Honduras Tegucigalpa Mission. The new mission, headquartered in Comayaguela, a twin city of Tegucigalpa, will have 16,300 members, living in five stakes, and a population of --- million.
The realigned Honduras Tegucigalpa Mission will retain six stakes with 16,500 members, and a population of -- million people.
Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy and president of the Central America Area described Honduras as a "fruitful field."
He said that Comayaguela is the "working class area" of the metropolitan area.
"The work has grown in that area so that one mission president just can't handle all the area," said Elder Bradford. "Our baptisms rate is quite high and will remain high no matter how many missionaries are coming in."
About one-fourth of the baptisms are adult males.
"We are building from centers of strength," said Elder Bradford. "We have some cities outside, but most of the concentration is in the city or within an hour and half transportation to the city.
"The northeast two-thirds of the geographic area of the mission is mostly undeveloped mountainous, timbered country," he said. Mining, timber and agriculture industries exist in this region.
Russia Moscow South Mission
The new Russia Moscow South Mission will be created by dividing the existing Russia Moscow mission and opening new cities that lie south of Moscow, said Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy and a counselor in the Europe East Area presidency.
"The new mission will encompass the southern half of Moscow and the city of Voronezh. Other cities - Tula, Kaluga and Smolensk - will eventually be opened as well," said Elder Porter.
The existing Russia Moscow Mission will encompass the northern half of the city of Moscow and a number of cities, some still to be opened, north and east of Moscow.
"Missionaries in Moscow, and in Russia generally, proselyte much like missionaries in any country that respects religious freedom," said Elder Porter. "They are free to tract door-to-door, contact people on the streets, seek member referrals, and visit investigators in their homes. Members are actively involved in missionary work, with a number serving as district or full-time missionaries. Living conditions are simple, but quite adequate, and food and other necessities are in abundance. Russian authorities have been very cooperative and courteous toward the Church and its missionaries."
Uruguay Montevideo West Mission
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Church in Uruguay, the nation's second mission will be created. Uruguay will celebrate its 50th year in August, half a century after the creation of the Uruguay Mission in 1947.
The Uruguay Montevideo Mission will be divided in half, with nine stakes or districts in the new mission and 10 stakes or districts retained. The new mission will have 21,500 members within a population of about 1.7 million. The realigned Montevideo mission will have 21,300 members and a total population of about 1.7 million.
"These are a beautiful people, anxious to follow Heavenly Father and come close to Him and know His Son and participate in the blessing of the restored gospel," said Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy and president of the South America South Area. "Three new stakes were created in Uruguay last year and there is a real excitement in the area about the Church. The work is rolling ahead very nicely."
He said missionaries teach additional lessons to new converts to ensure that they understand the practices of LDS families. Missionaries teach lessons on such things as the importance of attending sacrament meeting, holding family prayer, doing family history work, spending time with their families and preparing for the temple.
He explained that a non-member tradition of the area is that families only attend a church service twice a year, and consider themselves active. "When they become members of the Church of Jesus Christ, they are to partake of the sacrament every Sunday," said Elder Dickson.
He said he expects additional stakes to be created in Uruguay, and the new mission will help by providing missionaries to each ward or branch, something that is not possible now.
"Members are involved in missionary work and doing better all the time," he said.
"We have second- and third-generation Saints who know how to do the work and they are getting better all the time. The mission presidents have done an excellent job in helping these people catch the vision of what to do to prepare for the future."