Over the weekend of September 9 and 10, 2017, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the 100th stake in the Philippines, the Mandaluyong Philippines Stake in Metro Manila. This is a landmark event, making the Philippines only the fifth country in the world to have 100 stakes. For the sake of fun, we won’t tell you the others and invite you to guess in the comments below.
Prior to the stake organization, approximately 600 Filipino youth gathered at the Kia Theatre in Metro Manila to put on a—you guess it—cultural celebration entitled “Upon the Isle of the Sea.” The youth celebrated through song and dance, aiming to represent the cultural diversity of the Philippines, an archipelagic nation of 7,100 islands, numerous languages, and a president with an interesting grasp on justice.
The Church is only 56 years old in the Philippines, having been dedicated for the preaching of the gospel by then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley in 1961. Since then the Church has grown rapidly.
Area President Elder Shayne M. Bowen (and erstwhile president of the best mission in the Church) said to the crowd that the Church will “bring unity, peace, and harmony among the Filipinos as it continues to grow and spread throughout the isles of the sea,” according to the Deseret News.
While the creation of the 100th stake in the country is certainly worth celebration, it’s also worth looking at the overall membership numbers in the Philippines. According to the Mormon Newsroom, there are 745,959 members of the Church in the country, with 21 missions, 1,211 congregations, 2 dedicated temples, and 2 more announced (the prediction for which we nailed last General Conference). For those just checking the math on that, that makes an average of 7,460 or so members per stake, which is pretty high, especially since an average of 7-8 wards per stake yields approximately 900 members per unit.
Translation: the Church is growing, but retention remains an issue and inactivity rates are still high. Cumorah.com estimates most wards have activity rates of approximately 20%. In addition, the Philippines government ran a survey in 2015 asking about religious identification. 196,303 individuals self identified as LDS, or about 27% of the total membership number reported by the Church, according to LDS demographer Matt Martinich.
Some might recall that in 2002, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was assigned to preside over the Philippines, the first time a member of the Twelve had been moved permanently abroad in 50 years. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was assigned to preside over Chile at the same time.) Prior to the move, the Church had actually contracted a number of stakes in the Philippines.
Nevertheless, the dedication of the Philippines’ second temple in 2010, along with the announcement of two more temples, is a clear indication in an upswing not just in the number of stakes, but in the number of active, tithe-paying members. That’s a great thing. And while we recognize challenges remain, we commend the members in the Philippines for their continued faith and efforts.