Reaching the Nations

France

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 643,427 square km.  Geographically the largest nation in Western Europe, France borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Andorra, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and the English Channel.  The Pyrenees Mountains form the Spanish border and together with the Alps near the Swiss border account for mountainous areas in France.  Most terrain consists of plains and rolling hills.  Corsica, one of the largest Mediterranean islands, is also under French administration.  Cool winters and mild summers characterize the climate in most areas.  Mediterranean regions of France experience mild winters and hot summers.  A recurrent wind known as mistral brings cold, dry air from the north/northwest to Mediterranean areas.  Major rivers that travel through or border France include the Rhine, Rhone, and Seine.  Flooding, avalanches, windstorms, drought, and forest fires are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include acid rain, air pollution, water pollution, and agricultural runoff.  France is divided into 26 administrative regions, four of which are overseas regions (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion).  

 

Population: 62,814,233 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.525% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.97 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 77.91 male, 84.44 female (2010)

 

Peoples

French: 80.9%

North African: 9.6%

Subsaharan/Black African: 4%

German: 2.5%

Italian: 1.5%

other: 1.5%

The French are a compound of Celtic and Latin peoples that have mixed for centuries.  North Africans constitute the largest minority group and originate from the former French colonies of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.  Germans and Italians tend to reside in regions bordering their traditional homeland nations.  Other ethnicities account for 1.5% of the population and include Basque and immigrant groups from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean. 

 

Languages: French (87%), Occitan (3%), German (2.5%), North African Arab dialects (2%), Italian (1.5%), Portuguese (1%), Breton (1%), Kabyle (1%), Corsican (0.5%), other (0.5%).  French is the official language.  Languages with over one million native speakers include French (54.6 million), Occitan (1.9 million), German (1.6 million), Arab dialects (1.3 million), and Italian (1.0 million). 

Literacy: 99% (2003)

 

History

Celtic tribes inhabited present-day France anciently and came under Roman rule in the mid-first century BC.    Following the demise of the Roman Empire in the following centuries, feudalism and various tribal forces controlled the region.  The French formed one of Europe's first nation-states and France become one of Europe's most powerful nations during the seventeenth century.  French power began to decline in the eighteenth century as a result of unsuccessful military campaigns and financial problems.  The French Revolution occurred from 1789 to 1794 and came primarily as a result of poor economic conditions and a populace that grew weary of privileges granted only to nobles and clerics.  Much of the nineteenth century was marked by militaristic, authoritarian governments and leaders including as Napoleon, Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe, and Napoleon III.  France was devastated by World War I and suffered heavy military losses and economic degradation.  Nazi Germany invaded France and overtook the country by July 1940.  Allied forces liberated France in 1944.  France struggled to administer its domestic and international affairs following the war, resulting in the formation of the Fifth Republic in 1958 under General de Gaulle.  Heavy immigration from North Africa occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s, which changed the demographics of French society.  France was one of the European Union's six founding states and maintains one of the strongest influences on the European Union today.  France has taken part in international counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan since 2001 and remains one of the foremost European powers today.[1]  

 

Culture 

With one of the world's most influential cultures, France has contributed significantly to the development of culture in the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia.  French is one of the most commonly spoken second languages in Africa and is the official language of approximately 30 countries.  The Catholic Church has traditionally been a dominant influence on society and Catholicism remains one of the dominant Christian religions in most French colonial possessions.  France has produced many famous artists, philosophers, fashion designers, musicians, film makers, and writers.  Cuisine differs by region; common foods include bread, wine, cheese, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, mushrooms, eggs, and seafood.  Alcohol consumption rates rank among the highest worldwide whereas cigarette consumption rates compare to the worldwide average.  

 

Economy

GDP per capita: $32,500 (2009) [70% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.872

Corruption Index: 6.8

With a developed, modern economy, France has take steps to reform its economy in recent years by reducing government ownership and increasing privatization while simultaneously maintaining tax policies, social spending, and laws which promote the equalization of wealth.  France endured the global financial crisis of the late 2000s better than many other European nations, but nonetheless faces many economic problems originating from the crisis, including increased unemployment and declining GDP.  Services employ 72% of the labor force and generate 79% of the GDP whereas industry employs 24% of the labor force and generates 19% of the GDP.  Tourism is a major industry as 75 million foreign tourists visit France a year, making France the most popular tourist destination in the world.  Other primary industries include machinery, chemicals, cars, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics, clothing, and food processing.  Agriculture accounts for less than five percent of the GDP and labor force.  Grains, sugar beets, potatoes, grapes, beef, dairy products, and fish are common agricultural goods.  Natural resources include coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, and fish.  Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Spain are the primary trade partners. 

 

Corruption is perceived at rates slightly lower than most Western European nations.  France is a transshipment point for illicit drugs from South America, Asia, Europe.  In recent years, the government has pledged greater effort to reduce corruption.

 

Faiths

Christian: 66%

Muslim: 10%

Buddhist: 1%

Jewish: 1%

other/none: 22%

 

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  40,201,109

Evangelicals  450,000

Orthodox  100,000

Jehovah’s Witnesses  123,272  1,525

Latter-Day Saints  35,427  111

Seventh-Day Adventists  12,506  116

 

Religion

France is a traditionally Catholic country, but in late 2009 a poll conducted by a Catholic organization estimated that 64% of the population identified as Catholic.  Religious attendance is extremely low as only 4.5% of the population regularly attends a religious service.  France boasts Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations.  Muslims consist of North African and sub-Saharan immigrants and account for the largest religious minority group but report lower religious observance in France than in their home countries.  Jews number approximately 600,000.  There are approximately one million Protestant Christians.  Evangelicals may number as many as 450,000 and include many Africans and immigrants from the Caribbean.  Buddhists number approximately 770,000 and are principally Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants.  The number of Sikhs is estimated at 10,000-11,000.[2]

 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which in general is upheld by the government.  Separation of church and state occurred in 1905.  Traditional Catholic holidays are recognized by the government.  Religious organizations may register with the government as an association of worship or as a cultural association.  Associations of worship may only organize religious activities whereas cultural associations grant religious organizations the right to make profits, receive government subsidies, and are not tax-exempt.  Foreign missionaries may serve in France but are required to obtain a long-duration visa if their home country is not exempted from French visa entry requirements.  Some religious minority groups are labeled sects or cults by the government, including Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists, and have been monitored and restricted in some religious freedoms.  The French government recently proposed a law that would prohibit the wearing of face-covering veils in public which some religious groups viewed as a restriction of religious freedom for Muslims and has sparked national and international debate.  Societal abuses of religious freedom is directed toward Muslims and Jews and have included death threats, vandalism of religious buildings, and harassment. Tensions are high between Muslims and the general population.  Government, religious, and civic leaders have urged greater tolerance toward these groups.  Religious education does not occur in public schools.[3]   

 

Largest Cities

Urban: 77%

Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulon, Lens, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Rouen, Valenciennes, Nancy, Metz, Montpellier, Tours, Saint-Étienne, Rennes, Avignon, Orléans, Clermont-Ferrand, Béthune, Le Havre, Mulhouse, Dijon, Angers, Reims, Brest, Caen, Pau, Le Mans, Bayonne, Dunkerque, Perpignan, Limoges, Nîmes, Amiens, Annecy, Saint-Nazaire, Besançon, Troyes, Thionville, Poitiers, Valence, La Rochelle, Chambéry, Annemasse, Lorient, Montbéliard, Angoulême, Calais, Creil.

 49 of the 54 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants have an LDS congregation.  45% of the national population resides in the 54 largest cities. 

 

LDS History

The first unofficial visit by a Latter-day Saint to France occurred in 1845.[4]  A Welsh LDS missionary named William Howell was the first Latter-day Saint to officially visit France in 1849.  Missionary work progressed rapidly initially as 48 converts were baptized in a four week period the same year[5] and a branch was organized in Paris.[6]

Elder John Taylor became president of the French Mission in 1850 and dedicated France for missionary work.  Local members and full-time missionaries organized four small branches, produced a French-language LDS magazine, and translated the Book of Mormon into French by 1852.  Political conditions worsened by 1855, resulting in poor receptivity to the LDS Church and persecution.  Most converts after this period were foreigners.  By 1864, the Church closed the French Mission.  The mission was reestablished in 1912 and closed again two years later due to World War I.  The Church reestablished the French Mission again in 1924 but receptivity remained poor as by 1930 there were only 47 French members in France, but nearly 650 members in French-speaking areas of Belgium and Switzerland.  The French Mission closed in 1939 as the Church withdrew missionaries at the outbreak of World War II.  The French Mission was reestablished a fourth time in 1946, but full-time missionaries were severely limited in numbers shortly thereafter due to the outbreak of the Korean War.  Remaining LDS scriptures were translated in 1958.  Seminary and institute commenced in the early 1970s.  By 1976, there were two missions based in France (France Paris and France Toulouse Missions) and two additional missions headquartered outside of France that served regions of France (Belgium Brussels and Switzerland Geneva Missions).[7]  Two additional missions were organized in France in Bordeaux (1989) and Marseille (1991).  In 1989, the France Bordeaux Mission was organized in part due to increases in convert baptisms at the time in France but primarily to reduce administrative demands over large geographic areas.[8]  In 1991, the Europe Mediterranean Area began administering France and was headquartered in Thoiry, France.[9]  President Thomas S. Monson visited France in mid-1997 and held several meetings with local members.[10]  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir held concerts in France in the early 1990s and again in the late 1990s.  In 2000, France became part of the Europe West Area[11] and in the late 2000s was assigned to the Europe Area.  Missions based in Bordeaux and Marseille were consolidated into neighboring missions 2001.  In 2011, the France Toulouse and Switzerland Geneva Missions were consolidated into the France Lyon Mission.

 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 35,427 (2009)

French-speaking Latter-day Saints numbered 400 in 1912, most of whom resided in Belgium and Switzerland.[12]  1,909 Latter-day Saints were on church records in France in 1959.  Membership increased to 9,853 in 1974[13] and 21,000 in 1991.[14]  The most rapid membership growth occurred in the 1980s.  For example in 1987, there were 211 converts just in the Lille France District.[15]

 

Membership reached 30,912 at year-end 2000.  During the 2000s membership grew slowly, numbering 31,971 in 2002, 32,780 in 2004, 33,828 in 2006, and 34,906 in 2008.  Annual membership growth rates ranged from a low of 0.8% in 2008 to a high of 2.4% in 2001 and 2007, but generally averaged between 1% and 1.5%.  Annual membership increases typically varied from 300 to 800 during this period.  A large number of LDS converts since the early 1980s have been immigrants or temporary foreigner workers from Africa.  In 2009, one in 1,774 was nominally LDS. 

 

Congregational Growth

Wards: 57 Branches: 54

In 1974, France had eleven districts.[16]  The first stake was organized in Paris in 1975 followed by additional stakes in Nice (1980), Nancy (1983), and Lille (1988).  In 1989, there were four stakes and seven districts in France.  Districts operated in Bordeaux, Dijon, Languedoc, Limonges, Nantes, Rouen, and St. Etienne.[17]  Three new stakes were organized in the 1990s in Lyon (1990), Paris East (1992), and Bordeaux (1992).  In 1994, the Church created a new district in Metz with four branches.[18]  In 1995, there were seven stakes and seven districts.[19]  By year-end 2000, there were seven stakes and five districts.  In the 2000s, three of the five French districts were organized into new stakes in Toulouse (2002) and Angers (2003).  In early 2011, there were nine stakes and two districts.  Districts currently operate in Lorient (1978) and Caen (1979).

 

There were 65 branches in 1974.[20]  By 1995, there were 110 congregations (32 wards and 78 branches),[21] increasing to 125 congregations in 2000 (43 wards, 82 branches).  Stagnant congregational growth occurred during the first half of the 2000s as there were 126 congregations by year-end 2005.  The number of congregations began to decline during the latter half of the 2000s to 124 in 2006, 117 in 2007, 113 in 2008, and 111 in 2009.  The number of wards increased to 50 in 2002, 60 in 2004, and 61 in 2006 before declining to 58 in 2008 and 57 in 2009.  The number of branches declined from 82 in 2000 to 75 in 2002, 65 in 2004, 63 in 2006, and 55 in 2008. 

 

Activity and Retention

Large meetings and conference have been moderately attended by local members in the past.  4,010 members attended a regional conference held in Paris for members in northern France and Belgium and 3,200 attended a similar conference in Lyon for members in southeast France and French-speaking Switzerland.[22]  In 1998, President Hinckley spoke to 2,400 members in Paris from the two Paris stakes and districts in Caen, Tours, and Rennes.  Another meeting occurred in Geneva that was attended by 4,200 members from stakes in Nice, Lyon, Geneva, Zurich, and Bern.[23] 

 

LDS member activity and convert retention rates have been mediocre in France for decades.  In 2010, full-time missionaries in the France Toulouse Mission reported that they sometimes spent more time on reactivation work than finding and teaching new investigators.  Retention rates have recently improved over the short-term.  Full-time missionaries serving in the France Paris Mission in 2010 reported that over 80% of converts baptized in the past year continued to attend church.  1,474 were enrolled in seminary and institute during the 2008-2009 school year.  

 

The average number of members per congregation increased from 247 in 2000 to 319 in 2009.  The number of active members is relatively constant for most LDS congregations in France.  In late 2005, 75 of the 250 members in the Valence Ward attended regularly.[24]  The Perigueux Branch had nearly 50 active members in late 2010 and the Carcassonne Ward had almost 70 active members in mid-2010.  Most branches appear to have approximately 50 active members whereas most wards tend to have 75 to 100 active members.  The U.S. Department of State reported that 30% of French Latter-day Saints were observant in 2010.[25]  Nationwide active membership is estimated at 8,000, or 22-25% of total LDS membership. 

 

Finding

In 1988, local members and full-time missionaries in Strasbourg took turns portraying Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds in a Nativity scene presented on the LDS meetinghouse lawn.  1,500 visited the Nativity scene over a six-day period and 1,000 entered the meetinghouse to talk with members and missionaries.[26]  The Church organized a traveling exhibit on families and genealogy in the Rouen area that traveled to half a dozen large cities in the area.  Over a 17-day period, the exhibit had 1,670 viewers.[27]  Although only ten Latter-day Saints lived in Brest in 1988, 1,500 attended a Church exposition on family history.  Member and missionaries held gospel-related conversations with many of the those in attendance.[28]  In 1989, the Church conducted a media missionary campaign in newspapers advertizing the video "Our Heavenly Father's Plan" which resulted in 1,700 requests for the video in France.[29]  In 1992, a documentary detailed LDS Church history and genealogy work aired[30] and 9,800 attended a Paris exhibition representing various religious traditions featured a display on Latter-day Saints.[31]  France was included in the Church's European tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit in 2005.[32]

 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: French, German, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian

All LDS scriptures and most church materials are available in French, German, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.  Gospel Principles and the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith are translated into Comorian and several African languages spoken in former-French colonies. 

 

Meetinghouses

The first church-built LDS meetinghouse was completed in 1962 in Nantes.  By 1976, there were nine church-built meetinghouses and twelve remodeled buildings that served as meetinghouses.[33]  In early 2011, there were approximately 100 meetinghouses, most of which were built by the Church.  Some smaller branches meet in renovated buildings and rented spaces, such as the Vannes Branch. 

 

Humanitarian and Development Work

Local members have sent aid to the poor and needy internationally since as early as the late 1980s.  Members organized a special fund in the Paris France Stake for medicine and other supplies for Zaire and Madagascar in 1988.[34]  Local members have taken part in volunteer work cleaning and beautifying their communities.[35]  In 2005, LDS institute attendees and instructors in Lyon purchased and assembled hygiene and education kits to send to orphans in Laayoune, Western Sahara.[36]  In 2006, an eleven-year-old boy in the Lyon France Stake collected 1,350 eyeglasses to send to the needy in Cameroon.[37]

 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

 

Religious Freedom

The LDS Church experiences full religious freedom in France and local members and missionaries may proselyte, worship, and assemble freely.  The Church maintains two associations that are registered with the government: An association of worship for its ecclesiastical affairs and a cultural association for its scholastic and cultural operations.[38]  Foreign full-time missionaries regularly serve in France and report few difficulties obtaining needed visas. 

 

Cultural Issues

The philosophical and intellectual nature of many French has disinterested them in religious matters.[39]  Negative stereotypes and misinformation perpetuated about the LDS Church since the mid-nineteenth century continue to create barriers for LDS missionaries to overcome today.[40]  High alcohol consumption rates challenge efforts for many investigators and less-active members to following LDS teachings to abstain from alcoholic beverages.  Most the European population has a Christian background but are unfamiliar with basic religious habits such as church attendance, personal scripture reading, and developing faith and testimony of specific doctrines and teachings.  Latter-day Saint missionaries face the challenge of instilling these practices and convictions in the highly nominal Catholic majority teaching investigators.  Many Latter-day Saints are less active as a result of failure to gain a solid testimony of the Church and develop daily religious habits and practices.  The Muslim population is virtually unreached by LDS mission outreach efforts as in 2010 missionaries reported that they were not permitted to teach Muslims out of safety concerns for any prospective LDS converts among Muslim immigrant groups pending their return to their home country.  Some proselytism and exposure to the Church does occur among some Muslim populations in France, but strong ethno-religious ties to Islam and perceived intimidation by the Catholic-French majority render efforts among Muslim groups largely unfruitful at present. 

 

National Outreach

47% of the national population resides in a city with an LDS congregation.  28 of the 61 cities with between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants have an LDS congregation.  No cities with fewer than 35,000 inhabitants appear to have an LDS congregation.  There are approximately 140 cities with over 20,000 inhabitants that have no LDS mission outreach centers.  All 22 administrative regions in Metropolitan France have an LDS mission outreach center.  The average LDS congregation in France includes over 560,000 people within its geographical boundaries.  Taking the ratio of population to LDS congregations by administrative region offers insight into how the extent of mission outreach and Latter-day Saints percentages differ by region.  Regions which appear to have the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints (fewer than 400,000 people per LDS congregation) include Corse, Aquitaine, Basse-Normandie, Limousin, and Lorraine whereas Auvergne, Haute-Normandie, and Ile-de-France appear to have the lowest percentage of Latter-day Saints (greater than 800,000 people per LDS congregation).      

 

Opportunities for future growth appear highest in the most populous cities without currently-operating LDS congregations, such as Lens, Bethune, Thionville, Montbeliard, and Creil, as well as medium-sized cities with greater than 50,000 inhabitants.  Local leadership and member-missionary resources appear too limited in many areas for French members to undertake the responsibility of extending outreach to these cities at present.  Cooperation between full-time missionaries and local leaders in arranging public affairs, cottage meetings, and creative proselytism approaches will be needed to reverse the ongoing trend of congregation consolidations and declining national outreach since the mid-2000s. 

 

France served as a springboard for LDS Church growth in French-speaking African nations in the 1980s and 1990s as African immigrations joined the Church and returned to their homelands.  The first Latter-day Saint converts from most French-speaking African nations with a current LDS presence were taught and baptized in France during this period.  Prospects remain high for the continued involvement of LDS missions in France in the process of converting French-speaking Africans in reached and unreached nations in Africa. 

 

The Church has participated in Internet-based proselytism approaches primarily through the Church's official website for France at http://www.eglisedejesuschrist.fr/ and French LDS language materials online.  France ranked among the top twenty countries with the most visitors to the Church's official website shortly after it was launched in 1997.[41]  Member-missionary efforts online remain uncoordinated and limited.  Use of French-language materials available online by missionaries and members in France may help improve receptivity and church growth prospects over the medium term. 

 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Full-time missionaries and local members participated in member reactivation efforts in the mid-1990s.[42]  The Annemasse Ward was one of the highest baptizing congregations in France in the mid-2000s.  Success appears strongly linked to missionary firesides held on a monthly basis, the immediate assignment of home teachers to new converts before their baptismal service, and a strong member-missionary program that emphasizes local members supplying full-time missionaries with investigators to teach.[43]  Local leaders and members have participated in reactivation efforts, such as holding ward or branch activities and inviting less-active members.[44]  Full-time missionaries reported that the Vitrolles Ward had only seven convert baptisms between 2005 and 2010 and only one of those converts was active in early 2011. 

 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

Full-time missionaries report most congregations of native French and French-speaking Africans encounter few ethnic integration challenges.  African immigrants have demonstrated greater receptivity and greater member activity rates in the LDS Church than their European French counterparts, resulting in the demographics of many congregations not representing those of the general population.  North Africans present the greatest challenge to integrate into Latter-day Saint congregations at present due to the lack of Muslim and Arabic language outreach resources,  poor integration of North Africans into French society, and lack of cultural traditions of church service.

 

Language Issues

Nearly the entire population speaks French as a first or second language, reducing the need for translations of LDS scriptures and materials into indigenous minority languages with declining numbers of speakers such as Occitan and Breton.  Sizeable numbers of non-French speakers in some congregations may necessitate the establishment of Sunday School classes and language translations of sacrament meeting services meeting specific language needs.  

 

Missionary Service

80 full-time missionaries were serving in France by 1948, increasing to 334 by 1972.[45]  The number of French members serving full-time missions in the French Mission increased from three in 1971 to 29 full-time missionaries and 50 stake missionaries in 1974.[46]  At the peak, there may have been over 500 LDS missionaries serving in France, but missionary complements were reduced starting in the mid-1990s due to mission realignments and overall cuts to the Western European LDS missionary force.  The France Toulouse Mission had approximately 80 full-time missionaries in early 2010.  In early 2011, France appeared to have no more than 200 full-time missionaries.  France remains dependent on the international church to staff its two full-time missions despite the massive reduction in the full-time missionary force from the mid-1990s through the 2000s.  Nonetheless French members frequently serve missions abroad, such as in Africa, the Caribbean, and North America.  Organizing youth-focused mission outreach and stressing seminary and institute attendance as part of missionary preparation may increase the number of French members serving full-time missions over the medium term. 

 

Leadership

The number of active priesthood leaders has generally increased year to year in France over the past several decades, allowing for stakes to operate in most areas.  The French Mission had 96 Melchizedek Priesthood holders in 1959 and 345 in the France Paris Mission by year-end 1974.[47]  The number of active priesthood holders remains too limited in most areas to provide leadership sufficient to organize additional congregations and even to maintain some currently operating wards and branches, resulting in consistent congregation consolidations since the mid-2000s.  The quality of local leaders is generally good and has resulted in several French Latter-day Saints serving in international leadership positions.  In 1988, Christian Euvrard from Nogent was called as a regional representative.[48]  Gerard Giraud-Carrier from Torcy was called as the first mission president of the Mascarene Islands Mission in 1988.[49]  In 1991, Pierre H. Euvrard from Nogent was called to preside over the Mascarene Islands Mission.[50]  In 1992, Jacques Faudin from Vitrolles was called as a regional representative.[51]  In 1995, Alain Andre Petion from Truchtersheim was called as an area authority.[52]  In 2006, J. Michael Paya from Mougins was called as an Area Seventy.[53]  In 2007, Gerald J. Causse from Seine was called as an Area Seventy.[54]  In 2005, Alain Andre Jean-Baptiste Petion from Torcy was called as the Canada Montreal Mission president in 2005.[55]

 

Temple

With no LDS temple in France, members are assigned to the Bern Switzerland, Frankfurt Germany, Madrid Spain, and London England Temple districts.  French temple attendance rates have historically appeared low to moderate among active members despite logistical and financial burdens to attend the temple regularly.  The number of endowments performed by French-speaking members at the Bern Switzerland Temple increased from 462 in 1960 to 7,744 in 1974.  In the mid-1990s, the Frankfurt Germany Temple would alternate weeks for German and French-speaking members in the temple district.[56]  In 1998, President Hinckley addressed the topic of a potential future temple in France, stating that French membership had reached the maturity and activity required for a temple to operate in France but that the Church was unable to find land to construct a temple at the time.[57]  In 2010, full-time missionaries reported that in addition to tithing, many local members contribute to a fund to finance the building of an LDS temple in France.  Interests in allocating a temple site have been concentrated on Paris and its surrounding communities.  As of early 2011, efforts were still underway to secure land for the construction of a temple although no formal temple announcement had been given by the First Presidency.

 

Comparative Growth

France boasts the fourth most Latter-day Saints and the third most stakes in continental Europe.  In 2009, it was the country with the second most members without a temple.  Membership growth rates in France were higher than many Western European nations in the 2000s but like most of Western Europe France experienced a decline in the number of LDS congregations.  Member activity rates and the percentage of members in the general population are low but comparable to most Western European nations.  

 

Some outreach-oriented Christian groups have experienced steady growth in France over the past half century, namely Evangelicals and Jehovah's Witnesses due to their church planting and member-missionary intensive programs.  Evangelicals number among the largest Protestant denominations today and continue to experience steady growth.  Jehovah's Witnesses claim over 123,000 active members meeting in 1,525 congregations and baptized nearly 2,500 converts in 2009.[58]  Seventh Day Adventists report stagnant or slow annual membership growth.  The number of Adventist congregations in southern France has declined in the past decade whereas the number of Adventist congregations in northern France have slightly increased.  Adventists have baptized 150 to 200 converts in France annually in recent years.[59]

 

Future Prospects

The outlook for future LDS Church growth in France is mediocre due to low levels of member activity, inconsistent mission practices regarding the baptism of new converts, persistent congregation consolidations, reduction in the number of full-time missionaries, no new mission outreach centers established for several years, few local members serving full-time missions, and mission policies isolating Muslims from LDS mission outreach.  Emphasizing seminary and institute attendance, developing youth-directed mission outreach, and stronger member-missionary participation may alleviate some of these issues.  Emigration of French members continues to frustrate greater long-term self sufficiency and development of a strong French LDS community.  France will likely continue its role in facilitating the establishment of the Church in unreached and reached Francophone nations in West Africa by immigrants from these nations joining the Church and returning to their homelands or referring friends and family to study about the Church.  Mission outreach centers are established in most major cities, allowing for continued outreach to half the population.  The recent reduction in the full-time missionary force has increased the efficiency of missionary activities, resulting in a slight increase in convert baptisms.  Time will only tell whether these modifications will continue to yield increases in convert baptisms without reducing convert retention rates in a nation which has become highly secularized yet remains strong in adherence to the Catholic Church. 



[1]  "Background Note: France," LDS Church News, 18 August 2010.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3842.htm

[2]  "France," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148934.htm

[3]  "France," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148934.htm

[4]  "The Church in Europe", Ensign, Aug. 1973, 16–35

[5]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[6]  "Six new missions to be created missions are added in Europe, Africa, Caribbean and U.S.," LDS Church News, 23 March 1991.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/20711/Six-new-missions-to-be-created-missions-are-added-in-Europe-Africa-Caribbean-and-US.html

[7]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[8]  Hart, John L.  "New missions are evidence of Church's dynamic growth," LDS Church News, 25 February 1989.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/19163/New-missions-are-evidence-of-Churchs-dynamic-growth.html

[9]  "New areas created in Asia, Europe," LDS Church News, 7 September 1991.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/21578/New-areas-created-in-Asia-Europe.html

[10]  "Pres. Monson returns to France," LDS Church News, 24 May 1997.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/28791/Pres-Monson-returns-to-France.html

[11]  "European continent realigned into three new areas," LDS Church News, 16 September 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/38475/European-continent---realigned-into-three-new-areas.html

[12]  "The Church in Europe", Ensign, Aug. 1973, 16–35

[13]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[14]  "Six new missions to be created missions are added in Europe, Africa, Caribbean and U.S.," LDS Church News, 23 March 1991.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/20711/Six-new-missions-to-be-created-missions-are-added-in-Europe-Africa-Caribbean-and-US.html

[15]  "From around the world," LDS Church News, 16 January 1988.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/17633/From-around-the-world.html

[16]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[17]  Hart, John L.  "New missions are evidence of Church's dynamic growth," LDS Church News, 25 February 1989.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/19163/New-missions-are-evidence-of-Churchs-dynamic-growth.html

[18]  "From around the world," LDS Church News, 9 July 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/25332/From-around-the-world.html

[19]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  "A Blooming in France", Ensign, Mar. 1995, 41

[20]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[21]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  "A Blooming in France", Ensign, Mar. 1995, 41

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[23]  "'Crown of gospel is upon our heads'," LDS Church News, 20 June 1998.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/31188/Crown-of-gospel-is-upon-our-heads.html

[24]  Gioffredo, Dennis.  "Steady perseverance builds French ward," LDS Church News, 4 February 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/48462/Steady-perseverance-builds-French-ward.html

[25]  "France," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148934.htm

[26]  "From around the world," LDS Church News, 9 January 1988.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/17636/From-around-the-world.html

[27]  "French show interest in family history exhibit," LDS Church News, 23 January 1988.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/17633/From-around-the-world.html

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[29]  "Europeans respond to LDS media blitz," LDS Church News, 22 April 1989.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/18702/Europeans-respond-to-LDS-media-blitz.html

[30]  "From around the world," LDS Church News, 4 April 1992.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/22544/From-around-the-world.html

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[33]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

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[35]  "LDS supply largest group," LDS Church News, 9 December 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/38987/LDS-supply-largest-group.html

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[37]  Stahle, Shaun D.  "Leads eyeglass project for Africa," LDS Church News, 27 May 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/48753/The-newly-called-are-sustained.html

[38]  "France," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148934.htm

[39]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[40]  "The Church in Europe", Ensign, Aug. 1973, 16–35

[41]  "Internet users find LDS web site," LDS Church News, 1 March 1997.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/29302/Internet-users-find-LDS-web-site.html

[42]  Gaunt, LaRene Porter.  "A Blooming in France", Ensign, Mar. 1995, 41

[43]  Pickup, David MW.  "At foot of the Alps," LDS Church News, 23 April 2005.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/47196/At-foot-of-the-Alps.html

[44]  "Enjoying the French countryside," LDS Church News, 14 July 2007.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/50828/Enjoying-the-French-countryside.html

[45]  "The Church in Europe", Ensign, Aug. 1973, 16–35

[46]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[47]  Wilson, Laurie J.  "The Saints in France", Ensign, Jan. 1976, 77

[48]  "New regional representatives," LDS Church News, 5 March 1988.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/18021/New-regional-representatives.html

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[56]  "Blessings of House of the Lord reach faithful in many lands," LDS Church News, 24 September 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/24291/Blessings-of-House-of-the-Lord-reach-faithful-in-many-lands.html

[57]  "News of the Church", Ensign, Sept. 1998, 72–80

[58]  "Statistics: 2009 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide," www.watchtower.org, retrieved 6 January 2011.  http://www.watchtower.org/e/statistics/worldwide_report.htm

[59]  "Franco-Belgian Union Conference (1972-Present)," Adventiststatistics.org, retrieved 6 January 2011.  http://www.adventiststatistics.org/view_Summary.asp?FieldInstID=1486726