Reaching the Nations

Democratic Republic of the Congo

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

Return to Table of Contents

Geography

Area: 2,344,858 square km.  Geographically one of the largest countries in Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo borders the Central African Republic, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, and the Republic of the Congo.  Several large lakes straddle the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with nations to the east, such as Lake Tanganyika, Lake Kivu, Lake Edward, and Lake Albert.  The Congo River is the largest river in the country and forms a portion of the international border with the Republic of Congo.  A small finger of land extends to the Atlantic Ocean on the west side of the country.  Most of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is tropical due to its location on the equator.  Tropical rainforest and jungle cover most of the country.  Some mountainous areas exist in the east where many large lakes form the boundaries with Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.  The southern portion of the country is drier with grasslands and forest.  Active volcanoes have threatened populated areas in the east.  Seasonal flooding occurs on the Congo River and frequent droughts visit the south.  Environmental issues include poaching wildlife, pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, and detrimental mining practices.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo is divided into ten administrative provinces and one city.  Plans have been approved to subdivide the country into 26 new administrative provinces but this has yet to be carried out.

Population: 71,712,867 (July 2011)

Annual Growth Rate: 2.614% (2011)

Fertility Rate: 5.24 children born per woman (2011)

Life Expectancy: 53.9 male, 56.8 female (2011)

Peoples

Mongo, Luba, Congo, and Mangbetu-Azande: 45%

Other: 55%

Population density is highest near the largest cities, in the southwest and in the east.  There are approximately 250 ethnic groups live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, most of which make up just a small fraction of the population.[1]  The four largest tribes are the Mongo, Luba, Congo, and Mangbetu-Azande, and are classified as Bantu or Hamitic.

Languages: 215 languages are spoken in the country.  French is the official language.  National languages include Kikongo, Lingala, Luba-Katanga, and Shaba Swahili.  Most spoken languages include Kikongo (11.6%), Lingala (10.2%), Tshihiluba (9.2%), Kituba (6.1%), Luba-Katanga (2.2%), Ngbaka (1.5%), and Songe (1.5%).  Other languages are spoken by 42.3% of the population.  Lingala is widely spoken in the western Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Shaba Swahili, a widely spoken second language with few native speakers, is spoken in the south and east of the country, Kikongo in the far west, and Tsihiluba in the center.  These four native languages are recognized as national languages.  Native languages with over one million speakers in the country include Kikongo (8.0 million), Lingala (7.0 million), Tsihiluba (6.3 million), Kituba (4.2 million), Luba-Katanga (1.51 million), Ngbaka (1.01 million), and Songe (1.0 million). 

Literacy: 67.2% (2001)

History

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is believed to have been inhabited for millennia.  Bantu peoples migrated into the region from Nigeria in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D.  European exploration and exploitation of the Congo's resources began in the late nineteenth century.  The region became known as the Congo Free State in 1884, although in fact controlled by the king of Belgium.  The Congo was annexed to Belgium in 1908 as the Belgium Congo.  During years of colonization, Congolese suffered untold brutality from colonists, inspiring novels such as The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. 

Independence from Belgium was achieved in 1960 and was followed by civil unrest and political instability.  The country was established as the Republic of the Congo; the name was changed to Zaire following a coup led by Lieutenant Mobutu in 1965.  Mobutu retained power through fraudulent elections and military force for the following three decades and ultimately was overthrown in 1997 in the First Congo War.  Support from neighboring Uganda and Rwanda aided in the overthrow of Mobutu.  Many of the refugees from the 1994 Rwanda genocide fled to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Zaire changed its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997. 

The Second Congo War began in 1998 and killed millions, spread to several nearby nations, and involved many armed militant groups.  Laurent Kabila became president until his assassination in 2001.  Kabila's son led the country shortly thereafter, officially becoming president in 2006 after the first multiparty elections since independence.  Instability has continued in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the east and north where many rebel groups have controlled large amounts of territory, such as in the Ituri and Kivu areas.  Currently Congolese government forces are trying to eliminate rebel groups in this area of the country.

Culture

A wide range of cultures are practiced by the hundreds of ethnic groups with little influence from Europeans.  The use of alcohol in celebrations is common, but overall alcohol consumption rates are low compared to the world average.  Cigarette consumption rates are among the lowest worldwide.  Polygamy is common, but polygamous unions are not legally recognized.[2]  Occupation and wealth define social class in Kinshasa.  Some men in the larger cities highly regard the wearing of expensive European clothing for social acceptance.[3]  Music and woodcrafts are well recognized aspects of culture.

Economy

GDP per capita: $300 (2008) [0.63% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.239

Corruption Index: 2.0

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is richly endowed with abundant natural resources yet has an undeveloped economy.  The wide open spaces of the country could feed most of Africa's people if cultivated.  Due to war and political instability, no economic progress occurred throughout the country until the mid 2000s.  Recently, mining began for precious minerals and metals, especially cobalt, gold and diamonds.  Instability in the eastern portion of the country threatens economic growth, which slowed in 2008 and 2009 due to the global economic crisis.  Rapid urbanization in Kinshasa and other large cities challenge government's ability to develop infrastructure.  Half of the country's GDP comes from agriculture, whereas services account for a third of the GDP and industry makes up the remainder.  Foreign investment has not come to fruition in the past couple decades due to war, instability, and corruption.  Most of the populace lives in poverty.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo's largest export partner is China, accounting for 44.7% of all exports.  Other export and import partners are predominantly from Europe and nearby African countries.

Corruption is perceived as widespread and among the most severe among African nations.  Financial institutes are vulnerable to money laundering due to a lack of supervision on the banking system.  Human trafficking for prostitution and forced labor is a major concern and is often linked to rebel groups.  The government's overall inability to maintain order throughout the countryside has facilitated corruption and political instability. 

Faiths

Christian: 80%

Muslim: 10%

Other: 10%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  34,346,271

Protestants  13,738,508

Kimbanguist  6,869,254

Seventh Day Adventists  517,046  1,667

Jehovah's Witnesses  162,553  3,103

Latter-Day Saints  27,058  103

Religion

Most Congolese are Christian, with 50% belonging to the Roman Catholic Church.  Protestants make up the second largest religious group (20%).  Kimbanguists (a Christian group with similarities with Baptists), Muslims and other religious groups each make up 10% of the population.  Syncretism between Christian and indigenous beliefs is common.  Weekly attendance at church or other religious meetings is widespread as up to 90% of the population attends a religious service on a weekly basis.[4]

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government.  Government allows those in the country to practice their religions as long as it does not disturb social norms and order.  Religious groups are requested to register with the government but this mandate has not been enforced.  Violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo does not appear to discriminate on religious grounds.  There have been some acts of violence targeting those accused of practicing witchcraft.[5]

Major Cities

Urban: 34%

Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi, Kananga, Kisangani, Bukavu, Kolwezi, Likasi, Tshikapa, Kikwit, Mbandaka, Goma, Matadi, Uvira, Bunia, Boma, Mwene-Ditu, Butembo, Isiro, Kindu, Kabinda, Gandajika, Bandundu, Kamina, Gemena.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregations.

Nine of the 25 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants have an LDS congregation.  22% of the national population resides in the 25 most populous cities. 

LDS History

The first efforts to establish the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were directed under the International Mission, which operated between 1972 and 1987.  Legal status was granted to the Church on February 12th, 1986 when only a handful of members lived in the country.[6]  Elder Marvin J. Ashton dedicated the country for missionary work in 1987.  The Zaire Kinshasa Mission was organized that same year from the International Mission.  The first young woman's conference also occurred the same year in Lubumbashi.[7]  In 1991, seminary and institute commenced.  In 2010, a second mission was organized in Lubumbashi.  In early 2011, the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission administered western and northern areas of the country, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, and semi-officially included Gabon whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo Lubumbashi Mission included southern and eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 27,058 (2010)

There were 400 Latter-day Saints in 1987.  By the end of 1989 there were 1,000 Latter-day Saints in Kinshasa and 500 in Lubumbashi.  Membership reached 4,600 in 1993, 6,400 in 1997, and 8,827 in 2000.  During the 2000, moderate to rapid membership growth occurred as membership increased to 13,637 in 2002, 15,960 in 2004, 18,276 in 2006, 20,883 in 2008, and 27,058 in 2010.  Annual membership growth rates ranged from a high of 24.5% in 2001 to a low of 5.7% in 2007 but generally ranged from 5-10% during the mid-2000s and from 13-15% in the late 2000s.  The annual increase in membership varied from one thousand to four thousand during the 2000s.  In 2010, one in 2,650 was LDS. 

Congregational Growth

Wards: 61 Branches: 42

In 1987, there were three branches and one district in Kinshasa.  LDS outreach quickly spread outside of Kinshasa to Lubumbashi where a district was organized in November 1988 for the Lubumbashi and Nyashi Branches.  By 1991, there were eight branches in Kinshasa and two branches in Lubumbashi.  A third district was organized in Kolwezi in 1991.  By 1993, there were 22 branches and six districts nationwide.

The first stake was organized in Kinshasa in 1996 and included eight wards and one branch: The Bangu, Binza, Kasa-Vubu, Kinsuka 1st and 2nd, Limete, Ngaba and Ngaliema Wards, and the Mont Amba Branch.  The new stake was created from the Kinshasa Zaire and Kinshasa Zaire Ngaliema Districts.  The following year a second stake was created in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Lubumbashi with six wards.  By 1997, there were 26 congregations, including 15 wards. 

A second stake was created in Kinshasa in 1999 from the original Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake and the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Masina District with five wards and four branches.  By 2000, there were 37 congregations, including 23 wards.  Rapid congregational growth occurred in the 2000s as the number of congregations increased to 56 in 2002, 62 in 2004, 64 in 2006, 70 in 2008, and 95 in 2010.  By mid-May 2011, there were 103 congregations.  The number of wards rapidly increased in the 2000s from 31 in 2002 to 37 in 2004, 39 in 2006, 45 in 2008, and 61 in mid-May 2011. 

During the 2000s, three new districts and four new stakes were organized.  New stakes were organized in Kinshasa Ngaliema (2003), Kinshasa Mont Ngafula (2008), Katuba [in the Lubumbashi metropolitan area] (2009), and Kinshasa Kimbanseke (2009) whereas new districts were organized in Likasi (2002), Kananga (2003), and Luputa (2006). In late 2010, a new district was organized in Mbuji-Mayi.  By early 2011, there were seven stakes and five districts. 

With the exception of the district based in Kolwezi, rapid congregational growth occurred throughout the LDS Church's districts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the late 2000s.  In early 2008, districts based in Likasi, Luputa, and Kananga each had four branches.  By May 2011, the Kananga District had eight branches, the Likasi District had nine branches, and the Luputa District had ten branches.  There was only one LDS branch meeting in Mbuji-Mayi until 2008 when a second branch was organized.  By 2010, there were four branches in Mbuji-Mayi. 

Congregational growth in the 2000s and in 2010 occurred almost exclusively within cities which already had LDS congregations.  Cities which had their first independent LDS congregations established after 2005 included Mwene-Ditu and Ngandajika (2008), Kipushi (2009), and Matadi (2010).  In 2011, the Kakanda Branch was organized nearby a large mine near the city of Kasangulu and was assigned to the district in Likasi and the Kasumbalesa Branch was organized and assigned to the stake in Katuba.  Many new groups were organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2008 and 2009 for groups of members residing far from LDS meetinghouses, fueling congregational growth.  In 2011, semi-official LDS groups appeared to be meeting in Uvira, Kikondja, and Lusambo. 

Activity and Retention

The LDS Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has historically seen some of the highest member activity rates in the world for the Church.  Upon completion of the first LDS meetinghouse in September 1986, there were 208 in attendance,[8] approximately the entire number of known members in the country at the time.  Large conferences have been well attended.  In the fall of 2009, 2,162 attended a conference of the Kananga district, significantly more than the 1,300 active members in the seven district branches at the time.  All of this growth had occurred without the assignment of missionaries to any of the branches in the district, indicating that members in the district were effective in sharing the gospel and locals were interested in learning about the Church.  When the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Kimbanseke Stake was organized, a total of 2,700 attended and 56 men were sustained to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.[9]  Seminary and institute enrollment increased from 3,298 in 2008 to 3,880 in 2010.  The average number of members per congregation increased from 239 in 2000 to 285 in 2010 largely due to the large increase in wards and some minor member activity challenges.  The number of active members per congregation is difficult to estimate due to the large number of non-members attending church meetings in many units.  Active membership per congregation may be as high as 150-200.  Small smaller, newly organized branches have fewer than 100 active members and appear to have the greatest struggles with convert retention and member activity issues.  Full-time missionaries reported some member activity challenges in the Kipushi Branch in early 2011.  Nationwide active membership is estimated to number as many as 18,000, or 65-70% of total LDS membership.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: French, Lingala

All LDS scriptures and most church materials are available in French.  In 1989, selections of the Book of Mormon became available in Lingala.  The Book of Mormon was translated in its entirety into Lingala in the mid-2000s.  General Conference was translated into Lingala for the first time in 2006.  The Book of Mormon, Gospel Principles, The Articles of Faith, and the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith are available in Lingala.  The dialect of Swahili spoken in the eastern and southern portions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has Gospel Principles Simplified and the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith translated.  Both Gospel Principles and the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith are available in Kikongo and Tsihiluba. 

Meetinghouses

The Church has adapted to the needs of Congolese for establishing places for worship by frequently remodeling exiting buildings into meetinghouses.  Church-built meetinghouses have also been constructed in recent years in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.  Meetinghouses are very well used, with as many as four wards assigned to a single building.  Meetinghouses in many locations are often inadequate in size and function in meeting the needs of large numbers of local members and investigators.

Public Health

Despite widespread poverty, the average life expectancy is significantly higher than many other, wealthier populations in the south at over 50 years. Tropical diseases are endemic and sanitation and health care infrastructure and accessibility are poor. HIV/AIDS has infected 4.2% of the adult population with the highest infection rates among young adults.  83% of those infected received the disease through sexual relations. [10]  Education on HIV/AIDS prevention has helped slow the spread of the disease, which reached its peak in the 1990s. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

The Church has participated in many humanitarian projects in the country, the most significant being a massive water project in Luputa.  The water project consisted of three stages, the first of which was completed in the fall of 2009.  The project consisted of constructing a pipeline carrying water from a source 19 miles outside of Luputa to the city as well as providing access to water to villages along the way.  Once completed, the project will provide fresh water to 166,000 people.[11]  Additional projects pursued by the Church have included wheelchair donations, measles initiatives, additional clean water projects, literacy programs, vision care, prenatal care, hygiene training, emergency relief for flood victims, and providing equipment for hospitals.[12]  

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

There are no government policies or laws which impede LDS missionary activity.  Political instability and rebel-controlled regions remain unreached by the Church due to safety concerns and remote location.  Good cooperation between the Church and the government has yet to be fully utilized for fulltime and member-missionary efforts. 

Cultural Issues

High receptivity to missionary-minded Christianity is a major benefit for LDS outreach in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has fueled growth since the Church's initial establishment.  Poverty appears to be the largest obstacle for the Church's progress in the country.  The Fund for Peace (www.fundforpeace.org) estimated 70% of those living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in poverty.  Although many are employed, most are underemployed.  Most Congolese cannot afford transportation and must walk to church meetings.  This has provided the need and opportunity to bring church services to a larger number of neighborhoods in the larger cities and make the gospel more accessible.  Hunger and health problems interfere with everyday living, and many are unable to obtain a higher education and find employment which can support themselves and their families. 

The Church has a large number of male members due to the Congolese cultural practice of the husband or father first investigating something and then teaching and inviting the rest of his family.  Many women become interested in learning about and joining the Church once they see the change in their husbands as they attend church and become members.  Some missionary couples serving in the country report that some men have not brought the rest of their families.  A large number of the men joining the Church are single men in their early 20s. 

As in many African nations, polygamy is a common practice.  In order for one to join the Church, former polygamous marriages must end in divorce.  Individuals associated with polygamy must be  interviewed by a member of the mission presidency before baptism can be authorized.  As of yet, missionaries serving in the country have not reported that polygamy has presented major obstacles to Church growth.

National Outreach

17% of the national population resides in a city with an LDS congregation.  LDS outreach is almost entirely restricted to Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi, Kananga, Kolwezi, Likasi, and Luputa.  Full-time LDS missionaries were never permanently assigned outside of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi until the late 2000s and early 2010s and missionary work occurred exclusively by branch missionaries.  Of cities with fewer than 100,000 inhabitants, only Kipushi, Luputa, Kasambalesa, and Kakanda had officially-operating LDS congregations in May 2011. 

The sheer size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo combined with the fourth largest population in Africa present logistical challenges for preaching the gospel throughout the country.  Transportation issues caused by poor roads and obtaining fuel, political instability, poverty, and language barriers have also prevented greater LDS mission outreach.  Both missions continue to administer additional countries, reducing the available of mission leadership and resources in the region as additional missions have not been organized.  Although the Church has made excellent progress in expanding outreach in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, there is no reported church presence in any of the cities or rural areas between Kananga and Kinshasa, areas west of Kinshasa to the Atlantic Ocean with the exception of the city of Matadi, cities between Luputa and Kolwezi, or in the entire northern and eastern portions of the country.  Several areas in the east and north have no church presence due to war.  As stability returns to many areas following the end of the Second Congo War, congregations may be opened in additional cities between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.  Missionaries appear only be assigned to an area only after a strong membership base has been established.  In 2009, no missionaries were serving in cities in the center of the country due to their remoteness. 

There are abundant opportunities for the LDS Church to expand national outreach due to a strong member-missionary program and past self-reliance of districts in the interior with supplying branch missionaries and full-time missionaries to serve elsewhere.  Groups of unofficially-organized prospective Latter-day Saints are found in several areas and some have awaited for years for an official LDS Church establishment in their cities and villages.  In 2011, the mission based in Lubumbashi received special First Presidency approval for the calling of a third counselor in the mission presidency to supervised church activities in Mbuji-Mayi, providing significant potential for expanding outreach in the least-reached, most populous city in the nation.  Concerns regarding the maintenance of doctrinal integrity in newly-established, remote congregations has contributed to delays in expanding outreach in addition to limited missionary resources dedicated to the region.  Reports for senior missionary couples assigned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo indicate that prospects appear favorable for the opening of additional cities and smaller towns within close proximity of cities with established LDS congregations and in large cities with small groups of baptized members and self-affiliated individuals, such as Uvira.  National expansion of LDS outreach in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has almost entirely depended on capable, active members moving to unreached cities and petitioning the Church for sometimes years for authority to organize groups and later branches. 

Although the Church has become established in many of the largest cities, the Church did not have a known presence in the sixth largest city of Kisangani in the north as of early 2011.  Despite the social and political problems in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a formal church presence may be established in the medium-term future as a result of converts from this region joining the Church elsewhere and returning to Kisangani and sharing the gospel.  There have as yet been no reports of any groups or unofficial congregations in the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Member activity and convert retention rates appear higher than in most African nations and rank among the highest in the world.  The country has developed a much larger and stronger leadership and membership base than in many other African nations.  The Church has focused on retaining converts and developing leadership to meet member needs and facilitate future growth.  The Church strives to maintain a balance between developing strong local membership and leadership by adding new converts without overburdening the existing church infrastructure.  High involvement of local members in missionary activity has benefited convert retention and member activity rates and reduces demands of the limited number of full-time missionaries assigned to the country.  Much of the missionary work that occurs in Kinshasa and throughout the country is performed by local members sharing the gospel with family, friends, and acquaintances.  Increases in the number of stakes and congregations and several districts close to become stakes are additional indicators of high member activity and convert retention.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The large ethnic diversity presents challenges but appears not to negatively affect growth.  This is likely due to no particular ethnic group dominating in the country.  Integrating ethnic groups may become an issue when the Church becomes established in the east and north where ethnic tensions are higher.

Language Issues

One of the great challenges the Church faces is translating scriptures and ecclesiastical materials into local languages.  The Book of Mormon has not been translated in any languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo besides Lingala and French.  Book of Mormon translations into Kikongo, Shaba Swahili and Tsihiluba appear likely to be forthcoming in future years as these languages are the most widely spoken by Congolese and by local members.  French is widely used due to its importance in uniting the hundreds of different ethnic groups.

Missionary Service

In the fall of 2008, 90 missionaries were serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo mission,  including 14 sister missionaries. By the fall of 2009, 30 missionaries were serving in the southern part of the country in Likasi and Lubumbashi, up from 16 in late 2008.  The first full-time young elders were assigned to serve in Likasi in late 2008.  In late 2009, there were two senior couples in the south, one of which functioned as the acting mission president for the southern portion of the country.  The other couple was based in Likasi and was the first Congolese senior couple to ever serve a mission.  Many male members serve missions in their early to mid-20s, returning afterwards to become an asset to local church leadership.  There is a large body of returned missionaries and currently serving missionaries from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many of which have held leadership positions before or after their missions.  These missionaries make great sacrifices in saving up to serve missions.  The Church often assists financially in making up the difference to fund missionary expenses.  Congolese missionaries have served from all of the major areas with an established church presence.  Full-time missionaries serve in the greatest numbers in Kinshasa, with most coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  No young, North American missionaries are assigned due to safety concerns.  Congolese members regularly serve missions throughout Africa.  

Leadership

The Church has an ample supply of priesthood holders due to the large number of male converts and relatively high convert retention.  Leadership is strongest in Kinshasa and has the greatest opportunity to grow due to mission headquarters centered in the city and a legacy of leadership in stakes in the city since 1996.  The strength in local leadership is demonstrated by the increase one to five stakes in Kinshasa during a 13-year period.  Challenges exist in training and developing leadership in cities outside of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi due to remoteness and distance from mission headquarters.  Mission leadership visits are infrequent due to difficulties traveling to these areas.  Doctrinal integrity appears high despite limited training and leadership development.  Limited training for local leadership in Lubumbashi may be a reason for why a second stake was not established until 2009 although 15 wards had been present in the city for several years.  In recent years, the assignment of mission counselors to remote cities with districts is a positive development which may spur greater maturation and growth among local leadership.

Temple

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is assigned to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple District.  As the Johannesburg South Africa Temple is located nearly 2,000 miles away from Kinshasa, very few Congolese have attended the temple.  The Church has developed a fund to assist members strongly desiring to attend the temple.  Due to monetary constraints and distance, most Congolese members will likely be unable to attend the temple until a temple is announced and constructed for the country.  The first known temple work for Congolese was done in 1989 for ancestors of members living in Lubumbashi.[13]  The first Congolese member attended the temple in 1993.  Prospects appear high for the construction of an LDS temple in Kinshasa as there were six LDS stakes within the Kinshasa-Brazzaville metropolitan area in early 2011, but very few temple-experienced members, political instability, and poverty continue to delay a temple announcement.

Comparative Growth

In Africa, only Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana had more Latter-day Saints than the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2010.  In 2010, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the country with the third largest church membership without a temple announced, under construction, or operating after Nicaragua and France.  No other African country with only one mission had as large of a membership until a second mission was organized in 2010. 

Outreach-oriented Christian groups report some of the most rapid church growth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with some denominations organizing hundreds of new congregations a year.  In 2008, Jehovah's Witnesses reported 150,705 active members in 2,997 congregations. whereas the Seventh Day Adventist Church reported to 515,000 members in 1,550 congregations.  Many other missionary-minded Christian groups have had a longer presence than the LDS Church and have actively planted new congregations and ambitiously expanded national outreach whereas Latter-day Saints have taken a more passive approach.  Growth of other Christian churches demonstrates strong interest in religion by Congolese and suggest favorable potential for ongoing church growth.

Future Prospects

The Democratic Republic of the Congo presents tremendous opportunities for LDS Church growth.  Prospects appear high for rapid membership and congregational growth in all areas of the country with an LDS presence.  In 2009, senior missionaries reported that Congolese members talked frequently about the potential of a temple in their country and prayed for better access to a temple.  Past mission presidents have hinted that a future temple is likely in Kinshasa, where the Church owns a parcel of land that is centrally located and large enough for a temple complex.  No formal announcement has been made for a temple as of May 2011.  Once growth in Lubumbashi continues and matures, a temple may be announced to serve members in the southern portion of the country along with neighboring African nations.  Prospects appear favorable for a third mission to be organized in Mbuji-Mayi, Kananga, or Luputa to service central, interior areas. 

In May 2011, nearly all stakes within the country appeared likely to divide to organize additional stakes within the next few years as many are close to the needed number of congregations to divide and congregational growth has been consistent.  Additional districts will likely be organized in additional cities such as Mwene-Ditu once additional congregations are organized and local leadership becomes more self-sustaining.  Initial congregations appear most likely to be organized in some currently unreached cities and large town near Kinshasa, Kananga, Luputa, and Lubumbashi, especially Kabinda and Tshikapa.  Cities which may have their first LDS congregations organized within the next decade include Kikondja, Kamina, Uvira, Fizi, Lusambo, Tshikapa, Kikwit, Boma, Mbandaka, and Kisangani.  As the number of local members serving missions continues to increase, prospects for an LDS missionary training center in Kinshasa appear favorable in the coming years.


[1]  "Background Note: Democratic Republic of the Congo," Bureau of African Affairs, 13 April 2011.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2823.htm

[2]  "Congo, Dem. Rep.," Social Institutions and Gender Index, retrieved 16 May 2011.  http://genderindex.org/country/congo-dem-rep

[3]  "Democratic Republic of the Congo," Countries and Their Cultures, retrieved 16 May 2011.  http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Democratic-Republic-of-the-Congo.html

[4]  "Congo, Democratic Republic of the," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148677.htm

[5]  "Congo, Democratic Republic of the," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148677.htm

[6]  Avant, Gerry.  "LDS leave nations as missionaries not emigrants," LDS Church News, 27 February 1988.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/17782/LDS-leave-nations-as-missionaries-not-emigrants.html

[7]  "First YW conference provides 'vision of worth'," LDS Church News, 16 December 1986.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/19170/First-YW-conference-provides-vision-of-worth.html

[8]  "Democratic Republic of Congo," Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, p. 321

[9]  "Dedication blesses two African nations," LDS Church News, 5 September 2009.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57850/Dedication-blesses-two-African-nations.html. 

[10]  "Democratic Republic of Congo," USAID, retrieved 16 May 2011.  http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/aids/Countries/africa/congo_profile.pdf

[11]  "Church Helps Bring Water to African Community," News Release, 17 April 2009.  http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-helps-bring-water-to-african-community

[12]  "Projects - Congo, The Democratic Republic of the," Humanitarian Activities Worldwide, retrieved 16 May 2011.  http://www.providentliving.org/project/0,13501,4607-1-2008-241,00.html

[13]  Patton, Robert.  "'You did the baptism for her grandmother'," LDS Church News, 19 August 1989.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/18937/You-did-the-baptism-for-her-grandmother.html