Reaching the Nations
Regional Profile - Western Europe
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Area: 3,579,885 square km. Western Europe consists of the British Isles, Scandinavia, Iceland, the Iberian Peninsula, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Italian Peninsula, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and western portions of continental Europe from Austria and Germany to France and Benelux. Several additional small islands are also included in the region, such as the Faroe and Balearic Islands. Seas which border Western Europe pertain to the Atlantic Ocean and include the Adriatic, Balearic, Baltic, Celtic, Ionian, Irish, Mediterranean, North, Norwegian, and Tyrrhenian. Temperate climate occurs in northern and central areas of Western Europe which is often marked by warm summers and cool to cold winters. Due to the surrounding ocean in Scandinavia and the British Isles, cloudy and cool weather conditions regularly occur. Southern regions of Western Europe experience Mediterranean climate characterized by mild winters and hot summers. Northern regions of Scandinavia experience subarctic climatic conditions. Major mountain ranges in the region include the Alps and Pyrenees. The Rhine, Rhone, Seine, Tagus, Ebro, Tajo, Guadalquivir, Elbe, Danube, and Thames are major rivers. Drought, flooding, earthquakes, avalanches, forest fires, windstorms, and rockslides are natural hazards. Environmental issues include pollution, acid rain, fresh water scarcity, deforestation, desertification, and soil erosion.
Population: 399,297,848 (July 2011)
Annual Growth Rate: 0.4% (2011)
Fertility Rate: 1.63 children born per woman (2011)
Life Expectancy: 78.06 male, 83.72 female (2011)
North African: 1.9%
other white (primarily British peoples): 15.4%
other and unspecified: 6.4%
Indigenous ethnic groups to Western Europe principally pertain to two groups: 1) Germanic and Celtic-speakers and 2) Romance-speakers. Germanic-speaking and Celtic-speaking ethnic groups are concentrated in Central Europe, the British Isles, and Scandinavia and include Germans, Dutch, Austrians, Swedes, Flemings, Danes, Norwegians, Irish, and additional ethnic groups in northern and central areas. Romance-speaking ethnic groups populate southern areas of Western Europe and include Italians, French, Spaniards, and Portuguese. Finns are a Finno-Ugric-speaking ethnic group who are believed to be related to some peoples in Eastern Europe such as Komi and Hungarians. Basques reside along the French-Spanish border along the Bay of Biscay and are unrelated to other ethnic groups. North Africans and black Africans have immigrated to Western Europe in large numbers over the past century and are sizeable minorities in most nations. Other ethnic groups in the region include Asians, Caribbean peoples, and Eastern Europeans.
Languages: Standard German and German dialects (22.1%), English (16%), French (14.9%), Italian languages (14.7%), Spanish (8.7%), Dutch (5%), Portuguese (2.8%), Swedish (2.1%), Catalan (2%), Finnish (1.6%), Danish (1.3%), Norwegian (1.2%), other and unspecified (7.6%). Languages with over one million speakers include German and German dialects (88.4 million), English (63.9 million), French (59.6 million), Italian languages (58.9 million), Spanish (34.7 million), Dutch (19.8 million), Portuguese (11 million), Swedish (8.5 million), Catalan (7.9 million), Finnish (6.2 million), Danish (5.4 million), Norwegian (4.7 million), Galician (3.3 million), Turkish (2.1 million), Arabic and Berber languages (2.1 million), South Asian languages (1.9 million), and Occitan (1.5 million).
Literacy: 92.8-100% (country average: 98.4%)
Indigenous tribes and peoples populated most present-day nations of Western Europe likely millennia prior to recorded history. Celtic and Germanic tribes inhabited much of Central Europe and Scandinavia in antiquity. Due to its central location in the Mediterranean, the Italian Peninsula has served as a center of power and learning since before the birth of Christ. The Roman Empire ruled most regions of the Mediterranean for several centuries before and after the birth of Christ and at its height stretched from central Europe and Britain in the north to Mesopotamia to the east and to North Africa in the south. Rome faced some of its greatest difficulties expanding its empire in Central Europe due to stiff resistance from Germanic tribes in Germania. Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded Roman-held territory in Britain the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. as the power of the Roman Empire waned. The Western Roman Empire eventually divided into small city states due to Gothic invasions and the Italian Peninsula consisted of several city-states and small kingdoms and nations until the nineteenth century. Christianity spread to Spain and France while the power of the Roman empire waned. Following the demise of the Roman Empire, feudalism and various tribal forces controlled Gaul or present-day France in the following centuries. France became one of the first nation-states in Europe under the Franks in the fifth century. The Visigoths took control of much of Spain in the fifth century and the Moors invaded in the early eight century, conquering nearly the entire peninsula. Charlemagne expanded Frankish-held territory in Western and Central Europe in the eighth and ninth centuries. The Holy Roman Empire was a lax organization of German territories that functioned between 962 and the beginning of the nineteenth century that never developed into a centralized state. The Normans conquered Great Britain in 1066 and the following century the Anglo-Normans invaded Ireland. The Vikings comprised of Scandinavian and Norse peoples who raided continental Europe, the British Isles, and Eastern Europe between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Viking seafarers explored the North Atlantic Ocean, establishing colonies in Iceland and Greenland around AD 1000, reaching as far as Newfoundland but not establishing a permanent presence in these distant areas. Norse mythology was the primary influence on culture prior to the arrival Christianity which spread throughout Scandinavia around the first millennium A.D. Portugal established its current political boundaries in 1249. The Habsburgs emerged as the ruling dynasty in the late thirteenth century and significantly influenced European politics until the early twentieth century. In the late thirteenth century, several ruling families signed a charter, pledging mutual support to keep peace and establishing greater local government autonomy as the Swiss Confederates which overtime led to the establishment of the present-day nation of Switzerland. In 1397, all Nordic lands were unified as the Kalmar Union under Queen Margaret of Denmark but the union dissolved in the fourteenth century as a result of ethnic rivalries. Sweden continued to rule Finland between until the nineteenth century and Norway formed a union with Denmark which lasted over four centuries. Spain was not fully reunified and the Moorish peoples driven out until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Portugal reached its height of power and influence during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and dominated the seas in many areas. Portuguese-ruled territories stretched around the world and included Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Goa, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, and Sao Tome. Spain reached its golden age of power and influence in the sixteenth century as the Spanish Armada dominated the Atlantic and wealth and resources were exploited throughout the Americas. The Spanish seized the Netherlands and Belgium in the sixteenth century and the Dutch revolted under Willem of Orange in 1558 whereas Belgium remained under Spanish administration until 1713.
The Reformation resulted in significant changes for society, government, and international relations as several nations experienced segregation and conflict between Catholic and Protestant Christians. All Scandinavian countries became predominantly Lutheran during this period. The United Kingdom played a major role in the Reformation as King Henry VIII opposed the Catholic Church and established the Church of England in 1538. English explorers and tradesmen began exploring and colonizing North America in the sixteenth century. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 established England as a world sea power and contributed to significant worldwide expansion of trade and military influence. 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 Dutch expanded their influences worldwide as colonialism began in the West Indies and Southeast Asia in the seventeenth century. War and declining technological superiority contributed to waning power in the eighteenth century.
Devastating German populations, the 30 Years War was fought between 1618 and 1648 primarily as a result of religious tensions between Catholics and Protestants and resulted in no major territorial acquisitions. Sweden won wars between Poland, Denmark, and Russia in the seventeenth century, participated in the Thirty Years War, and emerged as a European power. Great Britain lost the American colonies in the War of Independence in the late eighteenth century but began to expand into Africa and Asia. 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. The Netherlands was overran by the Napoleonic France in 1795 and remained part of France until 1815 when the Kingdom of the United Netherlands was established. The United Kingdom was formed in 1801 as Great Britain and Ireland were merged into a legislative union. Much of the nineteenth century in France was marked by militaristic, authoritarian governments and leaders including as Napoleon, Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe, and Napoleon III. Spain was occupied by France during the Napoleonic era and lost most of its overseas colonies by the mid-nineteenth century. Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands in 1830 and colonized the Congo in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Due to stress on militarism and centralization, Prussia became continental Europe's most powerful state in the early nineteenth century following the defeat of Napoleon. In 1867, Austria united with Hungary to form the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Spanish-American War was the final blow to Spain's steady decline in power as the United States annexed Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and several islands in the Pacific. Sweden and Norway maintained a dual monarchy from the early nineteenth century until 1905 when Norway became independent. Finland achieved independence in 1917 from Russia. Iceland began to regain autonomy from Denmark in 1874, sovereignty under Denmark occurred in 1918, and total independence in 1944.
Germany was a central player in World War I and was the state primary blamed for its aftermath. France was devastated by World War I and suffered heavy military losses and economic degradation. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled following World War I. British power began to decline in the twentieth century as its rivals began to advance technologically, economically, and militarily. Continued armed insurgency against the British crown in Ireland resulted in the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921 and an independent republic after World War II. During the first half of the twentieth century, Spain experienced significant economic and political turmoil, resulting in civil war and the rise of General Francisco Franco to power in 1939. Benito Mussolini came to power in the 1920s under a Fascist dictatorship which later allied with Nazi Germany in World War II. Nazi Germany initiated World War II, resulting in millions of deaths in Europe. Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938 and remained under Nazi rule until occupation by Allied forces in 1945. Germany invaded Belgium during both World Wars, which resulted in widespread damage to the country and suffering to the Belgian people. The Netherlands professed neutrality during both World Wars, but was occupied by Nazi Germany between 1940 and 1945 and 75% of the Jewish population perished. Nazi Germany invaded France and overtook the country by July 1940. Allied forces liberated France in 1944. German occupation of Denmark and Norway began in 1940 and liberation by Allied forces occurred in 1945. During the war, an estimated six million Jews were killed at the hands of the Nazis. Switzerland remained neutral during both World Wars and uninvolved in either conflict. Germany surrendered in May 1945 and the country was temporarily subdivided among the Soviets, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France for administrative purposes. The Soviets refused to withdraw, blockaded Allied forces from delivering supplies to Allied-controlled West Berlin, and formed the German Democratic Republic in 1949. Dutch colonies became independent nations shortly after World War II or possess a high degree of autonomy as dependent areas still under Dutch sovereignty today.
During the first decade following World War II, most Western European nations struggled to rebuilt following the aftermath of the war and did not achieve greater economic development and progress until the late 1950s. Known initially as the European Coal and Steel Community and later as the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Union (EU) was established in 1945 by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany and has added additional member states to include all nations in Western Europe except Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, and Switzerland.
Spain remained neutral during World War II and began to liberalize the economy in the 1950s. During the following two decades, Spain achieved rapid modernization and growth through economic liberalization. A parliamentary democracy was reinstituted following the death of General Franco in 1975. A military coup overthrew the Portuguese government in 1974 and paved the way for the independence of its African colonies in 1975. In 1989, increasing pressure for reform and free movement between the two Germanys unfolded in East Germany removing travel restrictions and the toppling of the communist government. In 1990, both Germanys were reunited into a single German state. Most Western European nations have joined NATO in the past half century. At present living standards are high and secularism is widespread.
Western Europe boasts several of the most influential nations and cultures in the world which have significantly alter traditions and customs on all six inhabited continents. British and French cultures have been among the most influential cultures in the world over the past several centuries due to the worldwide expanse of the former British and French Empires, the past occupation of vast areas of territory or operation of colonies on all six inhabited continents for the British and five for the French, and the ongoing prominence of the United Kingdom and France international affairs. The United Kingdom significantly influenced the development of contemporary local culture and government in Western Europe, North America, East Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Oceania and together with the rise of American culture in the twentieth century have contributed to the widespread use of English as an international language for business, commerce, and government. Consequently, there are an estimated 0.5-1.8 billion speakers of English as a first or second language and English is an official language of 53 countries. 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. Spain heavily influenced the culture of Latin America, Micronesia, and the Philippines until the independence of most colonies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many Spanish literary works have worldwide fame, such as Don Quixote which was first published in the early seventeenth century and is considered the first novel. France, Spain, and Portugal were instrumental in spreading Catholicism to the Western Hemisphere and French and Portuguese missionaries spread Catholicism in Africa and Asia. Germans boast proud traditions of industry and education and a rich legacy of notable scientists, poets, writers, religious reformers, philosophers, athletes, composers, politicians, and leaders such as the physicist Albert Einstein, the philosopher Immanuel Kant, the composer Ludwig van Beethoven, the reformer Martin Luther, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and the political theorist Karl Marx. Italian music, cuisine, art, law, and language have significantly influenced the world for centuries. Renaissance masterpieces continue to captivate and excite audiences around the world. Dutch and Belgian painters have been world renowned for centuries and include Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, and Rene Margritte. Many scientific disciplines including psychology, physics, and economics achieved significant advances through the efforts of intellectuals in Vienna, Austria. The Danish possess a long-standing, proud heritage of scientists, researchers, philosophers, writers, architects, dancers, cinematographers, artists, and musicians that are internationally renowned for their cultural and scientific achievements. Finland is well known for architecture, furniture, sculpting, and other visual arts. Norway has a proud heritage of music, literature, architecture, and art which has retained romanticism tradition. Icelandic sagas are well read internationally and contain medieval poetry, history, and myth. Food is diverse throughout Western Europe and often varies significantly within individual nations. Soccer and skiing are among the most popular sports. Alcohol and cigarette consumption rates are among the highest in the world for most nations in Western Europe. Cigarette consumption rates are high and illicit drug use is more common than in other world regions. Secularism has spread over the past century as the importance of religion in daily life continues to wane.
GDP per capita: $43,230 [91.2% of US]
Human Development Index: 0.824
Corruption Index: 7.7
Nearly all nations in Western Europe have technologically advanced, highly-diversified economies supported by large skilled work forces that are strongly interconnected regionally and internationally. The establishment of the European Union and its subsequent expansions over the past half century have contributed to economic prosperity and stability in Western Europe. Tourism is widespread in the region and a major sector of the economy. Challenges for perpetuating growth include an aging population, low birth rates, high public debt often accrued by welfare programs, and declining immigration. Major industries include tourism, iron, steel, machinery, textiles, cement, coal, shipbuilding, aircraft, electronics, chemicals, petroleum, wood products, food processing, car manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, engineering, precision instruments, and furniture. Potatoes, grains, sugar beets, vegetables, fruit, fish, livestock, animal byproducts, and tobacco are common agricultural products. Trade occurs principally within Western Europe. Major outside trade partners include the United States and China.
Corruption in Western Europe is perceived at low levels. A few nations have some challenges with corruption including Italy and Spain. Italy suffers from high levels of corruption among the European Union. Illegal economic activity may account as much as 15% of the GDP. Spain is a major transshipment point for illicit drugs destined for Europe from Latin America, North Africa, and Southwest Asia. Money laundering from Colombian drug cartels and organized crime is a ongoing problem. Illegal immigration from North Africa has been an ongoing issue in Spain. Most countries in the region face challenges with money laundering and illicit drug trafficking.
none and unspecified: 17.7%
Denominations Members Congregations
Evangelical (includes Lutherans) 46,903,700
Swiss Reformed 2,597,800
Jehovah's Witnesses 1,000,959 13,644
Latter-day Saints 425,683 1,148
Seventh Day Adventists 143,801 1,656
Church of Ireland 123,300
Christianity is the dominant religion as Christians constitute approximately three-quarters of the regional population and account for over 90% of the population in San Marino, Denmark, Malta, Portugal, Andorra, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway, Monaco, and Spain. Most Christians do not attend religious services regularly and are nominal Christians that generally exhibit no consistent patterns of personal religious practices such as praying, attending church, and reading scripture. Christians are the largest religious group in every nation in the region and 62% of Christians are Catholic. Predominantly Catholic countries include San Marino, Malta, Portugal, Monaco, Andorra, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Spain, Austria, and France. Approximately half of the population is Christian in Belgium and the Netherlands and both of these nations are traditionally Catholic. Germany and Switzerland have comparatively-sized Catholic and Protestant populations with most Protestants identifying as Lutheran. Traditionally Protestant nations include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Lutheran denominations still comprise the majority in Scandinavian nations whereas Protestant groups in the United Kingdom such as the Anglican and Presbyterian Churches are sizeable minorities. Muslims are regionally the second largest active religious group and account for the largest minorities in France (10%), the Netherlands (5.8%), and Sweden (5%) and are principally concentrated among North African, Turkish, and Middle Eastern immigrants and migrant workers. Only the United Kingdom has sizeable minority populations of Hindus which account for one percent of the national population and are South Asian. Small Jewish communities function in most nations in the region and France and Belgium appear to have the highest percentage of Jews in the national population. Other minority religious groups which are found in some nations include Buddhists and Sikhs. Nonreligious individuals or those who do not specify their religious affiliation account for the largest minorities in Belgium (46.5%), the Netherlands (42%), Germany (28.3%), the United Kingdom (24.1%), and France (23%).
The constitution or Basic Law of all countries in the region protect religious freedom which is upheld by governments. Most nations require religious groups to register with the government to operate and receive tax-exempt status. Some nations entitle certain religious groups that meet minimal standards for the number of church members and duration of operations in a given country special privileges and stipends. Members of religious groups in some nations are required to pay their tithes and monetary donations through the government such as in Germany. Several governments maintain special relations with the Catholic Church or a traditional Christian denomination, including the governments of Andorra, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, and Norway and regional governments in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Cantonal governments in Switzerland vary in the degree in which they support traditional Christian churches. In the United Kingdom, the Anglican Church has a special relationship with the government of England and the Presbyterian Church has a special relationship with Scotland. Foreign missionaries may serve throughout the region and often require special documentation or religious visas. Societal abuse of religious freedom has principally targeted Muslims and Jews, but nearly all religious groups operate freely without significant restrictions imposed on their functioning.
Urban: low (14% - Liechtenstein); high (100% - Monaco and Vatican City)
London, Paris, Madrid, The Ruhr, Milan, Barcelona, Berlin, Naples, Rome, Rotterdam, Birmingham, Hamburg, Manchester, Lisbon, Leeds, Stockholm, Vienna, Munich, Stuttgart, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, Cologne, Turin, Valencia, Lyon, Marseille, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Liverpool, Sevilla, Sheffield, Mannheim, Lille, Porto, Dusseldorf, Zurich, Helsinki, Newcastle upon Tyne, Dublin, Nuremberg.
All 41 cities with over one million inhabitants have an LDS congregation. 28% of the regional population resides in the 41 most populous cities.
The United Kingdom became the first nation outside of North America to receive LDS missionaries in 1837 as two LDS apostles were among the first seven missionaries to arrive in England in July of that year. Over a thousand converts joined the Church within the first few years of proselytism in the United Kingdom. The oldest continuously operating LDS congregation in the world is located in Preston, England and has functioned since 1837. LDS missionaries began proselytism in Ireland in the late 1830s. The first LDS missionaries arrived in Denmark and France in 1849. LDS apostle Lorenzo Snow began missionary work in Italy in 1850. In 1851, the first LDS missionaries began proselytism in Norway and Iceland and the first convert baptisms occurred in Norway. That same year the Book of Mormon was translated into Danish, becoming the first foreign language translation of LDS scripture. LDS missionaries were first assigned to Malta in 1852 but an LDS presence disappeared by the late 1850s due to the outbreak of the Crimean War. Most converts throughout Western Europe emigrated to Utah in the 1850s and 1860s, resulting in significant challenges sustaining LDS congregations in many locations. In 1864, the Swiss government declared that the LDS Church was a Christian faith and was entitled to the same rights as other Christian denominations. By the end of 1869, approximately half of the LDS converts in the Scandinavian Mission emigrated to Utah. The first LDS missionary activity in Finland began in the 1870s. Nearly half of the population of Utah in 1870 were British immigrants as a result of LDS missionary success in the British isles in the nineteenth century. Approximately 100,000 converts joined the Church in the British Isles and emigrated to Utah before 1900. LDS missionary activity in Iceland was closed in 1914. LDS missionary activity commenced in Austria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. World War II severely disrupted LDS missionary work throughout continental Western Europe between 1939 and the late 1940s. Several additional translations of LDS scripture in Western European languages were completed in the mid-twentieth century including Norwegian and French. By 1950, there was an LDS presence in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
During the latter-half of the twentieth century an LDS Church presence was established or reestablished in Andorra, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, and Spain. LDS missionaries were first assigned to Luxembourg in 1963. The LDS Church received permission by the Italian government to restart missionary work in Italy in 1966 and a branch was organized. LDS missionary activity in Spain was facilitated by the operation of branches for American military personnel in the 1960s. Spain was dedicated for missionary work, the first full-time missionaries were assigned, and a Spanish-speaking branch was organized in the late 1960s. A Church presence was first established in Portugal in 1974. LDS military personnel were instrumental in reestablishing a church presence in Iceland in the 1970s. LDS missionaries attempted to open Malta for missionary work in 1979 but efforts failed due to visa problems. A permanent LDS presence in Malta was established in the late 1980s.
In the 1980s, the United Kingdom and Ireland became its own church area with headquarters in England and also administered Africa until the creation of the Africa Area in 1990. The United Kingdom/Ireland Area was renamed the Europe North Area in 1991 and realigned to include Scandinavia. That same year, the Europe Mediterranean Area was organized to administer Mediterranean nations and French-speaking areas of Belgium and Switzerland with headquarters in France. The realigned Europe Area began administering the Netherlands, Dutch-speaking areas of Belgium, German-speaking nations, and Eastern Europe by this time. The LDS Church in Finland and Austria played a unique role in expanding missionary work in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first convert baptism in Andorra occurred in 1992 and a branch was established the following year.
In 2000, Western Europe was realigned into two church administrative areas: The Europe West and Europe Central Areas. In 2001, Church members in Scandinavia commemorated the emigration of converts 150 years before to Utah by crossing the Atlantic in four sailing ships from Europe to the United States. In the late 2000s, the two Europe areas were consolidated into a single administrative church area, the Europe Area. In Italy, the Church received the highest level of government recognition in May 2010. As of mid-2011, there remained no official or known LDS presence in the nations of Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino and no official or known LDS presence in the territories and constituent countries of Ceuta, Faroe Islands, Melilla, and Svalbard.
The British Mission was the first LDS mission to be officially organized in the Church and was headed by Heber C. Kimball in 1837. The Welsh Mission was organized in 1845, but was discontinued in 1854 and consolidated with the British Mission. The Scandinavian Mission opened in 1849 with headquarters in Denmark and the French, Italian, and Swiss [renamed Switzerland Zurich in 1974] Missions were organized in 1850. The Italian Mission was closed in 1854. The German Mission was organized in 1852 to administer Germany and was discontinued, reorganized, and realigned with missions in neighboring European nations for nearly a century. The French Mission was discontinued in 1864, reopened in 1912, closed in 1914, reopened in 1924, closed in 1939, and reopened in 1946. The Netherlands Mission [later renamed Netherlands Amsterdam in 1974 and Belgium Brussels/Netherlands in 2002] opened in 1864. In 1905, the Scandinavian Mission divided to create the Swedish Mission and by 1920 the Church organized the Danish and Norwegian Missions from the original Scandinavian Mission. In 1938, the West German [later renamed Germany Frankfurt] and East German [later renamed Germany Hamburg] Missions were organized from the German-Austrian Mission.
After World War II additional missions organized included the Finnish Mission (1947), the South German Mission [later renamed Germany Munich and Alpine German-speaking in 2010] (1959), the Austrian Mission [later renamed Austria Vienna] (1960-2002), North British Mission [renamed England Leeds in 1974] (1960), the French East Mission [later renamed Switzerland Geneva in 1974] (1961-2011), the Central German Mission [later renamed Germany Dusseldorf] (1961-1982, 1990-2001), the Scottish-Irish Mission [renamed Scotland Edinburgh in 1974 and Scotland/Ireland in 2010] (1961), the Central British Mission [renamed England Birmingham in 1974] (1961-1983), the Irish Mission (1962-2010), the Bavarian Mission (1962-1965), Southwest British [renamed England Bristol in 1974] (1962-2002), the Northeast British Mission (1962-1965), the North Scottish Mission (1962-1965), the Franco-Belgian Mission [later renamed Belgium Brussels] (1963-2002), the British South Mission [renamed England London South] (1964), the Italian Mission [renamed Italy Rome in 1974] (1966), and the Germany Dresden [renamed Germany Leipzig] (1969-1984, 1989-2003), Spain Madrid (1970), Italy Milan (1971), Portugal Lisbon (1974), Belgium Antwerp (1975-1982, 1990-1995), Italy Padova (1975-1982, 1990-2002), England Manchester (1976), Spain Barcelona (1976), Spain Seville [relocated to Malaga in 1993] (1976), Italy Catania (1977-2010), England London East (1978-1983), France Toulouse (1978-1982), England Coventry [relocated to Birmingham in 1991] (1980), Austria Vienna East (1987-1992), Portugal Porto (1987-2011), Spain Bilbao (1987-2010), Spain Las Palmas (1988-2006), France Bordeaux (1989-2001), Portugal Lisbon North (1990-2002), France Marseille [relocated to Toulouse in the early 2000s and Lyon in 2011] (1991), and Austria Vienna South (1996-1999) Missions. The two additional missions organized in Austria in the late 1980s and 1990s were formed to supervise the establishment of LDS missions in Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia. In 2010, the Germany Hamburg and Switzerland Zurich Missions closed.
There were 24 LDS missions by 1973, 32 in 1987, 38 in 1993, 39 in 1997, 38 in 2000, 30 in 2005, and 22 in 2011.
LDS Membership: 425,683 (2010)
In 1973, LDS membership totaled 133,735 in Europe. Membership totaled 197,183 in Western Europe in 1983, 267,700 in 1987, 342,850 in 1993, 366,650 in 1997, 378,094 in 2000, 400,527 in 2005, and 425,683 in 2010. Membership grew most rapidly between 2000 and 2010 in Luxembourg (83%), Spain (49%), Italy (25%), and Ireland (24%) whereas membership grew most slowly or declined in Denmark (-3%), Iceland (1%), and Andorra (1%). LDS membership increased by 12% as a region between 2000 and 2010. The ratio of LDS membership to the general population varies little country to country compared to other world regions as the ratio of LDS members to the general population generally ranges from one Latter-day Saint per 900 to 2,800 people. Latter-day Saints comprise the largest portions of the population in Portugal (one member in 276), the United Kingdom (one in 336), and Switzerland (one in 944) and the smallest potions of the population in Malta (one in 2,797), Italy (one in 2,545), and Germany (one in 2,130). LDS membership was greater than 100,000 only in the United Kingdom in 2010 (186,814). In 2010, one in 939 was nominally LDS.
Wards: 706 Branches: 439
There were 1,111 LDS congregations in 1987. The number of LDS wards and branches numbered 1,240 in 1993, 1,330 in 1997, 1,319 in 2000, 1,243 in 2005, and 1,145 in mid-2011. Steady decline in the total number of congregations occurred between 2000 and mid-2011 as the number of LDS congregations in Western Europe decreased by 174. Countries which experienced the largest decreases in the number of congregations during this period were the United Kingdom (-32), Italy (-31), and Germany and Portugal (-20).
The first stake to be organized in Western Europe was the Manchester England Stake in 1960. Other countries which have stakes at present provided with the year the first stake was organized include the Netherlands (1961), Germany (1961), Switzerland (1961), Denmark (1974), France (1975), Sweden (1975), Finland (1977), Norway (1977), Belgium (1977), Austria (1980), Italy (1981), Portugal (1981), Spain (1982), and Ireland (1995). The number of stakes increased from one in 1960 to 21 in 1973, 82 in 1987, 88 in 1993, 99 in 1997, 100 in 2000, 108 in 2005, and 113 in mid-2011. Between 2000 and mid-2011, new stakes were organized in Italy (4), Spain (3), France (2), Switzerland (2), Portugal (1), and the United Kingdom (1). As of mid-2011, only two stakes had ever been discontinued in Western Europe, both of which were servicemen military stakes in Germany which were closed in 1992 and 1994. The number of districts in the region numbered 50 in 1987, 61 in 1993 and 1997, 56 in 2000, 38 in 2005, and 23 in mid-2011.
Activity and Retention
The number of active members per congregation varies widely from only a couple dozen in the smallest branches to over 200 in the largest wards. Member activity and convert retention rates vary by subregion, with the highest member activity rates generally occurring in Scandinavia (30-40%) and the lowest member activity rates occurring in Romance-speaking nations (12-25%). Germanic-speaking areas in Central Europe such as Germany and Austria and Benelux have member activity rates between 25-40%. In Western Europe, Andorra (45%) and Iceland, Malta, and Switzerland (40%) appear to exhibit the highest member activity rates whereas Portugal (12%) and the United Kingdom (18%) appear to exhibit the lowest member activity rates. The census in Ireland counted 1,237 Latter-day Saints in 2006, 46% of reported membership by the LDS Church that year. Active LDS membership in Western Europe is estimated at 92,500, or 22% of total church membership.
Due to initial disinterest of many in religion, finding approaches must be creative and allow for Western Europeans to feel comfortable discussing religious matters in a manner in which they will commit to learn more or make commitments to attend Church. During the past several decades the LDS Church in some nations has employed creative and genuine finding techniques and approaches including family history fairs and exhibits, traveling church displays on topics such as LDS theology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, musical performances, radio and television programs, and outdoor youth and young adult activities.
Languages with LDS Scripture: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Catalan, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Turkish, Arabic, Bengali, Urdu, Icelandic.
All LDS scriptures are available in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Catalan, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Arabic, and Icelandic. The Church recently translated an LDS-edition of the Bible into Spanish complete with footnotes, Bible dictionary, and topical guide. Most church materials are available in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, and Arabic whereas a limited number of church materials are translated into Catalan and Icelandic. Only the Book of Mormon is available in Turkish and Welsh. Limited numbers of church materials are available in Turkish, Basque, Welsh, Icelandic, and Maltese. The Book of Mormon is available in Urdu and select passages of the Book of Mormon are translated into Bengali. Limited numbers of church materials are available in these and other South Asian languages. Many commonly spoken languages among Eastern European immigrants have LDS scriptures and materials available.
In mid-2011, there were approximately 1,000 meetinghouses in Western Europe. Most congregations meet in church-built meetinghouses and chapel. Smaller branches and newly organized branches often meet in renovated buildings or rented spaces.
Humanitarian and Development Work
Few LDS-sponsored humanitarian and development activities have occurred in Western Europe in recent years; only Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom appear to have had major projects. Most projects have consisted of donating hygiene kits, office equipment and supplies for shelters and prisons, and items and supplies for needy children. High standards of living have reduced the need for LDS humanitarian and development work.
Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects
The LDS Church benefits from full religious freedom throughout Western Europe as local members may worship, proselyte, and assemble freely and foreign full-time missionaries serve with few or no restrictions. Foreign missionaries generally experience few delays and complications obtaining visas. The discrimination and persecution of local Latter-day Saints is minimal throughout the region. Some full-time missionaries experience harassment while proselytizing in some nations. The acceptance of public religious expression has waned in society due to increasing secularism, but no laws or government policies have limited the religious expression and practices of Latter-day Saints at present. There are no legal restrictions preventing an LDS Church establishment in Ceuta, the Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Melilla, Monaco, San Marino, and Svalbard.
Increasing secularism and materialism and declining acceptance of organized religion in public life in many Western European nations are major barriers to LDS mission outreach which have reduced receptivity and have likely compromised member activity rates among Latter-day Saints. The void left from the declining power of traditional Christian denominations like the Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches has been replaced by secularism. Secularism, liberal social views clashing with scriptural morality, and nominal Christianity each have created major obstacles for Latter-day Saints to address regarding the finding, teaching, and retention of new converts. Many are unwilling to consider learning about the Church from full-time missionaries due a lack of interest in organized religion, negative public opinions concerning Latter-day Saints and their beliefs and practices, or the persistent cultural influence of the traditional Christian denomination on the general population. The LDS Church has struggled to reach nominal Christians with traditional teaching paradigms designed to teach those with a basic understanding of Christianity who value personal involvement in organized religion. As a result, stagnant membership growth has occurred in most Scandinavian countries for decades. Developing a habit of weekly church attendance among investigators and converts appears to be a major challenge. Christians with developed personal religious habits are often deeply devoted to and entrenched in their churches and demonstrate no greater receptivity than nominal Christians or nonreligious individuals. High cigarette and alcohol use create a challenging environment for missionaries to navigate as many suffer from addictions to these substances. Western Europeans with interest in studying and joining the LDS Church often face challenges ending their alcohol and cigarette usage and casual sexual relations. Many Latter-day Saints in the region have emigrated to North America, Australia, and New Zealand over the past half century, reducing the number of active members available for filling leadership and sustaining growth.
There are some cultural features which have facilitated LDS Church growth. Overall religious tolerance is high. Many have an awareness of Christian teachings and have a respect for those devote in their personal faith. The cosmopolitan atmosphere in many of the largest cities in the region have encouraged the integration of differing ethnic groups into the same congregations. Creative, original outreach methods and teaching approaches tailored to nominal Christians or nonreligious individuals and emphasis on youth outreach may address cultural needs and conditions and help spur greater growth for the Church in the long-run.
Western Europe receives moderate levels of LDS mission outreach as 41.5% of the regional population resides in cities with an LDS congregation. Provided with the percentage of the population inhabiting cities with LDS congregations, countries which appear to receive the greatest national outreach include Sweden (76%), Iceland (67%), and Switzerland (61%) whereas countries which appear to receive the least national outreach include Andorra (24%), Italy (25%), and Luxembourg (26%). Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are the only countries in the region with no LDS congregations. Several constituent countries, island regions, territories, and autonomous cities have no LDS congregations, most notably the Faroe Islands which pertain to Denmark and Ceuta and Melilla which pertain to Spain. The percentage of the regional population residing in unreached nations and territories is estimated at less than one-tenth of one percent. The tiny populations of these locations, few or no local Latter-day Saints, and perceived low rates of receptivity in the general population have been the primary reasons no LDS presence has been established at present.
There is no correlation between the size of a nation's population or the duration of LDS mission outreach in a given nation and the percentage of the population reached by LDS outreach among Western European nations. The extend of national outreach appears to vary by the percentage of the population residing in urban areas for most nations in the region although this relationship is weak. Emigration of most Latter-day Saint converts during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries significantly eroded progress expanding national outreach at a time when populations were generally more receptive. Low receptivity and few active members throughout the region challenges efforts to expand national outreach today and has prompted mission and congregation consolidations and reductions in the number of full-time missionaries assigned. The LDS Church in Sweden has achieved the most penetrating mission outreach in Western Europe largely due to the sustainment of outreach efforts in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries which capitalized on higher receptivity and devoted sizeable numbers of full-time missionaries to open additional cities. There has been no noticeable progress expanding national outreach in Sweden likely since the mid-twentieth century due to emigration and member activity and convert retention issues, which have precipitated into steady declines in the number of congregations in Sweden for over a decade. The LDS Church in Italy appears to exhibit the lowest degree of national outreach in Europe among countries with over 100,000 inhabitants largely due to low receptivity since the reestablishment of LDS outreach in the mid-1960s. Significant mission resources have been devoted to Italy over the past half century due to its large population, but comparatively few convert baptisms have been achieved and dozens of congregations have been consolidated since 2000. The LDS Church in Spain appears to have made the greatest progress expanding national outreach among Western European nations over the past half century as the first LDS missionaries were assigned to Spain in the late 1960s and today 52% of the national population resides in cities with an LDS congregation. Few congregation consolidations, a sizeable full-time missionary force, past vision in expanding outreach, higher receptivity, and assistance in building up local congregations from Latin American immigrants have each contributed to progress achieved in Spain.
Strategies for sustaining and expanding national outreach in Western Europe include greater local member involvement in missionary activity, the establishment of groups and dependent branches for foreign language speakers and members residing in sectors of cities or locations far from current LDS meetinghouses, focus on youth-oriented outreach and seminary and institute, coordinating online missionary efforts from social networking sites, and holding cottage meetings in unreached or lesser-reached locations to gauge receptivity and to find and invite receptive individuals to learn about the Church in a less formal, interactive setting. Avoiding the consolidation of LDS congregations whenever possible is vital towards ensuring achieved national outreach is sustained, particularly in locations which have no other nearby congregations.
Member Activity and Convert Retention
Low activity rates for Western European LDS membership is heavily influenced by low member activity rates in the United Kingdom and Portugal. Church membership in both these nations together constitute 53% of regional LDS membership and member activity rates in both nations appears the lowest in the region. The median member activity rate in the region is 30%, which is higher than most world regions. Low member activity rates are primary the result of mission policies that have advocated the rushed preparation for converts to baptism with little emphasis on the development of habitual church attendance and personal gospel living habits. Negative cultural attitudes regarding regular participation in organized religion in many nations appear to have also affected Latter-day Saint church attendance and participation trends. Emigration of active membership has challenged efforts to staff callings and leadership in congregations and has reduced resources which could be devoted to retention and reactivation. Not a single country in Western Europe had more LDS congregations in 2010 than in 2000, indicating poor convert retention and member activity issues. Overall the number of LDS congregations declined by 174 in Western Europe between 2000 and mid-2011 notwithstanding LDS membership increasing by nearly 47,000 during this period. Most nations in the region have small branches with few active members that may close in the near future even if a few individuals move away or go inactive.
Additional factors have contributed to low member activity in Western Europe. At times smaller branches within close proximity of each other are consolidated to make wards, resulting in many members falling away from the church as they are unable to adjust socially to their reconfigured congregations or travel to church becomes too great of an inconvenience. Few socialization opportunities with fellow Latter-day Saints in smaller branches can reduce activity rates. Few youth serve full-time missions and remain active into adulthood. Missionaries in several countries report that many inactive members left the church because they were offended by another member, but deeper issues of testimony or behaviors contrary to church teachings may often underlie such claims. Converts from ethnic minority or immigrant groups may have limited understanding and command of the local language in their congregation and be prone to miss church meetings. Many immigrant or migrant-worker converts live iterant lifestyles and are challenging to retain. Overall, inactive members appear to have little recollection of church doctrines and practices as many were baptized with limited understanding and without firm gospel habits. This lack of a solid foundation of testimony and understanding among many inactives has limited the success of reactivation efforts. The Church in some nations has frequently utilized local members in reactivation efforts such as in France which has produced greater success. Retention rates for native converts in many nations has increased in recent years as they must overcome many secular and cultural obstacles which prevent many others from becoming interested in the Church or following church teachings.
Noting limited progress increasing the number of active members, the Europe Area presidency set a goal in 2010 for the entire area to double the number of active members by 2020. To achieve this goal, regional church leadership stressed the need to make ward and branch councils central in missionary efforts to reactive and baptize new converts in addition to emphasizing the need for close cooperation between local members and full-time missionaries. Added emphasis was also placed on member-missionary work. The vision and prospective of the area presidency offers an appropriate and self-sustaining approach to improving member activity rates by reducing the emphasis on full-time missionaries to find, teach, and reactive and to carefully coordinate and delegate various missionary tasks among ward and branch members. Successful implementation and consistency of directing local missionary efforts through ward councils will likely be the greatest challenge for regional leadership and the reversal of the trend of congregation consolidations that has persisted in Western Europe since the late 1990s will indicate success over the medium-term. High costs of living for full-time missionaries and limited missionary resources dedicated to the region demand greater member involvement in missionary activity in order to increase convert baptism rates, improve convert retention, and reduce dependence on foreign full-time missionaries. The creation of language-specific congregations in areas with sizeable numbers of members speaking a given language may also improve retention and reactivation efforts over the long run if sustainable leadership is located, but most nations lack a sufficient number of speakers to merit the organization of foreign language-speaking units.
Ethnic Issues and Integration
Most nations in Western Europe possess ethnically homogenous populations that are generally tolerant of minority groups, benefiting ethnic integration efforts for Latter-day Saints. The overrepresentation of nonnative members is common in the region due to higher receptivity among ethnic minority groups from Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. This mismatch in LDS and general demography present assimilation challenges for the native majority. In Spain, assimilating Latin Americans and Spaniards into the same congregations presents the most widespread ethnic integration issue. Some congregations with an overrepresented Latin American presence may experience challenges baptizing and keeping active a Spaniard minority. In France and Switzerland, members and missionaries generally report that French-speaking African immigrants are well integrated into LDS congregations due to shared language and many immigrants being familiar with French customs and practices. Portuguese-speaking African converts in Portugal also generally assimilate well into congregations comprised of native Portuguese members. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of some large cities has fostered collaboration of local members in fellowshipping converts who are ethnic minorities, such as in large cities in Benelux.
Several ethnic groups are poorly reached by Latter-day Saints but comprise sizeable minorities. In the United Kingdom, there are several million South Asians with few Latter-day Saints due challenges extending outreach to those with differing cultural practices with the British majority, little familiarity with Christianity or long-term resistance to conversion, and family disapproval. In France, North Africans present the greatest challenge to integrate into Latter-day Saint congregations among ethnic groups in the country 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. Similar challenges exist in Germany extending outreach to the approximately two million Turkish immigrants and workers.
Western Europe receives excellent LDS language outreach as at least 95% of the regional population has LDS materials translated into their native language. Fewer than one percent of the regional population appears to not speak a first or second language with LDS materials available. There is little need to translate LDS materials into additional Western European languages that currently have no LDS materials as most of these languages have few speakers which are declining in number and generally spoken informally. The translation of basic proselytism materials into Faroese, Galician, Sami dialects, Romani dialects, and Luxembourgish may improve local member understanding of LDS teachings and proselytism prospects in areas populated by speakers of these languages.
Assimilating native members speaking differing languages into the same congregations has presented challenges for the LDS Church particularly in Belgium (French and Dutch) and Switzerland (French and German). Organizing language-specific congregations in cities with sizeable populations of Latter-day Saints may reduce retention and activity challenges. The establishment of international branches that meet as language-specific groups or dependent branches may be an effective outreach approach that would meet the needs of immigrant and ethnic minority groups and provide prospects for more carefully coordinated proselytism.
Steady numbers of local members have served full-time missions but the LDS Church in Western Europe is only partially sufficient in staffing its regional missionary needs and relies on North American missionary manpower to adequately staff its missions. Since 2000 the LDS Church has dramatically reduced the number of full-time missionaries assigned to Western Europe even in more receptive Western European nations like Spain where the full-time missionary force declined from 800 in the mid-2000s to 300 in 2010. The number of converts baptized appears to have remained stable or increased in most nations during the past decade indicating wiser appropriation of limited full-time missionary resources to achieve more effective results. Missionary training centers operate in Preston, England and Madrid, Spain and offer long-term stability and resources for fostering the regional development of a native full-time missionary force. Missionaries serving from North America appear to regularly serve at both centers and at times outnumber their Western European counterparts. Challenges in increasing the number of local members serving missions include few active members, low to modest member activity rates in most nations, the lack of mission preparation in some nations, and the inability for some LDS youth to remain active into young adulthood and maintain a lifestyle in harmony with LDS teachings. Low LDS birthrates have further limited the size of the full-time missionary force among Latter-day Saint families in the region.
Increased emphasis on youth-directed mission outreach, seminary, institute, and missionary preparation classes may help alleviate the dependence on foreign missionaries to fill current mission needs by Western European members. Greater emphasis is also needed on preparing converts for baptism and helping to establish firm gospel habits so that they can become active members who go on to serve in the church, participate in member-missionary work, and serve full-time missions when possible. The LDS Church in several European nations has potential to provide significant contributions to supplying missionary manpower to nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean due to shared language but this opportunity remains not fully realized due to inadequate numbers of members serving full-time missions. Western European missionaries regularly serve in the Caribbean, North America, Eastern Europe, and Africa.
The LDS Church in Western Europe exhibits some of the most well-trained, experienced, and knowledgeable leaders among world regions despite relatively few nominal and active Latter-day Saints as many leaders have served full-time missions, receive good leadership training and support from regional church leadership, and have studied LDS teachings and scriptures diligently often for many years. LDS leadership is sufficiently strong in numbers and faith to have at least one stake function in every country with over 1,000 members; an accomplishment which has not occurred in any other world region to date. Several mission presidents who served in Western Europe in the late 2000s and in 2010 indicated that recent mission consolidations were prompted not only by limited LDS missionary manpower worldwide and expanding opportunities for outreach in more receptive regions but due to the maturation of local leadership in undertaking administrative responsibilities with little or no mission president involvement such as in Italy and Spain. Steady decline in the number of congregations in the region however indicates that leadership is limited and active membership at times insufficient to staff callings for smaller congregations. With only a few exceptions, local members staff leadership for all congregations in the region. Church Education System employees have frequently served in leadership positions in some nations like Spain and may indicate a shortage of capable members who can serve in leadership positions outside of church employees. Most countries with sizeable LDS membership have had local members serve in international church leadership positions as mission presidents, regional representatives, area authorities, and temple presidents. A few Western Europeans have served as General Authorities, many of whom are from the United Kingdom. Most of the 23 districts in the region are unable to become stakes not due to a shortage of active priesthood holders but from inadequate numbers of active membership and congregations. Fewer numbers of child and youth convert baptisms in most Western European nations may be partially responsible for a stronger, more established body of LDS leadership serving today as many members were raised in the Church or joined the Church in adulthood.
The first LDS temple in Western Europe was completed by the Church in 1955 in Bern, Switzerland. Additional temples were constructed in London England (1958), Freiburg Germany (1985), Stockholm Sweden (1985), Frankfurt Germany (1987), Preston England (1998), Madrid Spain (1999), Copenhagen Denmark (2004), and Helsinki Finland (2006). In mid-2011, the Rome Italy Temple was under construction and the Lisbon Portugal Temple was in the planning stages. The number of temples in operation increased from two in 1960 to five in 1990, seven in 2000, and nine in 2010. Temples in London, Preston, and Madrid appear well utilized as evidenced by the scheduling of endowment sessions hourly on weekdays and Saturdays both in the mornings and evenings. Temples in Bern, Frankfurt, Helsinki, and Stockholm appear moderately-utilized as multiple endowment sessions are scheduled in the morning and evening Tuesdays through Saturdays and six or more sessions are scheduled two or more days a week. Temples in Copenhagen, Freiberg, and The Hague appear underutilized as generally four or fewer endowment sessions are scheduled on days these temples are opened. In regards to the size of LDS membership serviced by a temple and the number of endowment sessions scheduled weekly, temples in Helsinki and Stockholm appear the most well-utilized. Prospects appear favorable for the construction of additional small temples in the region over the medium and long terms. In the medium term, temples may be constructed in Glasgow, Scotland; Birmingham, England; Cardiff, Wales; and Paris, France. In the long term, small temples may be constructed in Belfast, Ireland and Oslo, Norway.
The extent of national outreach in nations of Western Europe ranks average among world regions. Member activity rates as a region are comparable to most world regions. The LDS Church has extended consistent mission outreach in Western Europe longer than any other region other than North America although persistent outreach over the past century and a half has been limited to less than half of the nations in the region. The sustainability of the local missionary force is average. Congregational and membership growth rates fell behind all other world regions during the 2000s.
Other missionary-minded Christian denominations have achieved greater growth than the LDS Church in Western Europe for decades. Jehovah's Witnesses have numbered among the most successful Christian groups and in 2010 reported one million active members in the region meeting in over 13,600 congregations. There are more active Jehovah's Witnesses in every country in the region than nominal Latter-day Saints with the exception of the United Kingdom. Witnesses operate multiple congregations in Andorra, Luxembourg, Malta, San Marino, the Faroe Islands, and Gibraltar yet Latter-day Saints operate one or no congregations in these countries and locations. The Seventh Day Adventist Church reports nearly 150,000 members in the region, nearly one-third of the number of members reported by the LDS Church, yet Adventists operate over 500 more congregations than Latter-day Saints. Both Witnesses and Adventists experience significantly higher member activity and convert retention rates than Latter-day Saints largely due to increased local member involvement in missionary activity, emphasis on expanding national outreach by planting new congregations, and higher convert baptismal standards. Nearly all outreach-focused Christians report slow membership growth nonetheless but experience stagnant or very slow congregational growth rates.
Recent efforts by area leadership to double the number of active Latter-day Saints in Europe indicates a refocus in LDS outreach from goals headed by full-time missionaries of merely baptizing converts for nominal increases in church membership to an approach that stresses the utilization of local members in finding and teaching investigators, fellowshipping recent converts, and participating in reactivation work with less involvement from full-time missionaries. Time will only tell whether this innovative reform in missionary activity is carried out consistently in all nations in the region over the medium and long term. As of mid-2011, there appeared to be no indication that the end of the regional trend of congregational consolidations and closures was within sight, but beginning in 2010 this trend may have begun to transition from decline to stabilization as indicated by few or no congregation closures in most nations. With perhaps one or two exceptions, no stakes in the region appear likely to be discontinued within the next decade unless large numbers of congregations are closed. Pending the successful implementation of greater member-missionary efforts, additional missions may consolidate especially in the United Kingdom. Based on past trends of growth and reports from full-time missionaries, prospects appear most favorable for growth in Spain and Portugal due to higher receptivity. Few stakes appear close to dividing and the organization of additional stakes will depend on the organization of additional congregations and the maturation of branches into wards. The establishment of a small LDS university in the United Kingdom, Spain, or Germany deserves serious consideration by international church leaders to facilitate the establishment of a self-sustaining, regional LDS community, provide additional mission outreach through education, and reduce emigration to North America and the Pacific. Due to the strong influence of secularism on society, there is an urgent need for LDS teaching approaches which are tailored to the understanding of nonreligious individuals and nominal Christians to more effectively extend LDS outreach in the region.
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