Reaching the Nations

Saint Kitts and Nevis

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 261 square km.  Comprising two small volcanic islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis is located in the Caribbean between the Virgin Islands and Guadeloupe.  Both islands are mountainous and experience tropical climate with little seasonal temperature variation.  A rainy season occurs from May to November.  Hurricanes are a natural hazard.  Saint Kitts and Nevis is divided into 14 administrative parishes.

Population: 49,898 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.838% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.79 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 72.03 male, 76.75 female (2010)

Peoples

African: 90.4%

mulatto (mixed African): 5%

East Indian: 3%

other: 1.6%

Languages: Saint Kitts Creole English (99%), other (1%).  Most speak standard English fluently.  

Literacy: 97.8% (2003)

History

Carib Amerindians populated St. Kitts and Nevis when Christopher Columbus first discovered the islands in the late fifteenth century.  English and French settlers arrived in the 1620s.  The French and English maintained joint rule over St. Kitts until 1713 when the island came under English rule.  The French temporarily overtook the islands in 1782 but British rule was reestablished the following year.  Both islands were included in the Leeward Islands colony from 1871 to 1956 and were part of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962.  In 1967, St. Kitts and Nevis joined with Anguilla to form a self-governing state under Great Britain.  Anguilla left the union later that year and remains a British dependency.  Independence from the United Kingdom occurred in 1983.  Political stability has characterized most of the islands' post-independence history, although Nevis has attempted to secede several times.[1]

Culture 

British colonialism strongly influenced local culture as manifest by widespread use of English and half the population adhering to the Anglican Church.  The people remain highly religious today.  Several musical festivals are held throughout the year.  Cuisine is representative of the West Indies and includes goat, fruit, dumplings, soup, and rum.  Cricket is the most popular sport.  Alcohol consumption rates compare to the average worldwide alcohol consumption rate. 

Economy

GDP per capita: $14,500 (2009) [31.3% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.838

Corruption Index: N/A

The economy highly relies on tourism for survival as the government closed the sugar industry in the mid-2000s due to poor economic growth.  Hurricanes and oscillating tourist demand are economic challenges.  The government has sought to diversify agricultural activity, expand the tourist industry, and establish an offshore banking sector.  Services and industry generate 71% and 26% of the GDP, respectively.  Tourism, cotton, and salt are the primary industries.  Common crops include sugarcane, rice, yams, vegetables, and fruit. The United States is the primary trade partner.  The islands are a transshipment point for illicit drugs en route to North America and Europe.  Money laundering is also a concern.

Faiths

Christian: 95%

other: 5%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Anglican  24,949

Catholic  12,475

Seventh-Day Adventists  24,678 (includes all islands in northern Caribbean)  12

Jehovah's Witnesses  201  3

Latter-Day Saints  170  1

Religion

Half the population is estimated to be Anglican.  Catholics are the second largest religious denomination and account for 25% of the population.  The remainder of the population primarily adheres to Protestant denominations.  Evangelical Christians report strong church growth.  There are small numbers of Rastafarians, Muslims, Hindus, and Baha'is.[2]

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government.  The government maintains a secular position, but recognizes major Christian holidays and requires all schools to have daily morning prayers and hymn singing.  There have been no reports of societal abuse of religious freedom.[3]

Largest Cities

Urban: 32%

Basseterre, Charlestown

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregations.

One of the two largest cities have an LDS congregation.  29% of the national population resides in the two largest cities.  76% of the national population lives on St. Kitts. 

LDS Background

LDS missionaries first arrived in 1984 on St. Kitts in 1985 and organized the first branch.[4]  The first converts were baptized in 1985.[5]  Seminary and institute began in the 1990s.  President Gordon B. Hinckley visited St. Kitts and Nevis in 2004 and met with the prime minister.[6]  The West Indies Mission administered St. Kitts and Nevis until 2007 when the islands became part of the new Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission.[7]  In 2010, the mission was consolidated and St. Kitts and Nevis have since been assigned to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission. 

There were fewer than 100 Latter-day Saints until the late 1990s.  Stagnant membership growth occurred during the first half of the 2000s as there were 112 members in 2000, 115 in 2002, and 118 in 2004.  Membership totaled 166 in 2005 and 184 in 2006 and then declined to 120 in 2007 as it appears LDS membership totals for Dominica were originally included with the St. Kitts and Nevis totals but in 2007 were reported separately for the first time.  There were 162 members in 2008.  Membership generally increases by 10 to 30 members a year.  In 2009, one in 294 was LDS.  One branch operated from 1985 to 2005 until a second branch was created on Nevis.  In 2010, the branches were consolidated and in early 2011 only one branch operated on St. Kitts.  A group or dependent branch may continue to operate on Nevis.  The Basseterre St. Kitts and Nevis District operated from 2004 to 2010 and had four branches in the late 2000s, two of which were on other Caribbean islands. 

Nine were enrolled in seminary and institute during the 2008-2009 school year.  In 1994, there were 70 active members.[8]  There were approximately 30 active members on St. Kitts in 1996.[9]  100 members and guests attended the dedication of the Basseterre meetinghouse in 2004.[10] In early 2011, active membership was estimated at approximately 80, or 50% of total membership.  In 1995, the Church acquired a remodeled house to hold church meetings.[11]  In 2004, President Hinckley dedicated a new meetinghouse in Basseterre.[12]  Local members have helped clean local parks but no major humanitarian or development work has been pursued by the Church.[13]

Opportunities

Latter-day Saints face no restrictions on assembly, proselytism, or worship.  25% of the national population resides in Basseterre where the sole LDS congregation operates.  Virtually the entire population of St. Kitts and Nevis could be reached with approximately half a dozen mission outreach centers.  Holding cottage meetings and forming dependent branches and groups may be a suitable method to better reach the population by creating a flexible, church-planting based approach to proselytism.  The wide array of English LDS materials accessible online provide opportunities for Internet proselytism but no missionary materials have been adapted to local cultural needs and circumstances.  St. Kitts and Nevis experiences no significant ethnic integration challenges due to the highly homogenous black population.  There have been no reported ethnic assimilation problems at church.  Widespread use of standard English reduces the translation need for LDS materials in Saint Kitts Creole English.  Full-time missionaries do not appear to be regularly assigned and in the past senior missionary couples have served on the islands.  In 1991, the first local member served a full-time mission.[14]  In 1996, full-time missionaries were no longer stationed on St. Kitts and local members fulfilled missionary responsibilities.  Local leadership heavily emphasized reactivation and member-missionary efforts among youth,[15] which may result in more consistent numbers of members serving full-time missions.   Emphasis on missionary preparation for youth may help increase the number of active priesthood holders over the long term. 

Challenges

Participation in religion and the influence of Christianity on society remains strong, but there is less acceptance of nontraditional Christian groups like Latter-day Saints.  Many have unfavorable attitudes about the LDS Church often attributed to misinformation.  Some Latter-day Saint youth have lost friends as a result of joining the Church.[16]  New converts, less-active members, and investigators often face opposition from their families and the community for associating with the Church which has led to limited receptivity and modest member activity rates.  The small population of administrative parishes outside of Basseterre limits the practicality of opening additional mission outreach centers in outlying areas.  Member activity rates have fluctuated over time as a result of new converts demonstrating brief periods of church activity and attendance together with inconsistent activity levels among older members.  Inadequate pre-baptismal teaching and the failure of new converts to exhibit regular church attendance over longer periods of time have likely contributed to retention problems.  Distance from mission headquarters and few missionary resources dedicated to the islands has facilitated the development of self-sustaining leadership, but may have also led to inconsistent missionary approaches.  Limited numbers of active priesthood holders delays the organization of additional congregations and likely contributed to the closure of the Nevis Branch in 2010.  St. Kitts and Nevis pertains to the Orlando Florida Temple district.  Temple trips do not appear to occur regularly and members likely attend the temple on an individual basis.  Travel times and expenses prevent regular temple attendance.  Members may utilize the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple more frequently due to closer proximity and fewer visitor regulations compared to the United States.

St. Kitts and Nevis is among Caribbean countries or territories with the fewest Latter-day Saints as only Martinique, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica have fewer than 200 LDS members.  LDS Church growth trends on St. Kitts and Nevis have been similar to those experienced on these islands, marked by fluctuating member activity rates and the operation of only one or two LDS congregations.  St. Kitts and Nevis, Aruba, and the Bahamas each had their sole LDS districts discontinued in the late 2000s due to leadership development and sustainability problems.  Most missionary-minded Christian groups report slow, steady growth and higher member activity rates than Latter-day Saints.  Adventists report steady growth. These denominations have developed a small, local member community and maintain multiple mission outreach centers.

Prospects

Attempted mission outreach expansion in the 2000s only endured for half a decade before coming to a close in 2010 and produced mixed results as only one LDS congregation remains, member activity rates remain low, and local priesthood leadership is extremely limited.  The consistent enrollment of small numbers of LDS youth in seminary and institute demonstrate some hope for greater self-sustainability regarding member activity, full-time missionary service, and the local leadership development.  The consistent assignment of a senior missionary couple may address these issues without compromising the limited self-sufficiency developed in Basseterre. 


[1]  "Background Note: Saint Kitts and Nevis," Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, 14 July 2010.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2341.htm

[2]  "St. Kitts and Nevis," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148776.htm

[3]  "St. Kitts and Nevis," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148776.htm

[4]  Weaver, Sarah Jane.  "Caribbean members plan to celebrate achievements of pioneers - those on island and of 1847 trek," LDS Church News, 22 June 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27928/Caribbean-members-plan-to-celebrate-achievements-of-pioneers---those-on-island-and-of-1847-trek.html

[5]  Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, "St. Kitts and Nevis," p. 407

[6]  "Pres. Hinckley emphasizes "home" at island meetings," LDS Church News, 24 January 2004.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/44981/Pres-Hinckley-emphasizes-home-at-island-meetings.html

[7]  "New missions bring total to 347 New Missions," LDS Church News, 10 February 2007.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/50112/New-missions-bring-total-to-347-New-missions.html

[8]  Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, "St. Kitts and Nevis," p. 407

[9]  Weaver, Sarah Jane.  "Caribbean members plan to celebrate achievements of pioneers - those on island and of 1847 trek," LDS Church News, 22 June 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27928/Caribbean-members-plan-to-celebrate-achievements-of-pioneers---those-on-island-and-of-1847-trek.html

[10]  "Pres. Hinckley emphasizes "home" at island meetings," LDS Church News, 24 January 2004.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/44981/Pres-Hinckley-emphasizes-home-at-island-meetings.html

[11]  Weaver, Sarah Jane.  "Caribbean members plan to celebrate achievements of pioneers - those on island and of 1847 trek," LDS Church News, 22 June 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27928/Caribbean-members-plan-to-celebrate-achievements-of-pioneers---those-on-island-and-of-1847-trek.html

[12]  "Pres. Hinckley emphasizes "home" at island meetings," LDS Church News, 24 January 2004.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/44981/Pres-Hinckley-emphasizes-home-at-island-meetings.html

[13]  Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, "St. Kitts and Nevis," p. 407

[14]  Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, "St. Kitts and Nevis," p. 407

[15]  Weaver, Sarah Jane.  "Caribbean members plan to celebrate achievements of pioneers - those on island and of 1847 trek," LDS Church News, 22 June 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27928/Caribbean-members-plan-to-celebrate-achievements-of-pioneers---those-on-island-and-of-1847-trek.html

[16]  Weaver, Sarah Jane.  "Caribbean members plan to celebrate achievements of pioneers - those on island and of 1847 trek," LDS Church News, 22 June 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27928/Caribbean-members-plan-to-celebrate-achievements-of-pioneers---those-on-island-and-of-1847-trek.html