LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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Dedicating a Country for Missionary Work

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: March 14th, 2014

The Church dedicates independent, sovereign countries and some autonomous dependencies for missionary work. A member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicates a country for missionary work through offering a special prayer. The purpose of dedicating a country generally centers on formally initiating proselytism efforts or marking the time from which to begin the expansion of missionary work on a larger scale. The Church initially dedicated entire world regions (i.e. Central America, South America) to missionary work but in recent years has dedicated individual countries on separate occasions. At times the dedication of countries for missionary work appears more representative a priesthood ordinance and the bestowal of a special blessing on the people and church members of that nation rather than official demarcating between unofficial or semi-official proselytism versus official proselytism efforts.

The timing for dedicating a country to missionary work significantly varies country to country. Some countries have no LDS congregations operating and no missionaries assigned whereas other have had multiple congregations and foreign full-time missionaries serving for many years. For example, the dedication of Angola occurred after full-time missionaries had been assigned for two years but before the expansion of missionary activity into cities outside the capital Luanda.  The dedication of Burundi occurred in 2010 before the organization of an official branch but after the assignment of full-time missionaries.[1] The dedication of Gabon, Kazakhstan, and Rwanda occurred before the assignment of proselytizing missionaries but after the organization of branches. The dedication of Mongolia occurred the same year the first branch was created but before the assignment of young proselytizing missionaries. The dedications of Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Malawi occurred shortly after the organization of additional branches, assignment of greater numbers of missionaries, and prior to the creation of the first districts. The dedication of the Republic of Georgia[2] and the Solomon Islands occurred prior to any known LDS presence. The dedication of Benin and Togo occurred as the Church began assigning appreciable numbers of proselytizing missionaries to both countries in 2007. The dedication of Kiribati occurred at the same time as the organization of the first stake in 1996.[3] The dedications of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro in 2010 occurred before the assignment of missionaries and the organization of independent branches.

The Church has dedicated some autonomous dependencies for missionary work although they remain under the sovereignty of a parent nation that has been dedicated for missionary work.  For example, the Church has dedicated French Polynesia[4] and New Caledonia (dependency of France)[5] separately from France or other islands within Oceania.

At times the Church has dedicated a country or region for missionary work and later dedicated smaller countries that declared independence from the parent nation or region that was previously dedicated. For example, the Church dedicated Yugoslavia for missionary work in 1985 but offered separate dedicatory prayers for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia in 2010.[6] The Church dedicated all of Central America for missionary work in 1952 but dedicated individual countries in the region for missionary work in 1991. In 1977, President Thomas S. Monson dedicated Sweden for missionary work after learning that Scandinavia as a whole was dedicated for missionary work in 1850 from Denmark.[7]

Church leaders have performed some country dedications without official proselytism efforts occurring before or after the dedication. In Laos, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland dedicated the country for missionary work in 2006 but the Church did not assign young elder missionaries to Laos until early 2013. In Kyrgyzstan, Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated the country for missionary work in 2003[8] but the Church has not organized any branches or assigned any full-time missionaries as of early 2014. In Lebanon, members reports indicated that the country was dedicated for missionary work in 2009 but there remained no known proselytizing missionaries in the country as of early 2014. In the Central African Republic, the Elder Jeffrey R. Holland dedicated the country to missionary work in late 2012[9] but as of early 2014 no proselytizing missionaries had been assigned. Government restrictions and political instability appear the primary reasons for why the Church does not assign proselytizing missionaries to countries after an apostle or member of the First Presidency dedicates them to missionary work. The Church does not obtain all needed government permissions to assign foreign missionaries or even to register with the government as required by law before dedicating a country to missionary work. Consequently, there have been delays in introducing full-time missionaries or expanding outreach if the Church faces challenges obtaining needed legal permission and registration to fully operate the Church. Some country dedications are not announced in official church media outlets due to the sensitive nature of the Church in some nations. For example, local members in the Middle East reported that the Church dedicated Lebanon for missionary work in 2009 although no official announcement was made by the Church. 

The Church does not publish a list of what countries have been dedicated for missionary work and when these dedications have occurred. Information pertaining to who dedicates countries for missionary work and when countries are dedicated can be found for most countries with an official LDS presence in books and LDS media including the Deseret News Church Almanac, articles in the LDS Church News, church magazines like the Ensign, and the Church's official website (lds.org) and Newsroom site (mormonnewsroom.org). Individual member and missionary reports have supplied information to church researchers on the dedication of some countries for missionary work when no other resources provide this information. 

Prospects appear favorable for the continued dedication of additional countries to missionary work. Countries that have not appeared to have been dedicated for missionary work that may be dedicated in the coming years include Burma, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka as these nations currently have or have had full-time missionaries assigned. The Church may decide to individually dedicate several South Pacific islands (Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna) that were collectively dedicated from Kiribati in 1996.[10]


[1]  "Apostles bless two African nations," LDS Church News, 6 November 2012.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/60085/Apostles-bless-two-African-nations.html

[2]  "Gospel taking root in Republic of Georgia," LDS Church News, 25 November 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49785/Gospel-taking-root-in-Republic-of-Georgia.html

[3]  Orden, Dell Van.  "Elder Perry creates first Kiribati stake, dedicates islands," LDS Church News, 21 September 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27921/Elder-Perry-creates-first-Kiribati-stake-dedicates-islands.html

[4]  Hart, John L.  "Dedication culminates celebration," LDS Church News, 21 May 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/24427/Dedication-culminates-celebration.html

[5]  Johnson, R. Val.  "Islands of Light," Ensign, Mar 2000, 31

[6]  Avant, Gerry.  "Elder Nelson pronounces blessings on six Balkan nations," LDS Church News, 23 September 2010.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/59902/Elder-Nelson-pronounces-blessings-on-six-Balkan-nations.html

[7]  Avant, Gerry.  "Royal couple visits at Swedish temple with Pres. Monson," LDS Church News, 2 September 1995.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/26570/Royal-couple-visits-at-Swedish-temple-with-Pres-Monson.html

[8]  “Elder Nelson Dedicates Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 124–25

[9]  Renlund, Ruth L.; Avant, Gerry; Holman, Marianne. "A new day begins with a blessing upon its nation and its people," LDS Church News, 8 November 2012.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/62931/A-new-day-begins-with-a-blessing-upon-its-nation-and-its-people.html

[10]  Orden, Dell Van.  "Elder Perry creates first Kiribati stake, dedicates islands," LDS Church News, 21 September 1996.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/27921/Elder-Perry-creates-first-Kiribati-stake-dedicates-islands.html