"Brothers and sisters, our missionary force, serving throughout the world, continues to seek out those who are searching for the truths which are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is steadily growing; it has since its organization over 178 years ago.
It has been my privilege during the past six months to meet with leaders of countries and with representatives of governments. Those with whom I’ve met feel kindly toward the Church and our members, and they have been cooperative and accommodating. There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over 32 years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas, that we might share with them the joy of the gospel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray with faith."
In October 2009, President Monson reiterated:
"I would ask that your faith and prayers continue to be offered in behalf of those areas where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely at this time. Miracles can occur as we do so."
I am unsure to what degree this counsel has been heeded by the members of the church. However, just as when missionary work began in Eastern Europe in the years following President Kimball's request, we are now seeing miracles occur as the gospel is being preached in nations such as Vietnam, Turkey, Pakistan and India.
Each of these countries have moderate to severe restrictions on religious freedom, as explained more fully in this report. Yet each of these countries have a growing LDS population.
I am not suggesting that these four countries are the only countries where the Lord has provided miracles to open doors to missionary work. Indeed, we should view every baptism and every mission call as a miracle. Rather, these four countries provide some of the examples that I am most familiar with of increased missionary activity in countries which have historically had limited LDS influence since the end of 2008.
Due to the sensitivity of relationships with government officials in Vietnam, little is known about the status of the church in Vietnam when President Monson gave his remarks in 2008. We do know, however, that in 2010, a district was organized in Vietnam for the first time. We also know that in 2014, the government of Vietnam recognized the church as a religious institution.
Most miraculous of all, in 2016 the church began the process of organizing a mission in Vietnam. This mission is scheduled to open prior to the traditional opening of new missions this July.
The church in Vietnam is small, and may well remain small. But to once again have a mission formed in a communist country is a miracle
Turkey and Neighboring countries
Missionary work in Turkey began in 2012, as missionaries in a mission in Bulgaria reportedly were called to begin preaching the gospel in Turkey, centering in the four branches that have been long-established in Turkey.
To the shock of church growth observers, the first mission was created in Turkey just three years later. Covering Turkey and Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, this mission represents a bold attempt to share the gospel in not just Turkey, but in several other countries where the church has not had a large presence.
Early reports indicate that the five branches that were in place when the mission was formed have grown to seven, with additional organization in place to provide assistance to LDS Members not living close to these seven branches.
As Elder Ronald A. Rasband recently reported:
"Since I returned home from my recent trip to Pakistan, my thoughts have lingered on the fervor and dedication of the first-generation members in this country. The last Apostle to visit this country was Elder Dallin H Oaks in 2007. At that time, there were 2,000 members and seven branches. Today, only eight years later, there are 4,000 members, 13 branches, and three districts. The Church is truly growing across all the earth."
This growth-- a doubling of members due to missionary work by faithful Pakistani brothers and sisters, including at least 11 full-time missionaries, is remarkable in the country where Osama Bin Laden hid for years and that, as I noted above, struggles with religious freedom issues. This is a miracle.
I mention the following with extreme caution: early, unverified reports indicate that Pakistan may receive a Stake in 2016. Of course, church leaders will work with governmental officials as growth in Pakistan continues to ensure Pakistani laws and customs are respected as the church grows in Pakistan.
To be brief: the church in India in 2008 had no stakes. Today it has two stakes, with progress being made to form a third in the coming years.
This set of miracles are only a few of the of many miracles that are prophesied to take place in order to take to gospel to every nation before the second coming. We should continue periodically add to our prayers a desire to have both individual opportunities for missionary opportunities and, as President Monson counseled us, to open the doors more fully to missionary work in all nations of the world.
Thanks for reading. As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thanks for reading,