Two new areas of the Church - the Europe Mediterranean Area and Asia North Area - have been announced by the First Presidency, bringing to 22 the number of Church administrative areas throughout the world.
In addition, the First Presidency also announced Area Presidency assignments, effective Oct. 1. (Please see page 3.)The new Europe Mediterranean Area, effective Aug. 15, was created from the Europe Area, and includes Northern Africa and European countries bordering the Mediterranean, as well as Mideastern countries. The new area headquarters are in Ferney-Voltaire, France. Within its boundaries are 81,000 members in 18 stakes and 18 missions.
Included in the new area are countries where the Church is well-established, such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and the French-speaking part of Belgium and Switzerland. Also included are Greece and many islands where the Church is relatively new, such as Malta, Cape Verde, Azores, and the Canary and Madeira islands.
The realigned Europe Area includes 57,000 members in 22 stakes and 16 missions. Headquarters of the area remain in Frankfurt, Germany. Countries remaining in the Europe Area include Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium and the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Speaking of the creation of the new area, Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy and president of the Europe Area, said, "Now there will be more time to concentrate on established areas, and other matters as directed by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve.
"Members in the new Mediterranean area are pleased about this [the new areaT," said Elder Ringger. "For me this is a sign of the growth and progress of the Church.
Also in Europe, the former United Kingdom/Ireland Area was realigned, effective June 1, to include the Nordic countries and was renamed the Europe North Area.
The Europe North Area includes the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the countries of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as Greenland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The area, with its headquarters remaining in Solihull, England, has 172,000 members in 47 stakes and 12 missions.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Seventy and president of the Europe North Area said the change will add cultural diversity and bring the strong tradition of Christian faith and impact of the Restoration from the Nordic countries.
"It will be a marvelous addition. The saints here in Great Britain are excited about it."
He said the British and Irish members recall an earlier time when the Nordic countries were part of the London Temple District. "Many of those saints came to Great Britain for their temple work. It will be a nice past tie to activate because we enjoyed so much having them here.
"We are very thrilled with their attitude of faith, devotion to service and spirituality."
The new Asia North Area was created in a division of the Asia Area and will be effective Oct. 1. The new area, to include Japan and Korea, will be headquartered in Tokyo, and will have 152,000 members in 36 stakes and 14 missions.
"This area, of course, has the bulk of the Church's Asian membership in it," said Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the Seventy and Asia Area president.
He said the members in Japan and Korea are very pleased about the new area. "They will have the full presidency, working out of Tokyo, available to them."
The new area is a mark of continued Church growth, said Elder Lybbert.
The Asia Area will retain the bulk of Asia, including such lands as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. With headquarters in Hong Kong, the area will have 51,000 members in seven stakes and five missions.
Languages present some challenges. For example, in India alone there are 17 principal languages and 150 dialects. Getting the Book of Mormon printed in these languages is a formidable project.
Elder Lybbert said many opportunities await in an area so vast. Great challenges also lie in store. "There is very much of a challenge because most of the people in those lands have never heard of God as we know Him or His Son, Jesus Christ."