Reaching the Nations International Church Growth Almanac

Country reports on the LDS Church around the world from a landmark almanac. Includes detailed
analysis of history, context, culture, needs, challenges and opportunities for church growth.


Population: 2.93 millions (#140 out of 246 countries)

Reaching the Nations

Return to Table of Contents

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich


Area: 10,991 square km. Jamaica is an island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea subject to tropical climate. Most of the island is covered in forest and mountains with some sections of coastal plains. Hurricanes and tropical storms frequently cause damage. Deforestation, pollution of sea water, and erosion are environmental concerns. Jamaica is administratively divided into fourteen parishes.

Population: 2,812,090 (July 2018)

Annual Growth Rate: 0.05% (2018)

Fertility Rate: 2.09 children born per woman (2018)

Life Expectancy: 72.7 male, 76.5 female (2018)


Black: 92.1%

Mixed: 6.1%

East Indian: 0.8%

Other: 0.4%

Unspecified: 0.6%

Africans arrived as slaves during European colonialism. Mixed ethnicity originated from East Indians, Chinese, and Europeans intermarrying with the black population. Other ethnicities are primarily immigrant groups who have not intermarried, including Chinese, East Indians, Latin Americans, and Europeans or Americans.

Languages: English and Jamaican Creole English (97%), Chinese languages (1.1%), other/unspecified (1.9%). English is the official language. Immigrant groups speak additional languages but number less than 100,000. Only Jamaican Creole English has over one million speakers (2.67 million).

Literacy: 88.7% (2015)


Taino Indians settled Jamaica prior to initial European exploration by Christopher Columbus in 1494. The native population slowly died out from disease and harsh colonial policies. Slaves were brought to work plantations cultivating sugar, coffee, and cocoa. Spain controlled the island until it fell into British possession in 1655. Slavery was abolished in 1834, freeing 250,000 slaves. Increasing autonomy occurred until independence in 1962. Economic instability and violent crime grew more prevalent in the 1970s and continues to threaten Jamaica’s stability today.


Jamaica heavily influences the rest of the Caribbean through music, such as reggae, and has produced popular singers. Jamaica was the birthplace of the Rastafarian movement. Many agricultural products are known internationally. Christianity strongly influences cultural beliefs and practices.


GDP per capita: $9,200 (2017) [15.4% of U.S.]

Human Development Index: 0.732 (2017)

Corruption Index: 44 (2018)

Jamaica has a poorly diversified economy that depends on the services sector for growth and stability, accounting for over 70% of the GDP. Tourism has becoming increasingly important and emphasized for economic growth. One-fifth of the GDP originates from industry, primarily from bauxite, alumina, and rum. Primary agriculture products include sugar, bananas, and coffee. Approximately forty percent (40%) of imports and exports are trafficked with the United States. High debt, increasing inflation, and a shrinking economy threaten future potential for economic development and growth. Seventeen percent (17%) of the population lives below the poverty line.

Corruption is widespread and threatens the nation’s stability although the level of perceived corruption has modestly improved in the past decade. Drug violence has worsened in the past couple decades. Bribe taking, extortion, and government favoritism discourage greater foreign investment and hurt small businesses.[1] Those found guilty of corruption charges usually go unpunished. Jamaica is a transshipment point from South America for cocaine destined for Europe and North America. Money laundering is a major problem.


Christian: 70.0%

Other: 6.5%

Unspecified: 2.2%

None: 21.3%


Denominations – Members – Congregations

Pentecostals – 309,330

Seventh Day Adventists – 299,851 – 736

Other Church of God – 258,712

New Testament Church of God – 202,470

Baptists – 188,410

Church of God in Jamaica – 134,980

Church of God of Prophecy – 126,544

Anglicans – 78,739

Roman Catholic – 61,866

United Church – 59,054

Methodists – 44,993

Revived – 39,369

Brethren – 25,309

Moravian – 19,685

Jehovah’s Witnesses – 11,425 – 178

Latter-day Saints 5,580 19


Jamaica experiences one of the highest rates of irreligiosity in the Caribbean, with one fifth of the population not adhering to any organized religion. The Rastafarian movement began in Jamaica in the 1930s and has spread to many other Caribbean nations. Rastafarianism practices include the rejection of Western society and the religious use of marijuana. Christians are mainly Protestant. The largest denominations include Pentecostals and Seventh-Day Adventists.

Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is protected by the constitution and upheld by the government. No government harassment or discrimination occurs. Religious groups are not required to register with the government, but they must register for legal rights such as to hold land. Foreign religious workers require a visit to enter the country. Rastafarians often feel unfairly targeted for drug charges due to the group’s spiritual use of marijuana although these difficulties have been reduced due to new legislation in 2015 that permits limited marijuana use for religious purposes. Seventh-Day Adventists note some difficulties with finding employment that permits them to worship for the Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.[2]

Largest Cities

Urban: 55.7% (2018)

Kingston, Portmore, Spanish Town, Montego Bay, May Pen, Mandeville, Old Harbour, Savanna La Mar, Ochos Rios, Linstead.

All ten of the largest cities have a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. St. Ann’s Bay (11,200) is the most populous city without a congregation. Forty-five percent (45%) of the national population lives in the ten largest cities.

Church History

Missionaries first arrived in Jamaica in the 1840s and 1850s for short visits and experienced little success and heavy persecution. A Church presence was not reestablished for over a hundred years.[3] Church member families arrived in the 1960s from other nations and began to establish the Church. The first Jamaican branch was created in March 1970. Jamaica was dedicated for missionary work in 1979 by Elder M. Russell Ballard.[4] Full-time missionaries returned to Jamaica in November 1978. The West Indies Mission was created in 1983 from missions based in the United States and other Caribbean nations and included Jamaica. The Church organized the Jamaica Kingston Mission from the West Indies Mission in 1985. The Jamaica Kingston Mission has administered the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands for many years. The first young single adult conference was held in mid-2007.[5] In 2014, the first stake was organized by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Devn R. Cornish of the Seventy.[6] International women’s leaders in the Church visited members in Jamaica in 2016.[7] Some of the filming for the Church’s series of missionary safety videos called The SafetyZone was conducted in Jamaica.[8]

Membership Growth

Church Membership: 6,425 (2017)

Membership numbered 85 in 1980, 300 by 1983, and 520 in 1985.[9] Large numbers of converts joined the Church in the late 1980s and early 1990s as membership reached 1,200 in 1987, 2,300 in 1991, and 3,000 in late 1993.[10] Rapid growth during this period partially came as interest in the Church peaked nationwide through television advertising by the Church about the Book of Mormon. Membership growth rates began to decline as membership increased to 3,700 in 1997 and 4,389 in 2000.

Membership numbered 5,113 in 2003, 5,768 in 2006, and 5,990 in 2008. Membership growth rates declined in the 2000s from annual growth rates of 3-7% in the early 2000s to 0-5% in the late 2000s. The number of members declined for several years between 2009 and 2011 likely due to membership record updates, emigration, and few convert baptisms. Church membership totaled 5,721 in 2010 and 5,449 in 2011. Slow membership growth occurred in the 2010s as annual membership growth rates generally ranged from 2-3%. Church membership increased to 6,008 in 2015 and 6,425 in 2017.

In 2017, one in 465 was nominally a Latter-day Saint.

Congregational Growth

Wards: 6 Branches: 12 (2018)

The Church organized its first branch in the country in Mandeville in 1970.[11] The first district was created in Kingston in 1983. Additional branches organized in the 1980s included May Pen (1982), Linstead (1984), Portmore (1984), Spanish Town (1984), Montego Bay (1986), and Port Antonio (1986). A second district was created in Mandeville in 1987.

In August 1990, both the Kingston and Mandeville Jamaica Districts were turned into district stakes. District stakes functioned in only a few locations where the Church worked to prepare members and leaders for the establishment of stakes. By mid-1991 the Church had organized thirteen branches nationwide.[12] Both districts returned to regular district status in September 1996. Additional branches organized in the 1990s included Savanna-La-Mar (1993), Yallahs (1998), Junction (1999), and Old Harbour (1999).

By 2000 there were eighteen branches in two districts. At the beginning of 2002 there were eleven branches in the Kingston Jamaica District and seven branches in the Mandeville Jamaica District. Two additional districts were created in 2002 in Linstead and Montego Bay. In August 2006, Jamaica was assigned to the newly created Caribbean Area.[13] Due to the area realignment, the Jamaica Kingston Mission gained jurisdiction over the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands in addition to the Cayman Islands already part of the mission.[14] Cuba was assigned to the Jamaica Kingston Mission in 2010, but reassigned to a mission in the Dominican Republic shortly thereafter. Additional branches were organized in the 2000s in Ochos Rios (2000), Negril (2004), and Santa Cruz (2006). A branch once operated in Lucea after the city opened to missionary work in 1998. However, the branch soon closed, reopened in 2002,[15] and later closed again shortly thereafter.

In 2009, both districts in Linstead and Montego Bay were discontinued in preparation for the establishment of the first stake. Many branch presidencies were reorganized in preparation for individual branches to meet the requirements to become wards. By late 2009 there were twenty-one branches. The number of branches decreased to twenty in 2010 and nineteen in 2012. The Church closed its sole branch in Highgate in 2012. The Negril Branch closed sometime in the 2010s. In 2014, the Church organized the Kingston Jamaica Stake with six wards and two branches. The Church reestablished a member group in Negril in November 2018 with thirty in attendance for the first meeting.[16] The Mandeville Jamaica District had seven branches as of early 2019.

Activity and Retention

During the early years of the Church’s presence there was very high convert retention and member activity. In 1980 there were eighty-five members, all of whom were active full-tithe payers that fulfilled their home and visiting teaching responsibilities.[17] Jamaica had 141 seminary students in 1989.[18] 2,000 attended a meeting with President Hinckley in 2002.[19] Jamaica prepared for the first stake to be organized for more than two decades. One thousand members attended the twenty-fifth anniversary of the dedication of Jamaica for missionary work in 2004.[20] An Area Conference in mid-2009 was attended by 1,675, far more than the average sacrament attendance for all four districts at the time.[21] During the 2008–2009 school year 110 students were enrolled in seminary and 150 were enrolled in institute. Seminary and institute enrollment steadily increased in the late 2000s from 260 in 2008 to 320 in 2010. In 2014, 127 youth participated in a “For the Strength of Youth” conference and conducted temple and family history work.[22] Over 800 attended the special conference to organize the Kingston Jamaica Stake in 2014.[23] The average number of members per congregation increased from 244 in 2000 to 281 in 2009 and 357 in 2017, suggesting problems with a decreasing member activity rate and/or increases in the number of active members per congregation.

In the early 2010s, the number of active members by branch was as follows: Kingston (100), Spanish Town (90), Portmore (65), and Santa Cruz (20). In the mid-2010s, the number of active members by ward or branch was as follows: Boulevard (150), Portmore (100-125), Constant Spring (85), Savanna-La-Mar (75-85), May Pen (50-75), Mandeville (25), Junction (10-20), and Santa Crua (10-20). In the late 2010s, the approximate number of active members by congregation was as follows: Linstead (125), Spanish Town 1st (125), Boulevard (90), May Pen (90), Spanish Town 2nd (90), Montego Bay (80), Old Harbour (70), and Mandeville (30).

Reports from members in the mid to late 2010s indicate most wards appear to baptize 5-10 new converts a year. However, some wards baptize as many as 30-40 converts per year. Convert retention rates one year after baptism widely vary by congregation from less than 20% to as high as 70%. Returned missionaries consistently report that about half of new converts remain active in the Church one year after baptism in the Jamaica Kingston Mission. The mission has generally baptized 100-200 new converts a year in the mid to late 2010s. In 2019, local members estimated that the member activity rate ranged from 25-50% for their individual congregations among known members in their ward. Local members report financial problems, member misconduct, and a lack of testimony development after baptism constitute common reasons for member inactivity.

Total active membership in Jamaica appears to be no greater than 1,500, or 23% of total membership.

Language Materials

Languages with Latter-day Saint Scripture: English.

English has all Latter-day Saint scriptures and the widest body of Church materials available of any language. No church materials are available in Jamaican Creole.


Construction on the first chapel began in 1983.[24] Several Church-built meetinghouses serve congregations. Smaller congregations meet in renovated buildings or rented spaces.

Health and Safety

Poor diet causes nutritional deficiencies and great susceptibility to disease. HIV/AIDS infects 1.8% of the population. Methods of infection include illicit sexual relations, drug use, HIV-positive mothers, and contaminated needles. Crime has increased due to the deteriorating economy and drug trafficking. HIV/AIDS and poor diet pose concerns over missionaries’ safety. Jamaica has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with forty-three murders per every 100,000 people a year. A full-time missionary died in January 2011 when he was caught in the crossfire between police and a vehicle that the police was pursuing.[25]

Humanitarian and Development Work

The Church has conducted 180 humanitarian and development projects in Jamaica since 1985. These projects have included Benson Food initiatives, clean water projects, community projects, emergency response, vision care, and wheelchair donations.[26] Three thousand food boxes were donated following Hurricane Ivan.[27] Rehabilitation centers received donations of furniture and needled supplies in 2006.[28] Wheelchairs have been donated for disabled Jamaicans.[29] The Perpetual Education Fund operates in Jamaica, providing low interest loans for members interested in pursuing higher education.


Opportunities, Challenges, and Prospects

Religious Freedom

No legislation or cultural restrictions prohibit missionaries from proselytism in Jamaica.

Cultural Issues

Returned missionaries consistently report concerns with the oversaturation of churches in Jamaica and public indifference regarding the Latter-day Saint gospel message as many Jamaicans assume The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lacks distinctness from other religious groups. Nevertheless, the Church has experienced a large amount of persecution and prejudice especially in outlying cities and towns. Opposition has been strong enough to necessitate the closure of some cities to missionary work such as Lucea in May 2001. This has caused many Jamaicans to avoid learning about the Church and creates an atmosphere of intolerance. Many smaller communities are religiously divided based on denomination. Secularism has increased in recent years as interest in religious declines in the major cities. Widespread drug abuse and violent crime are major concerns.

National Outreach

The Church’s establishment in Jamaica approximately half a century ago has resulted in congregations scattered throughout the nation although members are few. The majority of the population has Church outreach centers nearby. However, approximately 10% of the national population lives in administrative parishes without a ward or branch. Half the parishes have only one congregation, indicating that outreach is mainly limited to urban areas. The national extent of urban outreach is manifested by nearly all cities with over 10,000 inhabitants containing a congregation. Rural and small town congregational outreach remains limited as there may be as many as one hundred towns and villages without a congregation.

The large number of small towns challenges the Church’s efforts in national outreach. Many urban centers have a population too small to support full-time missionaries. Although visits can likely be arranged for full-time missionaries to visit and teach individuals in unreached towns, fellowshipping investigators and converts in these locations strain mission resources. The Church has the greatest opportunity in reaching these locations with the involvement of local members in finding interested individuals and preparing them to take the missionary lessons. Cottage meetings conducted by missionaries may be held with a small group of interested individuals in lesser-reached towns. These meetings have potential over time to develop into groups, dependent branches, and branches as they are held regularly and people join the Church. Cottage meetings present opportunities but are not commonly implemented in Jamaica.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

The Church struggles with not only retaining new converts but also with keeping the general membership active in attendance and living Church teachings. An insufficient number of full-tithe payers and active Melchizedek Priesthood holders delayed the creation of the first stake for perhaps as long as fifteen years. Members have actively taken part in preparing branches and districts to become stakes since as early as 1990. Long-term problems with convert attrition and member inactivity are further attested by the total number of congregations remaining unchanged since the year 2000 despite Church-reported membership increasing by approximately 2,000 since that time. A larger number of members attended President Hinckley’s visit in 2002 than regional conferences held in the late 2000s. Despite these setbacks, the Church has noted some improvements in church attendance in some congregations to the point that a stake was established in 2014.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The large black majority provides easier fellowshipping for black Jamaicans due to the homogeneity of culture. This allows for a reduction of misunderstandings and conflict among members. The few nonblack Jamaicans may struggle in Church activity due to the lack of ethnic minority groups.

Language Issues

Although the Church benefits from an English-speaking population, no materials are translated into Jamaica Creole. Most immigrant groups speak English, facilitating their integration into Jamaican congregations.

Missionary Service

The first Jamaican member to serve a mission began his mission in 1985.[30] By the end of 2003, 175 Jamaican members had served or were serving missions.[31] In 2019, one local member reported that young adult members regularly serve full-time missions from his ward and that many serve missions in the Dominican Republic. Jamaica continues to rely on large numbers of foreign full-time missionaries to staff the mission. Stronger emphasis on missionary service and seminary and institute attendance may help increase the self-sufficiency of the Jamaica full-time missionary force.


A lack of active Melchizedek Priesthood holders has challenged the Church’s national outreach and efforts to organize of stakes. Shortages in local leaders have appeared to prompt the closure of branches in some locations or prevent the creation of additional congregations. In the early 2000s, an effort was made to establish the first stake on the island, which failed due to a lack of active priesthood holders and full-tithe payers. This instead resulted in the division of the two districts likely in a move to spur greater growth in unreached areas. The lack of sufficient active, full-tithe paying Melchizedek Priesthood delayed the organization of a stake until 2014. However, this was only possible after the consolidation of districts in 2009 to allow greater interaction of former district leaders with their local congregations to augment activity among less active priesthood holders. In 2013, a local member, Kevin George Brown, was called to serve as a mission president for the first time.[32] He was called to serve as the mission president for the Jamaica Kingston Mission.[33] Local leadership development problems are also evident in the over-representation of Church employees in leadership positions. For example, two of the three members in the stake presidency for the newly organized Kingston Jamaica Stake were Church employees as of 2013.[34]


Jamaica is assigned to the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple district. Over the years Jamaica has pertained to several other temple districts as new temples have been constructed such as the Panama City Panama Temple district. In 2014, an LDS Church News article noted that Jamaican members usually travel to the Panama City Panama Temple, to the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple, or to temples in the United States to participate in temple work.[35] Temple excursions occur regularly but require travel by plane or ship to nearby temples. A temple may be announced for Jamaica once multiple stakes are organized, as island nations tend to have temples built with far fewer members than nonisland nations.

Comparative Growth

Jamaica has experienced slow growth and low member activity rates comparable to other English-speaking countries in the Caribbean. With a population of 1.2 million, Trinidad and Tobago had its first congregation created in 1980 and its first stake organized in 2009. However the Church in Trinidad and Tobago has half as many members as Jamaica has today, and the Church in Trinidad and Tobago had a stake organized five years earlier than Jamaica. Smaller nations and islands in the Caribbean have seen slower growth, such as Barbados, which had 1,047 members in 2017 despite a Church presence for approximately four decades. Other nations with at least 6,000 members generally have multiple stakes, such as in Western Europe (e.g. Denmark and Norway).

Many Christian denominations operate on the island and many have experienced more rapid and continuous growth than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Jamaica numbers among the most successful groups and has approximately 300,000 members and more than 700 congregations. Adventists have reported a net increase of approximately 40,000 members and one hundred congregations in the past decade. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses have reported a decline of approximately 800 active members and twenty congregations since 2010. Emigration and societal persecution of unaccepted groups appears to have affected growth rates for some denominations. Reasons for slow growth in Jamaica for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints include a more recent church establishment, high antagonism from other churches, low member activity, and member reliance on missionaries for finding new converts and retention. Other denominations appear to have developed very functional local membership that does not rely on outside personnel to function.

Future Prospects

The Church may organized a second stake in Jamaica in the medium term as the Mandeville Jamaica District has several branches that appear to meet the qualifications to become wards. Additional congregations along the northern coast and in the Saint Mary Parish may be organized. Small branches or groups in many of the small towns unreached by current congregations may be created once greater activity and membership growth occurs. Historically low convert retention rates and low member activity rates are consistent barriers to greater real church growth and self-sustainability. Little progress expanding national outreach will likely continue until these issues are resolved. The Church may build a small temple in Kingston once there are multiple stakes in Jamaica due to distance to the nearest temple.

[1] “Embassy of the United States—Kingston Jamaica,” U.S. Department of State, retrieved 14 December 2010.

[2] “Jamaica,” International Religious Freedom Report for 2017. Accessed 18 March 2019.

[3] “Jamaica,” Country Profile, retrieved 14 December 2010.

[4] “Services in 3 South American nations and island repubic,” LDS Church News, 10 March 1990.

[5] “Jamaican young adults gather for first conference,” LDS Church News, 28 July 2007.

[6] “New stake presidents,” LDS Church News. 2 August 2014.

[7] Sterzer, Rachel. “Women leaders visit Caribbean: ‘These are faithful, wonderful, loving people’,” LDS Church News. 8 September 2016.

[8] Taylor, Scott. “Church releases new series of videos called 'The SafetyZone' to emphasize missionary safety,” Church News. 1 March 2019.

[9] “Jamaica,” Country Profile, retrieved 14 December 2010.

[10] “Temple to be built in the Caribbean,” LDS Church News, 4 December 1993.

[11] “Jamaica Kingston Mission branch histories, 2003-2004,” Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah

[12] “News of the Church,” Ensign, Mar. 1991, 74–80.

[13] “Southeast area divided; Caribbean Area created,” LDS Church News, 10 June 2006.

[14] “Area Presidencies,” LDS Church News, 10 June 2006.

[15] “Jamaica Kingston Mission branch histories, 2003-2004,” Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah

[16] “At Last the Church was Brought To Them,” Mormon Newsroom – Jamaica. 11 November 2018.

[17] Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Let Every Man Learn His Duty,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 69.

[18] Stoker, Kevin. “Early-morning/daily seminary builds foundation in gospel program has expanded to help youths worldwide,” LDS Church News, 27 May 1989.

[19] Hill, Greg. “2,000 meet in Jamaica,” LDS Church News, 1 June 2002.

[20] Showalter, Rodney; Showalter, Geneva; Moore, Sharol. “Joy in Jamaica—Members observe anniversary of dedication by Elder Ballard,” LDS Church News, 20 December 2003.—Members-observe-anniversary-of-dedication-by-Elder-Ballard.html

[21] Taylor, Scott. “Jamaica broadcast covers Caribbean,” LDS Church News, 30 January 2009.

[22] Powell, Crystal. “Jamaican’s journey of faith to the LDS temple,” LDS Church News. 9 June 2014.

[23] Whitehorne-Smith, Patricia. “First stake organized in Jamaica,” LDS Church News. 13 June 2014.

[24] “Jamaica,” Country Profile, retrieved 14 December 2010.

[25] “Missionary killed in Jamaica,” LDS Church News. 22 January 2011.

[26] “Where We Work,” LDS Charities. Accessed 18 March 2019.

[27] Swensen, Jason. “Hurricane Ivan batters Gulf Coast,” LDS Church News, 18 September 2004.

[28] “Donations in Jamaica,” LDS Church News, 16 December 2006.

[29] “Hundreds more wheelchairs distributed,” LDS Church News, 28 December 2002.

[30] “Jamaica,” Country Profile, retrieved 14 December 2010.

[31] Showalter, Rodney; Showalter, Geneva; Moore, Sharol. “Joy in Jamaica—Members observe anniversary of dedication by Elder Ballard,” LDS Church News, 20 December 2003.—Members-observe-anniversary-of-dedication-by-Elder-Ballard.html

[32] “New mission presidents,” LDS Church News, 19 January 2013.

[33] “New mission presidents by area for 2013,” LDS Church News. 21 February 2013.

[34] “New stake presidents,” LDS Church News. 2 August 2014.

[35] Powell, Crystal. “Jamaican’s journey of faith to the LDS temple,” LDS Church News. 9 June 2014.