LDS Church Growth: A Chapel in the Middle East

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Mormon Chapel Middle East

In 2013 a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church, was dedicated in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.

In the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ, the world is divided into "areas" with General Authorities, or leaders of the Church administrating over those geographical divisions. The Middle East Africa North Area encompasses 20 countries, with Morocco on the west and Afghanistan on the east. These countries have a majority Muslim population with freedom of religion mostly restricted. Most of the countries in the area do not allow Latter-day Saint missionary work. However, on February 22, 2013, Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated a "stake center" in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

A stake center consists of a chapel, meeting hall, offices, and classrooms meant to be the hub of several congregations nearby. With architecture that complements the traditional structures of the Middle East (the steeple is dome-shaped), the stake center has approximately 14,000 square feet of space on three levels. "The Crown Prince of the Abu Dhabi Emirate donated the land upon which the meetinghouse has been constructed. The site is a half-acre parcel adjoining other Christian churches in a sector of the city designated for such structures." [1] Two Emirati companies were architect and contractor on this unique project. The nations of the workers and supervisors who constructed the stake center were international in their background, coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

The government of Abu Dhabi has been a prime example of tolerance and kindness in allowing peoples of other religions to practice their faith, and especially in donating land for buildings in which to do so. The Church of Jesus Christ believes in observing and keeping the laws of the lands in which they have a presence, and the good citizenship of Latter-day Saints in foreign lands is notable.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ who live in Muslim countries worship on Fridays, following the customs of the land. A "stake conference" was held on that Friday with 413 people attending the meeting in the stake center. Another 637 watched a webcast in other buildings throughout the stake, and an unknown number watched via the Internet. A devotional was also held later that evening in Dubai, with the proceedings being broadcast to other buildings in the stake.

The Abu Dhabi Stake Center may be one of the most technologically advanced in the world and is highly capable of broadcasting events to other locations. "The stake covers four countries in the area: The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. Brother David McMillan (director for temporal affairs for the area) said the Church does no proselytizing in the area; membership is comprised of Latter-day Saints primarily from North America and the Philippines."

Other Christian congregations in the area have been friendly and have already suggested joint activities with Latter-day Saints in Abu Dhabi.