From Mark Davies: The WW-LDS site (http://talks.mormon.org/ww-lds.htm) gives some interesting data about the growth of the Church in Brazil in the last two decades.
1) The most obvious fact is the extremely strong and sustained growth in members for the past twenty years or so. Unlike some countries (eg. Guatemala, Portugual) where there has been a sharp increase and then a leveling-off, growth has continued at the rate of 70,000 to 100,00 a year even since 1990. The following chart shows the membership for Brazil in each year since 1976:
1976 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 45747 51080 71510 101584 128148 206000 249000 302000 400000 474000 548000Evidences of this growth are the fact that Brazil will soon be the only country outside of the US with three temples (Sao Paulo, Recife, Campinas) (see http://www.ldschurchnews.com/cgi-bin/libstory_church?dn_all&9704130159), and the fact that after the US it is now the country with the most stakes (see http://www.ldschurchnews.com/cgi-bin/libstory_church?dn_all&9702230013)
2) One reason for this strong growth may be the simple fact that Brazil has such a large population (as much as the rest of South America combined), and so there is still a lot of "untapped" interest in the Church there. As the Brazilian area presidency noted in the July 1995 Ensign (http://126.96.36.199/wwlds-ensign/e9507a.htm), "Brazil still has cities of 200,000 or 300,000 people that have never had missionaries, and other large urban areas still have only a single pair of missionaries."
3) Although Brazil has had strong growth in the last two decades, it is actually just at about the average for South America as a whole. The following figures show the rate of growth in Brazil, South America, and the entire world since 1980:
Percent growth in members [1.79 means 79% growth in the four year period] Years %80-84 %84-88 %88-92 %92-96 Brazil 1.79 1.94 1.61 1.37 South America 1.72 1.69 1.60 1.32 World 1.19 1.42 1.25 1.154) Another measure of the rate of current growth is the number of baptisms per month per mission in a given country (assuming that each mission has roughly the same number of missionaries). In this respect, Brazil is again right at the South American average (1992-96: SAm 208 baptisms per mission, Brazil 204 baptisms). As might be expected, this is much higher than the worldwide average (104 per mission), or for areas like the US (90 baptisms per mission) or England (9 baptisms).
5) It appears, then, that the overall Church membership in Brazil, vis a vis other countries in Latin America, may be due more to its large population base and the fact that there are still so many "untapped" cities/regions, rather than a faster / higher rate of growth itself. Another evidence of this is the percentage of the population in Brazil that is now LDS, compared to other South American countries. In Brazil the percent of the population that is LDS is only 0.34%, or one in 293 people (compare this to Chile: one in 36, Ecuador: one in 52, all of SAm: one in 146). So there is still much, much more room for growth.
6) One way to measure to measure Church activity in a country might be by seeing how many members are in each stake, the idea being that the more active the members and the stronger the leadership base, the fewer the number of members in each stake (cf. US 3940 members per stake, Europe 4118, Asia 5961, Caribbean 10,800). If this is true, then Brazil is in quite good shape, especially vis a vis the rest of South America. Its 1996 figure of 4029 members per stake is the best in South America (which has an average of 4692), and is quite a bit ahead of the next countries in line (Chile 4427 and Peru 4429).
7) The challenge of growth.
As a March 1997 Ensign article on the Church in Brazil noted (http://188.8.131.52/wwlds-ensign/e9703a.htm):
"Some meetinghouses here accommodate four or five wards; some wards or branches squeeze into buildings that double as institute facilities during the rest of the week. In an average month, missionaries in Brazil may baptize enough new members to fill a stake."
A number of steps are being taken to deal with this growth. As the Ensign article states, two major efforts are to baptize and retain more adult males, and to ask "missionaries to spend as much as a third of their time helping to bring back members who are not currently enjoying all the blessings of the gospel. The intent is to put the less active on the path to the temple too, with the same full support given to new converts." As the Brazilian Area Presidency noted (July 1995 Ensign; see link above),
"As with most fastgrowing areas, leadership needs continue to challenge us. Of the fifty-six brethren who were presiding over Brazilian stakes in 1990, only five remain today; the rest have either moved elsewhere or accepted other callings such as mission president or regional representative. Experienced leadership is in high demand because the Church can grow only as fast as leadership strength allows."