The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in United Arab Emirates
Regional Church News
The United Arab Emirates (UAE; Arabic: دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة Dawlat al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyyah al-Muttaḥidah), sometimes simply called the Emirates (Arabic: الإمارات al-ʾImārāt), is a country in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. The sovereign absolute monarchy is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Each emirate is governed by a ruler; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the rulers serves as the President of the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, the UAE's population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.
Human occupation of the present UAE has been traced back to the emergence of anatomically modern humans from Africa some 125,000 BCE through finds at the Faya-1 site in Mleiha, Sharjah. Burial sites dating back to the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age include the oldest known such inland site at Jebel Buhais. Known as Magan to the Sumerians, the area was home to a prosperous Bronze Age trading culture during the Umm Al Nar period, which traded between the Indus Valley, Bahrain and Mesopotamia as well as Iran, Bactria and the Levant. The ensuing Wadi Suq period and three Iron Ages saw the emergence of nomadism as well as the development of water management and irrigation systems supporting human settlement in both the coast and interior. The Islamic age of the UAE dates back to the expulsion of the Sasanians and the subsequent Battle of Dibba. The UAE's long history of trade led to the emergence of Julfar, in the present day emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, as a major regional trading and maritime hub in the area. The maritime dominance of the Persian Gulf by Emirati traders led to conflicts with European powers, including the Portuguese and British.
Following decades of maritime conflict, the coastal emirates became known as the Trucial States with the signing of a Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace with the British in 1819 (ratified in 1853 and again in 1892), which established the Trucial States as a British Protectorate. This arrangement ended with independence and the establishment of the United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971, immediately following the British withdrawal from its treaty obligations. Six emirates joined the UAE in 1971, the seventh, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972.
Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language of the UAE. The UAE's oil reserves are the seventh-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world's seventeenth-largest. Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure. The UAE's economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, while its most populous city of Dubai is an important global city and an international aviation and maritime trade hub. Nevertheless, the country is much less reliant on oil and gas than in previous years and is economically focusing on tourism and business. The UAE government does not levy income tax although there is a system of corporate tax in place and value added tax was established in 2018 at 5%.
The UAE's rising international profile has led to it being recognised as a regional and middle power. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The eastern Arabian Peninsula was inhabited for millennia prior to the birth of Christ. Roman and, later, Arab trade occurred in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese controlled the peninsula for 150 years during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; British and Ottoman rule followed. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the region was economically viable for the pearling industry. The present day United Arab Emirates were formally known as the Trucial States and received military protection by the British under condition that the Trucial States were not to allow other foreign nations to make territory claims. Oil exploitation began in the 1960s. Independence from the United Kingdom occurred in 1971 for six emirates and the seventh emirate in 1972. Economic growth accelerated through the rest of the twentieth century, bringing the GDP per capita up to Western European levels. The United Arab Emirates largely avoided the Arab Spring protests that occurred in most nations in the Middle East and North Africa. In recent years, the United Arab Emirates has become increasingly more involved in regional affairs.
Emirati culture consists of a cosmopolitan blend of Arab, South Asian, Iranian, and Western influences. Architecture, cuisine, and art are heavily influenced by Arab culture. Indigenous Emirati Arabs constitute less than 12% of the population and consequently have allowed greater religious and cultural tolerance than perhaps any other Middle Eastern nation. Some ethnic tensions occur primarily between differing immigrant groups. The selling and distribution of alcohol and pork is limited. Football and cricket are popular sports. Polygamy is practiced by some Muslims. Islamic dress code is not mandatory. Men outnumber women more than two-to-one due to the high numbers of immigrant workers who are single or unable to bring their families from native countries.
The constitution allows for freedom of religion within the bounds of Emirati customs. The government has typically upheld the religious freedom of the population and imposes some restrictions, including defining all citizens as Muslims. Islam is the official religion, and government controls Sunni mosques. The government has interfered very little with the religious activities of non-Muslims but bans proselytism and distributing non-Islamic literature. In contrast, Emirati missionaries have been active in spreading Islam and funding mosque construction in Central Asian nations like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. More than thirty Christian denominations have received government recognition in the UAE, allowing for the construction of chapels. Some non-Muslims received trials according to Shari’a law. The entire population is forbidden from eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours of fasting during the month of Ramadan. Muslims who convert to a different religion face societal pressures to return to Islam albeit there is no government legislation that bans conversion to non-Islamic faiths. The United Arab Emirates is considered perhaps the most tolerant Islamic nation in the Middle East toward non-Muslims.
The Latter-day Saint congregation was organized in Dubai in 1979. Sacrament meetings were held in a member’s home with one expatriate family, one woman from the United States, and two Filipino men. Elder Boyd K. Packer became the first apostle to travel to the United Arab Emirates in 1983. At the time, he organized the Arabian Peninsula Stake for expatriate members primarily from Western countries. Meetings were later held in a rented space in an American school. The United Arab Emirates was assigned to the Europe Central Area in 2000 and reassigned to the newly organized Middle East Africa North Area in 2008. Elder M. Russell Ballard became the second apostle to visit in 2007 when he visited members in Dubai. Elder Holland visited in 2009 to conduct stake conference. In 2013, the Church completed its first church-built meetinghouse in the Arabian Peninsula in Abu Dhabi - a stake center to house the Abu Dhabi Stake.
The Church organized its first branch in Dubai in 1979 and its first branch in Abu Dhabi in 1980. Both branches had become wards by the mid-2000s. A branch in Sharjah was organized in 2006. A second congregation was organized in Dubai in 2008, followed by a second congregation in Abu Dhabi in 2011.
In 2011, the Church relocated the headquarters of the Manama Bahrain Stake to Abu Dhabi, renamed the stake the Abu Dhabi Stake, and congregations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were reassigned to the newly created Manama Bahrain District. No missionaries have ever served in the country. All six congregations in the United Arab Emirates pertain to the Abu Dhabi Stake.
- Middle East List of Stakes of the Church
- Reaching the Nations: United Arab Emirates
- Platt, Joseph B. “Our Oasis of Faith,” Liahona, Oct 1988, 27.
- Swensen, Jason. “Message-laden tour,” LDS Church News, 10 March 2007. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/50227/Message-laden-tour.html
- Chatterly, Matt. “Middle East stake: 10 cities in 10 days,” LDS Church News, 7 March 2009. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/56729/Middle-East-stake-10-cities-in-10-days.html
- Avant, Gerry. "Stake center in Abu Dhabi: Elder Holland dedicates chapel in Middle East," LDS Church News, 2 March 2013. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/63295/Stake-center-in-Abu-Dhabi-Elder-Holland-dedicates-chapel-in-Middle-East.html
- Chatterly, Matt. “Growth, friendship serve as Middle East ‘Miracles,’” LDS Church News, 7 March 2009. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/56735/Growth-friendship-serve-as-Middle-East-miracles.html
- “Where We Work,” LDS Charities. Accessed 12 November 2018. https://www.ldscharities.org/where-we-work