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The LDS Church expects to have more missionaries than ever in its global proselytizing force by 2019, according to a top Mormon leader.

"We're projecting out probably within four years," apostle Jeffrey R. Holland told a radio interviewer, "the base-line number for the missionary force will be something around 100,000."

Holland made the remarks during an hourlong interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. The session largely focused on the Utah-based faith's concerns about religious freedom in the United States and abroad. But the mention of the increase in the full-time missionary force stood out.

Many had predicted the dramatic jump in the number Mormon missionaries during the past two-plus years — from about 58,000 in 2012, when leaders lowered the minimum age requirement, to nearly 90,000 at the end of last year — would fall back into the 70,000s by now.

As of January, though, the number was holding steady at about 85,000, and the church expects it to rise further.

Peggy Fletcher Stack