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Overwhelmed by a surge of missionary applicants in the past few months, the LDS Church is adding 58 new missions to the 347 established ones as a way to fully deploy more than 60,000 full-time missionaries in its proselytizing force.
Like other Christian faiths, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is focusing much of its effort on the Southern Hemisphere, specifically Latin America and Africa.
Of the new missions, eight are in Mexico (14 percent), seven are in Brazil (12 percent), eight are in other countries in South America (14 percent), five are in Africa (8.6 percent) and three are in Central American countries (5.2 percent), writes Matt Martinich, who charts Mormon membership and missionary statistics at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com.
In addition, Martinich writes, 17 new missions are in the United States (29 percent), four are in the Philippines (6.9 percent), three are in Oceania (5.2 percent) and two are in Asia (3.4 percent). Only one, Ukraine L'viv Mission, is in Europe, the continent that brought the first overseas LDS converts to Utah in the 19th century.
Six new missions come from locations where missions were recently closed, namely Australia Sydney North, Georgia Macon, Illinois Chicago West, Japan Tokyo South, Korea Seoul South and Ohio Cincinnati.
Martinich notes that three nations all in Africa are getting their first Mormon missions: Angola, Botswana and Liberia.
Utah is getting an additional mission as well on Salt Lake City's east side upping the number of Mormon missions in the Beehive State to seven.
The expansion to 405 missions worldwide was prompted by last fall's lowering of the minimum age for male missionaries from age 19 to 18 and for female missionaries from 21 to 19. Since then, the LDS Church has seen its missionary applications more than double the majority of which are coming from young women.
But what will happen in the long run?
"Of course, there will be a surge that will last for about three years," David Evans, head of the church's Missionary Department, told the LDS Church News. "But what we are doing is building and creating missions to what we expect will be needed after the peak part of the surge. So we anticipate not needing to close any of the missions as we go forward."
Evans told the Church News that the 14 million-member faith expects the number of missionaries to remain higher than it was before the age change.
Among several prominent Utahns who will be serving as new mission presidents are former Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups, who will oversee the Italy Rome Mission, and former gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke, who will head up the Washington, D.C., North Mission.
By the numbers
60,000-plus • Number of Mormon missionaries worldwide
405 • Number of LDS missions worldwide after expansion
58 • Number of new LDS missions
12 • Number of new LDS missions in the western U.S.
8 • Number of new LDS missions in Mexico
3 • Number of new LDS missions in California
2 • Number of new LDS missions in Idaho
1 • Number of new LDS missions in Utah
Source: LDS Church News