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LDS First Presidency urges missionary contributions

SALT LAKE CITY — A letter from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, read Sunday in many LDS worship services, urges members to contribute "regularly and generously" to the church's missionary fund in light of the recent surge in missionary applications.

"With the recent change in missionary age of service, the number of missionaries serving has increased dramatically," the letter says. "Many of these new missionaries come from modest circumstances. To help maintain this missionary force, we encourage members, as they are able, to contribute regularly and generously to the General Missionary Fund of the church.

"Members may also contribute to the ward missionary fund to support missionaries from their ward and stake," the letter concludes.

The letter echoes a suggestion made by President Thomas S. Monson during the opening session of the church's annual general conference last April, when he commented on the "remarkable and inspiring" response of young Latter-day Saints to his announcement at general conference six months earlier that the minimum age requirement for full-time missionary service had been reduced.

Last week, the church reported that the number of young Mormons applying for missionary service has increased at an extraordinary rate, with more than 29,000 new missionaries expected to report for missionary training during the next few months. The total number of missionaries serving is expected to surge past 85,000 this fall — a 47 percent increase over the number of missionaries serving at the time of President Monson's announcement.

"To help maintain this missionary force," President Monson said in early April, "and because many of our missionaries come from modest circumstances, we invite you, as you are able, to contribute generously to the General Missionary Fund of the church."

Letters from the First Presidency are issued from time to time as a way of communicating instructions and suggestions from church leadership to its members. Recent letters have reminded members of the church's political neutrality, urged participation in the U.S. Census and provided instructions on how names should be submitted for proxy baptisms for the dead in the church's temples.