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Mormon missionary surge ends, but numbers will grow again gradually, church says

Both young men and young women serve missions around the globe. This photo was taken during a recent conference in the Aguascalientes Mission in Mexico. Young men can serve at age 18, and women can begin their service at age 19.
Both young men and young women serve missions around the globe. This photo was taken during a recent conference in the Aguascalientes Mission in Mexico. Young men can serve at age 18, and women can begin their service at age 19.
IRI

SALT LAKE CITY — The surge that drove the number of Mormon missionaries around the world to a historic high of 89,000 men, women and senior couples has subsided, the LDS Church said in a news release issued Thursday.

A total of 1.3 million missionaries have served during the 186-year history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the past five years, about 230,000 missionaries have completed their missions.

“As that surge passed, we're now down to around 75,000 missionaries, which is where we think we'll stay for a period of time as that gradually increases,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy. He is the executive director of the Missionary Department.

That number is still more than 20 percent hire than the 58,500 full-time missionaries who were serving in October 2012.

That month at the faith's general conference, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the mission age change that directly caused the surge — men can now serve missionaries at 18 years of age instead of 19, and women can serve at 19 instead of 21.

Today, the church has 6,200 senior missionaries supporting the missions. More are needed, Elder Nielson said in a video made in mid-February and released today.

We need more; we always hope for more," he said. "And we encourage more senior couples to come."

Also, 30 percent of today's missionary force is women, a dramatic jump from October 2012.

Elder Nielson and the news release also provide information about media and social media initiatives and the use of technology by missionaries.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com