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Mormons now number nearly 15.9 million, church announces

SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church had 15,882,417 members as of the end of 2016.

Brook P. Hales, secretary to the First Presidency, announced that number as he presented the church's annual statistical report on Saturday afternoon to the 187th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The church announces total membership once a year in April. The total always represents the number of members at the end of the most recent calendar year. The church had 15,634,199 at the end of 2015.

The increase in membership includes 240,131 convert baptisms, down from 257,402 in 2015.

The church now has 30,304 wards and branches (congregations), up from 30,016 a year ago. The number of stakes grew to 3,266 from 3,174.

The number of full-time missionaries decreased to 70,946 from 74,079 a year ago, serving in 421 missions. The downturn is cyclical, said a church spokesman who pointed to a previous statement by the executive director of the Missionary Department.

In that statement, Elder Brent H. Nielson, a general authority Seventy, noted that the surge in the number of Mormon missionaries that spiked to 89,000 has subsided. LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced a mission age change in October 2012 that directly caused the surge — men now can serve missions at 18 years of age instead of 19, and women can serve at age 19 instead of 21.

Elder Nielson said then that the church expected that over time, the numbers will gradually increase again.

The number of church-service missionaries rose to 33,695 from 31,779.

Six new temples opened in 2016 — Provo City Center, Sapporo Japan, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Fort Collins Colorado, Star Valley Wyoming and Hartford Connecticut. The international number of operating temples is now 155.