Mormon missionary applications surge

2012-11-01 17:25

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Salt Lake City - The Mormon Church's decision to lower its age requirements for missionaries, who travel the world in pairs trying to convert people to their religion, has prompted a sharp spike in the number of young people clamouring to serve the faith.

Mormonism has been gaining broad public attention recently from its association with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, who served as a missionary in France and has talked about his work as a pastor in the Mormon Church.

The change in policy lowered the age of service by one year for men, to 18, and by two years for women, to 19 from 21, in a move church observers say could ultimately lead to an increase in the Utah-based church's worldwide ranks.

Statistics released by the Church show the average number of missionary applications rose five-fold since the 6 October announcement by church leaders - from around 700 each week to more than 4 000.

New era

"I think there is a really massive opportunity here for the Church to initiate a new era in outreach expansion around the world," said Matt Martinich, who has studied the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2002 and is a Mormon.

Martinich said it was possible that many people who had already planned to serve under the prior age requirements were now applying earlier, meaning the numbers could level off.

More than half of the new applications are from young women, Church spokesman Scott Trotter said in a statement.

The Mormon Church currently has about 14.4 million members and 58 000 full-time missionaries around the world, Church figures show. Most of the missionaries are men aged 19 to 25 who tend to be easily recognised by their white shirts, black identification badges and bicycles. The rest are women and older married couples.

Rising numbers


Although application numbers are expected to level off in the future, Martinich projects the church's missionary force could add 15 000 young men and 7 500 young women or more in the first year of the lower age requirements.

By 2020, the overall number of missionaries could reach 90 000, said Martinich, a contributor to the Cumorah Project, a private Mormon research initiative.

That could impact overall church membership significantly. Church data over the past decade shows that each missionary, on average, is responsible for baptising five converts annually.

If missionary ranks grow to 90 000, that could bring 400 000 members into the Church in a single year, Martinich projects.

By contrast, the Church reported baptising just over 281 0000 converts last year.

Mormon tradition

Missionary service has been a part of Mormon tradition since the faith's founding in 1830. Men serve for two years and women for 18 months.

Service is not compulsory, but Mormon culture views it as an important part of personal and spiritual development, and there can be tremendous family and societal pressure to serve, said Philip Barlow, a religious studies professor at Utah State University and a practicing Mormon.

"The culture teaches you, encourages you to learn to say yes to the opportunity for service. That sounds simple but it's a very pronounced and impressive cultural trait," he said.

Church leaders said the change in the age policy, which was already in place in some foreign countries, was made in response to the growing needs of the Church worldwide.

Speculation

Some observers say they wonder if the faith was also acting in part to keep young people from drifting away from church life at a time when they have many other choices, including college, military service, marriage or work.

"I suspect it's much harder to detach from your religious upbringing or acknowledge that you may have questions [of faith] if you have served a mission," said Mary Ellen Robertson, director of the Sunstone Symposium, an annual forum on Mormon culture, theology and history.

The decision was a mixed one for Mormon feminists, leaving in place a lack of age parity between women and men even as it narrowed the age gap between missionaries of opposite genders.

Mormon culture encourages young marriages and has sometimes viewed missionary service for women as a "Plan B", for those still unmarried at age 21, said Robertson, a Mormon.

"I think for women who are presented with one sort of 'Holy Grail' option, which is to get married and start a family, this really changes things," she said. "They can do something meaningful with their life and still marry young and have kids if they want."

Read more on:    mitt romney  |  us  |  religion
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Delft - 20:37 PM
    Road name: R300 Southbound
    ROADWORKS - left lane closed at Hindle Road
  • Wednesday Sir Lowry's Pass - 17:57 PM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia E7

Your mobile office Real-time emails with Mail for Exchange. Easy access to...

From R3499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.