Mormon mission applications skyrocket; Nothing to do with Romney

I am doing a story in tomorrow’s York Daily Record on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ famous mission.

I will post a link here as soon as it’s up on our website. I chose this story for a couple reasons.

Former Mormon missionary Patrick Walters holds up the Book of Mormon.

I was initially attracted to the idea after reading a story over the summer on what Mormon missionaries go through. Several things caught my attention, namely, how grueling the schedule is and how surprising few converts result from a typical two-year mission.

I interviewed two local men who did missions 10 and 15 years ago. One said he was involved in about 30 converts to the LDS church, while the other told me he witnessed nine people who converted.

In a sense, the mission is more about converting the missionary — to a lifetime commitment to the LDS church. Think about it — if you end up spending 12 hours a day, six days a week studying the faith, preaching it to others and praying in your downtime, you are probably not going to leave that church.

In that regard, the Mormon mission is an brilliant concept. As I note in the story, the LDS church has a much lower rate of defections among adult members than other mainline Protestant denominations. I think the mission commitment is a big reason why. About 58,000 Mormons are out on missions around the world at any given time.

The LDS church certainly recognizes the brilliance behind the mission. And it surely realized that, since only 11 percent of missionaries are female, a great opportunity was unrealized.

And here’s the second reason I did the story. The church recently lowered the age for missions. Young men can now go on full-time missions at age 18 (down from 19) and young women can go at 19 (down from 21). Since the announcement last month, the LDS church has seen applications skyrocket from an average of 700 a week to 4,000 a week.

“Slightly more than half of the applicants are women,” LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday in a news release.

And then there’s this: a researcher claims the Mormon church is on track to become the largest church body in the world within 100 years.

What is your view of the Mormon church as its most famous member, Mitt Romney, completes his campaign for president?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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