By Peggy Fletcher Stack / The Salt Lake Tribune
Religion News Service
SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) Despite an impressive number of men and women preaching the Mormon gospel across the globe, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needs even more missionaries, LDS President Thomas S. Monson said.
A two-year mission is a universal expectation for every "worthy, able young man," Monson said Saturday (Oct. 2), speaking to more than 20,000 Mormons in the LDS Conference Center and millions more watching the church's 180th General Conference via satellite.
Young women don't have the same obligation to serve full-time, but can make "a valuable contribution as missionaries," Monson said. "We welcome your service."
And to retired couples, the LDS leader said, "we need many, many more senior couples."
Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles repeated Monson's message, saying, "We need more missionaries."
Nelson mentioned that his large Mormon family had so far produced 49 such missionaries and encouraged every member to share the faith with his neighbors, friends and Internet connections.
The push for more missionaries may reflect an awareness of the church's shrinking proselytizing force, which is down to about 52,000 from a high of 62,000 in the mid-1990s. The decline is due in part to the LDS Church "raising the bar" on missionary qualifications in 2002, LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said last February.
But, Trotter said, "the primary reason for changes in missionary numbers is the fluctuating population of available missionary-age members."