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Mormon church boosts missionaries and membership

The Mormon church reported 15 million members worldwide, a record high. At its biannual meeting, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported there are 80,000 Mormon missionaries – up from 58,500 a year ago.

By Brady McCombsAssociated Press / October 5, 2013

President Thomas S. Monson arrives, center, for the opening session of the two-day Mormon church conference Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Salt Lake City. The president of the Mormon church says worldwide membership has hit 15 million, representing a three-fold increase over the three decades.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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Salt Lake City

Worldwide membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has hit 15 million, representing a three-fold increase over the last three decades, Mormon leaders said Saturday.

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LDS President Thomas S. Monson announced the milestone during the opening session of a two-day church conference. The biannual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings 100,000 members to Salt Lake City.

Monson said the church was founded with 30 members in 1830, and that it took more than a century to hit 1 million. Church membership has tripled since 1982 when there were 5 million members, said Matt Martinich, a member of the LDS church who analyzes membership numbers with the nonprofit Cumorah Foundation.

More than half of all Latter-day Saints live outside of the U.S., church figures show.

"The church continues to grow steadily and to change the lives of more and more people every year," Monson told about 20,000 members seated in a three-story auditorium in Salt Lake City. "It is spreading across the Earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth."

Monson also said Saturday that there are now 80,000 missionaries around the world — up from 58,500 a year ago. The historic growth was triggered by the church's decision to lower the minimum age for missionaries, which Monson announced during this same conference a year ago.

By allowing men to go at 18, instead of 19, and women at 19, instead of 21, a wave of new, younger missionaries have joined older ones that were already planning to go.

The reaction from young Mormon women has been especially enthusiastic. The number of female missionaries has more than doubled in the last year to 19,000 currently, church figures show.

During his brief speech Saturday, Monson reiterated his call for church members to donate to church's missionary fund. Costs are usually covered by the missionary's family, friends or congregation, but the fund is there to help those who want to serve but don't have the money.

A mission costs about $400 a month for the food, lodging and transportation, which comes out to $9,600 over the course of a two-year mission for men, or $7,200 for an 18-month mission for a young woman.

"Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto him," Monson said Saturday.

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