SALT LAKE CITY — Church officials say they’ve seen a more than five-fold jump in applications after lowering the eligibility age for becoming a Mormon missionary.
New numbers released this week show The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is receiving 4,000 applications every week since announcing the change, up from about 700 applications normally.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced at the October General Conference that men can go on full-time missions at 18, instead of 19, and women could go at 19, instead of 21.
Just over half of the new applicants are women, church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday.
Women make less than a fifth of the 58,000-strong Mormon missionary force.
To accommodate a larger missionary force, church leaders are reducing by a third the time missionaries spend in training centers and hiring additional staffers. They are looking to expand their flagship Provo Missionary Training Center.
“The Lord is hastening this work, and he needs more and more willing missionaries,” church apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said recently.
More missionaries could bring more converts, said Matt Martinich, who tracks growth in the church.
Martinich says each mission assignment has brought six converts, on average, across the globe.
The church reported it had 281,312 converts last year.
By tradition, young men in the church serve two-year missions. Women serve for 18 months. All skip education, employment and other pursuits while serving, often overseas. Many pay their own expenses or receive help from parents or other church members.