| Summarized by Kent Larsen |
Mormon Missionary Engine Fueled by Optimism of the Young
New York Times 23May99 C3
By Gustav Nieburh
The New York Times ran this article on the LDS missionary program on the
front page of Sunday's edition. The article paints a descriptive picture
of the LDS Church's missionary program and describes the Provo missionary
The Mission Training Center receives more than 200 new missionaries a week,
according to the article. They stay from 4 to 11 weeks and learn to teach
the gospel, and, in many cases, learn one of the 47 languages now taught
there. After completing training at the Provo MTC, missionaries are either
sent directly to the field or, in some cases, to regional training centers
for further training before entering the field.
The article also reviews the growth of the LDS Church's missionary program,
which has doubled from 30,000 missionaries in 1986 to nearly 60,000 today.
The missionaries are active in 163 countries, up from 95 countries in 1986.
Gary Shepherd, professor of sociology at Oakland University notes that this
growth is important to the growth of the Church. "The single biggest factor
in the Mormon Church's conversion rate is the size of the missionary
force," he says. He goes on to estimate that the average missionary
converts between 4 and 7 people a year.
Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy told the Times that
while the Church seeks to get every young man to serve a mission, the
results seem to depend on how strong the Church is in an area. He indicates
that in Utah half of all young LDS men serve missions. In the rest of the
U.S., the proportion drops to a third. Outside the U.S. just one-sixth of
all young LDS men serve missions. The Church believes that part of the
reason the proportion outside of the U.S. is so low is because of the
ability of members outside the U.S. to finance missions.