Excerpts of LDS add mission in Utah; cut back in Europe, elsewhere by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
In a move that may strike some as ironic, the LDS Church is bringing more of its full-time missionaries to southern Utah, a place dominated by Mormons, and sending fewer to places such as Germany, Ireland and Australia, which have a tiny LDS presence.
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also is beefing up its missionary numbers in Latin America, the Philippines and Africa, according to an announcement Friday of 10 new missions and the merging of 14 others.
Peru and Mexico are each getting two new missions, for example, while Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Democratic Republic of Congo are adding one. There will also be new missions in St. George, Utah; Iloila, Philippines; and Farmington, N.M.
By and large, this shuffling represents the 13.5 million-member church's global shift away from more developed societies that have been a mainstay of LDS converts for a century and toward the Third World.
This change, one of the largest restructuring of missions in recent years, also reflects a need to stretch the church's shrinking proselytizing force, which is down to about 52,000 from a high of 62,000 in the mid-1990s.
"While raising the bar [on missionary qualifications] had an initial impact," says LDS spokesman Scott Trotter, "the primary reason for changes in missionary numbers is the fluctuating population of available missionary-age members."