SALT LAKE CITY — In response to the enthusiastic reaction of young Latter-day Saints to last October’s announcement lowering the eligible age for full-time missionary service for both men and women, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is establishing 58 new missions of the church around the world.
An exclusive article in Saturday’s LDS Church News, available online, indicates that the "immediate and unprecedented" response to LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson's October announcement lowering the age of full-time missionary service to 18 for young men who are high school graduates and 19 for young women has pushed the total number of LDS missionaries currently serving around the world to more than 60,000 for the first time in more than a decade.
The number of young men and women applying to serve missions jumped nearly 500 percent after the change.
"We are thrilled with the response," Elder Russell M. Nelson of the church's Quorum of the Twelve told Church News reporter R. Scott Lloyd. "Our first feeling is one of deep gratitude for the commitment and the consecration of these missionary families."
The church is opening the 58 new missions in July, bringing the total number of LDS Church missions in the world to 405, to accommodate all of the new missionaries — including the surge expected following high school graduation this spring. Seventeen of the new missions are in the United States, including three in California and two each in Arizona, Idaho and Washington. Other locations around the world receiving multiple new missions are Mexico (eight), Brazil (seven), the Philippines (four) and western Africa (three).
All of the new missions are being created through boundary adjustments within existing missions — no new missions are being created where missionaries haven't previously been working.
For example, President William John Monahan of the Philippines Baguio Mission recently wrote to his missionaries to explain that the mission will be divided and a new mission, the Philippines Urdaneta Mission, will be formed. President Monahan will be the first president of the new Urdaneta Mission, and Anthony John Balledos has been called to take over as the Baguio Mission president.
"The First Presidency has asked me to determine which missionaries will be assigned to the two missions on July 1, 2013," President Monahan wrote. "That determination will be made under the direction of heaven during the June 19th transfer. At that transfer, those missionaries serving in the areas within the new Urdaneta Mission boundaries will be permanently assigned to the new Urdaneta Mission. At that same June 19th transfer, those missionaries serving in the new Baguio Mission boundaries will be permanently assigned to the Baguio Mission and under the jurisdiction of the new mission president on July 1, 2013."
The Baguio Mission is one of four new missions created in the Philippines. Douglas C. Tye of Murray, Utah, will be headed there in July. Accompanied by his wife, Dana, Tye will be president of the new Philippines Cavite Mission.
"I'm kind of overwhelmed," Tye said Thursday. "We're creating a new mission. But what does that mean?"
Thankfully, Tye noted that creating new missions is something "the church has done many times before."
"Under the direction of the Lord, they know what they are doing," he said. "It's nervous and scary for us right now, but I'm sure we'll be fine."
Church officials say that while the current surge in missionary applications is expected to last "for about three years," the new missions will be sustainable beyond that.
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