Did you know that, as of December 31, 2016, the LDS Church had 421 missions and 70,946 LDS missionaries in the field? Of course you do, because every April general conference the Secretary of the First Presidency reads the LDS Church’s annual statistical report from the prior year.
However, standing alone, statistical reports can be pretty dry without the right context. It may be interesting because we all love to hear numbers, but ultimately it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know to fully understand the meaning of the numbers read. When you put it in some context, though, suddenly these elusive numbers can tell a story.
I looked at the last 10 years of statistical reports, from 2007 to the present. I took the data about full-time missionaries and missions and put it into an infographic. I think this infographic tells a pretty interesting story.
The number of full-time missionaries and missions has increased exponentially since 2012. In 2012 the number of full-time missionaries was 58,990, and the total number of missions was 347. In 2013 those numbers increased to 83,035 full-time missionaries and 405 total missions. Why did such a significant amount of growth occur in just one year, you ask?
Well, if you can remember all the way back to the October 2012 general conference, you will recall that in President Thomas S. Monson's address, he announced that worthy and able young men could now serve a mission at the young age of 18 instead of the previous age of 19, and worthy young women could serve at the age of 19 instead of the previous age of 21. This announcement really skyrocketed missionary statistics. In just one year the number of full-time missionaries increased by 24,045 and the number of missions increased by 58! Since that announcement, we have seen numbers go way up and then down a little again, but overall the statistics have increased since that October 2012 general conference.
Aside: The slight decrease of missionaries serving after the initial surge following the 2012 announcement was an anticipated change—a change the number of missions worldwide will reflect in the future. As Mormon Newsroom stated this October, "When President Thomas S. Monson announced in 2012 the change in the ages for missionary service, the Church expanded the number of missions to accommodate a surge of growth in only a few years from 58,000 to 88,000 missionaries. Five years later, with its missionaries spread throughout more than 400 missions, the Church will be implementing reductions to achieve an overall number of missions that better fits the total number of missionaries and the needs in each region."
Ultimately, this infographic does not have any important religious connotation. The truth of the Church is not dependant on the number of full-time missionaries it has.