SALT LAKE CITY - The number of Mormon missionaries surpassed 75,000 worldwide in August, driven by the church's decision to lower the minimum age for ambassadors of the Utah-based faith.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported the number of proselytizing missionaries has increased by 28 percent from about 58,000 a year ago.
The church expects the number to swell to 85,000 by year's end.
Last October, the church announced men could begin serving at 18, instead of 19, and women at 19, instead of 21.
Church leaders and outside scholars expect the decision will lead to many more women serving missions. Rather than having to leave at age 21 -- when many women are about to start careers or perhaps are contemplating marriage and starting families -- Mormon women can now serve missions shortly after high school.
Young Mormon men are expected, but not required to serve missions. Historically, women have faced far less pressure to serve. Men serve two years while women go for 18 months.
Church scholars say the unprecedented number of missionaries gives Mormons an opportunity to bring in a higher number of converts, and perhaps more importantly, do a better job of keeping current members active.
The church reported having 14.4 million members worldwide as of January 2012. Missionaries convert about five people per mission, according to Matt Martinich, a member of the LDS church who analyzes membership and missionary numbers with the nonprofit Cumorah Foundation.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Click on the region names in the map below to see news from that region.
Things To Do
INSIDE: Check out our top pick for weekend events around Arizona!
RIGHT NOW: Top Stories
The Devils will square off against Stanford, the defending Rose Bowl champion, which won the regular season meeting 42-28 after racing out to a 29-0 halftime lead.
In order to reach its first Rose Bowl in 17 years, the No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils will fittingly have to go through the only team to defeat them in conference play this season.
INSIDE: View heavy street restrictions in Phoenix this weekend.
City officials recommend that people traveling to Tempe arrival early and use park-and-ride lots and take light rail.
Dozens of entries with thousands of lights will brighten the streets of Phoenix on Saturday, Dec. 7!
Several people, including military veterans, attended the dedication ceremony for a World War II memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza Saturday morning in Phoenix.