The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/ Mormons) now has more than 85,000 missionaries working in 405 “Missions” around the world. That startling number was announced at the church’s semiannual World Conference earlier this week in Salt Lake City. LDS missionaries are primarily young men who take two years out of college to go wherever the church sends them. Recently the church lowered its minimum age requirements from age 19 to 18 for boys and from age 21 to 19 for girls. A LDS “Mission” refers to a regional headquarters to which the missionaries are assigned. (Evangelicals usually think of a mission as a newly organized congregation but that is not how the LDS uses the term.)
The LDS also announced other important statistics. Its worldwide membership for the end of 2013 was reported at 15,082,028. That includes 282,945 converts (people proselytized [their term] from other Christian churches or non-Christian religions) and 115,486 “Children of Record” (children born into Mormon families). The church now has 29,253 local congregations worldwide (called wards and branches).
As evangelicals, we must admit these statistics are impressive, especially the fact that the LDS can recruit that many young adults to serve as missionaries. That fact poses a major challenge to evangelical Christians around the world. The primary strategic purpose for the missionaries is to proselytize people into the LDS, not to evangelize them to accept Jesus as their Savior. The LDS still officially regards itself as the one true church on the face of the earth and the only ecclesiastical avenue through which one may receive total salvation. In recent years they have toned down their exclusivist rhetoric, but their theology has not changed.
Nonetheless, we need to put these statistics in proper perspective. For instance, we must keep in mind that they are worldwide statistics. That is, there is only one LDS church in the entire world. Most denominations are limited to national ecclesiastical regions. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention (which is not technically a “church” but a coalition of churches) claims about 16 million members. But that number is only in the United States and its territories and does not include unbaptized children. Also, there are more than twenty other Baptist groups in the U.S. and many more Baptist or similar congregations not formally affiliated with any group. They may comprise as many as 10-20 million or more members. Worldwide there may be as many as 100 million Baptists or like-minded believers.
Actually, worldwide, there may be as many as ,or more than, 500 million evangelical Christians. It is hard to get accurate statistics since many of them are in non-denominational churches, are in remote areas, or must remain underground because of governmental persecution. The Assemblies of God may have as many as 40 million adherents worldwide. The point is, we would acknowledge them as fellow believers and brothers and sisters in Christ.
In any case, Christians must be aware that groups like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses still seek to win our people to their unbiblical faiths. MarketFaith Ministries will continue to keep our readers informed.