There’s been a bit of controversy in social media over the recent missionary numbers that have leaked. Deseret News has up a story about missionaries that mentions there being 68,500 missionaries out. The new numbers shocked some people but actually are much more in keeping with what we should have expected. It’s just that some expected higher numbers based upon the surge numbers from around 2013.
When you look at missionary numbers for the past two decades the current numbers seem much more inline with past numbers.
While we don’t have a breakdown of current numbers it appears that the numbers were kept slightly higher than we’d have expected the past two years due to women going on missions. While we can’t tell for sure, I would not be at all surprised to see that the percentage of missionaries who are women are coming back closer to trend.
Part of the issue may be a story in the Salt Lake Tribune from a few years ago in which Elder Holland misspoke with numbers. He said there would be 100,000 missionaries by 2019. However that figure was just a linear extrapolation based upon increases during the surge of 2013-14. Whoever it was that gave him the numbers didn’t consider that this was artificially high due to the change in the age young men and women could go on missions. It made no sense then and it’s unfortunate it continues to set unrealistic expectations.
For more information I’d check out from when the numbers were released at conference. While I remain convinced the younger age for missionaries is a problem, I don’t think these new numbers really add or subtract to that hypothesis. Rather we need to see retention numbers and converts per missionary numbers to really say much there.