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  , 2004

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Growth of Church in Atlanta Leads to Creation of New Mission

Missionaries in Norcross, Georgia

By David Winters

ATLANTA (June 26, 2003) Nearly everyone has seen them: young men in white shirts and ties going door to door on bicycle or on foot spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now residents of Atlanta are about to see even more of them – nearly twice as many.

In a somewhat rare occurrence, the Atlanta mission, which has 180 missionaries, will be divided into two missions with roughly 140 - 150 missionaries in each mission. Atlanta is the only mission within the United States that is dividing.

The Georgia Atlanta Mission, with new offices in Peachtree City, will cover territory within the city and primarily to the south and west of the city. The Georgia Atlanta North Mission, headquartered in Norcross, will cover the northern and eastern suburbs of Atlanta and much of the northern part of the state. A third mission, the Georgia Macon Mission, will continue to cover territory in the southern half of the state.

Michael J. Glauser, current president of the Georgia Atlanta Mission talked about the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ in Atlanta. "The Church feels that Atlanta is one of the growth areas in the U.S. both in terms of general population growth and potential growth of Church membership. Just in the last ten years, Atlanta has grown by the size of a city the size of Las Vegas. With that growth comes additional opportunities to share the gospel. There are over 30,000 members of the Church in northern Georgia and roughly 75 congregations. We have been baptizing between 400 and 500 new converts each year in this mission, which is the equivalent of one congregation each year. That growth has led to the need for this new mission."

Elder Gene R. Cook, president of the North America Southeast Area of the Church stated it this way, "We are really pleased with what’s happening in Georgia. With the division of the mission, we look forward to much more growth and to much more involvement with our friends who are not members of the Church who will be exposed more and more to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We think that will be a great blessing to them as well as to us."

Mission presidents are volunteers who are "called" to serve for a period of three years. President Michael Glauser, who has led the missionary work in Atlanta for the past three years, will be returning to his home in Salt Lake City, Utah at the end of June.

Two experienced Church leaders will soon be moving to Atlanta to direct the missionary work in the two Atlanta missions. Both will arrive at the end of June. Edward Smith, age 65, will lead missionary efforts in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission. Prior to his full-time service, he was president of Smith-Christensen Enterprises in Las Vegas, Nevada and served in many church leadership positions – including as a former mission president in Oregon.

Steven Lund, age 49, will lead the missionary labors in the Georgia Atlanta Mission. In addition to his previous church service, he also worked as the President and CEO of NuSkin Enterprises based in Provo, Utah.

Missionary Service

Globally there are more than 60,000 missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knocking on doors and preaching on street corners far from home. It is a manifestation of faith for these young men and young women who serve.

Elder Gene R. Cook reflected on the missionary work across the world. "One of the miracles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that all of our missionaries are volunteers. Not only do we not pay the missionaries, but they have to pay to go on a mission. It is a miracle to me to think that we have missionaries spread around the world in 160 nations paying their own living expenses. They give their time voluntarily and leave their homes and their families, their college educations to come and serve for a couple of years. But they’ll never be the same for having rendered that service – ever. The missionary’s faith is increased, and his or her love for the Savior is increased. They voluntarily and freely give of themselves to preach the word of the Lord to the people. To me that is quite a miracle."

Missionaries are often asked why they try to convert members of other Christian denominations. To that question, President Glauser responded, "We have exciting information about Christ and his ministry in His Kingdom. We want to add to the truths that people already have. We don’t want to take away or tear down -- we want to build up their knowledge of the Savior with additional information about his earthly ministry on the American continent and his appearance to a prophet in our day the same as he did to Moses and Abraham and Noah and all of the old prophets throughout recorded history. The pattern is the same and we are here to provide additional witness and testimony of the divinity and reality of Jesus Christ to strengthen people’s conviction. The message is for everyone."

Elder Cook’s response was similar, "We believe in the Old Testament and the New Testament and what we want to do is add to it what Christ has given in this dispensation. He has added to it additional scripture in the Book of Mormon that will not take away anything that Christians have, it only adds to their faith many times over – and that’s why we do it."