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
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,
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
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."