A recent article in the Deseret News reported that the number of full-time missionaries serving has decreased to 75,000. This indicates that the full-time missionary force has decreased by 10,000 (12%) within the past year as Church reported 85,147 missionaries at year-end 2014. Church leaders initially speculated that the full-time missionary force would decrease into the high 70,000s following the end of the double cohort of missionaries that resulted from the reduced age of missionary service. A larger decrease in the number of full-time missionaries than expected suggests that the Church may be struggling with consistently increasing the number of members serving full-time missions despite the reduced age for missionary service. Fewer missionaries serving than expected has also likely delayed the organization of additional missions as plans for only three new missions have announced for 2016. However, this most recent figure of 75,000 full-time missionaries may indicate an end of the double-cohort surge that temporarily raised the number of missionaries serving to approximately 90,000 in late 2014.
Church leaders nonetheless remain optimistic that the number of full-time missionaries serving will increase in the near future. LDS apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speculated in early 2015 that the Church may reach 100,000 full-time missionaries serving by 2019. If correct, this increase would indicate significant growth and progress increasing the percentage of young adults in the international church who serve full-time missions.
As for my prediction, it is my opinion that we will likely see a return to steady increases in the number of full-time missionaries serving comparable to the early 2010s. The Church appears likely to exceed 80,000 missionaries within the next one to two years and 90,000 missionaries by 2021. The Church may focus on greater redistribution of mission resources in the near future from less productive to more productive or recently opened areas of the world, such as in Africa and Asia.