In a full-page spread, The Washington Post reported The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is growing rapidly around Washington because of its emphasis on families and missionary work among ethnic groups.
The Post's religion page reported May 16 that Washington regional membership in the Church was about 16,000 in 1980, but has grown to 26,783.It quoted Robert Wright, president of the Washington D.C. North Mission, saying a major reason for the growth is the Church's emphasis on the importance of the family.
"For someone who has a family, and who dearly loves their children and has a wonderful marriage - they want to hear something we know is true. That is, families are forever," Pres. Wright said.
The Post reported the Church believes "family ties continue even in the hereafter. The Church has compiled worldwide genealogical information as an aid for tracking down and redeeming by proxy baptism long dead ancestors for the purpose of eternal union."
An LDS temple has been a local landmark for years, sitting prominently on a hill overlooking the Washington beltway.
The Post also quoted University of Washington sociologist Rodney Stark saying the Church in the United States has grown 45 percent a decade over the past century.
"At any given moment, the majority of Mormons are converts," said Stark, a non-Mormon. "The average Mormon convert is between the ages of 16 and 25, and they still have their fertility ahead of them. You can get really dynamic growth."
The Post said the Church has opened several special congregations in the past year for Hispanics, Vietnamese, Chinese and African Americans.
One story in the feature package followed two LDS missionaries as they walked door to door.
"After knocking on a dozen doors, Elder [TimothyT Tingey [of Carey, IdahoT and Elder [TroyT Wood [of Bountiful, UtahT tallied the calls as follows: waved away by one smiling man at his window; interrupted one man's dinner; three `not interested'; and one elderly Chinese speaker seemed receptive, but language made the meeting inconclusive. Many residents were not home."
But it said one small success stood out: a Vietnamese man invited them in, and was interested in their message. "It's really great when that one door opens and lets us in," Elder Tingey said later. He promised the family that Vietnamese-speaking missionaries would return.
The story quoted both missionaries saying they had prayed to learn that the Church and its teachings are true before they chose to become missionaries.
Elder Wood said about when his answer came: "The best way to describe it is if you were to take a blanket out of the dryer . . . it's nice and warm, and you covered yourself with it . . . more of just a feeling of rightness or righteousness . . . that I was going the right way."