(A Mormon holds a copy of The Book of Mormon during an interview with Reuters at the missionary training center of the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the Aragon neighbourhood in Mexico City February 23, 2012. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo )

The Mormon Church’s decision to lower its age requirements for missionaries, who travel the world in pairs trying to convert people to their religion, has prompted a sharp spike in the number of young people clamoring to serve the faith.

Mormonism has been gaining broad public attention recently from its association with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, who served as a missionary in France and has talked about his work as a pastor in the Mormon Church.

The change in policy lowered the age of service by one year for men, to 18, and by two years for women, to 19 from 21, in a move church observers say could ultimately lead to an increase in the Utah-based church’s worldwide ranks.

Statistics released by the Church show the average number of missionary applications rose five-fold since the October 6 announcement by church leaders – from around 700 each week to more than 4,000.