Comments about ‘LDS officials say missionary deaths are 'rare,' missions are 'inherently safe' (+video)’

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Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4 2013 7:00 p.m. MDT

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west jordan, ut

Good grief, those who are calling out “Inherently Safe” and then rambling on about poor areas where the church proselytes that are dangerous are making ridiculous comments about this article. The church is addressing the safety concerns since the 10 deaths over the course of the year have been accidental or illness related. They specifically talk about measures taken to ensure the personal safety and good health of its mission force. As the missionary force gets bigger we can expect more deaths, it is a natural part of life that is an unfortunate event. People die, it happens. No matter where you are, if you are not careful, something bad can happen and even then, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen and people die. Now when we start seeing multiple murders of missionaries in areas that show a trend then yeah, let’s talk about that but, since that is not what we are seeing, why go there? Base your arguments on the information provided and stay on topic. Whether you are LDS, Baptist, Catholic or Atheist, young people die every day from all walks of life, not just missions.

Big Red '93
The High Plains of, Texas

Unfortunately people die from accidents every day. It's sad whether they are missionaries or not. What happened to the past 3 missionaries 1) hit by a car, 2) hit by a stray bullet or 3) serious car accident happens many times daily in the US. We live in a dangerous world. I do believe that most parents and missionaries know the possibility that something may happen during the mission. But heck, it could happen on my way home from work everyday too. Whether in the US or in a foreign country, bad things happen to good people. That's just the way it works in my opinion.

Whether missionaries are younger and less experienced may have something to do with it, but not always. My 20-yr old son had a bike wreck in Italy when HE ran into a sports car... that was his fault. I had a bike wreck during my mission when I ran into a jeep from behind and spent a week in the hospital. I guess genetics may have something to do with the two of us, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!

blue springs, MO

the statement 'called to serve him Heavenly King of Glory'.... each of us daily risk just getting out of bed. these mighty young missionaries are serving beyond the veil. with the world heading into mass craziness our Heavenly Father needs many whom can teach. my heart and prayers go out to the families whom have sent their mighty missionaries to serve and then deal with their young deaths. my son was in some dangerous areas, but he said with prayer and faith and following the rules he was safe. these other missionaries were safe but were taken young. please keep the families in your prayers. pray for our country and all the missionaries.

Springville, UT

Thanks, Church of Public Affairs, for that comment. However, the fact is deaths are now not that "rare" among missionaries. As a stake, we're talking about how common they've become in recent months. Say and spin what you want, but families are suffering at their losses. Further, what is your point in bringing this up in the first place if you didn't feel the need to put a positive spin on the facts? That's simply disturbing.

I suggest you send general authorities out to visit with and comfort these families rather than try and save face.

Virginia Beach, Va

First of all I appreciate the DN covering this story.
Secondly, I am very concerned about this issue and feel more needs to be said by our Church leaders.

Salt Lake City, UT

I question the use of the word inherently but otherwise it's correct. Sure it feels like there's been a lot the last couple weeks but the rates are still extremely low and most of them are complete accidents.

Then there's the matter of increased reporting. Consider this example, studies show that there's been an increase in EF0 tornadoes the past few decades, however, there's a lack of increase in EF1-EF5 tornadoes the past few decades. As a result, the increase in the weakest tornado category is widely believed to be a result of increased observation and reporting rather than there actually being higher rates of them. That's basically what's going on here, we see increased awareness of these incidents so they feel more common, even when they aren't trending in any statistically significant manner.

spring street

I am sorry but no I would not want my child's death plastered all over the from page of any newspaper, just because they may belong to the same church as you or this paper does not give you the right to have access to such a personal and tragic time in a families life. Please stop pretend you are a victim here. As kas rightly points out there are more appropriate less invasive forums for such disclosures

Poplar Grove, UT

I don't know if missionaries are safer than the general population or not but I take issue with the statistics cited by the church PR department. You can't take a population(missionaries) that is concentrated in S. America and Africa and compare it to the stats worldwide. The way to be accurate would be to say, the death rate per 100,000 in the USA is x, and the missionary death rate in the USA is x. Comparing missionaries in a country, to the countries general population would give you an accurate number. Using worldwide death stats is too vague. Combining the USA, Canada and Europe's stats make would make a place like S. America look much more safe.

Cedar Hills, UT

For all of us who have served missions and also sent sons or daughters into the mission field we well know the realities of serving a mission. I doubt missionary work can ever be made completely safe but the Church should be very proactive in evaluating proselyting methods and making changes. I believe the Church does a decent job with missionary safety but knowing the events of my mission and my sons missions I also know there is a lot of room for improvement.

Norcross, GA

I'm unsure what people are expecting the church to do. With the increase of missionaries in the field, there will be an increase of injury and deaths among missionaries as a whole. The church can't prevent injury or death anymore than we can on a daily basis. Where does it ever say that the people of God are exempt from bad things happening to them? The only way to prevent injury and death from happening in the mission field is not to call missionaries to the field. Is that really an option? Really? What in the world are they suppose to do? What more do you expect them to do? It is still the primary responsibility of each individual missionary to exercise caution and use wisdom, that wasn't taken from them when they entered the mission field. If an area is increasingly worsening they will pull missionaries out of that area, if a missionary is really sick and nothing is working where they are to get them better they will send them home but every single variable, every single choice cannot be monitored. So again, what more are they to do?

Salt Lake City, UT

"The mortality rate for missionaries is significantly less than those in their same age group in the general population." This is a bogus comparison as said missionaries already lead safer lifestyles than the general population, before they leave on their missions. The question should be: are these individual missionaries subject to added danger by going on missions? I don't know the answer, but that is the question.

I know it. I Live it. I Love it.
Salt Lake City, UT

David in Georgia,

Inherently: Involved in the constitution or essential character of something (Merriam-Webster).

There is nothing inherently unsafe about going out into the world and talking to people. By any standard less than that, we'd all be unsafe all the time. Count up all the wars, crimes in my neighborhood, and unsafe things that happen on the road every day around me. You'd come up with a long list. But I keep distance from other cars and I'm far more safe statistically than if I didn't. Missionaries are more well-behaved than the average american young adult. The lifestyle the average missionary lives is safer than what I can say of most 18-25 year old's.

If parents are concerned about their kids safety and think that putting them threw college is safer, they should spend time in a college outside of Utah to make a fair comparison. I've got news for you, BYU being "stone-cold sober" is a RARE trait for colleges. I have to believe that dorm life is inherently much more dangerous than missionary work, even if excluding alcohol and drugs.

John Pack Lambert of Michigan
Ypsilanti, MI

The situation of missionaries is safe. Even ten deaths still is way below the average.

Missionaries avoid most unsafe activities. It is accidents that kill most people that age, accidents in unsafe activities.

Also, going two by two protects them. Lastly, most killings in the US are done by people who know the victim. It is not generally locations that are unsafe but activities.

The gospel needs to be preached to all people. However the least safe times to be out are much later than missionaries are out.

John Pack Lambert of Michigan
Ypsilanti, MI

I have yet to see any evidence that any of these deaths or injuries can be linked to lower missionary ages. The man killed in an accident in Malaysia had been on his mission too long to have been effected by the missionary age change. Actually, I have yet to see any of these cases being clearly a result of what the missionary did.

I think some people are too quick to see causation when we do not even have a clear correlation. How does the missionary death rate over the last 10 months compare to other periods of time? In 1989-1990 there was a situation where 4 missionaries were murdered in 2 countries, deliberately because they were missionaries.

Are 10 deaths really that adnormal? I think people are trying to make things into bigger issues than they are.

John Pack Lambert of Michigan
Ypsilanti, MI

Actually, we have lots of missionaries tracking in Detroit. We have more missionaries in Detroit presently than we have for years past. We also have plenty of missionaries in Flint which has an even higher crime rate.

If the Church wanted to show it had no desire to reach out to African-Americans it would pull missionaries from those cities. True, no longer over half of Michigan's African-Americans live in Detroit, but it still is a significant percentage of the state's African-American population. Pulling missionaries out of the city would say we have no desire to reach out to them.

In fact it was the attitude of putting safety over outreach that meant that 10 years after the 1978 revelation there were still very few African-American church members. I was born in 1980. I can remember when a third of the city of Detroit was in our ward and we had one African-American family in the ward. Then we had a leader who had the vision of trusting in the Lord. Today there are wards based in Detroit and 3 members of our stake high council are African-American.

Proud of my Stripling Warrior
St John, KS

Our son is one of those ten. It was not in the news. The coroner found no cause of death. Our dear stripling warrior was halfway through his mission on this side of the veil, when - shortly before his companion awoke - he received a new call. My Elder loved being a missionary, and he loved a good adventure. I'm proud that he was worthy for this calling. We miss him terribly, but know that we have many family and friends on the other side still to be taught. We're sealed through temple covenants. This is but a short separation. I'm looking forward to some great stories!

Tucson, AZ

@Kass Yes, I understand that. However, the DN does go out to a very large LDS subscription base. And not all members subscribe to the Church News. I don't. If these stories were published there, the church would still come out with a public disclaimer, so I don't think that point of yours is true.

DN is still completely within its purpose and business to publish such stories.

@spring street I never stated nor inferred that somehow I "was a victim." That's an incorrect assessment of my comments. Second, I can totally understand that you wouldn't want such a story "plastered" on the pages of a newspaper. But that's life, for good or bad. Newspapers do what newspapers do.

The debate about the "wisdom" of having young, 18-year-olds on missions and their "proneness" to accidents, etc is not relevant. The driver was 20. The 18-year-old was the passenger. Missionary deaths are still rare. It is not just out of 75K serving, as there is turnover throughout the year. In a year, there may be, what...up to 100K+ as missionaries? And consider the mortality rate for missionaries ever since the beginning of this church.

Judy Limburg
Walla Walla, WA

When my son served in Bulgaria a few years ago I never once worried about him. I don't know why but most people EXPECTED me to worry. But I knew that there was no place better he could be at that time in his life. Heavenly Father sent him there, Heavenly Father would take care of him. My daughter is now serving in Arizona and I don't worry about her either. Heavenly Father's plan is perfect. Although we may not understand why some things happen, I know that Heavenly Father is the great equalizer, and all things will be made right in the end.

spring street


“So if you were an LDS family who lost a missionary, you would want to see that the newspaper that is owned by your church doesn't care enough to report it?” “We even want and need to know when something tragic like this happens.”
"But that's life, for good or bad. Newspapers do what newspapers do." stop blaming the paper for feeding into your morbid curiosity. its both you and the paper.

“Really, I do NOT understand the people who abandon common sense just to find a puny, petty excuse to criticize how the Deseret News or the Church is doing its job.”
"I never stated nor inferred that somehow I "was a victim." That's an incorrect assessment of my comments" you are right you never said you were directly a victim but from the above comment it is not hard to see why someone would make that "assessment."

Las Vegas, NV

I would agree if I didn't go on a mission. But since I did, this article is completely biased and distorted. I served in Russia and every day there was someone messing with multiple companionships (I served as zone leader, so I know). Missions are completely exposing missionaries. If you mothers at home worry about your missionary out there, you're absolutely right. They're in danger. Lots.

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