As tragedies go, they don't hit any closer to home than this.
A Mormon elder from Bountiful, Utah, with pioneer roots is shot and killed while tracting on his full-time mission.
Twenty-one-year-old Morgan Young was two months from the end of his two years of missionary service early last Monday evening in Chesapeake, Va., when an assailant shot his companion, Joshua Heidbrink of Greeley, Colo., and then turned the gun on Young, who had come to the aid of Heidbrink and, according to sources, took two bullets in the back of his head. For Young, the gunshots proved to be fatal.
The missionaries were proselyting door-to-door after taking the daytime hours of Monday off for Preparation Day, the traditional missionary day for doing laundry, writing letters and recreating.
It isn't unheard of for missionaries to stretch P-Day a bit past the evening deadline, but Elder Young and his new companion from Colorado, not long removed from the MTC, did not fudge. As Larry Kocherhans, the bishop of the Bountiful 31st Ward that sent Young off to the Richmond Virginia Mission 22 months ago, said, "He was doing what he was supposed to be doing. That's a good place to be when your time comes."
Bishop Kocherhans watched Morgan grow up in a city that takes its name from the Book of Mormon and where the signature landmark is the Bountiful Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the hill.
In such temperate climes, Morgan Young did not stray.
"He was always good, he never caused any trouble," remembered Kocherhans.
But neither was he just one of the sheep, rotely following where others had gone before.
When he turned 19 and became eligible to serve a church mission, the bishop recalled that Morgan wasn't sure if he should go. For six months he deliberated about his future.
Mike Willden, 26, a shift manager at Pace's Dairy Ann Drive-In in Bountiful, where Morgan worked before his mission, remembers it was the first time he ever saw Morgan anything but lighthearted.
"He was just this fun, goofy guy, always smiling; if you were in a bad mood he'd pull you out of it," said Willden, "the only time he got serious was about going on a mission. I'd been on a mission so I talked to him about it. I could tell he was really thinking hard. A lot of guys will go because of pressure. But he didn't do that. I know when he made the decision it was his own thing. That's what impressed me most. He went because he wanted to."
The periodic letters that Bishop Kocherhans received from Virginia indicated Morgan was happy about his choice. "I could tell he caught the spirit of missionary work," the bishop said. "The mission president had asked him to extend a month 'til April and I understood he was going to do that."
At least that was the plan until Monday, when Elder Young's mission ended two months early all the more unexpected because everyone who knows Morgan Young knows he wasn't the kind to put himself in the middle of any kind of conflict.
"I could never imagine him provoking anything or anyone," said Willden. "He wouldn't have smirked; he wouldn't have been rude in any way."
Then again, he wasn't the kind to run from trouble, either, as evidenced by his last Earthly act of rushing to help his fallen companion.
As his fraternal grandfather, Winslow Young, whose ancestors crossed the plains to Utah, said, "Morgan was always looking out for the other guy and doing the right thing. He wouldn't cut and run."
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.