Four died in transit accidents. Four succumbed to health problems. One was electrocuted while doing a good deed and another fell to a stray bullet.
Ten Mormon missionaries have died so far in 2013, far above typical levels. And while church officials insist the spike doesn’t represent a trend, it has raised anew the question: Is missionary work safe?
The answer, according to the head of the faith’s Missionary Department, is an emphatic yes.
In a rare statement issued in September after the 10th missionary died, Elder David F. Evans said Mormon missions are inherently safe. At the same time, he offered words of solace to the affected families.
The place is awash in fresh-faced students, and even the workers — from the cafeteria to the copy center, the mailroom to the bookstore — and most of the teachers are under 30.
It’s no “Animal House,” though, with raucous frats, food fights, and binge drinking. This is Mormonism’s elite Missionary Training Center, where the men wear white shirts and ties, the women don modest skirts and dresses and everyone is expected to heed the rules.
SALT LAKE CITY — Call it a change for the ages.
In a surprising move that promises to transform Mormon social and spiritual dynamics, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 6 announced that it is lowering the age of full-time missionary service to age 18 for men (down from 19) and 19 for women (down from 21).
“The Lord is hastening this work,” LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said at a news conference, “and he needs more and more willing missionaries.”
The church is counting on this change to dramatically increase the ranks of its full-time missionaries, currently more than 58,000 worldwide.