SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Tragedies and dangerous situations do periodically occur among the 52,000 full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as was the case this past week when four Nigerian missionaries were taken hostage.
Although the media understandably give extensive coverage to these types of events, it is important to point out their infrequency.
The Church does everything it can to ensure the safety of its missionaries, a fact that Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized in an address he gave in May 2000. Elder Oaks said:
Of course we have fatalities among our young missionaries — about three to six per year over the last decade — all of them tragic. But the official death rates for comparable-age young men and women in the United States are eight times higher than the death rates of our missionaries. In other words, our young men and women are eight times safer in the mission field than the general population of their peers at home. In view of the hazards of missionary labor, this mortality record is nothing less than a miracle.
In January 2006, Elder M. Russell Ballard, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said the Church does its very best to protect the health and safety of missionaries serving throughout the world. Elder Ballard listed procedures and precautions the Church takes to ensure the well-being of its missionaries, including safety training, oversight and evaluation of assignments and a network of doctors for emergency medical treatment.