The death of a missionary is felt by every Church member in a deep and personal way, Elder David F. Evans, Executive Director of the Church’s Missionary Department, said today.
He was commenting on the fact that ten young missionaries serving around the world have died from accident or illness over the course of this year. The latest serious accident occurred in Idaho yesterday – a road accident which left a young missionary hospitalized and on life support.
“For the Church and particularly for the families of these missionaries who have lost their lives we know that the loss of even one missionary is far too many,” Elder Evans said. “To these remarkable families we extend our love, our faith, our hope and our prayers. And we pray that peace and comfort will be yours during these times of sorrow."
Elder Evans said that, gratefully, these occurrences are rare, and missionary work is inherently safe. The mortality rate for missionaries is significantly less than those in their same age group in the general population.
Data that provide an exact comparison are difficult to identify, but relevant data from the World Health Organization* indicate that the annual mortality rate for young people worldwide in this age range is approximately 205 deaths per 100,000 population. For missionaries, that figure is less than one twentieth of that number. Nevertheless, no statistics can lessen the pain of a missionary’s passing.
The Church does everything it can to ensure the safety of its missionaries, including providing training in personal safety and good health practices, repeated instruction for missionaries on auto and bicycle safety, and ongoing consultation with local Church leaders about the safety of specific areas and neighborhoods.
Elder Evans said that the ten young missionary deaths this year do not represent a trend. Historically, missionary deaths have averaged a few per year from accident or illness. Similar numbers of deaths occurred in 2003 and 2008.
Today, there are more than 77,000 missionaries—70,000 are young missionaries—serving around the world, 38% more than there were at this same time a year ago.
*World Health Organization, Global Burden of Disease: 2004 Summary Tables, October 2008.