Missionaries safe after being robbed at gunpoint, assaulted during mission meeting
Full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints carry a white handbook of instructions with them wherever they go. It is often memorized.
On Friday, the safety section of the handbook came into play for 70 missionaries in the Mexico Torreon Mission of the church.
During a multizone conference being held in a local chapel, two men entered the meeting armed with guns and demanded all the missionaries to give them their cellphones, tablets and wallets, according to the church.
“The robbers intimidated the 13 sisters and 57 elders, and a few were hit or kicked during the incident,” Sam Penrod, church spokesman, said in a news release.
Mission President Alfredo Zanuto and his wife, Guadalupe Zanuto, also reportedly were assaulted and threatened with a knife.
“Local police were immediately called after the men fled the scene and no one needed additional medical care,” Penrod said.
A church counselor is traveling from Mexico City to assist with emotional needs and other counseling options also are being made available, according to Penrod.
Family members have been contacted and missionaries were asked to call home.
“Missionaries have been removed from the area where the incident occurred and instructed to be extra cautious,” Penrod said. “A Church security officer is in Torreón to evaluate the situation. Our prayers are with these missionaries and their families as they recover from this frightening and traumatic experience.”
As far as the missionary handbook, under the topic “security,” a few instructions include:
- Be sensitive to anything that is out of the ordinary, especially anyone who watches you closely or asks probing questions.
- Stay away from unsafe areas.
- Do not resist if you meet thieves. Carry a little cash with you so you have something you could give to thieves.
In this case, the missionaries were in a safe place, as they met to hear from their president, have inspirational talks and to fellowship with others in the mission. Though a bold and brash move by the two assailants, all were safe following the incident, according to the church.
As of Monday, the whereabouts of the two robbers was not known, nor how much money they acquired or what was done with the wallets and electronic devices.
Aside from the mission headquarters, there are five church buildings in Torreon that house between two and three congregations. Congregations are typically between 200 and 400 people.
During April’s General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced that a temple was to be built in Torreon. This will be the 16th temple to be built in Mexico. The church reports there are 1.5 million members in Mexico with more than 1,800 congregations.