Last June, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would be sending a safety survey to missionaries around the world. On Friday, the church released changes as a result of that survey.
The survey was to help church leaders understand missionaries’ day-to-day experiences and perceptions related to physical safety. According to the church, the results painted a picture of overall safety among missionaries and highlighted areas for improvement.
“We were pleased to learn that an overwhelming majority of missionaries reported feeling safe within their missions, and the number of incidents was very low compared to the total missionaries serving,” said Daniel Woodruff, church spokesman, in a press release. “Gratefully, serious threats and violence involving missionaries are uncommon, although we recognize that exceptions occur.”
According to Woodruff, the feedback from the survey will inform future changes to the Missionary Handbook and has already impacted the following policies and procedures.
- A Sister Safety Committee that meets regularly is using the survey results to determine how to enhance the overall safety of sister missionaries.
- A follow-up process has been implemented to provide better care and support for missionaries following an incident.
- A significant health, safety and security training program is being produced that is heavily influenced by the survey results.
“Additionally, the church will soon send a second survey to missions where multiple safety concerns have been reported,” Woodruff said. “Information from this follow-up survey will be shared with mission presidents to help them understand the potential risks in their missions and to help them consider where missionaries are placed.”
Woodruff continued, “Missionaries throughout the world are known for their goodness and selfless service. We greatly value their safety. We are committed to doing all we can to understand and to improve, where needed, the circumstances of all missionaries.”
In a June 5, 2017, LDS Church statement, it was noted that missionaries are taught principles to keep themselves safe, and in areas where missionary safety may be at risk, the church may alter assignments or provide them with more specific guidelines to enhance their safety.
On April 29, the church exercised that right to reassign missionaries for their safety. It announced that due to prolonged periods of heightened political tensions in Turkey, all of the church volunteers serving in the country had been temporarily reassigned. In the meantime, the church continues to monitor conditions and make adjustments as needed in an effort to promote their safety.
In October of 2017, the church pulled missionaries from Madagascar due to, “the emerging outbreak of plague,” Again, a total of 69 missionaries were temporarily reassigned.
By mid-January, and the containment of the plague outbreak, missionaries started returning to Madagascar.
Safety measures are not contained to problems of illness or government unrest. In all they do, missionaries are asked to take safety precautions and to be aware of others around them. Those who drive cars and ride bicycles are always asked to take care and follow traffic rules.
On April 25, four missionaries were injured in a fatal car crash in Idaho. In 2013, one missionary died from injuries received in a crash in Idaho as well.
Sometimes the greatest precautions still fail to help in certain situations, just ask Sister Kendal Levine.
On her special public Facebook Page, Pray for Kendal, she tells her story.
“Three+ years ago I was serving an LDS mission in Sydney, Australia and was struck by a car, throwing me 30 feet and driven over. I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury causing me to have to relearn everything,” Levine said.
Levine, through Facebook video, has been sharing her progress with the public from her comatose state in a Sydney Hospital, to last week when she showed her strengthening exercises and her ability to walk up and down stairs.
There are more than 67,000 full-time missionaries serving in more than 420 missions throughout the world, according to church statistics.
“Missionaries are divinely watched over in the work they perform,” the 2017 church survey statement said. “However, we believe it’s important to understand their circumstances and make appropriate adjustments when needed.”