Another missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has given his life while on active service to the Lord in the mission field. Elder Benjamin Taylor Jennings, 19, collapsed after a morning jog with his companion on May 21st, 2011, and could not be revived. The specific cause of death has not yet been determined. His companion was identified HERE as an Elder Ciccio in Las Industrias in the San Miguel zone.
Obituaries have been published in the Provo Daily Herald and the Deseret News and Fredericksburg.com. I have now added his name to my partial list of missionaries who've given their lives while on mission service.
Elder Jennings was born August 2, 1991 in Fairfax, VA and spent much of his childhood in Naperville, IL and Elburn, IL, moving back to Fredericksburg, VA in 2006. He attended Brigham Young University in Provo, UT during the fall and winter of 2009-10, then accepted a mission call to the Santiago Chile West Mission, departing in September 2010.
Elder Todd Stephen Hendrickson of the Santiago Chile North Mission informs us that the Santiago West Mission President sent an e-mail to all other missionaries in his district notifying them of Elder Jennings' demise, and paid an impressive tribute to him. In part:
...Elder Jennings was a wonderful missionary, full of love for the people of Chile, and happy to be serving his Father in Heaven on a mission. The Bishop from Las Industrias commented that he was always happy, and that his face always shone bright with light. Other missionaries have spoken of how he always took joy in serving others, especially other missionaries. We have only every heard positive comments and feedback about Elder Jennings...
Elder Jennings is survived by his parents, David T. and Emily Oaks Jennings, his siblings, Leah (18), Westley (15), and Wendy (13), and by his grandparents Harold and Ima Jean Oaks of Orem, and Julia Jennings of Bountiful. A memorial service will be held Wednesday, May 25th, 7:00pm at the Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, 20 Boscobel Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22405. A memorial service is planned for Friday, May 27th, 11:00am at 1915 North Canyon Road, Provo UT, 84604. He will be buried in East Lawn Memorial Hills Cemetery, Provo, UT.
In his email, Mission President Richard King shed some light on LDS beliefs regarding the fate of those who give their lives while serving a full-time mission. The operative scripture is Doctrine & Covenants 138:57. Reflecting a vision given to Church President Joseph F. Smith in 1918, it states, "I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead".
What this means is that missionaries who die on service are not necessarily conducted into the celestial kingdom upon their deaths, but remain in Paradise and are set apart to become missionaries and preach the Gospel unto those who are in Spirit Prison. Most likely, these missionaries would also be given the names of those who had proxy ordinances performed on their behalf in LDS temples on earth; they would seek out these people, inform them of the ordinances, offer them the opportunity to accept them and the Gospel, after which they would exit Spirit Prison and enter Paradise in preparation for further eternal progression. And considering that the majority of people who lived on earth never were exposed to the fulness of the Gospel, you can just imagine the sheer number of people in Spirit Prison awaiting an offer of salvation. Most likely in the tens of billions.