Monday, February 4, 2013

LDS Missionary Alesa Smith Struck And Killed While Bicycling In Woodward, Oklahoma

A missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has given her life while in service to the Lord. Alesa Smith, 22, of Benton, AR, was struck from behind and killed by a pickup truck while riding a bicycle around 8:30 P.M. CST on Friday February 1st, 2013. Her companion was unhurt. Sister Smith was riding single file on the side of the road behind her companion when the 18-year-old driver of the pickup was blinded by the lights of a vehicle coming in the opposite direction and didn't see the cyclists until it was too late. The Daily Oklahoman has the primary story; photo available HERE.

Sister Smith had been serving a full-time mission in the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Mission for 10 months; she had just been reassigned to Woodward to replace a senior missionary couple after serving in several other Oklahoma cities. Although police have released no other information as of this post, two LDS Church officials gave statements. Mission President Nolan Taylor said “She is a lovely, kind young woman and was loved by everyone who knows her. A lot of folks here were blessed to get to know her...They leave school and friends and their young lives behind. This experience means a great deal to these young people. They learn so many lessons. They deepen their faith. They develop the ability to love people and to serve them and to care about people.” Scott Trotter, senior public affairs manager for the LDS Church, said in an email “The entire church grieves at her passing, and we pray for her family and friends at this difficult time.”

THV-11 in Arkansas provides more background. Alesa Smith was a graduate of Glenrose High School, and attended Arkansas Tech for two years. Her father, Douglas Smith, said "Well as her father I'm going to remember the service that she gave to others. She always loved helping other people and doing for other people, so to me she's an example of service to her fellow man."

The visitation for Smith is set for Wednesday February 6th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ashby Funeral Home in Benton. The funeral is planned for Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Otter Creek Stake Center in Little Rock. Sister Smith's name has been added to my partial list of missionaries who've given their lives while on their missions. Comments to the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5 indicate that many people are questioning why the LDS Church allows missionaries to ride bicycles after dark. Each mission president sets his own policy.

One person who knew Sister Smith paid tribute to her character, and another comment about the bike policy:

midwestldshb Tulsa, OK 8:22 a.m. Feb. 4, 2013:
I was honored to know Sister Alesa Smith, to watch her grow up the last few years and get sent out on her mission. I was so proud of her. I know that she is now serving an eternal mission and errand for our Heavenly Father. Thank you, Alesa for your service, your family and ward family miss you terribly. But because of what we know, we KNOW we will see you again.

SLCMom Salt Lake City, UT 11:48 a.m. Feb. 4, 2013:
This is heartbreaking for all of us. It is every parent's nightmare. It is especially terrifying for me as a mother who will be sending my own daughter on a full-time LDS mission in less than 1 week! She is headed to a stateside mission that is requiring that ALL missionaries, including Sisters, purchase a bike in advance and ship it there. The church isn't budgeting more cars to compensate for the huge increase in missionaries since October's announcement of the lowered age. My daughter is a novice rider which is scary for her and us (she indicated this on her paperwork). The expense is tremendous (over $800 for a basic package). Now this tragedy occurs which confirms all our fears. It's hard not to completely panic. How many more of these young inexperienced bike riders entering unfamiliar terrain and dangerous locations will have to be severely injured or even lose their lives before the Church rethinks their policies and implement extensive training and safer options?! Having a bike stolen and being unable to afford to replace it is now the least of our worries. Please Church, Do EVERYTHING necessary to prevent another senseless tragedy!

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