-- Elder George Peter Solie, 21, of Edgerton, Kansas, died on January 23rd, 2013 from an unspecified medical condition. Elder Solie had served in the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission for a year. The only information about this was published in an official obituary.
-- Elder Juan Junior Litano Montero, 20, of Piura, Peru, died in July 2013 after contracting tuberculous meningoencephalitis. Originally slated to serve in the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission, he had been serving in the Peru Piura Mission since February while waiting for his Argentine visa to be approved. A story was published in the Deseret News on September 17th.
These two names have now been added to my Partial List Of LDS Missionaries Who Have Given Their Lives While On Mission Service. I look forward to the day when a memorial for these champions for Christ is erected in Temple Square; the memorial should be similar in style and concept to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. Since missionaries go the extra mile and give up so much to bring the Gospel to the world, I consider them worthy of special recognition on earth regardless of the rewards which await them in the eternities.
The sudden media interest is driven by concern over whether or not missionary service is becoming more hazardous. In a rare statement issued on September 6th after the 10th missionary died, Elder David F. Evans said Mormon missions are still inherently safe, and offered words of solace to the affected families. Elder Evans also said the church had seen similar surges in missionary fatalities in 2003 and 2008 followed by declines in intervening years. Although the LDS Church does not normally share its statistics on missionary deaths, independent counts since the 1980s indicate the rate hovers between three and six a year. Missionary candidates are required to pass physicals before being called, and missionaries receive safety training at the MTC and in the field, to include bicycle safety. The LDS Missionary Department Health Services division reviews and gives medical advice in cases worldwide.
The website LDSmissionarymoms.com circulates regional information to more than 15,000 email addresses worldwide, read mostly by moms and a few dads with missionary children. The Deseret News reports that there's also a brand-new website called MissionHome.com, which aims to help missionaries and their families learn more about, prepare for and succeed in missionary service.
Here are the names of the other eight missionaries who have given their lives during 2013 (after the jump):
-- Elder Taylor Shane Ward, 19. of Vacaville, CA, was pronounced dead on September 6th, 2013, just three days after being in a traffic accident near Rockford, ID. Elder Ward was serving in the Idaho Pocatello Mission.
-- Elder Jose Daniel Encarnacion Montero, 20, of the Dominican Republic, died after being struck by a stray bullet in Cali, Colombia on August 31st, 2013. Elder Montero was serving in the Colombia Cali Mission.
-- Elder Jason Reid Wiberg, 19, of Roy, Utah, died of injuries sustained after being struck by a vehicle while bicycling in Kuching, Malaysia on August 24th, 2013. Elder Wiberg was serving in the Singapore Mission.
-- Elder Thomas Milo Bennett, 21, of Window Rock, AZ, suffers cardiac arrest and passes away in Casper, WY on Saturday August 3rd, 2013. Elder Bennett was serving in the South Dakota Rapid City Mission.
-- Elder Joshua Allen Burton, 23, of Cardston, AB, Canada, died of post-surgical complications on Monday July 22nd, 2013, two days after a runaway truck slammed into him. Elder Burton was serving in the Coban Guatemala Stake.
-- Elder Siosiua Andrew Taufa, 20, of Salt Lake City, Utah, died on Wednesday June 20th, 2013 after coming into contact with a high-voltage wire while patching a Guatemalan family's leaky roof during a rainstorm. Elder Taufa served in the Guatemala Retalhuleu Mission.
-- Elder Jeffrey Rogil Guerra Alfaro, 22, of Lidingo, Sweden, collapsed while jogging in Provo, Utah on May 9th, 2013. He was later diagnosed with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm and passed on. Elder Alfaro served in the Utah Provo Mission.
-- Sister Alesa Smith, 22, of Benton, AR, died on February 1st, 2013 after being struck by a pickup truck while bicycling in Woodward, OK. She was assigned to the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Mission.