Mormon missionary killed by stray bullet in Colombia

Sep 3 2013 - 6:22am

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Mormon missionary from the Dominican Republic was killed while serving in Colombia -- in what is at least the fifth death this year of a proselyting member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jose Daniel Encarnacion Montero, 20, was struck by a stray bullet Saturday in Cali, Colombia. He had been on mission for one year.

Officials with the LDS Church said Encarnacion was with three other missionaries when he was killed, but they weren't harmed. Colombian police are investigating the incident.

The Mormon church was not able to immediately provide the number of missionaries who have died this year, or in past years. News reports suggest there have been at least five missionaries who have died in 2013.

Encarnacion's death comes less than a week after missionary Jason Wiberg was fatally hit by a car while on bicycle in Kuching, Malaysia, on Aug. 25. Wiberg, 19, of Roy, Utah, had been on mission since October 2012.

His family is holding a funeral for him this week. They said he dreamed of being a police officer and was an Eagle Scout.

On July 22, Josh Burton died from injuries suffered when a truck he was riding in overturned. Burton, 23, of Alberta, Canada, was on a mission in Guatemala. He was just months from completing his two-year mission.

On June 19, Siosiua "Josh" Taufa was electrocuted while trying to fix a family's leaky roof in Guatemala where had served for 18 months. Taufa, 20, of Salt Lake City, was the second oldest son of Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Aiveni "Ivan" Taufa, a member of Gov. Gary Herbert's security team.

On Feb. 1, missionary Alesa Renee Smith was killed in Woodward, Okla., when she was hit by a truck while on her bicycle. Smith, 22, of Benton, Ark., had been serving in the Oklahoma mission for 10 months.

Spurred by an historic lowering of the minimum age for missionaries, the Utah-based faith has more ambassadors serving around the world than at any time in the church's history.

The 75,000 missionaries are a 28-percent increase from about 58,000 a year ago. The church expects the number to swell to 85,000 by year's end.

Last October, the church announced men could begin serving at 18, instead of 19, and women at 19, instead of 21. That's led to new, younger missionaries joining older ones already planning to go.

Missions are considered rites of passage for many Mormons, broadening their perspective on the world, strengthening their faith and helping prepare some for future leadership roles within the church.

Young Mormon men are expected, but not required, to serve missions. Historically, women have faced far less pressure to serve, though the church has seen a spike in mission applications from women now that they can serve two years earlier. Men serve two years while women go for 18 months.


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