Lee Davidson, journalist for the Deseret Morning News, wrote an interesting article which appeared in that paper on January 5th, 2006. Missionary slayings very rare in LDS Church was written in response to the January 2nd shooting death of LDS missionary Morgan Young. Mr. Davidson wrote that Morgan made “the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs.”
Morgan’s death was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and his missionary companion were in the area as an apparent drug deal went wrong and people started getting shot. Morgan’s companion, Joshua, was also shot; thankfully he survived.
The only way I can make sense of Mr. Davidson’s implication that Morgan is a martyr is the fact that Morgan would not have been in the line of fire if he hadn’t been sent to Virginia on a mission for the LDS Church. In that context, Morgan made the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs; but he was not killed because he was LDS, or because someone didn’t like what he was doing or what he was teaching. Morgan’s death was tragic, as is the death of any person whose life is cut short. It was senseless. But Morgan is not a martyr any more than are the 2 LDS missionaries who died 4 days later in a car crash.
Mr. Davidson’s article did draw a distinction between accidental missionary deaths and missionaries who have been murdered. He included some very interesting statistics on LDS missionary deaths as well as non-LDS Christian missionary deaths. He noted that only 3 of the 17 LDS missionaries who have died since January 1, 1999 did not die accidentally, while 155 out of 160 Christian missionary deaths during that same time span were murders. (Mr. Davidson provided new updated numbers on January 7th.)
Of all the missionary murders (LDS included) Mr. Davidson wrote, “Reasons behind the deaths are many, but the lion’s share of those killed — 106 of 177, or 60 percent — appear to have been murdered because of unpopular religious or political beliefs.” None of those who were killed for what they believe were LDS.
I am appreciative to Mr. Davidson for his article. I recall speaking with an emotional LDS missionary some years ago who, in his effort to prove his church true, cried, “I know of no other church that has martyrs!” Mr. Davidson has done a great service in educating the people of Salt Lake City (and beyond) to the fact that Christian missionaries are often persecuted and killed for the sake of the Gospel; many indeed make the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs.