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Mexico missionaries were taunted, threatened for over an hour, mother says

The mother of a man who was among a group of missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were threatened and robbed by two gunmen in Mexico on Friday shared details of her son's experience with KSL.com.

The mother of a man who was among a group of missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were threatened and robbed by two gunmen in Mexico on Friday shared details of her son's experience with KSL.com. (J.D.S., Shutterstock)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Kathryn Crouse got a text from her son, a missionary in the Mexico Torreon Mission, on Friday that said, "Everything is fine, but cancel my card as soon as possible."

She said that she knew at that point that something was happening but he told her to stop messaging and that he and others were OK. Crouse said that she kept drawing conclusions until her son was able to send more information, and later call and talk to her.

Crouse's son was one of 70 missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — 13 sisters and 57 elders — at a multi-zone conference in Torreon when two men with guns held them hostage for hours and took any valuable items they had. Each of the missionaries is safe, according to a statement from church spokesman Sam Penrod, although the mission president and his wife were threatened with a knife.

Crouse said her son reported that the gunmen took his phone and wallet and used his suitcase to collect items from himself and others and take them away. Her son told her that multiple missionaries were kicked or hit with guns, and that the two men used the missionary's moms in their threats and taunts saying that they needed to listen to be able to see their moms again.

"He said they were walking on the pews, and they stood above him for awhile — one of the gunmen — and he had to hold his hands up for an hour. He said it was exhausting," Crouse reported.

At one point the men began to leave and told the missionaries to stay and "preach" for four hours but still did not let them move, Course said. At this point, her son told her the missionaries sang hymns and bore testimonies.

Crouse said that there are still parents in the mission who have not heard from their children, but she heard from the mission office on Friday evening and said she was told the church is reaching out to each missionary's family.

Right now, Crouse is concerned about her son's immediate needs. She said he and his companions are staying with other missionaries closer to where the meeting took place since they don't have money for taxis, and she said they also don't have money for groceries that they will need soon. She said she is sure the church will help make sure that these immediate needs are taken care of.

Glade Holman, who has a son in the Puebla Mexico South Mission, said when he saw an article about the incident early Saturday he hurried to check which Mexico mission it was, knowing that his son had a zone conference scheduled around the same time. He said he was relieved it wasn't his son's mission.

Holman said that his son was only recently able to meet with a large group of missionaries, and that he hopes those are not affected.

"Missionaries had not been gathering for the duration of the pandemic and they had a chance to gather just last month, and it was so empowering to him to be among a chapel full of missionaries," Holman said.

He said that he expected when sending his son to Mexico that he would encounter some risks from being in another country, and from being an American who may be a target, but that he feels that as his son is at least as safe as other foreigners, especially since he is serving the Lord.

"I have complete confidence that my son in his mission will be living appropriately and as safe as he can. I don't think this is a reason to say let's pull missionaries out or anything like that. Crime is endemic in many of the areas where the church needs to be, and some places where the crime is highest is where the Lord's love is needed the most," Holman said.

Holman said he has watched the church videos for missionary safety and that the church does a good job of ensuring that missionaries are safe, and he trusts mission presidents and local authorities. This event, he said, is an outlier. He said having a security guard at large meetings may be considered, something that Holman's chapel had when he lived in New York.

"Certainly you would think that a chapel with 70 missionaries for a zone conference would be a safe place to be. ... It's a whole new escalation," Holman said.

He said it was hard to imagine something like this happening at a place of worship and he hopes the local community will support the missionaries. He also said he was glad to see that the church was sending a counselor to the city to speak with the missionaries.

"Local police were immediately called after the men fled the scene and no one needed additional medical care," the church said in its statement. "Missionaries have been removed from the area where the incident occurred and instructed to be extra cautious. A church security officer is in Torreon to evaluate the situation. Our prayers are with these missionaries and their families as they recover from this frightening and traumatic experience."

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