Two Missionaries Shot in Virginia

Last night, two Mormon missionaries were shot in Virginia. Morgan Winslow Young of Bountiful, Utah and Joshua Heidbrink of Greeley, Colorado were shot, and Elder Young died. Here are bare facts from the Washington Times:

The men, who had been going door to door doing missionary work, were walking alongside a road without sidewalks just after 6 p.m. Monday when a man approached, shot them and ran away, police said.

One of the victims ran to a nearby nursing home seeking help, police said.

Mr. Heidbrink’s uncle, Craig Heidbrink, told a Salt Lake City television that the two missionaries first saw a man apparently shoot at someone else on the street, who was not hit. The gunman then turned and fired at the missionaries, he said.

Our prayers go out to Elder Heidbrink and to the families of both missionaries.

26 comments for “Two Missionaries Shot in Virginia

  1. We have a young man from our ward serving in the Virginia Richmond Mission. He emailed his family yesterday. He knew the Elder that was killed, and though this is a very difficult time for them all, the work is going forward.

  2. Re 2, please don’t make comments like that. No one cares about the work at times like this.

  3. Not sure I understand the attitude in #3 and #4. While the comment about the work going forward would be inappropriate to make to the family of the deceased, I must assume that neither one of you is in that group. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with passing on information such as that received from a missionary in the area.

  4. #3 & #$ seem unnecessarily harsh to me. It seems to me all Larry was doing was reporting on what an elder he knew in that same mission told him.

    Don’t turn this tragedy into a snark fest, please.

  5. My missionary son is currently serving in Virginia Beach just a few miles from where the shooting occurred. His email to me yesterday also included the phrase “the work is going forward.”
    Please don’t disparage the focus and dedication of these Elders to “the work.”
    It is how they can and will honor and remember their fallen brethren.

  6. I just read the community’s messages posted on the local paper’s site. It’s difficult to read them without tearing up. Elder Young’s and Elder Heidbrink’s missions and Elder Young’s death are affecting many souls there.

  7. Ill just be blunt and hope that no one thinks this sentiment out of place, but it is my personal hope that when the killer is apprehended that the Commonwealth seeks and obtains the ultimate sanction in this case.

    Interestingly, however, if it is true that the killer is African American as has been reported, he is LESS likely in Virginia to be indicted for captial murder, the prosecutor is LESS likely to seek the death penalty, and a jury is LESS likely to impose it.

    Also, that this took place in an urban area makes it even less likely each of the above events will occur.

    “Men reading fashion magazines…oh what a wolrd it seems we live in…”

  8. I’m fairly confident that even if the police don’t find the assailant, he’ll be handled justly.

  9. That was my mission (Virginia Roanoke mission back then). I have fond memories of the Hampton Roads area and the people, but reading this took me back to some evenings where I walked into neighborhoods that were much different than my rural upbringing had ever exposed me to.

    What a sad situation for the family and the mission. I remember that “can-do” missionary attitude that will prompt those letters home about the work going forward. But several post-traumatic situations have shown me everyone reacts differently, and in varying lengths of time. I hope the response within the mission is proactive with regards to the mental health of these young men. And I hope justice will be swift and decisive for their perpetrator.

  10. Regarding comment #2, this would be a good time to implement Kaimi’s post the first of December: “never attribute to malice that which can be explained by misunderstanding.” Forgiveness, and all that.

    When people mean well, it’s silly to take offense. Larry meant well, meant no offense.

    Plus the work is why those kids are there. Fear and discouragement could really overwhelm young people at a time like this.

    Off topic perhaps, but I have found myself more and more fearful for the boys leaving these days. I never used to worry about the safety of missionaries. I took it as a given. We haven’t lost any that we knew personally, one of Sarah’s boyfriend’s brothers (with me?) was shot, as was his father, when his parents went to pick him up in south America.

    The best we can do is pray for and support them through letters.

  11. Have been thinking about this incident all week, especially since my nephew enters the MTC next week and has been asking me alot of questions. So how do we respond to the question, “Why is this allowed to happen to missionaries?” I have attended several funerals for missionaries killed while serving, the last being the four Elders killed in Iowa when their car was hit. General Authorities presided at all of the funerals and the “explanations” have been varied. As I see it, there are several possibilities:
    1-The Elder was acting in a manner disqualifying him/her for inspiration. While 19 year olds often do stupid things–even while serving a mission–that isn’t the case here.
    2-The Elder is worthy and receives a prompting but is either unable to discern what it means or is unable to avoid the danger i.e. the free agency of another frustrates the will of God. This leaves one with the hope that promptings, if any good at all, should be timely and discernable and touches on the free will / determinism debate.
    3-The Elder is worthy, yet receives no prompting. This is often presented in terms of, “He was called to serve on the other side.” Or “It was simple his time to go.” This has always conveyed to me an air of arbitrariness and while meant to comfort those grieving, often leaves more questions than it answers.
    4-There are no promptings and we make our way the best we can. Certainly the least satisfying, and refuted by many Elder’s personal experiences.
    Have I missed anything?

  12. My son is about 18 months away from serving a mission. That, and the fact that I personally know someone in the Virginia Richmond Mission (taught him trumpet lessons, his mom and my wife were pregnant at the same time, our first their last of nine), added a very personal dimension to this. I wish you could have seen the look on my face after I read the headline about the shooting. I did one of those comic double takes, because it took about five seconds to sink in where the shooting had occured.Until I clicked on the link and found out it wasn’t “our” missionary I had the most horrible feeling of fear and dread.

    That said, I can’t wait until my son serves his mission. I’m a convert and didn’t serve a mission, and I’m driving him crazy right now due to my exitement about his serving a mission. Talk about living through my son’s experiences!

  13. re: work going forward.

    If you were to ask Elder Heidbrink, the surviving elder, wouldn’t he want all the other missionaries to continue to work and not be discouraged?

    And if we could ask Elder Young, the deceased, what do you think he’d want? Would he want the other missionaries in the mission to mope around mourning him, or to get back to the work ?

  14. The only problem I have with the phrase “the work going forward” is that it’s such a platitude. Is that phrase supposed to inspire hope or encouragement or courage or faith? I’m more inclined to think it’s what the mission president told the missionaries to tell their families, so that’s what they’re doing.

    That “the work is going forward” doesn’t make Elder Young’s death any less a terrible loss for his family and friends. It’s not the mission’s fault he died, of course. But this young man dying really isn’t about missionary work. It’s about a young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time being killed in a senseless crime. Taking this sad story and turning the focus to missionary work seems…disrespectful, somehow.

  15. 17

    We had a missionary killed while I served my mission. We all knew of other missionary killings from our friends on their missions around the world. Part of offering our lives to the Lord for two years was the understanding that he might take them entirely. That’s what a mission is — and we accepted it. We would feel somehow that the sacrifice was wasted if the work hadn’t gone forward.

    I personally found your comment, “I’m more inclined to think it’s what the mission president told the missionaries to tell their families, so that’s what they’re doing” to be remarkably removed from the reality of a mission. Mission presidents don’t tell their missionaries propaganda to propagate to their families. They do encourage them in the totality of the mission: leaving home, enduring rejection, finding their own answers, leading others to the healing atonement, and becoming disciples of Christ through this struggle. “The work goes forward” to me is a statement that the missionary saying it has remained unshaken in his willingness to sacrifice whatever the Lord asks.

    “this young man dying really isn’t about missionary work. It’s about a young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time being killed in a senseless crime. Taking this sad story and turning the focus to missionary work seems…disrespectful, somehow” also seems to me to miss the context of what happened. Missionary work is exactly about the causes of senseless crimes like this (and all other sins). Here we see the opposition between them and in this case, evil had a temporary victory. But it was to confront evil that Elder Young, and all missionaries, served. I agree that the physical confrontation that accompanied the spiritual one is tragic, but missionary work is the essence of what we see: evil needing remedy — which remedy is embodied in the missionaries. So I disagree with your comment: I believe that to turn the focus *away* from Elder Young’s quest to remedy the evil that took his life would be disrespectful.

  16. I have mixed emotions about this. I think it might be a good thing that Larry made his comment, however inadvertently he meant it.

    Manaen, I seldom disagree with you, and I could be wrong, but my impression is that the mission presidents do have a lot of power over their missions. I know some who have refused to let missionaries go home to funerals of loved ones, which I think is indefensible. I do not know one, oh, yes, I take it back, I know one, but that’s all, who did not regret that. Well, criminently, his mother was in her 90’s. Are you with me?

    I think not only should they be ALLOWED to go home when tragedy strikes, I think they should be encouraged to go home. I just do. I think if they are not allowed to grieve or be with their families, it leaves a hole in their soul.

    To that extent, I agree with Ann. The church isn’t what’s important about what happened here, it’s the death of this boy/man. The church is secondary. But I also agree with those who feel that the missionaries need to be encouraged not to give in to despair, fear, and discouragement at a time like this. Do I contradict myself? Very well then…..

    I have a resentment, oh well, I’ll share it another time.

  17. annegb, Thx for you comments. I meant to answer the specific suggestion that mission presidents tell their missionaries to send their families unfelt and empty buzz phrases. I agree that mission presidents can/do determine whether their missionaries take leave to return home for personal reasons. FWIW, one of my companion’s estranged father died during his mission, our president would have let him attend the funeral, but my companion decided to forego it. Maybe he regretted it later — I don’t know.

    I agree that the Church isn’t what’s important here. But that doesn’t mean Elder Young’s life was empty of meaning. I guess what I’m reaching for is that his life isn’t separate from the meaning he chose for it and we shouldn’t gut his life of his chosen meaning. I believe that it would be disrespectful to him to dismiss his efforts to defeat evil when those efforts put him where he was when he was killed by evil. He stepped up and he paid dearly for it. To say that’s irrelevant diminishes the meaning to which he chose to spend, literally, his life.

  18. In a meeting of missionaries in Virginia Beach on Wednesday morning Elder Young’s parents gave the same message. Go forward.
    Do you think Mission President Kirk told them what to think/say to the assembled group, or do you think that might have been their own message, from their own tender, broken, hurting hearts?

    We can try to analyze this and make sense of it (the forte of the bloggernacle?), but as for me, I am going to put my trust in God and enjoy the outpouring of the Spirit that has accompanied this tragedy.

    I offer my sincere condolences to the Young family. It could have been my son that was killed, but it was yours. Please know I share your pain and pray that your sorrows and grief will eventually be turned to joy and rejoicing through our Savior Jesus Christ.

  19. As I re-read this thread another thought occurs to me: it is interesting that there is a lot of discussion about “the work” going forward (which I think is fine) but very little discussion about the truly good news here which is that this Elder will be reunited with his family. My first reaction to this news was retributive; others first thoughts were relative to the tragedy and others were relative to the work as a whole.

    At my work place three of my colleagues have lost parents in the last year, two of them untimely. I have been fortunate to approach each of them at an appropriate point and share with them my belief that they will see that loved one again. To the person, the response was that they thought that was a beautiful sentiment and that they hoped I was right. I share that not to toot my own horn (I will be the first to admit that I don’t share the gospel as I should) but to illustrate that this IS a beautiful doctrine and that in my experience it is recognized as such by members and nonmembers alike. I think I would say that this is the part of the gospel that is easiest to share for me.

    Some one has said that without eternal families all of the other things we do in pursuit if exaltation really aren’t worth it. I think that is right, or nearly so.

  20. Condolences to the Young family and hope all goes well for Elder Heidbrink in his recovery… Sorry to add to the morbid tone of an event such as this, but was shocked to see on our national tv news broadcast last night news of two elders in the New Zealand Wellington mission who were killed in a vehicle accident… It leaves an emptiness within… my thoughts and prayers to the families of the young men… They were named on the news last night, but I wasn’t able to focus on the article until after the interview with the mission president… I believe one was from Oregon and the other was brand new to the mission…

    Newspaper link is:, but at that time, they hadn’t named the elders. One passenger from the other vehicle also killed.

  21. I don’t mean to be glib, but …

    I see this as yet another situation where the Lord allowed a bad thing to happen to a couple of good people (by all accounts). And the net result is that one Elder has received a transfer from Virginia to the Spirit Prison Mission, where he will convert millions.

    Again, I don’t mean to be glib, and I don’t mean to impose a heavy dose of doctrinal reality, but I can’t help but think that the Lord knows his servants, and is watching over them. It’s incredibly sad and tragic for those still on this Earth, and without a testimony that the Lord pulls certain strings and allows other to be pulled, it’d make you crazy.

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