LDS Church and Ebola in West Africa

Earlier this month, because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the LDS Church withdrew its missionaries for Liberia and Sierra Leone.  But it left its local members behind.

The Mormon Church has a minor presence in the two countries; the membership numbers in the thousands.  According to the LDS Church’s newroom website:

The Church through its humanitarian programs and partners, in in the process of assessing needs and considering how to best support relief efforts to its members and the people of these countries.

I wonder what kind of a message it sends to the world when we evacuate our missionaries and leave behind our members?  Aren’t we making some sort of a social statement about the relative worth of various categories of members.  I understand that missionary parents don’t want their children in harms way, but aren’t we all members of the same church?  Don’t we all have equal standing?

Given certain rules about sanitation and handling the sick and the dead, ebola is manageable.  It is not viewed as a threat to the United States or other developed countries.  I wonder if the missionaries could have been useful in helping to educate the members and the non-members without putting them in unnecessary harm?

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7 Responses to LDS Church and Ebola in West Africa

  1. From an entirely practical perspective: The missionaries had places they could go. The 12,000 or so members in Sierra Leone and Liberia do not. It is unlikely that any country would take them in, regardless of what the Church might wish to do. A similar case: In 2001, BYU took all its students out of the Jerusalem Center because the Second Intifada was considered too dangerous. Students returned in 2006 and are still there. There are probably less than 300 members in Israel and Palestine. Both politically and logistically, their evacuation would appear to have been a much easier proposition, but still, I suspect, it was completely impossible politically.

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I’m not necessarily suggesting an evacuation of all members. The alternative that I suggested in the post was leaving the missionaries there and letting them assist the members and their neighbors. This alternative might not be popular with parents, but at least it demonstrates that we don’t have two classes of members. When an outbreak like ebola occurs, educating the public is very important. This is an activity the missionaries could easily participate in.

    • shematwater says:

      While it is a nice idea, I would bet that few, if any, of the missionaries has enough knowledge on the subject to really educate anyone. So they would have to be educated first by those that the church already has to handle these kinds of things.

      You mention the missionaries were recalled, but was there any other action taken? Do we know if the church has sent in people to assist the members or not? The quote you gave suggests that the church is very active in the situation and is working to help where it can.
      Without more information can anyone really say that this was not the best action.

      • rogerdhansen says:

        To my knowledge, the Church has not indicated what steps are being taken to protect the members and their neighbors. I would be very interested in knowing what is happening. That has always been a problem with the PR department. They are scarce with reliable updates.

        I don’t think it would take a great deal of training to prepare the missionaries for the task of providing basic information on how to stop the spread of Ebola and other infectious diseases. They ought to routinely get this training anyway. Not only for their own good, but also for the good of the members.

  3. Liz says:

    Did the members want to leave? Would you leave your home for an indefinite period if the church offered it? You might be assuming you know better than they do what is good for them in this situation. Americans have that tendency sometimes. You also put up the assumption that a 18 year old American or Canadian kid is a qualified medical emergency person. I suspect the locals know more about the Ebola virus than these sweet foreign kids do. While your intentions are good, your presumptions that Americans know more or can do more than the locals seems hasty.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I just worry about the image we leave with Africans when we evacuate the missionaries and leave the members behind. I just think the missionaries (even if not trained healthcare workers) could have done a lot of good if they had stayed in west Africa.

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