A 19-year-old Utahn died Thursday after a car accident while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Arkansas.
Jake Smith, who had been in the Little Rock Mission since August 2019, was “a bright, happy, cheerful young man,” Bryan Atwood, the man’s LDS stake (regional) president in Lehi, said Friday. “He was the life of the party and a great storyteller.”
Smith was part of a close-knit group of friends, many of whom rode together on Skyridge High School’s mountain biking team and are currently serving missions, said Atwood, who was also Smith’s bishop when the young man was growing up.
He was the third of four children and, hearing the news, his parents showed “incredible faith even in the midst of their grief,” the Latter-day Saint leader said.
Three other missionaries, including two from Utah, were injured in the accident near Rosebud, Ark. All were expected to recover, according to a church news release. McKay Jurges of West Jordan had the most serious injuries and remained hospitalized. Gavin Hatch of Cedar Hills and Eli Sutherland of San Diego suffered minor injuries.
“We pray for all of them as they recover,” church spokesman Sam Penrod said in the release. “We also express our sincere condolences to the family of Elder Smith and to all the missionaries of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission. We pray they will each feel the Savior’s love and comfort during this difficult time.”
Smith is the second Latter-day Saint missionary to die this month. A 20-year-old Nigerian serving a mission in his homeland died on New Year’s Day, the church reported, after a “sudden health episode (unrelated to COVID-19).”