A routine gathering of 70 Latter-day Saint missionaries in Mexico turned perilous Friday when two gunmen invaded a church meetinghouse, robbing and beating some of the proselytizers and attacking their leaders.
“The robbers intimidated the 13 sisters and 57 elders, and a few were hit or kicked,” Sam Penrod, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a news release. “... The mission president and his wife were also assaulted and threatened with a knife.”
Penrod said the crimes took place during a zone conference for missionaries called to serve in the Mexico Torreón Mission, where the two assailants entered the building and demanded wallets, cellphones and computer tablets.
Police were called to the northeastern Mexico city of Torreón after the men fled, he stated, adding that all were safe and no one needed additional medical care.
“We’re just relieved all the missionaries are OK,” Penrod told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday.
When asked for additional information on the robbery, the spokesperson said he could not provide further details at the time.
“A church counselor is traveling from Mexico City to assist with emotional needs and other counseling options are also being made available,” Penrod said in the release. “Parents are being contacted by the church and missionaries are being encouraged to contact their families.”
The Torreón Mission President Alfredo Zanudo sent a message to the parents of missionaries, which was later posted on the Mexico Torreón Mission Facebook page, encouraging them to reach out to the missionaries targeted but warned many of the missionaries had their electronic devices stolen and may not respond immediately to messages.
“Please know that they have my permission to speak with you as needed to help them process their feelings,” wrote Zanudo. “We hope that you can offer them reassurance and listen to their concerns.”
In addition to a church counselor, Penrod said, a church security official, who “lives and works in Mexico that is working in the best interest of the church,” is in Torreón to evaluate the situation.
Penrod declined to comment when asked about the safety protocols in place regarding how the church responds to violence such as this. In 2019, the Utah-based faith unveiled a 12-part video series that teaches missionaries various measures on how to remain safe.
The series covers crimes against missionaries (including physical and sexual harassment), pedestrian and bicycle safety, avoiding electrical wires, safe driving, appropriate behavior around children and the proper handling of food, among other topics.
The missionaries in Torreón have since been removed from the area.
“Our prayers are with these missionaries and their families,” Penrod said, “as they recover from this frightening and traumatic experience.”