SALT LAKE CITY — An email from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland led to what Korea Seoul Mission President Brad Taylor calls “that dreadful day.”
It was supposed to be a wonderful Friday. The previous week, President Taylor’s 131 quarantined missionaries had been thrilled to be joined in a missionwide video conference call by Elder Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Holland and the missionaries enjoyed it so much he suggested that he join the entire mission by video conference again the next week for scripture study. President Taylor and his wife, Sister Ann Taylor, were preparing for Elder Holland’s call on March 6 when his email stopped them cold.
You’re about to get some tough news, Elder Holland wrote. Let me know if you still want to do the scripture study.
Within five minutes, the Church’s Missionary Department informed the Taylors they needed to evacuate all of their non-Korean missionaries. The Taylors said they considered their options, then sent Elder Holland a reply email: We’d still love to have the missionaries study the scriptures with you.
The missionary companionships logged into the video conference 30 minutes before Elder Holland was to join, and the Taylors delivered the stunning news: 101 of the 131 missionaries needed to pack everything, clean out and temporarily close 50 apartments and rush to the mission office in Seoul to catch flights to their home countries. There, they were to be quarantined for two weeks and then reassigned to domestic missions.
While the missionaries tried to process the stunning change, Elder Holland joined the call. He shared a message that would resonate with tens of thousands of other missionaries the Church would temporarily send home on commercial flights and chartered jets over a two-month period, and with millions of Church members who, by the end of March, would be unable to attend Church services or the temple together.
Adversity, Elder Holland said, regularly precedes monumental life-changing events.
“Remember that God can take every mortal experience we have and turn it to our good. He is always guiding the affairs of the Church and His faithful children. He will turn all of this to the advantage of your work,” he added. “Miracles and great good will come of this for the Korea Seoul Mission. Cheerfully do all that you can do, and then watch for the miracle to unfold.”
Through interviews, reporting over nearly four months and press accounts, the Deseret News has compiled a picture of the Church’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is a story of long days and nights filled with rolling decision-making that merged information from global and local health experts with information from Church leaders experienced in both spiritual ministering and international crisis management. Those decisions have shaped the spiritual side of the pandemic for millions of Latter-day Saints around the world.