Missionary safety survey results help prompt changes

Following last year’s online survey gauging personal-safety risks for its young-adult full-time missionaries, the Church is implementing several changes to policies and procedures based on survey results and feedback.

Changes include creating a Sister Safety Committee that regularly meets to enhance the overall safety of sister missionaries, establishing a follow-up process to provide better care and support for missionaries following an incident and currently producing a significant health, safety and security training program influenced by survey results.

Feedback from the survey is also directing future changes to the Missionary Handbook.

In May 2017, the Missionary Department asked its 62,000 young missionaries to complete an online survey about their experiences regarding any past assaults, robberies, attacks, threats, sexual assaults or sexual harassments during their day-to-day operations and in their assigned proselyting areas. They were also asked if they had witnessed any such attacks or threats to others.

While no results have been released or reported on directly, the survey “painted a picture of overall safety among missionaries and highlighted areas of improvement,” said Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff.

“We are pleased to learn that an overwhelming majority of missionaries reported feeling safe within their missions, and the number of incidents was very low compared to the total missionaries serving,” he said. “Gratefully, serious threats and violence involving missionaries are uncommon, although we recognize that exceptions occur."

A second survey is planned to be conducted in areas where multiple safety concerns have been reported, with results again to be shared with mission presidents to identify potential risks in their mission areas and to help with consideration where missionaries are placed for assignment.

“Missionaries throughout the world are known for their goodness and selfless service. We greatly value their safety,” Woodruff said. “We are committed to doing all we can to understand and to improve, where needed, the circumstances of all missionaries.”

In addition to questions about personal safety, the 2017 survey covered matters of general safety in missionary residential areas, including door locks, window coverings, smoke or fire alarms and carbon-monoxide monitors.

Responses were kept anonymous, though results were tied to specific missions as well as to current and past proselyting and residential areas. If a respondent acknowledged experiencing or witnessing personal-safety risks, follow-up questions sought more detailed, specific information.