2 LDS missionaries robbed at knifepoint in Russia

Posted at 9:28 PM, Feb 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-17 23:28:14-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two Mormon missionaries, one from Utah, were robbed at knifepoint in Russia over the weekend. Several local LDS missionaries shared their own experiences with Fox 13 of trouble in the former Soviet.

The two missionaries were with a man they had met for a teaching appointment; turns out they were duped. They're doing fine but as several returned missionaries told us getting mugged in the former Soviet Union is a common experience.

"I got a phone call from my husband, of course when you get a phone call that starts with Kamron is OK you're a little bit concerned," said Kimberly Call, the mother of Elder Kamron Hunter Call, who is serving an LDS mission in Russia.

The Moab missionary and his companion, Elder Jeffrey Alan Owen were taken to an ATM machine, ordered to take out cash and give it to a man they thought was someone who wanted to learn about their faith.

"I asked him how he felt as it was happening and he said ‘mom we were afraid, we were frightened,’" said Kimberly recalling a conversation she had with her son after the incident.

The two missionaries are fine but Chris Hair, who just returned from serving a mission in Ukraine, said their story seems more violent than usual.

Hair never experienced any trouble in the former Soviet Union but Scott Peterson did. He too served in Ukraine, where he and his companion were mugged.

"He let go of me, I kind of broke free and then he grabbed my companion and punched me in the stomach and then he turns to me and wanted some money so I just gave him my money," Peterson said.

It was a different scenario for Derrick Copling who also just came back from Ukraine.

"The first time was just this last summer happened in the middle of the night,  in our apartment, I'm a pretty heavy sleeper, they came through the windows and took our things, our money, our cameras," Copling said.

Copling had another run-in the week before he came back home to Utah. Someone threw tear gas into his apartment.

"I didn't tell mom about that one until I got home," he said.

The Church's number one priority is a missionary’s safety.

Despite trouble finding him during his mission, Peterson thinks missionaries in Russia are safer now than ever before.

Hair was asked if safety protocol should be reviewed by the LDS Church.

"That's a tough question,” Hair said. “I think the church is pretty concerned about safety of their missionaries. We are taught places to avoid, we're taught we shouldn't carry too much money, but just enough in case we are robbed we give it and be OK. I'm not sure there's really much more that we can do but perhaps reviewing these safety plans would be helpful so these missionaries know what to do."

The LDS Church did release a brief statement in regards to the incident in Russia, saying the two missionaries are OK.