Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sometimes reassigned due to political or social strife, such as the recent case in Bolivia, or face severe restrictions on how to carry out their work, as we’ve seen in Russia in recent years. Now we can add to the list “economic conditions,” as the Church announced it was pulling back its missionary presence in the West African nation.
According to Daniel Woodruff, spokesperson for the Church, Liberia’s deteriorating economic condition, including a lack of “adequate supplies” (gas reserves have been close to running out), has forced the Church to action. Over the next week, 23 young missionaries who were nearing the scheduled end of their missions will return home early. Eight other missionaries who had been preparing to come to the field will be temporarily reassigned to other missions. That leaves 99 missionaries in the Liberia Monrovia Mission who, according to Woodruff, have adequate supplies to move forward.
We’re far removed from the days of “thou shalt take no purse nor scrip.”
This isn’t the first time the Church has pulled missionaries from Liberia. The country endured a brutal civil war in the 1990s, slowing missionary work (and forming the basis for the movie Freetown, which chronicled missionaries’ efforts to flee the country). An Ebola outbreak in 2014 resulted in the temporary removal of all missionaries. They returned 13 months later.
Liberia is Africa’s first and oldest modern republic, having been settled by freed slaves at the encouragement of the America Colonization Society. Its capital, Monrovia, is named for U.S. president James Monroe. The country his home to over 13,000 Latter-day Saints across 48 congregations. Temples are being built in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. The West Africa Area of the Church, a hotbed of missionary activity, welcome its 100th organized stake in 2018.