SALT LAKE CITY — An 18-year-old who surrendered a $20,000 college scholarship to serve a Mormon mission died on that mission Tuesday in Taiwan after he was hit by a car.
Elder David Smith Hampton of North Ogden, Utah, died when his foot slipped off the pedal and tipped his bike into traffic, his parents told KSL-TV Tuesday night.
The driver could not have stopped and the accident was just that, not anybody's fault, they said.
Steve and Cyndi Hampton expressed faith and gratitude for the life he had in the wake of learning about David's death Tuesday morning and said they believe he continues to serve the Lord in the afterlife.
"People might think, it's so sad his life has been cut short, his life has been ruined," Cyndi Hampton said. "His life hasn't been ruined. He had a great life here on earth, and he's going to have a great life in the afterlife. God's in charge, and we just need to trust him and he will bring us home."
The Hamptons said their family has been blessed whenever one of their four children has been serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a daughter is serving currently in Tahiti.
"I had worried that when we didn't have a missionary out any more, we wouldn't be blessed," Cyndi Hampton said, "but now we'll always have a missionary out, because he will serve. He's serving God now, just like he was serving him yesterday."
Hampton was an Eagle Scout loved by little children who was a champion of underdogs, his parents said. He was a homeschooled but graduated last spring as valedictorian of an online school, Pioneer High School in American Fork. He had earned the scholarship through Steve Hampton's work, but he had a more important cause in his life.
His parents said he was thrilled to receive a calling to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mission. He had learned Chinese in high school, and he hired a tutor to help him prepare further after he learned his destination. When he gave his farewell talk, he bore his testimony of Jesus Christ in Mandarin.
"It's like he gave his homecoming when he gave his farewell," Cyndi Hampton said. "He was so excited to share the good news of our Savior with people."
Hampton entered the church's Missionary Training Center in December, where he finally put on some weight, and arrived in Taiwan in February. Recently, he had ended every letter home with the phrase he was living by — "It is not about you."
The Hamptons have dedicated themselves to live by that saying.
"He was not there to serve himself," his father said, "he was there to serve others."
Hampton's companion gave him a blessing at the scene of the accident. Hampton was transported to a hospital but died due to head trauma and other injuries, the family's bishop, Peter Wollschleger, told KSL Newsradio.
"It's a shock to me as well as the rest of the community," he added.
"Our hearts are saddened as we share the news of the death of one of our young missionaries," LDS spokesman Eric Hawkins said. "Our prayers are with his family and loved ones as we join with them in mourning his death."
Hampton was active in speech and debate. He helped coach a junior high mock trial team and a ballroom dance team. He was close to his four sisters, and he was the one who would try anything.
"Now we don't have that adventurous one," his father said.
"It feels like a loss immediately," Steve Hampton said, "but in the eternal, in the big scope of things, we know we will be able to see him again, and that others will be able to see their loved ones again who have gone through similar situations."
The Hamptons expressed concern for the driver of the car.
"There was nothing that driver could do," Cyndi Hampton said. "He couldn't stop. He couldn't even swerve. It's nobody's fault. We feel so bad for the driver and for his family and the grief that they must feel. ... We hope they can turn to God and can feel some peace because they aren't at fault in any way."
In September 2013, the LDS Church issued a statement expressing sorrow over missionary deaths that had occurred over the previous year. It also explained how missionaries are generally safer than others their age, citing World Health Organization statistics that show approximately 205 deaths per 100,000 young people. The rate among missionaries is 1/20th of that figure.
"Nevertheless, no statistics can lessen the pain of a missionary’s passing," the statement read.