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Many Mormon missionaries who return home early feel some failure

LDS missionaries developing strategies to cope with stress

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  • whenwhywherehow Aliso Viejo, CA
    Dec. 12, 2013 2:30 p.m.

    1Aggie - in response to your question, in my son's case - my son, his mission president, the mission doctor, and we all made the decision how to go forward. Honestly, my husband and I wanted him to come home. My iron-willed son wanted to struggle on and see if it will get any better. He is very fortunate to have a great mission doctor and an amazing mission president who is willing to help him in any way. Not all mission presidents are as understanding and compassionate, unfortunately. The mission doctor did prescribe some medication - in accordance to my son's wishes. The mission president also allows my son to talk to a therapist (a terrific person that he has known all his life) at least once a week. Honestly, the therapy is helping more than the medication. It has to be one of the hardest things to watch your child be so sick and half a world away. If he decides that he needs to come home to get well, we will have a big old party and be thrilled (and relieved) to have him home. What anyone else thinks about his early return - I could care less.

  • suzyk#1 Mount Pleasant, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 5:31 p.m.

    To: My Two Cents777 - I had a horrible experience with a Stake President in Phoenix, AZ. I'll never forget the cold - judgemental attitude he had toward me - a stranger - a sister in need of compassion and received nothing. I'm still trying to forgive him but it has been the hardest thing I've had to do so far in my 67 years of life. I feel sorry for him and his lack of understanding and kindness.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 5:14 p.m.

    "I have a son still in the mission field who has been diagnosed with severe clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder"

    Who makes the decision about going home? If this were my son, I would want him home and would tell him so--encourage him to consider that option. I would hope the mission president would also be encouraging him to consider going home. It doesn't make sense to medicate our young people just so they can serve a mission. Depression can be "tricky" to treat.

  • HPeterson Ogden, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 4:19 p.m.

    As a former missionary who returned home early for depression, I'm very grateful people are becoming more aware of the issues facing missionaries. I never experienced depression before my mission, so it came as a shock to everyone. My mission president and mission nurse wanted me to go on antidepressants but I didn't feel like it was right for me. I was told several times that the majority of the missionaries were on antidepressants, as if that was the "cure" to the problem. I wish there would have been more of a discussion about the ways that I could cope, instead of just turning to medication. Since I've been home, I've been able to return to old coping methods (exercise, playing the piano, talking to family members, etc) and I have not experienced any depression. I was fortunate that I had a lot of support from my family when I came home, but I felt like I was in hiding from the public for a few months to avoid the judgment from others. Despite that, I have always felt like the Lord was pleased with my service, even though it was cut short.

  • RFLASH Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 4:11 p.m.

    I don't care what anybody says, a mission is not meant for everyone and they shouldn't push it like they do. They have always made young men feel like a failure for not serving a mission! I loved my mission and I wanted to go since I was a kid, but I have known those who should never have went. Mormons are among the most judgmental people on Earth! Everything is judged according to their beliefs and sometimes it isn't a pleasant thing to experience. Some of us end up not fitting in at all, but of course, it is our own fault.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 2:07 p.m.

    I haven't read all the hundred plus posts on this issue, but one area which I'm sure has been covered is that of worthiness. When a missionary is seen home sooner than the expected time frame, I suspect many will first wonder if it was because of some problem with morality. It happens, probably in all missions, but if a missionary returns home early, two things should happen. One, don't judge until you know all the facts, which you likely won't anyway, so just leave it to the proper authorities and don't judge. Two, don't speculate and gossip about that person and their early return, as then it is us who are doing wrong too. I suspect the aftermath at home has been the reason for many a missionary leaving the Church.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 2:01 p.m.

    My 3 Cents and USAlover

    Interesting experience you two had in one of those difficult to baptize in European countries. It was told to me that our mission president in England was told by President Kimball that he knew there were not going to be many baptisms in that mission. But that he wanted the mission president to send home Priesthood leaders. I think that took some of the pressure off of us missionaires so that we would not feel failures if we didn't get any baptisms, which some of us didn't.

  • whenwhywherehow Aliso Viejo, CA
    Dec. 11, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    I have a son still in the mission field who has been diagnosed with severe clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I laugh at the people who think that only the missionaries that are 'wuzzies' or 'coddled' struggle. That is such a blanket statement and so far off the mark. It is ridiculous to think that a person can get sick at any point during their life - but couldn't POSSIBLY get sick while on a mission. My son definitely isn't a wuzzie or coddled. We was the only one in his high school who graduated with an college associates degree before he graduated from high school and with a 4.0, I might add. He worked the entire time. He has a third degree black belt in martial arts. Before he left, he was studying in the hardest major at his university. Both his depression & anxiety come from his genetics but they were exacerbated by his own high expectations, unfortunately an abusive trainer and the fact that he is an introvert. Every day is a enormous challenge for him. He hasn't come home but if he does, I hope that he meets with love and understanding.

  • suzyk#1 Mount Pleasant, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 11:03 a.m.

    Those parents who disowned their son for coming home early should be ashamed of themselves. I'm sure that young man knew what was in store for him...bless his heart - he should have parents who were thinking of him and not of themselves and the neighbors and friends. That young man deserves to have parents who truly care. They will have to answer to Heavenly Father for their actions and choices. They do not deserve to have a fine young man like him. This is very upsetting.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 10:42 a.m.

    What if there was a way for young men to practice or try going on their mission prior to the call? I think often stake presidents and bishops don't know the kids well enough to judge whether or not they will blossom or shrivel under the pressure, or even identify ways they can improve? So they just send them hoping the best, and when they fail it's almost worse than had they never gone.

    It's such a huge change from home life. My nephew just came home early from his mission, mostly due to extreme homesickness. The whole family is embarrassed now, because they had a big party and now he slinks home in shame.

    My own mission was really hard, but I can honestly say it was the most positive change I've ever experienced in my life. I sometimes wonder were I serving today if I would even be allowed to stay and experience it, I had a lot of stuff to work through. I'm so grateful to have had understanding priesthood leaders who patiently encouraged me to come out of my shell.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 11, 2013 10:17 a.m.

    Ann Blake Tracy,

    "....I have not seen a doctor since I left the hospital dying of cancer 40 years ago. Yes I do believe prayer, priesthood, temple blessings, and laws of health can move mountains and even change DNA - they have worked wonders for me!...."
    ______________________________

    Some who suffer go to a doctor. Others seek a faith healer. The common thread is the hope for that ever elusive miracle cure that brings relief from torments. Both doctor and faith healer may over-promise and fail to deliver. I’m glad it successfully worked out for you over time. But I’ll keep a healthy skepticism of any one-size-fits-all panacea.

  • USAlover Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 10:05 a.m.

    Served a two-year mission successfully but still remember when a visiting Authority told us, "If you are not baptizing once a month, there might be something in your personal life that needs to be repented of, or corrected."

    I was obedient and hard working but was serving in a difficult European mission. I dealt with months of guilt and soul searching as to what that "personal problem" might be. Very stressful, and looking back, so totally unnecessary.

    My hope is that enlightened leaders continue to support, encourage and uplift missionaries, not drag them down with "from the hip" judgments as to why they might not be baptizing people every month.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 11, 2013 8:58 a.m.

    Just a thought to all those who have served full time missions and come home disillusioned in one way or another. I believe that nothing is a waste of time if you learn from it and it ultimately helps you discover the person you are.

  • my3cents Nashville, TN
    Dec. 11, 2013 7:20 a.m.

    I have a son who recently served. He suffered depression and was given professional counseling. The doctor prescribed a medication that made him hear voices. This was interpreted as more serious mental illness rather than a bad reaction to medication. It went in his medical file and has caused trouble for him in obtaining health and life insurance since. It was also uncovered by a prospective employer. He is deeply resentful about it. Two year with no physical affection (can't even put a toddler on your lap nowadays) and little to no rest and recreation (my son was told to wear his white shirt on P-Days if possible) are simply more than even a lot of strong people can take. FWIW my son came home and is a success with no further depression once out of the mission environment.

  • my3cents Nashville, TN
    Dec. 11, 2013 7:19 a.m.

    I worked very hard while on my mission 35 years ago. It was in a very low baptizing European country. The constant message was that our lack of success arose from our unwillingness to work hard enough and to be willing to keep all the rules "with exactness." I stuck it out two years, but still feel a sense of guilt and failure. Yet, I would go again if called.

  • rlsintx Plano, TX
    Dec. 10, 2013 6:58 p.m.

    Members need to be civil and supportive toward these young people who return home "early". You never know what was in the individuals life circumstances, their mental state and how they dealt with the physical stresses or the emotional expectations from external and internal sources.

    I came home in 1976 early. I've never gotten past, or over the social stigma. I've remained active in the church, served in bishoprics and other callings. After a divorce 10 years ago at the age of 47 I met a lady and we had great communication and socialized for several months. When she found out I'd come home early, she broke off our relationship because she'd never marry someone who wasn't a returned missionary. And, all 3 of her husbands had been.

    It helped me move forward, if nothing else. And, the golden rule, "rulz".

  • milojthatch Sandy, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 6:12 p.m.

    I was one of these missionaries. I left for my mission in February 2003 and came home in April of that same year as a result of health issues. I can't even begin to list all the pains and challenges I faced mentally after I got back home. In fact I didn't really get past it (enough to move on with my life anyway) until earlier this year. It has plagued me, tormented me, and driven me mad for the last decade.

    Despite all of that, I still believe in God. For me it was never a question of does He exist, what I grappled with was does He love me? I can now say, "yes, He does," but it took a while to get to that point.

    I believe that God runs this church, and that includes how the missionary program is run, so I won't question that. What I will say however is that individual members need to be there as a friend to these missionaries that come home early. Avoiding them at all is a bad idea. Give them space at times, but be there when they need to talk. It goes a long way!

  • Allen Salt Lake valley, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 5:47 p.m.

    @Truthseeker2 "A majority of missionaries come from UT and ID. Is coddling a common problem in these states?"

    I think that any boy or girl who goes on a mission without wanting to go is being coddled. No missionary should go unless he or she really wants to go. If the person doesn't want to go, the family, ward, or other social groups should do what they can to help him gain a desire to go. I think that bribing and social pressures are not the way to have this influence.

  • Justmythoughts Provo, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 4:49 p.m.

    While serving in Switzerland, I had a companion who was just miserable. He was so homesick and unhappy. I did all I could do to help him see the good in everyone and everything. It was exhausting. I loved him dearly but he eventually decided to go home. It was a good decision for him. I am not one who thinks all young men should serve. It truly needs to be an honest desire and it makes life so much better for companionships if both are fully engaged. He wrote me later thanking me for being so good to him and then stated that he regretted going home.

  • Truthseeker2 SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA
    Dec. 10, 2013 4:37 p.m.

    re:LDSLiberal
    ?????
    Often I agree with your comments, but you're inserting strawmen here.

    Unreal expectations?
    Such as: "it was the best 2 yrs of my life,"
    Without EVER discussing the reality of the mental, spiritual, emotional and physical trials and tribulations. Or, the fact that despite the many church meetings and lessons you've sat through where someone spoke of a miraculous event, (everything from finding a lost diamond ring to being cured of cancer) reading the scriptures, following the commandments and constant daily prayer may not cure/fix/alleviate your suffering.

    Insert straw-man arguments.
    What does "no child left behind" have to do with missionary work?
    Who says or is teaching that "everything bad in life is due to some "chemical imbalance?" or that those who suffer from chemical imbalances don't have to learn and grow?

    I would agree if anyone is "bribing" their son/daughter with a car in order to get them to go on a mission that is seriously screwed-up.

    A majority of missionaries come from UT and ID. Is coddling a common problem in these states?

  • desert Potsdam, 00
    Dec. 10, 2013 3:50 p.m.

    @ defender TWIN FALLS, ID "My my, we sure have a lot of " arc steadiers" here. I'm always amazed at how many people want to council the brethren on how to run the Lords church."

    If you noticed to evolve into more complex understanding, we must have time to exchange opinion. How would Moses have loved it, after coming down from mountain high having talked to the Lord, that his people would have had interest in the plates and pondered about their meanings.
    The Brethren too have to study things before they can ask the Lord, see DC 9.

    If we could cut out the flow of thoughts about this gospel, we would deny our faith, that is to rely on our gifts to develope devine understanding and meaning. We would be left in the dark. You misunderstood Alma 32.

    If I could help missionaries to understand that blind work on their missions is just 1/2 half of the deal. To reach out to people, you must come to understand people.
    That all requires deep thinking and communications with others.We are seeking truth, not to tell them how to run anything. Understanding people takes out all stress.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 1:32 p.m.

    I sometimes wonder if all the coddling and "positive re-enforcement" these kids have grown up with:

    No child left behind,
    My little Johnny wouldn't do that,
    and
    bribes of "I'll buy you a car when you get home"...

    Along with the lies that it's not "them",
    that everything bad in life is due to some "chemical imbalance",
    and not as a learning or growing experience...

    sets these kids up for unreal expectations.

    And NO,
    We are not a bunch of cookie-cutter Mormons.
    not everyone is cut-out to be a Missionary,
    and not everyone is cut-out to be a prociliting Missionary.

    The church used to send "Missionaries" out to settle towns, go to medical schools, and even grow silk worms.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    Dec. 10, 2013 12:49 p.m.

    I spent 20 months of my missionary experience in a leadership position. Including 8 months in the Mission Home.
    You cannot imagine when you watch 165+ elders from the vantage part I had what problems they deal with. If I went into detail I couldn't get it past the editors.
    Needless to say, a mission sometimes, for some young men isn't what it's cracked up to be.

  • CBAX Provo, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 11:21 a.m.

    Missionary schedule is terrible.

  • USAlover Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 11:03 a.m.

    If you don't understand "anxiety" and "depression", just keep your opinions to yourself on the subject and count your blessed stars. It's real, mostly genetic, treatable but, at the time, devastatingly difficult. Some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and successful people in this world have struggled publically and privately with these illnesses.

    The next generation of Mormons are going to deal with this issue better than previous ones. The whole notion that the Gospel is "doing more, never saying 'no' to an assignment, perfection in this life,sin is always shame, life is always black and white, obedience only saves me, there is only one way to live a life" is slowly giving way to more "awareness, compassion (including self-compassion), saved by grace after all I can do, and mortality is not a constant emergency" way of doing things.

  • frugalfly PULLMAN, WA
    Dec. 10, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    Missions are challenging, demanding, and relentless. Missions are a blessing because they prepare for college, marriage, family, and professional preparation. A mission is a way to help a young person adapt to what life is about. God made this mortal probation tough. It was meant to try us to our very limits and give us intense and purifying experiences. It was meant to help us use our agency to come to God. A mission isn't for everyone but if you want to have an experience that helps set a positive pattern for the rest of your life, a mission has few comparable peers in helping a young person. Mental toughness and endurance are key characteristics that come from knowing one has been through tough times and has kept it together. We aren't born with that kind of toughness. We have to live and prove it to ourselves that with the Lord's help we can do anything. We can't shelter kids any more. Today's world isn't easy. The pressure is getting turned up. What if we have another great depression or world war? Who will fall apart? Who will survive?

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 7:32 a.m.

    When I struggled and even "hated" my mission,
    I remeber chalking the days in my mission journal.

    I felt like I was in "prison", marking the time.

    Then - one day in my reading --
    I found comfort by the words of the great missionary Paul, the Apostle...

    Are we not prisoners in Christ?

    It changed EVERYTHING,
    because I felt like Paul was writing the very same same thing in HIS mission journal.

    The miracle was that was the key that I needed that unlocked my heart, and changed my whole attitude.

  • mominthetrenches South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 10, 2013 2:51 a.m.

    So many happy and sad comments here. I served a mission in Korea, where it was very difficult at times. I didn't realize how much so, until after I came home. I had two companions and a District Leader who were cracking up and I was sent to babysit, somewhat. Pretty sure they would have come home with the guidelines of today. I definitely saw first-hand the reality of people who were mentally unstable/stressed out. It is a real thing--they were hard workers, but didn't know how to cope for different reasons, with very little compassion or understanding from a native mission president who was just doing the best he knew how. A mission is not a place to gain a testimony (as it was when I was out)--it is physically and emotionally taxing; along with our additional understanding/knowledge of various conditions. Such a fine line between a kid who has been coddled his entire life vs someone with a legitimate illness. I would never presume to know the difference. Pretty sure our job is to welcome, love and support all and let the Savior and the professionals do the rest!

  • earthquakejake Logan, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 12:36 a.m.

    I served a mission, however, I wish I would have stayed home and continued with college. I didn't want to go in the first place but ended up going because of extreme family pressure. I developed a depression as a missionary and it carried over when my mission ended. It got to the point where I attempted suicide about 18 months after my mission. I'm doing well now though. I'm happy, active in the church, hold a calling and have great ambitions in life. I don't believe missions are for everybody and strongly object the idea of pressuring someone to go. I was an obedient missionary and held leadership and training callings throughout. The mission just did more harm for me personally than good.

  • Ann Blake Tracy Logandale, NV
    Dec. 9, 2013 11:52 p.m.

    RE: andyjaggy

    You quoted me: "...when it even led to followup articles titled "When God is Not Enough!"? And I have been suffering the delusion my whole life that God is always enough! Silly me! Instead we apparently need antidepressant drugs which prevent us from feeling the Spirit, rob us of our souls, then lower the level of consciousness leaving our bodies to exist in a Zombie state until death comes!..."

    Then you asked: "Do you believe that God is enough that you never need to go to the doctor for illness?"

    I have not seen a doctor since I left the hospital dying of cancer 40 years ago. Yes I do believe prayer, priesthood, temple blessings, and laws of health can move mountains and even change DNA - they have worked wonders for me!

    "...people often forget [depression] is a physical disease just as much as a broken bone."

    Yes, I wrote a 500 page book about depression being a physical illness, usually hypoglycemia or thyroid malfunction. Tragically both are side effects of antidepressants! No wonder research now indicates antidepressants cause long term depression! Forget the low serotonin = depression. Instead it is low serotonin metabolism = depression. Terrible Mistake! Huge Difference!

  • eax3 slc, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 10:13 p.m.

    Being a sister missionary that returned home very shortly after leaving, I can testify to how immensly hard it is to coming home early... It was quite possibly the hardest thing in my life, and somehting I think about daily, whether I could have done better, done something differently, of if I did something wrong which lead to my outcome... A lot of the time I think about those questions, neverending and never come up with a real answer... It feels devastating when others talk about there missions and when I think of mine, I feel a little bit left out... I do not want to share, I do not want to think of that time, I have no desire to go to reunions, it honestly was the hardest part of my life, that I never want to relive, as selfish as that sounds...Not many people understand this experience unless they themselves have gone through it.

  • wiseacre Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 10:11 p.m.

    Is it easier for a prospective missionary to decide not to go on a mission or go on a mission and come home early? Unfortunately, the stigma remains for those that do not serve or come home early---"what did he/she do"? Being the father of two boys, one already eligible to serve, but still in high school I often ask myself why did I go? I went in the 80's and I feared more the disappointment of others thinking of "why didn't he go" than for my own purpose. With that said, I hope my boys are strong enough to decide what is good for themselves and not others. Go if you want, don't go for others.

  • defender TWIN FALLS, ID
    Dec. 9, 2013 9:20 p.m.

    My my, we sure have a lot of " arc steadiers" here. I'm always amazed at how many people want to council the brethren on how to run the Lords church.

  • Sister B Mesa, AZ
    Dec. 9, 2013 9:12 p.m.

    I really appreciated this article and can definitely relate. Thirty years ago I returned early from my mission after serving only only 6 months. Mental health was the reason and it took several months of treatment before I was functioning again. I of course felt like a failure and struggled with feelings of guilt. As the article stated, I felt compiled to plow through & finish college since I hadn't "finished" my mission. Even though my family and leaders counciled me to wait until I was more healthy, I pushed on, and struggled, then failed one of my semesters. I retook the classes and finally graduated.

    On another note, I was one of the fortunate ones who was welcomed home early by friendly ward members and church leaders. They were great in helping me find a place (calling) in the ward and providing other ways for me to serve.

  • Ldsrm Spanish fork, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 8:56 p.m.

    I think there are many mission's that are not proselyting mission's

    I have many learning disabilities and was not abele to drive or ride a bike how ever I served a
    mission In North Carolina.

    I can see very many issues that serving a mission can Couse.

    I think some times we pre judge missionaries who come home early ?

    As others have perversely stated

  • peppermint4me west jordan, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 8:23 p.m.

    Once as a missionary I was going through a challenging time. I prayed about whether or not I should go see a doctor or a psychologist. I got the following response:

    No! Do not go to doctor or psychologist about this. You need to accept yourself the way you are because I do. Quit comparing yourself with others. I don't care how good you are at anything, only that you do your best. No, I will not immediately remove this challenge from you. Have patience and perserverance. More answers will come later.

  • gittalopctbi Glendale, AZ
    Dec. 9, 2013 7:59 p.m.

    Very nice article. Very informative. I loved how it ended and was so happy for Bro. Ulrich.

  • snowshoes Orem, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 7:35 p.m.

    Great article, but it missed another reason why missionary's come home. After 8 months of serving and studying, I came to the conclusion that what I was teaching was not true. Family was very supportive of my decision, but disappointed. The neighborhood, not so supportive. Curious what percentage of missionary's come home because of this reason, but are labeled as stress, anxiety, etc.....

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Dec. 9, 2013 7:00 p.m.

    Here is a prime example of actual church policy and doctrine vs. member folklore.

    There are some members, good intentions or not, who are convinced that if a young man doesn't serve a mission, or comes back early -- that he has almost committed the unpardonable sin. Then it gets worse. Even if said missionary serves the full time and comes home and is not engaged within 6 months to a year, it can be just as bad.

    It is not the 'church' or it's doctrine which causes these issues, it is over judgmental members who presume that they may pass judgement. Only Christ knows the heart and the mind of everyone and therefore he alone may pass judgement. It is our job to support and uplift everyone we come into contact with.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    Dec. 9, 2013 5:15 p.m.

    On the one hand they are adult clergy and on the other they are treated like kids, barely out of the house. It's a wonder more don't come home early.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 5:14 p.m.

    @ebur

    "This article reflects the weakness of character of the youth of this era. Not only are they unprepared, but question the commandments of God, and fail to acknowledge their own failures.
    Coming early from a mission is not justified for any reason. It is a FAILURE!!
    Young people returning early from the mission, should be excommunicated from the church for not taking the endowments seriously, and not be brave enough to defend the work of our Lord"

    -------------

    PLEASE tell us that your post was a joke.

  • wally1121 Taylorsville, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 4:46 p.m.

    My son is an introverted "nerd". It was impossible for him to be effective knocking on doors and talking to strangers. He just isn't "wired" that way. He tried, but his mission president just couldn't understand him, or make accommodations. He misdiagnosed our son as being depressed and put him on medication - which did no good. He came home after 3 months. Fortunately, our stake president DID understand our son and found him a "technical" service mission for him to serve out his 2 years. In that time, he prepared over 4000 computers for the Church Education System. By the end, he had 2 other young missionaries and 5 senior couples working for HIM!
    Not everyone is capable of a proselyting mission, but that doesn't mean they can't serve in some other way. Leaders need to understand this and make accommodations when appropriate.
    This service mission was a great blessing for our son and allowed him to land a good technical job after his mission.

  • Lew Scannon Provo, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 4:33 p.m.

    Excellent article. For what it's worth, I've found in my own life and in observing others, including two sons, that returning from a fulfilling mission to everyday life can be extremely stressful. Often there is unexplainable guilt, because you are suddenly involved in all these "selfish" things: school, dating, job, etc. The adjustment to real life can be difficult. And I'm serious about "real life." A mission is not real life. It is a strange and often wonderful reprieve from real life, where you have a well-defined and singular but temporary purpose. Real life is far more complex and perplexing. Perhaps next the Church should produce some pamphlets and programs to help returning missionaries who did not come home early make a less stressful adjustment.

  • RedShirtMIT Cambridge, MA
    Dec. 9, 2013 4:20 p.m.

    Ok people. There are some bad ideas going around here. Yes, all young men that are worthy are to serve a mission. However, there is not a commandment to serve the the minute you are eligible. Even the Church website says that each person is different and should serve when they are ready. The maximum age for a missionary to go out is 25 years old. I hate to tell some of you parents out there, but your boys may need to wait until they are 19 or 20 before they head out.

    For the missionaries that come home because it was too hard, the parents should take a look at how they raised that child. The children that get to age 18, and don't know how to cope on their own reflect the "helicopter" parenting that is so prevalent today. It is good for your kids to be out on a mission, if they can handle the separation.

  • Old Jake San Antonia, TX
    Dec. 9, 2013 4:07 p.m.

    I served the entire time and I still feel like a failure! :-)

  • Anonyme Orem, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 4:03 p.m.

    Ann Blake Tracy said, " Instead we apparently need antidepressant drugs which prevent us from feeling the Spirit, rob us of our souls . . ." If antidepressants rob us of our souls, why does the LDS Church encourage their use when medically indicated? You've seen it before, but I'll cite this quotation again from the August 2004 Ensign: “It is important to recognize that chronic depression is a specific illness that often requires intervention just like diabetes or pneumonia. Fortunately, it is highly treatable, and most individuals respond well to a combination of spiritual and social support, medication if necessary, and therapeutic guidance.” How do you reconcile your wholesale condemnation of antidepressants with Church policy which states that antidepressants are beneficial to many?

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:48 p.m.

    Full time missionaries occupy a peculiar pedestal. That’s part of the glittering allure for youth yearning to be somebody important in the world. The most wide-eyed of them are the least realistic and probably the most vulnerable to adjusting to something new and strange. Once they get into the mission field, culture shock sets in at discovering it is not at all like what they once imagined it would be like.

    Worthiness alone is an inadequate determinant for a missionary call. The vetting process that doesn’t include such crucial factors as maturity and motivation is badly flawed. It might be better administered by trained professionals rather than Bishops who in many cases personally knew the candidates since they were Primary children.

  • Anonyme Orem, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:46 p.m.

    Ann Blake Tracy said, “I did find my answer in things Father has given us rather than the things man offers us.” Ms. Tracy, please justify your statement in reference to this quote from President Faust: “Scientific knowledge . . . and the wonders of modern medicine have come from the Lord to enhance His work throughout the world” (“Of Seeds and Soils,” Ensign, Nov. 1999). Or this one: “Much knowledge has been gained since the gospel was restored to the world in 1830. As the Spirit of the Lord has been poured out upon the earth, many new discoveries have been made to help us maintain good health. Many resources have been provided to help us cure or prevent disease. The Lord expects us to use the resources available to us” (YW Manual 3, Lesson 39).

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:44 p.m.

    Good for Brother Bullock. Maybe he should have looked at that suitcase years earlier?

  • Joshua H. Bountiful, Utah
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:42 p.m.

    Truthseeker says:
    "I think we lose many young men around missionary age because of the tremendous pressure and emphasis put on serving a mission. The pressure can be unhealthy, at a time of life when young adults are just beginning to learn about themselves."

    I admire that he has compassion but perhaps he is not seeing the double edged sword he is swinging. The tip-toeing around delicate feelings and watering down accountabilities is what is creating a generation of men (Yes you should be a man by 18) who can't cope with the realitively easy life most missionaries lead. My message is to parents, wise up! toughen up your kids so they can be successful. Stop the selfish caudling. Give...your children responsiblities, make them work, teach them, love them but for heavens sake stop babying your 18 year old children turning them into a generation of mush. You are doing them, the church, you, and your country a dis-service.

  • jannjannbobann Sandy, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:32 p.m.

    I am a return missionary and so is my husband. My husband was unfortunate enough to be in the Phillipines during their civil war in 1985. Within 90 days of him entering the country, he had been shot twice (a bullet bounced off his chest) and one bullet went into his forearm, hit by a car, had his apartment broken into and had the crap beaten out of him and had a companion die in his arms. There is even more, but you get the gist.

    All his mission president told him was, "It's been my experience that bad things happen to bad missionaries." That killed it for transfering to a different mission, my husband decided that if he was such a "bad missionary" then he would just quit. He had to got through counseling for PTSD and him mom bawled for days because he was a failure in her eyes. Going on a mission is not so cut and dried as people think. A lot of responsibility and guilt are placed on these kids. I will be honest and say that we are not encouraging our daughters to go on a mission.

  • desert Potsdam, 00
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:23 p.m.

    @ mecr

    I start wondering, after having read your comment, how many more elements are being missed on this Early Returning Stress issue ? There must be many, and most comments do try to complete the picture.

    It is the same at work, or in school, may be on the road ...there are parents that have taught by example or reasoning how to have fun at work and relax in spirit at the same time.
    Since all parents have not got that ground balance, missionaries will need to learn new.

    What is the church doing to teach and help understand how to throw over board items that promote stress attitude ? If teachings promote stress, how much more stress is there ?

    First time I went to the temple, I did not want to leave again.
    Time on mission, I wanted never to stop and hoped for an extension.
    Not every one is like that.

    I was always eager to help, if we have members, leaders, missionaries that cannot help or feel for others who cannot meet expectations, then it is not missionaries who have failed,
    but those who are not acting Christ Like for them.

  • Red San Antonia, TX
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:23 p.m.

    I agree with Big Bubba. He said it well!

    We are all in this together and it doesn't serve anyone to beat themselves up with Guilt or to be judgmental about others and their situation that you clearly don't completely understand.

    Thank goodness for wise Bishops and Stake and Mission Presidents who follow the Spirit.

    I think every Church Handbook I have ever read says to follow the Spirit.

    Unfortunately there are unwise people in all callings that give in to their Human idiocy and do and say silly things. When that happens we all need to stick to the Gospel Plan of Love and patience and following the Spirit.

    It is a simple plan but when we choose to follow it then great things happen.

    Let's all make this world better by not being so critical of each other.

    Missions can be a very rewarding experience, but by no means is it the only way to serve others.

    If you are self serving then you are part of the problem. Go repent.

    If you are a stingy scrooge with your money then go repent and help someone!

    Let's all have a great Christmas!

  • ebur Charlotte, NC
    Dec. 9, 2013 3:10 p.m.

    This article reflects the weakness of character of the youth of this era. Not only are they unprepared, but question the commandments of God, and fail to acknowledge their own failures.
    Coming early from a mission is not justified for any reason. It is a FAILURE!! It shows lack of faith, praying and not enough character. This young generations will not be able to lead the kingdome of God, They will sucumb, will be tempted and fail to the work of evil.
    Our youth must prepare their character, and submit themselves to our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Young people returning early from the mission, should be excommunicated from the church for not taking the endowments seriously, and not be brave enough to defend the work of our Lord

  • adwight AMERICAN FORK, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 2:48 p.m.

    This is why it is important for youth to be involved with athletics/some type of extra curricular activity where they learn to face adversity. If they haven't been exposed to adversity they will find it nigh impossible to stay positive throughout what will be the hardest 24 months/18 months they will ever experience. I hate to imagine what it would have been like for me, in a country with the worst anti-Mormon oppression I've ever seen, had I not had experiences that taught me how to get through hard times and fix my own problems.

  • JohnnyAZ Gilbert, AZ
    Dec. 9, 2013 2:22 p.m.

    Great article. I found the advice for the returning missionary to take responsibility at the home ward and for the welcoming ward members to reach out to be very helpful. It is interesting how we can be prepared or ill prepared for our life experiences. PTSD? I have been home for 20 years and have dreams about returning to my mission to serve a second or third time because I was needed I am exited to jump into it again. BYU on the other hand... Several times a year I now have dreams about walking into a class mid semester for the first time in a month and being overwhelmed, feeling anxiety and hopelessness, knowing I will not be able to catch up. The first time I drove into Provo ten years after graduating I started to feel stressed and anxious, a sense of impending doom.

    Is mission anxiety becoming more of a problem or just better handled than in the past? I can’t help but think that the loss of regular and frequent affirmation youth receive through texting makes coping in missions more difficult.

  • G Blake West Jordan, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 2:00 p.m.

    There is tremendous cultural pressure to serve an LDS mission, especially in Utah. The tacit assumption is someone who doesn't serve a mission, or who comes home early, must not have been 'worthy,' which often isn't true, but it leaves them feeling guilty and inadequate. It's exacerbated when people avoid the subject and/or the young person for fear of making them uncomfortable- or worse, they avoid them because they believe they're a 'sinner.'
    The greatest advantage I had growing up where Mormons were scarce was no one had any idea what I was 'supposed' to do, so it was never an issue one way or another. We have to teach ourselves to think that way- give positive feedback and support to our kids and young adults, then allow them to make their own decisions about missions without fear of rejection or of repercussions. A young man should NEVER serve a mission if he goes only because he gets a new car as a 'reward.'
    Only those worthy AND with the desire to serve the Lord should serve missions, in my opinion...

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:54 p.m.

    Ann Blake Tracy

    ...when it even led to followup articles titled "When God is Not Enough!"? And I have been suffering the delusion my whole life that God is always enough! Silly me! Instead we apparently need antidepressant drugs which prevent us from feeling the Spirit, rob us of our souls, then lower the level of consciousness leaving our bodies to exist in a Zombie state until death comes!...

    I sure hope you haven't used the services of a doctor your whole life to help heal your body. Do you believe that God is enough that you never need to go to the doctor for illness? Their is such a stigma around mental illness that people often forget it is a physical disease just as much as a broken bone. There is no shame in seeking medical help for someone suffering from "real" depression.

  • SenoraJefe orem, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:51 p.m.

    When you fail to accomplish the thing you set out to do, it's only natural to feel like a failure.

  • Ann Blake Tracy Logandale, NV
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:36 p.m.

    RE: whatthecrap

    "Wow AnnBlakeTracy! First you pat yourself on the back about your service to Christ and then spew non-Christlike judgments about those suffering from depression."

    Since when is stating I filled a mission and it was not easy patting oneself on the back? I thought I was just stating my experience like all the other posters here so that you knew where I was coming from.

    Secondly show me one thing I said here that could be considered "spewing non-Christlike judgments about those suffering from depression." I have stated the effects of the drugs - most of those even admitted to in the book put out to peddle the drugs to unsuspecting victims of depression, Kramer's "Listening to Prozac". Even he stated clearly that antidepressants "rob you of your soul."

    I simply pointed out those suffering depression are being lied to about the benefits and the dangers of antidepressants. In the November 2010 issue of Atlantic Monthly, there's an interview with the world's leading expert on medical research, "Lies, D... Lies, and Medical Science." He estimates 90% of research is tainted/bogus via "influence by industry" then worries that medical science will not survive this overwhelming deception.

  • Kosta Fesenko Chicken McNuggetville, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:34 p.m.

    Congrats to Anne Blake Tracy on making the hands down worst comparison I have ever read on these forums. And that is saying something!

    Yes, there are incredible blessings for serving a mission. I am thankful every day for my mission. When I go to bed at night, I pray that my son will have the desire and ability to serve as well, because I know the blessings that come.

    However, the LDS church teaches that we need to love one another. Making someone feel as if they are somehow a failure because of their actions is contrary to 100% of the teachings of Christ. Christ was ALWAYS encouraging. ALWAYS the first to put his arms around someone and lead them.

    You two really ought to take a look in the mirror and honestly, its you who ought to be ashamed of yourselves. But, I believe that all of us can improve and get better and I hope that we all can.

  • mecr Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:23 p.m.

    @Sharon: your daughter is certainly one lucky girl! as you said, we wish all mission presidents were like him! I think that if the missionaries report the number of contacts rather than the number of baptisms, a lot of the stress will go away. The Lord said go preach every nation and "baptize those who accept it". Missionaries contact, teach if the person agrees to and of course, it's the person's choice to be baptized or not.

    @Neandertal: yes, most of them are that way and not only that, they expect you to be that way too. As I mentioned, my son complained because he was in pain, not because he was being lazy. He still managed not only to work under those circumstances but also to baptize people. These are too young people who still conduct themselves as they were in high school: most popular, most successful, most friendly, join to the group or you will be cast out, etc. I wonder if the training in the MTC talks about these issues besides of teaching them how to get the most baptisms they can.

  • OCDetails Taylorsville, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:22 p.m.

    I served a 2 year mission and was ready to go home about 2 months into it. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and chose on my own that I would stay. Not for anybody else but me. I wasn't bribed or promised anything if I stayed, which I know a lot of people have done. I stayed because I wanted to serve. I had a companion whose father died two weeks before he left into the MTC and he was an outstanding missionary. He served his heart out because he knew his dad was watching him. I served with an Elder who had cancer, went home for treatments, and then returned as soon as he could. My own mother nearly died of cancer while I was out, but I stayed. We are raising a generation of 'entitled' wusses who don't have any endurance when it comes to this kind of thing and we need to stop coddling them. Don't go if you aren't going to stay and get back out there if you do need to come home. Simple as that. No excuses.

  • Scott H Ogden, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:17 p.m.

    Our son returned early from his mission when plagued with physical health problems that subsequently have been shown to be intertwined with mental health issues. Our congregation has been wonderful. There have been many prayers and a great deal of good will. But our family has been pretty open about our son's issues. Most people aren't nosy; they just want to understand.

    Despite the fact that our son's condition is not his fault, he still feels somewhat like damaged goods. It can be tough when friends at school ask about his mission. Relationships with young ladies (many of whom hope to marry a young man that has successfully completed a mission) can be challenging. I'm not sure that there are any quick and easy answers to such social situations.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:16 p.m.

    The pressures are enormous on Mormon youth with expectations to serve a full time mission. It’s time to take a pause. How many missionaries in the field seeking new converts does the Church need? Does it need any at all in this era when Mormonism is hardly unheard of? The word is out about LDS belief and curiosity grows. That’s sufficient to take care of itself.

    Young people with their lives ahead of them have enough on their plates without taking on responsibility for Church growth projections. The two year commitment for proselytizing is without compensation or even a meager accrual of academic credits to offset their voluntary service. That’s getting perilously close to exploitation. This will be a growing issue that at some point down the road Church leadership will have to take stock of and do some rethinking.

  • SlopJ30 St Louis, MO
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    Every member who shoots disapproving glances and comments at a missionary who, for whatever reason, couldn't complete the job, or at someone who (GASP!) chose not to serve a mission, believes they are in the right. It's not a matter of the other person's well-being; these people cannot "approve" (or even avoid openly disapproving) of such a "lack of faith" because to do so would be a tacit admission of the weakness of their own faith. Ah, religion. Gots to love it.

    I hope my son (16) will have the good sense to eventually marry a girl who doesn't care if he did or didn't serve for two years. In other words, I hope his wife loves HIM and not the wholesome, fairy-tale Mormon ideal of The Returned Missionary that is, explicitly or otherwise, sprinkled on our daughters like fairy dust for the entirety of their formative years. You can be a great husband, father and citizen without a mission, and just havine a mission on your resume doesn't mean you'll be a glowing bastion of success and righteousness. The two are barely related, if they are at all.

  • Big Bubba Herriman, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:08 p.m.

    To all you guys (and girls) who come home early from a mission for whatever reason, I feel for you. Going on a mission is not easy, and coming home early has got to be just as tough, if not worse. My advice is to not let your mission experience define who you are. Some guys who were great missionaries go inactive or leave the church altogether, while many of those who came home early or never served become great fathers, husbands, and priesthood holders. The Lord is more concerned about where you are going than with where you have been.

    If anyone asks if you served a mission just tell them where you went. No one need know that you came home early. It does not matter. What matters is your personal progress HERE AND NOW. We love you!

  • Neanderthal Phoenix, AZ
    Dec. 9, 2013 1:05 p.m.

    The problem seems multifaceted...

    Many young people have not been out in the world enough to cope and gain the self confidence needed for the rigors of the whole new world of mission work. The age reduction to 18 could add to that problem. Also, there's alotta competition among missionaries to show who's best at speaking, learning, converting, etc. Missionaries from Utah were always considered 'high maintenance' meaning they had to look and act their best in a pompous sort of way... having their hair properly coiffed, their shoes neatly shined, their suit/tie colors closely coordinated, etc., etc., giving others from rural areas (farm kids, etc) distressing inferior complexes.

    Then, there's the encouragement: 'Lengthen your stride' (Spencer W. Kimball) which can be taken to mean... get busy, you're not producing enough.

  • markb Craig, CO
    Dec. 9, 2013 12:01 p.m.

    I am happy this is being addressed. I went on a mission because I love the church, but I was not prepared. My first HOUR in the field, My trainer took me to a meeting with an "investigator" (a member) who proceeded to absolutely destroy what little confidence I had in myself by asking very difficult questions about deep doctrine and history. With my limited knowledge, I just couldn't answer those questions. My trainer and this member thought it was hilarious. I was devastated, and felt foolish and stupid. I struggled mightily after that. Three months later I was injured in an accident. I could have finished my mission after recovery if I had wanted, but I had no confidence in myself after that and agreed to go home. I suffered deep depression for years because of how I was treated by some in my family and my ward after my return. A wonderful Bishop once told me that the Lord appreciated my willingness to serve and that the length of service is irrelevant. That helped enormously, but I still suffer depression 35 years later.

  • sharon-0791 Vancouver, 00
    Dec. 9, 2013 10:56 a.m.

    I'm grateful my daughter has a wise mission president! A few weeks ago she was feeling the stress and pressure of her mission and some issues in the ward she was serving and was starting to crack. He ordered her to take a week off of missionary work. He essentially grounded her :) She and her companion spent the week watching church dvd's, and general conference, listening to church music, studying their scriptures and preach my gospel, baking, going for walks, and being around members that were positive. Another time he required her to take a nap after lunch because he recognizes that she pushes herself so hard that she makes herself sick. These 2 things have made a world of difference and she is back to her full functioning self. I've never heard of a mission president doing this, but I hope it is something others will consider, rather than pushing missionaries who are feeling overwhelmed even harder. Of course that won't solve all of the challenges that missionaries will face, but at least they will know that their mission president cares about them and wants them to be happy and healthy.

  • jrgl CEDAR CITY, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 10:05 a.m.

    I'm not LDS, but work with a mental illness support group that writes & shares their personal stories. My heart goes out to these young men & women who were early returning missionaries as I meet so many of them along their journey to recovery. I'd like to remind the commentators that serious mental illness, often beset by psychotic episodes, schizophrenia, mood disorders strike in young adulthood. This is why Universities have counseling departments. Healthy religion & spirituality is taught in my group. I often refer people to Alexander Morrison's book Valley of Sorrow (Deseret Book), for a greater understanding & wish all LDS people would read it! Utah Department of health reports that Utah is 7th in the nation for adult suicides & 5th in the nation for Youth suicides which KSL did a great special story on. Upon hearing so many of these stories of missionaries and their breakdowns, I checked out the LDS website and found that the LDS seem to embrace the disabled even mentally disabled. I just wish each of you could walk a mile in these young peoples shoes & kudos to the research & booklet that was prepared. Have compassion.

  • mecr Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 7:27 a.m.

    My son came back early because health issues. He went under surgery two days after he came back. However, his mission president reported he had "emotional" problems. His companion reported that he was complaining too much, he didn't want to work and was taking too many pain killers. So now, I had a young man who can't understand why he has to go to LDS family services when all he wants is to return to the mission. What is worst? we, parents, cannot complain about it. We have no saying in this process. We had been put into a situation that we feel is completely unfair and we just have to obey if we want our son back in the mission. Thank goodness our testimonies go beyond these politics because otherwise, we would had been walking out of this craziness.

  • Ann Blake Tracy Logandale, NV
    Dec. 9, 2013 12:28 a.m.

    Re: Truthseeker2

    BTW I love San Luid Obispo, not far from where I served my mission!

    You wrote:

    Re:AnnBlakeTracy
    "And I have been suffering the delusion my whole life that God is always enough!"

    What exactly are you saying? That people should shun medical treatment because God is enough?

    My answer to that is yes I am saying exactly that. Why?

    You see when I returned home from my mission, after extending to a full 27 1/2 months, not many years later I learned that I was dying of cancer. Because every answer I have ever needed in life has been found through scripture study and prayer that is where I turned.

    I did find my answer in things Father has given us rather than the things man offers us so almost four decades after my cancer death sentence I am still here and very healthy! That is why I firmly believe Father has the answer for everything if we will turn to Him with all our hearts.

    And yes I do realize that belief borders on heresy in our day...sadly even in the Church!

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    Dec. 9, 2013 12:26 a.m.

    It would be interesting to know how the pressure to convert and the pressure to approach people who visibly don't want to be approached affects stress. When you're constantly forced to break social mores and you feel like a failure because you can't sell a product that most people don't want, that would certainly add to stress.
    I have heard many stories of (probably well meaning) stake presidents who berate these poor kids for not working hard enough or not doing well enough. I wonder how much pressure these mission presidents are getting from up high.
    Anyway, I feel sorry for how the church treats its missionaries. I feel sorry for the pressure they are under and how they are isolated from their families and only allowed very limited contact and how they are made by the wealthiest church in the United States to live at poverty level many times. Not so sorry that I haven't had to resort to getting a "no proselytizing" sign for my front door due to the fact that they are housed close to where I live.

  • aubrey1 orem, utah
    Dec. 8, 2013 11:49 p.m.

    The comments that bother me most are those that create guilt and shame. A mission is a very quantifiable task, either you did it or you didn't. But life is not that simple. Those that judge others failures are failures themselves. The reason I know they fail is because the scriptures say they do. We all sin and fall short. If you say you have no sin the truth is not in you. Are we not all beggars? If you were to do everything you possibly could do, serve with your whole soul, the Book of Mormon says that you are still unprofitable servants. It is interesting that often human nature is to with-hold love, usually justified by the judger who claims this person doesn't deserve mercy. Love conquers all.
    However, on the other side, hiding your weaknesses doesn't help you either. It's only when we see our weakness and humble ourselves that God can make us strong.

  • terra nova Park City, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 11:39 p.m.

    Our son came home early. While serving he was diagnosed with clinical depression. As problems mounted his mission president let me work with him as necessary for six-months prior to his early, honorable, medical release.

    He returned haven given all he could. We gently began group therapy with the kind souls at LDS Family Services. Healing came slowly. Coping mechanisms were discussed. Insights accrued. Lost ground was regained. He went back to school, got a job and serves in his ward.

    We talk often and have grown closer through the experience. I recognized many of the things he suffered as I remember my own mission. He was generally treated well by our ward. But a few (who should have known better) made it much more difficult.

    Their lack of understanding and compassion left us worn and wounded. But other quiet blessings came. Among them was a deeper understanding of Christ's astonishing plea from the cross; "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

  • desert Potsdam, 00
    Dec. 8, 2013 9:24 p.m.

    @ Cache Valley-ite

    Don't think any pressure or expectations likewise do help at all, see DC 121 !
    There is a stress type here not being mentioned at all, which causes an early break off.

    A missionary (in my view) is having tremendous power to serve and to discern,
    there are also other missionaries and members who live on their own plan and agenda through out his mission time.

    He then is expected to learn by the Spirit, but cannot comprehend at first and fails.
    Then he will accommedate to his environment and people and fails again.
    That causes tremendous stress, if he does not have a friend to exchange thoughts with.
    Most feel they need to resolve this issue on their own, or worse are not even aware of it.

    This spiritual stress keeps building up, until you are lost on it to give up.
    There is a lot of Ego on missions, we need more awareness to support missionaries in their spiritual sufferings. How the church can compensate on this one, I don't know.
    Mission presidents have all hand full, zone leaders are not experienced enough, etc.

  • Truthseeker2 SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA
    Dec. 8, 2013 8:41 p.m.

    I know several missionaries who were sent home with not insignificant mental health issues--including schizophrenia which is often diagnosed late teen, early 20's. Depression is a real medical issue, which can be triggered by situational issues in previously healthy individuals. I know of a missionary who committed suicide while in the mission field. I don't know anybody who was sent home because he/she was "weak" or a "namby-pamby." My guess is that most mission presidents err on the side of retaining a missionary than sending someone home at the drop of a hat.

    I find it amazing that somebody would compare the missionary experience to Christ's atonement. Maybe God's answer to a depressed and struggling missionary is, "thank you my son, for your willingness to serve--your mission is complete, return to your family."

    Re:AnnBlakeTracy
    "And I have been suffering the delusion my whole life that God is always enough!"

    What exactly are you saying? That people should shun medical treatment because God is enough?

  • Ann Blake Tracy Logandale, NV
    Dec. 8, 2013 7:31 p.m.

    My mission was far from easy! But it was a great learning experience which set the tone for the rest of my life. I would not give up any of my mission "stressors" that taught me so much!

    How quickly would the Savior now be rushed out of the Garden of Gethsemane and diagnosed with severe depression - suffering so badly He was bleeding from every pore?! Then that thing with the cross...that could never be permitted! Surely He should have been sent home rather than go through that! Apparently had the Savior's mission been now the atonement would not be allowed to happen!

    It appears no one is embarrassed about the article from Forbes last Spring about Utah Mormons being the highest users of antidepressants of all Christian denominations when it even led to followup articles titled "When God is Not Enough!"? And I have been suffering the delusion my whole life that God is always enough! Silly me! Instead we apparently need antidepressant drugs which prevent us from feeling the Spirit, rob us of our souls, then lower the level of consciousness leaving our bodies to exist in a Zombie state until death comes!

  • Wastintime Los Angeles, CA
    Dec. 8, 2013 7:13 p.m.

    To those of you who are implying that some missionaries come home early because their mothers didn't teach them to be tough, I would like to ask you if somebody close to you has come home for that reason. Everybody I know who has come home has done so for a good reason. It is easy to judge others from afar when you do not know the facts.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 7:05 p.m.

    @Jack
    "By the way, President Monson didn't "choose" not to serve a mission, he entered the Navy during WWII, when there weren't a lot of missionaries sent out.....you know, the war and all."

    I believe the Prophet enlisted in the military (in 1945) at age 18, served approximately 1 year (in San Diego), returned at 19, attended the U of U, and got married at age 21. I believe Neil A. Maxwell (who is a year older than the prophet) actually fought (in Okinawa) in WWII, then returned from WWII and served a two-year mission in Canada. President Monson DID choose not to serve a mission.

    @gmlewis

    Your comment that the Savior did not use sales techniques during his ministry is accurate but only highlights the contrast with today's mission program which uses modern selling techniques extensively.

  • Jack Aurora, CO
    Dec. 8, 2013 5:52 p.m.

    Reading all these comments, I am certain that there are some instances where mental issues or physical issues would preclude missionary service. Now, for the rest: they need to be mentally tough. Parents need to raise their children to be mentally tough and deal with challenges, not hover over them and deny the opportunity. Going through adversity may be tough to watch, but it is required to make a resilient person. For the parent who wouldn't "let" the 18 yr old serve...if that is how you look at it, they probably aren't ready.

    By the way, President Monson didn't "choose" not to serve a mission, he entered the Navy during WWII, when there weren't a lot of missionaries sent out.....you know, the war and all.

  • Mick Murray, Utah
    Dec. 8, 2013 5:44 p.m.

    Truthseeker

    Not sure about what you mean about the "right wing" comment. But thanks for bringing that to this discussion. I will refrain from commenting on anything "left wing" or communist.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Dec. 8, 2013 5:01 p.m.

    It is possible for missionaries to serve their missions using sales techniques, but this isn't how the Savior performed the work. He spoke truth, and said "He that hast ears to hear, let him hear." He also said "My sheep hear my voice."

    The Lord needs loving shepherds and teachers, serving in power and faith in spite of their weaknesses. The ones in the scriptures who were described as adept salesmen were laboring to weaken faith in Christ.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 8, 2013 4:29 p.m.

    re:CacheValley-lite
    "A mission is not the Lord’s Finishing School, but it is a calling as His personal emissary. If we fail at that sacred responsibility, we should feel bad"

    re:Mick
    "Especially when mommy is there to do it for them." (a common theme on right-wing talk radio is the "coddling" of children by parents).

    From birth forward, people mature at different rates--doesn't make them "bad" or "failures." People have different gifts, as well as different challenges. There are many different ways to do God's work throughout one's life.
    To define missionary work, and to declare someone a failure in spreading the Gospel, as primarily/only a 2 yr, knocking on doors endeavor is ignorant. In fact, our current prophet made a choice not to serve a mission-but to join the military instead. Pres. Monson was married by the time he was 21.

    If someone has served a 2 yr mission, and now looks at those in a judgmental manner who choose not to go or have to come home early, I question what Gospel they learned or preached.

  • Grandpa and loving it Poughkeepsie, NY
    Dec. 8, 2013 3:13 p.m.

    Thank you to Cache Valley-ite! I have been following this article, and its comments, for the past several days and wondered if I was the only one grateful to all those fantastic missionaries that have and are yet, serving their missions!
    How grateful I am for parents that encouraged me and my siblings to follow the church’s counsel and serve an honorable mission. Through many lengthy hours of after school jobs (while still keeping good grades) I learned the value of true physical and mental hard work. I see it around me as many missionaries never learned to value hard work before sent off on their missions. So, when faced with long days, and they can be long, it is more than they are used to. Perhaps it’s the parents who need to be educated, so they can teach their children, the value of hard work, whether with muscles, mental or just developing good character … and how to get along without electronic devices.
    Also agree with “Mick, from Murray” … young missionaries … mommy won’t there to hold your hand.

  • runnerguy50 Virginia Beach, Va
    Dec. 8, 2013 3:05 p.m.

    I wonder what % of male BYU students have served a mission ?

  • Hurricanes South korea, 00
    Dec. 8, 2013 1:05 p.m.

    It makes me happy to read this article in the Deseret News about Missionary work, especially with young men and woman in the Lds church. I have met and delt with alot of young missionaries in my spiritural journey with the lds church.
    Mission work at any age is not easy work, missionaries are dealing with the lost and lonely people of the world.
    Missionary /come social work with the lost and loney souls of the world is a skilled job. You have to be ready with your tools of the trade. The lds church also seem to promote this being a calling for young sisters and elders, due to health reasons etc. I belief it is a calling for a man or woman who has life experiences and maybe a qualification in the area of social work or human services. Most young men and woman in any church between 18 -23 years do not know their calling from Heavnly father(the expectional few.
    I hope the Mtc Provo Utah, does set up more intatives and programmes to help support younger men and woman deal with the real life practical situations of mission work for the lds church.

  • Mick Murray, Utah
    Dec. 8, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    Maybe we, as parents, need to make sure our children are mentally ready to go on missions. Missions are extremely hard work and take a lot of self discipline. We need to make sure our kids have worked hard and have made decisions in their own before the mission field .

    My father served as bishop and would not allow one of his members to send in his papers until he had worked in a job for a year. He was concerned that the boy had never worked or learned to work. This boy got a job and worked and also developed the needed work ethic and social skills through this job. He severed and thrived in his mission.

    There are always incidents of mental illness that need to be addressed and that should never be made light. However, kids who have been taught how to work hard and make their own decisions may stand a better chance against the high stress of a mission. Especially when mommy is there to do it for them.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 12:05 p.m.

    @gmlewis
    Missionary work is selling... period. Just because you didn't push somebody who didn't feel the need for your product doesn't mean you were not selling. Smart salespeople do not alienate potential customers who do not currently have a need for their product. If there was space I could enumerate each principle of selling (starting with prospecting) along with its counterpart in missionary work.

    @ Cache Vally-ite
    Good salespeople are among the most highly compensated people in business because talented salespeople are scarce. So to state that a person should feel bad for not being a good missionary (salesperson) does not seem right to me. More service options (like humanitarian missions) should be available for young people who do not have the "selling" personality. A One-size for all approach is seldom effective.

  • Vince Ballard South Ogden, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 11:58 a.m.

    I agonized over my decision NOT to serve a mission. This was in the 1970's when president Spencer W. Kimball said that every young man should serve one. It was just as well I didn't. A variety of stressors led to a 'nervous breakdown' over Christmas, 1974. Had this occurred in the mission field, it would have been spiritually catastrophic for me and my family. I agree that every young man has a duty to his church and his country, but not all are suited to missionary or military life. Finally, Presidents of the Church DO make mistakes. Some people need to stop deluding themselves about this issue.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Dec. 8, 2013 10:19 a.m.

    @Dennis - Of course missionary work is "selling."

    It really isn't. My job as a missionary was to open my mouth in testimony. When my companions and I tracted, we knocked on many doors. When someone came to the door, we simply said we had a message from God to give to the family. Could we please come in and share it? We didn't argue or fuss, relying on the Spirit to touch the family's heart. If they said No, we thanked them for their time and walked to the next door. We knocked on several hundred doors a day, and once or twice in a day someone would say "Yes." During the teaching experience, we would offer many silent prayers that the Lord would reveal to the family that our message was true. In some instances, the family would respond to the Spirit's witness. We taught and testified, occasionally miracles occurred, and families were converted.

    This doesn't sound like "selling" to me. We tried to Let the Holy Ghost do the convincing. Only He can make this work successful. We are just conduits.

  • Cache Valley-ite Windermere, FL
    Dec. 8, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    Goodness sakes!

    A mission is not the Lord’s Finishing School, but it is a calling as His personal emissary. If we fail at that sacred responsibility, we should feel bad (that is what Jiminy Cricket calls our conscience ...). Feeling bad is what motivates us to do better and more importantly, it prepares us for other life assignments; where the consequences of failure are much more severe.

    Today we excuse pert-near every failure, and then deprecate, or belittle success; so others do not feel bad. Of course we each have our failures that we hopefully learn from.

    I have a husband, two sons, and a son-in-law who “Returned With Honor” from waaay distant shore missions, to the benefit of many, including their families. One served in the old communist sector, just barely one year after “The Wall” came down. Talk about a very difficult mission!

    btw, to Neil T, about President Hinckley being discouraged and wanting to come home early … do you think he was glad that he didn’t?

    Certainly there are those with medical issues. However am I the only one who feels that there are tremendous benefits and blessings from serving missions!?

  • my two cents777 ,
    Dec. 8, 2013 9:19 a.m.

    As a mom of a very immature 18 year old I would be very hesitant to allow him to leave for a mission. I think some young people need a bit more time to handle the stresses of simply being away from home much less working 13 hour days for the first time in their lives. Some can handle it; some cannot. It should be up to the families, Bishop and Stake Presidency to determine which 18 year olds truly can handle missions that early. An extra year can make all the difference when leaving home at 19.
    The Stake President who shamed the young person who returned home early should have been dis- fellowshipped. He has done untold damage for many, many generations to come. He should have treated the returned missionary with compassion and love. There are many, many ways to serve missions and that Stake President failed his miserably. Shame on him.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    Dec. 8, 2013 7:50 a.m.

    @gmlewis Of course missionary work is "selling". Going door to door with a vacuum or a bible it's the same thing. You have to get their attention and "sell" them on an idea instead of a product. If you were not selling on your mission you were not doing it right.

    The entire notion of spoiled 18 year old young men that have had everything in life handed to them and putting them out on their own with a schedule, with responsibility and guilt is enough to make anyone want to come home. 18 is still the wrong age. 18 to 19 gives them time to prepare. It doesn't help much when a "ward" brands a poor young kid when he comes home early either.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 7:33 a.m.

    Article hits so many "buttons". Served a foreign mission in the early 60's, son came home after 3 months with depression and has not been active much for over a decade. A lot of the comments ring true to me. We're on a senior mission and see a lot of stress among the young missionaries with little guidance other than "obey with exactness" from leadership.

    If you draw your field missionary leadership primarily from successful professionals or business-oriented class of managers, mainly because they can afford a three year hiatus from work. And organize the presentation force along those lines, why are we surprised that some "sales" people are not successful and some potential adherents reject the message because of the packaging/marketing process, and not the content.

    We may be increasing membership through the front door, but we are loosing valuable people, our sons and daughters, through the back door of inactivity or leaving the Church. The result of perhaps not well thought-out policies on how to shepherd not quite mature young adults in a new and high stress environment of missionary work.

    A tardy "booklet" may be a first step in solving a big problem.

  • DRay Roy, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 5:21 a.m.

    Our son came home early, after only a few weeks in the Mission. Migraine headaches and and OCD issues and some kind of parasite picked up in a foreign land in spite of precautions. His Bishop made him feel like a failure, "if he only had faith, he could have succeeded" but now he had failed. A few years later that Bishop came home early from a Senior Couples Mission due to health issues. Of course his reasons were acceptable and justified to him.

    I myself fought through many issues to complete a foreign mission, then suffered Post Traumatic Stress that until this article I could not understand. The key is to follow The Plan, have open communication with others, and pray, pray, pray. I believe all face challenges of some kind or other, but the Gospel will pull us through, if we stick with the good we know and continue to seek education, understanding, show compassion for self, and for others.

    Very thankful for this article, and the comments I have read...very thankful for Courageous Saints and leaders who are honestly speaking out, working to help wounded warriors, struggling souls.

  • mattrick78 Cedar City, UT
    Dec. 8, 2013 4:24 a.m.

    Nice article. It is great that the Church is addressing these issues. A mission is very difficult, and it isn't for everyone.

  • Brad E. HERRIMAN, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 11:58 p.m.

    Great article. I no longer attend church. I was raised in an extremely strong Ward with a very religious family that always taught me that I would be serving a mission. It was all mapped out. I committed some minor transgressions before my mission. I confessed and re-confessed these sins to my bishop. Nevertheless, I would wonder if I had told him every little detail. This thought would grow until I would have to confess again. This happened throughout the first six months of my mission, until I actually had a spiritual experience in which I felt I'd been forgiven. But I will never forget the hell I went through to get that blessing answered. In the years after my mission, I found out that I was diagnosed at a young age with OCD. Had I known that, I think it might've helped me during that time. Even now, I often dream I am back in that area of my mission where I suffered for those first six months. The dream usually entails me volunteering for another two years. I so wish I had had more help during those first six months.

  • Paul J Two Rivers, WI
    Dec. 7, 2013 11:06 p.m.

    I would expect to see more psychological problems in the coming years because of younger and less mature missionaries serving now. I doubt the church really cares though, as it continues to put pressure on families to sacrifice at all costs. This will have continuing, negative repercussions for years to come.

  • desert Potsdam, 00
    Dec. 7, 2013 10:03 p.m.

    Thanks so much for this article. I am so grateful to have found such on a newspaper page, that deep that honest. Great job.

    May I say something ?

    I would like to take away from people the right to judge on missionaries.I can't, but would be nice so. They are the best, none like that have I ever seen to bless the world and the wards more.

    The fault should go with their parents, testimony and self-confidence will wipe out all tears. Youth are told to go, but if parents can't show how to relax on a mission, at the same time blessing others, these parents did not know how to prepare them.
    That is an empty teaching field, where the church could improve !

    Most of the pressure on missions don't come from being on a mission, but from their companions, each one a "better guy". That is another issue needs to be addressed.

    And last : Who is the Lord, not knowing what He is doing ? Everyone should go on a mission,
    but do we work on that relationship with the Lord first ???

  • Utexmom Flower Mound, TX
    Dec. 7, 2013 9:21 p.m.

    I think that the author of this article should receive an award for bringing to light this problem of our judgmental attitudes towards youth who deserve our support. We should be uplifting and encouraging them. I can't think of any article I have read in a very long time that is more needed than this article. My heart has been deeply moved. Thank you, Mr. Walch for writing it.

  • Utexmom Flower Mound, TX
    Dec. 7, 2013 9:06 p.m.

    What an extremely well written and much needed article. Oh, how some young men and women have suffered after coming home early from a mission. Home wards should put their arms around these youth. Most of them gave their all before returning and need our encouragement, not our judgement.

  • aubrey1 orem, utah
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:29 p.m.

    Love the article. We should teach our children that the only labor they have to perform is to look to Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches this truth everywhere you look for it. It is the purpose of the Book of Mormon to teach Jesus Christ as Savior. The pressure would lessen greatly. I worked for a Stake President who said he would rather have his son come home in a coffin than come home early. It is disgusting to warp the love of God this way, it is anti-Christ. The irony is these young missionaries are going out to teach people the good news, the glad tidings, and often they don't feel that for themselves. God is love. He is God because He loves. I told my son before he left that a mission isn't required for his salvation. It's just an opportunity. Many of the apostles and prophets never went on missions. Can we please rely on the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ? He is the only way, there is no other way.

  • Lauraloves2run SYRACUSE, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:26 p.m.

    As someone who came home 3 months early from my mission I would like to propose that there are other reasons than just not being "cut out" for missionary work that can contribute to problems on the mission. I held a full time job, was an honor student, completed a few years of college, and was successful in many other endeavors before my mission. As an over-scruplous person, being told that my success was 100% related to my faith was detrimental to me. I had more baptisms than most elders, but it never felt good enough, because I could always have more faith. Hard areas do not equal hard missionaries. That goes against everything I now understand about free agency, yet I still hear this. Also, mission presidents should stop encouraging missionaries to have unrealistic goals. Modern day missions are not equatable with book of mormon stories. I had many baptisms, but still felt bad that I wasn't baptizing like Alma at the Waters of Mormon. Blame me for being too literal, but I hear this sort of literalism often from church leaders. Thankful for Elder Holland's nonjudgmental talk on mental health this year. Many members should reread it.

  • Semi-Strong Louisville, KY
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:27 p.m.

    Thank you to Bro. Bullock for being so open and letting others see and understand his struggles.

    Much appreciated.

  • Young Moderate Logan, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:09 p.m.

    Our church puts a lot of pressure on our youth to be worthy to serve a mission. We constantly bombard them with this expectation with a special emphasis on chastity. While being worthy to serve is and should be a requirement (how can we expect to help others embrace a way of life that we ourselves do not follow), I feel that there is too much focus on worthiness. There should also be at least an equal amount of focus on the good news of repentance. It's ok to make mistakes! I think too many church members see repentance as a bad thing.

    Based on my experience and the experiences of other ERMs I have spoken with, I suspect that at least some of these early returns due to "mental illness" can be avoided by helping our youth develop a positive understanding of repentance starting at a young age.

  • morpunkt Glendora, CA
    Dec. 7, 2013 7:47 p.m.

    Bravo! It's a wonderful new world of glasnost on this subject, within the LDS community.
    This problem has definitely been around a long time, regarding mission stress. I never forgot when I was at the MTC in October of 1976. (At that time, it was brand new.) There was one large, tall, husky missionary who was in absolute tears, sitting on the curb, by the front parking lot. He couldn't handle the stress and had to go home. I will never forget it. I often wonder how things went for him, once he got home.

  • NeilT Clearfield, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 7:06 p.m.

    President Hinckley was discouraged and wanted to come home early.

  • mhilton Lancaster, CA
    Dec. 7, 2013 6:27 p.m.

    Great article and interesting perspectives. the key to assisting an ERM is to love them regardless of why they returned. I was agahst at some of the comments that I read in Sis. Doty's project from parents and mission presidents to some missionaries who came home early. No wonder dom of the ERM's try to commit suitde. It's my hope that those of us who are not in leadership will accept these missionaries home with open arms.

  • esodije ALBUQUERQUE, NM
    Dec. 7, 2013 6:24 p.m.

    It was a good thing I served in South America and the mission home kept my passport. The only way home early would have been through the mission president and at great expense to my parents. It simply wasn't an option, so I gutted out the hard times.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Dec. 7, 2013 6:18 p.m.

    @Truthseeker - I really differentiate between missionary labor and selling. Missionaries help people know the Lord and come to Him in an eternal covenant relationship. They help them gain a better understanding of themselves as eternal beings, children of Heavenly.

    Instead of being master public speakers, missionaries teach simply and in meekness relying upon powerful spiritual powers to give power to their humble witness. Their effectiveness has much more to do with prayer than skill.

    I've been a missionary several times, and the experiences were wonderful and nothing like selling. I've also been a salesman, and I was lousy at it. As President Hinkley siad, "I'll not put my foot in that trap again."

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 5:36 p.m.

    A lot of stress comes from parents who push their kids to go on missions when they don't really want to go for a variety of reasons. Thankfully I did not have pushy parents who did not raise me to feel compelled to go on an LDS mission. They knew I was a free spirit and that such a regimented life was not for me and that I had a strong disdain for "selling" things to strangers. Parents need to really learn to "know" their children and give them the latitude to make these decisions from themselves without so much of the pressure exerted on them through communicating feelings of guilt and disappointment when their children lean towards not going on a mission. For the most part, I have accurately predicted which young men would come home early from their missions in my own ward for this very reason.

  • FT1/SS Virginia Beach, VA
    Dec. 7, 2013 4:31 p.m.

    30 years ago it was not within my personality to serve a mission, and I did'nt have the testimony I have today. I knew this at the time, and it was a good choice not to go. When I'am asked if I regret it, I said no, and I don't. With my personality, and testimony today, I would be going. My wife and I have talked about going at retirement.
    I see our missionaries in my home every week. I get the chance to know everyone of them very well. I always checkup on them on how their doing. I tell them to "keep it fun", and I believe most of them do. I don't see much of a stressed out level with the majority of them that pass thru our ward. Maybe the article is referring to a very few?

  • J.D. Aurora, CO
    Dec. 7, 2013 4:28 p.m.

    The greatest stress has to be the conflict with what they have been taught for years meeting a reality that is far different.

  • runnerguy50 Virginia Beach, Va
    Dec. 7, 2013 2:19 p.m.

    We should not pressure our kids to serve missions period. If a kid wants to then fine but missions are not for everyone. This cookie cutter approach to our youth is wrong and misguided. If one of our youth comes home early I will use tips in this article to help them with the transition.

  • Danite Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 1:59 p.m.

    Am I the only one who is amused with all of the novice psychologist on this message board? Seriously though, the bottom line is missions are extremely taxing and greater preparation is needed in many cases. Some missionaries are not fit to serve and we should love and respect their efforts and desires to serve and honorably excuse them from their duty. Let's not try to delineate between lack of preparation and psychological issues when we're not psychologists.

  • Vernal Mom Vernal, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 1:59 p.m.

    Thank you Mr.Walch, for an informative article. This is a subject that we have been tip toeing around instead of addressing it. We've seen several missionaries over the years come home early because of "anxiety". A few have gone back and are doing well after treatment. When I mentioned it to my husband, that we might want to ask our missionary about how he's handling "stress", he had no idea what I was talking about. He served two years overseas, and never felt any added stress. I'm being treated for a low level of PSTD, so I "get it". I'm grateful there is help.

    estevanwalker - I appreciate your insight - very interesting.

  • sukiyhtaky us, CA
    Dec. 7, 2013 1:33 p.m.

    Cougar...you said what I was thinking as I read this article. I'm not LDS, but I have two dear friends who are in a bric and SP and the fatigue and stress I see them both go through is daunting. Both holding full time prestigious jobs and then working another 30-40 hours on their callings, I see them on the brink many times of exhaustion. How they have time for their families....well they just don't. For a church that puts such an emphasis on families, many callings are the antithesis to family friendly. I don't understand it. These are type A guys to begin with and it is akin to giving limitless crack cocaine to an addict.

  • estevanwalker Las Vegas, NV
    Dec. 7, 2013 11:57 a.m.

    While easier for mission presidents/missions to cope without the troubled missionary, it's good to see something writtent about the consequences of this looser "ship-them-back" policy that has come into effect more recently, although based on my discussions with recently returned missionaries it's now less common-place that it was 10 or so years ago (and 1% coming home early is quite good, suggesting a pre-disposition to excellent mental/physical health in those allowed to serve).
    Finally, as someone who co-wrote a study 25 years ago about missionary health, I think congratulations are due to the medical group (lead by Devon Hale of the UUtah SOM) who have created the outstanding system to take care of ill missionaries. Prior to the 1990s, ill missionaries were often simply abandoned, both in the mission field and after returning. Treatment of illness was at best inconsistent and the horror stories abundant. That has clearly changed--great job by the committee of health professionals assigned to care for the missionary's mental and physical health.

  • estevanwalker Las Vegas, NV
    Dec. 7, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    The relationship between early returnees and the raise-the-bar campaign is an interesting one. The campaign has lead to many missionaries being sent home who in the past would have been allowed to finish their missions. It almost became routine for folks to be sent home for minor mental health or physical issues earlier in the prior decade. During my time as a missionary, it was hard to get sent home, almost impossible ('79-'81). Another example of this would be noting that President Monson proudly discussing that he sent 0 missionaries home when he was a mission president. Even requesting to be sent home accomplished little--my mission president would simply say: "No, you agreed to come here for two years, and you're going to finish what you started". Given the high and life-long psychiatric burden of early returns, one wonders if the raise-the-bar campaign has tilted things to far towards sending missionaries home rather than working with them and making every effort to keep them in their missions until they're finished, even if that means less effective missionary work and a strain for their companions.

  • estevanwalker Las Vegas, NV
    Dec. 7, 2013 11:06 a.m.

    Interesting articles both here and in SLTrib today. As a physician, I once met a Utah patient that attempted suicide after returning home early from a mission and being told (1975 or so) by his stake president that he was "a disgrace to his family, his church, and his ward and stake" in front of the High Council. Unsuccessful, he was hospitalized and found to have a brain tumor--after surgery, his depression disappeared. Oddly he was helped, even his life saved potentially, by the induced suicide attempt.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 7, 2013 10:56 a.m.

    Re:gmlewis
    "A mission isn't "selling" - it is teaching and testifying. "

    Teaching and testifying is exactly what salesmen do, whether it is a missionary or someone selling vacuum cleaners. They can wholeheartedly believe in their product, and, in fact, many companies love to hire returned missionaries for sales jobs.

    (Of course it can be said that missionaries are led by God while other salesmen probably wouldn't make that claim)

    "It's not so much the people back home not welcoming... it's the embarrassment of having failed"

    I know of a very said situation where the staunchly LDS parents were not welcoming-- in effect, disowned their son when he returned home early from his mission. He has never returned to church.

  • mominthetrenches South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 7, 2013 10:36 a.m.

    I was going to say similarly to Miss Piggie's comments. There are options for service and humanitarian aid missions when kids come home for various physical/emotional reasons. I was at one of the Family History Centers and had a clean cut, young helper and asked how she came to work there. She said she had to return home early from her mission, but wanted to finish up her 18 months. A wise bishop are-assigned her there, she knew nothing of family history when she began, but was trained and was very computer savvy. I loved seeing her there and she told me she was so happy to have a way to complete what she began. I have a nephew with severe dyslexia who cannot process what he reads, and consequently is not able to fulfill the basic reading that is pre-requisite to submitting mission papers. It is nice that there are ways now that people can serve in various capacities and have a successful mission experience, whether it be proselyting or in some other way. This is a great article and I'm glad the Church is addressing this topic.

  • Miss Piggie Phoenix, AZ
    Dec. 7, 2013 9:53 a.m.

    We have an LDS Bishop's Storehouse in our area. There are four missionaries (teens) working there full-time. They apparently were unable to cope with the rigors of regular missionary work and were reassigned from their previous areas to work there. They seem to be enjoying the heck out of the work. Good for them.

  • Alfred Phoenix, AZ
    Dec. 7, 2013 9:44 a.m.

    @Dadof5sons:
    "Too many times we meaning all of us are caught up in our thoughts..."

    You're asking kids to act the part of a seasoned adult. Many adults haven't figured out how to get control of their emotions. I know some in their forties and fifties.

    "But most important to understand is to welcome those Elders or Sisters who come home early just as enthusiastically as if they served the whole mission."

    It's not so much the people back home not welcoming... it's the embarrassment of having failed. Sometimes the issue is not maturity but failure to clear the deck of past indiscretions.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Dec. 7, 2013 9:40 a.m.

    A mission isn't "selling" - it is teaching and testifying. The stress is real, but it is the stress of a teacher in a world where only a few desire to learn of heavenly things.

    The missionary schedule has scripture study built in with time for meditation and prayer. Of course, just living away from home is stressful. Young people who are already taking medication for stress may not be good candidates for a proscelyting mission, and they should be respected for that condition.

  • Razzle2 Bluffdale, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 9:28 a.m.

    The Dixie Kid, "I think a lot a return missionaries suffer from a type of PTSD"

    While I was reading this article I wanted to comment about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well. You beat me to it.

    I loved my mission, however for 30 years my wife would get anxious if the issue of missions ever came up. It was hard to do with four young men in the family.

    We have recently discovered that she suffers from PTSD from her own mission. She stuck out her full 18-months but was moved to different missions in different countries. Luckily we have advanced in mental medical disorders and are applying them into missions, school, and work. This will help a lot.

    Thank you for this article Des News.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:55 a.m.

    Maybe some people just aren't cut out for two years of intensive selling. It takes a certain personality to be a good salesperson, and attempting to be a salesman if you are not can be very stressful for some personality types.

  • Little Andy Tremonton, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:42 a.m.

    Like anything else there will always be stats.. When I was in the mission field there were a couple of Elders with a "New car" waiting for them when they got home. That two years was a long long time. Some coming home early will always happen. But I am glad there is help for these young people. Being struggling lost sheep they are in upmost need of everyones help. More talks need to be given on cleaning up our own back yards before making suggestions on others back yards.. Having laid out that there is a problem it will be more helpful to fix it. Just like a alcoholic has to look in the mirror and admit then the problem can fixed..

  • The Dixie Kid Saint George, UT
    Dec. 7, 2013 8:34 a.m.

    I think a lot a return missionaries suffer from a type of PTSD (not a serious as our soldiers of course). I have been home from my mission for over 13 years now and I still have dreams that I am back on my mission again. In my dream I realize that I am not suppose to be on my mission anymore, and the dream becomes very stressful. I have talked to many RM's who have this type of dream. I have concluded that these dreams are a result of two years of missionary stress.

  • Dadof5sons Montesano, WA
    Dec. 7, 2013 6:47 a.m.

    a few things that should be addressed. to all missionaries and would be missionaries. Is how to cope with stress and anxiety. To many times we meaning all of us are caught up in our thoughts and not in touch with ourselves or our own bodies. taking a few minutes each day morning and night to learn to meditate relax does help. Also being in good physical shape is a very big help. But most important to understand is to welcome those Elders or Sisters who come home early just as enthusiastically as if they served the whole mission. To many times I have seen were people treat a Elder who came home early because of illness as a leper or one who was not worthy.

  • wrz Phoenix, AZ
    Dec. 7, 2013 1:26 a.m.

    @Truthseeker:
    "Could it be that a greater percentage go into the mission field now and therefore a larger number leaving early?"

    Or could it be that they are going into the mission field too young/immature? Instead of reducing the age to 18, perhaps it should have been raised to 22 instead... after four years of college.

    Furthermore, training in the mission home could be too intensive. The church needs to perhaps tone the whole process down a bit so that the less capable/djusted can make a success of it.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 6, 2013 10:22 p.m.

    What percentage of LDS youth choose to serve a mission compared to in the past? I've never seen any statistics of that sort. Could it be that a greater percentage go into the mission field now and therefore a larger number leaving early?

    Did things change with this talk in 1981 by President Kimball?

    "I was asked a few years ago, “Should every young man who is a member of the Church fill a mission?” And I responded with the answer the Lord has given: “Yes, every worthy young man should fill a mission.”

  • Informed Voter South Jordan, UT
    Dec. 6, 2013 9:40 p.m.

    As a former mission president, this article is right on track. Nearly all early departing missionaries in my experience would have benefited from it. Clearly these issues are more of a problem now than in the 1960s when I served as a young elder. When I told how many left early to another mission president who served in the 1970's, he couldn't relate since only a handful left early in his experience. He made me feel like I was a poor mission president.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Dec. 6, 2013 9:36 p.m.

    Refreshing to see an article on this very important subject.

    No young person should feel shame for coming home early or choosing not to go.

    I don't believe that every young man should serve a mission. Some just aren't suited for that type of work or the sometimes extreme physical, emotional and spiritual challenges and separation from family and support systems.
    I think we lose many young men around missionary age because of the tremendous pressure and emphasis put on serving a mission. The pressure can be unhealthy, at a time of life when young adults are just beginning to learn about themselves.
    We need to grow as a church, get rid of the " cookie-cutter" and expand our borders to include a broader range of people. There should be a comfortable place in the pews for our young people who opt not to serve a mission. It is tragic when a young person comes home early and then leaves the church because he is made to feel like a failure.

  • CodyCougar Madison, SD
    Dec. 6, 2013 8:56 p.m.

    Great topic, great analysis. I wish they had one of these stress inventories and coping guides for bishops and stake presidencies.