Comments about ‘Many Mormon missionaries who return home early feel some failure’

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LDS missionaries developing strategies to cope with stress

Published: Friday, Dec. 6 2013 8:25 p.m. MST

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Salt Lake City, UT

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.

Virginia Beach, Va

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.

Aurora, CO

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

Virginia Beach, VA

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?

Kings Court
Alpine, UT

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.

Houston, TX

@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."


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.

Lancaster, CA

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.

Clearfield, UT

President Hinckley was discouraged and wanted to come home early.

Glendora, CA

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.

Young Moderate
Logan, UT

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.

Louisville, KY

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

Much appreciated.


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.

orem, utah

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.

Flower Mound, TX

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.

Flower Mound, TX

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.

Potsdam, 00

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 ???

Paul J
Two Rivers, WI

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.

Brad E.

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.

Cedar City, UT

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

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