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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Roy, UT

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.

Salt Lake City, UT

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.

Harwich, MA

@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.

my two cents777

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.

Cache Valley-ite
Windermere, FL

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!?

Houston, TX

@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.

Vince Ballard
South Ogden, UT

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.


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.

Murray, Utah

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.

South korea, 00

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.

Virginia Beach, Va

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

Grandpa and loving it
Poughkeepsie, NY

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.


"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"

"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.

Houston, TX

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.

Murray, Utah


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.

Aurora, CO

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.


"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.


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.

Los Angeles, CA

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.

Ann Blake Tracy
Logandale, NV

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!


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."

"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?

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