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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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desert
Potsdam, 00

@ 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.

terra nova
Park City, UT

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."

aubrey1
orem, utah

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.

moniker lewinsky
Taylorsville, UT

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.

Ann Blake Tracy
Logandale, NV

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!

mecr
Bountiful, UT

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.

jrgl
CEDAR CITY, UT

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.

  • 10:05 a.m. Dec. 9, 2013
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sharon-0791
Vancouver, 00

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.

markb
Craig, CO

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.

Neanderthal
Phoenix, AZ

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.

Big Bubba
Herriman, UT

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!

SlopJ30
St Louis, MO

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.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

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.

Scott H
Ogden, UT

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.

OCDetails
Taylorsville, UT

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.

mecr
Bountiful, UT

@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.

Kosta Fesenko
Chicken McNuggetville, UT

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.

Ann Blake Tracy
Logandale, NV

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.

SenoraJefe
orem, UT

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

andyjaggy
American Fork, UT

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.

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