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

Return to article »

LDS missionaries developing strategies to cope with stress

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

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
G Blake
West Jordan, UT

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...

Gilbert, AZ

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.


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.

Charlotte, NC

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

San Antonia, TX

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!

Potsdam, 00

@ 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.

Sandy, UT

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.

Joshua H.
Bountiful, Utah

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.

Kearns, UT

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

Orem, UT

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).

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

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.

Orem, UT

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?

Old Jake
San Antonia, TX

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

Cambridge, MA

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.

Lew Scannon
Provo, UT

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.

Taylorsville, UT

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.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT


"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.

Mchenry, IL

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.

Medical Lake, Washington

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.

Orem, UT

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.....

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments