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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Sandy, UT

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!

Plano, TX

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".

Nashville, TN

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.

Nashville, TN

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.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

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.

Salt Lake City, UT

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

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.

Layton, UT

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.

Mount Pleasant, UT

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.

Aliso Viejo, CA

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.

clearfield, UT

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.

clearfield, UT

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.

Salt Lake City, UT

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.

Ogden, UT

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.


"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.

Mount Pleasant, UT

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.

Aliso Viejo, CA

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.

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