Called to serve: Finding hope and opportunity for early returned missionaries

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  • Marfol1998 Woods Cross, UT
    Feb. 26, 2019 8:23 p.m.

    Hello all! I've seen a variety of comments on this article some of them negative and without compassion while others very compassionate and supportive. Coming from one of the missionaries who was interviewed for the interview I am quite saddened to see some of the responses. Yes anxiety is life stress and normal however there is a form and level that prohibits daily activities causes me to have panic attacks where I can't breath or gain composure over myself, my hands start to shake and i feel like I'm dying, causes me to lose my appetite and feel sick to my stomach constantly no matter what is going on in life. After I returned home I received a letter from a woman I had briefly met on my mission, she wrote that she could tell something was amiss in me but couldn't figure out what it was, sadly I didn't know either but I knew something was off inside. so please don't be quick to judge when you may not fully understand the depth of someone's struggle. Depression and anxiety disorder, or any other mental illness is honestly a tough battle but it's also not impossible to live with. We don't know what God has in store for each individual and their path may be different than the norm

  • Sad Day Indeed Fullerton, CA
    Nov. 27, 2018 2:15 p.m.

    "Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men."
    General George S. Patton

    Could not be more true today. What a sad state our children are in due to sappy soft emasculated fathers who pass out trophies to all. Our future is doomed.

  • The Caravan Moves On Enid, OK
    Nov. 26, 2018 3:37 p.m.

    In my opinion, "anxiety" is just another word for "weakness". I know that's a harsh thing to say but the world does not just hand out milk & cookies on a silver tray at all times. Sometimes life is hard, even excruciatingly hard.

    The first 3-5 months of my mission was, quite frankly, painful, but I survived. I was homesick, struggling to maintain confidence of previous revelations which I knew to be true, working to cross the bridge between being a teenager & a young adult, trying to learn about & get along with a (previous) perfect stranger known as a "companion", etc.

    To say it was merely tough would be a huge understatement.

    But I learned from it; I grew. I would not be the successful person I am today unless I had an opportunity to struggle, to fight, to work & to win.

    I honestly believe that a massive portion of these missionaries who come home early due to "anxiety" are simply just weak & they will always be weak until they face their challenges and begin to work to solve their problems, not running away. In my own ward here in OK there have been at least 3 missionaries who came home early due to "anxiety". I'm not buying it; they just quit.

  • Petunia56 83686, 00
    Nov. 26, 2018 10:39 a.m.

    The best thing to do if a missionary comes home early is not to judge them or their parents. I have seen many young men come home early and right away they are judged and talked about. I know that our Heavenly Father would not want this to happen to these young men and women. Notice the word "young". Some are freshly our of high school and they make the choice to go on a mission without thought that they are leaving home for the first time, and just not to go on vacation but to be away for 2 years. Many of our young people are ready for such a thing but some are not. If they come home early, there are many ways for them to serve the Lord and still talk about the gospel. We are all to quick to judge them and I for one will not. I know that Heavenly Father still loves them and not every young man or woman is mission material. I pray for these young people in this article will find hope and know that they are still loved and that their parents will be loved as well.

  • Mishmom Genola, UT
    Nov. 21, 2018 12:24 p.m.

    When my son was sent home from the MTC with the label of "Separation anxiety", why wasn't there someone there to "serve" him? He was only there 3 days, and they stuck a label on him, no previous signs of anxiety ever before. He had been very active in high school, an Eagle Scout, gone on school trips to other states, performed vocally in front of large groups of people. Yet, all of a sudden because he was a little scared and overwhelmed by the MTC, he had a mental health issue. Again, could not someone at the MTC have "served" this young brother in that first week--allowed him to play a little more basketball, or get some fresh air, or something? When we serve in the nursery, or primary, do we not do whatever we can to help the children adjust to the idea that they will be safe in our care until their parents return to retrieve them? This young man is no longer active in this church because he feels stigmatized by the Lord and members of the church. This is a huge problem! Do our missionary guidelines really have to be SO strict? Recently, I have learned of many Sister missionaries reporting an absence of their menstrual cycle during their missions.

  • BlueMoonOden Hinckley, IL
    Nov. 19, 2018 11:05 a.m.

    As I read the posts, most appear to be sympathetic to the feelings of these missionaries that do not finish. However I am dismayed to see posts that are of the opinion young men are not as tough as they once were and that they have to learn to get over their "problems". These missionaries face continued rejection day after day. Being brought up in an atmosphere where the Church is a big part of your life and then going to countries where people don't want to ever hear the words God or Jesus. The psychological impact can be devastating, especially for young men who have never left Utah. And then to come home only to be shunned by family, members. leaders, etc. It can be a cruel and devastating process. Jesus taught Love and Understanding, not hate and fear.

  • Scott1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 19, 2018 9:09 a.m.

    WI_Member Appleton, WI said:

    "The authors of the article seem intent on deflecting responsibility for this problem away from church leaders and onto the members/culture. As others here have pointed out, the culture is largely driven by leaders and they have power to change it if they wish."

    Very well said and worth repeating.

  • SomeClarityPlease Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 19, 2018 12:46 a.m.

    Gee, this is a real head scratcher.

    Teenagers transition from a life of school intermixed with watching TV and movies, dating, listening to regular music, and spending time with their family and friends . . . all to a very different life.

    This teenager as a missionary now has minimal contact with home. I was expected to work every day from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm 6 1/2 days per week, including holidays, for 2 years straight (which to a young person feels like 5 years). That half day was for writing letters, doing washing, grocery shopping, and whatever else needed to be done. We were doing well to get in a couple of hours of sports. The senior missionaries had much more lax rules including being able to travel.

    I can still hear the MTC president in the late 80s in his dramatic voice saying to the thousands of missionaries listening "Elders and Sisters, if you are not completely obedient to the mission rules, you will be under Satan's power!"

    I cannot understand (sarcasm) how anyone might feel anxious from all of this.

    For the record, I served a very honorable mission, but can easily understand why many might struggle. Let's not ignore the obvious.

  • The-Antidote Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 16, 2018 12:47 p.m.

    It seems to me that hiding behind "It's Just Culture" makes it very difficult to get beyond the perfectionism that leads to so much despair. I would hope the doctrine could focus on more of a long term perspective. Instead of achieving your celestial salvation within the first 25 years of life.

  • Ms.W South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 16, 2018 9:08 a.m.

    Young people going into the mission field are leaving behind social media, iphones etc... they are a generation of texters who do not know how to communicate with people one on one effectively. Communication is a learned skill and when you go out into the world without those skills of course it will create fear, anxiety and depression. Before iphone's and social media, anxiety and depression were not as prevalent in youth as what we are seeing now. There is a connection here.

  • Donald Johnson Northern, MI
    Nov. 15, 2018 10:06 p.m.

    In a nutshell, the young people have pride. When they return early, they feel ashamed, embarrassed or judged. The article's solution is to reinterpret the gospel to reduce the achievement pressure and call for non-judgment. However, that's not the real solution. The real solution is to remove the pride, for the young returnees to worry less about what others think and only what God thinks. That's the real solution. That's the gospel solution.

    The pressure to achieve and keep commandments and commitments won't change. The problem is pride and coming to terms with our imperfections. It's a tale as old as time.

  • outofstateperspective Santa Barbara, CA
    Nov. 15, 2018 9:49 a.m.

    Thanks for a thorough article! I work with college-aged young adults, and anxiety is a real thing, and can be debilitating. I'm a devout member of the church, but I am very concerned about the pressure 18-year old young men feel to serve right out of high school. This is NOT a church pressure, but rather a cultural pressure and an expectation that I hear is very prevalent in Utah. The official change in mission age is not a mandate, but rather an option, and was put forth as a way for each individual missionary to choose what would be best for them. Leaving right out of high school may be right for some, but it's not a one-size-fits all. My son attended one year of college before leaving, and when he got to the MTC was surrounded by all "right-out-of-high-school" Elders, who were beset by extreme homesickness as this was their first time away from home. Missions can be intense and difficult, and I would like to see a more individualized approach as to when it's best to serve (instead of automatic pressure to leave the second someone turns 18, or for girls 19). Preparation and timing are key (and very individualized). Let's give these kids a fighting chance to succeed!

  • RiDal Sandy, UT
    Nov. 15, 2018 7:45 a.m.

    So it is very stressful for missionaries to be sent into modern culture.

    But ask yourself "Why were the stories of the Bible the ones selected to be included in the Bible?"
    Imagine what it was like for Lot and his family, living in the city of Sodom.
    These stories were selected because they represent the continual problems of people who are attempting to be "good" and are forced to live in a corrupt, secular culture.
    They also show that there is hope and justice in the end. This is intended to give the strength needed to endure a little hardship. Surely very few have it as hard a Lot (or Jonah, etc) in modern culture.

  • BWM Howell, MI
    Nov. 15, 2018 6:20 a.m.

    I will confess up front, I am not Mormon; perhaps my thoughts are not welcome. I came across this article in a religion news feed. After reading it, I realize this mission issue is a HUGE part of being Mormon. But I was scratching my head after reading it, wondering if the quotes below from the article sound like Jesus. Simple question, I realize. I also know from my own religious background how quick we are to defend our practices and beliefs. The author quotes Elder Holland, who refers to the mission practice as a “modern invention.” It is a big part of Mormon culture but it is not a scriptural “thus saith the Lord” as currently practiced. Something is amiss when so many feel so pressured and experience such tremendous guilt and shame. From the article... “... a normal missionary schedule, which requires that you work for 12–15 hours a day, including studying for 2–4 hours a day, walking or biking for up to 8–10 hours a day, and so forth?” And this.... "They’re up at 6:30 a.m., in bed at 10:30 p.m., with language study, proselyting instruction, compulsory exercise and gospel devotionals in between. There’s very little downtime." Again, I would ask… Does this sound like Jesus?

  • LiveNLetLive Bakersfield, CA
    Nov. 15, 2018 12:08 a.m.

    How does an article like this register the reality that this is not about an amorphous mass. It is about real, one on one, people.
    I wish there was a fun house mirror that allowed leaders to experience an overwhelming attack that lasts months with no respite. An attack that fogs your mind, buries you in vertigo, cramps your heart and freezes your breath. An attack that refuses to respond to reason. How do you pray when the words will not form in your mind? How do you study scripture when the words refuse to be assembled into thoughts?
    Calling it an anxiety or panic attack defames the sufferer. Calling it a weakness ignores the effort it takes to hold a job, support a family, pay bills, attend church, serve in a calling, keep breathing, pay an honest tithe and other offerings.
    I guess I simply do not understand how to “have faith”.

  • Delta Man Pleasant Grove, UT
    Nov. 15, 2018 12:01 a.m.

    I went to a RootsTech session about Missions and Genealogy a couple years ago. There was session by a Sister RM returned from a mission to Denmark. While there, she was in a pilot program on Family History for regular missionaries. She said the regular mission was difficult. To even say Jesus or God to Danes was swearing. Like the "N Word" On the pilot program they asked about peoples grandparents etc. and were welcomed often.
    Is this being explored further? Those that are interested in the "Spirit of Elijah" are excellent investigators. Look at the interest in genealogy. It is around the 3rd largest hobby usage of the internet. etc is making $ Billions. Family History is part of the 3 fold mission of the Church. Presently investigators interested in genealogy are referred to ward family history leaders who have a huge range of skill and availability. If the missionaries gathered some basic info, they could forward to organized researchers [service missionaries? ] look up family trees and stories. Then have the missionaries bring that back. Also get them out to Fam Hist Centers etc.

  • DonBeto Mesa, AZ
    Nov. 14, 2018 11:12 p.m.

    Looking back on my mission, I'd say the biggest asset I had was not being 18 years old.
    I took 2 years off and worked full time and then went on my mission at 20 and handled missionary life well. If I had gone at 18, it would have been very difficult.
    There was a missionary in my mission, let's call him Elder C, who entered his mission at the normal 19 years. He was an extraordinary missionary, warm , kind, funny, and dedicated, (he was also a state champion in wrestling). He would have been fine at 18. I am more typical, just a normal guy and 18 would have been terrible for me.

    In my opinion, the lack of maturity is the #1 problem. There needs to be a cultural shift against going at 18 as a "badge of honor". I understand the negatives of that extra year, but I am confident that there needs to be a cultural shift in attitude, and to not have the pressure to go at 18.

    Bishops are on the front lines and they need support on this from higher up the line. Start easing the age of going back towards 19 and there will be a significant drop in the number of missionaries coming home early. Let the Elder "C's" of this world go at 18, the other 85% of us should go at 19.

  • Orvis3w8 Kaysville, UT
    Nov. 14, 2018 3:20 p.m.

    I’ve read a lot of comments about how fragile missionaries are today, and I think it’s unfair. In fact, that kind of mind set contributes to the problem. I wonder if we shouldn’t be working smarter, not harder, when it comes to missionary work. For example, does it really make sense to send a young person for two years when the likelihood of success is so small? Doesn’t make sense to use that time for something else, like education, or strengthening a testimony here at home? The goal should be to keep a person active for life,, not just for a two year mission.

  • worf McAllen, TX
    Nov. 14, 2018 1:36 p.m.

    Sad, but life is not an easy thing. It's one challenge after another. It's a matter of being tough. Learning to over come.

    A mission is often portrayed in an idealistic way but it's filled challenges. Some young folks going on mission feel like its youth conference.

    Perhaps young people should be taught and trained what a mission is all about:

    * a champion twenty four hours a day
    * homesickness
    * rejection
    * mission rules
    * no radio, movies, newspapers, early waking up, study etc

    These are challenges which provide growth but you've got to be tough.

  • John0808 Providence, RI
    Nov. 14, 2018 1:07 p.m.

    Fascinating. I encountered two male missionaries. They were, not unexpectedly, very cleancut an very nice. But they seemed sad. Instead of talking about religion, or whatever misssionaries are supposed to do, I asked them questions about their background, interests, etc. Very low key. They seemed to like my listening to them. Normally I can be funny but I remained casually serious. I made it clear I wasn't really interested in religion, but nicely. I felt sorry for them. My neighborhood is on the very non-religious side, although one progressive evangelical church has attracted some of the young men I have conversations with.

    I was left with a lingering feeling that these young men were sad and lonely and would welcome just normal social conversation. I also wondered if the sadness went deeper.

  • omahahusker Modesto, CA
    Nov. 14, 2018 12:55 p.m.

    Excellent article. It's good to read other peoples experiences. Many have compassion. Too bad more past mission presidents weren't interviewed for their perspective.

    Some can say the Lord is hastening his work in the last days. Having a huge quantity of missionaries will not improve the quality of the work, the quality of the missionaries is what's needed. Not every young person should go on a mission. They must have that strong personal desire to "teach the gospel." They shouldn't be there for their parents, or a persuasive bishop.

    I served a mission in the mid 70's, in the southeast. It was tough and demanding. I later was married while serving in the military and had 5 sons. They chose to serve in the military. I am extremely proud of their service. It was their choice.

  • WI_Member Appleton, WI
    Nov. 14, 2018 12:01 p.m.

    “Legalism — this obsession with doing, being exactly obedient — it seems to … block our ability to experience grace,” Judd said.

    In a 2013 Thanksgiving address at the MTC, President Nelson (then Elder) said "a mission is an exercise in obedience training. Obedience brings success; exact obedience brings miracles."

    The authors of the article seem intent on deflecting responsibility for this problem away from church leaders and onto the members/culture. As others here have pointed out, the culture is largely driven by leaders and they have power to change it if they wish.

    Nov. 14, 2018 11:59 a.m.

    "Maybe they're more likely to be passed over in callings." Well, yeah. If you have a problem that prevents you from fulfilling a calling, it's probably not a good idea to have another calling. This doesn't matter anyway. Your calling has no bearing on your worth.

    "Maybe someone doesn't want to date someone who didn't complete the full mission length." Why would you want to date someone who doesn't think you're good enough? Consider it an opportunity. Your coming home early acts as a filter for shortsighted, immature, people. Or just maybe finishing a mission is a good indication of things that are valuable in a mate. Perhaps if you came home early you could think of other ways to make yourself attractive. Focus on school, develop your talents, serve others, etc. The ones who are worth your time will notice this and won't care that you didn't finish your mission.

    "Murmurings speculating on what someone must've done behaviorally to be sent back..." I just don't see this going on. Perhaps it's a Utah thing? What a shame. Also, the fact that people wonder why you came home does not necessarily mean they are judging you. Maybe they're concerned, or simply curious.

  • toofdr Twin Falls, ID
    Nov. 14, 2018 11:49 a.m.

    Maybe we should also stop referring to these conditions as mental illnesses. If it is true that all of us are "mentally ill" (depressed, anxious, afraid, whatever) at some time, then there is no purpose in separating those of us who have a tag placed on our condition from the rest of the populace, who do not have a tag and are therefore considered to be "normal".

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 14, 2018 10:06 a.m.

    " I've never personally witnessed someone not being welcomed when they return home early. How does that go down exactly? "

    Oftentimes through accumulating smaller things. Maybe they're more likely to be passed over in callings. Maybe someone doesn't want to date someone who didn't complete the full mission length. Murmurings speculating on what someone must've done behaviorally to be sent back similar to how people who leave the church are often thought of with "well they must've not wanted to go without (insert sin here)" views when they might have left because they just did not believe in the church any more.

  • Jace the Ace Stratford, CA
    Nov. 14, 2018 8:18 a.m.

    Great article. I've heard the most hurtful comments from fellow members made about missionaries that returned home due to health issues. It is shameful. Even those who return home for reasons other than health need our love and support not shaming and gossiping. I cannot imagine that the Savior would treat his beloved children who are struggling and return home from a mission the way some who profess to follow him do. Nice to see this article address some of this and the struggles these young men and women face when they return early.

  • FreeMan Provo, UT
    Nov. 14, 2018 7:07 a.m.

    It is pointless to differentiate between Church culture and doctrine. The culture is the fruit of the doctrine and LDS way of life. I think it is changing these days and I welcome the change.

  • hilary nottingham, 00
    Nov. 14, 2018 6:44 a.m.

    Just wonder if less pressure on children born and brought up in the church may well work better when orienting them to missionary work - have found converts and/or their children can be more spiritually 'streetwise' re hunting and fishing for those spirits needing the church. Bearing in mind 'hunters' use and work different techniques to 'fishermen' but both working towards an end. Just saying.

  • terra nova Park City, UT
    Nov. 14, 2018 12:03 a.m.

    Good article. Thanks.

    But the comments? Nearly half of them prove we need many, many more articles like this one.

    Please keep writing.

    I remember the words of a fine man, who, after serving 40 years as a Seminary and Institute Instructor, retired. He was doing fine. He needed a simple out-patient surgery. He came home to get better and fell into a profound state of depression. He turned his face to the wall. He wanted to die. He wouldn't eat. Wouldn't talk with anyone. His loving wife got him into treatment. He and I talked at length. He'd dealt with youth all his life. When some of them came to him seeking help, for anxiety and depression he told me he used to say, "Oh, it will be alright. Just 'buck-up.' It will pass."

    After emerging from his own struggle with clinical depression he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "I didn't understand. I AM SO ASHAMED. I didn't understand what they were trying to tell me."

    He still struggles. But he understands. He understands deeply. He does all he can to try and help others understand. I am profoundly thankful for people like him... and for those who helped with the article.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:38 p.m.

    I think one of the main sources of the mental health issues is due to these kids being constantly told that a lack of so-called success is directly due to their weaknesses, that they are somehow to blame, that they aren't being good enough to gain that success.

    This is 100 percent wrong. If an exhausted missionary sleeps in 10 extra minutes, is God really going to punish potential converts due to 10 minutes of extra sleep for someone who needs that rest? Of course not, but that's what we were told.

    Missionaries are adults and they are volunteers but are treated as neither. Start giving them the respect they deserve and perhaps their mental health will be much better.

  • jimjr Kaysville, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:30 p.m.

    Very well thought out and written article. Missionary work is essential to the gospel but we can contribute in many ways other than proselyting missions only. This is the best story I have read on this subject. Thanks.

  • Brother John Doe Pearland, TX
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:11 p.m.

    One blogger wrote about the triumvirate of being a good member of the church as having (1) served a full-time mission, (2) graduated from BYU, and (3) not being divorced. I failed at 67% of that triumvirate by not serving a full-time mission and not graduating from BYU. The three things that I regret doing in my church life is not serving a full-time mission, not becoming and eagle scout, and not graduating from seminary.

    Our son meets the requirements of the triumvirate, and he has served as bishop, high councilor, bishopric counselor, EQ president, twice as SS president, and among other callings. Hence he appears to be on the right track.

    With all of my disadvantages, I have been fortunate to serve as a counselor in a stake presidency, stake clerk, stake executive secretary, stake mission president, stake YM president, and as a member of five high councils. I have also been fortunate to serve twice as bishop, twice as bishopric 1st counselor, twice as bishopric 2nd counselor, three times as ward executive secretary, four times as HPG leader, and four times as ward YM president. (Continued from previous posting)

  • Brother John Doe Pearland, TX
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:06 p.m.

    (Continued on next posting)I have also served in 23 other teaching and administrative callings totaling 50 thus far in my life.

    Perhaps some members could say that I have been overcompensating for all of those years by holding all of those callings. However, I did not call myself to any of those callings. The Lord did. He must have a special understanding, empathy, and sympathy for those of us who fall short of being superhuman.

    Having all of that experience and missing out on a few has provided me with a special understanding of those who have not served missions, those who return early from their missions, those who did not become eagle scouts, and those who did not graduate from seminary. Having dealt with divorced couples and those with marital problems, I even have a good understanding of those who are divorced and do not hold it against them.

    In dealing the church culture were some members expect us to be superhuman Mormon and Molly Mormon, all I can say is to do the best job you can in all of your callings, do not allow those who would be critical of you to affect you negatively, and above all, as you become converted, strengthen your brethren and sisters.

  • educanto north salt lake, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:07 p.m.

    Great article. One of best pieces of journalism I have seen in the Deseret News.
    Keep the conversation going. It is good for everyone.

  • Just want to know...... Northern Utah, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:22 p.m.

    I have three sons. None of them went on missions. Of course, I was saddened at this, but as expressed in a couple of comments above, two of my sons were told by gals that they couldn't date them -- because they hadn't or weren't going on a mission. They had been taught that in all their years in YW -- that they should marry a RM. Luckily, my one son met a gal who had a missionary and she was smart enough to check him out once he got home -- to see if he changed. She immediately drove to my son and said you are more religious than he is, and they have had a happy active marriage.

    My other son dated a gal who was the daughter of a man who was the President of a LDS school. The father insisted she stop dating him the minute he found out my son was not a RM. That totally turned my son off to the Church.

    Where is all this loving everyone and giving everyone a chance? Do you not think I prayed for a good LDS gal to date my boy? Do we believe Christ will work miracles or not?

    I understand, but there should always be an addendum to YW's teaching -- that there are many good guys out there who didn't go on a mission and will be a good husband!

  • Red Corvette St George, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 7:55 p.m.

    Over 90% of the return missionaries who served in my mission in France and Switzerland are no longer Mormon (or LDS or whatever you call yourselves now). Nearly all of them I have spoken to have mentioned they still have nightmares about being called again on a mission. The reason? The mental contortions they had to go through trying to go on pretending they still believed what they were teaching.

  • SisR Australia, 00
    Nov. 13, 2018 7:37 p.m.

    I am the mother of two sons who have suffered greatly with anxiety and depression throughout their lives . This has caused both physical and mental anguish for which my husband and I have sought advice/counsel for many years.

    My sons' suffering has interfered with their lives in significant ways, so it was with some anxiousness that we approached the receipt of their Patriarchal blessings, which often alluded to future missionary service. The first words from my mouth after the blessings were, "the Lord knows"! There was NO mention of missionary service. I knew that the Lord knew that it would be too difficult for my son's to serve a full-time mission at this point in their lives.

    My sons are now 42 and 34, and are much more adept at coping with their anxieties. They have found other ways of serving (usually in one-on-one situations rather than with larger groups of people). I am proud of their achievements in spite of their challenges, which I expect will be a lifelong battle for both of them. I am extremely grateful for the inspiration we, as parents (and our sons), have received that enables us to do the best we can as we strive for understanding of this issue.

  • 1aggie Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 7:31 p.m.

    First, a proselyting (sales) mission is not for everyone. The extreme isolation from loved ones, the extreme control can be harmful to some people—precipitating depression and anxiety. I know of a missionary who committed suicide in the field some years ago. I know of others who were close to committing suicide.

    We ought not pressure young people to serve a mission. We should frame it “if you want to serve,” not “when you serve.” There can be a negative stigma against those who don’t go. Some parents would frown on their daughters dating or marrying a young man who didn’t serve a mission.

    Are more coming home early because a greater percentage are going out? And at younger ages?

    Let’s stop forcing people into cookie cutters—one size fits all.

  • blackattack Orem, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 7:05 p.m.

    I didn’t see the article address that many missionaries now go out at age 18. I went on a mission before the age change and the year I had away at BYU was essential in my maturity and independence.

    Depression and anxiety have always been issues with missionaries, but I wonder how much the age change has affected missionaries, who are younger and less equipped to handle the rigors of mission life.

  • russrobinson Pleasant Grove, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:38 p.m.

    So...what's really going on our families, wards, that has and is contributing to the real or perceived increase in anxiety? Are the cases of early returning missionaries among missionaries called from outside North America on the rise too? My experience over the past 15 or so years is that there is a dramatic increase in well.. drama. A steep decline in individual strength and resilience. It would seem as a society and church (at least in North America) we have many among us who are ill equipped to handle the rigor of life. Somehow, they seemingly operate from a perspective that happiness is the absence of pain, uncertainty, inconvenience and ambiguity. We absolutely should not judge those who are in pain and struggling. And every child of God should be loved. However, I struggle to believe that the challenges our people (specifically those aged 40 down to our teenagers) face challenges greater than those we faced, or those our grandparents and great grand parents faced. My sense is that this analysis is fundamentally missing the mark and not at all focusing on the root cause of this issue. It will be interesting to see if they get there...

  • shamrock Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:33 p.m.

    @Independent wrote: "The picture I get from this article is that the struggles of returning home early from a mission seem to be internal in nature and not so much a result of anyone in the church being overtly unwelcoming towards people. I've never personally witnessed someone not being welcomed when they return home early."

    If you read many of the dismissive comments posted here, I think you'll get a better idea of the criticisms some missionaries face when they return home early. Not everyone is considerate, and I applaud the church for reminding its members about the need for kindness.

  • J in the Desert Maricopa, AZ
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:09 p.m.

    I will admit to having a hard time working up sympathy for these young people. Intellectually I get it. But my own experiences make it hard to come through on the emotional level. As a missionary, I had an arthritis flare-up in the MTC that almost got me transferred. After leaving Provo, I had minimal problems with that. But, in the mission, I had two serious bacterial infections, one requiring minor surgery. A tropical viral infection, and I was hit by a bus. I was blessed that time to only get a few bruises. I also had a learning block that kept me from mastering the teaching materials for over a year with negative results for my confidence. I was in a challenging mission where baptisms were few and far between. I endured to the end because of the Cub Scout motto "do your best" and the realization that the most important soul for me to help come to Christ was my own. When I had finally internalized those concepts, the work didn't get any easier, but I was better able to learn and do what I was there to accomplish.

  • Cool Cat Cosmo Payson, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 5:48 p.m.

    I grew up both in Utah as well as New England. I was one of the first missionaries to serve from my Branch, and many of my friends, who were mostly not LDS, thought what I was doing was crazy. Sometimes, I wondered if they were right... But I knew that the Lord needed me and others to share the gospel with others, and I decided to not worry about myself. That worked for me, at least.

    I had to learn Portuguese, which I didn't know, and that was really tough. However, I faithfully read Preach my Gospel, and the Book of Mormon, and did everything I possibly think of to be worthy of the spirit, and know that I gave my 100% honest effort every day to do as the Lord asked, and also obeyed the mission rules.

    I know that I wasn't perfect, but as I look back, I do not have any regrets about what I did, and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I was given by the Lord to serve.

    I think the most important thing for anyone, missionary or not, is for you to be comfortable with your own actions. If you are uncomfortable with the choices that you are making, make the changes needed, and follow what the spirit dictates. This will serve you well thru your life, mission or no. Godspeed.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    Nov. 13, 2018 5:35 p.m.

    The picture I get from this article is that the struggles of returning home early from a mission seem to be internal in nature and not so much a result of anyone in the church being overtly unwelcoming towards people. I've never personally witnessed someone not being welcomed when they return home early. How does that go down exactly? One's perception does not always align with what is actually happening. Isn't this part of what needs to be unraveled when treating anxiety? Also, is it now inappropriate to congratulate someone who serves their entire anticipated mission time without incident? Are all cultural expectations inherently bad now? Is it not possible to just get up and try again or let the past go when you fall short, instead of blaming the culture and everyone else around you? I have no problem with people not being able to serve a mission. It's none of my business. That doesn't mean I won't encourage them to do it.

  • RockOn1224 Spanish Fork, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 5:04 p.m.

    Greatest choice I made was to serve a mission to give back to the Father for all he had done for me and my parents. Australia wasnt easy but I didnt expect anything else. It was the best two years that still has a profound influence in my life. Still in contact with faithful converts whose lives were empowered. Yes, the parallel greatest choice was marrying Elizabeth two years post mission. 7 kids, 2 who have died, 25 grandkids, some failed businesses, I thank the Father for that mission.

  • utah cornhusker Norfolk, NE
    Nov. 13, 2018 4:29 p.m.

    I served a mission in the Philippines in 1981-1982 and I wished they would have had the guidelines back then. I will admit, I probably should not have served. I wanted to hurt myself and my mission president was not very good about it. We didn't get along very good. Probably shouldn't have went. But I did and I can't say it was that wonderful. I love the Filipino people and the country but can't say I'd do again.

  • Aggielove Caldwell, ID
    Nov. 13, 2018 4:14 p.m.

    I didn’t really love my mission. It was a wild mission. But I made it. Am I better for it? I don’t know. I didn’t quit. I wasn’t super obedient.
    But kids are weaker these days.
    But here’s a fact. We HAVE to love and support them if they come home early. Cause bet on the world would we treat them bad? Are you just begging to see them go inactive?

  • Orvis3w8 Kaysville, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 3:40 p.m.

    I served a mission in Holland back in 89. In fact, my first city was Haarlem where they filmed The Best Two Years. I must say it was a very stressful and unpleasant experience. Just the full time 24/7 rejection was extremely depressing. I’m also ashamed to say, that as a leader, I probably contributed to the misery of fellow missionaries by enforcing the mission’s approach to how we worked. We had this thing called the “10 step door approach” that still gives me nightmares. It was ridiculous, but we were told we weren’t obedient if we didn’t use it. We were also meant to think “success” was primarily determined by one’s faithfulness. In other words, if you weren’t successful, it was due to lack of faith/worthiness. Now all these years later, I see now naive I was. It had nothing to do with how hard I worked or my faithfulness. People have the right to choose, and they simply weren’t interested. Just like I don’t buy from door to door salesman today. Now it’s time for my son to choose, and I told him it’s his call. I won’t encourage him one way or another. I’m glad to see these topics being discussed openly. It’s a step in the right direction.

  • educanto north salt lake, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 3:35 p.m.

    As senior missionaries we observed an interesting trend or perhaps instruction, namely, that the mission rules must be obeyed perfectly. To violate these instructions will result in your losing the spirit and not being directed to those who are seeking the gospel. It seemed to us that the incidence of a missionary team missing their evening deadline by 5 minutes carried a very heavy burden. Namely, you are not only being disobedient, but you are also denying a person(s) the gospel. While we believe and support mission rules, the emphasis on perfection seemed to cause a good bit of anxiety and stress. Moreover, the point that other people will be denied access to the gospel because of the lack of perfect obedience did not square with our understanding of the gospel.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 2:56 p.m.

    I steered my sons away from going on missions and neither of us regret it.

  • Realtrgrl St. Louis, MO
    Nov. 13, 2018 2:31 p.m.

    I'm with JaneB. Mormon culture CAN be really frustrating! And for the young men who don't go on missions - why do young women in Utah make this a first question when getting to know someone? Cruel. Judgemental. Mean. Hurtful. Causes anxiety for a son that already deals with issues. But who is a good worker and a good person now. He did go thru hard times during the pre-mission period. This doesn't help our son come back to church. Why???

  • Rhino40 Salem, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 2:21 p.m.

    Great article. I remember how hard it was for me to go some 30 years ago but it seems different now. I had stress as a missionary in Central America but I never felt suicidal. Even when I got parasites and dropped 30lbs. I think a lot of it has to do with social media. Kids are being hardwired for stress and anxiety. I would add one more group of people to provide help to. In my sons case he never even made it into the MTC. He just couldn't do it. I think there is still way to much well intention-ed pressure to be better than you are. I love the Gospel, but if I'm being honest, I think the Church (not the gospel) has brought me far more shame and anxiety than it has ever brought me comfort. That just does not seem right.

  • phoneboy Harrisville, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 2:20 p.m.

    This was well done. We all have different issues and shouldn't be judged unrighteously based on our personal hardships. Someone close to me came home from a mission early, and he's one of the best men I know.

    I'm more concerned with the rising problem of anxiety. When I was younger this wasn't even a thing. I think anxiety isn't necessarily on the rise, but the way our culture sees it is changing. I think anxiety is a natural thing that we all feel at times. It shouldn't be seen as an unhealthy experience. We all feel anxiety when something hard, new, or unknown lies ahead. Getting past anxiety helps us to grow and develop. When we learn to overcome anxiety, we get better at doing it again when it comes up - and it always will.

    Missions are hard, new experiences, full of unknowns, and long, so feeling anxious is pretty much a given.

    When we start to see anxiety as a sickness to be avoided at all costs, we stop doing hard things. We stop expecting ourselves to experience new things that make us grow. The easy path often isn't the best path.

  • THEREALND Mishawaka, IN
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:57 p.m.

    I am not a Latter-day Saint, but I have had, I keep wanting to type "Mormon", Latter-day Saint missionaries come to my home. I have always treated them kindly giving them drinks (water) and conversation. Most were confident bright young people and I enjoyed chatting with them. I got a chuckle out of a couple who came to my home in Mishawaka, Indiana on a Saturday in September. I told them they were wasting their time on that day. They looked a little set back over my comment, but then I invited them into my living room to show them my TV was tuned to the Notre Dame football game. They watched the game with me for a short time.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:49 p.m.

    Missions are hard. I went to Alaska and dealt with -60F and Brown Bears. Missionaries need even more help if they come home early. The best solution would be to help them immediately if possible then try to re-send them perhaps state side so they can complete their mission. If nothing helps then missionaries need to be helped and not cast aside as failures. They aren't failures. Their mental health and or physical health most of the time isn't their fault. They need love and support after they return for the long run.

  • Hannahx100 Salem, OR
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:43 p.m.

    (2/2) A friend described depression and other mental illnesses as a cancer, a disease that attacks a healthy and beautiful mind. You may not see the symptoms that the person is experiencing. My companions did not see the fight that I was having in my mind. But despite my best efforts, my hard work, my strong testimony, my loving parents, my success early in my mission, depression still overcame. It was at no fault of my own or anyone else.
    I experienced love and support as I returned home. With medication, I am now able to function properly most days. But there are still days that the cloud hovers over my eyes.
    When I came home, I came home to save my life. Missions are about saving souls. If that includes a missionary returning home to save their own soul, so be it. That is for the Lord to understand.

  • Ron Swanson Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:33 p.m.

    I applaud those who have the courage to either accept a call to server OR decide not to serve. It takes courage to accept who we are and what we're able to do. Our interest in serving even if we are unable to serve is what matters. Are we confident enough to make that decision? And probably more importantly, are we confident enough to visit the Temple? That's the real destination in all of this, are we confident, worthy, and willing to attend the Temple.

  • Hannahx100 Salem, OR
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:34 p.m.

    I have great parents who inspire me by fulfilling church callings! I served as RSP at BYU, have a strong testimony, & love the gospel! I served a mission, am naturally social, & can talk to anyone without fear. I followed the rules & remember saying "I was born to be a missionary!" I experienced success in helping friends to baptism!
    I shared this when I came home:
    After 9 months of serving with all my heart, might, mind, & strength, my mission president & I with the approval of my parents have decided that it is time for me to return home. I have been dealing with increased depression & anxiety & it has gotten so bad that I cannot function properly. It is best for my health that I return home. After making the decision with President, the inner turmoil I experienced completely left for the first time in months! I've worked hard to stay out as long as possible! I've loved serving & know the Lord is pleased with the service I have given. I know He loves us, the Book of Mormon is His word, & we can know Him & Jesus Christ by studying & applying its pages. This brings me SO much joy & can do the same for you!
    I'm open about what I've been dealing with & don't mind questions! (1/2)

  • mecr Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:16 p.m.

    Aside from the stress and pressure members and local leaders put in missionaries, it would be helpful to disregard the number of baptisms or contacts done by missionaries. If the Church changed the home teacher and visiting teacher program to ministering and discard monthly reports of number of visits, why not the missionaries? I understand they have to make sure the missionaries are engaged in spreading the gospel but the negative side effect is huge, it is basically micro-management. And when a missionary gets hurt, please, let the family get informed. After all, it's their child. My child got injured during the mission and I found out 4 months later and because he was sent home to get health care.

  • AddyS Mesa, AZ
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:05 p.m.

    I came home after 4 & 1/2 months. I wasn't dealing with any anxiety or worthiness issues. I just felt an overwhelming prompting to return home. I struggled with it for over 8 weeks. I told myself that it was probably just homesickness, that I needed to work harder and think less about home. But every time I prayed and pondered in the scriptures, I kept being told to go home.
    My companion at the time didn't understand it, and questioned how I got my answers to prayers. My Mission President questioned my ability to access the spirit, and asked about my worthiness. I was a wreck. My mother, thankfully, was very supportive of my choice to come home, and was able to help me (and my president) realize that I was listening to the spirit, that I was able to get answers that were different than what everyone else was telling me.
    I had a very supportive ward when I returned who hardly questioned me and never asked what happened, just let me share my story when I felt ready. The Stake President praised me for serving. But I still felt that need to say "Yeah I served, but only for..." until I listened to Elder Holland's words. Now I respond with just a resounding "Yes" to the question!

  • coolheaded South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:02 p.m.

    Love love love these courageous early Returned missionaries! Bless them for accepting the call, bless them for the stress they faced, and for the pure hearts of the stripling warrior they possess! I love ‘em like my own...

  • wer South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:03 p.m.

    Most telling statement referred to the difficulty of leaving home, friends, family, hobbies, etc. Let's define "hobbies". For most of this age group, they would be without the constant, ongoing, use of an addictive mobile device for the first time their young adult lives.

    This is not a reflection on potential missionaries. It's the reality of this "entitled" generation.

  • Frank Walters Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 1:02 p.m.

    I love Elder Holland and I'm glad he can offer words of comfort to all who struggle. I'm also glad that he's changed his tone regarding this. Nearly 30 years ago he led a meeting where we were chastised (even hitting the pulpit with his fist) for having too few conversions in our mission. We all had felt that we were working hard, doing our best, and looked at our small number of converts that year as a hard fought and won fight. We left that meeting feeling down and imperfect. I got over those feelings and realized, then, that there are better ways to motivate. I'm glad that Elder Holland has changed that tone to the kind, loving, compassionate response that every single one of us should have here. I hope that I would have that attitude if one of my children is unable to fill the full time of a mission, that's what the Savior would do. He would be pleased with the interest in serving even where we're not able. I want that kind of mercy for myself, I should be able/willing to mete that kind of love to those around me.

  • Johnny Triumph Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:56 p.m.

    I'm glad to hear the Church is providing support here. 30 years ago the stigma of leaving a mission early was an assumption of sin. My brother left early for health problems that were not anxiety related, he still felt enormous pressure to return; he still struggles with the same health problems 20 years later.

    I've tried to help my kids learn how to address any stress they feel, no matter why they're feeling it, and have based that on my own mission experiences. I look back on my mission experience and now have a different feel for how I was then. I unknowingly had coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses I felt, whether it was long dark days during the Scandinavian winter or a companion who refused to have any sort of conversation with me. What I felt only slightly badly about then turns out to have been a coping mechanism, listening to some comforting pre-mission music or taking a nap during study time.

    I'll agree with earlier comments, these coping mechanisms helped me realize I was there to share the Gospel with others, which also helped me WANT to try to overcome things.

    I hope our youth today and cope and that we can be supportive of them

  • Pipes Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:52 p.m.

    Life is hard. You get out of it what you put into it. Missions are the same. Don't go unless you are willing to embrace the difficulties. If you go through life caving in to every anxiety, don't expect to go far. Unfortunately, that is not something taught by parents, government, schools or the media nowadays. There is something to be said about "enduring to the end".

  • Funny/witty screen name Orem, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:38 p.m.

    How else can the church get people on missions and keep them there if there is no social pressure and guilt?

    Nov. 13, 2018 12:35 p.m.

    Every young person who decides to serve should make that decision with the expectation and preparation to serve the expected timeframe and then do all you can to be the rule rather than the exception. This should apply to any other commitment you make in your life.

  • TheFlyingGerman Germany, 00
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:34 p.m.

    I believe it is astounding that many here believe that they have greater wisdom on the issue (including a right to make individual judgments of a person's service) than the leaders of our Church - and especially the Savior - do. My invitation to those who are making these blanket judgment calls is to focus on the core of the Gospel message. Especially repentance. And then, applying it to themselves regularly.

    I came home from my mission early (but, as I like to say, not in one piece, because my thyroid is still in England). I enjoyed serving on most days, and if it hadn't been for a life-threatening medical condition, I would have been out the whole two years.

    While I know that some other members of the Church close to me certainly didn't, I eventually came to understand that the Lord had called me home to a life of service and missionary work. I've never been ward mission leader, but whenever possible since returning home, I have helped the missionaries teach investigators in my home. I've been much more serious about home teaching than some others in my ward, and I have seen ample miracles from it. Truly, a mission is not the end, but the beginning of a life of service.

  • concerned family Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:29 p.m.

    This is a great timely article and lessons we all can learn from. The administration of the church needs to look for more resources for the mission presidents that are dealing with these wonderful missionaries who for whatever reason struggle. Many of the mission presidents are so focused on their way and following the rules that they miss out on helping those struggling with love and compassion which in many cases would help the missionaries to stay. Missionaries are not numbers or stats they are people who are still growing and learning and need love and compassion not rules and blanket options. Many Presidents understand this and do everything possible to help those that struggles others are sending them home when they don't fit the mold. Missionaries are there to serve and help others not be a stat or number. If we are truly Christ's disciples and church then we need to make accommodations with love and kindness and go after those that need our extra love and support that is what it is all about. Not quotas and stats.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:14 p.m.

    to xert:

    re: "The first step on the road back to earning a good reputation-not to your ward, but to yourself—would be to be totally 100% honest and let the petty busybodies think what they will."

    You are 100% right. Anything other than being able to be open and honest about ourselves and others only perpetuates the problem - with the returned missionary and with the culture.
    We need to have more honest relationships, in our families, our workplaces, and in our communities. We need to judge less and love more. We need to be a bit more humble and gentle, and less willing to try and make ourselves look/feel better by highlighting a challenge that someone may be facing.

    We need to get rid of the "check box" view of being "a good member of the church" and replace it with genuine care and concern for others.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:15 p.m.

    to xert:

    re: "The first step on the road back to earning a good reputation-not to your ward, but to yourself—would be to be totally 100% honest and let the petty busybodies think what they will."

    You are 100% right. Anything other than being able to be open and honest about ourselves and others only perpetuates the problem - with the returned missionary and with the culture.
    We need to have more honest relationships, in our families, our workplaces, and in our communities. We need to judge less and love more. We need to be a bit more humble and gentle, and less willing to try and make ourselves look/feel better by highlighting a challenge that someone may be facing.

    We need to get rid of the "check box" view of being "a good member of the church" and replace it with genuine care and concern for others.

  • dsnymom Vancouver, WA
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:12 p.m.

    I think it's unfortunate that some of the comments on here are...unkind. I choose to think that it's simply because they haven't experienced this situation and comes out of ignorance vs lack of charity.

    This topic is one I have thought long and hard about since experiencing it with one child and having other children that struggled (are struggling) on their missions.

    Perhaps the reason we are seeing a rise in the area of anxiety/depression is that the adversary has discovered a really good tool and he's using it to the best of his ability. (This applies to more than just missionaries) These kids aren't "weaker"--we all have weaknesses. This one just is really obvious when it causes the early return of a missionary. There are lots of missionaries that "make it" the entire two years and are really lousy missionaries. At least if you measured them by compassion or testimony.

    As we come to learn more about how to better receive missionaries that return early we can help be part of the solution instead of the problem. Compassion always beats judgement. Particularly ignorant judgement.

  • Time2Play Veradale, WA
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:59 a.m.

    I really don’t appreciate the comments about “poor parenting” leading to youth not being prepared for missions. Yes, you can always be a better parent, but let me give an example:
    I am one of 5 boys. My oldest brother served a full 2 years and is now atheist. My next brother served 8 months, came home due to struggles with worthiness and is now excommunicated. I served a full mission, have been home for 2 years now and am still very strong in the gospel. My younger brother did not serve due to anxiety, but instead got sealed in the temple to his high school sweetheart and they’re doing great. My youngest brother is still in high school and wants to serve.
    My parents have always made it a priority to teach us the gospel, yet all of my brothers and I have used our agency to choose our own direction in life. My parents still love us all equally the same. So yes, parents can do better, but do not blame them, most times they are trying their best and the result does not turn out the way they expected.

  • Den Den West Jordan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:57 a.m.

    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34

    Thank you for writing this article

  • pablo Orem, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:53 a.m.

    I served my mission over 40 years ago and came home 6 months early after serving 18 months and came home because of a full blown nervous breakdown. I was in the hospital for over 30 days. I can only speak from my own personal experience. My breakdown happened because of a long period of time even before my mission of simple over doing it. And not getting adequate rest. We are all different. Some people just simply need more rest to deal with the normal stresses of life. After I survived the experience and 6 months more of chemical depression I realized that to survive, I needed balance in my life which included adequate rest, exercise, proper nutrition. But also I needed "wholesome recreational activities." The balanced life also must include proper balance with work and spiritual activities. And then one needs integrity with a desire to love and serve our fellowman. In conclusion, I believed in part I survived because I had adequate treatment when I came home from my mission. I had two friends who didn't survive because they had similar experiences but did not have adequate treatment at the beginning of their ordeals.

  • Anonymous100 Anywhere, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:53 a.m.

    Aside from my family, my missionary service was the greatest, most defining moment of my life. It was hard and there were times I wanted to go home, but no real reason to, so I stayed and worked hard. That being said, not originally from Utah, I was shocked and surprised how early returned missionaries are treated here. Who cares whether they are coming home early due to sin, health reasons or because they want to? It doesn't matter at that point and it is no one's business. They're back and they need to be welcomed as the Savior would welcome them: with love, compassion and understanding and hope for a wonderful future. It is a time for increased love, not unkind words or shunning, regardless of the reason. If they had sinned before or during their missions, then they have the opportunity to repent. If they had health issues, then they have time to get well and either return or move on with their lives. If they just didn't want to be there, I respect them more for coming home and not wasting their, their companions' and their mission president's time and anyone's money.

  • Schwing Layton, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:50 a.m.

    I served in Germany from 1992-1994. It was miserable. The people had no interest in religion whatsoever so we spent all day every day either going door to door or street contacting. I kept track of all of the discussions we taught over the two years I was there and it was somewhere between 30-40 total. I don't think we ever taught anyone past the third and had no baptisms.

    To this day, I have recurring nightmares of going door to door and feeling guilty because I wasn't finding it uplifting and had no success. It didn't even occur to me back then that it could be a mental health issue but it probably contributed. I weighed about 180 going out and was at 138 when I got back.

    I would encourage anyone who is either in the field or thinking about it to be sure of their reasons for going. If it is because of social pressure or worrying about no LDS women wanting you if you don't go, still don't go.

    I truly wish I had either not gone or had left early. I often struggle with some animosity about it and it can be a real faith killer. Still, I love Christ and want to be a good example. Having said that, I will never lie and say that I loved my mission.

  • BlueMoonOden Hinckley, IL
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:46 a.m.

    I was just entering college in Rexburg when President Kimball made the announcement. I was a brand new member and was still learning the basics about the church, unlike my fellow students who had been brought up in the church all of their lives and knew the scriptures up and down. I was also brought up in Chicago and had very little contact with the church. Girls wouldn't date me and would often give me a disapproving frown since I had not planned on serving. Even though I had just been converted they still said it was not an excuse. Talk about stress and rejection! While I am still a strong member of the church I wound up marrying a Baptist girl.

  • Eric the Half-bee Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:45 a.m.

    The author touched on one of the problems - one young man, 20 years old, was getting second-guessed and shamed about why he hadn't served yet. We'd do everyone a huge service by reassessing how we think about the 18th birthday; it's when the (mission) window first opens, not a drop-dead date, and it's open for a full eight years.

    With the challenges associated with growing up now - helicopter parenting and the participation trophy culture in particular (watered down YM/YW programs that don't teach how to cope with the real world aren't helping, either) - they may need all that time, up to age 26, to get well-prepared.

  • Chungman St George, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:40 a.m.

    No one in the First Presidency served a proselyting mission. No LDS Church member would ever consider them inferior.

  • eigerjoe Sandy, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:31 a.m.

    There are many reasons why missionaries do not, or can not complete full term missions. There is plenty of blame to go around including church culture, parents, bishops and stake presidents, unprepared missionaries, and mission presidents. In my mission, missionaries used to say: these are the best two years of my life - it is too bad they have to be wasted on a mission. This situation can be improved if the Church would: (1) clearly define the problem, (2) comprehensively analyze the current situation, (3) gather data from the thousands of missionaries, parents, and church leaders who have been through the mission experience, (4) correctly and unbiased interpret the collected data, and (5) formulated new policies and directives to solve and/or improve the situation. I recommend a church-wide survey to discover and reveal what the real reasons and root problems for mission are and how they can be remedied.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 11:26 a.m.

    re: "...instead of emphasizing numbers of baptisms, referrals or lessons taught, the church’s handbook for missionaries, “Preach My Gospel”, teaches that success is achieved when a missionary "feels the spirit,”...

    I think expectations of "feeling the spirit" is another one of these cultural misunderstandings. While it is true that having the Lord's Spirit is something we can strive for and a gift we can be regularly granted from God, the idea that how/what we "feel" is a good measure of success is unhealthy and part of the "cultural problem" noted in the article. The problem is that we can't always control or decide how we feel, particularly for someone with mental or physical health challenges. Also, how we feel is often subject to the agency of others (or our environment).

    A healthier approach is to do what we are able (e.g. be worshipful/grateful, try to keep the commandments, appropriately prioritize, find ways to serve others, etc.), and then not get overly harsh on ourselves when we fall short, as humans always do. We can also avoid gossip and judging others, including ourselves. Having the companionship of the Holy Ghost will often be a natural consequence.

  • DNdep West Jordan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:58 a.m.

    This article contains much wisdom and careful understanding. I hope that it is continued so as to help many who struggle with their desires to do the right thing but can't overcome the "dark" feelings that enter their minds. There are many, much older, who wrestle with these same feelings and internal conflicts; the culture that looks down on those who don't have that "mission checked box" next to their names. I could go on. More of this examination is needed.

  • LEGAL IMMIGRANT Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:51 a.m.

    Mandatory Military service prior to accepting a mission call will "mature" them enough so that they are able to abide the rigors and deprivations of a mission !

  • mrjj69 bountiful, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:49 a.m.

    I am a middle age male. The problem i ran into, was women who would not accept non-missionaries. Some were outright cruel, belittling those who had not served a mission...I hope this prejudice has not continued...I was considering a mission, but couldn't deal with it

  • Oh Really? Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:38 a.m.

    I encourage everyone who commented on here to reread the article, reread your post, maybe even say a prayer.

    Many of you are part of the problem, despite the fact you think you know the cause or cure. Pray for God’s wisdom and Christ’s compassion.

  • Not another naysayer Lehi, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:36 a.m.

    I applaud those who serve, even for a short period because of health problems.

    I do think that those who have spent time apart from their families before leaving on a mission are less likely to experience loneliness and anxiety. That said, I am not suggesting that anxiety is that simple of a problem. And certainly medical causes are a reason to return.

    God bless these and all missionaries who have had the desires to serve a mission... even the ones who never put in their papers because of issues beyond their reasonable control.

  • Wind-Up-Toy Goodyear, AZ
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:33 a.m.

    We have 5 children, 3 boys who served missions. As Bishop I had the pleasure to talk with those who had a desire to serve a mission. I had many interviews with each one. I talked through their fears, pressures to serve, and what they wanted to be when they "got on with life". Based on our time together, there would be a time when I either proceeded with their calling or they decided on their own to not go. Many came at their family's urging, as the culture demanded a performance event. As a convert myself, I taught that the goal is not to serve a mission, but be worthy for the temple. Then a decision to be a missionary can happen. I made it clear that there are several choices after their temple work. I made it clear it was their decision, and that I would support them with my life however they went. I truly gave them a loving environment to discuss who they were and who they wanted to be in life. My own sons had their "not so cool" times on their mission. One son never baptized anyone. Their return was a time to reunite the family with love. Never did I ever ask if they baptized anyone. I asked what did you learn? That is why we are here in this life. Learn and grow. Family love.

  • sgallen Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:32 a.m.

    Then assertion that the problem is cultural-not doctrinal- is mentioned several times in the article. I realize that the church is taking steps to fix the issue. Perhaps by not accepting responsibility for the problem, there won’t be an adequate solution. In other words, maybe the culture isn’t the only problem.

  • Chungman St George, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:31 a.m.

    Many references here to Church culture. I believe we all know who can change that culture. It won't be easy or fast, but those who formed that culture in the first place can start now. This article in the Deseret News is an excellent start, General Conference would be even better.

  • Mr. Boris Layton, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:28 a.m.

    I was shy, introverted, and had no social skills whatesoever and I had a great experience and it brought me out of my shell.

    That being said, I don't think a mission is for everyone and that is perfectly OK.

  • Scott H Ogden, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:26 a.m.

    Thanks to the authors and editors. Great article. We all need to be more compassionate and less judgmental, both with respect to others and ourselves. I came from a family where my four brothers and I all completed missions without major problems, so I kind of expected that pattern from my own children. Two of my sons completed two-year missions, although, one of them probably should have come home due to a physical issue that he insisted on pushing through. Another son was cleared for service after years of treatments but ended up coming home after experiencing serious mental health problems in the MTC. Another son struggles with mental health functionality every day and will likely never serve a mission. I deeply appreciate those who love and respect each of my children for who they are and what they can do. I appreciate those who strive to move the Church culture closer to the Church doctrine.

  • MabelPines Pleasant Grove, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 10:03 a.m.

    The lines between 'stressed' and 'clinical anxiety' are so blurred - who is to tell what is a real, treatable illness and what is being used as a crutch. Some people have serious anxiety (and I think those numbers are actually increasing). We live in a mean, scary world.

    We also live in a society of victims. How many control-freaks do you know that have labeled themselves "anxious" or "OCD" simply because they've found a way to manipulate others and get what they want? So people self-identify with a mental illness because it smooths their path.

    I believe that the real answer is with the parents. Encourage (and model) emotional resilience. Teach basic skills (can your teen cook for himself, wash her own clothes, manage his money, have a normal conversation, dress appropriately for the weather...?) Set boundaries with tech, and follow your own rules! In order to change, we must be willing to lead out and model the right behavior too.

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:54 a.m.

    @yankees27 - "I firmly believe that those who serve willingly, because they want to, will have a good 2 years"

    So many here I wish to respond to; but limited space I picked your post. I hate to burst your bubble of firm belief. But my experience was not "good" by any stretch.

    I wanted to serve a mission. I grew up in a home where it was expected; but it was still my choice to go. It was what I wanted, and what I planned for. I have a strong testimony; and wanted to share it. I did serve willingly, not through coercion for I believe the words written in D&C 121:34-46.

    But, those 2 years were not good, they were the hardest 2 years, maybe even the worst 2 years to of my life up to that point (I have since had far worse). And that is saying a lot considering the nearly daily bullying that went on from Kindergarten through Ninth Grade.

    The problem was I as so unprepared for a proselyting mission; because the entire culture just presumed everyone has social skills; but those skills were never taught anywhere. And having been bullied most my life; I had become an introvert, with clinically diagnosable OCD and severe Depression.

    I would say of the 2 years I had 4 weeks of "good."

  • CoHawk Littleton, CO
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:54 a.m.

    It would be interesting to see if there is a study on the number of missionaries who spend at least 6 months away from home and then serve a mission for the church and come home early ...... compared to those who haven’t spent time away from home and come home early. I bet that the % of missionaries who come home early and hadn’t been away from their home (for 6 months) before leaving on a church mission are way higher than the missionaries who serve but were used to being away from home before leaving.

    Also would be interested to know if there are studies that track those missionaries who have pre mission issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders etc and the % who come home early. I bet it would be very high. It might be so high that the interview process could predict whether or not that missionary shouldn’t be called into full time missionary service.

    Of course, there are some missionaries ...... just like any walk of life ...... who are lazy and haven’t been required to work hard in school, sports, extracurricular activies, around the house etc where a mission is the first hard thing they have been expected to do. The rate of failure Will be high!

  • Dmorgan Herriman, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:47 a.m.

    “Whether a young adult serves a proselyting mission or a young church-service mission,” the church’s website reads, “both are acceptable offerings to the Lord.” How about just living a good, moral life is an acceptable offering to the Lord?

    What the article fails to address is the question as to why the requirement for missionary service in the first place. Other Christian denominations also heed the New Testament requirement to “Go ye into all the world...”, yet they don’t require a official missionary “calling”. People minister however they can, sans the superior attitude.

    Was the lowering of the missionary age an attempt to get more missionaries (that bubble has passed), or is it an attempt to keep more youth in the faith because they are losing them at a rate never before seen?

    I served a mission over 40 years ago. The refrain that it is somehow the parents fault regarding the quality of missionaries is as absurd now as it was then. The assertion’s only function is to deflect serious introspection as to the “why” of missionary service. Reflecting on my own two-year stint, I could, and should have spent that time more productively, with fewer negative effects.

  • 65TossPowerTrap Salmon, ID
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:43 a.m.

    Missions are hard, and frankly, not for everybody. While I loved my mission and grew immensely from it, it was hard, and I was glad when it was done. Luckily my mission president wasn't the drill sergeant type, so I survived and grew.
    Mormon culture really needs to evolve into something more compassionate and less puritanical. My heart really goes out to the young man or woman who comes home early. We need to embrace, but not pity them, and welcome them home.

  • dordrecht Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:39 a.m.

    When I was a missionary, I asked my many companions why they went on their mission. To my surprise, the answers were: 1) because my parents promised me a new car, and 2) because my girlfriend won't marry a non-missionary. There were only very few who said that they wanted to share the gospel of Jesus Christ of which they had a testimony. Pressure by parents or church leaders, whether perceived or true, should not be confused with the popular "anxiety" mantra.

  • RBC Cody, WY
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:37 a.m.

    This is a fantastic article. The need to change church culture about serving a mission is long overdue. Within the culture, as it now exists, it would be better to have never gone than it would be to come home early. What is wrong with us, as members, when we believe that 12 months of service is worse than to have never served at all?

    If this wrong headed cultural belief is to ever change it needs to come from our church president. He and the 12 need to talk about this in General Conference over and over, until we as members begin to actually believe it, and feel differently toward missionaries, who served less than their full term.

    In addition, new mission president's need to be instructed to never equate a missionary's success simply by the number of baptisms they are having. Our Lord's gospel is about love and encouragement. When we make it about guilt and under achievement we are on the wrong path.

  • Third try screen name Mapleton, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:31 a.m.

    Coming home early is a symptom. We need to work on understanding the CAUSE. I'm not sure honoring those who washed out is going to help.

    Some thoughts:
    *Maybe 18 is too young.
    *Maybe the large numbers going out is part of the problem. "Raising the bar" may have been just a catchphrase.
    *As we learned after Korea, physical fitness among our youth was lacking.
    *Pajama boys aren't ready to grow up. The same group is 35 and unmarried. Late bloomers will fare no better on missions.
    *K-12 education is indoctrination and is working against the solid doctrines and structure of a mission. Postmodern philosophies cause them to eschew absolute truth...and teach them to play the victim whenever they meet an obstacle.

    We are pretending that this generation is maturing faster. That simply isn't true. Maybe we send them out when they turn 21.

  • Mayfair Logan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:27 a.m.

    Alekhin, I liked a lot of what you said, especially about your son. Many--those with true anxiety-- and ones like your son can benefit so much from someone helping then figure these kinds of things out.
    Often, they don't have the understanding, tools or experience to work through stuff.

    But a mission president, companion or senior couple willing to be compassionate mentor/cheerleader can help those who struggle not only help those succeed as a missionary but help them get understanding and skills for managing life after a mission.

    I'm grateful for those on his mission who did this for my son and his depression.

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:24 a.m.

    TLDR, Well not so much the length, but the emotional roller coaster I expect from such an article. But I feel I have to post my own story a little.

    I too suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts in the mission field. I was taught prior to serving a mission, the only thing I needed was a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    What I lacked, because it was not taught in my family, my schools, or in church, was the social skills to be able to connect with other people (not my companions, nor other church members, let alone those outside the church for the purpose of proselytizing).

    I couldn't do it; I did not have the skills. After a year and a half, I nearly came home early. I did stick it out though I cannot say why.

    At least the last 4 weeks of my mission service, I was asked instead of proselytizing, to focus on church records and looking for inactive members. Turned out I was able to do that with a measure of success even though I broke every rule given for that endeavor. I felt as if mercy had been extended to me, and that my service was acceptable even though it was very little.

  • Six Corona, CA
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:16 a.m.

    The kids going out are not self-reliant as earlier young missionaries. The numbers returning early are astounding! It is a terrible waste of money, time, and destructive of too many young men and women that are not properly screened and prepared. Surely those being called should have proper screenings, counseling, and preparation to help to screen and identify those who have the ability not to self destruct and fail in their calling. Lets support a spirit of discernment in these callings!

  • Aggie95 Orem, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:08 a.m.

    This is much, much more a result of misguided parenting than it is a reflection of the capabilities of these young men and women. I am in my 40's and believe that my generation of parents have failed their children. Helicopter parenting, non-stop technology (beginning at such a young age that it is an addiction before kids know any better), and a constant need to make sure our kids are doing more than our neighbor's kids. Like everything, the technology isn't bad when used in moderation - but that isn't the case in most homes. And social media.....don't even get me started. The constant blur of idealized reality & debilitating comparisons are not worth it. We all know it, but who is willing to change?

    The youth are amazing and need better examples. They are entirely capable.

  • windsor Logan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 9:02 a.m.

    I have all kinds of sympathy for real things which missionaries come home early for, medical, mental etc.

    The thing I have issues with is missionaries who want to quit (because they get bored or it's hard, or not fun enough, or they decide they are too good to have to follow rules or act in a way that's becoming to a missionary) And THEN, when they get home, want to parlay that early return into notoriety/fame by blogging and interviews etc bashing other members for not treating them well enough.

    Have seen this twice, where the Entitled try to give the Church or other members a black eye for not giving them a pass or swooning over them enough, or giving them enough praise and Attention.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:53 a.m.

    One thing that they could do is have them speak in sacrament meeting. We've had two in our ward come back early and it was like they just snuck in during the night.

    Since they served honorably, let them have a homecoming and emphasize their honorable release even if they didn't serve the whole time.

    My son almost came home early. I basically said to him the same thing the President Hinckley's father said. "Forget about yourself and do the work".

    He had many health problems on his mission and he worked through them with his mission presidents help.

  • yankees27 Heber, Utah
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:52 a.m.

    I don't believe that the struggle is anything new, rather a more accepting society today that allows those suffering to deal with their issues. 30 years ago many of my friends went on missions, some who shouldn't have but followed along because it was "expected". Many of those had serious struggles, they didn't want to be there but went anyway. One friend went because his dad told him he'd take his car away and wouldn't pay for college. Years later, he told us he should have just left home, he'd be better off.
    One of my sons had a girlfriend forced by her mother to breakup because he decided not to serve a mission, rather jump start his career. Upon hearing this news my wife's grandmother also told him how disappointed she was with him, in front of a family party!
    I firmly believe that those who serve willingly, because they want to, will have a good 2 years, I also believe those that are forced, coerced, guilted, or bribed, will undoubtedly have struggles, possibly not upfront, but later as my friend did when realizing he was living a lie and allowing those he was supposedly helping to follow him.

    Nov. 13, 2018 8:44 a.m.

    My ward has had many missionaries come home before the entire prescribed time of service. I know many of them were really good missionaries and they came home for many different reasons--some of which I know and some of which I don't.
    In life, we have challenges, successes, failures and obstacles to overcome. I hope these missionaries look at their time of service as at a minimum a good maximum a great experience with some success in sharing the gospel. I appreciate their service to the Lord.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:42 a.m.

    I don’t know if I can go along with the notion of telling people that you “served your mission” if you chose to come home early and leaving it at that. I wouldn’t have told others that I served in the Marine Corps if I had ditched boot camp because I was miserable. In fact-many were and they did not pack it in either—of course, that dishonorable discharge thing would have been tough to deal with, so there was that incentive to stay.

    Look, I’m not saying ‘YES, I served”—if you come home early, is flat out lying, but it isn’t being truly forthcoming and it certainly isn’t entirely true. It’s a little like renting an apartment and referring to it as “My condo”. The first step on the road back to earning a good reputation-not to your ward, but to yourself—would be to be totally 100% honest and let the petty busybodies think what they will.

    Part of this seems to go back to (here we go again) the entitlement culture we live in today. Kids are very keen to have others do the hard work for them. If they choose to come home early they feel entitled to do so and to still be allowed to tell others that they served a mission. What does that teach them and how does it truly help them?

  • NewsFlash Kearns, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:37 a.m.

    Here is my take... The problem with young men and women today, is lack of parenting.

    Parents today do not want to let their children feel the pains of failure in anything. So when they go out on missions and as Alekhin said "life happens". They are unprepared to handle the stress of not having mommy and daddy fix all the problems for them.

    I hear the stories of my wife who is a teacher where parents do not hold their kids responsible for not doing their work in class, instead they blame the teacher.

    We have raised a generation of soft young men and women who have no understanding how to deal with the blows that life will give them.

    This comes from someone who has dealt with depression (family induced) for decades.

  • Bigger Bubba Herriman, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:33 a.m.

    Great article. To those who return early, I offer two bits of advice. 1. Remember that members around you don't care about how long you served. Most members don't even care if you served. 2. Your mission does not define the rest of your life. I know people who were great missionaries and served as APs and ZLs but don't go to Church anymore. And I know people who never served missions who are raising their families in righteousness and serving in the gospel. What matters to the Lord is where you are going, not where you have been.

  • T3 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:17 a.m.

    Unfortunately the words "Mental Illness" is used perversely in this article. These young people don't have an illness just because the didn't complete the classic time frame definition of a mission. Some may have an issue that needs to be addressed by seeing a professional. But by tagging them with this definition just reaffirms the fact that they are lessor members, even though in this article the church is trying to act so sincere. Unfortunately not ever member is going to be a return missionary, BYU grad and never divorced. This triumvirate is the definition of a successful member in adulthood for the church, if you fail at any of it then you are damaged goods. If you are a divorced man it takes an act of congress to allow a good man to become a bishop, that is the definition of being viewed as damaged goods. I am extremely glad that there is help for those young men and women who come home and need someone, since their support group in their ward and family fail them. I think that there needs to be more focus on the changing of the mentality of the membership, rather than thinking that the early returners need fixing. Welcome them, love them, thank them.

  • Red Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 8:11 a.m.

    I apologize to anyone I have ever offended or added pressure to unknowingly.

    Serving a mission can be a great experience but does not give anyone a right to superiority.

    Also, Mission Presidents, if you are not loving and kind above all else please do everyone a favor and come home early!

  • Aggielove Caldwell, ID
    Nov. 13, 2018 7:14 a.m.

    Back in the day coming home menat you did something wrong. Never talk of mental health struggle.

    I believe we take away cell phones, skcial media, and video games, and we solve 75% of this issue.

    Kids aren’t as tough these days.

    But I also feel for them. We live them. Missions are hard!!

  • Big J Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:44 a.m.

    Our daughter struggled with some of the things spoken about here. She did complete her mission as called but not without many challenges. The best thing she did was being honest with her companions, parents, and mission president. We all were able to help her in ways she needed. Certainly being obedient and having the Spirit will help but it is not the answer or solution in many cases. It just helps but does not solve mental health challenges.

    As a bishop, I have done my best to welcome home all missionaries regardless of their length of service. Each has come home with significant growth that has blessed them. I always discuss "Mormon Culture" with them and prepare them for it. Our ward is wonderful and loving and does a great job of supporting all. But still. there are some... I am grateful the Savior is willing to be patient with my imperfections as He is with all. Thank you for the great article!

  • ERB Eagle Mountain, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:34 a.m.

    Free counseling through LDS family services is available to all missionaries that come home early. Just talk to your bishop.

  • jalapenochomper Albuquerque, NM
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:28 a.m.

    I've had more than one bishop or stake president released before the standard time. For all I know these were honorable releases. We properly refer to them as 'former' and rarely if ever is there any reference to time served. 'Nuff said.

    I do wish the church distinction between 'proselytizing' and 'service' missionary were less severe. It unintentionally creates a whole 2nd class. Let's just have 'missionaries', with fluid assignments within according to needs and circumstances. Anyone that served in any respectful way has honored God.

  • Bifftacular Spanish Fork, Ut
    Nov. 13, 2018 6:03 a.m.

    What the article doesn't address is WHY this generation is more anxious and depressed? If it isn't chemical, then it must be behavioral. I have my own ideas but I'd like to hear everyone else's opinion. I am 100% certain that actual depression and anxiety are real. I'm equally certain that there are many, many missionaries (and their parents) who conveniently blame depression and anxiety when the real culprits are laziness, unwillingness to obey mission rules, lack of fortitude, etc. So you have a mixed bag, probably more mixed with the latter. Since we don't know the specific situation of each missionary that comes home (and don't need to know), it's best to love and welcome them home. The Lord (and themselves) know the truth.

  • WJCoug South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 13, 2018 5:52 a.m.

    I have struggled for 10 years with how my son was treated by the stake president and bishop when he came home from his mission early. My son, after some rough years, has rebounded nicely and doesn’t seem to hold any ill will. Me, not so much.

  • Helen M Kimball Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 4:41 a.m.

    This is a good story. I was often paired with missionaries struggling with various issues. It was sobering to watch their struggles, compassion is certainly warranted.

  • Gar Logan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 3:37 a.m.

    I came home early from my mission 40 years ago. I had anxiety and mental health issues caused by the pressure put on me to serve a mission by my parents and ward members. At the time it was treated as a right of passage to go on a mission. I didnt want to go and was angry at the church because of my percieved thoughts of being forced by the church to go. When I came home early people shunned me and acted like I was damaged goods and I left the church for almost 20 years because of that. My advice to parents and ward members is let the youth make their own decision, don't ask them "When are you leaving for your mission". As a young adult there is so much pressure being a member of the church that sometimes we need to recognize that the decision to go on a mission is between that person and the Lord; no one else. Lets not have people leave the church because they dont feel up to the pressure or challlanges put on them, not by the Lord but by their parents and well meaning ward members. I hope no one ever has to experience the feelings of depression and worthlessness I felt. I am now an acrive member but I regret I lost 20 years of activity because of the pressure to serve a mission.

  • zwaustin Logan, UT
    Nov. 13, 2018 12:47 a.m.

    I returned home from service after six months due to muscle collapses in my diaphragm that would take years of physical therapy to fix. My family was shocked and confused at me. In my home ward, I was unwelcome. The first member I saw asked if I had done something bad. Rumors spread that I was unworthy of my call and that if I had more faith I would have been able to stay out there. My friends shunned me, and the leadership scolded me. My Elder's Quorum President at the time took me aside one Sunday and told me that I was a bad example to the youth of the ward. That they looked up to me and I let them down and that I needed to shape up and go back out. I was not shaken in my faith. It was for Christ that I served and it was Him that looked to in those times. I reached a point where I could forgive the words that were said and the awful things thought about me. I was not driven away from church service and meetings, but I was profoundly disappointed. The culture has shown a tragic hole with this. We can be kinder to our missionaries for their service, full time or otherwise.

  • Alekhin Herriman, UT
    Nov. 12, 2018 11:39 p.m.

    PS. My son served his mission and came home not too long ago. He wrote to me after he had been out about 15 months stating he was struggling with anxiety. He couldn't eat, was losing weight, couldn't sleep and it was making him sick, etc. I showed compassion and concern, but didn't immediately jump to confirming it as anxiety. After some discussion he expressed his dissatisfaction with a change in leadership of the regional seventy in his area. This led to many rule changes (stricter) etc. This was causing a lot of his issues. It wasn't anxiety per se, but changes in "life" that he didn't understand, didn't like and he was frustrated, angry and had lost motivation. In short, we had some talks about how to communicate to his leaders. We discussed how he didn't agree with the rules, but what if they needed to be there for someone else. Don't make it all about him. We discussed other things. In the end, he stayed on his mission and prospered. Rather than have this "anxiety" label that he could use as a crutch in life, he can now communicate, see the other side of things, persevere, etc. He is an all around better person having shed that label and learned to deal with life!

  • Alekhin Herriman, UT
    Nov. 12, 2018 11:26 p.m.

    Anxiety is a word that is now overused. We have created a culture of "anxiety" by constantly telling people they have it. It's become a crutch and excuse for many. Often times they are just dealing with hard situations called "life". I am not speaking directly about missionaries coming home early, but anxiety in general. Of course I don't want anyone to be treated poorly for needing to come home early. But I also don't need to tell them they have an issue called "anxiety". I grew up skinny, unathletic, poor, as a foster kid, with a mom that committed suicide, in a home of an extreme hoarder and hypochondriac, wearing crappy clothes, no friends, etc, etc, etc. On my mission I didn't get along with my companions, often wouldn't do the work and was just downright a bad missionary. I was nearly sent home early. But, I learned some lessons that turned this around. I gained a better understanding of why we are here on earth, how to communicate and other ways to tackle my issues. I didn't need to be told I had anxiety. I just needed to deal with life, MY LIFE. Everyone has issues to deal with. Some need taught how to handle them. We don't need over medicated or babied.

  • JaneB Wilsonville, OR
    Nov. 12, 2018 10:49 p.m.

    It breaks my heart that even one missionary who comes home early is not welcomed home with total love and acceptance, and thanked for their service. I wish every member of the church could hear Elder Holland on this, most especially mission presidents, stake presidents, and bishops.

    Mormon culture can be really frustrating sometimes.