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
"Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent
characteristic in men."General George S. PattonCould 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, friends.church members. leaders, etc. It can
be a cruel and devastating process. Jesus taught Love and Understanding, not
hate and fear.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
sound like Jesus?
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
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. Ancestry.com 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
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.
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.
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 etcThese are challenges which provide growth but
you've got to be tough.
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.
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.
“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
"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.
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".
@Independent" 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
(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.
Great article. One of best pieces of journalism I have seen in the Deseret
News.Keep the conversation going. It is good for everyone.
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!
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
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.
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
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.
So...what's really going on in..in our families, wards, stakes..church 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...
@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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2/2I 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
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.
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.
I steered my sons away from going on missions and neither of us regret it.
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???
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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)
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.
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!
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...
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
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.
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
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
How else can the church get people on missions and keep them there if there is
no social pressure and guilt?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved
you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34Thank you for writing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No one in the First Presidency served a proselyting mission. No LDS Church
member would ever consider them inferior.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
@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
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!
“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.
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.
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"
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 challenge....at maximum a great experience with some success in
sharing the gospel. I appreciate their service to the Lord.
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?
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)
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
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.
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!
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
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!
Free counseling through LDS family services is available to all missionaries
that come home early. Just talk to your bishop.
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.
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.
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.
This is a good story. I was often paired with missionaries struggling with
various issues. It was sobering to watch their struggles, compassion is
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.
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
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
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.
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.