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Thinking

Early Returning Missionaries

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Two of my nephews have returned early from missions. The first (about 4 years ago) never returned to his mission and is now married (in the temple). The second (last month) doesn't seem to be working towards returning to his mission.

On the home page of the Church's website there is a link to an article about missionaries who come home early.

If Your Mission Ended Early, Don't Give Up

I don't think that the Church will ever publish the number of missionaries who have returned early, but I'm speculating that it is significant. Numbers are dropping. Look at the graph for the Missionary Program on the Facts & Statistics page.

Is there a solution?

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Posted (edited)

I kind of doubt it, the very first First Presidency member, Jesse Gause, took off on his mission and never came back. This problem isn't germane to missions, people quit jobs all the time, ghosting in relationships, divorce. I think it will be an on going thing. I think though there seems to be more after care now than before. In my experience when I was out there were two types of ERM's, medical and non medical. The medical cases were well, that's unfortunate but things happen. The non medical people you kind of wondered about but also how did they get this far without  someone noticing, hey maybe this young person really isn't interested in serving a mission and maybe we should wait?

Edited by Duncan
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6 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I was told by a counsellor in the Young Men General Presidency that getting Aaronic Priesthood quorums right would naturally result in boys serving missions. And it did. [...]

My personal experiences lead me to conclude, therefore, that one solution is better preparation.

I think that's a huge part of it. 

Missionaries who are prepared to serve are less likely to come home early, and that preparation needs to be well rounded: spiritual, physical, practical, etc. 

If YM/YW programs were run correctly, there would be pretty much no need for missionaries to spend time in the MTC at all - they would be ready to hit the ground running.

 

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6 hours ago, Thinking said:

Is there a solution?

What are you defining as a problem, and why?

The link (and this month's Ensign) indicate the Church recognizes that some missionaries cone home early, so there is a response to and counsel for that particular item.

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There could never have been any question, as a statistical matter,  that more missionaries would come home early when the starting ages were lowered. It undoubtedly has “captured” at least a percentage of the young people who might otherwise have drifted away after high school, but it goes without saying that 18-year-olds are less mature and less able to bear adversity than are 19-year-olds. There was always going to be a downside.

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My brother came home early...very early...and yet he is the only faithful ,member left in the family.  Sometimes it just takes a different path..nothing is wrong with that in my view.

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57 minutes ago, esodije said:

There could never have been any question, as a statistical matter,  that more missionaries would come home early when the starting ages were lowered. It undoubtedly has “captured” at least a percentage of the young people who might otherwise have drifted away after high school, but it goes without saying that 18-year-olds are less mature and less able to bear adversity than are 19-year-olds. There was always going to be a downside.

 

Quote

My first theory was that this could be related to the lowering of the missionary age requirement in 2012, when it became 19 for women and 18 for men. It made sense that less mature missionaries who might never have lived away from home before would have a harder time adjusting to the stringent, 24/7 demands of mission life.

The data doesn’t bear this out, however.

https://religionnews.com/2018/09/26/more-mormon-missionaries-are-coming-home-early-study-shows/

It feels like a good guess to say the age change is a good reason.  But I don't know that that's true.

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12 minutes ago, pogi said:

Mental illness needs to be addressed.  Anxiety seems to be the plague of our day for young people, and I would guess it is a large factor for many returning early.

Yep.

Quote

The most common reasons given were:

  • Mental health (36%)
  • Physical health (34%)
  • A previously unresolved transgression (12%)
  • Disobeying mission rules (11%)

https://religionnews.com/2018/09/26/more-mormon-missionaries-are-coming-home-early-study-shows/

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21 minutes ago, pogi said:

Mental illness needs to be addressed.  Anxiety seems to be the plague of our day for young people, and I would guess it is a large factor for many returning early.

4 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Mental Health (36%)

The second nephew that I referenced in the OP came home for health reasons. More specifically is was depression. He isn't depressed anymore. It would be depressing to be somewhere you don't want to be. I don't think that means he is mentally ill.

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Yes, depression is illness for sure.  The term “mental illness” connotes something scary, but if you break it down to what it is, illness of the mind, that is precisely what depression is.  It’s more than being depressed about being in a strange place.  A diagnosis of depression is not about an emotion it’s about a real heaviness, a lack of energy, feeling as though you have cinderblocks tied to every limb, it’s  a purposeless point of view.  It’s absolute hell. 

Perhaps your nephew was given a diagnosis errantly.  If not, it does qualify as mental illness but we rarely use that term.  Sort of like calling someone’s depression a “mental breakdown”.  No shame in any of it for me. 

Anyway that’s all aside from your point really...our SP tells all the boys to wait a year.  Go to school, live away from mommy, own your life first.  It seems to have helped after a rash if young men came home.  Just because 18 is allowed doesn’t mean it’s s good idea for everyone.  Thank goodness for the change because I think it takes a lot of pressure off imo. 

 

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1 hour ago, Thinking said:

The second nephew that I referenced in the OP came home for health reasons. More specifically is was depression. He isn't depressed anymore. It would be depressing to be somewhere you don't want to be. I don't think that means he is mentally ill.

Depression is a mental illness.  But it certainly need not be a permanent condition.  Certainly to be where you don't want to be can be depressing.  I'd suggest a factor not really uncovered in the survey was could the mental illness (no doubt most commonly termed "depression") be due to lack of belief or confusions due to lack of belief.  

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

He may not be mentally ill now, but depression certainly is a mental illness.  There is no shame in admitting that.  Just like physical illness, mental illness can be mild or severe, It can be chronic or acute/situational.  Mental illness has a social stigma unfortunately, and we are sometimes hesitant to admit that we, or someone we love, has a mental illness.  It is not something to be any more ashamed of or embarrassed about than getting the common cold or some other illness.

Good.  Sorry can't just thumbs you up.  

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I only have my stake and the missionaries that serve in my area to go from.  It seems like about 75% of those returning home early are for medical reasons.  The medical reason in the majority of cases is for mental health.  I too hear about anxiety over and over again among the missionaries.  I think some of the anxiety and depression is probably medical or familial.  15-20% of the population has depression and anxiety severely enough that they need treatment with medication.  How much of this depression/anxiety is situational or reactionary in nature?  In other words not what would be typically considered medical.  How much of this is preventable or could be prepared for?  My experience among the sisters serving around in our area is that about 1 in 6 is returning home early.  The better that they are treated and reintegrated into the ward, the better they seem to do over time.  Specifically, a calling as soon as possible.  

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12 hours ago, Thinking said:

Is there a solution?

IMO raise the missionary age back up.

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Posted (edited)

Rather stunned that comments thus far seem to lay responsibility for "fixing" all this at the feet of the Church, to the apparent exclusion of parenting/family mentoring (or lack thereof) as playing a role.

Edited by Derl Sanderson
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29 minutes ago, Derl Sanderson said:

Rather stunned that comments thus far seem to lay responsibility for "fixing" all this at the feet of the Church, to the apparent exclusion of parenting/family mentoring (or lack thereof) as playing a role.

Or just waiting a year.  Some 18 year olds are ready.  It’s not a big deal to wait. 

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25 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

Or just waiting a year.  Some 18 year olds are ready.  It’s not a big deal to wait. 

Whether intended or not (and I think the evidence points to not) most people have the belief that one should go immediately at 18 or close to it. I think a conference talk saying it's OK to wait and go when you're more mature would go a long ways to solving the problem.

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47 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

Or just waiting a year.  Some 18 year olds are ready.  It’s not a big deal to wait. 

My son will be fine going at 18. It will be right after he graduates.  Waiting a year would put a kink in his plans.  I think its great that they can go at 18. 

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51 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Whether intended or not (and I think the evidence points to not) most people have the belief that one should go immediately at 18 or close to it. I think a conference talk saying it's OK to wait and go when you're more mature would go a long ways to solving the problem.

Hu.  That’s interesting.  There is so much flex in our area- some go at 18, 19, several prominent ym waited til 20, my own son began mission prep at 20.  Word on the street is that President will push to wait so there’s really no pressure.  It’s super nice.  I agree, an official statement might be very helpful. 

 

31 minutes ago, cherryTreez said:

My son will be fine going at 18. It will be right after he graduates.  Waiting a year would put a kink in his plans.  I think its great that they can go at 18. 

I agree so much.  My 18 year old is actually practically 30.  Some kids mature quickly and it’s so wonderful to have the option. So many males though are very immature still at 18 living at home being not prepared. 

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I don't know why everyone is caught up on the age thing as some contributing factor.  The only info I've seen (and linked in this thread for all to see) suggests age has nothing to do with it.  That is it doesn't matter if one is 18 or 21, the issue remains.  The largest issues contributing to people going home early are health related, mental as number one and physical as number 2.  

if there is other info out there, I"d like to see it.  Really.  because in my own personal views, it seems many missionaries over the past ocuple of years have come home early, quite often for lack of belief issues.  I wonder if that ever could be categorized as mental health--as in being depressed for not wanting to be there and do that when they dont' really believe.  

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7 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I don't know why everyone is caught up on the age thing as some contributing factor.  The only info I've seen (and linked in this thread for all to see) suggests age has nothing to do with it.  That is it doesn't matter if one is 18 or 21, the issue remains.  The largest issues contributing to people going home early are health related, mental as number one and physical as number 2.

The argument is that because people aren't mature enough and haven't been on their own that there's increased stresses leading to more mental illness related symptoms. There may be some large social changes as well - some point to helicopter parenting for instance or social media use. However it appears the change in the number of people coming home happens after the change in age suggesting a correlation. Although I've not found year based statistics to confirm that. (I'm sure the Church has it internally though)

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that increased internet usage also is causing part of the issue. That's a relatively recent change as well.

 

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