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Early Returning Missionaries

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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

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.

 

Except:

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The data doesn’t bear this out, however. When we separate the Millennial generation in half (18- to 26-year-olds and 27- to 36-year-olds), there’s very little difference in the rate of early returns, and what difference does exist actually goes in the other direction. This trend started with the older Millennials, and has largely continued with the younger ones.

The study shows that the rate of early returns was similar before the age change as after, with an apparent slight edge going to more early returns happening before the age change.  The reasons for early returns tells us mental health unrelated to age, or the age change that occurred in 2012.  So I don't think changing the age back will matter.  And I don't think it has any bearing whatsoever on why people are coming home early.  

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29 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Except:

The study shows that the rate of early returns was similar before the age change as after, with an apparent slight edge going to more early returns happening before the age change.  The reasons for early returns tells us mental health unrelated to age, or the age change that occurred in 2012.  So I don't think changing the age back will matter.  And I don't think it has any bearing whatsoever on why people are coming home early.  

Could you link to the study? Particularly the date of the study? If this is the Next Mormon study, there are some problems with the sample size making drawing out significance problematic. I think the rate of ⅓ of Millennials coming home is just wrong. I'd discussed it over at T&S when Jana first announced the figures. Looking into it from what I can tell the figures are much smaller than that - albeit still unacceptably high. In the T&S thread someone anonymously said the Church figures were closer to ⅙. That suggests some biases in Jana's data so we should use it with caution in this regard.

If Jana's statistics are to be believed though (again big if) then this likely is tied to the widescale increase in American depression that seems to start around 2010 or so. This appears to not just be an American phenomena either. Many are tying it to the rise in social media. What's interesting is that this change is occuring while typical risk factors like drug use are decreasing. Some are tying this to a decrease in sleep although the direction of causality there isn't clear. That study I linked to found that the rate increased with the second half of Millennials (those born after 2000). Jana's figures I'd note found a slight inversion of that - although as I said I'm skeptical of those.

Edited by clarkgoble
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12 hours 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.

I have also noticed physical health issues often come out more fully once someone leaves home.  It may be the added stress or the less regular schedule or not eating as consistently well or perhaps being on one's own, one worries about  the aches and pains more, so go to the doctor and find out something major.  I think giving men and women both a year out of high school would be wise.  A two year age difference, especially 19/21 is significant.  I think 18/19 where many of the first group might be 19 or 20 has more or less removed age itself as a barrier and after that it will simply be temperament differences that will keep men and women not interested in each other (Iow, with that little age difference, I don't see that as a natural barrier to romance).

It would make sense to me to raise it back up to 19 save in countries that have major difficulties with breaking up schooling or military service as well as waivers for those who show not going at 18 creates a hardship...losing a scholarship for example because it can't be broken up, but can be delayed.

Edited by Calm
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36 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Could you link to the study? Particularly the date of the study? If this is the Next Mormon study, there are some problems with the sample size making drawing out significance problematic. I think the rate of ⅓ of Millennials coming home is just wrong. I'd discussed it over at T&S when Jana first announced the figures. Looking into it from what I can tell the figures are much smaller than that - albeit still unacceptably high. In the T&S thread someone anonymously said the Church figures were closer to ⅙. That suggests some biases in Jana's data so we should use it with caution in this regard.

If Jana's statistics are to be believed though (again big if) then this likely is tied to the widescale increase in American depression that seems to start around 2010 or so. This appears to not just be an American phenomena either. Many are tying it to the rise in social media. What's interesting is that this change is occuring while typical risk factors like drug use are decreasing. Some are tying this to a decrease in sleep although the direction of causality there isn't clear. That study I linked to found that the rate increased with the second half of Millennials (those born after 2000). Jana's figures I'd note found a slight inversion of that - although as I said I'm skeptical of those.

I've linked her site a couple of times already.  But here ya go:  https://religionnews.com/2018/09/26/more-mormon-missionaries-are-coming-home-early-study-shows/

I've had similar sounding concerning about her survey, but it's about all we have as of now.  Otherwise it's all guesswork.  I'd agree though that the excuse is overblown, at least from what I've seen in my networks.  It's much different.  Most seem to come home because they really didnt' believe, feeling depressed while out.  Seemed to match her results.  Im not feeling convinced by a bunch of other guesswork, I guess.  

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38 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Most seem to come home because they really didnt' believe, feeling depressed while out.

I'm close to a couple of the early-returning missionaries in our stake, and for neither of them was the issue lack of belief. One is now married in the temple, and the other is completely active as well.

But it seems to me that attempting to serve a mission without personal knowledge that what one is preaching is actually true would be a recipe for complete disaster. I would think that depression would be the most minor consequence. Why on earth would people send a young person who doesn't believe into such a soul-destroying situation???

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4 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Why on earth would people send a young person who doesn't believe into such a soul-destroying situation???

I agree that unbelief is probably a smaller reason for missionaries coming home, though I'm not sure who we'd measure that. However I do know that there were at least 4-5 missionaries I personally interacted with and others I knew about that really had zero testimony. Everyone knew were there because their parents weren't going to pay for college or buy their car if they didn't (which in that case wasn't really the elders fault but the crappy parents extorting their kids). A couple even openly told their companions why they were there, and it wasn't for Jesus. 

It happens and because they answer the questions to their bishop and stake president usually they don't get stopped.

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30 minutes ago, SettingDogStar said:

It happens and because they answer the questions to their bishop and stake president usually they don't get stopped.

A bishop who relies on a one-off interview to assess the depth and breadth of a young man's spiritual knowledge and preparation has been negligent in his responsibilities, in my opinion. He is, after all, the president of the priests quorum. He should have had a couple of years with each prospective male missionary, sitting in council with them each Sunday and in presidency meetings, ministering alongside them, engaging in weekly activities with them, regularly interviewing them, listening to them, teaching them, being taught by them, training them in their priesthood duties and roles, watching how they interact with their families and other ward members. He should have been praying and fasting both with and for them. He should have been in the temple with them. And so forth.

The relationship will be a bit different when it comes to young women, but I'm confident that the man who was bishop when I was Young Men president knew his Laurels almost as well as he knew his priests, and he knew his priests intimately. There was simply no option for someone to 'pass' an interview dishonestly.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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10 hours ago, ALarson said:

I think the church leaders are working towards better preparing the YM and YW in the years before they reach the age to serve a mission.  That's one solution.  They need to know about some of the difficult issues because they are now being asked questions about polygamy, polyandry and so on....in more depth than before, IMO.

I also believe they should raise the age back up to 19 years old for YM.  Almost every single missionary who has returned home early in our ward and stake have been YM who went out on their missions right out of high school.  They were not only not prepared for their missions knowledge wise, they were not mature and were also not prepared to be out on their own.  I think a year of college (or working) helps a great deal in that area.

I don't see the church publishing these numbers and I do understand why they wouldn't want to.  But for sure they have increased (at least in my area).

I don’t believe pushing the age back to 19 is the answer. Eighteen may be too early for some, but others who leave at that age make fabulous missionaries. 

As part of renewed attention to preparation, it needs to be stressed strongly that leaving at age 18 is not required and, indeed for some (many?) waiting for a year or even two or three may be advisable. That is certainly an option under the status quo. 

We have some prospective missionaries serving with us as temple ordinance workers. I can see how that could be superb preparation for a mission. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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42 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

A bishop who relies on a one-off interview to assess the depth and breadth of a young man's spiritual knowledge and preparation has been negligent in his responsibilities, in my opinion. He is, after all, the president of the priests quorum. He should have had a couple of years with each prospective male missionary, sitting in council with them each Sunday and in presidency meetings, ministering alongside them, engaging in weekly activities with them, regularly interviewing them, listening to them, teaching them, being taught by them, training them in their priesthood duties and roles, watching how they interact with their families and other ward members. He should have been praying and fasting both with and for them. He should have been in the temple with them. And so forth.

The relationship will be a bit different when it comes to young women, but I'm confident that the man who was bishop when I was Young Men president knew his Laurels almost as well as he knew his priests, and he knew his priests intimately. There was simply no option for someone to 'pass' an interview dishonestly.

I wholeheartedly agree with you! I just know elders and sisters both "slip through" decently often, whether they lie through their teeth or the bishop doesn't know them well. 

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15 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Most seem to come home because they really didnt' believe, feeling depressed while out. 

Depression can create a disconnect to the spirit (or for those who don't believe such exists, a suppression of whatever creates that sensation), so it may be a natural progression for those who feel depressed to then doubt any previous experiences as wishful thinking, etc.  Or they can become dismissive of previous spiritual experiences reinterpreting them as simply acting the part (no doubt true in some cases).  

I can see this easily becoming a vicious cycle for a missionary...stress or something triggers depression, creating a unintentional/ nonsinful loss of spirit, which leads to doubt....this creates more stress because they are in a situation requiring belief to feel authentic, depression deepens, etc.

I had years as an adult for spiritual experiences, so it was pretty easy for me to recognize the loss of spirit in my life and pinpoint a cause (medication for depression ironically, though my issue was sleep disorder) without experiencing doubt that I had those experiences.  I can imagine young adults having several new and varied experiences without something comparable in their past to measure them against being much more confused over what was happening, what might be causing their sense of absence of the spirit as well as then assuming they only thought they felt the spirit before due to parents' influences (which probably happens to some extent for some) or something else that triggers doubt.

Edited by Calm
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19 hours 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.

I for sure do not lay all responsibility at the feet of the church.  I agree that the parents and families also play a large role in whether or not a YM or YW is prepared to serve a mission.  Not only to support and teach them in the home, but also teach them some life skills for when they are on their own (such as ironing, sewing on buttons, doing their own laundry, cooking simple meals....and much more).  Others have mentioned that some serve missions to please their parents or even because parents withhold things if they don't.  I've only seen that a few times (no mission/no paying for college for example) and that's wrong to do too, IMO. 

Missionaries need to be going out and serving for the right reasons.  But, they also need to be better prepared regarding knowing about the difficult church history issues, etc., than many I've interacted with.  The leaders are doing better with that too (seminary lessons and institute lessons), but I feel even more should be done as there are still many missionaries who are not prepared in that area and who are then blind-sighted with information by investigator's questions.  Parents need to educate themselves regarding these issues and also play a role in teaching these to their kids as part of the lessons given in the home, IMO.

I also really do believe that the age should be changed to 19 years for both the YM and YW.  Do the leaders believe that the YM are better prepared at 18 years than the YW are at that age?  I've got to be honest here and say that's not what I've seen (maturity wise and with their knowledge about the gospel either).  Of course some YM serve at 18 and do great....but many coming home are those who went out right out of high school (from what I have personally seen).  

Edited by ALarson
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1 hour ago, ALarson said:

I also really do believe that the age should be changed to 19 years for both the YM and YW.  Do the leaders believe that the YM are better prepared at 18 years than the YW are at that age?  I've got to be honest here and say that's not what I've seen (maturity wise and with their knowledge about the gospel either).  Of course some YM serve at 18 and do great....but many coming home are those who went out right out of high school (from what I have personally seen).  

Big fat amen. 

In my opinion * it’s never been about maturity, it’s always been about the emphasis on girls getting married as The Priority. 

I think that antiquated way of thought has shifted so it “appears” that it’s about maturity, but clearly 18 year old girls are more mature than 18 year old boys *in general *imo

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21 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

Big fat amen. 

In my opinion * it’s never been about maturity, it’s always been about the emphasis on girls getting married as The Priority. 

I think that antiquated way of thought has shifted so it “appears” that it’s about maturity, but clearly 18 year old girls are more mature than 18 year old boys *in general *imo

I agree! 

Has the church clarified why YM are able to go out earlier than YW?  I know they've made it closer in age (lowering the age for YW to 19 years).  But I wonder why they don't allow them both to serve at the same age?

Does anyone have thoughts on why?

Edited by ALarson

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5 minutes ago, ALarson said:

Has the church clarified why YM are able to go out earlier than YW?  I know they've made it closer in age (lowering the age for YW to 19 years).  But I wonder why they don't allow them both to serve at the same age?

Does anyone have thoughts on why?

Probably because maintaining a maturity gap helps limit the likelihood of elders and sisters developing inappropriate relationships. 

 

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1 hour ago, ALarson said:

I for sure do not lay all responsibility at the feet of the church.  I agree that the parents and families also play a large role in whether or not a YM or YW is prepared to serve a mission.  Not only to support and teach them in the home, but also teach them some life skills for when they are on their own (such as ironing, sewing on buttons, doing their own laundry, cooking simple meals....and much more).  Others have mentioned that some serve missions to please their parents or even because parents withhold things if they don't.  I've only seen that a few times (no mission/no paying for college for example) and that's wrong to do too, IMO. 

Missionaries need to be going out and serving for the right reasons.  But, they also need to be better prepared regarding knowing about the difficult church history issues, etc., than many I've interacted with.  The leaders are doing better with that too (seminary lessons and institute lessons), but I feel even more should be done as there are still many missionaries who are not prepared in that area and who are then blind-sighted with information by investigator's questions.  Parents need to educate themselves regarding these issues and also play a role in teaching these to their kids as part of the lessons given in the home, IMO.

I also really do believe that the age should be changed to 19 years for both the YM and YW.  Do the leaders believe that the YM are better prepared at 18 years than the YW are at that age?  I've got to be honest here and say that's not what I've seen (maturity wise and with their knowledge about the gospel either).  Of course some YM serve at 18 and do great....but many coming home are those who went out right out of high school (from what I have personally seen).  

I've never thought the age difference was meant to imply that the church believes YM are better prepared at 18 than YW.  I've always assumed it was meant to emphasize the church teachings that YM have a duty to serve a mission and YW don't.

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3 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Probably because maintaining a maturity gap helps limit the likelihood of elders and sisters developing inappropriate relationships. 

 

This too.

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5 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Probably because maintaining a maturity gap helps limit the likelihood of elders and sisters developing inappropriate relationships. 

 

I doubt one year makes much of a difference.  I can see other reasons, but not this one.

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11 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I've never thought the age difference was meant to imply that the church believes YM are better prepared at 18 than YW.  I've always assumed it was meant to emphasize the church teachings that YM have a duty to serve a mission and YW don't.

That might have made sense or been the reason for girls needing to wait until they were 21 years old to go out on a mission, but 19 instead of 18 years doesn’t seem to be applicable, imo.  

Or do you think the leaders believe it’s more important for girls to get a year of college or other experiences after high school and before they serve a mission compared to the boys?

I see no reason to not make the age the same for both (the leaders still must though).  I wonder if they will be the same some time in the near future.  We will see!!

Edited by JulieM
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43 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I doubt one year makes much of a difference.  I can see other reasons, but not this one.

Really? I think it's a pretty obvious reason - not the only one of course, but I think it's relevant.

I mean, honestly, how many girls did you know in your college freshman class who were still dating guys who were in high school?

 

40 minutes ago, JulieM said:
49 minutes ago, bluebell said:

 I've always assumed it was meant to emphasize the church teachings that YM have a duty to serve a mission and YW don't.

That might have made sense or been the reason for girls needing to wait until they were 21 years old to go out on a mission, but 19 instead of 18 years doesn’t seem to be applicable, imo.  

Or do you think the leaders believe it’s more important for girls to get a year of college or other experiences after high school and before they serve a mission compared to the boys?

So, I think there is both a symbolic and a pragmatic purpose behind maintaining the age gap with respect to this area. The symbolic purpose is obvious: maintaining a gap comports with the church's belief that young men have an obligation to serve missions in a way that young women do not.

Pragmatically, by keeping the age at 19 for young women, it kind of provides an incentive for them to go ahead and get started on their after-high-school plans (often involving college), and that will give them another year to decide if they really want to serve a (non-obligatory) mission or if they want to just go ahead and move on with their life (e.g., schooling, dating, etc.). And by postponing the decision it will also help to separate the decision maker from their high school peers, at least to an extent - think of the situation where everyone in your Laurel class wanted to go on a mission except you. 

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44 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Really? I think it's a pretty obvious reason - not the only one of course, but I think it's relevant.

I mean, honestly, how many girls did you know in your college freshman class who were still dating guys who were in high school?

I don’t see that being a fair comparison.

We’re talking about 19 year old girls with 18 year old guys (who are no longer in high school) or 20 year olds with 19 year old guys or 21 with 22 years of age.  

There are a lot of married couple where the man is a year (or more) younger than their wife.

Edited by JulieM
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1 hour ago, JulieM said:

That might have made sense or been the reason for girls needing to wait until they were 21 years old to go out on a mission, but 19 instead of 18 years doesn’t seem to be applicable, imo.  

Or do you think the leaders believe it’s more important for girls to get a year of college or other experiences after high school and before they serve a mission compared to the boys?

I see no reason to not make the age the same for both (the leaders still must though).  I wonder if they will be the same some time in the near future.  We will see!!

Like Amulek said, i think it's mostly symbolic.  It reflects the doctrine that while YM have a duty to be preparing for a mission after high school, YW don't.  I think the extra year reflects the idea that women are meant to spend some time after high school trying to decide if serving a mission is what God wants for/from them.  I also agree that there is a pragmatic aspect in keeping the girls older than the boys and helping to discourage romantic relationships. 

I agree with you too that the age could become the same in the future; it's not a doctrinal issue and so can easily change at any time.  

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4 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I don’t see that being a fair comparison.

We’re talking about 19 year old girls with 18 year old guys (who are no longer in high school) or 20 year olds with 19 year old guys or 21 with 22 years of age.  

There are a lot of married couple where the man is a year (or more) younger than their wife.

I think this is one of those things that changes as girls and boys age.  I'm two years older than my husband, but I never would have dated a sophomore as a senior.  There is no maturity difference between my husband and I as adults but that wouldn't have been true when we were younger.

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8 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I think this is one of those things that changes as girls and boys age.  I'm two years older than my husband, but I never would have dated a sophomore as a senior. 

Oh, I agree if we’re talking about high school students, but we’re not.  

I just don’t see that reason as being a valid one to keep the ages one year different.  A year difference isn’t going to stop most guys and girls from being attracted to each other, imo.   They still end up serving with those their own age (opposite sex) or even those who are older over the years they serve a mission. 

Edited by JulieM
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4 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I don’t see that being a fair comparison.

Why not? You're the one who said you doubted that a one year age gap makes much of a difference. The point I was trying to make is that sometimes it kind of does. 

 

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We’re talking about 19 year old girls with 18 year old guys (who are no longer in high school) or 20 year olds with 19 year old guys or 21 with 22 years of age.  

I know. And a girl who has been through a year of college is going to be significantly more mature (still) than a guy who is fresh out of high school. So, while there will likely be exceptions to the rule, most of the elders that a sister is going to come in contact with are not going to fall within the 'serious consideration' category just yet. 

 

Quote

There are a lot of married couple where the man is a year (or more) younger than their wife.

True, but that fact elides a rather important distinction: that the average age of first marriage among LDS singles is 23. By the time you get to that point, you're talking about men and women who have completed missions, most or all of university, and the maturity gap between such individuals - even if it's a coupe of years - will tend to be much less pronounced that what you will see with 18-19 year olds (i.e., the target group we are discussing).

 

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