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One third of Millennial Mormons who go on a mission are returning early


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That number just seems excessively high. I'd love confirmation in some way. If it's ⅓ that's such a high number that you'd expect all wards to have a significant number of people coming home early. Missions just can't be harder than when I was young - they're required to do far less frankly. That suggests a change in how children are mentally prepared honestly. Which I can believe. Culturally we treat teens now the way we used to treat actual children. We micromanage them quite a bit more too. We don't allow them to go off on their own the way we did when I was that old.

The 18 change almost certainly contributes although Jana noted that the trend seems to predate that. 

Without seeing her raw data it's hard to say too much though. Like I said this one seems difficult to believe but may be true. I'd just like to see confirmation in some way from an other source.

I'd said the following in the other thread. (Bringing it here since we have a dedicated thread)

36 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I know we discussed it before, although I can't find the thread, but I just have a hard time believing that ⅓ come home early figure. That's not a knock on Jana's survey - but I just have a hard time seeing that being true without hearing about it everywhere. We'd simply expect to see a lot of people coming home in most peoples wards. I just don't see that.

Assuming it is true for the moment though, I do find it interesting that mental health seems the largest factor. I wonder if there's just a difference in how the current generation responds to difficult times. I can remember a period of several months where I was completely burnt out and depressed on my mission due to a series of bad companions and working without seeing any effect in an area without a lot of members. Honestly looking back it was a horrible time and I can completely understand people coming home when they encounter that sort of thing.

Edited by clarkgoble
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12 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

That number just seems excessively high. I'd love confirmation in some way. If it's ⅓ that's such a high number that you'd expect all wards to have a significant number of people coming home early. Missions just can't be harder than when I was young - they're required to do far less frankly. That suggests a change in how children are mentally prepared honestly. Which I can believe. Culturally we treat teens now the way we used to treat actual children. We micromanage them quite a bit more too. We don't allow them to go off on their own the way we did when I was that old.

The 18 change almost certainly contributes although Jana noted that the trend seems to predate that. 

Without seeing her raw data it's hard to say too much though. Like I said this one seems difficult to believe but may be true. I'd just like to see confirmation in some way from an other source.

I'd said the following in the other thread. (Bringing it here since we have a dedicated thread)

The 1/3 number does seem high.

Speaking from only personal experience, my ward will send out about 1, maybe 2 missionaries per year.  I've lived in the ward for 20 years and  have never seen a missionary come home early. 

As far as the stake goes, over the last 7-8 years I'm only aware of 1 missionary coming home early.  That missionary was in a serious car accident on the way to his first area.

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3 minutes ago, ksfisher said:

Speaking from only personal experience, my ward will send out about 1, maybe 2 missionaries per year.  I've lived in the ward for 20 years and  have never seen a missionary come home early. 

I've not heard of any coming home early. But then I also don't listen to gossip and don't necessarily know all the kids going on. So I'm not sure how much that is worth. Still, if it were ⅓ I'd expect everyone to know that it's a huge problem.

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Just now, rongo said:

 

In a sense, they are much easier than they used to be (especially stateside), but I think that might be a big part of the problem. The coddling and "missions made safe for snowflakes" missions that are common in the U.S. can cause anxiety and depression and boredom simply because they aren't asked to do anything difficult, find people, face rejection, etc. And, they are expected to be on devices "doing missionary work," which leads to some feelings of guilt. Many areas require them to hang around the Church during down time. On our missions, many of our adventures and great stories came when we tried to work during down time. 

Have they really softened that much?  I was on my mission circa 2002 and we knocked doors all day long, every day . . . 

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Just now, Waylon said:

Have they really softened that much?  I was on my mission circa 2002 and we knocked doors all day long, every day . . . 

That was 16 years ago, man! :) 

There might be local exceptions, but the trope now in most North American missions is that tracting is ineffective, we need to work smarter, not harder (i.e., tablets, smartphones, skype, "chapel tours," etc.). Many missions even forbid tracting to "force" members to do their duty and provide investigators --- or have the missionaries teach active members instead. 

That would make a lot of people want to go home early. 

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5 minutes ago, rongo said:

That was 16 years ago, man! :) 

There might be local exceptions, but the trope now in most North American missions is that tracting is ineffective, we need to work smarter, not harder (i.e., tablets, smartphones, skype, "chapel tours," etc.). Many missions even forbid tracting to "force" members to do their duty and provide investigators --- or have the missionaries teach active members instead. 

That would make a lot of people want to go home early. 

I'm just a little surprised.  My mission was basically nothing but tracting (and my president, halfway through, said no more member or less active work - just go find and teach people).

We had two choices.  We could either knock doors, or contact people in the street.  For a real treat, we could take a bus and contact people on the bus.

My mission president was NOT onboard with technology use (he was worried about pornography) and strongly encouraged we write our families, not email them.  He would have had a heart attack about the prospect of using tablets, smartphones, or skype!

Edited by Waylon
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55 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I don't see how missions could possibly be harder than they used to be.  Especially when we consider when missions used to be 3 years long.  My personal opinion is that a lot of kids aren't prepared emotionally or mentally for missions, partly because our society does not treat 18 year olds like adults anymore.  We treat them like kids that are years away from being self-sufficient in any real sense.  And so kids can't handle being removed from their homes and parents at 18 as well anymore as they used to be.  

It might also be that the change to 18 year old elders has just highlighted this effect, since they aren't getting a year of 'adulthood' in anymore before serving.  

Very much agree with this.  And frankly, American 19 year olds are no better than 18 year olds in that regard.  We American baby teenagers & young adults way too much.   

 

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1 minute ago, rongo said:

the trope now in most North American missions is that tracting is ineffective

The only this tracting has ever been effective for is teaching missionaries how to handle rejection. :)

The missionaries in my area still tract, although the areas are small enough that they can go through them fairly quickly.

 

7 minutes ago, rongo said:

In a sense, they are much easier than they used to be (especially stateside), but I think that might be a big part of the problem. The coddling and "missions made safe for snowflakes" missions that are common in the U.S. can cause anxiety and depression and boredom simply because they aren't asked to do anything difficult, find people, face rejection, etc. And, they are expected to be on devices "doing missionary work," which leads to some feelings of guilt --- and the anxiety and depression that studies are showing excessive screen time as causing. Many areas require them to hang around the Church during down time.

I'm not aware of any of the missions in the Salt Lake City area being like this.  The mission president in my area even took away all of the building keys from his missionaries. 

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1 hour ago, phaedrus ut said:

According to Jana Reiss's column at Religion News Service 1/3 of Mellennial Mormons who go out on a mission are returning early. 

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

Are missions harder now than they once were, are missionaries softer now, or is it something else? 

Phaedrus 

While i have admired the author's efforts here, this isn't a survey that stands up to statistical standards of randomness, so I'm very hesitant to believe any of the specific numbers here the way I would a Pew Survey (for example).

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24 minutes ago, rongo said:

1/3 is ridiculously high. One out of three. That doesn't jibe with anyone's anecdotal experience, actual knowledge, or even the wildest dreams of critics (other than Jana Reiss, I guess). I would put it at about 1/10 (one out of ten).

Since the age change, my ward has sent out eight missionaries I can recall, and two came home early, so we'd be around 25%. 

But I can't imagine the average mission sending home 1/3 of it's missionaries over the course of their missions (so 1/6 of its missionaries each year?)  If they had 200 missionaries, that would be 2 or 3 a month.   That seems crazy high.

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40 minutes ago, ksfisher said:

The 1/3 number does seem high.

Speaking from only personal experience, my ward will send out about 1, maybe 2 missionaries per year.  I've lived in the ward for 20 years and  have never seen a missionary come home early. 

As far as the stake goes, over the last 7-8 years I'm only aware of 1 missionary coming home early.  That missionary was in a serious car accident on the way to his first area.

I can't speak for my stake because I don't know, but my ward mirrors yours.  I've lived here for 5 years and in that time we've never had a missionary return home early.  We seem to average between 3-4 missionaries serving at a time.  Right now we have 3 missionaries out but will have 5 by the end of October.

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1 hour ago, phaedrus ut said:

According to Jana Reiss's column at Religion News Service 1/3 of Mellennial Mormons who go out on a mission are returning early. 

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

Are missions harder now than they once were, are missionaries softer now, or is it something else? 

Phaedrus 

I suspect this has something to do with the concept of duty in our culture, and how that has shifted somewhat in the younger generations.  

When I had hard times on my mission, I never honestly contemplated going home early.  I also never contemplated getting help for mental issues, or getting any help at all for that matter.  I would just grin and bear it.  I think the younger generation is much more open to evaluating options, much more than we did in my generation.  The taboos around asking for help and/or acknowledging problems aren't the same today as they were in my generation.  

I actually see this trend as having some good in it.  The other thing that has been changing and rightfully so is the negative stigma towards those who don't serve a "complete" mission, as well as the stigma for those that choose not to serve.  I sense a change there as well, but it would really help if some leaders actually made statements over the pulpit, that help alleviate suffering from past statements by church leaders.  Couple that, along with some major overhauls to the missionary programs, like allowing for different lengths of service and different types of missions, and the church would better address the needs of people today.  

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56 minutes ago, rongo said:

That was 16 years ago, man! :) 

There might be local exceptions, but the trope now in most North American missions is that tracting is ineffective, we need to work smarter, not harder (i.e., tablets, smartphones, skype, "chapel tours," etc.). Many missions even forbid tracting to "force" members to do their duty and provide investigators --- or have the missionaries teach active members instead. 

That would make a lot of people want to go home early. 

That has been exactly our experience here (in the Midwest). It is terribly frustrating as the bishop, because the missionaries won't tract and don't know how to talk to people. They have no idea how to generate investigators for themselves, and then are depressed when they have very few people to teach, and have very little else to do. It's really nuts. 

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1 minute ago, DispensatorMysteriorum said:

That has been exactly our experience here (in the Midwest). It is terribly frustrating as the bishop, because the missionaries won't tract and don't know how to talk to people. They have no idea how to generate investigators for themselves, and then are depressed when they have very few people to teach, and have very little else to do. It's really nuts. 

A lot of teens have a really difficult time talking to people in person and beginning conversations.  They have very little practice in it now that most of the communication happens online, through apps, or through texts.

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In my experience for those missionaries who come home early, it is far less about whether they can do it.  It's far more about whether they really feel convicted to the whole enterprise.  many seem to start to realize at that age, that the Church system simply isn't going to work for them, as is presently constituted.  it worked well for us back in the day, at a higher rate, because we simply aren't seeing what they are seeing.  

That's my take.  The church would do well to stop blaming the kids and members on this stuff and realize the church itself needs to change.  Dismissing these types of things as "this generation doesn't know how to cope or work" or "or these kids with their growing up using technology don't know how to talk to people" or whatever is silly.  I heard the same cries about me when I was a youngster growing up by the older generation.  I suppose we'll hear it forever.  But it just sounds like unproductive whining these days.  

Edited by stemelbow
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I have lived in this ward for about 5 years.  In my last ward for 7.  One third is about right for my last ward.  Sadly, the last year we were there only 1 out of the 5 men my son's age, who were newly graduated, went at all.  In this ward we have had 6-8 missionaries over the course of the 5 years and one returned early.  I also know one other in our stake that returned early, but I don't really think he was ready to go in the first place.  

 

 

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1 hour ago, rongo said:

1/3 is ridiculously high. One out of three. That doesn't jibe with anyone's anecdotal experience, actual knowledge, or even the wildest dreams of critics (other than Jana Reiss, I guess). I would put it at about 1/10 (one out of ten). 

In a sense, they are much easier than they used to be (especially stateside), but I think that might be a big part of the problem. The coddling and "missions made safe for snowflakes" missions that are common in the U.S. can cause anxiety and depression and boredom simply because they aren't asked to do anything difficult, find people, face rejection, etc. And, they are expected to be on devices "doing missionary work," which leads to some feelings of guilt --- and the anxiety and depression that studies are showing excessive screen time as causing. Many areas require them to hang around the Church during down time. On our missions, many of our adventures and great stories came when we tried to work during down time. 

I'm glad she's at least trying to put a number on it. We've speculated on this board about early returns but never had anything more than individual ward or stake results. In the last 3 years my ward has sent out 11 missionaries and I believe 4 have come home early, so her number matches my experience. Still, I don't know that it holds up across the church.

But there is a simple way to know exactly how many missionaries come home early. The church could tell us.

And it seems like they have a duty to do so. If I am going to trust my young son or daughter to a mission, shouldn't I have a correct understanding about success rates for completion? Shouldn't I know the main reasons missionaries are coming home so I could try to help mitigate those issues prior to sending them out? Growing up, the early return missionary was an anomaly but now it seems to be a 33% chance. I think we should have those stats and talk about them with youth planning to serve so that expectations are realistic.

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44 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

In my experience for those missionaries who come home early, it is far less about whether they can do it.  It's far more about whether they really feel convicted to the whole enterprise.  many seem to start to realize at that age, that the Church system simply isn't going to work for them, as is presently constituted.  it worked well for us back in the day, at a higher rate, because we simply aren't seeing what they are seeing.  

That's my take.  The church would do well to stop blaming the kids and members on this stuff and realize the church itself needs to change.  Dismissing these types of things as "this generation doesn't know how to cope or work" or "or these kids with their growing up using technology don't know how to talk to people" or whatever is silly.  I heard the same cries about me when I was a youngster growing up by the older generation.  I suppose we'll hear it forever.  But it just sounds like unproductive whining these days.  

This isn't at all what the research even Jana gives would suggest. The largest group is Mental illness. Followed by physical. (then previous transgression or breaking mission rules). Which fits my mission and those I know who've returned early. Most came home for mental illness concerns.

Do you have any tangible evidence for your claims? (IOW, CFR)

 

With luv,

BD

 

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Since I'm the only Millenial so far to post....I'd say these numbers feel way to high. On my mission, we had a few people go home early. Usually for mental/physical health concerns. And 1....(maybe 2?) For breaking mission rules, that I can remember. But no matter how I cut it, we were no where near 1/3 leaving early. My extended family is also very young. I'm one of the oldest cousins. We've so far only had one return early due to severe depression. My mission was right before the age change ('10-11), but according to this article, there wasn't much of a difference. Which would suggest it may not be fully about maturity in and of itself.

I've had a few people I know return early....usually for the same reasons: mental/physical health. On the mental health note, that could be in part generational. Younger millenials and generations are having increased rates of anxiety and depression. Often times it may go undiagnosed and mission stress can be a great place to exacerbate emotional problems. It could also be that this era has more awareness of mental illness and are more likely to insist it's better to go get help than to "tough through it." 

 

With luv,

BD

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