Young adults who serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may experience an array of injuries, issues and circumstances that result in being unable to continue with their mission service and returning home earlier than expected.
Once home, some of these young adults can feel disconnected from their loved ones and the Church, but there is hope and strength that both returned missionaries and loved ones can find in the process, according to a recent ChurchofJesusChrist.org article.
By letting the Spirit be an ever-present guide, early returning missionaries can be embraced by their loved ones and peers without being judged, the articles explains.
Sharing two stories of missionaries who returned home early from their missions and what they learned from the experience, the article also offers brief comments from several Church leaders, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
A worthwhile experience
Marshall, a man who returned home early from his mission due to physical and mental challenges, has, at times, felt regret for what kept him from being a "fully functional missionary." But, he said, he still feels his mission service was worthwhile.
“As missionaries, we’re not perfect,” Marshall said. “We’re still subject to temptation; we can still sin. But your imperfections are probably what Satan wants you to focus on — to feel like your offering isn’t accepted by the Lord because of those times when you weren’t the best missionary.”
Returning home can be tough for young adults and their loved ones but returned missionaries’ service isn’t for naught, Marshall said. Heavenly Father is pleased with the service they have offered, he said, despite any imperfect circumstances or choices.
Another unnamed individual, who served in Colorado, returned home early from his mission for disciplinary reasons and was excommunicated from the Church. He was later rebaptized, but coming home was difficult for him.
“I felt lost and empty," he said. "At times, the most difficult part of coming home was (finding) the motivation to keep going to Church, reading the scriptures and praying. The simple things were the hardest.”
In his case, he had the support of friends and family. Goal-setting, regularly meeting with his bishop and temple attendance were essential in creating a close relationship with his Heavenly Father. Additionally, the love of God, having a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance were what made recovery truly possible.
“We can always come closer to God no matter how distant we might feel,” he said. “I made some mistakes, but my testimony has grown so much more as I’ve striven to repent and keep moving forward.”
The transition from missionary service to regular home life can be jarring and, unlike what the Colorado missionary experienced, some loved ones aren’t always helpful in the transition process.
“Give them space,” Marshall said, advising loved ones of returned missionaries. “But make sure you’re close by, because it can be a little depressing. Be their friend.”
“Just love them,” said the missionary who served in Colorado. “Encourage them to always remember the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
Prior to a Face-to-Face event in March 2016, Elder Holland shared advice in a video post for young adults who have returned early from mission service.
“When someone asks if you’ve served a mission, you say yes,” he said. “… Cherish the service you rendered. Be grateful for the opportunity to have testified, to have been out in the name of the Lord, to have worn that missionary name plaque. … Please, please do not relive this; do not rehash it; do not think you’re inadequate or a failure.”