“Missionaries Who Return Home Early,” Counseling Resources (2020).
“Missionaries Who Return Home Early,” Counseling Resources.
Missionaries who return from or complete their missions earlier than anticipated may experience unique challenges. As they prepared for their missions and left to serve, they were likely filled with great hope and a desire to serve the Lord. When they return home early for any reason (for example, physical or mental health issues or transgression), they may feel disappointed, embarrassed, or discouraged. They may question the inspiration that led them to serve a mission. These returned missionaries may worry how other people view them or even how the Lord views them. They may feel like they have failed or are unworthy and may judge themselves negatively. They may also have feelings of loss and may even pass through various stages of grief.
Missionaries who return home early need the united efforts of family, friends, leaders, and ward members to help them through this difficult time. Reach out in love to comfort, encourage, and care for each returned missionary and his or her family. Encourage the missionary, her or his family, and ward members to refer to her or him as a “returned missionary” and not an “early-returned” or “early-released missionary.” This wording choice can help reduce the stigma associated with early releases.
As you talk with individuals, make sure to show love and empathy as the Savior would. Because every situation is different and each person’s circumstances vary, prayerfully consider asking questions like these to help you better understand the missionary’s concerns and discern his or her needs.
How do you feel about your mission?
What blessings did you receive from your service?
What are your greatest concerns or worries right now?
How do you feel about your release?
How is your family responding to your release?
What are your plans for addressing the challenges that brought you home?
What sources of support do you have?
How can the lessons you learned on your mission strengthen you during this transition time?
How is your relationship with the Lord right now?
As you help the returned missionary with her or his situation, consider some of these suggestions:
If it’s helpful, meet with the returned missionary regularly to help him or her find hope and healing.
Help the missionary see his or her identity and worth as a child of God and recognize his or her individual strengths, talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–11; Acts 17:28–29).
Encourage the missionary to seek a priesthood blessing.
If the missionary returned home because of a physical or mental health condition, help her or him receive prompt and appropriate treatment.
Help the missionary understand that the Lord values and accepts the service he or she has rendered as a missionary, including that he or she accepted the call to serve (see Doctrine and Covenants 124:49).
Express gratitude for the service the person gave as a missionary.
If the returned missionary’s release was for physical or mental health reasons, the bishop may have her or him report to the stake high council.
Find ways to help him or her feel welcomed back to the ward or share experiences about the mission. If appropriate, ask the missionary if he or she would like to offer a prayer, share his or her testimony, or speak in church.
Help the missionary understand that she or he will have many opportunities to serve in the Lord’s work, even if she or he no longer wears a missionary name tag.
Emphasize the returned missionary’s first priority is healing and that decisions regarding returning to missionary service should come later.
Do not pressure the missionary to go back to the mission field. This decision can come only after full recovery from the challenges that brought him or her home.
For those desiring to return to missionary service or seeking other opportunities to serve, the article “Returning to Service.”
Encourage the missionary to keep in contact with the mission president and his wife as she or he goes through this transition time.
If the missionary does not return to full-time service, seek to provide support and care. As the returned missionary begins setting goals for his or her future, counsel on such things as:
Temple attendance and worthiness
For the bishop: If the missionary moves or changes wards soon after returning, communicate with the missionary’s new bishop and make sure he is aware of the returned missionary’s situation.
If the missionary returned home because of worthiness issues, help her or him with the repentance process (see General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , chapter 32).
If the returned missionary’s release was for physical or mental health reasons, the bishop may consider having him or her report to the stake high council.
The returned missionary’s experience of coming home early also affects the lives of his or her family members. Determine the impact on the member’s family, and seek to address those issues.
Counsel with and help family members with their own struggles, concerns, or questions that come as a result of the missionary’s early return.
Help family members understand how the Savior can heal, bring peace to, and comfort them and the returned missionary.
Encourage the family to counsel together about the needs of the returned missionary and the resources available to help her or him.
Help family members focus their concern on the missionary and his or her healing instead of on how others may view the situation.
Help parents of the missionary understand that the early return of their son or daughter does not mean they have done something wrong as parents.
Help parents understand that they do not need to punish or blame themselves or others for the missionary’s early return.
Discourage family members from pressuring the missionary to return to missionary service before she or he is ready or if the missionary does not desire to return.
Consider working with ward leaders or other trusted individuals to provide continuing support, guidance, and assistance. Request the individual’s permission before discussing the situation with others.
Leaders may consider discussing the returned missionary’s situation in ward council to identify resources and opportunities to help him or her.
Find ways for Church leaders to actively serve and support the returned missionary and her or his family during this critical time.
Encourage the missionary to identify a trusted person to be a mentor, and encourage them to meet regularly.
The mentor could be the returned missionary’s ministering sister or brother.
Consider choosing another returned missionary with a similar experience who has found hope and strength through the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Include the missionary in callings and opportunities to serve and speak in appropriate ways when he or she is ready to do so.
As appropriate, consider additional help from Church resources and community resources that are in harmony with gospel principles.
In some areas, Family Services provides consultation services for Church leaders and counseling sessions for missionaries who return home early.
If Family Services is not available, consider additional resources in the community.