I still recall watching a young woman in a smartly pressed plaid skirt and tear-stained face, stand to apologize to her parents she had been called to serve a mission. Back in the seventies it wasn’t deemed a good thing to be called, simply because it meant you still weren’t married by the ripe ol’ age of 22.
As time has marched on, the Saints have had to modify their missionary program in ways I’m sure has made them loosen neck ties to make breathing easier.
A few months ago I took notice of an article in Religion News Service who reported on the significant amount of missionaries who were returning home early. Here in part is what they said –
Religion News Service September 26, 2018
“…fully one-third of Millennial Mormons who went out on a mission came home before their assigned time… In the Millennial generation, for example, 35% of female missionaries returned early, compared to 29% of male missionaries.” — Jana Riess
Ms. Reiss noted a small survey conducted by Utah Valley University who canvassed the area asking early returnees why they came home early. Over one-third of those, (36%), responded it was for mental health reasons.
(For the record, the news makes my heart sad to see anyone going through such duress.)
The ink on her report barely had time to dry when the Church came out with a curt denial. (I’ve used RNS in past articles, and while I don’t agree with their ideology, have always found them to be reliable with info they provide.)
A report from Utah based television station and website, KUTV.com, asked the Church if the rumors were true, and they replied by stating, ‘while we do not publicly share this data, it is significantly lower than the figures cited in recent media reports’.
That said, it’s interesting to note how the Church scrambled to come up with a new missionary program designed to accommodate the latest generation of faithful Mormons.
According to the same report, KUTV.com, the Church’s new system is called a ‘Two-Transfer-Mission’. It’s designed to alleviate the pressure of serving a traditional full mission. Missionaries now have the option to choose which type of mission they feel more comfortable serving.
All two-transfer programs are domestic, and within driving distance of the parent’s home. In fact, parents drop their kids off at their mission’s door. According to KUTV.com, here’s how it works –
“First, the missionary serves three months, comes home for a brief period to get trained, and then missionary has the option to serve the remainder of their call.”
It seems odd they’d come home for training after already being out in the field, but be that as it may, it looks like they now have more control over what they’re going to do. Only time will tell with that one.
Another program the Church has implemented is for the missionaries to continue serving if they leave early, but doing so locally. The Church sets them up to work online witnessing to those who write in looking for more info on Mormonism. We reported on this the month after news broke about the missionary problems. For more info, see New LDS Program Reveals Desperate Attempt at Keeping Missionaries.
In light of Ms. Reiss’ report, we’d be remiss not to point out the obvious.
Back in April 2019 we looked the Church’s vital stats, which of course included stats on their missionary workforce. As noted in our 2019 report, the amount of missionaries decreased from 2018 by 2.94%, but that doesn’t really give a great picture of what’s happened.
The Church reported they had 65,137 full time missionaries in 2019. If you subtract a simple 33%, it can only mean 21,495 missionaries came home early.
The question/s begging to be asked —
What’s going on that more than 21,000 young people are leaving their missions early?
It’s been our experience over the years that when they leave their missions early, most leave the Church as well. Of those who leave, less than half accept the Lord.
When I scoured the net looking for answers, I came upon numerous sites providing stories with various reasons. As noted in Ms. Reiss’ report, there are lots of reasons why someone would leave early, and I’ve no doubt they’re legit – the majority is for mental health.
Looking at the numbers as a whole, it seems shocking there’s so many. I’ve been a Christian for 25 yrs, and had the blessing of supporting several Christian missions over the years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.
One thing is absolutely certain.
These young people need prayer. I, for one, am convinced they need it more now than ever before.
With Love in Christ;