OREM — A new study by researchers at Utah Valley University says that an early return for missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often accompanied by feelings of failure.
Kris Doty, chairwoman of the Department of Behavioral Science at Utah Valley University headed up a team of students for the study, which looked at the experiences of former LDS missionaries who returned early from their missions for various reasons. Most came home for mental health or medical reasons, she found.
Of the 348 male and female study participants, 73 percent said they experienced “feelings of failure,” a press release stated. Half said they received poor or indifferent receptions by home congregations after their early return.
“This is a prevalent concern in our communities,” Doty said in the release. “People just don’t know what to say or do because it’s out of the social norm. We want to start a meaningful dialogue to help others understand the effect this has on these kids, so we can change the reactions from awkward to accepting.”
Most missionaries whose service ended early were “well-prepared, willing and worthy to serve” before their missions, the study found.
“They were typical of any missionary heading into the Missionary Training Center,” Doty said, ”but something happened that caused their service to be derailed, and upon returning home they encountered people who didn’t know how to react to them sensitively.”
A presentation about the study, the findings of which are being written up, will be conducted at UVU on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. in the Library auditorium.