The Ninety-Nine and the One

April 17, 2009 | 41 comments
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My mission president drove me nuts. He would push us incessantly, he was goal oriented, and he was totally into details. I suspect just about every other mission president is also this way. Those are the traits you can expect – the kind you can deal with. What drove me nuts was how much tolerance he displayed towards the missionaries. The kind of egregious tolerance that resulted in him not sending a single missionary home during the time I was there.

Believe me, we didn’t have a mission full of angels. We were 19 and 20-something young men and women, with a few rebellious couples thrown into the mix. But despite the elder who fancied himself Rambo, bragging that he was willing to throw down with anyone, anytime, and even tried on occasion; despite the missionary who liked to enter any and every rodeo in the area so he could hone his bull-riding skills; despite the companionship whose soft drinks turned hard, the one that ended up fighting in the street until the police arrived, my mission president sent not a single one of them home.

Some of us suffered from the effects of this unwritten policy. It was a burden to the missionaries assigned as companions and the leaders responsible for monitoring and intervening, and at times it was an embarrassment to the local membership.

I suspect that it was missionaries like these who motivated the Raising the Bar standards. Better that they never set foot in the field, right?

But near the end of my mission, during a meeting with the mission president, he let slip a story about an experience he had while training to be a mission president.

One of the apostles told him that the brethren expected him to deliver X number of converts during his service. Anything over and above that number was icing on the cake. He wrote the number down. He obsessed over it. It became his goal.

A short time later he suddenly realized what that number actually represented. It was  the number of missionaries that a mission president could expect to preside over during the course of his three-year calling. That number was me. It was us. Any converts we brought into the fold were a bonus.

As he related this story, my frustration turned into a realization that continues to come into ever-sharper relief as I get older and missionaries get younger.

I’ve seen what happens when a young man or young woman is sent home early. I have seen their struggles to cope, their public shame. I look back on those missionaries that caused me, and others, so much frustration. But even with the frustration, they – we – were in a place of growth, a place where we could be reached, a place where we could finish our commitment and return home with head held high. Sending some of us home early would have been convenient, perhaps even expedient, but it would also have raised the likelihood of losing them forever.

I loved Elder Quentin L. Cook’s words in the most recent conference:

Our leaders have consistently counseled us “to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.”

It is equally important that we be loving and kind to members of our own faith, regardless of their level of commitment or activity. The Savior has made it clear that we are not to judge each other. This is especially true of members of our own families. Our obligation is to love and teach and never give up.

It isn’t easy to be inconvenienced, especially when we are asked to tolerate the views or the actions of the other, and love them too! It would be easier to ignore them, cast them out, keep things easy and pure. But that isn’t the plan.

Two decades after my missionary service, raising children of my own, my respect and admiration for my mission president continues to grow. I regret my feelings of frustration; I was too young to recognize the wisdom, the patience, and the foresight that he displayed.

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41 Responses to The Ninety-Nine and the One

  1. Marc Bohn on April 17, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    A beautiful thought. Thanks Rory.

  2. Justmeherenow on April 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Wow — in 1978 I knew an elder also named Swensen from south of SLC UT in the Georgia Atlanta Mission. Wonder if he was a relation?

  3. Rory Swensen on April 17, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Justmeherenow,

    My family originally settled in the Pleasant Grove, Utah area, south of SLC. If the missionary you knew spelled his name with the Danish “e” form of Swensen, it’s a good bet we are related.

    My service, however, was 90-92.

  4. AZ on April 17, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    As a mother of a missionary son who was sent home from the MTC due to the new rules of raising of the bar, I can’t tell you enough how much I loved your post. Your Mission President could see the big picture and was a true example of Christ-like love and compassion. I know of many adults who are now great leaders, parents and friends, who were immature, goof off missionaries and experienced a conversion and change in their hearts, because they were given the opportunity of growth and sacrifice from the opportunity of serving a mission. When a missionary is sent home or decides to come home early, it is almost automatic that the feelings of worthlessness set in immediately and the next step is to gravitate to friends and places that validate and rationalize the misery. Hence, causing a deeper hole and depression, poor decision making, etc that inevitably leads to bigger roadblocks. It has been 6 years this month that my sweet boy was sent home. He is my lost lamb. I just wish he knew he could be okay. I agree that rules are important, but even more important to remember that lives are affected. Obviously there is no perfect solution for these situations, but if more members of the Church could adapt a tolerance and love like that of your Mission President, I believe the load would be lighter for those who suffer such internal pain and it would be easier to help bring The One back into the fold.

  5. jks on April 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    It sounds like a dilemna for any teacher/ mission president/ parent. How much to you compromise to save the one when it is costing you many of the 99?
    I believe the answer is not always obvious. Sometimes, you have to save the 99. Sometimes, you have to concentrate on the 1. Divine guidance is nice in these cases. In a situation like your mission, I guess you can hope that he was doing the right thing.

  6. Kent G. Budge on April 17, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    It would be nice if we could develop a deterministic algorithm to decide which missionaries to send home and which not to accept in the first place. Then we could let the bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents of the Church spend more time giving inspirational talks or being with their families while a robot took care of all the painful decisions.

    But we can’t. And maybe it wouldn’t be so nice if we could.

    He would push us incessantly, he was goal oriented, and he was totally into details. I suspect just about every other mission president is also this way.

    Mine wasn’t much like this. He wanted us to succeed but tried to motivate us to push ourselves. He saw goals as a means to an end rather than the end. He did not micromanage. I can’t say enough good about him.

    He had to send two missionaries home during the time I was in the mission. As I understand it, one had stolen a mission car and run off with the girl next door. Another had been arrested for shoplifting. I don’t think he had any choice about keeping them in the mission and hoping they would get better.

    But I got to serve out my full 18 months. (Yeah, that gives away my age.) In spite of being the most socially clumsy missionary in the history of the mission. I will be forever grateful for that.

  7. CB on April 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    My husband’s mission president was Bruce R. McConkie. He loved each missionary with a Christ-like love and has great love and compassion for the missionaries who were struggling. My husband observed him love, counsel, and teach many missionaries so that they could stay on their missions. Many missionaries who would be sent home today were blessed and inspired by President McConkie, who led with the Spirit and who believed every missionary had enormous potential. I believe many missionaries could be strengthened and saved if they had mission presidents who presided with love, discernment, and compassion, and who served as the Savior would serve. Lives can be destroyed by a cruel and callous mission president and precious lives can be saved by a kind and merciful one.

  8. Steve H. on April 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    A great post. There is another aspect to this, in my opinion. I had a number of “problem” elders for my companions (serving 1976-78) I found that most, even all, of these difficult missionaries were, at some level, very sincere about their desire to build the kingdom and serve God. However, they chaffed under the uniform rules; they had a hard time giving themselves to whole program. However, they were capable of being very very effective. Remember, it doesn’t take much to be effective. In my mission (Thailand), you were a legend if you had more than about 5 baptisms over a two year period.

    I had one companion who simply hated hated hated going door to door. He found it be a total waste of time. My obedient, but un-original mind-set was such that we needed to “slog it out” and go door to door. Going door to door was ineffective, but often it appeared to be the only real option. This companion, notorious for breaking rules, would decide to do all sorts of “errands” of his own choosing during the day. For example, one morning he told me (I was his junior) that we were going to look for a new sound system for our small chapel. No one asked us to do it. He looked up companies in Bangkok that sold musical equipment, and he had us hop on a bus or two and we found the businesses. This broke a number of rules. We were leaving our area, for example.

    He would go to each place of business and speak to the owner (These were small shops) who usually was interested in seeing Americans fluent (semi) in the thai language. He would explain all sorts of stuff about our meetings, our needs, our location, and ask them eventually if they had spare equipment to donate. (Our meeting houses then were simply rented homes. Thailand opened for missionary work just 10 years or so before that, so we didn’t have any real sound systems anyway.) He then would talk about why we were there, and without fail we would provide a first discussion, etc.

    We taught alot, and we broke many rules. As junior companion I felt that it was my responsibility to support him, and I did it.

    My point here is that this elder was a big pain, and had a pretty lousy reputation in the mission. However, I thought that he was sincere, thoughtful, although somewhat unconventional.

    I know that rules are especially important when 170 young men/women are on their own all the countryside. But our “raised bar” can also bar the involvement, energy, testimony, creativity, and inspiration of those who can’t or won’t fit the mold.

  9. manaen on April 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you for this

  10. Ray on April 17, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Thank you, Rory.

    Although some situations certainly dictate sending missionaries home, and although different personalities for Mission Presidents can work wonderfully, I absolutely love the convert number concept you describe. That can be a default anywhere, and it is a wonderful vision.

  11. Bookslinger on April 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    There are also full-time service missions available for most 19 year old men who can’t (for whatever reason) go on a full-time proselyting mission. Most involve living at home. Our local storehouse has had positions for a few.

  12. Aboz on April 17, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    The bottom line is, we need strictness to enable the missionaries to actually have the spirit with them. Disobedience always leads to lack of the spirit, and consequently, sometimes “converts” aren’t truly converted, except by personalities of the Elders. This step up leads us to have stronger converts to the Church in the long run, and in the long run, less people coming to the bloggernacle with problems in their faith as a result of never truly having been converted. Its not that people of strong testimony don’t get shaken. But many times, people of strong testimony and truly converted end up ok even after a crisis of faith, while those who don’t have a good conversion to begin with, won’t generally end up so lucky. And to whatever degree, I believe this is partly as a result of missionaries when these people are converts that end up on sites like these that are shaken in their faith.

    It’s not the duty of missionaries to convert their fellow missionaries and babysit. They should all come converted to begin with. And those that can’t behave are better off serving in service missions at home where they can do the most good.

  13. Aboz? what kind of a name is that? on April 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Good grief. I don’t come here very often because I often run across the pride and nonsense I see in post #12. If the bloggernacle went back far enough I expect we would see posts like this from those currently serving in “high places”.

  14. Marie on April 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    What a fantastic post. I too know of people in my family and out that due to a lack of Christ-like love from those appointed over them in the church, have fallen away because they were denied that chance to grow spiritually and mentally, and develop their own testimonies. Each and every single one of the young men that I know who was denied a mission, or sent home early is now inactive. Oh that their leaders had had this same perspective as your mission president!!!! A truly wise man he was!!

  15. Minerva on April 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Aboz,

    “Disobedience always leads to lack of the spirit”

    So I guess none of us ever have the spirit? Because I can think of myriad ways in which each of us disobey in every moment of our lives.

    Also, I have not taken a survey but most people I know on the bloggernacle are not first-generation Mormons, i.e. their conversions did not occur because of LDS missionaries coming into their lives. And even the doubtless many who are first-generation Mormons are not on the bloggernacle because they are ill-converted. That’s quite an assumption.

  16. Minerva on April 17, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Oh, and I want to also express sadness about my cousin who was sent home and who has never come back to the Church. I don’t know the particulars of his situation, but I wonder if his offense was horribly flagrant or if he was just NINETEEN years old and not fully formed yet and had an uncompassionate mission president.

  17. Mark N. on April 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    In my mission (Thailand), you were a legend if you had more than about 5 baptisms over a two year period.

    In the France, Paris mission back in the mid-70s, I don’t think I can recall more than 2 convert baptisms that I attended during the whole 22 months I was over there. None of them were “mine”.

    Maybe there were missionaries back there and then who got to 5 within 2 years, but I certainly couldn’t name anybody who was known to have done it.

    Nevertheless, it was a marvelous mission. Had I not gone, I would not be the same person that I am today (I’d be an even more slothful servant than I am, and that’s pretty hard to imagine). Just being in the company of the French saints (no matter their small numbers) and the great missionaries I would never have met otherwise made it all worthwhile.

  18. aloysiusmiller on April 17, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Yes and what about the missionary who would completed his mission but grew cynical and detached because of his unresolved guilt and became inactive in the ensuing years. He may have put things back together and raised a righteous family.

    My point is that rigid checklists and rules are no substitute for the spirit. All the stories above include logical fallacies and unknowable unknowns.

    I was blessed to be sent to a mission with a no nonsense mission president and a lot of no-nonsense missionaries. He may have sent one or two home (I don’t know) and he may have kept one or two trouble makers but there were so few that they were scandals.

  19. aloysiusmiller on April 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I should have concluded paragraph one of 18 “with “if he had been sent home to repent.”

  20. Jonovitch on April 17, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Rory, thank you so much for this. I just called my brother and said some things I should have said to him long ago. Thank you for sharing your insight. I am a better person for it.

    Jon

  21. Kevin Barney on April 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Terrific post, Rory. As the rebel of my mission, I could relate to it quite a bit.

  22. Matt on April 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    I have been thinking about this post and recalling my brief time in the mission field. I served for a total of 5 months before I was sent home, and going home was the best possible thing that could have happened to me.

    I have fibromyalgia, undiagnosed at that time, and it was flaring up quite badly by the time I left the MTC. This left me chronically tired, in pain, and extremely unhappy without knowing why.

    My mission president when I arrived was not lenient when it came to anything outside of the “perfect” missionary. My personality and my health issues both contributed to a progressively deteriorating relationship with him.

    He was released shortly after I arrived, but by then I was so broken, in body and spirit, that I simply could not stay. My new mission president facilitated my release, citing medical reasons, and home I went.

    Had I stayed, I believe I would have been so alienated and frustrated that I would have turned my back on the whole idea of religion. As it was, it was all I could do to ignore it until the pain subsided and I could begin to rebuild my faith in Christ.

    Also, so very important (thank you Elder Cook!), I was blessed with extremely supportive friends and family, who accepted my decision to return and loved me anyway. It was very, very hard for me to walk into church that first Sunday back, into a missionary farewell no less. Being welcomed back was one of the things that kept me coming back.

    Apologies for the length of my post. I just wanted to share my experience of being sent home early.

    AZ (post #4), I feel for you and your son. It is a difficult thing to be sent home, and there is definitely an immense feeling of failure attached to that. I certainly felt it when I returned. Every situation is different, I know, but if it is at all helpful, let your son know that he is not alone, and that all is not lost. God bless you both.

  23. TStevens on April 17, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    My mission president also never sent a missionary home for his entire tenure, when he quite justifiably could have. I learned he payed for therapy for several missionaries out of his own pocket so they could manage their problems and stay. He even paired up a few problematic Elder’s with more compassionate ones who could still get some work done. But the story that stays with me is the Elder who had a severe drinking problem, he struggled with it his whole mission. But they worked through it as they could and he finished. Two months home he died in a random accident at work. No matter what else went wrong in his life, he finished his mission and truly touched several lives through his efforts. It would have been so easy to send him home early, but as I get older I realize what would have been lost for all of us involved.

  24. AZ on April 17, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Matt (#22)-Thanks for sharing your words and experience. I am deeply touched and uplifted by your sincerity and compassion.

  25. RT on April 18, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Am I the only one here who is troubled by the general tone of these comments?

    Yes, we were 19 year olds. Yes, we goofed off, had moments of laziness, silliness, what have you.

    But there is a world of difference between being ineffective or silly on the one hand, and doing some of the things described here on the other. Drinking alcohol as a companionship or fighting in the street while wearing a missionary name badge? I love the atonement and believe in the gospel of forgiveness, but neither of those doctrines requires us to allow the Church to be harmed as part of an individual’s personal maturation process. In fact, the doctrine of repentance as typically applied in the Church does the exact opposite.

    You’re all looking at it from the perspective of the individual missionary. And that’s appropriate, on its own level. But as someone who spent a lot of his growing up years out in the “mission field” and then served a mission in a hostile place, let me tell you that when missionaries publicly screw up in the egregious ways that can lead to a missionary being sent home, the local members suffer, often painfully. I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone thinks we have to tolerate that.

    Let’s put it in a different context. If your Bishop was caught carousing, or drinking, or fighting, wouldn’t you expect him to be released right away? And if his family’s response was–”Hey, if you publicly shame him like that, he’ll likely go inactive. So he really needs to keep this calling, for his own soul,” I’m assuming that most of us would be sympathetic, but still unconvinced. Maybe I’m missing something, but why are missionaries any different?

    As a preemptive aside, I’m assuming that someone will respond by saying that being a Bishop is a much bigger deal than being a missionary. (1) I’m not sure I’d agree. Missionaries represent the Church in a way that is in some ways much more meaningful than a local Bishop. But (2), let’s assume that’s true. I’m still not convinced. If a deacon’s quorum advisor is caught publically brawling, drinking, carousing, or whatever, keeping his calling isn’t usually part of the repentance process. Repentance is a personal process between the fallen and the Lord, and the boys who need an advisor shouldn’t have to help bear that burden. Again, why are missionaries supposed to be different?

    To be perfectly clear: I’m NOT suggesting that missionaries should be sent home for anything trivial, mundane, foolish, negligent, or stupid. They clearly shouldn’t. But there’s clearly a line that gets crossed that moves into more serious ground. When that line is crossed, I have no qualms about a missionary being sent home.

  26. Floyd the Wonderdog on April 18, 2009 at 6:14 am

    My MP was ex-special forces. He once threw his assistant to the floor. The AP had failed to give us our gamma globulin shots and an Elder caught hepatitus.

    In zone conference this MP used to hold up an airline ticket and tell us that anyone who didn’t want to be there could go home. He never did that again after one Elder acutally took him up on it.

    I still feel that this MP was a jerk. He was later a 70, but that didn’t raise my estimation of him. To the visiting GA’s he was all smiles, but to us he was pushy and arrogant. Did I mention that he had his own Mission Home American style football team? To work in the MH, you had to be a former football player. So much for inspiration. After knowing this MP I question how much inspiration plays in extending callings, rather than relying on our own judgement.

    That said, I actually had a companion who admitted that he didn’t have a testimony. So we went through the same steps that I would with an investigator. Within a few weeks this Elder had his testimony and was a ball of fire.

  27. Terry on April 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I came into the mission field with enormous personal baggage: an anxiety disorder, depression, a complete inability to relate to people, extremely low self-confidence, an intense sense of inferiority to others, and a then-undiagnosed autism disorder. I did, however, come with a great knowledge and love of the scriptures and the gospel. I never did overcome my personal challenges in the mission field and came very close to coming home after nine months; it was only after a great deal of thought, fasting, and prayer that the Spirit persuaded me to stay. Two months after that, a new president came into the mission: a gentle, fatherly man who displayed great interest into the well-being of the missionaries. More than once he would emphasize that while the mission could not tolerate flagrant disobedience, tolerance must be extended toward the honest mistakes and shortcomings of all missionaries.

    Many days it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed. I baptized few, never held a leadership position, and had what many might suppose to be a “failed” mission. However, in his last interview with me, my beloved mission president said to me, “Even if you didn’t get a thing done out here, just sticking it out for the full two years is a major accomplishment that you can be proud of.” Even today, when tempted to see myself as a loser next to those who were “superstars” in the mission field, that statement is a great source of comfort and encouragement to press forward–always with a perfect brightness of hope.

  28. Ron on April 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

    This topic really touched a nerve with me. The first half of my mission was totally numbers-driven. All I heard for the first six months was how bad we were, how lazy, how lacking in spirituality. A certain apostle came, just looked at the books, and tore into us royally. No one knew or cared what we were actually doing or what we were up against. No one ever told us we were appreciated– ever. Honestly, there were many of us who, if given the chance to go home with an honorable release, would gladly have taken it. But our Mission President did one thing right: he never — to my knowledge — sent anyone home. Consequently, while many less than acceptable things went on, nothing really awful did, unlike the missions some of my friends served in. And some of those “problem” Elders really straightened out. One even became a bishop!!

  29. Rory Swensen on April 18, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    RT,

    I do think missionaries are different – they are unique in that they can be easily removed from their infractions. The examples you cite of the bishop or the deacon adviser are also fairly dramatic, but they aren’t easily removed from the people they have affected. In each of the cases involved in the mission field, the missionaries were removed from the area in which they impacted the local members or their companions. The damage was done, the next question: how best to help all involved? I hear the arguments for strict rules, I’ve simply witnessed the effect that a loving leader has when they are willing to place themself on the line for those they lead, even if it steps outside of the accepted practices. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes? Miracles.

    But what about examples outside of the mission field? What of those around us in our wards, our neighborhoods, or even the blogs? We experience diversity of belief, we witness frustration and anger – and sometimes feel it ourselves. The lessons my mission president taught me continue to press me to engage with others. To find a place for them.

    Truth be told, I need that place, too. And while the first line of my post talks about my mission president driving me nuts, if he were to respond he’d probably say the same things about me. I, too, was a beneficiary of his love and tolerance, we all were, and I learned a great deal from him.

  30. Bruce Crow on April 18, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    One of the most rebellious missionaries in my mission was called to be AP during the last month of his mission. Everyone was stunned. But after a week it was obvious it was the only way he was going to get anything done. He worked hard! He cancelled the “dinner appointments” he had been setting up for his last month. He was fire up!

  31. RT on April 19, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Rory:

    I disagree. Members who have committed serious sin aren’t removed from their callings simply because there’s no other place to put them. Rather, they’re removed from their callings because their conduct has rendered them unworthy to hold a stewardship in the kingdom.

    If ease of removal were the issue, then there would be no need to remove someone if their sin was a private one. For example, consider the case of a gospel doctrine teacher who tells the bishop that he had an affair while on a business trip across the country. From the public congregation’s perspective, there’s really no need to “move him” somewhere else. After all, who knows about it? The teacher and the bishop. Yet he’s going to be released, simply because he’s no longer worthy to hold the calling.

    I completely agree with you, that rehabilitation of the sinner is of supreme importance. And, as with other cases of church discipline, church leadership and members alike should go out of their way to embrace and love those who have fallen. But loving the sinner doesn’t mean preventing them from suffering the consequences of their actions. That doesn’t help anybody.

    Again, I didn’t read your post to be talking about the standard missionary stuff that a lot of the commenters seem focused on. I’m not talking about the missionaries who sleep in, or don’t work hard, or don’t do their studying, or who goof of, or whatever. I’m talking about the stuff you were talking about–missionaries who commit serious sin (fighting in public with other missionaries, develop drinking problems, flagrant and intentional violations of church rules, etc.).

    And in those cases, I think that mission presidents send precisely the wrong message when they turn a blind eye toward sinful conduct. Those missionaries need to repent just like the rest of us. If losing a calling is part of my repentance process for something serious, then I really don’t see why the missionaries should be subjected to a different repentance process.

  32. DavidH on April 19, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I do not think Rory (nor his mission president) advocates that missionaries should never, ever be sent home, no matter what. Moreover, I do not think he (nor his mission president) advocated turning a blind eye toward sinful or problem conduct.

    I read his president’s objective as that sending a young missionary home should be absolutely the last resort. And I agree.

    Apparently President Monson and Elder Ballard share this philosophy. http://mormonmission.blogspot.com/2009/03/thomas-s-monson-sets-gold-standard-for.html Neither of them sent home a missionary with a dishonorable release or before their term was up.

  33. RT on April 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I never suggested that Rory thinks that missionaries should never be sent home.

    But Rory did suggest that they shouldn’t be sent home for things like fighting in the street or drinking alcohol That’s what I’m responding to.

    And nothing in the Monson/Ballard article says anything about tolerating that level of disobediance. They seem to be talking about run of the mill missionary disobediance, which is a far cry from the examples that Rory and some of the other commenters were talking about.

  34. Rory Swensen on April 20, 2009 at 7:47 am

    But Rory did suggest that they shouldn’t be sent home for things like fighting in the street or drinking alcohol

    RT,

    I’m not suggesting hard and fast rules. I’m relating what I witnessed, and suggesting that rules are better seen as guidelines that can bend under inspiration.

    That and, unless we are directly involved, it is best to heed the counsel of Elder Cook.

  35. TStevens on April 20, 2009 at 8:29 am

    I honestly believe my mission president’s entire goal was to make every young man entrusted to his care a better man, a better follower of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a better member of the church. That is what he cared about more than numbers or converts. To that end he did not send anyone home because he would have seen that as giving up on them. He did everything he could to keep them out, even at his own cost. There are several Elders from my mission who are thriving today as adults that can be traced back to the love of this man. As a younger guy this was sometimes frustrating, but as I get older (and hopefully wiser), with four sons of my own, the oldest only a couple a years away from his mission, my mission president is becoming one of the greatest men I have personally been privileged to know.

  36. aloysiusmiller on April 20, 2009 at 9:02 am

    35. What about the missionary who, like you, found his mission president to be frustratingly obtuse about dealing with the disobedient and, unlike you, went home disillusioned and lost his faith?

    Its like the Roman philosopher who saw paintings of people who prayed and avoided drowning in shipwrecks who asked where are the pictures of the people who prayed and drowned.

    I appreciate your MPs diligence. I hope he also took the time to include righteous companions in his counsel so they could understand the wisdom and inspiration of his choices AND that he took some of the burden off of them.

    I have a relative who spent his mission babysitting bad companions, many of whom were transferred to the mission because of the MPs “known” compassion. The faithful missionaries got chewed on for untimely mileage reports while being inflicted with lazy companions who wouldn’t work. He is struggling and I pray for him. I wish his MP had been a little more loving to the obedient who in their own way are Ones who need love and compassion.

  37. CS Eric on April 20, 2009 at 11:39 am

    As far as I know, our mission president (Korea Seoul) only sent two missionaries home early, and both were for health reasons. The thing is, before he sent them home, he gave them a blessing for their health. Shortly after each one arrived back in the States, he recovered and was able to finish his mission honorably.

    We also had one elder called as an AP for two reasons: first he was a capable administrator, and second he engaged in cultural debates with nearly every Korean he met. He could be effective in the mission, just not in working with the people.

  38. James on April 20, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Sometimes a mission president has no choice about sending a young man or woman home. They really can’t be forced to stay. There are certain sins that require release and church discipline. And, finally sometimes young men and women get so sick or are injured so severely that they can’t continue in their assignments. When I served (79-81) in Thailand, we had a very few missionaries (4) go home early for these reasons. These events have an impact on everyone in the mission as well as in their wards at home. I knew both of the elders who went home for health issues. One was my first companion and I was the one that took him to the hospital when he fell ill. The other elder was in a district where I had been his district leader just a few weeks before. I’ve got to admit that it was heart-breaking in both cases to see these young men go home even though it was mixed with relief that they would be getting medical treatment that would in one of their cases probably save their life.

    We just had a young man come back to our ward after just a few months for health reasons. Right now, I don’t know if there is an option for him to return. But, as he has recovered enough to attend church, the bishop has called him to teach in Primary. I think that is important that when there are no church discipline issues to prohibit service, missionaries who have to return early should be given a calling.

  39. document on April 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    I’m sorry for the late reply. I came home early from my mission due to medical problems. I remember right before I came home my mission president begged me to stay active. I did. There were many that received me with open arms and had were helpful in my terminating my mission early (I didn’t have an option to return). My bishop immediately gave me a calling (actually, three callings) and kept me very busy, which also helped. My bishop also had me bless the sacrament on my first Sunday back to show the ward that I was not being disciplined in any sense or fashion.

    However, aside from this, there were those that didn’t believe that it was medical. There were many who (seriously) believe that if something bad happens to you on your mission, then you must have done something wrong to invoke the wrath of God. It was a killer getting back into the dating scene, I was seen as “tainted”. Heck, even my own father saw me as “not a real missionary” and was very un-supportive of me coming home. There were also those who wouldn’t even _talk_ to me due to coming home early.

    Luckily, these were few and far between. I had a great bishop, a loving mother and siblings, and good friends to help me as I coped with the “few” that rejected me.

  40. RT on April 20, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I think that’s horribly sad. I have a family member who came home for medical reasons. In his case, he went out of his way to hide it while he was out in the field, which ended up exacerbating the problem when he couldn’t hide it any more. Regardless,it’s mind-boggling to me that anybody could see his medical condition as a black mark, as if he somehow wanted to get sick. I think [document]‘s bishop handled it exactly right. You were lucky to have him.

    It sometimes seems like our culture has a lot of growing up to do.

  41. C Jones on April 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I wish every mission president was like the one in #23. That is true Christ-like behavior.