8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come home Early

Editors note: This article was originally published on TheReturnedMissionary.com. If you or someone you know came home from the mission before the time that the mission call originally prescribed, even if it was an “honorable release,” it isn’t easy. In fact, most missionaries who come home early drop into a winter of depression that is hard to melt. Click here for some powerful weapons to battle depression. I want to provide a few reminders for you (even if you didn’t and you want to know how to help those who have). Whether you are the one who came home early or it is your son or daughter or niece or nephew or grandchild, these are important things to remember.

1. You Actually Went

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Came Home Early - mission call - you actually went   You applied to go. You prepared. You submitted your papers. You got your call. You changed your heart. You went out there and did your best. And you’re still a returned missionary. There are many who don’t even go. One area of the eastern US shows that only about 20% of the 19-24 year old young men are serving 1. And you chose to serve! That is an accomplishment in itself! You should be proud of yourself and remind yourself that you didn’t have to go. Remember that the promises from the prophet to you (in your mission call) are still true. Here are a few to remember that apply to EVERY missionary, no matter how long you serve:

  • The Lord will bless you.
  • You will become an effective advocate and messenger of truth.
  • The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life.
  • Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully server the Lord.

These are not just promises for full-time missionaries who serve 18 or 24 months. They are for every missionary ever. I hope you know that.

2. Remember Thomas S. Monson

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early - Thomas S Monson
Photo credit ThomasSMonson.org

The man who signed your mission call didn’t serve a traditional full-time mission. Neither did Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Robert D. Hales, Boyd K. Packer, Dallin H. Oaks or Russell M. Nelson. Most of these guys were either honorably called home early, or never went. They were needed in other areas and in other ways that were very important. Did this keep them from serving God the rest of their lives? NO. Did it thwart their potential? No. Have they done significant missionary work later in life? You tell me. Just because you came home early, does NOT mean you are useless to the Lord. Get that thought out of your head because it is not of God. Someday you might just become a mission president, general relief society president or even an Apostle. 2

3. You Can Still Serve.

“Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.” – Lumiere Okay well, I will tell you that I have been serving a mission for years since I read Elder Clayton Christensen’s book, The Power of Everyday Missionaries3 I followed his advice and I “called myself” on a mission. I became what Elder Christensen calls an “entrepreneur in Zion.” Someone who calls themselves on a mission – someone who doesn’t need to receive an official calling to do missionary work. My life has completely changed since I made that decision. It has been amazing to see the ways the Lord has been able to use what I am willing to give. The area that I am able and willing to help in most is on the internet. Online missionary work is very needed. Click Here for a list of great suggestions how you can do it right now. If you haven’t heard the story of Seth Adam Smith, watch this video first, then watch the next one after. This is his story of his suicide attempt after coming home early from his mission: He came home early, but he came to himself and went forth with a determination to make a huge difference. Since then, he has created inspirational Youtube videos, written some of the most viral blog posts ever written by any Mormon in history (getting over 30 million readers) and is now sharing his message with the whole world in his new books: Marriage Isn’t For You and Your Life Isn’t For You. He came home early, but this didn’t stop Seth from blessing the lives of millions. You may not write a viral blog post, but you can still bless many many peoples’ lives. Call yourself on a mission. Keep serving. You still can. And never stop.

4. Truth VS. Culture

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early So, I’m divorced. And I was married in the temple to my first wife. I won’t tell you that story in this post, but now I am happily married. But not in the temple, YET. We have had to wait a year before submitting our request for clearance to be sealed. I know we will be sealed eventually. But when we say we were married and people ask: “What temple?” sometimes it can be interesting to explain to people. We are both temple worthy and we attend the temple almost weekly. But sometimes people don’t understand that. Or because of the culture of the Church, they have seen our marriage as sub-par. This is because of cultural beliefs, not doctrine. When we were married we agreed that we wouldn’t let this jeopardize our marital joy and it hasn’t. It has only increased our value of temple marriage and how important and sacred it is. We have had the most amazing year of marriage and I would be bold enough to say we are some of the happiest people on earth! We don’t let the cultural misunderstandings of very good, well-meaning people get in the way of our love of ourselves and of those people. We know the doctrine, and we will eventually be sealed in the temple. There is a difference between truth and culture. Don’t forget this because there are often many very good people and well-meaning members who may strongly believe that something (that is a part of culture of Latter-day Saints) is actually a truth or a doctrine. There is an example of this in Bruce C. Hafen’s profound book on the atonement – The Broken Heart – where he describes a Newsweek article entitled “What Mormons Believe.” This article was a huge misrepresentation of the LDS doctrine of the atonement and repentance. The author says:

“Unlike orthodox Christians, Mormons believe that men are born free of sin and earn their way to godhood by the proper exercise of free will, rather than through the grace of Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus’ suffering and death in the Mormon view were brotherly acts of compassion, but they do not atone for the sins of others. For this reason, Mormons do not include the cross in their iconography nor do they place much emphasis on Easter.” 4

When I read this, I was disturbed because this is clearly not LDS doctrine. There was a member of the Church who responded to this article saying that this is a very clear misrepresentation of our doctrine. The author of the Newsweek article then responded: “My intent was not to review (doctrinal) books but rather to report how representative members of the LDS Church describe and interpret their own traditionsThe point is to determine what doctrines of a church are genuinely infused into the lifeblood of its adherents.” 5 The point I am trying to make by quoting this from Elder Hafen’s book is that many misunderstand cultural beliefs and behaviors as doctrine or truth. I wrote an article about cultural understanding about the doctrine of repentance because of this very reason. Why is it so common that we ask in prayer to bless clearly unhealthy food to nourish and strengthen our bodies? Culture. Not truth. When there is any shame, guilt or embarrassment pushed upon you by anyone in the Church for being honorably released to come home from the mission, they just may not understand the truth. The truth is that God loves you and through the atonement of Christ and his grace, you are the same as you were before the mission with unlimited eternal potential. Potential to become like God. And just like any other member of the Church, you must activate that power in your life every day. 6 Remember the truth. Remember the doctrine. Forget the cultural misunderstandings and focus on the good in those who misunderstand you or the doctrine. Remember that people are good and everyone (just like you) is just doing the best they can. When you see people this way, you love them no matter what they say or how they may perceive (or misjudge) you.

5. Go to the Mountain to Pray Oft

8 Reminders for Missionaries who come home early - Go to the Temple Nephi said that he went unto the mountain to pray oft. 7 You should do the same. Go to your secret place. If you can’t find one, read here about 9 closets to pray in when you don’t have a closet. Go to your closet and your secret place. Pour out your soul. Make your relationship with God the closest one and the most important one. Draw near unto Him and He will draw near unto you. Do it often. Daily. More if you can. Go to the temple. Do it monthly and you will see a difference. Do it weekly and it will change your life forever. There is strength that you will gain there that you cannot gain anywhere else. Help from heaven will come. Those in the spirit world who you are working for will come to your aid. Angels will attend you and all your other spiritual activity will be enhanced. There is real power that is activated by going to the temple. Do it. Do everything you have to in order to get there. Repent if you need to. Use the power of the atonement. Go to the Mountain. God is there waiting.

6. Become a Missionary Forever

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early Elder Bednar said the following:

The issue is not going to church; rather, the issue is worshipping and renewing covenants as we attend church. The issue is not going to or through the temple; rather, the issue is having in our hearts the spirit, the covenants, and the ordinances of the Lord’s house. The issue is not going on a mission; rather, the issue is becoming a missionary and serving throughout our entire life with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is possible for a young man to go on a mission and not become a missionary, and this is not what the Lord requires or what the Church needs. 8

You don’t have to serve a mission to become a missionary. And you don’t have to lose the missionary glow after you come home from the mission (whether you came home after 1 month or 24 months). The point of serving a mission is to become converted, not to check off an item in a list of things to do to to be acceptable in LDS culture. Don’t just serve a mission, but become a missionary forever.

7. You STILL have a Calling in Life

Just because you don’t serve a mission, doesn’t mean you can’t change the world. Think of Seth Adam Smith. You can still make a HUGE difference in a world that desperately needs more light.

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early
Matthew Kelly actually said this – see footnote.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 9 You are a Genius. You just may not be a pro at climbing trees, that is OK. Be a pro swimmer. You are here for a reason. Don’t let coming home early (or even not serving a mission at all) take you away from that. You have a song to sing while here on earth. Sing your song. Find your personal mission and do all in your power to accomplish it.

8. Snowman the $80 Champion.

8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early This horse was given up for useless when it was sold. It was a plow horse that seemingly had no future. Not in the eyes of the first owner at least. So Snowman was sold for $80. But what happened? ***SPOILER ALERT*** Snowman became one of the most famous horses in history as a jumping horse. It is an amazing story that I would recommend to anyone who wants to be inspired to remember and reach their highest potential. Read it here. You may feel like Snowman right now, but don’t forget your potential. If you feel like an $80 plow horse, remember that maybe you weren’t made for the plow, you were made to jump. Don’t forget your potential. Be your best self! Don’t worry about what someone else thinks you are made for. You were born to lead. You were born for glory. 10

Show 10 footnotes

  1.  Click Here to read more stats
  2. Please understand that I’m not here to say that because they didn’t serve a full mission (or any mission at all), that it is okay to not want to even try to serve. If ye have desires to serve, ye are called to the work. All who have desires, who are able, should try. But just remember your potential is still great even if you don’t or if you come home before the time stated in your original mission call. Some of the greatest leaders of this church did too.
  3. See my review of it here.
  4.  The Broken Heart, p.2 quoting Newsweek article.
  5. See The Broken Heart, pp.2-3
  6. If you came home because of transgression, you also still have unlimited potential through the atonement. Read this article about repentance and be brutally honest so that you can have both Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind.
  7. 1 Nephi 18:3
  8. See Elder Bednar’s talk “Becoming a Missionary”, October GC 2005
  9. It has been brought to my attention that this probably was not said by Albert Einstein – feel free to do more research here if you choose. No matter who said it, most of us probably agree that the principle is true.
  10. Listen to this amazing talk – You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory.
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Andy Proctor

Andy is the creator of TheReturnedMissionary.com and the co-creator of LDSmissionaries.com and of HappyMormons.com. He served a mission in Chile and was a Spanish teacher at the Provo MTC for a few years before he graduated from BYU. He loves doing online missionary work after working in the internet marketing industry. He graduated from BYU in 2009 after living in the Holy Land and studying at the BYU Jerusalem Center. He is the author of a new book for RMs, called ​Live Your Mission: 21 Powerful Principles to Discover Your Life Mission after Your Mission, which is the first book in the L​ive My Gospel​ book series. He is a regular contributor to Meridian Magazine and has been featured on the Mormon.org blog as well as LDS Living and Deseret News. He is married and can't wait for the kids to start dropping from heaven.


  1. In a couple days it will have been a year since I returned home early from my mission, and yet despite the time I find that I still can’t stop from myself balling my eyes out. Thanks for ruining my make-up by the way.

    But sincerely, thank you so much for writing this. I needed the reminders.

    • Erin, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s not easy. I hope you can keep coming back to this. If you go to the comments in the post where this was originally posted (on TheReturnedMissionary.com) there are like 90 people who share their stories as well and how they have been able to come out on top. Those have been extremely helpful. I’m glad this was helpful and sorry about the make-up. 🙂

    • Totally agree. It’s between the missionary and God. Period. Unfortunately, that is not how our culture treats it. I hope that this will help those who are dealing with that culture to remember this. Thanks for your addition!

  2. This is a timely article. Many will be coming home early due to a number of factors such as:

    – Sheltered family life (attachment to parents)
    – Detachment syndrome from leaving their iDevices
    – Younger age limit
    – Social Anxiety

    Hopefully it doesn’t cause suicide or something else as drastic.

  3. I came home early (only out for 6 months) because of extreme illness combined with unrighteous dominion of a church leader. I did nothing wrong. However, I was treated poorly by everyone along the way on my journey home. Family, friends, strangers, you name it. The LDS culture worships missionaries. Many women will not marry someone who is not a return missionary. Just because someone went on a mission does not mean they are obedient or a good person. The social pressure to go on a mission is some of the highest of anything in the church. If a young man chooses to not go on a mission, he may as well leave the church. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go, so waited a few months after high school to attend a semester of college. I got more dirty looks and questions than I can count. I didn’t let this decide for me. I CHOSE to go. I earned the money for my mission, starting as a child. I didn’t go for my parents, a girlfriend or anyone else. I chose to go for me. I started getting sick immediately after getting out into the field and was having a tough time. Church leaders just kept calling me lazy and it wasn’t until 2 separate doctors confirmed I was ill, was the question of me being sick even addressed. This led to me being sent home “for psychological reasons”. No matter the reason for being sent home, you will always be blacklisted or thought of as inferior by many members of the church. I found no comfort in this article and found it extremely unhelpful. Optimism is not a cure for a church wide problem.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective Dan. I just commend you for even going. I agree with you and hope you read the part about culture in this article. I wanted to leave the church after I was divorced for this very reason. Very few people understand and I didn’t feel like I fit anymore. The opposite was true. And even when I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand, I didn’t go to church for their approval. I went to church for me. And the same is true for everything. There are some things seriously wrong with the culture of the Church, not with the doctrine. And once I remembered that I wasn’t in the Church for the culture, it kept the flame of faith alive. The main doctrine that kept me was the atonement. Understanding how to activate the power of the atonement in my life was one thing that kept my faith strong. Culture will never keep the fire going. In fact it can put fires out.

  4. Thank you so much for this article. My oldest son was called to serve in Eugene, OR mission. He serves diligently for 6-7 month before he had to return for health issues. The thought of him not returning never entered my mind. I had long talks with his mission president who clearly loved him. My son, however, chose to not return and stay home. I was devastated. Pride was a big part, because I knew he was worthy and wasn’t “sent home”, but no one else did. I hated the looks and whisperings when we would go to church. I still can’t even walk through Deseret Book without crying. I think one day he will regret that choice, but for now he needs my unconditional love. This is exactly what I needed!

    • Heather, I’m glad this helped. Half the reason I published this is not for the missionaries themselves, but for those of us who need to understand how to help them. Your son doesn’t just need unconditional love now, but he will need it for the rest of his life. Not just from you, but he will need to learn to love himself. Remember, the mission is NOT a saving ordinance and someone who serves the entire time has no more eternal potential than someone who serves part of the time (or even someone who chooses to not even go). Thomas S Monson didn’t serve a mission. Neither did my brother who is very happily married in the temple and an amazing person who I love dearly and always will. The mission is an amazing experience. But my hope with this article is to remind everyone that those who come home are every bit as amazing as those who serve the whole time. Prophets quote from C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, and Victor Hugo. None of these served missions. Neither did 100 men and women who have changed the world for good. Don’t forget that your son has every bit of potential that he allows himself to have. He chose to go on the mission, he chose to come home early. And he can choose to become an amazing leader in his family, the church, the community and even the world, if he wants. This is just my opinion. I hope it helps. Bless you and your son.

    • Heather, what will you do if your son never does regret his decision? Could it be that maybe his mission meant more to you than it did to him? It is ok to not go on a mission. I never served a missions and never once regretted staying home. Missions are not for everybody.

    • Heather,the whispers, dirty looks and isolation is common in the Church and very few Mormons, including yourself, realize that they are directed at the missionary who went out, did his best, and came back early. Not you. Being a convert I was absolutely appalled at the people who threw parties and shook hands and then sat there glowering at the returned too early missionary. Do they care if the boy kills himself or stops being mormon? Or they never see him again? Did they ever really care at all? Obviously not. I have read of mormons accepting and defending child molesters with open arms but the boy..its like they wished that he had died rather than come back early. My son died. I would rather he came back early from a mission than died. More people have been converted by the kind and loving actions of members than of missionaries. The missionaries only baptize them.

  5. As I’ve mentined before Andy, you are doing great things. I love your articles. I love the things you point out that are so true. You are truly using your gifts and blessing so many lives. Keep it up!

  6. Thanks for the article. I served a mission in Viña del Mar, Chile, back in 1990 and ended up coming home early. Later I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I have seen a few articles like this one and I appreciate all the love still given to those who didn’t make it to the end of their mission, etc. Calling it the culture of the church, but not doctrine makes sense too. I just hope more and more members can get past that and love others as Christ loves all. I would love to read more of your work, where can I find it? Thx

    • Terri, thanks for your comment and sharing your story. It’s not easy and you are not alone. I’m honored you would ask. I blog at TheReturnedMissionary.com and I just released a book called Live Your Mission that is now on amazon. You can go to http://bitly.com/LiveYourMission.

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