On Honor, Success, and Early Return Missionaries

61639833_674949159627927_5665938891450875904_n

Jaxon Washburn is a friend of BCC who recently returned from a mission in Armenia.

My name used to be Elder Washburn.

I returned home on May 17th, after returning from my service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Armenia. My mission was eight months long.  Less than a month ago, I had no intentions of coming home. God, I suppose, intended otherwise, and I am doing my best to sort out the pieces.

I loved my mission. To be on a mission is to ground oneself in paradox in many respects. Such was my experience, at least. My mission constituted of a series of contrasts: there were moments where I felt closer to God than I ever had before, and moments where I never felt more spiritually detached. I lived as selflessly as I could, and because of that, I have never been more critically self-aware of all my own flaws and shortcomings. This, the biggest challenge of my life, brought with it the most significant amount of growth, refinement, and development. My mission meant the world to me; it has since my teenage years, when I decided I wanted to serve. To part with it was heartbreaking at best, and I am still working to reconcile my return with the future course of my life.

I never planned on this happening, but I have to roll with it. In this, the Spirit, as well as the support of my loved ones, has been instrumental in my finding comfort, direction, and peace following my decision to come home. For that, I want to discuss the subject of success and honor when it comes to returning from a mission, and particularly how the two should not be confused as synonymous.

The extension of honor and the role it plays in communities, while common throughout various societies in history, can bear negative repercussions if one fails to qualify for it. Honor functions as a marker of loyalty, purity, desirability, acceptance. The act of denying one honor is a deliberate rejection. It places them outside the fold, whether intentionally or not, and sets them apart from the rest of those who are deemed as insiders on account of their legitimate and “honorable” service.

I returned home on an emotional health release, and with it, the avoidance of what would be considered a “dishonorable release”. Since returning, though, I have reflected on the role and utility of honor when it comes to missions and have come to the conclusion that, more often than not, it is an unhelpful label that we apply to missionaries. It can be spiritually harmful in that it tends to pressure missionaries to continue their service even though the better choice would be to end it, all in order to avoid the stigma of dishonor. I realize that my release wasn’t a dishonorable one, but all too often, missionaries have been inclined to believe that anything short of a normal full-term mission constitutes something less-than honorable.

Upon returning, I have found Elder Holland’s Counsel for Early Returned Missionaries, given just prior to a Face-to-Face he conducted in March 2016, to be both comforting and valuable. Particularly, I found solace in his admonition that those whose missions have finished earlier than the anticipated time should cease to qualify their service by the amount of time they served. Instead, he expresses his desire for them see it as no less worthy, helpful, successful, honorable, or deserving of blessings than any other mission.

Success is defined much differently than honor. While out in the field, the standard missionary guide Preach My Gospel qualifies what constitutes a “successful” missionary on the following grounds, stating that:

You can know you have been a successful missionary when you:

  • Feel the Spirit testify to people through you.
  • Love people and desire their salvation.
  • Obey with exactness.
  • Live so that you can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, who will show you where to go, what to do, and what to say.
  • Develop Christlike attributes.
  • Work effectively every day, do your very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve.
  • Help establish and strengthen the Church (the stake and ward) wherever you are assigned to work.
  • Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments.
  • Teach and serve other missionaries.
  • Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message.”

Personally, I can say that I was certainly not perfect in all the areas outlined— not that the Church is demanding or expecting that. The way in which I strove to “obey with exactness” was intentionally as close as I could get to the kind of obedience I have observed from Christ during His mortal ministry as recorded in the various writings describing His life. The scriptures are replete with examples of Christ practicing, circumventing, ignoring, and/or radically reinterpreting what was considered to be law in His time, whether that was the Law of Moses or various social conventions. The common means by which He approached the law was consistent and qualified by whether or not it allowed Him to more effectively heal, minister, and love those around Him. Wherever the law was obstructive or worse— used as a weapon— Christ showed the Higher Way of how to understand and live it. While I felt spiritually confident on how I conducted myself during my mission, I am sure that others sometimes saw my version of obedience as heterodox.

It was this approach to how to conduct myself as a missionary, coupled with my desire to love others as deeply and sincerely as I could, that defined my mission. I don’t know if I fell within the cookie-cutter mold of a missionary that was often perpetuated, nor do I suppose I ever desired that, but I did love the people I was around, fully and deeply, and did my best to serve them whenever possible. For this, and the ways in which I found my faith to be refined and deepened in the course of my service, I count my mission as a successful one.

Oftentimes, success and honor go hand-in-hand. I’d say this is the case for most missionaries who return. However, their dual attainment isn’t always guaranteed. Consider the following circumstances:

Scenario (1) A missionary serves a full-time mission. They do what is expected but come back unchanged in how they see themselves, their faith, or the world. They are received warmly by their homeward and are able to enjoy the full social benefits of having served full-term.

Scenario (2) A missionary confesses to a transgression while serving and is sent home upon the mission president’s decision. During the course of their service, they loved and served as often as they could, they testified and invited others unto Christ, and they found their time in the field valuable. They are unable to return to the field, even after sincere repentance.

In these situations, which would be considered the successful missionary? Which one returned with honor? Which one should be of the higher importance for us to emphasize as members of the Church?

Success. Honor. We could all stand to be more aware and sensitive to how we frame and use these in our discussions of missionary service. The two terms are certainly not synonymous, and in the case of honor especially, not always helpful. Success and honor, though perhaps believed to be synonymous much of the time, really speak to two different ways of defining one’s service.

The way I see it, success is more contingent on how the missionary perceives themselves while honor seems to reflect more on how others perceive the missionary. At the end of the day, the missionary alone is the one who is able to deem their mission a successful one or not, considering all the qualifications are individual and internal rather than quantitative in nature. Honor, then, constitutes the communal pronouncement on the legitimacy of one’s service. The well-being and spiritual state of those who choose to serve or not serve, those who stay or return early, depends on the values we attach to these labels and how one qualifies for them.

Since returning, I have learned that it is better to qualify one’s mission as honorable contingent on its success, rather than the other way around. Though my return has been deemed an honorable one by my community, what I really value at the end of the day is the confidence I have in the success of the service I rendered. I didn’t baptize anyone on my mission and I served for a shorter period than I anticipated, but I know that I grew, I loved, and I served with all that I had. Ultimately, that knowledge has brought comfort, peace, and fulfillment as real as any that I could have obtained after a full two years.


Comments

  1. I think this is a good post in general, and should probably be 2 posts, one dealing with the experience of serving and another dealing with your 2 scenarios, which are in fact lacking.

    #2 should not have been in the field, and while it’s great that s/he repented, it should have been dealt with prior. No points awarded. Your own experience should be #3, and #4 should be the kids who do YCSM missions because of physical and emotional conditions prior to their missions.

  2. Alan James says:

    Thank you for sharing that. I too came home early from my mission. I was not prepared to go out. I confessed some transgressions about a year into my mission. Transgressions I had long abstained from. Despite my transgressions, my mission president let me stay. Shortly after receiving the news I was hit with overwhelming feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety…pretty much all bad feelings. All the time! I couldn’t get them to go away. I thought maybe I’m not being spiritual enough and so I took things to an extreme with gospel principals. It’s been 20 years and I’m still searching for peace.

  3. There’s no such thing as “coming home early.” You come home when you come home and that’s it.

  4. It is important find your own place concerning the meaning of your mission and the service performed. That has to be between the missionary and the one under whose name they ministered. It really is a matter between the servant and the Master, Jesus Christ.

    Missions are pressure cookers that can transform the individual in many ways, not all of them beneficial. The advice I greatly appreciated was that shared by Elder Spencer Condie when he visited our mission and spoke at a Zone Conference in Strasbourg. He said two things that shattered my stoic views on service that were extremely guilt ridden:
    1) I believe you do the best you can today and should recognize the good you achieved. I also believe the gospel teaches we can do just a little bit better tomorrow. However, no effort, however small it might seem, goes unappreciated by the Lord.

    2) If you can accomplish in 20 hours what takes others 60 hours, that leaves you 40 hours to go to the beach. He laughed at the harrumph that came from our Mission President to that comment. But his point was find a balance in your service. The Lord wants living, breathing, servants with hearts who can focus and endure but who also find time to laugh.

  5. Dave B. says:

    In any other church, a young man or young woman who spent 8 months serving as an unpaid missionary working not 40, not 50, not even 60, but 70+ hours a week would be considered a hero of the faith. We Mormons need to be a lot more honest and candid about the unfair expectations we place on our youth in terms of missionary service. And when they accomplish this truly daunting task, in whole or in part, we see it as just checking off a Mormon box rather than the youth equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. And it’s tougher than it used to be, as citizens of most countries have less and less interest in religion and even less interest in the Mormon religion.

    Jaxon, welcome home and best wishes going forward.

  6. nobody, really says:

    Two of my brothers returned home before two years were up. One was hit by a car, and his mission president had him sign out of the hospital against medical advice. Told him if he worked harder, he’d be healed, then put him back in a bike area when he was unable to even walk. Some of the neurological damage has been permanent. They have both struggled heavily early releases, despite both being good fathers, good husbands, and serving in leadership positions in the church.

    That Preach My Gospel list would make anyone feel inadequate. I’d toss it out and replace it with:
    “Are there people, my brothers and sisters and children of our Heavenly Father, who are better off in lasting ways because I am/was here?”

    My MTC companion only went because his dad promised him any new car he wanted when he returned. While others tried to read the Book of Mormon (for the first time, in most cases), he studied BMW sales brochures. He ended up disappearing from the missionary house one morning. Showed up suddenly more than three years later back in the US, having abandoned a wife and two small children. His dad didn’t do anyone any favors by bribing him to serve – he had no business being there. We need to have a few Priesthood lessons about leaving the youth alone – that they can still be counted as “good kids” if they don’t leave the day they turn 18 or 19, and that it is possible to do good things in life *even if they don’t serve*.

  7. I am wondering if all these experiences should be a wake-up call for parents to prepare their children better. If a missionary is reading The Book of Mormon for the first time on his mission, part of the problem was in the lack of preparation. A mission is hard no matter what but as parents; let’s do a better job.

  8. Yeah, if only Jaxon had read the BOM before he left.

    Serious question Jaxon, if the mission had only been a year long, would you have stayed out?

    Watching you before you left, I wondered how you would handle the politics in the mission and the monotony of the work. I hope you don’t take that offensive, but I was afraid you were in for a rude awakening when you realized your passion for religion and your intellect would not be shared by some senior companion and the local town drunk who would give you the time of day. I was hoping the church would call you to a two year mission at the Maxwell Institute.

    Keep your head up man, you have helped a lot of people and I am one of them.

  9. GEOFF -AUS says:

    A family we are close to adopted a black african child. He was sent on a mission to another african country. He was apparently ridiculed by one of the local missionaries becaused he was raised by white parents in a white community. After many months of this, at a zone conference, where this continued, he hit the problem missionary, and without any consultation as to what the problem had been he was sent home dishonourably.
    He has struggled in the years since returning.

  10. Not a Cougar says:

    Roy, I agree, but I don’t know how to prepare a kid for constant disappointment, a lack of downtime, a lack of privacy, (for foreign missions) struggling to speak and be understood and a complete change in diet, pressure to accomplish unrealistic goals from autocratic authority figures, and having no choice about with whom you spend most of your time. Oh and a large percentage of people you will come in contact with don’t want to talk to you (members included), good luck kid! Reading the Book of Mormon, having a good work ethic, going on splits with the missionaries, and learning to cook don’t fix all of that.

    As Dave B. said above, we have very unrealistic expectations as a Church about our missionaries. It’s a quasi-monastic life but without the separation from the world and the support that a monastery or convent provide to its members.

    I came through my mission pretty much unscathed, but I was blessed with a pretty affable personality (especially at that age), willingness and ability to eat anything, and served in a country with a ridiculously high baptism rate (and correspondingly ridiculously low retention rate) so I’m hardly representative of the struggles many others face.

  11. Mark B. says:

    Except for “autocratic authority figures,” which oddly were completely absent, all the circumstances Not a Cougar lists in his first paragraph were present in my mission in Japan nearly a half century ago. But except for one missionary who went, literally, over the hill from the LTM in Laie, I don’t know of a single missionary from my mission who went home early.

    I don’t think that the Church’s expectations of missionaries has changed much since 1973, so the explanation must lie somewhere other than in those expectations or the circumstances encountered by young men and women on their missions.

  12. @Mark B. If it’s been 50 years since you served a mission, I don’t believe you have any clue how the mission experience now might be different to 1973. Is this some kind of indictment of the current generation? If so, put it on the pile with the others – we’ve heard them all.

  13. Not a Cougar says:

    Mark B., I don’t pretend to have answers as to why more kids are going home (but I suspect a much higher percentage of active kids are going out so you have a higher number of kids who probably shouldn’t be there in the first place), but if the overwhelming response is to say “we need to prepare these kids better,” it doesn’t really help unless we’re ready to admit what these kids need to be prepared for.

  14. Matt Steadman says:

    15 years removed from missionary service myself, I may or may not be right about this, but it seems to be that there has been a significant increase in the number of missionaries in your position. I wonder what you see as the catalyst for this.

  15. Richard Brunson says:

    I must strongly disagree with queuno. “No points there”? Really? I’m glad my judge is God and not you. And that is really the point: the Atonement is infinite enough to cover the missionary who should have cleared something up before their mission but didn’t. The Atonement is infinite enough to cover the mission presidents, or assistants or whoever might treat a missionary with less than complete understanding and compassion. The Atonement is infinite enough to cover snap judgements others make without knowing the full story about whether someone else’s mission was successful or honorable. The larger issue is that members of the Church should remember that we are to go and confess our own sins to each other, not confess each other’s sins to everyone else.

  16. nobody, really says:

    With regard to missions 50 years ago – that would have been during the Viet Nam War era, when missionaries were limited to two from each ward. Going home early or being sent home might mean being drafted shortly after return. My dad served during that time, and most of his mission was spent babysitting elders who would probably be sent home if serving today.

    For me serving very early 90s, a new mission president showed up shortly before I arrived and promptly sent home 20%-25% of the mission – within six weeks. I knew of another 20 that were shipped home early – some excommunicated, some disfellowshipped, and one just six days before he was supposed to return home on time.

    And a full “so say we all” to Richard Brunson above.

  17. nobody — Church policy (in response to political pressure about 4F draft exemptions) during part of the Viet Nam war era limited each ward to sending no more than one missionary every six months — resulting still in a number of wards having more than two missionaries in the field at any time. I was one of the baby boomers who went in the mid-60s, ready or not, when it was “my turn” in birthday order. I was also one who did a good deal of babysitting of elders who would probably be sent home by a different mission president under then and current behavioral (and emotional health) standards. Some of those served later church leadership callings; I have wondered if they would have had they been sent home early. The wide variety of missionaries and missionary behavior and mission president behavior I have seen and heard of in the last 50+ years suggests to me that any assessment of success or honor other than self-assessment is inappropriate and often harmful.

  18. Welcome home, Jaxon.

    “The scriptures are replete with examples of Christ practicing, circumventing, ignoring, and/or radically reinterpreting what was considered to be law in His time, whether that was the Law of Moses or various social conventions. The common means by which He approached the law was consistent and qualified by whether or not it allowed Him to more effectively heal, minister, and love those around Him. Wherever the law was obstructive or worse— used as a weapon— Christ showed the Higher Way of how to understand and live it.” This was well-said.

    I don’t know when the whole honorable release vs. dishonorable release distinction came about in the church, but I’ve always sort of assumed that it was basically borrowed from the military in the late 20th century (like several things that are a part of church administration or mission culture) as a result of the fact that a higher-than-before number of senior church leaders in the late 20th century spent some of their formative years in military service during WWII. I suspect that the military “honorable discharge” became the mission “honorable release” as a way to signal/reassure that somebody’s early return wasn’t the result of transgression.

  19. Honor and success should be the same thing. We are all striving to move closer to God and should be there to love and support each other along the way. We should honor those who confess sins and transgressions. We should honor those who realize they aren’t ready to serve a mission or that have to come early. We should even honor those who aren’t quite ready to begin the repentance process, because we don’t know where anyone is at. One of my favorite scriptures is Mosiah 27:25

    Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

    Everyone needs to repent, even those who seemingly lived a perfect life. Honestly, I think someone who embarks on the path of repentance deserves much more honor than someone who presents themselves as not needing repentance.

  20. Turns out I was wrong. The honorable/dishonorable distinction goes back at least to early 20th century, pre ww2. Thanks to Ardis for supplying this knowledge.

  21. Some of us came home a bit early because the church approved of early releases to get us back in school on BYU’s block plan (and I suppose because there were too many missionaries in that European mission anyway). Friends on a senior mission scheduled for 23 months are coming home later this year a month early for no reason known to them — the church did the flight scheduling. It seems it may be because their replacements are ready to go at that time. I would draw no conclusions of any kind from the fact that someone comes home early — or, based on my observations, from whether some ecclesiastical leader has deemed the early release honorable or not.

  22. scratchy says:

    Let’s cut to the chase.
    The scenarios you give highlight the danger or praise in general. Have you ever praised someone for their service who it turned out was molesting their children?
    Was their service null and void and of no use to those they helped?

    How about a primary teacher, teaching the 10 commandments to that child, who discussed with them one day the importance of forgiveness and honoring your father and mother? We can keep going with the scenarios and many of us know them personally from sad experience.

    Jesus deflected praise while in mortality, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”

  23. Liz Tracey says:

    I loved your post. The only thing I would note is that it just isn’t necessary to compare the missionaries in scenario 1 or 2, I think comparison is causing great harm to our mental health in the church. Even if we’re not doing it, when we see it going on it causes such stress. Let’s just assume we’re all doing the best that we can, and help each other to continue to progress and become better. We should recognize that going on a mission is an amazing sacrifice and act of faith and love , is incredibly difficult, and we should welcome returning missionaries and do all that we can to ease their transition, especially those that for any reason come home early.

  24. Don’t let the early return define you. Heck, in the Mormon community, if you just say that you went to Armenia on your mission, people will assume you served a full two years there and won’t really ask any questions beyond that. LDS folks don’t really care what was accomplished on the mission anyway. A good number of LDS have gone on a mission and know that success can’t really be measured by how long you were there or how many people you baptized, especially since baptisms are mostly a collective effort that a single individual can’t take credit for. They also know that many of those you are involved in baptizing fall away not long after they’re baptized. Plus a good number of LDS males don’t serve missions, and still remain active. Missions aren’t for everyone, let alone who have anxiety and depression. It can be difficult to work with different companions and in the rather intense environments that the mission places you in. At the end of the day, the mission environment is unique. You will never be in another environment in life that is remotely similar to it.

  25. I have just this minute transcribed a 1905 letter from Heber J. Grant (then European Mission President) to the president of the German mission, relevant to this discussion. Heber J. Grant had just left Berlin while touring the Continental missions and writes from the train:

    “I am annoyed that I have forgotten the name of the Elder whose health is poorly at Zurich. You will please tell him for me that it is not the least bit to his discredit to go home now. I feel in my heart that it is better for him to go home. There is any amount of work that he can do of a missionary nature at home.

    “The mission of a Latter-day Saint, if properly understood, is a life’s labor.”

  26. Another paragraph from the same ^^^ letter:

    “The Elder did not call himself on his mission and when an honorable release comes he should feel in his heart to accept it and not be downcast. Tell him for me, a servant of God whose right it is to bless the people, that if he will go home and take up the good work there, I bless him and promise him as much joy and also success as he can possibly have by remaining in this land. His release is as a matter of fact only a transfer; a change in place where he is to work for the Lord. I say to him, God bless you now and forever.”

  27. CS Eric says:

    Ardis, thanks for this wonderful find of a letter. I love the idea that a release is “only a transfer, a change in place . . . to work for the Lord.”

  28. Another Roy says:

    I second the thanks for the wonderful find Ardis.
    I also wish to add that for young men completing a full two year mission can be seen as a minimum requirement to be seen as a quality suitor for many of the young women in our community. I remember a friend that went home “early” from a mission that could not get a second date (because the missionary service always came up during the first date). I believe that a young man’s desire to be seen by the young women in the community as a quality suitor can be intensely motivating. Facing collective rejection in this area can be devastating.

  29. How does Ardis find all her letters and quotes at the right time? What is your system Ardis

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    Wonderful find, Ardis, as always.

  31. No system, really, Adele. I get credit all the time for finding the right thing as if I knew exactly where to look for it when other’s don’t — but the truth is, I just read/process so many hundreds of pages of material every day that it’s almost certain that I’ll trip over something that is useful somewhere. Can’t predict what or where any more than I can predict which audience member I would hit if I threw a tennis ball into the crowd, but I’ll find something just like I’d hit somebody.

  32. Truckers Atlas says:

    Jaxon

  33. Amazing. Keep reading Ardis….and thank you.

  34. Stewart says:

    If the author’s mission president was not in apostacy, was in fact not in the wrong, then the author’s position might be more comparable to Uzzah who put forth his hand to steady the ark of God, and humility and repentance are in order. If the author’s mission president was in a state of apostacy, for example telling the missionaries to disregard teaching the Word of Wisdom when preparing candidates for baptism, then the example of Jesus interacting with the Jewish leaders of his day is of course more appropriate. Principled disobedience is only a virtue if the authority figure is wrong. The author hasn’t given us enough information to decide for ourselves which scenario is more appropriate, and, quite frankly, our opinions don’t matter. The author seems to feel that the Jesus-Pharisees scenario is more fitting. If the author believes he was right to take a principled stand against his mission president, mission rules, etc. (I’m reading between the lines here) then there is more honor to be had in being sent home early from an apostate mission than complying with sinful leaders. But if mission leadership was in tune with the Spirit, was seeking and receiving revelation from Heaven, then there is more honor to be had in following Jesus’ example of humble submission to his Father (even when that submission required him to suffer unjustly for sins he didn’t commit).
    Honor…success…interesting thoughts.

  35. Another Roy says:

    Hi Stewart,
    I understood the blogpost differently. I observed on my mission that nobody kept all the rules all the time. For the sake of getting along with my companions, I tried to observe what rules where most important to them and make an extra effort to follow those. Considering that nobody keeps all the rules all of the time, I understand the author to be saying that when faced with a conflict, he chose to err on the side of love. I see no attempt at disobedience in this. He appears to have been prioritizing the “spirit of the law” or principle behind the law to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    Testing 123

  37. Lane Wolfley says:

    Stewart,
    You need to re-write this article every year for a while, then every few years once you get older. Your perspective over time will change, and the lessons you will have learned expand and modify. It’s pretty complicated. I served my mission in Spain starting 48 years ago. I happened to be made for the mission field, a constantly upbeat, unwavering soul, able to see every kind of experience in an uplifting light, so to speak. Along the way, I had a couple of companions who barely could hold it together, but over the years they have maintained a strong affiliation with the Church. I recently attended a mission reunion, and commented how some of the missionaries who struggled the most made the very best members over the years. I, on the other hand, after serving for five years as a bishop at a very young age, just came to view religion as a big, cruel joke of make-believe. While still fairly active in the Church, I am an unbeliever, laugh out loud daily at the foolishness and vanity of Humankind, maintain an arm’s length friendship with the Church, and give not a bit more thought to the Church’s opinion on matters than I do to any other person’s. So I loved my mission, but people would disagree on who’s service was, in the end, perhaps more efficacious. I’ll tell you one thing, though, don’t take people’s or your thoughts too seriously, please. Enjoy the journey, turn everything into a learning experience and always take time to also see matters through the eyes of people you disagree with. For me the Church was a youthful indiscretion, but I also understand that it sustained my ancestors for several generations.

  38. Doug Brinton says:

    Elder Washburn! Wow! Amazing. I commend you for your service, your heart, your insight, your wisdom, your Christlike view and acceptance of who you are as a son of God and how much He loves you. I commend you for your ability to share your thoughts and experiences so eloquently. I pray that the words you have shared will touch and soften the heart of each person who reads them as they have mine. You are a remarkable young man.

  39. Halenfanslc says:

    I just found out about 21 hours ago my daughter is returning home early. It is due to mental health issues. To see the panic and pain when saying “Dad I’ve failed. Dad I’ve failed” was gut wrenching. This is a person who converted in her teens and has more love for the Gospel than anyone I know. I feel crazy awful for her. I truly wonder if it would have been better for her to stay in college where she thrived? There is no stigma for not serving as a young woman; nobody gives it a second thought. I served an honorable mission and stayed the full two years, and I was done by the end. I was not one of the ‘lucky ones’ who never wanted to come home. Now my daughter has to live with the guilt and shame of being an ERM. I am not ashamed but am crazy proud that she had the desire to go in the first place!! Oh how I wish I could take the pain away from her.