Breakdown of a Mormon Missionary in Japan Aug. 2004
Subject: Breakdown of a Mormon Missionary in Japan
Date: Aug 05 19:53 2004
Author: Korihor1

I'll ask the question first. Who had physical possession of your passport while you were out there? Was it you, or did the mission president keep it?

Here's why (and why I am seething). I have a nephew (let's call him James) who is about six months into his mission in Japan. He is a great kid, very bright, very sensitive and very TBM {true believing Mormon}. Within days of his arriving in Japan, he started having trouble, though. He seems to be suffering a worsening mental breakdown. He has lost 40 pounds. He says that he wants to be there, but he can't do his job because "his brain isn't working right". As per policy, contact with his parents is difficult. Lately, they have been keeping in touch by phone and they (he, mom and dad) have decided finally that he should come home. I talked to him about a week ago and he sounded so relieved. Well, the mission president is dragging his feet now. He tells TBM Mom (my sister) that James is too smart to go home. He says that he feels inspired that James should stay there, blah, blah, blah. This guy is apparently the youngest mission president in the world, and I imagine that he thinks that an early return will look bad on his "resume" and will slow his progress toward making GA sometime.
Finally, my BIL {brother in law} called yesterday (Wed.) and got MP's {mission president} wife. He told her he wanted James home now, no ifs ands or buts. She agreed, and everyone thought it was settled. Not so fast though. MP calls about 3 hours later and says he is inspired that James should stay for 3 more days. TBM BIL chickens out and backs down, so my nephew is trapped in misery for who knows how much longer.

Now, here's the kicker and the thing that has me worried and angry. He told his mom in one of his recent conversations that it might not be a problem for too much longer, because he was thinking of "stepping in front of a train or something". This is scary. This kid has never talked like this before. I'm no expert, but he seems to be going through a major depressive episode, and he doesn't know how to handle it, especially stuck halfway around the world from home. Later in the conversation, he promised his mom he wouldn't do anything rash, but only for her. But still, this is something to take seriously, and this dickwad MP is not. So that's why I'm wondering about the passport. Why can't he just leave? What's the procedure? His parents can get money to him, but does somebody have to go get him to free him. And they say they're not a cult! It's a rambling rant, I know. Just needed to unload, I guess. I have been really attached to this kid since he was born, and I am really worried about him now.

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas..
Date: Aug 05 20:06
Author: mizry

I went to Portugal over 13 years ago....back then we kept our passports. You have to consider that these are just kids out there depending on the MP. Unless they have parents willing to go to bat for them and buying the plane ticket themselves, their at the mercy of the control-freaky MPs. If your nephew is hinting at suicide, his parents need to step up now! Get him home!

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas.. (kinda long)
Date: Aug 05 20:08
Author: Rock Anna Hardplace

I served in Taiwan in the mid 80's. We had to surrender the passport when we got there "for safety reasons". We were told that passports were hot black-market items and they needed to be kept in the mission safe. I only heard of one break-in and no muggings of American missionaries, so that simply was not the case.

I had a mission buddy who came home early, but it took a month of interviews and actually living with the AP's for that month before they let him go. He was a mess by the time he came home.

Somebody needs to assert some real authority (fatherly) and get that kid home where he belongs.

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas.. (kinda long)
Date: Aug 05 20:12
Author: mom

If it were my kid, I'd be on the next plane. I guess it's that much harder when you're TBM. I would get there though - I would!

Subject: In the early 70's in England Leeds, they kept
Date: Aug 05 20:21
Author: theAntiSprite

the passports at the mission home. One part of me agrees with this. Can you imagine how many would get lost and the work that would involve when you're talking about two or three hundred kids rotating through the mission.

The other part of me sees the power this gives to 'hold' you there to talk you into staying.

Anyway, this situation has escalated to the point that the boys father needs to call again and say, "Due to the suicide threats, Put my kid on a plane within 24 hours. Do it. Now. This phone call is recorded. You are aware of the threats and are responsible for not following my orders. Put my son on the phone so I can tell him to pack."


Subject: Speaking as someone who got home less than 8 months ago...
Date: Aug 05 20:25
Author: Stu

Passports were in the mission office, in a safe. We got to carry around a copy. This was of course because missionaries were always losing them, and we couldn't be trusted with them. :-P

Subject: We kept ours in France
Date: Aug 05 20:27
Author: Kim

This issue came up once before and I recall being absolutely astounded that anyone would be required to surrendered their passport. It seemed then that there were more people who said that their MP DID require them to hand it over. The excuse was always for safe-keeping.

Good god! If you're old enough to leave home for two years like that, you sure as hell ought to be old enough to be able to hang on to your own passport. It seems to me though that lately missionaries are being treated more and more like babies.

In France, we had visas that were good for only one year. At the one year mark, we had to be able to present our passports at some local bureaucracy and renew ourselves for an additional year.

It's very pathetic that MPs cannot trust their missionaries to stay in the mission. If any missionary does not want to stay though and does not want to deal with the MP, who of course is NOT going to allow the missionary to go home without first a LOT of grief and guilt, he should be able to go.

Mormons claim it is a VOLUNTARY service, after all.

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas.. (kinda long)
Date: Aug 05 20:29
Author: Deutsche

OMG, this is serious!

He needs to go to the nearest American consulate/embassy and tell them his passport is being held hostage.

But in his state of mind he may not have enough strength to face down a manipulative MP. He is suicidal, anything could push him over the edge!

His parents need to RAISE HELL with SLC and the MP and threaten legal action if the kid is not on a plane home within 24 hours.

If all else fails, one of the parents needs to get on a plane and get him outta there pronto. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!!!!!!

AND the parents will be paying for a shrink for the next few years to get the poor guy back to normal.

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas.. (kinda long)
Date: Aug 05 20:36
Author: Deutsche

This is really wigging me.

Please impress upon the parents the importance of QUICK ACTION!

The boy has major depression with suicidal ideation and the idiot MP is probably just thinking the kid lacks the Spirit.

The parents had better act quickly if they want to see their son alive.

Subject: You need to see that your nephew gets out of there
Date: Aug 05 21:22
Author: Yikes!

Having had major depressive episodes in my life and having been hospitalized because of it, this guy needs to be home with expert care. Suicidal thoughts and feeling like your brain has stopped are classic symptoms of major depression.

I know you are limited because you are not the parent but you may be the only one with the sense.

Please do whatever you can.

In my mission, Peru, '72-'74, they kept our passports. In a way a good idea, I had mine snatched when swarmed by street kids while playing tourist in Rome. I also remember elders from Brazil on their way home laying over in Lima while they got new passports because they had managed to loose theirs between the time the flight left Rio and the time it got to Lima in route to LA.

We all understand why you ask, but the central question, as I'm sure you know, is how can you get him home safe.

Good luck. Let us know.

Subject: Contact the passport bureau.
Date: Aug 05 21:25
Author: Holy Joe

Tell them that a passport has been lost or stolen overseas. Tell them you need a replacement passport so you can go pick up the young adult and bring them home.

And if you want to get the church in possible trouble tell the bureau that the mission home took the passport.

Subject: Answers
Date: Aug 05 21:38
Author: Ether

1. He needs to DEMAND he be sent home. If they won't give his passport, tell the Mission Pres he will go to the U.S. Embassy.

2. His parents need to DEMAND he be sent home.

3. Hire a lawyer and make these demands.

The Church is looking at a mammoth lawsuit if anything happens to this kid

Date: Aug 05 21:53
Author: Tyson Dunn

Yes, it'll set you back money, but it might be the only way to ensure that his mental and physical health are properly taken care.

Put a call into the Missionary Department and inform them that if he isn't on a plane out of Japan within FOUR hours that you will call the State Department and they will hear from your attorney. If they balk that that's impossible, tell them: "Tough", they've already sat on it long enough. If they have to cough up $5,000-$10,000 for a ticket what is it to you?

I'd call the State Department anyway to report that the passport is being held, and that the boy is being detained against his parents' will and his own.

If James is a normal weight kid, a 40-lb. loss is a definite sign of problems. I had a companion who started manifesting signs of colon and prostate problems and who exhibited a 60-lb. weight loss. By the time they got him stateside to American doctors, the diagnosis had nothing to do with his abdominal systems. He had a "chemical imbalance", which was the PC way of saying that he was having a mental breakdown. He survived treatment, but it was an unfair thing to put him through.

If James is having suicidal ideation, there is no question, he must come home. The Japanese culture is a terrible one to be in for suicides, given their own biases toward seppuku whenever the snapping point comes, whether that's at juku, in exams, at university, or at work. If James has even come in the slightest contact with the idea of "saving face", there's not telling what might transpire.

The moron mission president is no mental health worker, otherwise he'd know that intelligence does not preclude a person from mental illness. Far from it.

To answer your question: My passport was on my person in France (as Kim said above). The mission president may have his, but calls to the State Department and the Embassy can straighten that out.

Time is of the essence here. AGAIN: James has threatened suicide - he must come home NOW.


Subject: Re: *** Where in Japan is he? ***
Date: Aug 05 23:23
Author: Korihor1

... He's in the Japan Fukuoka mission and I'll email Susan with the more specific info that I have. I've been talking to his mom this evening. They are still getting the run around. Now the mission president says that James wants to stay until Monday so he can listen to Russell Ballard speak over there. But James told my sis (his mom) that he can listen to those guys when he gets back to SLC, so somebody's twisting facts and I don't think it is James. I also found out that he has been put on an antidepressant, but no more details than that. (His great uncle on the other side of the family is a psychiatrist and says he will get involved if his parents want him to.)
He says he's going on a sit down strike until he gets a ticket home. That's encouraging because it means he hasn't completely lost his fighting spirit. This is really upsetting, and I'm getting myself all worked up now. He really is a great kid, but for hell's sake he's still just a teenager!

Date: Aug 05 22:16
Author: Sophia

Well, it's night, now, but call first thing in the morning. Tell them what has gone on, and what your nephew said. That boy needs help immediately. The MP is out of line and needs to get set straight!

Subject: They won't be much help unless you have an inside contact.
Date: Aug 05 23:36
Author: Happy Exmo

The Missionary Dept. is just another church beuarocracy that gets calls from parents all the time. The parents should physically fly to Japan and pick up their kid and when they get home, find a good lawyer and see if it's worth suing the church for mismanagement of their son's welfare.

Date: Aug 05 23:32

Don't screw around with the Church anymore.

The following link has info on the American consulate in Fukuoka. Call them directly and have them get involved; if nothing else they can liase with the Japanese police and let you file kidnapping charges if they don't let him go.

The Fukuoka Consulate is open from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday

American Consulate Fukuoka, 2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi 810-0052, Japan
Phone: 092-751-9331, Fax: 092-713-9222

Here's a link to English speaking Japanese lawyers.

I'm not sure what time it is in Japan, but it should be morning soon. Call now.

Date: Aug 05 23:37
Author: Korihor1

Thank you. I'll pass this on to his parents immediately. If they don't use it tonight, I may do it tomorrow. I don't want to make things more traumatic for him than necessary, and I don't want to intrude and risk alienating his family, but I am worried for him. Maybe this is something that MP will understand, though.

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas.. (kinda long)
Date: Aug 05 23:44
Author: Glo
Mail Address:

Anti-depressants can take up to six weeks to kick in and a suicidal person really needs to be in a clinical setting, under observation, to insure his safety and well being.

Being in a foreign country among strangers, language difficulties, strange food and strange culture, can all contribute to even more anxiety than a mission already produces. I don't see how keeping him over there will be helpful. I'm concerned for this young man.

I hope the parents demand he be sent home.

Subject: Re: I'm seething here with a question for missionaries who served overseas.. (kinda long)
Date: Aug 05 23:59
Author: Deutsche

Tell your tbm sister that whatever the expense is, it's worth it to get him back alive and reasonably sane.

Moreover, if the church refuses to help, your sister can always deduct the expenses from their future tithes. That's what I would do. The church would not get another penny until everything was squared away.

Subject: More info on mission president
Date: Aug 06 00:07
Author: Anon

His bio from his mission website (included is a link to send him emails):

Check out his job prior to the mission pres gig:
"Working as Director of Asian languages at MTC."

The guy was a Church hack, not even a successful business type. That would explain his wanting to keep the kid there. Wouldn't want to look bad.

Subject: Update on missionary nephew stuck in Japan. Long!
Date: Aug 06 22:32
Author: Korihor1

After reading your helpful posts, I got hold of a calling card and called James (not his real name BTW) and talked to him myself. (Fortunately, for now, he still has a phone and an apparently understanding companion.) Mostly I wanted to hear how he sounds for myself and to let him know that he has not been abandoned and that people are working on his situation. It's really hard for him having to wait around for his loved ones to contact him, so I plan to do so daily. After a few minutes of trying to put the best spin on things, he confided that Saturday had been kind of rough. He said that he and his companion had been teaching a lesson, and when it was his turn to present his body "just shut down and wouldn't move" so his companion covered his part for him. He also told me that this depression (apparently) has been going on for four months now. That first news concerned me and the second PISSES ME OFF. I myself went through something that sounds similar when I was about his age (at BYU wouldn't you know -- it was the start of a crisis of faith that ultimately led to my exmo status, but that's a story for another time) so I asked him if he was experiencing symptoms like insomnia, time dilation, and spontaneous crying. He answered yes.

I asked him if it came to it if he would want someone to contact US consulate to help him. He said that he wouldn't have a problem with any solution that would get him home, but that right now the MP wasn't refusing, just dragging his feet. And he told me that his passport is in fact at the mission office, two hours away in Fukuoka. The MP is coming to his town, Sasebo on Monday, accompanying Elder Ballard, who James says that he cares nothing about listening to right now. (For those not up on the first thread, this visit has been used as an excuse to keep him there until at least Monday.)

After talking to him I drove to SLC to talk to his mother personally. She is very upset, but somewhat hopeful. James dad's side of the family has some connections with the bigwigs at the COB. (Interestingly, someone in the first thread suggested enlisting Steve Benson's assistance. James' great uncle is married to one of Ezra Taft Benson's daughter's, so James' dad and Steve have a set of cousins in common. Does that make sense? There are connections there, anyway). Another great uncle is a psychiatrist who, I just found out treated early returning missionaries for many years. He called the Area President, who in turn called the dickwad MP and told him he was "playing with fire" and to get his ass in gear and "send that Elder home". (MP then called James' mom and started whining that she had gone over his head, etc. BFD!!) So I hope things will start happening now, but it can't happen too fast for James. Every hour in that state can feel like a year.

One personal note though. One of James' other relatives is ultra TBM, but notwithstanding one of the kindest, best people I know. This person is even more upset about this than I am and related to my sister that this incident is causing him or her (won't say which in the interest of privacy) to seriously question his or her testimony. That does my heart good to hear, but I ain't sayin' nothin' 'bout any of that esmo stuff to any TBMs in my family at this point.

Thanks all, and sorry about the length.


Subject: My son served in Fukuoka (mild language)
Date: Aug 06 23:01
Author: PinyonJay

His MP was also an asshole, as far as I can tell. (about 1990, so not the same MP)

The MP's statements to James's mom really infuriate me. If you need someone to call up the MP an ream him in Japanese, my son would probably be glad to do it!

I'm glad the Area President is involved, though. It sounds like there is at least one person in this scenario who understands that the MP needs to get his ass in gear.

Subject: Re: Update on missionary nephew stuck in Japan. Long!
Date: Aug 06 23:10
Author: FedUp

This is horrible. I really feel bad for "James".

If my father were his parent he'd get himself on the first plane to Japan, head straight to the MP's house, slam the MP against the wall, and demand the passport. The MP would have that passport in his hands within seconds. He'd then go get his son and take him home. I'm serious. My dad may be a TBM but I know he'd do this if his child was having so much trouble on a mission.

Subject: Phoning is good
Date: Aug 07 01:04
Author: Nightingale

That's good news that you can be in contact every day and that your nephew has an understanding companion. It's hard to know whether to bide your time or to go charging in. Thing is, it's already well into Saturday in Japan, right? So he has one more night and day to endure (I know that can seem like forever) but if his comp sticks with him, maybe the weekend will be more bearable and then it's Monday.

Thing is....maybe they're thinking Ballard can be used to talk him out of going home. Maybe they're gonna push the theory that nephew will Feel the Spirit with the bigwig around and all will be well. Sorry to be cynical but I wouldn't be surprised to hear the MP ends up not bringing the passport with him, in the name of further delay to give your nephew "more time to think" or something lame like that.

I think it's important to make it clear that there is no room to equivocate here - nephew IS coming home and his family wants him to be reunited with his passport on Monday at the latest and return trip arrangements expedited for him. (For instance, what is stopping them from pre-booking his ticket so he knows that's in hand?) And what about making arrangements for someone to fly home with him. As I said in the other thread, I have heard of this happening - a female mish I knew accompanied suicidal mishies home on several occasions. Sometimes they find someone close to the end of their mission and release them early so they can companion the other mish home and then just stay there themselves, wtih an honourable early release.

Again, I think it's really important for your nephew to have a travelling companion, no matter whether he says he is feeling "better" or "OK" or not. I don't think he's going to necessarily feel better just because he's flying home, in fact, he could feel even more down at the way things have turned out and the long trip and being sleep-deprived and maybe feeling disappointed and stressed and scared and embarrassed and depressed.

I waited around for senior comps, other mishies, APs, WML and bishops to help several mishies who were suffering needlessly (over and above the usual misery) and ended up having to take mishies to the mission office and talk to the MP myself on several occasions. (Not that he was all that much help either). But I'm saying - go to THEM, don't wait for them to pay attention to you.

I hope these connections all work out and the MP gets the message - but I fear there will be further delay. It is very good news that you are in telephone contact. I hope your nephew knows it's a two way line and he can call any time. Remember too the offer from CZ to possibly get some exmos in the area to be there in person for him. I know it sounds out there if you haven't been in the situation but it's possible that mishies who are having a tough time are MORE isolated on purpose and kept incommunicado and subjected to more not so helpful "advice" and actions. I'd hope for the best that the MP will get it looked after Monday but I'd plan for alternatives - like your nephew needing to know someone local he can reach out to - there is such a thing as leaving his mission even if they aren't cooperative and he can't get on a plane right away. Exmo ex-RMs will know exactly the situation he's in and it may be a very good temporary solution. At least with him having your phone number and possibly a local contact, here's hoping your nephew sees some options opening up for him.

I'd love to know that if the MP doesn't expedite his return home, Monday latest - at least by getting his passport back to him and plane ticket in hand - your nephew could leave the mission anyway - with a safe house to go to, NEPA style. His safety is the _only_ thing that matters right now - everything else can be sorted out later.

Please let us know what Monday brings and if appropriate, tell your nephew that a lot of your friends are on his side!

Subject: Re: Update on missionary nephew stuck in Japan. Long!
Date: Aug 07 01:10
Author: Deutsche

I think the MP and Ballard will try to pressure the kid into staying or guilt him for being sick in the first place, why else would there have to be the meeting with Ballard.

Good Lord, how long can it take for Salt Lake's travel agency to book a return flight and for the MP to get the passport out of his safe. Less than a few hours I should think.

Your family needs to insist that these delaying tactics stop, and demand immediate action.

Perhaps it would help if the kid pulled a Hacking and started running naked through a hotel lobby in Japan.

Subject: Update on missionary nephew stuck in Japan and a question.
Date: Aug 11 21:47
Author: Korihor1

This is a follow up to a thread I started last week:

(Brief summary: Nephew went to Japan on a mission. Almost immediately started having serious, even dangerous emotional difficulties. Stuck it out as long as he could and finally decided that he just had to come home. Mission president threw up obstructions until Monday of this week.)

Good news! He is home as of last night (Tuesday). His dad took a very assertive stance with the MP, and the next day he had his tickets and passport. I visited him today, and he is extremely relieved to be at home where he can get feeling better.

When the MP was obstructing his getting home, he told him that if he came home early, he would not be able to go back. Then, after it was clear that he was going home, as he was getting on the plane, the MP hugged him, told him that he was a "great missionary" and would be welcome back if he so desired. Talk about manipulation.

The problem he worries about now, though, is how he should respond to the inevitable questions about why he came home early and the social stigma in the mo culture attached to doing that. I think he should just tell people that the mission experience wasn't working for him, or better yet that it's nobody's business. But I imagine he'll have to spend the next few years apologizing, explaining and justifying a decision that was a rational one for him, given the circumstance he found himself in.

Any other ideas?

Subject: Re: Update on missionary nephew stuck in Japan and a question.
Date: Aug 11 22:19
Author: Glo

All that's really necessary is for him to say he came home for "medical reasons". For example,the raw fish could have given him a hard-to-cure intestinal problem.

That's sort of what my tbm friend told members when her son came home early. Actually, he is gay and they picked up on it in the mission field. But it was nobody's business anyway.

Subject: Re: Update on missionary nephew stuck in Japan and a question.
Date: Aug 11 22:29
Author: Anon

Our bishop's son developed very similar problems, he served in Washington and had to come home early.

He still suffers from feelings of inadequacy because the parents could not handle him coming home early, it was all too public.

Your nephew needs a lot of emotional support plus counseling, and I hope his parents blame the church, not their son.

I'm glad they got him home in one piece. Good job!

Subject: Gee. It is quite simple: He became ill and was sent to home for medical reasons.
Date: Aug 11 22:40
Author: SusieQ#1

No other explanation is needed or required.

This can be kept a private matter.

Everyone else is on a "need to know" basis, and they do not "need to know."

Subject: not so simple
Date: Aug 21 22:18
Author: sent home early

I also came home because of depression and anxiety attacks. As someone who came home early after two months I know that it is not that easy. Maybe it is because I went back to Ricks after my small adventure on a mission. That was a mistake. The whole environment at Ricks or BYU is centered around missions and getting married in the temple.

I was always asked if I went on a mission yet and where. That is a common first question when meeting people at the Mormon colleges. Unfortunately, the questions wouldn't stop there, especially if they went to that mission or knew of the area ( which was a lot of people because I didn't serve a foreign mission ). I would be asked in what areas I served and if I knew so and so. It would eventually come out that I only served two months because I was sent home for health reasons.

Problem was that stating I came home early for health reasons was not enough for a lot of people. I would be pestered about why I came home early and if I was going to go back out on a mission. I made the mistake of seeing a mental health counselor on campus and he tried to convince me I should go back out on my mission. The amount of guilt and embarrassment I felt going back to Ricks was huge and I am not sure I have really moved past it.

My most embarrassing moment was when I got hired for a campus job, cleaning the cafeteria after meals. There was a meeting of a large crew of employees and since it was my first day the boss decided to ask me about my mission in front of the entire cleaning crew. And of course he just happened to serve in my mission and wouldn't stop asking about what areas I served in and who I knew. I thought it would never end.

Others who have come home early and attempt to fit in with mormons probably have had similar experiences. I was relieved when I turned 21 and moved on to BYU because it wasn't so obvious being 20 and at Ricks. Eventually I couldn't take it and left BYU. Now I can't stand to be around Mormons my own age and feel very self-conscious around them.

Subject: Gossip
Date: Aug 21 22:27
Author: sent home early

Forgot to add when people would find out that I was sent home early, the gossip and speculation was endless. Not a good experience for ones self-esteem.

Subject: Thanks for the update!
Date: Aug 11 23:03
Author: Susan I/S

I realized it was Wed already (it was trash day) and we hadn't heard from you and I was worried. VERY glad the kid is home safe. He will still have a rough road but at least he is with people that put him FIRST and will get him the help he needs.
He has a lot of exmos pulling for him :)

Subject: Health reasons, don't elaborate further.
Date: Aug 11 23:56
Author: Anonymo

Don't buy into the idea that somehow the ward will support him if they know the reasons. Assume they are all a bunch of busybody gossips and don't give them any fodder. Health reasons, nothing more.

Subject: I'm so happy he's home...
Date: Aug 21 00:03
Author: FedUp

I know I'm late in responding. I haven't had time for the board in a while. I'm so glad to read this update.

My best to your nephew.

Subject: I missed the update
Date: Aug 21 00:34
Author: sg

I'm glad he's home safe. I agree with the others -- health reasons. It's no one's business but his own.

Hope we'll see him here someday!


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