Early this summer when I learned that my youngest nephew had been called to be a missionary abroad, I was disappointed and secretly hoped he would change his mind or go home early. This morning, his mother sent a short text (to a family group of siblings and spouses of siblings) stating that he'd be coming home tomorrow due to emotional reasons (concluding with a "thanks for the support" comment).
A sister-in-law responded with "oh I'm so sorry, I hope he's not heart broken." My only response was "maybe he can start college in January?" to which his mother promptly responded "absolutely to college if I get a say." I was pleased to read his mom's response, but, annoyed by the sister-in-law's comment.
Several years ago, the sister-in-law created quite a rift with her own son when he elected to skip a mormon mission, continued his college education, and got married civilly to his high school sweet heart (and to my knowledge, he has had nothing to do with mormonism ever since). He and his mom are still very distant emotionally because of his refusal to endure the mormon peer pressured two years of servitude. In my opinion, I feel his mom was more concerned about her church status of being a "missionary mom" than about her son's personal feelings and reservations about mormonism.
I hope my parents (particularly my father) are kind and understanding towards the home coming nephew. He was the only grandchild out of 25+ grandkids that sent in paperwork for a mormon mission; I think dad/grandpa will be disappointed, but, I think he'll not say or do anything stupid. This nephew was their "last best chance" for a grandkid to fulfill a mormon mission. The only other younger grandchild is my daughter (soon to be a teenager) and I was twelve years removed from mormonism before she was born to my nevermo wife and I.
My daughter never experienced the mormon indoctrination, so, it's challenging to explain what mormonism was/is like to her. She asked me about the texts regarding her older cousin coming home and if he'd really be heart broken to go home. I quickly replied, "if anything, he'll be extremely relieved, especially after a short lifetime of cultural indoctrination, being free of the burden of mormon missionary service is very liberating."
I hated the mormon missionary experience, even though by the cult's own measures/standards my personal experience was perceived as a successful endeavor; I went out of obligation, primarily out of familial/peer/social pressure (at the time having been a believer of the "pre-existence" promises of being a missionary, mormon, etc). I hated knocking doors, cold contacts, etc (even if I eventually learned how to effectively perform those tasks). I was emotionally and physically beat down and exhausted at the end of those two long years. I was so relieved that it was over that I actually kissed the ground when I got back home to the USA.
During my missionary daze, several missionaries at the time had died around the world (faulty heater causing carbon monoxide deaths, a couple were shot in south America, etc) - including my initial trainer companion who died in a tragic collision (along with his ZL companion) with a train in their tiny mission car in northern Portugal six months into my mission (and if I recall, about 3 months before those two were supposed to return home).
I explained to my daughter that missions today are a lot different than what I endured back in the 1980s, but, that the peer pressure and family pressure are still powerful and coercive. I also commented that I am glad that the stigma of going home early is not nearly as bad as it once was. I did NOT, however, mention that my dad (her grandpa) would have preferred me to be returned in pine box (coffin) rather than go home early; I also have never told her my father, in a fit of anger, a few months after I left mormonism forever back in 1997, that he wished that I had died on my mission rather than apostatize. I don't think he really meant it, but, it was spoken... and, it made me contemplate how many young men and women wasted their time - and lives (because some small number of missionaries, have, indeed died while on missions) - in such insipid service.
When my nephew left late in July, him mom forwarded a weekly text from him for the first three weeks or so of August; then, nothing but crickets. I crossed my fingers that the silence meant he might soon come home and quit wasting his life in "acts of service" to strangers in a foreign (yet English speaking) land.
I hope the best for him, as I do for all of my many nephews and nieces. None of the others are active mormons (and most do not even consider themselves to be LDS). I hope he soon follows in their footsteps. I am glad he will be back home today.
I had a lot more interaction and involvement with his older cousins, but, when I left mormonism in 1997 I purposely pulled back from them as a few of my siblings are still TBM and I did not want them accusing me of interfering with their beliefs. During that time, I always made it clear that I am not LDS and regretted spending two years on a mormon mission. I hoped, at the time, that living a good, happy, life outside of mormonism would demonstrate my separation from all things LDS was nothing to fear. And, I hope my nephew can eventually have a more genuine life - like all of his other cousins.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/12/2021 03:28AM by 1997resignee.
My advice to kids questioning whether they should go on a mission or not has always been that it is way easier not to go in the first place than to go and come home early. Fortunately, it appears that things have eased up a quite a bit and the stigma of coming home early is not as severe as when I did it.
The key to successfully transitioning home is having the love and support of parents/family. It appears your nephew has that, at least with his mother. I can't emphasize enough the importance of having that support is. There are always people throwing their stupid two-cent advice to a questioning missionary by saying idiotic stuff like, "You are an adult, just leave", "You are a volunteer, you don't have to stay", "Go home, go back to school, your parents will get over it after a while", etc. It takes a lot of courage to walk off of a mission. Fear of what they may face by coming home is what keeps many missionaries out on their missions. Coming home to parents/family who feel shamed, embarrassed, disgusted, and who would rather their kid come home in a box than to come home dishonorably is all very real. I'll never forget the next morning after I came home and hearing a knock at my bedroom door. When I opened it my sister was standing there in tears. No hug, no arm on my shoulder, no "I'm here for you", just her saying..."How could you do this to our family." My mother couldn't face me for three days.
For me, I had nowhere else to go. My parents provided a place for me to stay and not much more. I was broke. All of my savings had gone towards my mission prep. I was not allowed to use a family vehicle, I had no job, and going back to school...yeah, right...it was made VERY CLEAR that my days of having an education paid for were over. Although I didn't have to pay to live at home, the emotional payment was tremendous. Oh yeah...I was going to pay...boy, was I going to pay. If it wasn't for my great friends and support outside of my "loving family", I never would have made it. About six months later, after finding a job, getting my head above water, and finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, my father came to me and said, "I think it would be best FOR THE FAMILY if you were to leave." No...my parents NEVER "got over it after a while."
I am pleased to hear that your nephew's mother is anxious to get him back in school and on with his life. That is huge!! Oh how I wished that my father would have sat down with me and said something like, "O.K., the mission thing is out. Let's move on with your life, get you back into school, and find you a part-time job. You'll need a car and there are plenty here that you can use. As long as you are going to school and working, you can have free room/board here..." *SIGH*. Instead he was too interested in grinding me into the ground. He had the hammer...I was the nail.
My parents taught me some great life lessons. Most of them being what NOT to do. Best of luck to your nephew. You are a good uncle. I wish I had one like you when I needed it.
I hope the missionary and the family will give deep and thorough consideration to whether going to school (college?) is the best immediate choice.
College kids here, perhaps due to covid, are suffering with mental health concerns....more suffering and the suffering seems deeper. Far too many suicides by young people in the past ~2 years.
College isn't the place to let your young adult loose, out of your sight, while they sow wild oats, let their hair down, experiment with alcohol, etc. while believing they will be "just fine."
Classwork is work and comes with deadlines, Midterm tests, Final exams in a new, more independent environment. It's another big stressor for "kids."
It's best to know, in advance, how your kid copes.
Maybe encourage a "gap year" of work which can have many pay-offs in gaining workplace experience, managing money, responsibility, social interactions, customer-employee interactions...all are needed to succeed and can be helpful.
My parents, extended family and most friends were all supportive. They new I had given 110% and was in a bad way physically when I came home. I don't think they knew what a bad way I was in emotionally after months and months of mental abuse and in the end physical abuse by not being allowed to get medical attention, from the mission experience. My Bishop was supportive. My Stake President and Mission President were assholes. The morning I boarded the plane my mission presidents wife asked me to please forgive her husband for being such an a$$hole but he just can't help it because that is what the Church wants.
Yeah my advice is for your nephew to get back in college and find a girlfriend, and go blow off some steam.