Dr. Gary G. Taylor

ERM Class - Session One Notes

 How should we think about the fact that we did not serve for the normal two years or eighteen months?

How we feel in general, or about anything in particular, is largely controlled by what we choose to think.  If we have returned early from a mission and think in any of the following or similar ways, we will feel horrible about ourselves, uncomfortable in Church, and insecure about the future.

  • I’m a quitter.  I gave up too soon.  I should have tried harder to stay on my mission.
  • I didn’t do my best.  I didn’t serve to the best of my ability.
  • I let myself, my family, and the Lord down.
  • I am now damaged goods.  People will think there is something terribly wrong with me.  I will be either pitied and/or rejected.
  • I’ve forever missed out on the blessings I might have had; and I’ve failed to do the good that the Lord expected and needed me to do.

If, however, we think about our service in ways similar to the following, we will feel good about ourselves, be more comfortable with family and in Church, and be more optimistic about the future.

  • I did not make the decision to return home early. I was officially and formally released after prayerful consideration by my priesthood leaders.
  • I am a returned missionary in every sense of the word. If anyone ever asks if I served a mission, I can proudly answer yes; and there is no need to add that it was not for the full term.
  • I will focus on what I learned and the good experiences I had while serving; not on what I might have experienced if I had stayed the full term.
  • I will think of my experience similarly to a soldier wounded in combat. He or she accepted the call to serve their country, prepared well, and did their best. They returned with honor, and often even with medals. This was true whether they were wounded on their first day in combat or on their hundredth.
  • In a way similar to the case of Abraham and his son Isaac (Genesis 22), I was willing to make the sacrifice of my time and effort; but I was prevented from following through.
  • My prayers were not in vain. The Lord heard my prayers and they will be answered as He sees fit; and in the time frame that He knows is best for me. In fact, this whole experience may be an answer to prayer in that it brought attention to a problem that I might not have adequately addressed under other circumstances.
  • I’m not going to worry about returning to complete my service. I have been officially released. When I feel like myself again, I can then consider whether or not to return to my mission. In the meantime, my focus is on getting better.
  • I am under no obligation to return to complete an 18 month or two year mission. I can get on with my life and serve faithfully. All promised blessings are available whether or not I return to my mission.
  • My mission experience is just a part of my life, it doesn’t define me. What I do with this experience, and my degree of faithfulness from now on, will determine who I become.
  • I’m determined to stay active and continue to serve in the Church.  If I am uncomfortable in Church, it is because of how I am thinking about myself; and what I assume other people are thinking about me.  And, I can choose to think differently; which over time, will change how I feel.  
  •  Even if I am feeling better now, I need to see any treatment plan through. I need to do everything within my power, including taking any prescribed medications, to resolve the issue once and for all as I seek to reach my full potential.

The following questions and answers were developed during the class:

How should I describe my mission service to others?  

The same way that any other returned missionary might.  After all, I am an honorably released, returned missionary in all respects.

Who if anyone needs to know that I came home early? 

The basic answer is “no one”.  Certainly current and future friends or Church leaders do not need to know.  It will likely come up naturally and be easy to share with a future spouse; but it should make no difference to anyone else.

How can I best spend my time now?  What can help with the transition? 

Stay as busy as my health will allow.  Do anything and everything I can think of to stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Specifically?  Sincerely pray for direction.  Regularly meditate regarding what I can do to help myself get better and move forward.  Seek ideas and inspiration from family, friends, other ERM’s, priesthood leaders, and professional counselors.

What factors are there to consider in deciding whether or not to reapply to finish my mission? 

This is obviously a decision that needs to be made under inspiration; and with the help of priesthood leaders and family.  There is no one, right answer for everyone.  And as I contemplate whether to return or not, I need to free myself from thinking about it in absolute terms.  There is no “have to” here.  I don’t have to return in order to please the Lord; and there is generally no reason to think that I “can’t” return.  If I decide to return, I will need to prove to myself, a professional counselor, and priesthood authorities that I have the health to handle the rigors of full-time missionary service; but that is possible.