104: Missionary Health

Heather, Nick, Tierza, and Bart discuss the recent online controversy regarding the barriers some missionaries face when they need medical care.


References and Links

Sick and Far From Home by Mark Joseph Stern

Sick RMs Website

Are Mormon missionaries being denied health care? How Slate dropped the ball by Jana Riess

LDS Newsroom Statement


  1. J

    I am not a regular podcast listener these days, but my wife turned me on to this episode because I served in the same mission as Nick in Japan (we spend some MTC time together) and I had my own medical related mission problems leading up to an early discharge (and more than $10K in medical expenses that ended up being rejected for coverage). Great topic. I can vouch for a couple of Nick’s Japan stories :-)

    Reply Oct 26, 2015 @ 13:06:26
    • Nick

      Well dammit now I need to know who you are. You are not the mission buddy I met randomly this month are you?

      Reply Oct 26, 2015 @ 13:28:27
      • Mehitabel

        Well, hey. I was is Nick’s mission too! It’s a regular ol’ mission reunion!

        Reply Oct 26, 2015 @ 18:02:39
        • Nick

          Looks like I’m off to the storage unit to get all my old mission stuff to do some sleuthing. (Seriously, you guys, ping me on FB if you haven’t already – I’ll keep it secret. Or at least sacred. There are at least six exmos from my tenure there).

          Reply Oct 26, 2015 @ 19:04:02
          • J

            Facebook eh? I will see if I can find you when I get a moment. I am travelling for work right now, so it may be a day or two before I can sit down at my computer and try to remember my login.

            Oct 26, 2015 @ 19:27:14
          • Mindy Hale

            No secrecy required on my behalf. I’ve been brazenly verbose about my apostasy for years. Shoot me a message on Facebook. I was known in the field as Nielson Shimai. (I’d message you, but I can’t remember your last name!)

            Oct 26, 2015 @ 19:32:45
          • Mindy Hale

            You too, J., though I’m not sure we overlapped.

            Oct 26, 2015 @ 19:34:29
  2. Chris

    Thank you. I suffered from major, debilitating depression on my mission and my MP refused to acknowledge it. I posted this article with a bit of my story, and while most of my member friends were very supportive (I stay friends with good people), I had a few acquaintances on FB that were spouting a lot of these same criticisms/rebuttals of the Slate article. They were essentially advocating that these issues be swept under the rug to protect the Mormon Church’s image. I used the same logic on their defenses – of course there are no studies, because LDS, Inc. is the only org that can do that and you know they aren’t going to release that info even if they had it.

    I would love to get these insensitive deniers some contact information for the family of the sister missionary from the Vancouver, WA mission that died from an infection last year (2014) because the MIssion President’s wife told her she couldn’t go to the doctor for mouth pain, but to just take Aspirin instead. Maybe they could call the heart-broken family or meet them in person so they could explain how their daughter/sister’s life isn’t that important, “the church” just has better things to do than worry about these things.

    Reply Oct 26, 2015 @ 13:09:09
  3. Utahhiker801

    I live in Utah and my daughter is senior in high school. She’s been to about 5 different mission farewells of guy friends from school, and two of the five returned home within 3 months of leaving. The emotional damage we’re inflicting on these kids who are pressured to leave right out of high school is irresponsible.

    My friend’s son is serving a mission in Texas; he’s been out for less than six months and has already knows of four or five fellow missionaries who left early.

    The missionaries in my stake are trying to set up appointments with members to help families create a “family missionary plan.” When my wife was approached about this by the Ward Mission Leader, she asked if this was just another way to have them pressure members to hit up their non-member friends and co-workers to listen to the missionaries, because if that was the case, we didn’t want to do that.

    The Ward Mission Leader explained that, no, the reason their trying to do this is because so many members have had bad experiences with the missionaries, there are times when no one is signing up to feed them. There are wards that aren’t even participating in that even more. They’re trying to create small opportunities to have the missionaries meet with members where they can be create human connections with them again.

    The pressure to “find success” on missions leads them to baptize investigators who’ve never even been to a full 3hr block meeting, and the missionaries are likely bored out of their minds with no one who will listen to them. This is not a recipe for good mental health.

    Reply Oct 26, 2015 @ 15:12:51
  4. Phonin' It In From Kolob

    If we send someone out to do a shitty job and we leave their welfare up to Heavenly Father and they end up malnourished or gravely ill or permanently damaged or even dead, what does that say about us? What does it say about Heavenly Father? I think it’s all been said. I wonder if anyone was listening.

    Reply Nov 01, 2015 @ 18:11:53
  5. Chris

    This episode really opened my eyes to the absolutely heinous traditions and cultural poo that I grew up with. Finally movin’ on. By the way, I love Heather’ silky smooth voice. Oh, and Nick’s anecdotes. Classic Mormon BS. This is one of my favorite podcasts.

    Reply Nov 10, 2015 @ 14:04:16
  6. jeanikins

    OMG you guys, I kept wanting to have my say – when don’t I might be your question.
    I grew up with our street’s nurse; my dad, post war. Everyone came to him for injury help because he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in WW2 and the Korean war – with bravery and medals and PTSD to show for it. That’s another conversation.

    So, many of you are aware of the awful accident that Jim and I were in on our couples mission and so much of what you talked about applied to me. The culture of the three S;s – sacrifice, suffering and shame were well in place by the time we arrived and at the Gen. Conference broadcast we watched on our first day and all day the next. On our way home, the accident occurred. Well what do you think I was feeling regarding going home? “This is a test.” “I have to set an example.” “The call came from the prophet.”

    You talked about different experiences for others Heather and that is the way it is for missionaries too. It all depends on so many factors. I think it was Tierza who talked about herself being a 100% person and that is the way I am/was, so for me, going home meant not being faithful and not trusting the Lord or his prophet.

    I WAS that mission mom, in place of the MP’s wife because she had no medical training. I had grown up with my dad treating neighbor’s injuries and I had taken first aid all my life and was an instructor when we left for our mission. It seemed right to take on the responsibility as I served as the mission secretary. I could tell you tales that would make your hair stand on end. Those poor young people’s minds are so controlled and mental illness is rife among them. One missionary called me at the office telling me he was sitting on the bed surrounded in knives; trying to choose which one he would use to stab one of the 4 living in his boarding.

    I think Klinger from MASH was going for a ‘section 8′ and perhaps this kid was too, but you have to be pretty bloody desperate to do that. Missions are cults of obedience training. I wish I had been on this podcast, but nobody else would have gotten a word in edgewise.

    I came home suffering from PTSD which I still have. I got therapy for the first time today and listened to this podcast tonight. You all helped to validate my experience – thank you so much.

    Reply Nov 12, 2015 @ 20:20:06
  7. John

    Thank you so much for recording this podcast. I suffered horrifically as a missionary and was unaware of the Sick RMs group or even of the Slate article. My missionary experience ended up with me sitting on the rail of a balcony deciding whether to take my life myself or let my mission kill me. I wrote up my experience, and sent me story to the Sick RMs people.

    Thank you for doing this.

    Reply Nov 19, 2015 @ 11:10:14
  8. hoju1959

    My name is John Draper. I would like to offer up myself as an author interview on your podcast. I just published my first novel, A Danger to God Himself. It’s about a Mormon missionary who goes insane on his mission—schizophrenia. I started the novel eight years ago with the intent of skewering Mormonism through it. In fact, I felt led by God to write the book. Best laid plans. The book does skewer religious certainty, but in the process of writing it, my religious certainty suffered a protracted, though not entirely unpleasant, death.

    So it goes, as Vonnegut says.

    I’m not bitter or anything. Actually, it was kind of liberating. And I got a great book out of it. This book has everything! Sex! Comedy! Drama! The God of the universe striking people dead!

    I also got a new perspective on how God works through people and through artists.

    I’d love to talk about the eight-year process of writing my book and losing my religion, which were inextricably linked.

    The novel is narrated in the first person by Kenny, the missionary who watches his companion, Jared, succumb to schizophrenia. At first, Kenny and others assume that the voices Jared hears and the visions he sees are from Heavenly Father.

    But as Jared gets sicker and sicker, Kenny has to rethink his whole view of God and how God does or doesn’t interact with the world. He sees there’s nothing he—or God—can do to stop Jared’s descent into madness. Kenny’s journey became my journey: theist to, at best, deist.

    For me, the clincher didn’t come from all the many books I read on Mormonism. It dawned on me because I spent time around Mormons. I continued to invite in the missionaries. Also, I attended a Mormon church under cover. There, I’d see people stand up in the congregation and tearfully say how much they loved the Savior and how far they were from living up to his teachings, sounding for all the world like Evangelicals.
    How can they have a relationship with God? They believe wrong things!

    The truth, I came to see, is that they have every bit of a relationship with God as I had—which is to say . . . none.

    I wasn’t any closer to God than they were. I didn’t hear His voice any more clearly than they did. What’s more, I concluded that it’s impossible for anyone to have a relationship with God. God is not interested in having a relationship with us. If He were, he’d stop being silent and invisible. He wants us to have relationships with one another. He wants us to sacrifice for one another. However, he can’t give us the power to make those sacrifices. If He did, they wouldn’t be sacrifices. Sacrifices have to cost you something.
    Likewise, I saw that God couldn’t inspire me to write this book. He doesn’t inspire artists. If He did, the work wouldn’t be their own. And, in fact, writing the novel was bloody hard work—hardest thing I’ve ever done. Where was God?

    We’re on our own, which is not to say that God doesn’t exist. He does, I believe. He’s just hands off.

    So what good is God then? I came to see that God doesn’t have to be of some use to me to be God—as a person or as an artist.

    Life wouldn’t be life without struggle. Art wouldn’t be art without struggle. The essence of life and art is struggle—and overcoming.

    This is the essence of what I’d like to talk about on your podcast.

    Look forward to hearing from you

    John Draper

    Reply Dec 18, 2015 @ 12:57:22

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