Rumors swirl of changes to LDS missions at conference as millennials come home early

    A study shows that more missionaries from the LDS church are coming home from missionary service early. (Photo: Courtesy Mormon newsroom)<p>{/p}

    (KUTV) -- A study shows that more missionaries from the LDS Church are coming home early from planned missionary service. adressed the topic in a column from Jana Riess, who tackles the subject in an upcoming book about how millennials are changing the LDS Church, titled "The Next Mormons," scheduled for release in 2019.

    One of the big questions is: why?

    A full 70 percent of those who return do so because of physical or mental health, not because of transgressions, as many expect, according to a survey, titled, "Return with Trauma: Understanding the Experiences of Early Returned Missionaries." It found six in ten of those surveyed said their home congregations were unfriendly or indifferent to their early return, with half reporting poor treatment from church leaders. (The full study is included at the end of this story.)

    Riess is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is behind the column Flunking Sainthood at, where she writes about the LDS members, church and current events. She holds a Ph.D. in American religious history from Columbia University, as well as other degrees in religion.

    She has recently tackled such topics and the use of marijuana among members, the excommunication of the man spearheading the Protect LDS Children movement, the new history book "Saints" published by the LDS Church and the use of the term Mormon.

    Research for her book shows an increase of rates of missionary service by millennials, and an increase in the numbers of those who return; Riess says nearly one third of those who serve missions leave before finishing their assigned time. That means, including those who never went, nearly one in five LDS millennials terminated scheduled mission service early.

    Women return home 35 percent of the time, men 29 percent. Riess said this surprised her since women outstrip men on nearly every measure of belief and practice, such as church attendance, paying tithing and in testimony questions.

    "What is clear is that early returns are on the rise for both men and women, which is something that Mormon culture needs to learn to deal with in a more loving and responsible way," she wrote.

    She also addressed the rumors that the church will change mission requirements, offering alternatives to women's 18 months of service and men's 24 months.

    John Dehlin, psychologist and voice behind Mormon Stories Podcast, posted two reports he said he received confirming this approach of possible shorter terms .

    "I can understand the wisdom behind it if it does turn out to be true," Riess wrote of the rumor.

    General Conference for the LDS Church, often called the Mormon church, is scheduled for Oct. 6 and Oct. 7.

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