Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Susan L. Crowley


Susan L. Crowley


Renee Galliher


Sherry Marx


Leaving home to become a missionary is important for many young adults in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (CJC). Some missionaries return home from their missions before their anticipated return date and struggle to make sense of who they are while facing judgment from members within the church communities and families. Little is known about the experience of identity development for early return missionaries (ERMs). There have not been many chances for ERMs to share what it means to them to have come home early from their mission. This study investigated the process of how ERMs make sense of who they are after returning home early from their mission.

One goal of this study was to find a broad and unifying understanding of how ERMs make sense of who they are given their experiences from their own perspectives while also honoring unique experiences. The second goal was to learn of specific ways to help ERMs feel satisfied and connected to who they are after their ERM experience. Two interviews were completed with each of six ERM participants. Transcripts from interviews were analyzed for common themes across participants and unique experiences. Each participant’s story was rewritten in order of what happened before, during, and after their mission, careful to include the most important parts of their stories. Then stories were analyzed for growth-promoting endings and negative endings based on the participants’ descriptions. Stories with good endings indicated more contentment with the ways they saw themselves. From the interviews, specific actions and helps were identified to help ERMs find happy endings to the stories they tell themselves about who they are after having returned from their mission early. The findings were compared and discussed in light of existing research. Lastly, the trustworthiness of the conclusions and ideas for future research questions were considered.



Included in

Psychology Commons