BYU Women’s Conference: Robin Bonham and Richard Heaton speak on keeping returned missionaries in the fold

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MTC Administrative Director Richard Heaton, and Sister Robin Bonham, wife of former mission president Brent Bonham of the India Bangalore Mission, spoke on how to keep returned missionaries in the fold during a Friday morning session of Women’s Conference.

Bonham and Heaton discovered that when a missionary returns home and inevitably gets asked the question, “How was it when you came home from your mission?” nearly every missionary reports saying, “It was great!” Heaton said.

Determined to know how newly returned missionaries really felt about adjusting back to non-missionary life, Bonham and Heaton interviewed a number of newly returned missionaries and recorded their candid responses about how they felt their adjustment was really going.

The names of the returned missionaries were kept anonymous, but one sister said it was hard coming home, saying,”I felt so out of place; in my head, I was a wreck. I didn’t know what anyone was talking about. Someone would say, “I love this song!” and I would have no idea what it was! Even fashion was different. You have to take it slow; it’s so hard to be happy and to keep your spirits up.”

“Missionaries are released from their missions but not from their covenants,” Bonham said.

She talked about how difficult the transition is for newly returned missionaries because they are expected to live up to the high standards they learned on their mission while being bombarded with old temptations and new distractions.

Expounding on that subject, Heaton mentioned that many missionaries, prior to leaving on their missions, have a number of habits they need to get rid of so they can be worthy to serve.

“If a missionary had struggles with a commandment before their mission, the likelihood of them struggling on their mission is fairly low,” Heaton said. “And they’ll go for 18 months or two years and not have that challenge, and the last thing they ever expect is that they’ll have that challenge again.”

He highlighted two vices returned missionaries often struggle with prior to and after their mission: pornography and video games. In reference to when these problems usually resurface, he said, “It takes about two weeks.”

Bonham and Heaton gave advice as to what a missionary should not do upon returning home; Heaton concluded his remarks by giving six tips for newly returned missionaries.

“Open your scriptures every day; pray every morning and night,” Heaton said. “Go to church at your ward, go to the temple, participate in family history and help activate other young single adults.”

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