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Returned mission presidents have to adjust to coming back into the “real world” just like young LDS missionaries do, and they have to go through many of the same adjustments.
Brad Wilcox, currently directing a study abroad for BYU in Spain, is one of many returned mission presidents at BYU. He served in the Vina del Mar Mission as an LDS missionary from 1979 to 1981 and returned to Chile as president of the Chile Santiago East Mission from 2003 to 2006. He described the transition from a mission president back into the real world as a “little tricky.”
”As any RM knows, it is a little tricky to eat, drink and breathe missionary work and then turn around and have to add back in all the other aspects of your life,” Wilcox said. “It takes a little time to adjust.”
He said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has been an inspiration for him to put things into perspective for life after serving a mission.
“I get nervous … if I think that a missionary has been out in the field and has come home thinking, ‘Well, I got those two years out of the way … I’ve done my bit, and now it’s back to real life.’ No sir,” Elder Holland has said. “That was real life: the mission, the gospel, the truth — that’s real life. Don’t ever go downhill from that.”
Wilcox has always had a passion for teaching. He related his passion to a quote by Karl G. Maeser, the man who started Brigham Young Academy: “A true teacher is a teacher because he cannot help being one.”
Before coming to BYU, Wilcox taught sixth grade for three years before pursuing his graduate studies. During that time he supervised student teachers. He now teaches classes on mission preparation and the Book of Mormon and literacy classes for elementary education majors.
“I guess I am a true teacher,” Wilcox said. “Whether it is kids, teens, YSA or adults, I just love teaching.”
Wilcox plans to continue to teach and inspire students at BYU.
“I love the students at BYU,” Wilcox said. “I love the desire most of them have to make a difference for good in the world. I love teaming up with them in that endeavor.”
Brad Farnsworth, professor of religious education at BYU, also had to make adjustments to “normal life” after serving as mission president of the Spain Madrid mission in 2009. He acknowledged that life will forever be different for him and his family since arriving home.
“Returning from the Spain Madrid Mission meant establishing a new normal in our lives. Our lives would never be the same,” Farnsworth said.
“All of our children were three years older, and they were all adults. Four of our five children were then married when we came home, and two of them had children. Our lives now included 334 returned or returning missionaries from Spain and continual invitations to weddings and reunions. It was a joyous time and a busy time.”
Farnsworth didn’t always plan on teaching at BYU. He came to BYU’s central administration in 1994 and provided support to the colleges on campus. Three years later he was invited to teach a freshman Book of Mormon class during the winter semester.
“I taught my first class in 1998 and continued doing so each winter semester until we left for Spain in July 2006,” Farnsworth said. “It was a life-changing experience to interact so closely with the students. When we returned from Spain in July 2009, I was invited to teach full time in religious education. My new assignment has been a delightful change. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else besides serving the students at BYU.”
His future goals relate principally to BYU, where he plans to teach classes in religious education. Starting this fall, he will teach Book of Mormon classes using the new curriculum.
“It will be an exciting and challenging opportunity for me,” Farnsworth said.
Mike Goodman, an associate professor in the Church history department at BYU, was called to serve as the Thailand Bangkok mission president at the age of 33.
He began his three-year service as mission president in 1997 and returned from his mission in 2000. He said his transition from a three-year mission meant learning how to apply the lessons learned from 24/7 full-time service to post-mission life.
“To learn to live as consecrated and passionately here as I tried to in the mission field. … How sad would it be if our most spiritual experiences where when we were 19 or even, in my case, when I was a 33-year-old mission president,” said Goodman. “I would hope that the best is yet to come, and I believe it is.”
Goodman’s goal since his baptism at age 18 was to teach the gospel. He explained that he originally did not plan to teach at BYU.
“As I was finishing my mission, I felt spiritually directed to complete my Ph.D — to give me more opportunities to teach truth both inside as well as outside of the Church,” Goodman said. “I taught here (BYU) full time will completing my Ph.D in Marriage and Family. I fell in love with BYU through teaching here.”
Goodman still has a passion for changing the lives of BYU students and for being a voice for BYU outside of the Church after teaching for 25 years.
“I seek to make a difference in the life of the thousands of students I am privileged to work with,” he said. “I also seek to add my voice to the scholarly conversation had outside of our Church in regards to marriage and family.”
These professors have put their beliefs first and let everything else fall into place, which embodies a quote by President Ezra Taft Benson, who said, “We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. … When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”