The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the implementation of a new tool to help returned missionaries transition to post-mission goal setting. This new online course, called My Plan, will be available for current and future missionaries starting in August 2015.
Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Quorum of the Seventy told LDS Church News that My Plan is to help missionaries use their experiences from their missions as a foundation for the rest of their lives.
“The whole purpose of My Plan is really to help missionaries find out what God’s plan is for them,” Elder Arnold said.
The program begins from the time the missionary gets his or her mission call and extends throughout the entire missionary service. It includes eight interactive sessions that help missionaries create future plans and goals. Missionaries complete the first session before entering the Missionary Training Center, the second at their halfway point and the remaining six during their last six weeks of missionary service.
These plans are discussed with the missionary’s mission president and can then be shared with parents and church leaders. The church’s website says one of the best things parents and leaders can do to nurture returned missionaries is to follow up on the goals and commitments they have made.
My Plan creates a structured way to do just that. It puts the mission in the greater perspective of the path to a happy and abundant life. It focuses on helping missionaries transition to the next steps of gaining education, pursuing professional opportunities and starting families.
Sophomore Michelle Scott, who is studying math education, returned from the Peru Lima East Mission about six months ago. She said she would have benefited if My Plan had existed when she was a missionary.
“It would have given me a clearer vision of what I needed to do and things I could do,” Scott said.
Scott said when she returned home, she searched the web for resources to help her transition from missionary life to life back home.
“There’s not very much available,” she said. :There’s a lot of talks directed toward returned missionaries, but there’s not any specific programs outside of things like institute.”
Another student said he feels a program like My Plan could help missionaries in the field deal with stress and anxiety. Mitchell Dunn is a junior from Spokane, Washington, who is studying film. He returned from the Arizona Scottsdale mission less than a year ago. During his mission, Dunn suffered from depression and anxiety.
Dunn said many missionaries feel they have to choose between being themselves and being obedient and focused.
“I remember everyone I talked to — every time you tried to think about planning for life after your mission everyone was like, ‘You’re just being trunky,'” Dunn said. “And that makes it so much more difficult to adjust when you get back home.”
Dunn said there’s a certain stereotype that missionaries get pushed into.
“It’s that they’re all the same — all perfect. It’s hard to imagine them having real lives,” he said.
It’s possible that My Plan could change that by taking some of the taboo away from the word “home.”
Mission preparation professor David Golding said the mission experience can include a lot of stress. He said My Plan could provide a setting where stress-related problems are isolated before they get out of hand.
“It might provide the venue for missionaries to meet with leadership and talk about their lives and what they’re planning on,” Golding said. “It could be in those settings that certain things will surface.”
Golding said the mission experience is filled with transitions, one of which is the transition to the adult dimension of church service.
“It seems like My Plan is very much oriented around trying to ease those transitions and provide a support structure at those key moments,” he said.
My Plan is only available to future and current missionaries. There is no equivalent program for members who have already returned from the mission field.