Education Week: 10 ways to help young adults adjust to post mission life

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After unpacking bags and spending a couple weeks home, it’s not uncommon to hear a returned missionary say longingly, “I just wish I could go back.” Former South Sau Paulo mission president Stephen Richardson and his wife Marianna Richardson taught a class during BYU’S Education week on Tuesday, August 16 to help young single adults transition into post-mission life.

The couple offered ten steps to help both parents and returned missionaries transition effectively to a “normal” lifestyle:

Friends and family can be influential in helping their friends who have served on missions, adjust to their life back home. (Photo Illustration: Maddi Driggs)

1. Both parents and returned missionaries should study and use Preach My Gospel.

The Richardsons encouraged returned missionaries to let the book “continue to be a dear friend.” Parents should also study Preach My Gospel and even talk about their studies in emails to their missionaries.

“It’s a handbook for life,” Stephen said.

2. Remember our purpose.

Every missionary memorizes the missionary purpose stated at the beginning of Preach My Gospel:

“Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

One way to help a returned missionary return to a non-mission lifestyle is to remind them their purpose is the same. Stephen said some young adults struggle with feelings of being selfish or worldly because once off their mission, their goals are getting a job, receiving an education and finding a spouse.

However, these new goals aid in their overall purpose.

“The reason you are focused on these things are so you can become a better instrument for the Lord in inviting people to come unto Christ throughout your life,” said Stephen.

3. Be the kind of adult you want your returned missionary to be. The bar was raised for them and the bar is raised for you.

Marianna said one of the best ways a parent or friend can help a returned missionary is to refrain from calling them weird.

“Let them be the changed person they are and support their lifestyles,” she said.

Rather than focusing on “adjusting” missionaries to worldly life, Marianna suggests that families see this time as an opportunity to assess what changes parents and siblings can make in their own life based on the returned missionary’s example.

4. Have daily, multiple person prayers and scripture study.

Marianna once asked a group of sister missionaries to count how many times they prayed daily on their mission. The missionaries said they prayed 20 to 50 times. However, when Marianna asked returned missionaries the same, they answered, “Only two or three times.”

Marianna encouraged returned missionaries to increase the frequency of their prayers and model their praying habits after their experience on the mission.

5. Don’t take a long vacation when you return, but become anxiously engaged after a short rest.

“Get busy,” Stephen said. “Don’t wait; get a job, transition into school.”

This advice is contrary to the opinion that returned missionaries should take a break or a semester off school. The Richardsons encouraged returned missionaries to instead, review Preach My Gospel Chapter 8 about using time wisely and act accordingly.

6. Seek the spirit of the Lord in encouraging your returned missionary regarding dating and marriage, finding a job, getting an education, and church service, among other endeavors.

The Richardsons said marriage is important, but pressure from parents and others can be difficult for returned missionaries. Parents should focus on the key word “encouragement” when having these conversations.

7. Don’t let others drag you back into worldly media, movies, or video games you missed while on the mission. Follow the standards and guidelines in the For Strength of Youth.

One of the first things many individuals getting off missions are told by friends is to watch a list of movies and get up-to-date with all the latest songs. Instead of doing this, the Richardsons said friends and family should “let this be a chance to assess your own movies.” If a missionary is uncomfortable with what is being watched, there could be a good reason for it.

8. Returned missionaries should pick one ward to attend, get callings, and go to institute. 

Sundays can be the hardest for returned missionaries, who are accustomed to busily serving on these days. The Richardsons said such individuals should get actively involved in their ward. They also suggested returned missionaries should consider serving in the temple if circumstance allows.

9. Parents, especially fathers, should interview returned missionaries, asking inspired questions and prayerfully listening to their missionaries’ answers. 

For missionaries who are used to being interviewed on a regular basis by missionary presidents, an interview from parents can be comforting. It can also keep the returned missionaries on track and honest about their well-being.

10. Returned missionaries, seek a priesthood blessing to help with your transition home. 

A surprising number of returned missionaries do not receive blessings to help their transition back to normal life. The Richardsons strongly recommended this happen.

Though coming home from a mission can be a trying time, returned missionaries can continue the growth they experienced after their time of service, especially with the help of family and friends.

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