Editor's note: This post by Andy Proctor originally appeared on The Returned Missionary. It has been reprinted here with permission.
This post is for the parents of returned missionaries. This information was recorded at a fireside for parents of returned missionaries that was given by Stephen and Marianna Richardson, former mission presidents of the Brazil Sao Paolo South Mission. Currently, they are instructors of a six-week course for recently returned missionaries in the Alpine, Utah, Young Single Adult Stake. To contact them for more information about their course or about this fireside, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a video that shows how a lot of parents feel about their children coming home from the mission:
If you are a parent or a family member of a missionary who is coming home, you may have had a similar experience. Either way, here are some great pointers for you from a former mission president who has had almost a dozen returned missionaries, not to mention being the mission “parent” of all the missionaries in his mission. The do's and don'ts are direct quotes, and the commentary between is more of my personal interpretation. Please provide feedback. We’re open to more things that help!
1. "DO remember your purpose and their purpose — it is the same. The overarching purpose is the same."
Though they leave the mission and come home to a new life, we all still have the same purpose: to invite others to come unto Christ and become more like him. Remember that this is what they eat, sleep and drink as a missionary, and it should be the same for us. Don’t be surprised if they still eat, sleep and drink it. Embrace it. Be humble and learn from what they have learned. They have so much to teach.
2. "DO be the kind of adult you want them to be! The bar was raised for them, but it was also raised for you."
Understand "Preach my Gospel" because that is their language. If you know the language of "Preach My Gospel," you’ll know their language. If you haven’t already, don’t be afraid to pull out the manual and read through it. If you do, it’s guaranteed that your communication with them will improve when they get home.
3. "DON’T treat them like you did before their mission. DO let them be something better and greater than they were before."
Ask them how they think they have changed. Ask them to teach you what they have learned. Remember, they are not the high school kid you knew before. They have been through a rigorous program for 18 months to two years, and there is no way they are the same. The worst thing you could do is let them lose what they have gained on the mission. This may be uncomfortable, but love them enough to let them rise above who they were before their mission. Feel free to share this article with your recently returned missionary about how they can keep the missionary “glow” forever: www.thereturnedmissionary.com/keeping-the-missionary-glow/
4. "DO encourage them in their daily personal prayer and scripture study, and DO hold daily family prayer and scripture study and weekly family home evenings with them."
Support them in keeping the same standards they kept when on the mission. And when they are ready and the circumstances permit, encourage them to go to the family home evening activities in their young single adult wards. Until then, do the best you can to support the standards they lived on the mission. This will bless your home.
5. DON’T let them have a long vacation, but DO strongly encourage them to become anxiously engaged after a short rest."
A happy returned missionary is a busy returned missionary. If you do decide to go on a short family trip or vacation after their mission, this is fine. But when you get back, help them to stay busy. Provide a list of things that they can do that will keep them busy. They are used to working longer hours than a full-time job requires. If they don’t get working soon, it will be quite a shock to them. Don’t be afraid of rest, but help them to keep working hard. Hard work is a good thing. You know this.
6. "DO use a balanced approach in encouraging them regarding dating and marriage, finding a job, getting an education, church service, family responsibility, etc."
Encourage them. Don’t pressure them. They are already used to setting goals and achieving them, but this is a brand new world for them. There will be more articles on this website that will cover many of these subjects such as dating, marriage, employment, education, etc. Just make sure they know they are loved, and, above all, help them remember the highest in themselves, that they are born to be great, and that the best always happens after the mission.
7. "DO lovingly help them to become functioning adults, dressing and acting the part.
They are expected to be adults for two years or 18 months. They budgeted for themselves, shopped for themselves, did their own laundry, cleaned their apartment, paid rent and utilities, went to the doctor and everything else. Don’t take that away from them when they get home. Let them be functioning adults again. Though you should make sure that they get all the medical and dental help when they get home. You also may suggest a new wardrobe for them when they return, but don’t be offended if they don’t want your style advice. Here is a quick post from our blog about why it is a good idea for returned missionaries to refresh their wardrobe, if possible.
8. "DO encourage them to pick one ward to attend and to have a calling in that ward as soon as possible, rather than float between young single adult wards and your home ward."
From the church handbook: “Eligible members may, in consultation with their parents, choose to be members of the YSA ward or to remain in their conventional ward.” (Handbook 2, section 16.4) If you can, encourage bishops to call them immediately as ward missionaries and as temple workers (where possible). Returned Missionaries need the same things as new members: (1) A friend, (2) a calling, and (3) nourishment by the good word of God.
9. "DO encourage them to attend their sacrament meeting and other meetings as well as the temple and institute, every week."
10. "DON’T encourage them to participate in worldly media, movies or video games they missed while on the mission."
DO strongly encourage them to follow the standards and guidelines found in "For the Strength of Youth" and "Preach My Gospel." The worst thing you could do for them is to show them the five best movies they missed while they were gone. Remember the “For the Strength of Youth” booklet doesn’t just apply to youth. The standards are the same for returned missionaries and for parents and families of returned missionaries as well. Consider these words from the first presidency:
"Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit."
If one of the top five best movies that came out while they were serving a mission has anything that is vulgar, violent or pornographic in any way or that portrays immorality or violence as acceptable, none of us should be watching it. If it is family tradition to have a movie night together, that is wonderful! Just choose wisely, and not just with your recently returned missionary.
This is in no way a comprehensive list, but these are good guidelines to follow, and, above all, follow the promptings of the Spirit to help you to know how you can be a springboard for your returned missionaries and not a stumbling block.