Whether it is talking about work plans, education plans or goals for the future, President Clements said that with some of his missionaries the guidance and counsel he shares is very personal and specific.
“During our interview, I’ll also discuss weaknesses that the missionaries may have struggled with prior to the mission, and how they will build appropriate fortifications in their lives to ensure that they never go back,” he said.
President Matthew Riggs of the Washington D.C. South Mission gives each of his missionaries a letter prior to returning home. This “parting gift” shares heartfelt counsel discussing patterns the missionary has established on his or her mission that President Riggs hopes they will continue to live at home. He addresses many topics: planning, studying, testimony, goals, service, temple attendance, education and marriage. He also addresses budgeting, entertainment and grooming — all topics that quickly approach a returned missionary.
With good habits already established and advice from a wise mission president, missionaries seem to be set for success upon their return. But sometimes the transition is not so smooth, as newly returned missionaries learn to navigate their more refined selves in the life they left 18 or 24 months earlier.
In general conference of May 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the counsel that every new convert needs three things: a friend, an assignment and to be “nourished by the good word of God.” Just as new converts making commitments to progress in the gospel, returning missionaries can apply the same principles they used with the people they taught on their mission as a guide when they return home and adjust to their new schedule.
Although he had missed the first week of school, Wayne quickly caught up as he jumped into his classes and started life as a student at Utah State University. He signed up for early classes — beginning at 7:30 a.m. two days a week and 8:30 a.m. two days a week — and began working a part-time job while living with a few other returned missionaries.
“In some respects it was pretty wild because I didn’t get to see my family hardly, and then I was right off, but I think in a lot of ways it was good, too,” he said. “It felt like another transfer on my mission — going to a place I had never lived before in a new environment with new people — I think it was really good for me. It would have been pretty easy to kind of slip back two years if I were just hanging out at home with the same friends and environment. I think that [quickly going to school] saved some of the growth that came.”
Not all missionaries have the immediate transition to school with an opportunity to quickly meet new friends and welcome a new social scene. And, drastically cutting ties with old friends isn’t always the best option. However, it is through being aware of surroundings — the people, situations and influences — that missionaries must recognize and constantly evaluate.
Wayne said that he has been very careful of his living arrangements — living with people that have his same standards — and tries to stay away from environments that aren’t good. He has given himself a curfew, and makes time to go to the temple — often with his older brother. For him, it is about choosing to associate with people who are a positive influence and making an effort to continue to keep the good habits he learned on his mission.
Depending on where missionaries return home, they may head to a large singles ward, or to a small family branch. Sometimes it takes time for a calling. Sometimes the calling is something they have never done. No matter the situation, a willingness to serve will help returning missionaries keep their testimonies strong as well as help in their units.
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