How to stay strong after faithful LDS missionary service

By Marianne Holman Prescott

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11 2014 1:00 p.m. MST

“As they come home they have an opportunity to talk with their bishops and I encourage [bishops] to be ready to issue an opportunity to serve,” said President Bryant A. Baker of the Charlotte North Carolina Central Stake. “I see if the missionary is planning to attend the young single adult ward or a family ward — both have opportunities to serve — and each of those wards can offer those opportunities.”

In the Charlotte North Carolina Central Stake there is a young single adult ward, a Spanish branch and other family wards. President Baker has seen how strong and faithful returned missionaries have helped ward members — no matter the type of church unit they attend.

“I’ve seen [newly returned missionaries] in positions where they have opportunity to work with young men preparing for missions, [some] are able to continue with missionary work by being a ward missionary or in the elders quorum and, in a few instances, we have them serving in leadership capacities,” President Baker said.

Two young men who have gone out from the Spanish branch have returned and have since been married. One is serving in the branch presidency and one is serving as Young Men president.

“They are setting the pattern for young men and young women,” he said. “Adults respect them in those callings and sustain them. It is good to have a ward that is accepting to have the younger single members and young married couples serving in these capacities.”

President Baker, who joined the church as a young adult after being invited to institute — the same institute building that is in his stake boundaries — knows firsthand the influence of faithful Latter-day Saints.

“People often think of young single adult wards mainly as a venue to get young single adults together,” he said. “They are so much more. The central purpose of that is the same as it is for any ward or branch — to proclaim the gospel. Our young single adults understand that, and so much success comes from reaching out.”

Nourished by the good word of God

As Elder Owens was leaving the mission field, one of the most important topics his mission president counseled him on was scripture study.

“He made us promise that we would read the Book of Mormon at least five minutes a day,” the returned missionary said. “Beyond anything else, if we keep reading the Book of Mormon every day we will be OK.”

When asked if he has kept that promise, he quickly answered, “Absolutely.”

Just as a new convert finds strength in diving into the scriptures, one of the most important transitions home is making the scriptures a part of everyday life.

President Riggs tells his missionaries, “You will likely never study the scriptures as much as you have on your mission. This doesn’t mean you will stop receiving revelation or that you should just stop reading altogether. You should study each day for a sufficient amount of time to have a revelatory experience. … It can be 15 minutes or 45 minutes. I try to plan sufficient time so the Spirit can reach me.”

In his counsel, President Riggs also points out that the missionary is a different person than he or she was before entering the mission field, “becoming” something much more than they were before they arrived. He also recognizes that the counsel might not be easy to follow, but as they follow the teachings every effort they make will be worth it.

The transformation that takes place in a short year and a half or two years can be life altering, and set the stage for the rest of the missionaries’ lives — if they let it.

“We love the missionaries with all our hearts and see them as sacred instruments through whom the Lord has worked many mighty miracles,” President Clements said. “We feel blessed to serve with them. We are eyewitnesses to the miracles the Lord works in their lives as they faithfully serve Him. The greatest miracles I’ve observed in my life have been the transformation over two years or eighteen months of a halting, hesitant, yet faithful young teenager [or young adult] into a powerful man or woman of Christ.”

As missionaries apply the skills and counsel given to them on their missions, they are able to stay faithful as they make the transition home and establish habits for the rest of their lives.

“My mission isn’t the most spiritual point of my life,” Wayne Owens said. “It is a springboard. … More than anything it helped me understand what life is really all about, and that real joy comes from helping others. It’s not about yourself, and … there is joy in pursuing holiness and discipleship.”

mholman@desnews.com

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