Like many before, the perfume-scented envelope is snatched from the mailbox with glee.
The Mormon missionary tears it open without a clue of the poisonous serpent inside, not an actual snake, but venomous all the same, a Dear John.
The letter's bite injects painful emotions, sending the missionary into an immediate state of shock and depression.
How should a missionary treat such a dreaded bite?
In a 1996 Ensign article titled "What I Want My Son to Know Before He Leaves on His Mission," President James E. Faust said, "If a missionary receives a letter from his girlfriend stating that her affections for him have changed … I commend the good counsel given some years ago by Elder LeGrand Richards, who said, 'There's a new group of girls every year! And the new group is just as good as the old group.'"
So relax, there will be no shortage of beautiful girls willing to marry a returned missionary. But until an elder returns home and finds someone "as good," here are a few suggestions:
1. What Dear John? Pretend you never received it. Transform misery into serenity with a little prank. Continue writing as if nothing changed. Tell her how much you still look forward to seeing her and making "plans" when returning home. How many times can you get her to send variations of her original Dear John? Keep each for posterity.
2. Spin the news before it gets out. Draft a letter, press-release style, to family and friends expressing your desire to leave behind childish things and focus more on the work. "In order to accomplish this, it's necessary to discontinue correspondence with her, because she is distracting."
3. Memorize the lyrics of a hymn. When something reminds you of that old flame, counterattack your anguish with the words of an inspired church hymn. We suggest, "On Bended Knees with Broken Hearts," "Master the Tempest Is Raging," "I Have Work Enough to Do" and "That Every Soul Is Free."
4. Memorize a scripture. The good word can soothe the soul.
"As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." (Proverbs 25:25)
"Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7)
"Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation." (D&C 58:3)
After telling missionaries to lock their hearts in 1968, President Spencer W. Kimball said, "For two years you have given yourself to the Lord, totally, to teach the gospel to the world. When you have done this perfectly for two years and then you go home, you are infinitely more attractive, more able, more dignified, more mature to make those important decisions for your life in the matter of personages to enjoy eternity with you."
— Trent Toone