Chapter 14 – Other General Advice

A random sampling of responses from returned missionaries we interviewed to the question, “If you could give one piece of advice to missionaries just returning home, what would it be?” Some pieces of advice contradict others. This is not a bad thing. Each return missionary is different and will adjust in different ways. Consider what sounds good and feels right to you. Each of these helped a fellow returned missionary get through is or her own adjustment period.

“Don’t get depressed about the sense of loss of doing important work with people you love. Find opportunities for significance and work towards a position where you can make an impact. Don’t backslide. Missions are to get us off the ground. Post-mission is the time to fly higher and higher.”

“I am convinced that returned missionaries that procrastinate getting back into the ‘real world’ have a much more difficult time. This is particularly the case with dating. I strongly recommend that return missionaries immediately begin to go to dances, date (hug and kiss girls where appropriate, but sooner rather than later), go to dances, etc. Those who wanted to take this slowly got into a rut and had a difficult time for many years getting out of it.”

“The mission is over. Real life begins. It isn’t a sin to sleep past 6:30. I think the biggest problem with return missionaries is that they all think they must be doing something wrong if they don’t feel as close to the Lord after a little while of being home. Sometimes that might be true, but most of the time it’s not. Of course you don’t feel as close. You’re not doing missionary work 24/7. You HAD to be that close while serving. Now, that being said, you can still have a close, intimate relationship with God and still live a normal life. It’s just as simple as reading, praying, being humble, fulfilling a church calling, going to school, dating, dancing, socializing, etc. Life goes on, and the Lord expects you to go on as well. I feel closer to the Lord now than I have in a while. And I haven’t had to punish myself for not doing missionary things. The most successful returned missionaries that I have seen are those that leave the mission in the mission field and come home ready to serve the Lord in whatever way they can, but are not consumed with that. They’ll serve if they are asked and will just live normal, good Christian lives if they are not. The scriptures say ‘moderation in ALL things.’ I believe that includes church. ‘…A time for EVERY season under heaven.’ Share testimony when appropriate, keep waking up early if you want to. But don’t try to live like a missionary when you get home. You’re not supposed to. In fact you’re asked to do the opposite — sort of. You’re asked to take those years and take the good, and get better by finding a wife or a husband. I’ve rambled, but I think I got my point across. Too many of us WASTED time feeling evil for living. Let it go. That is Satan at his finest. Satan is the father of guilt – not God. God lets you feel sorrow, then love. Satan tries to make us feel guilty. It’s a fine line, but let the Spirit guide.”

“Keep mission rules, and stay away from tv, movies, and internet. Ease into it when you get back, and don’t let yourself dive into this media frenzy just because you’ve been deprived for so long. There’s so much horrible stuff out there that you’re protected from and that you protect yourself from while on your mission, and it’s for a reason. There is no need to just do something when you come back just for the sake of doing it because you weren’t able to. But being strong in the commandments when you return from your mission isn’t something that you are able to do just because you’re home now. The real work begins on your first day of your mission. I believe the key in having a good transition into the post-mission ‘real’ world, is by keeping the mission rules and staying obedient throughout your whole mission. The mistake most people make is that they have to ‘transition’ when they leave the mission. While it is true that there is some transitioning that takes place, people shouldn’t HAVE to transition after their mission. I think some people transition and then stop reading their scriptures, start looking at too many movies, watching too much tv, or whatever. If they would NOT transition, but keep reading scriptures, etc (keep the mission rules) they would be much happier, because that IS the ‘real’ world. This world we live in is not real, it’s the manipulations of Satan.”

“Be confident in yourself. There is a lot of pressure to get married, to not get married, a lot of pressure to go to school, to get a job. You know that you have the ability to make your own decisions. Don’t let somebody else tell you what to do one way or the other. And more than anything – don’t stop reading your Book of Mormon. And I don’t agree with the philosophy of reading it in your mission language to keep up the language (if you learned another language). You need to Book of Mormon for spiritual nourishment. Read it in your native tongue so you will understand it better, so it can have more of an opportunity to touch you spiritually. I don’t care how well you picked up the language, you will never be as fluent as you are in your native tongue.”

“The sooner you get involved in something, the better off you’ll be. That thing could be school, church callings, work, social activities, engagements, etc. Just something. The more you’re just at home and not actively doing something, the harder and longer the transition will be. Even if you don’t feel like getting out and meeting people, you need to get past the awkward stage to feel comfortable again.”

“Adjusting is normal, but don’t sacrifice spirituality. Be the new person you’ve become, but fit that into the paradigm of normal day to day life. Keep your friends, but be up front about the new person you’ve become.”

“Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Post-mission life is going to be different than mission life. Don’t compare the two. Realize that you will not be able to rely on the structure and society you had in your mission for spiritual uplift – you will have to find new ways to serve, ways that you will largely have to discover on your own. You will have to have a broad eternal perspective, realizing that while a mission was very important to your growth and development, it is only two years in a whole lifetime of varied experiences that will help you grown and develop in many different ways.”

“”My first companion (for whom I was the last companion) said that if you serve with both feet in the mission now, you will be able to go back to having both feet in your own life later. For some reason living with one foot in and one foot out of the mission means you will always live that way even long after the mission is over. I always tried to follow that advice and I think it had made it easier.”

“Keep writing in your journal.”

“Get married. Your spouse is the best companion you will ever have. You come home from missionary life and get an upgraded life…married life.”

“Rule #1 Your first day back is the first day of the rest of your life. Rule #2 Your second day back is the first day of the rest of your life. Rule #3 Your third day back is the first day of the rest of your life. You’ll get into a routine, but don’t forget to check yourself periodically and make course corrections. Every day is your day to decide what the rest of your earthly experience is going to be like.”

“Give people a chance. Exercise patience. Stay close to the Lord through personal prayers in the quiet of your ‘closet,’ not being outwardly judgmental of others. Stay active in church callings. Show love to your parents and siblings. Don’t get caught up in the marriage frenzy. Know and trust that the Lord will take care of you in that regard when the time is right. Relax, and enjoy being a return missionary; but at the same time, work hard and be very goal-oriented in your life.”