Young men and women spend two years working hard, serving the Lord, and being tutored by His Spirit. They come home full of light and energy. Some keep that and move on. For others, that light dims a bit and slowly they transform back into the natural man. Why are some return missionaries floundering while their former companions excel? Some might think it is because they were not good missionaries, or that they were never truly converted. This is, in most cases, wrong. It has more to do with a less-than-satisfactory adjustment to the real world; missionaries learn who they are and who Christ is in an alternative reality. The key to being a successful return missionary is transferring gained knowledge and skills from this alternative reality to real life. Here are five ways to make that happen.
1. Find your passion.
As a missionary, life was simple – you knew exactly what you were going to do each day. You had a well defined purpose and every decision you made was centered around that purpose. Real life is a little more complicated. As missionaries come home they can lose that sense of purpose when they take off their name tags. A successful return missionary will find a new purpose. (Keeping Christ at the center of their lives, of course.)
The beauty about this is you get to define your own purpose. Remember, the Lord cares more about you keeping the commandments then he does about what major you are in or what job you have. Discover your passion and find purpose in it. This means you’ll have to rediscover yourself all over again. How exciting is that?! Find a new environment, stretch your legs and see how much good you can do! You defined who are as a missionary – now go find out who you are without that tag on. This is vitally important because if you don’t have a purpose, then you have no destination and you will flounder.
2. Live by faith
Coming home can be a daunting task. There is a multiplicity of choices that are ever-present. The good news is that the planning principles you applied as a missionary work in real life too! Just take some time every now and then to use them. Plan the most important things first and set deadlines for yourself then fill in the blanks with the smaller things. Make a plan of what you want to happen! Put it out there and ask the Lord to help you accomplish your goals. If they are righteous He will help you. If He has something better for you, ask Him for something better, and it will come to you!
If you cannot see how everything will fall into place just remember the example of Nephi. “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth.” The Lord provided a way for Nephi. He will provide a way for you. Make a plan and choose a path; without a path it doesn’t matter where you are, you are lost.
3. Define and respect your priorities.
Elder Clifford Herbertson, an Area Authority in England, gave the following advice to me as a missionary: “ When I came home I made a list of my top five priorities, from the most important to the 5th most important. Every time I had a decision to make I would look at those priorities, and my decision would be based on which priority was on top.” He then invited me to do the same. If you set clear priorities you don’t have to make the little decisions later, all you have to do is look at those priorities and choose if you will honor them or not.
4. Be vigilant.
With new distractions it is easy to slip on the little things. As soon a we abandon the foundation of praying, studying the scriptures, attending the temple, and being actively engaged in the Church, we are in danger. In his most recent conference address, Elder Scott addressed the importance of these things. He defined prayer, scriptures study, family home evening, and temple attendance as the essentials to exercising faith.
To put their importance in perspective he said “Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!” There is no mincing of words there. It is more important than sleep! The Lord will bless you for all your efforts. He will make it possible for you to give the spiritual essential the attention they deserve, and have time to do everything else you need to. Remember, any sacrifice for the Lord and our own spirituality is worth it.
5. Don’t worry about getting married! (But try…)
Your mom, bishop, and mission president will all tell you this is the most important thing you will do when you get home. They are right. However, in the same way that you cannot force a sincere baptism, you cannot force a successful marriage. Yes, President Kimball did say that any righteous young man and woman can make an eternal marriage, but that is in theory, and could be very difficult! In all practicality it is more important to find someone that you are compatible with.
Remember marriage is an eternal commitment. Not something to be rushed or forced. Having a spouse to cherish, care for, and love for the rest of eternity is one of the greatest blessings we can receive. And what does D&C 130:20-21 teach us about blessings? “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” If we are to get the spouse of our dreams, we need to be the person of their dreams. Keep the commandments, walk in faith, serve diligently, and you will receive all the blessings the Lord has in store for you.