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How many returned missionaries do you know who come home from their missions and find the transition rough? Maybe you even experienced it firsthand as a returned missionary. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
A missionary comes from a structured environment, surrounded by constant accountability and a single focus. But after they fly home and take off their tag, they’re pretty much on their own to figure things out. There’s little accountability and nobody is watching them. Some return to a strong support structure at home or in school while others have almost nobody. Either way, any recently returned missionary needs to quickly make some critical life decisions, all while trying to figure out how to assimilate back into life without familiar mission rules.
So what’s the solution? There are habits and actions that all returned missionaries—be they elders or sisters returning early or from full-time service—should develop, not only to safeguard their testimony but to build on positive experiences from their mission and put themselves on a pathway to success. These habits aren’t cosmic, but surprisingly less than 1 percent of returned missionaries actually incorporate them into their lives. Here are just three of these habits:
1. Don’t just learn about the Lord, strive to know the Lord.
I’ve heard that as many as 40 percent of returned missionaries will go inactive at some point after their mission. Regardless of the exact number, it is way too high! One of the reasons for this concerning statistic is that we as a people know a lot about the Lord, but how many of us know the Lord?
Most of us know the how-to parts of the gospel such as scripture study, temple attendance, prayer, etc. And while those things are critical, maybe more important than the specific how-tos is the why we do those things. If all of us truly understood the answer to why we do the everyday things, the number of inactive members would significantly decrease.
The reason why we do all of those things is to develop a very personal relationship with the Lord. It’s not about knowing about Him, it’s about knowing Him!
Here’s a brief story to illustrate the idea. Let’s say there is a room that people walk through after they passed away. The room has multiple doors, and there is a single man sitting at a table in the center of the room. One person walks in and the man at the table asks how this gentleman lived his life.
The man responds, “I was kind, I served others, served in my callings, always attended church on Sunday, and overall I kept the commandments.” The man at the table points to a door and says, “Very good; go through that door there.” After this man leaves the room, another man comes into the same room. As soon as this gentleman enters and sees the man at the table, he falls to his knees and cries, “Master!”
Which of these two people will we be?
We have been commanded by the Savior, in His words, to seek Him out. His ministry to the people of the earth continues regardless of church calling, race, or gender. He can minister to you. The word know should be taken literally.
There is no greater joy than the Lord’s presence. He is the Great Counselor. He and His angels continue to minister to people across the earth, and wonderful personal experiences await the faithful.
D&C 93:1 clearly states, “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” Your mission isn’t an end. It’s the beginning of an incredible journey in which you continue to strive to know the Lord personally, to the point where He becomes your Shepherd.
This is why I plead with members and returned missionaries to make Christ the focus of your life after the mission, not just to know about Him, but to get to know Him! No other “success” in the world will compensate if we don’t get this one right!