Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on The Returned Missionary and was inspired by the new book for returned missionaries, Live Your Mission.
Being a sister missionary is great and being a returned sister missionary is even better! Some sisters may not think so, but I want to give you six reminders to help you see that life after the mission is as great as you make it, just like the mission. Six things that you should NEVER forget.
1. You are STILL Needed.
During the mission, you probably feel more needed than you ever have in your life. Your ward and stake leaders need you, your investigators need you, less active members look to you, your companion needs you and most importantly, the Lord needs you. It is pretty validating to feel like you are needed and a great part of the Lord’s work. Then you come home. But I promise you sister, you still matter just as much as you did in the mission! The world needs you. It needs your voice for good. This is a world where your voice is needed more than it has ever been needed. Elder Ballard’s words (above) are true: “Sisters your sphere of influence is a unique sphere – one that cannot be duplicated by men. No one can defend our Savior with any more persuasion or power than you, the daughters of God, can — you who have such inner strength and conviction. The power of a converted woman’s voice is immeasurable, and the Church needs your voices now more than ever.” [1. From Elder Ballard’s powerful Education Week speech “Let Us Think Straight” ]
You are needed now more than ever. Just because you have no name tag, doesn’t mean you are not needed. Never forget this.
2. Your Life Mission Awaits
Every missionary (sister or elder) feels the power that comes from voluntarily applying and responding to a mission call from God. It is a magical thing to receive a mission call from a prophet that assigns you to a specific place, for a specific time, to serve specific people. All who have served a mission know that missions include days where you get smashed by a powerful spiritual, emotional, or even physical storms. Despite the storms, you move forward, you keep knocking, talking and teaching. Why? Because you know your purpose and you know you are called by God to do this. So you move forward through the storm. What about the post mission storms? When you no longer have that specific calling from a prophet of God whispering to you that “this is going to be worth it.” What can we do then? Do we have a personal life mission? I believe we all do.
Every person on earth has a unique purpose and mission to accomplish. That includes you. Until you discover it, each storm will be increasingly difficult to walk through. When you do find it, you are strengthened to push through the storms of RM life. And when you are actively engaged in fulfilling your life mission, everything changes and the world is a better place because you exist.
Elder Russell M. Nelson has said that his mission in life was to learn how to become the best heart surgeon so that he could save the life of the prophet. Anyone who knows about his background knows that he fulfilled that mission. I believe we all have a specific mission to accomplish just like Elder Nelson. What is your mission? Find it and live it and you will be happier.
3. God Will Bless You, if You Let Him
You have a document signed by a prophet that ensures this. Your mission call. You were called by a prophet of God and with that call comes some powerful promises, especially after the mission. Just above where the prophet signed your mission call, it says:
“The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children.” [2. See the last paragraph of your mission call]
It doesn’t say that the Lord will reward you for the goodness of your mission only. It says that he will reward you for the goodness of your life. And greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you. That is a huge promise! And that promise doesn’t just end the last day of your mission. You can collect these blessings and this happiness the rest of your life if you desire.
God has not forgotten the returned missionary. Don’t forget His promises to bless you. Let God bless you and He will.
4. You Have Greater Influence than You Know.
Even if you don’t believe it, people will look to you the rest of your life. Just think of Helen of Troy, you know, the “face that launched a thousand ships.” [3. From Homer’s classic The Iliad.] I don’t think it was just Helen’s beauty that launched those ships and it wasn’t Queen Esther’s beauty that changed the course of an entire city. The world will say that what gives you influence is your looks, but I disagree. Think of Abigail Adams. She was an amazingly powerful woman with great influence. Americans always speak of the founding fathers of this country. Well, I would be so bold as to say that Abigail Adams was a founding mother of the United States and that without her intimate and intelligent communication with John Adams, this country may have taken a different path. Her influence was pivotal in John Adams’ influence on the founding of the nation. She was an anchor to John and an anchor to the nation. No matter how strong men appear, they need an anchor. Your brothers, friends and boyfriends, husband, father, and every man in your life, will be strengthened by you. Do not underestimate your influence.
If you have the blessing of bearing children, you are the first experience of love that we have when we enter into this life. You are a crucial bearer of love and a creator of life. You are a co-creator with God.
This is a huge deal. I believe that though the names of women are sparse in scripture and in historical literature, you have had the greatest impact on humanity. Consider this quote about Napoleon and the battles of 1809:
“. . . men were following, with bated breath, the march of Napoleon, and waiting with feverish impatience for the latest news of the wars. And all the while, in their own homes, babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles. . . .
“. . . in one year. . . between Trafalgar and Waterloo, there stole into the world a host of heroes! . . . in 1809. . . Gladstone was born at Liverpool; Alfred Tennyson was born at the Somersby rectory . . . Oliver Wendell Holmes made his first appearance at Massachusetts . . . and Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath at Old Kentucky. Music was enriched by the advent of Frederic Chopin at Warsaw, and of Felix Mendelssohn at Hamburg. . . Elizabeth Barrett Browning [was born] at Durham. . . . But nobody thought of babies. Everybody was thinking of battles. Yet. . .which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809? . . .
“We fancy that God can only manage His world by big battalions . . . when all the while He is doing it by beautiful babies. . . . When a wrong wants righting, or a work wants doing, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby into the world to do it. That is why, long, long ago, a babe was born at Bethlehem.” [4. F. W. Boreham, Mountains in the Mist: Some Australian Reveries (1919), 166-67, 170]
We all know Napoleon’s name. We also know the name of Abraham Lincoln, Alfred Tennyson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Maybe the history books don’t mention the names of their mothers, but these great influencers exist because of these great women who raised up incredible children.
Don’t underestimate your influence.
5. It’s Okay to Have Doubts and Questions After Your Mission.
If you have ever had a question about something in the Church as a returned missionary, you’re normal. We all have questions, especially the returned missionaries. When doubts arise, don’t just ignore them and pretend they aren’t there (fearing that you may go down the wrong path if you acknowledge their existence). Face the doubt, but make sure to remember a few things as you do:
1. Keep the commandments while you figure out the thing you are questioning and do all you can to bring the Spirit into your life. I know too many people who as soon as they start to have doubts, they somehow feel that it justifies doing whatever they want until God shows them the answer. The fastest way to get an answer from God is by doing things that will bring the Spirit, not the other way around. God is the Father of our spirits and that is how He will communicate with us, especially if we have doubts. Don’t forget this.
2. Read and ponder The Crucible of Doubt, by Terryl and Fiona Givens. This is probably the best resource for facing real doubts as Latter-day Saints. It not only helped me to resolve some concerns I had with specific issues, but it also helped give me a new way of seeing. They say in the book: “Questioning is not the problem…After all, the Restoration unfolded because a young man asked questions. The difficulty arises when questions are based on flawed assumptions or incorrect perceptions, which can point us in the wrong direction, misdirect our attention, or constrain the answers we are capable of hearing.”
3. Even in the moments where you feel like you don’t believe in God, remember that, even if you don’t believe in Him, He still believes in you. You’ll figure it out, and He will be patiently waiting for you whenever you are ready to reach up to Him again.
Read more about why doubt doesn’t have to be dangerous on Meridian Magazine here and here.
6. Marriage is NOT a Prerequisite of Happiness
How many of you had an interview with your mission president before leaving the mission? (Everyone) How many of those interviews mentioned something like this: “You have completed your mission. Your next mission is to find a spouse and be married.” Most mission presidents say something similar. This is great! Marriage really is an incredibly important thing and an institution that is ordained of God. However, I would like to dispel a myth here that I have talked about before. Some think “to be happy as a returned missionary, I have to be married.” Not so. Happiness is not dependent upon your relationship status. Research does show that people who have close relationships are happier, but that could be a relationship with your brother, sister, friend, mentor, aunt, or anyone. [5. Murali Krishna, MD, DLFAPA and David Myers, PhD – Pursuit of Happiness, Characteristics of Happy People, May 2013.] Please don’t get me wrong. I’m married and super happy! I love marriage! And the greatest potential for joy exists when you share it with another. But I was a happy person before I was married, and so was my wife. We both chose to be happy people before we even knew each other. And now we are happy people, who are married. Consider the words of Elder Marvin J. Ashton:
I have yet to see marriage, by itself, turn an unhappy person into a happy person. A really happy married person is almost always one who was or could have been happy as a single person…While we are striving for quality conduct in our lives, we must ever realize that being single will never be as painful as being married to the wrong person. Avoid getting married just to be married.[6. See talk “Be A Quality Person”, Marvin J. Ashton.]
I would caution returned missionaries who believe that just being married by itself (and the status of officially having a ring on your finger) will make you happier than not being married. Being a quality person (read the talk by Elder Ashton below) and living a happy life will make you happy. Being married, just to be married, will not make you happy. Living a happy lifestyle and choosing to be happy will make you happy. In Mormon culture, it is often difficult to feel accepted if you are a single person above the age of 22. I know because I was one. Just remember that there is a huge difference between culture and truth. Don’t get sucked into the culture. Remember the truth and choose to be a happy person and live a life of purpose. Then, if you find another person who is choosing to be happy and also living a life of purpose, you may consider marriage with that person. If you are a happy person living a fulfilling life, I can almost guarantee that you are going to attract (and be attracted to), another happy person who is living a fulfilling life. Once you are married, your fulfillment and happiness just increases with someone who is living in the same way. Be happy now. Don’t wait for marriage to be happy or you may end up being more of a “menace to society” than you would have been as an unmarried RM over the age of 25. Though the greatest potential for joy is experienced in married life, happiness is not dependent upon being married.
So please don’t forget to be happy now, whether you are married or not.
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