'Don't return from your mission'

Before one of the most sought after religion professors at BYU stands before his lecture halls each day, he spends some early-morning time in his office.

Alone. No calls. Few interruptions. Just silence.

"Then I turn on my computer," Randy Bott told a crowd of several hundred returned missionaries Thursday, Nov. 19, at BYU during a lecture titled, "Is there life after a mission?"

As a portion of tranquility tiptoes from his office, a sort of commotion creeps in as he opens a batch of e-mails, brimming with questions from an array of young Latter-day Saints Bott has taught during his 40 years in church classrooms. Some messages are so despairing his 64-year-old hands tremble at the keyboard answering.

Ironically, though, Bott says it's this daily routine of losing himself in other people's troubles that's kept him from having much of his own.

"I figure all mine out while I'm helping you," he told the crowd.

Bott's overall theme of advice for newly returned missionaries, to metaphorically not come home but to continue mission practices -- such as losing themselves in service, was a targeted strike against the common mistake for missionaries to return their focus completely back to themselves after they get released.

"The greatest tragedy is the missionary who tries to return," the white-haired professor said frankly. "Don't go back (to pre-mission life)."

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