Help for Life Challenges

Have a homesick missionary or college student? BYU president offers an antidote

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Whether you know a missionary missing home or a struggling college student—send this advice their way.
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Brigham Young University (BYU) President C. Shane Reese was recently a guest on the All In podcast, where he offered some insightful thoughts on homesickness. Whether you know a missionary missing home or a struggling college student—send this advice their way.

President Reese knows a thing or two about homesickness; he almost left his first year at BYU because of it. Fortunately, his home ward bishop had a brother who was a law professor at the university and was willing to offer some words of encouragement to President Reese. And that law professor was none other than Kevin Worthen—the very man he would one day succeed as university president. President Reese’s conversation with Worthen convinced him to stay at the university.

Life turns on small hinges, as All In host Morgan Pearson observed from the story.

Pearson added that her mom says homesickness is a real sickness that has to run its course. She asked for President Reese’s advice for a college freshman going through it.

“I think we may have increased incidents of homesickness, just because this generation, I think, is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. So this is a real thing,” he says. “I love what Elder [D. Todd] Christofferson said when he talked about the doctrine of belonging. And, candidly, belonging is the antidote to homesickness. And he talked about [how] belonging is derived from service and sacrifice.

“The secret to that homesickness dilemma that so many students, when they arrive on a college campus, find themselves [in] is that they got to get outside themselves, and service and sacrifice get us outside of ourselves.”

He reflected that he felt the most homesick as a freshman when he was in a “me-centric mode.” He pulled himself out of that mode by: 1) thinking about others, and 2) putting himself out there.

“Get yourself out there,” he says. “And that’s going to mean going to some activities that are out of your comfort zone. It’s going to mean talking to people with whom you’re not familiar, and that’s way out of your comfort zone. And it means finding opportunities to serve other people, whether that’s in your ward as a ministering brother or sister, or whether that be in a service learning opportunity on campus.

“It means sacrifice. Put some of your own challenges and struggles aside for a minute and sacrifice for someone else. It’s nearly a miraculous recipe, and it’s probably counterintuitive.

“I think so often, we get in this mode of being homesick, and we want to nurture and hold on to that homesickness and coddle the homesickness rather than relieve ourselves of it.

“So I would just tell our students when they get to campus is listen to Elder Christofferson because he’s got some great counsel on how we create a sense of belonging.”

Find Elder Christofferson’s talk here: “The Doctrine of Belonging

Listen to the full All In episode with President C. Shane Reese wherever you get your podcasts, or on ldsliving.com/allin.

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