Latter-day Saint Life

4 ways parents can help their returned missionary thrive spiritually and find confidence

Cannon home 1.jpg
Cannon Blaser with his siblings, mom, and uncle on the day he returned home from the Texas, Houston mission.

A month ago, my son, Cannon, returned home from his mission in Houston, Texas. Welcoming a missionary back is such a happy experience. Besides the joy of having him in our presence again, we get to witness firsthand the amazing growth he experienced while sacrificing his time for the Lord.

Bruce Chang, a long-time CES instructor for young adults, and a parent of returned missionaries himself, has had a lot of experience working with returned missionaries. He recently shared what we can do to help them adjust and confidently progress in their lives post-mission.

Prioritize What’s Important

When Bruce’s oldest daughter returned home from her mission, they were so excited to have time with her again. Their immediate questions for her were centered around things to do, such as where she’d like to go on vacation as a family. Her response surprised and humbled him. She said, “I’d like to get back to the temple. It’s been a while since I went.”

Bruce shares, “I realized that we were filling her life with events, but we needed to do it in the name of the Lord and balance that. ... Everyone wants to fill their schedules with events, but we need to make sure that we organize them in a way that helps them have a spiritual experience on a daily basis.”

Bruce suggests following the counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 88:119–120 as a reminder of how to best help returned missionaries adjust and progress.

"Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing. That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord.” With this scripture counsel, and the gentle reminder from his daughter to prioritize spiritual things, Bruce and his family felt more capable of supporting their daughter’s continued spiritual growth after her mission. This helped with her personal growth as well.

One of Bruce's institute students who is a returned missionary, Emme Een, said that when she returned home, it helped her to prioritize her time around what matters most to her. "Because Jesus Christ and His gospel are my number one priority, that's how I plan my day." Even though every hour of her day isn't scheduled, as it was as a missionary, Eme finds peace and comfort in planning time for personal scripture study and meaningful prayer.

Create Accountability

Maintaining a regular gospel study schedule is another way to help returned missionaries prioritize what matters most. Bruce’s family schedules didn’t often permit regular scripture study at the same time, so they established a pattern of sending group texts to each other about their reading.

Another approach to scripture study with your returned missionary is to plan a 90-day scripture reading goal. To do this, Bruce suggests blocking out how many scriptures you’ll read per day and then keeping each other accountable through texts. Take turns being the one who shares first about the reading and what was learned.

Full-time missionaries had set apart study time and a companion to keep them accountable to studying. Now that they are home, texting can be a way to keep that accountability going.

In the following video clip, Emme and Isaac Ngatuvai, another one of Bruce's institute students who is also a returned missionary, share their hopes and concerns and what parents can do to help with the adjustment process after the mission. As a parent of returned missionaries, their answers were so helpful for me to hear and warmed my heart.

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Video Companion
Returned Missionaries share about post-mission life

Ask Questions

Doctrine and Covenants 88 has more helpful counsel. Verse 122 reads, “Appoint among yourselves a teacher and let not all be spokesmen at once.”

“That tells me that as a parent, I need to do more asking and less telling,” Bruce says. “Use this as a time to learn from them and ask questions about what they learned. They just spent 18 months to two years immersed in the gospel. They have a lot to teach and share.”

Returned missionaries are often bombarded with questions about their next steps in life, which can be overwhelming. Instead, try asking them questions about their mission. This will help them focus on their strengths and give the family a chance to see their spiritual growth.

I recently asked my son what helped him get through hard days on the mission. His answer was simple: prayer. He explained that some days he prayed all the time and that even though it wasn’t fun to have those hard days, the experience of praying through them helped him grow closer to Heavenly Father.

Here are a few questions that Bruce suggests asking your returned missionary:

  • What was the best day in your mission?
  • What was one of the hardest things you learned to overcome?
  • What is one thing you learned from each of your companions?
  • Tell me a spiritual experience you had on your mission.
  • Tell us a funny or embarrassing moment from your mission.
  • What are some lessons that you learned from your mission that you can apply now?

After hearing answers to a question, those of us who have served missions “might be tempted to say, oh that reminds me of a time on my mission, and then tell our own story,” Bruce explains. “But this is a special time to focus on the returned missionary and ask them questions about their experiences and then sit and listen.”

My son shared that he loved when he and his companion were asked to speak to youth groups and answer questions about what it’s like to be a missionary and why they decided to serve. That doesn’t have to stop just because they’re home.

Bruce suggests organizing a time to get together with another family in the ward who has someone contemplating a mission and invite your returned missionary to answer questions about their experience. This helps create purpose in a returned missionary’s life and allows them to continue to serve.

Celebrate Progress

Returned missionaries need to know that feeling overwhelmed at home is normal. And they need to have someone to turn to talk about these feelings. Isaac shared that when he first came home, he felt very anxious. Something he did to alleviate that stress was try to schedule his day in a way that brought him purpose and meaning.

“Our returned missionary children had an amazing experience, but that experience is gone when they return home, they feel like a normal person, and they can feel discouraged. The natural man attack can be that the adversary puts thoughts into their mind that they’re not good enough,” Bruce says.

To help them adjust to life at home, we can also help returned missionaries find mentors, feel encouraged, set small goals, and recognize and celebrate progress. Bruce often reminds returned missionaries that, “Returning home is not a destination, it is the process of becoming.”

In his homecoming talk, Cannon shared a list of five things to do as a returned missionary to stay close to the Spirit: daily prayer, daily scripture study, paying tithing, attending church weekly, and attending the temple weekly.

He explained, “Doing those five things has set up a pattern for me as I’ve returned home to help me continue to progress and stay close to Jesus Christ. ... And it has blessed my life completely.”

Cannon’s five things aren’t new, but the reminder that they work from our fresh returned missionaries can give us the impetus to try harder at our faith. He summed up his talk about his mission: “It’s really changed who I am as a person and changed my testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Following my returned missionary’s example, I want to renew my commitment to make sure that Christ is at the center for me.

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