Mission Prep Class: Lesson 3: Learning by the Spirit of God – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 3 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is Learning by the Spirit of God. Before missionaries can teach by the Spirit, which is essential, they first must come to understand how to learn by the Spirit.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 40 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy! And here’s a link to all the 15 online mission prep class lessons I have recorded.

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 2: Our Need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 2 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is Our Need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When young people understand the blessings that only come through Jesus and have a testimony of his role as our Savior, they naturally will have desires to share the good news of the gospel by being a missionary.

I began planning this series of lessons (there are 15 lessons in all for the Church’s Mission Prep course) long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home right now due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. The video/audio is about 40 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy! And here’s a link to all the 15 online mission prep class lessons I have recorded.

Disclaimer: While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

Mission Prep Class: Lesson 1: The Missionary Purpose – Video and Podcast

In this video (above) and podcast (below), I am teaching Lesson 1 of the Mission Preparation class from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my teenage kids. The lesson topic is the Missionary Purpose–to invite others to come unto Christ. While I am going by the Church’s Mission Prep manual, please remember this video is not a publication of the Church. I am simply a dad, teaching my children, and I’m sharing our lesson for others to enjoy.

I began planning this lesson, which I hope will turn into a series with all 15 lessons from the Church’s Mission Prep course, long ago but the timing could turn out to be very good for people stuck at home due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine. This video is not meant to replace the Mission Prep class people can take from their stake or ward or the Church Education System, but for those people wanting to prepare for a mission and unable to take that class, I hope this digital lesson helps fill the gap.

The video/audio is about 50 minutes, so you will want to set aside enough time to watch or listen to it. It could be a great Sabbath day activity to do on a Sunday. Enjoy! And here’s a link to all the 15 online mission prep class lessons I have recorded.

Mission Prep Quotes from April 2020 General Conference

compulsion compelling invitations expression of love christofferson

Spiritually Defining Memories by Elder Neil L. Andersen

“Sister Damasio told me that missionaries in her village had given a priesthood blessing to a critically ill baby who miraculously recovered. She wanted to know more. As she prayed about their message, an undeniable witness of the Spirit confirmed to her that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. At 103, she was baptized, and at 104, she was endowed. Every year after, she made the 14-hour bus ride to spend a week in the temple. Sister Damasio had received a heavenly confirmation, and she knew that God knew that she knew that the witness was true.”

“Here is a spiritual memory from my first mission to France 48 years ago. While tracting, my companion and I left a Book of Mormon with an elderly woman. When we returned to the woman’s apartment about a week later, she opened the door. Before any words were spoken, I felt a tangible spiritual power. The intense feelings continued as Madame Alice Audubert invited us in and told us she had read the Book of Mormon and knew that it was true. As we left her apartment that day, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me to never forget what I have just felt.” I never have.”

The Power of the Book of Mormon in Conversion by Elder Benjamin M. Z. Tai

“As a young man beginning my missionary service, I boarded an airplane headed to Australia. Feeling very alone, anxious, and inadequate but having committed to serve, I desperately needed reassurance that what I believed in was true. I prayed and read my scriptures earnestly, but as the flight progressed, my self-doubt intensified and my physical condition deteriorated. After I had been struggling for several hours, a flight attendant walked down the aisle and stopped next to my seat. He took the Book of Mormon I was reading from my hands. He looked at the cover and said, “That’s a great book!” then handed the book back to me and kept walking. I never saw him again.”

“While his words echoed in my ears, I distinctly heard and felt in my heart, “I am here, and I know where you are. Just do your best, for I will take care of the rest.” On that airplane above the Pacific Ocean, I received a personal witness through my study of the Book of Mormon and the promptings of the Holy Spirit that my Savior knew who I was and that the gospel was true.”

He Goes before Us by President Henry B. Eyring

“Although missionary work was needed to gather Israel, the Lord inspired His leaders to teach the Twelve, who became some of our early missionaries, “Remember you are not to go to other nations, till you receive your endowment.” … In fulfillment of prophecy, preparatory temple ordinances began to be introduced… along with an outpouring of spiritual manifestations which armed those called on missions with the promised endowment of “power from on high” that led to a great gathering through missionary service. …The Lord had inspired Joseph and those faithful missionaries who went to work to achieve a harvest that must have, at the time, seemed beyond them. But the Lord, with His perfect foresight and preparation, made it possible.”

Fulfillment of Prophecy by Elder Ronald A. Rasband

“I remember when I received my mission call as a young man. I wanted to serve in Germany, like my father, brother, and brother-in-law. Not waiting for anyone to get home, I rushed to the mailbox and opened the call. I read that I had been called to the Eastern States Mission, headquartered in New York City. I was disappointed, so I went inside and opened my scriptures for comfort. I began to read in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land.” That prophecy, given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, was a revelation to me. I knew then I had been called to the exact mission the Lord wanted me to serve in.”

That They May See by Bonnie H. Cordon

“The second story is about Ella, a collegiate basketball player. Her example began when she received her mission call while away at school. She chose to open her call in front of her team. They knew almost nothing about the Church of Jesus Christ and didn’t understand Ella’s desire to serve. She prayed repeatedly to know how to explain her mission call in a way that her teammates might feel the Spirit. Her answer?

“I made a PowerPoint,” Ella said, “because I’m just that cool.” She told them about the potential of serving in one of 400-plus missions and possibly learning a language. She highlighted the thousands of missionaries already serving. Ella ended with a picture of the Savior and this brief testimony”

The Blessing of Continuing Revelation to Prophets and Personal Revelation to Guide Our Lives by Elder Quentin L. Cook

“Elder Holland and I “were companions as young missionaries in England in the early 1960s, and I had a great love for him. I considered the experience a tender mercy for me. In recent years, I have wondered if the Lord was preparing me to be junior in the Twelve to an incredible missionary companion who was my junior companion when we were young missionaries. I sometimes warn young missionaries to be kind to their junior companions because they never know when they might be their senior companion.”

Come and Belong by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“We invite all of God’s children throughout the world to join us in this great endeavor. Come and see! Even during this challenging time of COVID-19, meet with us online. Meet with our missionaries online. Find out for yourself what this Church is all about! When this difficult time has passed, meet with us in our homes and in our worship places!”

Sharing the Message of the Restoration and the Resurrection by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

In the Church, we have “hundreds of thousands [of stories], that speak of the time, treasure, and lives sacrificed over the last 200 years to share the message of the Restoration. Our aspiration to reach every nation, kindred, tongue, and people is undiminished today, as witnessed by the tens of thousands of young men, women, and couples currently serving under full-time mission calls; by Church members generally, who echo Philip’s invitation to come and see; and by the millions of dollars spent annually to sustain this effort across the world. While our invitations are without compulsion, we hope people will find them compelling. For that to be so, I believe at least three things are required: first, your love; second, your example; and third, your use of the Book of Mormon. Our invitations cannot be a matter of self-interest; rather, they must be an expression of selfless love.”

How to Receive Spiritual Guidance

How to Receive Spiritual Guidance Cycle

In my personal gospel study, I was recently re-reading a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott entitled “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance” from October 2009 General Conference. As I read it, I realized (a spiritual prompting, no doubt) that Elder Scott’s words were excellent advice for young people, particularly young women, who were trying to decide if they should go on a mission or not.

My mind then turned to my own teenage daughter and son who will soon be reaching the age to go on a mission. They will also, within a few years, be making important life decisions like where to go to college and who to date and marry. It occurred to me that there are few more important topics for older teens to learn than how to receive spiritual guidance from God. So of course, I made plans to have that be the next topic in family home evening, and I thought I’d share the lesson with this audience too.

There Is No Simple Formula

While I have organized Elder Scott’s advice into a cycle with six steps, he says “there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit. Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.”

So again, the steps I have extracted from Elder Scott are steps I identified as I read his examples. I have seen this same pattern play out in my own life, so they ring true. But they are not the one and only way to receive spiritual guidance from God. Some of the elements may differ for you and learning how to recognize the voice of God in your mind and heart is a skill you will have to fully learn through your own experiences. But hopefully this will still help.

Step 1: Recognize the Spirit of God

“What may appear initially to be a daunting task will be much easier to manage over time as you consistently strive to recognize and follow feelings prompted by the Spirit. Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.”

Step 2: Write down the inspiration

“Now I share an experience that taught me a way to gain spiritual guidance. One Sunday I attended the priesthood meeting of a Spanish branch in Mexico City. …[the teacher’s] sincerity, purity of intent, and love permitted a spiritual strength to envelop the room. I was deeply touched. Then I began to receive personal impressions as an extension of the principles taught by that humble instructor. …As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. The details of the communication are sacred and, like a patriarchal blessing, were for my individual benefit.”

Step 3: Write more detail in private

“I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible.”

Step 4: Ponder and make adjustments

“After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written.”

Step 5: Apply the inspiration

“Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life. …Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it. These two capacities come together. …God answers prayer and gives us spiritual direction when we live obediently and exercise the required faith in Him.”

Step 6: Thank God and ask if there is more

“I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, ‘Was there yet more to be given?’ I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated.” In other words, return to Step 1.

A Repeatable Experience “as you make this a practice in your life”

“What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.”

“Impressions of the Spirit can come in response to urgent prayer or unsolicited when needed. Sometimes the Lord reveals truth to you when you are not actively seeking it, such as when you are in danger and do not know it. However, the Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you. As you make this a practice in your life, you will be more perceptive to the feelings that come with spiritual guidance. Then, when that guidance comes, sometimes when you least expect it, you will recognize it more easily.”

Finding and Teaching People Digitally during Quarantine – Reactions and Tips

In the current climate, many missionaries are being forced to stay in their homes and apartments, and do what they can digitally to find and teach and invite people to follow the Savior Jesus Christ. This has been a struggle for many missionaries, so much so that the Church announced recently that some missionaries will now be given the option to be reassigned with their original mission end date OR they can temporarily suspend their mission and return to service within 12–18 months with a new end date.

For those missionaries choosing to stay and work digitally for the next for weeks or months, I want to share what some other missionaries are doing in this situation as well as some other advice and tips. The first two reactions are from my nephews who are serving full-time missions and the second two are advice from old people, myself and a friend who works at the MTC. Scroll to keep reading or click the link to jump to each person’s advice.

Nicholas Smith Email – March 23, 2020 

Nicholas Smith Layton Utah Mission“WOW this COVID-19 has gotten crazy! So Monday and Tuesday were pretty normal missionary days. We found two new people to teach and Tuesday night we went on exchanges. Then 10:22pm hits and bam! Bombshell = dropped. We got an email from the mission president saying that we are to use technology as our only means of interact with the outside world effective immediately. So yes I’m quarantined now.

“We’ve been having a lot of lessons over Zoom. We’ve also been working on finding effective ways to use Facebook to find new people to teach. With all the changes the church is putting out a lot of the missionaries here are going home including my greeny, Elder _____. He has asthma and so they’re making him go home. It sad to see him go.

“COVID-19 has really changed up the way that missionary work works. We have almost daily updates on what to do to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Despite all the obstacles we currently face as missionaries I’m just excited. I’m starting to understand even more why I was called to be a missionary to this place at this time. I know I was sent here for a reason and that God needs my talents at this time to help hasten his work. There’s nothing that can stop the work of the Lord. I know this and I hope everyone knows this. I can’t wait to see what the next couple months bring!”

Nicholas Smith Email – March 30, 2020 

“It’s been a crazy week guys, the missionaries here keep dropping like flies. Don’t be too worried, none of them are actually sick but the church is being extremely cautious when it comes to the safety of their missionaries. One of our best missionaries in the district returned home this week. It was sad to see him go. On a happier note work is really starting to pick up here! We’re figuring out how missionary work “works” under the new quarantine rules. I’ve had to actually learn how to use Facebook (can’t wait for Corona to go away so I can delete it again). I still haven’t seen much success come from it but we’re still in our trial and error phases of Facebook.

“The greatest success we’re seeing is member work. Yes, you heard that right folks, actually working with members. How does that work you ask. Well, let me tell you. We set up some lessons with members, we share a 20ish minute lesson with them and set up a return appointment with the members in a week. At the end of our lesson we say “Is there anyone that you know that really could use a message of peace through Christ right now? Do you think that you could invite them to join our call next week?” and just like that we turned the members into missionaries.”

It doesn’t necessarily come through in his email, but Nick’s mom says he’s going stir crazy, trying to keep busy and productive while staying at home and to please keep him in your prayers!

Nicholas Smith Email – April 27, 2020

“Today we are having a baptism for our friend _____! We’re really excited for her. We have only been able to teach her over Zoom (digital video conferencing) and it’s incredible to me that we’re able to help people come closer to Christ without ever meeting with them face to face. I know that the work of the Lord won’t and can’t be frustrated by anything. Not an earthquake, some virus or anything else that tries to get in the way. The Lord has given us the tools we have for this specific time to accomplish the work He asked us to help him with. I plan on doing all that I can to help the Lord with his work. Yes there are many set backs and new things to figure out but with the Lord, all things are possible.”

Thomas Smith Email – March 30, 2020 

Thomas Smith at Mexico MTC“Good morning all of you beautiful people. Elder Smith here is back in Illinois safe and sound after roughly three days of traveling through airports. It’s cool being home, although it is a bit strange. I am still trying to do missionary work, although that definitely doesn’t look the same as I am under quarantine. I’m going to try to keep my Facebook page updated with uplifting messages or something while I’m here.

“If anyone here wants me to teach them about Jesus and the Book of Mormon, feel free to let me know, because I can’t really do much else. That includes people that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints too. I would love the chance to talk to you guys again and share some sort of message. I’m allowed to do so through video calls.”

I asked Thomas to give me more details on how he is coping as well as any tips he has for other missionaries that have to find and teach people digitally. Once he sends me those, I’ll post them here.

Tips from My Friend Who Works at the MTC

I have been having an email dialog with a friend that works at the MTC and he had some good thoughts I wanted to share. First, he said to remember that regular mission rules are still in effect for missionaries in quarantine, unless their mission president has given specific exceptions. Missionaries should still follow their prescribed daily schedule, except, of course, the part that says to leave the apartment at a specific time. Here are some of his ideas for missionaries to productively pass the time:

  • Hold relevant virtual meetings with ward specialists like the emergency preparedness leader(s)
  • Have online meetings with the ward members, and encourage them to invite their friends, on topics such as what the scriptures teach about the days before The Second Coming of Christ
  • Find a psychologist to give a 30 minute presentation on how to be mentally healthy while quarantined–invite members to join the presentation and ask them to invite friends
  • Invite a financial planner to give an online seminar on budgeting–invite members and ask them to invite friends
  • Create and post positive memes on social media
  • Post videos of your testimony or other appropriate gospel subjects
  • Paint a picture of your favorite gospel story or create another appropriate art or craft project
  • Sew or crotchet ties, dresses, or other such items

My (Jimmy’s) Ideas for Missionaries Having to Work Digitally

Last but not least, here are my ideas:

Be Active on Social Media: If you haven’t done so, start by making sure your Facebook/Instagram profile makes it clear that you are a missionary for the Church. I would then recommend trying to post helpful, interesting, and engaging things, gospel related or service oriented. As appropriate I would invite people to learn more about the gospel through impromptu video chats and set video conferencing appointments. You may also want to try to find locally based Facebook groups to join–your ward and stake groups, if they exist, but also neighborhood or city based groups. Perhaps also follow local community organizations and participate in conversions as appropriate.

Participate in Local Newspaper and Community Websites: Look online for local community based websites, perhaps the local newspaper, and get involved on that website if it allows comments. Search for articles related to faith or serving our fellow man and make comments and engage in the online conversation. Submit letters to the editor, if possible, and find other ways to contribute user generated content that the local news site accepts.

Contribute to Mormon Wiki. The Mormon Wiki is a Wikipedia-like site sponsored by a faithful group called the More Good Foundation with content all about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Add content and sources to the articles on the Mormon Wiki. Online research to find those sources would likely be required, but that’s something right up the alley of many young missionaries.

Write on a Personal Website or Blog. If you have a website or blog, write articles about your mission, your testimony, and other gospel subjects. Use the platform to share what you are learning in your daily scripture study and, of course, amplify the distribution of those articles by sharing them on social media.

Conduct Open Webinars for Missionary Lesson 1. Usually, the missionary lessons are taught to one investigator or one family, but I don’t think there is any reason not to set a time to teach the first lesson online and invite as many people as want to attend. You can advertise the virtual lesson on social media and you can encourage members of your ward to attend and invite their friends to watch and learn. If a large number of people attend, you might need to take steps to keep viewer participation organized, such as having questions or comments being submitted in writing in the call’s chat box. If you make note of attendees who want to learn more, this could be a great way to generate leads for the missionaries to follow up on with individuals and individual families.

Coming Home Early because of COVID-19 Virus – Here are some Faithful Reactions

Last week, the Church has announced several substantial, though temporary, adjustments to full-time missionary service due to the world-wide pandemic of the COVID-19 virus.

  • Returning to home nation to continue serving. In the coming weeks, the First Presidency of the Church has said to expect that a substantial numbers of missionaries will be brought back to their home nations to continue their missionary service.
  • Those with 3 months to go may be released. Young missionary elders currently serving in the United States and Canada who have served for 21 months may be released from their full-time service early.
  • Those at risk or with health issues may be released. Senior missionaries and young missionaries with respiratory or other health conditions may be released from service.
  • Missionaries will continue to be calledMissionary applications will continue to be received, and missionary assignments for worldwide service will continue to be made.
  • MTCs worldwide will not receive new missionaries. Training for missionaries will take place through technology with most missionaries being trained from home via video conferencing.

With so many missionaries being brought home early, either temporarily or permanently, many young people and their parents are struggling with how to cope with the situation. There are mixed reactions, of course, as people understand the gravity of the Corona virus situation, yet there is disappointment in not being able to live and work with and serve among the people and nations where missionaries were originally called.

Below are two faithful and testimony building thoughts from families in the middle of this situation. One is from a sister missionary coming home and one is from a parent with a young missionary coming home. I thought they both exhibited a wonderful, eternal perspective on how to cope with coming home early in this environment of quarantine and social distancing due to the virus.

A Sister Missionary Dealing With An Early Release

Megan Crow New York City Mission

Megan Crow New York City Mission

“This is a pretty hard email for me to send. Due to the corona virus and how quickly it is spreading in New York City, all missionaries who have any respiratory or other health conditions at all are being sent home from their missions and released temporarily for safety reasons. And I am unfortunately a part of that group.

“We had just gotten out of an amazing lesson when I received the call from my mission president, and I was absolutely devastated. It honestly just broke my heart completely.

“I had so many thoughts running through my mind. ‘Heavenly Father, don’t you know how hard I am working? I had just gotten to a happy and comfortable place in my mission! It’s not fair Heavenly Father, how am I going to do this? Why me, why me, why me!?’

“I know I am not the only missionary who received that phone call. Missionaries around the world are receiving similar phone calls and having those exact same thoughts and feelings that I was having.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. How was I going to leave my whole heart in New York City and hop on a plane and take off my missionary tag? And the truth is, I still don’t know.

“But what happened next is really what I wanted to share with you. Only minutes later, one of my favorite hymns came on in the car, I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.

“This song has gotten me through some pretty hard things on my mission. The words, my testimony, are just as true to me now as they were when I was deciding whether or not to even come on a mission in the first place. I made a promise to myself and to my Heavenly Father that I would truly go where he wanted me to go and be who he wanted me to be. Nothing has changed, that’s still my promise to him. And if President Nelson received inspiration that I need to be somewhere else, no matter how much I want to be in New York, then I know with my whole heart who that request really came from.

“I was also reminded of the words I had spoken in the lesson I’d been in only minutes earlier… As I testified that I was not afraid at all of what’s going on in the world right now, because I knew for a fact that Heavenly Father was watching over me and guiding me and protecting me. In this lesson, I bore probably the most powerful testimony of the Restoration that I have ever borne in my life. Looking the person in the eye, I said that I knew I walked hand in hand with the Lord and that they could to. I told them that we all are called in this life in our weakness and we are qualified to do what the Lord needs us to do.

“I HAD said those words and I remembered them so clearly and I knew they were just as true to me then as they had been 30 minutes earlier. I trust my Heavenly Father and I know He’s in charge. I feel it is not enough to merely accept his commandments, I want to embrace them and trust them.

“So it may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea, and it may not even be in New York City, where my Lord has need of me. But He has in fact called me to this path, though ‘dark and rugged’ it seems. But I’ll do his will will a heart sincere, I’ll be what and where He needs me to be.”

-Sister Megan Crow, New York City Mission

Parents Who have Missionaries Coming Home Early

Patty Morford Colorado Fort Collins Mission

Patty Morford Colorado Fort Collins Mission

“So many of us seem to be mourning what we dreamed their homecoming would be like. Most of our children will be on a mandatory 14-day quarantine. No big groups at the airport. No parties. No well-attended talk at church. May we make a suggestion?

“Instead of mourning, perhaps we can embrace this moment. Perhaps our missionaries can fill the entire world, not just their mission area, with the gospel for 14 days. And more.

“Every one is glued to media, waiting for news. What if the news they were receiving was the good news our children have been sharing? What if their mission report, in front of their family, was on a live Facebook feed for all the world to see? More would attend their talk than could have fit into a chapel.

“What if they spent each of their 14 days posting all they wished they could have said if they had stayed in their mission? More hearts will be touched than they could have reached in the 2 weeks they would have spent there. What if we celebrate this hinge point, in not only the history of the Church but the history of the world, by flooding the world with the Gospel?

“What if we encourage them to make the most of this unique situation where the world is more humble, more aware of the need to rely on God, more aware of the universal lack of power and control in this life, to let others know that there is One who has all power, all control, and that He loves us and is aware of our pain and fear?

“What if we embrace this moment we have been born to live and encourage our faithful children, who were also born for this moment, to do the same? More good will be done in this effort than could have been done if life had continued as it has been.

“Let’s heed this call. Let go of the useless, unimportant, temporal traditions we have come to expect. Instead, let’s embrace a new day, a new opportunity to change the world…through our missionaries.

“Their hearts will be healed as they heal others. In doing this, they will be following the footsteps of the greatest Healer of all. He embraced His circumstances and made the most difference that has ever been made in this world.

“These chosen, valiant, preserved youth who are coming home on the wings of angels and the miracles of Heaven were born for this day. Let’s help them live it the way the Lord hoped it would be lived.”

-Alisa Banner Morford and April Hill, founders of Ghana Pay it Forward

Mission Prep Quotes from October 2019 General Conference

People will notice the light and will be drawn to it

The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Such a quest for faith and conviction is our purpose in these conferences, and by joining with us today, you will realize that this search is a broadly shared endeavor. Look around you. Here on these grounds you see families of all sizes coming from every direction. Old friends embrace in joyful reunion, a marvelous choir is warming up, and protestors shout from their favorite soapbox. Missionaries of an earlier day look for former companions, while recently returned missionaries look for entirely new companions (if you know what I mean!). And photos? Heaven help us! With cell phones in every hand, we have morphed from “every member a missionary” to “every member a photographer.” In the midst of all of this delightful commotion, one could justifiably ask, “What does it all mean?”

Be Faithful, Not Faithless By Stephen W. Owen

However, through our Young Men activities, I was able to build relationships with the other members of my quorum, and they became my friends. In addition, members of the bishopric and Aaronic Priesthood advisers began to take a special interest in my life. They attended my athletic events. They wrote me encouraging notes that I have kept to this day. They continued to keep in touch with me after I went to college and when I left for a mission. One of them was even at the airport when I came home. I will be forever grateful for these good brothers and their combination of love and high expectations. They pointed me heavenward, and life became bright, happy, and joyful.

Spiritual Capacity By Michelle Craig

Recently, I read in the scriptures about another great missionary who obtained his errand from the Lord. Aaron was teaching the king of the Lamanites, who wondered why Aaron’s brother Ammon had not also come to teach him. “And Aaron said unto the king: Behold, the Spirit of the Lord has called him another way.”

The Spirit spoke to my heart: each of us has a different mission to perform, and at times the Spirit may call us in “another way.” There are many ways to build the kingdom of God as covenant-making, covenant-keeping disciples of Jesus Christ. As His faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you. You have unique missions and roles to perform in life and will be given unique guidance to fulfill them.

They chose to be baptized and confirmed

Unwavering Commitment to Jesus Christ By Elder Dale G. Renlund

Brother and Sister Banza were greeted warmly at the branch. They asked some of the persistent questions they had about the nature of God, such as, “If God is a spirit, like the wind, how could we be created in His likeness? How could He sit on a throne?” They had never received a satisfactory answer until the missionaries explained restored doctrine in a brief lesson. When the missionaries left, the Banzas looked at each other and said, “Isn’t this the truth that we have heard?” They continued coming to church and meeting with the missionaries. They knew that baptism in the restored Church of Jesus Christ would have consequences. They would be stripped of their scholarships, their visas would be revoked, and they and their two young children would be required to leave Switzerland. They chose to be baptized and confirmed in October 1979.

Found through the Power of the Book of Mormon By Elder Rubén V. Alliaud

Just before I turned 15, I was invited by my uncle Manuel Bustos to spend some time with him and his family here in the United States. This would be a great opportunity for me to learn some English. My uncle had converted to the Church many years before, and he had a great missionary spirit. That is probably why my mother, without my knowing, spoke with him and said she would agree to the invitation on one condition: that he did not try to convince me to become a member of his Church. We were Catholics, and we had been for generations, and there was no reason to change. My uncle was in complete agreement and kept his word to the point that he didn’t want to answer even simple questions about the Church.

Of course, what my uncle and his sweet wife, Marjorie, could not avoid was being who they were. I was assigned a room that contained a large library of books. I could see that in this library there were roughly 200 copies of the Book of Mormon in different languages, 20 of them in Spanish. One day, out of curiosity, I took down a copy of the Book of Mormon in Spanish.

It was one of those copies with a sky-blue soft cover, with the figure of the angel Moroni on the front. When I opened it, on the first page there was written the following promise: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

And then it added: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” It is difficult to explain the impact that these scriptures had on my mind and heart. To be honest, I was not looking for “the truth.” I was just a teenager, happy with his life, enjoying this new culture.

Nevertheless, with that promise in mind, I secretly began reading the book. As I read more, I understood that if I really wanted to get anything from this, I had better start to pray. And we all know what happens when you decide not only to read but also to pray about the Book of Mormon. Well, that is just what happened to me. It was something so special and so unique—yes, just the same as what has happened to millions of others around the world. I came to know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon was true.

I then went to my uncle to explain to him what had happened and that I was ready to be baptized. My uncle could not contain his astonishment. He got into his car, drove to the airport, and returned back with my plane ticket to fly back home, with a note addressed to my mother that simply stated, “I had nothing to do with this!”

Consistent and Resilient Trust By Elder L. Todd Budge

Our son Dan got very sick on his mission in Africa and was taken to a medical facility with limited resources. As we read his first letter to us after his illness, we expected that he would be discouraged, but instead he wrote, “Even as I lay in the emergency room, I felt peace. I have never been so consistently and resiliently happy in my life.”

As my wife and I read these words, we were overcome with emotion. Consistently and resiliently happy. We had never heard happiness described that way, but his words rang true. We knew that the happiness he described was not simply pleasure or an elevated mood but a peace and joy that come when we surrender ourselves to God and put our trust in Him in all things. We too had had those times in our lives when God spoke peace to our souls and caused us to have hope in Christ even when life was hard and uncertain.

Get into my car youre coming home to teach me

Finding Joy in Sharing the Gospel By Cristina B. Franco

At the Salt Lake airport, my mother and brother met a seven-year-old girl who was returning home from a skiing trip with her family. Her parents noticed how long she had been talking to my mom and brother and decided to join them. They introduced themselves and their daughter as Eduardo, Maria Susana, and Giada Pol. There was a natural and warm connection to this sweet family.

Both families were excited to be traveling together on the same flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. As their conversation continued, my mother noted that until that moment, they’d never heard about the restored Church of Jesus Christ. One of the first questions Susana asked was “Would you tell me about that beautiful museum with the golden statue on top?”

My mom explained that the beautiful edifice was not a museum but a temple of the Lord where we make covenants with God so we can return to live with Him one day. Susana confessed to my mom that before their trip to Salt Lake, she had prayed for something to strengthen her spirit.

During the flight, my mom bore her simple but strong testimony of the gospel and invited Susana to find the missionaries in her hometown. Susana asked my mom, “How will I find them?” My mom replied, “You can’t miss them; they are either two young men dressed in white shirts and ties or two nicely dressed young women, and they always wear a tag showing their name and also ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’”

The families exchanged phone numbers and said goodbye at the Buenos Aires airport. Susana, who since then has become my good friend, has told me many times that she felt so sad to leave my mom at the airport. She said, “Your mom glowed. I can’t explain it, but she had a brightness about her that I didn’t want to leave behind.”

As soon as Susana got back to her hometown, she and her daughter, Giada, went to share this experience with Susana’s mom, who lived just a few blocks away from their home. As they were driving, Susana happened to see two young men walking down the street dressed as my mom had described. She stopped her car in the middle of the street, got out, and asked these two young men, “Are you by chance from the Church of Jesus Christ?”

They said, “Yes.” “Missionaries?” she asked. They both replied, “Yes, we are!” She then said, “Get into my car; you’re coming home to teach me.”

Two months later, Maria Susana was baptized. Her daughter, Giada, was also baptized when she turned nine. We are still working on Eduardo, whom we love no matter what. Since then, Susana has become one of the greatest missionaries I have ever met. She is like the sons of Mosiah, bringing many souls to Christ. In one of our conversations, I asked her, “What is your secret? How do you share the gospel with others?”

She told me, “It is very simple. Every day before I leave my house, I pray, asking Heavenly Father to direct me to someone who needs the gospel in their life. I sometimes take a Book of Mormon to share with them or pass-along cards from the missionaries—and when I start talking to someone, I simply ask them if they have heard about the Church.”

God does not need you to sell the restored gospel

Your Great Adventure By Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

May I remind you that God does not need you to “sell” the restored gospel or the Church of Jesus Christ. He simply expects you not to hide it under a bushel. And if people decide the Church is not for them, that is their decision. It does not mean you have failed. You continue to treat them kindly. Nor does it exclude that you invite them again.

The difference between casual social contacts and compassionate, courageous discipleship is—invitation! We love and respect all of God’s children, regardless of their position in life, regardless of their race or religion, regardless of their life’s decisions. For our part, we will say, “Come and see! Find out for yourself how walking the path of discipleship will be rewarding and ennobling.” We invite people to “come and help, as we try to make the world a better place.”

And we say, “Come and stay! We are your brothers and sisters. We are not perfect. We trust God and seek to keep His commandments. “Join with us, and you will make us better. And, in the process, you will become better as well. Let’s take this adventure together.”

…And to those who have not yet begun, why delay? If you want to experience the wonders of this great spiritual journey, set foot upon your own grand adventure! Speak with the missionaries. Speak with your Latter-day Saint friends. Speak with them about this marvelous work and a wonder. It’s time to begin!

Knowing, Loving, and Growing By Elder Hans T. Boom

It is that love, that light that needs to shine and brighten our surroundings as we go about our daily lives. People will notice the light and will be drawn to it. That is the kind of missionary work that will draw others to “come and see, come and help, and come and stay.” Please, when you have received your witness about this great work and our part in it, let us rejoice together with our beloved Prophet Joseph Smith, who declared, “For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.”

Mission Transfers and the Two-Transfer Mission

sister missionaries on transfer day

When I was a missionary, in the 1990s, “transfer” was primarily a verb or perhaps a noun meaning that act of being transferred from one area to another. For today’s missionaries, however, “transfer” has taken on a whole new meaning and is usually a noun meaning a period of time, generally six weeks, between the transfer events. This shift in primary meaning for the word “transfer” seemed to have happened in the early 2000s (if someone has inside knowledge as to more precise timing, please let me know). In this article, we will discuss mission transfers within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both the traditional and more modern meaning of the word, as well as the two-transfer mission that has become more common in recent years.

Transfer (Verb): to move from one area to another

Missionaries are assigned to serve in a large geographic area called a mission for two years, for young men, or eighteen months, for young women. The geographic area of the mission is usually very large, consisting of multiple large cities–it could be a whole state in the United States or even a whole country in parts Europe, Central America, or South East Asia. Missionaries are generally transferred ever three or four months to different cities or wards (congregations) within their mission. These cities or wards are referred to as the missionaries’ “area” within their mission.

I’m not totally sure why we do this periodic transferring, but I imagine it is designed to give missionaries a variety of experiences, which could vary from area to area, and it also keeps things new and interesting for the missionaries to keep them engaged in the work. While most missionaries spend a few months in an area before being transferred to a new one, the time frame can vary widely, and I’ve heard of missionaries being in an area only 1 month or for as long as a year.

Transfer (Noun): the period of time between two transfer events

When I was a missionary in Argentina from 1995 to 1997, we had transfers once a month, and since transfers always happened on the same day of the week, this meant that sometimes there would be four weeks between transfers and sometimes five weeks in between. That inconsistency of time between transfers, I presume, is what prompted the Church in the early 2000s to standardize the time between transfers to six weeks. Now, every six weeks, the mission president will transfer missionaries to different areas in the mission and that six-week length of time is now known as a “transfer”, as in a transfer period.

Not every missionary is moved to a different area every time there is a transfer–as stated before, missionaries can stay in an area for three or four transfers some time. And not every transfer event happens at the regular six-week interval. Sometimes, on rare occasions, a non-scheduled special transfer can occur due to situations such as an injury or illness causing a missionary to go home early. The change of missionaries assigned to one area can have a ripple effect in many other areas as the mission president shifts people around.

Mission Rules about Transfers

Missionaries are instructed, per the rules in the Missionary Handbook, to stay with their companion at all times. Obviously, this is not possible if the two missionaries have been transferred to two different areas. In my experience, mission presidents usually only transfer one missionary at a time out of an area, to keep continuity. But still, this can leave a missionary on his or her own for a while without the presence of their companion. In talking about transfers, the missionary handbook says:

“Unless otherwise directed by your mission president, go directly to your new area when you are transferred and meet your new companion without delay. If your companion is transferring but you are staying in the area, make arrangements with your district or zone leader so that you are never alone.” (Missionary Handbook)

How Missionary Transfers are Determined

Since transfers are on a regular schedule, it’s no secret when transfers are coming and missionaries are generally anticipating it, wondering if it will be their time to be transferred to a new area. Missionaries are usually kept in suspense about whether or not they will be transferred until a day or two before the transfer. I suppose this is designed to keep young missionaries busy in their regular schedule of teaching, rather than getting trunky and putting things aside if they were to know too far in advance that they are being transferred.
mission president coordinating transfers
There is no set amount of time for a missionary to be in an area–when the missionary is to come and go from an area depends on the inspiration that the mission president receives. Every six weeks, generally the week before transfers are to happen, the mission president will prayerfully consider the circumstances of missionaries, areas, and the will of the Lord to determine who should be transferred to where. As Elder W. Christopher Waddell of the Seventy reminded us in General Conference:

“Prophets, seers, and revelators assign missionaries under the direction and influence of the Holy Ghost. Inspired mission presidents direct transfers every six weeks and quickly learn that the Lord knows exactly where He wants each missionary to serve.” (The Opportunity of a Lifetime, Oct 2011)


Two-Transfer Missions

A two-transfer mission is a concept I first heard of also in the early 2000s. Since that time, I have heard them mentioned progressively more and more frequently. The November 16, 2018 letter from the First Presidency, in which they announced that service missions would be treated the same as proselytizing missions, mentioned the two-transfer mission, defined it, and explained how it is utilized by the Church.

“When the stake president is unsure if a candidate could serve a proselyting mission, he may discuss with the candidate the possibility of being called to a two-transfer mission, a service mission, or being honorably excused. …A two-transfer mission is a trial proselyting mission. If the trial mission is successful, the missionary may receive a 15-month or 21-month proselyting mission extension to the same or a different mission. If not, the missionary can be reassigned to a service mission.”

As you can see, the two-transfer mission is using the word transfer in reference to the six-week period of time between transfer events. A two-transfer mission is a trial mission that lasts for 12 weeks (2 six-week transfer periods). In recent years, more and more missionaries have been asked to do two-transfer missions , so please know that if this is asked of you that you are not being singled out.

If missionaries, their parents, or priesthood leaders are not sure if a traditional, full-time proselytizing mission is right for the individual, then then Church could ask them to do this two-transfer mission. During this trial period, the mission president will evaluate if he thinks the missionary would perform well in a full mission. If the answer is yes, the missionary will then receive a new call that will extend their mission to two years or eighteen months. If the answer is no, then the missionary will be honorable excused from missionary service or they may choose to serve a church service mission. (see the Church’s page called A Customized Experience)

Conclusion: Memorable Mission Transfers I Had

I have written about my first day in Argentina, including my journey there and traveling to my first area, which basically is a transfer though a unique one since you are transferring from the MTC. I have also written about my first transfer from one area in Argentina to another, so I recommend you reading about both of those memorable transfers. Additionally, I fondly remember one other transfer in Argentina after I had been serving in the Godoy Ward for several months. While there, I had baptized several people include an entire family with the last name of Godoy and a great man named German Arrieta. German and his family, when they heard I was being transferred to another city, quickly but thoroughly arranged a going away party for me. I was very moved by the gesture and was touched in my heart by the fact that German and the others loved me and would miss me.

Going Away Party at German Arrieta Home August 1997

And so it is with mission transfers. You do great work building up the Kingdom of God on earth and meet many people and make wonderful friends but eventually you get transferred away. But those friendships endure and when we all receive our final transfer to the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven, then we will be reunited. Until we meet again, God be with you.

Understanding and Helping Early Returned Missionaries

Reasons Why Missionaries Return Home Early
This website is dedicated to helping young people be better prepared to serve the Lord as full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While we want every missionary that goes on a mission to complete their term of service fully and honorably, we know that a percentage of missionaries will need to come home early for one reason or another. In this article, I’d like to talk about the reasons why missionaries come home early, how to help those missionaries adjust to that reality, and what we as their friends, family, and fellow church members can do to help and support them.

Elder Holland once said this to a missionary who came home early because of mental health issues:

“Obviously we want everyone to have a full and complete mission. We’re anxious that no one succumb to homesickness or battle fatigue and truncate their mission, come home early. …But listen. Understand, this young man and anybody else out there in the audience who is concerned. There are reasons that people can’t serve a mission. There are reasons that people can’t go on a mission in the first place. We know that. We understand that. …So I say commendation to you, and the love of the Lord to you, and the blessings of the Church to you for trying to go, for wanting to go, and for the fact that you successfully served for four months.” (see Elder Holland’s Counsel for Early Returned Missionaries, March 2016)

I’ve heard many news stories in recent years about the increasing number of missionaries returning home early. While the Church doesn’t publish the exact number or percentage of missionaries returning home early, anecdotal evidence does seem to indicate the figures may be on the rise. Regardless of those trends, we know some missionaries do return home early and the brethren have taught us to love and support those individuals. As this 2014 Church News article reminds us, “Returned Missionaries Need a Friend, a Responsibility, and Spiritual Nourishment” regardless of why or when they come home.

Why Missionaries Return Home Early

Missionaries return home early from their missions for a variety of reasons—physical health issues, mental health, transgression, and other issues. A 2012 survey of 348 ERMs was published by BYU in a 2015 article called Return with Trauma: Understanding the Experiences of Early Returned Missionaries (see “Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy” Volume 37 | Number 1 | Article 9 by Kristine J. Doty of Utah Valley University and S. Zachary Bullock of Brigham Young University) examined the reason why missionaries come home early. It found that:

  • “Thirty-six percent reported that mental health issues were a factor in their return”
  • “Thirty-four percent returned due to physical health issues.”
  • “12% of the respondents came home due to unresolved transgression”
  • “11% for breaking mission rules” (see p40 of the article referenced above)

Another study of early returned missionaries (ERMs) conducted by Drake and Drake (2014) corroborated those results showing “38% of early releases were for mental illness diagnoses alone” and “34% who were released due to physical reasons” (p36). That leaves 28% for other reasons including transgression before or during mission.

That makes two studies within a two-year period that show basically the same results—the vast majority of early returned missionaries come home because of health reasons and only around a quarter of all ERMs are home early because of inappropriate behavior such as breaking the mission rules or entering the mission field with previous transgressions still unresolved.

Regardless of why missionaries come home early, almost all of them feel like they have failed at their mission and are uncomfortable talking about it. “Of the ERMs responding to the quantitative survey, 73% said they had feelings of failure. Two-thirds of ERMs felt uncomfortable in social settings, and 44% felt uncomfortable answering questions about their missions” (p 41). These feeling are prevalent among ERMs, “regardless of whether their early return was related to personal conduct” (p 41) or if it was due to health or other issues. Due to the fact that mental health issues is the biggest reason young people come home early from their missions, and due to many misunderstandings about this issue in our society, I, and the authors of the study we are examining, think it deserves a deeper exploration.

Returning for Mental Health Issues

The biggest reason missionaries are returning home early is due to mental health related issues. The authors of the study we’ve been discussing say, “mental illness is overrepresented in early returned missionaries (ERMs) compared to their peers who complete their full term of expected missionary service. For ERMs, the challenges and hardships missionaries face may overwhelm their coping resources and exacerbate the turmoil, anxiety, and crises of emerging adulthood.” (p36)

Mental illness situations, like physical illness, are sometimes unavoidable though sometimes there are steps that can be taken to mitigate their impact. There are things missionaries can do to help themselves as well as steps family, friends, and church leaders can take to help prepare young people to handle the mental and emotional stress of going on a mission.

Internal Testimony rather than External Pressure for Good Mental Health

One thing that can be done to help reduce mental health stress on missionaries is to help them develop their own testimony instead of relying on the testimonies of others. The study we’ve been discussing found that missionaries who have a strong personal testimony and desire to serve the Lord without outside pressure from family or church leaders are more likely to have good mental health during their mission. Said the authors, “A high degree of intrinsic (internal) commitment to religion tends to correlate with good mental health better than an extrinsic (external) commitment” (p 36).

This reminded me of the oft-quoted statement from Heber C. Kimball, former apostle and member of the First Presidency:

“To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess his personal knowledge or witness will fall. … The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 3d. ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945, pp. 449–50)

borrowed light Heber C. Kimball

 

Preparing for Transitions and Realities of Mission Life for Good Mental Health

The other suggestion from the authors to help lessen the likelihood of mental health issue by missionaries is to prepare them for the frequent transitions that occur in the mission field. Going on a mission is a big life style change for all missionaries. They transition from school or work or playing full-time, to full-time service of the Lord. They leave their family and friends and go to far off places, often having to learn a new language and culture. Every few months, they move from city to city and often have even more frequent changes in the companions they live with. There are a lot of transitions involved in missionary work, and young people will have better mental and emotional health if they know what they are getting into and are prepared for those transitions.

“A person’s mental health may be affected, however, if preparation for a transition is inadequate, if there is discontinuity between the roles, if there is too much change in too little time, or if those transitioning experience culture shock or role shock service—discrepancies between a person’s expectations and the realities of their new environments and responsibilities” (p36).

If future missionaries can be taught about the nature of missionary work and hear stories from others who have gone before them on a mission, they can be better prepared for the transitions of missionary work. And, say the authors of the study, “Mastering those transitions can lead to enhanced self-esteem, personal growth, and maturity” –all aspects of good mental health.

The benefits of emotional preparation to serve a mission cannot be understated. The study clearly showed that “missionaries who were emotionally prepared to serve and believed missionary work was the work of the Lord were more likely to have strong spiritual experiences while on the mission.”

Reception of ERMs by Home Ward Members

One aspect of the ERM experience upon which the study dwelt heavily, and which also deserves our attention, is how he or she was received by their home ward upon returning from the mission. “Fifty-eight percent [of ERMs] felt they were received indifferently or poorly by their congregation (ward), and almost half felt they were treated indifferently or poorly by their ward leaders. Thirty-one percent of the survey respondents indicated that their friends and family were indifferent or unkind.” (p 40)

Even without the judgement of others, “many ERMs feel like people assume they returned for worthiness issues. They feel stigmatized and ashamed, whether or not there was sin involved.” (p 40) However, “ERMs who felt their ward members received them better upon returning home had lower feelings of failure” (p 42)

“Nearly half of the survey respondents (47%) reported they are not as active in the Church as they were before they went on their mission.” In fact, one survey respondent said “I took a job on Sundays and that way I didn’t have to explain things to people anymore.” But again, there are things we are ward members can do to lessen the likelihood of ERMs falling away from the Church. Say the study authors, “ERMs who felt their ward members received them well upon their early return were less likely to experience a period of inactivity” (p 42).

Having said that, we should also remember to give ward members the benefit of the doubt on their reception of ERMs as often times ERMs perceive prejudice from ward members, whether or not it intended or even really there. “There appears to be a strong perceptual component to these reactions. Of the interviewees who stated they were poorly received, few had specific or concrete examples they could recall” (p 41). However, if we go out of our way to let ERMs know that they are loved and welcomed back into our wards, then we can dispel that doubt and they can enjoy the blessings of our ward families.

How to Help Early Returned Missionaries

In addition to the other helpful items we have discussed, the authors of the ERM study offer several other suggestions to help early returned missionaries. “The quick release [of an ERM] does not leave time for a young adult in the identity development phase to emotionally, mentally, or spiritually adjust to the change and consider the impact it will have on his or her immediate future.” They recommend these steps to help ERMs adjust and have a higher likelihood of remain happy, healthy, engaged with the Church and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Allow the ERM to share his full story. “We were surprised at how many ERMs did not feel encouraged, or even comfortable, to talk about their missions to anyone.”
  • Promote empowerment. “The majority of ERMs were not given the choice whether they returned home, they feel a loss of control. …The ERM will need to feel empowered to own his or her healing journey.”
  • Teach communication skills. “Work with them to gain assertiveness skills so they can comfortably express what they need to their family members and church leaders.”
  • Encourage the use of spiritual strategies. “Fasting, prayer, temple attendance, scripture study, and most importantly application of the Atonement can provide them continued emotional and spiritual strength to find their new path.”
  • Encourage good emotional coping resources. “Help ERMs learn to reject shame and embarrassment. Many choose church inactivity as a way to cope with shame and embarrassment.”
  • Avoid urging them to return to the mission quickly. “The ERM should be empowered to focus on resolving the reason for coming home before engaging in any discussion about returning to the field. Moving on with his or her future by securing employment or attending college or vocational training may be the path he or she prefers or feels inspired to take.”
  • Consider a Church-Service Mission. “Not all ERMs can finish the full term of their proselyting missions, but many want to successfully complete their service. …[therefore] investigate whether the CSM program is an appropriate option.”

Conclusion

I’ll conclude with a word for the study authors and another great quote from Elder Holland. The study authors say, “Therapists, church leaders, family members and friends can offer support in a meaningful way to help ERMs make the needed adjustment to their unexpected return. …If ERMs can focus on being refined rather than defined by their experience, they will be much stronger to meet the future life challenges that most certainly lie ahead.”

And finally, this is what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said to one early returned missionary:

“[Your mission] wasn’t a full term, but it was missionary service. It was honest. You were loyally participating and testifying. And I want you to take credit for that. I want you to take the appropriate dignity that you deserve from that and to know that the Lord loves you and the Church loves you for serving. … I want you to be proud. Appropriately proud. I want you to take the dignity and the strength and the faith that came from your four months and cherish that forever. I don’t want you to apologize for coming home. When someone asks you if you’ve served a mission, you say yes. You do not need to follow that up with ‘But it was only four months.’ Just forget that part and say yes, you served a mission. And be proud of the time that you spent. … Cherish the service you rendered. Be grateful for the opportunity to have testified, to have been out in the name of the Lord, to have worn that missionary name plaque.”