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BYU Education Week: Former mission leaders offer tips for returned missionaries and their parents

PROVO, UTAH

Stephen D. Richardson and his wife know something about the difficulties some missionaries face as they transition home from full-time service. Brother Richardson served a mission to Brazil and returned some 35 years later to serve with his wife, Marianna E. Richardson, as he presided over the Brazil Sao Paulo North Mission from 2008-2011. In addition to their mission service, the couple has taught an institute class geared toward returned missionaries for the Alpine Utah YSA Stake since 2013.

During BYU Campus Education Week Aug. 16-19, the two gave a series of lectures on the topic “Coming Home: Suggestions for Returned Missionaries and Their Parents.” In one of four lectures dedicated to their topic, Brother and Sister Richardson said that lessons missionaries learned during their service should continue to bless their lives.

“Remember your purpose”

In prefacing their presentation, Brother Richardson shared the words of President Thomas S. Monson who said, “Perhaps no generation of youth has faced such far-reaching decisions as the youth of today. Provision must be made for school, mission, and marriage. … As you plan with purpose your lives, remember that your missionary opportunities are not restricted to the period of a formal call. … Whatever your age, whatever your circumstance, I admonish you to plan your life with purpose” (“Come all Ye Sons of God,” April 2013 general conference).

Brother Richardson repeated President Monson’s admonition to “plan your life with purpose” and added that individuals’ purpose, whether on a mission or not, is to draw closer to Christ.

“With that direction in mind, we make plans and goals and sub-goals,” he said.

Daily schedule

Sister Richardson said in the mission field her No. 1 word of advice to missionaries about to return home was: “The daily schedule is a great way to live.”

Maintaining the habit of going to bed early and arising early, of exercising and having scripture study every morning enables individuals to fortify themselves, Sister Richardson said.

Technology

Missionaries follow strict guidelines in regards to cellphones and other devices and some returned missionaries struggle to discipline themselves in the use of technology when they get home, Brother Richardson noted. However, a smartphone can be a helpful tool for planning and calendaring.

He encouraged listeners to ask themselves how smartphones, laptops, iPads, and other devices can help or hurt in planning and achieving goals and to consider how much time to spend on social media.

“I encourage you to learn how to control this thing,” Brother Richardson said while holding up his own phone, “so it doesn’t control you.”

Finances

Noting the monthly living stipend given to missionaries, Sister Richardson said a mission hopefully taught missionaries how to budget and use money wisely. If not, they now have the opportunity to learn to be good stewards.

She encouraged listeners to “pay a full tithe and fast offering. Establish and follow a budget. Avoid debt. Save money, even if it’s just a little bit. The habit will help you throughout your life.”

Education

Sister Richardson shared the words of Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who said, “Many young adults in the world are going into debt to get an education, only to find the cost of school is greater than they can repay. Seek out scholarships and grants. Obtain part-time employment, if possible, to help pay your own way. This will require some sacrifice, but it will help you succeed.

“Education prepares you for better employment opportunities. It puts you in a better position to serve and to bless those around you. It will set you on a path of lifelong learning. … Education will prepare you for what is ahead, including marriage” (“Meeting the Challenges of Today’s World,” October 2015 general conference).

LDS Employment Centers, Brother Richardson added, can be a place where returned missionaries can get help in preparing résumés or getting career or vocational guidance. They can also help in seeking out scholarships.

Goal-setting

Sister Richardson quoted from Preach My Gospel, which states, “Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action. Goal setting and planning are acts of faith. Prayerfully set goals that are in harmony with the Savior” (pg. 138).

Brother Richardson then discussed some of the key indicators discussed in Preach My Gospel that missionaries learned to track to show an individual’s progress toward the end goal. On a mission these included things like how many lessons were taught or how many contacts were made.

“So what are your key indicators now?” Brother Richardson asked. “These are things you can quantify and set goals around on a daily or weekly basis.”

Depending upon the goal, key indicators may include pages of scripture study per day, temple sessions attended per month or how many résumés placed per week. “All these things you can set up to move you toward your long-term goals,” Brother Richardson said.

Brother and Sister Richardson invited listeners to have a planning session and start with a prayer. “Identify a long-term goal and start to list out the key indicators that you’re establishing to meet those long-term goals. What am I going to do in the upcoming days, weeks and months to meet that goal?”

Sister Richardson concluded by emphasizing the power of the lessons missionaries learned on their missions. “Realize that your mission wasn’t ‘then’ and your life is ‘now.’ The two need to be meshed together. You need to use those great opportunities and things you learned there and use them and bring them into your life now.”

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