Something that has motivated me to make a post is how I thought my life would be after I had come back. I had this mindset that the problems I had in my life before I had served would disappear, or change, or that life would be a bit easier after I had served. While in many cases this has been true for me, it isn't true in its entirety and I wanted to share what has been on my mind.
My hopes in writing this would be for those who may have a desire to serve a mission, for those who have served missions, and for those who have not served missions who would like to understand what it may be like for some returned missionaries. My goal is to share my personal stories in hopes that it may inspire and help someone.
When I was released, I felt like something very special had left me, when the words hit me from the Priesthood leader releasing me, literally, from my calling. I felt like a part of me had died. I felt sort of empty. I felt the same way when I had to take off my nametag. It wasn't so much of a physical feeling of removing something, but more of something within me was gone. I didn't know what I had until I was released. I still had my missionary mannerisms and I was still very happy. I still felt the same love for people as I did, just as much as when I was a missionary. It's very hard to explain this to someone who has never experienced the type of feeling I felt. It's almost like a death, but not quite.
At Least 6 Months From Being HomeBeing a returned missionary is somewhat a joyful, and an awkward experience at the same time. I still had the desire to share the gospel, to give cards out to people in the airport when I returned home, and I had this expectation that I would be able to do Family Home Evening, Scripture Study, and talk about the gospel as much as I pleased. I thought the things I learned on my mission were normal, and I thought that people would be happy to know that I learned more about the gospel on my mission. I soon came to realize that what I wanted to do with my family wasn't the norm for them.
When I went back to visit the YSA ward in my area, I was very excited to see some of my friends. There was one instance I remember after being home where there were these people sitting out in the hall, not going to their classes. I remember mentioning something that I loved about the Atonement and to one of the girls and she had no clue what I was talking about. I felt like I was the outsider, and I had to remember that everyone else is at different levels on their testimonies.
When I watched a movie with my Fiance, I would want to relate so many key points of the movie to the gospel, and I could not un-see the gospel principle which I found. I would point out faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the holy ghost, enduring to the end; I would point out points of the Plan of Salvation or find resemblances in the Christ figures and I would write my testimonies about these principles I found.
When I got married a little over a month of being back home, I still did not feel comfortable dancing or listening to music that wasn't about God, Jesus, or the gospel. I enjoyed listening to hymns, and I wasn't ready to transition yet. I still did not feel comfortable playing video games, and I realized that after taking many things out of my life to focus on the gospel, how more sensitive I was to spiritual things and how sensitive I was to things of the world. Swearing bothered me more than before. I was more cautious of what media I let into my life - movies, songs (I paid more attention to the lyrics and I didn't want to listen to Avril Lavigne's song "I'm With You" because it sounded provocative. I also wanted to avoid more of Katy Perry and any song that talked about provocative things. I got really annoyed when people said the Lord's name in vain. I was more sensitive to what clothing I wore, and how I wanted to avoid wearing super tight clothing because 1.) it wasn't allowed on the mission (to help others remain focus on the mission) and 2.) I related tight clothing to pride and flaunting off a figure wasn't something I wanted to do anymore. I thought humble people cover themselves up.
Something I noticed was how I felt when my husband's mission had different rules than my mission. He wasn't allowed to visit the beach, while I was, but under certain circumstances. I can't remember every rule at the moment, but I remember on my mission when he sent pictures of him doing something that was against my mission, I would get upset, thinking he was being a disobedient missionary. But, in reality, many cases he was doing fine, according to the rules within his own mission.
Living with a non-member not of my faith after getting married was a trial for me since I had never really lived with someone who wasn't really for the church in a huge way. When the topic came up, it became an awkward situation for me and I became frustrated every time since I learned I wasn't allowed to bring anything up without there being a disagreement from both sides. Instead of being on the mission where missionaries can leave or 'drop' someone when the person wasn't progressing, or who really was bashing the church, I had to make the transition knowing that I couldn't leave and I had to live with someone who was really against the religion. I grew up in an LDS home, so this was certainly new to me for me to overcome.
Going Back to Work
When I went back to work for the first time since being home, I really felt like I was in an apostate environment. Working in automotive, there was plenty of swearing, tattoos, vulgar language, and being belittled because I was a woman working in an automotive shop. When a male customer came in and laid down the f-word too many times, I felt like I was an air filter and I felt like the bad particles in the air were sticking to me. I had to walk out, and I decided to clean. I felt so degraded because of how much nasty talk there was occasionally around me. It was also awkward with such immodesty and how some of the guys, who were also married, would get together and peek around the corner to look at some of the immodest ladies.
I also worked in a Sandwich shop for a little while, and the music wasn't to my taste, I was working with people who didn't live the gospel to many degrees, and I felt out of place, more than before when I was working for the same company four years earlier. In my mind, I just wanted to preach the gospel to hear the good news, that God lives, and that there is a way to find true joy in this life. Because of work policies, I couldn't just sit and preach but I could say a little here and there if the person wanted to hear what I had to say.
6 Months to a YearI slowly started to play a few games, but I didn't want to play any shooting or violent games. I was also more for using Vid Angel and I didn't want anything vulgar entering in my life, especially that was promiscuous or degrading. I was at a point I didn't even want to hear sarcasm, or anyone call anyone names. I still called my previous companions or the people from my mission by their Missionary titles, such as "Elder," "Sister," "Brother," or "President." It felt so weird to call them by their first names because sometimes their first names were discovered later after knowing them; sometimes even after the mission. When someone talked about one of the Elders by their first names, someone would ask who that was, and then they would say, "Elder so-and-so." and then we would understand. Another thing about still calling the missionaries 'Elder' or 'Sister' after the mission is also a sign of respect, and it's actually normal for returned missionaries for them to continue to say their titles. Our mission President will continue to still be called 'President' after the mission. This is how we know these people by. It's normal for many returned missionaries if you ask them. It takes awhile to call them by their first name.
When it comes to a year, I feel like the mission experiences are still fresh on my mind. I didn't want to lose anything. I still felt like I wanted people to know I was a returned missionary because I thought people would treat me differently if they knew that. Many people in the church still assume that the males went to serve a mission, and when I'm with my husband, many don't ask me or assume I did because it's not a requirement for women to go on missions.
I still want to keep myself in check with many of the things I've learned on my mission, such as my scriptures, prayer, going to church, going to the Temple, and keeping the covenants I've made with Heavenly Father. I'm annoyed with myself sometimes when I don't get to my scriptures right away, or can instantly see the difference when I don't read in the morning.
Some Pains DiscoveredSince I've been home from a mission, I feel like I am a better person than I was before serving a mission. I feel closer to God and my Savior, I feel like I can form stronger relationships with other people, and I feel like the mission has helped me to grow to become a better person. Before I was a missionary, I would look to returned missionaries and think they are these perfect beings with sharp testimonies of the gospel and that they couldn't fall. When I dated a few, I realized they still had weaknesses but they had a strong knowledge of the gospel. I expected returned male missionaries to keep the Law of Chastity, to live up to their covenants, to be better than they were before, and I thought they would continually hold the Priesthood. I thought they would be more outgoing and not afraid to talk to people. They had a glow about them I couldn't describe, other than I thought they were more pure. After being home and keeping in contact with some other returned missionaries, especially some that I've served with, I have realized that there is more to the story than meets the eye of what it's like to be a returned missionary.
Here are some things I have found out, first-hand after serving my own mission:
While I do agree that Returned Missionaries should be held to higher standards, something I disagree with would be how people respond and treat returned missionaries after they see some kind of flaw in them. "Returned missionaries should be the LEAST judgmental people in the world." Or some are expecting returned-missionaries to never say anything mean, aggressive, or to pretty much ever fall away from the church. Some will assume that returned missionaries have it easier, or that they will be the most Christ-like people in the world. Some expect them to have certain mannerisms. Many people may think that when a missionary serves a mission, they become this perfect being and suitor for finding a spouse. In reality, returned missionaries have trials and challenges, just like everyone else. Everyone's timeline is different, and some will not get married right away - which is normal. Having the gospel helps to get through the hardship, but sometimes the Lord will give returned missionaries a 'tug' and for them to know where they're at spiritually in their life. Even after returning from a mission, the Lord still needs to polish them up with trials and tribulations, which will help them become who He wants them to be. If all returned missionaries were perfect, they would be translated instantly.
1. Many People Hold Returned Missionaries On A Pedestal And They Expect More From Them
2. Many Think Returned Missionaries are Exempt from Satan
3. "Returned Missionaries Should Be [insert a word to represent perfection of a Certain Quality]"
Luckily my main issue I have after my mission is how I speak my thoughts and how sometimes I'm not afraid of people to hear them. I cannot choose how people feel, or control if people get offended.
4. It's Easier to Point Out How Much a Member Knows About the Gospel By How They Share It
I can't completely describe it. I can now see how a person understands the gospel, based on how they talk about it. Before my mission, I didn't think twice but after studying out of Preach My Gospel, the Scriptures, True to the Faith, and other church material, I can point out where someone is struggling in their testimony. I can sense when someone hasn't read their scriptures for the day, I can sense what part of the gospel they don't understand, based on what I have studied wholeheartedly. And it's not like I'm trying to be this rude person that wants to correct people all the time - it's just this natural ability I've learned and it helps me to know where people are at in their lives.