Finding Meaning

Part 8 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’

We all want meaning and purpose in our life. Never more so than on the return from a mission. Finding meaning, as the returned missionary shifts from a highly structured life of selfless service to a lifestyle that is often seen as selfish, could prove problematic.


From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Finding meaning. It is often difficult for returning missionaries to find work or activities with anything close to the meaning and purpose that being a missionary had. Driving a pizza truck or struggling through chemistry just may not feel as eternally significant as preaching the gospel and saving souls. Also, it may feel selfish and unnatural to spend so much time thinking about their own life and goals when they are used to spending most of their time thinking about others. Help them find ways to keep their work, school, social, and personal goals connected to their larger spiritual goals and purposes. Encourage them to remember the big picture, find new ways to serve, and make time to nurture themselves in the good word of God through scripture study, good books, church classes, and prayer. But also help them conceptualize spirituality as less defined by strict obedience to a set of outward rules (appropriate in the mission field) and more defined by balance, prioritizing, building a community, and infusing spirituality into the messy business of work, school, dating, roommates, families, and singles wards.


What do I think?

From a temporal point of view this is one of the things I worry the most about for my returning missionary. In a country that is still trying to get back on its feet economically after the GFC, I worry that my returning missionary will not be able to find employment before she starts school next March. Without some kind of meaningful activity for her to absorb her time, it could cause her to question her value, or at least, lose sight of the bigger picture. Add to the mix her possible reluctance to be in the world again, I think this is going to be something she may struggle with…but I could be wrong.

Of course, as Dave and Wendy point out, this is a time for the returning missionary to define their new life by balance, prioritizing, building community and infusing spirituality. As the scriptures state,

“Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.” D&C 29:34

I think it is very wise advice from Dave and Wendy, that as parents we need to be able to continually encourage them to view their life in the bigger picture, giving them a vision of the spiritual nature of those temporal things they will now be involved in.


1. What are some ways that we as parents can help our returned missionary see the spiritual nature of their temporal lives?

2. Do you agree with Dave and Wendy that the returned missionary should avoid living their life according to the strict guidelines of a mission?

Next week, this series will conclude with a discussion on ‘Getting Help’.


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