The Need for Structure

Part 3 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series.


Need for structure.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Once they have had a few days to relax, they will probably start to want some structure. Parents can help by listening, asking about lessons learned from the mission, and encouraging goals and plans. This is the time to get a non-missionary calendar/planner and start setting some goals again. They can and should schedule time to relax, have fun, think, socialize, work out, and read a good book, as well as time to pursue goals, look for work, help at home, and start schooling. Your role now switches from manager to consultant, from resource provider to resource broker, from steward to loving friend. Good questions to ask your returned missionary: What do you think? What are your options? How can I help? Would you be interested in…? Could you…?

Encourage your missionaries to think about a vision for themselves, to create specific goals, to focus in on doable actions, and to structure time to follow up with themselves at regular intervals. Focus on the five aspects of transition and well-being: emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual.


What do I think?

A missionaries life in many ways is very unbalanced. I mean that in a positive way, not negative. The bulk of the structure has been focused on their spiritual preparation; what a great way to establish spiritual habits for the future. However, now is the time to assist them to recalibrate that structure by balancing out the emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual aspects of their life. 

As suggested by my husband in the previous post, all too often that balance is tipped completely the other way on their return. Missionaries end up foregoing all that has been learned on their mission and focus is placed on everything but the spiritual; tipping the balance completely the other way. Precious lessons learnt on their mission can be lost.

Assisting the missionary to find good balance through structure will allow them to discover well-being, as well as continuing to live the higher law they lived on their mission. For this to happen it may be a wise decision, before the missionary comes home, to discuss as a family how the home environment can assist to foster a balanced structure. Is the family praying together daily? Do the family study the scriptures together daily? Is the family setting goals? Does each member of the family have a responsibility that assists in the smooth running of it? Offering a spirit led home life with structure could counterweight that extreme tip the other way.


1. What kind of structure do you have in the home that will assist each individual to maintain balance?

2. What can we do as parents to assist our returning missionary to maintain a form of structure and continue in the path that their mission taught them?

3. What can we as members of the Ward do to assist returning missionaries to maintain their focus and add structure to their lives?

4. For those parents who have had a missionary return home, how difficult has it been to switch roles from being a manager to being a consultant?

**Part 4 will explore ‘Big Goals, Little Steps’

In memory of my life…a vision of the future

Not long ago I went on an overnight sailing trip with several of the Young Women in my ward. We moored overnight in a small cove within one of the many beautiful islands surrounding Auckland Harbour.

In the morning we decided to explore the tiny island that had been our shelter for the night. As we climbed to the highest point we noticed a single row of white headstones. Their etched inscriptions facing toward their destinination, but not quite making it. Each of them told a story of tragic circumstance, of lives cut short, and reminded us of our brief mortal presence here on earth.

As we gathered around to enjoy the view I asked each of the girls to tell me about the vision they had for their future. Tho’ there were many of them who had not yet formulated a full vision of where they wanted to be in the next 10 years, it was a reminder to me of how important it is for each of us to understand the plan that the Lord has for us.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, in the 2012 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference suggested that, “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us”.

I remember contemplating this very thing over 30 years ago when a tiny seed of an idea was formulating in my mind. I was 20 yrs. old, had just arrived back in Australia after spending almost a year in the UK with my parents, and wondered where my life was to take me from  that point. I had the world at my feet as a 20 yr. old, but I just couldn’t get a grip on what I needed to do.

I had never contemplated the idea that I could, or would, serve a mission. Indeed, as a child the idea never entered my mind, and certainly as a teenager it was the last thing I would have addressed. But at 20, it began as a tiny seed of enquiry.

This was the first time I considered the scripture that Elder Haleck read out recently in conference, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 21:18). It was also the first time in my life I considered my future with the realisation that I could actually really mess things up if I didn’t have some kind of vision of what the Lord wanted me to do with it.

My journey of enquiry took me to many places that year. In my mind and heart I considered  many options, and in the end I turned to my patriarchal blessing for some answers. I began to create a vision in my mind as to what my purpose was, and what the Lord would have me do.

Tho’ I couldn’t predict my future, there were certain truths that I couldn’t deny.

  1. This life is so short, and we don’t have time to indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.
  2. The choices we make now will have a lasting effect, not only on us, but upon the lives of others.
  3. The Lord knows us even better than we know ourselves.
  4. To act on vision we must apply faith.

This journey of self discovery took me to places that allowed me to glimpse the possibilities. It was that year that I truly understood the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. I discovered that I could obtain a vision of my future, and that vision would allow me to prosper.

But, even more importantly, that vision allowed me to prepare for the day when I could fulfill things I thought I could never do. Through missionary service I was able to sew the seed of faith and vision in the lives of many individuals and families. Through my life as a mother, I am far better prepared to sew the seeds of faith and vision in the lives of my children.

Unlike those tiny headstones that were perched on the top of that island – in sight of the city of their destination, but cut short by tragedy – I prepared myself for the journey of life. In choosing to serve a mission I know that I was fulfilling a purpose that the Lord had set out for me. From that point on it didn’t matter how long or short my life would be on this earth, my path was set and it would lead me in the direction that the Lord wanted me to take.

I know that I will arrive at my destination no matter what this mortal existence involves, as long as I maintain that vision and exercise faith.

Mormons in Australia

From MMM I would like to wish each of you a happy Easter, and hope that you can take time over this weekend to ponder on the significance of events that took place over 2,000 years ago. I am so grateful for the sacrifice of our Saviour, who has allowed us the opportunity to live again.

I have  included a video here on the 2012 World Report on ‘Mormonism in Australia’. So if you have some time please have a look at it. Missionary work here in Australia has come a long way, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Some of those people highlighted on this video are personal friends, and my families associations with them have extended back to well before my childhood.

Thanks for visiting…and I look forward to reading your comments.