Cover image via Gospel Media Library. 

Those of you who are familiar with missionary work know that the first thing a missionary needs before he can teach the gospel is someone to teach.  While most missionaries relish the opportunity to teach, many struggle with the responsibility of finding someone to teach.  Finding someone to teach isn’t always easy.

Finding can occur in many different ways, more ways now than ever in history.  In the past, missionaries relied heavily on knocking doors to find, although the preferred way of finding has always been through member referrals.  The Covid pandemic necessitated finding on social media, a method of finding that has proven extremely successful.

Although there are many different ways to find, they all have one thing in common:  they begin with an initial contact.  That contact may be someone responding to a Facebook post.  The contact may be somebody met on the street.  The contact may be someone that a member brings to church.  All teaching, and subsequently baptizing, begins with a contact.  The importance of contacting in missionary work cannot be over-emphasized.

Missionaries may think that their days of contacting end when they return from their mission.  However, there are several extremely important contacts a missionary will want to make after his mission.  These contacts are not about inviting others to enter the covenant path.  Instead, these contacts help the missionary himself stay on the covenant path.

Contact the Bishop

A returned missionary who plans to attend the same ward he attended when he left on his mission will undoubtedly be on the bishop’s radar.  However, if the returned missionary plans to attend a new ward, it puts a lot of responsibility on him to make contact with the bishop.  This is particularly true if he attends a singles ward.  Singles wards tend to be very transient, some members staying only a semester.  It is very difficult for a bishop, no matter how conscientious, to minister effectively to those who choose to stay aloof.

My husband was the branch president of a singles branch before we served as mission leaders.  Every Sunday after church the foyer was full of members of the branch waiting their turn for an interview with the branch president.  Bret was fully engaged with those who sought him out.  While it was easy to minister to them, especially those who came to church every week, ministering to those who came infrequently was a challenge.

Bishops of a regular ward are instructed to make the youth their number one priority.  The youth need a trusted confidant who can help them stay on or return to the covenant path.  Singles need a trusted confidant every bit as much as the youth.  The challenges a missionary faces after the mission will mirror the challenges he faced before the mission, plus he will face additional challenges he might not anticipate.  A good bishop can help him navigate this tricky transition.

This contact a missionary makes after his mission may not help someone come to the covenant path, as it did when he was a full-time missionary, but it will surely help someone stay on the covenant path and that someone will be the returned missionary.

Contact the Mission Leaders

The only thing I can compare to the love we felt for our missionaries is the love we feel for our own children.  The love a parent feels for a child is practically automatic.  His parents love him from the first time that baby makes an appearance in the world.  A similar thing happens with mission leaders.  There is a bond that is practically instantaneous as soon as a missionary arrives in the mission.  We want the best for our missionaries.  We sacrifice for them.  We mourn with them.  We rejoice with them.  We care about them as if they were our own children.

Returned missionaries can take advantage of this resource if they keep in contact with their mission leaders after the mission. Their mission leaders will help them recall the good feelings they had on the mission.  The mission leaders can help them recall the things they learned on the mission.  The mission leaders help them work through challenges they may be facing upon returning from the mission. The love doesn’t just go way just because the mission ends.  The missionaries are not employees who fade from memory after they find a new job. The missionaries are family, part of an eternal family that cares for and watches out for one another.

Contact a Trusted Companion

In the Mission Leaders Seminar we attended before we left on our mission, we were taught that there is one person in the mission who will have even more influence over a missionary than the mission leaders and that is the missionary’s companion.  A missionary spends 24 hours a day with his companion.  They study together, they work together, they pray together, they teach together and they play together.  Whether they spend one transfer together or several transfers together, missionary companions get to know one another really well.

A faithful missionary companion can be a resource throughout a returned missionary’s life.  They will likely share similar milestones–education, courtship, marriage.  Elder Gary Stevenson has taught us to stand in holy places and stand with holy people.  (October 2023 General Conference) A faithful companion can set an example, be an inspiration, and remind a returned missionary of all the good things that come from selfless service.

My husband, Bret, had several faithful companions when he served as a young missionary in Argentina.  In the 40 years since he served our family has enjoyed spending time with Bret’s companions and their families.  We have been rock climbing, rappelling, mountain biking, and skiing with them.  We have discovered that wholesome recreational activities not only contribute to eternal families, they also define great friendships.=

Stay in Contact with Loving Parents

The relationship between a young adult and his parents changes after he has been away and living on his own for two years.  Whereas he might have looked to his parents for permission and/or advice as a pre-missionary, sometimes returned missionaries feel they have out-grown the need for parental guidance.  Although the returned missionary has two years of experience under his belt, and he certainly will have matured, it doesn’t negate the need for parental influence.  Parents also grow during the two years the missionary serves.  In addition, they have a lifetime of experiences to share with their child.  As much as a bishop or a mission leader loves the missionary, nothing compares to parental love.  Parents are still motivated to do what’s best for their children, no matter their age.

The purpose of contacting during a mission is to help others come unto Christ.  The purpose of contacting after the mission is to maintain that covenant relationship with Christ.  The tasks are equally important.  The missionary’s salvation matters every bit as much as that of his converts.

JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of four books on family relationships.  She and her husband served as mission leaders in the Dominican Republic from 2017-2000.  For more information go to