Missionaries spend from two weeks to three months in an MTC learning how to be a missionary. Many have also taken missionary preparation classes, or served mini-missions to help them prepare for their new life in the field.
Returning missionaries preparing for their new life at home receive a half-sheet of counsel that says, in essence, â€œbe good and good luck.â€
These are some of the decisions that await them: how to earn a living, where to go to school, what to major in, whom to marry, making new friends, choosing a career, balancing competing priorities, reintegrating with their family, staying active in the Church, building a meaningful life. Old friends have moved on. It is hard to find the same sense of meaning and purpose driving a pizza truck as they found bringing souls to Christ. Getting up at 6:30 and studying scriptures 2 hours a day donâ€™t exactly fit into the routines of most college campuses.
Yeah, good luck with that.
How about another type of MTC â€“ a Mission Transition Center â€“ an MTC-Part 2. Seems like a no-brainer for singles wards and Utah stakes with a lot of returning missionaries. What would it include?
How about normalizing the culture shock of returning to affluent but imperfect families, a ward that doesnâ€™t do much missionary work, and a personal identity that is worthwhile even if it can no longer be centered exclusively on serving others.
Maybe talk about the importance of goals, structure, routines, and exercise in staving off depression and building a new life.
Maybe talk about not jumping into marriage to avoid the suspense of wondering if anyone will have you. Or not postponing marriage to avoid the anxiety of making a commitment you canâ€™t easily undo to someone who surely is not as terrific as the person just around the corner.
Maybe teach some skills of true emotional closeness with others so the false intimacy of pornography is less enticing.
Remind them to take the best teachers they can find, no matter what the subject, because they can help us find what we love.
Talk about the spirituality of mature adulthood that is more about balance than when you get up in the morning, more about knowing God than knowing the discussions, more about living the gospel in the messiness of everyday life than eliminating all distractions to focus on the gospel.
Remind them that to remain active in church they will need a friend, a meaningful assignment, and to be nurtured by the good word of God â€“ the things President Hinckley said every new convert needs. Only nobody is sitting around in a PEC making sure the new RM has those things â€“ we have to get them for ourselves.
An MTC-Part 2 would still be little more than a gesture toward helping returning missionaries adjust to their post-mission life. But at least maybe they wouldnâ€™t feel so alone with this big adjustment. They could begin to understand that their mission is not over â€“ it is only beginning. In fact, a mission is really the MTC for the rest of their lives.