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Acceptance for those who return early


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“We need to be tolerant,” said Richard Pieper, bishop of the BYU-Idaho Young Single Adult 6th Ward. “Even in medical-related circumstances, we never know the whole story. It takes an immense amount of courage for missionaries to come home.”

Bruce Cook, a former BYU-I student ward bishop, and his wife, Wendy Cook, are long-time Rexburg residents who have had close friends — people they grew with — come home early from missions. They have witnessed firsthand how a focus on true principles like repentance and forgiveness can change what the experience means to a young man or woman.

“The Atonement is real,” Wendy Cook said. “The tendency to cling onto past sins and not let them go — that’s a mortal weakness, one we have to learn to let go of for ourselves as well as others.”

The biblical account of a woman caught in adultery taught Bruce Cook a valuable lesson about how Christ handled a situation in which someone didn’t measure to her society’s norms.

“Jesus protected that woman,” he said. “He didn’t condemn her or shame her. He sent her accusers away and told her, ‘Go your way, and sin no more.’ In other words, let go. Move on. Get back to normal. Repent, and don’t ever go back. My friend who came home early — he’s now a bishop.”

Asplund said he understands that, because people are human, he understands that they naturally don’t comprehend what others are going through. But with his understanding comes a caveat.

“No matter what, whether you come home honorably or dishonorably, I feel like everyone is human,” Asplund said. “When [missionaries] come home, they deserved to be welcomed with open, loving arms.”

Robert Douglas (name has been changed), a former BYU-I student, said coming home after only four months was embarrassing, but that in the end, how he would react was his choice.

“I keep telling myself there’s a reason for all of it,” Douglas said. “No matter what happens in life, you can be completely miserable, or you can choose to be OK. I want to figure all this out and move on.”

Bruce Cook said the focus for everyone who comes back from a mission should be the same.

“Missions are so important,” he said. “They’re what we raise our [children] to do. But I’ve come to realize that the temple is the culminating experience. That’s where we make our covenants. It’s how we keep our promises. It’s where our families are sealed.”

The apostle Paul offered ancient validation for the Cooks’ modern perspectives in a letter to the Phillipians.

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” Paul wrote. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

In a January 2009 BYU devotional address, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said when the Savior warned his apostles to “remember Lot’s wife,” it was an admonition to all of us to resist dwelling in the past and cling to the belief that people — and circumstances — can and do change.

“When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal,” Holland said.

Kienholz said his relationship with the Savior is what has defined his life since he came home.

“You can’t keep dwelling on mistakes, and that’s where I needed Him,” Kienholz said. “I fall short every day, but He taught me that it really doesn’t matter what other people think. The only One I’m trying to impress is Him.”



'Acceptance for those who return early' have 4 comments

  1. October 8, 2013 @ 2:00 pm Doug Collins

    VERY important article. Kudos to you for doing a great job of covering an issue people generally don’t like to talk about. I believe that the culture at BYUI can be drastically improved, and it’s articles like this that help that goal be realized.

    Reply

  2. October 8, 2013 @ 3:06 pm Ryan Rasmussen

    Great Article.

    Reply

  3. October 8, 2013 @ 5:05 pm Nate Sunderland

    Good article on a real problem in LDS culture!
    (I’m not sure I would have used the Apostle Paul as a source in a newspaper article, but kudos on tackling something of a taboo topic.)
    There are very many good men and women who suffer because of the stigma attached to missionaries returning early.
    Thanks.

    Reply

  4. October 8, 2013 @ 6:21 pm anazagarus

    Missionary work is a priesthood responsibility. An important part of the unity we share is sharing this burden. Missions are hard, unpleasant, and challenging. Most of the time going home would be easier. We can never know the circumstances, or what is in a person’s heart, so it is crucial that we don’t judge individuals. However, when someone doesn’t prepare enough for missionary service, and leaves unworthily, when someone allows worries and homesickness to overwhelm them, when someone chooses to abandon their mission, they don’t deserve the same respect as returned missionaries because they haven’t earned the same respect as returned missionaries. We just can’t assume that everyone who comes home early fits into that category.

    Reply


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