by Shawn Tucker:
You are excited and happy to be home. Here are some ideas that might help you give the best homecoming talk possible:
Tip #1: What We Really Want Are Your Stories
As we watch you get up to the podium, all we really want are your stories. In fact, the bulk of your talk should be you telling three mission stories. You and everyone who served a mission will know that stories are creations, narratives that have been condensed for a particular audience and purpose. They are true (or they should be true), but the real events are always more complex than any one story can convey. That is okay. Formulate and give us as clearly and honestly as possible three important stories from your mission experience.
Tip #2: Use a Simple Framework
Since you cannot just tell three stories, have a framework or over-arching theme to connect them. It could be the joy of service or how the Lord blesses our best efforts or whatnot, but have some overarching idea that links the stories together. Introduce that theme at the outset, return to it very briefly between stories, and tie all of the stories together at the end with that theme.
Tip #3: Include Scriptures Where Helpful
When you introduce your framework or over-arching theme, between stories, or in your conclusion, include scriptures that support and advance your ideas. I would suggest no more than three scriptures.
Tip #4: Be You
We are glad to see you. We love you. We are glad that you have changed and grown. Simply being you is enough. Also, you are very, very excited about missionary work. That is great. Honestly, we will smile in agreement when you tell us to study Preach My Gospel every day, but there is no way we are going to actually do that. So, if you really want us to do missionary work, just talk about the joy you felt and allow the Spirit to work on us. I say that to say this—you are becoming an adult now, so you need to know that we are all doing our best and some of us have deep, painful struggles that you don't see. When you left, you may have imagined all of us as happily on the gospel escalator taking us to heaven. By now you should know that there is no such escalator, or that the escalator is broken and everyone has to take the stairs. Many find those stairs almost impossibly steep and frightening. You need to know that there is pain in every pew. The value of knowing that is that now when you speak you can rest assured that you don’t need to tell us to do anything. We are adult children of Heavenly Parents, and your job is not to attempt to correct or counsel us. Your job is to be who you are--some who is full of joy and love and enthusiasm. That is enough for us; who you are lifts us. So just be you and share who you are.
Tip #5: Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Struggles, but Don't Dwell on Them Exclusively
All of you inspires us, including the struggling you. Don’t be afraid of that part of you, but also don't dwell exclusively it. When you talk about finding out that the escalator is broken and you've had the take the stairs, we connect with that. But don't leave us at the bottom of the stairs. Strike a good balance between talking about struggling up and talking about reaching the top.
Tip #6: Tape It
You've got a phone that can record your voice. Or someone has one. Tape it. Save it for the future, for when you want to remember what it is like to feel full of faith and hope or for when you are 45 and want to reflect upon how much you've grown and/or laugh at yourself.
Tip #7: Enjoy It
Feel the rush of adrenaline as you get up there. Feel the increased heart rate. Look out at the people who love you and who you love. Take in that moment, because, you're a Mormon, we have a lay ministry, and you will be doing that stuff the rest of your life, but this one is still kinda special.
Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.
Image credit: LDS Newsroom (used with permission).