Understanding Later-Day Saint missionary re-acculturation

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Southern New Hampshire University
When a sojourner travels to a new place they often acculturate to their new surroundings and the host culture in which they are living. There is also a readjustment when that same sojourner returns home, changed by their recent experiences and acculturation as they seek a return to the familiar and their home culture. The term used to describe this adaptation to a new culture is acculturation. Acculturation often entails a loss of the familiar as well as a loss of personal history and a sense of belonging. Re-acculturation can be defined as the readjustment or transition to one’s home culture after living abroad. Acculturation and re-acculturation reflect many of the same elements of adjustment and re-adjustment. Volunteer religious missionaries become sojourners as they experience living in new and diverse circumstances away from their home culture and again as they return home and experience re-adjustment. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their re-acculturation after completing a voluntary religious mission. The individual missionaries’ lived experience of transition and re-acculturation were at the center of this research. The researcher used interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) as the qualitative approach for this study. Interpretive phenomenological analysis provided the framework through which the researcher obtained a detailed examination of the personal lived experiences of 10 returned Latter-day Saint missionaries. An analysis of findings indicated a lack of connection and need for connection, a progression of learning, growth and shift in identity, as well as an iterative process of perspective taking, meaning making, application and integration. In addition, a model that reflects the collective illustration of these finding was created and included to further illustrate the discussion. (Author abstract)