Monday, March 21, 2011

Inside The Provo LDS Missionary Training Center: History, Development, And Training Process

On February 24th, 2011, KSL Channel 5 offered the public a glimpse inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Missionary Training Center in Provo on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. The Provo MTC is one of 15 MTCs scattered around the world, although two-thirds of all missionaries receive their training at the Provo facility, which can accommodate up to 4,000 missionaries at any one time.

Video Courtesy of

On March 20th, 2011, the Deseret News has offered far more than a mere "glimpse"; they've published a full-blown expose encompassing several stories, all of which are of interest. Here are the links to the stories:

-- "Mormon church's Provo MTC: Exclusive look of the largest missionary training facility in the world" (Part 1), Sunday March 20th
-- "A look at Mormon missionary training process", Sunday March 20th. This features an interview with Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
-- "The Missionary Training Center: a timeline", Sunday March 20th.
-- "The development of the Language Training Mission (LTM)", Sunday March 20th. A series of photos with brief explanations.
-- "The development of the Missionary Training Center (MTC)", Sunday March 20th. A series of photos with brief explanations.
-- "Inside the Missionary Training Center — Arrival day for missionaries means quick goodbyes, and hello to brand new world", Monday March 21st
-- "Inside the Missionary Training Center: It takes a village to run what amounts to a small city", Monday March 21st.
-- "Photos of a devotional held at the Missionary Training Center", Tuesday March 22nd. A series of 12 photos.
-- "Mormon church operates 14 missionary training centers around the world", Tuesday March 22nd
-- "The 14 international Missionary Training Centers (MTCs)", Tuesday March 22nd. Slideshow.
-- "Select group of missionaries serving online", Tuesday March 22nd.

Highlights of some of the stories posted after the jump.

Highlights: Far too monumental of a task to cover in fulness here, I'll focus on some of the more interesting highlights of these stories. With a current missionary force of 53,660 volunteering 18 months to two years of their lives to spread the good word worldwide, the MTC is in its ninth decade of formal missionary training and celebrating its golden anniversary of centralized language instruction. And it is taking its missionary training across the globe and into the future, coupling a 10-year expansion project and technological advances at its flagship Provo MTC with 14 satellite facilities in as many countries.

Duration: MTC training ranges from three weeks for those not needing language training to nine weeks for most languages, and up to 12 weeks for tougher languages such as Russian, Finnish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese, four of which also require learning different alphabets. A total of 52 different languages are taught.

The key to successful language training within a short period of time: Full immersion -- not only inside the classroom, but on personal time as well. Key components include the 30-room Training Resource Center (TRC), the TE program (Teaching Evaluation) and the TALL (Technology Assisted Language Learning) computerized instruction system. Missionaries are videotaped in teaching and contacting situations with volunteers role-playing as church investigators and nonmembers. The tape sessions are reviewed and evaluated on language, cultural appropriateness and teaching methodology. Elder Russell Homer of Holladay explained, "What really makes or breaks you in learning a language is your personal time".

Daily Routine: Up by 6:30 a.m. Breakfast is followed by an hour each of personal and companionship study and then more studying, planning and learning until lunch. Class work continues until dinner and again afterward, with next-day planning at 9 p.m., a return to their dorm residences at 9:30 and lights out at 10:30. Missionaries are afforded a 50-minute exercise/recreation period five days a week in the gymnasium/auditorium or — when it's warmer — on a large nearby field.

Other schedule amendments include worship meetings and firesides on Sundays, Tuesday evening devotionals with an LDS General Authority and 75 minutes of weekly service — from cleaning to grounds work, and a weekly preparation day or "P Day." On P Day, missionaries do laundry, write home (30 minutes online access to email parents, with handwritten letters to other family and friends) and attend a temple session. But after dinner, it's back to class, where missionaries generally spend nine to 10 hours daily in lessons, workshops, training exercises and practice in developing language and teaching skills.

How missionaries are called: The prospective missionary initiates the request. When successfully vetted by the bishop and the stake president, the candidate's name and application is forwarded to Salt Lake. In short, the applications now almost all come in electronically via the internet to the Missionary Department, and they send just the medical piece to the doctors. They don't see anything else other than the medical information. They let the leadership know whether they have any medical concerns that could restrict where the missionary might serve in the world. So that's the first thing. When all of that is lined up, the application goes over to a member of the [Quorum of the] Twelve, where the assignments are ultimately made.

Every Friday morning, a member of the Twelve sits in a relatively small room in the Church Administration Building to make assignments. The Missionary Department sends a staff person over with the database of all missionaries who are prepared to be called and they make the assignment. And the member of the Twelve makes them individually, one by one, based on very sparse information that we show them on a computer screen as to their health, any language training they've had perhaps in high school and that's about it. Elder Richard Hinckley affirms that it's a process of inspiration. Every single name and picture is read and looked at and thought about and the assignment is made on an individual basis; the computer does not make assignments.

Facility Expansion: The Provo MTC is in the midst of a current 10-year expansion and renovation project. The current construction focus is a three-story, 40,000-square-foot building to house mail services, clothing assistance, medical and clinical services, a book store, a copy center, a maintenance shop and a receiving center. It will also provide additional office space and residence rooms for 30-plus senior couples. It is scheduled for completion and dedication in ceremonies later this year that will double as a 50th anniversary commemoration of the old Missionary Language Institute.

Elder Richard Hinckley's message to prospective missionaries: The message he would give them is that they can do this, to set their fears aside and develop their faith and to realize that they're going into the world to do something the Lord has asked them to do and they can do it — with his help, they can do it. They can succeed and they will succeed.

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