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Introducing Guest Author: Heather

Hello!  I’m Heather, wife of Jimmy, the founder of this website.  From time to time, I’ll be posting as a guest author.

Here’s a little info about me.  I grew up in a small town in Idaho, 5th of 7 children.  I graduated from Ricks (BYU-I) and BYU Provo way back in the 1990’s (my 7-year-old daughter acts like we’re sooooo old-fashioned because we were born in the 1900’s).

I met the love of my life after I graduated from BYU.  We crossed paths at the drinking fountain and were married 8 months later in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple.  We’ve had fun adventures living in Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, and Utah.

I’m mama to 4 cute tots, ages 7, 5, 2, and 6 months.  Our home is a little crazy with energetic kids (especially those 3 boys!!!), but we are constantly striving to teach them that happiness comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We’re all a work in progress – especially me!

I love hiking in the mountains, playing the piano, reading a good book, eating dark chocolate, and being with my family. I  love my beautiful, ordinary life!

The MTC – Missionary Training Center

mtc provoLast week we sent my youngest brother Michael to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, who is on his way to Warsaw, Poland for his mission.  In the days before entering the MTC, in talking with Michael, I realized he didn’t know what to expect once he arrived at the MTC.  So I thought some information about what to expect at the MTC would make a good blog post.  My MTC experience, which I will tell you about below, was nearly 15 years ago, so I thought I would turn first to a New Era magazine article called The MTC Experience.

The MTC is where missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go to get doctrinal and language training at the beginning of their missionary service.  There are 17 MTCs located in nations throughout the world including Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, and the flagship MTC is located in Provo, Utah, USA, adjacent to the campus of Brigham Young University. Missionaries not learning a language usually spend 3 weeks in the MTC, while those learning a foreign language will generally spend 9 to 12 weeks at the MTC. The MTC is a crucial part of getting missionaries prepared to serve, but it was not always so.

1897_Temple_SquareHistory of the MTC

In the early 1900s, new missionaries would report to the Mission Home in Salt Lake City, a small building adjacent to Temple Square.  Missionaries would stay there just a day or two before leaving to their assigned areas.  During the early 1900s, the typical English-speaking missionary would arrive on a Saturday and leave the following Wednesday.  Those foreign serving missionaries frequently had to wait longer for visas and would often serve temporarily as tour guides on Temple Square or do clerical tasks at the LDS Church headquarters.

In November 1961, missionaries started heading a few miles south, to Brigham Young University, at the beginning of their mission for some language training.  Soon, a new LDS mission, the Language Training Mission (LTM), was created, with the geographic extent of the mission to be the perimeter of the buildings in Provo, Utah. These buildings included dormitories as well as classrooms for the missionaries.

As the Church and the number of missionaries continued to grow in the 1970s, the church acquired some nearby land near the BYU Provo campus, built dormitories, a gymnasium, and other buildings. The name of the LTM was changed to the Missionary Training Center in 1978, to note that it was for more than just language training.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, other MTCs popped up in other parts of the world.  In 1998, all North American missionaries called to Brazil were sent to the Brazil MTC in São Paulo for the second month of their training.  Although the integrated MTC program was originally thought of as a solution to overcrowding at the MTC in Provo, it has also proven successful in better training missionaries and revolutionized the MTC experience. Now, I believe, many Americans called to serve abroad are instructed to report directly to the MTC in that country.

missionaries and provo templeLife at the MTC

Life inside the MTC is definitely different than life outside, but it is great. There’s so much to learn in just a few weeks at the MTC:

  • Gospel doctrines
  • How to develop Christ-like attributes
  • How to teach by the Spirit
  • Communication skills
  • A foreign language (for some)
  • The mission rules

You will be assigned a companion, put in a district with three or four other companionships.  Your companion and district will be with you throughout your training and you will become great friends.  Every day you will go to classes, on the gospel of Jesus Christ and on your language, with your district, and several times a week you will be able to go together to play sports in the gymnasium.  Once a week you’ll go to the temple, Sundays will be filled with Church meetings, and once a week you have a devotional by a General Authority. You’ll have weekly service opportunities on the MTC campus (‘celestial service,’ as they called it, cleaning toilets, mopping floors, etc.).

If you’ll recall my previous post, Work Hard, Obey, and Love Others, it was at the MTC that a teacher of mine made that challenge that affected my whole mission.

mtc-lifeMTC Services

In a lot of ways, the MTC is a virtual city with all the services you will need as a missionary.  Here’s a run down:

  • Cafeteria—Three meals a day are served. When missionaries have a scheduling conflict, they can pack a sack lunch instead of eating in the cafeteria.
  • Laundry—Washers and dryers are available. Missionaries must purchase their own detergent from vending machines or the bookstore.
  • Bookstore—The bookstore is stocked with learning materials, book bags, plus everyday items such as toiletries, white shirts, or treats.
  • Dry cleaning—Rates are reasonable. There is a trend for missionaries to gain weight while at the MTC, so suit alterations are also available for a fee.
  • Barbershop—Elders are entitled to one or two haircuts depending on their length of stay at the MTC. Sister missionaries are not offered haircuts, although a beautician is available for paid appointments.
  • Copy center—Services such as copying, laminating, or binding are available here.
  • Sheets and pillowcases—All bed linens are provided. Exchange for clean linen can be made weekly.
  • Mail—Letters are delivered to mailboxes, and packages can be picked up at an adjoining window. The MTC will not accept hand deliveries, so you must send packages through the post office or private carriers.
  • Banking services—The office has capabilities to cash checks and sell travelers’ checks.
  • Medical services—The health center is adjacent to the MTC. Immunizations are available. Health needs can be treated. Also, doctors are on call for emergencies.

BYU hosts a Web site for the Provo Utah MTC. Visit the site for an MTC Virtual Tour and, to get answers to additions questions, see their MTC FAQs page.

My MTC Experience

I entered the Provo, Utah MTC in October 1995 on my way to serving in Rosario, Argentina.  I was in one of the first trial programs of Technology Aided Language Learning (TALL), which I now believe is part of all missionaries’ curriculum.  I loved the MTC from the very beginning; everyone was so nice and the spiritual growth I experienced was phenomenal.

I was in the MTC just after I completed my first year of college at BYU and all the facilities (beds, laundry, cafeteria) was just like in the BYU dorms.  I was amazed at how they just threw us into Spanish, teaching us to pray and contact people in Spanish on our very first full day at the MTC.  A the MTC, in a lot of ways, I felt I had a stress-free life.  I had no worries about what was going on in the outside world, I just studied Spanish and the gospel and felt the Spirit all day, every day.

Pointing map mtc 2Other missionaries I knew, though, had a harder time.  Many missionaries have a hard time learning the language and many have a hard time being spiritual.  If you have largely ignored spiritual things throughout your life, then  going to the MTC can be a difficult transition.  All the more reason to spiritually prepare before your mission.

I had one very spiritual, faith-promoting experience after I had been in the MTC for about a month.  We had a lesson on faith and as I sat there listening, my mind and soul seemed to open up and receive knowledge from heaven.  After the class, one of the other missionaries asked me what I had learned about faith, and as I tried to convey through words what I had felt the Spirit of the Lord poured over me like never before.  The other missionaries and I worth both greatly edified by this experience.

The more I learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I realized how much I didn’t know.  The more I studied the scriptures, the more I wanted to immerse myself in them and learn all that I could.  An hour a day of personal scripture study suddenly didn’t seem like nearly enough.

I came away from the MTC with more gratitude in my heart, more meekness and penitence, a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon, understanding of the importance of obedience to the commandments and to the mission rules, deeper gospel knowledge, a stronger testimony of the Church and of the atonement of Jesus Christ, greater sensitivity to the Spirit, greater trust in the Lord, and joy and happiness that worldly things cannot bring.

At the conclusion of my MTC experience, I wrote in my journal, I knew I had had a life altering experience, even if I never set foot in the mission field.  While that is certainly true, oh how little I realized how much I would learn and grow once I got into the mission field.

Truman Madsen

Truman Madsen I was sad to hear that Truman Madsen passed away last week at 82 years of age and after a long battle with cancer.  Many of you young future missionaries may not even know who Truman Madsen was, so let me tell you a little about him and about the influence he has had on me.

I first learned of Truman Madsen when I was a freshman at BYU and he gave a devotional address.  I had a professor urge us to go listen to the talk, calling him “a general authority without authority.”  I quickly learned that though not a General Authority of the Church, he certainly was an authority on many gospel and Church history topics.  8 lectures on Joseph Smith by Truman Madsen

Truman G. Madsen was a grandson to the seventh president of the Church, Heber J. Grant.  He was a Professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University, and former Director of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem.  He wrote numerous books and released countless recorded talks, and he was one of the editors of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

Some of my favorite lectures by Truman Madsen are:jesus Of Nazareth By Truman Madsen

When I returned from my mission and began again my studies at BYU, I was lucky enough to have Truman G. Madsen as my stake president.  A couple of his teachings that I remember from that time was once, in stake conference, he was giving a talk about moving forward with faith.  He said, to paraphrase, “some day, when you die and are in Heaven, you will realize that you accidentally married the right person.”  presidents Of The Church By Truman Madsen

Though smarter than just about anyone else, Truman Madsen was also humble.  I once met him when he was my stake president and I had requested a meeting to talk about a personal issue.  When I told him the situation, he said he felt unqualified to help, but one of his counselors in the stake presidencies had particular training and skill in that area and he suggested I talk to him instead.

Truman G. Madsen’s love of the gospel and love of learning were contagious and had a profound impact on my life.  He will certainly be missed by me, by the LDS community, and by any who knew him.  A memorial service will be held Tuesday, June 2, at noon, at the Provo Utah Tabernacle. Here are some additional news articles about him from the last couple of days: