A few years ago, when my youngest brother Michael was about to enter to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, I was talking to him about life there and 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. This article is based on my MTC experience, which was in 1995 and was a wonderful time, as well as a New Era magazine article called The MTC Experience, and other things I learned over the years as I’ve talked to people and read things in the news like this video on the MTC experience made by KSL TV. If you feel there are things I have left out or need to change, please let me know through the comments below.
What is the Missionary Training Center (MTC)?
The MTC is where missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go to get trained on how to be a missionary. There, new missionaries are trained in Church doctrine, best practices for missionary work, and also taught a foreign language of they have been called to a place that doesn’t speak their native language. As of 2016, there were 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.
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.
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.
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.
Spiritual Growth at the MTC
The most important aspect of the MTC is the spiritual growth most missionaries experience while there. The Church wants to help missionaries develop strong testimonies of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which will lead to conversion, and strength to overcome challenges in the mission field and throughout life. For me, I loved the MTC and the opportunity it afforded me to study the gospel in greater depth, and to understand more fully God’s plan for all of His children. By the end of my stay at the MTC, my testimony had been augmented, my determination to serve God faithfully had increased, and the way I lived my life had been modified for a greater good. Again, you can read more about my personal MTC experience here.
As you get close to the time you’ll be entering the MTC, you may want to check out a website BYU hosts for the Provo Utah MTC, which includes an MTC Virtual Tour and and MTC FAQs page to answer additional questions.