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. If you continue reading this article, I will discuss what the MTC is, a little of its history, and what life is like for missionaries at the MTC. You may also want to check out these other articles about the MTC:
- My personal MTC experience in the fall of 1995
- A New Era magazine article called The MTC Experience
- A video on the MTC experience made by KSL TV in 2011
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, 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), and the mission rules.
- Companions and Districts: You will be assigned a companion and 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.
- Daily Classes: Every day you will go to classes with your district. The classes will be on several topics–some on the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, some on teaching skills, and some on your language.
- Daily Exercise: The missionary schedule provides time for daily exercise. When I was in the MTC, that meant being given gym time on some days on other days doing push-ups in the dorm rooms. Now I believe missionaries may be given daily time to go together to play sports or workout in the gymnasium.
- Church and Temple Attendance: Once a week you’ll go to the temple to do an endowment session. The Provo MTC is across the street from the Provo Temple and I believe most MTCs are located by temples. On Sundays you will go to church in an MTC branch and it will be filled with other typical Church meetings and firesides.
- Other Weekly Items: Once a week, I believe on Tuesday night, you will 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.). Missionaries in the MTC have a preparation day (p-day) like all other missionaries in which they can write letters or emails home, do laundry, and take care of other things.
Sample Daily Schedule at the MTC
- 6:30 a.m. – Arise and prepare: wake up and get dressed
- 7:00 a.m. – Breakfast in the cafeteria
- 7:35 a.m. – Exercise / Gym Time
- 8:15 a.m. – Prepare for the day: shower and change
- 9:00 a.m. – Classroom instruction (studying the missionary discussions, teaching techniques, and foreign language study if applicable)
- 12:00 p.m. – Lunch
- 12:45 p.m. – Personal Study
- 1:45 p.m. – Companionship Study
- 3:00 p.m. – Doctrinal study, sometime with your district, other time with a larger group
- 5:00 p.m. – Dinner
- 5:45 p.m. – More classroom instruction
- 8:00 p.m. – Practice teaching (sometimes with real, non-member investigators)
- 9:00 p.m. – Planning session for the next day with your companion
- 9:30 p.m. – Personal Time: get ready for bed, journal writing or other personal pursuits
- 10:15 p.m. – Companionship prayer and quiet time
- 10:30 p.m. – Sleep: say your personal prayers and go to bed
See a more detailed version of this sample daily schedule at this LDS Living article on what life is like at the MTC.
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.