International MTCs Play Important Role

  • 5 August 2010

Article Highlights

  • Fifteen MTCs currently function throughout the world.
  • Each international MTC fulfills one of three roles.
  • MTCs share a common goal of preparing missionaries for the work.
“The international MTCs provide the best environment for the local missionaries to learn the gospel from those of the same culture and language.”

Beginning in 1925, newly called missionaries spent time in a small “mission home” in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, before beginning their service. In the early 1970s, the first official missionary training center (MTC) was established in Provo, Utah. In the 85 years since the original mission home was founded, the Church has established additional MTCs around the world. A missionary in training might be one of thousands in Provo or one of only a few dozen in Johannesburg, South Africa. But no matter which MTC they attend, missionaries come away ready to preach the gospel.

“At the MTCs, we do everything we can to prepare missionaries to accomplish their purpose, to ‘invite other to come unto Christ’” said Kelly Mills, director of international MTCs in the Church’s Missionary Department.

The first MTCs outside of the United States opened not long after the large MTC in Provo. Many missionaries from outside the United States were being called to serve in or around their native countries. In 1977, MTCs were established in São Paulo, Brazil, and Hamilton, New Zealand, to train local missionaries. The smaller, local MTCs proved efficient and helpful, and more were established over the next 25 years.

Today there are 14 MTCs operating outside the United States, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, and Spain.

More Alike than Different

Regardless of variations in location, size, and language, MTCs across the world have more similarities than differences. The Provo Utah MTC can accommodate more than 3,000 missionaries at a time while the second largest MTC, in Brazil, could hold a maximum of just under 700. However, MTCs outside of the U.S. provide a training experience that is very similar to what missionaries receive at the Provo MTC. When a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gives an address in the Provo MTC, for example, it is recorded, translated if necessary, and shown to missionaries at all other MTCs.

That consistency among MTCs is important, because some missions receive missionaries from more than one training center. One-third of all missionaries receive their MTC training outside of the United States.

Local Missionaries

All MTCs outside of the U.S. exist primarily to train local missionaries. That is the sole function of the MTCs located in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Philippines, and New Zealand. Missionaries trained at these MTCs have been assigned to serve in their native language and do not receive language training. If a missionary’s assignment requires language training, they are usually trained at the Provo MTC.

“The local MTCs provide the best environment for the local missionaries to learn the gospel from those of the same culture and language,” said Boyd Cardon, president of the Mexico MTC. “The local instructors in the local MTCs have a lot in common with the missionaries, and they become their mentors.”

Each MTC is located near a temple, and that proves beneficial for many missionaries. “Many missionaries in Africa would not be able to be endowed were it not for coming to this MTC,” said T. Dean Christensen, president of the South Africa MTC. “We go to the temple three times during a missionary’s stay, and about 10 missionaries receive their own endowment during each of our visits.”

Full Training

In addition to their primary function of training local missionaries, MTCs in Argentina, Brazil, England, Ghana, and South Africa have been approved to provide “full training”—that is, all missionaries assigned to serve in these areas, including those from North America, receive their full MTC training experience at the MTC in the area.

The Argentina and Brazil MTCs provide language training for missionaries who need to learn Spanish and Portuguese, while the England, Ghana, and South Africa MTCs teach mostly in English. Missionaries assigned to the British Isles or Africa who require training in other languages attend the MTC in Provo.

Missionaries experience unique advantages when they are trained in the areas where they will serve. “North Americans here enjoy the advantage of being able to converse and consult with natives as they learn their language, and the local missionaries get the chance to teach language structure and pronunciation to their North American counterparts,” said Richard George, president of the Argentina MTC.

During their stay, missionaries are allowed to leave for short periods of time, to practice the things they are learning and preach the gospel, which also helps them learn about the local culture. “They go to the post office, a small eatery, or other businesses,” said Donald L. Clark, president of the Brazil MTC. “This is a wonderful experience for them because they learn to talk to salesmen, deal with the local currency, and get a feel for what it’s like on the streets of Brazil.”

Phased Training

The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru, and Spain MTCs offer a variation on full training. Because of limited space in the MTC facility or the length of time required to acquire a visa, North American missionaries assigned to serve in these areas who do not already speak Spanish spend three weeks at the Provo MTC and the final six weeks of their MTC training at an international MTC.

“The North Americans have been grateful for their three weeks of training at the Provo MTC,” said Douglas Steimle, president of the Guatemala MTC. “It gives them perspective that enhances their experience here. All arrive so excited to be in the country and feel like they have really begun to serve.”

North American missionaries who receive this phased training usually arrive at the international MTC having already made many adjustments to missionary work.

“While at the Provo MTC, most North American missionaries learn to deal with serious homesickness, missing friends, adjusting to a rigorous schedule, and so on,” said Clifford L. Whetten, president of the Peru MTC. “By the time they get here their anxieties about being a missionary are usually behind them and they are eager to improve their Spanish-speaking skills and immerse themselves in the new culture as quickly as they can.”

Room to Grow

As the Church’s missionary efforts continue to evolve, MTCs change as needed. The New Zealand MTC recently moved from its previous location in Hamilton into a new, larger building in Auckland. Missionaries began receiving training in the new building on September 2, 2010.

The Philippines MTC will also be expanded to accommodate more missionaries. When the new facility opens in 2011, it will hold 140 missionaries at a time—60 more than it held before the addition, with room to expand further.

MTCs around the world vary in size and location, but they share a common goal: to prepare missionaries for the great work ahead of them. “The MTC is a beautiful place to be,” said President George of the Argentina MTC. “But in the end, the missionaries are all eager to leave. That means the MTC has served its purpose.”

Breanna Olaveson, Church Magazines