Four satellite Missionary Training Centers outside the United States now make it possible for a greater number of new missionaries to receive formal training before beginning their missionary labors.
All four centers are near existing or planned temples: Hamilton, New Zealand; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; and Tokyo, Japan.
As the number of missionaries called from outside the United States and Canada continues to rise, the need for satellite MTCs becomes increasingly apparent. A projected 6,600 missionaries will be trained in the four satellite centers this year, compared to the 15–16,000 trained in Provo during the same period.
In the past, missionaries from outside the U.S. and Canada were sent directly to their fields of labor, without the benefit of any formal instruction related to their call—and without receiving their endowments in the temple. But now, as satellite centers are formed, missionaries called from surrounding areas have training available to them. Each facility is the official Missionary Training Center for the area—the Sao Paulo school trains all missionaries called from South America; the one in Mexico City trains all those from Mexico and Central America, and so on.
Training at the satellite centers consists of a concentrated MTC format. The classes at the Sao Paulo center are in Portuguese one week each month and in Spanish the other three weeks. The New Zealand, Mexico, and Tokyo schools operate only one week per month. According to Joseph M. McPhie, director of missionary preparation for the Missionary Department, the frequency of classes and the number of instructors in these schools will increase as the number of missionaries justifies it.
Instructors, teaching on a volunteer Church-service basis, are selected largely from local Church Educational System personnel, with support from the General Authority Executive Administrator serving in the area, mission presidents and their wives, local priesthood leaders, and returned missionaries from the area.
“The teachers and the directors of instruction at the training centers are all very qualified,” says Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and a managing director of the Missionary Department. “We monitor that very closely.” One priesthood leader in Japan travels 1 1/2 hours each way to give his one-hour presentation. Since the Sao Paulo school runs continuously, a full-time missionary couple serve as directors there.
Elder Featherstone says that the training focuses on seven areas of preparation: spiritual, moral, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and financial. Although there is no time to memorize all of the discussions during the one-week course, the missionaries learn memorization techniques. They also study gospel topics and the concepts taught in the discussions. They learn teaching skills, human relations, and the missionary life-style. They receive instruction on physical health, diet, exercise, appearance, goal setting, and finances.
What are the results? Elder Robert L. Simpson, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and a managing director of the Missionary Department, who directed the organization of the New Zealand MTC, attributes an increase in the number of baptisms in that area to the increased training the missionaries are receiving.
Another benefit, according to Elder Featherstone, is improved self-image. The foreign missionaries who have been trained in the satellite centers feel confident to serve.
A third benefit, says Brother McPhie, is a long-term one: better prepared missionaries will be better prepared leaders when they return home after their missions. The additional spirituality and confidence and the increase in number of temple recommend holders will greatly benefit the Church in the future—as well as now.