Missionary Training Centers (MTCs) are centers devoted to training missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The flagship MTC is located in Provo, Utah, adjacent to the campus of Brigham Young University (BYU), a private university owned and operated by the church.
At the beginning of their service, LDS missionaries usually spend 3–12 weeks at an MTC where they receive training in doctrine, conduct, proselytizing methods, and, when required, a foreign language. There are a total of 15 MTCs throughout the world, in locations in addition to Provo, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
New missionaries assigned to the Provo MTC arrive Monday–Wednesday (couple missionaries on Monday, international arrivals on Tuesday, U.S. and Canada on Wednesday), at which point they begin using their titles of "Elder" (for the men) and "Sister" (for the women). They are assigned companions and organized into districts and branches. During their training, the elders and sisters will spend the majority of their time in class, with breaks for meals, church services, temple attendance, fitness activities, service projects, and personal preparation time (for laundry, letter writing, etc.).
Missionaries have historically been given at least three weeks of training in proselytizing methods. This includes lessons on church doctrine and teaching, mission rules, and proper interactions with the people they will serve, teach, and work with in their assigned missions. Missionaries are also encouraged to use their time outside class to actively study church scriptures and doctrine, and a language if necessary.
In many cases, missionaries who already speak the language of their assigned area are sent to their mission after just three weeks. Other missionaries may spend as many as nine additional weeks in language training. The Missionary Training Center language programs encourage a full immersion experience with the motto "SYL", for "Speak Your Language". In some cases, missionaries learning foreign languages go directly to the MTC in the country where they are called to serve. This depends on the capacity of the MTC in the area.
Each MTC is directed by a mission president, just like each of the 405 missions worldwide. Classes in the MTC are typically taught by returned (former) missionaries. The missionaries are also assigned to small congregations called branches, which are led by local church members called to serve in the MTC.
The Missionary Training Center was originally started by the LDS Church after some of its missionaries were stranded in the United States due to difficulties in obtaining passport visas to other countries. Diplomatic relations between the United States and other countries where LDS missionaries served became strained, limiting the number of missionaries serving in those areas. Often these missionaries would simply be reassigned to another area, but as the number of missionaries grew this became more of a problem.
The missionary experience prior to the opening of the MTC was quite different from that established later. In 1925, a small building adjacent to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City had a dormitory for brand new missionaries. Missionaries arriving here would then be set apart to their missionary service by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Often they would even be interviewed by these apostles during this time and attend a service in the Salt Lake Temple, staying just a day or two before leaving to their assigned areas. Missionaries who had difficulty trying to get to their assigned areas would then either serve as tour guides on Temple Square or do clerical tasks at LDS Church headquarters.
In 1971, the old Lafayette School at 75 East North Temple Street was converted into the new Salt Lake Mission Home, and English-speaking missionaries would arrive on a Saturday and leave the following Wednesday or Thursday. The MTC in Provo replaced this in the fall of 1978 for English-speaking missionaries.
In part to keep the missionaries occupied while they were waiting for their visas, many of these missionaries were enrolled in courses at BYU. As language instruction was considered essential, most of these missionaries were enrolled in courses to learn the languages of the areas where they would be serving.
This proved to be problematic, however, as missionaries would arrive and depart at random intervals throughout the year as they accepted missionary assignments or as the visa paperwork was completed and approved by the country they were trying to get into. This didn't fit well within the semester system for the rest of the BYU students, and eventually required professors that were dedicated strictly to teaching missionaries instead of the traditional university students.
A permanent organization was needed to cope with the needs of these missionaries.
By November 1961, missionaries gathered at the Hotel Roberts in downtown Provo under the direction of Ernest J. Wilkins, a professor of Spanish in the BYU Languages Department. In 1968, the activities were moved to Amanda Knight Hall and Knight-Mangum Hall, buildings on the lower campus of BYU, which were reserved exclusively for the training of missionaries. A new LDS mission, the Language Training Mission (LTM), was created with its own mission presidency and organization, with the geographic extent of the mission to be the perimeter of the building. This building included dormitories as well as classrooms for the missionaries. Eventually, other buildings on the campus of BYU were also used for missionary training activities.
The church constructed and operated a large LTM in Laie, Hawaii. Through the 1970s, the Hawaiian LTM received missionaries from around the world who were preparing to serve as missionaries in the Asia Pacific regions, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Polynesia.
Instructors for the LTM were employed by BYU. Sometimes these were full-time professors from the university, but more often they were teaching assistants or university students who had skills in the languages being taught. In many cases, instructors were former missionaries who had just returned from the areas where the missionaries in the LTM were to be sent. Curriculum was still planned directly by the foreign language departments at BYU, in coordination with the LTM mission presidency.
In the beginning, the LTM was intended to be a temporary place for those missionaries who were having visa difficulties. However, mission presidents who received visa-delayed missionaries started to notice a significant improvement in their proselytizing skills over similar missionaries who were able to get their visas almost immediately. It was estimated that even a few weeks of intensive language training at the beginning could save almost a full year's worth of effort trying to learn the language "on the streets." Mission presidents soon asked church headquarters to have all the missionaries, regardless of their visa status, attend language training before their departure.
During this expansion of the LTM's role, additional types of instruction were added to the curriculum, including leadership training and basic instructor training. After several years of language and general missionary skills training, the mission presidents serving in English-speaking areas were requesting their missionaries also have the opportunity to take additional classes taught at the LTM. With an overall increase in missionaries serving, as well as a large number of missionaries who would be attending the LTM due to program changes, plans were made to move the whole mission to another location.
At about the same time the Provo Temple was built, the church acquired some nearby land which was originally slated for expansion of the BYU campus. This land was used to build four dormitories, a gymnasium and a language training building. 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, although language training would continue to be a significant feature of the facility. The Salt Lake Mission Home was shut down permanently and all remaining functions of that facility were merged into the MTC, including administrative functions that were not otherwise handled directly by LDS Church headquarters.
Due to the growth of the church, the number of buildings and the size of the main administrative building were expanded to cope with the increased activity at the Provo MTC campus. Ultimately, even this growth could no longer be accommodated and it became apparent the church would need to build training centers in places other than Provo.
With the growth of the LDS Church outside the United States, it soon became almost impossible for missionaries living outside the United States to be able to come to Provo and attend the MTC, both for financial reasons as well as for visa difficulties. Just as it had been a problem for American LDS missionaries to obtain visas to go abroad, it became difficult for church members without American citizenship to come to Utah, often for the same reasons.
After the development of the ecclesiastical areas as a level of administration in the church's hierarchy, area presidents outside North America were authorized to establish independent Missionary Training Centers for members living within the area. This removed most international travel requirements for many missionaries, especially for missionaries who spoke the language of their own country and were able to serve locally.
One of the first of these missionary training centers was established in 1977 at São Paulo, Brazil, adjacent to the newly dedicated São Paulo Temple. The church constructed a new building in the Casa Verde neighborhood of São Paulo. The Brazil MTC building has a maximum capacity of 646.
As the number of missionaries coming from North America grew, it was decided to send many of the missionaries directly to areas where they would soon be serving, if there was a local MTC capable of servicing them. This has allowed the growth of MTCs outside the U.S. instead of building another MTC campus in North America. Missionaries from North America who have visa difficulties still attend the Provo MTC first, and often serve temporarily in areas of the United States while awaiting visas. Missionaries from countries outside the U.S. where there is not a MTC in their own country attend in a country closest to them.
The England MTC was transferred from London to Preston after completion of the temple site in 1998. The former London MTC buildings are now used for other church purposes.
A private high school operated by the LDS Church in Mexico City known as Benemerito De Las Americas was permanently closed at the end of the 2012–13 term, and the Mexico City MTC was relocated here, opening June 26, 2013. This greatly expanded the capacity of the Mexico City MTC, such that it is second in size only to the Provo MTC: the old building near the México City México Temple could only accommodate 125 missionaries at a time, but the new 90-acre campus can handle over 1,000.
The Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, is still the largest and can accommodate up to 3,700 missionaries. The facility includes a large gymnasium, cafeterias, a medical clinic, a bookstore, a mail center, a call center, laundry facilities, classrooms, meetinghouses, and residence halls. Approximately 50 languages are taught at the Provo MTC.
The Teaching Resource Center (TRC) gives missionaries some experience teaching in their mission language, even if it is their native tongue. All missionaries visit the TRC each week. Volunteers who speak the language role play as "investigators" (people who are investigating the church) in these teaching situations. At the end, Missionaries watch a video tape of their teaching session to find ways to improve their language skills and teaching style.
Volunteers are usually returned missionaries and/or BYU students with language abilities. Members of other faiths are able to volunteer as well. All volunteers must present a temple recommend or BYU ID card to participate. As visitors to the MTC, volunteers must pick up a guest pass at the main desk before going to the TRC.
As of 2013, there are 15 missionary training centers throughout the world. In 2010, the New Zealand MTC moved from Hamilton to Auckland. The previously open MTCs in Tokyo and Seoul have closed.