Inside the Missionary Training Center — Arrival day for missionaries means quick goodbyes, and hello to brand new world
New missionaries also receive a blue electronic card that is used to enter the cafeteria or to log onto MTC computers to write home. The card also carries monetary credit: elders receive $6 a week and sisters $8 to pay for laundry, haircuts, extra supplies, bookstore purchases and vending.
New arrivals receive a red-dot sticker on their name tags, so faculty, staff or tenured missionaries can offer to help if they spot a bewildered "red-dotted" missionary.
After the processing, host missionaries deliver the new elders and luggage to their residence rooms, where they are paired up with a companion. Then it's on to classrooms to meet teachers, followed by an orientation session with the MTC presidency and their wives.
"The most important thing to do is develop your own testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ," MTC President Gordon D. Brown told the newcomers. "You are the most important convert of your mission."
The rest of the day is given to dinner, unpacking and then returning to the classroom for the first of many sessions — three weeks for English or native-language missionaries and eight to 12 weeks for those learning a new language.
Upon concluding their MTC tenure, they'll depart for their assigned missions — in airport-destined groups as small as a solo missionary to as large as 160 at time, bound for missions as far as halfway around the world or as close as a three-minute van ride to the nearby Utah Provo Mission.
Usually 300 or so missionaries depart the MTC weekly, altough more leave in the summer months when MTC attendance is higher. That's a far cry from the highs of the '90s — before the expansion of international MTCs — when as many as 800 might depart in a single week.
A weekly average of 45 to 55 groups leave the MTC. The same tour-size buses and vans used to transport missionaries to the Salt Lake airport may also deliver missionaries to Utah-based missions.
MTC buses make between 15 to 20 trips a week; some days, several buses make three runs each.
But that's at the close of the MTC experience On arrival day, entering missionaries focus on what lies ahead.
"This is a special moment," said Elder Ian Collins of Redding, Calif., bound for Madagascar. "I just said goodbye to my parents, and I won't see them for awhile. But I'm very excited to do this. I've been looking forward to this for a long time."
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