Mormon church operates 14 missionary training centers around the world

Published: Wednesday, March 23 2011 11:00 a.m. MDT

International MTCs fall into one of three categories — those that focus solely on training missionaries without a new-language emphasis, those that provide "full training" and those that offer "phased training" (all missionaries assigned to North American missions go to the Provo MTC for training).

MTCS in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand and the Philippines are examples of operations training missionaries in their native language, with the typical stay for missionaries being 19 days.

But that doesn't mean only one language is spoken at each of these MTCs — training may be offered in a variety of languages. For example, missionaries called from Mongolia to serve in that nation will travel to the Philippines MTC in Manila to be trained in Mongolian and then return to serve in their native country.

"Full training" is when an international MTC not only fulfills its primary function of training the locally called missionaries but can accommodate more missionaries — including those from North America — who are called to serve in the area. The "full" label means a missionary can receive a complete MTC training experience — including the full period afforded those learning new language.

These MTCs include those in Argentina, Brazil, England, Ghana and South Africa — the first two providing Spanish and Portuguese language training and the latter three teach mostly in English. Missionaries from those five countries who require training in other languages attend the Provo MTC.

The "phased training" MTCs — in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru and Spain — offer full training for locally called missionaries or for North American missionaries already fluent in Spanish. For those others from North America, they spend three weeks at the Provo MTC and the final six weeks of the training at one of these "phased" international MTCs.

Elder Jacob Hatch of Provo, who will serve in the Peru Piura Mission, spent three weeks in his hometown MTC before transferring to the Lima facility and switching allegiance from Cap'n Crunch cereal for the local churros pastry. "The first thing I said the first night we got here — 'I'm definitely not in Kansas any more,' " he said.

Limited space at the smaller MTCs and the ongoing challenges of visa availabilities and delays can cause MTC numbers to fluctuate and missionary assignments to vary. The Brazil MTC — one of the largest LDS Church-owned buildings in the world at more than 100,000 square feet – can hold just under 700 missionaries at a time, but visas to out-of-country missionaries have substantially decreased recently.

Other recent developments with international MTCs include the New Zealand MTC moving from church-school property in Hamilton to a new, larger building in Auckland last fall and the Philippines MTC expanded to accommodate more missionaries, from 80 to 140. At first, only Filipino missionaries were trained in Manila — now the MTC there welcomes missionaries from Taiwan, Mongolia and Southeast Asia nations like Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand.

The LDS Church had previously established MTCs in Tokyo and Seoul, Korea. However, it found it was more cost-efficient to bring those missionaries to the Provo MTC for training and subsequently shuttered operations there.

In his second day at the New Zealand MTC, Elder Samuel Tempany — of Brisbane, Australia and bound for the Australia Melbourne Mission — labeled his first day "close to overwhelming."

"What I didn't expect to find was the intensity of personal revelation or this climate — it's wholesome, spiritual, pristine," he said.

Sister Terry Bleak, who serves with her husband at the New Zealand MTC, agreed. "It's beautiful here — it's a little bit like living in the temple. There's a dedicated spirit here every day, day and night."

Said Mills of the MTCs: "The facilities all look a little different, but you step inside the front door and you know where you are — the spirit's the same."

It's a conscious effort to provide the same spirit and same experience — such as videotaping the monthly Tuesday night devotional talk at the Provo MTC by a visiting member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It is translated and then sent to be shown at the international MTCs.

"So when the Brethren speak to the missionaries here, they speak to missionaries in training everywhere."

And missionaries all over the world can see the Provo-based contingent of 2,000 strong and sense the magnitude of what they are a part of.

"I think it would be nice sitting there," said Sister Piroska Szvoboda of Switzerland, in the England MTC prior to serving in the Germany Berlin Mission. "But the spirit teaches you if you listen, and I'm glad to be here."

Email: taylor@desnews.com

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