“What has happened is almost exactly what we thought would happen,” Elder Evans said. “It has happened in a little different way than what was anticipated. The response from the sisters, I think, is probably a little bit more than what we thought it would be, but not very much more. There was probably a sharper immediate incline (in missionary applications from young women), but over the course of the year it was about what we thought would happen.”
Similarly, the response from young men has been “exactly President Monson’s vision.”
“They have been counseling with their bishops and parents and come to a determination about when they should serve,” Elder Evans said. “And so we’ve seen a little bit less of a spike right after high school and a surge that has lasted over a longer period of time than what some here would have predicted, but that’s all to the good from our perspective. If you look at where we are right now compared to where we projected we would be, we’re very close to exactly that number.”
Line upon line
The dramatic increase in the number of LDS missionaries called and sent into service during the past year has had significant impacts on Utah area colleges and universities, businesses, and even college sports teams.
But nowhere has the impact been more keenly felt other than, perhaps, in the individual lives of the new missionaries, than in the Missionary Department itself. Existing missionary training facilities were inadequate to house, feed and train so many new missionaries at one time.
The existing number of church missions — 347 around the globe at the time of the announcement — could not accommodate the expected surge. Even the Missionary Department staff was insufficient to review, analyze and respond to the sudden flood of new missionary applications that began just days after last October's conference ended.
“The Lord has promised that revelation would come line upon line and precept upon precept,” Elder Evans said. “The implication is that when one revelation is given, the next revelation is needed.
“So you have this dramatic announcement by the president of the church, which he describes as having been prayerfully considered and inspired of the Lord,” he continued. “With that, then the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have the important obligation of facing each of the issues and finding out how the Lord would deal with them.”
Which is exactly what they did in sometimes-miraculous ways.
For example, part of the answer to the MTC space issue came during a meeting on the matter when someone asked if the Missionary Department would be interested in training missionaries who were being sent to Spanish-speaking missions at the church-owned Benemerito de las Americas High School near Mexico City.
“The truth is,” Elder Evans confessed, “I didn’t even know we had such a school, so I didn’t know anything about it. But I had the impression that the answer to the question was ‘yes.’”
During the ensuing weeks leading up to First Presidency's approval of the suggestion, Elder Evans learned that Benemerito had been created under President David O. McKay during a period when the educational resource was desperately needed. And while it has continued to be a valuable educational tool for Latter-day Saints in Mexico, the time of great need for the facility had passed. On several occasions church leaders had agonized over what to do with the school, but each time they considered possibilities, they felt they needed to wait.
“So when the suggestion came forward to the First Presidency that consideration be given to change Benemerito to an MTC, there was an immediate confirmation in their hearts that this is what should be done,” Elder Evans said. “It was a joyful thing for the First Presidency as they considered these long years of wondering what to do with the school but having the impression to wait.”
As it turned out, “we could not have designed a better MTC” than the Benemerito facility, he said.
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