“It is beautifully suited for our purposes,” he continued. “It was absolutely ready. I do believe the Lord knew when he inspired the building of that high school, he was also building a future MTC.”
The church has also acted to create additional space for more missionaries at the MTC in Provo, and 14 other MTCs around the world are “filled” and being fully used “as they were envisioned rather than being underutilized in some respects.”
“The great abundance of missionaries has caused us to think through our training model at the MTCs,” Elder Evans added. “We reduced training times by 30 percent, and we’re learning a lot from that. And we’re looking for better ways to train. Maybe we can begin earlier. Maybe we could devise a mission-long language-training program so you don’t have this spike of intense language learning at the MTC that kind of levels off for the rest of your mission.
“We’re looking at all of these training models now,” he continued. “Over the next year you’ll begin to see implementation of some of that. But as we think about how we train missionaries — the way in which we use MTCs, the amount of time missionaries need to spend there, the number of buildings we need to build. All of that is going to be very positively affected by how we use digital technology both for proselyting purposes as well as learning purposes.”
Similarly, Elder Evans said, “to create 58 new missions in a very compressed period of time was a miracle.”
“To be able to define where the missions should be and then to get in place the structure for them, to find mission homes and apartments and so on, has been one of the really great miracles,” he said, calling it a “labor of love” as the Missionary Department worked closely with general, area and local church authorities to determine where new missions and missionaries could be useful and productive.
In that process, he said, “we didn’t plan for the peak, we planned for what we think is going to be needed after the peak, which we don’t think will ever be at the 58,000 level again.
“Of course, it will go up this fall, and it will go up again next year before the first of the surge missionaries begin to come home,” Elder Evans said. “But we believe more young women will always be going on missions now because they get to go at an earlier age, and we also believe that more young men will always be going for a variety of reasons. And so, with the approval of the First Presidency, we have implemented a plan for what is now 405 missions based on what we think our numbers will be after the surge.”
More of everything
Elder Evans said church officials have worked their way through all of the challenges and logistical issues based on the simple assumption that more missionaries meant more of everything associated with missionaries.
“We’ll have more great young people out serving,” he said, “but we’ll also have more medical problems, more visa problems, more temple marriages down the road, more joy — more everything.”
It isn’t that the percentages of medical and visa issues have increased, he added. It’s just that there are more of them because there are more missionaries.
“Do we have more visa-waiters?" he asked, referring to missionaries who are called to foreign missions but who must begin their service in missions in the United States while they wait for their visa applications to be approved. “The answer is 'yes.' But we don’t have a new or greater challenge. We just have more.”
Having so many more young sister missionaries (Sisters were 12-13 percent of our missionary force; now they are 24-25 percent) has stimulated changes in mission organization and leadership, including the creation of a new calling for sisters: sister training leader.
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