MEXICO CITY — The surge of new full-time missionaries entering its existing Missionary Training Centers has prompted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to announce it will close a high school it operates in Mexico City and convert it into an MTC that will accommodate missionaries called to serve in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, both members of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided at a Tuesday night meeting during which the establishment of what will be the church’s second-largest MTC was announced. The meeting was held on the campus of the church’s privately owned high school, Benemerito de las Americas, which will be closed and its facilities used for the new MTC.
“Church leaders made the decision after considering every immediate alternative that could alleviate the demand at the Church’s other missionary training centers around the world, including the MTC in Provo, Utah,” church spokesman Michael Purdy said Wednesday morning, adding that “the change will occur following the end of the current school year in June.”
An email from the Mexico Area Presidency indicated the new MTC will begin operation in July.
Elder Nelson referred to the recent reduction in age requirements for full-time LDS missionaries, which has inspired the recent surge of missionary applications. He said the success of 18-year-old missionaries called from Mexico since 1999 was a significant consideration in the decision to make the change worldwide.
“Thank you, Mexican Saints and families,” Elder Nelson said, “and thank you to the 18-year-old elders from Mexico, who pioneered the change in age.”
Elder Holland noted the sadness felt by students and families at the announced closure of Benemerito, which was established in 1964 and has been an important educational and cultural resource for Mexican Latter-day Saints, with some 23,000 graduates during its 49-year history.
“I see tears in your eyes,” Elder Holland observed. “Tears are the price we pay for sacrifice and love.”
While expressing love and appreciation for the work that has been done on the Benemerito campus through the years, Elder Holland said its new role is even more significant.
“Instead of a few hundred educated here each year, many thousands will be trained each year,” he said. “Many will come from other countries. They will receive training, but they will also learn to love Mexico, its language and its people.
“This hallowed ground where we sit tonight will become more and more sacred with each passing year,” Elder Holland continued. “Better, higher and holier purposes will be fulfilled here that will bless the lives of generations yet unborn and help them become what God intends that we become.”
In that way, Elder Holland said, this transition for the facility “will be a blessing to the entire world.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company