Summer occupancy in Brigham Young University dormitories most years is confined to teens in "Especially for Youth" programs or sports camps and a handful of leftover students.
But this year, a different kind of crowd is filling up the residence halls. And in contrast to the exuberance of the teen set, these LDS Church missionaries are given a charge to conduct themselves with "quiet dignity."A short-term influx of missionaries at Provo's Missionary Training Center filled that facility's 4,000 beds and forced officials to appeal to BYU Housing Services for help. About 300 missionaries are currently living in the Deseret Towers and Heritage Halls dormitory complexes, BYU spokeswoman Carri P. Jenkins said.
Church emissaries might seem out of place on many university campuses, where dormitories are often coed and parties are much more prevalent than prayer. But at BYU, where the overwhelming majority of students are LDS and are themselves either former or future missionaries, the suit- and skirt-bearing residents seem to fit right in with those who wear shorts and carry textbooks instead of scriptures.
The overflow missionaries spend their nights in the dormitories, but most of their other activities during their stays, which range from three weeks to two months, take place at the MTC complex north of campus.
"Those in the dormitories on campus have breakfast at the Morris Center (in Deseret Towers)," said LDS Church spokesman Don LeFevre. "Then they walk over for the day's training and eat lunch and dinner at the MTC."
In addition, there are a handful of senior missionaries, who are generally retired couples, who had to be housed at a Provo hotel, LeFevre said.
In all, the LDS Church has about 58,000 missionaries around the world who spend up to two years seeking converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a 10 million-member faith. The MTC, which has been located adjacent to the BYU campus for more than two decades, employs former missionaries to teach new ones the proselyting and language skills they will need.
"That's the first time since the MTC added some buildings in 1995 that they had exceeded full capacity," LeFevre said.
However, seeing missionaries on campus really is nothing new. Besides a couple of proselyting missionaries assigned to find and teach the relative handful of BYU students who aren't already members of the LDS Church, missionaries from the MTC for years have gone to campus for various reasons.
Missionaries needing health care used to be shuttled to the Howard S. McDonald Health Center on the south end of campus. Now, they just walk across 900 East to the new health facility near the Wymount Terrace married-student housing complex.
Also, before the MTC expanded in 1995, classes sometimes were held in the Oak Hills LDS chapel just across 900 East from Deseret Towers and a couple of blocks south of the MTC.
The addition of three buildings to the MTC three years ago increased the facility's capacity to 4,000 missionaries. The buildings dedicated that year include a three-story multipurpose facility that houses classrooms, meeting halls and a gymnasium; a four-story housing complex; and a five-story structure with classrooms and training offices.