Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ogden Standard-Examiner Blogger Doug Gibson Reminisces About His Sojourn At The Provo LDS Missionary Training Center (MTC) - 26 Years Later

Not all the bloggers at the Ogden Standard-Examiner are a bunch of Obama-worshipping socialists like Charles Trentelman and Mark Shenefelt. One is a former LDS missionary - who decided on September 11th, 2009 to share with the public a brief account of his experience at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.

Doug Gibson went through the Provo MTC 26 years ago in preparation for a full-time mission in Peru. In general, he found the experience useful and even spiritually rewarding. Here are a few snippets from his account:

I do recall the first jarring moments of MTC life. We were taken into a large ballroom and our parents and family were instructed to leave. Some quick hugs, a kiss or two and you’re officially a missionary.


The MTC was a good experience, though. We worked hard at learning the language and LDS discussions and we observed the instructors closely. If we couldn’t exactly be on the same spirituality meter they appeared to be on, we at least learned what facial expressions and phrases we should use with investigators. I liked all my classes, but later, I did resent my culture class. The instructors spent too much of their time wearing cute Peruvian Indian apparel — the kind the tourists buy. We learned songs and what Peruvians like to eat. I could have used a real culture class — one that gave tips on how a middle class Southern California boy would survive in a third-world country.

Anything different from the regular routine became a treat at the MTC. I learned to enjoy going to the small MTC store, doing my laundry, going to temple sessions, heading to the missionaries store at the mall. My favorite excursion during my MTC time was getting a haircut at the Orem mall. I made sure to have the young female hair cutter wash my hair. That was all you can really shoot for as a missionary. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a female hair cutter in Peru.


Although I’m looking at this with a quarter century’s hindsight, I enjoyed the MTC. It was a help, although I learned a lot more about being a missionary the next several months in Peru.

Much of this is the same today. Parents and other loved ones of missionaries are encouraged to drop them off quickly at the MTC and not linger, in order to get the prospective missionaries focused as quickly as possible.

A couple of commenters chimed in with their experiences. Neal Humphrey, who went through at some time during the 1960s (when it was primarily for those who needed to learn a new language), added the following:

In my day looking back almost twice as long as you, the longish MTC-type experience was just for a small cluster of language groups. The rest of us (about 200 per week) were jammed into the “Mission Home” a couple of blocks north of Temple Square for a week. We had lectures in the basement, some meals at the Hotel Utah, and sorting out our paperwork – especially the Selective Service System IV-D deferments. One of the guys slated for the same overseas mission I went to couldn’t get permission from his draft board to leave the country, so he was reassigned...

And Preston responded with the following:

I remember loving my instructors, my companion disliking me because I was ex-military but working gamely with me anyway, and some Amway-style pep talks that had us convinced we would baptize whole towns if we just had faith. A culture class taught by an African RM [returned missionary] explained that in England, many harmless American words sounded crude to them and vice-versa (”Fag,” for instance, is a Britishism for “cigarette,” leading to such eye-popping overheards as “Get that fag out of your mouth”). I’m lucky I was there just 19 days; the walls started closing in. It had the same effect on my siblings. Spiritual oasis though it was, it was also hard to bear due to the absolutely structured days and the emphasis on service that would never happen until we left. After a certain point you’re rearing to baptize that village and leave the classes behind. Then, of course, reality sets in and the mission proves to be a grueling adventure like no other.

You can visit the official Provo Missionary Training Center website for the most current information. All LDS missionaries from the U.S. and Canada go through the Provo MTC prior to deployment to the mission field. The duration can range from three weeks for those needing no language training to as long as 12 weeks for those requiring language training. Language training is full immersion. Additional information of interest is posted on

Because of the LDS Church's worldwide reach, there are 16 additional MTCs scattered throughout the world. Each is co-located with an LDS temple:

-- Buenos Aires, Argentina
-- São Paulo, Brazil
-- Santiago, Chile
-- Bogotá, Colombia
-- Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
-- Preston, England, UK
-- Accra, Ghana
-- Guatemala City, Guatemala
-- Tokyo, Japan
-- Mexico City, Mexico
-- Hamilton, New Zealand
-- Lima, Peru
-- Manila, Philippines
-- Johannesburg, South Africa
-- Seoul, Republic of Korea
-- Madrid, Spain

For those interested in individual stories from people in the mission field, I suggest you visit the Mormon Missions blog, which specializes in providing such information.

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