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A jubilee year for missionary language instruction

First classes were given at BYU; MTC came later

PROVO, UTAH

Three years after the Church was organized, the Lord decreed that "every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power" (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11).

Missionary Training Center.
Missionary Training Center. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Today's missionary training centers — including the first one established 37 years ago in Provo, Utah — help fulfill that prophecy and are the culmination of a modest effort that began 50 years ago this past December.

Elder Russell M. Nelson addresses devotional at Missionary Training Center, where he dedicated new renovations of five buildings and led an observance of 50 years of missionary language instruction.
Elder Russell M. Nelson addresses devotional at Missionary Training Center, where he dedicated new renovations of five buildings and led an observance of 50 years of missionary language instruction. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

"Tonight we join in joyous jubilee to commemorate 50 years of missionary training here," said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Jan. 31 as he spoke at the weekly devotional of the Provo Missionary Training Center.

Newly constructed Jacob Hamblin Building.
Newly constructed Jacob Hamblin Building. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Elder Nelson also gave a dedicatory prayer for five buildings at the Provo facility that have been renovated this past year. In attendance with their wives were several General Authorities who serve with Elder Nelson on the Missionary Executive Council and 11 past presidents of the Provo MTC, which was dedicated in 1976 by President Spencer W. Kimball.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gives brief remarks at the MTC devotional commemorating 50 years of language instruction for missionaries.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gives brief remarks at the MTC devotional commemorating 50 years of language instruction for missionaries. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve also spoke briefly.

"For many years in the 20th century, newly called missionaries had received some preparatory instruction at the Missionary Home in Salt Lake City," Elder Nelson recounted.

Couples listen in a class for senior missionaries.
Couples listen in a class for senior missionaries. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Elders Jose Medrano, left, Carson City, Nev.; Samuel Lopez Mayta, New Hampshire; and Carlos Barboza, Magna, Utah; practice teaching the gospel to a volunteer.
Elders Jose Medrano, left, Carson City, Nev.; Samuel Lopez Mayta, New Hampshire; and Carlos Barboza, Magna, Utah; practice teaching the gospel to a volunteer. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

"On Dec. 4, 1961, 14 elders assigned to Argentina and 15 elders assigned to Mexico moved from the Missionary Home to the newly created Missionary Language Institute on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo. These missionaries walked from the Hotel Roberts to the BYU Alumni House for class instruction. The distance was four miles each way!"

Fitness room workout at the MTC.
Fitness room workout at the MTC. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Following much progress and many changes, the MTC was dedicated in Provo. Elder Nelson quoted from the dedicatory prayer given by President Kimball: "Now we dedicate all these buildings ... for the rich program which has been established ... that the work may go forward and that the ultimate hope of the first prophet of this dispensation may be realized that the nations may finally be proselyted and every nation, kindred, tongue and people may hear the word of the Lord in their own language."

In the MTC lobby is a replica of the stone seen by Elder David O. McKay in Scotland. It was a pivotal moment in his mission.
In the MTC lobby is a replica of the stone seen by Elder David O. McKay in Scotland. It was a pivotal moment in his mission. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Elder Nelson added, "That prayer is being fulfilled, and the work continues to move forward in remarkable ways.

"One of the ways is the establishment of other missionary training centers. In 1978, missionary training centers were opened in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in Hamilton, New Zealand. Today there are 15 missionary training centers in operation around the world to accommodate the growth and training of newly called missionaries."

Former MTC presidents, staff and guests, foreground, are part of devotional congregation for jubilee of missionary language instruction.
Former MTC presidents, staff and guests, foreground, are part of devotional congregation for jubilee of missionary language instruction. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

These days, it isn't just missionaries needing foreign-language instruction who go to the centers, but the centers give preparatory instruction to all missionaries.

Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses.Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses.
Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses.Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

"In the 50 years that have elapsed since 1961, more than 680,000 missionaries have received their training here in Provo, Utah," Elder Nelson said. "Elders and sisters, you now are part of this vast army of missionaries. You, like those who have served before, have been called to invite others to come unto Christ."

He noted that those entering the Provo MTC are apt to see in its lobby a replica of a large stone bearing the words "What E'er Thou Art Act Well Thy Part."

Missionaries walk by a bronze sculpture of missionaries on bikes.
Missionaries walk by a bronze sculpture of missionaries on bikes. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Couples listen in a class for senior missionaries.
Couples listen in a class for senior missionaries. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Missionaries study while doing their laundry.
Missionaries study while doing their laundry. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

"When you see that stone, I suggest that you reflect on the following experience from Elder David O. McKay's life," he said. He related that in 1897, the future Church president began serving a mission in Scotland. The first few months were difficult, as he suffered from homesickness and discouragement.

Registered nurse Jolynn Fleming checks the pulse rate of Sister Nadia Cectpa Burymski, from Southern California and will be serving in Russia at the MTC Health Clinic.
Registered nurse Jolynn Fleming checks the pulse rate of Sister Nadia Cectpa Burymski, from Southern California and will be serving in Russia at the MTC Health Clinic. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Coming back into town from visiting Stirling Castle, he and his companion saw the stone with that motto.

"I said to myself, or the Spirit within me, 'You are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,' " President McKay later related. "More than that, you are here as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Dennis and Linda McArthur, Iona, Idaho, study in one of the new rooms for senior couples as they prepare to go to the London, Manchester Mission.
Dennis and Linda McArthur, Iona, Idaho, study in one of the new rooms for senior couples as they prepare to go to the London, Manchester Mission. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

He accepted that message given to him on the stone, and "from that moment we tried to do our part as missionaries in Scotland."

Missionaries study in the hallway on the week of the commemoration of 50 years of language training at the Missionary Training Center for LDS missionaries  Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Provo, Utah.
Missionaries study in the hallway on the week of the commemoration of 50 years of language training at the Missionary Training Center for LDS missionaries Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Provo, Utah. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Elder Nelson commented, "I invite each of you to visit the replica of that stone in the front lobby and reflect on the part you play and your personal commitment to the Lord and His work."

Elder Dylan Coulson, from Grantsville, Utah has his haircut by Melissa Lake in the MTC barbershop.
Elder Dylan Coulson, from Grantsville, Utah has his haircut by Melissa Lake in the MTC barbershop. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Earlier in his address, Elder Nelson said the Provo MTC "is hallowed by the sacred cause for which it is built and is hallowed by the sacred buildings on its campus. Each edifice awakens a memory of the sacrifice and service of the missionary for whom the building is named."

A bag of reading introductory packages are assembled for each missionary.
A bag of reading introductory packages are assembled for each missionary. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses.
Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Missionaries play basketball on the week of the commemoration of 50 years of language training at the Missionary Training Center for LDS missionaries  Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Provo, Utah.
Missionaries play basketball on the week of the commemoration of 50 years of language training at the Missionary Training Center for LDS missionaries Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Provo, Utah. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

One of the buildings, he noted, is named for Samuel H. Smith, the younger brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith who, as the first missionary called in this dispensation, brought the Book of Mormon to two future Church leaders: Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.

Elder Kimball is the namesake of another building on the MTC campus, Elder Nelson noted, who helped convert more than 1,500 people in just nine months in England.

Elder Nelson also spoke of Dan Jones, a Welsh convert to the Church in 1843 in Nauvoo, Ill. He was with the Prophet Joseph Smith at Carthage Jail the night before the Prophet was martyred and lived to fulfill Joseph's prophecy that he would be a missionary in his native land of Wales, where he helped convert more than 6,600 people.

Another building, Elder Nelson said, is named for Harriet Nye, who, in 1898, became the first sister missionary to be called. She was a companion to her husband, who presided over three missions.

Elder Nelson said six of his own daughters "have had or are now enjoying missionary service."

At the MTC, Neil and Arlea Carmack, Centerville, Utah, left; and Sterling and Margaret Ottesen, Mapleton, Utah; practice giving lessons.
At the MTC, Neil and Arlea Carmack, Centerville, Utah, left; and Sterling and Margaret Ottesen, Mapleton, Utah; practice giving lessons. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses.
Elders visit the bookstore at the Provo Missionary Training Center to purchase study materials. Missionaries pay their own expenses. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Missionaries use computer to help master their language skills.
Missionaries use computer to help master their language skills. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

In his prayer, Elder Nelson said, "Missionaries enter these premises with a burning desire to declare those truths that have been revealed to Thy servant and prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. They seek training in how to comprehend the doctrine of Christ and to preach His gospel. They desire to reap in the field that is white and ready to harvest."

In the prayer, he individually dedicated renovations to five buildings, the first four of which were dedicated by President Kimball in 1976 and the fifth by President Ezra Taft Benson in 1979. The buildings bear the names of missionaries Jacob Hamblin, Erastus Snow, Ray L. Pratt, Harriet Nye and Wilford Booth.

In his brief remarks prior to Elder Nelson's address, Elder Holland told the missionaries, "You are under solemn obligation to honor the history of missionary work in this Church."

Rhett Staples teaches a spanish class on the week of the commemoration of 50 years of language training at the Missionary Training Center.
Rhett Staples teaches a spanish class on the week of the commemoration of 50 years of language training at the Missionary Training Center. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Elder Dylan Loo, from Hawaii, in a Spanish class at the MTC.
Elder Dylan Loo, from Hawaii, in a Spanish class at the MTC. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News
Elder Daniel Hernandez-Navason, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, collects his mail at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
Elder Daniel Hernandez-Navason, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, collects his mail at the Provo Missionary Training Center. Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News

Though missionaries cannot control how receptive people will be to their message, they can control one thing, Elder Holland said, and that is how valiantly they serve in and honor the role of a missionary.

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