June 23 reopening set for first MTCs, with new missionary training to be both online and on-site

A date of June 23 has been set for the reopening of the Provo and Ghana missionary training centers, with New Zealand welcoming new missionaries on July 1. For the Provo and New Zealand MTCs, these dates will usher in a new combination of online and on-site training going forward.

Even with the gradual reopening of MTCs and resumption of in-person instruction, most new missionaries will continue to have a portion of their training at home via videoconference.

“We are grateful for the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to open the MTCs as merited based on local conditions, and we are enthused to provide this valuable part of instruction and experience to aid in the missionaries in their preparation to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy who is executive director of the Missionary Department.

This phased approach — with roughly a third of training online, even when MTCs have returned to full operations and capacities — will allow missionaries to continue to experience many of the positive elements of online instruction that have been realized during the pandemic period of training new missionaries.

A limited number of training missionaries, instructors and staff are left to walk the hallways of the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The last groups of missionaries in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 10 missionary training centers around the world will be leaving by the end of the week.
A limited number of training missionaries, instructors and staff are left to walk the hallways of the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The last groups of missionaries in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 10 missionary training centers around the world will be leaving by the end of the week. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

“We have been deeply impressed by how the missionaries and their teachers have made the online training experience effective, but we are so excited to have missionaries walking the halls of MTCs around the world again,” said Kelend Mills, the Missionary Department’s administrative director of MTCs. “There are things missionaries can experience at an MTC that just can’t be replicated online.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic closures in late March 2020, the Church has moved to online training — often referred to as “home MTC” — to train more than 30,000 new missionaries. Online training has originated from the Church’s 10 MTCs worldwide, with missionaries meeting in classroom groups — or “districts” — with their online instructors, many of whom have been teaching from the MTCs for the streamed training.

In late May, the Church announced the reopening of the Provo, Ghana and New Zealand MTCs and initial guidelines and processes.

For a time and as an initial temporary precaution, only missionaries from the United States who are vaccinated and have English language assignments will be eligible to train at the Provo MTC — at first with a weekly intake of 200 to 250 missionaries.

For MTCs outside the United States, only local missionaries will be invited to train on-site, beginning with a capacity of approximately 50 missionaries in each location. For now, missionaries from the U.S. will not be training at these MTCs.

Two sister missionaries visit in the courtyard of the Ghana Missionary Training Center in 2017.
Two sister missionaries visit in the courtyard of the Ghana Missionary Training Center in 2017. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As COVID-19 conditions continue to improve, the number of on-site missionaries and language offerings are expected to expand gradually, along with the Church’s other seven missionary training centers resuming in-person training.

“We are excited to transition back onsite with missionaries and build upon the experiences that they will have been having at home. We are also grateful that missionaries, especially those who come from areas where they are the only missionary from their ward or branch, will have a chance to gather in large groups to learn and prepare together,” said Kirsti Polo, associate administrative director of MTCs, who has specific responsibility for the nine MTCs outside the United States.

Online and on-site training periods

The length of MTC training is traditionally determined by the missionary’s assigned proselyting language. Those assigned to proselyte in their native tongue usually train for three weeks before traveling to their assigned field of labor, while those learning a new language have six to nine weeks of training before departing to their assigned missions.

As MTCs reopen to selected new missionaries, those not learning a new language will begin with a week of online instruction at home — from one Monday to the next Monday — and then transition to on-site training the next Wednesday or Thursday for two weeks (depending on which MTC they are assigned to), for a total of three weeks of instruction, Polo said.

Once missionaries learning a new language return to on-site training, their training will consist of two weeks of online training, followed by four to seven weeks of on-site instruction, depending on the difficulty of the language being learned, Mills added.

Missionaries converse in a classroom of the Ghana Missionary Training Center in 2017.
Missionaries converse in a classroom of the Ghana Missionary Training Center in 2017. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In locations where area presidencies have determined that a large majority of their missionaries don’t have ideal conditions for a good online experience, missionaries may do all of their training on-site at an international MTC rather than participate in online training, Polo said.

New missionaries will be contacted directly if they are invited to train on-site at an open MTC as the training centers gradually reopen and return to in-person instruction and increased capacities. Unless they and their local leaders are so contacted, new missionaries will continue with online training only.

A specific look at Provo’s reopening

More than 300 missionaries are eligible for the June 23 start at the Provo MTC, Mills said, explaining the group is comprised of the missionaries from the United States who are not learning a new language.

When the planned MTC reopenings were announced by the Church on Monday, May 24, the Provo MTC — the flagship training center — received a few calls from missionaries, their parents and their leaders about the possibility of in-person training, Mills said.

“A couple of days later, we sent emails directly to the missionaries who are eligible for on-site training — they’re not learning a new language, they’re from the United States, and if they’re vaccinated, they can come,” he said. “When we sent those out, that’s when communications really increased with emails and phone calls.”

Adam Dummer uses a laptop and video conferencing to train first-day new missionaries at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 10 missionary training centers.
Adam Dummer uses a laptop and video conferencing to train first-day new missionaries at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 10 missionary training centers. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

At the end of that week, the Provo MTC had identified 120 of the more than 300 new missionaries as meeting the qualifying criteria to begin on-site training at the Provo MTC, and as of June 3 that number had risen to 230, said Mills, adding that is about the number MTC leaders anticipate each week.

For the elders and sisters arriving at the Provo MTC on Wednesday, June 23, they will have started online training at home on Monday, June 14, and carried it through Monday, June 21. Tuesday, June 22, is given for transitions and travel in order to arrive at the MTC to start in-person training the following day.

By the second week, an additional 200 to 250 new missionaries are expected to arrive at the Provo MTC, bringing the total at the training center to 400 to 500 new missionaries — the expected capacity early in the reopening process as a group having finished its training departs and is replaced by the newest group of missionaries beginning their two-week on-site training.

“By starting with English-only, we can bring in everyone who is vaccinated and still have large group sizes at the MTC and yet still have enough missionaries training online at home to have normal group sizes in those home districts as well,” Mills said.

Training programs in Provo are expected to expand next to include Spanish and Portuguese — the two most common languages for training missionaries after English — and then gradually to all other languages over time.

Vaccinations and operations

Some may see the MTCs opening to only vaccinated missionaries and the Missionary Department’s April 2021 statement on vaccinations as the Church seemingly requiring all missionaries to be vaccinated.

The Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. New renovations have been made to accommodate 3,700 missionaries.
The Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. New renovations have been made to accommodate 3,700 missionaries. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“There is no requirement to receive any vaccination to serve a mission, but not being vaccinated may limit where one can serve,” Mills said. “And there is no requirement to be vaccinated to receive MTC training, but it may limit whether or not one can come to a physical MTC for now.”

All MTCs have remained operational during the pandemic. However, with missionaries returning for in-person training, additional services — including food, housing, security and expanded building custodial and maintenance operations — are ramping up again.

Some services — from the bookstore to the barbershop — may be limited as to hours and days of operation early in the reopening process, while numbers are less than pre-pandemic norms.