More MTC Life

After the excitement of the MTC beginning, you kind of settle in to a routine. I think I was there for 3 1/2 weeks before departing to Calgary, Alberta, and each day was scheduled in full. Let's see if I can recall the entire schedule....

You wake up (of course), shower, get ready, go have breakfast at the cafeteria (which is not really bad, despite what many people like to say).

Next you go to your morning class. Next lunch, then afternoon class, then dinner, then evening class. Once or twice a week, interspersed throughout the evenings, you would have a large group meeting where the majority of the MTC would come together to hear one of the Quorum of the Twelve or Qurum of the Seventy speak.
Also, I can't recall the exact timing of it, but we spent an hour or two a day in the call center, which was pretty exciting stuff. Maybe 30 - 50 missionaries would sit in the call center and follow up with folks who had seen the commercials and ask if they received their videos, or Bibles, or Book of Mormon copy. Sometimes people would be receptive and want to learn more; sometimes people would want to chat about struggles they'd been having in their life. Sometimes they were just bad numers where some prankster had sent his buddy the next dorm room a video. (ha ha...I never did think it was very funny). Most of the time it was folks who were curious enough to get a video or book but wanted to explore on their own terms or own timeline, which is OK, too. Every once in a while someone would want to have the missionaries in the area come follow up so they could learn more.
Most of the time spent in the MTC was spent studying the scriptures and the lessons. The purpose of it (for people going to missions that speak the native language already) really is to put the finishing touches on their Spiritual development, to make sure missionaries learned reasonable teaching techniques and that the missionaries understand the basic fundamentals of the gospel. It really is a platform that is meant to teach missionaries HOW to study, so they can study the scriptures their entire mission to continue to grow and develop.
Also at the MTC you are organized into districts. A district is a group of 10 or so missionaries that go through the MTC together. I think my district had 4 elders going to Canada, 2 going to Oakland, California, one or two sisters going to the Provo, Utah mission, and two sisters going to Houston, Texas. It helps to have the same group b/c you grow together and get to know each other. It helps you feel comfortable and creates a better learning environment because you know the people you are studying with.
The MTC also teaches many languages. I ddin't go on a foreign-speaking mission, but there were missioaries there learning every language under the sun, it seemed. Many of them just from the States or Canada who had never learned Tagalog or French or Russian. Those groups would generally stay in the MTC for 8 weeks to learn the gospel lessons and the language as well.
Above are two of the instructors that I got pictures taken with. The one on the right was really helpful to me in learning to understand and recognize the influence of the Spirit. We talked about Galations chapter 5 a bit if I remember correctly.
And here is a picture of my district with one of the other MTC sister instructors. After only 3 weeks together, it's really neat how close you can feel with a group you never knew before.

Life at the MTC

After the large group meeting with the President of the MTC, families go out one door, and the missionaries go out a different door. The families go out to their cars, and a new journey begins for the green missionary.

I remember queueing up to leave the presentation room, nervous and excited. I followed the crowd to another spot where there were older service missionaries (who were serving service missions AT the MTC) who were helping us newbies get our bearings. Taking photos, making sure our grooming was up to par (mine wasn't, you 'll notice I had a quick hair cut from the first photo in the first post to later!) and I think they pointed me to my room. They also told me who my assigned companion was. (Missionaries spend all their time together in companionships. The thought is that two are better than one. Nobody is perfect either and everyone is subject to temptations from time to time, having two helps keep missionaries from making really BIG mistakes. )

Wednesdays are the day (at least they were in 1997) where the MTC takes on new missionaries, and since my last name starts with a "B", I was at the first large group meeting of the day, so I figured I'd be the first one of my companionship to be there, but I was surprised when I got to my bunk room that there was another missionary already there. We were both a little shy at first, but we figured out after a few minutes that we were companions. Turns out, he flew in pretty early in the day from Canada (near the Great Lakes area), so he had beat me there by several hours. I was pretty excited to be paired up with someone from Canada, since that is where I was going - to the great Canada Calgary Mission. Here he is. His nickname was Beezer.

He told me that there was a great big sheet of ice at the border, and when we flew over in the plane, I should look for it. (ha ha). We chatted about the great North for a while while we waited for other Elders to show up. We eventually went to dinner and then went to our first class that evening.

A note about classes. The purpose of the MTC is to train Sisters and Elders (that's the title we give missionaries. If your name was Joe Snyder, you would be called Elder Snyder; if you were Emma Brenner, you would be called Sister Brenner, etc.) to be missionaries. Well, that is a tough task, but the instructors are up to it. We talked about our conversion to the gospel and the Spirit that evening if I recall.

The instructors are all men and women who have previously served missions who are (generally) attending school at BYU. Teaching at the MTC is their job. Honestly, I don't think it pays that well in terms of dollars, but the Spiritual benefits are what really bring the instructors out.

The class instruction focused a lot on the Spirit (see Galations 5, the fruit of the Spirit; Moroni 10:5 in the Book of Mormon; and Doctrine and Covenants section 50 if you want a real in-depth study). The idea is that as missionaries, we would encounter different situations every day out in the mission field (once we left the MTC). While the lesson material would try to prepare us to discuss the doctrines of our church, the best Advocate a missionary can keep with him or her is the Spirit. It will guide and direct as necessary. In fact, we believe that convincing someone that the message is true by logic alone is not a true conversion to the faith. One must be taught by the Spirit to gain a true knowledge of the truth. It is an interesting topic to be sure. I cannot cover it in correct detail in this post alone.

July 23, 1997

This is a day that will forever change my life. It's the day I left my home in Sandy, UT and went to the Missionary Training Center in Provo. You could sneer or think it a little dramatic to say that this was such a big day, but it marked a change in my life from worrying about myself and my little nest of friends that I grew up with to leaving to serve the LDS Church and focusing on something besides myself for a change.

The day began quietly enough. My friends came over to say goodbye to me one last time, Chris and Ryan are in the picture here. Saying goodbye was difficult, but we had already hugged and said bye a few times before, so it seemed to go okay.

For families that live close to Utah (or maybe not so close, either), dropping their departing missionary off at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) is a pretty big event. We all drove down to Provo and ate dinner at the Brick Oven. Funny enough, there were several other missionaries that were eating lunch with their families there as well. After lunch, we drove to the MTC and sat in a large group of people and listened to the President of the MTC speak. He was a very gracious man who commanded the Spirit well and he brought a feeling of comfort to the departing missionaries and their sad families. Leaving loved ones is always difficult; this is one of the more bittersweet feelings I think I have had in my life. Excited to finally get moving on the mission, but sad to leave behind all the people you love from the first 19 years of your life.

A few pictures of the departure are here. My brother and my Dad, my girlfriend at the time (!) also pictured with my goofy little brother and my sister, and my older sister, too.

Last is a picture of my Mom. Mom's hold a great symbolism in our church. There is a story in the Book of Mormon about 2,000 young men who fight in a war. They're not trained for battle, yet their courage takes them to the battle field to defend what they love and believe. At the end, their Captain, Heleman, frantically searches through the ranks to see how many of the precious youth had died in the battle. Miracously, none of them had died. Every one had sustained injuries, cuts, fatigues, some very serious, but all of them had lived. Many from the army of men they had fought alongside had lost their lives in the battle. When questioned, the young warriors replied that their mothers had taught them that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. I feel that way about my Mother, too. I tried to believe in what she taught me to be true as I went out into the missionfield.

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