For many young Latter-day Saints, preparing to serve a full-time mission is an exciting time. From putting in your papers to finally receiving your mission call, it is filled with milestones you’ll remember for the rest of your life. However, as you approach the date you report to the Missionary Training Center, the anxiety and nerves can rise.
Whether you are the parent of a missionary or a soon-to-be-missionary yourself, here are some practical ways you can prepare to enter the Missionary Training Center.
First, Some Facts!
There are fifteen Missionary Training Centers around the world:
- Argentina (Buenos Aires)
- Brazil (Sao Paulo)
- Chile (Santiago)
- Colombia (Bogotá)
- Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo)
- England (Preston)
- Ghana (Accra)
- Guatemala (Guatemala City)
- Mexico (Mexico City)
- New Zealand (Auckland)
- Peru (Lima)
- Philippines (Manila)
- South Africa (Johannesburg)
- Spain (Madrid)
- United States (Provo)
The South African MTC is one of the smallest, with room for 38 missionaries.The Provo Missionary Training Center is the largest and houses up to 3,700 missionaries at any given time. As the Provo MTC trains missionaries for all of the Church’s missions and gives instruction in 55 languages, we will be basing this article on experiences had the Provo MTC.
If you served at another MTC around the world, please share your experiences in the comments below!
The Luggage Debate
Your instinct will likely be to pack as much as you possibly can for any situation. However, packing light makes your time in the MTC much easier. While you’ll have help on your first day getting your luggage to your room, you’ll have to move it to the bus and around your entire mission.
Make sure you can handle your luggage by yourself. Two large suitcases and another bag you can attach to one of the suitcases is generally considered ideal.
Also, try to determine what you’ll need in the MTC and what you can purchase once you get to your mission or in the MTC itself.
The bottom line? Packing light is your friend! Pay attention to the specifics included in your call packet; that will be your best guideline for the basics you’ll need.
Make Your Luggage Distinct
You may think your red luggage is distinct but remember: there are thousands of missionaries at the MTC at any given time. The easier your luggage is to spot, the less stress you’ll feel. Add some colorful ribbons or tape around the handles.
You’ll also want to make sure you have your name and mission address on each piece of luggage.
Preparing for a Companion
One of the biggest adjustments that must be made as a missionary is having a companion. Before going to the MTC, try getting used to being with someone else. Take a different friend along with you to some of your activities. Remain in sight and sound of each other. Study the companionship inventory in Preach My Gospel and try to prepare yourself for working with someone else. Pray for your future companions.
Read Through the Missionary Handbook
The Missionary Handbook has everything you need to know about missionary standards. Read through it before you get to the MTC. You can find a PDF version here.
All About the “Dork Dot”
When you first enter the MTC, you’ll be given an orange dot sticker to wear on your name tag. Missionaries refer to it as the “dork dot.” The dot simply signifies you are new to the MTC. It helps teachers, leaders, and other missionaries know you may need some extra help. There isn’t anything wrong with that!
Most missionaries, after their first day, place their dork dot on the back of their nametag as a keepsake.
Make it to Sunday
One of the most common pieces of advice is also one of the most useful: just make it to Sunday. Your experience in the MTC isn’t meant to be easy; it’s likely within the first 24 hours you’ll find yourself more exhausted and more stretched than you can remember.
Know you aren’t failing and things will get better. Just make it to Sunday. By the time you leave the MTC, you’ll probably be wishing you could stay a few extra days.
Always Invite Someone to Be Baptized
From your first day in the MTC, you’ll begin teaching. One of the most important lessons you’ll learn is how to invite someone to be baptized. You’ll break down your barriers if you make the decision to invite everyone to be baptized in every lesson. Doing so will boost your confidence and help you gain a deeper testimony of your missionary call.
Study the baptismal invite from Preach My Gospel: Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?
Bring Your Own Blanket
There’s nothing to bring you some comfort like your own blanket. The blue blankets in the MTC are heavy and often create lots of static. Many missionaries describe being shocked when they roll over in bed. Bring one that is light, portable, and reminds you of home. You’ll be glad for it!
Order Some Care Packages
Make sure your friends and family know about this service to send you care packages. Designed just with missionaries in mind, you can get missionary products you’ll actually want to use and delicious baked goods. You’ll feel instantly better on rough days when you get a package from the mailroom. See all your options for care packages here!
The Teaching Resource Center
As a missionary, you’ll visit the Teaching Resource Center (TRC) at least once a week. The TRC is a building at the MTC where volunteers come and act as investigators. You’ll sit and teach them the lessons in whatever language you have been called to preach. Outside of your teachers, who will act as your main investigators, the people you meet in the TRC will be your greatest opportunity to get real-life teaching experience.
BYU Creamery Ice Cream
One of the biggest perks of the Provo MTC is access to BYU creamery ice cream. Make sure to try a bowl. We suggest the Graham Canyon flavor!
Join the Choir
If you have a chance, join the choir! It is a really special experience and a great opportunity to fire up your heart with some missionary zeal. If you are can play an instrument or sing you can even get involved with performing special musical numbers.
Come Ready With Stamps & Stationery
You’ll spend most of your preparation day writing letters. The computers are timed, so you’ll be able to email home, but there will definitely be more people you want to reach out to. Bring stamps, paper, and envelopes. These will serve you well after you leave the MTC as well.
Take a Picture by the World Map
Right outside the cafeteria is a large map of the world. It’s an MTC tradition to take a picture in front of the map pointing to your mission. Go with your MTC district and take pictures there by yourself and with your MTC companion.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. Share your tips and advice for surviving the MTC in the comments below.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.