“A Day in the Life of a Language Training Missionary,” New Era, Mar. 1971, 10–11
Each year more than two thousand newly called missionaries—both elders and sisters—begin the intensive first eight weeks of their mission experiences in Language Training missions. Missionaries learning Spanish, Portuguese, German, Navaho, French, Italian, and Afrikaans attend the Language Training Mission at Provo, Utah. The Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian languages are taught at Rexburg, Idaho. In Laie, Hawaii, missionaries study Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Samoan, Tongan, Korean, and Tahitian.
As one elder said, “We are already ordained disciples of Christ. Here in the Language Training Mission, our main objective is to become familiar with the new language so that we can conduct the gospel discussions in it.” These missionaries accomplish this in eight weeks.
Talking to missionaries who have been at the Language Training Mission for only four weeks can be frustrating, because even in everyday conversation they are thinking and speaking in their mission languages. They acquire this language familiarity by intensive study, by fasting and prayer, and by disciplining themselves against a dependence on English. From the time they arise until they go to bed, they speak only their mission language.
One might suspect that in this intense climate of learning there would be a lot of competition and the associated feelings of discouragement and depression. The only recognizable feeling—and it is overpowering, even to a visitor—is one of brotherhood. Even in the dining room there is a great feeling of brotherhood emanating from the scores of young men and women who love the Lord, who are united by their calling, and who can hardly wait to get to their mission fields and begin teaching the message of the restored gospel.
In order to present a picture of life in a Language Training Mission, the New Era followed Elder Hafen (Henderson Ward, Lake Mead Stake in Nevada) and Elder Brown (Claremont Ward, Pomona Stake in California) through a day at the Language Training Mission in Provo. Elder Hafen is in the Peru Mission, and Elder Brown the Uruguay-Paraguay Mission.
A zone leader’s banging on the door is the signal to arise. Then it’s shower, shave, pray, dress, recite yesterday’s three-page discussion assignment by memory to your companion, and make your bed before breakfast.
A hearty breakfast and a little side dish of memorization at the same time.
In the classroom with a recently returned Spanish-speaking elder. Language and grammar drills are conducted in sitting and standing positions. Prayer is an important part of the session.
All districts and zones get together for a missionwide devotional. “The opening song will be ‘Firm as the Mountains Around Us’: English, page 42; French, 191; German, 240; Portuguese, 240; and Spanish, 56.” Even devotionals are learning sessions, and it is important to take notes.
Lunch, more memorization, and the sharing of comradeship.
Grammar lesson, and then more discussion memorization with a different teacher.
Retention (memorizing discussions, repeating them back and forth to each other), and practice giving discussions with the flannelboard.
After a little physical exercise comes more memorization before dinner.
Dinner—and a good feeling all around after a hard day of work; some friendly comments to nearby companions, and through it all—more memorization.
Zone meetings, talks, songs, prayers—everything is done in the mission language.
A practice session in meeting people and giving gospel discussions to people who have recently immigrated to the United States from the language areas.
General conversation with native listeners.
Review of the day’s learning with companion.
Get ready for bed, shine shoes, pray with companion, have personal prayer, and end the day with a good handshake.
The following regulations were established by the Church Missionary Committee for the Language Training missions. Each missionary is expected to abide by them to the best of his ability, for each is now in the mission field.
Speaking Your Mission Language
1. You will be expected to make English inoperative end to speak your mission language at all times.
1. Always stay with your assigned companion. Never exchange companions.
2. Pray with him (her) and learn to love him (her); work as a team.
1. All missionaries should dress conservatively.
2. Hair should be properly cut and sideburns trimmed to the middle of the ear.
3. Elders should wear suits, ties, and white shirts. Coats may be removed in your residence hall and classrooms.
4. During the summer months you need not wear a coat. Conservative dress slacks, a white shirt, and a tie are proper.
5. Sweaters or vests must be covered by a suit coat at all times, in or out of the building.
6. Light-colored slacks or colored denims should not be worn.
7. Your suit coat should always match your trousers exactly.
8. During the winter months, a dress overcoat is proper for missionaries. Parkas, Windbreakers, etc., are not acceptable.
9. Lady missionaries should always wear hose. Colored hose should be avoided. Skirts should be knee length.
10. Sport clothes may be worn only on hikes or outings; missionaries should not appear in public places in sport clothes.
1. Write to parents once a week to inform them of your activities.
2. It is recommended that letters be written during the weekend only.
3. Write to girlfriend (or boyfriend) no more than once a week.
Avoid excessive letter-writing to many friends.
1. Members of your family and your friends should realize that you are on a mission and should not visit you while you are at the Language Training Mission.
2. You should not accept invitations to go visiting or to eat with friends or relatives.
3. Write to your relatives and friends to explain this regulation, thereby avoiding embarrassing situations.
4. You may plan to meet your friends and relatives at the airport at the time of your departure. The mission will provide your transportation to the airport.
1. Telephone calls to or from relatives or friends should be made in emergency cases only. Before making such a call, please discuss the problem with your zone counselor.
1. Activities such as hiking, bowling, bicycling, and others that are in keeping with the missionary character are encouraged on Saturday.
2. Do not bring a guitar or any other instrument to the Language Training Mission.
3. Do not bring or use radios or tape recorders while in the Language Training Mission.
4. Attend gym three times a week at the designated time for your zone.
5. Movies rated GP, R, or X should be avoided, since they will not help you grow spiritually.
6. Weekdays and nights are reserved for missionary work. All outside activities should be taken care of on preparation day, which is Saturday.
1. All missionaries should arise at 6:00 A.M.; no one should arise before this time.
2. Pranks and rowdiness in the living quarters are not in keeping with missionary character.
3. Beds should be made daily; rooms should be tidy and clean at all times.
1. Keep a daily account of activities on your Weekly Report.
2. Write a brief progress report weekly to the mission president, informing him of your accomplishments, problems, and feelings about your work.