Support Group

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“Support Group,” New Era, June 2000, 39–40

Special Issue: Your Mission

Support Group

Imagine a new school with a student body of two to four thousand—with hundreds of students “graduating” every week and hundreds more taking their place. Think there’s a good chance you could feel lonely there, get lost in the shuffle?

Well, think again. Because while the Missionary Training Center is sort of like that big school, it’s really like no school you ever attended. The MTC is set up so that every individual feels welcome, loved, and cared for—from day one. It’s a school where everyone who wants to succeed will succeed. And a major key to this is the people.

The students

First of all, there are the “students” themselves—your fellow missionaries. Instead of class rankings, cliques, and competition, there’s a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. Everyone is there for the same reason, preparing to serve the same Master. Ask a question, get a friendly answer. Walk past a stranger, get a hello (though it may be in any of 49 languages).

Every newly arrived missionary is immediately assigned a companion and a district. Some new companionships immediately find they have a lot in common. Others have to work harder at their relationships. But differences do get worked out because there’s a common purpose and because so many people, including the others in the district, provide support. All in all, it’s a great growing experience.

As one missionary, Elder Pratt, puts it, “I found that I can learn a whole lot from my companion; and every time we’ve felt the Spirit together and every time I’ve heard him bear his testimony, I have learned to love him more and more. It’s been a good experience to be here at the MTC and realize that you can grow closer to people who are so different from you.”

The faculty

Then there are the teachers, the people who help you learn the missionary discussions, learn how to be an effective missionary, and learn a new language. Forget that cranky old English teacher you had in eighth grade. Most of the MTC teachers are returned missionaries themselves, most are recently returned, and all are well acquainted with the cultures and situations you are headed for. And their whole purpose is to help you succeed in learning as much as you possibly can. How well do they succeed? Just ask their missionaries.

“He builds up confidence. When we are not doing very well, he is always there to give us confidence,” says Elder Wood.

“They are the MTC. The learning and experience they bring is so good. It’s a whole other experience at the MTC—having these teachers, these returned missionaries who come back here to teach because they love the work,” says Elder Kaliponi.

“We love our teachers,” you hear over and over.

The administration

As awesome as the teachers are, there are still others at the MTC whose whole purpose is to help missionaries grow and succeed. For example, there are the branch presidencies—wise and loving men called from the local community to serve the missionaries as priesthood leaders.

Each district of 10 to 12 missionaries is assigned to a branch made up of four to six districts. The branch presidencies and their wives devote their whole Sunday and several evenings a week to the missionaries in their branch—getting acquainted and making sure each missionary has whatever help is needed to succeed. If a missionary is struggling with studies, or needs medical attention, or has spiritual needs—whatever the problem—the branch presidency is on the job. And the missionaries appreciate it.

“You can really feel the love that they have for all of us. They are awesome,” says Sister Whiting.

“He’s always concerned about how everybody in the district is doing. He’s always asking if anyone has any problems or is homesick. The whole branch presidency really care about missionaries and missionary work,” says Elder Wallace.

If the MTC is a school, it’s one with no grades, no class rankings. There are just hundreds of people, from the MTC presidency to the amazingly informed people at the information desk to the teachers and branch presidencies and volunteers—all of them with only one purpose: to help you succeed.