At some point in the near future, the Missionary Training Center will likely reopen fully, and in some ways that’s unfortunate, because home MTC is good.
We had our doubts. Would it be hugely disruptive to the rest of our family to live with a missionary-in-training? Would it require shutting down all our entertainment or constant supervision for the missionary? I also had doubts – based on data and several years of professional experience – about the effectiveness of online language learning. And could online MTC really prepare someone to serve a mission?
There are in fact a few experiences that can’t be duplicated in an online format. While a gradual transmission from normal to mission life is better for some, other missionaries need a starker break with their home life. And a lot more can go wrong with travel into the mission field when you have 12 missionaries departing from 12 local airports than with one district flying out of SLC, where the airlines are more accustomed to missionary travel and any hiccups can be resolved with a local phone call. But if you have to miss out on a few parts of the missionary experience, the MTC is definitely the part to miss.
Constant companionship turned out not to be required, so schedule disruption was minimal for us. If my daughter needed to be in class during family meals, it wasn’t a problem; she’s an adult who can feed herself during class breaks. If space in the home is an issue or you’re used to having a TV as the focus of family entertainment, there could be issues, but for us, home MTC was good. And it turns out that sufficiently motivated students actually can gain substantial proficiency in a foreign language in an MTC-sized chunk of time, even in an online format.
But home MTC is not merely an acceptable substitute for the real thing. Home MTC is good because late-stage teenagers can be, let’s say, somewhat self-centered and impatient, and they undergo tremendous changes as missionaries, and home MTC lets families see some of these changes in person instead of being surprised, 18 or 24 months later, by what has gotten into their children. It was good to get regular updates about MTC classes, teaching experiences and language learning over dinner, and family members can participate as ad-hoc companions for exercise. Over the years I’ve watched my daughter participate in athletic, musical and academic activities, but I’ve never seen her as happily comfortable in her element as she was in home MTC, and I’m glad I could be there to see it.
Someday soon, home MTC will come to an end, and perhaps that will be a return to something better, but maybe the missionary department will try to hang on to a few of the pandemic-imposed innovations, because home MTC was good.