This is the second time around at the Missionary Training Center for me.
Historical photos on the walls tell me I was here at the beginning. Back in 1964, it was called the Language Training Mission, and it was just getting started. There were about 300 of us missionaries, I think, scattered in buildings across the Brigham Young University campus. Administrators struggled to find space for the rapidly growing group. The building where I spent most of my time at the LTM had been a girls’ dorm the year before; once I had picked up a date there. Groups of elders stood out as they strode across campus to classes or meetings in different locations. Space was at such a premium that our group of elders was sent off to Central America three weeks short of our scheduled 12-week stay. We spent the last week in a motel in downtown Provo that is long since gone.
The old Social Hall at BYU, where the LTM was headquartered, is long gone too. Now the place is called the MTC, and it has its own campus north of the university facing the Provo Temple, another landmark that was not here my first time through. The MTC is thronged with young men and women eager to serve missions, and with a few dozen couples who, like me and my wife, have the privilege and honor to serve together. Looking into the eager faces of young missionaries bound for Warsaw or Lisbon or Calgary, I feel like the 19-year-old who came to the LTM so many years ago. But there are ample reminders that time has passed—young people who stand aside and hold doors open for the “senior couples,” and young elders who fill their plates with a double helping of cheeseburger and fries while I struggle to find a meal that fits within my calorie limits. Among the compensations here: teachers one-third our age who freely compliment our experience, and missionaries like the young elder who says that what my wife and I are doing is cool, and that he hopes to do it with his wife in some future year.
Who knows how many thousands of missionaries have passed through the MTC since its beginnings? They have served missions and touched lives all over the earth. This very concept has spread to other continents; now there are MTCs in several countries.
Back in 1964, I could expect to get a new companion in a few weeks. My current companion and I have been together for 44 years, and counting. I am looking forward to spending the next 18 months with her serving people in an area I grew to love the first time around.
What we received as young missionaries in the LTM was a foundation—the beginnings of ability to use the language and to teach spiritual concepts we were just learning to understand ourselves.
After almost 50 years, I am still learning to understand those spiritual concepts—and still looking forward to sharing them with people for whom they may be completely new or with those newer members who may now be building on their own foundation.
My companion is making a valiant effort to learn the language, and we are seeing our Father bless her in many ways for her effort.
And I? I am asking Him to help me become more fluent in sharing and teaching things I have come to know with surety in my heart over the years. Oh, let me learn how to help others have the opportunity to feel the things I feel!
For many years my companion has enjoyed helping Primary children learn to sing. The song about the wise man who built his house upon the rock has always been one of their favorites.
Now the two of us are here to continue building on the rock together, and to learn how to help others build on that foundation too.