Mormon Newsroom released a statement yesterday that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will close 2 of its 15 missionary training centers (MTCs) in January of 2019. The closures are due to a reorganization of resources according to need, and no changes to the surrounding missions were announced.
The Spain MTC is next to the Madrid Spain Temple; the Chile MTC is next to the Santiago Chile Temple. Both MTC buildings are owned by the Church, and will be utilized for other Church purposes. The Church hasn’t decided on the exact new uses of the buildings yet, but housing for LDS members visiting the temples is being considered.
Missionaries who traditionally would have attended one of these MTCs will travel to a different MTC for their missionary training, which typically lasts 3 to 9 weeks. The MTC in Chile taught Spanish for native and non-native speakers, so it’s possible that some of the missionaries will go to the Argentina, the Peru, or the Brazil MTC instead, all of which have Spanish training programs.
The Spain MTC taught 3 week courses for native speakers in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Russian; it also featured longer programs for English speakers learning Spanish or Russian. The Church hasn’t announced which MTCs will absorb these programs; the England MTC is the closest geographically; its current missionary training programs are for English, German, Greek, and ESL.
In the Church’s early days, missionaries received little to no training in missionary work or in foreign languages. Missionaries such as Alma O. Taylor learned the language once they arrived in their destination country. Alma arrived in Japan with the first group of missionaries to that country in 1901. At the tender age of 19, Alma struggled to learn the language, but in time learned it well enough to translate the missionary tracts, hymns, and the Book of Mormon into Japanese. Of course, his mission lasted longer than the now standard 2 years for young men; he served for almost 9 years and became the mission president before he was done. Deseret Book offers a book about it—The Japanese Missionary Journals of Elder Alma O. Taylor: 1901-10
The first of what might be considered an “MTC” was Salt Lake Mission Home, started in 1925. Missionaries would spend a day or two in Salt Lake City where they would be set apart by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before heading off on their missions with no training or foreign language skills, but with great faith. The Church didn’t begin formally teaching all foreign languages used in its missions until 1968. Deseret News has an interesting article about the history of MTCs for those interested, It’s from 2013, so it’s a little dated, but it covers the first 85+ years of MTCs very well.—History of the Missionary Training Center, locations around the world