Ok, so if you have been a member of the Church long enough to be preparing to serve a mission, you've heard of the MTC plenty. You probably have family members and friends who have shared countless accounts of crazy funny and spiritual experiences there. And if you don't know already you NEED to know that the Provo MTC has BYU Creamery chocolate milk ON TAP!
So, you know about the MTC, but do you really know what to expect or how the MTC works? ESPECIALLY if you aren't learning a language! More importantly, do you know how to prepare for the MTC experience?
One of the greatest blessings of my life will always be the year I spent teaching at the MTC. I learned more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ from my time in the MTC than my time as a missionary… which is honestly more a personal problem. Spending any amount of time there should truly be treated as a blessing.
In the MTC you begin living the missionary schedule in the sense that you wake up and go to bed at the standard times, but everything else is a little wacky.
Here are a few scheduling things you can count on:
- Every day you’ll have time to exercise.
- The MTC has a massive gym perfect for basketball, four square, and running laps. There are places you can stretch and hypothetically do yoga, but finding your zen in the same room as 50 bouncing basketballs isn’t for the faint of heart.
- You can also work out in your room, take a walk around the MTC campus, and when the weather is nice you can play Frisbee, kickball, volleyball and more on the upper field.
- There will be lots of study time… and I mean LOTS.
- You will have personal study time, companionship study time, language study time (when applicable), and more study time. There can be so much study time that your brain starts to feel like mush.
- Study tips:
- You will have your whole mission to soak in these principles. One day your Preach My Gospel will feel as familiar as your favorite t shirt. You’ll get there. There is no rush.
- Plan and Diversify. Avoid study burn out by planning and getting creative. Have a list of topics that you would like to learn more about. Switch between different resources. Spend some time just simply reading the scriptures. Familiarize yourself with Christ’s parables.
- Class time and teachers.
- When you get to the MTC you are assigned a district. A district is just a group of 6-10 ish missionaries. Usually about half of your district will be going to the same mission as you. Each district is assigned two teachers.
- Every day you will have two three hour blocks of class. One block with each teacher a day. Class can feel long, but they do their best to keep it moving with variety in activities.
- In my humble opinion, the most important thing you can learn from your teachers is how to love and teach people you just met. Pay attention to how they teach you. BE HUMBLE. Trust them. The Church dumps a lot of money into continually training MTC teachers. When the Church wants to implement a new teaching style with the missionaries, they train the MTC teachers first.
- Role playing
- Role playing is one of the best ways to practice teaching and it helps you understand what it feels like to be both a missionary and an investigator. No one is too good for role playing.
- By the end of your mission you will be a role-playing pro, but at first, it feels weird and hokey. And that’s ok. My suggestion would be to dive in head first. The only people who look like idiots are those who hold back. You’re already in the MTC you might as well go big.
- If you buy into the role-playing magic, it can bless you your entire life. I can’t tell you how many times I have forced a roommate to role play a tough conversation with a coworker, friend, or boyfriend with me. It is a true skill, but it takes practice.
- At one time or another, you will be mentally, emotionally and physically tired in a way you didn’t know was possible. You would pay a million dollars for an hour nap in your own bed, but here is the thing: this is life. From here on out, part of life as an adult is kinda always wanting a nap. Lean into this, but don’t lean too far. If you are feeling like you’re going to snap, find a way to work a 15-minute nap into your schedule. This is just me, but I think Heavenly Father would rather have you spend a little time resting your mind so you can take full advantage of your studies over you “studying” like a zombie.
- Role playing
Much like mission advice, everyone has a million opinions. I recently got a lot of good advice from some incredibly bright and experienced women. I’m going to share some of their tips below, but first I want to give my two cents.
I literally just have two tips.
- Get comfortable communicating with the spirit in your everyday life. Know what if feels like to get a little prompting or good idea and then IMMEDIATELY act on it. If you build that relationship before you put on that name tag, you will a million times better off. Let Heavenly Father know he can trust you to run whatever errands He needs taken care of. You can do this by simply praying that you will be more aware of His hand in your life. He is already there, you just need to notice Him.
- Soak in the MTC, but don’t drown. The MTC can be like a little magical spiritual Disneyland, or it can feel like a smothering wet blanket. Sometimes, a little of both. Take advantage of the time that you have to focus on learning and preparing. This means you need to be humble and recognize that you have stuff to learn and prepare for, but don’t stress about learning everything all at once. You will not be a perfect missionary the day you enter the field, nor the day you leave. Serving a mission isn’t about being the perfect missionary. It’s about learning, growing, and changing so you can better help others do the same.
Ok, jk. I have one more tip.
- When you put on that badge you are going to feel a vacuum sucking you into a perfect robot missionary mold. Fight it. Fight that pressure with everything you have. Your call letter includes your first name. God called you and your personality and everything that makes you unique to serve. He didn’t call some robot-cookie-cutter version of you. Maintain who you are. Not because you are better than anyone, but because there are people who need YOU and His Gospel. God loves YOU and He wants you to enjoy your mission. There will be days that are VERY hard to enjoy, but it will be so much easier if you maintain your “you-ness.”
Rad tips from rad humans:
- If you are learning a language, take your Speak Your Language challenges seriously. I know that being diligent in my HSI (habla su idoma) practice helped my language skills more than almost anything else . . . except for reading The Book of Mormon in the mission language. @Liahonagirl75
- I would say go with an open HEART and mind! People are coming from all walks of life and especially if you're older or been independent for a few years prior to the mission... you're going to be with people that might be out on their own for the first time, and they're doing the best they can just like you! @queenofkooks
- I'd say that you need to eat before you get dropped off, they don't feed you til 6 pm. I accidentally started fasting because I didn't eat lunch... Had a super emotional day and ended up with an awful headache. No bueno. @nyssahramirez
- Right before I went into the MTC my friend took me grocery shopping and told me to get snacks. I grabbed popcorn, canned fruit, fruit snacks and granola bars- stuff that wouldn't go bad while I was there. Those snacks got me and my companion through the MTC. 9 weeks of MTC food takes it toll on you!! @withkrstinamanda
- The thought that Sunday is golden! That first night (Wednesday) can be so hard with missing family and overwhelming with what is ahead but do your best to make it to Sunday and it gets better! I remember the first couple of days I just had to tell myself 'Sunday is golden...Sunday is golden' when it was hard. It's so beautiful to hear the familiar sacrament prayer and partake of the sacrament for the first time as a missionary with your purpose secured strongly in your mind @Mackenziemcomber
- Someone gave me a ton of dollar bills to take to the MTC so I could get snacks, etc. out of the vending machines at the end of the halls. That saved me!!! There were many times I'd buy microwave pizzas or burritos for a late-night snack @joslynsue
- I wish I had known how many notebooks and pens I would go through! I brought like one super mini note book and I needed WAY more because I wanted to write down everything! I'm so glad I did write down so much because the MTC is so spiritual! And soak in the closeness you feel with the missionaries there! It's such a unique feeling! @cass_nichole_hood
- While you should work hard, don't take yourself too seriously. Don't stress. Be obedient and do your best and eventually you will learn the language. Enjoy all the amazing firesides and time just spent studying. Have a positive attitude. Have fun. I was surprised to find that I loved the MTC and made some amazing friend there. @melonaid
- Honestly, I think everyone expects to work hard and to be spiritual (I mean, it's the MTC, right???), but I think what I wish I had worked harder on was relationships. With the other sisters and companion, I got along with everyone just fine, but you don't realize how special those people will be to you until much, much later and how much you will need those people and their special talents and spirits as you go through that experience. @allbrightthings3