After 40 years of slump block classrooms, dank dormitory buildings and faulty heating and air conditioning systems, remnants of the 1978 Provo Missionary Training Center are coming down.
“The church is planning to demolish five buildings in the center of the Provo Missionary Training Center complex and replace them with open spaces and study areas,” said Daniel Woodruff, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “These buildings are older and have not been in use since the new training buildings were completed in 2017.”
Woodruff said the demolition is expected to begin in the summer.
“This decision is a continuation of the master plan for updating and improving the Provo MTC,” Woodruff said.
The church has not indicated when the project is expected to be completed.
The church dedicated two new buildings in October 2017 after an unprecedented open house for the public to see just what goes on there.
At the opening of the new additions, MTC Administrative Director Kelly Mills said, “Our design was to do everything we could to create a space where we could connect what happens inside the buildings with the outside, to connect missionaries with God’s creations and also to allow as much natural light into the spaces as possible.”
The new grounds had added “ponder spaces” where there’s artwork, soft music playing in the background, where missionaries can just sit, Mills said.
When the older buildings (which are directly behind the main administrative building and cafeteria) are demolished, a new large garden plaza with trees, shrubs, ground cover, and statuary and private study areas will be built.
The master plan for updating and improving the MTC has changed drastically over the past seven years and at times been a very long process for at least the neighbors.
The new plaza and garden will be located where once was planned a nine-story building — a building that raised the ire of the Pleasant View Neighborhood and its residents.
The proposed nine-story building was to house 16 classrooms, one or two large workshop rooms, seven to nine small practice teaching rooms, two computer labs and quiet spaces for reflection on each floor. There also was to be a basement.
In 2012, church data shows that as many as 2,500 missionaries are in residence at any given time. A bump the year before raised the number of missionaries to 4,000.
Current numbers show there are presently 1,109 missionaries at the MTC with it growing to 2,000 by July. The current MTC can hold up to 3,700 missionaries.
During the high-rise debate, several neighbors sent an unsigned letter to the church saying when the MTC was built in the 1970s, the church promised there would be no buildings taller than four stories.
They even had a weekend where neighbors put 161-foot orange helium balloons around the city to show perspective on just how tall nine stories is.
But the church said enough and pushed back on its saints.
One Sunday in a sacrament meeting of the Pleasant View First Ward — the church ward nearest the MTC — stake President Chris Randall read a statement from the pulpit that he said was a message relayed from Elder L. Whitney Clayton, area representative of the church for east Provo.
Ward members in attendance at the meeting said that Randall, in a tearful delivery, said the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency had carefully and prayerfully considered the issue of growth and development at the MTC and had decided that the nine-story building should be built.
According to church members in attendance, Randall then delivered what he said was an “invitation” to the congregation to “sustain” the leaders in their decision.
The shift to an ecclesiastical appeal in a formal church meeting — including the invitation — was in sharp contrast to Randall’s earlier statements to numerous residents. Earlier, he said repeatedly that building height on the MTC campus was purely a secular matter and that people were free to act according to individual conscience without fear of repercussions on their church standing.
So, for four months they fought the issue through the Planning Commission and a number of city council meetings.
By the end of September 2012, the neighbors had all but given up hope they had any recourse. Then the October Semi-annual General Conference was held.
That was the conference when church President Thomas S. Monson surprised just about everyone in the church when he announced the age of missionaries would be lowered to 18 for men and 19 for women.
At that point, all things concerning a nine-story building at the MTC were off the table. Within less than a month, the church had received several thousand mission applications and it had to scramble to find housing.
The church eventually leased the Raintree Apartment complex for housing and classroom space. It even utilized established MTCs in other parts of the world.
Missionaries, particularly young women, flooded the MTCs and grew the full-time program from around 50,000 to more than 80,000. That has since dropped back to around 65,000.
There are 12 worldwide MTCs including Provo. The Provo MTC teaches about 50 languages.