The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Daniel Brook takes you on a tour of a Mormon missionary training center.
Each year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends 20,000 missionaries around the world. These highly devout Mormon youth are the force behind the rapid expansion of what is arguably now the world's fastest-growing religion.At dusk, Elder Mortensen and Elder Warby escort a flock of 19-year-olds on a quick walking tour of their training grounds. Between the dim evening light and the fact that the buildings are all identical yellow-brick structures, Warby concedes, "it takes about a week before you really know your way around." At the end of the tour, Warby points to the snowcapped mountains beyond the parking lot and the fence: "That's the outside world," he says. "You won't know that again."Warby is half joking. This is not a military installation, nor a prison. It's the Missionary Training Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons. These missionaries-in-training will, of course, know the outside world again, but far from this picturesque 10-acre expanse in Provo, Utah. As in the military, though, recruits go by a title-in this case "Elder," followed by their last name-and the training is rigorous. "I don't even know if we have first names anymore," one missionary quips. "I forgot mine," another replies. And after two months of doctrinal and foreign-language training, graduates will travel the world as part of the most successful missionary force on the planet. Warby and Mortensen are just two of the 20,000 recruits to come through the training center each year who go on to convert roughly 300,000 people annually.
|\nMissionary service is expected of young Mormon men, who pay $10,000 for two years of training.\n|
|In many parts of the world, a Mormon missionary is the only American the locals will ever meet; the clean-cut, idealistic young face of our nation.|
|\nDespite the fact that the Church has more foreign than American members, the missionary corps is largely white and middle-American.\n|
|\nFamily and friends say their goodbyes; visiting is strictly prohibited throughout training.\n|
|\nElders Mortensen and Warby sit in a meeting at the MTC.\n|
|Mormons believe we are living in the latter days, that the end is near. Families are instructed to stock up on canned goods and wheat to prepare for Armageddon.|
|\nMormon missionaries are sent to 145 different countries seeking new converts.\n|
|The strategy of mainstreaming seems all but official Church policy. In his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has highlighted the similarities between his faith and those of most Americans, at times blatantly misrepresenting what Mormons believe.|
|\nThe MTC's language training is state of the art; the U.S. military uses it as a model.\n|