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As its missionary force continues to swell, the LDS Church has unveiled an eagerly anticipated site plan for expanding the capacity of its flagship Provo Missionary Training Center by 50 percent.
The plan, revealed late Monday on the faith's newsroom website, shows several new six-story buildings south of the present campus, near church-owned Brigham Young University, to provide more space for classrooms, personal study and small-group activities. It also calls for 300 underground parking stalls and upgraded landscaping to provide a neighborhood buffer.
Gone is the previously announced and later discarded proposal for a nine-story tower. Some residents had complained that such a high-rise would destroy the character of their neighborhood. The shorter buildings "will be well within the height and placement requirements of Provo City's zoning guidelines," says the news release.
The plan also calls for a newly landscaped drive for arriving missionaries and will become the scene for the emotional rite-of-passage ritual in which loved ones drop off their young sons and daughters before they embark on their two years (for men) or 18 months (for women) of proselytizing service.
LDS officials showed the revised proposal last week to residents of the Pleasant View neighborhood, where the MTC resides.
"We are delighted with the plan," Paul Evans, chairman of the neighborhood group that had criticized the earlier proposal, said Tuesday. "We are especially pleased with the degree to which they [LDS officials] have listened to the neighborhood's concerns and taken those concerns into account in the new plan."
Construction is set to begin in the summer of 2015, according to the news release, with completion expected two years later.
When finished, Provo's MTC will accommodate 4,500 missionaries, up from the current capacity of 3,000.
Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the minimum age for missionary service in October 2012, the Utah-based faith has seen its missionary ranks surge from 58,500 to more than 85,000 a jump of 45 percent that has taxed the limits of the MTC.
Clearly, the LDS Church expects the higher number of missionaries to be sustained over the long haul, rather than being a one-time rise after shifting the starting age for young men to 18 from 19, and for young women from 21 to 19.
The missionary force may pick up more 18-year-old young men than it had 19-year-olds, who might have chosen not to go after one year of college. But the most dramatic growth has been in the number of young women "sister missionaries" who are now choosing to serve and had no plans to do so. Their ranks have more than doubled, and most observers believe that they are not likely to decline.
In the short term,the LDS Church has tapped two nearby apartment complexes to handle the additional missionaries at Provo's MTC.
The new construction will not include living quarters, the release notes. Instead, existing rooms in the residence halls are being remodeled to accommodate more missionaries.
The Provo MTC is one of 15 in the world. MTCs are boot camps of sorts where missionaries go for two to nine weeks (depending on their destinations) of intense language study and gospel grounding before deploying to any of the 405 missions across the globe.