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Young Mormons encounter many challenges at Provo's Missionary Training Center: being away from home, having a stranger suddenly become a 24-7 companion, perhaps learning a new language.
But a bat?
Well, one of the creepy web-winged mammals recently awakened a "sister missionary," and now she and her roommates are undergoing "appropriate preventative treatment for rabies," LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins confirmed Wednesday.
In addition, just to be cautious, 600 other female LDS missionaries housed in a once-vacant building on the south side of the MTC campus near Brigham Young University have been moved to nearby areas so pest-control experts can address the bat infestation.
These missionaries will stay away, Hawkins said, "until it can be determined that it is safe for them to return."
Bats are Utah's most common carrier of rabies, a virus spread through exposure to the saliva of an infected animal. Bat bites and scratches, in particular, can be difficult to spot. Health officials say that finding a bat in a sleeping area is considered an exposure.
Meanwhile, Hawkins said, construction of three new buildings on the 35-acre MTC site began June 1 and "is moving forward" as part of a major expansion.
The need for an enlarged campus to train missionaries became more pronounced after the October 2012 announcement that the Utah-based faith was lowering ages for Mormon missionaries to 18 for men (down from 19) and to 19 for women (down from 21).
Since then, the number of LDS missionaries has skyrocketed from 58,500 to more than 85,000, including a dramatic surge among women.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints scrapped plans to build a nine-story tower and opted instead for three six-story structures.
When completed in 2017, the bigger MTC will have room for 3,500 missionaries, up from the current capacity of 2,800.
Mormon missionaries are taught at more than a dozen training centers across the globe Provo's facility being the flagship where they receive religious instruction and language training.
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