BRIGHT young men in conservative dress slacks, white shirts, and ties, clean-shaven, hair trimmed well above the collar and ears, rigorously trained in the culture and language of the country, two by two (elder with elder), going from door to door; and likewise two by two (sister with sister), modestly dressed young women these are the missionary young people of the Mormon Church in all parts of the world. These eighteen-to twenty-one-year-old youth are the ones who have spear headed the phenomenal growth of the Mormon Church within the last decade.
A visit to the church's Language Training Mission in Provo, Utah, is an inspiring and exciting experience. The earnestness, religious motivation, and zeal of the 350 to 1,000 in attendance at one time are unbelievable. Almost unbelievable also is the enthusiasm of the language teachers, 140 carefully selected recently returned missionaries, now students at Brigham Young University, who teach their younger brothers and sisters the languages they need to know and who constantly talk about "my mission."
When one realizes that at the present moment, 16,000 eighteen-to-twenty-one-year-olds are knocking on the doors of the world, and that these young people serve for two years, one begins to under stand the large number of missionaries who are trained each year at the language center. Six to seven thousand a year, in classes of six to ten members maximum, study the grammar and syntax of a language, learn the vocabulary necessary to invite thousands to get acquainted with Jesus Christ.
The center began quite by accident. About ten years ago, because of technical difficulties, a group of missionaries were unable to go directly to their missions. To occupy their time while waiting, the church decided to send them to Brigham Young for an intensive language course. Because these missionaries were so much more effective in their field than those who had preceded them without language training, the church has continued and expanded its pro gram. From a modest twenty-nine in the first intensive language classes, those in attendance now number thousands each year.
Up to this time the Mormon Church has been operating three such centers, the largest being at Brigham Young University. Here the student undergoes intensive language training in the language of his "mission" Afrikaans, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish. A center in Idaho offers intensive study in the Nordic languages, and a college in Hawaii specializes in oriental tongues. However, the church now plans to send all recruits to Brigham Young where the facilities are better and where the problem of getting qualified teachers is less than at the two smaller colleges.
A visitor to the center is immediately aware that "my mission" is the one expression most widely used by both students and teachers. Since the two-month intensive language training period comprises part of their two-year service record, all who study here often refer to "my mission." This phrase, caressingly used by recruits and teachers alike, represent the most hallowed words in the vocabulary of a Mormon young person. These recruits are not student missionaries but full-fledged missionaries with the title of elder and sister. They have been selected upon the recommendation of the ward leader and confirmed by the apostles.
Just a word on the organization of the Mormon Church will help to clarify some of the terms. The leader, called the prophet, and the twelve apostles comprise the formal organization. The ward leader, somewhat analogous to the pastor of a local Adventist church, serves without pay. Although a layman, this ward leader has also worked as a missionary and is qualified to recommend young people from his ward for this the highest service a Mormon can render his church. His recommendation goes directly to the prophet and the twelve apostles, who decide where each young person will serve. If his mission is to a country where his native language is spoken, the recruit will proceed directly to his field. If not, he must study at the mission language training center.
Life in the center simulates as much as possible that on the mission. On his mission the recruit will work all day and study in the evening. Here at the center, he will study all day and all evening. From 6:00 A.M. to 10:30 P.M., his day is regulated. Three three-and-one-half- hour classes per day, each class taught by a different teacher, and three hours of intensive study on his own or with a group, leave him time only for recreation and personal devotion.
Not only is personal devotion encouraged, but missionaries, as soon as they enter the institute, are admonished to pray often with their assigned companion. Al though they may not necessarily work in the same classes, companions must always be in the same building, whether in study or in play.
Saturday afternoon is the only time that the program is not strictly prescribed. On this one afternoon only students may do their laundry, write letters (no more than one letter a week to any one person), and make necessary purchases. Sunday, on the other hand, is as strenuous as any other day with church services in the language, lectures, and readings on the culture and civilization of the people in their mission. Teachers and students alike live their language.
In fact, "Live Your Language" is the motto of the institute and is written on all bulletin boards and on all instructional materials. Stu dents who have not studied the language before attending the center are expected to converse entirely in the language within a week. Others begin the day they enter. In order to enforce this rule, "Live Your Language," no visitors and no telephone calls are allowed. These young people are already on their mission.
From Training Center to Mission Post
New recruits enter the center each week as those who have studied there for eight weeks leave. The recruit immediately be gins his intensive work because he has to go through a large five hundred- to six hundred-page book within the eight-week period. When he arrives at his mission he will be assigned to a new companion, an experienced missionary, with whom he must always work and study. After the two have worked all day, the experienced missionary will, in the evening, guide the recruit through another text as large as his first. Upon his mastery of this advanced language course, the recruit will be ready to take on a new missionary companion. Within the two-year period, a missionary may have as many as three or four different companions.
In his field the recruit will be supervised by a president. This president, a layman and called by the church to serve for three years, is in charge of the mission. The expense to the church for this mission is the president's salary and his home, which is usually large enough for the president's family, guests, missionaries, and storage for the literature needed by the missionaries.
The influence of the Mormon Church as a result of its missionary program is rapidly becoming apparent. Because of their tremendous reservoir of knowledge of languages, the culture and civilizations of other peoples, their know-how in dealing with people, Mormon graduates are entering the top schools in international relations. In fact, the largest percentage of students in these advanced schools is Mormon. Within a few years these Mormon young people will doubtless hold high positions in sensitive areas of international relations. Like Daniel and his friends, and like Joseph, they will greatly influence men in government positions all over the world. In fact, the impact of their language training program and their missionary zeal will, without doubt, one day soon astonish the citizens of our globe.
What a tremendous program, and how like the instruction given to the church by its founder and leader, Jesus Christ. "The Lord . . . sent them two and two" (Luke 10:1) to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). And "every man heard them speak in his own language" (Acts 2:6).
What a challenge for the Adventist Church! We rejoice in the way God has led us in our past history and what through His grace has been accomplished. We recognize, however, that the greatest days for the church are still future. Although the methods employed by others in their outreach may not always fit into our needs, still we can often find among them suggestions well worth our study as we plan and pray for a larger work.
In studying the program of the Mormons, we are reminded of the counsel given us by the servant of the Lord: "Young men should be qualifying themselves by be coming familiar with other languages, that God may use them as mediums to communicate His saving truth to those of other nations. ... If young women . . . would devote themselves to God, they could qualify themselves for usefulness by studying and becoming familiar with other languages." --Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 204. Hundreds of young people should have been preparing to enter foreign missionary fields. "My brethren, we have erred and sinned in attempting too little." --Ibid., vol. 5, p. 391.