Back in the old days, when Jon and I went on our missions 23 years ago, arrival at the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) was an hour-long event. In my case, my parents and a good friend came with me. We all went into the main building and watched a tear-jerker Church-made movie about missionaries and heard a short talk by someone, probably a member of the MTC presidency. Then, after lengthily contemplating the impending separation, missionaries left through one door and parents, family, and friends went through another. It was nice for parents to step foot inside at least part of the place their child was going to spend the next three to twelve weeks (three weeks for missionaries not learning a new language, eight weeks for those learning common languages like Spanish, German, French, etc., and twelve weeks for those learning very difficult languages like Japanese, Korean, Finnish, etc.).
These days things are different. Since the age of missionaries was recently changed, from 19 to 18 for boys and from 21 to 19 for girls, the number of missionaries has increased dramatically and the Church has responded by streamlining things: MTC stays changed to two weeks, six weeks, and nine weeks, and according to this article, another set of bunk beds was added to four-person dorm rooms in the MTC to create six-person rooms. Also, gone are the days of the gradual goodbye with plenty to time to get emotional and sad. Now you’re directed to a numbered stall near the front curb and given 2 1/2 minutes to unload luggage and say goodbye to your missionary son or daughter. It’s quick and efficient. It helps that there are smiling missionaries everywhere, and one in particular to guide your missionary into the MTC and to help carry luggage.
The other way parents are sending their kids on missions these days is to stick them on a plane to one of the many non-US missionary training centers, which is what my sister Ivy recently had to do with her son Justin, who is now serving in the Colombia Cali mission and went to the MTC in Bogotá, Colombia. I think that would be pretty hard, too. The one advantage to this way is that the missionary gets to write a quick email home soon after they arrive, so parents know they made it safely. Presumably there’s not much room for error or accident on the walk into the MTC building, so we have to wait until Zed’s first Preparation Day (P-day) to hear from him, and I’m not sure when that will be.
I guess I’ve gotten ahead of myself. We did successfully drop Zed off at the MTC this last Wednesday. Here are pictures of all of us across the street in front of the Provo Temple, taken just minutes before our 2 1/2 minutes: