The Old Salt Lake Mission Home

Most of you who have served a mission spent a considerable amount of time in the Missionary Training Center in Provo (or elsewhere).  Robert Kirby’s recent article about surviving the old Salt Lake Mission Home made me realize that my five-day sojourn there for a domestic mission is an experience that probably few here ever had.  So I thought I would pull out the old journal and share my contemporary perceptions.  I was in the Mission Home for five days, from October 15th to 20th, 1977.  (Note: When I read the Kirby piece, my initial thought was that I found the Home to be fine, but I only spent five days there and not two months.  But rereading my journal, I several times called it “a drag,” so I guess I had forgotten that impression of my [limited] time there.)

10-16-77 Morning

Well, the first day of my mission was a drag.  Today should be a little better, since it is Sunday.  After breakfast, we are checking out the Visitor’s Center, and then we are going to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Later there is a sacrament meeting, and I guess the rest of the day is study time.  Yesterday I got two letters, one from X and one from Y.

Evening

The “home” is still a drag, but it is really a great growing experience.  Today was an uplifting one spiritually.  We got up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the Visitor’s Center on Temple Square, after which we watched the choir perform live in the Tabernacle.  It was magnificent.  Elder Thomas S. Monson, Chairman of the Missionary Committee, spoke to us today.  As for all the talks, I had a front row seat, due to the fact that my name is BArney.  I’m out of time, but I’ll record more on his remarks later if I can remember them.

10-17, Morning

I’ve got a few minutes before we go to the temple, so I will try and relate a story Elder Monson told last night.  He told us of when he was the President of a Canadian mission, and the “armpit” of the mission was a town called Kingston.  Elders used to pray for the day they would be transferred from there.  While reflecting on the situation one day, his wife was reading from a children’s story book.  In it, she discovered that Brigham Young once served a mission in Canada.  He trudged through miles of waist-high snow just to get to Kingston.   Once there, he baptized over forty people.  Elder Monson, upon hearing this, exclaimed “That’s it!  We’ll close down that area.”  Well, after about six months time had elapsed, he started slipping rumors that a great new area was about to be opened.  To make a long story short, all the missionaries begged to be sent there, and with the new attitude, hundreds were baptized.

Evening

I’m almost used to the regimen here now.  This morning was a very spiritual one, as we attended two temple sessions.  In between, we were invited to the solemn assembly room, where Temple President Curtis answered any questions regarding the temple.  When we returned, Rex Pinegar, of the First Quorum of Seventy, gave a very inspirational talk.  He related the story of Fred, a short basketball player, who was installed for only three or four seconds a game, when it was imperative to get the ball.  The coach knew he wouldn’t make excuses–he would merely do whatever had to be done.

Well, it’s time to sign off now.  Until tomorrow.

10/18, Evening

Today we heard remarks from Mark E. Petersen, of the Quorum of 12.  He gave a fantastic talk relating to the scriptures.  Also, President Byrd gave a very inspirational message concerning writing letters home.  Tomorrow is the last day in “the home,” and it promises to be a good one.  Unfortunately, I am out of time again, but perhaps I can write more tomorrow.

10/20 Evening

I have absolutely no time to write anything tonight.  I am very excited, as my plane leaves at 7:25 a.m. tomorrow.  Elder Richard G. Scott of the First Quorum of Seventy spoke to us today concerning Joseph Smith.  Hopefully I’ll have more time to record spiritual events in a week or so.

And that was that.  The next day I flew to Denver, Colorado to start my mission in earnest.  So now you have a small taste of what a brief stay in the Mission Home was like.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    One detail I just remembered was that as we were leaving for the final time they had this huge box filled with cassette tape copies of the classic Hugh B. Brown talk “Profile of a Prophet,” and we each got one as a parting gift as we left the Home.

  2. Thanks for sharing Kevin. Loved that you referred to your first day as a “drag” which sounds like something my brother would say. Nice MTC story arc–though obviously not intentional–in your journal. From a “drag” to “spiritual events” in five days.

  3. The link is broke!

  4. Enjoyed your recollections. One of the few memories I have of the old mission home was that it connected directly to the underground tunnels and parking area for the Church Office Building and the Temple. The day we were headed to the temple we had to be up a 3 or 4 am (it seems) and were in the tunnels by 5:00 am. As we moved through the underground parking area at that wee hour, a single automobile arrived in the empty parking area and out stepped President Kimball, ready to start his day.

  5. Master Blaster says:

    I remember Rex Pinegar visiting our mission (Tokyo South) in 1996. He was still a Seventy then. His visit and words to us brought a marvelous outpouring of the Spirit. A day I’ll never forget!

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    J, I fixed the link. Thanks for letting me know.

    Steven B., I remember that we used the tunnels as well! I thought that was pretty cool.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    In my mind I had thought that the LTM in Provo replaced the old Mission Home, but I guess it makes sense that it that was, as the name suggests, for language training. Did all missionaries start going through Provo with the shift to the MTC then? That had to have been around the same time as you were on your mission, Kevin.

  8. Mark B. says:

    Interesting. The three things that I remember most of my five days in the SL Missionary Home were not in your journal: first, the “repent now” sermon we got the first night, just after saying goodbye to our mothers and stowing our luggage in our assigned rooms; second, the amazing hour spent listening to Elder Legrand Richards–I’m still looking to see if I have a copy of his “remarks,” which he had been giving to new missionaries for at least 20 years before I got there in 1973; and third, the emphasis on PMA–accentuated by a big banner across the front of the main meeting room. I of course had no idea what PMA was (and nobody had ever heard of PMS back then, so there weren’t any jokes about that. PMA was Positive Mental Attitude, but I don’t know what that was back then and I still don’t.

    Oh, and one last thing: in that meeting in the Assembly Room of the temple, the lucky missionaries got to hear from a member of the first presidency. President Harold B. Lee, who was the president of the church in September 1973 when I was there, came and spoke to us and answered questions about the temple.

  9. Wasn’t it Holden Caulfield who found life a drag? Was Catcher popular among teenagers in the 70s?

  10. Mark B., I can’t believe you don’t remember President Byrd’s hellfire “and in five minutes, he had qualified himself for excommunication” talk.

  11. Kevin, What a blast from the past. I was in the “Old Home” in mid-1974, and from your description, it was pretty much the same experience. Then, after the 5 or so days, it was time to take the bus to the Provo LTM and Knight Mangum Hall where the fun really began,

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    I found this bit of history on Wikipedia:

    The missionary experience prior to the opening of the MTC was quite different from that established later. In 1925, a small building adjacent to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City had a dormitory for brand new missionaries. Missionaries arriving here would then be set apart to their missionary service by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Often they would even be interviewed by these Apostles during this time and attend a service in the Salt Lake Temple, staying just a day or two before leaving to their assigned areas. Missionaries who had difficulty trying to get to their assigned areas would then either serve as tour guides on Temple Square or do clerical tasks at LDS Church headquarters.

    In 1971 the old Lafayette School at 75 East North Temple was converted into the new Salt Lake Mission Home, and English-speaking missionaries would arrive on a Saturday and leave the following Wednesday or Thursday. The MTC in Provo replaced this in the fall of 1978 for English-speaking missionaries.

  13. marginalizedmormon says:

    I don’t remember that much about it; it was so long ago, and there were some very bizarre things happening in the church during the time when I was there, which overshadowed much of the experience–
    I’m older than any of you who mention the dates–
    I do remember what a crowd it was; everyone American went to the Mission Home in Salt Lake before going to an LTM (either in Hawaii or Idaho; was there an LTM in Provo, too?; I believe so)–

    I remember a good feeling there, in spite of all that was happening at the time; the missionaries were all rather subdued, but there was truly a feeling of comaraderie–
    I was not a missionary from the intermountain west, and I was amazed at how many of them were from the intermountain west–rather mind-boggling for me. I was so idealistic back then!

  14. In mid 1977, the England Manchester mission set up a “Recently Arrived Missionary” house, we called it the RAM House, where the new missionaries would stay for a month to be taught by the experienced missionaries and learn their “discussions.” I believe this test concept directly led to the creation of Provo’s Missionary Training Center the following year.

  15. Sheldon says:

    In the mid-60’s we stayed in the Mission Home for a week. Arrived on Monday, left for the field the next Monday. If we were local, we got to go home on Sunday night. We walked 3 times a day down Main St. to the basement dining room of the Hotel Utah for meals. We were also set apart for our missions on Tuesday by one of the Seventies’ presidents I was impressed by the number of General Authorities that talked to us during the week:: Pres. Tanner, Elder Longden, Elder Monson, Elder McConkie, Milton Hunter, Howard Hunter, Elder Brockbank, Elder Kimball, Bishop Simpson, Elder Tuttle, Elder Dunn, Elder Dyer. There were advantages to being a block and half from 47 E. North Temple. Before 1969 the LTM’s for Spanish, Portuguese, German and French were in Provo. Everyone else needing language went for 2 1/2 years and had to wing it when they go to their missions. I also remember lessons on how to do laundry and iron our shirts. This was all a long half century ago.

  16. My BIL’s older brother (who was from SLC) was in the SL Mission home when they had to many missionaries to fit everyone, so he and his comp would spend the day at the mission home, then they would be picked up by his parents and he and his comp would sleep at his own home at night. Mom would fix them a big breakfast every morning, then his father would drive them back to the mission home on the way to his job as a mail carrier.

  17. Greg Jakubowski says:

    Was there in December of ’68 and most of my memories of the place have faded. In general, I do recall a ‘repent now – this is your last chance – sermon.’.. Also the one where they told you if you had a girlfriend you are leaving behind that you might as well forget about her now, implying to our imaginations at that very moment she is picking out rings with another guy. I think the mission president’s wife said your odds are 1 in 100. I remember thinking I’ll take those odds. Yes, I married her.

    Does anyone remember ‘Scripture Sally?’ That’s what our group called the woman stationed outside the small store at the corner of Main and North Temple and harrange us as we walked to the Hotel Utah for meals.

  18. Left Field says:

    I was there in October 1978, just about a year after you, and a week or two before it finally closed down. It used to be that all missionaries from North America went to the Missionary Home for a week, and then continued on to the LTM in Provo, Rexburg, or Laie (depending on their language) if they needed language training. At some point, non-English speaking missionaries started going directly to the LTM/MTC, and the Missionary Home was only for missionaries going on English-speaking missions.

    Several months before I was called, they renamed the Provo LTM to become the MTC and announced that the SL Missionary Home would be closed, and English-speaking missionaries would be trained in the MTC. For a number of months in 1978, some English-speaking missionaries were trained at the MTC, and others at the MH. But when I told people I was going to the Missionary Home, absolutely nobody believed me. Everyone was sure that the MH was closed, and everyone was supposed to go to the MTC. Most of them even knew someone who recently went to the MTC, so that was proof positive that the MH was closed. I was told that I was mistaken, and should read my mission call more closely. I was told that I would no doubt get a second letter instructing me to go to the MTC instead. I was told that probably they would put us on a bus in Salt Lake and send us down to the MTC. But dad-gum it, I had a letter from SWK telling me to go to Salt Lake, and so to Salt Lake I would go.

    Despite my haircut being WELL within missionary standards, I was instructed to get a haircut. I think they had a deal with the barbershop at the old Deseret Gym. That, and President Bird just liked to throw his weight around. And he did have the lengthy and legendary “Sister Brown” story about the missionary in Australia who had a long-term affair with a member in the ward.

    We were issued nametags that included our companion’s name and our alphabetically assigned seat in the assembly hall. We were instructed to look for our companion. At a later assembly the first day, President Bird asked if anyone hadn’t found their companion. A number of hands went up. He picked one missionary and asked him to stand and give his name. President Bird consulted his list and read the name of the elder’s companion.

    “Your companion is Elder John Doe. Where in this vast audience is Elder Doe?” he asked, gesturing broadly around the large room. “Will Elder Doe please stand up, wherever you are?”

    Elder Doe stood up. He was of course, seated directly adjacent to his companion.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for filling in these blanks, Left Field. I had the same haircut experience as you, and I vaguely recall that Sister Brown story as well.

  20. Yet Another John says:

    I was there in 72. I looked back thru my so-called journal and discovered that I wasn’t a particularly gifted journalist at the time. I’m still not! I remember a couple of things though: The haircut thing of course, and the long line outside the mission home president’s office after the talk on morality and personal worthiness.

    I must have been impressed by numbers because I wrote that there were 323 of us there: 35 sisters, four couples, and 280 elders. By far the most, 155 of us, were from Utah. California was next with 60, then Idaho (34) and Arizona (15). There were 5 from Canada and even one from Australia. We were going to 76 missions in 25 countries. 241 had at least three years of seminary. There were 51 Eagle and Canadian Queen (?) Scouts. 55 were converts.

    I remember the food was terrible and scarce.

    Harold B. Lee talked to us and answered questions in the solemn assembly room of the temple.

    We heard from Elders Hunter, Sills, Richards, Dunn (Loren C), Dyer, and Cullimore, among others.

    Mostly I just remember it being a blur and being overwhelmed, and experience to be repeated at the LTM!

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Yet Another John, I had forgotten about the long lines of elders waiting to confess their sins after the morality talk. We had that, too.

  22. So how do you become an apostate in 5 minutes?

  23. I spent my week there in late 1967, I similarly remember several highlights, but little detail.
    We were set apart by GAs–in my case Mark E Petersen. He, at the request of my mother, who was present, also gave me a health blessing (didn’t seem to have any effect, but that is more likely due to my lack of confidence in controlling the “intelligences to be acted upon,” not his. At that time, the only Apostle I had met face-to-fake, I was disappointed to later learn just how traditional, conservative, and generally not progressive he was.

    We did the early morning walk to observe Pres. McKay arrive at the Church Office Building, thrice daily walks to the cafeteria, daily addresses from Apostles, and the absolutely shocking temple (both the ceremony and the ornate interior). Back then we were given no preparation (though I had been in the SLC temple as a teenager when our family was sealed).

    One relatively clear memory is of the “ask any question you want” session with the GAs in the temple. Only one (what I would term now) intelligent question was asked: “Was Christ married?” Joseph Fielding Smith answered that, “yes he was, but don’t you teach it.”

    One last interesting experience: Some professional photographers came into the assembly room at the Mission Home one day and took pictures of the group of us. I was on the front row. Shortly after my mission I confirmed what several members told me on my mission. They recognized me from–due to my up front position in–that group picture hanging in the Visitor’s Center on Temple Square.

    I haven’t thought about any of that for a long time.

  24. Oops. while I don’t revere the GAs with all the fan frenzy of a TBM, I do respect them and did not mean to type “face-to-fake.” That was a typo.

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