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Rendition of MTC expansion

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Ever since the mission age change for men and women at the October 2012 General Conference, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has worked to accommodate the vast number of missionaries wanting to serve from various Missionary Training Centers across the globe. But on Tuesday night, Mormon Newsroom released the final plans for the expansions of the Provo MTC. The construction on the Provo Missionary Training Center will begin during the summer of 2015. It is estimated to take two years to complete and will house up to 3,500, which is a 20% increase from what it was. Additional changes being made include three six-story buildings which will hold classrooms and personal study areas and 300 underground parking stalls. Missionaries have also moved out of the Raintree Apartments due to these changes. Currently the LDS Church has 88,000 missionaries serving in 406 different missions.

Mission homecoming

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The following article was originally written for Deseret News by Brigham Wilson, a returned missionary, and Julie Wilson, a licensed counselor.  Returning from a mission can be difficult. Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have months of a specific mindset, rigid schedule and noble purpose that suddenly ends. Many LDS returned missionaries experience guilt, confusion and stress. Like with any major life change, the emotional difficulties can be lessened by turning to the Lord, seeking help and finding direction from family and church leaders. Below are five additional steps to successfully adjust back home. Step 1: Rituals of return Rituals of return welcome missionaries home and recognize their sacrifice. They include the exit interview, meeting at the airport, reporting to the bishop and high council, speaking at church and family gatherings. These traditional activities validate missionaries’ experiences and build their social confidence. They expose missionaries to potentially uncomfortable situations that are safe. Re-learning to naturally interact can be trying, but it is a great exposure for acclimating to post-mission life. Step 2: Acknowledge and accept changes Mormon missionaries and their families and friends change during the 18-24 months apart. Reconnecting can be stressful and confusing. Expectations can be unrealistic. Conflict can arise by trying to force people into who they were before or by not accepting who they are now. Be patient. It can take time to rediscover each other. Read the full article at DeseretNews.com. 

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Elder Yasir Finkenthal was originally serving his mission in the west African nation of Sierra Leone. However, with the recent Ebola outbreak in that country, Elder Finkenthal has been reassigned to Aspen, Colorado. Elder Finkenthal talked about his experiences in Africa to the Aspen Daily News Online. It is easy for a disease like the Ebola virus to spread in impoverished regions like Sierra Leone. Missionaries serving in Sierra Leone were told to avoid eating meat they couldn't identify, particularly the meat of wild animals, which is often cooked and sold in the streets. Elder Finkenthal and other missionaries were encouraged to use hand washing and other sanitary practices. It was not until the outbreak escalated at the end of this summer that missionaries in Sierra Leone were reassigned to locations outside of West Africa. He told the Aspen Daily News that some people in Sierra Leone don't believe that Ebola is an actual disease, but instead a plot by their government to kill off the population. He believes this is why the disease was spreading so rapidly when he left. Finkenthal says that he and other missionaries leaving the country were checked carefully by doctors before they were given clearance to leave, and their plane was prevented from landing in Ghana for a layover. They were escorted by the International SOS organization, which offers medical and security assistance in times of crisis. Elder Finkenthal really loved the people he served in Africa and he misses them a lot. They overcame the limitations of their poverty with their creativity and imagination. The children of Sierra Leone made cars with sticks and old cans and never complained about not having nice toys. The people in Sierra Leone are my favorite people in the world. They are the nicest people you could ever meet. Finkenthal will be speaking about his experience of serving in Sierra Leone at the Aspen chapel on Sunday, in a public fireside beginning at 6 p.m.

Missionaries Sidewalk chalk, Italy

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Instead of taking to knocking doors, missionaries are taking to pounding sidewalks—with chalk, that is. Missionaries serving in Italy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they have discovered that many people in Italy say they are Atheists, even though many were raised in the Roman Catholic religion.  Anziano “Austin” Jensen, a Latter-day Saint missionary in Bologna, Italy, told Religion News Service that many Italians have lost their faith in God after enduring a tragedy or not receiving an answer to their prayers. Jensen further explained, saying: They wonder where God is in the midst of the chaos and difficulties of the world... As missionaries and servants of God, we joyfully testify to them that God has always been and will always be there. With tracting being less effective in this area, the missionaries decided to use sidewalk chalk to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jensen and other missionaries in the area draw depictions of Bible stories, depictions of Joseph Smith and the restoration, and even images that teach the Plan of Salvation. With this new strategy, Jensen says he has received varied responses from pedestrians. Those who are uninterested in the gospel message will continue walking past, but others will stop to talk with the missionaries, oftentimes leading to in-depth conversations. Bologna is not the only place missionaries have used this artistic approach to sharing the gospel. Missionaries have used this method in both New York City and in Seattle.

video

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// Post by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a video to its Facebook page. It goes over sharing simple gospel messages on social media sites. "People use social media to share ," the video says, commenting on the deluge of content created by both corporations and users. "What we share reflects who we are." The video shows members of the Church from different backgrounds using social media to share their beliefs and values. For more ideas on what to share and how, visit the Church's Sharing Goodness web page. The Church encourages members to use the hashtag #sharegoodness.

Book of Mormon Musical doesn't scare real Mormons

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The "Book of Mormon" musical has reached Syracuse, New York, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making sure this audience gets introduced to the real thing. Rather than openly attack the production, the Church has posted a group of its missionaries outside the venue to talk to audience members after the show and hand out copies of the Church's Book of Mormon. A group of full-time missionaries, including Elder Smith and Elder Moss, got special permission from their mission president to stay out in front of the Landmark Theater in Syracuse until after the show gets out, which Syracuse.com noted goes later than the mission rules allow for their normal curfew. The ward mission leader, Seth Merrill, had approval from the theater's executive director Thomas Kazmierczak to have the missionaries there. Chris Baker, writing for the news website, took special note of the Church's attitude towards the irreverent Broadway musical, stating that the Church has maintained a sense of humor in dealing with a play devoted to mocking it. The Church also took out three full-page ads in the program in an attempt to bring awareness to the Church's religious book. One such ad, featured below, stated "the book is always better." Image via syracuse.com The newspaper went into detail about the rules and daily routines of full-time missionaries. The newspaper also talked to James Gage, a returned missionary.

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Written by Joni Hill for Meridian Magazine.  There’s a rumor going around that Latter-day Saints don’t like doing missionary work. They think it’s scary, they’re hesitant, they avoid it. This is false. We love missionary work. We just lack ideas that fit our personal style. Not everyone can slap a stranger on the back and say, “Hey, Buddy Boy, why don’t you come to church with me?” There actually are people who can do this and succeed with it. But most of us find this approach uncomfortable, if not hair-raising, so we need a few more ideas. Then, once we have them, we’re more than happy to hasten the work. So here are 25 painless ways to start the ball rolling, and share the greatest news since the Resurrection of Christ, himself: His restored gospel upon the earth. 1.Anytime someone moves into your neighborhood or apartment building, take them a welcome basket filled with goodies and info about local places you recommend, even medical referrals. And, of course, your ward location and meeting times. 2.Plant more than you need in your garden, and take the extra produce around the neighborhood. 3.When you buy tickets to a movie, a sporting event, or a theatre production, buy an extra ticket or two, and find a nonmember to bring along. 4.Host a weekly neighborhood potluck at your home—you actually save money doing this because all you have to provide is one main dish and the paper goods. To read Hill's other suggestions, go to Meridian Magazine.

missionary

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Prepare to Serve is a website devoted to helping newly called missionaries make preparations to serve in their specific mission assignment. Alex Balinski, a Brigham Young University graduate began developing the idea in 2007 and later launched the online resource in November 2012. (Read more about the early beginnings of the site and Alex's leap of faith to get his site running here.) With the total number of missions now at 405, there is a greater need for resources to help missionaries prepare. Alex says he thinks it will take several years to complete the Mission Index because of the amount of time it takes to gather resources to create a 'power page' on each mission that will include blogs, addresses, maps, surveys, educational/mission-specific quizzes/games, mission photos, and more. He is also in the process of shooting video interviews with returned missionaries on topics ranging from the food, culture, language, weather, crime rates, clothing tips, mission stories, advice, and testimonies on each mission. "We're super excited to aggregate tons of free resources about every mission. The idea is every prospective and returned missionary will have access to anything they'd ever want to know about their mission." If you have information you would like to submit to the index, visit preparetoserve.com.

Mormon missionaries at the Missionary Training Center

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The Provo MTC is discontinuing use of its temporary West center at Raintree Apartments and Wyview Park, the Provo Daily Herald announced yesterday. The Church had rented the apartment complex and taken over some of the dormitories at Wyview to accommodate the influx of missionaries after the historic announcement in October of 2012 that lowered the age for missionary service. Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody stated, "Remodeling at the Missionary Training Center now allows the return of missionaries to the main campus." Brigham Young University is moving its services and laundry facilities to 900 East, on a site once occupied by four recently-razed married housing buildings, to make room for a major southward expansion of the MTC.

North-Manitoba-LDS Branch

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Doug Burkman, a senior missionary called to serve in Manitoba, Canada has been assigned to preside over the Thompson Branch and he has been given a warm welcome by the community newspaper.  The Thompson Citizen reports that Elder Birkman's new position in the wilds of Canada is a pinnacle to his achievements as an outdoorsman. Elder Burkman and his wife will be hosting an open house and a fireside chat on Saturday, October 11 at the chapel in Thompson.  Burkman will share stories of his outdoor achievements, including an account of a bear attack while bow-hunting in Alaska. The Thompson Branch serves a very large area of central Manitoba including Thompson, Norway House and Churchill on Hudson Bay.  The Thompson Citizen also gives a glowing overview of the Church's beliefs and practices. "If you have enjoyed music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, liked the movie Ender's Game, read the Twilight series, or just watched TV then, your life has already been touched by Mormons."   The paper commend the Latter-Day Saints' devotion to their families and their service to communities.

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