Saturday, September 01, 2007

Mormon Missionary Training

From a recent article in Good Magazine, profiling the Mormon Missionary Training Camp (MTC):

It's like a proselytizing version of the Peace Corps—except the Mormons have seven times as many volunteers in the field as the Peace Corps, and they're in 145 countries—as opposed to the Peace Corps' 75. In many parts of the world, a Mormon missionary is the only American the locals will ever meet; the clean-cut, idealistic young face of our nation.

Lane Steinagel, a middle-aged linguistics scholar, is in charge of language instruction. In the late 1970s, Steinagel served as a missionary in the Cook Islands and discovered his gift for languages. He remains an expert on Cook Island Maori, a language most people haven't even heard of, let alone studied. Steinagel has also taken classes in Spanish, French, German, Russian, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, and Tongan. Under his guidance, the MTC teaches tongues you can study virtually nowhere else. "For some languages we have produced our own printed materials,” Steinagel explained. "It's hard to find a good text for learning Icelandic or Albanian."
Through their willingness to learn languages no one else studies, the Mormons make themselves available to as many of the world’s peoples as they can. And their willingness to study obscure tongues helps them corner the market on conversions in certain parts of the world.
Photo: Our 2007 NYC team teaching a free ESL class in Brooklyn.

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