This is like the Saturday Evening Massacre of Church buildings. Except President Nelson can’t get impeached (or resign). There’s also nothing about political investigations. Darnit, bad simile.

OK, let me slow down before your Apostasy Meter™ goes off.

The Church just announced the permanent closures of Missionary Training Centers in Madrid, Spain and Santiago, Chile. The announcement comes as the latest in a number of recent closures of Church-owned buildings. Let us list them, shall we?

Both buildings will cease operation in January 2019 to “seek the best use of resources worldwide according to the needs and demands of each area.” This language has been thrown around quite a bit. Are we not cutting it on tithing and the Church is actually feeling more heat to tighten the belt a bit? Is that City Creek investment just not working out?!

Although Chile is about to receive its second temple, perhaps the MTC in Santiago is no longer necessary for the work. According to the Chile MTC website, it offers the typical three-week program for Spanish speakers and six weeks of Spanish for native English speakers following a few weeks in the Provo MTC.

MTC in Santiago, Chile

The situation is similar in Madrid, but that MTC serves a much larger area: Belgium, Cape Verde, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine—i.e. all of Europe except Britain, which has its own MTC. Yes, there’s a Russian language program at an MTC in Spain. Nine weeks!

Forgive the Madrid-centric nature of the rest of the article, but as an alumnus of that MTC, I certainly have some thoughts.

When I served in the Madrid MTC in 2002, it could hold a cap of about 60 missionaries. Most of us were set to serve in Spain, but there was a handful of Mozambican Elders preparing to serve in Portugal. At the time, Spain had five missions. Effective July, there will only be two left. To read between the lines, the Church has fixed missionary resources and the work in Spain (and Europe as a whole) is such that it does not merit three missions, let alone five, especially not with the work in Africa and Southeast Asia exploding.

Like the Santiago MTC, the Madrid MTC is owned by the Church and is part of a multi-function building. It’s a wonderful place, constructed in tandem with the Madrid Spain Temple, and it sits on a lot containing the temple and a stake center referred to as “Temple Square” by locals.

The top three levels serve as the MTC, with other levels containing temple patron housing, an institute of religion, a distribution center, etc. The MTC president even lives on the top floor adjacent to the dining room.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Madrid MTC (or at least of its president during my tenure) was that we did not have to be with our companions 24/7 so long as we remained on the three floors of the MTC and our companion knew where we were. We were also allowed to venture out about town during free time so long as the president knew about it. It was a great way to ease into life in Spain. I recall venturing to a nearby mall and sampling onion rings from Burger King of all places, relishing that breaded, fried goodness as something divine, and far superior to what we lovingly described as the “fried cat” that we were served at the MTC by some very hyper and loud women, which turned out to be pretty normal for Spanish folk. And we loved them.

Also, every Saturday all of the missionaries would venture to El Retiro park in central Madrid to do contacts (talking to strangers about the gospel while out and about). I remember being paired with a “senior” missionary only on his mission three weeks longer than me and I thought the man was a god. Funny how in hindsight he was probably just as baffled by the whole experience as I was.

Elders and Hermanas lived on the same floor, with a different door shut somewhere along the hallway to separate the two, depending on the ratio of men to women. Did this result in goofy evenings of Elders and Sisters talking to each other on other sides of the door? Of course it did. Did Elders and Sisters sometimes head upstairs to the kitchen to hang out before bed? Of course they did. It was awesome (and probably slightly sketchy, with slight sketchiness being the perfect introduction to the Church in Spain!).

Another perk in the time of weird MTC bathing experiences: the Madrid MTC had private shower stalls. No Tree of Life here, folks. And that’s about as jargony as I’ve ever been on this site.

The Church has not disclosed what use there might be for the remaining floors of either MTC, but we do know this will reduce the number of Missionary Training Centers to 11. Here’s putting good money on a new MTC opening in either Zimbabwe or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Adiós, Thentro de Capathitathion Misional.