The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created the Manhattan Training Center, a program for youth which prepares missionaries for two years before missionary service.
“All worthy and able young men will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19,” said President Thomas S. Monson in October 2012. “Able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.”
After the announcement, Benjamin and Shayla Frandsen were called by President David Buckner, a stake president in the New York, New York Stake, to lead a program that focuses on keeping the older youth engaged.
“The idea with the Manhattan Training Center was to have something new, exciting, different that the older youth can really look forward to and have fun with, but that will also provide meaningful testimony-building experiences, as the name suggests, to help prepare the youth for full-time missionary service,” Benjamin Frandsen said.
In addition to preparing youth for missionary service, the center helps youth become converted, lifelong disciples, Benjamin Frandsen said.
“[We] help them prepare to be lifelong, engaged, committed disciples of Christ,” Benjamin Frandsen said.
The program is for high school seniors and juniors, and they have activities twice a month. Seven other adult leaders help the program to go forward. The activities in the program include service projects and planning with the full-time missionaries, Frandsen said.
Students of BYU-Idaho shared their feelings about the Manhattan Training Center program.
“With this two-year program, you do not lose anything based on your own family style, because some people, they learn a lot in their family about the Gospel, and other people do not,” said Lilly Miess, a sophomore majoring in international studies. “Then you come to the mission field in totally
different levels.”
Andrew Clark, a senior studying business management, said that for him it was easier to learn when he got to the mission field because his dad was called to be a mission president when he was 8 years old. He said he grew up seeing and working with missionaries.
“I wish I had an opportunity to go out with the missionaries, and also I wish my scripture study was more intense,” said Naomi Sweet, a sophomore studying communication. “If this program incorporates how [a mission] is in the lives of people who are preparing to go, they will be able to know what to expect. I didn’t really know what to expect.”
“One thing that I have been doing to prepare for my mission is trying to pray in the morning and at night and reading my scriptures every night,” said Jessica Goettsche, a freshman studying psychology. “Some people struggle with that, and what I do is keep a journal while I am reading the scriptures.”
Smash Lloyd, a freshman studying business management, is preparing to go on a mission and said all his roommates are returned missionaries, and that they all read the scriptures together every night as a family.
“In my home town, we actually had a MTM, ‘Mountain Top Missionary,’ so every Sunday we would go 7 a.m. and we would study,” Lloyd said. “We would give lessons.”
Lloyd said he has been preparing himself by sharing the gospel with not just non-members, but with members, too. He said everyone needs to learn more, and there is not a limit of how much can be learned about Christ.
“It would have made a bigger difference if I had spent more time with the missionaries planning,” said Oscar Oyarzún, a sophomore studying political science. “My preparation would have been more focused, because even though you know what the lessons are, you do not know what planning is about. I wouldn’t have to spend time figuring it out what was expected of me.”