Mormon leaders are closing Benemerito de las Americas, an LDS Church-owned high school near Mexico City, and turning it into a Missionary Training Center (MTC).
The move was triggered by the massive influx of new missionaries after the Utah-based faith lowered the mission age for young men from 19 to 18 and for young women from 21 to 19. It is not yet clear what will happen with the small MTC that is adjacent to the Mexico City LDS Temple.
“Church leaders made the decision after considering every immediate alternative that could alleviate the demand at the church’s other missionary training centers around the world, including the MTC in Provo, Utah,” spokesman Scott Trotter said Wednesday.
Trotter said the changeover will occur after the end of the current school year in June.
The LDS Church once owned more than 100 private schools around the world; only 16 remain.
“The church provides elementary or secondary education at a few long-established locations in Mexico and the Pacific Islands [two in Fiji, one in Kiribati, one in Mexico (besides Benemerito), four in Samoa, and eight in Tonga],” according to the 2011 Annual Report for LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. “In these schools, students receive both a secular and religious education.”
No new LDS schools are anticipated, the church report said.
LDS officials have said that they plan to grow their flagship MTC in Provo. Within a week of announcing the lower missionary ages last October, they scrapped a previous expansion plan there, including a nine-story building that neighbors had opposed, but reaffirmed that a larger MTC is “necessary.”
The 14 million-member faith has seen its missionary applications double since the age change, with women now making up about half that tally.
Peggy Fletcher Stack