Many of the men who trained to be Mormon missionaries have gone on to become among the most distinguished persons in American business and civic life.
Before setting out in orderly pairs to spread their gospel door-to-door, nearly all U.S. Mormon missionaries pass through the Provo Missionary Training Center. Inside the sprawling brown-brick complex, thousands of 19- and 20-year-old men in oversized black suits work alongside women in below-the-knee skirts and brightly colored tops. All of them wear name tags.
For one to three months (depending on the language challenge ahead), their days begin at 6:30 a.m. and end at 10:30 p.m., and include 10 hours of class and study time. On their one day off per week, missionaries-to-be do laundry, write home, and stock up on supplies at the training center store where pre-knotted ties ($15-$20) and key-chain rings with screw-top vials for carrying consecrated oils ($3.50) hang beside highlighters, alarm clocks, and hymnbooks translated into roughly 50 foreign languages. The grounds are under tight security, and no one leaves without permission. This is the last stop for roughly 20,000 young Mormons each year before they're driven 45 miles north to Salt Lake City International Airport and whisked off to one of more than 150 countries to make converts.