The LDS Church announced Friday afternoon it is pulling back from its plan to build a new nine-story building on the Missionary Training Center campus in Provo.
"Church leaders have determined that, due to a number of complexities and concerns, we will not move forward with the nine-story building originally proposed," said Michael Purdy, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a prepared statement. "Expansion of the MTC is necessary, but we are confident we can find a solution that builds upon the long-standing working relationship between the MTC, BYU and the community at large. We look forward to further discussions as the process moves forward.”
The decision to build the building had been controversial, with some members of the surrounding Pleasant View neighborhood voicing opposition to the building itself and to way the decision to build was reached. In July, a number of them hoisted orange balloons 160-feet into the air — the height of the proposed building — as a way of expressing their concerns about the building and their hopes that additional dialogue could be launched with church decision-makers.
Soon after it was announced the church is backing off on the planned building Friday, Provo Mayor John Curtis said, "We appreciate the church working hard to find a solution to a difficult situation, and we look forward to working with them as this unfolds."
"I think we can all look at this and think we're heading in the right direction," said Dr. R. Paul Evans, who lives in the affected neighborhood and at one time led opposition to the project. "We look forward to working with the MTC and helping them meet their needs as growth and expansion occur."
Lori Johnson, another resident in the Pleasant View neighborhood and the acknowledged leader of the opposition to the building during recent months, said she "never doubted for a second" that the decision would eventually be reversed.
"I always believed that if we could get the attention of decision-makers of the church that they would understand our concerns and would respond to them," she said. "I'm a good, faithful member of the church, and I really believed there was a better decision here. My faith was fully justified."
Johnson said she had spoken to several of her neighbors about Friday's announcement and said "everyone is overjoyed."
"We're so grateful that the church has reconsidered the decision," she said. "We all support the missionary program. We believe the buildings at the MTC should make a statement about the importance of missionary work. We are confident that working together with the MTC we can come up with something that will be a win-win for everyone."
George Frey, another nearby resident, agreed.
"I really appreciate that the church was able to pull back, and is now willing to work with the neighborhood and the city to come up with what I feel will be a better solution for everyone," Frey said. "There's a lot of good will that will come from this. I think it's a step forward. I'm sure it was a hard thing for them to do, and probably an expensive thing for them to do. But I really think it was the right thing for them to do. A real win-win."
The reversal comes less than a week after LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced a reduction in the age of service for full-time missionaries. The age adjustment, said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles last Saturday, "is an option that will allow more young men and young women to enjoy the blessings of missionary service."
In other words, it is likely that more missionaries will soon be coming to the MTC than ever before.
"We completely understand that growth will occur and needs to occur at the MTC," Evans said. "We welcome the opportunity to sit down together and find a solution that works for everybody."