Benemerito De Las Americas, a high school outside of Mexico City, owned and run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be converted into a new training center for missionaries in order to accommodate the increased interest in mission service.

“Church leaders announced today that the Church-owned high school Benemerito de las Americas near Mexico City will become a training center for missionaries who will serve in Mexico and North, Central and South America,” said LDS Church spokesperson Michael Purdy Wednesday.

“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,” he said.

The school has been open since 1964. It currently has approximately 2,100 students.

Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland presided over the meeting where the announcement was made. The new MTC will be the Church’s second-largest MTC

The Mexico Area Presidency indicated the new MTC will begin operation in July.

“Thank you, Mexican Saints and families,” Elder Nelson said, “and thank you to the 18-year-old elders from Mexico, who pioneered the change in age.”

Elder Holland noted the sadness felt by students and families at the announced closure of Benemerito, which was established in 1964 and has been an important educational and cultural resource for Mexican Latter-day Saints, with some 23,000 graduates during its 49-year history.

“I see tears in your eyes,” Elder Holland observed. “Tears are the price we pay for sacrifice and love.”

While expressing love and appreciation for the work that has been done on the Benemerito campus through the years, Elder Holland said its new role is even more significant.

“Instead of a few hundred educated here each year, many thousands will be trained each year,” he said. “Many will come from other countries. They will receive training, but they will also learn to love Mexico, its language and its people.

“This hallowed ground where we sit tonight will become more and more sacred with each passing year,” Elder Holland continued. “Better, higher and holier purposes will be fulfilled here that will bless the lives of generations yet unborn and help them become what God intends that we become.”

In that way, Elder Holland said, this transition for the facility “will be a blessing to the entire world.”

Additionally, Elder Holland recently dedicated three newly renovated buildings at the Provo MTC. The new buildings are the Matthew Cowley Instructional Building, the Addison Pratt Residence Building and the Dan Jones Residence Building, as part of the upgrading and renovation going on at this center,” he said.