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MTC Tunnels: Fess Up!

Rusty - February 15, 2006

Okay, confession time. Who knew about, saw and explored the MTC tunnels? I assumed everyone at least knew about them, if not saw and explored them. It’s just a part of the MTC experience.

For those not in-the-know, there are tunnels under the MTC that connect all the buildings and presumably connect it to BYU (some say they connected to the DC temple, but I’m still waiting on the evidence). The way to get to them is that whoever is going gets in the elevator and pushes the basement button. A couple or three guys on the first floor hold the door closed when it reaches that level and then the elevator stalls and stalls and finally goes to the basement and violá! Tunnels!

Now, I never explored them. I went below and saw them but never stepped foot outside the elevator (I don’t know why, it’s not like I promised to never explore the tunnels). But my greenie (now brother-in-law) explored them with others in his district, took pictures and made a map (and can you believe it, he was still a good missionary). I guess there were a lot of missionaries who did this because in the pictures my greenie took I saw a lot of graffiti of elder’s signatures.

So fess up folks, who knew about them, who saw them, and who explored them?


  1. I swear, Rusty, I didn’t even know about the MTC tunnels at the time. Which is strange, because as a freshman, back in the ancient days of 1987, I and several Student Review folks went down a ventilator shaft and got into the tunnels under BYU. I suppose I should have put two and two together, but no.

    Comment by Russell Arben Fox — February 15, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  2. I was at the MTC in 1984 in the Erastus Snow dorm. One of the rooms had a door or hatch in the floor that led to the tunnels. One of the guys in that room opened it, and someone went down and looked, but no one went exploring beyond that.

    I thought the dorm rooms were awfully tiny for 4 people who had to live there for 8 weeks. I think they were designed for 2 people. I remember 1/2 of the rooms on our floor were empty.

    One popular manner of graffiti, was to write your name on a very small scrap of paper, remove the end-cap covering the tube part of a chair, and put it inside the chair that way.

    Comment by Bookslinger — February 15, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  3. When I was there there were no empty rooms and they were making people live in janitors closets. I’m surprised they didn’t have us living in the tunnels.

    They also evacuated us at 3 am every day for 10 days in a row. I wonder if they did that in order to let other elders sleep in our beds for a while. Given what happened to me when I complained about that I can only imagine what would have happened if we had been caught exploring the tunnels. President Grant went into every conversation assuming that you weren’t worthy to be there. What a great attitude…

    In college I explored the steam tunnels under campus a bit. It was very odd being able to travel from building to building and even being able to look up through the floorboards at people in some buildings.

    Comment by a random John — February 15, 2006 @ 11:12 am

  4. I heard about them, but just chalked it up to rumor.

    Comment by Eric — February 15, 2006 @ 11:30 am

  5. The MTC came after me, ahem.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — February 15, 2006 @ 11:46 am

  6. Didn’t even hear about them until now.

    I am so uncool. :)

    Comment by danithew — February 15, 2006 @ 11:49 am

  7. Sorry, that’s a new one. I’m trying to think back to when I was there, and I don’t even remember hearing the rumors.

    It makes sense though, as there are tunnels to get to the Salt Lake temple from the church office buildings and elsewhere. I think they were originally built to protect the Brethren or something like that.

    Comment by Ian Cook — February 15, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  8. When I was at the MTC in 1996, EVERYONE was talking about the tunnels. However, the rumor was that if you were caught in them, you would be sent home immediately, no questions asked, no appeals possible.

    That kept most of us from trying to get in them.

    Comment by NFlanders — February 15, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

  9. NFlanders, I was in the MTC in 1996 at the end of Sept – beginnning of Oct, and I don’t recall hearing the rumors.

    Maybe it was who you talked to.

    Comment by Ian Cook — February 15, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

  10. Never even heard of them. Tipping the snack and soda machines was the thing while I was there, and was so common the security people wouldnt even do anything about it. The building I went to church in growing up in NY had tunnels underneath it for water pipes, and we explored all of those repeatedly. Elbows and knees crawlspaces, not big enough to stand up in. Could get into storage areas through them.

    Comment by Kurt — February 15, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

  11. I should mention that we took our rooms apart (non-destructively) using lethermans and army knives and found all sorts of secret items hidden in various parts of the rooms.

    Comment by a random John — February 15, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  12. Cooping all those teenagers up without any normal outlets makes for some weird antics. One room in my district used their leathermans (why do all missionaries have one?) to turn their bunkbeds into triples.

    The other fad while I was there was to challenge someone to drink a gallon of water in fifteen minutes. Everyone knew it couldn’t be done, so they waited with cameras to take pictures of the guy puking.

    Also, “power sit-ups” were popular, but I think that kind of hazing is just dumb (not to mention gross).

    Comment by NFlanders — February 15, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

  13. Somebody in my building managed to hang a vacuum off the roof by its cord. I don’t know how they got up there. The authorities were less than pleased.

    Comment by a random John — February 15, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  14. I didn’t know about the tunnels and I was in the MTC in 2001. As far as teenage antics in the MTC, we invented a game called nutball. The whole premise of the game was one elder would stand at one end of the hall with a nerf ball of some sort, while the other elder stood at the other end with his hands behind his head. The elder with the ball would then proceed to throw the ball as hard as he could at the the other elder’s…um… nuts. When contact was made the elder would drop to his knees in agony and pictures would ensue. I never actually played, but I did watch and laugh at the such jackassery among servants of the Lord

    Comment by Brett — February 15, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  15. ARJ,
    I did the same. We found some candy canes in the vent that were so old, they crumbled to powder when grabbed.

    The thing in my district was to play “showerball,” i.e. soccer with a piece of soap. (I swear I never participated)

    I’ve been in the tunnels underneath temple square when I performed in an oratorio in the Tabernacle. Our dressing room was under the Assembly Hall and we ate in “the horshoe” under the Tabernacle. President Hinckley whipped by at one point on a cart with President Bednar.

    Comment by Bret — February 15, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

  16. What is it about transplants to NYC being fascinated with tunnels? Is it a kind of acquired reverse penis envy adaptation that helps one cope with subway phobia?

    I’d been in BYU tunnels, but didn’t even think about MTC tunnels. Memorizing French discussions was kind of overwhelming then. I took a date in a BYU tunnel only once. It wasn’t the best place to find out she was a screamer.

    Comment by Steve EM — February 15, 2006 @ 4:17 pm

  17. Funny, I always thought that was a rumor.

    But I have been through some of the extensive tunnels that connect the Salt Lake Temple/Conference Center/Church Administration Building/Joseph Smith Memorial Building/that building next to the JSMB/Hickley’s apartment complex.

    Comment by Eric Russell — February 15, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

  18. People, the church has nothing on Disney World. That’s all I’m saying

    Comment by John C. — February 15, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

  19. I worked at the MTC in the mid ’90s. Our supervisor showed us the entrance to one of the tunnels and told us they were there in case of an emergency.

    Our missionary antic was to seal up the shower curtains and have a sauna.

    Comment by cadams — February 15, 2006 @ 8:16 pm

  20. I’m with danithew and Kurt, this is the first I have heard of them. I did know about the time capsules in the dorm rooms though.

    You’re such a trouble maker, Steve.

    Comment by Kim Siever — February 15, 2006 @ 8:51 pm

  21. *I’ve actually been in a tunnel.*

    I didn’t know about them as a missionary, but I worked at the MTC later and had access. There was one that went from the gym/auditorium toward the main building that ended with a locked gate. The other side looked like a custodial area under another building, but I never figured out how to get to the other side.

    I think I also tried to head south toward BYU once, but didn’t get very far for reasons I can’t remember.

    Comment by Jared — February 15, 2006 @ 10:35 pm

  22. Having been called as a missionary at a time when the MTC didn’t exist, and we learned our languages at the LTM (otherwise known as the “Knightmare-Mangum” building on the BYU campus, where there were, I assume, no tunnels), I feel like my missionary experience is now woefully lacking. ;)

    Comment by Mark N. — February 16, 2006 @ 1:52 am

  23. I am actually quite surprised so many people didn’t know about them and am even more surprised that not more people have explored them. I was there in the late summer of 1996 and it seemed that EVERYONE knew about them. I don’t remember an edict from the MTC president suggesting we’d get sent home if we went in them (Ned), but I seem to remember thinking I’d get in trouble.

    Oh, and a guy in my district liked to play shower bowling (he was the ball). Not pleasant for anyone.

    Mark N,
    Lacking no doubt, you probably didn’t even have the Spirit with you on the mission, huh? The tunnels have a major impact on those kinds of things :)

    Comment by Rusty — February 16, 2006 @ 8:51 am

  24. Shower bowling?

    Comment by D. Fletcher — February 16, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  25. Okay… lets see the map of the tunnels! Plus where are the pictures?

    Comment by Speaking Up — February 16, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  26. Rusty,

    Sorry dude, I was there in the summer of ’93 and it never came up. This is the first I’ve heard of it too.

    But I’ve heard a lot of Utah has secret tunnels and the like, even in SLC and stuff. Makes us look like cultish paranoid nuclear fall-out freaks if you ask me.

    Comment by David J — February 16, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

  27. “Shower bowling?”
    This may be what he’s talking about. In the building my district lived, the group showers had a 6 inch lip separating them from the rest of the bathroom. You could plug up the drains and in 15-20 minutes the water would be almot to the top of the lip. It was then easy to slide around, which probably led to this guy throwing himself at other people like a bowling ball.

    Comment by jjohnsen — February 17, 2006 @ 1:02 pm

  28. One of the things that really annoyed me in the Mission Home in SLC (1977) were the communal showers. Giant rooms with literally hundreds of boys showering at the same time.

    Ok, I’m gay, but I bet I wasn’t the only one uncomfortable in there. It’s a bit… dehumanizing.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — February 17, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  29. It is just another way in which the MTC is like boot camp. Break you down to build you up.

    Comment by John C. — February 17, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

  30. plug up the drains and in 15-20 minutes the water would be almot to the top of the lip

    RFLMAO! Boys will be boys, man. We did the same thing!

    Here’s a question: is male humor timeless? I mean, have men always thought, throughout the aeons of time, thought this sort of crap was funny?

    I never laughed so hard and so often as I did the two months I was in the MTC. My district was just 12 guys, 10 of which could have passed off as professional comedians. We tried everything short of the tunnels, cuz we never heard of them.

    Comment by David J — February 17, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  31. Amateurs.

    I attended a “small western vocational technical school for boys in El Paso County”, which happens to be federally funded. (Two points if you can guess the real name of this institution.) Not only did it have tunnels, which likewise were supposedly off-limits and grounds for expulsion if caught, but you could use them to get to any building in the complex. Including the gym, which had an Olympic-size pool with diving towers, and a crash pit filled with foam cubes to cushion falls in gymnastics. As well as golf carts hidden at selected entrances. Have I mentioned that deer don’t react quickly enough when woken up by a golf cart chasing them around the athletic fields?

    We gained entrance using a knife blade to slide the door latch open. Tried to make it to the observatory but got lost. Saw lots of empty 5 gallon cans intended for water storage (instant water–just add water). And graffiti of course. I’d say it’s an eternal principle, not just a post-1990 invention. You young punks always think you invented the cool stuff when it really existed long before you came along!

    Comment by Space Chick — March 30, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

  32. you have no idea, i just got sent home for only KNOWING elders in my zone were down there.

    its pretty serious how crazy they are about making sure no one goes down there.

    Comment by Erick — June 6, 2007 @ 12:58 am

  33. I am interested in exploring. RUSTY, do you think I could get a copy of your brother in laws map? Please

    Comment by Trey — September 27, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

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