Seminary, institute attendance prepares youth for life

Credit: Sarah Harris
Credit: Sarah Harris
Credit: Courtesy Ugo Perego
Credit: Harmony Packer

Mark Beecher, assistant director of the Utah Valley Central Area for LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, said his own life story is evidence of the impact seminary can have on youth.

His mother died when he was 9 years old, and from then on his father, who was an alcoholic and less-active member of the Church, raised him.

“The thing that really gave me support and help in my life was seminary. I fell in love with the scriptures and read them regularly and stayed close to the Church,” Beecher said. “Seminary just grabbed ahold of me and just really instilled a testimony in me.”

Beecher served a mission, married in the temple and has now been teaching seminary and institute for more than 30 years following his seminary experience as a teenager.

LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion have in many ways blessed the lives of youth in the Church for more than a century.

Christian Euvrard, Europe Southeast regional director for LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, said seminary attendance has the potential to start a sequence of gospel living for youth in the Church.

“Seminary tends to bring students to the mission; of course, the mission then brings them to other stages of progress in their lives,” Euvrard said. “Anything that prepares the young people … for a mission makes a big difference.”

Euvrard said in his experience as a former mission president of the Italy Milan Mission, seminary and institute attendance helped to better equip his young missionaries with gospel knowledge and played a very important role in preparing them to serve.

“If they have been well prepared with a knowledge of the doctrines and of the gospel in seminary and institute, they are well prepared for a mission and they are well prepared for their lives, including their studies, including their professional endeavors, including their leadership roles in Church and as parents,” Euvrard said.

Beecher said for many years, seminary and institute classes have been centered on the scriptures and encouraging students to read and study on their own. Orem Utah Institute Director David Durfey said this link between students and the power of God’s word helps their faith to survive long term.

“There’s something powerful about a systematic study of the scriptures that changes lives beyond just Sunday worship,” Durfey said.

Harmony Packer, one of Beecher’s first students when he started teaching seminary at Cedar City High School in 1986, said attending seminary and institute classes helped her to gain a love for the scriptures.

“Having spiritual nourishment daily, having that break from the world to go to seminary class, away from the high school — to go to religion classes at BYU, away from the secular things that I was learning — just to have that break and that spiritual nourishment was really valuable,” Packer said.

Seminary and institute also helps to answer students’ questions, even those left unasked, according to Durfey.

He related the experience of a young woman in one of his institute classes who had decided one morning to break her engagement with her fiancé. Following Durfey’s class that day about not allowing fear to dominate our hearts and govern our choices, she realized the only reason she wanted to break the engagement was because she was afraid. She later told Durfey that going through with that marriage was the best decision she ever made.

“I’d never planned to teach that lesson on fear,” Durfey said. “It just kind of came up and I was impressed to teach it that morning, and teachers receive revelation because students have questions.”

Ugo Perego, current director of the Rome Italy Institute and an LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion coordinator for Central Italy and Malta, said in his experience with seminary and institute both within and outside the United States, a loving teacher is key for helping students have a good experience.

“The role as a teacher, as a mentor, as a caring individual is what is going to make the biggest difference,” Perego said. “The mentorship will take place and teaching the gospel will be more effective. The kids will feel the love from the Savior through the teacher. They will feel the guidance. They will feel that there is somebody there besides their parents.”

Durfey said students have told him they became stronger in living the gospel as a result of the understanding and testimony they had received in institute.

“I think gathering together can make a difference in their daily life because they feel reinforced by being with a large group of other students who are in a safe, healing, spiritual environment,” Durfey said.

As a mom, Packer has been able to testify to her children from experience that seminary and institute would be helpful to them. One of Packer’s sons recently graduated from seminary and began attending his first institute class at Utah Valley University.

“There’s just no other way to get that kind of spiritual education, I think, on a regular basis,” Packer said. “I just know that I can teach them the gospel and have family home evening and family scripture study and family prayer, but having the seminary teachers and the Scout leaders and the young men’s leaders … as a mom, I really appreciate that [support].”

Beecher said seminary and institute attendance helps students to become self-sufficient with their testimonies. He quoted the Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, which states: “Our purpose is to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven.”

“It’s all about having a vision of home — that we really have something way beyond this earth life,” Beecher said. “I think that’s what we’re doing every day with the scriptures is trying to connect them to the Savior, to Father in Heaven.”

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed