In conjunction with the beginning of a new school year, seminary classes — released time, home study and classes held daily — are gathering throughout the world to embark on this year's course of study, the Old Testament.
To encourage and help students attend and be involved in seminary, the Church Educational System invited Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve to prepare 10 short videos for instructors to use in welcoming their students to class.
"I'm currently reading the Old Testament again as part of my daily scripture study so I will be reading along with you this year," Elder Oaks said in the welcome video. "I love my daily scripture study; it puts me in tune with the Spirit of the Lord and it gets my day started right. I urge you to do the same."
In some of the videos, Elder Oaks joins four daily seminary students (formally known as early morning seminary) from Orem, Utah, and their teacher to discuss many topics related to the Old Testament, seminary and personal gospel study.
"I have a great testimony of the importance of seminary to serve as an anchor to young men and young women to establish in their lives the things of God to serve as a proper counter balance to the things of the world that we are all exposed to," Elder Oaks says in one of the videos. "I know that it is the word of God in this Bible and I know that the study of this will bless the lives of young people … and all of you who are listening."
The videos vary in length from about a minute and a half to just more than 12 minutes, and are available in 23 languages. They include Elder Oaks' welcome and conclusion that are available to the public on lds.org, and eight videos available to seminary instructors through the seminary website that show Elder Oaks answering questions and interacting with the students.
In the video segments, Elder Oaks speaks to the students as he would his grandchildren, giving tips on how to mark scriptures, how to better prepare for class discussions as well as one's own personal study.
"It has always been my practice ... that before I partake of food to nourish my body I bow my head and ask the Lord to bless that food," said Elder Oaks. "I do the same before I partake of the spiritual food in the scriptures. Before I begin to read the scriptures each day, I bow my head, and ask the Lord to bless me that I will have His Spirit to enlighten me on the meaning of what I am reading and to be with me throughout the day to help me make decisions, and to resist temptation. I urge you to make that your practice."
He even mentions the powerful missionary tool texting can be when appropriately done — after class.
In years past, Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder David A. Bednar, both of the Quorum of the Twelve, have shared their testimony of seminary in a short welcome video to students at the beginning of the school year. This year, the welcome video turned into many teaching segments to be used throughout the year, accompanying certain passages of scripture and topics in class.
"Our hope was that [students] would see that Elder Oaks emphasizes very strongly the importance of seminary, the importance of studying the Old Testament," said Andrew O. Horton, manager of visual curriculum for Seminaries and Institutes. "He even had his scriptures ... and showed the students how he marks them."
The hope, Brother Horton said, is that these videos will bring another element to the seminary experience. "It feels like Elder Oaks is in the classroom with them," he said.
In sharing his testimony with the teenagers, Elder Oaks said that through seminary attendance and scripture study, youth will set good habits and feel the Spirit in their lives.
"My young brothers and sisters, this is a great time in your life," Elder Oaks said. "It is a privilege to study the Old Testament and to learn the word of God under the direction of gifted teachers. It is also a great privilege and practice for you to set aside time each day to study the word of God and prayerfully seek His Spirit to guide you in understanding it, and to help you throughout your day."