Church announces new life preparation lessons for seminary students

New thematic lessons will help prepare youth for complexities of modern world through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ

In response to the evolving needs of today’s youth, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced new life preparation lessons to help better prepare youth for the complexities of the modern world.

Chad H. Webb, the Church’s administrator of seminaries and institutes, outlined the new lessons to instructors, administrators and other Church Educational System employees during the 2024 Seminaries and Institutes Annual Training Broadcast on Friday, Jan. 26.

It is recommended, he said, that these new thematic lessons to seminary curriculum be implemented one to two times each week, developed from topics such as mission, temple and educational preparation; scripture study skills; emotional resilience; life skills; and teachings of latter-day prophets.

“These lessons will address specific needs of our seminary students in ways that will continue to be Christ-centered, scripture-based, and learner-focused,” Webb said. “We will always strive to invite the Holy Ghost and focus on our objective of deepening conversion to Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.”

Elder Clark G. Gilbert and Elder D. Todd Christofferson listen as Chad H Webb, administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, speaks during the annual training broadcast.
Elder Clark G. Gilbert and Elder D. Todd Christofferson listen as Chad H Webb, administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, speaks during the annual training broadcast on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, General Authority Seventy and Church commissioner of education, also spoke during the training broadcast.

In his remarks, Elder Christofferson said he was excited — even intrigued — by the new thematic lessons for seminary. “To me, this seems like adding some extra fruit and a fresh ‘pinch’ of seasoning to the pie. It’s going to be delicious,” he said. 

Elder Gilbert called the lesson updates a “historic development that will elevate the life preparation of youth across the Church.”

Seminary teachers “are part of the critical life preparation of our youth and what they will need to become disciples of Jesus Christ in this coming season of commotion,” Elder Gilbert said.

He expressed his hope that teachers will feel the inspiration behind the lessons and recognize their role in preparing youth for the future. “Pray for insight and inspiration to see their future path. Seek out the conviction to inspire them to prepare. What an amazing time to be teaching seminary, and what a marvelous responsibility we all share.”

This expansion to seminary curriculum will begin in January 2024 for released-time programs in some areas of the United States and Canada, followed by a global rollout in January 2025.

Webb said new materials will be sent out globally to teachers in July 2024, which will include both the “Come, Follow Me” and life preparation lessons. “We encourage you to review these lessons at that time and also encourage you to begin sharing this announcement with parents, local leaders and school officials to help encourage more youth to enroll in seminary,” Webb said.

A student and a seminary teacher fist bump during a seminary class in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake Highland Seminary Principal Andy Shepherd, right, gives Ofa Manavahe a fist bump during seminary class in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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Why the change to seminary curriculum?

A few years ago, the Church tested a new course in seminary — a revised version of the institute course “Scripture Study Fundamentals.”

“After one semester, students in those classes were significantly ahead of their peers in their ability to have meaningful personal scripture study and to participate in classroom discussions,” Webb related.

At the same time, a program called Succeed in School was having great success helping students be more prepared for future educational opportunities. Seminary administrators also began discussions with the Missionary Department about what more seminary could do to help prepare future missionaries. Other discussions were taking place with the Temple Department about helping first-time temple attendees have a meaningful temple experience and with the Welfare and Self-Reliance Department about helping increase emotional resilience. 

“Like tributaries flowing into a river, many ideas were coming together, which all seem to be pointing us in a similar direction,” Webb said. 

They also realized seminary is in a unique position, Webb continued. “We are unique in our ability to address those topics through the lens of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We also realized we’re unique even within the Church simply due to the amount of time we have with our youth each week.”

Salt Lake Highland Seminary Principal Andy Shepherd talks with his class in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake Highland Seminary Principal Andy Shepherd talks with his class in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Seminary is also in a unique position within its history. Since aligning curriculum with the “Come, Follow Me” schedule, seminary is also teaching the same book of scripture as individual members, families and other Church classes. “This made us wonder if we might be able to free up some of our valuable time to directly address specific topics within the context of our study of the scriptures,” Webb said.

Seminary administrators were also reminded of what Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had taught about the value of studying the scriptures in three ways: sequentially, topically and thematically.

“Knowing that we needed to stay true to our long and cherished history of sequential scripture teaching and to continue to benefit from our alignment with ‘Come, Follow Me,’ and also knowing that our youth have specific challenges and the need to prepare for their futures, we took the following recommendation to the Board of Education,” Webb related. It was “enthusiastically approved.”

Webb noted that the life preparation lessons will allow teachers to use their skills, experiences and gifts as sequential scripture teachers. “This is not starting over. We’re not asking you to be experts on any of these new topics. In fact, we hope none of you will take the role of parent, therapist, counselor or specialist. We simply ask you to stay firmly rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ as outlined in these new correlated and approved materials.”

Two students listen in their seminary class in Salt Lake City.
Will Mumford, left, and Maddie Miller, right, listen in their seminary class in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. The Church announced it will now be offering life preparation lessons for seminary students. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

By combining the approaches of sequential and thematic scripture study, “we hope to unlock a spiritual reservoir unlike any we have seen before.”

Webb said their hope is to help prepare a generation of youth who are emotionally resilient and have the skills and capacity to succeed in school, become righteous fathers and mothers, and will lead in the Church and in their communities. 

“Our hope is to help a generation be prepared to understand the covenants of the temple, who are deeply committed to keep them, and a generation of missionaries who are worthy, qualified, spiritually energized, and prepared to represent the Savior in inviting the world to come to Him. Our hope is to prepare a generation of disciples of Jesus Christ who are deeply converted to Him and His restored gospel throughout their lives,” Webb said.

Two students high five during a seminary class in Salt Lake City.
Lottie Miller and Isa Do Vale high five during a seminary class in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A spiritual anchor

Throughout their married life, Webb said he and his wife have visited about 15 different lighthouses. “I’m moved by the image of a lighthouse standing strong against winds and waves because it is anchored so deeply into bedrock and so securely that despite mighty storms, nothing can dislodge it from the foundation upon which it is fixed.”

Webb then thanked teachers for providing the spiritual anchor youth and young adults need and for helping them build their foundations on Jesus Christ.

Over the last two years, institute has grown by 57,000 additional students, and seminary enrollment has grown by 22,000. “We are now at the highest percentage of seminary students enrolled that we have ever reported. Thank you,” Webb told teachers, “for responding to President [Russell M.] Nelson’s invitation to help gather a generation.” 

But teachers’ influence is not only in enrollment numbers. “The real difference is in the impact you’re having,” Webb said. “Every day, lives are changing as [students] attend your classes full of your love and faith and as they accept your invitation to study the scriptures and hear the voice of God. Thank you for exercising your faith to the blessing of more and more of Heavenly Father’s children as you provide a spiritual anchor they so desperately need.” 

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