The responsibility of teaching our children falls upon all parents in Zion. In D & C 68:28, The Lord says, “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” The home is the place where our best teaching should take place; it is not only where we can read and share scriptures together, but we can also encourage our youth to seek the Lord early in their lives. As parents, we want to help them develop habits that will stay with them throughout their lives. In Proverbs 22:6 we read, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
To help parents with their divine commission to teach their children, the Seminary and Institute program is designed for youth, 14 to 18 years of age, and young single adults from 18 to 30 years. The purpose of these programs is to help the youth and young adults develop spiritual strength and maturity; thus impacting their lives and the lives of their future children.
Staring at age 14, Latter-day Saint youth can enroll in a daily class that will lead them in a journey of faith, hope and charity, in preparation for meeting the Savior Jesus Christ. They will also better understand and rely on His teachings and His atonement, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families and others for life eternal with Father in Heaven. (S & I Objectives)
President Packer, in the April 2013 general conference, shared the story about snakes who were attacking nests in a normally very safe area in his garden around his home. Witnessing those attacks, President Packer reflected, “Is the Garden being invaded again?”
First and foremost, we should all be aware of the critical need to spiritually strengthen today’s youth. President Henry B. Eyring, in 2001 stated; “The spiritual strength sufficient for our youth to stand firm just a few years ago will soon not be enough. Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith. But even the best of them are sorely tested. And the testing will become more severe, . . . the flow has become a flood and soon will be a torrent.” Two years later he said, “Too many of our students become spiritual casualties. One such tragedy is one too many. And yet the troubles and the temptations our student faced just five years ago, pale in comparison with what we see now, and even more difficult times are ahead.” (Elder Henry B. Eyring, 2003)
And what can we say of our day? Some ten years have passed and we are in those difficult times, but for students, parents, bishops and stake presidents, I testify that the Lord has provided an extraordinary tool to protect His youth from this torrent. Seminary and Institute is organized everywhere, ready to receive, train, teach, protect and prepare our youth for their great mission to help save the world. As they do, they will save themselves and their families.
But this rescue of our youth requires a concerted effort from all of us, to make sure that all are taught, all are trained and all are prepared. As a Seminary and Institute Coordinator, I have witnessed the steps that bring our youth to a firm assurance of the truthfulness of the gospel and the strength to act on this knowledge. They are: consistency in attending classes, consistency in reading their scriptures and gaining an understanding of the doctrine of Christ. But to develop that consistency, we need to rely on four groups of individuals:
- Students: Seminary begins for you at 14 years of age. You all are capable of making good and mature choices and encouraging others to regularly seek the word of the Lord early in their youth. I am amazed at the strength I see in young people who wake up early, walk long distances in the dark or after school in order to come and be taught of the Lord. Truly great is their peace. They develop greater confidence in the Lord and in their own ability to do things that appear difficult to others. They cultivate not only their mind but also their character in consistently waking up, reading their scripture courses and participating in class; thus turning their hearts to their Father in Heaven.
- Parents: As parents, we are helping our children determine their priorities while in their youth. If athletics and other courses take priority over their Seminary attendance, we are sending the message that strengthening our relationship with our Father in Heaven is not our first priority. I rejoice at the support of parents that wake up early in the morning and help their youth be ready for their classes. They encourage reading of the scriptures and make sure they do not miss class. As they do this, they are, little by little, teaching their youth to take ownership of their relationship with their Father in Heaven. Children that have this type of support truly are blessed.
- Bishops and Stake Presidents: The Lord has called you to be fathers in the wards over which you preside. With your ward and branch councils you are making a great difference in the lives of those youth that do not have the parental support we just talked about. As you plan, make visits to encourage parents and youth. You are truly inviting them to come and be lifted up by the Lord. Please review their progress using the MLS list of enrollment and completion, making sure that all are invited and encouraged. As you do, you are creating a support group and environment that will allow your youth to help each other and to withstand the difficult days, through the strength of their own conversion.
- Teachers: We are so grateful for your worthiness to teach the youth of the church. Every day you prepare yourself and keep yourself close to the spirit, teaching with love, those that have been entrusted to your care by your priesthood leaders. Your efforts, love, patience and sacrifices will not only bless your youth but your own life will be greatly impacted by your service. You will continue to grow closer to the Lord as He reveals Himself to you as you seek Him, and you will be able to show the way to your young students. We love and support you, and pray for you.
I am reminded of Elder Neil L. Andersen’s blessing in his February 2014 address: “As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I invoke a blessing upon you, the teachers of our precious youth, that the principles of faith, hope, and charity will further settle upon your souls and that the Lord will bless you to increasingly be instruments in His hands. I bless you that as you humbly keep the commandments and prayerfully prepare yourself, your words and action will carry an added measure of the Spirit and that the spirit of truth will sink into the hearts of those in your classrooms. I invoke a blessing upon your family as well, that your service might be a strength to your spouse and children, to your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, and a righteous legacy to your grandchildren and to all those you love”
May these blessing fall on all of us like the dews of heaven as we work together, that all our children be taught of the Lord, and their peace be great.
- Boyd K. Packer, “These Things I Know” General Conference, April 2013.
- Henry B. Eyring, “We Must Raise Our Sights” CES Conference on the Book of Mormon, August 14, 2001.
- Henry B. Eyring, “The Spirit Must Be Our Constant Companion”, address to CES Religious Educators, February 7, 2003.
- Neil L. Andersen, “A Classroom of Faith, Hope and Charity”, address to CES Religious Educators, February 28, 2014.