My beloved brothers and sisters, we thank you for being here and for your marvelous service as teachers in the Church. I am told that worldwide there are some 45,000 volunteers and 3,000 employees and spouses who participate with us. We are humbled with this opportunity to visit with you, to bear testimony, and to thank you for your wonderful service.
In your excellent handbook for teachers and leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, Gospel Teaching and Learning, we find a marvelous statement about the objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. Keep this purpose ever in your mind: “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.”1 Remember that purpose every day before you teach your students.
The statement continues:
“To achieve our purpose:
“We live the gospel of Jesus Christ and strive for the companionship of the Spirit. Our conduct and relationships are exemplary in the home, in the classroom, and in the community. We continually seek to improve our performance, knowledge, attitude, and character.
“We teach students the doctrines and principles as found in the scriptures and the words of the prophets. These doctrines and principles are taught in a way that leads to understanding and edification. We help students fulfill their role in the learning process and prepare them to teach the gospel to others.
“We administer our programs and resources appropriately. Our efforts assist parents in their [responsibilities] to strengthen their families. We work closely with priesthood leaders as we invite students to participate and as we provide a spiritual environment where students can associate with one another and learn together.”2
To these three steps to achieve our purpose, I might add a fourth: We harmonize our efforts with the prophetic priorities.
We are to keep current with the teachings of the prophets, and we harmonize those teachings with our current curriculum. As leaders, we understand our objectives, stated clearly in Handbook 2, section 3.4, entitled “Leadership Purposes.” I’ll not repeat all of it now. You will find it on page 14 of Handbook 2. There we state our hope for leaders of the youth of the Church. We are to “help prepare each young man to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to receive the ordinances of the temple, and to be worthy to serve a full-time mission. Help prepare each young woman to be worthy to make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple. Strengthen youth through participation in meaningful activities.”3 By doing so, you teachers will help us to build faith among the youth of the Church.
I would like to mention the concept of “real growth.” By that we mean the true and enduring conversion of each individual member of the Church. We have too many who view the Church merely as a social organization. Too many go through life without a true understanding of the truth of the gospel and the eternal blessings of the ordinances and covenants of the temple.
Of course, we care about the growth of the Church as an institution. We listen to the annual report at general conference. It includes the number of members and the number of wards, stakes, missions, temples, and more. All of this is interesting and important. But what we really care about is the people. Are we really preparing them for the greatest of all blessings—that of eternal life? That is of supernal significance. It pertains to their faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, their endowment and sealing ordinances, and remaining faithful to covenants made in the holy temple. We care about their enduring to the end.
Now, let us mention our missionary responsibilities. The recent adjustment in minimum age for full-time missionary service carries many implications for seminary and institute teachers. The youth who are going on missions may have a little less time to prepare now. So, the homes, seminaries, and institutes have a wonderful opportunity to assist in the preparation of missionaries.
Excellent advice is written on page 10 of your Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook. There you will find a seven-point outline. It states that “teachers and students should—
“• Teach and learn by the Spirit.
“• Cultivate a learning environment of love, respect, and purpose.
“• Study the scriptures daily, and read the text for the course.
“• Understand the context and content of the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
“• Identify, understand, feel the truth and importance of, and apply gospel doctrines and principles.
“• Explain, share, and testify of gospel doctrines and principles.
“• Master key scripture passages and the Basic Doctrines.”
If teachers will incorporate these fundamentals effectively, they will help to prepare future missionaries. If you do all you can—teach in the way that is outlined in your handbook—you will be doing what you need to do to assist with this prophetic priority.
Future missionaries are preparing as they study the scriptures diligently. We read on page 34 of your handbook, “The study of the scripture mastery passages and these doctrines should be developed together so that students will learn to express these doctrines in their own words and use the scripture mastery passages to help them explain and testify of these truths.”4 Scripture mastery, when done appropriately with a focus on doctrinal understanding and learning to express the gospel to others, is a wonderful way to help students in their preparation to be effective missionaries.
Can you imagine any better training for missionaries than mastering the key scripture passages and learning the fundamental doctrine of Christ? The study of scripture mastery passages and the doctrine should be developed together so that students will learn to express these concepts in their own words and use the scriptural passages to help them explain and testify of the many truths of the gospel.
President Thomas S. Monson has taught us repeatedly about the sacred nature of the rescue of less-active and less-converted individuals among us. One of our prophetic priorities, therefore, is “the rescue.” In seminaries and institutes we want to reach out by working closely with priesthood leaders.
Page 8 of your Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook states: “In their efforts to bless the youth and young adults, it is important that seminary and institute leaders and teachers work closely and cooperatively with local priesthood leaders. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, they counsel and work together to ensure that each youth and young adult is invited and encouraged to enroll in, attend, and complete appropriate courses of study. Teachers and administrators should be actively involved with priesthood leaders in seeking to enroll and retain seminary and institute students and should not be content to teach only those students who come to their classes.”
This becomes an important part of our missionary effort as well. As full-time missionaries work in partnership with the ward council and the ward mission leader—all under the direction of the bishop—doors will be opened to friends and families of these individuals being rescued. Great opportunities will be created for the missionaries to teach new investigators.
Along with the adjustment in the age of missionaries has come the development of the new youth curriculum: Come, Follow Me: Learning Resources for Youth.
Our young people are now teaching each other the doctrine of Christ. They are teaching each other the prophetic priorities. Within a few days of the past April general conference, those materials were posted on LDS.org so that they are a part of the current curriculum of the Church. We’ve never had anything like this before. No longer do we need to rely on printed manuals and quotations from yesteryear. Teachings are current. Students know and want to apply the prophetic priorities of our day.
Families will be strengthened as they do their own family history work. Invite the young people to know their grandparents and their great-grandparents and something about their conversion to the Lord, where that is appropriate. If their ancestors were not able to do their own ordinances, encourage students to have the thrill of taking their own family names to the temple and doing vicarious work for their own relatives. There is nothing that will bind them to the Lord and His work more effectively than their opening the gates of eternal progression for their own ancestors.
Brothers and sisters, remember that even more eloquent than what you say is the eloquence of your own personal example. By example you teach the fundamental doctrine of marriage and the family. How you live in your homes, how you regard your families, how you revere your marriage covenants, how you love your spouses and children will be evident to your students. Your objective and hope for eternal life will be communicated to your students by your manner of living. Your objective is to live the kind of life that your students want to live. Many students will not have had the good example previously that you can provide now. Illustrate your teaching with your own personal experiences with your family. Live the gospel. Teach it with such clarity that it will penetrate the hearts of our young people.
Brothers and sisters, we thank you. You deserve God’s help in your important work. On behalf of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, I would like to invoke a priesthood blessing upon you of health and strength, joy in your work, and the ability to be effective disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I bless you that you will feast on His words and apply those teachings in your personal lives. Through you, I bless your spouses and your children and your children’s children to the end that they will be drawn closer to the Lord because of your devotion to Him.
I so bless you and bear my testimony that God lives. Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church. We are led by His prophets and apostles today. Of this I testify, with my expression of love and gratitude for each of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2013 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 1/13.