Johannes Malzl was late for school again. The train had been too crowded and slow coming back from seminary, and he had raced to school. But he was still late. Every time he had been late, his teacher would ask what had happened. “At first I tried not to say that I was in seminary. I just said I overslept. Then one day, she asked, ‘Please tell me where you have been.’ I was in front of the whole class. Since we were working on our English, she said I had to tell her in English. All my classmates know that I’m a member of the Church, but they didn’t know about seminary. I explained that I had to get up at 5:00 in the morning and take the train to our Church house, then catch the train to school. They said, ‘Whoa, are you crazy?’”
Johannes explains, “For me, being in seminary gives me power. When I go to school and all my friends talk about all kinds of stuff, it’s good to have some spiritual strength in the mornings.”
Johannes is a member of the Salzburg-Flachgau Ward, Salzburg Austria Stake. Most of the teens in his stake go to seminary four mornings a week. Some brave the cold and dark to catch trains to the meetinghouse. Others go to their own living rooms where their parents are their seminary teachers.
“My mother is my seminary teacher,” says Julia Grosz of the Linz Ward. “I always get breakfast at the same time as the lesson. We have seminary every morning. It helps me start the day in a better spirit. We’re more cheerful and happy.”
Julia and her sister, Carina, study together. They like being taught by their mother each morning at the breakfast table.
Ben Schenk of the Salzburg-Flachgau Ward really notices a difference when he goes to seminary. “When I go to seminary, I have better days. It really helps me a lot, even in school. I just don’t seem to have as many problems. The basic things you learn in seminary help in everyday life. I tell the first-year students it is worth going to seminary even though it’s dark and so cold it burns your face and you can hear the ice cracking under your feet. Seminary really helps.”
On the Saturday before school began, the Salzburg stake youth have gathered for the start of a new seminary year. It’s more like a big party than a Church meeting, even though a lesson will be taught. The fun atmosphere comes because a lot of good friends who don’t see each other often have gathered for the afternoon and will stay for dinner and a dance.
Marie Krenn of the Klagenfurt Ward remembers starting seminary four years ago. “They asked everyone to stand up who was there for the first time. I thought, ‘Gee, I don’t really know anybody.’ But then I got to know everyone.” She lists the other occasions when the stake youth get together, like youth temple excursions, youth conferences, Young Women camp, and Seminary Saturdays.
Just starting his first year, David Fuchs of the Wels Ward knows only what he has been told, but he’s excited to start seminary. “I expect to learn the scriptures and prepare for a mission.”
Stephanie Kafka of the Linz-Urfahr Ward is also excited for her first year. “I look forward to not having to study the scriptures by myself. I’ll have other young people to talk to.”
In the neighboring country of Switzerland, seminary students in the Bern Switzerland Stake are also meeting to start a new seminary year. They have come from all over to the meetinghouse in Basel. Just as in Salzburg, there is a festive feeling to this get-together. The cultural hall is decorated for the dance, and dinner is being heated in the kitchen.
Most of the seminary students do a combination of home study and class work. Estelle Hansen of the Aarau Ward explains how seminary works for her. She lives in a small village, but fortunately a lot of members live nearby. About eight youth meet three times a week at their teacher’s house. They also study at home one day, and on Wednesdays they have seminary in the evenings. “I especially like seminary videos. Things are so clear and easy to understand,” Estelle says. “My brother Jen is starting seminary. He knows that it’s important, and we are blessed for going. I have told my friends about seminary, but they don’t understand. They don’t like to read the Bible because it isn’t important to them. They can’t understand why I do.”
Several students in the stake have the advantage of going to seminary every morning. Rebekka Wiesner of the Pratteln Ward and her sister, Noëmi, have their class come to their home. Rebekka says, “When seminary is in the morning, you can think about the lesson during the day. Our teacher gives excellent examples, and she’s funny and makes jokes. It is never boring. We laugh and we learn.”
Back at the Basel Ward meetinghouse, two sisters, Annika and Sabrina Warncke, and their brother, Jan, wait patiently in a little park across the street for Seminary Saturday to start. They have just moved into the Basel Ward, but they already know and love seminary. All three study with their dad at home. They are sometimes a little amazed at how much their father knows about the scriptures. But best of all, they love the feeling that studying together gives them. Jan says, “In school, it’s hard to feel the Spirit, but in seminary, it’s like a warm touch in your heart.” Annika adds, “It’s a feeling you can’t describe. If you just read the scriptures, you can’t feel it as often. But if you study, yes, you feel it.”
Melissa Römer of the Biel Ward also talks about the feeling she sometimes gets in seminary. “You feel the Holy Ghost so strong, and you know you are doing what you should be doing.”
One word that comes up over and over when talking about the feelings that seminary gives these youth in Austria and Switzerland is happiness. Yes, it is hard to get up so early. Yes, it is often cold and dark. But is it worth it? Oh, yes. Learning about the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what is written in the scriptures makes them happy. And they will choose that kind of happiness.