“Charting the Way,” New Era, June 1995, 43
Stephanie wanted Santa stickers.
She knew it was kind of silly, but the reading chart in her seminary class had a row of Santa stickers that were all hers. “Knowing that if I didn’t read I wouldn’t get any Santa stickers kept me going,” said Stephanie Plamondon.
Who would believe that almost grown-up seminary students could be motivated to keep up-to-date on their scripture reading by putting stickers on a chart? But it turned out to be a fun way to encourage each other and realize they were all working toward the same goal.
The class is the home-study seminary in the Charlottetown Branch on Prince Edward Island, a province of Canada. Each week, these dedicated seminary students travel to the chapel for a weekly class. They’d love every-day early-morning seminary, but some live too far from the chapel to make it work. Their teacher, Heather Hirtle, has just one hour to help them understand their reading from the past week and expand their understanding. “We learn it together,” says Sister Hirtle. “We seek out the knowledge, then pray about it and gain a testimony. The whole reason to have seminary is to get us into the scriptures.”
At first, it was a struggle to gain the good habit of reading every day. With home-study seminary, students have to do a lot of study on their own in workbooks. Sister Hirtle says, “With some I started off with a small goal—just one verse a day, one verse before your head hits the pillow. Read it and ask yourself what it means. Do it for 14 days, and it starts to become a habit.” Then as her students gained the habit of reading each day, they moved up to putting stickers on a reading chart with the reward of an ice cream cake for the class at the end of the year. This turned out to be so much fun it is now a class tradition.
Rick Cartier, a former seminary student, now serving in the Brisbane Australia Mission, talks about his love of the scriptures. He says, “There were three of us in the branch that were really good friends. At times, either my friends or I went astray, but what kept bringing me back to the scriptures were two things: my testimony and caring leaders like our seminary teacher. It was love that kept bringing me back. And that’s what the scriptures are about, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s love for us.” Rick and his friends are all serving full-time missions, the most missionaries the Charlottetown Branch has had out serving at the same time. They are a little like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, excited that they are all strong in the faith and teaching others.
Studying the scriptures in seminary helped Eryn MacEachern gain her testimony. “After reading the New Testament, our class was watching a movie on the crucifixion of Christ. I was crying, and I couldn’t help it. It was the feeling I got. I just knew he loved me so much, that he loved everyone in the world, to atone for us.”
For others, reading the scriptures can become very personal, especially when you share a name with a great prophet. The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon is a particular favorite of Nephi McPherson. “I like the things that set him apart from some of his brothers, his closeness to God,” says Nephi.
That chart with its lines of crazy stickers marking each person’s reading progress is still at the front of the room. The rows are starting to look a little like iron rods. After all it was a Book of Mormon year in seminary.
As Sister Hirtle says, “You need to read your scriptures. If you don’t hold onto the rod, you can’t stay on the path.”