Thoughts On Seminary

I was called to be an early morning Seminary teacher in May 2019. At the time, I had just two students: a sophomore, and a junior. Because both students would have had to go past my house to get to the church, where Seminary had previously been held, I decided to have class in my living room, instead. By late November of that year, our class doubled with the arrival of a brother and sister who had moved in from another state. Harnessing the power of Google Meets and Zoom, the siblings joined our class remotely while the two boys continued to come to my house. Little did any of us know at the time that this foray into a hybrid model of Seminary would eventually turn into nearly a year and a half of what we lovingly came to call Zoominary! With the halt of in-person church gatherings in March of 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our class increased in size again as two more students joined us from their homes.

In August 2020, the size of our Zoominary class grew again as we added three freshman girls to our little group of stalwart youth. For the next year, I got to know these amazing nine youth very well, almost as well as I got to know their ceiling fans as we continued to hold Seminary via Zoom. I wish to point out that, unlike nearly every Seminary class in our stake and around the world, all nine of these students attended and participated every single day—many other teachers reported that their classes were lucky to have students attend once or twice a week.

This brings us to this last school year. Our class got two more students, both freshmen, and our ward added another Seminary teacher who has been teaching her three children while I taught the remaining six. With so many students and with the return of in-person instruction, we outgrew my living room and have been meeting in the Young Women Room in the church building each morning at 6 am.

Throughout the years, there have been three main messages I have wanted the Seminary students to learn:
  1. The purpose of Seminary is to spiritually fortify the youth each day as they head out into the world and are bombarded by the fiery darts of the Adversary. As Elder M. Russell Ballard taught in 2016,

    “We give medical inoculations to our precious missionaries before sending them into the mission field so they will be protected against diseases that can harm or even kill them. In a similar fashion, please, before you send them into the world, inoculate your students by providing faithful, thoughtful and accurate interpretation of gospel doctrine, the scriptures, our history and those topics that are sometimes misunderstood" (The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century).

  2. Heavenly Father loves them and wants them to be happy and to find joy in this life and in the next, as does our Saviour, Jesus Christ. How does Seminary help the youth learn this? President Henry B. Eyring shared in 2007,

    “It is the Holy Ghost who testifies that Jesus Christ is the Beloved Son of a Heavenly Father who loves us and wants us to have eternal life with Him in families. With even the beginning of that testimony, we feel a desire to serve Him and to keep His commandments. When we persist in doing that, we receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost to give us power in our service. We come to see the hand of God more clearly, so clearly that in time we not only remember Him, but we come to love Him and, through the power of the Atonement, become more like Him” (O Remember, Remember).

    We learn to see the hand of the Lord in our lives as we immerse ourselves in the Scriptures and see how He has blessed his faithful children.

  3. Our perfect Father in Heaven allows imperfect men and women to carry out His perfect Plan of Salvation imperfectly. This is a lesson that has been particularly apparent as we studied the second half of the Doctrine and Covenants last semester and the first half of the Old Testament this semester. It is tempting to place ancient and modern prophets, apostles, and church leaders on pedestals, believing them to be like Mary Poppins–practically perfect in every way. However, this is not the case. These men and women made mistakes. Some of those mistakes were pretty major whoppers. Does this mean that the Church is false? Does this mean that prophets were not called of God? Does this mean, as some popular voices in society claim, that it is all a lie?

    NO! Emphatically and clearly, let me repeat: NO.

    God is perfect. The plan of salvation, also called the great plan of happiness or the plan of redemption, is perfect. But me? Other teachers? Prophets or apostles? No, we are not perfect. We make mistakes. All of us. We are all in need of the saving power of the Atonement of Christ. So did Joseph Smith and BrighamYoung. So did Adam and Eve and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Even Elijah and his people, who were taken up unto the Lord after becoming a Zion people who “were of one heart and one mind, [dwelling] in righteousness, [with] no poor among them” (see Moses 7:18). Each and every single person born on the face of the earth, save Jesus only, has been imperfect and therefore has carried out their part in the plan of salvation imperfectly, relying on the “merits, mercy, and grace” of Jesus Christ (see 2 Nephi 2:8).

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testified of this truth in 2017 when he said,

    “I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man”6 and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we all despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace” (Be Ye Therefore Perfect–Eventually).
I know that God lives and that He loves each and every single one of His children. He wants each of us to find joy and happiness in this life so that we may experience greater joy and greater happiness in the life to come. I am grateful that He has entrusted me, imperfect man that I am, with the Gospel teaching of some truly amazing young men and young women. I am glad that we are led by prophets and apostles today, who are themselves led by our Saviour, whose church and work this is

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