Seminary Students Rise to Challenge to Elevate Learning

Contributed By Jenny Poffenbarger, Church News staff writer

  • 18 September 2015

CES reports that seminary students this past year rose to the challenge to elevate their seminary experience.

Article Highlights

  • The youth of the Church have risen to the challenge to elevate their seminary experience.
  • The number of students who received seminary credit for the year increased.
  • This year students are encouraged to establish a deeper relationship with the scriptures and with the Savior.

“These changes have the potential to make them the most converted, inspired generation yet.” —Nancy Rollins, Woodbridge Virginia Stake seminary supervisor

A year ago the Church asked seminary students to elevate their seminary experience—and the youth of the Church have risen to the occasion.

In addition to the previous attendance and ecclesiastic endorsement requirements, to receive seminary credit, students now had to pass two assessments on their doctrinal understanding of course material and finish reading the book of scripture they studied for the year (last year the course of study was the Doctrine and Covenants).

Students were invited to meet new requirements as an opportunity to better learn the scriptures and deepen their understanding of the gospel—in other words, take seminary to a higher level.

Since the implementation of the new requirements, the Church Education System reports that the number of students in the United States who received seminary credit for the year increased. In addition, attendance jumped 6 percent, and 33 percent more students read the scriptures.

Chad Webb, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion administrator, calls the results “a thrilling accomplishment by our students.”

“After one year, what we are seeing is extremely positive,” he said. “The ultimate beneficiaries are the students who were given more opportunities to deepen their conversion through meaningful classroom experiences and personal scripture study.” He added that “the most exciting thing for us to see is the increase in the number students reading the scriptures.”

“I was glad they made changes,“ said Carson Dover, a student attending the Viewmont High School seminary in Bountiful, Utah, “because it helped get us involved and learn more and not just sit in the back of the class and do nothing. It allowed us to feel the spirit and learn more about the gospel.”

“The youth have really risen to the occasion,” said Nancy Rollins, stake seminary supervisor of the Woodbridge Virginia Stake. “Many classes within our stake had 100 percent of their students pass the test. That was the rule rather than the exception.”

Sister Rollins pointed out that efforts had increased both from the students and the teachers. “We had great teachers that worked with the students that didn’t pass the exam the first time so they could pass the next time around.”

“The fact that the number of students who passed the assessment ended up being higher than the number of students who met the attendance or reading requirements is impressive,” said Wayne Davis, manager of communications for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. “That may be due to instructors’ willingness to ensure that all students who wanted to pass the assessment were able to,” he added.

Seminaries and institute leaders are aware and sensitive to the fact that students with disabilities or those who struggle with traditional learning are in every class they teach. Teachers are expected to work with each student, including those with disabilities to find a pathway to success.

“We are mindful that we need to make sure every student is having a good experience, especially those who may be struggling,” Brother Webb said. “We have asked teachers to try and anticipate those who may need additional help.”

A mother of a son with a disability in Oregon stated, “Initially I was extremely concerned that the assessment would be something he couldn’t do because it was too much at once for him. His teacher was understanding and sensitive in working with him and followed the Spirit. ... My son ended up having a great experience. I believe he is capable and the teacher did what was right for him.”

While not all students may have experienced such a positive outcome with the learning assessments this first year of their implementation, teachers will continue to improve at helping students succeed as they work with parents to become aware of, and meet, individual learning needs.

Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy said, “We believe that as we elevate learning for all students, they will have more confidence in the word of God and in their ability to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. They will be better prepared to share what they believe and to follow the Savior’s example.”

Elevate . . . again

After last year’s success, the Church is extending the invitation for youth to elevate their seminary education and application to even greater heights during the new seminary year. Students are encouraged to establish a deeper relationship with the scriptures and with the Savior. This year youth are studying the Old Testament in seminary.

“If the students can really create a connection through the Savior by learning about His Atonement, they will truly have a priceless tool that they will build on for the rest of their lives. These changes have the potential to make them the most converted, inspired generation yet,” said Sister Rollins.

“We have this wonderful momentum in seminary . . . and hope the very same thing will happen in institute,” said Brother Webb, where similar “elevate” efforts are underway to encourage more young single adults to attend and graduate from institute.

“These changes were meant to bless each student worldwide. The changes were made to help students deepen their commitment to Jesus Christ, increase their understanding of the gospel, and to live what they are being taught.”

Seven ways to help your child succeed in seminary

While the students are expected to work hard to get the most out of seminary, their support comes from parents and leaders. All are expected to participate in lifting the youths’ seminary education to higher levels. The following are seven ways parents can help their children succeed:

  1. Understand the purpose of seminary. Why is seminary so important? Read the objectives here.
  2. Ensure your children are registered. Click here to begin registration for seminary.
  3. Study with them. The course of study this year is the Old Testament. Teachers will be preparing lessons from the Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual [available in Spanish, French, and Portuguese]. Read through the lessons so you can follow along with the youth. Learning is much more effective when it is applied, so ask them what they’ve learned and how they’re applying it.
  4. Help with scripture mastery. Scripture mastery is a program that encourages seminary students to memorize 25 selected scriptures from the book of scripture they are studying. Use these scripture mastery resources to help your children not only memorize but also internalize important scriptures.
  5. Help them study for the learning assessments. Assessments allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the doctrine and principles as taught in the scriptures. That understanding helps students apply what they are learning to their personal lives. Parents can encourage their children to work with their instructor to better understand concepts if needed to pass the assessment.
  6. Encourage them to keep up with social media. This year the Church will be making a special effort to reach out and share resources and stories about elevating seminary education. Encourage youth to follow the LDS Seminary Facebook and Twitter pages. They can share what they are doing to apply what they learn in seminary using #elevate.
  7. Review graduation requirements with them. Help ensure students are on track to graduate. Make-up classes are available in the summer if needed, and teachers are always ready to assist students until they pass the assessments.