Annual Broadcasts
Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion

S&I Annual Training Broadcast 2021

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Brother Chad H Webb: Thank you for joining me. This is Brother Rory Bigelow. He’s our associate administrator over operations, things in the Church Office Building like human resources and finance and physical facilities. This is Adam Smith, our associate administrator over instruction, who works with our divisions like Training and Curriculum and Student Services and others.

As we begin, I just want to take a minute to provide some context and vision as to where we hope to go. Right now in Seminaries and Institutes (S&I) we are doing a marvelous job of meeting the needs of many of our current students. But the reality is that those who are attending are usually those who are actively participating and committed members of the Church. Others are not generally being impacted, and the truth is, worldwide enrollments in S&I programs are decreasing.

Our greatest hope is to change that. We hope that S&I can play a more significant role in the urgent need to “gather” an entire generation of youth and young adults. You’ll remember that President Nelson taught that gathering Israel is the most important work in the world. Of course, it includes missionary work and temple work, but President Nelson said that it also includes building faith and testimony in the hearts of those we serve. He said that anytime we do anything that helps anyone to make and keep their covenants with God, we are gathering Israel.

We worry that we’re losing some of our youth and young adults. Instead of speaking in terms of being lost or found, the scriptures more often refer to that as scattered and gathered. There are some who are struggling with faith. But we know where they are; they’re not lost to us. But they are scattered by the influences of the world and may have removed themselves from joining with us. We have a remarkable opportunity and an urgent need to assist in “gathering” this portion of Israel.

The way we will do this is by creating experiences that lead to conversion, relevance, and belonging and by making those experiences accessible to as many as possible. And we will do this while staying true to our origins. We are not looking to change just for change sake. We will continue to teach the gospel as found in the scriptures by the power of the Holy Ghost. But to create these experiences, we need to make some adjustments.

We need to move:

  • From talking and telling to engaging and inviting.

  • From telling students where to be to meeting them where they are.

  • From only praising the ideal to also honoring the struggle.

  • From social activities to meaningful social interaction.

  • From a focus on class credit and graduation to a focus on spiritual growth and becoming.

  • From passive learners who are acted upon to active participants who are instruments of the Holy Ghost.

We will be meeting with program administrators, our seminary principals, institute directors, and coordinators to help define more clearly teaching and learning experiences and expectations, to provide training and mentoring, and to provide metrics to help us know if we’re succeeding.

The training and resources you will be receiving and the changes that will be made will all be done with the goal of gathering Israel—by creating experiences that meet the needs of all youth and young adults and by making them more widely accessible. We will focus on this goal for at least the next three years. At that point we will evaluate our progress and make further adjustments.

My invitation to each of you is to join with President Nelson in the greatest work on earth—the urgent need and opportunity to gather Israel, to gather those who will let God prevail in their lives. Remarkable things will happen, even miracles. What a blessing it will be to be a part of it.

So, before I ask you about some of the changes in Seminaries and Institutes, can I just ask you, what will never change?

Brother Rory Bigelow: Well, one thing that I do think will remain the same is our overall objective. We exist to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. We want to help them qualify and prepare for the blessings that await them. And that’s not ever going to change. Our overall focus is going to be on them, and we’re going to love them. They matter. And we want to help every single one of them have the right experience in Seminaries and Institutes.

Brother Adam Smith: I would just also add that we’ll always be focused on student need, which you referenced—that we need to really be aware of what our learners need in the classroom experience, that the scriptures are central to what we do to help meet that need, and the Savior is central in that whole experience.

I think also, two other things that will never change is that we will always be loyal to prophetic priorities and the direction we receive from prophets and apostles. And we’ll always strive to have the Holy Ghost with us in our personal lives, when we prepare, and especially when we’re in a classroom with students.

Brother Webb: Thank you for saying that. I think that’s really significant. Those things that are most important will never change. The core of who we are will never change.

Speaking of what is changing, this broadcast is different. So we went from An Evening with a General Authority at this time of the year to this global training broadcast. So, could either one of you speak to why that change has been made?

Brother Bigelow: There are a lot of reasons, but I think two major ones would be important to know. And the first one is that we have, for a long time—1912, when we started Granite Seminary—we have focused a lot of our training cycle around a U.S.-centric kind of academic calendar. In 1991 things shifted for us. In 1991 we actually had more students in institute outside of the United States than we had inside the United States.

So as we continue to grow internationally, it just didn’t make sense for us to continue to operate on a calendar that was based on the United States academic calendar. So that’s one of the reasons—a desire to kind of shift in that respect to a calendar that is more of an annual calendar rather than an academic calendar for the northern hemisphere.

The other thing—if I could just add—I think the other thing is a shift in our philosophy and how we’re approaching training. For a long time it was almost like we were running a relay race with a baton. The central office would prepare a training and priorities, and then at the area director convention we would hand that baton to the area directors. They would then, in turn, go and hand it to their areas in area training.

And we’re looking at it more now through the lens of an area director convention or training would be as much about counseling together and creating the direction together. And that now, by moving our area director convention from April to October, allows us to meet with them in October and then be prepared for—like right now, in January—a training broadcast for the whole world.

Brother Webb: You know, that speaks to another change. We actually have about half as many area directors as we once had. And so they have been pulled into our councils much more than they were before. Which then allows for the needs in each of the areas across the world to be better represented in those councils and for communication to flow more freely, in the spirit of a council. So I think that’s a significant thing.

All right, another change that a lot of people are asking about—and we really appreciate everyone’s willingness to adapt to this change as we move forward with the new calendar following the Come, Follow Me annual calendar instead of an academic calendar with our curriculum. Adam, would you like to speak to that change?

Brother Smith: Yeah, I’d be happy to. It was around March of 2019 when we determined to make that initial step to align Seminaries and Institutes curriculum with the Come, Follow Me book of scripture. I brought a quote from Elder Clark I want to read word for word because I find it so impactful.

When that was announced to the world, Elder Clark said, “The prophet of the Lord stood up in general conference and said, ‘We need home centered church supported gospel instruction.’1 And because he said that it changed everything.”

So we determined that in fall of 2019—as you’ll remember—we moved to the New Testament, in January 2020 to the Book of Mormon. Well, around fall of 2019 we had some released-time seminary programs come to us and ask if they could test something. They wanted to try out teaching seminary curriculum more tightly aligned to the Come, Follow Me schedule for reading. And we thought we could probably learn some really interesting things, so we invited them to do that.

And we called in a team of researchers to go and talk to students and parents and seminary teachers and administrators and compare their outcomes and their experience with those programs that were doing a more traditional nine-month curriculum—staying true to the book of scripture but still teaching Seminary curriculum in our nine-month calendar.

Well, what we learned from that research was— I found it to be really inspiring. A little bit surprising also. What we learned was that students weren’t really bothered by any repetition. We also found that student understanding of the book of scripture was the same in either.

The concern was that by following the Come, Follow Me calendar, there are some things students would miss in a Seminary classroom because of a summer break or a spring break or a fall break. But the students’ understanding of the book of scripture proved to be the same.

But what was different is what really caught our attention. There was a significant—and really, statistically it was significant—a significant increase in the number of students who came to class prepared to learn what the lesson was that day—a significant increase in the number of students making meaningful comments, participating meaningfully in class.

And what I found most exciting was there was a significant increase in the number of students who read their scriptures at home outside of seminary. So when we saw that research and saw the comparison we really understood that by making this shift we would be blessing students, and we would be blessing families. It also underscored something else Elder Clark taught us frequently when he was our commissioner.

He taught us to help students have a deep learning and a converting experience while they’re with us. And by aligning with Come, Follow Me, I think it helps relieve a little bit this burden of coverage and what we need to cover. Now, we’ll always stay true to the scriptures; they’ll always be central. And Come, Follow Me allows us to go through a book of scripture from beginning to end. But we know that we can’t cover it all, so we can focus on learner needs, connecting them with the Savior, doing it in the scriptures, and doing it by the Holy Ghost.

But we didn’t want to ignore that there is an issue here, that with any school calendar, anywhere in the world, there’s always a break when they’re not in school, typically around two to three months long. That’s two to three months of scripture content students won’t get in seminary. And as scripture teachers, that gives us a cause for concern.

So where Doctrinal Mastery has always been important since it was introduced, I think this even sheds more light on it and increases its importance. If teachers will focus on teaching the Doctrinal Mastery lesson weekly, regardless of the school calendar around the globe, students will get the most vital and most important elements. I think sometimes, because teachers are so good and want to cover the block of scripture, Doctrinal Mastery can get left to the end “when I have time for it,” and we never have time. There’s so much to teach.

And sometimes Doctrinal Mastery could be seen almost as something peripheral to what seminaries do. But really, Doctrinal Mastery is fundamental to what we do. It really helps us achieve our objective and what prophets have asked us to do. So by focusing on Doctrinal Mastery, we really are able to address that gap of what’s not covered in a school calendar, and we’re able to align with Come, Follow Me in a way that blesses students and families.

Brother Webb: I remember when we showed the research to Elder Johnson and talked about this possibility. From the very beginning he preferred to align with Come, Follow Me because of the way it blesses families and connects with their study in the home. But he was also very concerned, as we were, about the gaps that would be missed in certain topics in some parts of the world because of when school breaks come. The last week of the Savior’s life might not be taught in seminary, or the First Vision or some very significant events and principles of the gospel.

So, as you said, when we discussed the possibility of focusing on Doctrinal Mastery lessons and including them, even if they were missed during the breaks—and even creating some summary lessons, some bridges to help them connect if they come back from a break and don’t jump right into the Come, Follow Me calendar but start with some bridge lessons for what they missed, and then pick up the reading schedule of Come, Follow Me—we’ll be able to have the benefits you described from staying aligned with Come, Follow Me calendars but also negate the concerns that we had about what they might miss. And then we also need to trust families and individuals who will be studying those sections when they’re not with us to have an experience and through the Holy Ghost to learn the things that they need to learn. So, anyway, that’s a really great explanation. Thank you.

You know, another one a lot of people are asking about is the change in the reading requirements—from the requirement to read the text for the course to the daily habit of studying the scriptures. So what would you tell us about that decision?

Brother Smith: We’re all aware of the requirements for seminary completion and the seminary diploma: that we track attendance and we invite them to read the text for the course. And then we have our learning assessment. And we’re making a slight adjustment to the reading requirement from completing the four standard works over the time they’re in seminary to inviting them to have a daily scripture reading habit.

We spent a lot of time with our area directors—and even a large number of region directors—around the world discussing what we really want to happen in the lives, in the minds and hearts of students because of their experiences in both seminary and institute.

And as we talked about the seminary experience and what we hope will happen in the lives of a student, we talked about returning to a scripture reading requirement in seminary. But we realized that the thing that we really wanted to emphasize, the thing that mattered most, was our ability to help a student create a daily habit that would stay with them throughout their life.

Again, I brought another quote. This is from our Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook, but I think this summarizes it so well. It says, “There are few things teachers can do that will have a more powerful and long-lasting influence for good in the lives of their students than helping them learn to love the scriptures and study them on a daily basis.”3 So if we want a seminary diploma to symbolize a meaningful, deep, and converting experience over four years, scripture study has to be a part of that.

And there are a lot of ways you could measure student engagement with scriptures, but we wanted to focus on measuring what matters most, and that’s on helping students create a personal daily scripture study habit. So we’ve accompanied this with some really good in-service leader resources that we hope teachers and in-service leaders will access. Because those really supplement the requirement by helping students gain skills and make goals and learn how to really connect with their Father in Heaven and their Savior through the Holy Ghost in the scriptures. But we really think that this requirement gets to what matters most and what we really want a diploma to represent.

Brother Webb: So we’ll still encourage reading the text for the course. In fact, the daily reading requirement, or expectation, needs to be in the course of study.

So we hope that all seminary students will still read the course of study. We hope they’ll still set goals to make it meaningful like you mentioned. But the requirement for credit will be 75 percent of the days in which they’re in that semester. We’ll not define what it means to read daily. But as they engage in study of the scripture for the course each day in any way, 75 percent of the time, that will be an incentive to encourage them to have that experience as part of their seminary time.

Brother Bigelow: I’m really glad you mentioned that the goal may be different and our desired outcome for individuals—that they’re in the scriptures every single day. Some parts of the world where we have seminary, they don’t even have the scriptures in a printed form where they can read them. So to create a standard that fits for the whole world—this allows us to do that. It allows us to say, “We want you to improve your relationship with Heavenly Father through the word.” And that will happen in a daily habit of studying the word of God.

Brother Webb: So take the opportunity every day to hear His voice.

Brother Bigelow: Exactly.

Brother Webb: And it also extends a trust to teachers, right? To work individually with students to craft their experience according to their needs and abilities. And we trust you. And that’s why we’re not defining what this means any more than we have.

Brother Bigelow: Exactly.

Brother Webb: Thank you. So those changes of course have already been announced and implemented, and we appreciate all of your efforts to apply them in the best possible way in blessing students. Another change, or maybe the elephant in the room, is the pandemic and what’s happened over the last number of months in our classrooms with so many disruptions and changes with online learning and other changes that have been created because of the pandemic. Rory, what would you say we’ve learned from the pandemic, and what will change going forward because of it?

Brother Bigelow: I think first and foremost—and you mentioned it in your comments to begin today—is that we’ve realized we’ve got wonderful people that work and serve with us. And if you add the Church schools and all missionaries and called teachers and full-time employees, part-time employees, it’s upwards of 60-plus-thousand people in the world. And they’re very, very good. But I think what’s happened with the pandemic is it’s kind of created a little bit of a wake-up call for us on a skill set that maybe we didn’t have.

At the risk of sharing a personal experience, my wife and I, about seven years ago, were asked to serve as mission leaders in a mission in Brazil. And we went down having studied Portuguese—I served Spanish-speaking as a young man, so it was a new language for us—thinking that we had a certain level or skill in speaking Portuguese.

And I remember the very first day as we arrived in the mission and the outgoing mission president took us to the home. The FM manager was there, and as we walked into the kitchen he said, “Look, you’re going to need order water.” He kind of put his hand on the water jug there, and he said, “You’re going to need to get a new bottle of water here.” And I went into full panic mode because I realized I didn’t know how to say water bottle in Portuguese. I mean, I’d learned other things. We studied; we thought we understood. And I said to him, I said, “Can you do that for me? Would you do that?” And he said, “Sure.”

What he didn’t see is when he made the phone call, I turned my back to him, pulled out a 3x5 card and wrote down word for word down how to order water. And I thought, you know, my family, we’re going to die in two weeks because I might not get water.

That experience was a moment of clarity that showed me that I did not know what I thought I knew. And I think the pandemic’s done that for us. Our level, or our proficiency—Our level of proficiency in online delivery of religious education is not where it needs to be. And some have adapted quickly, and the skill set was just innate, inherent in them, and they’ve been able to do it. Others maybe not so much.

And so I think one of the things that we’ve learned and that we will need to continue on is—we need to continue to upskill maybe—is the phrase to use. We need to find ways to improve our capacity.

You mentioned something in your opening remarks. I keep referring back to it, but I think this is really important. From Elder Clark, when he said, “Whatever degree of obedience or hope or charity is ours; whatever level of professional skill and ability we may have obtained, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead.”4

And one of the things I think that’s coming out of the pandemic for me personally is a deep desire to improve, to make sure that I’m meeting the expectations, the rising expectations, of the Lord in this very different world that we have right now. So what is it going to do to online? I don’t know. Adam, what will it do for our online instruction? I guess that maybe you’re better suited to answer that question.

Brother Smith: Well, I will echo what you said. I think we learned two really critical things from the pandemic that we’re going to use moving forward. One is, as you mentioned, we really work with the best people. Our full-time teachers, our volunteers, they’re so willing and wonderful and consecrated. They really stepped in a tough spot and performed wonderfully.

We also learned opportunities to improve. And I think we’ve learned better what questions we need to ask to learn the answers we need to learn.

One thing we’ve done in the Church Office Building is we have organized a Digital Learning Management division. Now, what that means is a division of people with expertise to help us progress with online Seminaries and Institutes offerings. The reason we’ve called it Digital Learning Management is because the word online can mean so many different things. And what we really mean is any type of remote delivery using technology, whether that’s a hybrid or video conferencing or asynchronous—there’s so many different ways we can look at it.

But I think what we’ve learned is, what questions do we need to ask? And we’re starting to ask those questions so that we can build resources and an infrastructure and a program to help support what will be an expanding digital offering of both seminary and institute classes.

Certainly when COVID goes away, which we all hope is sooner than later, the demand won’t be as high, but it will be higher than it was before because we’ve actually reached some students we haven’t reached before. We’ve been able to bless lives and families we haven’t before because we were, in a way, forced into this mode of delivery, and now we see the benefits of it. Now we know the questions to ask to get better, and we’re making really concerted efforts to learn those answers. And so I think there will be some exciting things coming.

Brother Webb: You know, some people have asked, “Will we ever get to a point where we actually have a dedicated workforce for online?” And I would just say we’re still wrestling with those questions. It’s very possible that the day will come where there will be full-time seminary teachers who teach exclusively online. But it’s also true that all of us need to have the basic understanding of how to effectively teach online. We all might, at some point, be called upon to do that. And when we are, of course we want to do it as well as we can. We’ve seen some teachers who have done it remarkably well. We’ve seen teachers who have quadrupled their enrollments in institute programs because they have such effective online deliveries. So more important than the organizational structure is, can we learn the skills necessary to deliver online education effectively and really bless people through that method of delivery?

And as we learn more of that, we’ll be sharing more of that in training opportunities so people can do the very best in delivering an effective religious education experience. So I think those are great comments. Thank you.

Brother Bigelow: This adjustment with online instruction, I don’t think it’s a wholesale abandonment of what we’ve done in the past. But we do need to adjust, perhaps even hire more part-time institute teachers, part-time seminary teachers. Online provides an opportunity for people to teach, not having it be a full load.

Brother Webb: But no one’s going to be forced into those changes. We’ll just make those adjustments as we move forward and as new opportunities come available. One of the reasons for that I’ll just mention briefly. We have an increasing number of women in the workforce. And we’re so grateful for the contribution that they’re making. And some of them choose, because of family circumstances, to want to maybe teach part-time or teach online or for whatever reason.

You know, it’s also true that as we’ve had more women in the workforce that opportunities for leadership for them have increased. I’ll just mention, we have 10 division directors in the Church Office Building, and three of them are now women. And they weren’t appointed or hired to those positions because they’re women; they were the most qualified candidates for those positions and are offering incredible contributions to the work that we’re doing.

But it’s just an example, as our organization grows, that that’s happening as well with region directors, with faculty, or program administrators. And I’ll also mention that for those because it is a change in our workforce, and we need to be aware of that. And those who are program administrators need to be more aware of different perspectives and counsel together and draw on people’s experience and gain from their perspectives.

I just think it’s something we need to be conscious of to benefit from a more diverse workforce. And I know this is specific to employees, but it’s also true with a world filled with teachers, male and female, from all kinds of different backgrounds, who are called teachers, that have so much to offer that we need to listen to and understand their perspective and their experience so that we can bless our students in our organization.

Brother Bigelow: Many may not be aware of this, but we’re starting to create field teams. It allows you to have curriculum writers from all over the world and training services individuals, and training services teams, perhaps from different parts of the world. And it’s allowing us to have a much better view of what’s happening in the world rather than just a very narrow view.

Brother Webb: Thank you. Adam, can we shift back to you? There’s been a lot happening with Innovate Institute; a lot of people are interested in that and have contributed to that effort. What would you give us by way of an update on Innovate Institute?

Brother Smith: Well, we’ve certainly dedicated a lot of time and resources, and a lot of wonderful institute directors and teachers, looking into things like changing a physical environment or new course offerings, or even just adjusting course titles. And these are all wonderful. I think perhaps the most important thing we’re doing is we’re listening to our institute students, especially with a focus on listening to those students who could be with us but aren’t. Maybe they came once and didn’t return, or maybe they haven’t come to institute at all yet. And so we’re really focusing on listening to them.

I think the most important innovation we can make, though, is to adjust a little bit the way we teach. Like you said, Rory, it’s not a whole-scale overhaul; it’s just small adjustments, small changes in things we do often. And I think, Brother Webb, your address to us last June where you highlighted creating classrooms of conversion, relevance, and belonging, that’s really the way that we innovate institute.

In fact, I wanted to share an account that was shared with me by an area director of an institute teacher. He was preparing to teach his first Zoom gathering of the Eternal Family course. And so in preparation he invited each of his students to make a little video introduction of themselves.

And one of his male students decided to introduce himself to the institute class as being gay and shared that he had some issues with the Church’s stance on family and on marriage. And this teacher knew he was about to go in and teach the doctrine and principles of the family. So he decided to be really thoughtful and careful and prayerful about it. He approached this young man really sincerely and let him know that he wanted the institute classroom to be a place where not only he could teach the doctrine clearly and teach what prophets and apostles have taught but also a place where students could feel safe and not judged to share their concerns and issues and questions.

By reaching out to this young man, he shared with his teacher that he had planned to just stay quiet during the whole lesson because that’s what he typically does. When someone anywhere in a Church setting starts teaching about the family, he just kind of checks out and stays quiet. But because this teacher reached out to the student that way, the student determined he would come to class and engage. And the class had a really marvelous experience because this young man was such a great contributor, and his concerns and questions helped to really facilitate a meaningful discussion because it was in an environment of faith where truth was being taught and true and honest and sincere questions could be asked.

Well, after the classroom experience the student wrote this note to the teacher, which was shared with me. And I think it’s really telling of what we really want to do to innovate institute. He said this:

“I just want to thank you for how the lesson went. I was a little nervous about it, and I didn’t want to say anything, but by the end I was verging on just shouting ‘thank you’ out loud. That lesson was amazing. I compare it to a lesson I was given after coming out as gay to a seminary teacher in high school, who was supportive after I told him what had happened to me in another class. His lesson and your lesson were full of love and support and kind of just changed my entire life. I feel a resurgence of wanting to stay in the gospel and a new commitment to trying my best to live this pattern. It is life-changing. Thank you. And thank you for answering my questions and wanting to get to know me and being so supportive. I was writing down my feelings about everything because I felt the Spirit … a lot. I wrote in my scripture journal that I was so thankful and so joyful. I am in happy tears right now. Thank you, your brother and a son of God.”

We see this teacher made a meaningful connection with a student, in a way that gave him hope and courage to come to the Savior and continue on his covenant path. And it was because this teacher’s classroom is now a place of conversion, relevance, and belonging.

Brother Webb: I love the way you answered that question. We’re going to work on environmental changes and course outlines and all kinds of things. And as you find new practical ways to innovate institute to the end of inviting more students who are not currently participating. And then, when they come, to have an experience like that, that will keep them and connect them to Heavenly Father, that’s exactly the purpose of all of this initiative, so thank you.

Well, let me just ask one last question and have you both respond to this. We’ve talked about a lot of things that people are already aware of, but something that they may not be aware of is some changes that are coming to a handbook—a Teaching and Learning handbook—and other things associated with the training that will be combined with our new handbooks. So what would you tell them about the new things that are coming with reference to our training?

Brother Smith: We’re really increasing our efforts to focus and simplify and unify. And we’re really excited for an opportunity we have to collaborate with the general Sunday School Presidency in the Priesthood and Family Department to have one handbook for teachers in the Church. Teaching in the Savior’s Way and Gospel Teaching and Learning will come together and will be simplified and clarified and unified to really give us a clear definition of teaching, of what a classroom experience should be, of what a learner should experience when they’re with us. Now, that will be general to called teachers and Seminaries and Institutes teachers.

So to support that, we’re beginning the formation of what we’re calling a Training Resource Library so that when a teacher reads a definition of a skill, they then know there’s a place where they can go where that skill can be modeled and explained, where they can receive training on it and an invitation to practice it and implement it. So we really hope to help our teachers identify a skill that they want to improve and have resources to improve it. And then coupled with that, we really want to find ways to measure, are we doing what we hope to accomplish? Are we accomplishing our objective in the lives of young people?

And we’re looking into some effective and meaningful ways for a teacher to measure and evaluate themselves, to improve how a teacher is assisted by a supervisor that can come in and help them grow and develop and become better and also asking our students about what their experience is and what’s really happening in their lives. And we hope all of this will be done in a spirit of encouragement and progression and growth and just an opportunity for us to use any resource available to be better teachers.

We all know that we’re living in the days prior to the Savior’s Second Coming, and those young people who come in our classrooms are among the best this world has ever seen. And we need to be good because they’re so good. And so we just want to get better.

Brother Bigelow: I think it’s interesting, what Adam outlined; it’s this idea of can we define what it is we hope happens? Can we train to it so that it can meet that expectation? And then this measurement is critical. We’ve even discussed ways to try to display that measurement and then set some goals based on where they are and where they’d like to be.

Brother Webb: You know, when we talk about performance management or whatever, and we make it this professional term, and people think, “Well, I’m teaching the gospel, and that makes me nervous.” All of you love your students; all of you want to bless them. So to have somebody at your side to help you in that progress, that desire to bless students, and to be a reflection of what’s happening in the classroom and to give you help in your desire to progress and to bless students—not because you all want to be perfect teachers but because you want to create the best experience for your students.

So I think this is really an exciting thing, and I think you see it—when you see what’s coming, with the handbook, with the Training Resource Library, and even with what we’ve referred to as measurements, all of it is a really positive and helpful thing that I think you’ll be excited to see. At least that’s the hope, right?

Brother Smith: Yeah.

Brother Webb: So, now, did you want to say before I close—

Brother Bigelow: Yeah, one other aspect I think that’s critical, and that is this. We often focus on teaching and improving teaching and neglect the leadership piece or the administrative piece of being a seminary principal or a coordinator or a region director, an area director, whatever the position is. And we’re trying to not neglect that now. Where we’ve put between the bull’s-eye, the idea of let’s provide a role document that helps a principal know what’s expected. So that when we talk about measurement it’s not just measurement on teaching; it’s measurement on your leadership. So when I was asked to be a principal some years ago, I would’ve welcomed what we’re talking about.

If I could give to the employees, the individuals on my faculty, the administrative assistants, say, “Help me know how I’m doing,” based on a standard, “and help me know what I can do to improve.” I want to be the very best leader I can possibly be, and the only way I’m going to do that is if I know where I am, where I need to be, and what I can do to get there. So everything we’ve talked about is in that context of let’s help more youth, young adults have a great experience, and then that also applies to my leadership.

Brother Webb: It’s important to note that some of these adjustments will happen fairly quickly—in the coming months—and others will take longer.

Thank you. Well, before we conclude this portion of the broadcast, I’d like to say just one more thing about change in general. We can create all the new programs and resources in the world, but none of it will really matter, and none of it will succeed unless we’re united and unless we’re aligned with Heavenly Father’s will. It will require the very best we have to offer. It will require that we let God prevail in our lives. It will require that we are willing to embrace and cheerfully respond to change. To have the power to change lives, we must teach and testify out of changed hearts.

May we unite our hearts in being fully engaged in the cause of Christ. And may we more fully rely on Him. As we do, we will be able to adapt to whatever changes may come. The Holy Ghost will help us see and change the things we need to change in our personal lives and in our teaching. And we will experience for ourselves that our God is the God of miracles. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. See Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Remarks,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 6–8.

  2. Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (2012), 20.

  3. Kim B. Clark, “Encircled about with Fire” (address given at the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, Aug. 4, 2015),