“Enhancing Institute,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 41
In the gap between leaving high school and beginning a family, young single adults need ways to strengthen their testimonies of the gospel and develop relationships with other Church members. Single students have long been served by college-affiliated institute classes, but what about single nonstudents?
In response to a Churchwide emphasis announced by the First Presidency in a 1 July 1993 letter sent to priesthood leaders in the United States and Canada, the Orem Utah Institute of Religion teamed up with local stakes to provide institute classes for many nonstudent young adults who previously didn’t benefit from institute. The program, known as enhanced institute, offers classes at Church buildings in 30 nearby stakes.
“All nonstudent young single adults 18 through 30 who live in the immediate areas of an institute of religion are invited to enroll in the institute and to participate with other students in the religious education classes and the social and service activities of this important Church program,” the First Presidency letter states. Enhanced institute, the letter continues, “will assist our young people in their search for spiritual, educational, and social growth and will give them greater opportunity and encouragement to serve missions and marry in the temple.”
Located on the campus of Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah, the Orem institute serves the needs of more than 5,000 students attending the school. Through enhanced institute, the Orem institute now reaches an additional 500 young adults who may be between classes, working full-time, or preparing for missions.
“We are looking for young adults whose needs are not being met anywhere else,” says Orem institute associate director Joseph A. Walker, who is responsible for the enhanced institute program in the Utah Valley area. “We offer them a weekly religious educational experience in addition to their church meetings.”
With the support of local priesthood leaders, enhanced institute classes thrive. “It’s a priesthood-directed program,” Brother Walker says. “When priesthood leaders recognize this as a viable program for their stake, we do all we can to help them set it up under their auspices.”
Putting together an enhanced institute class involves scheduling a meeting place, recruiting students, and identifying an appropriate volunteer teacher. The Church Educational System takes responsibility for training teachers, who can choose approved course materials on any of the standard works, on the teachings of the living prophets, or on gospel doctrine.
Brother Walker emphasizes the vital role bishops and other leaders play when they invite young single adults to attend enhanced institute classes: “Classes will grow when bishops call their young people in and say, ‘There’s a class we would love for you to attend. May I get back with you and see how it’s going?’”
Countless young single adults throughout the Church are feeling a positive impact in their lives from enhanced institute. For example, when Mikel Gardiner decided to return to full activity in the Church and prepare to attend the temple, his bishop invited him to participate in the stake’s enhanced institute class. Mikel began attending to learn more about the Book of Mormon, and he gained a new testimony and understanding of the book. He is now serving as an institute representative for his ward.