“An Open Door,” New Era, Sept. 2003, 20
Most students wouldn’t dream of leaving home without the college-life essentials: favorite pillow, prepaid phone card, pictures of friends and family, packages of macaroni and cheese, and so on. But there is one more college essential you need to pack. Don’t worry though, this one will easily fit in your suitcase. Actually, it will even fit in your pocket. It’s the address of the LDS institute of religion near your college or university. This address, along with your participation in institute, is your ticket to some great experiences, whether you move hundreds of miles to go to college or just commute down the road.
Let’s take a close look at one of these institutes and see what you have waiting for you.
At the College of Eastern Utah (CEU), it isn’t hard to spot the Price Institute of Religion. You will find it right across the street from the main campus and next door to The Milky Way, a favorite fast-food hangout. You’ll have no trouble finding the institute students either; their smiling faces are hard to miss.
But wait, this is school—college, actually. How can they be so happy? Aren’t they stressed by their late-night study sessions, endless reading assignments, and huge projects?
From the looks of these students, those things don’t seem to get them down. There must be something about institute that makes them smile, even when the school stressors pile high. Perhaps a visit inside the institute building will shed some light on the mystery of their big smiles.
The institute is no ordinary classroom building. “You walk in the door, and there is a whole different feeling here,” says Daron Nelson. It is a feeling that you are among friends.
Institute gives you a place to be with people who share your religious beliefs. “It is always nice to have a friend who understands,” says Mike Wynder. Institute is one of the best places to find those kinds of friends.
As you walk through the CEU institute building you will see many students. Some are on their way to an institute class such as “Book of Mormon,” and others are just visiting with friends while they have a break in their schedules.
Even though you may be majoring in different subjects at school or have different interests and hobbies, you and the other institute students have the most important thing in common—the gospel.
Jennilee Adams from Ogden, Utah, appreciates the common bond with those in institute. When she came to college, she felt nervous and alone because she didn’t know any other students. “Will I find friends?” she wondered. “Will I be okay living so far away from home?”
It didn’t take her long to get over those worries, however, because Jennilee went to the institute building the first week of school to sign up for classes and to attend opening activities. At institute she quickly found friends.
Today, one year later, Jennilee is a different person than she was when she first came to CEU. Thanks to institute, she is confident in herself and her testimony of the gospel. In fact, Jennilee is the president of an organization associated with institute that functions as an activity and service club for LDS women. The LDS men have a similar organization. These associations give institute students a chance to meet for fun, weekly activities on campus.
“It’s just a chance to get to know a bunch of girls that have your same beliefs, who are experiencing the same things, and are making the same choices,” explains Jennilee. She says that she will always keep in touch with the wonderful friends she has met through institute. Needless to say, Jennilee does not feel alone anymore.
Kirk Cox, a student from nearby Emery County, says that he, like Jennilee, will also stay in touch with friends he met in institute. For Kirk, it isn’t hard to keep in touch with Hailey, his best friend from institute, because last summer Kirk and Hailey were married for eternity.
Not every student has had an institute romance, but all would agree with Kirk that “institute is a place where you are going to meet the right type of person to marry.”
As Megan Thomas explains, the people you meet at institute are “trying to do their best and trying to be good.”
Whether you meet your eternal companion while at college or discover a lifelong circle of friends, there is a good chance that those friendships will begin at institute. One great way to meet these friends is to attend the institute activities.
The college wards provide LDS students with opportunities to teach and serve in a Church ward structure. With ward and association activities, if a student participates in everything, you could have something to do almost every night of the week—after your studies, of course!
Students enjoy a long list of activities including rodeos, dances, bonfires, barbecues, concerts, choir trips, service projects, pumpkin-carving contests, family home evening activities, horseback-riding trips, Ping-Pong tournaments, and more. And yes, you’ll find food at many of these activities. In fact, these students guarantee that if you are active in institute you won’t ever have to worry about being bored or going hungry.
It looks like good friends and fun activities may be the first key to the happy institute students at CEU. But wait, don’t stop reading now. There is even more awaiting you behind the institute door.
The best part of the institute program is the religion classes. Since these classes are not required, it is up to you to fit them into your schedule. And they are worth it. If you listen to the students at CEU, they will tell you how amazing the classes are.
Just imagine them as Heather Thompson describes classes where the “lessons are very thought provoking,” taught in a place where “everyone is willing to invite the Spirit. It really stirs something inside,” continues Heather. “When I finish a class, I come back [to school] feeling great. It makes my outlook on life a lot better.”
The institute classes teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and, as Celeste Sorensen explains, “The gospel itself is a happy message”—a happy message that cannot be discouraged even by tough school schedules and heavy homework loads.
In fact, Heather goes so far as to say that learning the gospel through institute can help her tackle those seemingly impossible piles of homework. “I do a lot better in classes when I am doing better in institute,” Heather says with a smile.
Probably the most important benefit of institute is that the classes help you increase your testimony of the gospel and develop a lifelong habit of following the commandments.
Megan Thomas will tell you, “Taking institute gives you the strength to do what you know is right and stay close to the Church and close to the Spirit.”
Chris White, a chemistry major, agrees: “Institute is a way for me to stay close to God and set my priorities straight.” He adds that, during college, “when you are forming your own opinions and your own testimony, institute is very important.”
Chris has learned that, although his chemistry classes may demand a lot of time and energy now, his institute classes are more important. “In ten years, when I have a family, is chemistry really going to matter?” he asks. “Ten years down the road, if I learned how to be kind to my neighbor or to be forgiving, that will be much more important than organic molecules.”
The 500 students who attend institute here try to spread their happiness to every corner of the campus. Ben Bailey from Price, Utah, has experienced this firsthand. “Institute helps me keep that love inside so I can share it with other people,” he says. “It keeps my priorities in line, and then I want to share it because it is so exciting. When you have joy inside, you just want to spread it out. It is something that is not contained well inside.”
With this love and joy in their hearts, the institute students have introduced many of their friends to the gospel. Each day brings opportunities to share the gospel. The best missionary tool they have is their happiness and their ability to have so much fun while still doing the right things.
With all the great things going on at institute, it’s not surprising that so many institute students are smiling. The most exciting part is that you can be one of them. Just walking inside your college institute building will open the door to some of the best experiences of your college life.