Preparing LDS teens for seminary

By Rebecca Irvine

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Aug. 22 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

The first day of school and seminary for several Mesa, Ariz., teens.

Rebecca Irvine

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The first day of school for my three kids was just last week. Although they were excited for the new year, I could tell my oldest was more nervous than usual. I wasn’t surprised; he was starting his freshman year of high school. Starting a new school gets just about everyone’s stomach churning. But pairing it with starting seminary as well heightened his anxiety all the more. As he left that first day, I hoped I had done enough to prepare him for what I trusted would be one of the best aspects of his high school years.

Just as there are ways to prepare kids for going back to school, there are also steps parents can take to help prepare their students for seminary. Here are a few ideas to make those first few days in seminary go a little smoother.

1. Talk positively about seminary.

Starting seminary with a good attitude is a giant step in the right direction. Make sure to speak with upbeat assurance about seminary and the experiences students will have there.

Former Glendale, Ariz., seminary teacher Lori Wagner said, “It helps if the parents are enthusiastic and speak positively about the seminary program and the teachers.”

2. Bring needed supplies.

If there is anything worse than a tense first day in an unfamiliar class, it is showing up for class unprepared. Of course, scriptures are the most important supply students should bring. If your student has release time seminary, then it would likely be beneficial to invest in a second set of scriptures for them to keep in the seminary building. Other supplies students may need include marking pencils, a study journal or notebook, and a pen or pencil.

3. Find a familiar face.

Take time to stop by and meet the teacher before classes start to ensure your son or daughter has a familiar face to welcome them to seminary. Doing so also helps them become acquainted with the classroom and seminary building. Alternatively, try meeting some of the other students enrolled in the same seminary class. Having a friend can make facing the first day all the easier.

4. Visit seminary.lds.org.

This website has suggestions for ways youths can succeed in seminary. Check out the scripture mastery list and be sure to have your teen mark them in her own set of scriptures.

Wagner also noted, “It can be fun to learn the scripture mastery scriptures together. Besides the games and activities on the church website, there are also other websites that have the scriptures put to songs."

Other resources available for download at seminary.lds.org include the current course of study reading chart (this year they are studying the Old Testament), bookmarks, study guides and historical timelines. Additionally there are MP3 recordings of music and printable sheet music for the current curriculum.

5. Practice participation.

Seminary students are asked to give a spiritual thought now and then at the beginning of class. Some may find this kind of public speaking scary. Valerie Opie, of Mesa, Ariz., and mom of eight, found having her teens practice this at home was a helpful preparation tool.

“We assigned our children each a day of the week to give a spiritual thought for the family. Then, when it was their turn in seminary to give one, they had a recent thought they could share,” she said.

After your seminary student gets into the swing of things, be sure to provide them with opportunities to share their experiences.

Wagner said, “Once seminary has started, it is helpful if parents ask their students what they learned in seminary that day and give them opportunities to teach what they learned in family night lessons. Giving students an opportunity to reinforce what they learn helps them to better understand and apply the principles to their lives.”

As President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, noted in April 1983 general conference, "Few things you do will benefit (students) quite as much (as seminary).”

Rebecca Irvine is the author of "Family Home Evening Adventures" (Horizon/CFI 2009) and "Adventures with the Word of God" (Horizon/CFI 2008).

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