Making the transition from seminary to institute

Published: Thursday, July 10 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

Roy Scott (left) and Jake Steenblik compete in an arm wrestling competition during a carnival at the LDS Institute of religion at the University of Utah in 2008.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

As an 18-year-old freshman at Utah State University, Bradon Capener registered for classes at the Logan Institute of Religion for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he admits he didn’t see the value and rarely attended.

It wasn’t until Capener returned from serving a Mormon mission a few years later and “decided to get involved” that he realized what he had been missing. Not only did the returned missionary come to appreciate the gospel more deeply through the instructors and spiritual classes, but he also found it fulfilling to help plan activities and interact with other students. In time he became the president of the institute's official campus club, the Latter-day Saint Student Association. The institute building became like a second home.

“I was lost until I found I could be involved there. I made a lot of friends, and it was a productive use of my time. It helped me transition from returned missionary to productive living,” Capener said. “There is nothing better than institute to help you make friends, learn, grow and be buoyed up.”

Capener is one of countless college-aged Latter-day Saints who have had positive experiences at institute, fulfilling the prophetic promise of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, who in 2009 asked college students to “make participation in institute a priority.”

“Think of it. Friends will be made, the Spirit will be felt and faith will be strengthened,” the prophet said. “I promise you, that as you participate in institute and study the scriptures diligently, your power to avoid temptation and to receive direction of the Holy Ghost in all you do will be increased. Divine favor will attend those who humbly seek it. That is a promise which I leave with you.”

Seminary graduates preparing to attend college this fall would be wise to follow President Monson’s counsel and participate in institute, said Grant Anderson, an assistant administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. Anderson, along with Capener and fellow institute stalwarts Amanda Mae Monson and Lyssa Wanner, can attest to blessings that come with attending institute.

“We have kind of held (students') hand through seminary and high school,” Anderson said. “Now they are at a crossroads of making decisions about missions, careers and marriage. We’re hoping here is a place that can help keep you grounded as you are making those critical decisions.”

Who is invited?

According to Institute.lds.org, more than 350,000 students are enrolled in institute at over 2,500 locations worldwide. These programs are primarily located near college campuses. For those who don't live near a university, stake-based programs have been established. Find an institute by going to institute.lds.org and click on "Find an Institute."

Originally, Anderson said institute was designed for college students. That changed three years ago when it was decided that institute would be available for all young adults ages 18-30, primarily focused on those who are single, Anderson said. There is no cost to attend institute.

New mindset

There is a misconception among incoming freshmen that institute is really just seminary for college kids, something they feel they have already experienced. That isn't the case, Anderson said.

"It's a mindset we hope to change," Anderson said. "We would hope they see it as an eight-year program, not just a four-year seminary program. We hope they would would see that continuation."

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How does institute differ from seminary?

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