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Gary Nelson
Students at the Institute of Religion in Edinburg, Texas, gather for a photo after a night class in August 2010. The Edinburg Institute is one of many across North America that invite students to fortify themselves spiritually as they attend college classes.

Institutes in the LDS Church Education System, ranging from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to San Antonio, contain similar opportunities for students to learn about the truths of the scriptures in greater detail and come to a more abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brian Turner, area director of the Canada seminaries and Institutes of Religion, said that a variety of strategies are used to draw students who are both members and nonmembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the classes and activities found north of the United States border.

Much like other institutes in the LDS Church, institutes at colleges and universities in Canada will conduct a Week of Welcome at the start of both the fall and spring semesters. Activities at the event-laden weeks typically include a dance, and many institutes will provide time for the students to meet their bishops.

Other related activities throughout the year are usually posted days in advance around the given building. Shawn Reid, an institute instructor in the Lethbridge Alberta Institute of Religion, said that both campus and stake-based classes are offered under the direction of the local priesthood. Such classes are taught by one of the institute’s faculty members or by a teacher called by stake authorities.

“Under the umbrella of the Lethbridge institute program, someone may not come into Lethbridge for school (at Lethbridge College) but can have an institute class experience,” Reid said.

Outside of seven topics, including church history, the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon in Spanish, a weekly devotional called the Friday Forum is paired with a hot lunch for $2 and features prominent community members speaking on a variety of topics, from job resumes to physical fitness. Both Friday midday devotionals and Friday night activities have similar themes in all CES institutes, Reid said.

The opportunities are similar at other locations, including the Tempe Arizona Institute of Religion. Scott Phelps, president of the Tempe Institute Council, said that if they filled out a request form as high school seniors, incoming freshmen attending Arizona State University can expect a phone call from institute representatives informing the new students what to expect and how they can get involved.

Such involvement includes the opportunity to be involved in any of a bevy of leadership councils. Such committees and the opportunities to be involved in them will typically increase as the enrollment size at the institute increases, Phelps said. Listings of various councils can typically be found on printed schedules provided by the institute, which can be found through the institute’s front office.

Many institutes, including the one in Tempe, now have Facebook pages to broadcast their activities and provide links for students to enroll in classes.

Turner said that while students have ample opportunities to be involved in both activities and leadership councils, students will be edified as they make it the highest priority to actually learn the gospel in class.

And that’s where the instructors come in.

“We learn in 3 Nephi 19 that when the teaching is effective, people will go and encourage and invite others to come back to hear, as they did with the Savior,” Reid said. “That’s the responsibility the instructors need to live by.”

Options for classes and the institutes where they are located can be found at www.lds.org/institutes.

Email: rwilkinson@desnews.com

Twitter: wilklogan