Editor's note: With the upcoming 100-year celebration of the LDS Church's seminary program, Mormon Times is sharing experiences and blessings from those who participated in the program.
It was after I taught seminary for a year that I learned sometimes the greatest rewards in life come after the greatest struggles.
On the morning of Friday, April 17, 2009, my wife, Lisa, found me in our basement and asked if I had received the “big phone call” yet. “Any minute now,” I replied.
For the hundredth time, my wife and I reflected on all we had experienced over two years while I pursued a full-time seminary teaching position with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I can only describe the process as extremely rigorous. The gauntlet of requirements involved taking classes and graduating from institute; obtaining a student-teacher position; preparing for and teaching classes five days a week; being evaluated by my teenager students; and being observed and critiqued by serious men in dark suits. I attempted to meet these requirements while working another full-time job and amid numerous sleepless nights.
Student teachers were warned in the beginning that there were no guarantees. Because so many sought this opportunity, each candidate was given one shot to go through the program and be hired. The reality was that only a small percentage would be offered a job.
The most stressful moments occurred when an administrator, sometimes more than one, would drop by unannounced just minutes before a class to evaluate my teaching performance. One day, three walked in and opened laptops along the back row. The trio watched my every move intently and typed notes for the next 45 minutes. After class I felt like I was on the seminary teacher version of "American Idol" as these judges analyzed every word of my lesson.
Ultimately, I listened to their suggestions, worked hard and did my best to improve. I had no regrets. I felt my chances of getting hired were realistically good.
Back in the basement, the phone finally rang and the news was not good. I wasn’t hired, and the disappointment was overwhelming. In the dreary days that followed, I pondered why I had felt prompted to move in this direction if it wasn’t meant to be. Was this how the men in Zion’s Camp felt after their long, grueling march to Missouri, only to turn around and walk home without a fight?
Then I had my “Rudy” moment.
If you recall from the movie, when Rudy didn’t make the Notre Dame dress list for the final home football game of his senior year, he walked to the stadium and spoke with his friend Fortune, the groundskeeper (played by Charles S. Dutton). Fortune told his young friend there were greater tragedies in the world than missing the dress list. He reminded Rudy of all he had accomplished in the process of chasing his dream.
In the course of chasing my seminary dream, I realized I had been richly blessed.
For starters, I had an increased love of the scriptures and a deeper testimony of the gospel. I graduated from institute. My teaching skills were sharper and I was more confident speaking in front of groups of people. My love for my family was enhanced and I felt better prepared as a parent for when my kids become teenagers. More than 98 percent of my students were awesome, and many times I left class inspired by their comments and testimonies. I made many new friends and learned valuable lessons from remarkable mentors like George Slaughter, Wade Bigler, Ryan Olsen and others. I left with countless positive memories and generally I was a happier person. And eventually, like manna from heaven, a new career opportunity did open up.
In October 2009, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “It is often in the trial of adversity that we learn those most critical lessons that form our character and shape our destiny.”
President Uchtdorf was right. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity I had to spend a year teaching seminary. Although I wasn’t hired full time, the experience was life-changing and taught me special lessons that have strengthened and remained with me.
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