Institute of Religion provides spiritual mooring for students
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Anna Fullwood loves studying the scriptures. She finds that by likening the experiences of scriptural heroes to herself, she builds her own character.
And as a student with the Huddersfield, England, institute of religion, her understanding of and love for the scriptures is growing. "I love the institute program because it is so scripture-oriented," said Anna, 18, of the Huddersfield 1st Ward, Huddersfield England Stake. "You really get the basics of the gospel. It's surprising how many Latter-day Saints my age don't know the basics. The institute program teaches us that when we have a problem, we can go to the scriptures for help."She is in her first year at Bretton Hall, a college in Wakefield, about 20 miles southwest of Huddersfield, where she is studying English and education. She wants to be an English teacher. She said she joined the institute of religion because it seemed a natural continuation of seminary.
"The first three years of seminary, I didn't know much about the gospel," she reflected. "I went to seminary because I was expected to. But during my last year, I really enjoyed it, so I wanted to carry on to institute while I was enthusiastic."
And her enthusiasm for the institute program is apparent. She recently joined the LDSSA (Latter-day Saint Student Association) and enjoys opportunities to meet others her age from throughout the area - rather than just in her stake.
"We get along really well," she related. "Everyone has similar ideas and goals."
Anna seems typical of the many LDS young people her age throughout the world who are making the transition from high school to college. This transition is a crucial time in the lives of young people as they prepare for missions, marriage and careers, said Stanley A. Peterson, administrator of education for the Church Educational System.
For those not attending a Church-owned college or university, the Church's institute of religion program is a viable alternative, he said. Geared to the college-age young person, this program of religious education is adjacent to non-LDS colleges and universities in many areas of the world. Classes are held at institute buildings, or may be held at meetinghouses, homes or rented facilities.
The Church has 1,306 institute programs throughout the world. During, the 1992-93 school year, approximately 159,662 students are enrolled worldwide. And this number grows every year - especially as young people graduate from high school and enroll in institute.
The institute of religion program, Brother Peterson explained, provides young people with the spiritual and emotional support they need during this crucial time in their lives. (Please see related article on this page.)
"The environment they find in the institute program is going to complement their home and religious values and give them a mooring to hold on to."
Continuing, he said that the institute program offers young people "a setting where they can have spiritual and social support and camaraderie."
Clarence Schramm, executive assistant to Brother Peterson, noted: "The purpose of an institute of religion is to teach the gospel to students and help them stabilize their faith during a time of potential turmoil and challenge. It's a time when they will have opportunity and latitude to study deeply the scholarship of the world and at the same time examine their own faith and the scriptures."
Concerning new students like Anna, Brother Schramm emphasized, "These students are going into a new environment which is more challenging intellectually and spiritually than they have experienced before."
And this new environment, he said, is an area of great concern for LDS parents, who want their children to have opportunities for spiritual growth and interaction with other LDS students while attending non-LDS schools. He added that parents can take comfort in knowing their children are involved in institute of religion programs.
Brother Peterson explained, "Our studies show that if young people will attend and graduate from an institute of religion their chances of marrying in the temple and going on missions are just as great as those students going to BYU or Ricks College."
For example, a study done from 1962-86 of the institute of religion adjacent to Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, showed that 91.5 percent of institute graduates were married in the temple. Of the men, 82 percent served missions, while nearly 32 percent of
the women served missions. Seventy-seven percent of graduates held temple recommends at the time of the study.
To take advantage of the benefits of an institute of religion program, one must become involved. Brother Peterson admonished institute students: "Get involved in more than just the institute classes. Get involved in LDSSA. If students get involved in social activities along with their religion classes, they will find that many of their needs will be met at institute - rather than in an environment in which they don't want to be found.
"Don't be afraid to get involved and bring your friends - both in and out of the Church."
Priesthood leaders should be aware of CES representatives in the area to help young people find an institute of religion program, Brother Peterson said, and added that a directory of all the institute of religion programs in the United States and Canada is being planned.