And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (3 Ne. 12:10)
I live in Connecticut and have the opportunity to work with many of the volunteer seminary teachers in this state. One of these teachers, a dear sister living with her husband and family in the New Haven Connecticut Stake, had an experience a few years ago that taught me anew that persecution comes in our day "for righteousness' sake," and that it doesn't have to come in the ancient form, such as being thrown to the lions by the Romans, to be quite real.
Lyn Greenwood had been asked to teach the Madison Ward's early-morning seminary class. She did it for a year, at her home, before her daughter, Elizabeth, became enrolled as a freshman.
Throughout the world, when youth of the Church want to develop their talents and attend seminary, there are choices and sacrifices to be made.
Elizabeth wanted to attend seminary, do well in school, make the Daniel Hand High School swimming team as a diver and continue to take a thrice-weekly dance class. In everything except seminary, she was not unlike many others at her high school where 30 school hours per week and 30-35 extracurricular hours per week were considered normal.
After school, Elizabeth would get on a bus at 2 p.m. to travel to a pool at Wesleyan College for diving practice and wouldn't return home until 6 p.m. The Saturday practice bus would leave at 7:30 a.m. and return four hours later.
In addition, seminary was held from 6-6:45 a.m., early enough to allow the seminary students to get to their various high schools in time for their first class. Since the class was held at her home, Sister Greenwood had the luxury of allowing Elizabeth to sleep in until 5:30 a.m. Still and all, Elizabeth frequently became sick and fatigued while trying to do all the things that her heart wanted.
Eventually, Sister Greenwood set up an appointment with her family pediatrician to try to find a cause and remedy for Elizabeth's affliction. After the physical examination, the pediatrician questioned Sister Greenwood in front of Elizabeth.
The doctor knew the Greenwood family. She knew that Elizabeth's recurrent illnesses weren't due to a lifestyle that involved smoking, alcohol or drug use. In reviewing Elizabeth's school, diving and dancing commitments with Sister Greenwood, the doctor saw nothing troublesome or out of the ordinary.
Yet, as Sister Greenwood told of Elizabeth's daily efforts to attend early-morning seminary, the pediatrician was aghast and said with hasty conviction, "Well, the thing to do is to drop that `early morning' business."
Elizabeth's mother was astonished. Seminary took the least amount of her daughter's time, and yet contributed greatly in strengthening Elizabeth in her decision to live a life free of illicit drug use, drinking and smoking. Sister Greenwood had been expecting the suggestion to have Elizabeth drop dance class, not seminary, but the pediatrician felt that religion was a small, insignificant part of the proper intellectual/physical/social development of a child and that the Greenwoods' time commitment to seminary was way out of line.
Sister Greenwood thought to herself, "Well, I guess I better not tell her about sacrament meeting, Sunday School, Young Women or Mutual, then."
The doctor told Sister Greenwood again that seminary had to go, leaving the clear impression in the mother's mind that "if you don't take your daughter out of seminary, you will kill her." By then, Sister Greenwood was stunned, and, given that this counsel was shared in front of Elizabeth, she felt keenly that this rebuke, for righteousness' sake, was as much for her as for her daughter. Shocked, the Greenwoods left the office.
Within two days, the pediatrician called and apologized to Sister Greenwood for saying all that she did in front of Elizabeth. Sister Greenwood accepted the apology and took a moment to tell the doctor that it was hard for young people to live a balanced life in a materialistic culture and that there needs to be a place for teenagers to get some perspective, some truth, some goodness, and to examine what they're doing with their lives, not to mention discussing it with peers and a caring adult. This time the doctor agreed and she gave the go-ahead for Elizabeth to continue in her early-morning seminary class.
As of today, Sister Greenwood continues to teach the 6 a.m. seminary class, and Elizabeth attends. It hasn't killed them yet, but their testimonies have grown.