When my family and I joined the Church in the city of Barahona, Dominican Republic, the members received us with much love. The branch was small, but there was a good group of young people. For our family, it was a great blessing to get to know this new group of friends.
Not long after I became a member, and even before I was 14 years old, the missionaries introduced me to something called Seminary. I remember those yellow booklets which contained the week's classes. The book of scripture that was being studied was the Old Testament, something completely new to me. They say “to remember is to live,” and it is true that great happiness comes to my heart when I remember my years in Seminary. In our new small branch, the classes were weekly, not daily. We had teachers who, although also new to the gospel, lovingly prepared classes. Learning about the life of Jesus Christ and his teachings, the Book of Mormon, the early years of the Church in the Doctrine and Covenants, and the teachings of the prophets before and after Jesus, filled my mind and heart with enriching knowledge and helped me to know the Savior more.
I will never forget what would later become the most entertaining activity of my youth: learning key passages of Scripture. In the early Scripture Mastery activities I remember we studied Genesis 1: 25-26, Deuteronomy 4: 2, 1 Chronicles 29:29, and Isaiah 55: 6-8. Memorizing the selected passages was a main activity of our class, and we spent many hours discussing their application in different areas. When Super Saturdays were held in our region, we all competed to see who had the best command of the Scriptures. Being young, it felt great to win one of these competitions from time to time! But that was not all; these 25 or more scriptures that I learned so well from each of the Standard Works became a strong doctrinal basis that would later help me strengthen my testimony of the gospel. It was the most important preparation I could have had to be an effective teacher of the gospel when, at the age of 18, I went out to serve as a missionary.
I know that the Seminary program is a program inspired by God. It is meant to prepare His children for the life and assignments He will have for us later. The teachings obtained during years of classes helped me to make correct decisions during my youth, to keep in mind that I was at all times a representative of Jesus Christ, and to be faithful to my priesthood. During my mission, having this knowledge of the Scriptures made it easier for me to teach and testify of Him. Many times the Scriptures learned from the Standard Works enabled me to help others clarify doubts and accept the Savior. As I received Church assignments during my adult life, I often used the teachings from my seminary years. In fact, more than half the Scriptures I use most often were learned in Seminary. The reality is that they are still the basis and a large part of what I know today about the gospel.
Another blessing I have had is to be the father of two Seminary students. My two daughters have already graduated, but for four years I took them to classes each morning in our neighborhood. That gave me once again the opportunity to feel the spirit that comes with this wonderful program. I was blessed to watch them get up every morning at 5:30 and get ready, and watch them go over their assignments and classes during the day. On many occasions we talked together about what they learned in class. This always brought good memories and a deep spirit of gratitude for having such a blessing.
Many parents did not have the opportunity to attend Seminary in their youth; sometimes they do not fully understand the great value that Seminary can have in the lives of their children. Certainly, getting up early can be tricky. In some areas it may be a long distance or even somewhat dangerous to get to class and that can be a challenge. Today I tell my beloved brothers and sisters – parents in Zion – that there is no sacrifice that can be of more value, that can bear more fruit, and that is of greater importance in the lives of their children than supporting those children with love and dedication in their seminary classes. The feeling of happiness and of gratification to know that as parents we fulfill such an assignment of the Lord, will fill our heart and will be of infinite value.
Parents, the wonderful new mySeminary app has been created for you by the Church (myseminary.lds.org). It will help you to enroll your children in Seminary and follow their progress. Get it and put it to good use starting this year.
Today the foundations of Seminary remain. Young people are taught to master the doctrine associated with the Scriptures rather than to memorize them. They are encouraged during the Seminary year to read the Standard Works that are being studied. That is why I say that the preparation of every good missionary begins at home and continues every day in their seminary classes. For many young people, there will be no better opportunity to learn doctrines such as faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, the Plan of Salvation, the restoration, Sabbath day observance, and temple work, among others. From there they will come forth prepared to be witnesses of Christ among those whom they are called to serve.
The prophet Alma advised 'learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.' (Alma 37:35)
Today I testify to my dear young people and to you good parents in Zion, of the great effect that Seminary classes will have in strengthening your faith and commitment to serve and follow the Savior. I pray that none of our valued young men and women miss the opportunity to attend Seminary. There they will receive teachings that will guide them throughout their lives on a path of joy in getting to know more closely our Savior Jesus Christ. I know it is so. Amen.