News Story

Institutes of Religion Provide Young Mormons With Doctrinal Foundation

With the beginning of a new school year, hundreds of thousands of college-age Mormon students are enrolling in classes on religion in addition to their regular studies or employment. In addition to encouraging Mormons to acquire secular knowledge, the Church has established extensive programs to help young students gain religious knowledge. Accordingly, the Church provides numerous opportunities for postsecondary students to receive religious instruction through its institute of religion programs. (Additionally, students in the ninth through 12th grades attend seminary programs before or after school or during released time.)

The “institute” classes are for young single adults ages 18 to 30 and married college students. The religious instruction helps provide students a solid foundation and understanding of religious and doctrinal principles, and better prepares them to serve in their own congregations in positions as teachers or leaders.

Church President Thomas S. Monson recently asked young adults to make institute a priority in their lives. “As we contemplate the eternal nature of our choices, educational preparation is a vital factor in our lives. When faced with a lengthy period of schooling, there appears at times to be no light at the tunnel’s end, no dawn to break the darkness! At such times, you need the light that comes from becoming acquainted with the lessons the scriptures teach.”

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have repeatedly encouraged Church members to get as much education as possible. For Latter-day Saints, acquiring knowledge is not just a means to finding employment, it is necessary for spiritual growth and religious understanding. In fact, a key verse in scriptures used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares, “The glory of God is intelligence.”

“The acquisition of knowledge is a fundamental part of the Lord’s eternal plan for His children,” stated Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Knowledge of only the secular is incomplete without spiritual education. Elder Perry continued, “We also need to have a thirst and a desire to become acquainted with the doctrines of the kingdom.”

Colleen Terry, an instructor at the institute associated with Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah, says there is great value in daily religious instruction. “Institute gives (students) an anchor in an unstable world,” Terry said, adding that institute also provides opportunities to serve. “There are so many students doing so many good things” and in much of that service “they create on their own initiative.”

Over time, Terry sees students making changes in a positive way: “The most impressive changes that happen come quietly day by day.”

Outside of the United States, institute is a welcome foundation in students’ lives. Patrick Cheuk, an institute administrator in Asia, notes: “Here in the Asia area, the Church is very young in many countries. Institute provides a way for young adults to better learn the gospel in depth to develop their faith and testimony. They also have many more opportunities to mingle and form friendships. Institute also provides a training ground for missionaries.”

Attending institute in Utah helped Suzanne Goble deal with difficult changes in her family. “I was living away from home for the first time when my parents separated. It was only my first month of college, and as my family life shifted, I struggled to understand the meaning of the word home. When my parents divorced and my family moved out of the home I had lived in for the last 18 years, I was especially confused. I knew I wasn’t homeless, but I certainly felt that way.”

Having heard the Church described as a refuge from the storm, Goble said institute became that refuge for her. “I enrolled in institute, and while I don’t recall the exact words spoken in the lessons, I will never forget the feelings of peace and comfort that came to me as I listened.”

No matter where students choose to go for postsecondary education, they are likely to find an institute program. There are more than 600 institutes of religion in the United States and Canada with participants numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Alberto, of Mexico, said he is frequently surprised at what he learns at institute. “I don’t remember ever attending class without coming away having learned something new or understanding some gospel principle better. As a result, my life has changed.”

While Church-sponsored schools (Brigham Young University, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho and LDS Business College offer great opportunities for secular and religious education, most students go elsewhere. That’s where the institute program makes a difference. Approximately 44,000 students participate in religion courses at the four Church-owned schools compared to more than 335,000 who participate in the institute program at other universities and colleges.

While more than 140,000 students are enrolled in institute programs in the United States, there are actually more students attending institute outside of the U.S., over 195,000, than within. Peru has 18,500 students in institute, Mexico nearly 23,000 and Brazil 34,000.

Institutes are usually housed in buildings near a college campus, but in areas without an institute building, classes can be taught in campus classrooms, church meetinghouses, homes, office buildings – pretty much anywhere people can meet.

(To locate a specific institute, go to Institute Locator at

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