I remember as a youth attending early morning seminary during my 9th grade year. We would walk to our LDS Stake Center in Rose Park and meet in one of the class rooms. At first I was more interested in the boys in the class than listening to the teacher’s message. I also remember falling asleep a few times because it was so early. I do remember at that time we were studying The Book of Mormon. I would often feel the warm sweet feelings of the Spirit testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. We had an excellent teacher who was engaging. Later on while attending West High School in Salt Lake City; we had released-time seminary. This meant that we could walked over to a seminary building during the class hour that we scheduled for seminary. I have many fond memories of my classes. I am sure I was more alert since the classes weren’t in the early morning hours.
I do have fond memories of carpooling with other parents to take our children to early-morning seminary while living in Washington. I always thought how much fun it would be to be a seminary teacher. In my grown up years I loved teaching the youth so in the back of my mind I thought this would be a great opportunity.
In October of of 1994, I received a call asking if I would be interested in teaching an early-morning seminary class for students who were going to our local high school. At that time my one daughter was a senior at the school and I thought it would be fun to have her in the class. As I contemplated doing this; I went over the pros and cons. Of course there were many pros but the con was getting up early in the morning. I knew this would be a challenge for me. It would be required me getting up around 5 am and then being in the class room around 6 am to prepare for the students arriving at 6:30. The next obstacle was that I would be starting in the middle of the year and would be teaching at the home of the sister who had started teaching that year. She had to quit to go back to work full-time [early-morning seminary teaching is a volunteer assignment] and didn’t feel she could continue with the class. I drove 12 miles to their home in Valley Forge and found that I would be teaching in a small room that was built in their garage. The room had a pot bellied stove and two small heaters.
There were 12 student desks in the room; this was the number of students that I would be teaching. The room was warm, cozy and inviting. After fasting and prayer; I received my answer and knew I was to accept this position. This year the students were studying The Book of Mormon.
I found out quickly that I needed to be well prepared for each class. This meant preparing the lesson would require studying for 3-4 hours a day. I had always loved studying the scriptures and now I was able to really delve into them. Before starting to teach I made a home visit to each of the class members. It gave me the opportunity to get to know them before facing them in the class. There were only a couple of them that had difficulty attending every morning. I challenged them to come and feel the Spirit and learn from the Book of Mormon.
I found that teaching seminary was a challenge; but one of great worth. I was concerned of course about keeping the students alert and attentive that early in the morning. I really admired the sister who had been teaching. She was such such warm, loving person. As she oriented me to this new assignment, I learned about what it would require to be a good teacher. Her husband was so kind. He would get up every morning around 4:30 am to start the fire in the stove. By the time I arrived the temperature in the room was just right. The first few days were sweet. As I would study for the lesson I would feel the spirit helping me to come up with creative ways of teaching. This awesome group of young people to me were the cream of the crop. I quickly grew to love them all. There were countless moments of feeling the spirit and knowing that they were in-tune with the spiritual teachings that day. I can’t say it always went perfect but I loved it all.
As the year progressed and the students were getting close to the end of the school year; I found that even though they were different ages they blended together in sweet harmony with one another. David the son of the couple whose garage we used for holding classes in, was chosen to be the class President. David was a wonderful young man. He was very shy, but tried hard to be a good leader and he was. Just a few days before seminary would be over for the year and David would be graduating from High School; I remember well this moment. David came to the front of the class and took off his ball cap as usual and made the announcements and reminders for the class. I loved this humble young man and knew that he had a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After Seminary I went home to prepare my lesson for the next day. I then ran some errands. When I came home I found my daughter in tears as she explained that there was a truck accident on the way home from school and she was told that David had been killed in this accident. The high school was a very small school and everyone knew each other well. I knew this was going to be tough on this little seminary class and I prayed so hard to know how to handle the situation. I cried and felt so sad about losing this sweet dedicated young man. I canceled the class for the next day. I soon received a call that David’s father and mother wanted our little seminary class to sing the hymn,”I Need Thee Every Hour” at the funeral. I met with the students and they all said they would sing this hymn for David. We had a couple of quick practises and we prayed hard to have the spirit help us get through this assignment. There was one young man that didn’t come very often and I was surprised when he came up and sang with the group. David’s funeral was attended by over 500 people. All the students from the high school came. The spirit of this occasion was very sad but sweet. My little group of seminary students sang the hymn and they sounded like angels. At the closing of the funeral all of the students at the High School went by David’s casket and laid a rose upon it in tribute to him.
After the funeral it was decided that we would hold classes in our stake center. The first morning back was really hard for us all. The room just didn’t seem the same. I can say that this one incident, although hard to go through brought us all close as a group and filled our hearts with the comfort of the Holy Ghost. Out of this little group of young men and woman came a great force for good. The majority of the boys served LDS Missions, a few of the girls including my daughter served missions and almost all of them were married in the LDS Temple. I will always hold close to my heart a feeling of deep love for each of these young men and women.
A short time later I visited with David’s mother and she told me how much David loved our little class. We both knew that David had been called on mission to the Spirit World. I will always remember him fondly as he put his ball cap under his arm and started our seminary class each morning at 6:30 am.
LeAnn continued to teach early morning seminary for the next four years and had many varied and wonderful experiences with the young women and young men she was privileged to teach.
By LeAnn @ Living Waters
Thank you for sharing that experience with us LeAnn. The Gospel is so wonderful in that it gives us opportunities to serve. Often when we are called to teach the Lord lovingly gives us the chance to learn as well.
I appreciated you sharing this, though so heartbreaking about your student. You were such a blessing for those kids. And continue to be a blessing to others. Love to you! Have a beautiful week LeAnn!