I Give A Morningside At Seminary

For years I’ve secretly harbored a desire to speak to a group of seminary students.  I’ve subbed for a couple of classes, but that was several years ago.  Last month, though, my dream was realized: the student council at our school’s seminary asked me to give a morningside (a devotional speech). 

I’ve wanted to do this because there are things I’d love to say to the LDS kids at my school that I just can’t in the classroom.  After working with me for a year or two, most kids figure out that I’m Mormon and conservative, but neither is something that I advertise: they have no place in my teaching.  I’ve always said that my job is to teach people how to think, not what to think.  I’ve heard other teachers talk about slipping references to their political or religious beliefs into their classes, and I find it grossly unethical.  Proselyting authority figures are unacceptable. 

But at seminary, I could advertise a little in a perfectly appropriate environment.  And today was the day.  I was very excited as I got to the church at 5:45 this morning, and met the teachers there.  As I started my remarks to a chapel full of about 120 kids, I talked about Elder Perry’s “apostolic endorsement” of my American Lit. class in General Conference last Fall (which I also joked about with Elder Perry when I met him at a missionary training for local leaders last month), and joked that this doesn’t mean that English is more spiritual than their other classes…but when was the last time their electives got the seal of approval from an Apostle? 

I then reviewed my conversion story, which ties into seminary, and my testimony of the Atonement and the Book of Mormon (which also testifies of the Atonement).  I told them that the Book of Mormon, this little blue book that we give away for free by the truckload, is a miracle, more wise than every other book I’ve ever read put together, and more important than every artifact in every museum in the world.  I reminded them that an English teacher was saying this!

I’ll paste the rest of my notes below, which I copied for the students to keep for reference and which show the scriptures I used and the direction I was going in with them–essentially, showing them how to “liken” the Book of Mormon to themselves for their benefit.  I gave them an example for myself with 2 Nephi 32:7, which made them all laugh before I even finished reading it, because it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I’d say.  I also called up a kid I saw at the Rebel game Saturday night and gave him a candy bar for having his copy of For the Strength of Youth on him.  That went over well. 

The lesson went very well: a lot of them came up to shake my hand afterwards, and the student council gave me a card they’d signed.  I heard about it throughout the day, the most special thanks coming from a wonderful student of mine who’d clearly been energized about reading the Book of Mormon.  I challenged them all to read it and take notes on applying it; we’ll see how many emails I get about it.  I’m very grateful for this opportunity. 


Seminary Morningside—2/23/09


There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.”

–Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon: Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, November, 1986

  • L. Tom Perry of the 12 on Thoreau’s Walden: Oct. 08 Gen. Con.

  • Testimony of the Atonement, by experience and by the Book of Mormon: Alma 7:11-12. Book of Mormon is a miracle.

  • Enos: dad=prophet (Jacob), uncle=prophet (Nephi), grandpa=prophet (Lehi), so…no pressure! Then, Enos 1:3-5

  • Nephi gets a testimony: 1 Nephi 2:16, 10:17

  • 2 Nephi 32:7 and Jacob 4:13 on reality (& Mormon 9:31)

  • Mormon on handling discouragement: Moroni 9:6,25

  • Jacob-family problems, 1 Ne. 18:19, 2 Ne. 2:1; Lamoni-unsupportive non-member dad, Alma 20:13-16; Stripling Warriors-obey righteous mothers, Alma 57:20-21: all chose to faithfully follow the Lord despite what was around them

  • PROMISE: apply the 50 questions in Alma 5 to your life and it will help you be happy and solve problems (example: “fathers” in v. 6-9 could be pioneers / convert ancestors, etc.)

  • OPPORTUNITY: If you ever see Huston outside of school, and you have your copy of For the Strength of Youth, you get candy.

  • How to be happy? 1 Ne. 8:10-12, Jacob 7:51, Mosiah 2:41, Alma 36:25, Helaman 3:35…many, many more!

  • CHALLENGE: Between today (2/23) and last day of school (6/4) read entire Book of Mormon, take notes on verses that answer your questions or needs, and contact Huston (after school or email: ___________________) to discuss it.

  • Nephi lost best friend and mentor (Lehi) and enemies immediately tried to kill him. Nephi went to God in prayer and poured out his heart about his weaknesses and trust in the Lord: Psalm of Nephi—2 Nephi 4:16-35

  • The Church is true (just like the world is round and the sky is blue), the gospel is real, the Atonement is powerful, and Jesus Christ knows you, loves you and has worked for your happiness.


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