Attendance at institute and seminary may be more influential than most people - even teachers themselves - think.
That is the opinion of David Mills, a Boise State University Institute teacher who just completed a survey of former institute students. Results of a questionnaire he sent to 264 former BSU students (a group of 143 students who had completed less than two institute classes and a group of 121 institute graduates) indicate that graduating form an institute program has a significant positive effect on a student's long-term Church activity.Mills, a doctoral candidate at BYU, prepared and compiled the study for his dissertation. "I decided to do this type of a survey because, as an institute graduate, I was really interested to see if we were as good as we thought we were in offering students a religious environment."
"In the survey, we alked questions about temple marriage, missionary service, Church attendance, personal prayer, scripture reading and Church service," Mills said. "in all categories, the statistics for the graduates indicated a higher degree of Church activity, sometimes quite a bit higher."
According to the figures compiled by Mills, more than 82 percent of male students who graduated served full-time missions, while 29.6 percent of the males in the control goup wer missionaries. Thirty-one percent of the female graduates served missions compared to 3.7 percent of females in the control group.
In addition, more than 91 percent of institute graduates were married in the temple, while 65.3 percent of the control group and their mates were married in the temple. (Thirteen percent of the control group and 1.2 percent of the graduates who were not married in the temple were later sealed in a temple ceremony.)
Other statistics indicated that more graduates attended their Church meetings regularly (94.1 percent compared to 79.6), held Church positions within the last 12 months (95 percent compared to 79.6 percent), read their scriptures weekly (80.0 percent compared to 64.8 percent) and paid a full tithing (88.9 percent compared to 70.4 percent).
Mills said that as a result of his survey, he is now more aware of each of his students as individuals, and he is encouraging his co-workers to have a similar awareness. "I have started to track and monitor my individual students much more than I ever did," he said. "I'm concerned about anyone who misses a class."
Mills sends get well cards, follow-up cards, and even notes from class lectures to absentees in an attempt to encourage his students to graduate. "I really think it can make a difference in their lives," he said.
In addition, Mills and his wife, Judie, emphasize the importance of seminary in their children's lives. Their 16-year-old daughter is encouraged to attend her seminary classes faithfully.
"I've told my daughter often that, even if seminary cost $100 a month I would pay it," said Mills. "I would make any sacrifice to make that kind of training available in the life of my children. I realize now, more than ever before, how important it is."