A 54,500-square-foot institute building to be constructed in Salt Lake City is a major indication of the dramatic worldwide growth of the Church's institute program that started 75 years ago.
Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy presided over the groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 28 for the new Church Educational System building, located adjacent to the recently-opened Salt Lake Community College Jordan Campus on 3400 W. 9000 South.
The event followed groundbreaking Jan. 26 of the largest institute building project in the Church, adjacent to the University of Utah. That institute building, one of 322 throughout the world, should serve more than 10,000 students.
During brief remarks before the Jordan Campus groundbreaking, Elder Featherstone called the growing institute program just one of the dramatic events taking place in the Church, which now has 60,487 missionaries, more than 100 temples and a family history web site that receives more than 9 million hits a day.
The new facility will house some of the Church's growing needs, serving not only institute students during the week, but also as a meetinghouse on weekends.
Quoting Exodus 5, Elder Featherstone asked the institute teachers and students to understand the strength that straw adds to brick. "Teach our youth that unless they abide the scriptures, follow the prophets, maintain their virtue, have integrity, make Christ the center of their lives and put Him first, they are building bricks without straw," he said.
During a Church News interview, Bryan Weston, Church Educational System executive assistant, said institute is one ingredient that will help strengthen the young adults of the Church. He called the new institute building, as well as others worldwide, a place for youth to "strengthen one another in the gospel."
He said the growth of the institute program is mandating the need for new buildings around the world. The Jordan campus building will accommodate up to 5,000 students, with 16 classrooms, a large chapel, a cultural hall for student activities and a large multi-purpose area that can serve as a student lounge during the week and as a second chapel on Sundays.
During the past five years, institute enrollment in Utah has increased more than 26 percent, Brother Weston explained. In the United States it has gone up 30 percent and more than 40 percent internationally.
He credits much of the recent growth to the 1993 First Presidency letter asking all single young adults age 18 to 30 to participate in institute. Enrollment, which before 1993 focused mainly on young adults attending school, jumped from 178,612 to 202,920 during the 1994-95 school year.
Today more than 316,000 college-age young adults participate in institute; more than 60,000 of those live in Utah. Institute enrollment in the United States totals 132,000, with an additional 184,000 students participating in international areas outside the United States.
Noting that there are still large percentages of young people in the Church who do not participate in institute, Brother Weston predicted that the program will continue to grow. That growth will mean more new buildings.
CES officials are constructing multi-use facilities that will serve institute students in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Lima, Peru; Apia, Samoa; Cochabamba, Bolivia; northern Mexico City, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; Taipei, Taiwan; and in downtown Washington D.C., said Ralph Swiss, CES director of physical facilities and real estate.
"We feel this is just the beginning of some wonderful opportunities for young adults in the Church," Brother Weston said. "The institute program is an important evidence of the Lord's love for His children."