By Vickie Speek
Institute Program Supports LDS College Students Worldwide
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- While much of the media focus on the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the past 10 years has
been on missionaries, temple-building, and other physical symbols of
its worldwide growth, the church itself has been busy creating
spiritual "homes away from home" for members who are college age.
By focusing on constructing LDS Institute buildings adjacent to
college campuses, the church has provided facilities for regular
spiritual study in addition to providing places for shared experience
and friendship. The youth-centered gathering places are growing so
fast that administrators are struggling to build facilities fast
enough to keep pace.
In Utah alone, student enrollment in LDS Institute classes now
surpasses 60,000 - more than double the enrollment from just ten
years ago. Across the United States and internationally, growth has
been even more dramatic.
According to Bryan Weston, executive assistant to the administrator
for the LDS Church Education System, the impetus for the growth came
in 1993, when then-church President Ezra Taft Benson encouraged local
church leaders to invite all young single adults to attend Institute.
Prior to that, the focus was mainly on college age students.
Church leaders realize the perpetuation of their faith rests in the
hands of their young members, some of whom traditionally
drift away from structured religious activity once they leave home to
attend secular colleges and universities. But, with more than 11
million members worldwide, authorities have acknowledged they could
never build enough schools to keep up with the exploding demand for
admission. The focus was shifted instead toward providing expanded
Weston said the Institute program now reaches about 20 percent of the
church's young adults in most areas, and predicts the demand will
increase as its facilities and programs garner a reputation.
Institute a home away from home
Deseret News 31Mar01 D1
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor
LDS youths gather in growing numbers for strength and friendship