Ever since the announcement of The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles regarding the suspension of all public gatherings of Church members worldwide on March 12 of this year, members across the world have been utilizing technology in the hopes of continuing to share and learn the Gospel.
Like most of the Church programs, Seminary and Institute classes in the country, where possible, have also shifted to online platforms. For one, S&I Coordinator Brother Dave Aquino has since used Zoom, a video conference application, to instruct all the Manila Philippines Institute of Religion (MPIR) teachers to reach out to their students and discuss the possibility of online classes. Soon after on March 10, students of MPIR started their online institute classes.
“We had discussions, slides, quotes, scriptures, deepening experiences that lead to effective righteous actions. It was a new experience, but we had positive feedback. We are looking forward to refining the lessons so it would fit the delivery option,” Brother Aquino added.
For Sister Marites Pineda, a seminary teacher from Bajada Ward, Davao Philippines Stake, she first asked for the approval of the parents of her seminary students regarding the new dynamics of her classes. After receiving their approval, she said, “I prepared all that I would need for the lesson including the statements of Church leaders. I wanted my students to have an experience similar to a face-to-face seminary class in the meetinghouse.” She and her students had their first online seminary class on March 12.
Even though her seminary classes look different now, the blessings of participating in such are the same, if not better. Because of its accessibility and convenience, parents of the students even started joining Sister Pineda’s classes. “When we started our seminary [online classes], I was surprised because parents also joined our class, which included parents [who are not of our faith] of three of my students. My sadness and uneasiness turned into happiness and gratitude when I saw them [join us] online. Some of them even volunteered to read a scripture verse in the Book of Mormon. I wanted to cry [because I was so happy], but I held back my tears. As we studied Mosiah 2, we all felt the spirit. Even the parents were happy. They were grateful to learn that serving others is also service to God,” Sister Pineda added.
Since that night, parents have expressed their gratitude for the Seminary and Institute program of the church. Sister Pineda shared that, “A mother [who is not a member of our Church] remarked that she and her husband made the right decision in signing their child’s baptismal consent. [Also], a father was also touched when a student prayed asking God to help people infected with COVID-19 to recover and to protect the health workers who are in the frontline battling the virus. She even asked for protection for President Duterte and other leaders including President Nelson and local leaders. I was happy to say yes when the parents asked if they can join the class again the following Tuesday.”
Sister Pineda is one of the many Seminary and Institute teachers of the Church who felt nervous about the new and temporary dynamics of online Gospel learning and teaching. Many challenges arose, but this did not stop her from magnifying her calling. She said that following the counsel of President Russel M. Nelson has helped her overcome her challenges, “I learned a lot about receiving and recognizing personal revelation. I was anxious when the parents initially prohibited their children [from attending] seminary. [But], I am grateful that through sincere prayer, I received guidance. Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ gave me the idea [of having] online seminary classes. I realized the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of the gospel in [many different] delivery formats.”
A testimony came to Sister Pineda that when the world is in chaos, it is only through Jesus Christ and His Gospel can we be strengthened. She adds, “I am grateful to be a seminary teacher at this time. In spite of what is happening in the world, Heavenly Father still works for the salvation of His children.”
Time and time again, members across the world prove that what the Prophet Joseph Smith once said is true-- that “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.” ◼︎