Mandy Powrie teaches 6:00 am seminary, Monday through Friday, to Mormon high school students in her Parramatta ward (parish) chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She continues the 100-year old practice of the Church to train their young people in the scriptures and in the love of God. Seminary is a four-year voluntary study program which coincides with school years 9 to 12.
Of great benefit to the wider community, the program began 100 years ago in the U.S. and was first implemented in Australia in 1969. Students learn, through the prism of the scriptures, values such as integrity, Christ-like service, obedience to the laws of the land and how to contribute to their society.
Mandy and her students have recently put several hours into constructing a replica of the portable ancient Israelite tabernacle described in the Old Testament - this year’s course of study.
“Being a seminary teacher is an absolute labour of love,” says Mandy. “We all do it out of concern for our students.” There is no compensation for the teachers’ hours of preparation and class time each week.
Mandy wants to get her students into a daily relationship with the scriptures because they are like manna from heaven – something that needs to be picked up fresh every day. “Seminary is an immediate thing,” she says. “You cannot re-create what happened that morning; you cannot re-live it.”
Third year student Riley Cox, enjoys the way his teacher explains the scriptures, and he says, “I like the ‘fiery guy’, Elijah! He called down fire from heaven, and road up in a fiery chariot—cool stuff!”
Isaac Timperly, after his first year in seminary, explains, “I have learned a lot of things that I didn’t learn in Sunday school. The knowledge from seminary makes me feel better prepared for the day.”
Isaac’s brother, Reuben, in his second year, was inspired by the story of Shaddrack, Meshach, Abednego, three men thrown into a fiery furnace but not destroyed. “God can save us,” says Reuben, “but He may have a different plan for us.”
Joel Scott will soon be graduating from four years of seminary. “Old Testament has helped me understand my ancient history class,” he says. When asked if he would have his children go to seminary, Joel responded emphatically, “Sure!”
“When I go to seminary,” says Amelia Scott, “I am happy for the rest of the day, and even my science test seems easy.”
Students spend each school year studying one book of scripture--Old Testament, New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants (which includes Church history). The young person’s seminary graduation is celebrated upon the completion of four years.
While Mandy tirelessly serves the students, she is a student herself, working on a Master’s Degree in counselling from Macquarie University.
The objective of seminary is to help youth understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families, and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven.