We are here as CES missionaries. We have the opportunity to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Seminary and Institute of Religion programs of the church. We understand we will visit seminary classes in the Waynesboro Stake and we have already met some of the teachers, however our main focus is institute of religion.
The emphasis on education came early in this part of the country. Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with reading and education. He had a collection of 6,700 books in one room of his home in Monticello. In 1815 he found himself greatly in debt and sold his library to the nation, a collection that became the nucleus for the present Library of Congress. Shortly after the sale Jefferson wrote to John Adams, “I cannot live without books,” and he began buying more. We learned about his love for reading when we visited Monticello.
Jefferson believed that an educated population was necessary for a democratic government. All institutions of higher learning in America were associated with churches. He dreamed of a public university and later in his life his dream came true as he proposed, designed and championed the University of Virginia. The University’s first classes met in 1825. Other universities of the day allowed only three choices of specialization: Medicine, Law, and Religion. Under Jefferson’s guidance, the University of Virginia became the first in the United States to allow specializations in such diverse fields as Astronomy, Architecture, Botany, Philosophy, and Political Science, but no Divinity School.
You can see us on “the lawn” with the UVA rotunda in the background and the original “grounds” (no use of the word campus) buildings on both sides. Today there is religion on the UVA grounds. We have Institute of Religion classes every Monday at noon in Newcomb Hall and every Wednesday evening at the Darden Business School. An Institute class designed for wives of students, and all other interested sisters, is held each Friday morning at the chapel on Hydraulic Road. In addition we hope to organize a Tuesday class at nearby Piedmont Community College. We also have classes every Thursday evening for Mid-singles and every third Friday for married couples. Some classes cater specifically to students, but all classes are open to anyone who wishes to attend.
Located a little over an hour north of Charlottesville is Harrisonburg, VA, home of James Madison University. Here are a couple of pictures taken on their campus.
All Institute of Religion classes in this area are sponsored by LDS Student Associations. JMU is home to a LDSSA group and classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, Thursday evenings, and every 3rd Friday for marrieds.
We are not in every college and university in the state, but we have been visiting them. We have recently visited Washington and Lee University. The school was originally Washington University, but became Washington and Lee after the Civil War, or War of Northern Aggression as we have learned to call it. Robert E. Lee became their university president and he is buried in a crypt there, along with some of his family, and his horse, “Traveler”.
We also visited Southern Virginia University. This private school, based on LDS standards, is located in Buena Vista pictured below. It is a buena vista except there are so many tall trees it is hard to get above them to enjoy the view.
They are the SVU Knights.
SVU is just outside of our mission boundaries. They have a huge Institute of Religion program housed in a church in the middle of campus. There are two or three CES missionary couples called to serve at the institute. They serve 10 month missions during the school year. There are under 800 students at the school, but church activity is high and they form a stake.
The glory of God is intelligence and the members in Virginia are doing all they can to provide the most valuable form of intelligence through Institutes of Religion. We are doing all we can to help.