In my city, we have a wonderful building for the Institute of Religion near a local University. When I first started attending Institute here before we had our own building. We met at rooms at the Student Center on campus. The classes were very small in those days and we often sat in comfortable sofa chairs or around a board table.
I was invited to Institute by the same friend who introduced me to the LDS Church. I already had a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, but I do not think I really knew about temples or Living Prophets at this point. I think it was a month or more before I had my first discussion with the Missionaries though I was so anxious for them to arrange them for me much sooner. There I sat in those early days in my sponge like state. I was so impressed by my Instructor and his ability to make sense out of chapters of the Old Testament that were so dry that I daydreamed when reading them.
I remember the excitement when we were trying to push for enough membership to get our building. The building was very large for our needs as it used to be a Church. The basement was set up with a pool table, ping pong tables, and that game where the wooden statue hit a ball through a goal etc. There was also a kitchen area and we had a lot of snacks with the honor system in those days of leaving cash in the little bowel or at least an I.O.U. until you could pay.
My instructor was always willing to drop his reading preparations to talk to me when I was in a talkative state or had concerns. It is hard to summarize years of lessons. What I do know is that in some areas, I had more knowledge than companions who were raised in active families.
What was most critical, was his relentless emphasis on making and keeping covenants. I knew that the Gospel was serious. I am not sure that I would have the roots without his explicit instruction. These teachings may have gone over my head in other settings.
In all, Institute was a great place to meet with people for class or to hang out among those who had like standards. When the day came for my long awaited graduation, I was surprised to learn that I would not be speaking. I had gone to so many graduations and had often envisioned myself on that day summing up my experience. I was asked to give a prayer.
This was a case of feeling a little slighted on my part. Even years later, I sometimes get a little mad when I think about although I don't think I am generally a petty person. Then, I remind myself that hardly anyone was even there for the talks as most did not arrive until the dinner afterwards. I guess it would have been more for me. A right of passage as you will. But I think my thinking is much more synthesized now to know how formative this experience was to me. So this is my belated talk. I am an Institute graduate!