Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seminary Centennial

An early group of Seminary students
We're celebrating the centennial of LDS Seminary this week! Seminary was one of my favorite Church activities as a teenager. I loved meeting up with my friends every morning before school - probably because there were so few LDS kids in my school. And I learned a lot too, I guess.

Living in the South, there is no such thing as Seminary during your school day. There aren't even seminary buildings. A lot of kids in those days had to do home-study Seminary (which sucks), but I was lucky because my Bishop did not believe in that program - he insisted that our Ward have an early morning program. So we did. At first we met at a lady's house who lived what seemed to be about 100 miles down a dirt road way off in the sticks. That was interesting, but it was a little impractical. Then they finally moved it to the Church building, which was a better setting, but was still a 30 minute drive each way. Sometimes it was a challenge to get out of Seminary and make it to school on time, but it worked out for the most part.

What I remember most about it all, though, were my friends. Our Ward encompassed about 5 counties, and only a couple of my Seminary class mates actually went to my High School. I think there were like 3 LDS people in the whole school. So it was a real treat to be able to see all my friends every morning. We had a really great, tight-knit group. I think what made us so close were the sacrifices we had to make to be members of the Church. Kids in Utah and other LDS population centers have no concept of sacrifice. We had to do it every day - getting up at 5AM, driving 30 minutes to the Church each way. And it wasn't just for Seminary. Everything was harder. The closest Temple was 14 hours away. You were lucky if you got to have one Temple trip a year to do Baptisms. Home Teaching routes covered 5 Counties, and sometimes you would drive for an hour trying to visit a family, only to find that they did not keep the appointment or wouldn't answer the door. It just make you tough to have to endure all that; it made you stronger. The kids who were active were ACTIVE. We were committed. That was the point in time when Spencer W. Kimball was the new Prophet, and he challenged all the boys to serve missions. Almost every boy in my Seminary class did, and I think the Seminary program is what got us there. Its a great program.

Here's a brief history of LDS Seminary:

 ■ 1912: The first Seminary class is held at a home near Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Thomas J. Yates was hired as the first teacher and taught afternoon classes to 70 students.

 ■ 1920: Seminary enrollment was 2,982.

 ■ 1925: Seminary enrollment was 8,527.

 ■ 1926: President Heber J. Grant initiated “collegiate seminaries” which would later be called LDS Institutes of Religion.

 ■ 1938: There were ninety-eight functioning seminary programs in the following US states:  Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

 ■ 1950: The early-morning seminary program began in California. The first early-morning seminary classes were taught before school in Church meetinghouses near public schools. Seminary enrollment was 28,677.

 ■ 1962: Early-morning seminary was introduced to Finland and Germany (a total of 34 students) in response to requests for programs outside of the U.S. and Canada.

 ■ 1967: The first home-study seminary classes begun in scattered rural areas for students are held in Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.

 ■ 1975: Seminary enrollment was 183,670.

 ■ 1980: Sequential Scripture Teaching, the program to use the four books of scripture (Old Testament, New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants) for the four years of seminary, was introduced emphasizing the importance of using the scriptures in the lives of students.

 ■ 2010: Seminary enrollment was 369, 373.

 ■ 2012: 100 year anniversary of LDS Seminary.


Duck said...

I love seminary, too. When I lived in Great Britain (teaching for the military), I had the blessing of teaching early-morning seminary. (We studied the New Testament that year.)

I had some 14 students. We met at the chapel on base each school morning. Afterwards, we would all walk across the street to the High School, where I had many of the same students in both class or on sports teams I coached.

I still keep in touch with one of my students. Great times!

Thank you for your post. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories.

emerdean said...

I walked to Seminary in the late 1960's (the chapel was six blocks away) because a really cute Mormon girl lived next door and knocked on my door every morning to get me to go. Good memories.