Seminary prospects vie for limited spots


    By Sunny Layne

    Rigorous training programs, long hours for less-than ideal pay and the average likelihood for success is only 1 in 35.

    Sounds like trial week for the Navy SEALS.

    But instead of parachuting over the ocean and holding their breath for five minutes, these promising hopefuls sing hymns and tell Bible stories to teens.

    “I just love to teach the gospel,” said LeGrand Lainge, BYU graduate and current seminary student teacher at Orem High. “I love the youth. The feeling you get knowing you can make a difference in people”s lives is amazing.”

    BYU”s program for training future seminary teachers is stringent. Trying to get into the Navy SEALS is a worthy comparison. Out of a 30,000 member student body, there is one class, Religion 370, that educates students on how to teach seminary. Religion 370 has three sections, accommodating roughly 350 students.

    After a series of trials, only 11 to 16 of those 350 will be hired full-time.

    “I almost didn”t try it because I knew what the odds were,” Lainge said. “That keeps a lot of people from trying. You just look around and think, ”Everyone is such a good teacher — so good.””

    But Lainge insists the possibility of becoming a full-time teacher is worth any inconvenience.

    “Definitely it”s worth it. Without a doubt,” Lainge said. “The way I”ve grown and the things I”ve learned I know I couldn”t have gained any other way. This has helped me become somebody I wouldn”t have become — at least not in this amount of time.”

    Lainge”s wife, Becca, also said the blessings outweigh the negatives.

    “We were asked if we wanted to stay on for a second year of student teaching, and we said, ”Without a doubt, yes. We”ll do whatever we can to get hired,”” she said. “It”s wonderful. My husband comes home and has the spirit with him. He just loves the environment.”

    The advantages also win over the disadvantages for students just beginning the program, such as UVSC student Rulon Fullmer.

    Fulmer said the slim chances of getting hired do not act as a threat to him.

    “The thorough selection process is great because it goes to show that the church wants good teachers, and it will only select good teachers,” he said.

    Fullmer wants to transfer to BYU in a year even though his current school has a teacher training program. He said he feels he would have an overall better chance of succeeding at BYU.

    Seminary administrators look for three specific attributes, according to BYU religion professor Phillip Boren.

    Students must exhibit good rapport with their students, must know how to discipline properly – not militaristically, and must help facilitate making the scriptures “dance,” or come alive.

    Boren said seminary administrators do not care what a student”s major is. The only thing important in getting hired is good teaching that invites the spirit.

    Dr. Boren said seminary teaching may sound easier than many professions, but people would be surprised at its daily pressures.

    “Take an occupation like brain surgery,” Boren said, “it”s a good occupation, but it”s an easy job. Their patient is usually out. Whereas with a seminary situation, you have 35 live ones.”

    Adding to the challenging profession of teaching teenagers all day is the widespread fact that seminary teachers do not get paid big bucks.

    But the absence of a six-figure salary does not discourage seminary hopefuls.

    “This is definitely not a life of poverty,” LeGrand Lainge said. “It takes care of your needs. You can be rich or poor on any income. It”s all about budgeting carefully what you have. My wife and I graduated from college with zero debt because we were careful.”

    Because of the large number of willing candidates, Boren said students simply cannot plan on making the cut.

    He said he instructs his students to get a degree in something they truly want to be “when they grow up,” in case they are not chosen as teachers.

    A degree is also necessary, seeing as the Church Educational System requires all teaching candidates to have a college diploma.

    Boren said the main reason so few students actually get hired is not because of a lack of good teachers, but rather a lack of positions.

    He highly recommends all students take Religion 370, simply for its innate benefits.

    “Many don”t want to be full-time teachers,” he said. “Many take it just for teacher-enhancement. They become better gospel doctrine teachers and young men and women teachers.”

    But those who are serious about being full-time teachers must cope with an unknown future.

    “It”s a little bit stressful when we don”t know what the future is going to be,” said Becca Lainge. “We”ve made some alternate plans in case it doesn”t work out, but we”re really crossing our fingers that this will go through.”

    Regardless of the stresses, a love for teaching the gospel prevails for the Lainges.

    “I have tried to make a difference in the lives of those I teach,” said LeGrand Lainge. “But the biggest difference I”ve made is the one within me. I can”t say enough good about it.”

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