In 1912, Joseph F. Merrill’s proposal for seminary was approved by the district and state boards of education, and the seminary program was born.
The Church Educational System (CES) commemorated 100 years of Seminary with a worldwide broadcast with President Boyd K. Packer on Sunday.
“The most important factor in the 100 years of seminary is the hundreds of lives it has touched over those years,” said Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of CES, in a news release. “It is the individual lives that have been affected as young people have a chance to learn the gospel and to apply those teachings in their lives.”
Over the past century, the seminary program has grown and developed along with the LDS Church.
Beginning as a release-time program in Utah high schools, the seminary program grew in 1950 to include an early morning program in locations where the LDS population is not so dense.
“A large number of our students are actually taught in early morning or daily seminary,” said CES Administrator of Seminaries and Institutes Chad H. Webb.
But as the Church continued to grow, so did the need for the seminary to expand, and the home study program was introduced in 1967.
“In 1970 they made the formal decision that seminary would follow the church wherever it was officially organized and recognized,” Webb said.
As this decision was made, seminary began to expand to the rest of the world.
“We currently have seminary in over 140 countries,” he said.
In the early 1980s, the seminary curriculum was adjusted to the system used today; each year students study one of the four standard works of scripture from cover to cover.
“There are benefits to teaching the gospel conceptually and there are benefits to teaching it sequentially,” Webb said. “In seminary we decided to teach sequentially because students are then able to pull out teaching in the context in which they were taught.”
Aside, from this change in the way seminary is taught, the seminary program has stayed fairly consistent throughout the last 100 years. Webb said that this was a testament to the program’s effectiveness and success.
“I bet if you were to walk into a seminary class 20 years from now, you would see young people studying the scriptures and a teacher who is trying to help them discover what the scriptures are,” Webb said.
This is what BYU students Marissa Lang and Rhett Wimmer experienced during their high school years.
Wimmer, an economics major from Pleasant Grove, expressed gratitude for his experience in release-time seminary.
“Seminary gave me a strong priesthood representative and example,” Wimmer said. “These examples helped me make big decisions as a teenager.”
Lang, a geology major from San Diego, Calif., shared an anecdote from her early morning seminary class that had a large impact on her life.
Her seminary instructor had her assist in an object lesson where she stood on a table with her eyes closed while several boys from the class lifted her up. Throughout the unnerving experience, her instructor held her hand.
“It really taught me about having an eternal perspective,” Lang said. “Sometimes, life is terrifying and we are uncertain of ourselves, but you have to remember that we have someone holding our hand.”
Lang gave a single word to summarize her seminary experience: “Rewarding.”