“Changes in the Church Educational System,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, 84–85
From the elementary school student in Tonga to the released-time seminary student in Salt Lake City, nearly 700,000 Latter-day Saints take part in the Church Educational System. While seminaries and institutes grow rapidly in the United States, tremendous strides are also being taken in dozens of other nations. To meet these pressing challenges, the Church Educational System has been reorganized to meet the educational needs of the Saints smoothly and effectively.
“We were faced with three problems,” Church Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Holland said. “First, the program was simply getting larger—many more students than ever before. The effects of that growth could be felt from top to bottom in the organization.
“Second, much of that growth was in the international area. Only a few years ago seminaries and institutes were largely confined to the United States, and Church schools were just a handful in Latin America and the Pacific. Now seminaries and institutes are available in seventeen languages and fifty-four countries; the school system is expanding to many new countries; and special programs, like the literacy program, keep cropping up to meet special needs.
“And the third need,” Commissioner Holland continued, “actually prompted the solution. The Church organization was moving to a zone and area approach. The educational system needed to correlate.”
The solution? “We wanted to avoid unnecessary duplication. With the seminaries and institutes sending representatives out into the field, and the Church schools doing likewise, and other specialized programs sending still other representatives, we would have been wasting valuable time and budget.” Now many diversified programs have been gathered under one umbrella. The new deputy commissioner of education, Henry Eyring, working with associate commissioners Joe J. Christensen and Stanley A. Peterson, will coordinate and regulate all aspects of field administration, including religious education, elementary and secondary schools, and special programs. This single line of authority will, along with Brigham Young University, Ricks College, and the LDS Business College, report to Commissioner Holland.
Two other associate commissioners serve in the Commissioner’s Office: Kenneth H. Beesley directs the newly created planning and research division and Harold F. Western supervises business and finance for the entire Church Educational System.
Serving under the direction of Deputy Commissioner Eyring are six zone administrators. Soon these zones will correspond with the zones established for the overall Church organization (see Ensign, July 1977, p. 94); zone administrators will then supervise all the educational programs within the zone, instead of having separate supervisors for each particular program.
The new zone supervisors for the Church Educational System are Dr. Frank M. Bradshaw, Dr. Frank D. Day, Dr. Bruce M. Lake, Dr. Benjamin Martinez, Dr. Alton L. Wade, and Dr. Dan J. Workman.
However, on the local level the programs will continue to be separate—seminary teachers will not necessarily be expected to run the literacy program or do double duty in a Church school, Commissioner Holland pointed out.
Another change also emphasizes the Church Educational System’s closer correlation with the overall Church organization. The First Presidency has announced that the executive committee of the Church Board of Education will serve as the Education Executive Committee of the Twelve. Consisting of Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Boyd K. Packer, all of the Council of the Twelve, along with one member not from the Twelve, Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown, the Education Executive Committee will bring the educational system into the direct ecclesiastical line of authority.
The Church Board of Education, consisting of the First Presidency of the Church; President Ezra Taft Benson, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton, all of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy; Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown; and Relief Society General President Barbara Smith, will continue to formulate educational policy and provide administrative direction for the Church Educational System.
The Church Educational System has been undergoing a period of remarkable changes and advances. In 1977 four new institute buildings and nineteen new seminary buildings were built. Construction or purchase of one hundred new buildings is expected within the next five years.
New seminary and institute programs have recently been introduced in the Cook Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the New Hebrides, and the outer islands of Tahiti; Indonesia and Thailand will soon launch similar programs.
The Church’s literacy program, first introduced in Bolivia in mid-1972, is being extended to several other countries. Now available in Spanish and English, the literacy program is designed to teach basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Already 3,100 Bolivians have successfully completed the program, with 400 currently being taught in the major Bolivian population centers.
By the end of this year, the literacy program will have been introduced or tested in Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala (in Spanish and in Cakchiquel), Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Honduras, Uruguay, Paraguay, and in the Aymara language of Bolivia.
The Church Educational System now operates seventy-three elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools around the world, with 16,000 students enrolled. These schools serve areas that particularly need more educational opportunities—no such schools are operated where public or private schooling is able to meet all the needs of local Church members.
Seminaries and institutes are also growing at an incredible rate—an increase of more than 100,000 students is expected within the next five years, 30 percent more than are currently enrolled in the programs.
Another exciting program is the Church Educational System Scholarship Program for Latter-day Saints in Latin America, the Pacific, and the “Asian Rim”—those parts of Asia bordering the Pacific. Donated funds are loaned or granted to students from developing nations, helping them get higher education so they can provide leadership in their families, in the Church, and in their communities.
Latter-day Saints, believing that “the glory of God is intelligence,” have long been committed to education. And as the Church spreads throughout the world, that commitment follows—now to be even more effectively administered by the Church Educational System.