Chapter Seven: We Must Raise Our Sights, 2001–2012

    “Chapter Seven: We Must Raise Our Sights, 2001–2012,” By Study and Also by Faith—One Hundred Years of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (2015)

    “Chapter Seven,” By Study and Also by Faith

    Chapter Seven

    We Must Raise Our Sights


    Johnson, Paul V.

    Elder Paul V. Johnson followed Elder W. Rolfe Kerr as Commissioner of the Church Educational System in 2008.

    Seminaries and Institutes of Religion approached its centennial in a world where challenges for youth continued to multiply.1 Elder Henry B. Eyring, acting as much in his prophetic role as an Apostle as he was in his role as the Church Commissioner of Education, sounded a warning call to the religious educators of the Church in 2001. Citing the attitude of some students to “go with the flow,” he stated, “The flow has become a flood and soon will be a torrent. It will become a torrent of sounds and sights and sensations that invite temptation and offend the Spirit of God.” Elder Eyring continued, “We must raise our sights. We must keep the goals we have always had: enrollment, regular attendance, graduation, knowledge of the scriptures, the experience of feeling the Holy Ghost confirm truth. In addition, we must aim for the mission field and the temple. … There will be safety even in the times of great difficulty that are coming. … There will be a fortification created by the gospel of Jesus Christ through your faith and through your great efforts.”2 With this charge from an Apostle of the Lord, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion continued on, wary of the dangers but hopeful for the future.

    Administrator Paul V. Johnson

    Johnson, Paul V. Biography

    Paul V. Johnson became the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion in 2001.

    In March 2001, when Stanley A. Peterson announced his upcoming retirement to the zone administrators at an administrative retreat, there was a moment of stunned silence and sudden emptiness. Brother Peterson had served in CES administration since 1977 and as head administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion since 1979.3 He mentioned that his successor had already been selected, but months passed without any official announcement about who that was to be. Still, it was assumed the new administrator had already been contacted about the appointment. Then in May, Paul V. Johnson, who was serving as a zone administrator at the time, received a phone call informing him that President Gordon B. Hinckley wanted to meet with him if Brother Johnson could, as the secretary put it, “fit him into your schedule.” Brother Johnson assured the secretary that a time could easily be arranged. Half an hour later he received another call scheduling the meeting for the following morning and informing him the meeting would include the entire First Presidency.4

    Naturally, Brother Johnson spent the evening wondering why the First Presidency wanted to meet with him. That night he had a dream in which the reason for the meeting became clear. In his dream, he was given to understand that as Brother Peterson retired, Brother Johnson would be asked to become the new administrator of seminaries and institutes. In the meeting the next morning, Brother Johnson was informed, as his dream had indicated, that the First Presidency wanted him to assume the leadership of seminaries and institutes.5

    During the transition, Brother Peterson, in spite of poor health, spent many hours preparing Brother Johnson for his new assignment. Brother Johnson also recalled being amazed and very grateful at how readily the rest of the administration, who were all older and more experienced, accepted him in his new role.6

    Soon after Brother Johnson was called, Elder Eyring asked him to consider two or three goals he hoped to accomplish during his time as the leader of seminaries and institutes. Brother Johnson pondered that question and eventually settled on three: He wanted to increase teaching effectiveness; to change the view held by some General Authorities and Church employees that CES was “the other church” and didn’t “have to live by the same rules as everybody else”; and to encourage CES employees to work more closely with priesthood leaders at all levels. He recalled Elder Eyring saying at an area directors’ convention, “No matter how good you are, if you’re not working with the priesthood leaders, and you’re not on the same page with them, you’ll fail.”7 These three goals charted the course of Brother Johnson’s tenure as the administrator over seminaries and institutes. He also wanted to make sure that all the zone administrators were united philosophically in CES administrative matters. A travel moratorium in the Church due to the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., allowed the administration to meet together more frequently and develop a cohesive view.

    Only a few months after his appointment, Brother Johnson took steps to focus on his three goals. In an article that appeared in the May 2002 issue of the Zone Administrators’ Coordinator, Brother Johnson encouraged teachers and their leaders to remember that “the priesthood holds the keys” and that ecclesiastical leaders were to be followed and trusted. All employees of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, Brother Johnson said, were expected to “teach students the gospel in its purity,” to “maintain a ‘house of order’ (D&C 88:119),” and to know policies and follow them.8 Continuing this theme, Brother Johnson asked teachers to follow the curriculum and urged them to remember the words of President Harold B. Lee, who said, “The doctrines of the Church are not ‘ours,’ but His, whose Church this is! … Fruitless speculation, fascination with the mysteries, and the tendency of some teachers to add their own personal embroidery to the fabric of the Gospel, must be resisted in the spirit of love, but also with reproof if necessary.”9

    In his first official address to CES personnel, given at the CES conference held in August of 2002, Brother Johnson warned teachers against the dangers of priestcraft. He stated, “What are priestcrafts? Nephi gives us a very succinct and helpful definition: ‘He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion’ (2 Nephi 26:29).”10 Citing several signs of priestcraft, Brother Johnson explained, “One of the symptoms is that we base our self-worth on praise from others for our lessons or talks. … This is dangerous ground to be on because the accolades become the touchstone and then we can compromise ourselves in what we teach or how we teach it so that we can get more accolades.” He continued, “Another symptom is that we feel there would be a huge hole in CES if they changed our assignment; we feel a little irreplaceable. Even if this were true, it might be better to allow those who make the changes to worry about that. If you really are irreplaceable, I’ll bet they know about it already.”11

    He went on to say, “If there are priestcrafts in our system, what are the results? I think the great danger is that we don’t have power in our teaching. Or our teaching may be powerful, but it may not be the power of God (see D&C 50:13–23). Maybe it is emotionally powerful, or scholastically powerful, but it doesn’t help with the lasting changes that need to happen in a student’s life.”12 He concluded with a challenge to all teachers: “Since priestcraft is a matter of the heart, it is best battled and eradicated at a personal level. It is so much better to be self-regulating in these matters before they cause concern for the priesthood leaders and supervisors. It is a matter that we must watch closely in our lives. It has a tendency to creep in if we are not diligent.”13

    In an address given a few years into his assignment, Brother Johnson reflected, “The Lord is raising up this generation for their great missions and responsibilities, and what an opportunity it is to be involved in this magnificent undertaking.” He continued, “I know there are hundreds of thousands of lives that are influenced profoundly because of your labors. I’ve seen it in my own children and in young people I have met all over the world. I’ve heard the gratitude from parents and leaders of the youth and young adults. It is a wonderful, challenging, and exciting work in which to be engaged. I feel fortunate to be working shoulder to shoulder with you.”14

    New Leadership

    As part of a living, dynamic organization, the leadership of CES underwent a number of changes through the opening decade of the 21st century. The rotation of administrators became more frequent, as several returned to teaching or shifted into other administrative assignments.

    In 2001 John C. Beck was named a zone administrator.15 Brother Beck was born and raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He was a member of the Catawba Indian tribe and participated in the Indian seminary program from seventh grade through his senior year of high school. He later joked, “It took me six years to get a four-year diploma.” After missionary service in Mexico, he attended BYU and taught at the Missionary Training Center, where he met the facility’s president, Joe J. Christensen, who had previously served as an S&I administrator. Brother Christensen recruited the young teacher for a career in CES.16

    Seminary and Institute Administration in 2002.

    Seminaries and Institutes of Religion administrators in 2002. Front row (left to right): William R. Applegarth, Paul V. Johnson, Garry K. Moore. Back row (left to right): John C. Beck, Stephen K. Iba, Ross H. Cole, G. Bradly Howell, and Randall L. Hall

    Brother Beck began his career at the Skyline seminary in Salt Lake City. He served as a principal and as an area director17 before he was appointed as a zone administrator by Stanley A. Peterson just before Brother Peterson’s retirement. Brother Beck remembered telling his wife, “You don’t just go in every day to speak to Stan, so either we’re getting fired or they’re going to send us to some other place in this world. So are you ready to go?” Sister Beck told him she was ready. To their surprise, they met with both Brother Peterson and Brother Johnson, and Brother Beck received the appointment as zone administrator. Over the next several years his administrative responsibilities included overseeing seminary and institute programs in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, and parts of the United States.18

    In 2002 long-time zone administrator and executive assistant A. Bryan Weston left the central office after being called to preside over a mission in Oregon. Later that year S&I zone administrator Thomas L. Tyler retired and Kenneth R. Myers passed away from cancer. Garry K. Moore became the new executive assistant, and William R. Applegarth and G. Bradly Howell became new zone administrators.19

    It is difficult to imagine two administrators coming from more different backgrounds than Brother Applegarth and Brother Howell did, and both brought valuable perspectives to the administration. Brother Applegarth was a convert to the Church. Originally from Inglewood, California, he had been serving as “the president of a Methodist young adult group” at El Camino College during the early 1960s when he met Jeanne Hunting. After the couple began dating, she presented him with a copy of the Book of Mormon. “When she shared her testimony of the truthfulness of the book with him, he was deeply moved.” He was baptized at age 21, transferred to BYU, and shortly thereafter married Jeanne in the Los Angeles California Temple. The couple moved to California and Brother Applegarth began his career in finance, but he and his wife later felt prompted to move back to Utah and join CES.20

    Brother Applegarth taught in a number of different seminary assignments in the Salt Lake Valley. He served as a coordinator and the director of the Moscow, Idaho, institute and as an area director in both the Utah and Salt Lake Valleys. He also led a distinguished career in public service as the mayor and a member of the city council in Riverton, Utah. He brought a wry sense of humor to all of his responsibilities. When asked what was the most important lesson he learned during his service, he simply replied, “Listen to my wife.”21

    Brother G. Bradly Howell was raised in a CES family. His father, Glade F. Howell, was a teacher and leader in CES. Brother Howell remembered living in the institute building in Eugene, Oregon, as a child. “We lived upstairs and the classroom was downstairs. My dad put up a chalkboard in an old house and William E. Berrett paid him a dollar an hour to put carpet down.” During his youth Brother Howell lived in Utah, California, and Massachusetts as his family moved to fill various assignments in CES. When his father served as an area director, Brother Howell often accompanied him on his trips. He was planning on a career in legal studies when he received a call from a CES preservice trainer asking if he would substitute teach a few classes. He eventually began teaching, seeing it as a good part-time job. He recalled, “I went home to my apartment one day and there was an envelope, and it was a contract to teach full-time. No one had ever sat me down and talked to me about teaching or anything else. … But I counseled with my father and decided … that would be a good thing to pursue for a time.”22

    During his career, Brother Howell taught in Layton, Utah, and in different parts of Arizona. He served in the central office as a member of the training team, working on the Teaching Improvement Package (TIP). He was later assigned as a preservice trainer at the Ogden institute for three years.23 As a zone administrator, he oversaw the work in Europe, Africa, Asia, and parts of the United States. He remembered the overwhelming feelings he had as he assumed these responsibilities. “The thing that was most comforting initially,” he said, “was to meet the great men who were area directors over all those places, and to recognize that we’ve got great people in the field. And as I became comfortable with that idea, it became easier to accept the assignment and realize that this isn’t about us, it’s a big program and Heavenly Father has put great people in place.”24

    In the midst of these changes, in 2003 the Church Board of Education approved Brother Johnson’s recommendation to change the title “zone administrator” to “assistant administrator” and to change the title “executive assistant” to “associate administrator.” The “zone administrator” title in particular had become outdated since the Church no longer referred to geographical areas as zones.25

    In 2004 Grant C. Anderson replaced Ross H. Cole, who retired from his position as an assistant administrator.26 Brother Anderson had been recruited into the system by his mission president, Jay E. Jensen. His first assignment was in Mesa, Arizona, where he taught for two years before moving to Mission Viejo, California, to oversee a daytime seminary program. This was an “extremely challenging” time, and Brother Anderson “eventually decided that a career in CES was not for him. He tendered his resignation, but later reconsidered.” His area director, Gordon Moss, helped him find a new assignment in Hemet, California.27 He later noted, “It was a wonderful assignment. … It was [there] that I finally realized that ‘It’s not about me; it’s about the scriptures.’” After his assignment in Hemet, Brother Anderson served at the Pleasant Hill and Stockton, California, institutes and later as the area director over the Northern Plains Area, where he was happily settled when he received the assignment to move to Church headquarters.28

    In January 2005 Elder Henry B. Eyring was officially released from his assignment as Commissioner of the Church Educational System.29 He had served two terms, from 1980 to 1986 and from 1992 to 2005, longer than any person in the history of the Church. For the last nine years of his assignment, he served simultaneously as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the first Apostle to serve as Commissioner since John A. Widtsoe in the 1930s.

    Elder Eyring’s experience as an Apostle had given him a unique perspective on his work. Roger G. Christensen, secretary to the Church Board of Education and assistant to the Commissioner, spoke of an experience he observed on a trip to BYU–Idaho during which he and Elder Eyring visited a few seminary classes in Idaho Falls. Brother Christensen recalled:

    In one of the classes, [President Eyring] said, “What is the lesson on today?” One of the students said, “Well, we’re just learning about Jesus calling the Twelve Apostles.” President Eyring said, “I happen to know a little bit about how that works today,” and then he shared a little about his calling to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, which means to be a special witness of Christ. To see the impact that that had on the lives of those kids! We went into another class and he asked the same question, “What are you learning today?” And they said, “We’re learning about some of the miracles Jesus performed.” And he asked, “What do you think the greatest miracle was?” Some young lady sitting on the back row raised her hand and said, “I think that was the Atonement.” As we walked out of the building, he turned to me and said, “The Church is in good hands because there are some real believers in our seminary classrooms.”30

    Commissioner W. Rolfe Kerr

    Kerr, W. Rolfe

    Elder W. Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy was appointed Commissioner of the Church Educational System in 2005.

    On January 12, 2005, the Church Board of Education announced the appointment of Elder W. Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy as the new Commissioner of the Church Educational System.31 No stranger to the Church Educational System, Elder Kerr had worked with both Elders Paul H. Dunn and Marion D. Hanks in the early days of the Latter-day Saint Student Association. Before being called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Kerr had served as Utah’s commissioner of higher education and as president of Dixie College and had held administrative posts at Weber State University, Utah State University, the University of Utah, and Brigham Young University.32 In his new role, Elder Kerr’s mantra was two-fold: extend exposure and increase impact. In one of his earliest addresses, he said, “As I see it, the charge of religious education is to ‘watch over and nourish our students with righteousness.’ We can do this by extending our exposure through reaching a significantly greater number and higher percentage of the youth and young adults of the Church and then by increasing our impact through more effectively facilitating the process of getting the gospel into their heads and, far more importantly, into their hearts.”33

    During his time as Commissioner, Elder Kerr also stressed the importance of conversion in the heart of the student. He reminded teachers, “We must ever be conscious of the fact that we are not just teaching Old Testament, New Testament, Church history, Book of Mormon, or any other subject. We are teaching the youth and young adults, and we must be reaching their minds, their hearts, and their souls.”34

    Additional changes occurred among the assistant administrators in 2005 when John Beck was called as a mission president in California and Steve Iba was asked to serve as area director in the Pacific.35 Brother Iba announced his new assignment to his colleagues in the administration one day when his wife, Pat, came into a placement meeting before the two of them went to lunch. The council had been in the middle of a discussion on who would be the new area director in the Pacific. Brother Iba turned to his wife and casually asked her if she would be willing to go to the Pacific. She paused for just a moment, then responded “Sure.” Unbeknownst to the shocked placement council, the Ibas had already visited with Brother Johnson and agreed to the new assignment. The openings in the administration resulting from these changes were filled by Russell G. Bulloch and John A. Monson.36

    Brother Bulloch grew up in Kearns, Utah. He was an enthusiastic seminary student at Kearns High School, where he was the president of the seminary council. After serving a mission in Argentina, he enrolled at BYU, studying physical therapy. During his studies he began working at the MTC. Brother Bulloch’s director of training at the MTC assigned him to serve as a Spanish tutor to Elder A. Theodore Tuttle and his wife, Marne, five days a week. On the last day of their month together, Elder Tuttle spoke to Brother Bulloch personally. Brother Bulloch later recalled, “He looked me right in the eyes, and he said, ‘Tell me, what career have you chosen to do?’” When Brother Bulloch replied he was studying to become a physical therapist, Elder Tuttle asked him to reconsider his choice. This ended the conversation, but a couple of days later Brother Bulloch received a call asking him to come in and interview for a teaching position. Brother Bulloch never found out whether Elder Tuttle called on his behalf, but he gladly accepted and a few days later began his career as a teacher.37

    Area Director's Convention, 2005.

    Area director’s convention, 2005

    Brother Bulloch taught at the Provo, Utah, seminary and later served as the principal of the Provo and Timpview seminaries in Utah Valley. He next served as a preservice director in Cedar City, Utah, then as an area director in the Salt Lake Valley before his appointment as an assistant administrator.38 Reflecting on his career, he recalled the words of one of his area directors, who told him that “CES is a profession, but if you think of it more as a calling you will be happier.”39

    John A. Monson also brought special expertise into the administration. He recalled, “I was the son of a teacher and I loved teaching.” Growing up in Logan, Utah, Brother Monson was taught in seminary by Wayne B. May, one of the American teachers sent to Australia in the 1970s. Brother Monson was serving as president of the LDSSA at the Logan institute when Brother May suggested he look into seminary as a career. He began his time in CES at the Rexburg, Idaho, seminary. Several years later he was accepted into a prestigious doctoral program at Indiana University–Bloomington, which required him to take a leave of absence from CES. During his time at Indiana University he volunteered … he was pleasantly surprised to receive an offer from CES to serve as a coordinator and director of the Bloomington, Indiana, institute.40

    When Brother Monson finished his doctoral studies, he was asked to return to Church headquarters to serve as a part of the training team. He later became the director of Training Services, working on the new Administering Appropriately handbook. In 2005 he was invited to serve as an assistant administrator. “The first year I [traveled over] 60,000 miles,” he recalled. Despite the strains of the assignment, Brother Monson declared, “I have a testimony of the gospel and it has been strengthened by working here.” In 2011 Brother Monson was asked to serve as the director of Information Services in the central office, where his expertise continued to move the work of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion forward.41

    In 2006 Chad H Webb was asked to take the place of William R. Applegarth, who was retiring as an assistant administrator.42 Brother Webb served a mission in Veracruz, Mexico, and attended the College of Eastern Utah, where he served as the council president at the local institute. His first experience with teaching came when the institute director asked him to substitute for a few classes while he was away attending meetings. Brother Webb recalled, “I taught 3 or 4 classes one day instead of going to school and when he came back from his convention I was waiting in his office.” Brother Webb immediately asked how he could enter Church education as a profession. After he transferred to and graduated from Brigham Young University, he was hired. He taught at the Magna and Taylorsville seminaries in Utah, served as a coordinator in Northern Virginia, and was a preservice trainer at the Ogden, Utah, institute. Prior to his appointment as an assistant administrator he served as the director of preservice training in the central office.43

    Administrator Garry K. Moore

    CES Administrator Paul V. Johnson was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in the April 2005 general conference and continued to serve as the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion until 2007, when he was called as a member of the Chile Area Presidency. He was replaced as the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion by Garry K. Moore, a wise and seasoned veteran who had been serving as the associate administrator. Except for the three years he served as a mission president in Argentina (1994–97), Brother Moore had spent more than two decades working in the central office before his appointment.44

    While the fundamental nature of the work of S&I never changed, each new administrator used his experience and the guidance of the Spirit to provide his own emphasis.

    Following the direction set by Elder Johnson, Brother Moore continued to focus his attention on cooperating with other Church departments, on trying to get CES employees to work more closely with priesthood leaders, and on the concept of shared services. In Brother Moore’s first address as administrator in August 2007, he enumerated vital principles for religious educators.45

    In Brother Moore’s administration, he stressed the importance of seeking out “the one” and encouraged teachers to spend time out of the office actively inviting potential students to participate in seminary and institute rather than merely teaching those who enrolled and came to class. He also urged administrators and teachers in released-time programs to be flexible and make classes available before school for students who were struggling with credit challenges as well as those who were involved in advanced placement classes or who faced increasing credit requirements for graduation. Such early-morning classes, he felt, should not just be taught by volunteers but by full-time faculty as well.46

    Teaching. Adult. Male

    Garry K. Moore was appointed administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion in April 2005.

    Brother Moore also ensured that a concerted effort was made, as the number of international programs increased, to bring into the central office people who had experience beyond areas of the western United States with large populations of Church members. He wanted personnel assigned to the central office to represent a wide range of experience, which, when coupled with the travel of assistant administrators, would provide the office with a global perspective. This had long been a priority for Brother Moore. He also felt “the need to see that new converts [were] quickly integrated into … seminary and institute. He pointed out that there is often a delay in getting the new convert information to S&I. He recommended a timely and standardized process for providing the names of new converts of seminary and institute age.”47

    A Name Change: “Seminaries and Institutes of Religion”

    During Brother Moore’s administration, Commissioner Kerr spoke to the Church Board of Education about “the need to better define and clarify the components of” the Church Educational System. While CES actually included Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University–Idaho, Brigham Young University–Hawaii, and the LDS Business College, as well as Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and Church-sponsored elementary and secondary schools, “over time CES [had] become synonymous with seminaries and institutes in the minds of many” leaders and members both inside and outside the United States. “This result[ed] in some confusion at multiple levels of the organization and with priesthood leaders” and other Church departments.48 How best to address this confusion, including the possibility of a name change, had been discussed for a number of years.

    Elder Kerr also explained that Brother Garry K. Moore’s “title—Administrator of Religious Education and Elementary and Secondary Education—[was] cumbersome and [did] not reflect his primary responsibility for seminaries and institutes. Elder Kerr recommended that the organization administering seminaries, institutes, and elementary and secondary schools be changed to Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and that [Brother Moore’s] title be changed to Administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion.49 His recommendations were approved by the Board of Education in December.50 All S&I personnel were notified of the change by a memorandum dated March 10, 2008, which noted that “the elementary and secondary schools in the Pacific and Mexico [would] continue to be supervised by Seminaries and Institutes of Religion.”51

    Guiding Principles

    In the summer of 2008, Brother Moore reviewed guiding principles for effective religious education with the Board of Education. Their discussion emphasized that “seminary is to teach the scriptures and the words of the prophets in such a way as to build faith and testimony in the Lord Jesus Christ, increase understanding of His restored gospel, and deepen conversion to its doctrines and principles.”52 Brother Moore also enumerated the factors that should be “considered when establishing the appropriate type … of seminary” in a particular location.53

    At the time of Elder Johnson’s departure and Brother Moore’s appointment, there were several other changes in the administration. Randall L. Hall was asked to serve as the associate administrator, and Russell G. Bulloch was called as a mission president in Mexico. To fill their positions, Richard D. Hawks and Chad R. Wilkinson were named as new assistant administrators.54

    As a young man, Richard D. Hawks attended early-morning seminary in Ventura, California. He later said, “I loved my seminary experience, every day 6:40 to 7:30. Then we would walk to school about two or three miles and it was a great thing. … The seminary teacher had a van and she would give a ride to anyone who consistently behaved well or performed well in seminary, and I never qualified.”55 He attended Brigham Young University for one year and then served a mission in Chicago before returning to school. While Brother Hawks was working as a teacher at the MTC, he attended a presentation given by the preservice directors at BYU about teaching seminary as a career. He remembered, “I had really no idea there was such a career, growing up in California, I had no idea of released-time seminary.” When he found out he was hired to teach seminary he ran a mile to his fiancée’s place just to tell her.56

    One of the most important lessons Brother Hawks learned early in his career was the importance of the scriptures in his lessons. He recalled:

    I had an experience my first year teaching. … After [one particular] class I was tired. … My mouth was tired and my mind was tired, and I went in my office and I thought, “What happened today?” And it was a good class but I thought to myself, “I really only spent time in the scriptures for eight verses and the rest of it was out of the scriptures.” So I opened up the block and I read those verses and it took me forty-five seconds, and I thought, “Okay, I just spent … eighty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds [of my class] doing things other than the scriptures. I think I’m missing the mark.” … Pretty soon I started to measure, at least in part, my effectiveness by how much time the students spent … interacting with the scriptures.57

    Brother Hawks later served as a coordinator in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and as a member of the training team in the central office before becoming an assistant administrator.58

    Chad R. Wilkinson was a veteran of the seminary program. He had taught for nine years at the Taylorsville, Utah, seminary before serving as its principal and had also been a teacher at the Orem, Utah, institute and an assistant to the area director and later the area director of the Salt Lake Valley West Area. He grew up in Granger, Utah, attended the University of Utah, and had planned to study law before choosing to teach seminary.59

    As an administrator, Brother Wilkinson brought an emphasis on love and unity to his work. This stemmed from a lesson he learned as a young teacher. He recalled, “At the close of one particular school year, I sat in my office pondering and praying about how to improve my teaching and how to invite the Holy Ghost to work more powerfully in the hearts and minds of my students. I wanted to become the very best teacher possible.” Brother Wilkinson was led to think about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in the Book of Mormon and their covenant to bury their weapons of war. He continued, “As I prayed, it became clear that there were weapons that I intentionally and unintentionally used that could cause a lack of unity and love in my faculty and in my classroom, increasing the poor among us. I identified those weapons and made a plan of professional growth that included burying them deep so I could no longer have easy access to them.”60

    As Brother Wilkinson applied this approach to the classroom, he remembered, “The result was astonishing. … In my class alone, I saw the students impacted by the gospel in ways that led them to invite nonmember and less-active friends to seminary. The Lord literally healed the spiritual blindness and deafness of three young men who were the fruit that is high and difficult to reach. … Two of these young men were baptized, and the other came back into full activity. Two of the three served missions. I am sure my colleagues on that faculty could share experiences similar to mine.”61

    In May of 2008 Church leaders announced the departure of Elder Kerr as Commissioner to fulfill a call to serve as president of the Logan Utah Temple.62 In his last address to S&I teachers, Elder Kerr emphasized reaching out to students:

    The majority of the students we teach might be described as “low-hanging fruit”—easy to reach and easy to teach. They enroll willingly and attend regularly. They assert themselves in the learning process, and they leave our influence with enriched lives and abiding testimonies of the gospel. But what about the fruit that hides higher up in the trees—those young people more difficult to reach and more challenging to teach. Some would even seem to be unreachable and unteachable. But I urge you not to accept that conclusion about them. I have learned that in the work of the Lord “nothing is impossible; some things are just more difficult than others.”63

    Commissioner Paul V. Johnson

    Elder Kerr’s successor was a familiar face in seminaries and institutes. After serving for one year in the Chile Area Presidency, Elder Paul V. Johnson was appointed in August 2008 as the Commissioner of the Church Educational System. Commenting on the shift in perspective that came from becoming a General Authority, Elder Johnson said, “It’s been interesting to listen in the meetings with the General Authorities, and see what they’re focusing on, and then try to see, ‘Where does Church education fit into this Kingdom,’ rather than ‘Church education is the Kingdom!’ and how do other people work with us? … I think one of the keys is for us to see where we fit with the priesthood leaders and with the Church as a whole.”64

    A few months after Elder Johnson’s return to Church education, he participated in a group discussion with several seminary students at the Alta seminary in Sandy, Utah. When one of the students asked Elder Johnson how to make seminary more meaningful, he replied, “Seminary isn’t just a teacher lecturing to you. … When you learn principles in the gospel, or relearn them, you apply them in your lives outside of class. And when you do that, the power of the whole seminary experience multiplies. That is what the gospel is about. It’s about what happens in your life. It’s what you are becoming.”65

    Administrator Chad H Webb

    Chad Webb

    Chad H Webb was appointed administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion in 2008.

    Just a few weeks after Elder Kerr announced his departure, Garry K. Moore was called to serve as the president of the Madrid Spain Temple.66 In September 2008 Brother Chad H Webb became the new administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion.67 Brother Webb later recalled the circumstances surrounding his appointment: “Two weeks before [my appointment] I was asked to … do a report on the Church schools to the executive committee of the board. [The presentation lasted] for an hour and only about five minutes of it was about the schools—the rest of it was an interview. … It was a lot about my experience and educational philosophy and leadership.” Unaware that he was under consideration for the position of administrator, Brother Webb happily answered the interview questions. A few weeks later Elder Johnson met with Brother Webb privately to invite him to serve as the administrator of the program.68

    Brother Webb, a humble leader, keenly felt his responsibility to oversee a worldwide program of almost 700,000 students. He said, “Our hope is that we will teach the scriptures, by the Spirit, so that lives will be blessed.”69 Brother Webb realized the importance of seeking to understand and implement the direction S&I had received from the Brethren. Even before he was called as the administrator of S&I, he noted, “If you were to review the last 10 years of talks given to CES by General Authorities, you would see a consistent message. It is that we must invite the Holy Ghost to take the gospel deeply into the lives of our students. … The challenge and the opportunity that is ours is to identify and implement ways of inviting the Holy Ghost into the learning experience more often and with more power.”70

    R. Kelly Haws was called to take Brother Webb’s place as an assistant administrator.71 Brother Haws grew up in American Fork, Utah, and remembered connecting with one of his seminary teachers through his teacher’s support outside of the classroom as they attended the school’s sports activities. He later served a mission to Iowa, married, and took the seminary training class. He had decided not to teach as a career and was preparing to enter law school when his preservice trainers invited him to take over two classes as a part-time teacher. He grew to love his experience in the classroom and stayed with the program. Brother Haws remembered the day when a CES administrator, Boyd D. Beagley, came to observe one of his classes: “I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know he was coming. I didn’t know there was such a person. … I still believe to this day it was the worst class I ever taught, and he left after twenty minutes. I said, ‘Okay, that’s great.’ I didn’t know who he was anyway.”72

    Shortly after, Brother Haws received an invitation to teach full-time. He recalled, “When they called and offered us the position, it was a hard decision because I love teaching, but I was really anxious to go to law school.” One day he and his wife, Connie, read Matthew 6:25–34 together, including these verses: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” After they finished the scripture, they knew a career in seminary was the right path for their family.73

    Brother Haws began his career in Church education at the West Jordan, Utah, seminary and then taught at the Alta seminary in Sandy, Utah. He was later appointed as a coordinator in the Washington, D.C., area and as an area director in the eastern United States. He came to the training division in the central office in 2007, serving for one year there before he joined the assistant administrators. The opportunities for him to travel and see seminaries and institutes around the world gave him a new perspective on the work. He later said, “It’s changed me to sit in one of the old apartheid townships in South Africa and watch a sweet sister who has been teaching for years teach a class of eight or nine students in her kitchen/living room … and hear the gospel taught and see the scriptures taught and feel the Spirit present and recognize that the magic of all of this isn’t in the technology, it’s not in the facility, it’s not in expensive furnishings. … We are about the scriptures, and we’re about people who make sacrifices, and it’s the same everywhere.”74

    The Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion

    Just a few months after being made the new administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, Brother Webb, acting on discussions that had been ongoing for several years, “proposed changes to the [S&I] objective and commission” that had been in use since the early 1990s. He explained that the new “document would be used in training personnel, and would help communicate to priesthood and auxiliary leaders the role S&I performs within the Church.” The Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education responded to the proposed draft with several ideas and encouraged an emphasis of bringing “people to the Savior through missionary work and temple ordinances, as well as preparing students to form eternal families.”75 Brother Webb consulted with members of the administration and others in S&I and presented a new draft, which was revised and then approved by the Church Board of Education in March 2009.76

    The new objective stated: “Our purpose is to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families, and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven.” Subsequent paragraphs, echoing the previous commission, spoke of the need to live, teach, and administer in an appropriate manner.77

    In May 2009 Rory C. Bigelow was named an assistant administrator to replace Grant C. Anderson, who had been appointed director of the Salt Lake Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah.78 Brother Bigelow had attended seminary as a teenager at the West Jordan, Utah, seminary, with R. Kelly Haws as his first seminary teacher. He served a mission in Chicago, Illinois, speaking Spanish, and then attended the University of Utah, where he began the preservice program. He remembered, “I took the preservice classes with the intent to just learn how to be a better teacher. … When they had me teach, I started to hope with all my heart that it would happen. … We knew it was right, and have always known it was the right place to be.” Brother Bigelow began his career at the Hunter, Utah, seminary and was later appointed as the principal at the Cyprus seminary in Magna, Utah.79

    During his time at Magna, Brother Bigelow and his faculty worked closely to help each other improve their teaching. He recalled, “We had collectively created, on the faculty at Magna, a culture of in-service. Before class, between classes, during lunch, after, we were sharing things with each other that we had learned. … We accomplish more when we do it together.” Brother Bigelow served as an assistant to the area director in the Salt Lake Valley West Area with Chad R. Wilkinson and was then called into the central office to serve in Physical Facilities. After experiencing what he called “a crash course” in temporal affairs, traveling throughout the world overseeing S&I facilities, he was appointed as an assistant administrator.80

    In 2012 Brother Wilkinson was called as a mission president to Costa Rica, and G. Bradly Howell, who had served as a zone and assistant administrator since 2002, was asked to direct the preservice program for S&I. Russell G. Bulloch, who was asked to return to the central office following his service as a mission president, and R. Scott Wilde, area director of the Utah Davis Area, replaced them as assistant administrators.81

    Brother Wilde was born in California. He became acquainted with the Church after his father passed away and his mother began seeing a member of the Church. She was soon baptized, and Brother Wilde was raised in the faith from a young age. His family later moved to Utah and he attended seminary in Taylorsville, where he served as a member of the seminary council.82 His service on the seminary council became a significant factor in his later decision to teach as a career. “I spent 20–30 hours a week in the building. They gave me keys. I spent time late at night, weekends preparing for … socials and dances and other such things that we did, just nonstop.” Brother Wilde’s seminary teachers became important mentors to him and encouraged his choice to teach.83

    S&I Administrators in 2012

    The administrators of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion in 2012: (left to right) Richard D. Hawks, R. Kelly Haws, Chad H Webb, Randall L. Hall, G. Bradly Howell, Rory C. Bigelow, and Chad R. Wilkinson

    When he arrived home from his mission, he entered into preservice training at BYU and began teaching seminary at the Taylorsville, Utah, seminary. He was transferred to the Kaysville, Utah, seminary, where he taught for nine years. He later added a part-time split assignment teaching at the Layton, Utah, institute.84 Brother Wilde served as the area director of the Utah Davis Area before he was invited to serve as an assistant administrator. About coming to the central office, he said, “The learning curve is incredibly steep. … You can never really be prepared for what comes at you. … I wasn’t five minutes in my role as an assistant administrator … when the Physical Facilities department … put the blueprints [of the Manila, Philippines, institute] in front of me,” asking for a decision.85 Despite the rapid pace, Brother Wilde said his new vantage point only strengthened his witness of the work. “Teaching this rising generation is a profound work. … We’re not just influencing them; we’re influencing generations of young people and future leaders of the Church. That witness burns in my soul and helps me get up every morning and come to work with perspective.”86

    A New Emphasis in Teaching

    Early in the 21st century, President Gordon B. Hinckley, addressing Church educators, expressed appreciation for the good they were doing and then asked that they work a little harder to “teach morality and build within these young people the strength that will fortify them against the wily ways of the adversary.”87 President Eyring, speaking at the same meeting in his role at the time of Commissioner of the Church Educational System, said, “Too many of our students become spiritual casualties. … The troubles and the temptations our students faced just five years ago pale in comparison with what we see now, and even more difficult times are ahead.”88

    In the fall of 2002 the Missionary Executive Council of the Church, chaired by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asked what the seminaries could do to better prepare missionaries to teach by the Spirit and from the heart as the Preach My Gospel manual was being prepared for release with its new approach to teaching the gospel. After a meeting of that council, Elder Ballard and Elder Richard G. Scott, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, personally visited the S&I central office to ask for help to better prepare missionaries to teach the gospel. A doctrinal questionnaire administered at the Missionary Training Center showed that a number of seminary graduates did not have a good grasp of the basic doctrines of the gospel. Many of them also struggled to articulate the gospel message in a teaching setting.89

    In November 2002 President Boyd K. Packer asked Paul V. Johnson, then the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, to visit with him. In that meeting President Packer asked Brother Johnson what CES was going to do to help better prepare missionaries. This further encouragement reinforced the need to focus on the issue.90 In December of 2002 a letter was sent to Church leaders that said, “The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles feel a need to strengthen missionary work throughout the world. Church leaders, members, and missionaries are called upon to further this important effort.”91

    The desire for better prepared missionaries coupled with the continuing invitation from the Brethren to do more to get the gospel from the head to the heart of the students prompted many discussions that finally distilled into what was originally called the “Current Teaching Emphasis,” which consisted of instructions for how to effectively teach the scriptures. After considerable internal scrutiny and after receiving the approval of the Missionary Executive Committee, the Current Teaching Emphasis was taken to the Board of Education, where Brother Johnson explained to the Board “that the Current Teaching Emphasis for Seminary and Institute courses has been modified to more directly prepare young people for effective missionary service, to receive the ordinances of the temple, and to emulate and teach gospel principles throughout their lives. In addition to teaching and learning by the Spirit, there is stronger emphasis on the students’ developing a habit of daily scripture study. Students will be encouraged to memorize key passages of scriptures.”92

    The Current Teaching Emphasis was the key document in S&I teaching philosophy beginning in 2003 and explained how to teach the scriptures sequentially. Elder Johnson’s continued focus on teaching came largely from a blessing he had received when President Boyd K. Packer had set him apart as an Area Seventy in 2003. President Packer had blessed Elder Johnson that he would be able to order things in Church education in such a way that more effective teaching could take place.93

    In a training broadcast in August 2003, Randall L. Hall, a zone administrator at the time, provided an update on the implementation of the Current Teaching Emphasis. He mentioned in his address that regarding the new emphasis, “many have expressed feelings of enthusiasm, excitement, and a renewed sense of vision.”94 He cited comments from a coordinator in Taiwan, who wrote, “We are delighted for the current teaching emphasis. … Lately I have been wondering how to help build the faith of our students … and my own children. … As I struggled with this question, I received the information you sent me in the mail. It was indeed heaven-sent and an answer to prayers.”95 An email from the Pacific Area stated, “The best responses came from the awareness of the new emphasis being linked closely to the broader mission of the Church.”96 Another response from the eastern United States pointed out the closer relationship between S&I and other Church departments signaled by the teaching emphasis: “It is wonderful to know that we are working in unity with other Church departments. … It seems to carry a sense of oneness in this work.”97

    The teaching emphasis went through a number of refinements from 2003 to 2012. The word current was removed from the name so that the emphasis would not be viewed as transitory, and in response to suggestions from the field, the phrase “cultivate a learning environment of love, respect and purpose” was added. Several years later, another draft of the teaching emphasis was sent to the field adding the word learning to the title, and the wording of the Teaching and Learning Emphasis was simplified so that it could be more readily remembered.

    Student responses to the Teaching and Learning Emphasis were positive. One student said, “It’s nice to have your teacher tell you something, but it gives it another affirmation when one of your friends says the same thing, in the same way that you might have been thinking it.” Another student commented, “Sometimes when [other students] share their feelings they mention struggles that they have or times when they had doubted the gospel and how they have found out that it was true. And you go ‘I’m not the only one in this world that has ever doubted. And so I won’t be the only one who has ever received an answer.’”

    Speaking about the increased emphasis on students explaining scriptures and testifying to one another, several students expressed their feelings about the importance of sharing in class, saying, “Sometimes when you participate and you open your mouth, you open the gate to the Spirit and He can speak through you,” and “It is exciting when you learn something and then when you share it with somebody else there is a spirit that comes with sharing that. And, when you share something you’ve learned, it helps your testimony build on that subject.” One student summed up many of the aims of the emphasis by saying, “As you teach somebody else, it also becomes a learning experience for you.”98

    The Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook

    During his administration Brother Webb urged teachers to implement the principles and methods found in the Teaching and Learning Emphasis, which were eventually recast as the Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning in Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, published in 2012. The Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning were listed as follows:Teachers and students should—Teach and learn by the Spirit.Cultivate a learning environment of love, respect, and purpose.Study the scriptures daily, and read the text for the course.Understand the context and content of the scriptures and the words of the prophets.Identify, understand, feel the truth and importance of, and apply doctrines and principles.Explain, share, and testify of gospel doctrines and principles.Master key scripture passages and Basic Doctrines.99The new handbook explained these Fundamentals in detail and how they worked together to bring the gospel into the hearts, minds, and lives of the students. The handbook contained chapters on “Preparing to Teach” and “Teaching Methods, Skills, and Approaches” and also reviewed in some detail the 2009 Objective with commentary on the purpose of S&I and the three parts of the Commission: live, teach, and administer. Quotations from the Brethren were updated to include prophetic direction that had been given over the intervening years.100

    The preface of the new handbook challenged teachers to reflect on the way the Savior taught, beginning with this quote by President Boyd K. Packer: “When we begin to analyze ourselves and look to improve ourselves as teachers, what better model could we find? What finer study could we undertake than to analyze our ideas and goals and methods and compare them with those of Jesus Christ?”101 The preface ended with a challenge to teachers: “This, then, is your sacred calling—to teach as the Savior taught. As you do, the youth will give place in their hearts for the seed of the gospel to be planted, to swell, and to grow. This will lead to conversion—the ultimate goal of your teaching.”102

    Global Growth

    In the 21st century Seminaries and Institutes of Religion continued to follow the growth of the Church internationally, often bringing new challenges and adaptations. For instance, due to “tight legal restrictions in parts of Eastern Europe concerning educational entities,” it was recommended that in those areas CES “not hand out certificates or diplomas and that the names ‘Church Educational System’ ‘seminary’ and ‘institute’ … not be used on signs, literature, in meetings or in general discussion.”103 “Legal counsel recommend[ed] that seminary and institute programs be called ‘training’ rather than ‘educational’ programs [and that] different terminology [be used] for items such as ‘grading’ ‘certificates’ and ‘graduation’ so [as] not to confuse Church programs with those educational programs sanctioned by the government.”104

    British Isle S&I Personnel with Spouses

    Full-time S&I personnel from the British Isles with their spouses. On the front row to the far right is David Cook, the first native of the country hired to work full-time for S&I.

    In 2008 S&I was approved to begin classes in the country of Georgia as well as in the African nation of Benin.105 In September of that year, a request was made “to begin an institute class in Guangzhou, China.” However, “some concerns were raised by members of the [Executive] Committee.” After discussion with the Area Presidency there, it was determined “that no new seminary or institute programs in China [would] be considered at [that] time.”106 However, three years later, at the encouragement of the Asia Area Presidency, “seminary and institute classes [were provided] to students in China by adapting the existing curriculum to coincide with the Sunday School course of study. Classes taught during Sunday School [provided] an overview of the scripture block that would then be studied [during the week] by the individual students as a home study course.” While classes for emigrants had been offered for several years in China, this represented a first for the local youth and young adults.107

    Along with the exciting work occurring in China, seminaries and institutes were established in a number of other countries as well. In 2011 approval was given to begin programs in Burundi, South Sudan, Cyprus, Moldova, Serbia, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro.108

    In countries where S&I programs were already established, dedicated teachers and missionaries worked to expand the programs’ reach. The first S&I programs in Kenya had begun in 1991.109 In 2000, nearly a decade later, Craig and Bonnie Lillywhite arrived in Kenya as CES missionaries. The Lillywhites then traveled to Kitale, a city about six and half hours away from the capital city of Nairobi, where they found four established branches of the Church, all eager to begin their own seminary classes. So great was the enthusiasm for religious education that in the Eldoret branch, a young returned missionary, Pius Makuta, began teaching a small institute class on his own, without any outside support or materials.110

    The Lillywhites also received a request from members in the tiny village of Ndivisi to start a seminary and an institute class. The members of this remote settlement lived nearly 24 kilometers from the closest chapel in Sikhendu. The first classes enrolled 18 institute students and 7 seminary students, all meeting together outdoors in the shade of several mango trees. Patrice Kisembe, a teacher at a nearby high school, was the first instructor. Photographs of the class sent to the central office eventually resulted in an offer from a ward in the Salt Lake Valley to purchase a tent for the classes. Brother Kisembe wrote back, saying he was extremely touched but the tent would most likely be stolen. Instead the funds were sent to Ndivisi, where the members purchased materials to build a mud structure for seminary and institute classes. The building had two classrooms and a small office/library.111 Visiting the area a year later, in 2002, S&I assistant administrator Randall L. Hall commented, “The mango tree where the classes started was still there as well as the obvious enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers and students.” The mud building was being transformed into one made of bricks.112

    Institute Building in Ndvisi

    Church members next to the institute building they constructed in the Kenyan village of Ndvisi

    Dedicated volunteer teachers around the world taught in a wide variety of settings. Brother Richard D. Hawks, during his travels as an administrator, remembered observing an early-morning seminary class held in Vienna, Austria. “We gathered in the apartment of one of the class members. … There would be about twelve students gathered around a dining room table all with their scriptures. … They began their class with standing together and reciting a scripture mastery verse from memory, then they’d have a nice devotional. … The teacher had a notepad he would use as a whiteboard, and they would sit around the table … and discuss the scriptures like family scripture study.” Brother Hawks was struck by the simplicity of the scene and how influential this one teacher would be in mentoring the students and showing them how to have scripture study with their own families.113

    On a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, Brother Hawks sat in a class where four 14-year-old young men gathered to be taught by a recently returned missionary. Brother Hawks recalled, “It was cold. It was dark. There was one light bulb dangling from the ceiling and the chalkboard was leaning up against the wall—it wasn’t mounted on the wall. But they were quiet and careful and pondering the scriptures.” Brother Hawks listened as the teacher shared experiences from his mission and taught from the scriptures. He later said, “What a great situation the Lord has set up for these young men to prepare themselves.”114

    Changes in Area Boundaries

    The first decade of the new century saw a number of Church and S&I boundary changes, reflecting the needs of an expanding Church and bringing S&I administrative areas into closer alignment with newly established priesthood areas. Along with some shifts in area boundaries in the U.S., the two CES areas in Brazil were consolidated into one in 2007, as were the two CES areas in Mexico. In 2008 Australia and New Zealand/Pacific Islands were merged, as were the areas of Europe Central and Europe West. The following year the South American North and South American West Areas were combined. In August of 2011 the Japan and Korea areas were combined to match Church priesthood areas, and the following year the Chile and South America South Areas were brought together.115 Area Presidencies in several of the consolidated areas were given an expanded role, which meant that certain S&I administrative responsibilities were assumed by Area Presidencies and local offices of the Presiding Bishopric.116

    These changes altered some traditional roles in S&I policy and practice, dividing the responsibilities between S&I and the Area Presidencies. While it was understood that the details of the implementation would “vary by area,”117 under the new system, seminaries and institutes had the responsibility to:

    • Establish the purpose, objectives, and general policies for CES programs

    • Develop curriculum … and general training materials …

    • Clear recommended candidates with the Board …

    • Designate the Area Director … and present worldwide budget[s] to the Board …

    [The] Area Responsibilities [were to]

    • Recommend adaptations [to S&I programs] to meet local needs …

    • Administer payroll and benefits for CES employees

    • Help identify, interview, and recommend candidates for CES employment

    • Monitor personnel evaluation and discipline …

    • Oversee construction and maintenance of facilities and recommend modifications to CES standard plans based on local conditions118


    During this time period, particular attention was paid to the role of institute programs in the lives of the young single adults (YSAs) of the Church, who seemed to hunger for association. Students were encouraged to enroll in scripture-based institute classes or choose a class in courtship and marriage, missionary preparation, teachings of the living prophets, or Church history. Student councils in some areas, at the request of general Church officers and with the approval of CES officials, were asked to assist in member missionary, retention, and reactivation efforts.

    Institute Students in the Dominican Republic.

    Institute students in the Dominican Republic

    As local conditions varied, so did the way institute functioned. In Johannesburg, South Africa, a large building was secured so the college-age Latter-day Saints, many of whom were not in school, could gather and socialize as well as participate in a class. In Cape Town arrangements were made with local priesthood leaders so that one night each week, designated institute night, the chapel was utilized by institute students for classes and activities. The students had access to not just classrooms but also to the meetinghouse kitchen for food preparation and the cultural hall for sporting activities. In Moscow, Russia, it was desirable to find a place for the institute near a subway to enable the young people to gather more easily. In Nigeria it was not considered safe to be out at night, so institute classes were held in the late afternoon or early evening or even early in the morning, much like seminary classes. In the United States more and more Church buildings became the home of institute classes.119

    Nonstudent Young Single Adults

    A topic that consumed more of the administration’s discussion time than possibly any other single issue over the years and especially during this period was the role of nonstudent young single adults in institute. What was their place? How vigorously should they be recruited? What impact, if any, would they have on decisions about building new facilities or allocating personnel resources?

    In 2001 some Church leaders began expressing concerns that “expanding institute to non-student young adults was requiring more resources than had been anticipated.” Administrator Paul V. Johnson was directed to work toward bringing together institute leaders and local ecclesiastical leaders to help with the problem.120

    In a February 2006 address to S&I educators, Commissioner W. Rolfe Kerr said:

    Our desire also is to expose all single students attending college, university, and other post-secondary schools to the offerings of the institute program or to the religion classes available in our Church institutions of higher education. Married students and their spouses are welcome as their time and circumstances allow. Nonstudent young single adults are also welcomed into our institute classes as their needs and interests may be served. At this time, however, it is not our role and it is not appropriate for us to actively and aggressively pursue those who are not students. Their enrollment in the institute should come from their own sense of need and desire to be involved. … Their enrollment should be primarily at their own initiative with appropriate advice and counsel from parents and priesthood leaders.121

    This created some confusion for S&I personnel and priesthood leaders about the target audience and expectation for institute enrollment. Priesthood leaders worldwide generally did not distinguish between post-secondary students and other young single adults, and this resulted in numerous questions from those leaders about providing institute for all YSAs of the Church.

    Institute Class in Japan

    Institute students with their institute director, Masanori Kudo (front right), and Assistant Administrator Randall L. Hall (back right) in Japan

    When Handbook 2: Administering the Church was published in 2010, it simply stated, “Young single adults are encouraged to enroll in institute classes.”122 This statement, coupled with 2011 modifications of Church policy, eliminated distinctions between student and nonstudent wards and created young single adult stakes.123 This led Chad H Webb to suggest that the time may be right to offer institute with the same degree of expectation to all young single adults, regardless of student status. He explained that all young adults, whether traditional students or not, faced tremendous pressures from secularism and decaying moral values in society. He expressed the difficulty in defining “a post-secondary student” and noted that “priesthood leaders [worldwide] tend[ed] not to differentiate between students and non-students and [often became] frustrated that Institute [was] not equally provided” to all YSAs. Brother Webb suggested that considering all these factors, “the time may have come to eliminate the distinction between students and non-student YSA.”124 The minutes from a March 9, 2011, meeting of the Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education note the following:

    [Brother Webb] proposed the following principles be formally recognized:

    • Institute of Religion classes [would] be provided for all YSA throughout the Church

    • All YSA [would] be encouraged to attend Institute

    • All YSA [would] be identified as potential Institute students and institute attendance [would] be reported to Priesthood leaders125

    This change would be consistent with the new Church handbooks relating to single members. The minutes continue:

    In making these proposals, [Brother Webb] pointed out the following related considerations:

    • A distinction should be recognized between campus-based and stake-based Institute programs …

    • The existing “coordinator model” for employee … allocations [would] be used for all stake-based Institute classes [including those along the Wasatch Front in the United States]

    • For stake-based Institute classes, S&I personnel [would] be responsible for weekday gospel instruction [through called teachers]; Priesthood leaders [would] be responsible for YSA activities and requesting the creation of stake Institute class[es].

    The Board discussed the proposal at some length, recognizing the need to reach out to and strengthen YSA throughout the Church, while cautiously limiting the financial impact on Church resources.126

    Following the discussion, this proposal was approved by the Board of Education, and a letter signed by the First Presidency was subsequently prepared and sent to appropriate priesthood leaders.127 It stated in part: “Weekday gospel study classes can help young single adults strengthen their faith and testimonies. All young single adults should be encouraged to attend institute classes, whether they are attending school or not. Stake and district presidents are authorized to establish stake-based institute classes to ensure that institute is available for all young single adults.”128

    Institute Student Associations

    During this period of redefining the role of the institutes, the purposes and effectiveness of institute-related organizations were examined as well. In June 2011 the Church Board of Education approved a recommendation that the few remaining chapters of Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi, along with all the chapters of the Institute Women’s Association (IWA) and the Institute Men’s Association (IMA), be discontinued. Although these organizations had remained strong in some areas, the overall number of programs and participants had declined significantly over the years.129

    While Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi had continued to provide “social, service, mentoring, and leadership opportunities,” the following concerns remained:

    1. Activities compete[d] with priesthood directed young single adult activities

    2. The cost of dues and activities create[d] an exclusive organization that some [were] not able to join

    3. A fraternity mindset sometimes result[ed] in activities that [did] not comply with institute policy and lack[ed] good judgment.130

    “With the establishment of young single adult stakes” and the diminished role of activities sponsored by the institutes, it was felt that the roles played by the sorority and fraternity and IMA and IWA could be filled by Relief Societies and priesthood quorums. This would also provide young adults with increased accountability to priesthood leaders. Initially the decision was “deferred, pending review and discussion by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.” A short time later the decision was made “to discontinue Institute Men’s and Institute Women’s Associations and Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi.”131

    Institute Class

    Institute students in Europe in 2004

    When asked about the difficult decision to end the LDS fraternities and sororities, Rory C. Bigelow, one of the assistant administrators, was quick to explain that the change did not come because the groups were unsuccessful or because of any dissatisfaction with the work carried out by the organizations. “The general feeling we have had is that they have been successful and done a great deal of good,” Brother Bigelow said. “In their time and place, they were a great blessing for young people.”132 The termination of these organizations, whose history stretched back almost to the origins of the institute program, was a painful break for many but reflected the commitment of Church leaders to tying young single adults more closely to local priesthood leaders.

    Institute Choirs and Performing Groups

    Institute choirs continued to be a part of many institute programs. In November of 2002 the Executive Committee “discussed the purpose of all CES performing group tours [as well as] safety issues and length of tours and asked that the Performance Group Committee reevaluate” their travel.133 A little over a year later the central office notified local administrators that “extended institute choir tours a distance of more than 250 miles from the institute” would no longer be approved. With this policy change a tradition of extended institute choir tours came to a close.134

    Still, a number of institutes had overlapping 250-mile circles of travel, and the amount of time and money spent for transportation, food, lodging, costumes, and pre-tour logistics trips continued to be a concern. With the explanation that an institute is not a university and does not have the same intent, obligation, or resources to develop artistic talent or provide training and performance opportunities for those with such abilities and interests, choir travel was reduced again and any performances that would require an overnight stay were discontinued. Choirs were to focus on blessing their particular institute and local communities.135

    Some institutes had also developed dance or drama groups, which had been originally organized by an interested and talented individual and had then become a tradition. These groups had been a blessing to many institute students and audiences over the years, but there continued to be a concern with the amount of time, energy, and money devoted to programs that typically accommodated only a very small percentage of the students and were not central to the purpose of the institute program. There was also concern that some of these programs conflicted with stake young single adult activities. Institutes were encouraged to phase out such programs over time when changes of assignment, retirement, etc., made that a reasonable possibility.

    These shifts in policy became part of a necessary streamlining of institute duties to allow a greater focus on enrolling more students and teaching them the restored gospel of Jesus Christ through the standard works and words of the prophets.


    Seminaries too adapted to changing circumstances. “Seminaries with a large number of council members [were asked to] reduce the number,” council meetings were to be “limited to a brief period of time just before or just after school,” and “the emphasis of seminary student councils [was to] shift from planning [and] carrying out activities to encouraging enrollment, attendance, completion in seminary, and scripture study.” It was decided that although the Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women organizations should lead out in activities for the youth, it was permissible to have “occasional seminary activities, such as morningsides, when endorsed by Priesthood leaders in local Church Education Boards.”136

    Seminary Students from Guatemala

    Seminary students in Guatemala

    In an increasing number of countries, seminary classes were held in the afternoon or evening or even on Saturday. However, seminary and institute classes were not to be held on Sunday. “The brethren,” Garry K. Moore said, “are adamant they don’t want it [seminary and institute] on Sunday.”137

    “In a number of small communities in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon, enrollments” continued to decline as populations dwindled. “Often parents and priesthood leaders in these communities [had] strong feelings about continu[ing] traditional released-time program[s], even when the number of students [made] it difficult to justify a full-time teacher, secretarial help or maintaining a building.” The Board approved a policy for these diminishing programs that listed various thresholds for providing a full-time or part-time teacher and maintaining a separate seminary building. These guidelines were shared with local priesthood leaders, and every effort was made to help them see that these resources were often desperately needed in other areas where there was growth. The youth in such situations transitioned to early-morning programs, and resources were shifted to accommodate growth in other areas.138 The effective teaching, love, and faithfulness of called teachers allowed S&I to make this decision knowing that students would continue to be blessed in their classes.


    One of the constant themes emphasized by all three administrators from 2001 to 2012 was the importance of enrolling more students. Seminary enrollment, which had steadily increased in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, diminished between 1997 and 2008, coinciding “with the declining population of the youth” in the Church. The decrease was particularly evident in areas of the United States where released-time seminaries existed.139 During this same period, the number of domestic CES employees was reduced, particularly in released-time areas, and a number of these positions were allocated to international areas to support the steady growth in enrollment there.140 Extensive use of volunteers, missionary couples, and student teachers also helped curtail the need for additional personnel.

    Seminary Class in Mexico

    Seminary students in Mexico with their teacher and with S&I coordinator Fernando Lagunes (left)

    Managing the human resources in a global organization was a constant challenge. This challenge was highlighted one year when there was a slight decrease in total enrollment for seminaries and institutes worldwide but area directors had requested a total of 40 additional positions for the coming year. In April 2008, after several years of discussion and various proposals, the administration established what was called the FTE Calculator, which gave suggested guidelines for what constituted a full load for seminary teachers, institute instructors, coordinators, and support staff positions. These guidelines allowed the S&I administration and local leaders to allocate personnel where the need was greatest.

    By September of 2011 the decline in the number of potential seminary students had reversed and it was felt that S&I could not “achieve greater efficiencies through further increasing [released-time] class sizes … without diminishing the quality of instruction.” Various options were discussed concerning how to best handle increasing enrollments, such as “reallocating existing [full-time employees] from church elementary and secondary schools or from central [office] support personnel” or having called teachers teach released-time seminary. Brother Webb indicated that S&I was willing to implement any of these options as directed by the Church Board of Education. After some discussion, the Executive Committee “concluded that the Seminary program [had] been very effective [over the years] and [was] needed to help the youth remain strong in the gospel.” For the present time “the Committee directed S&I to request the needed additional [personnel] in the annual budget process” and the requests would be reviewed each year.141

    One success story in enrollment came at Ben Lomond High School’s adjacent seminary in Ogden, Utah. Alan D. Mueller was in his 30th year of teaching when he was assigned to serve as the principal at Ben Lomond. When Brother Mueller inquired about seminary enrollment, he was informed that only 74 of the 1,000 students at the school had enrolled. Brother Mueller rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He remembered, “We felt [like] the key was the priesthood leaders. We met with each of the stake presidents … and asked them if we could meet with each bishop and go over their potential list.”142

    After speaking with the local bishops, Brother Mueller and the teachers he worked with began visiting homes in the area alongside local priesthood leaders, issuing personal invitations for students to attend. “We had high priest group leaderships, we had bishoprics, we had elder’s quorum presidencies, we had Young Men presidencies,” Brother Mueller recalled. “We just tried to go out two, three, four times a week, whatever we could fit in.” The visits soon began to bear fruit. “There was never a time that we went that mini miracles didn’t happen. The fact that we had someone from the ward with us that knew the family or whatever young man or young woman we were trying to get was huge, because I didn’t know anybody!”143

    By the beginning of the school year, enrollment rose to 138 students. During the school year, Brother Mueller worked to build a positive image for the seminary with the school counselors and to retain the students they had recruited in the summer. He remembered, “The interesting thing about going out and knocking on doors is that you kind of have a special interest. You’ll do anything you can to try and keep them. We really worked hard on retention.”144 “Within … 5 years … the seminary enrollment … increased from 74 students to 222 … enrolled students with an average of 5 convert baptisms each year. ‘Being a seminary teacher isn’t just an eight hour job,’ explained Brother Mueller.”145

    An Influence for Good

    The young people of the 21st century, some instructors commented, watched more television, spent more time with computers and computer games, sent and received countless text messages on mobile devices, and faced more challenges related to profanity, drugs, and pornography than had any previous generation. More young people came from “broken homes” and single-parent households. And of course, each generation seemed to have its own dress, music, dance, and social preferences that were different from those of the previous generation and sometimes at odds with gospel standards. Despite these difficulties, the youth and young adults of the Church who enrolled in seminary and institute found it to be a significant influence for good in their lives.

    One seminary coordinator in Pasco, Washington, wrote about a young man who walked in an institute building “covered in tattoos [but with] a huge smile on his face. He was instantly welcomed, started the missionary discussions and was soon baptized. … He called this week and asked if I would be a witness at his sealing since his father is not a member. Paydays like this are worth so much more than the salary I collect. I thank the Lord every day for the transforming power of His atonement and the opportunity He gives me to share it with these incredible young people.”146

    An early-morning teacher shared the following story with her stake president about a high school senior in her class who moved to a new area but wanted to continue attending his old seminary class. In order to attend seminary and then make it to school on time, he made a great sacrifice:

    [He] gets up at 3:15 every morning to get ready and catch the bus. He leaves his house at 4:20 am and walks a few blocks to the bus stop. He rides one bus for about 15 minutes, gets off and waits 15 minutes at the bus stop for the 2nd bus, which is another 10–15 minute ride. He gets off the 2nd bus and walks 4 or 5 blocks to the church. He arrives at seminary by 5:20 am, before any of the teachers, and has often had to walk and then wait in the rain, wind and cold. Then he has to wait 40 minutes for seminary which starts at 6 am. …

    He has 91% attendance, … and of course, no tardies. …

    [He] has served as our seminary class president this year. It has been a blessing to have a president who is such a great example.147

    In the Dominican Republic, the youth of the Santiago institute carefully planned a surprise service project for one of their class members. The young man was a returned missionary who lived in a shack next to a river. One report reads, “The institute student council organized an activity that could rival ‘Extreme Makeover,’ except in one day (instead of a week) they completely remodeled his house while he was at work. They totally removed the roof and replaced it with one of nice corrugated tin with a gabled pitch. They painted [the house] completely, inside and out, and when their fellow classmate returned from work, he found a totally different house; clean, painted, tidy and above all, full of warmth and happiness.”148

    Many students were more deeply influenced for good than was apparent while they were in seminary, and their interest in the gospel blossomed after their classroom experience. One young man who did his best to make things difficult for his seminary teacher, Sister Candis Harrington, wrote a letter of apology a few years after graduation in which he confessed, “I did hear you bear testimony of the Book of Mormon, and bear testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. … Partly because of you I’m preparing to go on a mission, because you wouldn’t give up.”149

    New Options

    In January 2005, CES leaders determined that “with the remarkable growth of the Church, we have a pressing need to evaluate how we can provide CES programs to a growing number of [seminary] students in a variety of settings.” Leaders were to examine e-learning and online course technologies. CES leaders commissioned a pilot study by a central office development team to determine if such a program was feasible. “One of the primary considerations of the study [was] to assure that new delivery systems [did] not compete with established programs or eliminate the social and spiritual aspects of face-to-face instruction between seminary teachers and students.”150

    The online environment was new territory for the seminary program, but early pilot programs soon began to highlight the value of this approach for some youth. A teacher involved in the online program shared the following about one of the students:

    This young woman suffers from depression and anxiety. She doesn’t sleep at night. School has become a full time challenge for her. She is in an area where early morning is offered but due to the severity of her condition she had both her doctor and her therapist tell her parents that early morning activities should be avoided as she needs all the sleep she could get. … When they found out about Online Seminary this young woman was ecstatic. It was an answer to prayer for both her and her parents. Now in the wee hours of the morning when she can’t sleep she is able to do her seminary work and be immersed in the scriptures with activities that promote a positive outlook on life. She is showing improvement in her mood and is seeing a difference in her life in both a spiritual and physical/emotional way.151

    Although some teachers never met their online students face-to-face, they still had a great impact for good. One parent, upon meeting his daughter’s teacher, said, “My daughter lived for your praise. … Sometimes when she was having such a hard time at school [the] one thing that she could count on was for you to lift her and praise her.”152 The teacher later admitted, “To this day, I wouldn’t know this girl if I saw her.”153

    Several years later, the Research Information Department of the Church conducted a study of the pilot program and shared the results, noting both the successes and challenges. Their conclusions were that online seminary was a viable alternative for those with transportation difficulties, health challenges, or scheduling conflicts. The pilot continued to expand and be refined until, in late 2012, a request was made to the Executive Committee of the Board of Education to take online seminary off pilot status and include it as one of the regular seminary delivery systems. The response was very favorable, and plans were made to submit the proposal to the full Board in 2013.154

    Curriculum Services

    With the four years of seminary curriculum having been rewritten from 1998 to 2001, institute curriculum was the main focus during the early years of the 21st century. Under the direction of Thomas R. Valletta, who was appointed director of curriculum services in 2003, the curriculum department developed a new institute course of study in the fall of 2004 titled The Gospel and the Productive Life. Both student and teacher manuals were made available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Originally these manuals, which focused on inspired counsel for both temporal and spiritual aspects of life, were approved and written for international areas to help students involved in the Perpetual Education Fund.155 Early in 2005 the revised missionary preparation course manuals were ready for printing, and funding was approved for their translation, printing, and distribution.156 The revision reflected the change in the philosophy of missionary work contained in Preach My Gospel.157 Scripture Study—The Power of the Word, an addition to the approved curriculum, was taught in many institutes.158 The Presidents of the Church Student Manual was updated and included a lesson on President Gordon B. Hinckley. The course came with a DVD that included each Church President bearing his testimony, with the voices of the earliest Presidents being reenacted.159 In 2009 a chapter on President Thomas S. Monson was added as a supplement to the manual.160

    Other revised courses were Eternal Marriage and Pearl of Great Price. New teacher and student manuals became available in 2009 for Religion 121–122, Book of Mormon.161 These manuals included updated quotations from the Brethren and were among the first published that placed greater emphasis on helping students identify, understand, and explain doctrines and principles found in the four standard works and that used methods that emphasized the Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning. A manual for Religion 333, Teachings of the Living Prophets, was prepared for 2010 especially so that students could study and glean truths from the messages of the prophets of this dispensation. In 2012, Religion 261, Introduction to Family History focused on the opportunities and methodologies of gathering personal genealogy and preparing names for temple ordinances. All of this great work represented the desire of the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion department to provide valuable insights and manuals that help build faith for students.

    Over the years, curriculum items such as instructional videos and teacher manuals had been “restricted from public distribution in an effort to increase teaching effectiveness by providing students with material not previously encountered. [This had] also allowed S&I to determine print quantities based on specific numbers of students and teacher[s].” While these restrictions had already “been removed from many S&I [audiovisual] and print materials,” in 2008 all remaining restrictions on teaching and training materials were removed, with the caution “to monitor orders on these materials to avoid increased printing costs in the event of increased member usage.”162

    In 2009 S&I introduced an approved Basic Doctrines document to help seminary teachers and students focus on core concepts of the restored gospel that every seminary graduate should understand and be able to explain.163 The list of scripture mastery passages was modified, more closely “aligning the scripture mastery program to the basic doctrines program [to] help students to focus more meaningfully on the key doctrines and principles of the gospel and … help them be better prepared to share the gospel with others.” The list of recommended scripture mastery changes was reviewed by leaders of the Young Women and Young Men programs along with the Church’s Missionary Department, all of whom “responded favorably [and] made several suggestions of additional scripture references” to consider.164 President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency also offered suggestions, including keeping 2 Nephi 32:3 and 2 Nephi 32:8–9 because he felt strongly that the students needed consistent reminders of the protection that comes from studying the scriptures and praying.165

    Beginning in 2011 the curriculum services division began planning a rewrite of the four courses for seminary, beginning with the Book of Mormon course to be taught in the fall of 2013. The teaching suggestions were to be aligned with the Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning. While these manuals were intended for all teachers—full-time, part-time, and called volunteers—they were especially written with the more than 40,000 called teachers in mind, realizing that their preparation time was limited and that a significant number of them had been members of the Church for only a short time. Brother Valletta commented, “The typical home-study teacher [out in the field] had the seminary home-study manual, had the teacher’s manual, had the institute manual for the substance, for the background or history—just too many things. … They even had separate media guides. … We were concerned about how much time it took to prepare.” The new manuals consolidated the information from these resources in one place to help streamline the teachers’ preparation. The new curriculum also included teaching tips designed to train new teachers in the Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning while they taught the curriculum.166

    The emphasis on the student’s role and the encouraged focus on the Basic Doctrines were also a main thrust of a new curriculum being developed for Young Women, Young Men, and youth Sunday School, titled Come, Follow Me. While the Come, Follow Me curriculum focused on teaching the gospel topically, with a focus on a basic doctrinal principle each month, seminary classes continued to teach the scriptures sequentially and enabled the youth “to discover and understand those same doctrines in the context of related truths in the scriptures and see them illustrated in the lives and teachings of individuals in the scriptures.”167 The timing of the Teaching and Learning Emphasis and the new youth curriculum following on the heels of the introduction of the Preach My Gospel approach to missionary work was especially significant because in the October 2012 general conference the missionary age was lowered to 18 for young men and to 19 for young women.168

    The new seminary curriculum also reflected a resolve by Church leaders to strengthen youth against the challenges of the digital age. Elder Paul V. Johnson reflected the need for this in an address to S&I teachers, saying, “In this age our youth and young adults are bombarded with information from many sources. Good and evil are available to everyone—on demand—even on handheld devices. The remarkable advances in technology and communication have opened new possibilities and have brought new challenges. Information is at our fingertips. In most cases there is no gauge as to the accuracy or quality of the information.”169

    The new curriculum was designed to prepare the youth by including certain doctrinal, historical, and social questions that would allow students to discuss difficult issues in Church history and doctrine in the faith-filled environment of a seminary classroom. Lessons addressed such topics as plural marriage, race and the priesthood, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Scholars from the Church History Department worked together with the S&I curriculum team to ensure the latest research was used in the preparation of the new lessons.170

    In the midst of these new efforts to assist students, the fundamental task of strengthening testimony through the scriptures remained the same. Elder Paul V. Johnson counseled S&I teachers that “the real protection for us and our students is in having the powerful spiritual knowledge that comes from proper seeking and learning and from past spiritual experiences.” He then quoted a passage from the Book of Mormon and explained that when the prophet Jacob was confronted by a detractor, he remained steadfast: “Since Jacob had had many revelations, had seen angels, and heard the voice of the Lord, he could not be shaken (see Jacob 7:5).”171

    Adapted Programs

    Seminaries and Institutes of Religion continued to reach out to students with disabilities. The CES Disabilities Guide, printed in 2001, stated: “Those enrolled in CES programs vary in intellectual and physical capabilities, and reasonable effort should be made to meet their individual needs. CES recognizes that ‘all the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement[.]’ … If we follow the Savior’s example, we will be able to reach all students in our classes, including those with disabilities.” The guide provided suggestions on teaching students with chronic health problems, intellectual handicaps, language and speech disorders, mental illness, impaired mobility, vision loss and blindness, hearing loss and deafness, and autism.172

    When John B. Weaver was asked to come into the central office as a manager over the special needs program of S&I, he was given instruction to remove the step-sister quality from the special needs program. During the next decade great strides were made in accomplishing that mandate and in bringing the special needs program more fully into the mainstream consciousness of seminaries and institutes.

    Brother Weaver helped implement better placement practices that included hiring a number of teachers with training and expertise in special needs and assigning a greater number of young teachers to help those with special challenges. He worked closely with other Church departments to improve the Church’s disabilities website and to more fully make available S&I materials in American Sign Language, audio, and Braille formats. Working with the curriculum division, he helped incorporate universal design principles to remove stumbling blocks to student understanding. S&I curriculum was eventually produced in standardized accessible formats and was placed on the Internet in such a way that curriculum resources could be transferred to formats appropriate to individual needs. Accessibility and design improvements were identified and built into several buildings during remodels and new construction projects. The acquisition and distribution of iPads for a number of adapted programs proved invaluable to many students and their learning experience.

    During these years the policy manual was updated to include needed direction on special needs issues; tracking and reporting software was modified to clearly indicate special needs classes and programs that were “hidden” previously; and important accommodation suggestions for special needs students were included in the Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook. A correlated disabilities awareness package was sent out to all domestic area directors, and training was given at the area directors’ convention.173

    During this time, the term adapted programs became the more common name for describing the work of this branch of seminaries and institutes. Each S&I area was to identify faculty members or others with experience, training, or interest in helping students with special needs. These individuals could be given specific teaching assignments or could serve as advisors for training others.

    Through the years CES leaders sought to adapt the program to meet students’ various needs. While most of the efforts were carried out in individual classrooms and even in homes, there were several “self-contained education programs” located near public schools for those with special needs. These programs had a principal, a few part-time teachers, and other positions staffed “with volunteers and missionaries.”174

    To help deaf students, S&I provided media with closed captioning, subtitles, and ASL interpretations. Other ways to help were explored, including producing a classroom experience available on DVD or a live broadcast for ASL students. Additional help for teaching the deaf came in 2008 with the hiring of Nathan Van De Graaff, who expanded the work of his predecessor, Richard D. Snow, in teaching deaf students across the country through videoconferencing technology. Brother Van De Graaff was assisted by several part-time and volunteer teachers, and the two broadcast studio/classrooms used for the videoconferences, located on the site of the original Granite seminary building, were often in simultaneous use because of the demand.

    In the fall of 2002 CES was “support[ing] adult and youth incarceration seminary and institute programs in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Oregon.” Some of these programs were outside the criteria for providing seminary and institute, which included students being of the appropriate age and the standard CES curriculum being used in lessons. Elder Paul V. Johnson recommended that programs outside of the criteria “shift to volunteer programs administered by local ecclesiastical units [with] CES [providing] interim supervision.”175 These recommendations were discussed by the Board of Education, where a concern was raised that this would add more to the load of local priesthood leaders. Elder Johnson “was directed to modify the proposal to use volunteers and missionaries supervised by CES employees rather than Priesthood leaders.”176

    While most adapted programs sponsored by S&I existed in the United States, some efforts were also made to teach those with special needs on the international front. Garry K. Moore recalled visiting with a group of such students during his time as administrator: “I was in Seoul, Korea and was asked to speak at the institute to a group of students. I don’t think they told me it was a group of deaf students and when I got there, I thought, ‘I’m in trouble. I don’t speak Korean, they don’t speak at all. I don’t sign and if I did sign, it’s not the same sign languages they use.’” Working through a missionary who spoke Korean and who could sign, Brother Moore spoke to the group in English, and the young man translated his message in Korean sign language. Brother Moore continued, “They would sign back and he’d do the reverse [to translate their message to me]. … I had tears running down my face. There was such a powerful Spirit there and yet I personally couldn’t say anything to them. So I have a very soft spot in my heart for those with special needs.”177

    New Directions in Media

    Over the years, the amount of media produced to support teaching created a large pool of resources for teachers to draw from, and making these resources accessible became almost as much a concern as the production of new media. Bruce L. Andreason, manager of Seminary and Visual Curriculum, working along with Andrew O. Horton, a teacher with a penchant for using new media, began brainstorming the best way to get media into the hands of teachers in the classroom. From those discussions the Old Testament Visual Resource library was conceived.178

    Instead of creating an entirely new media package, the visual curriculum team gathered already produced videos, artwork, short video quotations from General Authorities, and charts and graphs from the curriculum and made them available in DVD format. Some older videos were reedited to remove dated elements, and the team began work on a new set of videos to fill in areas of the curriculum with little or no media. Brother Horton recalled, “We came up with the idea for it, then we sat down with Elder Johnson and the whole council. … He liked the idea, but he said, ‘This is going to cost way too much. … Why don’t we approach the [Priesthood] curriculum department, and see if they would like to team up?’” The team approach allowed more funding for the project and gave S&I access to media produced by other Church departments for venues such as visitors’ centers and temple dedications.179

    Old Testament Visual Resource DVD

    Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs, 2007

    Working with other Church departments, the media team created a number of new videos focusing on several key episodes in the Old Testament and the Pearl of Great Price, including pieces on Moses 1, the story of King Josiah (see 2 Kings 22–24), and the story of Esther.180 When the Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs was completed, it became available in Church distribution centers for anyone to purchase at a minimal price. The final product, released in 2007, contained over 300 different visual resources for teachers, leaders, and families to use in studying and teaching the Old Testament.181

    After the Old Testament DVDs, the media team worked on a Church history resource DVD set. The media team negotiated with LDS filmmakers, such as T. C. Christensen, to purchase the rights to make new media pieces using footage from feature films such as Emma Smith: My Story and 17 Miracles. For example, footage from the Church visitors’ center film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration (2005) was recut to produce a piece on the life of Alvin Smith. Images, interactive charts, prophetic commentary, and PowerPoint quotations based on seminary curriculum were developed in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, with additional resources to follow.182

    The ever-changing world of technology also affected the way visual resources were distributed. VHS distribution was discontinued in 2003, and distribution domestically and internationally moved to DVD format and then toward Internet delivery. With all of the visual resources available, teachers were reminded that such presentations should always “directly contribute to the purpose of the lesson,” “be used sparingly,” and not violate copyright laws.183

    Training Changes

    While in-service training continued to be emphasized and carried out on local and area levels, there were some changes in the systemwide efforts to train and strengthen teachers. When the annual CES conference was opened to volunteer teachers, it soon became large and expensive. There were over 10,000 participants in 2002, and that number did not include any of the S&I international employees. Later that year, Elder Paul V. Johnson recommended to the Board of Education that consideration be given to canceling the conference. With no further discussion the Board “approved the cancellation of the CES Annual Religious Education Conference, effective immediately.”184

    Elder Johnson later remembered, “I could sense from the commissioner [Henry B. Eyring] and the board that they would really like to take a look at programs we had out there, and be careful [with] anything that involved travel or extra budget or something—reevaluate everything and see if there were things that we could back off of, which is always a difficult thing.” The annual conference had been a beloved tradition for many seminary and institute teachers, but Elder Johnson felt this experience with the Board taught him one of the most valuable lessons he learned during his tenure as an administrator. “I loved those [conferences] and I thought they were very helpful and very useful. … Sometimes we have [to] make a decision on something. … Our whole heart and soul loves that thing, and we have to make the decision.”185

    In 2003 the conference was replaced by a satellite training broadcast held in August. This annual broadcast generally consisted of two hours of talks and panel discussions by members of the Church Board of Education and the S&I administration. While several of the local faculties were invited to the live broadcast at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, most S&I personnel viewed the broadcast in their own areas, often accompanied by additional in-service activities.

    Church History Workshops

    S&I professional development tours also underwent some revamping during this period. With workshops to the Holy Land having been cancelled, attention was focused on the Church history workshops. The previous “two-and-a-half week Church History tour taken every four years [by S&I was] replaced by annual Church History workshops [alternating] each year between [Church history] sites in the Northeast and in the Midwest[ern United States].”186

    Each workshop lasted six days. Thomas R. Valletta, one of the first directors involved, recalled, “We wanted a lot of participation. … We wanted to have people directing these [workshops] that weren’t necessarily trained or polished tour directors, but that had a love of Church history.” Robert E. Lund, the project manager in charge of writing manuals for the workshops, explained the relationship between the workshops and the classrooms: “They wanted as many of the revelations [in the Doctrine and Covenants] covered [as possible]. The revelations guided the destinations and the material. We did cover Church history, but the backbone of the workshop should be the revelations because that is what is going back to the classroom.”187 The workshops began in 2007 under the direction of the curriculum services division. After several years of operation, responsibility over the workshops was transferred to the training division.188

    Brother Valletta described his personal experience and the impact of the Church history workshops: “There is a spirit of [the] place, a sacredness. … Knowing that the Father and His Son appeared in … the Kirtland Temple, that the keys were delivered—there’s a sacredness of the place.”189

    Brother Lund also testified of the impact of personally visiting Church history sites: “I [had] a testimony of the Father and the Son appearing to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove before I went [there], but to stand there, the physical site, the [Holy Ghost] bore witness to me [of the First Vision]. … Each of the sacred places that I went to … allowed for the Spirit to reconfirm and bear witness again that these were real events, and they were true. … I want[ed] to study those things more after I left.”190

    Employment Practices

    Issues relating to hiring and employment standards surfaced several times during the administrations of Brothers Johnson, Moore, and Webb. In a 2007 training meeting Garry K. Moore reminded teachers, “No matter how bright, talented, knowledgeable, or charismatic we may be, if we are not worthy, we will not have the Spirit, and without the Spirit we cannot and will not be … able to teach.”191 Teachers were occasionally reminded that full-time CES employment requirements included being worthy of a temple recommend, never having “been disfellowshipped or excommunicated” from the Church, never having “been convicted of a felony,” having a history of meeting financial commitments, and never having been divorced. Mothers with minor children in the home were not eligible for employment as full-time teachers. The rare exceptions to any of these situations were made on a case-by-case basis.192 Employment could “be discontinued with or without cause at any time,” as S&I was an “at will” employer.193

    Annual Contracts

    In December of 2003 the tight-knit family of S&I was abuzz with rumors about a major change to be announced at a special broadcast. Addressing the rumors with some humor, Elder Paul V. Johnson began his address by saying, “I realize there has been some heightened interest in this broadcast this evening and because of that there have been a number of rumors circulating. In fact it has been fascinating to hear how much variety there has been in these rumors.” Elder Johnson then proceeded to name 10 rumors heard among the teachers. The list ranged from “There will be no more new hires—ever,” to a merit pay system based on student scores, to “We are going on a twelve month contract.” Elder Johnson even addressed one of the most outrageous rumors: “We are closing down all released-time programs. One purported reason for this is that Burger King made us an offer on all our seminary buildings because of the prime location next to schools and we just couldn’t refuse the offer.” Following this statement, several members of the administration sitting on the stand immediately donned cardboard crowns from Burger King.194

    Finally ending the tension, Elder Johnson announced, “Beginning January 1st, 2004, full-time teachers and administrators in the United States will be on twelve month letters of appointment rather than the current 10 month letters of appointment.” Clarifying the reasons behind the change, Elder Johnson added, “Almost 20 years ago the board approved a summer employment option in order to increase teacher effectiveness, attract and retain outstanding teachers and do more for students. This move to a 12 month appointment encourages an even deeper commitment to do these things. We view religious education as a year round effort. You are professionals.”195

    Prior to this time, most S&I teachers on the Wasatch Front held a ten-month contract and were allowed to choose to participate in eight weeks of optional summer employment. Now all employees were asked to work during the full year. Garry K. Moore later commented on the change, saying, “It was only the [United States] that was not on the twelve month contract. … We [were] trying to find better ways to utilize the tremendous resource we have of released time teachers and [teachers from larger institutes] by having more summer classes taught, using them on special projects or other things that we don’t have the luxury of doing during the school year. Across [the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion] outside the Wasatch Front it is a twelve month job of necessity.”196

    In areas where released-time seminaries predominated, teachers during the summer months were asked to enroll more students, improve their teaching skills, increase their knowledge of the scriptures and of gospel principles and doctrines, and participate in inservice activities.197Compensation and Placement

    In September 2011, after a number of months of discussion, salary administration in the United States changed from one “based on years of service and educational degrees, to the Church’s grade-level compensation strategy, with grade levels for religious educators based on qualifications rather than position.” While educational degrees and the number of years an individual had worked for S&I continued to be part of the equation, other qualifications included newly available S&I certifications for improvement in such areas as “teaching skills, [course] content mastery, administrative competence and leadership.” Chad H Webb “explained that the purpose of the … change [was] to incentivize S&I teachers and leaders to become more effective employees,” while recognizing the important contribution of all religious educators regardless of their position and “preserving the ability to rotate teachers and other employees to positions according to system and individual needs” without creating financial hardships by lowering salaries when someone was reassigned from a position of leadership.198

    Along with finances, the placement process was of high interest to employees. Balancing the needs of S&I programs with personnel abilities, the desires of individuals and families, and the financial implications for the Church and individual families was a complex and challenging endeavor. One chairman of the placement council said, “Knowing the implications for individuals and their families, placement sessions were always begun with some of the most earnest prayers offered in the Central Office.”199

    By 2012 S&I had begun to hire more coordinators locally and move people less frequently because of requests from the Church Board of Education to reduce moving costs, increase the stability of programs, and minimize disruptions to families. Previously, employees often anticipated a change of location after four or five years. As the program had expanded, existing CES employees in Utah and other intermountain states had been sent out to begin programs in other areas of the U.S. as well as in other countries. The pattern of sending experienced teachers from the West and then bringing them back after a few years became an expectation for many. Changing this expectation was a significant shift in the S&I culture.200

    Called Teachers and Missionaries

    Called teachers and CES missionaries continued to play a very important role in S&I. Thousands of “teachers and part-time Church service missionaries” and hundreds of “full-time missionaries with an S&I assignment” responded to the call to serve. Without their assistance, the Church Educational System could not have followed the Church into all the world, nor would religious educational experiences have been nearly as rich. The number of volunteer teachers and part-time missionaries increased by 6,256 from 2001 to 2012, while the number of full- and part-time administration, faculty, and staff showed an increase of 211 from 2001 to 2010.201

    S&I Missionaries in Nigeria

    S&I missionary couples and CES employees in Nigeria

    Area directors and full-time coordinators received the assignment to assist these volunteers, train them on teaching methods and skills appropriate to S&I classrooms, and encourage them to focus more on teaching doctrines and principles anchored in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. Called teachers and missionaries were also asked to assist in recruiting students, visit those who had stopped coming to class, chaperone socials, and assist in keeping the buildings clean.

    For many years these volunteer seminary and institute teachers had been appointed by S&I personnel after consultation with local priesthood leaders, who recommended potential teachers and cleared them for worthiness. After a recommendation from Brother Garry K. Moore, which was readily approved by the Church Board of Education, the process was modified so that volunteer teachers were “called, set apart, and released by or under the direction of local stake presidents,” after consulting with S&I personnel. Orientation, materials, and inservice training continued to be provided by S&I. These were stake rather than ward callings in order to foster greater continuity and facilitate administration of mixed-ward classes. The First Presidency sent a letter on June 12, 2008, to all “General Authorities, Stake, Mission, and District Presidents; Bishops and Branch Presidents” explaining the new policy.202

    The dedication and commitment of these teachers was typified by a teacher in the Kwa Magxaki institute in South Africa. This teacher was a widow and the mother of three children, and though partly paralyzed from a stroke, she walked to her chapel class constantly smiling and through her love and care changed her students’ lives for good. Another African instructor, “a recent convert … and cancer patient … walked one and a half hours to the chapel to teach” her students. She cleaned the rental hall and, after teaching, walked home, sometimes not arriving until it was almost dark.203

    Toni Franklin

    Toni Franklin, in New Orleans, was just one of the thousands of dedicated volunteer seminary teachers in the Church.

    For many teachers, being involved in seminary helped them as much as it did their students. Toni Franklin, for example, was a refugee from Hurricane Katrina when she first came into contact with the Church. She was eventually baptized and found some solace in the gospel. In the years following the storm, as she was still reeling from the loss of nearly all of her worldly possessions, her mother and brother passed away, which contributed to growing doubts about the gospel. With her closest family gone and still recovering from her losses in the hurricane, she was left depressed and destitute. She remembered, “One day … the bishopric came to visit me … and they said, ‘Toni, we would like you to be the seminary teacher,’ and I said, ‘Are y’all crazy?’ … [But] I remember … very clear that you do not turn a calling down because it was literally God calling.” She accepted but was overwhelmed with the idea of taking on a calling when she was so new to the gospel.204

    “Sister Toni,” as she came to be known to her students, later said, “It probably was the best thing that ever happened to me. It probably saved my sanity. It forced me to get up off the sofa. It forced me to clean. It forced me to join the world again.” Diving into the scriptures began to bring about a great change in her heart. “I was more awestruck than the kids,” she remembered. “Every now and then I would go ‘Check this out! Did you see this!’ … It was exciting and I think my excitement excites them.” Sister Toni soon found herself devoting herself to gospel study and drawing closer to her ward and her students. She later reflected, “I’ve watched these children grow. … I don’t have biological children, but these are my children.” She made her students treats on holidays, bought ties for them, even chased all over New Orleans to find one of her students’ favorite treats, and every weekday from 6:10 to 7:00 a.m. taught them the gospel.205

    Keeping Up with New Technology

    Advancement in technology was one of the key triggers for change in the first decade of the new century. In 2003 Elder Johnson “proposed that CES provide computers with Internet access to all CES faculty members” in order to:

    1. Use CES applications for enrollment, human resources, finance, and physical facilities

    2. Communicate with administration, volunteer teachers, and priesthood leaders

    3. Have access to the [S&I website]

    4. Use computer and internet-based training

    5. Have access to the online curriculum materials and to facilitate lesson preparation206

    It was decided that computers could “be provided for CES coordinators, institute directors, and seminary principals [and for] faculty members on a shared basis.”207 A survey one year later “show[ed] that the computers [were] being used extensively and that greater access” was being requested.208

    A type of pre-Christmas gift greeted teachers on December 9, 2005, when they learned that all full-time seminary and institute faculty members would be provided with a computer.209 Teachers were required to sign an “Electronic Communication Agreement” before accessing the Internet. This agreement stated that the employee would “live the moral standards of the Church.” Furthermore, the agreement gave permission for the Church to “access, … when appropriate, … all messages created, sent, or received electronically.” There was a no-tolerance policy put in place regarding pornography.210

    In 2005 Internet access was approved for students “with appropriate ‘fire wall’ controls … in place” in institute buildings.211 A pilot study conducted at the Price, St. George, and Logan, Utah, institutes indicated that students appreciated the access and even spent more time at the institutes interacting with each other. Beginning in 2006 there was a gradual rollout of Internet access to institutes around the world.

    Technological advancements also significantly changed the production and appearance of S&I products. Instead of the traditional print-and-distribute model, by 2012 materials were also prepared for online, mobile, and tablet devices. This created some challenges, as some areas of the world were technologically advanced while others were not. The ongoing goal was to distribute materials on time and in the form that would best help teachers and students in the gospel learning process.

    New Software for Administering

    Another example of technological advancements is the substantial investment made to develop software products to help collect student information, track personnel, communicate with and train employees, send reports to priesthood leaders, and manage CES properties and buildings. In 2002 the Decision Support System (DSS) data warehouse software application was built. It achieved the vision of a software application that had been proposed seven years earlier. CHIEF, as the earlier product was called (Church Headquarters Information Exchange Facility), was to gather and display information about student enrollment, personnel, buildings, and budgets for each seminary and institute program. It was to relate this data to Church membership data, compute trend lines, and predict future enrollments and needs for teachers and buildings. CHIEF was worked on for several years at significant expense but was never implemented.

    As part of this effort, software developers were given the goal of creating a simple way for S&I teachers to share information with priesthood leaders. One of the key software programs created was Worldwide Institute and Seminary Enrollment (WISE), which was designed to provide an efficient system for priesthood leaders to help identify potential institute students and to make seminary and institute enrollment, attendance, and graduation information maintained by S&I easily accessible to priesthood leaders. Work on WISE began in 2006. It also promised an improved student registration process, the ability to share needed information with other Church departments, and the option for students to access their own institute information online. Later, approval was given to modify the Church tracking programs in order to transmit potential students’ information to WISE for use by S&I personnel. In turn, WISE allowed S&I to transfer enrollment, attendance, and graduation progress information to priesthood leaders. By 2012 WISE replaced a number of earlier applications and achieved implementation in nearly 500 institutes and over 400 seminaries.

    The CES website, which came to be called “The Educator,” continued to expand and was the repository for a myriad of information and resources. Accessing the website, S&I personnel could find the Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, seminary and institute teacher and student manuals, an expanded Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook, talks by General Authorities and S&I administration over the years, videos of global faculty meetings, the policy manual, and the personnel directory. Also available were memos and announcements, news relating to S&I, annual reports, and information and forms relating to human resources, finances, reports, and assessments.212

    Social Media

    As social media usage continued to increase in the culture at large, important questions arose concerning its use in the Church and specifically in S&I. After some discussion, approval was given for “a Church-wide institute Facebook page under the supervision of the Church Internet Committee, and approval for local institute Facebook pages [that] follow[ed] Church Internet [Committee] guidelines [with] oversight from S&I coordinators” was also granted.213 By 2012 “over 150 institute programs, domestic and international, [had] started a local Facebook page, to reach out to the young single adults in their respective areas.” In October of that year, the seminary program established “their ‘LDS Seminary’ Facebook page.” By the end of 2012 “these two sites [had] over 113,000 likes” and “the S&I Facebook posts reach[ed] all around the world in many different languages,” with the greatest use being in the U.S., Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and Chile.214

    The initial purpose of using Facebook was … for recruitment purposes. … Because of a concern with [teachers] having direct communication with minors, Seminary programs were not authorized to have social networks until 2012, when policies were put in place to avoid direct and possible inappropriate online communication with seminary age students. [By 2012] well over 200 released-time seminary programs [had created] a page. And, countless stake seminary classes, under the direction of local priesthood leaders, [began] to participate as well. …

    … A global Twitter account [was also] created. … On April 23, 2012, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion tweeted for the first time. … According to the March 26, 2012 policy change in social networks, the use of social networks is permitted in seminaries and institute programs. This … opened the door to reaching more students via additional social networks like: Yammer, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc. …

    … Many seminaries and institutes post[ed] inspirational quotes and approved pictures, as well as announcements of upcoming events. In addition to dispensing information, these pages [provided opportunities for students to] share their own experiences about seminary and institute. … The goal [was] to reach as many people as [possible], in hopes that they [would] feel the Spirit of [seminary and institute] and have a desire to participate.215

    Shared Services and Shared Use

    A review of Church departments performed by an outside firm in 1995 showed that “significant portions of the Church’s business structure had become … compartmentalized” because each department was trying “to meet all of its needs internally.”216 In an effort to correct the redundancies created by this compartmentalization, “Brother Johnson was encouraged to … ‘get CES out of everything possible’ in order to more fully focus on teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This directive resulted in many transfers of not just responsibilities but also personnel. “Over the decade many [positions, including purchasing, editing, and some physical facilities–related functions] were transferred to other Church departments” or became redundant. Nearly 500 employee positions were transferred to other Church departments. “The majority of the transfers happen[ed] internationally, many connected with the Church schools in Mexico and the Pacific.”217 Bringing trained professionals in information technology, human resources, and physical facilities from other Church departments into S&I further developed the concept of shared services and encouraged closer cooperation with other departments of the Church.218

    In the spring of 2002 Elder Johnson “reviewed the CES facility operating guidelines” with the executive committee and the Board. He explained that the close working relationship “with the Church’s Facilities Management Department (FMD) [would] eliminate any redundancies in facilities related work such as construction planning and management, purchasing furnishings and supplies and custodial maintenance.” He also recommended that “meetinghouse plans be modified to better accommodate seminary and institute needs with classrooms designated as shared-use for CES programs.” He pointed out that “some institutes, due to location and size, [would] require independent facilities.”219 In the years that followed, S&I first looked to use available classroom and office space in meetinghouses before recommending new construction.

    In the central office, the CES Physical Facilities division that started in 1984 with just two individuals had eventually grown to a staff of 16. With the concept of shared use, many of the functions performed by S&I were now to be handled by the Church Facilities Management Department, and the central office staff was reduced. By 2004 most of the staff returned to assignments teaching in seminaries and institutes, having provided a valuable service to CES and the Church during an important time of transition.220

    Collaborative Efforts

    The twenty-first century also saw a number of changes in S&I interactions with other Church entities, especially in partnerships related to literacy, continuing education, the Perpetual Education Fund, Outreach centers, and the Pathway program.


    After a number of years of S&I direct participation in the Church’s literacy efforts, in 2006 Elder Johnson “requested that the coordination, oversight and implementation of the literacy effort [be] assumed by the Priesthood Department to align with the statement from the 1998 [Church] Handbook of Instructions[:] Stake presidents and bishops oversee the literacy effort in coordination with Relief Society leaders. They discuss literacy efforts with Relief Society leaders and in stake and ward council meetings.”221 Up until this time, all literacy materials were ordered through CES personnel. This change allowed local units to order the needed materials directly from the Distribution Center. The Board of Education approved the request, and all literacy funds were transferred from CES to the Priesthood Department along with the responsibility for literacy, thus concluding a significant CES initiative.222

    Continuing Education

    Since the early days of Stanley A. Peterson’s involvement in CES administration, S&I and BYU Continuing Education had been closely linked. Many seminary and institute teachers had been teaching and directing in various Continuing Education programs such as Especially for Youth, BYU Education Week, and Know Your Religion. Due to this close relationship, CES employees were even granted up to 12 paid days per year to participate in Continuing Education programs.223

    In the November 2003 meeting of the Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education, Elder Johnson and Richard C. Eddy, the dean of Continuing Education, “review[ed] the decreasing attendance at Know Your Religion programs … and … the costs involved.”224 The Know Your Religion program “began in 1953 and, over its fifty-one years, served more than 3 million patrons.” Its popularity peaked in 1992, when over 110,000 students were enrolled, but by 2003 the program was in decline and had only 64,437 enrolled.225 “With the increase in [the availability of] LDS religious materials and broadcasts” on television and the Internet, the program had been dwindling in popularity and was no longer self-sustaining. The recommendation was made to phase out the program by 2006.226 The Board, deciding there was no real reason to wait, discontinued the program on June 1, 2004.227

    Another of the Continuing Education programs closely aligned with S&I was Especially for Youth. The EFY focus each summer was on the book of scripture to be studied in seminary the coming fall and included classes, workshops, devotionals, dances, recreation, and service activities for the youth who attended. This program had increased in popularity in the United States and spilled over into international areas as well, where the opportunity to gather with a significant number of other LDS youth was a unique blessing for the participants.

    In 2006 pilot programs were held in Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, and Mexico City.228 With the understanding that the pilots were to become local priesthood programs, not a CES program,229 there were dozens of such conferences held in various places around the world by 2012.For many years those in Continuing Education who dealt with Education Week, Know Your Religion (KYR), Especially for Youth (EFY), and Adult Religion classes had reported both to S&I and BYU administrators. Garry K. Moore explained to the Board of Education that “in recent years KYR and stake Education Days have been discontinued.” While relationships between the two entities were very good, S&I had gradually ceased to play a “significant role in the strategy, planning or programming, curriculum, [and] staffing” of Continuing Education programs and had “reduced involvement in publicity, registration and collecting tuition for Adult Religion classes.” In the spring of 2008 Brother Moore made the recommendation to the Church Board “that the dual reporting line … be discontinued, and all continuing education programs supervised … by the Division of [Continuing Education] report only to the administration of BYU.” The recommendation was approved, and this significant partnership was dissolved.230

    Perpetual Education Fund

    In a general conference address in April 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley introduced the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). Calling the program a “bold initiative” to help youth in developing areas “rise out of the poverty they and generations before them have known,” he spoke of returned missionaries and other “ambitious young men and women” who had great capacity but meager opportunities. Many of them found it very difficult to obtain employment that allowed them to care for their families and have the time and means to contribute to the building up of the kingdom. The Perpetual Education Fund was to help meet that need. The fund’s model was the 19th-century Perpetual Emigrating Fund, which allowed many Saints to emigrate from Europe to Utah through loans provided through donations from Church members. After recipients were established and earning a living, they repaid the loans plus “a small amount of interest,” putting money back in the fund to help others.231

    PEF Students in Chile

    Perpetual Education Fund students in Chile

    In his address President Hinckley said, “We have an excellent institute program established in these countries where [young adults] can be kept close to the Church. … It is expected that these young men and women will attend institute, where the director can keep track of their progress.”232

    After the announcement, CES leaders discussed how the Perpetual Education Fund would affect the International Education Fund, a program that had been a part of CES for nearly 30 years. Even if no new loans were approved, the fund would still need $3.3 million to fulfill commitments to students who had already entered the program. In late April 2001 a memo was sent to area directors outside the U.S. and Canada announcing that students currently receiving assistance from the IEF could continue to submit additional applications for up to three years. The remaining funds were transferred to PEF.233

    As the Perpetual Education Fund grew and the number of students blessed by the program increased from hundreds to thousands, S&I institute directors, coordinators, and support staff put in extra hours to accommodate the increased workload. For many staff members, this was carried out willingly without any additional pay for the extra hours because they wanted to give the students a chance to succeed.234 S&I was involved in conducting orientation firesides, teaching PEF principles, helping students complete a Planning for Success workbook, and teaching the Gospel and the Productive Life course. Coordinators and institute directors also guided students through the PEF loan application process, helped them start school, notified applicants if approved, hand delivered checks to various institutions, and monitored and encouraged participants by making sure they attended institute, stayed active, and regularly reported their progress. CES personnel were also asked to find and train PEF volunteers. A study indicated that PEF involvement added 5 to 25 hours per week to an individual’s existing workload. As early as March 2002 President Eyring, then still serving as Commissioner of Church Education, recognized the extra load for S&I and “reported that it [would] be necessary to call volunteers, both local and missionaries, to assist institute directors in administering PEF.”235

    For a number of years there were attempts to simplify the PEF application and reduce the red tape involved, giving more responsibility to the applicant, priesthood leaders, and volunteers. But progress was slow and the same issues kept resurfacing. In 2008 several full-time PEF coordinators were hired to direct the work and respond to questions in various areas around the world, and some loan application specialists were set in place as well. A number of call centers and help desks were instituted, some more effective than others. In most places, however, S&I continued to be the face of PEF for local priesthood leaders and members and even provided the cars and computers for the PEF missionaries’ use.

    The fundamental question underlying S&I’s involvement with PEF was whether PEF was part of S&I’s core work of teaching the gospel to the youth and young adults or whether it was something additional. The different viewpoints on this issue resulted in some challenging and at times frustrating discussions. A meeting in 2007 with the administration of both S&I and PEF included a spirited exchange on the question. There was a marked difference of opinion. S&I administrator Garry K. Moore and the rest of the S&I administration felt that PEF was clearly not part of the S&I focus on teaching the gospel to youth and young adults, while PEF leaders felt strongly that it was and had acted on that assumption. Added to the unique relationship between S&I and PEF was the fact that both the commissioner and the administrator of S&I served on the PEF board.

    In 2011 Chad H Webb met with the PEF leadership and again expressed the continuing concern about the extra workload and hours worked without pay. It had become obvious that additional personnel were needed, but there was a question of who would request the additional positions. Eventually, these concerns were again taken to the PEF Board for clarification. Brother Webb pointed out that for many years S&I personnel, especially secretaries, had supported PEF responsibilities by absorbing increasing workloads without compensation or additional staffing. This additional workload had now become burdensome and prevented some essential S&I work from being done.236

    When the PEF Board asked why the PEF Committee did not fund this work from the generous donations available, the response was that PEF was trying to operate with minimal overhead, as it felt it was directed to do. The Board expressed the sentiment that S&I and other Church departments had performed a valuable service to PEF while the program had been in its beginning stages, but that it was time for necessary operational resource requirements to be identified and requested by PEF administrators. Subsequently the First Presidency appointed a committee including several General Authorities to research the situation and present recommendations for the future administration of PEF. In September of 2012 the committee returned with a recommendation that would place PEF in a larger context of the Welfare Department and would greatly reduce the role of S&I. This change began to be implemented in some areas in 2012.237

    Disagreements over the administration of PEF had not diminished the program’s positive impact on thousands of young Latter-day Saints around the world. Among these was Héctor, a convert to the Church at the age of 18, who served in the Chile Concepción Mission and then began studying educational psychology. He later said, “After a year of school, I applied for a loan through the Perpetual Education Fund. … Thanks to this loan, I was able to complete my studies, start a family, and serve the Lord at the same time.” As Héctor progressed in school, he and his wife both made sacrifices of time and money to ensure he completed his education as quickly as possible. They drew inspiration from an admonition found in a hymn that “‘sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven’ (‘Praise to the Man,’ Hymns, no. 27).” After he completed his degree, Héctor felt an obligation to give back, saying, “Through the PEF, I was truly able to see that the Lord fulfills His promises when we do what He asks of us. This is also why I see it as a great responsibility to make my loan payments so that other young people may receive the blessings I have received.”238

    Another young man, Tyson, was living nearly destitute in Kenya when he contacted the PEF missionaries. “Tyson was orphaned soon after birth and contracted polio as an infant. He spent his first two years in a bed in a baby orphanage. For the next 20 years, until getting braces on his legs, Tyson’s mobility was severely restricted. His legs have no strength, so he walks using hand crutches, swinging his braced crippled legs forward as he goes. Tyson is very small, but manages to walk long distances, including up and down stairs, on his crutches.” With no family to assist him, even his survival was miraculous. When Tyson approached the local PEF missionaries in 2008, he was completely without financial resources and dressed in rags. With the help of the PEF funds and missionaries, he enrolled at Augustana University, one of the best schools in Kenya. He excelled in his studies and was even elected student body president. At the same time, he served as the “secretary of the Melchizedek Priesthood group in his ward and ward building representative. … [He was] performing at the top of his class in information technology [with] almost limitless opportunities” opening for him. He told PEF representatives that “he [was] ‘one of the luckiest men alive.’”239

    Outreach Centers

    Another program that affected the institutes of religion, especially in Europe, took hold after the turn of the century. In June 1997 Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was visiting a university in Trondheim, Norway, and noticed a bulletin board that had information about where the Catholic and Lutheran students could meet but nothing about the Latter-day Saints. He turned to Bernt Lundgren, the mission president, and asked, “How many missionaries are assigned to this university?” The answer was none. Elder Nelson went on to share his feelings that the young adult age group would be the “most fertile ground for converts.” Upon returning home, Elder Nelson shared with the Brethren his experiences and impressions. He even recommended funding be made available to purchase what was necessary to create several gathering places for young adults, and outreach centers were established in a few locations, starting in Germany.240

    This outreach initiative to YSAs around the world gained momentum and was moved forward in a significant way by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, whom President Gordon B. Hinckley had asked to serve as the Europe Central Area President in 2004. Elder Perry reported that after President Hinckley asked him to go to Central Europe as the Area President, “he woke up in the middle of the night with a very significant revelation.” It was made known to him that the future strength of the Church in Central Europe would be among the age group 18–30 and that was where the missionary success would be achieved.241 Acting on this inspiration, the Europe Central Area Presidency encouraged the outreach initiative, which built on existing institute programs and aimed to reactivate and strengthen the young single adults of the Church and to increase the number of converts from that age group.242

    By November 2004 “five outreach centers [had] been established in Europe. … These centers included stake involvement, support from full-time missionaries and [missionary] couples, a CES institute program and a ‘gathering place’ atmosphere to bring young adults together. Some baptisms and reactivations and increased social” opportunities for the young single adults came about as a result. Elder Perry, “anxious to expand this model to other locales,” soon “approved 15 more stakes for outreach centers.”243

    According to general guidelines drafted in 2008, “the name of the outreach centers [was] changed to ‘Centers for Young Adults’”244 and the following responsibilities were assigned:

    Area Presidencies [were to]

    • Oversee the outreach and missionary efforts …

    • Counsel with mission presidents, the CES area director, and the [area Director of Temporal Affairs]

    S&I Personnel [were to]

    • Provide religious instruction …

    • Support outreach and missionary efforts at the outreach center

    • Coordinate activities and funding of activities with local Priesthood leaders and YSA councils245

    Three years later these centers had spread throughout Europe and eventually numbered over one hundred. By then similar programs, with a variety of guidelines, had surfaced in a few places in Africa, Canada, and even in the United States. In July 2012 the First Presidency sent a letter to General Authorities, Area Seventies, and priesthood leaders in the Europe Area announcing significant modifications in “the policies governing Centers for Young Adults,” bringing the centers into harmony with existing Church programs. Key points of the letter included that the name “center for young adults” was to be discontinued and the name “stake young single adult program” used instead, and that “existing guidelines for young single adult programs and for institutes of religion” were to be used. “Stand-alone facilities for young single adult programs” were not to be requested, and existing facilities were to be discontinued as circumstances allowed. Instead, “Church buildings such as chapels and institute facilities [were] to be used as gathering places for young single adult programs, activities, and institute classes.” “Where appropriate, local leaders [could] combine the institute of religion advisory council with ward and stake young single adult committees to avoid duplication and scheduling conflicts.” It was hoped that the cooperation between various Church entities would continue and the program would continue to bless the lives of the young single adults.246

    The Pathway Program

    In January 2009, after several years of discussion, President Kim B. Clark of BYU–Idaho received approval to pilot a program intended to provide more young people with Church-based educational opportunities by establishing an educational outreach option for LDS youth who had not planned to attend college or who desired to receive minimal vocational training. Christened the Pathway Program, this option coupled online courses from BYU–Idaho with religious education and gathering opportunities available at local institutes of religion.247 “Pathway classes [were] conducted online, but students also gather[ed] in small groups at least weekly at their local Institute of Religion to work on course assignments and collaborate.”248

    Classes began in September 2009 in Nampa, Idaho; Mesa, Arizona; and New York City, New York. Early experiences proved positive, and in April 2010 additional pilot sites were approved in the United States, and, after exploratory visits by BYU–Idaho and S&I personnel, permission was given to operate one pilot site in Mexico and one in Ghana. By the fall of 2011 there were 24 Pathway sites in the U.S. as well as sites in Puebla, Mexico, and Accra, Ghana. As 2012 began, permission was given by the Church Board of Trustees to add seven more sites in the U.S. and one in Monterrey, Mexico.

    One of the concerns expressed early on was the danger of the Pathway Program taking an inordinate amount of an institute director’s time and focus, thus creating some of the same challenges PEF had presented. To prevent that from happening, guidelines were established and the institute director’s role was clearly defined. Directors were to attend and present at a yearly orientation fireside for ecclesiastical leaders, coordinate a teaching schedule to accommodate Book of Mormon classes for Pathway students during fall and winter semesters, provide classrooms and building access, provide transcript information to BYU–Idaho for transferrable credit courses, and occasionally observe how the program was running and report any major challenges to BYU–Idaho. Institute personnel were not responsible to recruit students or monitor their success, participation, attendance, or retention in the Pathway Program. These duties were taken care of by a called senior missionary couple from the local area.

    Institutes that hosted the Pathway Program often experienced an increase in enrollment, and one institute director reported, “There has been a powerful spirit of goodness, strength, growth, and intelligence associated with the program all throughout. … I believe and have felt strongly that there is a direct correlation between the Pathway program and several students in the program who have made great strides in the past year.”249 Another coordinator said, “It is bringing a diverse group of students together … into one location, enriching the lives of more than just the Pathway students. We are seeing students enrolled in institute that would not have likely been enrolled otherwise.”250

    A Renaissance in Church Schools

    When Paul V. Johnson became the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion in 2001, one of his early priorities was a review of the work at all of the Church-owned elementary and secondary schools. In his desire to give proper emphasis to the Church schools, he established a Church schools committee. Satellite training was provided specifically for Church schools personnel.

    One of the first steps taken was to initiate a search for someone to evaluate and coordinate efforts for all of the Church schools. In 2004, Bruce Yerman, an American expatriate serving as an administrator at an American school in Mexico, was hired to oversee the work as a Church school specialist. Brother Yerman recalled, “That job began really as consultation, but over time I think it naturally evolved into more and more … of a leadership role.” As his work expanded, Brother Yerman’s title was later changed to manager of Church schools.251

    After resigning his position in Mexico City in 2004, Brother Yerman moved his family to Salt Lake City and embarked on a tour of all the schools to get a feel for his new responsibilities. One of his first experiences with the schools was listening to local leaders in the Samoan community of Pesega, where an elementary school had recently been closed due to concerns about the seismic safety of the buildings and due to the increased availability of other school options. The school closure was an emotional event for local members. “In the Pacific Islands schools are often associated with a village,” Brother Yerman explained. “There was no longer a primary school for kids to go to in that village; they’d have to go to another village school.” Over the next two days, Brother Yerman traveled to 15 different schools on the island to ensure the existence of proper school options for the displaced students. He also met with stake presidents and members and worked to reassure the local membership.252 After this baptism by fire, Brother Yerman and the leaders of all the Church schools began a careful review of the fundamental missions of the schools.

    Students at Sauniatu Elementary School in Samoa.

    Students at Sauniatu Elementary School in Samoa

    One of Brother Yerman’s focuses was retention in the Pacific schools. He explained, “Education [in the Pacific] is built on a colonial model … a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid is primary school (elementary school) … and at the top of the pyramid is high school. There’s a lot of kids in primary school. As they go up that pyramid, kids fall off the pyramid, and by the time you get to high school … only the cream of the crop who are able to survive the educational system attend [one or two elite public schools].” Brother Yerman wanted to change things to make the Church schools as inclusionary as possible. “At our schools, we try to retain kids. We try not to push the kids out. We have had many initiatives … to keep kids in the system,” Brother Yerman said.253

    As part of this effort, Brother Yerman secured funding to provide new textbooks. It was also decided that at the Church schools all students would take the English exams and that the school would pay the exam fees for all the students. “That was a huge cultural change for our schools,” said Brother Yerman. Many of the private schools in the Pacific reported high success rates on the exams but failed to acknowledge the large number of students who couldn’t afford to take the exams because the fees often exceeded the cost of tuition to attend school in the first place.254

    The new policy was difficult to initiate. At the Church school in Vaiola, Samoa, with all students taking the test the pass rate dropped in one year from 80 to 30 percent. However, within three years, Brother Yerman reported, the principal and his team of teachers brought the pass rate up close to 90 percent. “Once [they] did that and we were able to show the other schools the data, it’s begun to take momentum and the expectation is changing within our schools, and we’re changing a culture.” The new approach led to a greater number of students qualifying for university education. An announced goal stated that “every youth will complete high school or equivalent and be certified to attend post-secondary education and be prepared to serve a mission” and that by 2013, S&I, through efficient budgeting, donated funds, and increased tuition would cover the cost of external exams in Church schools across the Pacific.255

    This renewal in the Pacific schools was not without sacrifice. One of the most difficult decisions made during this time was the phased closure of the Church College of New Zealand. In June 2006 Commissioner W. Rolfe Kerr announced a three-year phase-out of the school, calling the choice “an agonizing, multi-year decision which has been made at the highest levels of Church administration.”256 Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy, then serving as the Pacific Area President, wrote: “The decision to close CCNZ has been extremely difficult, and that is why it has taken several years to reach its announcement. The Brethren have carefully considered the great good that has come from this wonderful institution, including thousands of competent, talented graduates, over the past half century. … They have tender concerns about disrupting the professional careers of the faithful faculty and the vocational pursuits of the devoted staff members.”257

    Paul V. Johnson during a visit to the Church College of New Zealand.

    Paul V. Johnson during a visit to the Church College of New Zealand

    Sounding a similar note, Elder Johnson pointed out that the school’s closure was part of a continuous policy of the Church to discontinue its schools when local school systems could provide adequate education. A Church press release announcing the closure pointed out that only “10 percent of eligible Latter-day Saint youth attend[ed] CCNZ.” Elder Johnson also reassured the students affected by the closure by stating, “New Zealand Ministry of Education officials have assured us that local schools can absorb the influx of students over the next three years and provide them with an excellent education.”258

    The school finally closed its doors in 2009. While the closure of the Church College of New Zealand was difficult, it allowed resources to be used in a number of efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Pacific schools. One of the new programs launched was Technology Assisted Language Learning (TALL), which had originated at the Missionary Training Center to help missionaries learn another language and which helped students learn English more quickly. TALL was tested at the Juárez Academy, and then Brother Yerman and his team adapted it for use at the Church schools in the Pacific. “If done correctly,” Brother Yerman explained, “[TALL] is about 50% teacher instruction and group instruction, and about 50% on the computer. The computer is engaging, it’s entertaining. It has different accents. It gives students an opportunity to practice; they feel confident.”259

    Another continuing effort in the schools was the International Teacher Education Program (ITEP), through which educational missionaries, mostly retired couples from the United States, traveled to the Pacific to provide teachers in the local Church schools with training, certifications, and degrees from BYU–Hawaii. In a message to ITEP teachers, Brother Yerman said, “ITEP is one of the most powerful programs we have for promoting good teaching in our schools. … We are a multinational group, trying to prepare students for a global world from the paradigm of an island culture. … ITEP is a huge blessing and a significant part of changing lives.”260

    Under Brother Yerman’s leadership and after several years of observation, conversations, and prayerful consideration, the Church schools adopted a focus designed to complement the Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion: “The purpose of these schools is [to] assist the youth to reach their earthly and eternal purpose and to magnify the calling whereunto the Lord has called them, by helping them progress spiritually, physically and emotionally, academically, and socially.” The new focus was based on Doctrine and Covenants 88:77–80, in which the Lord admonished the Saints, “I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you … That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you.” The focus emulated the pattern of learning that the Savior followed, including Luke’s description of the early life of the Master in Luke 2:52: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”261

    After a number of years working from the central office, Brother Yerman and his family moved to New Zealand to more closely supervise the Pacific schools, and his title was changed to assistant area director of Church schools.

    The schools in Mexico continued to adapt and change with the times as well. The Juárez Academy remained a constant force for good as the community of Colonia Juárez underwent gradual changes in the makeup of its population, which had once been dominated by the direct descendants of the early Mormon colonists. By the beginning of the 21st century, “90% of the students [at the Academy came] from native Spanish-speaking homes” and the rest came from the descendants of the colonists. In the midst of this changing population, the school continued to emphasize bilingual education. Commenting on the value of this kind of training, John A. Whetten, a former director of the academy, said, “The students who come out of here are really bilingual. This is also a bicultural community. They (the students) are prepared to go to college or work in a global economy.”262

    The largest of the Church secondary schools was the Benemérito de las Américas near Mexico City. With an enrollment that eventually grew to more than 2,000 students, the Benemérito continued to be a center of strength in the gospel for all of Mexico. Brother Lino Alvarez, the S&I area director for Mexico and a former member of the Seventy, said of the school: “[It] has for many years been a great instrument in the hands of the Lord to do His work in Mexico, in His way and by His power. … This school has accomplished a work of first importance by providing missionaries and leaders for nearly 200 stakes and 18 missions in the nation. An enormous number of young men and women and, obviously, their families, have been blessed spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically.”263

    The school served as a gathering place for young Latter-day Saints from throughout Mexico, a portion of whom attended as boarding students. The experience of Alfredo Miron, a director of the school during this time, was typical. “I came from a poor family, with parents who were not active. I now have a wife whom I met at Benemérito. We have five children, all who attended Benemérito and are now all married in the temple and raising their own families. I worked for the Church Educational System for years, have served as a bishop, a stake president, a mission president and the Director of Benemérito. All of this is possible because of Benemérito.”264

    By the end of 2012 enrollment in the Church elementary and secondary schools stood at 7,915, only a small fraction of the students served by S&I.265 However, the Church schools played an important role. Chad H Webb commented, “We have a charge and a responsibility to help all the youth and young adults to understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. There are places in the world where that is very difficult to do because they simply do not have the resources to take care of their family from day to day. The Church recognizes the need for people to have education.” When it came to the role of S&I in the schools, Brother Webb continued, “The Church is doing a lot to help with education. The reason seminaries and institutes is involved is because if the Church is going to provide a school, we want it to be a Church school. The difference between a Church school and another is what we can provide that no one else can provide, and that is religious instruction, guided by the Holy Ghost and rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”266 With their place firmly fixed in the family of S&I, the Church secondary and elementary schools continued the work of salvation in some of the most unique and challenging places around the world.

    A Higher Vision

    The first decade of the 21st century was a time of change for the world and for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. In many ways, the warnings given to religious educators in 2001 by Elder Henry B. Eyring in his role as Church Commissioner of Education proved prophetic. He taught: “The world in which our students choose spiritual life or death is changing rapidly. … Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith. But even the best of them are sorely tested. And the testing will become more severe.” Addressing the challenges and promises offered by the new era, Elder Eyring told S&I employees, “Our trust from the Lord as teachers of youth is great. And so is our opportunity.”267

    Under the steady guiding hand of leaders like Elder Paul V. Johnson, Garry K. Moore, and Chad H Webb, the men and women of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion rose to meet President’s Eyring’s challenge to “raise our sights” and seek a higher vision.268 In many ways the work of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion was streamlined during this period, as its leaders worked more closely in cooperation with the other organizations of the Church. The Fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning made students and teachers more equal partners in the classroom learning environment. As teachers gained more trust in the Holy Ghost and its influence, they provided more opportunities for the students in their classes to discover gospel principles and testify of their truth. The rapid advance of new technologies allowed students and teachers around the world to come together.

    All of this was just a part of the larger challenge given to seminaries and institutes by the inspired leaders of the Church. President Eyring clarified his charge by saying, “We can raise our sights by adding greater faith that the change promised by the Lord will come to our students.” He continued, “What we seek for our students is that change. We must be humble about our part in it. True conversion depends on a student seeking freely in faith, with great effort and some pain. Then it is the Lord who can grant, in His time, the miracle of cleansing and change.”269 All of the work carried out by Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and all of the Church Educational System was aimed toward producing conversion in the hearts of youth.

    The culmination of the first century of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion came on Sunday evening, January 22, 2012, when seminary students and their parents, teachers, youth leaders, and administrators filled the Conference Center on Temple Square, and hundreds of thousands more around the world joined via satellite, to commemorate the centennial of the seminary program.

    After an opening hymn and prayer, the program began with a film entitled “A Hundred Years of Seminary.” The film’s first segment was a dramatization of Thomas J. Yates teaching one of the first classes at the Granite seminary. Depicted in the class was Mildred Bennion, the mother of President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. The presentation then segued into a short address by President Eyring in which he described being handed the roll book from that first class shortly after he became the Commissioner of the Church Educational System and seeing his mother’s name in it. President Eyring commented, “Mildred Bennion, Thomas Yates, and many others like them laid the foundation of this rich and glorious history of seminary and Church education.” He added, “As you can imagine, from 1912 until now much has changed.” A timeline then showed seminary’s growth over the past 100 years from one seminary with 70 students to 375,597 students in seminaries throughout the world.270

    While pointing out the millions blessed by the seminary program, President Eyring also emphasized the impact on the lives of individual students. Using his mother as an example, he explained: “Some thoughtful individual in that day must have invited Mildred to seminary. Someone caught a glimpse of how this program would bless the lives of each and every young man and woman in the Church, and that one seminary teacher cared enough about Mildred Bennion and prayed fervently enough that the Spirit put the gospel down into her heart. That teacher blessed the lives of tens of thousands of unseen individuals because of the message he taught one girl.” He continued, “What happened in that first classroom is what happens today, and will continue to happen time and again, however large our numbers grow. The one will be touched. A testimony will be found or strengthened. And generations to come will be blessed for it.”271

    The video then showed seminary students in the United States, France, and Peru sharing their feelings about seminary. President Eyring concluded the film by saying, “To you remarkable young men and women who are students, I encourage you, no matter the challenges you face, to attend seminary. Hunger and thirst to know and to do that which the Savior taught. In so doing, the Spirit of the Lord will be your constant companion, and He will strengthen you for the battles you will face and the great work you will perform in families and in the Church.”272

    After the video presentation ended, Elder Paul V. Johnson spoke briefly on the topic “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”273 After mentioning the great growth that had taken place since the first class of 70 students, he said: “The most important ‘great things’ that have resulted from that humble beginning 100 years ago aren’t the size of the program or the number of buildings and teachers, but most important are the great things that have happened in the lives of millions of students over the years as they have been willing to do some small things. Small things like attending class and studying the scriptures daily and then living the principles of the gospel in their daily lives. As they have done these small things, great things have been brought to pass in their lives. They have come closer to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and have been richly blessed in countless ways.”274

    Following a hymn by a choir of seminary students, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to those assembled. He said, “I speak as one who has seen the past and would prepare you for the future,” and he warned the youth, “You are growing up in enemy territory.”275

    President Packer addressed the youth directly, saying, “I want to tell you that which will be of most worth and most desirable. The scriptures say, ‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom,’ and I would add, ‘with all [your] getting, get [going!].’ I do not have time to waste and neither do you. So listen up!” He then spoke of how the gift of the Holy Ghost would protect them. Among other things, he taught, “Discovering how the Holy Ghost operates in your life is the quest of a lifetime” and that “this power of revelation from the gift of the Holy Ghost operates on principles of righteousness.”276

    “First on your ‘to do’ list,” he counseled, “put the word prayer. … You can always have a direct line of communication with your Father in Heaven.” President Packer counseled the students to take care of their bodies and to be clean, explaining, “The Word of Wisdom does not promise perfect health but that the spiritual receptors within you might be strengthened.” He also taught that “gender was set in the premortal world,” that youth should use their agency to stay on safe ground spiritually, and that repenting often will bring “lasting peace that cannot be purchased at any earthly price.”277

    He told the youth:

    You are not ordinary. You are very special. You are exceptional. … You know what you should and should not be doing in your life. You know right and wrong and do not need to be commanded in all things. Do not squander these years of seminary instruction. Take advantage of the great blessing you have to learn the doctrines of the Church and the teachings of the prophets. … Do not fear the future. Do not fear what is ahead. Go forward with hope and faith. Remember that supernal gift of the Holy Ghost. Learn to be taught by it. Learn to seek it. Learn to live by it.278

    He then quoted a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    So nigh is grandeur to our dust,

    So near is God to man,

    When Duty whispers low, Thou must,

    The youth replies, I can.279

    He ended his remarks by telling the youth, “We have a deep and profound faith in you,” and then he bore his testimony.280

    The broadcast was a fitting capstone to the first century of seminaries and institutes. Looking back over the hundred years of these inspired programs, it was evident that their success was due to four main factors: the combined efforts of dedicated teachers and administrators; the guidance, direction, and support from priesthood leaders; the encouragement of parents; and the wonderful willingness and desire of hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saint youth and young adults to learn of Jesus Christ and His gospel. As the number of seminary and institute students worldwide moved well beyond the 700,000 mark, as teaching improved and delivery systems became more sophisticated, the pivotal points remained teachers who came to class accompanied by the scriptures and the Spirit and students who attended with open hearts and minds. A bright future beckoned as leaders, instructors, and the youth of the Church alike continued to build on the legacy of the past.

    As it moved into its second century, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion continued to fulfill its crucial roles of helping the youth and young adults of the Church understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ and of preparing them for the difficult challenges and glorious opportunities in their future. Perhaps President Boyd K. Packer best summarized the role of seminaries and institutes in the Church when he said, “In the history of the Church there is no better illustration of the prophetic preparation of this people than the beginnings of the seminary and institute program. These programs were started when they were nice but were not critically needed. They were granted a season to flourish and to grow into a bulwark for the Church. They now become a godsend for the salvation of modern Israel.”281