“Foreword,” By Study and Also by Faith—One Hundred Years of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (2015), vii–x
“Foreword,” By Study and Also by Faith, vii–x
Not many days after the announcement was made of my appointment as administrator for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invited me to his office. He wanted to get to know me and help me understand some of the history of the system. After a few words of greeting he asked, “Do you know how to teach?” At that particular moment I wasn’t sure I knew how to do anything, but he impressed on me the centrality to our work of what happens with students, a teacher, and the scriptures. He then spent nearly an hour reviewing some history of seminaries and institutes, including important milestones, challenges faced in the past, and people who worked and sacrificed greatly so that the gospel could be taught to youth and young adults around the world. I was paying close attention and I sensed that President Packer wanted to transmit to me important historical information and that knowing what had gone on before would be crucial in making decisions about the future.
President Packer has a unique connection with the history of seminaries and institutes. He was a seminary student in Brigham City, Utah, which was the second released-time seminary established in the Church. He was taught by, and later taught with, Abel S. Rich, one of the first released-time teachers ever hired. Because of those early connections, his years as a CES teacher and administrator, and his many years on the Church Board of Education, President Packer has uniquely strong links to the past and was the perfect person to help me see that we needed to preserve this important history.
During the course of the conversation, President Packer advised me that some issues that had been faced in the past would surface again, and as I was leaving his office that day he gave me an assignment. He asked me to visit Franklin D. Day, a leader in CES who had been retired for a number of years. He told me that Frank could give me some helpful background and could help me see where land mines were buried. I had a delightful and enlightening visit with Frank, and I did my best to learn from what he had to share.
Stanley A. Peterson held the office of administrator for the 24 years before my appointment. In the final weeks of his service, he spent many hours sharing with me important stories and issues from the past. These hours of learning more history were invaluable to me, and I will be forever grateful for his personal tutoring. After Stan retired I realized that his was the first in an imminent wave of retirements of a whole generation of senior leaders and teachers, including the zone administrators (now called assistant administrators) with whom I worked. These individuals carried with them a storehouse of background and history, information that is so important to understand in order to accomplish the great work of the seminaries and institutes.
With the coming retirements it occurred to me that we were in danger of losing a great deal of knowledge of our history. Some other organizations cut their connections to their roots and begin to drift. This organization could not afford this. Our history doesn’t limit us, but like a plant’s roots it anchors and nourishes us and is crucial for growth. Our history helps us grasp our identity and protects us. We had to find a way to capture the innovations that come with new faces and fresh ideas and allow those to be shaped and grounded by our purpose and history. Only with this balance could we make the progress needed.
The concern about losing many details of our history weighed on my mind. We discussed the issue as administrators, and decided that one way to preserve the history was to write a book. Eventually I talked with President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, who at that time was in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was serving as Commissioner of the Church Educational System. I proposed that we have an updated history written that would be available to employees. He was amenable to the proposal, and since President Packer was the person with the longest connections with Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, the idea was presented to him. President Packer was supportive, and even agreed to be interviewed to help us with the project.
As you study this volume you will sense the dedication, love, and faith exhibited by those who went before. The accounts that are core to our history are touching and instructive. Some may also seem familiar, as many themes and challenges echo across time. Although an experience happened in another time and place, the underlying dynamics may be something you too have experienced.
Despite this volume’s relatively large size it cannot be comprehensive. There are too many people, too many powerful accounts, too many miracles and blessings to squeeze into one volume. The real history of seminaries and institutes is found in the lives of students and teachers who have been blessed, protected, and guided as they learned and applied the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have seen this in my own life. My parents both graduated from seminary and found each other at an institute activity when they were in college. My own life was blessed by my experience in seminary, including being in the same class with an outstanding young woman, Jill, whom I later married. I also was blessed by the religion classes in college, and all of our nine children have been blessed by their experiences in seminary and institute and religion classes at college. Jill and I look forward to blessings continuing to our posterity as they have their own experiences in seminary and institute.
I cherish those interviews I had with President Packer and others who gave so much to this great work, and I hope readers of this history experience something like being in a conversation with those who went before— that across the span of time readers will feel their dedication, learn from their experiences, and share their commitment to and love for the students whom we serve.
Paul V. Johnson
First Quorum of the Seventy
Commissioner, Church Educational System