I imagine that any of you who are in high school, or have kids enrolled in high school, are aware that the Church recently announced changes in what it takes to graduate from Seminary. Yes, they raised the bar, and placed more burden on the youth of the Church. My opinion?
Halelujah! And it’s about time! (Here is a link to the announcement.)
Until this year, the main requirement for graduating from Seminary was to “show up.” Now, students are not only required to show up 75% of the time, they have to pass two proficiency tests at a 75% level, and actually read the book they are studying.
Basically, they raised the bar from “just showing up” to full blown mediocrity. 75% attendance? 75% on tests? Earth-shattering.
And suddenly, people are complaining. There are articles about what a bad idea it is. The whining caught me off guard.
My kids are already too busy with sports and music.
They have enough burden on them already.
Seminary should’t create pressure.
We don’t have release time! It isn’t fair to make them to get up at 4:30am.
Religious education should’t be graded.
My view of seminary is based on my personal experience attending Seminary for four years, in addition to having the privilege of teaching and substitute teaching Seminary as an adult. I definitely have an opinion on this. But first..
Guess what I can do?
I can recite the books of the Old Testament in order. Still. I learned them in 1976, and still know them today. Why? Because I learned them as a ninth grader is Seminary class. That was also one of two times that I read the entire Old Testament.
I can also recite the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, in order. (But that doesn’t seem quite as impressive to most people.)
Seminary was awesome. Much of my doctrinal foundation came from Seminary class. Most of the scriptures I have memorized in my life came form Scripture Chase scriptures – (Now Scripture Mastery.) Believe me when I tell you that it is much easier to memorize scriptures at 16 years old than at 50+. Waaay easier.
When I look back at Seminary, it is with fondness. I was grateful for teachers who did everything they could to make it interesting, and spiritual. I was never much of a Tom Trails, or Like Unto Us fan, but there was much more to it than that.
Seminary presents an opportunity for a teenager that is surrounded by worldliness to step back and focus on the things of God every school day. It has the potential of being on of the pre-eminent sources of scriptural knowledge in a teenagers life.
If you do the math, you will see that more time is spent in Seminary over the course of a year that in Sunday School and Priesthood/Young Women combined!
Sadly, not everyone sees it that way. Some see it as a burden, rather than a blessing. Instead of being something wonderful, something to be mocked. Instead of being of great treasure to be sought after, it is something to be tolerated.
But too many of our youth are blowing it. They don’t get it. And too many of their parents don’t get it either, and are supportive of their kid’s lack of effort.
So the Church raised the bar. Now it is not enough to just show up. Like this guy:
Anyone who has ever taught, or attended Seminary knows this guy. He shows up to Seminary, as if weighed down by the weight of the world, and promptly falls asleep. Does that merit a diploma?
Of course, you must appreciate that at least that guy is quiet – there are plenty of others who show up to Seminary well-armed with disrespect and a lot to chatter about with their friends. Again, showing up is not all it takes.
Should it have ever been enough to just show up? If you think so, try applying that mindset outside of Seminary:
“I can’t believe my boss fired me. Yeah, I might have fallen asleep on my shift everyday, but at least I showed up.”
“My college professor only counts tests and essays. I can’t believe he won’t give me full credit for sleeping through class.”
See how that flies in real life. Showing up is never enough, and doesn’t justify the same recognition as do those that attend, work, and attempt to make the most of Seminary, and life. Self-discipline deserves recognition.
As for that senior boy, sleeping his way through Seminary – just think, a year from now he will likely be sleeping through companionship study. If he gets that far.
Another new requirement is that the student actually read the scriptures associated with the course of study. This year? Doctrine and Covenants. The whole thing? Yes, all 294 pages. In nine months. You do the math. (OK, I’ll help – around a page a day.)
Now I understand that not everyone has release time. I know that as a student or teacher, showing up to a nice Seminary building during the day was far easier than dragging off to a church classroom or someone’s house in the dark of morning. I get that. Frankly, I’m stunned that release-time Seminary is still allowed anywhere. It seems like the exact sort of thing that would become a public issue that a religion would have snatched away in today’s culture.
So do you get up and go? Do you wake you kids and haul them off to Seminary every morning?
I truly hope so.
Seminary has the potential to teach and solidify doctrinal truths unlike any other place, except the home. Seminary set me on an early course towards gospel literacy. I don’t know everything, but I do OK, and I can trace much of it directly to what I learned in Seminary.
Seminary provides a place to feel the Spirit regularly. It also give opportunity to strengthen and bear testimonies. Those opportunities should be treated with great respect and value.
Don’t blow this chance! It is more important now than ever. More and more youth are leaving their Seminary class and heading straight to the MTC. There is a sense of urgency.
Don’t whine about it. Stay awake. Go! Learn! Soak it in. Have some foresight.
Finally, a note to parents: Don’t whine about Seminary with your kids. Don’t feed into any self-justifications about skipping, or not enrolling in Seminary. Your kids are too busy for Seminary? Then it might be time to reevaluate schedules and priorities. As parents, we need to teach our kids that things that have value come at a cost.
I am in lockstep with Sister Bonnie Oscarson, Young Women General President, when she said,
“I am thrilled with the new seminary graduation requirements, which will require more from our students in the way of reading, effort and learning. We often refer to the scripture that ‘where much is given, much is required.’ I believe that a close corollary to this is that ‘where much is required, much more will be given.’
“In other words, if we expect more of our youth, they will step up to the challenge, and I do believe that we need to require more of them. We need to step up our teaching so that our youth do more on their own to understand the doctrines of Christ and the reality of the Restoration, and we need to find a way to motivate them to write these things on the ‘tablets of their hearts.’ ” (link)
So wake up, suck it up, and find your treasure. (And don’t forget good treats for devotionals.)
It sounds like most of the comments above have been written by Ideal Student’s parents. There are those wonderful kids in every class. They are thrilled to get up at 5 am to go to seminary, their teachers are inspiring, they consider seminary the high point of their day, etc, etc. I totally support seminary–the youngest of my 4 is in his senior year and all his siblings have graduated. But I’ve never had a child who was excited to go. There were some (VERY) marginal teachers (installments of “Singles Ward” for 4 consecutive mornings, anyone?). Trying to get one daughter up every morning did significant damage to her relationship with her father. I know they benefited by being there, but it was not all sunshine and rainbows. One son was definitely “on the edge”, actually a bit over the edge–that he would go to seminary at all was amazing. He was kicked out of class by one seminary teacher because he wouldn’t participate in the discussions (the teacher was encouraged to re-think that edict). He stunned us all when he decided to go to BYU. He’s now 30, served a mission, served as an elders quorum president and (no surprise) has a particular talent for reaching the inactive.
So yes, raising the bar is a great idea–an excellent thing to do. Let’s just be sure that we aren’t only preaching to the choir. Let’s not be dismissive of those who are not in their places with bright shiny faces at 6am. Those children of God are just as important, and perhaps more needing of our attention, than the Ideal ones who are going to do fine regardless of what seminary’s requirements may be. Lots of the “on the edge” kids (like my son) may just be hanging on with their fingernails, but they are hanging on nonetheless.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Kary. Every time I hear of a difficult young man / woman who turned their life around and went on a mission, it gives me great hope. I have two adopted children. One son and one daughter. My greatest desire in life is for my son to serve a mission. I mean it. It’s my greatest desire in life.
I was a convert. After serving in the military for six years I got out and went on a mission when I was 25. It changed my whole life around. I know the power of missionary service and I desperately want that for my son and daughter. My son especially.
My son too is “hanging on by his fingernails.” I pray every night that Heavenly Father will work a miracle in his life as I try my hardest to make sure he is in the right places associating with the right people. I know it can happen and I expect it to happen. But in the meantime, I’m very concerned.
Thank you for your encouraging words.
Having a child who is deeply rebelling against the church is so incredibly painful. We went through five tough years with our son. He has left home and is not active in the church. I found great comfort in the Temple – specifically at the veil. The past year or so my prayers have been answered with “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” from Heavenly Father. When I ask, “Ok, so what do you want me to do?” He replies, “Just love them.”. Well. Ok then. =) So that’s my testimony to you. It’s painful, agonizing, and breaks your heart. But don’t worry. Heavenly Father’s got this. All you need to do is love your child. It’s all going to be ok.
I think that this is where seminary teachers learn to be intune with their students. Those kids that are hanging on by a thread will always benefit from seminary (my brother struggled with church and the gospel and yet he had perfect attendance in seminary — today he is sealed to his wife and is a YM pres. I credit a lot of that to a mothers prayers and a good seminary teacher). When I was teaching seminary I really tried to pay attention to my kids and see where they were and ask just a little more from them based on where they were. I had one kid that hated giving devotionals and would sit in his car until devotional time was past, that was fine with me, he was still assigned a devotional so he could choose to participate if he chose, but I didn’t hold it against him, but I did ask that he read scriptures when we all read. I had another yw who was struggling and I tried to find times to extend mercy to her (she was already going to have to make up a ton of work to graduate so if there were times when her absence wasn’t her fault I would count her there). You do have to hold the kids to the standard that is required but even if they aren’t hitting that standard to graduate they will still benefit from being in seminary and hearing the gospel and feeling the spirit. I think it is always good for seminary teacher to be reminded that they are there to help the youth grow and embrace the gospel and to stick to pure pure doctrine and to teach and act with the same love that Christ shows us.
I have mixed emotions about the new requirement.
I was an early morning seminary teacher for several years and have driven my son to seminary for 3 years now. So I understand the sacrifices these kids make.
But what about the child who is just barely hanging on?
What about the child who has a rebellious heart even though his/her family does all they can to provide a gospel centered home (i.e. family home evenings, daily family prayer and scriptures study, attend all Sunday and weekday meetings and actives etc.)?
What about the child who only goes because his/her parents make them?
Now they discover that not only do they have to go to all things mentioned above AND have to get up at 5:15am every morning so he/she can do to seminary, they have to pass a test to get a certificate of completion.
What if that sends them over the edge and he/she decides not to go and their parents can’t physically drag them out of bed without WWIII starting?
What I found as a seminar teacher is that the good students will do good. They don’t need a test.
I’m worried about the kids who are on the edge.
These are the kids that we often end up trying to “rescue” later on in life.
I’ve worked in the YM program for over 20 years and not all, but many of the kids who I’ve spoken with that have fallen away said that the church and their parents tried to “cram the gospel down their throats.” They often said that their parents and church leaders tried to overwhelm them with church activities.
Now I know that’s the phraseology of a “Laman” or “Lemuel.” I get that.
But when that Laman or Lemuel is your own child, you tend to have a more heart centered or empathetic viewpoint.
But I DO know one thing.
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”
And this is why on one side, I’m for the changes and in another I fear it will be one more reason for a child on the edge to stop going to seminary.
And to say to a child on the edge, “suck it up”…well, that doesn’t work too well. In fact, it has the opposite of the intended affect.
I hope seminary teachers will give the parents the doctrines and concepts (and even practice questions) that will be on the tests so that they can attempt to teach these important truths at home to their children so that they have a better chance of passing and more importantly, actually learning and gaining a testimony of those truths.
After all, isn’t the “primary” responsibility of teaching the gospel to our children OURS (i.e. parents).
Just my 2 cents.
The Lord tells us to “suck it up” all the time, as do his prophets and apostles. Coddling never seems to be an effective way of winning back souls, but I do agree that it is better to have struggling kids IN the classroom than outside.
Frankly, the kids that are “on the edge” don’t really care if they graduate, or complete, or whatever, so I seriously doubt that it will be the last straw – if it not this, it will be something else.
MMM – your last paragraph on the reply to sounds a bit calloused. Kind of “who cares about the marginal kids.” I would have to assume you have not had YOUR kid be different.
I guess I remember seminary as something totally different. I had a great and ever so loving seminary teacher. Even the “marginal” kids WANTED to come because the teacher was so warm. Even some inactive kids (as far as Sunday attendance) would come.
I remember 2 thinks he said about what he remembered about seminary. He said, “I knew my teacher loved me and my teacher loved the Lord.” No test is going to change hearts like this and as David mentions, if too much time is spent “teaching to the test” (as it has become in many high schools) it can detract from that.
Not calloused – just battle worn. If someone is searching for a reason to pull away, rules such as these will fit the bill. We are seeing the same thing right now at BYU-I where people are using dress standards as an excuse to pull away.
Your assumptions about my family would be grossly presumptuous and incorrect.
Hopefully there are people in the seminary program who are capable of loving and teaching at the same time – they aren’t mutually exclusive concepts.
OK. I think I see a bit where you are coming from. I was thinking not of the rebellious child, but the one just struggling with coming from a dysfunctional family and looking for a reason to come. Just as David expressed, I do fear some of these folks may feel that is one more load of straw on the
And sorry for insinuating your kids are perfect 🙂
“Coddling never seems to be an effective way of winning back souls.” Really? Hmmm. Okay.
Drawing a distinction between “coddling” and “loving.” Being permissive and apologetic for anyone is not going to foster any real change.
I was a very naughty teenager and would sneak out of church every Sunday for years. I was openly defiant about going to church or doing most things that had to do with church. I wasn’t living the gospel or keeping the commandments, but I went to seminary every single day. I rarely missed a class and really enjoyed it. I credit my seminary teachers as the reason I didn’t go off the deep end. I thought I was just hanging out with friends. But as it turns out, I was learning the gospel and feeling the spirit and having my heart changed one class period at a time. Seminary saved me. Its importance can’t be overstated! I will never complain about having to spend a little time reading with my children and showing them that I believe seminary has value and is worth the time invested. Show our children that we value it and they will know it is important. Even if they complain and whine about it, it will make a difference in their lives. The church is true! Christ lives!
Now the Church needs to set standards for their Seminary teachers. We’ve had one that told the kids that kissing was evil, and another that took a job working all day on Sunday (so she didn’t attend any church meetings, and was surprised when they released her). We had a male teacher who told the boys that the harder they worked the prettier their wife would be. I took my daughter out of Seminary. Now she is at the university and attends two classes at the Institute (where the teachers are selected and paid for their skills). What an amazing difference ! Those Institute teachers are so knowledgable about the gospel, and keep the kids interested and involved. Their dedication to the youth is heart warming.
We have been blessed with excellent, dedicated seminary teachers for the kids. Too bad your daughter couldn’t find enough worth there to offset the occasional gaffe.
I think you’ll find the same problems with any Sunday school teacher–you have to look past those things and still find the value in what is being taught.
This is maybe an unknown doctrine…possibly because it’s the Gospel according to me…but I firmly believe that Seminary teachers have an automatic ticket to exaltation!
Seriously what those guys do in there is nothing short of Saintly.
We had problems in our huge ward Seminary a while back with disrespect etc etc…and I said “if you want to reduce the numbers, then call me cos I would quite possibly drive them to non-attendance..or kill them!”
Or it would kill me!
To Seminary teachers everywhere…I take my hat off. You are amazing!!
My fellow seminary students were well armed with disrespect. These were the “good” kids that went on missions, married in the temple, and were busy applying to BYU. I passed on joining them at the Y and had a great experience at an university with a strong Institute program. It was everything I hoped seminary could have been.
As a parent, I understand the pressures we have and our kids have, but we as ‘re not here on earth to letter, or be valedictorian, or star in the school play. We are here to gain eternal life. Frankly, our kids NEED Seminary to survive those teen years pure and clean and committed. And they need to be active participants strengthening one another.
I know this is a late entry, sorry.
The first 3.5 years I went to seminary…I guess I missed the part where there was going to be a seminary graduation, I just liked going. We had 3 choices, 5:20 a.m., 6:30 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. I always chose the earliest one. It gave me more time to socialize before school started. Seminary gave me freedom. My mother’s rule was that I could stay out as late as I wanted so long as I a) called every hour after midnight. b) got a’s & b’s in school c) wasn’t late for work and d) attended seminary. Maybe “a” wasn’t such a good rule, but I never got in any real trouble, and had to sleep some time in order to make it to seminary.
Seminary definitely prepared me for my mission. I have one RM-FOML and one preparing. We bought all of our children a new set of scriptures when they started seminary and told them that these were for their mission. Our RM came home and said that she couldn’t have lived without her seminary scriptures, she knew where every story was.
At the danger of droning on and on…Seminary (and institute) is, in my opinion, the greatest contribution that the Church has ever given to secular education. ….and it was kind of cool that my EC was at my seminary graduation, we just didn’t know that until year later.
Let me say I LOVE seminary. I had early morning seminary and I attended 3.5 years without a missed day. My seminary teacher for 3 of those years influenced me more as a youth than anybody other than my parents.
But in order for my kids to attend the Y or any other high-caliber school, they have to not only make great grades (in a very high ranked – read academically “tough”) school, they also need to have completed in extracurricular activities (and let’s not forget getting the rank of Eagle scout). It pains me to see my sons getting 3 hours of sleep a night for several nights a week.
It is quite a bit that we ask of our kids and what surprises me is I don’t have to push them to go. In fact sometimes as their parent I have to tell them I am not allowing them to go so they get another 90 minutes sleep or I am too worried about them falling asleep driving!
Have them knock out their Eagle at 13 – ease the pressure later.
Personally, (And this is just MY opinion) I think attending seminary is more important than ANY extracurricular activity, including Scouting. I also think it is more important than being accepted into a “big-name” college.
Last: If they are getting 3 hours of sleep for several nights a week, something is seriously out of whack.
I would suggest this: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/good-better-best?lang=eng
I absolutely get the good/better/best (one of the best talks ever). Sometimes it just isn’t that easy. I have a good friend that has a child that is just a bit slower than other kids in the high achieving school district we are in. I think he volunteered to be the Seminary teacher to help his kid so that seminary wasn’t just one more place he was failing to be at par with the other kids. My child that had the biggest issue LIVED for his extra-curricular activity and would have probably been depressed and withdrawn if we had given him an “seminary or else” ultimatum.
And I sure hope they are doing a better job of teaching more perspectives to help prevent “faith crisis” issues later in life.
I’m sure someone already mentioned this, but it seems like a negative attitude toward these new requirements reflect the increasing trend *for members of the church* to put more emphasis on secular learning, knowledge, and opinions, and put less emphasis on spiritual learning, knowledge, and teachings. This is a troubling trend to me.
Seminary was a refuge for me, as was institute once I got to college. I had one institute teacher that said, “You get out of this class what you bring to it” referring to preparation (scripture study) before class. I think it’s great that students are being given a little more encouragement to put more personal effort into their spiritual learning. After all, the gospel is meant to be very personal, in my opinion. 🙂
I have to say that I’m always *super* jealous of those with a good Seminary experience. One crazy thing my Seminary teacher taught us is that if a woman receives confirmation from God that she should marry a certain man and that man ends up being abusive, then God wants her to be in that abusive relationship. Seminary was rough.
That is rough. Thankfully, Seminary is not the only source and resource.
WOW! That was like Patton’s speech before the giant flag! (Less the coarse language, of course.) Wish we had a graphic representation of the Title of Liberty, so you could “stand and deliver” that post in front of it. And I say HOOAH!! I will wager that serving Mission Presidents all say HOOAH! too. I vote that next step be to make Seminary graduation a prerequisite to every mission call. Fewer “Fad” missionaries doing remedial scripture study their first 6 months in the field.
Except we have to allow for repentance in there someplace.
We are thrilled. Our firstborn is a freshman and taking seminary. We live rurally and he participates by Skype. not for convenience, but necessity. If we drove to town and then back, he would be late for school everyday. But if we lived closer, I would drive him happily! I was a sporadic attender myself, and wish that my parents understood the importance of the Personal Progress Program and Seminary, and had expected it of me. I wish I’d understood the importance myself. My husband joined the Church at 21, and never had the opportunity …. now we are both thrilled and excited for our kids to have the opportunity and support of their parents. After reading the comments, I think I’m gonna sit in the background and listen to seminary, and learn right along with him. 🙂 He’ll feel supported, I’ll learn, and we can have more in depth discussions about it together. (His teacher gives the students questions to ask their parents for discussion purposes).
Using skype is innovative! I also lived rurally as a youth and we only had seminary once a week at my teacher’s house. The rest of the week we had homework we had to hand and that she graded. It was so much work in addition to school and other church responsibilities, but I’m so glad it was a part of my life. I wouldn’t have traded it for the extra sleep – ever! 🙂
I think the changes are great! I had a rude awakening at BYU when they GRADED everything in the religion classes. Those were my hardest earned grades in college. This is a valiant generation!
Maybe instead of complaining about kids being over scheduled and the new seminary rules being too hard we cut back on the activities our kids do. Attending seminary should be seen as equivalent to any sport or music practice. Attending seminary may mean sacrificing something else a teenager would rather do.
I’m in my second year of teaching and everyone seems to agree with the ‘harder’ requirements.
By the way, the exams they take aren’t that hard. Granted I’m a little more versed in the gospel than I was as a teenager, but there are few questions on the exam that aren’t taught from primary age and up.
My oldest son graduated from early morning seminary in June and left a month later for his mission with his Minister Certificate in hand which will enable him to preach and proselyte in Argentina for the next 2 years. HIs younger brother enthusiastically started his 1st year of seminary last week, with the advice of his brother telling him that is the best part of day & that reading the scriptures and memorizing the scripture mastery verses make all the difference. I never had to say a word. It is an amazing program, the best class they will have all day!
BAM! Outta the ballpark! Love it! I get up at 5am every day to take my daughter to the church for seminary. (She is #5 of 5 and I did it with all of them.) When she is old enough to drive herself, I will still get up in solidarity and support. Seminary is important! Thanks, MMM!
Love your post. We are big seminary fans in our home.
After reading your post and comments I do have one question.
Why do some people feel it is okay to be negative about released time seminary?
So many say they do not approve of negative comments about the Brethren who lead the church. But many people have no problem criticizing released time seminary. Released time seminary does not happen in a vacuum. The Brethren and other leaders of the church are aware of released time. (See earlier comment about who is on the Church Board of Education) They know the costs and benefits.
My husband and I are both early morning seminary graduates, but all of our children so far have had released time. There are blessings and sacrifices for both programs. Kids in released time may not start at 6am, but they often have to sacrifice in their school schedule to take released time and still get the credits needed for graduation. (There is no credit for seminary) We have also “sacrificed” money, as we (and our kids) paid for online classes so that our children could take some elective classes and still take released time seminary.
There is a real need of supportive parents to make sure that seminary is a priority in their family, whether it is early morning, released time, or home study.
Wonderful. Just wonderful. I too was surprised at the outburst. The “new” requirements truly are mediocre. Not going to seminary has never been an option for my kids (just like going to school naked isn’t an option either). Sleeping in seminary? Sleeping during ACT testing? Listening, learning, living and holding dear all that is learned in seminary is a MUST! The spiritual battles around us have heightened, so leaders who have more love for us then we can understand are making sure we follow the rules and that we have the FULL armor on…and great quality armor at that. THE BEST!!
Wise words we all need to hear. As parents we have allowed the world to tell us what is important and generations have suffered because of it. Education across our nation is a joke and everything is more important than the actual learning that needs to take place, including but not limited to sports, music, testing and letting our children have their “youth”.
As members we have taken for granted this gift of the gospel The Lord has given us. Callings, home & visiting teaching are a few examples of the things not being done. We are in a latter-day pride cycle of our own making. These youth NEED Seminary if they are ever to stand strong and withstand the storms that are coming. We will be cleansed for our lack of desire to do the Lord’s will, we have had much expected of us and we haven’t delivered. It’s time to raise the bar and teach our children to be better than we have been. They are a chosen generation but we have to expect them to be. I can not wait to see the testimonies that this produces, especially in my own four boys when it is time for seminary.
We homeschool and this year I have picked more church books as the main of our curriculum. I am grateful for your words to combat the whiny voices that have forgotten some truths. Please, always stand strong and continue to be the leader we need.
My child struggles greatly with her testimony but never complains about going to seminary. It is just a family requirement. I doubt she will fulfill the graduation requirements even with my encouragement. But that’s OK! She will still be there, hear the lessons, and maybe (hopefully) her testimony will be sparked. Her seminary teacher said that she will still receive a certificate of participation. I think this is more than fair. The students who work hard deserve to graduate and be rewarded beyond those who just show up.
Taught early morning seminary for 2 years and walked out of the church every day so grateful to associate with such “good to the bone” youth. I an only see great things coming from this “step up” Loved almost all of the comments on this and hope my grandkids will embrace the change.
I’m perfectly happy with the new requirements. I have a freshman and she is enjoying seminary so far. I love our city’s seminary teachers, and I hope they are equally as good elsewhere! If not I hope they’ve been raising the bar for the teachers too, but I’m sure they have. My own seminary experience was full of faith-promoting rumors and just plain crazy stuff–all I know about Mormon urban legends I learned at seminary!
I wish that the bar had been raised sooner. My youngest child graduated from seminary a year ago this past spring and I know all of my children’s seminary teachers were good teachers with love for their students, but I couldn’t help but wonder all of the years that I visited with them why there didn’t seem to be the structured learning and tests and scripture challenges that I remember from seminary. I feel that my children somehow missed out on the learning experience that seminary really could have been for them.
Great article! My kids aren’t old enough for seminary, and won’t be for awhile still, but it’s been on my mind since we recently moved away from Utah with their release time. When I was a kid I moved from having early morning seminary to release time, and I really didn’t like it. I loved getting up in the early mornings to study the gospel with others. But it really doesn’t matter where, but how – and raising the bar, I think is going to make a wonderful difference for those truly intent on learning and understanding this gospel.
Love the “Full blown mediocrity…..” What a great line!
I attended early morning Seminary when I was investigating the church and after I joined it. I was always impressed with the effort that the teachers put into the lessons. I enjoyed those lessons and was basking in the joy of finally having all my religious questions answered. The Spirit was present and the work required was minimal compared to school work. Nevertheless, many of the “stalwart” kids in the class spent class time making out in the parking lot. I found this to be confusing. I think a lot of parents would be surprised if they knew how their kids act during church class time. I think the new standards are a great idea.
When we had our back-to-seminary meeting recently, our Bishop explained to us that many countries are requiring that “foreigners” who come to preach have a certificate of graduation from a seminary or religious college to prove that they really are in the country to preach the gospel. A four-year graduation diploma from LDS seminary fills the requirements those governments have in place, and those young men and women who don’t have one will not be sent to those foreign countries. I thought that was a really wonderful bit of information.
Frankly, I’m surprised these standards are “new” — I sloppily attended early seminary during HS in California in the ’60s and did not graduate, much to my dismay. (I always showed up for the tacos and root beer for the special occasions. — blush) I have no grandchildren so I don’t know what’s going on in that generation. I’m shocked that they are now REQUIRED to read and pay attention and REQUIRED to take tests. After all these years with such amazing youth I now hear bearing testimony at the pulpit? I would have thought these bare essentials had been instituted decades ago. And some parents OBJECT? Sheesh! My mom didn’t care much either — she didn’t try very hard to pry me out of bed. So sad . . . so sad . . .
When my husband (who has taught seminary in the last few years) and I heard about the new requirements we both thought, “It’s about time!” We both went and graduated from early morning seminary… but we would’ve have gotten so much more out of it if we had a higher standard. I’m glad that my kids will get that! I had no idea that people were upset about the requirements!
When I hear “Suck it up”, I think of my little brothers experience the last year he was in high school. He was the only one left at home and my parents were going through a serious and private divorce. It was an extremely hard year for him, and he was often very late. To help motivate him to be on time, the teacher implemented a “standing room only” policy for late comers. No seats for the tardy. So, he just wouldn’t go if he knew he’d be late. I love her, but maybe she thought he was just being lazy after his older siblings had such good records. And there’s no way she could have known the home situation, still I would have loved for him to felt welcome enough to even come in for even the last 10mins, His spirit defiantly could have used the full time be be nourished, but sometimes 75% effort is all you have in you to give. What’s the intent of seminary anyway? Maybe there could be an option for serious students who want to earn credit at church schools? I don’t know, but even under the form requirements of 75% requirement to graduate, I admire the youth of the church who make the decision to go everyday and am so grateful to the amazing brothers and sister who serve as teachers.
Once upon a time not so very long ago there was a teenager who was going off the rails in a major way. So major, that it was unsafe for him to drive so his parents drove him to seminary for the entire four years. It nearly killed them. The child in question was playing with dangerous things and rebelling in a major way. But he never, ever, not once, complained about going to seminary or tried to get out of it. The parents had no idea why, when he was rebelling against everything else, but they kept reeeaaallly quiet and didn’t question it. Just went with the flow and were thankful for this one little respite. The boy grew and left home and left the church. But he has a full four years of seminary and almost perfect attendance under his belt. And who knows what the future will bring? I just know there’s going to be a happily ever after.
Mandiantin, thank you for sharing your beautiful & bittersweet, tender & touching experience.
Great article–thanks! I am happy for the new requirements for graduation including actually READING the book of scripture, when you think about it, it’s kind of a “no brainer”–how many other courses of study can you complete/graduate from without ever cracking the book open other than for class discussion…? The 75% attendance is actually a reduction (was 80% previously) so in my opinion it is easier on the students in that respect. I did not attend seminary as a youth because I was not then a member, but my husband and all of our children attended seminary (early morning). I knew at the time that it was the right thing to do and would benefit them, despite the “sacrifices”, but I had no idea what a tremendous blessing seminary is in the lives of our youth until I was called to teach it and have been able to experience the curriculum and dig into these amazing scriptures with our wonderful students first hand each morning! School, activities, homework, home responsibilities, getting up early DO take their toll, but what better way to refill your reserves each day than to read inspired words and feel the Spirit?!?! I am thankful everyday for the awesome youth who make this choice each day and for the parents and leaders that support them so they can! 🙂
My son’s seminary instructor stated that those young men and young women who are sent on missions to most South American countries, and other countries that require it, have to have a seminary graduation as they are given visas/clearance into the country on being ecclesiastical preachers who have received a certificate/instruction in religious study. I feel these minor changes in requirements for graduation only solidify they did indeed receive instruction and can prove so. I embrace and sustain them.
It makes sense to me. Would love to see some documentation on that idea… I know there have been lots of Visa problems in many countries.
My husband said something similar about his mission to Russia.
I can’t wait for my first to start seminary next year. When I taught seminary, the saddest thing I ever heard was “Well, she/he can come, as long as it doesn’t conflict with _______.” Hearing that, I knew that student would have a hard time that year–in every aspect of life. I’m so thankful more is being required; nothing brings blessing like serious commitment backed up by sincere effort.
I am surprised that there is so much concern over the new standards. As a 6am teacher I am aware of the challenges for parents and students, but the new requirements are still quite minimal. I am grateful for parents who encourage and teach their children that participating is important, and that great blessings come from obedience. The few students I have had that don’t receive that reinforcement are the ones who seem to struggle the most in their lives with worldly pressures. Seminary is most definitely an opportunity to put on the armor of God before going out into the world. Please reconsider, noinseattle!
For what it’s worth, the new requirements were approved by the Board of Education, consisting of presidents Monson, Eyring, & Uchtdorf, as well as Elders Nelson, Oaks, & Scott. Rounding out the group are the general young men’s president, and you women’s & relief society presidents.
Pres. Packer once remarked (to parents, then students): “Without guidance, your student may choose another elective instead of seminary, or another course instead of an institute class. That would surely be a mistake. It would be like adding one more brick to the house of knowledge when there is little mortar to hold it all together. Parents, encourage, even insist, that your students register for seminary or institute. Presidents, bishops, youth leaders, you are responsible to encourage every youngster, without exception, to enroll. Few things you do will benefit them quite as much.
“Students, if your values are in place, you will not hesitate to forego an elective class that may decorate your life in favor of instruction which can hold together the very foundation of it. Then, once enrolled, attend, study, and learn. Persuade your friends to do the same. You will never regret it; this I promise you.”
I hope disgruntled parents will trust the wisdom of prophets, seers, and revelators!
Thanks for this added clout.
I was terrified when I was asked to teach early-morning Seminary 9 years ago, but have come to feel that it is the best calling in the Church. I love being with these strong, amazing young people who come to be fortified for their day in the real world. Even the ones who struggle with staying awake have something to offer, and we work mightily to get them to wake up enough to participate! My testimony was strengthened so much as a teenager because of Seminary, and everyday in class I hope that is what is happening for my students. I am pleased that there is are changes being made to raise the bar because I agree that most of our youth will rise to what is asked of them.
I graduated in June 2013, and I am sad I missed this. I absolutely loved Seminary, and I feel like I could have learned more with the new requirements. This is great because when more is expected of you, it is less easy to slack off and take advantage of the situation.
1st kid, 1st time I’ve had to drive to early morning seminary (ours starts at 5:20). We were joking with the missionaries this week that on their mission they would be able to “sleep in”. Love what the sacrifice is teaching my child. Got caught in the act of complaining about the early hour the other week, realized that I needed to only show my child the positives and be an example. These youth will do much harder things in life than wake up extra early!
I’m a convert to the Church after high school, so I didn’t get the opportunity to attend seminary. I know that I would have. I went to a variety of churches as a child where I learned to read the scriptures. I accepted the challenge to memorize many scriptures in order to receive a red letter edition of the Bible, which I still have. I never use it, but just having it helps me remember what I did to receive it. The greater the cost, the more precious the gift. Seminary students will appreciate what they learn more later in life than they do while struggling to make the grade today.
No thanks. With the new requirements, my kids will definitely NOT be attending.
How sad for them.
How do your kids feel about the new requirements?
My senior son is thrilled, and is much like some of the other comments – the standards are not demanding at all, with even a modest effort. He has little tolerance for kids who don’t care enough to show respect. (Happy dad)
Maybe you don’t know, noinseattle, how it was explained to us at symposium in my stake, is that the kids can either read the required text on their own or with their family. The assessment tests can be retaken as many times as necessary if a 75% isn’t achieved the first time. These are really not difficult requirements at all, and the attendance requirement for credit is lower than the 80% it was the last 3 years my husband and I have taught. I hope you don’t deny your kids the opportunity and blessing of getting a doctrinal foundation in Seminary. Remember these requirements come from the First Presidency of the Church, whom, I assume, you have agreed to sustain and support.
I attended early morning seminary in high school and even got perfect attendance. I have wonderful memories of seminary it was definitely where I gained a strong foundation in the gospel and it was my favorite place to be since life outside of seminary was chaotic. I taught seminary at 545 am about 5 years ago and I loved it (I even got to teach OT). I was so excited to hear the new standards because these kids can frankly handle the bar being set higher. I often told them and their parents that this was the only time in their life where they could get daily scripture instruction on 1 set of scriptures over a year time. When I read the new standards I rejoiced for the kids that embraced it and would grow in leaps and bounds and wept for the kids who either they or their parents would use this as an excuse to not attend.
Growing up I went to early morning seminary sometimes when I could could carpool. See my mother worked and left 5:30 in the morning, so if I wanted a ride I’d have to be dropped off in the dark in front of the church building a half hour before it started. It was kind of scary actually. There were sometimes when an older girl in our ward had her license and could drive and then I’d be offered a ride, but even then I felt bad for her b/c she had to wake up earlier than me probably just to go out of her way to my house and pick me up (she was an angel what can I say) I’d also like to mention as a teenager it drained me, exhausted me, waking up that early is no bueno. I did like going and I learned a lot, but it was hard. And NO I didn’t have sports, or music lessons, family was too poor for that and couldn’t take me either. I would’ve been able to go more often if I had “release time” (I’m guessing that’s a Utah term for when students are allowed to take seminary during school hours). I would’ve been able to go if it were held at night. I think this is just going to serve to make teenagers feel more pressure, and those who just cant rise to that standard, feel more alienated.
Thank you. I am currently serving in the Bishopric in our Ward and we discuss often how we can help our youth withstand the horrors of the world they are faced with on a daily basis. Each time one of the first things that is discussed is making sure they get to early morning seminary. For us it is like Moroni fortifying the cities and soldiers, building walls and giving his men armor. We look at seminary as one of the best ways to put the Whole Armor of God on every day. Unfortunately, we are repeatedly disappointed when it is the parents that are the biggest obstacle in getting the youth to attend. Parents are unwilling to get up, unwilling to drive them, unwilling to require effort from their children. For some reason Church activities seem to always be the first cut from schedules, but in my humble opinion, they are the most vital. I am glad the Church is raising the bar and know those that take advantage of seminary will be eternally blessed.
I’m surprised that release time seminary is still allowed too. Not that I’d want it- there’s often not enough space in HS schedules to get all the graduation reqs and extras you want to take as it is. I remember my seminary teachers trying to give us tests- we just laughed. Of course, I later taught early morning seminary 🙂 I remember a lot of the scripture mastery verses, but not much else in the way of “meat.” Mostly I remember playing games and watching videos- and the crepes one teacher made for the whole class every Friday morning! More doctrine and accountability would’ve been okay with me. I’m glad this is happening, and I’m glad that’s it’s happening before we get to high school with my oldest, that way it’s already the way things are when he gets there in a couple of years!
I too was happy to hear of the changes made in Seminary. They are definately for the better. For nothing is more impartant than studying and learning the gospel doctrine found in the scriptures. I enjoyed Seminary in the early 70’s and getting up early, studying, and all that stuff; it was worth it and was an experience I will never forget and will always be thankful for.
Some of my children did not feel that way, and I never understood why it was such a chore to them. They are grown now and some have children of their own. I pray daily that when the time comes that my grandchildren will enjoy the opportunity and love the experience.
Thank you for this wonderful postig! I’m 100% in agreement.
I totally agree with you. As a former early-morning student and later a teacher, I do believe in learning by osmosis. Certainly not the optimal way, but better than nothing.
Better than nothing – but when we are using “nothing” as a basis for comparison, we aren’t aiming very high.
Actually, isn’t it easier to graduate with these rules? 75%, really?
I was also kind of surprised at the drop in required attendance. But given the addition of actually reading the scriptures and showing that you learned the doctrine, I’ve got no problem with it. My opinion is that I’d rather have a student that learned but didn’t quite make it 4 days out of 5, than one that makes it 4 for 5 but sleeps through class.
I was so glad to hear that there were new requirements for seminary. I learned so much from my early morning seminary classes and was so grateful for the experience. My girls have the opportunity for release time seminary and one daughter, my oldest chose to beg to be in early morning so that she could still do the classes that she wanted at school AND still attend seminary. They only let the upper grades do early morning so my 9th grader just works harder at home to be able to fit in all the classes she wants. Seminary is a great testimony builder, when done right and will serve the youth if they utilize the wonderful opportunity to increase in gospel knowledge.
Wish my kids could have been so lucky. Treats are always Good 🙂
I was so happy to hear of this change. Change is inevitable folks. We call it progression. 🙂
Huzzah. When parents teach that soccer, volleyball, football etc are more important than seminary and therefore an eternal perspective, youth are quick to follow. It is my job as their mother to help them make better choices. I don’t like getting up early either, but I do it, and so will they.
Just so you know, I agree 100% with this, especially the part about it’s easier to memorize scriptures (or anything) as a teenager. Seminary provided the foundation for my own testimony, and I could see the huge difference it made in the lives of our children. I wish every single teenager could, and would, take advantage of this opportunity and blessing. Thanks for sharing!
I teach daily seminary at 6am. (It hasn’t been called Early Morning Seminary for a while now). I have 30 students. Nearly all of them come on time, and they come prepared. They even sing! When the new requirements were presented, my students embraced them wholeheartedly, because they understand why the requirements were changed and the blessings that will come from doing them. I only had one parent that was not immediately supportive (and she is on board now.) These youth are amazing and they inspire me every day. If we have faith that our youth will do what is asked of them and love them and encourage them, they will not disappoint.
Sounds to me like your class must have an excellent teacher. 😉
I’m 100% with you on the benefits of Seminary. I don’t think I’d have much of clue about the doctrine except for the wonderful teachers I had over 50 years ago. My memories of Seminary are some of my best from high school and have done more good for me than any other classes I took.
I work with the Young Women in my ward. In our ward we have a few youth who don’t get a great amount of support at home when it comes to gospel-related things. My ward has worked together to coordinate a carpool schedule in order to make sure that these kids get the opportunity to attend seminary. It is my hope that attending seminary daily will help these kids more fully embrace the gospel in their lives, and I’m sure the new graduation requirements will only help that.
I love this! Way to fulfill your calling, Gretchen! You are an excellent example!
I think it is about time they distinguish between “attended seminary” and “graduated from seminary.” I suppose someone could create a pretty piece of paper to commemorate those students who attended less than 75%, or did not read the assigned reading for the year, so people can all feel better about themselves. I am not sure what that piece of paper would would look like or how much value anyone would attach to it.
There will be a certificate of completion and a certificate of recognition for those who attend but don’t meet the other criteria for a diploma.
You know, you gotta love it when a former Bishop uses the term “Suck It Up”…. Nice write.
I added “Buttercup” to try and soften it…
Amen MMM. I will know share this with my two high schoolers!
I didn’t even know we were being graded in Seminary until I came to the States. I was one of 10 kids in my graduating class that had straight A’s for seminary. When I heard that, All I could think was “how do you NOT get and A in Seminary”
Most students will perform at expected levels. Raise the bar and the students will raise the quality of their work. Seminary provides a spiritual component to their secular (worldly) education in today’s world. (APPLAUSE) Raising six children, sometimes with released time, sometimes with early morning seminary, they needed that spiritual boost. And yes, there is always time for scripture reading and study. It just has to be high enough on the priority list. Parents, support this program. Your children, your family, your future grandchildren need this.
My wife is on her 14th year as Seminary Teacher in our Ward. Class starts at 6:00 every morning and she loves getting up to go to Seminary. She knows more about each and every student in her class than anyone other than the students parents in our Ward. Her biggest fear is the day they release her from this calling. There is no other place she would like to be or have any of our six children to be than in Seminary at the start of each school day. The importance in their lives goes far beyond learning scripture mastery verses, more than attending 75% of the time, it is for one hour a day of peace before the Students head into the big bad world. They truly get to add to their armor in the battle of the world. Even for those that “sleep” through class on occasion their armor is added too (not as much as those fully awake – but yes added to in some small way.) Tough – yes – but you only gain muscles by exercise and work.
Thank you. I love being an early morning seminary teacher, but you have the hard days. Today was one of them and I needed the rah-rah to take a deep breath and start fresh tomorrow.