Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Seminary - Is It Worth It?

Nine-moons has a post on seminary that raises some interesting questions. Same for Gordon Smith's T&S post on teen apathy. The increase in demands from school and other activities makes it increasingly difficult for kids to get to these painfully early classes - sometimes at 5:30 AM (currently 5:45 and 6:00 am in my region). Many would drop it instantly if it weren't for BYU's emphasis on seminary for those seeking scholarships. Seminary can be worth it - not just because BYU scholarships - when the teachers respect the sacrifice of the students and seek to feed them real content and spiritually strengthening material. Content is the key, in my opinion. But over the years, I've been pained to see teachers think they need to have fun and games and food instead of content, trying to make it more "appealing" to the kids. These kids are smart and serious - they don't need to suffer sleep deprivation for fluff. Feed them something worthwhile! I'm grateful for our teachers who do that (kudos to the great local teachers we have in the Appleton area!) and who have done that (and a little fun and food is certainly OK). But even with the best teachers, it's easy to question if we need to be so serious about seminary. Does it have to be so early, so long, and every school day?

Sadly, over the years, my testimony of seminary has waned, especially when I think back to my seminary classes at Brighton High School in Salt Lake City and moan over the ridiculous doctrines that were sometimes taught to kids by CES employees. Grant Palmer, now an anti-Mormon trying to "help" the Mormons, was part of the Brighton seminary scene a couple years after my time there - his gullibility regarding salamander myths would fit in well with some of the things my wife and I encountered there (one teacher, for example, told us he had secret knowledge about the sacred Jupiter stone; others taught us speculative and sometimes offensive doctrines). There were some fine teachers, but a few pushed bogus esoteric doctrines every now and then - and most kids couldn't tell the difference. Many of the teachers were fine, I think. Perhaps 80%? I hope it's much better these days. (Hey parents, don't assume that your kids are being nourished spiritually just because they attend seminary. Or Sunday School, for that matter. We have a real need in the Church to improve the quality of instruction everywhere.)

On the other hand, the release-time seminary program I had at Brighton High did provide an important benefit by sponsoring local "seminary bowl" competitions. My future wife and I were on the same team. These after-school events and practices meant that a certain young man with a car would need to give a certain young lady rides home on a frequent basis, and hang out with her a lot. This makes up for a lot of the damage done by inadequate teachers. (We were also on the Brighton High debate team - another demanding setting requiring that we see each other frequently - what great days those were! And they've only gotten better.)

4 comments:

Robert Boylan said...

Hello Jeff.

I cannot say much about seminary, as we don't have it here in Ireland :-(
I would actually have like for it to be established here, but the LDS here are som few (in my home town of 25,000, only 20 are practising LDS, while my local church near University doesn't exactly fare well too). Still, although there must be disadvantages to it, I would love to do it (then again, I love learning religion - guess thats why I want to be a theologian ;).

About you comment on Palmer's gullibility - you are correct there. Moreover, he is very biased in his anti-LDS views. For example, in _Insider's view on Mormon origins_ you can see this everywhere, especially how he claims the Priesthood was never restored, ignoring the LDS position (that the Priesthood was restored when the Church and D&C states it was) and Michael Quinn's argumentation in "Mormon Hierarchy" for a June/July 1830 restoration for the Melchizedek Priesthood. Of course, like other ex-Mormon "intellectuals" like Brent Metcalfe, he is a naturalist, so angels and God cannot exist under this thinking, thus his bias and gullibility to ignore empirical evidence of a restoration is incredibly blatant.

Peggy Snow Cahill said...

I have 4 kids; two are still in seminary and two who finished. The two who finished are both inactive. I cry for the influence of the world on these two. But I am grateful for seminary. My inactive daughter and I were discussing why the world at large doesn't understand certain truths, and I said, you know why you understand that? And she said, 4 years of seminary? I was overjoyed. Ok, the world may have hold over her for awhile, but she was given a good foundational understanding in those 4 years, and I believe she will be back, and even if she doesn't, she will still be less lost in the darkness of the world than if she had not had it. I thank God for the seminary program!!!
Peggy

Richard K Miller said...

Speaking of seminary, several Book of Mormon seminary videos are available on Google Video. Search for "Book of Mormon" or read about it on my Mormonism blog.

Mormography said...

Let me understand. Just like the supposed divinely inspired LDS leadership, Palmer admits he accepted the examiners opinion that the Salamander Letter was genuine. He is completely honest about this and admits he was wrong, but this honesty is a basis for discrediting him (gulliblity)? However, the fact that the divinely inspired LDS leadership was gullible and fell for Hofmann’s ruse is not a basis to discredit their claim that they posses special access to divinity that Palmer does not?