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.)