Subject: My Mormon Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 11:01 2003
Author: TokyoPlayer

I attended high school in SLC in the late 70s to 80 (graduated in 80).

We had what was called "release time" where we were "released" from high school to go across the street to seminary and receive religious propaganda from the teachers, all male, of course. Seminary was for 4 years; my older brother and sisters went to "early morning" seminary in 9th grade, before our school district changed 9th grade to high school instead of Jr. high.

For the most part, the teachings parroted our Sunday school lessons, but they taught a lot of "deniable doctrine," teachings which becomes part of the BIC culture but without official "white paper" status.

And, they completely screwed around with young people's impressionable minds, teaching complete lies about human sexuality, for example, something which this contributor will never forgive.

Subject: Would you like to hear about early-morning seminary?
Date: Nov 02 11:29
Author: chanson

I grew up in the "mission field" where it wouldn't be possible to build a special building for seminary classes next to each high school for seminary since each HS in the area had only about 2 or 3 Mormon kids. So we took our daily Mormon theology class (seminary) in the morning before school started.

This is how it worked: All the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade kids in the ward would get up at 5 in the morning and drive to the home of whichever member of the ward was unfortunate enough to have the calling of seminary teacher. This is almost always the mother of one of the seminary students (since who else would agree to do it?). The class was opened and closed with prayer like any other Mormon meeting. For the curriculum, each of the four years of seminary was devoted to one of the four standard works: BofM, NT, OT, and church history (with D&C and PoGP). There weren't enough students to have a separate class for each grade, so which of the four books you get first depends on what year you start.

At the end of the lesson we would do an activity called the "scripture chase." There was a list of important scriptures from whichever book we were studying, and for each scripture on the list we would memorize a key phrase (like "fire insurance" for the tithing scripture) and memorize the location (book/chapter/verse). The seminary teacher would recite one of the key phrases, and the students would race to find the corresponding scripture. (We may have done scripture-chase tournaments against other wards at the end of the year, but I don't recall precisely.)

The biggest advantage (for the kids) of being in early-morning seminary was that Mom was very motivated to let us have a car to drive ourselves to school as young as possible so that she wouldn't have to drive us to seminary herself. One drawback was that since nobody wants to be the seminary teacher, the ward has to give the job to whoever will take it. As a result, we learned some pretty funky things from one really strange lady that they got to teach for my later years of HS. She was one of those people who receives a lot of her own revelations. She was still teaching us lessons about how blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence, and this was the late 80's, probably 1989! (She then told us that she loves black people though because they "sure can dance." I am not making this up--I really did learn that in seminary.)

Subject: Re: Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 16:59
Author: Debbie

I remember one time when my seminary teacher threw the bible across the room and said it was just a book, but the BOM was the holy book and we should respect it more than the bible any day. He also tried to tell us Joseph Smith was better then the disciples of Jesus because they sinned and denied him too much.. What a bunch of crap.. He also got a divorce from a wonderful woman and I last heard he was a lush somewhere, My other seminary teacher committed suicide after his wife left him and took their 5 kids. My other seminary teacher was a great guy who made a grip of money and they lived quite nicely. She was just bored and found a even richer guy to take care of her greediness. Brother Johnson was actually a nice guy and he did not always believe what the prophets said, so he always encouraged us to follow are instincts and to question somethings the prophets taught. I still believe he was a closet disbeliever in the church but went along like the other countless closet disbelievers do..

Subject: Re: Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 17:20
Author: anon

Maybe I'm looking back with a jaundiced eye, but even as an 8th grader in SLC, I felt there was something seriously wrong with seminary.

- as if the three hours of indoctrination on Sunday, daily family prayers and scripture reading, weekly family home evening weren't enough, I also had to attend a religious class every day at school? Why?

- the seminary teachers didn't seem to be the kind of adults I aspired to be. They seemed to be people who had failed at many other things in their lives before they became seminary teachers.

- the contrast in thinking required in the math class I had just attended and the thinking required in seminary was just too great even for an 8th grader not to notice.

Just some random observations.

Subject: Re: Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 18:00
Author: Mehina

I actually enjoyed my seminary experience.

There were a few hundred Mormon teenagers in my old stake - a pretty sizeable So. Calif. town, so the Moots didn't really dominate, although there was a healthy fraction of them living there. Anyway, not enough for release-time seminary. Although there was enough to divide us among years (i.e., all the sophomores together, all the freshmen together, etc), and into two separate time slots.

There was only one stake house and four different high schools. I was lucky, I could just walk from the church to school, but others had to drive across town. There were also quite a few members who did sports/cheer/band/etc., who had to be at school at 7 am, the normal time for morning seminary. Rather than let them slip through the cracks (and use band practice as a convenient excuse to miss seminary), there was early-morning seminary and late-morning seminary. If you went to early morning seminary, you showed up at 6:15, and left at 6:45 so you could be at school/practice on time. Poor souls... I was lucky, and I only had to show up at 6:50 for my seminary. It got out at 7:30, and it was actually kind of nice. I'd have a half-hour before school started to do my makeup/homework/study - more on Thursdays, when school didn't start till 8:30.

The teachers were actually pretty good... I never got the feeling that any of them didn't really want to be there. It was nice to see my friends in the morning, since I probably wouldn't see them all day (one friend of mine was in the drama crowd at high school, and I was in the Goth [yes, Goth] crowd, so our paths never crossed during the day. I had other friends who went to different high schools, and the only times we saw each other was in the morning and occasional weekends).

It was more a social thing than an indoctrination thing. I never learnt any of the "deniable" stuff [as far as I know]. I had a good time, just for the social aspect of it. We had donuts on Fridays and birthdays, and parties at the end of each semester. Yeah, the getting up early sucked, but, on the flip side, I was never late to class. And during my senior year, when I started slipping, it gave me time for a coffee and cheese roll in the mornings ;).

Subject: In Utah...
Date: Nov 02 18:19
Author: Who Cares

...Seminary was within walking distance from the High School. On the class schedule, it was titled "release time"--which meant, as a student, you were legally permitted to leave school grounds for that particular class period. Which also meant, you didn't legally need to attend Seminary. You were granted one class period away from school. That being said, I didn't attend Seminary at all my senior year because fifth period Seminary meant I had a two hour lunch period.

Subject: Did anyone have release time every Tues. for all religions?
Date: Nov 02 19:30
Author: Verdacht

In New York we used to have religious instruction for everybody at 2PM. every Tues. for Tier 1 grades. All the kids from the various denominations went to their respective churches for lessons.
In High School it was just the Catholic and Jewish kids. We LDS kids had Seminary Sun. afternoon for a couple of hours.
Then there was "Super Saturday" when the kids from the whole stake got together. It was always a tense trip with our Seminary Teacher, because he tended to nod off on the x-way.

Subject: Seminary circa 1977
Date: Nov 03 02:47
Author: T.J.

It sounds like things have changed a bit since I was in school. I graduated from Skyview High School in 1977. Skyview, for those that don't know is located in Smithfield Utah where there is, or at least used to be a population that was 95% Mormon. We also had seminary at North Cache Jr. High in grades 7-9.

Back there and then, Seminary did count on your GPA, it was one of your regularly scheduled periods and though it was in a separate building, it was still on campus. As I recall they made it all legal by calling it an elective course.

We didn't have a president and counselors, but we always began with an opening prayer and a hymn. Each classroom had a spinet (usually out of tune) which I remember well as I was often called upon to accompany.

The building was set up with a foyer, some offices and several classrooms so that multiple sessions could be running at the same time. Sometimes other classes, like English were taught in the seminary building, at least at North Cache where space was a problem.

I remember them being fun and thought provoking. In fact, it was in seminary that I first learned about the multiple versions of the first vision and the Adam God doctrine.

In particular, I remember Brother Gundy setting up Jeopardy games to test our knowledge. He had little buzzers and everything. We all loved it and probably learned our gospel doctrine better than the three R's. I remember playing games that taught moral lessons and giving presentations. It was actually a great learning environment and I don't feel like my time was totally wasted.

In every healthy society there has to be a way to learn the lessons that religion teaches so well. In the final analysis, it worked for me but in my heart of hearts, I think there has to be a better way. Maybe the next generation will figure it out.

Subject: Re: Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 20:14
Author: Dawne

OMG, I feel so bad that we made our kids go to cemetery every morning but they survived. My husband and I really weren't the type to ram religion down anyone's throat so I guess the kids were able to take much of that stuff with a grain of salt and make their own decisions. I remember one funny incident with our second son who was the typical California surfer - much more interested in going to the beach than going to the celestial kingdom. One day they passed out these questionnaires in seminary about what the kids were most interested in. Of course, they wanted to hear about religion but our son answered everything along the lines of babes in bikinis, gnarly waves and surf's up. It was hilarious. So a few days later I get a phone call from this full of himself councilor in the stake presidency who reads me our son's answers in a voice trembling with self-righteousness, asking me what I'm going to do about it. I told him NOTHING, the kid is 17 and almost an adult, slammed down the phone and called him an asshole under my breath. Our 3 kids were rolling on the floor, laughing. BTW ,they all are productive adults now, married to nice people and take religious claims with a grain of salt.

Subject: Re: Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 21:59
Author: Dawne

Oh, and in the stake we were in the strictest TBM parents usually had the most rebellious kids. And the second counselor in the SP had a 16 year old daughter who had to get married, after they scraped him off the floor he became a much more sensible person.

Subject: Re: Seminary Experiences
Date: Nov 02 23:27
Author: Ken S.

Seminary is a church sponsored class that high school kids go to. The church builds and maintains a building close to the high school but not on school property. The states of Utah and Idaho allow a "released time" period during the school day. You are allowed to leave the campus during this period. You don't get any school credit usually, but there are a couple of general religion classes they teach that fulfill some social studies requirements. The classes are mostly like Sunday school with home work. They set up the class with a student president called by the teacher, who then calls his counselors and some one to lead music and whatever. I went to a unique high school that had a catholic and a Mormon seminary, don't know how many schools were like that. If you go all your years you get a certificate of graduation to hang on your wall. You get grades but they don't count on your school GPA (unless its one of the credit classes) There is a college equivalent called the "institute of religion". They have way better educators than the seminaries have. The teachers in seminary are for the most part grossly under paid in relationship to the high school teachers (who are not particularly overpaid as it is). Because of this pay disparity the quality of the teaches is not very good. They are either young returned missionaries full of zeal or burned out older guys who lost their job doing whatever. Hope this helps

Subject: My cemetery experience
Date: Nov 03 12:27
Author: nw gal

I always had kind of a wavering testimony, and it seemed like different seminary teachers had an effect on that.

Way back in 1981 (God I'm getting old) my 8th grade teacher was the biggest TBM geek you can imagine. Nice guy, but he couldn't relate to jr high kids at all. He taught some pretty weird stuff.

My next teacher was really into the 'dark side'. That was the first time I really learned anything about Satanism, how evil rock and roll was and backward messages etc. He used to tell all these stories about ouija boards and stuff. He had me so freaked out I threw away all my Led Zeppelin and Styx albums. I had nightmares for months.

In high school I had a very cool, charismatic teacher who had me believing again. That turned into guilt and I just knew I was going to outer darkness for all my terrible sins.

By the time senior year rolled around I was either sluffing or falling asleep in class. Somehow I still managed to graduate from cemetery.

In college we had the option of taking Institute (what a fitting name!) I took it for one year. The teacher was an idiot. He would say things like "Anyone who isn't married by the time they are 30 has serious mental problems." One girl in our class who was 35 and not married attempted suicide.

For the most part, seminary seemed to be where I learned most of the weird stuff about Mormonism.

Subject: The Seminary Experience
Date: Nov 03 13:06
Author: MySongAngel

Seminary was like Sunday School every day. It is one of the ultimate indoctrination tools the church has. However, because of the advanced "Doctrine Education" I received there as opposed to normal church attendance, I was able to see more clearly why the church is false. Most of my knowledge of Mormon scripture, doctrine and expectations came from Seminary. We were told a lot as we were leaving class to resume normal High School classes that we were "re-entering the world", so Seminary was really looked upon as non-Sunday church meetings. In the town I lived in, it was practically a commandment to attend. I always thought it was a little strange that the teachers that taught me the most about the "gospel" were being paid. The church makes such a big deal about everybody being a volunteer, but at the place that I was getting my real church experience, the teachers were paid.

Subject: Seminary in Brazil
Date: Nov 03 14:24
Author: Jack

Seminary never quite caught on in Brazil, specially daily seminary. In many areas, it's a weekly class (usually on a Saturday). It usually takes place in the Church building of each ward, or in someone's home.

Some areas do have early-morning seminary, but most areas that do have daily seminary do it in the evening, like 6 PM or 7 PM. It's usually in a Church building, or in someone's home.

I had the three situations in my four years of Seminary: daily Seminary in the evening, daily Seminary in the morning (at 6:00 AM...) and seminary once a week. It all depended on the importance that the leaders of the time gave to seminary. Sometimes they were very enthusiastic about it, sometimes they were burned out and unwilling to go to the trouble of finding a willing teacher (they are ALL volunteer in Brazil, there are no paid seminary teachers) and cooperative parents. (Depending on the area, distances are big, and not all families can afford to drive their kids or to give them money to take the bus. Brazil IS a poor country.)

I actually have some fond memories of seminary. I made good friends, friendships that continue even today. (It's been over ten years since I graduated from seminary.) There were not many Mormons around in our city, and it was good to see my Church friends during the week. For me, it was definitely a social thing. I did take some of the doctrines seriously at that time, but very often they sounded absurd to me, although I did not dare to vocalize my concerns and questions. I had fun, though. Our teachers were not too strict, and not too weird.

As I look back on it today and think of my classmates in Seminary, some of them went inactive in the Church, others are semi-active, others are very active. Some turned out to be gay (like me and my best friend), but oh well. :) But those were good days. Good old high school days.


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