President Packer Teaches about Surviving in Enemy Territory at Seminary Centennial
By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated a century of seminary on Sunday, January 22, 2012, with a special program broadcast featuring remarks from President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Also present were President Thomas S. Monson, who presided; President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency; President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy.
Students from seven local seminaries provided a musical number, “As I Search the Holy Scriptures.”
In introducing President Packer, Elder Johnson mentioned President Packer had attended the second seminary established in the Church in Brigham City, Utah, USA.
“Each of us has been blessed because of [President Packer’s] decision to become a teacher, which he made many years ago on a tiny island,” Elder Johnson said. “He loved his students when he taught seminary years ago, and he loves all the youth of the Church today.”
In 1949, following his service in the military, President Packer began working as a seminary teacher at that same seminary from which he graduated. During his career as a teacher, he taught the first seminary course that studied the Book of Mormon.
After teaching for a few years, he served as supervisor of seminaries for the Church. After his call as a General Authority, he served for 34 years on the Church Board of Education and the Executive Committee of that board.
From the pulpit President Packer instructed, “Do not squander these years of seminary instruction. Take advantage of the great blessing you have to learn the doctrines of the Church and the teachings of the prophets. Learn that which is of most worth.”
President Packer likened the world today to enemy territory, where the adversary has infiltrated homes, media, entertainment, language, and more.
That which is of most worth and most desirable, President Packer said, is wisdom. “The scriptures say, ‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom,’ and I would add, ‘with all thy getting, get [going]’” (Proverbs 4:7), he said.
Teaching can only go so far, he continued, but once a person has discovered how the Holy Ghost operates in his or her life, “[he or she] can live in enemy territory and not be deceived or destroyed … without first being warned by the promptings of the Holy Ghost.”
This power of revelation from the gift of the Holy Ghost operates on principles of righteousness, President Packer said. “The key word is discipline,” he emphasized. “The word discipline comes from the word disciple or follower. Be a disciple/follower of the Savior, and you will be safe.”
Principles of righteousness include prayer—both spoken and, more often, silent, he said.
“Take care of your body,” he counseled, citing the Word of Wisdom and the avoidance of anything that would deface the body or dishonor oneself, one’s parents, or God.
He also addressed the topic of sexual purity. “You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live a morally pure and chaste life, one filled with virtue,” he said and added that we must use our agency to deny acting on any impure impulse or unholy temptation that may come to mind.
Finally, he said, “Add ‘repent often’ to your list of things to do. When you choose to repent, you will receive a testimony and know that the gospel is true.”
“Some of you are floundering about and struggling to find what you will do,” President Packer said in closing. “It does not really matter what you choose to do for a living. What matters is what you will be. … Remember the Spirit is always with you to teach you.”
An Inspired Program
A video shown before President Packer’s remarks commemorated the history of seminary, with stories and messages from seminary students and General Authorities from around the world, including President Eyring.
Having served as Church Commissioner of Education between 1980 and 1985 and also from 1992 to 2005, President Eyring has significant ties to the seminary program. In the video he revealed that his mother, then-16-year-old Mildred Bennion, was among the first students to learn the gospel in that initial 1912 seminary class.
“She was the daughter of a man we would today call ‘less active,’” he recalled. “Some thoughtful individual in that day must have invited Mildred to seminary. Someone caught a glimpse of how this program would bless the lives of each and every young man and woman in the Church. And that one seminary teacher . . . blessed the lives of tens of thousands of unseen individuals because of the message he taught one girl.”
The goal of seminary has been, and always will be, to teach eternal truths to allow children of God to choose to know and to love Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, President Eyring emphasized in the video.
“To you remarkable young men and women who are students, I encourage you—no matter the challenges you face—to attend seminary,” he said. “Hunger and thirst to know and to do that which the Savior taught. In so doing the Spirit of the Lord will be your constant companion, and He will strengthen you for the battles you will face and the great work you will perform in families and in the Church.”
The History of Seminary
Seminary is a four-year course of study offered through the Church Educational System (CES), which offers religious instruction to youth ages 14 to 18. Students study a different book of scripture each year including the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants.
The first 70 students to enter a seminary class did so during regular school hours in 1912 in a seminary building adjacent to Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. In subsequent years, more and more Church youth were enrolled in public school systems that did not provide the opportunity to study the scriptures on a daily basis.
In 1948, Canada became the first country outside the United States to hold seminary.
In the late 1940s, the need to educate young people in the gospel inspired a group of stake presidents in the Southern California area to request the establishment of a Church seminary program.
During the 1948–49 school year, Marion D. Hanks, who later served in the Presidency of the Seventy, had success teaching an early-morning seminary class at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Holding similar classes seemed a logical solution for the Saints in California, and the 11 stakes were approved to form 13 early-morning classes.
Since its beginning a century ago, well over a million young Latter-day Saints have benefited from the seminary program.
Today, 375,000 youth in 143 countries make daily seminary a priority in their lives, whether they attend an early-morning program, take an evening course, study from home, or include it as part of their school schedule. Just four years ago, seminary classes were established in Benin, Georgia, and Morocco.
On Sunday, close to 22,000 seminary-age youth, their parents, youth leaders, and seminary teachers attended the celebration of 100 years of seminary in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Tens of thousands more watched the broadcast from their local meetinghouses or online at home.
This week the program will be rebroadcast to many areas of the world in dozens of languages. Audio and video files of the broadcast in additional languages will be archived at seminary.lds.org/100years in the near future.
Find the entire text of President Packer’s talk online at seminary.lds.org.