CES: Teaching Members Diligently
By Walter Cooley, Church Magazines
The Church Educational System (CES) is a testimony of the Church's emphasis on the importance of education. Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, Commissioner of Church Education, said it is important for members to listen to President Gordon B. Hinckley's counsel on education.
President Hinckley said: "Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity for you. It is worth sacrificing for. . . . Take advantage of every educational opportunity that you can possibly afford" ("Inspirational Thoughts" Ensign, June 1999, 5).
CES is a multifaceted organization charged with fulfilling the Savior's call, "Teach ye diligently" (D&C 88:78). Last year CES answered its charge by teaching more than 1.2 million students both young and old, inside and outside of our faith.
CES offers education throughout the world through four main programs: higher education (Church universities and colleges), religious education (seminaries and institutes of religion), elementary and secondary schools, and continuing education.
Education has always been important to members of the Church. As Latter-day Saints began to colonize western North America, they often set up community or ward schools. Over time a series of academies was established. To govern these academies, the Church created the General Church Board of Education in 1888.
The Church either closed or transferred most of these schools to local governments as public education became more available. Some of the more prominent of these original institutions still operating today include the University of Deseret (University of Utah), Brigham Young College (Utah State University), Weber Stake Academy (Weber State University), Sanpete Stake Academy (Snow College), and St. George Stake Academy (Dixie State College). CES continues to operate only four of the original schools: Brigham Young Academy (BYU), Bannock Stake Academy (BYU—Idaho), Salt Lake Stake Academy (LDS Business College), and the Juarez Academy in Mexico.
Today CES is governed by the Church Board of Education for seminaries, institutes, and elementary and secondary schools, and by boards of trustees for each of the institutions of higher education. Board members include the First Presidency, three members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Senior President of the Seventy, the Relief Society general president, and the Young Women general president.
The Church's institutions of higher education are LDS Business College and the three schools bearing the name of Brigham Young: Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, BYU—Hawaii in Laie, and BYU—Idaho in Rexburg.
These institutions serve about 45,000 students on the campuses and an additional 472,000 through continuing education programs. Elder Kerr says that each university has a unique mission and role within CES.
LDS Business College primarily provides career-based education but also offers general-education degrees preparing students to transfer to other colleges or universities.
BYU offers undergraduate degrees in a wide variety of disciplines as well as selected master's and doctorate programs. Elder Kerr said the board sees BYU as an undergraduate teaching institution, although the university is involved in significant research projects involving many undergraduate as well as graduate students.
BYU—Hawaii offers undergraduate degrees and has the highest percentage of international students of any university in the United States. Elder Kerr said the school will continue to balance diversity and culture as part of its mission.
The newest four-year Church school is BYU—Idaho. In 2000, the school began the transition from a two-year school known as Ricks College to a four-year baccalaureate-degree-granting university. The primary role of BYU—Idaho is teaching, Elder Kerr says. The faculty are provided periodic professional development leaves to do individual research, although research and publishing are not imperatives. Instead, their research focus is on improving teaching.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said that although not all members can attend one of these Church schools, the Church will continue to operate these higher education institutions to testify of the importance of education.
He said: "We shall keep these as flagships testifying to the great and earnest commitment of this Church to education, both ecclesiastical and secular, and while doing so prove to the world that excellent secular learning can be gained in an environment of religious faith" ("Why We Do Some of the Things We Do," Ensign, Nov. 1999, 52).
Seminaries and Institutes of Religion
In the same address, President Hinckley also said that these Church schools will be backed by seminaries and institutes scattered far and wide.
Seminary began in 1912 at Granite High School in Salt Lake City. The Church created the program to supplement public education after Church-owned secondary schools began to close in the early 1900s. The first seminary class enrolled 70 students. Today seminaries throughout the world enroll more than 360,000 students.
Seminary students study within one of three program types: released time, early morning, or home study.
Released-time students attend seminary during their school day. Released-time seminary is available in parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Alberta, Canada. In 1950, the Church expanded the seminary program to include students who could not attend during their school day. This program was called early-morning seminary.
Although many of the students in this program study before school, classes can be taught each day anytime outside of regular school hours. Early-morning students make up about 58 percent of all seminary students. The first early-morning seminary classes outside North America were taught in Finland and Germany in 1962. Seminary classes are now taught in approximately 140 countries.
Where released-time or early-morning seminary is not available, students can participate through a home-study program. Students study assigned scriptures and materials and then meet with other students and a teacher once a week to discuss what they learned.
In 1926, the Church began building institutes of religion near universities not operated by the Church. These institutes offered religious education classes for university students. Institutes now teach more than 365,000 students and members at more than 2,214 institute programs throughout the world.
The first international institutes were established in Australia and Great Britain in 1969. International student enrollment in institute continues to increase each year and is now greater than in the United States.
President Hinckley has described how institute benefits its participants: "It is touching for good the lives of students across the world. In the institutes young college-aged students find happy association, they find learning, social experience, and even husbands and wives within the faith" ("This Great Millennial Year," Ensign, Nov. 2000, 67).
Young LDS college students aren't the only people who benefit from the program. Many institute students, young and old, are not enrolled in college. Also, members of other faiths enroll in institute classes each year.
Elder Kerr said institute has become so widely available that many members are able to experience the program in one way or another. "There are few places where young people would be unable to have an institute experience, either through established institute programs or courses available through stakes," Elder Kerr said.
Elementary and Secondary Education
The Church entered into elementary and secondary education outside of the United States in areas of Latin America and the Pacific where public education was not available. Several schools were organized, but over time as public education became more available, Church-owned and operated schools were discontinued. A few of those schools are still in operation: 16 in the Pacific and 2 in Mexico. The 18 schools have a combined student enrollment of 9,255.
A variety of continuing education options are offered through CES. These include programs such as Education Week, Especially for Youth (EFY), camps and workshops, and distance learning courses. Distance learning provides both online and traditional correspondence courses for personal enrichment as well as for high school or college credit.
Blessings from Attending
The four main branches of CES continue to help its students follow President Hinckley's counsel to get all the education they can. As a result of this obedience, students are blessed. Elder Kerr described the blessings available to students who participate: "The people participating in these programs are really preparing themselves not only for careers and better family lives but to be better citizens and to build the Church wherever they live."