During the 1990s1 Seminaries and Institutes of Religion continued under the steady leadership of Stanley A. Peterson, whose title changed from “Associate Commissioner—Religious Education and Schools” to “Administrator—Religious Education and Church Schools” to better describe his expanded duties. For three years after Commissioner J. Elliot Cameron’s retirement in 1989, Brother Peterson, assisted by a capable staff of administrators, led seminaries and institutes without a commissioner.2 With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, young missionaries embarked to these new frontiers and the Church gained a foothold in areas undreamed of in earlier times. Soon after, CES missionary couples followed, establishing programs to strengthen the Church and build the kingdom of God. As the work expanded around the world, Church education also continued to expand. It was strengthened through standardized objectives, efforts to increase the efficiency of the system, and a dedicated army of full-time faculty and volunteers making sacrifices to bring the gospel to the Lord’s children.
After a period of stability in the administration, changes among the zone administrators3 became more frequent during this decade, with several leaving the central office for assignments in the field. For instance, in 1990 Frank M. Bradshaw left to serve as area director in the California South Area. Brother Bradshaw had been one of the key figures in overseeing the global expansion of seminary and institute programs, and during his time as an administrator he had supervised the work in Asia, Europe, and South America.4 He was replaced by Stephen K. Iba, one of the men who had earlier been sent out to help launch the programs. After completing his assignment in the Philippines, Brother Iba had served as a curriculum writer, a preservice trainer, and an area director. Shortly after he was appointed a zone administrator, he commented: “It’s not an easy assignment. There’s no question that it is extremely stimulating. I enjoy being on the cutting edge of decision making and being out there with the teachers and supporting them and loving Asia and Europe or Latin America or wherever they send me. I do enjoy culture. I love being with people. I love to see the Church on a global basis. It’s exhilarating for me.”5
At the same time Brother Iba arrived at the central office, continued expansion made it necessary to assign Thomas L. Tyler, who was serving as an area director in Nevada, as another zone administrator. Brother Tyler’s association with seminaries stretched back to the launch of the home-study program in the late 1960s, when he worked as the illustrator for the home-study curriculum. From curriculum he moved to the classroom, where he discovered his love of teaching. He was quick to share the lessons he learned about teaching, saying, “You never finish your preparation. … You may study awhile and do some mechanical aspects of preparation, but your mind never turns off. You are preparing constantly. While you are driving home, your mind is thinking about a certain block, verse, or passage of scripture. … When you get an impression, write the essence of the idea down. It is an act of showing the Lord we have received it. It also helps us to remember it. That receiving is essential.”6 Brother Tyler’s enthusiasm was infectious. When asked about his work in seminaries and institutes, he remarked, “I love to teach. I have chalk in my blood!”7
In 1992, after the three years without a commissioner, Henry B. Eyring was reappointed as Commissioner of the Church Educational System. He was also sustained to the Quorum of the Seventy on October 3.8 Commissioner Eyring was welcomed back into CES as an old and trusted friend. In one of his first addresses after his reappointment, he emphasized the teacher’s role in helping students struggling with doubts:
We can talk with [students] as if they want to see the spiritual things by which they have been surrounded but which are now out of their view. We can treat them as seekers who would want a softened heart if it would allow them to see spiritual truth.
I can make a promise to you: If you treat them as seekers, they will feel that you love them. And that may awaken a hope in them that they could have a softer heart. It may not happen every time, and it may not last. But it will happen often, and sometimes it will last. And all of them will at least remember that you believed in the best in them—their inheritance as a child of God.9
In 1994 C. Malcolm Warner took the place of Garry K. Moore, who was called as a mission president in Argentina.10 Brother Warner, a former chemistry professor from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, had joined CES and served as an area director prior to his appointment as a zone administrator.11
Ross H. Cole was asked to serve as a zone administrator over the central office in 1994.12 Brother Cole had been instrumental in developing the Professional Development Program (PDP) and had served as the first director of training in the central office.13 Brother Cole brought a deep commitment to his work. He later said, “I consider myself a 24-7 servant of the Lord. I figure that comes with the covenants. You can’t sidestep that. So the job is to find what [Heavenly Father] would have me do and what things are most important.”14
In 1997 Garry K. Moore returned from serving in South America with his wife, Lanell, and assumed responsibilities as a central office zone administrator. That same year Bruce Lake became Administrator Stanley Peterson’s executive assistant, replacing Clarence F. Schramm, who retired. Around the same time C. Malcolm Warner was called as a mission president, and his place among the zone administrators was filled by Randall L. Hall.15
Brother Hall had first decided he wanted to be a seminary teacher in high school, where he had served on the seminary council. He received the first $100 Abel S. Rich scholarship given at the Box Elder Seminary to help a senior who planned to teach seminary. Brother Hall served as a seminary teacher, a seminary principal, and one of the first seminary curriculum writers to prepare materials focused on sequential scripture teaching. His experience also included time as the preservice director at BYU and as an area director.16 He emphasized the importance of true gospel scholarship in teaching. “One of the things that we really want to make sure teachers do,” he said, “is that they have a thorough understanding of the scriptures they are teaching. … We hope that the teachers would have a deep understanding of the doctrines, the principles, the stories as well as the historical background, [and] customs that may clarify a doctrine or a principle.” Brother Hall also counseled teachers to stay grounded: “The trick is not to get caught on some of the temporary waves of excitement that are on the fringes of things. And so we hope that our teachers are gospel scholars with both of those words bolded—Gospel and Scholars.”17
As administrator of religious education and Church schools, Brother Peterson sought to provide a clear mission statement for CES educators. He presented the following objective to the Church Board of Education in 1992 in an effort to give clarity and sustained focus to the core work of CES:
The objective of religious education in the Church Educational System is to assist the individual, the family, and priesthood leaders in accomplishing the mission of the Church by—
1. Teaching students the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in the standard works and the words of the prophets.
2. Teaching students by precept and example so they will be encouraged, assisted, and protected as they strive to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Providing a spiritual and social climate where students can associate together.18
Along with the new objective, Brother Peterson and his team introduced a new commission for all of the teachers and leaders within the Church Educational System:
The commission of teachers and leaders in the Church Educational System is to—
1. Live the gospel.
2. Teach effectively.
3. Administer appropriately.19
Early the following year Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as a member of the Church Board of Education, reported that the statements had been reviewed by various Church committees and councils. During the review process it was recommended that the phrase “Preparing young people for effective Church service” be added to the objective list. With that addition, Elder Maxwell explained that the Objective and the Commission were now to be considered formal documents of religious education.20 They were used as a touchstone in training and in the formulating of policies and procedures.
The last decade of the 20th century saw continued growth internationally and domestically in terms of both the number of countries where CES programs were introduced and the number of students participating. This growth helped shape the ongoing work of CES and influenced many of the decisions that carried CES into the 21st century.
In the 1990s seminary and institute programs started in 62 different countries, more than in any decade before or since. In the Caribbean region alone, 13 new countries opened to CES programs: Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, St. Croix, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Thomas all started classes in 1993, preceded by French Guiana (1990), Trinidad and Tobago (1990), and the Cayman Islands (1991) and followed by Bermuda (1994), Antigua and Barbuda (1995), and St. Maarten (1996). In the Pacific, the first CES classes began in Vanuatu (1991), the Northern Mariana Islands (1995), and the Solomon Islands (1996).21 The expansion into these areas called to mind the Book of Mormon prophecy that “great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:21).
Another area of the world that experienced significant pioneering efforts at this time was Eastern Europe. In 1992 the Europe Area Presidency and CES leaders began discussing the establishment of seminary and institute programs throughout the countries in Eastern Europe recently freed from the control of the Soviet Union. The decision was made to call missionary couples to assist in starting the programs, and Frank W. and Carol P. Hirschi were the first couple assigned. Brother Hirschi, a long-time CES employee, had served as a seminary teacher, institute director, and area director. He had also served as a mission president.22 The Hirschis were called to establish seminaries and institutes in the missions of Russia Moscow, Russia Saint Petersburg, Ukraine Kiev, and Hungary Budapest.23
Recalling some of the uncertainty surrounding their call, Brother Hirschi remembered, “We met with the Area Presidency during the October conference and they gave us an idea of what they wanted us to do. Not knowing just what we would need to start the seminary and institute program in Russia and Hungary, we got on our knees, and then took what we thought we needed, and went to Europe to gain more information.”24 Sister Hirschi recalled that Area President Dennis B. Neuenschwander advised her and Brother Hirschi to “just keep it basic, just pure basic out of the scriptures.” The students were “perfectly satisfied to read the Book of Mormon three and four times a year.”25
Given the vastness of the territory and the possibility of reaching many more students, more CES missionaries followed. Donald and Shirley Morgan were sent to Saint Petersburg, Russia; Max and Elaine Moffett to Kiev, Ukraine; and Paul and Elaine Butterfield to Hungary.26
One of the miracles the Hirschis observed involved finding qualified teachers in branches where members already held several positions. Sister Hirschi said of one of the teachers, “This one little girl looked like she should have been in the class, and she was in front of the class teaching. She was only eighteen and perhaps had been in the Church less than a year.” But despite her youth, the Hirschis found her to be, like the other teachers, dedicated and qualified for the job.27
Frank and Carol Hirschi worked diligently to train their teachers, many of whom were newly baptized converts. Brother Hirschi later recalled, “Our teachers were not professionals. Most were less than one year old in the Church. … They had to know the gospel. They had to have a testimony. They had to be the type of person who had the personality to draw close to their students and be able to communicate. Teaching is an art of communication. So we would teach them about the art of communication. They had to be leaders, of youth or young adults, so priesthood leaders were instructed to call people that young people looked to as a role model.”28
In 1993 “the first ‘Super Saturday’ ever held in Eastern Europe was held in Vyborg, [Russia, on] October 9 with 37 in attendance—students, three teachers and several priesthood leaders.” The program consisted “of short inspirational talks, scripture chase, game time, and testimony meeting.” Brother and Sister Hirschi wrote, “The seed has sprouted and is growing. If we could have a wish, it would be to allow every person in East Europe to study the Book of Mormon using the Teaching Guide [a simplified 50-page teaching manual].”29
By late 1993, 42 of the 56 branches throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Hungary were sponsoring seminary and institute classes. To accommodate all of the students, group meetings were sometimes organized on different days of the week, called “Wonderful Wednesday, “Tremendous Thursday,” or “Fantastic Friday.” One of the challenges was limiting attendance at these meetings to only the youth because members of all ages wanted to attend.30
The Hirschis, along with the first group of other senior couple missionaries to accompany them, returned home in late 1994.31 Looking back on their missionary experiences, Brother Hirschi said:
We felt really humbled in the many times that the Lord intervened in our lives to help us, and guide us to the things that we should do and write down. We were totally in His hands. We really worked with the Lord in this program. I look back now … and I say, “I don’t know how we did it. I really don’t. I have no idea how we got to all those places and met with those teachers, training over a hundred teachers, and got them started, and developed the rapport that kept them going through the year. It had to be the Lord.” [Sister Hirschi added,] We just did our little bit and He did the rest.32
Throughout Eastern Europe, the fall of Communism opened the doors for the Church to enter, with religious education programs following soon after. New seminary programs began in Hungary (1993), Russia (1993), Slovakia (1993), Ukraine (1993), Bulgaria (1994), the Czech Republic (1994), Armenia (1995), Romania (1996), Croatia (1997), Slovenia (1997), Latvia (1998), Lithuania (1998), Albania (1999), and Moldova (1999).33
In Western Europe, growth had continued steadily since the introduction of seminaries and institutes 20 years prior. In 1994, several years after his retirement, Dan J. Workman was called as a missionary to serve as a CES area supervisor in Europe. Brother Workman later said that when he left as zone administrator in 1977, home study was operating in many of the areas of Europe. However, he was happily surprised at his return 17 years later to find that there were four full-time coordinators in France, five in Spain, four in Italy, seven in Germany, and three in Portugal.34 New programs had opened in Greece (1991) and Malta (1991).35 In places where only scattered classes existed before, now every ward and branch had a seminary class, and almost all had an institute class.36
For Church education in Africa, the 1990s were a time of sacrifice as well as growth. Donald E. Harper, who would later serve as the area director in South Africa, recalled traveling to Salt Lake City in 1964, early in his married life, to investigate the possibility of moving to the United States. In a meeting with Elder Harold B. Lee, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Brother Harper and his wife, Milja, were told by the Apostle that they were needed most in South Africa to help build up the Church there. The Harpers returned to South Africa and were later asked to direct the seminary and institute programs there. Brother Harper worked to encourage black and white members of the Church to come together. When a regional conference was held in South Africa, with Elders Boyd K. Packer and Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in attendance, Brother Harper insisted on the institute providing a choir of both black and white students. Sister Harper directed the choir. Later Brother Harper commented that the combined choir was one of the most significant experiences of the conference, and he attributed the success to the younger generation that could make it happen.37
Emma Rae and Byron J. Gilbert served as CES missionaries establishing seminary and institute classes in the Kenya Nairobi Mission from February 1992 to July 1993.38 At first the Gilberts taught the classes, but gradually they eased the called teachers into that role and helped them become proficient so they could take over the classes. At that point the volunteer teachers could receive a small stipend and be helped with their transportation costs.39
African education at the time consisted largely of “a system of memory and learning by rote,” Brother Gilbert later explained. As in other countries with similar systems, the Gilberts had to train the Kenyan teachers not to lecture but to use discussion and involve the students in the lessons.40 As they instructed these teachers, the Gilberts relied on translators to communicate and then relied on facial expressions to see whether their students understood the gospel principles being taught. Brother Gilbert remembered, “We’d just have them raise their hands if they understood and agreed to the thing that we were teaching. We could just see the big old grins on their faces. It’s kind of a spirit to spirit thing. You can feel it.”41
In Ghana, Lex Mensah, a native Ghanaian, was appointed as the full-time coordinator in 1992, just six years after his baptism. Brother Mensah had been a musician prior to joining the Church, but soon after his baptism he had been led toward teaching. He later recalled, “I had a love for teaching. It was something that I was interested in. So when I joined the Church and the opportunity came to teach seminary, I was very happy to do that. My branch president used to tell me that I should have been a teacher. He kept on telling me he felt the job that I came into this world to do was teaching.”42 Brother Mensah also recalled, “Just as I joined the Church, I saw in [a] dream all the prophets of the Church. [In] the vision they appear[ed], from Joseph Smith to President [Spencer W.] Kimball. They appeared from one person to the other in succession.” He related:
There was one that filled my heart with joy when I saw him. My heart was like bursting with joy, and that was the ninth president of the Church, President David O. McKay. After the dream I asked myself, “Why?” I mean this man alone, my heart was so full of joy. So I started reading about him. … Years later, President [Howard W.] Hunter unveiled a flag in [President McKay’s] memory, and one of the things that he said was that, “His whole life was dedicated to education, both secular and spiritual.” …
When I had [my] dream, there was nothing like seminary or institute program in this country. So I felt that probably that was why I was so happy in my dream. Maybe I was going to do something that he did, like education or something that would come out of education. So I’ve been very glad to teach seminary.43
Seminary and institute programs were still young in Ghana during this period, and Brother Mensah recognized some of the challenges faced by the teachers and students in his care. “All those who are teaching, they have never had a chance of attending seminary or institute. So many of them feel it’s an opportunity for them to learn what they should have learned when they were young. … Then [it is] also an opportunity for them to teach the youth, to share with them what they already know.” The youth of the Church in Ghana were definitely in the minority and were sometimes the only Latter-day Saints in their schools. Brother Mensah counseled them, “You have to be bold and courageous, and defend your faith.”44
During the 1990s seminary and institute programs began in 22 countries throughout the continent and its neighboring islands: the Democratic Republic of Congo (1991), the Ivory Coast (1991), Kenya (1991), Madagascar (1991), Sierra Leone (1991), Cape Verde (1992), the Republic of Congo (1992), Lesotho (1992), Swaziland (1992), Tanzania (1992), Uganda (1992), Botswana (1993), Martinique (1993), Mauritius (1993), Réunion (1993), Cameroon (1993), the Central African Republic (1995), Liberia (1995), Namibia (1995), Zambia (1995), Ethiopia (1996), and Togo (1999).45
India was another new frontier that opened during this time. Although Church missionary efforts in the country extended back as far as the 1850s, they had met with little success.46 By the 1990s Church members in India were literally almost one in a million, with a total Church membership of 1,150 members in 1993 in a country of almost a billion people.47 In 1992, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Brother Karl S. Farnsworth, the CES area director for Southeast Asia, visited the country and determined that the time was right for the launch of seminary and institute programs there. The following year, Murray and Donna Carver, a CES missionary couple, arrived in the country to serve as the first country directors.48
The Carvers’ service, however, was cut short when “half way into their mission Elder Carver suffered a fatal heart attack.” David Shuler, a young BYU professor of anthropology who was in the country directing a BYU study abroad program, willingly served in their stead from June to December 1994, allowing the work to keep moving forward. At the end of the year, “instead of assigning a new couple, a Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator were hired” from the local Church members. The first full-time CES personnel in India were “Michael Anthony, Coordinator; Daniel Mathew, Assistant Coordinator; and Samson Puttraj, part-time secretary.” Samson Puttraj had been among the very first seminary teachers in the country, called to start one of the first classes in India the year before.49
The first teacher training conference in India was held in 1995 with 30 teachers in attendance. Seminary enrollment began small, with just 83 students at the beginning of the 1994–95 school year, increasing to 135 by the next school year. The first course completion exercises took place on June 9, 1995. The mission president gave certificates of completion to the students, and Brother Kam Tim Kwok, who replaced Brother Farnsworth as the area director in Southeast Asia, spoke to them and provided training at the First All India Youth Conference.50
By 1997 CES programs existed in all but two of the branches in the country, and 12 former institute students were serving missions. In 1998 the first missionary preparation class was taught in the country. That same year the first four-year seminary graduation was held, with three students—Sudha Isaac, Ranjith Kumar Rajendran, and Mahendran Natarajan—receiving the honor of being the first official seminary graduates in India.51 Seminary and institute programs also opened in the nearby countries of Cambodia (1996) and Sri Lanka (1998).52 By the end of the 1990s seminary and institute programs in the area had blossomed into a vibrant part of the Church with over 6,300 students in 96 programs.53
In 1996 CES programs in Mongolia began with a class of about 18 students meeting at lunchtime.54 They didn’t yet have the Book of Mormon in their language, but the teacher often quoted from it. When zone administrator Ross H. Cole visited the class, he discovered that all of the students were members of the Church but only a few had been members for at least a year.55 He asked them how many had a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Every student raised a hand. Brother Cole asked for the students’ thoughts about the Book of Mormon, and one boy said, “I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God.” When asked how he had a testimony without reading the book, the boy responded, “It’s kind of like cake. If you have a bite of cake and it’s good, you know what the rest of the cake tastes like, right?” He continued, “My seminary teacher gave us a few verses of the Book of Mormon that they are working on in translation. … I studied them, and I went home and prayed about them. So I felt really good about them. I know they are true.”56
As with most areas of the world, seminary and institute programs in Mongolia began with senior CES missionaries, who then recruited and trained local teachers to lead the program. Odgerel Ochirjav was among the first CES teachers in Mongolia. Though he was born to Mongolian parents, Brother Ochirjav spent nearly all his school years in Soviet schools in both his native country and the Soviet Union and was a true believer in the philosophy of Communism; he even aspired to become a leader in the Communist Party. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, he found himself in the midst of a democratic revolution in Mongolia. He later remembered, “I had prepared myself to be a communist and my country was a democracy, which I really didn’t understand.”57
Years later, seeking to provide direction, his mother invited him to attend church with her, but he retorted with the old Communist maxim that “religion is the opiate of the people.” Out of obedience to his mother, though, he did attend church, but he was repulsed by the sight of a man becoming emotional while blessing his newborn child. Brother Ochirjav remembered, “He was emotional and he was crying. Embarrassed and a little angry I thought to myself why is he acting like this. He is not behaving like a man.” But he returned to church when his mother told him about free English classes being offered by American missionaries there. Intrigued by how energetic and happy his 70-year-old teacher was, he reluctantly accepted his invitation to be taught the gospel. After eight months and ten different missionaries, he was finally baptized.58
After his baptism Brother Ochirjav went to school in Russia to become a forest engineer, received a PhD in forestry in Mongolia, and began working as a researcher. He was eventually invited by H. Dennis Gibbons, a former area director serving as a CES missionary, to serve as the full-time CES coordinator for the country. Brother Ochirjav was reluctant at first but, through the efforts of Elder Gibbons, soon found himself in an interview with a member of the Area Presidency and also received telephone calls from Patrick Cheuk, the CES area director in Hong Kong. He resisted their requests to work for CES full-time until his wife approached him, saying, “You have planted lots of trees, now it is time for you to plant gospel seeds in the young peoples’ minds and hearts.” He accepted the assignment for one year, but the work was so overwhelming that he almost quit after two months. By that time, another CES missionary couple, Michael and Margaret Stroud, had replaced Elder and Sister Gibbons. Elder Stroud began teaching Brother Ochirjav one-on-one from the Book of Mormon, showing him how to identify principles. Brother Ochirjav remembered, “Our lessons became, for me, spiritual experiences. … The desire to teach the kids blossomed and the students received the teachings very well. We rejoiced together in our classes. I had taught forestry classes at the University, and felt they were important, but when I taught the gospel I really began to feel that this was the most important thing to teach in my life.”59
Soon after, in November 2008, Brother Ochirjav and Brother Cheuk had a meeting with the mission president while Brother Cheuck was visiting Mongolia. The mission president, Allen Dee Andersen, asked Brother Ochirjav why early-morning seminary classes weren’t being held in Mongolia. Brother Ochirjav replied, “President, this is Mongolia. Cold, dark, dogs and no public transportation.” A year later the three of them met again and the mission president asked the same question. Brother Ochirjav again replied, “Cold, dark, dogs and no public transportation.” After the meeting, Brother Cheuk took Brother Ochirjav aside and said, “Odgerel, when your priesthood leader asks you [to do] something you need to work on it!” In reply, Brother Odgerel said, “Patrick, you don’t understand Mongolian dark, Mongolian cold, Mongolian dogs and no public transportation!” So ended the conversation.60
Shortly after, Brother Ochirjav was reading Doctrine and Covenants 85:8, from which the phrase “steady the ark” came to his attention. He looked up some commentary in the institute manual and read a quote by President David O. McKay that said those who seek to “steady the ark” soon die spiritually. Brother Ochirjav later wrote, “Not wanting to lose the spirit I began working on an early-morning seminary program for Mongolia. Surprisingly, our local priesthood leaders were enthusiastic about the idea.” The program was ready by September 2009 and began with 140 students. By October, 200 students were attending and by March, 352 students came, braving Mongolia’s coldest winter in 30 years. Brother Ochirjav observed, “Everyone was so excited at our success and all felt to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in this effort.”61
In the United States, Brother Stan Peterson explained to the Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education in 1990 that “the number of students continue[d] to grow year after year in relationship to [the number of] full-time employees.” He reviewed “actions that had been taken in the past to curtail faculty costs,” one of which was assigning volunteer teachers and another of which was hiring part-time student teachers. Brother Peterson was given approval to use “an expanded program of volunteers, called person[s], and part-time employees to meet the need of growth in the seminary and institute system.”62
The following year, Brother Peterson again recommended the calling of local volunteer supervisors in some stakes in an effort to lighten the workload of coordinators who supervised dozens of early-morning teachers while performing double duty in institute assignments. “He stated that in order to lessen the travel and time requirements of the coordinators and still meet the needs of a growing population of youth in the Church, it [was] necessary to have a supervisor in each stake where a coordinator has an expanded role.” These volunteer supervisors were appointed the same as the early-morning seminary teachers and were “trained and supervised by a full-time CES coordinator.”63
After several years of the extensive use of volunteers, missionaries, and part-time teachers, Brother Peterson “presented statistical data showing challenges being experienced in both the seminary and institute programs.” While “for many years [the] number of students being recruited into the program” had continued to increase, beginning in 1991–92 “the percent of enrollment … [was] declining at the same time the Church general population of these potential students was increasing. He expressed concern at this trend and after careful evaluation felt that at the core of the problem was the fact that … the loads on the existing personnel [had] been increasing … to the point” that institute directors and coordinators were unable to manage the day-to-day work of existing programs and still spend time recruiting students to enroll in institute. He concluded that “in order to pursue an aggressive recruitment and enrollment program … additional manpower would be required. He noted that in the 16 cases where additional employees [had been] hired in 1992–93, the recruitment efforts … had borne great fruit. … He attributed this success to the ability of teachers and directors to concentrate on this particular phase of the work.”64
Brother Peterson also “reviewed the manpower and physical facilities challenges seminaries and institutes were experiencing because of the added growth in both the regular institute program and the rapid increase of [non-student] young adult enrollments into the regular institute structure.” Prior to this time the institute program was designed to primarily serve students enrolled in colleges and universities. Now the number of young adults not enrolled in school but wanting to attend institute was rapidly increasing, and institute programs struggled to keep pace. “He indicated that on a yearly basis an additional 30 [full-time] positions with their support, secretarial staff and equipment would be required in each of the next few years to accommodate the total growth and to ensure the quality of the program.” Brother Peterson also noted the necessity of “a number of new buildings, domestically and internationally, to provide for … social and classroom needs.” He explained that “absorb[ing] any additional young adult enrollments into the current manpower level was not wise and that in many areas the increased loads were weakening the effectiveness of administration and program quality. [Brother Peterson] noted he would have to begin counting [non-student] young adults for program expansion justifications if they were to maintain program efficiency and quality.”65
The tremendous growth and expansion of CES programs during the 1990s had major implications for physical facilities. Hundreds of projects were approved, both domestically and internationally. To help with the expanding demands of new construction and maintenance of existing buildings, areas began designating an employee to work with such projects.66 This group eventually grew to more than 16.67 The work of physical facilities encompassed a wide range of responsibilities. For example, the early 1990s saw CES facilities affected by fires, tornados, hurricanes, vandalism, medical emergencies, and other challenges over a very short period of time. That led to the establishment of a CES Safety Committee. The committee produced the first CES Emergency Response Guide to train CES administrators, teachers, staff, and students in prevention of, preparation for, and management of a broad spectrum of emergencies, including floods, tornadoes, hazardous materials, volcanoes, and even “emotional emergencies.”68
A new Church Budget Allowance System introduced in 1989 with 100 percent Church funding for construction, maintenance, and custodial care for all released-time seminary and institute of religion facilities greatly facilitated a standardized level of care.
While seminary and institute buildings were intended primarily for Church use, there were a few requests from other religious organizations during this time to use seminary buildings. In response to a request from Lutheran ministers to use a building, Elder Boyd K. Packer reminded Brother Peterson that “a policy had been in existence for many years that would allow for this [type of arrangement] providing there [was] time and space available” and if it did not increase the cost of operating the facility.69 The Church Executive Committee also worked to use Church building resources as wisely as possible. Before reviewing the requests for new facilities, the Committee discussed the need to share existing Church-owned facilities wherever possible70 even though there were many challenges, especially with using meetinghouses internationally. Locations were often too small with little parking availability, were not located near colleges or universities, or were overutilized by wards and stakes to the extent that they were not effective for an institute program.
The possibility of redesigning future international meetinghouses to better accommodate institute programs and sharing was also discussed. In the February 2001 meeting of the Church Board of Education, Brother Peterson and Ralph E. Swiss, the director of the Physical Facilities Division, presented the CES Institute of Religion worldwide physical facilities and real estate shared use policy. It stated that “wherever possible CES and meetinghouse facilities, sites, and resources were to be shared” and that “standard meetinghouse and CES facility plans are to be designed to promote and facilitate the maximum practical shared use of sites, facilities, and resources.” The policy also stated that adjustments to facilities could be made when necessary, such as adding to meetinghouses, sharing larger facilities, or adding separate buildings to house institutes. In addition, “approval for independent facilities [would] be requested from the Church Board of Education on a case by case basis.”71
The physical facilities committee worked to produce a distinctive style and architecture for seminary and institute buildings. They wanted buildings that would be easily recognizable. A great deal of thought and care went into the design, and members of the physical facilities staff agonized over every aspect, hoping to provide the best environment for learning. Special attention was paid to the width of the halls so they could handle traffic appropriately, and folding-panel wall partitions were included to provide more open space for assemblies. The facilities team used a corner cabinet to hold audiovisual equipment, with a piano underneath it, and every classroom had a TV and a VCR. Whiteboards replaced chalkboards, supposedly to get rid of the chalk dust affecting electronic equipment.72
During the 1990s seminary and institute curriculum continued to emphasize sequential scripture teaching, which had taken years to fully implement. Commenting on the emphasis on sequential teaching and the reduction of curriculum, Stanley A. Peterson said, “Those two tasks took almost my whole administration.”73
One of the hallmarks of CES curriculum during the 1990s was the dramatic decrease in the total number of pages in the teacher and student materials as CES sought to follow the counsel given by the Brethren in the 1980s to reduce and simplify. In 1991 Brother Peterson “presented a copy of the new Book of Mormon Teaching Guide to each member of the [Executive] Committee and showed the comparison between the new Teaching Guide and the voluminous materials that had been provided prior to this time.” Brother Peterson and the curriculum department were “commended for the excellent job of reduction … especially as it relate[d] to reduction[s] in translation costs.”74
Another opportunity for training available through new technology came in the form of videoconferences. For a number of years CES held a training videoconference each June. These conferences featured addresses by the CES administration, panel discussions on pertinent issues, and question-and-answer sessions over phone lines connected to several places internationally. Those who participated in these sessions would never forget the attempt to contact Eder L. Ontiveros in Mexico in one of the conferences with the famous “Eder? … Eder? … Eder, are you there?” Due to a glitch in technology there was no response.75 In late 1994 Brother Peterson recommended that the videoconference scheduled for June 1995 “be cancelled and the minutes allocated for that [conference] be used to broadcast the general session of the CES Training Symposium which [was] held in August.” With the money diverted toward symposium broadcast, the videoconferences came to an end. This resulted in a reduction of time and travel required of CES teachers and savings to the Church in direct costs and in the time and effort it took for the central office staff to prepare both programs.76
One of the ongoing educational efforts of the Church during the 1990s stemmed from concern about the challenges faced by the increasing number of young single adults in the Church. Enrollment limits placed on the Church’s institutions of higher education meant that a continually smaller percentage of Church members could attend these colleges and universities. CES and Church leaders looked for ways to reach out to these young people and strengthen their testimonies.
For a number of years CES had been trying to ascertain the number of young people who were eligible for institute in order to focus on those not enrolled and better track enrollment trends. Institute directors throughout the world spent hours trying to determine as accurately as they could which students should be counted as “potential” for their particular programs. At best, these numbers were educated guesses. Brother Peterson explained to the Executive Committee of the Board of Education “that the ‘potential’ institute student numbers reported by CES field personnel for budgeting purposes represent[ed] very rough estimates and require[d] a great deal of time to prepare. [He] proposed that in the future, where such figures [were] needed, the Church Membership Information system (CMIS) be utilized” and recommended that enrollment trend lines become the major focus of the institutes as they sought to increase the number of institute students.77
The question of the relationship of nonstudent young single adults (YSAs) to the institute engendered many discussions with a number of the Brethren, who were not all in agreement with what should be done. The institute program had originally been started to counter the secular teachings of the universities in the 1920s. As the years passed, these secular influences increasingly permeated society as a whole, hastened by technology and mass communication. By the 1990s there were significant concerns for all the young adults of the Church—those who were enrolled in post-secondary education as well as those who were not. This concern was prevalent not only in the United States but in countries across the globe. Several of the Brethren began to encourage Brother Peterson to reach out to YSAs who were not students with just as much interest and energy as was shown the college students who had traditionally been invited to institute. Others felt strongly that institute needed to be true to its roots and focus on university students.
In 1993, President Ezra Taft Benson and his counselors, Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to priesthood leaders in the United States and Canada. After acknowledging that the number of young single adults in the Church continued to increase and that a smaller percentage of them would be able to attend a Church university or college, the letter stated:
Careful study has shown that the opportunities for young people enrolled at institutes of religion are enhanced greatly when larger numbers participate and when they associate together in their social and service activities and religious education.
To improve this opportunity for our young people, we announce the following modifications to prior instructions:
All nonstudent young single adults eighteen through thirty who live in the immediate area of an institute of religion are invited to enroll in the institute and to participate with other students in the religious education classes and the social and service activities of this important Church program.
The Latter-day Saint Student Association will now be administered by the Church Educational System.78
This letter spawned what was called “the Rescue” in CES for a number of years, which often brought zealous and sometimes overzealous attempts to enroll YSAs in institute. In some areas priesthood leaders began to feel pressure to establish an institute class in every stake.
Along with the question of nonstudent young single adults, there also arose questions concerning adults over the age of 30 enrolling in institute classes. For a number of years, adults in the community had “been allowed to attend on a ‘space available’ basis.” Of concern was that adults often dominated the class discussions with their experiences, comments, and questions, which discouraged the 18- to 30-year-olds from attending and participating. In addition, “the ever increasing enrollments at local colleges and universities, combined with the influx of age 18–30 non-student young adults [had] put pressure on institute enrollment capacity.” Brother Peterson indicated to the Church Board of Education that the larger institutes across the Wasatch Front were encouraging nonstudent adults over age 30 “to consider other religious education opportunities such as Continuing Education religion classes especially for adults,” or to consider attending institute classes “at non-prime time hours.” The Board of Education agreed with this approach, and Brother Peterson “was counseled to be sure all institute personnel approached this problem in a uniform manner.”79 This decision was part of the impetus for the Continuing Education efforts to establish adult religion classes.
In January of 1992 Elders L. Tom Perry and Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Bishop Henry B. Eyring reported to the Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education “on their assignment to review alternatives to students attending” the CES institutions of higher education. The report reviewed such alternatives as “placing [a] greater emphasis on institute attendance”; providing additional living centers (dormitories) like the one in East Lansing, Michigan; using the Church satellite system to reach and instruct LDS students; and bringing greater “coordination [among the] LDSSA, Lambda Delta Sigma, and Sigma Gamma Chi programs.” At that meeting President Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, expanded the scope of the committee’s thinking by recommending that they look beyond the United States and Canada and consider international implications as well. This counsel would dramatically affect efforts in the coming years.80
A few months later Elder Maxwell and Bishop Eyring, both then serving on the Church Board of Education, introduced what was termed the “enhanced role of LDS Institutes,” which would “utilize ‘centers of strength’ to achieve a critical mass of college-age LDS young men and women” at each institute in the hopes of increasing “opportunities for dating … and giving and receiving support from each other.”81 This helped pave the way for the 1993 letter from the First Presidency that invited nonstudent young single adults to attend institute.82 The committee suggested that LDSSA, Lambda Delta Sigma, and Sigma Gamma Chi might be more effective if they were all moved under the leadership of the institutes. Priesthood advisors could still be assigned to these programs, and all college-age young adults would then be encouraged and welcomed to participate in all institute programs and activities. Also considered was the possibility that the institutes would “offer academic, as well as religion courses,” perhaps even including distance learning through a variety of technologies. “The potential impact and practicality of establishing a few residence halls near large institutes” was mentioned as well as the possibility of a letter from the Brethren “encouraging young men and women to receive their … education at institutions near their home” that would be designated “centers of strength.”83
Considerable discussion led to the appointment of several subcommittees to continue to explore the best options.84 A report given to the Church Board of Education in August 1992 recommended “the appointment of a Commissioner of Education,” that “no new secular institutions of [higher education] be established,” that CES be authorized “to distribute to stake presidents and bishops nationwide a directory of institutes” and to “extend to all young adults (ages 18–30) the privilege of registering for day or evening institute classes, subject to space and staff availability and to make them eligible for” all activities at the institutes. It was also recommended that “religious instruction … continue to be the first concern of the institute[s], with meaningful group involvement and fellowshipping [playing] an important secondary role.”85
Further recommendations were that the existing LDSSA “be replaced by a Latter-day Saint Institute Association (LDSIA) … directed by the Church Board of Education rather than by [a separate] national board” and to consider replacing the fraternity and sorority with the LDSIA organization. Other recommendations for consideration included “expand[ing] institute faculty resources … by utilization of qualified local members as volunteers or part-time stipend teachers,” “establish[ing] electronic connections [at various institutes] to transmit general conferences, devotionals, firesides etc.,” scheduling General Authorities and auxiliary officers to visit and instruct at institutes, and “keeping an updated list of all young adults in the assigned stakes.”86 Following the recommendations made to the board, in early October 1992 Henry B. Eyring was released as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, called to the Quorum of Seventy on October 3 at the general conference of the Church, and then reappointed the Commissioner of the Church Educational System.87
In June 1993, Commissioner Eyring “commented on the progress being made regarding the Institute Enhancement Program”: YSA programs “located in stakes in the immediate area of an institute facility [could] coordinate their activities with those of the institute.” Institutes would also “help provide students and nonstudent young single adults with opportunities for religious education, service activities, social interaction, leadership training, and spiritual growth. Institutes [would] assist local priesthood leaders in encouraging young people to serve missions and marry in the temple.”88
As the Church continued to grow internationally, there were numerous requests from Area Presidencies and local priesthood leaders to expand enhanced institute programs. In August of 1994 Brother Peterson noted that there were 149,500 members ages 18–30 in Mexico, 106,000 in Brazil, and 81,000 in the Philippines. After a year of “gain[ing] experience in the program” domestically, Brother Peterson received approval to extend the concept of enhanced institute internationally on the condition of using only existing personnel and facilities.89
In the mid-1990s an interim report “proposed that the Church Board of Education provide three (3) pilot learning centers for Young Adults in existing Church facilities that would … utiliz[e] the Institute of Religion program for instruction and social opportunities” and would include “educational, career, and employment advisement,” “credit and non-credit classes for academic and employment preparation,” classes for foundational literacy and English as a nonnative language, as well as some “personal resource management courses.”90
It was proposed that the pilot be tried on three levels. One was to be located in an area with a “small [LDS] young adult population [and use] a volunteer staff under the direction of a CES employee and in … [a] Church facility.” The second was to be located in an area with “a moderate young adult population” and use “expand[ed] volunteer [help], distance learning and technology helps.” The third level would be in an area with a “dense young adult population, such as the BYU centers in Salt Lake or Ogden, [Utah].”91
Initially it was proposed that these Education Outreach Centers “would be organized under the direction of the Board of Education and overseen by the commissioner of education.” In addition, such programs “would be coordinated through the Continuing Education programs at the respective Church schools,” and “locally, each center would be a part of an institute of religion” with a supervisor who “would serve as the associate director of the institute … and be directly responsible for all non-religious educational programs.” The centers were also expected to rely mostly on volunteers and missionaries if they wanted any additional staff members, and “social and service activities would be planned and carried out under the direction of the Institute Advisory Council with a stake president as advisor.”92
Because these centers would be “using currently established CES facilities,” it was felt that they could provide classes for institute, “business, accounting, computers, [and] secretarial” skills, as well as possibly associate degrees and even “selected baccalaureate degrees in the larger centers.” They would be able to use resources such as trained LDS personnel, visiting faculty from CES institutions of higher learning, distance education, and independent study courses.93
The Board approved this idea in June 1995, but it recommended that counseling be limited to identifying educational opportunities and “that the development of career and personal financial counseling services not be attempted at this time. … It was also noted that CES faculty should not become overly involved in the presentation or supervision of this expanded program, but should remain focused on their religious education responsibilities.”94
In December of 1995 Brother Peterson gave another report on the Education Outreach Committee, stating that they understood that the committee’s thinking and recommendations were still “exploratory in nature” and that “considerable testing and piloting would be necessary in order to evaluate both the requirements and effects of such a program.”95
About a year later, Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, then president of Brigham Young University, and Stanley A. Peterson presented a proposal for piloting “institute/learning center[s] at selected international locations.” Using existing facilities, the pilots would “combine sources of welfare service, Institutes of Religion, CES higher education, continuing education, local meetinghouses and local business.” They were advised to conduct a research analysis for a year and then report back.96
Pilot outreach projects in Mexico and Brazil were granted approval partly because the Church membership growth in those countries was rapid, many of the converts were young single adults, relatively few of the young men were serving missions, and those who did serve faced challenging transitions when they returned home. “Over a third of the returning missionaries in Mexico and almost half [of those] in Brazil [had] not finished the equivalent of … high school” before leaving on their missions.97
In April of 1998 a meeting was held with both Area Presidencies during the general conference week. The presidencies were excited about the program, and the initial phases of it were slated to begin in June. “In responding to questions of how the employment function would be carried out, Brother Peterson indicated that a local administrative council of an agent stake president, church Welfare, CES, and [Presiding Bishopric’s Office] representatives [would] administer the program. This council [would] be chaired by a counselor in the Area presidency.” English as a second language would also be part of the program, using personnel from BYU. Approval was granted for a one-year pilot program.98 Brother Peterson envisioned a comprehensive program with a computer lab, a lab for learning English using the Technology Assisted Language Learning (TALL) program, and resources from BYU and Ricks College. He hoped the program would lead to participants receiving certification from BYU, training for specific trades, and finding the right job.99
A report a year later indicated increased enrollment at institutes in Monterrey, Mexico, and in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and that “a number of new or improved jobs came from the English and computer training.” Word of the pilot programs spread, and an informal pilot program was established in three institutes in Ecuador without additional funding. Volunteer teachers did much of the work, and the positive results were similar to those in the other two countries. Along the way several cautions were given to maintain religious education as a high priority and to use only existing facilities.100 In a Church Board of Education meeting in June of 1999 Brother Peterson “reviewed the results and recommendations of the pilot programs in Mexico and Brazil [and] said he [had] never been part of a project with more unity and cooperation between CES, the Presiding Bishopric organizations, and priesthood leaders.” He said it was difficult to account for the number of students who obtained meaningful jobs because of the pilot. He also suggested that the Board consider growing the distance learning program but acknowledged that doing so would require more money, volunteers, and personnel.101
The programs also received high marks from local Area Presidencies. One Area President in Brazil noted the success of the English and computer classes, commenting, “We believe it is fully sustainable throughout Brazil because it is not requiring new organizational structure and it is responding to some very basic needs of our young adults.”102 Another Area President from Mexico wrote, “We sense the program could fill a critical need in establishing a bridge to the many community resources and prepare them for enrollment. The program has developed an increased awareness and vision for greater educational and employment opportunities.”103
In spite of their early success, the pilots in Mexico and Brazil were suspended, and the Board recommended no further action on them pending other efforts already in process. Given the success of the programs, many people wondered why the project was not expanded more rapidly. Looking back, Roger G. Christensen, the secretary to the Church Board of Education at the time, commented, “People in Seminaries and Institutes were scratching their heads, saying, ‘How is it that you could have a wildly successful pilot program and then have the board say, —‘No, we don’t want you to do that’? Apparently, there were discussions taking place in other venues about what could be done to expand beyond just this particular group. It was shortly thereafter that the Perpetual Education Fund was announced.”104
Organizations for institute students continued to play an important role, and thousands of institute students participated in service, social, and educational activities sponsored by Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi, LDSSA, and later the Institute Men’s Association and Institute Women’s Association.
As part of the 1993 announcement of an enhanced institute program that would include all young single adults, the LDSSA was placed under the direction of the Church Educational System.105 Up to that time independent national boards had overseen these organizations. By 1995 new chapters of Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi were reported in Arkansas, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas, and under discussion were possible chapters in Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Mongolia, Northern Thailand, and Singapore.106 Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi reportedly had chapters on over 75 campuses in 19 states in the U.S.107
In October 1998 administrators from the central office discussed the possibility of initiating a new program for those who attended institute to replace the fraternity and sorority groups sponsored by the Church. “Greek names, associations and trappings” would be done away with. Instead of Rush Week there would be an open house or an orientation for prospective members. Pledging would be changed to a “membership ceremony,” and the organization would work “directly through the CES line without national presidencies.”108 In 1999 Brother Peterson had several discussions with the Church Board of Education about these possible changes. After much discussion it was recommended that the terms sorority and fraternity be eliminated, “that all ties to traditional Greek organizations be ended,” and that in their place two new organizations—called the Institute Men’s Association (IMA) and the Institute Women’s Association (IWA)—be established. It was felt this would “allow for broader participation both by students and non-students participating in the institute program.”109
One of the concerns these programs addressed was that upon graduation from high school, as young people went away to school or work, they sometimes felt a void in their support system. Returning missionaries occasionally experienced this feeling also. When young people had the opportunity to be part of a group where they could make new friends, these feelings were often alleviated. The leaders hoped these organizations would promote friendships in smaller groups, encourage association with individuals beyond ward boundaries, provide a place for young people to gather in extended social opportunities, produce missionaries and temple marriages, and activate and retain new members.110 Members of IMA and IWA were encouraged to attend their wards and fulfill their callings in the Church. Daniel M. Jones, national president of Sigma Gamma Chi at the time, encouraged potential members of IMA by reassuring them they could “still form life-long friendships, participate in social activities, offer countless hours of service, learn about the gospel and develop valuable leadership skills.” He said, “[IMA] has the potential to bless lives in the way that only small group organizations can.”111
Realizing that many individuals held deep feelings concerning the sorority and fraternity, including a number of the Brethren, it was proposed that as a transitional step, “Lambda Delta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Chi [could] continue to function on campuses where they currently exist[ed] if the campus [had] other Greek named organizations.” In those instances, chapters of the IMA and IWA could also be organized.112 These proposed changes were approved with a caution from the Board that “the Institute program not overwhelm the ecclesiastical units and become the primary church unit to the students.”113
The year 2000 began the transition away from the Greek-patterned fraternity and sorority to the IMA and the IWA. In an interview with the Church News, Brother Peterson said that by forming these groups the Church hoped to build on the good things of Sigma Gamma Chi and Lambda Delta Sigma. The new associations were not limited to college campuses with Greek social programs but could be a presence at junior and community colleges, technical schools, and institutes not associated with a university. They would also be welcomed internationally where there was limited exposure to the sorority and fraternity concept. Young people who joined did not have to be college students; the only requirement was that they be students in at least one institute class. College-age Latter-day Saints who had completed their university studies could also become members if they enrolled in institute, an opportunity they had not had before.114
A handbook put out by general leaders of the associations provided direction on the guiding values of IWA, which were sisterhood, service, scholarship, and spirituality. Activities were to be centered in one of these areas. Spirituality was increased through women’s conferences and participation in church and institute classes.115
The 2001 Institute Men’s Association Guide stated: “The purpose of IMA is to assist priesthood leaders in carrying out the mission of the Church by helping young single adult men come unto Christ; prepare to make and keep sacred temple covenants; and learn to serve in the home, the Church, and the community.” The motto of IMA was “Integrity, Preparation, Service.” The official hymn was “Rise Up, O Men of God.” The pledge reminded members of the importance of “develop[ing] integrity by making and keeping covenants,” “preparing to marry in the temple and to become a devoted husband and father,” and “seek[ing] opportunities to serve in the home, the Church, and the community.”116
For many institute students, participation in an institute choir was an integral part of their experience. Institute programs were encouraged to develop a choral program with the objective “to provide opportunities for musical experiences that support[ed] the objective of religious education … which [was] to assist the individual, the family, and priesthood leaders in accomplishing the mission of the Church.” Through institute choirs, students learned the gospel through scriptures set to music, enjoyed uplifting music, and worshipped through song. These activities were to “provide a wholesome atmosphere where participants [could] meet new friends and build relationships of trust.” Choral programs “also enhance[d] the image of the institute and attract[ed] future institute students.” Students found that choirs were an enjoyable activity where friendships were made and where they had an opportunity to develop their talents.117
Many of the institute choirs and performing groups requested permission to travel and provide entertainment in cities far from the campuses they represented. To cut the costs of such travel, these groups frequently asked Church members to house students and provide them with a meal or two. While the choir programs were of high quality and often attracted nonmembers who gained a positive impression of the Church, leaders came to believe that guidelines should be established that would control distances traveled, costs, and impositions on Church members.118
A 1998 directive suggested that “rather than touring, almost all institute choirs should expect their contribution to be in building spirituality and sociality among students as well as helping with recruitment and activation in the local area.”119
During the 1990s technology exerted greater and greater influence in the Church Educational System, especially for administrative matters, and personal computers were used for a growing number of tasks in the central office and the field. While most data processing functions were still provided by the Church’s Information and Computer Services (ICS) Department, seminaries and institutes began using the talents of some religious educators to build software applications to address specific needs. SIMS (Seminary Information Management System), developed by seminary teacher Kelly Johnson, was the first software used to take enrollment in released-time seminary programs. Later, COSTAR was developed for tracking institute enrollment.120
Seminaries and institutes then started building an internal staff of IT professionals to phase out their reliance on religious educators for technology work. The adoption of the software applications produced by these IT professionals helped standardize the processes for enrollment and student tracking, personnel management, and property management across seminaries and institutes. Many applications were developed, and each was referred to by an acronym. Some are as follows:
CORR (Central Office Reports and Records) collected area enrollment data and generate worldwide enrollment statistics and reports.
ASTER (Area Student Enrollment Reporting System) allowed area offices to collect and report on enrollment statistics.
STAR (Student Tracking and Reporting) allowed released-time seminaries to manage student enrollment, including the tri-semester seminary programs which were not supported by SIMS. STAR transferred enrollment data from the seminary to ASTER in the area office by email attachment files.
ISTAR (Institute Student Tracking and Reporting) allowed institutes to manage student enrollment. ISTAR also transferred enrollment data to ASTER through email attachment files.
CSTAR (Coordinator Student Tracking and Reporting) was the first web-based application used by coordinators to manage enrollment for early morning seminary programs and stake-aligned institute programs. CSTAR was translated into Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
PMTS (Property Management and Tracking System) was created by Douglas Walker to manage information about the buildings and property owned, leased, or rented by seminaries and institutes.121
The first official website for seminaries and institutes, ldsces.org, was also introduced.
As new technologies became available, S&I administration issued guidelines for their proper use. Regarding email, the counsel was to check it regularly, respond quickly, print and save some messages, be selective about forwarding, and “be careful about opening forwarded e-mail” because it might contain a virus.122 Toward the end of the decade, personal computers began to be purchased on a four-year replacement cycle for secretarial and administrative functions in seminaries and institutes as well as in area offices and the central office.
As dependence on technology grew, the S&I help desk became an invaluable resource in assisting personnel to navigate the ins and outs of the new technologies. The S&I help desk was moved from the central office to the no-longer-occupied Jordan seminary building in South Jordan, Utah. A year later the help desk, staffed with part-time employees and service missionaries, was transferred to a building in West Valley City, Utah, called the Church Office West (COW). At the COW, computers purchased under the four-year rotation were unboxed and loaded with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and common S&I applications.123
CES made a conscious decision not to be on the cutting edge of new technology but moved forward once the need and the benefit were demonstrated. CD players, digital cameras, laptop computers, scanners, and video editing equipment all became available, and teachers worked to find the right balance of technology use in the classroom, not allowing the delivery methods to overwhelm the messages of the scriptures.124
New technologies made it possible to reach students in new ways. In 1992 Stanley A. Peterson proposed a new series of firesides for young adults to be broadcast by satellite. These firesides, broadcast from the campus of BYU, replaced the university’s previously held multistake firesides and allowed students all over the world to participate.125 As confidence and competence in the new technologies grew, the location of the firesides became more flexible. For example, Brother Peterson “proposed that the May 2001 CES Young Adult fireside be broadcast from Moscow, Idaho,” to recognize “the 75th anniversary of the Institute Program, which began at the University of Idaho.”126
In 1997 Brother Peterson “requested permission to produce an official electronic version of the institute of religion student manuals. He noted [the] total cost of this development would be … between $1.50 and $2.00” per CD. Included on the disc was the Teaching the Gospel Handbook and institute student manuals for Book of Mormon, Church History, Doctrine and Covenants, Missionary Preparation, New Testament, Old Testament, Presidents of the Church, and Teachings of the Living Prophets. The CD also contained the seminary New Testament teacher and student materials. This was approved with the recommendation “that Brother Peterson limit distribution of such items to faculty as they already [had] access to computers. The committee did not want to foster a product that may erroneously convey to students the need of having a computer in order to participate in the institute program.”127
Questions soon began to surface about increasing the technology in seminary and institute classrooms. With that in mind, a small group of administrators toured Brigham Young University’s technology enhanced classrooms around the turn of the century. While they found the tech room concept to be functional for the teachers who used it, the installation cost was prohibitive at $15,000 per classroom. It was determined that further study would be given to a portable unit consisting of a projector and computer for classroom presentations and consideration given to replacing classroom TV monitors with digital projectors.128
With the technological advances available, CES media made great strides in the 1990s as Stan Peterson pushed the media team to produce videos more focused on the scriptures. He later said, “As we started to focus more on the scriptures in our classrooms, not teaching about the scriptures, but to sequentially go through the scriptures, we did the same thing with the media. We started to say, ‘Look, we don’t need to teach about these concepts in the media, we need to teach the scriptures themselves and show what the scriptures have to offer.’”129
Determining what parts of the scriptures to focus on was one of the most difficult tasks. Paul V. Johnson, a member of the media team at the time, remembered, “We would take several days and skim through the Old Testament and come up with what we thought would be the best pieces to address. Other times we said, ‘What parts of the Old Testament do teachers need the most help with?’”130 As part of the selection process, hundreds of questionnaires were sent out to teachers in the United States and Canada. According to Ron R. Munns, a member of the CES media team and former seminary teacher, the team also “visited twenty-five or thirty of the largest seminaries in Utah and Idaho” to ask for suggestions from the full-time teachers.131
“Some of our decisions were based on needs in doctrine, some historical, and some were cultural,” Brother Johnson commented.132 The team kept a general objective to closely follow the scriptures and the words of the prophets, but the work was still largely experimental. Brother Johnson later said, “Frankly, especially during the Old Testament, we were guinea-pigging it. … What we know best is how to tell a story. But how do you teach a doctrine and keep the youth involved and not put their heads down?”133
Some of these videos produced between 1988 and 1998 were period pieces in historical settings and focused on helping teachers clearly explain the context and content of the scripture block. For example, one video, entitled “Eyewitness News at Six (600 BC),” was an imaginary news broadcast covering a crucial era of Old Testament history and the beginnings of the Book of Mormon story. The piece was designed to tie together one of the most complicated portions of Old Testament history in a clear way for teachers to better teach the context. Brother Johnson later commented, “The reason the piece was done wasn’t because it was a great doctrinal lead, but the feeling was that it was a time period in history that was tough for people to grasp because it is talked about in Kings and Chronicles and Jeremiah and Daniel and Ezekiel and Nephi. … [We thought] maybe we could help them with that through media.”134
Other examples in the new media strategy focused on providing visuals to accompany the scripture. The video “The Tabernacle” provided students with a visual tour of the tabernacle described in Exodus 25–40. It showed students all of the furnishings of the tabernacle and then pointed out the parallels to the gospel of Jesus Christ.135 Other videos focused on teaching difficult doctrines in new ways. Ron Munns remembered, “I think one of the most successful pieces for me … was the one in the Book of Mormon on agency called Act for Themselves.” The video featured a young man interacting with an imagined version of himself as they reviewed Lehi’s teachings on agency found in 2 Nephi 2. Among other things, the young man races a Ferrari sports car down a highway to illustrate the importance of laws. Brother Munns recalled, “It really was the most exotic piece we did at the time. You know, to go and find a guy who would let you use his Ferrari, a $170,000 car.” The video taught four requirements for agency in a simple and clear way, closely tied to the scripture block. A few years after the video was produced, Brother Munns recalled a home teaching visit where he mentioned the piece to a family. He recalled, “There was a kid that was recently home from his mission, and in my message I just mentioned the piece to the family, and he [said], ‘Oh I remember that film.’ ‘You do?’ I said. ‘Oh yeah, the Ferrari and everything.’ I said, ‘What are the four things [necessary for agency]?’ And he named them just like that.”136
An important shift in the way CES media was produced came in 1991 with the formation of the Audiovisual Department. The new department consolidated the efforts of a number of different organizations in the Church, including the Audiovisual Division of the Curriculum Department, the Motion Picture Studio at BYU, the CES audiovisual team, and others. In a letter announcing the change, the First Presidency wrote, “It is our hope that this action will optimize the use of Church-owned audiovisual facilities and personnel and eliminate duplication of services, equipment, manpower, and production costs.”137 The change meant that a number of the personnel from CES media would leave to serve in the new department, including Lyle E. Shamo, who became the managing director.138
The change was not without some difficulties. Tim L. Carver, another member of the CES media team, later said, “There seemed to be two different mentalities in our initial involvement with the AV department. The ‘Hollywood’ mentality, where we give you a script and you take it and run with it the way you want to. And the ‘client’ mentality where we work together on a project until all parties are satisfied. And there were some ‘turf wars’ early on because of conflicts in deciding whose project a piece had become.”139
As these problems worked themselves out, the process came to ultimately benefit both parties. Brother Carver continued, “Their strengths were our weaknesses and our strengths were their weaknesses. While they may have felt we lacked expertise in the production of media, we felt we had a vast supply of expertise and experience when it came to being up in front of a classroom of teenagers and knowing what will and will not work. … This was new ground for us and for them.”140 The change was a painful but necessary response to the growth of the Church and the increasing importance of media in classroom instruction. Where CES media began with a few people working to create the best possible classroom experience, it had now evolved into a momentous task that took hundreds of people to produce and affected millions of people around the globe.141
One of the most ambitious projects undertaken in conjunction with the New Testament media was To This End Was I Born, a 27-minute video depicting the final hours of the Savior’s life, His postmortal ministry in the spirit world, and His Resurrection. One teacher recalled, “I remember vividly, and I bet you every teacher who was there does too, when they showed ‘To This End Was I Born’ in the Marriott Center. … There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire Marriott Center. It was stunning. We had never seen media created that depicted the Savior’s life in such a wonderful fashion. … [It] was absolutely a thrill. It was a powerful experience. I’ll never forget that.”142
While media in CES was making great progress in the 1990s, Paul Johnson, who was deeply involved in the creation of the new media,143 issued a caution about how it should be used. He said, “Media is still just a tool. … I think we get in trouble if the medium becomes the end. Sometimes, if you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard not to fall into that trap. It’s only important if it helps you accomplish what we’re after, and that’s to help people come to the Savior and better understand his gospel.”144
With the phenomenal growth of seminary and institute programs during the 1990s came a number of new policies. These policies reflected the continued transformation of the Church from a regional, American-based faith into a worldwide faith. CES administrators found themselves faced with the challenges of managing a diverse workforce, spread throughout the world, in dozens of different nations, each with its own unique culture, government, and circumstances. Part of the continuing transformation of CES came in developing consistent policies to govern this increasing complexity of the system, while still remaining flexible enough to help individuals meet their needs.
In 1989 there were 274,184 seminary students. By the year 2001 that number had increased to 380,386.145 During this time, efforts began to more closely coordinate the work of S&I programs with that of local Young Men and Young Women leaders. In March of 1990 a bulletin stated that although “seminary students benefit from occasional activities that reinforce[d] seminary classroom teachings,” activities outside of the classroom for released-time seminaries were “the responsibility of priesthood leaders who comprise[d] the local seminary board of education and should be conducted under their direction.” It said that activities for early-morning and home-study programs should be “requested through the chairman of the ward/branch Young Men-Young Women committee, who [was] a counselor in the bishopric/branch presidency. [The] activity [was] to be carried out by the seminary teacher and class officers with the assistance of the YM and YW committee.” In areas with early-morning seminary, there could be four stake-level activities each year under the direction of the CES coordinator. “An activity sponsored by the stake YM/YW committee, with the involvement of the CES coordinator [was] usually held in conjunction with the class. Early-morning and home-study seminary students [were] invited to participate in the activity,” often called a Super Saturday.146 Some seminaries also engaged in service projects where students assisted others in the community through such efforts as Sub for Santa, service week projects, Special Olympics, or donations and deliveries of food to needy people in the area.
This time period also saw changes in seminary graduations in released-time seminaries. Many of these programs had “grown in size to a point that adequate space for holding graduation was difficult to find, family members [were] being restricted from attendance, priesthood leaders [had] reduced involvement, and the programs [took] an excessive amount of time. [It was] suggested that priesthood leaders and seminary personnel counsel together regarding the decision [whether to have] stake based or seminary wide graduations.” It was also recommended that facilities “accommodate all family members of graduates who desire[d] to attend,” that the price of “using these facilities should be minimal,” and that the graduation should allow “for priesthood leaders to attend a single graduation for all students in their units.” The graduation ceremonies were not to last more than an hour and a half, and all students—not just those who were graduating or who were on the seminary council—were encouraged to attend.147 Subsequently, a revised pamphlet, A Guide to Quality Seminary Graduation Exercises, was sent out in early 1995.148
One issue that surfaced early in the ’90s involved providing on-site seminary programs at non-LDS private schools. Upon reviewing a summary of private schools served by seminaries in the U.S. during the 1993–94 school year, Brother Peterson noted 51 separate private schools being served, 12 of which hosted seminary classes on their campuses. Brother Peterson had received requests that seminary be provided at an additional 19 schools scheduled to open for the 1994–95 school year. After considerable discussion, it was decided that all such requests should be considered on an individual basis.
In 2000 an announcement ended “the practice for seminary councils and other seminary students to travel to sacrament meetings to put on programs under CES sponsorship” and stated that “CES cannot authorize travel by seminary-age youth.” A bishop who wanted to make seminary the focus of a sacrament meeting program now had to “invite seminary students, parents, or teachers living in his own ward to participate.”149
A number of teacher policies were implemented or changed during the ’90s. For instance, a revised workload policy for released-time seminary teachers was approved in the fall of 1999 and implemented for the 2000–2001 school year. The policy stated: “The recommended teaching load should generally be equivalent to that of the teachers at the public school adjacent to the seminary. … For example, those in a trimester system should teach four of the five trimester classes each trimester. Those in the eight-period block system should teach six of the eight classes offered. Those in a seven class-period day should teach a minimum of five classes, and generally six. Modifications in the number of classes taught should be discussed between the area director and the zone administrator.”150
Seminary teachers and principals were expected to work at the seminary at least 40 hours per week. In complying with this expectation, teachers were to “arrive at work at least thirty minutes before school beg[an] and remain at least thirty minutes after school. Additional time before or after school [would likely] be required” to reach 40 hours and to fulfill the basic job expectations. It was pointed out that this time was “ideal for lesson preparation, in-service meetings, administrative duties, and meeting the needs of students, parents, and priesthood leaders.” Another guideline stated that “Where possible, the student/teacher ratio [was to] be approximately 150 students per teacher, with thirty-five or fewer students per class.”151
Teachers were reminded that “it [was] not appropriate for seminary or institute classes to kneel in prayer prior to the day’s lesson. Nor [was] it proper to organize clubs or groups with sacred implications (i.e., ‘Holy Ghost Club,’ etc.).”152 Along with the ever-present charge to teach sound doctrine, S&I employees were often asked to be careful not to spread sensational stories and unsubstantiated accounts dealing with visions, blessings, and statements of doctrine beyond what the leaders of the Church taught. Several times teachers were asked to help squelch rumors and false doctrine, often attributed to Church leaders. Leaders and those who provided in-service training were also asked to encourage teachers to keep their doctrine pure and to avoid both sensationalizing the gospel and speculating about the future. Teachers were reminded to stay close to the curriculum and the scriptures and teach from approved sources.153
All CES teachers, administrators, and support personnel were expected to follow a high standard of worthiness. Employees were asked to sign a Consent to Release Information form so their bishops and stake presidents could report on their worthiness. Beginning in 1996 bishops and stake presidents received an ecclesiastical clearance for each employee and a letter from the commissioner explaining the standards of conduct expected of a CES employee.154 Guidelines given to General Authorities interviewing potential new hires included asking about their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether they sustained the General Authorities, and whether they were willing to be governed by the Church Board of Education. General Authorities also asked prospective hires if they and their spouses kept the LDS standards of marriage, if they had ever been disfellowshipped or excommunicated, and, if they were unmarried, whether they were willing to take on the responsibility of marriage.155 These guidelines represented the intense concern felt by the Church leaders about the teachers given charge over the youth of the Church.
From time to time questions arose about the CES policy of not employing divorced individuals as religious educators. The issue was discussed with the Church Board of Education several times over the years. In early 1991 the Board approved a policy about rehiring religious educators who had been divorced. In essence, the policy said that “if such a teacher or administrator, in due time, [was] qualified to remarry in the temple, he or she [could] apply to the CES to be rehired. [The former teacher] would be included in the then-existing pool of qualified applicants, and [would] be evaluated on the same basis as those applicants.” When an applicant in this situation was considered for hire, the CES administration worked closely with the individual’s priesthood leaders to determine his or her spiritual readiness to teach in the classroom.156
In an address to CES personnel years earlier, President Ezra Taft Benson had emphasized the reasons behind the higher standard for employees and their spouses, saying, “You, as a couple, represent the First Presidency in all you do and in the way you appear. We expect that you will be conservative and well groomed. The expression ‘follow the Brethren’ has a broader meaning than some would apply to it. It means not only to agree with the counsel given to the Church by the Brethren, but also to follow their example in appearance and deportment. As teachers you need constantly to ask, ‘How would the Savior have me appear before others? How would He have me act?’”157 Employees were occasionally reminded that they were expected to observe high standards in modesty, taste, judgment, cleanliness, and propriety in matters of dress and grooming.
As the leader of seminaries and institutes, Stanley A. Peterson recognized teachers’ roles in providing a positive example for their students. He said, “I hope that some of [the students’] heroes in life can be our seminary teachers or institute teachers. They have a very scanty appropriate number of heroes in the world. Obviously, we want their number one hero to be the Savior, but I hope that sometimes our seminary teachers and institute teachers can be their heroes and role models.” Brother Peterson also wanted the teachers’ families to provide a positive model for students to follow. He added, “Many times we find that they pick the seminary family as a role model and want to be like them, want to associate with them. That puts pressure on our people in a way. I’ve had many of the wives say, ‘We’re afraid to step sideways because fifteen kids will see us yell at our kids or something.’ It does put pressure on, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our people to show young people what a family ought to be and what a marriage ought to be.”158
Throughout the vast system, one constant was change. Each year some employees were called as mission presidents, others returned from serving in such callings, some left to teach in the religion departments at BYU or Ricks College, others retired or received different assignments, and decisions needed to be made as to who was the best fit for new assignments. Always of great interest and importance was the placement process. While some teachers remained in one assignment for their careers, others relocated several times. Teachers and administrators, except in very rare cases, were allowed to accept or reject changes of assignment that required a house move. Moving company personnel packed teachers’ household goods, and large vans transported furniture and furnishings to the new place of residence. Monetary compensation was provided for goods, gas, and other incidentals that accompanied a change of domicile.
As the Church expanded into new areas, seminary and institute curriculum changed to meet the needs of the changing population of the Church. Randall C. Bird, who served as the manager of the seminary curriculum team from 1993 to 2003, noted, “Our main audience that we were hoping to help the most was the volunteer teacher, though we needed to help the full-time personnel as well. … There’s a larger number of volunteer teachers around the world, so we were trying to prepare curriculum that would help them the most.” Brother Bird and the curriculum team worked to provide guidance to the teachers in the field, but also allow them to be guided by their own study. “We wanted to … allow the Spirit to work with the teacher, and we wanted us to be a resource to the teacher.” One of the new manuals Brother Bird’s team created, called a teacher resource manual, presented several principles from a scripture block and then a set of teaching ideas based on the principles presented.159
“[Our new curriculum] was more open and free for a teacher to pick and choose, rather than previous curriculums were more prescribed on what they should do,” Brother Bird recalled. During this process of preparing new materials, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve met with administrators of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and saw the direction the curriculum was moving.160 He reiterated the benefits of this approach in many of his talks in the 1990s. In one general conference address, Elder Scott supported the new approach of identifying principles in the scriptures. He taught, “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. … Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances.”161
As the seminary curriculum writers worked to make the curriculum more accessible to a wider audience, the institute curriculum writers of this era sought to expand the scope of topics covered in the institute curriculum. Craig Manscill, who served as the manager of college curriculum from 1992 to 1999,162 led efforts to create a number of new courses or to refresh older courses. When Brother Manscill was informed that the family history course taught in institutes would be retired because of lack of interest, he was disturbed. “That troubled me for about six months,” he later recalled. “I was continually troubled about it.” Brother Manscill asked if he could organize “a team to write a curriculum [for the course] and … to develop a teacher’s manual that brought in all the latest and greatest things [that] family history [was] using.” Working with Elder D. Todd Christofferson, then of the Seventy, who was the executive director of the Family and Church History Department at the time, and other family history experts, Brother Manscill and his team produced a new curriculum for family history that became standard in the institutes as well as at the Church schools.163
Working with different committees composed of teachers from different seminaries and institutes throughout the Church, Brother Manscill reorganized or refreshed several new courses, including the first institute manuals produced for teaching the Pearl of Great Price. Supervising the work of different teams, Brother Manscill updated courses focusing on marriage and family, doctrines of the gospel, and Church history. An updated edition of Church History in the Fulness of Times was also produced, bringing the history of the Church up to the presidency of Gordon B. Hinckley.164
Working with several teachers with degrees in marriage and family studies, the institute team produced new curriculum for a course on marriage and family centering around teachings on the family by ancient and modern prophets. Along with the marriage and family course, the team produced a temple media kit to assist members in their preparation to receive temple ordinances. The institute team used President Boyd K. Packer’s book The Holy Temple to produce a shorter, pamphlet-length version of the book for use by members. President Packer became deeply involved in the process of creating these new materials. “I’ve never seen anybody have so much hands-on [supervision] on every lesson,” Brother Manscill remembered of President Packer’s involvement.165
In 1996 Brother Stanley A. Peterson received approval from the Church Board of Education to change the rotation order of the four seminary courses. He explained that it was very helpful that all CES programs begin in approximately the same 18-month period. (At the time, non-English areas started the courses of study at least one year after the conclusion of the English programs.) This would allow for “greater efficiency in translation, distribution and in-service training.” A factor leading to this recommendation was a decision “to have youth classes in Sunday School study the same curriculum as the adult Gospel Doctrine classes. Since the four courses of study in Gospel Doctrine [were] the same as the four seminary courses, this mean[t] that in some cases students [would] be studying the same course in Sunday School as they [were] in seminary.” Some people were concerned that studying the same courses felt repetitive to the students or fostered the “tendency to compare the effectiveness of the two programs or their teachers. It [was] felt that a two year offset between the two programs would be best. For example, a student would take Old Testament one year in seminary, and then not study it again until about two years later in Sunday School.” Because of this shift, some students would not study the Old Testament and others missed out on Doctrine and Covenants and Church history, but none of them missed the Book of Mormon or New Testament courses. “Some areas [taught] two of the courses in the same year and [allowed the] students [to] choose.” It was suggested that the institutes offer classes on the subjects seminary students would miss so that those students could take the course soon after graduating from seminary.166
A variety of training experiences were provided to teachers and administrators, all with the purpose of helping them become more effective teachers of the scriptures and better able to communicate the truth through the Holy Ghost. Besides regularly encouraged in-service on the local level, there were a number of system-initiated training efforts.
In 1994 CES published Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook for CES Teachers and Leaders. This 43-page handbook gave an overview of the difference between religious and secular education and explained the objective of CES and how it fit in with the overall mission of the Church. Its contents amplified the meaning of the Commission of CES teachers and leaders and provided insights on the role of the Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the student in gospel learning. It also contained direction on preparing to teach and deciding what and how to teach, and it included a section on skills for effective teaching.167
The teaching improvement package (TIP), first introduced in 2000, was a companion to the handbook and contained a series of lessons that helped teachers better understand the principles of teaching found in the handbook. The first volume contained print and video materials for training sessions on lesson preparation, teaching methods, and the establishment and maintenance of an edifying setting. As part of the TIP a new series of videos was produced emphasizing some of the teaching methods of teachers in scripture. Several segments featured reenactments of key teaching moments in the ministry of Christ, such as the conversation between the Savior and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and the Savior’s interactions with Nicodemus in John 3. Other videos included the story of Brigham Young’s conversion in “A Man without Eloquence” and a reenactment of the Prophet Joseph Smith teaching one of the Lectures on Faith in the School of the Elders.168 A highlight in the materials produced for the TIP was a historical re-creation of J. Reuben Clark Jr.’s address The Charted Course of the Church in Education. President Clark’s words of counsel and correction reached a new generation as thousands of teachers watched portions of the re-creation during the 1997 CES Symposium.169
Given the demands of serving as a CES coordinator, a program was initiated to allow interested seminary teachers to learn what the position entailed by shadowing a coordinator in the field. In the summer of 1998 three seminary teachers from Utah participated in an eight-day CES coordinator internship pilot in the U.S. Southern Plains Area. This experience taught them about the coordinator position and also allowed them to share their expertise and creativity with the coordinator and the volunteer personnel they were assigned to work with. This opportunity proved successful, and area directors were encouraged to recommend effective leaders who might benefit from participation in coordinator internships. Due to a concern over travel expenses, however, this program was discontinued after only a few years.
With a few exceptions, the in-service workshops to the Holy Land were held throughout the 1990s and continued to be a unique and cherished experience for the CES employees able to attend. Over the years, the process of attending the Lands of the Scriptures Workshop became the culmination of nearly a year of intensive study for teachers and their spouses as they read, watched videos, and attended a monthly class as a couple to prepare for the experience. Participants studied secular history, biblical history, and items specific to Latter-day Saint history in the Holy Land.170
Participants remembered the experience as one of the highlights of their career. During their workshop they saw the Mamertine Prison in Rome, Italy, where the Apostle Paul was held; climbed to the top of Mount Sinai in time to see the sunrise over the valleys; visited the homelands of the Savior; and felt the spirit of such storied places as Galilee, Capernaum, and Jerusalem. The most powerful experience of the tour for one participant came at the Sea of Galilee. The tour guide had stopped the bus just before a rise concealing the Sea of Galilee. Then the party walked slowly over the hill as the sea came into view. The participant noted, “So much of the New Testament account takes place in Jerusalem. … But … Galilee was home, and it was where His ministry took place. … He knew the landscape, He knew the features. … Every nook and cranny, and the way that the sea rippled, and everything like that—He walked these paths, He knew these mountains, He knew these hills, and it was a very powerful experience.”171
The workshop was suspended several times for various reasons over the course of its history. Finally, the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, and the ensuing turmoil led to an indefinite suspension of the workshops. Continued turmoil in the Middle East over the next decade as well as budget concerns permanently ended the tours of the Holy Land.172
Another unique professional development opportunity for full-time teachers came through the Pioneer Trails Workshop. This workshop had its origins in 1974, when the seminary curriculum team was asked to write a new Church history course. Stewart E. Glazier, a young writer, was asked to write about the exodus from Nauvoo and the trek to the Great Basin. When he protested, saying he knew nothing about the topic, his director told him, “Then go and find out about it.” With this task in mind, Brother Glazier and a group of companions began a serious exploration of the pioneer trail. They used off-road vehicles, motorcycles, and “even flew the trail by airplane,” learning as much as they could. “Part of their assignment included building relationships with significant trail historians” and landowners with the rights to access parts of the pioneer trail.173
As the years progressed, interest in the trail continued to heighten. In 1983 the faculty from the West Jordan, Utah, seminary traveled the trail on motorbikes. During the summer of 1993 teachers from three different CES areas in Salt Lake City and an area in Boise, Idaho, traveled the trail as part of their summer training. During the early years of these treks, the teachers used their own vehicles. In several cases, vehicles broke down along the way.174
Beginning in 1995, CES began offering a regular in-service trek during the summer. Initially called the Wyoming Trails Workshop, each weeklong trek followed the pioneer trail from Casper, Wyoming, to the Salt Lake Valley.175 Participants had to be full-time teachers or administrators and were encouraged to bring their spouses. The workshop required some preparation, including a series of readings.176 S&I colleagues provided the crews for cooking, setting up and taking down tents, and transporting the ever-important portable toilets. Larry H. Miller, a well-known car dealer and philanthropist in Salt Lake City, learned of the need for better vehicles on the treks and offered his assistance. An avid student of Church history, Brother Miller made a generous offer to provide 15–18 vehicles for each of the treks. On several occasions he even traveled to Emigration Canyon and accompanied the returning adventurers into the Salt Lake Valley.177
In 1996 the upcoming sesquicentennial of the original pioneer trek provided new attention to the CES guided tours along the trail. In preparation for the celebrations, “Elder M. Russell Ballard [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] asked to be taken over the Trail along with [members of] the Presiding Bishopric. … Elder Ballard’s comments along the trail … served as a pattern” for later CES tours. One particularly powerful moment came when Elder Ballard stopped near the sixth crossing of the Sweetwater River and discussed the rescue of the Martin and Willie handcart companies.178
In the fall of 1996 the annual area directors’ convention was held on the pioneer trail. With a similar theme to Elder Ballard’s, built around “the Rescue,” the area directors began in Salt Lake City and traveled to Martin’s Cove in Wyoming. The following summer CES became deeply involved in the sesquicentennial reenactments of the pioneer trek. “At the request of Elder Ballard,” Brother Peterson allowed “many CES employees [to serve] in supporting roles as camp jacks [helpers],” helping the participants in the historical reenactment reach the Salt Lake Valley without incident. This also prepared many CES personnel to assist in future treks. At that time the trail workshop began at Chimney Rock, Nebraska, and followed the pioneer trail as closely as possible into Salt Lake City.179
CES continued to encourage religious educators to obtain advanced degrees and gave substantial help to those working on degrees. CES policy required that those assigned as teachers or “directors at institutes of religion, or those who serve[d] as CES Coordinators, … have at least a Master’s Degree [which gave] some academic parity with the faculty of the educational institutions adjacent to where they [taught].” Tuition assistance continued, although no reimbursement was given for hours beyond those required for the degree. Those working on advanced degrees were encouraged to apply for grants and scholarships provided by the university as well. Besides the intrinsic worth of the knowledge gained and the honing of thinking, reading, and writing skills, CES provided higher salaries for those who achieved advanced degrees, as well as “a limited number of leaves for qualified individuals working on doctoral degrees.” During this time period the gap in salary between those with master’s degrees and those with doctorates was narrowed.180
CES did not set specific requirements of fields of study for advanced degrees, but personnel were encouraged “to seek degrees which [would] directly help them as religious educators.”181 Further education did not, however, guarantee an increased teaching effectiveness. Based on years of observation, Brother Peterson commented, “I’ve yet to see much significant change in their ability to teach with those who received their PhD—in some cases it has hurt.”182 Over the years, many of the teachers pursuing a master’s degree had asked about working on a degree that focused on the doctrines of the Church and related directly to their job responsibilities of teaching the scriptures. However, Brigham Young University, “the only school where graduate classes in modern scripture and LDS doctrine and theology [were] taught, [did] not offer a Master’s degree in religious education.”183
In May 1998, after months of conversation—which included discussions between the CES administration and Robert L. Millet, the dean of the BYU Religion Department at the time—Brother Peterson proposed to the Church Board of Education “that a Masters of Arts in Religious Education be offered at Brigham Young University through Religious Education.” The program was a true collaboration between Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and the Religion Department at BYU. In his recommendation Brother Peterson suggested that “only qualified full-time CES personnel would be allowed to pursue this degree” and that “the degree would be designed to provide an in-depth study of all the major scripture and doctrine courses offered in the seminary and institute of religion curriculum and would include a heavy emphasis on how to teach” these courses. The degree would be “designed to help candidates become qualified ‘generalists’ in religious education [and] would require 30 credit hours of course work and a 6 credit hour thesis, for a total of 36 hours. All candidates would be required to complete the same courses.”184
It was decided that “most of the graduate faculty would come from BYU Religious Education with some adjunct faculty coming from the … CES administration.” The courses in the program could “be offered in such a sequence that a student beginning summer term in any year would be able to complete all course work in 2 years assuming part-time enrollment during fall, winter and spring terms and full-time enrollment in summer term. A student attending only summer terms would be able to complete all course work in four summers.” The proposal received Board of Education approval,185 and the first cohort began in 1999.
BYU and CES arranged the program so participants attended classes four days each week in the summer and then one night each week during the school year. Teachers gave up their summer employment to attend the program but saw this as a small sacrifice to be taught by some of the top scholars in the Church.186
Initial courses included Doctrines of the Gospel taught by Joseph Fielding McConkie, Book of Mormon taught by Robert J. Matthews, New Testament taught by Robert L. Millet, Church History and the Doctrines and Covenants taught by Richard E. Bennett, and Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Since 1844 taught by Richard O. Cowan, Old Testament taught by Paul Y. Hoskisson, and Christian History taught by Paul H. Peterson. CES also provided teachers for several classes, including Foundations of Religious Education taught by retired zone administrator Clarence F. Schramm, and a teaching methodology class taught by Gerald N. Lund. All of the courses focused on topics directly related to the work of religious education, a great benefit for the teachers participating. The teachers also became close as a group and developed a number of enduring relationships.187
A large number of dedicated female teachers served diligently in the Church Educational System to teach the gospel. Women in CES played vital roles ranging from support specialists, to volunteer instructors, to professional teachers and employees.
Seminary and institute programs benefited not only from teachers and administrators but also from the work of dedicated support specialists across the world, many of whom were women, who kept track of attendance and correspondence, assisted students with makeup work, and carried out whatever tasks were needed to help teachers reach students in and out of the classroom.
Typical of the dedication among the ranks of the support specialists was Stephanie Christofferson, who was a fixture at the Jordan Seminary in Sandy, Utah, for over 30 years. Sister Christofferson was a young mother with three small children at home when she went through a divorce and needed to support her family on her own. For about two years she struggled to make ends meet and still find time to be at home to take care of her children. She filled her time with odd jobs, including babysitting for other families, trying to find a way to be home for her children. She recalled, “I was praying mightily for the Lord to get me a job that would sustain my family, and that I could be a part of.” Seeing her struggles, Sister Christofferson’s former bishop, James S. Johnston, who was the principal of the seminary at Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah, asked her if she was willing to work as his secretary. Sister Christofferson later remembered, “That was such a wonderful opportunity because I had three little kids that I didn’t want to leave constantly and they hired me at five hours a day.”188
Over the years her work changed from typing on onion skin paper in a makeshift office converted from the seminary’s library to working with computers. She recalled, “In 1985, we got our first computer and [my principal] was so excited. I looked at him and I said, ‘How do you turn it on?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know.’” During her time at the seminary Sister Christofferson gained proficiency in seminary tracking programs and other applications like WordPerfect. She also became an expert in using transparency machines and copiers. Sister Christofferson, like most support specialists, also acted as an unofficial counselor to many of the students, providing a feminine perspective at a time when faculties consisted primarily of male teachers.189
After 34 years in the system, Sister Christofferson was diagnosed with cancer and reluctantly left her position at the Jordan seminary to undergo chemotherapy. She remembered, “I kept thinking I was going to get back, but things just kept snowballing. … I just decided, ‘I’ve got to retire.’” Her treatment regimen, combined with some miraculous blessings from her sons, led her to a full recovery. Ending her long service, she said, “The Church has been so good to me. … The benefits of the Church, the blessing of having not only my children and me being able to support my children through the Church, but then having the benefits of sick leave, vacation, and now, retirement. There are not a lot of secretaries that have those wonderful blessings.”190 Sister Christofferson was just one representative of thousands of dedicated support specialists helping in the work all over the world.
As CES spread around the world, the difficult task of teaching early-morning classes and leading the charge for educational programs relied upon the sacrifice of many female teachers. In Moscow, Russia, Tatiana Marchenko joined the Church in 1994. She soon became deeply engaged in her branch, serving as a Sunday School teacher and the music director. While serving in these callings, she was asked to also serve as “an Institute teacher and taught two classes a week.” Sister Marchenko later recalled, “It was like full-time employment. And one of the classes was completely in English. It was very difficult, because I’m not fluent in English, and it required a lot of effort.”191
After completing her service as an institute teacher, she was later called as a seminary teacher. Her work in seminary gave her a deep love for the scriptures. She later remembered, “To get on the same cycle as the rest of the Church, we ended up studying the Old Testament two years in a row. It was a special blessing. It became my favorite book. I have such a strong testimony of our church thanks to the Old Testament.” As she studied, Sister Marchenko was drawn to the figures in the scriptures. “All of these prophets became like my close friends, I don’t know how to explain it. Once I was teaching a lesson on the Old Testament in Sunday School. A sister said to me, ‘You’re talking about David as though he is your friend, as if you drank tea with him yesterday and now you’re telling us about him.” Sister Marchenko’s husband, also a convert, worked for the Church Educational System, and the two of them served together in a number of capacities to strengthen and build the faith of the Saints in their area. She led a choir that gave concerts in a number of Russian cities, including St. Petersburg and Samara. The choir even recorded two CDs.192
Women also served among the ranks of the full-time teachers of CES. Relva Whetten-Morgan was a returned missionary who began teaching at the Church academy in Colonia Juárez, Mexico, and eventually became the vice principal there. She was feeling a strong desire to serve another mission and was preparing to leave the academy when Tom L. Tyler, the zone administrator over her area, asked her if she was interested in serving a CES mission. She agreed and in 1994 traveled to California, where she served a two-year mission as an institute teacher at the San Marcos institute and early-morning coordinator. When her mission was over in 1996, she was offered a position as a full-time teacher at the San Marcos institute. In 1998 when the institute director retired, she was asked to take over, becoming the first female institute director in CES. She remembered how she had always been the only woman in her professional life throughout her career:
When I was down in Mexico, I was the only female vice principal that had ever been there, and so we would be in these meetings with all of the seminary and institute and academic leaders, and it was all the guys and Sister Whetten. … That was very, very common for me. I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable because I never worked with a greater bunch of brethren. They’ve all been so wonderful, so accepting. I never felt any kind of discrimination. I was treated as an equal. They were so very supportive and so kind. It’s just been the most incredible career.193
Sister Whetten-Morgan also recalled, “I had the ability to reach out to some of the young women that we had in the institute program in maybe a different way.” One class in particular stood out in her mind. “It was one of those times when after class I remember turning around to erase the board, and I thought, ‘Oh, that was a horrible lesson.’ … I turned back around, and there was this beautiful young woman there, and she said, ‘Oh, Sister Whetten, I can’t thank you enough. … I needed to hear what you had to say today. I needed to hear what you said about repentance.’” Looking back, Sister Whetten-Morgan said, “My lesson wasn’t on repentance. And it wasn’t me. … It’s just incredible how the Lord can reach out and touch those who need to be touched.” Sister Whetten-Morgan continued as the institute director in San Marcos until her retirement in 2012.194
While the main efforts of CES programs focused on young adults in high school and at universities, a number of smaller programs operated at the same time intended to serve students with special needs and incarcerated prisoners and even provide basic literacy for members of the Church throughout the world.
During the 1990s the programs for students with special needs continued to grow. In many locations, students with disabilities were integrated into regular classes, while in other locations special classes were created for these students. There were also a small number of seminaries adjacent to special needs institutions such as Hartvigsen School in the Salt Lake Valley and the Dan Peterson School in American Fork, Utah. The CES administration during this time reminded all teachers of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statement that “all the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.”195 CES leaders provided training on what constituted special needs and on the curriculum that was appropriate for such students, and they encouraged in-service training to better meet the needs of these students. “The use of volunteers, parents, and student peers [was] strongly encouraged.”196
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, when he was one of the administrators who helped launch the programs, commented on the blessings found in caring for those with special needs: “You are manifesting the works of God with every thought, with every gesture of tenderness and care you extend to the handicapped loved one. … You are living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in exceptional purity. And you perfect yourselves in the process.”197
One of the least-known CES efforts was the program for the incarcerated. Religious education programs at the Utah State Prison stretched back to the 1960s, when Ernest L. Eberhard Jr., director of curriculum for the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, began holding a discussion twice a month as part of the Mutual Improvement Association program at the prison. In 1967 the first seminary classes there were taught by Richard Berrett, and since that time CES maintained a constant presence at the prison.198
In 1996 Robert Feland received a call from the assistant to the area director asking if he would be willing to accept an assignment at the Utah State Prison.199 When Brother Feland first walked into the prison to begin class, he wasn’t sure what to expect. “When Brother Tyler asked me to go, I had … serious concerns. One, how could I be responsible to take [the] Spirit every day? … I’m a human being. … I have the foibles like everybody else. And … prison is devoid of the Spirit. … [Second,] I worried about being condescending to the inmates. I worried about being judgmental. … I really worried that going out there I wouldn’t be effective.” In his second week teaching this class, Brother Feland became so overwhelmed by the Spirit that he began to weep. He recalled, “My theory is that their spiritual sensors are so damaged that in order for them to feel the Spirit, the Lord has to fire-hose them and we’re third-party beneficiaries.”200 Brother Feland found that the influence of the Spirit in the prison was so strong that he had trouble getting the teachers and volunteers under his charge to accept different assignments outside the prison.201
Brother Feland was amazed at the wide variety of people he reached through his work at the prison. He recalled, “A lot of them … hate the name of the Church, but they get overwhelmed by the LDS people [who volunteer] in the prison.” One inmate wanted to study the Old Testament but refused to read the Pearl of Great Price, a prescribed part of the institute course. A year later the inmate came to Brother Feland and said, “I’m having a real struggle with this, but these LDS volunteers … have Jesus in them. … I’m having to completely rethink my attitude towards religion.” Later on, the same inmate was reading the Book of Mormon.202
The LDS institute program at the prison was unique in a number of ways. Basic literacy was a major concern. Many were not from LDS backgrounds but found comfort in studying the words of the scriptures and talks by General Authorities. Some inmates were not allowed to attend classes and instead completed individual study in their cells.203 One prison institute director during a portion of the 1990s detailed some of the challenges facing the institute teachers in the prison: “There are stresses and strains serving in prison not experienced in traditional Seminaries and Institutes. It is a metallic world of clanging doors, tinkling chains and, in some sense, certain dangers. Some inmates are difficult, administration [is] not always cooperative and security interruptions occasional. Still the Lord’s work goes forward as usual.”204
Another way CES reached out beyond its target audience of youth and young adults was by promoting literacy throughout the Church. Starting in the 1970s, literacy materials prepared by CES were evaluated, and the question was asked, “Could this not be more closely linked with the mission of the Church, more closely linked to the scriptures themselves?” An accompanying question was, “Can you teach reading from the scriptures?” M. Nelson Dibble, who worked in the special needs section of the curriculum division, supervised an effort to prepare literacy materials that were based on the scriptures. Seeing the importance of scriptural literacy, Brother Dibble decided, “We’d teach them right from the scriptures themselves.”205
The Relief Society became involved in the literacy effort in 1991, just after Elaine Jack was called as the general president of the organization. The following year was the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Relief Society, and the new presidency wanted to celebrate in a significant way. They considered the question “What is the greatest need our sisters have [worldwide]?” The answer was that in order for women to take a “larger role in society,” they needed to be able to read and write.206
Sister Jack offered the Relief Society’s help in the literacy program already in place. The result was a partnership between CES and the Relief Society in which CES provided the materials and training and the sisters implemented the program wherever it was needed, working through local priesthood leaders.207 On December 15, 1992, the First Presidency sent a letter to all the General Authorities; regional representatives; stake, mission, and district presidents; bishops; and branch presidents that said in part: “Dear Brethren: … A focus on literacy is being initiated through the Relief Society General Presidency as part of the Relief Society’s Sesquicentennial celebration. … This effort will operate with the direction of local priesthood leaders and with the help of the Church Educational System administrators. Relief Society and priesthood leaders will share the responsibility for successfully developing and implementing this effort.”208
As the literacy program grew, CES prepared teaching manuals in Portuguese and French as well as Spanish and English. Each lesson helped the students learn their language, was linked to the scriptures, and had a gospel message such as “repent of all your sins,” “watch and pray always,” “be of good cheer,” and “God is my salvation.” The CES literacy materials helped improve the lives of many Latter-day Saints and enabled successful students to study the scriptures.
An important part of the literacy effort came in the work of CES literacy missionaries, who were usually older couples generously donating their time. One such couple, an Elder and Sister Burton, working in Papua New Guinea wrote the following in a 1997 report: “We looked in on a seminary-literacy class yesterday and saw what we now see daily, a class of five or six island students sitting on the floor with word cards spread in front of them. They are so deep in concentration they hardly notice our presence. The teacher is likewise absorbed. What a beautiful, touching sight. We are grateful to be part of this work and we feel the Spirit of the Lord in it.” The report also provided insight into the work of the teachers involved in the literacy program: “We also see dedicated teachers giving close to a half day, each day, teaching and blessing the lives of many young boys and girls—some of whom are not even from their own villages. They are giving these forgotten children a chance for a future. This is service after the manner of the Master teacher.”209
For over a decade Brother Dibble directed CES efforts as a passionate advocate for literacy within the Church. He later said,
You’ve got to be able to read the Book of Mormon to really function in the Church. The Book of Mormon, as they put it on the different reading scales, ranges anywhere from ninth grade reading level up to the thirteenth or the fourteenth grade reading levels, so for somebody to be able to read the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the manuals, the priesthood manuals, for them to be able to write about themselves, their lives, their own personal history, to be able to read ancient documents in terms of genealogy or even to be able to write names, is a pretty high expectation. And we’re asked to do those things by the prophets.
… That’s how I define literacy: The ability to read and write and understand the scriptures … and to write your personal history and your family history. If you can do those things, then you are literate.210
Brother Dibble’s enthusiasm for the program led him to collect and share stories about the impact of literacy on the members of the Church. When the first literacy programs in the Dominican Republic began, a less-active woman accepted the missionaries’ invitation to take the literacy class. She had been unable to read and therefore could not fully participate in church. “As she finally saw that she was going to be able to read,” Brother Dibble later related, “she in her humble little home got two bricks and a board and built herself a bookshelf on which she could put the one or two little books that she was now able to learn how to read. It activated her, her husband got activated, and she’s now the president of the Relief Society.”211
In another place in the Dominican Republic, a ward lacked a teacher for the classes. A young woman, just 19 years old, volunteered to teach the class. She recruited 10 other members of the ward to attend the class, including a young man who was less active in the Church. As he studied, the young man read the Book of Mormon for the “first time in his life.” Brother Dibble recalled, “In his garbled letters he wrote a letter of thank you to the missionaries that baptized him. [He] thanked [them] in his own writing. … That’s the first thing he did with his ability to read.” The young man later became one of the best ward mission leaders in the area.212
All of the policies, programs, and personnel of the Church Educational System have existed only to meet the needs of the students. Teachers have been encouraged to build on students’ innate spirituality as they strengthen their faith in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the living prophet. The stories of students around the world began to weave themselves into the greater tapestry of the story of Church education.
Catherine Mazenge was called as a seminary teacher in the Africa South/East Area in a branch with a number of deaf and blind people. Teaching 34 students, Sister Mazenge realized her task was hopeless without someone who could interpret her lesson in sign language. Fortunately one of her students was fluent and volunteered. Sister Mazenge was soon “impressed with the way her students [understood] the lessons and ask[ed] good questions.” She taught them the stories of King Benjamin and Abinadi and other stories from the Book of Mormon. By the end of the year nearly all of the students finished the course, and most never even missed a class. Sister Mazenge later said, “I know the spirit teaches them. I love them so much. As I teach them daily, I have come to understand their needs and the feelings they have for the gospel as well as their love for the Savior.”213
At the Eldorado seminary in Nevada, a teacher found an anonymous note on her doorstep from one of her students. It read, in part, “Something you said in seminary this morning saved my life, literally, thank you.” It also mentioned that the student “was planning on doing something that would have been very devastating” but provided no details. The teacher was content knowing that her lesson that morning changed someone’s life, even if she never found out which of her students it was.214
In another place, a young lady who was described by her teacher as “a seventeen year old junior with spiked hair, long ear locks, dirty clothes, a pierced tongue, and an awful smell” received a letter from her teacher inviting her to attend seminary. She started coming to class but had a negative attitude. Her teacher began trying to find moments to speak to her one on one and found out that the girl’s father, who had been excommunicated from the Church, had passed away. Her family was not friendly toward the Church. After another talk, her teacher asked her to pray with sincerity for a testimony. A few days later, the young lady returned to class carrying a better attitude, began asking questions, and because she did not own a set of scriptures sat by students who did. They read together “until an anonymous donor gave her a new set of scriptures with her name etched in gold on the cover.” Prayer, scripture study, the love of her teacher, and the help of the Holy Ghost turned her face toward the Savior.215
In Islamabad, Pakistan, a CES missionary couple, an Elder and Sister Berry, began working with the members in the local branch to provide literacy training. Realizing that many women in the country received few opportunities for learning, the couple worked with the women in the branch in small groups and one on one to help them understand and speak English. After about two months of work, one of the sisters shared her testimony in English at the pulpit. The missionaries’ report noted, “It was short, but sweet.”216
In Boise, Idaho, a young woman walked into the local institute asking to register for a class. As one of the teachers helped her, he found out she was not a member of the Church. She accepted the invitation to take the missionary discussions and told them she was attending a church on campus close by. She had looked into the institute because she felt she was no longer growing at her current church and wanted to keep learning. “Before she left the institute, she promised to attend a night institute class. The teacher … warned her not to be swayed by those opposed to the Church. She answered, ‘Oh, don’t worry about that. I have heard those stories all of my life. Now I want to learn what the Mormon Church really believes.’” By the end of the semester she completed her class and the missionary discussions and was baptized. “She was confirmed a member of the Church by the teacher who had been her first contact at the institute.”217
In the Africa West Area, a teacher acted on a strong prompting to teach the Word of Wisdom instead of the subject he had prepared for his lesson. “After class, an 18-year-old girl approached him, [saying,] ‘Teacher, thank you very much for today’s lesson. It is an answer to my special prayer. My nonmember friends have, for the past month, been on me for not “doing the thing”—smoking and drinking.’ [The teacher] said, ‘Are you for them or for the Lord? Keep it up, for the Lord answers our prayers.’” Six months later, the young lady arrived at class with two of her friends, now joining the class to investigate the Church.218
In a seminary class in Bountiful, Utah, a young sophomore was trying the patience of the other students. He “didn’t fit in very well with any particular group at the school. He tried to compensate by saying rude things in order to get a little attention. The class was very patient with him over the course of the semester. He had acquired the nickname ‘cheesecake.’” As his birthday approached, the young man confided to his seminary teacher with tears in his eyes that he thought “his parents would forget about it as they often had in the past.” Two young women in his class overheard this conversation and conspired to bring four cheesecakes to class on his birthday. “That day was the happiest he’d been the entire semester.”219
In Vancouver, Canada, one morning a couple of teenagers backed a pickup truck into the window of a pharmacy in an attempt to rob the place. A school bus driver going by that area saw what was happening and parked his bus in front of the pickup so the culprits would not be able to get away and then called the police. “In their effort to locate the thieves, the police apprehended two youth in a different location, but in the general area of the heist. During questioning, the boys told the officers they were getting their exercise by running to early-morning seminary.” The officers did not believe them until they took the boys to the meetinghouse where their seminary teacher and class recognized them and confirmed their story. “The officers visited the class for about twenty minutes and left with expressions of unbelief that there were good youth who would devote their time each morning at such an early hour to the study of the scriptures.”220
Volunteer teachers played an important role in the work of CES as all around the world thousands of dedicated volunteers sacrificed to bring the gospel to their students. For the most part their only reward was making a difference in their students’ lives. Their experiences varied widely based on local circumstances. Seminary classes ranged from a handful of students taught in a private home, to large groups taught in local Church buildings.
While serving as a coordinator in Washington, D.C., Brother Chad H Webb witnessed the dedication of the many volunteer teachers in the area. On one occasion he was visiting a teacher at T. C. Williams High School in Virginia with an early-morning class of just three students. Brother Webb and the teacher arrived at the appointed hour, but none of the students came. After waiting 15 minutes, Brother Webb, trying to make the teacher feel better, told her she had fulfilled her duties and could go home if she wanted to. He later recalled, “She said, ‘I am going to stay. I promised the Lord that I would fulfill this calling, so even if the students don’t come, I promised Him I would be here.’ Then she said, ‘Sometimes when they don’t make it they will still come just before school starts and they’ll stick their head in and I just want to tell them that I love them.’”221
Another teacher Brother Webb worked with worked long hours for the United States military. When Brother Webb found out the teacher was working 18-hour days at his job and still teaching, he called the teacher to discuss his release. The teacher told him, “I work for eighteen hours a day, I go home and I sleep for two hours, I get up and I prepare for two hours, get ready to go and teach my class for an hour, and then get back to work.” The teacher was in his fourth month of following this routine. When Brother Webb suggested a release from his seminary duties, the teacher responded, “Please don’t. Meeting with these young people gives me hope.”222
In Torreón, Mexico, one teacher decided to teach two classes at different times of the day in order to accommodate more of her students. At the beginning of the school year only five students were enrolled, but through months of diligent ministering and recruiting, she enrolled 23 students by the middle of the year.223
In Guatemala one ward offered a class before school and another after school so that all potential students could attend. The teacher for the early-morning class was a returned missionary who felt confident in her teaching abilities. The afternoon teacher felt very inadequate in her responsibilities. To compensate for her lack of knowledge and experience, she attended the morning class to watch and benefit from observing her more-experienced colleague so she could be effective in touching the lives of those students who came later in the day.224
A young teacher in Culiacán, Mexico, had been a member of the city’s disco scene before the influence of a good seminary teacher and a diligent bishop helped him change his life and serve a mission. After returning from his mission, he was called to teach a seminary class held at 5:00 in the morning. The class met outside on a small sheltered patio, the lighting was provided by a single bulb that dangled on a cord, and the chalkboard “had been partially broken off.” The lesson, taught to a class of about 10 students and accompanied by the sight of “lizards on the wall” and the sound of a chorus of roosters, was filled with truth, the Spirit, and the testimony of this wonderful young teacher.225
When Norman W. Gardner was hired by CES in the early 1990s, his first assignment was as a seminary coordinator in Las Vegas. Brother Gardner found himself supervising volunteer teachers who taught every morning. In one chapel, as many as 13 different classes of 25 to 30 students met each day. To meet the needs of all the students, some locations even offered classes during the lunch hour or after school. Brother Gardner recalled, “In addition to the larger classrooms, we would also be using the chapel [and] the overflow between the chapel and the gym. We would sometimes use the gym itself or the stage behind the curtain. We would use the nursery. We would put them in every conceivable location in the building.”226
Deeply impressed by the sacrifice of the volunteer teachers he worked with, Brother Gardner said, “There are few better people in the Church, as far as consecrated efforts, than early-morning teachers, who were the type of people that often had family at home. … They were typically wonderful sisters of the Church who had previously been very successful young women’s leaders. … They would spend hours a day preparing and then come into the class and they’d just give it everything they had.”227 Thanks to the dedication of these local teachers and the growing number of seminary students, a number of chapels with built-in seminary facilities in the Las Vegas area were constructed next door to the local high schools.228
Seminaries and Institutes of Religion worked in tandem with the small collection of Church schools around the world. During the 1990s the schools continued to serve as valuable educational and cultural centers for the Latter-day Saint communities they served. The closures of the prior decade left only two Church schools in Mexico: the Academia Juárez and the Centro Escolar Benemérito de las Américas. Throughout the Pacific, Church schools continued to thrive in Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Samoa, and Tonga.
In 1997 the Juárez Academy celebrated its centennial with a series of events centered around the theme “The Juárez Stake Academy, 1897–1997: The First One Hundred Years.” The Church Educational System even produced the film Seedbed of the Lord, which featured vignettes about the history of the school and focused on the large number of Church leaders among the academy’s alumni.229
The climax of the year’s celebration came when President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at the graduation ceremonies. He commented on the dedication and persistence of the colonists in the remote desert of Northern Mexico and the small size but tremendous faithfulness of the community. He also said, “I would like to see the time come when all of our people throughout the world could get to a temple without too much inconvenience. I think you are about as far away as anybody and I don’t know quite what to do about you. There aren’t enough of you to justify a temple.”230
After the centennial celebrations, President Hinckley spent the majority of the ride to the nearest airport in El Paso, Texas, reflecting on the dilemma faced by the Church members in the colonies. He began to develop a concept for smaller temples to serve members living in remote areas like Colonia Juárez throughout the world.231 When the formal announcement came the following October, the first three small temples announced were in Monticello, Utah; Anchorage, Alaska; and Colonia Juárez, Mexico. Dedicated in 1999, the Colonia Juárez Mexico Temple, the smallest temple in the Church, now borders the academy campus.232
During the 1990s the Centro Escolar Benemérito de las Américas entered its fourth decade of operation. Like the Juárez Academy, the school became a generational institution among the Saints in Mexico. The leaders of the school began to see the fruits of the unique venue Benemérito provided to model and teach the principles of family and gospel living. One student, Miguel Velez Adame, arrived at Benemérito as a new convert to the Church and was immediately overwhelmed by his new surroundings. He remembered, “When I left I was scared, had many doubts, and was so homesick. I had never left my pueblo [village]. I don’t know how often I cried and how many tears I shed as I began this major change in my life.” Miguel was tentative in his testimony of the gospel, but the warm environment of the campus helped him down the path to his true spiritual conversion. “I will never forget the peace I felt as I walked into sacrament meeting and the congregation was singing ‘Oh, hablemos con tiernos acentos’ [Let us oft speak kind words to each other]. In this moment I felt an indescribable peace. Then they sang ‘Asombro me da’ [I Stand All Amazed], I felt a sensation in my chest that is difficult to explain. The next morning I woke up for family prayer and scripture study, I attended seminary, and that night, we had family home evening.” Reflecting on the importance of seminary as part of his Benemérito experience, he said, “I remember the lessons from my seminary teachers, but more important was their example, their spirituality, and their testimonies.”233
It was common during the graduation ceremonies at Benemérito “for the leading authority to have the students raise their hand to indicate the number who [had] turned their mission papers in or who had received their mission calls. … In January 1999, Church leaders approved eighteen-year-olds, who had graduated from high school in Mexico, to be called as full time missionaries.” During the following years, more than 500 young men per year received mission calls, and in the ensuing decade “approximately 85 percent of all male Benemérito graduates … served full time missions.234
The work of the Church schools in the Pacific during the 1990s took place against a backdrop of impressive Church growth. From 1985 to 2002 the membership of the Church in the Pacific grew from 252,130 to 451,743, a growth rate of almost 79 percent. In the nation of Kiribati alone, the growth rate was 1,516 percent!235 No new schools opened during the 1990s, but the existing Church schools provided a sense of cultural continuity and a gathering place for the local Saints.
In 1990 the LDS Fiji Technical College began to shift away from its focus on vocational training and moved more toward academic education. Reflecting this, the name of the school was changed to the Fiji LDS Church College. Native leadership in the LDS primary school and Church College was provided by students returning, often from BYU–Hawaii, after they completed their college studies. Tipo Tivao Solomone was an alumnus of BYU–Hawaii who chose to return to Fiji and provided leadership in the Church there. While he was studying in Hawaii he met his wife, Armine, and they married in the temple. Though his wife was a native of Hawaii and a U.S. citizen, the Solomones were determined to return to Fiji to help build the Church there. Brother Solomone began teaching at the school in 1985 and later served as the finance supervisor and the principal of the school.236 When asked about the impact of the school on the Church in Fiji, he said, “Many of our leaders here in Fiji have worked in the school as a former student, or [they] came to know the Church through someone at the school.” Brother Solomone himself served as high priest group leader, an ordinance worker after the opening of the Suva Fiji Temple, and a stake patriarch.237
While dedicated CES missionaries helped the school in Kiribati (Gilbert Islands) get on its feet, leadership began to mature among the local Church membership. Iotua Tune was in one of the first groups of students to leave Kiribati and attend Liahona High School in Tonga. While at Liahona he heard the gospel and decided to be baptized. When he wrote home for his parents’ permission to be baptized, they asked him what Mormons believe. He was able to recite the Articles of Faith, after having memorized them in his seminary class. This quieted any concerns of his parents, and they urged him to be baptized. A few years after his baptism, he decided to serve a mission and returned to his home country as a missionary. By this time the Church school in Kiribati was open, and the missionaries lived on its campus, often teaching seminary and contacting potential investigators through the schools. For a few months after his mission Brother Tune remained in Kiribati, teaching seminary at the school.238
In time Brother Tune left to attend school at BYU–Hawaii, eventually traveling to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and receiving a master’s degree. While he was in Utah he assisted in translating the Book of Mormon into his native language. The day after he returned with his family to Kiribati in 1987 he was called as the district president. He also took a professional position at the school, teaching science and religion. He remained at the school, working there for the majority of the 1990s and the following decade. Over time he saw the Church in Kiribati grow from a single branch into two stakes, with him serving as one of the first stake presidents. He also saw the school grow from little more than a thatched hut to one of the most modern and respected educational institutions in the country. By Brother Tune’s estimation, nearly half of the Church members in Kiribati are associated with the school in some way. The remarkable progress of the Church has been tied to the school, and Brother Tune commented that “the school is a great missionary tool here and is a great blessing to the people of Kiribati.”239
In New Zealand, the Church College in Temple View served approximately 10 percent of the LDS youth in the country. For the students attending the school, it offered a chance to escape many of the temptations of the world. One student commented, “I had no pressure of trying to defend my religion whereas at my other school there was. There was also no sort of pressure to drink and get into drugs … when I was here at Church College.”240
A former graduate of the school commented on the impact of the gospel in helping the students become united: “The vision is I am a child of God, the glory of God is intelligence and light and truth, and we all have the potential in the Church … in other words there’s no limitation and it’s not based on color or race. The scriptures teach us that—our potential for all of us.”241
The Church schools also provided a welcoming environment for teachers. Vaifaaee Okesene was not a member of the Church when she applied to teach at the Church College of Vaiola in Western Samoa. She was raised in the United Methodist Church. After high school, she traveled to New Zealand to complete her university education and then returned to Samoa, where she taught in a government school before leaving the country again so her husband could complete his education in Australia. In 1999 she began to teach history and sociology at Vaiola. She was impressed with the environment at the Church school. “It was amazing. … The teachings, reading the scriptures and all that, and having devotional in the mornings. It was sort of like a very different experience for me. But I got to like it.” She was particularly impressed with how her children acted while at the school. “The main thing that made me really want to become a member was when I look at my children.” Her son began asking her if he could be baptized. “He mentioned his friends being baptized and I thought maybe he’s trying to tell me something. You know the songs that he sings like, ‘I love to see the temple and I’m going there someday.’ And I thought, ‘Well, he’s never going to see the temple unless we join the Church.’” Sister Okesene talked to her husband about joining with her, which he agreed to do, and the entire family was baptized a few years after her arrival at Vaiola.242
In Tonga, the story of Mele Taumoepeau illustrates the generational impact the schools have on the local youth. In 1996 Sister Taumoepeau was appointed as the principal of Liahona High School after being associated with the school for the greater part of her life. She left her home on the island of Ha’apai to attend school at Liahona in the early 1970s. She has fond memories of her times living in the dorms at Liahona. “My memory of my school days was just all fun. I thought it was the best days of my life. … We had great dorm parents, and of course, the food. … We had three meals a day, which was very strange and most welcome, of course, unlike what we were used to back at home.” While at Liahona, Sister Taumoepeau learned English and gained a lifelong love of learning. Some of her roommates were nonmembers from Kiribati. Sister Taumoepeau became close friends with several of these students, sharing the gospel and helping them join the Church. Eventually the American expatriates who taught at the school were replaced with teachers and administrators from the local Tongan membership.243
Sister Taumoepeau left Tonga after her graduation in 1973 and attended BYU–Hawaii. After her graduation she returned to Tonga to teach at Liahona. According to Sister Taumoepeau, “Everybody thinks of Liahona as the Church and the Church as Liahona. … Liahona High School is a major part of the image of the Church here in Tonga, and I think that’s where the majority of its Church members have come from.”244
As the 20th century drew to a close, more significant changes in the leadership of the Church Educational System were announced. Early in 1999 Gerald N. Lund, then one of the zone administrators and a dynamic leader in the central office, announced his retirement.245 Paul V. Johnson replaced Brother Lund. Brother Johnson had started his career as a released-time seminary teacher in Chandler, Arizona. After a period teaching seminary in northern Utah, he was asked to move to the central office, where he had served as an instructional designer with visual curriculum, as a manager of Design and Evaluation Services, and as a director of Training and Curriculum Services, until his appointment as a zone administrator to replace Brother Lund.246
Bruce M. Lake, who served as executive assistant to Brother Peterson, also retired. Long-time zone administrator A. Bryan Weston accepted the executive assistant assignment, and Kenneth R. Myers was appointed as a new zone administrator. In the 1970s Brother Myers helped pioneer S&I efforts in the state of Vermont and then in West Germany and surrounding countries. He returned from Europe in 1978 and served as director of the Moscow, Idaho, institute until his new zone administrator appointment.
G. Paul Sorenson, who had served as administrator of financial services since 1987 and as secretary to the Church Board of Education since 1993, retired in 1999.247 His work in the educational system included both seminary and institute teaching, work with American Indian students, and directing institute choirs. Trained in accounting, he played a pivotal role in having local leaders assume more responsibility in both preparing budgets and wisely overseeing approved expenditures.248 He was replaced by Roger G. Christensen, the Church budget officer.249
In the June 13, 2001, Church Board of Education meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley acknowledged that it would be Stanley A. Peterson’s last board meeting before retirement. “Speaking in behalf of the Board of Education, President Hinckley commended Brother Peterson for his remarkable and cheerful service over many years in moving ahead the great educational program of the Church.”250
In one of Brother Peterson’s last messages to CES personnel, he spoke to the area directors at their yearly convention.
Brother Peterson told of a conversation he had with one of the Twelve [Apostles] who said, “Somehow we have got to do a better job of instilling the importance of keeping the commandments of God into the hearts and souls of our young people and of helping them to be more faithful. Although they are enrolled in seminary and institute programs, carry their scriptures, and memorize verses, many of them do not internalize the doctrine into their hearts. …” Brother Peterson said, “In our classrooms it all starts with a teacher who can teach by the Spirit. … I want students to say, ‘I understand Christ-like love’ or ‘I know about meekness or humility because I have learned it from my teacher.’”
… He continued, “The young people can tell if we are teaching by the Spirit or not. … It is something that comes from the teacher’s spirit to the spirit of the student. If we do not have the Spirit—if we are not cleansed vessels—it will not work.”
Brother Peterson testified that “The Lord will move the work forward if we will do our part.”251
During his sojourn in the central office Brother Peterson worked with Commissioners Jeffery R. Holland, J. Elliot Cameron, and Henry B. Eyring, who was Commissioner twice. He approved several landmark changes, including sequential scripture teaching, a reduced and simplified S&I curriculum, and a professional development program for both international and domestic employees. He also streamlined central office procedures, reduced the paper flow from CES headquarters, and delegated more responsibility to the zone administrators and to the area directors. Garry K. Moore, who worked closely with Brother Peterson for a number of years, described him as “an amazing administrator.” Brother Moore said Brother Peterson had “the ability to handle tremendous pressure” that accompanied great growth in CES programs, could “grasp the detail as well as the big picture,” and “kept his hands on everything probably better than anybody I’ve ever worked around. [He was] very upbeat, had a great vision, great energy to make things happen [and was] also a very spiritual leader.”252
Brother Peterson had no inkling when he assumed leadership of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion that his tenure would last for almost a quarter of a century. Worldwide seminary and institute enrollment stood at 301,439 in 1977 when he first entered the commissioner’s office, and when he delivered his farewell address at the August 2001 CES Religious Educators’ Conference, the enrollment had swelled to 722,844.253
He described his experience as a “wonderful journey” and noted that he had traveled over four million miles, been in 150 countries, “met marvelous, marvelous people,” and was sometimes away from home “from 175 to 200 days a year.”254 Looking back on his career, Brother Peterson fondly recalled a visit to Montevideo, Uruguay, and a family home evening in the home of a CES employee who also served as a stake president. He recalled:
As I was alone in the living room waiting for them to begin … I just reached out and touched the walls on both sides of the room. … It was about six feet wide and eight feet long. They had a kitchen, that room, and three very small bedrooms. As I sat with that little family and watched them conduct their family home evening and felt of their spirit, I was so moved. I thought, It doesn’t matter where you go or how humble the circumstances: where the faithful gather, the Spirit of the Lord is there. There was such a sweet spirit in that little home as we sang songs to a little guitar and did the things you do in a family home evening.255
Brother Peterson, as he relived his “wonderful journey,” also recalled:
I remember one morning in England going to a little hall. It was a church, but it was a rented facility. … It was cold, it was foggy, it was miserable weather, and the building was no warmer than it was outside. Because the kids needed to get to early-morning seminary, the ward had taken up a project and had acquired bicycles for all the kids so they could get to seminary. They came and gathered and brought their bikes inside and sat in this little room. It was cold, and yet that teacher had those kids mesmerized. A marvelous lesson was given; the Spirit of the Lord was there; and they learned. All these experiences cause you to come out saying, “The gospel is true! Hallelujah, I’m a part of it!”256