“I’ve seen most of that 100 years,” President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, smiling, as he prepared to speak in a broadcast commemorating 100 years of seminary. Actually, “I’ve got a little more than 50 years, so I’ve known the seminary administrators, the teachers, and I used to supervise the seminaries. I suppose what we want to give the students is the answer to ‘Why?’ Why does the Church do this? Why does the Church do that? Or, Why doesn’t the Church…? And teach them the basic gospel principles and show them the answer is there, but that they have to earn it. We are teaching them to study and to gain a testimony of their own.”
President Packer, who taught seminary and oversaw the seminary program in its beginnings, has previously said, “In the history of the Church there is no better illustration of the prophetic preparation of this people than the beginnings of the seminary and institute program. These programs were started when they were nice but were not critically needed. They were granted a season to flourish and to grow into a bulwark for the Church. They now become a godsend for the salvation of modern Israel in a most challenging hour.”
Seminary Will Help You
“Seminary has blessed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saint youth,” President Thomas S. Monson said. Recalling his own seminary experience, he said, “Seminary for me was held at an early hour, in a little house across the street from my high school. I thought if my teacher can get up that early, I can get up that early.”
President Monson continued, “Seminary will help you understand and rely on the teachings and atonement of Jesus Christ. You will feel the Spirit of the Lord as you learn to love the scriptures. You will prepare yourselves for the temple and for missionary service. Young people, I ask you to participate in seminary. Study your scriptures daily. Listen to your teachers carefully. Apply what you learn prayerfully.”
Three Powerful Things Seminary Can Do
“I served as Commissioner of Church Education for a number of years, so I’ve had a chance to see that there are three powerful things seminary can do,” President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said.
“First, it puts young people together who share the same values. Youth like to be with others who share their faith and who love the scriptures. Second, it puts youth together with a teacher who has a testimony, and they can feel the fire of it when it is borne. Third, seminary gets young people into the scriptures.”
Speaking about the value of secular and spiritual education, President Eyring quoted the twelfth President of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985): “It is clear that our first priority should go to spiritual learning. Reading the scriptures would come for us before reading history books. Prayer would come before memorizing those Spanish verbs. A temple recommend would be worth more to us than standing first in our graduating class. … Putting spiritual learning first does not relieve us from learning secular things. On the contrary, it gives our secular learning purpose and motivates us to work harder at it. … There should never be a conscious choice to let the spiritual become secondary as a pattern in our lives. Never. That will lead to tragedy. The tragedy may not be obvious at first, nor may it ever be clear in mortal life. But remember, you are interested in education not for life, but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly with spiritual sight, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning.”
A Shield of Protection
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also spoke of the powerful benefits of seminary. “I know the power that comes from associations in the seminary and institute programs,” he said. “It has enriched my life, and I know it will do the same for you. It will put a shield of protection around you to keep you free from the temptations and trials of the world. There is a great blessing in having a knowledge of the gospel. And I know of no better place for the young people of the Church to gain a special knowledge of sacred things than in the institute and seminary programs of the Church.”
Elder Perry also said that seminary provides an orderly method for studying the gospel. “There must needs to be an order to our learning, the same order indicated by the Savior’s teaching: ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matthew 6:33),” Elder Perry said.
“Learning about sacred things should come first, providing a context and a need for secular learning. If we want to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence, our first priority should be to learn about his ways and his plan. The world might fool you into believing there is insufficient time to engage in both spiritual and secular learning. I want to warn you not to be deceived by these philosophies of men. Your learning about sacred things will facilitate, even accelerate, your secular learning,” Elder Perry said.
“Don’t neglect the opportunity of attending seminary and institute classes,” Elder Perry said. “Participate and gain all you can from the scriptures taught in these great religious-education settings. They will prepare you to present the message of the restored gospel to those you have opportunity to meet.”
“Plan on completing the full four years of seminary,” Elder Perry said. “Are you enrolled? If not, I invite you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. And to you who are enrolled, study diligently to learn the gospel. I promise you that the foundation you receive in these two great programs will bless you throughout your lives. This is my witness to you.”