In honor of the seminary 100th anniversary commemoration going on right now (find a recording here) we at BCC started reminiscing about how seminary/institute influenced and inspired us or, sometimes, frustrated and flummoxed us. Here are some of our anonymous musings:
“I learned that my seminary teacher was a rightwing dweeb that was completely unprepared for any political pushback in class.”
“I was excommunicated from 9th grade seminary for teaching evolution (and being a smug little jerk, but hey, I’m telling the story) and from 10th grade seminary for never attending (I figured it was a free period for me to hang out with friends or go hiking or play pinochle). I loved Institute, however”.
“I had one good seminary teacher and three fantastic ones. I loved seminary.”
“I honestly don’t remember much from 4 years of seminary, but maybe it had a good influence on me in ways I don’t recognize. I have two vivid memories. The first was when we were learning about Noah and the flood and our teacher wrote “The Flood — an act of love” in big letters on the chalkboard. We all giggled like Beavis and Butthead. Then my senior year I had a very weird teacher who spent lots of time warning us about rock music. The Doors were his particular bugaboo. He would hand out mimeographed sheets of the lyrics to their songs and prove to us that Jim Morrison was promoting drug use and fornication. A couple years after I graduated, he was arrested for pederasty. So, probably not something we’d want to include in a tribute to seminary.”
“I don’t remember much either (but could probably find some mentions in my journal) but had pretty nice teachers (8 here in release time Utah), although my favorite teacher was the one who was opt-teaching and found out he didn’t make it near the end (and I still remember his bitter, bitter disappointment.) I also was pretty bummed not to make seminary council senior year, although I did get put on a newsletter committee, where we made just one newsletter (but it was a good one!)”
“I had some very caring teachers. What I remember primarily from those days is not the teaching (though I remember it being based on weird anecdotes and fringe teachings), but rather the feeling that my teachers really, really cared about my spiritual welfare, like a parent.
“OK, here’s something I remember, which has stayed with me. The seminary building had a library, and I remember going in there sometimes (maybe I was asked to leave class? I can’t remember the circumstances). That is where I read “No Ma’am, That’s not History.” It was my first encounter with Hugh Nibley.”
“This isn’t my memory as it is my parents’, but when my mom would go visit my dad teaching seminary in Idaho, they would stick me up on a chair and let me draw all over the chalkboard.”
“I had early morning seminary. It was taught by the same kind sister all for years. All the kids alternated between loving her and being abominably mean to her. I don’t remember a thing she taught, but I remember if we came frequently enough she would take us out to Shoney’s breakfast bar once a semester. We loved donuts more than scripture. Also, some prior student had taken the time to draw a complete comic book on the long table regarding the formation of Thunder Thighs Airline and Jeans Company. It was there for my freshman year, but we got new tables thereafter and I regretted the loss of one more thing to distract me during slow days.”
“I dropped out because of a racist seminary teacher, then re-entered in time to hear that “Jesus Christ Superstar” was a work of the devil. I had one good teacher. That’s it. My best religion teachers have been books and Dialogue.”
“I only attended during 9th grade, and not all that frequently. My only vivid memories are: (1) a rather effeminate male student vocally expressing incredulity at Sodom’s destruction having anything to do with homosexual sex; (2) listening to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” backwards, and straining to hear the phrase “Start to smoke marijuana” over and over in the recording; and (3) various “true” stories about ouija boards and the occult, one in particular about the possibility of astrally projecting to a place called the “Red Land” if you ingest the right drugs in combination.”
“My ward had early morning seminary. In my third year I was asked by a member of the Bishopric to stop being obnoxious and disruptive or stop attending. Arrogantly I chose the latter. I don’t really think I learned anything.”
“I loved seminary, except when I didn’t. Also, I only went to 9th, part of 10th, part of 11th and part of 12th. 9th: I loved studying thing Old Testament and but not playing the stupid buzzer games. Didn’t like it when my teacher told us it was better for girls to be killed than be raped (you know, studying the guy who chopped up his wife and threw her in the river). 10th: Teacher bragged about how they didn’t use birth control; the class got really uncomfortable when while talking about the law of chastity a girl told us the she and her boyfriend confessed to her bishop and he told them they wouldn’t be able to have sex when they died if they didn’t stop now; 11th and 12th, it’s all a blur, except when the teacher told a story of how he knew a girl who really wanted to be pretty and she wasn’t. He helped give her a priesthood blessing. She turned beautiful over the next few months. This was followed by his testimony of how the priesthood and prayer could make us girls pretty that weren’t. Despite the craziness, I really liked it. I just slept in a lot, so missed it (yes, it was released time).”
“Honestly, being eligible to go to BYU and get a scholarship was a motivating factor in attending seminary, to be sure.”
“I mostly loved it, although my dad was the teacher for a couple of years, and I was too busy being embarrassed to notice that he was great. I was Stake scripture chase champion all 4 years. Just so you know.”
“I attended early morning in 9th and half of 10th grade before I moved. Mostly fond memories of riding my bike about five miles to the church and then hanging out with students before school started. The teacher was a weepy air force officer that told us stories of the good ol’ days before he was a Mormon and how much better being good was. The longing in his voice made it less convincing that it could have been. The teacher did not believe in dinosaurs and we would argue long and loudly with him. He wasn’t a bad guy and let my friend and I babysit his kids, which is odd because we were flat out longhair hippy types. I quit after my Jr. year because I found his take on the flood and evolution absurd (things have not changed much). My year of teaching Seminary was a nightmare. Because at first I was naive and green and filled with a zeal to do a good job, I put a lot of work into it and I expected the kids to stay awake. Soon I was in a war. Then I was despised. It was heartwrenchingly bad. Soon I realized that I had a class that hated my guts and it was too late for recovery. High School kids can be unforgiving. In the end we were all going through the motions.”
“I remember a teacher explaining that homosexuals were put to death in Arab countries and stating that places we consider backwards are often more righteous. I loudly asked “whatever happened to love your neighbor”. I’m still proud of myself for doing that. I also recall a teacher telling racist jokes in class while he was in the process of adopting a black baby. Sadly I did not object to those–which I am now ashamed of. Finally I remember the girl who sat to my left my freshman year leaning over and telling me she wanted to perform a very specific sexual act on me. I don’t recall anything else from that year, most likely because my ninth grade brain could think of nothing else. So yeah–seminary was a mixed bag.”
“I did 4 years of seminary. My mother was the teacher some of the time, and so was a Brother Scofield who I think is somewhat active in Mormon Studies in SoCal. I was largely motivated by an attempt to get in with a group of girls from the other ward. (If I think about it, most of my church activity from age 14 has been motivated by romantic aspirations.) I went to CSUNorthridge Institute for a semester lured in by the free parking. The teacher suffered from the impression that we were living in 1970s Salt Lake City. He just had no sense of the real issues going on with the students there, and he often made odd statements about Latinos (there was a big protest about the Latino Studies going on IIRC). He also said the earthquake was a judgement of God, supported by the minimal damage done to the institute building despite being close to the epicenter. When I pointed out that the Shakey’s Pizza down the street had even less damage and that we maybe ought to worship there with a large pepperoni while watching basketball, I was asked to leave.”
“I forgot that I also taught early morning seminary for several months after my mission (the person with the calling at the beginning of the year flaked out and stopped showing up). Obviously, this has had a big impression on me. I think we tried to pace out the size of Solomon’s temple (or the ark) in the cultural hall.”
“Four years of seminary, all early morning, all with called instructors. Two were forgettable. One I had twice, because during my junior year the stake called some new people and switched some others around, and Sister Thompson was moved from the sophomores to the seniors, so I had her for both the New Testament and Book of Mormon. I can remember, during some stake-wide seminary preview, this news resulting in a whole bunch of us kids actually cheering out loud in the chapel. She was a wonderful, sweet, earnest woman. As for what I learned, I have no idea; I usually had been up since 4:30 or 5am for milking the cows, so seminary was time to sleep. And I hate to say it, but I was rather contemptuous of the scripture chase crowd. Bunch of Pharisees that thought color-coding their quads to death and ripping pages out with their high speed flipping would get them to heaven, was my attitude. I was an enormous jerk back then.
“Oh, I was exactly a snotty Pharisee. Except that I knew perfectly well that I was a total nobody in every other context. And I was contemptuous of people who needed _markings_ in their scriptures to find them, and didn’t just know exactly where on the page things were.”
“I was a scripture chase champ. I didn’t think it would get me to heaven, but I did think it would, well, attract some attention my way.”
“Did early morning for four years…the BYU thing was a motivator for me as well. It was mostly friends-and-donuts time, with a bit of scripture study.”
“My experience teaching was horrible…Four enrolled students, but by the end of the year only one attended regularly. One-on-one teaching is hard enough, but my student was a pretty, outgoing 15-year-old with a non-member dad. I alerted the regional CES director who said it wasn’t a big deal, so I had to insist on being released.”
“My one memory of seminary, besides all the shameful ones, was from sophomore year. I’d say on balance it didn’t have too much effect on me except as an outlet for thin sin.”
“I should note that our stake also had “Seminary Bowl,” which was basically a scripture trivia game, and I competed in that with every ounce of arrogant determination that your typical self-centered whiny smart-ass would bring to a game of Trivial Pursuit. If I recall correctly, I actually pontificated on more than one occasion why Seminary Bowl was superior to Scripture Chase. Like I said, I was a jerk.”
“I did early morning. My freshman year teacher was great. I learned a lot from him (I can still remember learning the difference between apocrypha and apocalypse), such as how to use various crossreferences and study tools. My next three years was a woman who was much more socially oriented, which was fine by me at the time, because I went mainly to see my friends. They tried to call me to teach a couple of times, and although I’ve subbed I’ve turned the calling down twice. Part of it is my commute into the city, but also I overprepare lessons, and the stress of preparing a lesson every day would kill me. When I have taught, I found it extremely frustrating, as the kids would just sleep no matter how scintillating I tried to make the lesson. My daughter refused to keep going to seminary her sophomore year, and her class was so bad (she went to a woman’s house. It was just the woman, her twin daughters and my daughter. And all the woman did was read from the scriptures (or maybe it was the manual). That’s it, nothing else. I simply couldn’t ask her to endure any more of that, so we let her stop going.
“As I said earlier, I loved seminary. However, I would be okay with my kids opting out of it, if it turned out to be lame. Especially if they had scheduling conflicts. My husband feels differently.”
Ok, now it’s your turn, what are your most favorite or perhaps most frustrating memories of seminary and institute?