In January, there was a worldwide broadcast to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the seminary program featuring President Boyd K. Packer. The video is now available to watch or download.
Over 100 years ago the first released-time seminary program was launched at Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah.1 Begun largely as an experiment by a single stake, the program has since grown into a worldwide system of religious education, bringing gospel instruction to young members of the Church throughout the entire world. From small beginnings, the seminary program and its collegiate counterpart—institute of religion—grew to become the primary educational entities in the Church, with a larger enrollment than any other LDS educational venture and a wider reach than almost any educational organization worldwide. Today the seminary and institute programs teach over 700,000 students in 143 different countries through the efforts of nearly 50,000 full-time, part-time, and volunteer teachers and administrators.
Like any organization, an exploration of the origins of the seminary and institute programs greatly illuminates not only how the organization came to be, but also what its goals and ideals are. In 1977 Elder Boyd K. Packer commented, “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.”2
1. See “Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Annual Report for 2011,” 1–3. Exact figures from S&I report that there are currently 369,373 students enrolled in seminary worldwide and 348,111 in institute. There are 3,293 full- and part-time employees and 46,244 Church-service missionaries and called teachers. In 2011, 21,041,020 hours of service were given to S&I programs by full-time missionaries, part-time Church-service missionaries, and called teachers.
2. Boyd K. Packer, “Teach the Scriptures” (address to CES religious educators, Oct. 14, 1977), 3.