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SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly every high school in Utah is coupled with an LDS seminary, and this year, the program celebrates 100 years of that weekday high school student tutelage.
The church program is set up as religious instruction for students starting in 9th grade throughout their high school career. In Utah, seminary takes place during release time, when students are allowed to leave campus for a class, but the majority of seminary classes take place before school hours, often in a church building.
The first seminary class took place in Salt Lake adjacent to Granite High, with 70 students enrolled and one teacher heading the class. Currently, 370,000 students are enrolled in the program in 140 countries, according to the LDS church. Utah has the largest body of students enrolled, followed by Mexico, Brazil, California and the Philippines.
Elder Paul V. Johnson is the Commissioner of the Church Educational System, and oversees the seminary program in countries around the world. One third of students are taught during the school day by 1500 full time teachers, but the majority of students are taught before or after school, by church members.
Broadcast in ASL and English at ward houses, as well as online at mormonchannel.org A rebroadcast will air in ASL and English at 8 p.m. MST.
"We have 37,000 called teachers, volunteer teachers who teach seminary, so most of our students are taught by volunteer teachers," Johnson said. "We have been charged to follow the church wherever it goes throughout the world."
The teachers say they find optimism in the future, from the students they teach.
"There are great kids here, they bring energy and excitement, and are great, great kids," Johnson said.
And those students are glad to be a part of something that they believe strengthens their faith.
"There's a lot of stuff that goes on at the school and it's nice to escape it and come in there and be around people who share your same standards," said Lisa Clausen, a seminary student.
"I know seminary has changed my life in four years and so if I can think about how many student's that's affected over 100 years, it's pretty amazing," said Derek Farley, another seminary student.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has planned an event for Sunday evening at the Conference Center. "Commemorating 100 Years of Seminary," will be broadcast from the center through the Church satellite system at 6 p.m. MST. Tickets have been distributed for the event at the Conference Center, but it will be broadcast to meetinghouses and is available online as well.