Janet Thomas, "A Century of Seminary," New Era, Jan. 2000, 26
In the early days of the Church, stakes in Utah actually operated their own schools. However, in the 20th century, the schools became public, and religious education seemed to be pushed aside. Seeing the need to teach young people about the scriptures, the stake presidency of the Granite Stake organized the first official seminary in Salt Lake City. In 1912 the Granite Stake set aside money to build a small building across from Granite High School. Seventy students enrolled and were allowed to leave school during their study hour to attend seminary.
At first, the seminary class had only the scriptures as textbooks, supplemented by a Bible dictionary. The first full-time teacher, Guy C. Wilson, was such an interesting speaker and made the discussions so intriguing that some non-LDS students asked permission to attend. The idea of allowing students to attend seminary as part of their school day spread quickly, and other small seminary buildings were built near public schools in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. This became known as released-time seminary because students were given permission to attend class during the day. Where there was a smaller LDS population, early-morning seminary was suggested. And although some wondered about the early hour, it proved to be successful. In 1950, early-morning seminary began and spread rapidly. In addition, home-study seminary was added.
Now, as the century draws to a close, seminary classes are held in 144 countries and territories around the world with nearly 380,000 students enrolled. In the final seminary graduation of the century for their stake held in Cardiff, Wales, everyone was dressed up, excited to celebrate the accomplishments of those who had completed four years of study. All seminary students and their parents were invited to attend the special evening to watch the six graduates receive their certificates. Steven Taylor of the Blackwood Ward was one of them. He explains that seminary has strengthened his testimony. "You cannot teach what you do not know," says Steven. "Seminary gives you a better understanding of the scriptures and helps you so much with a knowledge of the gospel. Seminary helps you be a good teacher to people."