The Seminary and Insitute programs we enjoy today are the product of years of hard work and sacrifice of many people. The weekday seminary program was proposed by Joseph F. Merrill, a member of Salt Lake City’s Granite Stake. He was inspired by his wife, Annie Laura Hyde Merrill, who had attended theology classes taught by James E. Talmage at Brigham Young Academy. She shared lessons from these classes with her family often and Joseph F. Merrill wanted all the youth of his stake to have the same experience and exposure to religious instruction like his wife had. Brother Merrill worked tirelessly to develop the seminary program.
Brother Merrill also enlisted others to help him with the program. “I had to start without the least scratch, or outline,” John M. Whitaker, one of the first seminary teachers said. “[It] was a task too great to undertake alone. So I did as I have always done when presented with a task, [I] went in humility and prayer to my Father and in my simplicity told him my problem, and asked for inspir
ation, guidance, wisdom, and courage.”
The Church also wanted to develop a religious support for university and college students. In 1925, the first institute program was
started at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho and was launched by J. Wyley Sessions. He was concerned about his financial state, yet he took the assignment with faith. After building relationships with leaders and participating in community p
rojects, Brother Sessions was able to direct the construction of an institute building and get the University of Idaho to grant credit for institute classes.
These people, along with many, many others, were instrumental in the beginning of the seminary and institute programs we have today. Their faith and courage is inspiring to all.
Editor’s note: Material from this post is based on labels in the Education in Zion Gallery’s permanent exhibition.