What’s that building over there? Discover Tigard’s Seminary program


Liz Blodgett

The seminary house sits across the street from the school on 92nd Ave. Because of its location, students have been able to fit their religious classes into the regular school day.

By Ashley White, Staff Writer

     The small white house with purple flowers and a tree in front may not look like a high school building, but ever since 1960, students have streamed in and out of the house across the street during every A day passing period. Anyone who gets close enough will notice a black granite sign attached to the siding that says “Seminary Building”—but what is seminary?

     Seminary is a class for students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to learn about their religion. Because of laws requiring a separation of church and state, seminary classes are conducted off school grounds. Tigard students, unlike many in the area, have the luxury of having their Seminary classes incorporated into their regular school day.

     Seminary first started in 1912 at Granite High in Sandy, UT. In 2017 there were 220,717 students enrolled in seminary in the United States, although close to 90% of seminary programs gather in a meetinghouse or home rather than a seminary-specific building.

     While Tigard students have a seminary house right off campus, not all schools have their seminary programs located so close to the school. Mountainside High in Beaverton introduced a seminary program in September of 2017. Their seminary runs from 6 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. every weekday and focuses on a curriculum similar to Tigard’s. This new curriculum, known as “Come, Follow Me,” coordinates with the family study that students do at home.

      This year Mountainside has 76 seminary students. In order to have a seminary building, according to Seminary and Institute and Church Headquarters, a school must have at least 145 students enrolled in its seminary program. 40 students must be actively attending seminary for the school to keep the building. Since Mountainside is a relatively new school, its Seminary program has been housed in the church closest to the school. Mountainside senior Steven Peabody says that although it’s harder for him to wake up at an earlier time than others, on Mondays he always has enough energy to participate in seminary.

     According to Mountainside seminary teacher Kristin Rose, early morning seminary is both a blessing and a sacrifice.

     “It is not easy to get up and be attentive so early in the morning but students get to feel the spirit and set the tone for the day before heading out for school,” Rose said. “It seems counterintuitive, but it actually makes your day go better and your challenges easier to face.”

     Tigard, on the other hand, has 41 students with seminary release this year, which is about the same number as last year. However, the seminary student experience differs from years past. For example, seminary now has more teachers. Instead of just one teacher for the whole day, there is a different teacher for each seminary class.

     Junior Lilly Larsen likes the change. “I really enjoy my teacher,” Larsen said. “The way she teaches helps get the message across.”

     In the past, certain books were chosen from the scriptures and the home study was free choice. According to Larsen, the seminary students are transitioning well with the new schedule, and new Come, Follow Me curriculum.

     First period seminary teacher Stephanie Snow thinks the class serves two purposes. “It gives us a break during school so you can go and see the spirit and […] replenish our spirit,” Snow said. “I think it’s a great way that we learn more about the gospel.”

     Counselor Anna Johnson explained that scheduling students for the seminary class can be difficult. It can be harder to get the credits needed to graduate while in Seminary because students take this class all four years. Seminary takes an elective block but it doesn’t count for any credits on a student’s transcript.

     As the bell rings to end 1st block, freshman Wayne Dalton gets ready to walk across the street to his seminary class. Freshmen like Dalton went from 45-minute classes in middle school to the 90-minute blocks of high school this year. Although he described the transition as weird, he still enjoys the time he spends in Seminary.

     “I like Seminary because it is a nice break from all the other stressful classes that I have and need to do well in,” Dalton said. “There is never a right or wrong answer; it is just the perspective.”