I am a member of the Relief Society Presidency and a few weeks ago we got an assignment from the Bishopric to “think of someone who could sit in on Seminary lessons” in order to have two deep leadership. I live in what some members might call “the mission field” so seminary is taught by a member of the ward for free at 6:30am. We also have to have another adult to just sit in the back of the room and be there. At the beginning of the year our seminary teacher was a man, and one of the seminary dads was able to sit in the back and work remotely on his laptop. Then we changed seminary teachers and now the teacher is a woman so we have to have a woman to sit in the back. As we know, any time a man and a woman are together without adult chaperonage adultery ensues, even in a room full of teenagers at 6:30 am when one of the adults is working remotely.
The Relief Society Presidency got this assignment because no one in the Bishopric could think of/persuade anyone to do it, but we might be able to find that special someone. I summed up the necessary qualifications.
- Ideally would be the mother of a seminary student for reasons of fairness, reasonable expectation, and probably dropping off anyway.
- Must not have a job that is incompatible with sitting at the Church at that time
- Must not have any children younger than high school who have to get ready for school
- Must not have any other early morning obligations or goals of her own
- Must not have any health problems that make the job unduly burdensome
- Must be willing to commit to sitting in that room every weekday morning from 6:15-7:30 even if she is retired and wants to enjoy some well-earned rest.
- Must not have any evening commitments in order to go to bed early to be ready to teach a class at 6:30 am every day.
The request for volunteers had been in the bulletin for weeks. The Bishopric have racked their brains. And unsurprisingly the Relief Society Presidency was unable to produce a unicorn. Honestly it is a miracle we have someone who is willing to teach. Being Seminary teacher amounts to taking on an unpaid part time job in a field entirely out of your own sphere of expertise. The teachers that I have known told me their routine is to teach, get the kids to school, then spend the morning studying for the next day’s lesson. When done with diligence (assuming it is your first time and you’re creating new lesson plans) the job can take three+ hours a day five days a week.
This is an unreasonable expectation that is not equitable across the Church. In high-density membership areas the Church owns seminary buildings, has enough of a presence to have release-time seminary, and above all has trained, paid teachers. Now I’ll be the first to say my experience with CES has been problematic. I’ve heard a lot of speculative nonsense and charisma masquerading as the Holy Ghost. But if it is a paid job in Utah, why is it a volunteer position in other places? It is an extraordinarily burdensome calling that burns through members and virtually no one accepts with any degree of enthusiasm.
We should pay seminary teachers. It goes far beyond the bounds of a reasonable volunteer expectation for the vast majority of people. It comes with a significant opportunity cost. Paying ward seminary teachers would offset this and likely make it easier to find people who would be willing to do the job. We could also pay the “two deep” chaperone – or pay two teachers who trade off who is the “sit in the back so no one commits a crime” adult. Honestly I’ve accepted with grim resignation that this fate will come to my door when my children are in high school. I’m an experienced teacher, and often the consensus is that if your kid is in seminary you kind of have to be willing. Much as I hate early mornings, and I had a very negative experience with seminary the first two years (after which I stopped going and did makeups at home), I like to think I could make it less sexist and cliché. I’d find the prospect less loathsome if it came with a paycheck though.