New building dedicated at Granite, the oldest Seminary in the Church

A new building was dedicated Sunday, Aug. 28, for the Church's oldest seminary.

Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy dedicated a new building for the Granite Seminary, where the Church's first seminary started 82 years ago.In his remarks, Elder Morrison told several stories encouraging students to take advantage of their opportunities and to make the most of their lives. He also spoke of the faith of the members of the Church in Africa, where he served in an area presidency previous to his present assignment as second counselor in the Utah North Area.

Attending the dedicatory services in the new building, which has been used for a year, were about 170 students, parents and teachers. The original seminary building was demolished in the spring of 1993 and the new facility was erected during the summer months.

Now, Granite students meet in modern quarters made of brick with four classrooms and a moveable wall between two rooms that opens to create a large assembly room. Each of four teachers and the secretary has an office. A work room houses software, audio-visual materials and an up-to-date sound system. Five large closets provide ample storage space.

Richard C. Russell, Granite Seminary principal, explained that the seminary's 370 students who come from South Salt Lake, Millcreek, Granite Park, and West Valley areas are "unassuming, down-to-earth, solid youth. Having this building is quite a boost to their ego. They are still somewhat awestruck by it."

Ruth Turner, a graduate of the class of 1933, was among those at the dedication who was impressed by the new building. She said that the Granite Seminary has been a force in helping students make the most of their lives spiritually.

When she started seminary in 1929, the building in use then "wasn't very large. "Seminary was great," she said. "It gave us a good foundation for the gospel. The teachers I had were excellent, and, of course, we were assigned to read the scriptures during that year. I did gain a testimony through those classes and through those teachers whose testimonies were so strong."

"My brothers didn't have seminary. I think seminary would have made a difference in their lives. I think they missed a great deal. They were not as dedicated Church members as our family who have attended seminary."

Among those in the Turner family who have graduated from the Granite Seminary are her children, including Pres. Roy R. Turner of the Granite Park Stake who conducted the meeting, and his children, Lisa, Deborah and Robert.

According to a history of the seminary compiled by Brother Russell, the success of Church-sponsored academies in the last half of the 19th century influenced the idea of weekday, daytime religious education for high school students. In about 1900, well-known educator Karl G. Maeser had impressed the Granite Stake presidency with the fact that young people could learn a great deal if taught properly.

Twelve years later, Joseph F. Merrill, then a counselor in the Granite Stake presidency and later an apostle, became the driving force behind the modern LDS seminary program.

Brother Russell noted, "Pres. Merrill, a professor at the University of Utah, instigated and guided the establishment of this grand experiment, and stipulated the qualifications for the teacher:

`It is the desire of the presidency of the stake to have a strong young man who is properly qualified to do the work in a most satisfactory manner. By young we do not necessarily mean a teacher young in years, but a man who is young in his feelings, who loves young people, who delights in their company, who can sypathize strongly with them and who can command their respect and admiration, and exercise a great influence over them. We want a man who can enjoy student sports and activities as well as one who is a good teacher. We want a man who is a thorough student, one who will not teach in a perfunctory way, but will enliven his instruction with a strong winning personality, and give evidence of thorough understanding of and scholarship in, the things he teaches."

Brother Russell said that the curriculum in 1912 consisted of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, using the Standard Works as the text. "The objective: Produce faith. Teach the girls to be ladies, and the boys to be gentlemen. This idea was placed above the teaching of the scriptures."

Thomas J. Yates, an engineer who was supervising the construction of the Murray Power Plant, was the first teacher. He taught only for that year, the last two periods of the day. He rode his horse to the seminary after lunch to teach the two afternoon classes.

The Granite Stake borrowed $2,500 from Zions Bank and erected a building, that was a residence in design and construction, said Brother Russell.

"In that first building there were three rooms, a class room, a cloak room and an office-library," he said. "There were arm desks, a blackboard and one Bible dictionary. The students made their own maps. There were 70 students in two classes. In five years there were more than 200 students.

The original building was added to on four occasions, in 1924, 1929, 1950 and 1964, for a total of about 20 more rooms. All this construction added roof upon roof in the attic, and did not always bring immediate comfort.

Frank Seegmiller joined the faculty in 1929, and he left this description of his first day:

"The contractor was busy constructing the new addition when a heavy rain set in the day before school was to start. The roof was not yet covered. How the place looked! But at 9 a.m. the boys and girls came. They walked up a gangplank into the seminary classroom. It was chilly and uncomfortable but they took it all good naturedly. Their burning desire to learn the finest things of life was a great motivating force. They could endure discomfort for the sake of learning the truth."

Teachers who taught at the seminary the first 21 years were: Thomas J. Yates, Guy C. Wilson, John M. Whittaker, Frank K. Seegmiller, Ernest Bramwell, Ezra C. Dalby, K.K. Blacker, Obert C. Tanner, James E. Moss, Merrill D. Clayson, Floyd G. Eyre and Daryl Chase.

Noted graduates of Granite seminary include former General Authorities, Elder S. Dilworth Young and Bishop Carl W. Buehner, and current General Authorities, Elder James E. Faust, Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder Hugh W. Pinnock; Jerold Ottley, who is now conductor of the Tabernacle Choir; former U.S. Sen. Frank Moss; columnist Jack Anderson; entertainer Robert Peterson; and author-lecturer Dian Thomas.

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