As regulars here know, I teach early morning Seminary. I love the students in the class, which includes my 15-year-old daughter. My Seminary teaching style is relaxed. Today, for example, we covered the first couple of chapters in Job, intermittantly reading and talking. (“Could Satan really talk to God like that?” “Was Job a real person?”) Tangents — mostly generated by the random firing of dendrites inside the brains of the most outspoken young men — are a regular feature of the class. We laugh a lot. Once or twice a week, we eat breakfast. We learn something new on most days. And occasionally, we have a genuine spiritual experience.
Last week, at a ward “linger longer,” someone asked if I would teach Seminary next year. “No, it’s too hard,” I replied. My wife stared at me with that are-you-serious-or-are-you-pulling-my-leg look. I was serious. Teaching early morning Seminary requires a consistency that is not natural to me. I am the type of person who crams for exams, stays up all night to finish projects by the deadline, and enjoys living according to the university calendar primarily because it provides for a frequent change of pace. Early morning Seminary happens every day, ready or not.
Despite the daily grind, this year has been wonderful for me, and I would like to think that I have been good for the students. When the young women see me at church on Sundays, they come over to say “hi” and to chat; the young men sit next to me in priesthood opening exercises. Even though they call me Brother Smith and I call them by their first names, we are friends. Several parents and other members of the ward have told me that the students have never had such a good experience in Seminary, which seems odd because my “value added” is pretty low. When I started the year, my goal was to provide an environment in which the students could feel the Spirit in every class. Now, after five months, the most I can say for my class is that it is fun, but in the eternal scheme of things, “fun” probably doesn’t rate very high.
I am sad about my decision to leave Seminary, though it still isn’t “final.” Teaching Seminary is not a “calling” per se — a point that was driven home when I accepted the job. Still, I feel an obligation to help these young women and men succeed spiritually, and I suspect that is the reason I am sad. Isn’t that the way we are supposed to feel about our callings?