Editor's note: Beginning in 2012, Jerry Johnston's Mormon Times column will appear every other week.
With the year 2012 days away, the world is preparing to celebrate a whole new slew of centennials.
But the centennial that Mormons shouldn't miss this coming year is the 100th anniversary of the LDS seminary system.
The first release-time seminary opened at Granite High School in September of 1912. Soon, others were popping up like wildflowers — including my old seminary at Box Elder High School in Brigham City.
And the Box Elder seminary is a storied place.
President Boyd K. Packer and Elder A. Theodore Tuttle were two of the founding fathers there. Former high school teachers — now long in the tooth — remember President Packer as the peacemaker and Elder Tuttle as the guy who kept things churning. They complemented each other well — so well, in fact, they were later called, in tandem, to a place that President Spencer W. Kimball considered the garden spot of the church.
No, not Hawaii.
An Indian reservation in Arizona.
When I look back at my seminary days from the late 1960s, I'm a bit stunned to realize how vivid and detailed my memories are of my seminary teachers. Other high school teachers I sum up with an adjective (tough, or fair, or fun, or lazy).
But I remember my seminary teachers as fully formed souls — "round characters," Dickens would say.
Perhaps that says more about me than anything else, but I do know my seminary teachers were very aware of the influence they had on young lives. They took their work — and our tribulations — seriously. They felt a vocation for their work. Many of them lived on a shoestring budget and motored around town in cars old enough for a museum.
They were committed and compassionate.
I don't remember all they taught me. I just remember being taught by souls who cared — for me, and for their subject.
While others in school read "Catcher in the Rye," my seminary teachers WERE "catchers in rye" — people positioned to keep kids from falling off the cliff at the end of the grain field.
"Seminary teacher" wasn't an official LDS calling.
But to a man and woman, they each felt called to the job.
So, here's to Brother James, Brother Yorgason and Brother Crane.
You did good.
And now, as 2012 sweeps in and the church celebrates 100 years of seminary, here's hoping the system stays strong and the teachers as committed as always.
Hey, we're talking about seminary here.
Here's praying that will be the case.
Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org