LDS Church History Symposium presenter tells of 'Global Pioneers in Church Education'

Published: Saturday, March 15 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

In the early 1970s, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve became the commissioner of church education and Joe J. Christensen was named the head of Seminaries and Institutes. A decision was made to discontinue sending American families overseas and transition into finding local Latter-day Saints to oversee each program. Each American teacher going out was given three years to: first, develop positive working relationships with local priesthood leaders; second, start the home-study seminary program with secondary and college-age students; and third, find and train a person who could replace them so they could return home.

Griffiths cited the example of E. Dale LeBaron, who encountered several trials while starting seminary in South Africa before leaving the program in the capable hands of Don C. Harper, a convert to the LDS Church.

With time, church leaders realized they didn't need to send out American teachers. They began recruiting teachers from local membership. A man named Rhee Honam, a future stake president and mission president, was recommended in South Korea.

In more recent years, CES missionaries and senior couples have also played a supporting role in international church education programs.

These stories represent only a small part of the international expansion of LDS religious education programs. At one point, growth was so rapid that Elder Maxwell said managing expansion was like trying to contain an explosion.

Today LDS Seminaries and Institute programs exist in 146 countries around the world, Griffiths said.

"The leadership developed by CES is only a small part of the international expansion of the latter-day church, but it remains a vital part of the superstructure of global Mormonism," Griffiths wrote in his research paper.

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