A mother, President Packer and an LDS convert: A look at the lives, sacrifices of seminary teachers

Published: Thursday, June 5 2014 8:00 a.m. MDT

As the only female student teacher in her area, she said, she was intimidated at first but gained confidence as she persisted and improved. The wives of other teachers supported her throughout the process, she said.

"It's a good thing Heavenly Father created men and women differently because we both have talents and abilities to offer," Huntington said. "As we all work together, we are a successful faculty in meeting the needs of most of the students."

As a young man, Cutler realized that seminary teachers got to teach and study the gospel all day and then go home after school and be with their families. It seemed like the perfect job, he said.

Cutler was a student teacher at Box Elder and Bear River high schools, where the job was harder than it looked. "It was humbling. I was quickly able to see my weaknesses," Cutler said. "I realized I didn't really know how to teach and that it would take a lot of work to be where I wanted to be."

The turning point came when he was invited to relax and have more fun. "I came to find myself as a teacher after that," he said.

Oslund, an LDS convert, was a pitcher for the Brigham Young University baseball team when he injured his elbow and surgery ended his career. Without baseball, he pondered what direction to go with his career and felt impressed to look into seminary.

"I told my wife, Rachel, and she asked, 'Are you going to be weird?' " Oslund said.

"I don't think so," he replied.

"Are we going to be poor?" she asked.

"Maybe," he said.

Oslund said he struggled at times, especially teaching Isaiah, and would cry in his office. But he couldn't shake the feeling that he had been spiritually guided in this direction. He was hired and will teach at Pleasant Grove High School this fall.

"There is no mistake about how Heavenly Father puts people in certain places at certain times, and that was the final testimony to me," Oslund said. "It was a huge burden lifted off my heart."

Sister Toni Franklin

As of this year, there are more than 2,200 full- and part-time professional administrators and faculty for seminaries and institutes. Nearly 45,000 volunteer early-morning teachers and part-time church service missionaries also teach around the world.

Toni Franklin, a member of the New Orleans 1st Ward in Louisiana, is one of them. She teaches two teenage students (Jacob and Nicole) each morning before they go to school.

“They are the love of my life. They give me the chance to impact another generation. The best compliment they have for me is they like coming to seminary,” Franklin said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News. “They hate getting up early, but they like coming. They recognize that when they aren’t here, the day doesn’t go as well.”

Franklin earned a master's degree from Columbia University and worked in New York for 31 years before returning home to take care of her parents and continue her career, she said.

The loss of her parents and brother in the years before and after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans was especially devastating for Franklin.

Even so, it was during that span that Franklin became interested in the LDS Church. She investigated the religion for five years before she was baptized in 2010.

“I used to call myself a special investigator,” she said. “The idea of having the Holy Spirit with me at all times was powerful, and it became clear that I wanted that.”

It was during an especially dark time that Franklin was visited by her bishop, Matt Brady. He called her to be an early-morning seminary teacher.

“I said, ‘Are you people crazy? I’m suffering from depression,’ ” Franklin recalled. “The bishop said, ‘We know, but we think this would be good for you.’

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