When Jeani Seamons was first asked to be an early morning seminary teacher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1975, she admits she was unprepared for the job. She did not feel she knew the scriptures as well as many others did, and she did not know much at all about Church history.
Seminary is a four-year program geared toward high school students. It includes study of scriptures, gospel-centered topics and Church history. In some school districts students attend as part of their extended school day and are taught by professional instructors. In other districts student meet before school and are taught by unpaid volunteers like Sister Seamons.
Students and teachers alike are asked to make sacrifices to participate in seminary classes, and parents are often also instrumental in getting their sons and daughters to class. Classes take place before school, typically at 6:00 a.m.
Sister Seamons has taught for nearly four decades and received training from some very good supervisors. She has often been encouraged to prepare her lessons using the manuals provided, and then teach according to the influence of Spirit. She once attended an out-of-state conference for seminary teachers where she was given an award for the most years of service. At the conference she was asked to serve on a panel to field questions from the audience. She was asked, “What is the most valuable piece of advice you could give other seminary teachers?” Her answer was beautifully simple and the key to her success: “Just love ‘em.”Love for her students has helped her conquer many obstacles and enabled her to see many miracles.Love for her students has helped her conquer many obstacles and enabled her to see many miracles. Jeani remembers transportation being one of the biggest challenges since most students did not have cars and not all parents had schedules that allowed them to drive their children to seminary. There were years when Sister Seamons would pick up as many as six students on her way to class. “I probably wasn’t supposed to do that, but it was the only way they were going to get there,” she says with a chuckle.
Occasionally a few students did not have much encouragement from their parents. These youth were sometimes the ones who grew the most spiritually over the four years of seminary. Jeani remembers one brother and sister whose mother was not active in the Church and whose father was not a member. They matured tremendously through seminary, went on missions, were married in the temple, and even saw their father join the Church. They now are raising their own families in the gospel and serving in their local congregations.
Having a good place to meet was a huge challenge at one time. Sister Seamons’ class had been meeting in a temporary building owned by the Church, but the building had to be moved to a distant location. A former seminary student, Veronica Galindo, was by that time a teacher at Sunnyside High School. Veronica spoke to her principal and made arrangements for seminary to be taught in a classroom at the school. A true answer to prayer!
Since 1975, there have been only a handful of years that Sister Seamons has not been an early morning seminary teacher in Tucson. (The absence was because family obligations took precedence.) As she continues to teach, her influence, testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and love for her students touches many lives.
Ray Duron, who serves as a leader in the Valencia Ward of the Tucson Stake, was one of her students in the late 1980s. He remembers the ways Sister Seamons showed the students she cared. “She would always remember birthdays and would recognize even the small accomplishments, like when someone had borne their testimony in sacrament meeting [Sunday worship service]. If a student had a gospel question she would change the direction of her lesson so the student’s question was answered.”
Josh Clark is a leader in the Pima Ward of the Tucson East Stake. He has similar fond memories. “I will never forget the many good years I spent in seminary class with Sister Seamons [1991-1994]. She’s an example of dedication through and through. Few people are willing to receive an assignment from the Lord that lasts decades.”
Cari Goodman, a 2014 seminary graduate, reveals another key to her success. “Even when students were tired or not paying enough attention, Sister Seamons was able to connect well with students by bearing her testimony at the end of every lesson.”
Jeani Seamons’ years of service are much like a small stone being tossed into a calm body of water. Her influence, love for her students and dedication go largely unnoticed by most people in the community and even among most members of the Church, but the ripples created can be felt by hundreds of her students and their families. Those she has taught have gone on to teach as missionaries, in their own families, in the Church, and in the community. Those she teaches this year and in coming years are in for rich rewards.