As a former Mormon, I attended Seminary myself. I enjoyed it. The classes were a relaxing break from the pressures of high school, and fun. I remember really enjoying the “Scripture Mastery” verse competitions. Scripture Mastery (hereafter SM) verses were specific passages from each book of our LDS scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) that we were required to memorize. We looked up each given passage, highlighted it with colorful markers, and wrote the title (I'll explain in a moment) in the column. Those of us who were serious about winning also followed the suggestion to highlight the title and scrunch up the page a bit, making the verses much easier to locate. After we all had the verses learned and marked, we played games where the instructor would call out the SM verse titles and we would race against each other to be the first to find the correct corresponding passage.
There was a lot more to Seminary than that -- some of it just as interesting. I remember hearing things in Seminary that I never heard about at Sunday church. As an example, I found out that the Bible foretells of our founding prophet Joseph Smith, by name, and of how he would come to translate the Book of Mormon. Ever on the lookout for stronger evidence that our church was really the only true church on earth, I found this immensely exciting!
But I do want to go back to the SM verses we memorized. As I write this, I have here on my desk beside me my old LDS Bible open to Ezekiel chapter 37. Verses 15 through 17 are highlighted, and in the column to the side is the SM title, “Book of Mormon.” The verse titles we learned were supposed to (I thought) capture the essence of the passage so that we'd know, before we even read the verse, what it is talking about. In this case, the passage is supposed to be about the Book of Mormon. For your convenience, I've put the KJV (the official Bible for mainstream Mormons) translation below:
"The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand." (Ezekiel 37:15-17)Now, I always wondered when I was taught something like this, how the leaders of my church knew that that's what that meant. In this case, how did they come to understand that the "two sticks" Ezekiel is told by God to hold in his hand represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon? It surely wasn't obvious to me! And I always answered myself the same way: when I get older and more spiritual, I'll know. But back to the story...
The current LDS Seminary manual for the Old Testament is available online at lds.org. Please click on this link to see the actual page from the manual. If you scroll down to the middle of the page, you can see the two images that I've put at the beginning of this post. The top one, if it were going by the Bible entry, would be a man holding two sticks in one hand. But as you can see, the man is actually holding two scrolls, one in each arm. The other picture is of a hand with the Bible and Book of Mormon in it. Visual aids are effective in helping students retain information. The question is: is it true information?
Now look where it says “Scripture Mastery,” at the bottom right of the page. You’ll see that point #2 refers you to this Book of Mormon passage:
"But a seer will I raise up... unto him will I give power to bring forth my word... the fruit of thy loins shall write and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.”(2 Nephi 3:11-12)
The Mormon religion, probably most especially in the Book of Mormon itself, teaches that the Bible became corrupted when it went forth among the Gentile population (for example, see 1Nephi 13). According to the text, "plain and precious" truths would be removed from the Bible by the "great and abominable church," so that Satan would have "great power" over Bible believers. To redeem the book and get its adherents back on the right path, God had another people group (whom He removed from the Old World setting of the Bible to the Americas, pre-Columbus) write a very similar book of scripture and bury it in the ground. He then raised up a seer (Joseph Smith) to find the ancient record and translate it. This new book, the Book of Mormon, was intended to go hand in hand with the Bible to the saving of souls. Joseph Smith also claimed to receive revelation from God on how to revise the Bible directly, to restore the plain and precious parts.
It is easy to see that the two sticks of Ezekiel 37 are NOT the Bible and the Book of Mormon; finding proof for Mormonism in these verses is eisegesis. A treatment of the subject has already been done here, and we can discuss the subject further in the comments section, if necessary.
But to wrap things up, let’s quickly go back to the place in the Bible that had me so excited, because it mentioned our founding prophet by name, even noting that he would be a Joseph, Jr. When I looked for such a statement as an adult ex-Mormon, I found it, and was not surprised at all where. The prophecy occurs (only) in the Joseph Smith (re)Translation of the Bible (JST). Genesis 50:26-33 says:
"A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer … and he shall be esteemed highly… and unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work...I will make him great in mine eyes… unto him will I give power to bring forth my word …Wherefore the fruit of thy loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines, and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to a knowledge of their fathers in the latter days; and also to the knowledge of my covenants… And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded… and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.”(JST Genesis 50:26-33)Did that remind you of anything else? Is it just coincidence that Joseph's translation of Genesis 50, and 2 Nephi 3 of his Book of Mormon, have such similar wording? Is it not odd that they, both having come from the hand of Joseph Smith himself, each contain such a glowing validation of him? Are we supposed to believe that the "great and abominable church" knew to weed out references to a Joseph and the things he would eventually put forth as doctrine? Seems like there is an easier and more plausible explanation.
The Mormon Seminaries are where LDS youth are further convinced that their church is the only true church, and they graduate the program with a pocketful of "evidence" with which to defend it. Those of us who know Christ, and particularly, perhaps, those of us who found Christ after making it out of Mormonism, understand the challenges of witnessing to people who are armed with such dubious facts. Do I think LDS Seminaries are a good thing? Like anything else that would lead a person away from Christ while pretending to lead to him - ARGH. NO POSSIBLE WAY.
Don't take my word for any of this. It can all be found online at lds.org, where you can examine the ideas and the methods by which Mormons are taught.