As Joseph F. Merrill prepared to launch the first released-time seminary program at Granite High School in 1911, the future LDS apostle knew certain qualities would be vital for long-term success in the teaching position.
“It is the desire of the presidency of the stake to have a strong young man who is properly qualified to do the work in a most satisfactory manner. By 'young' we do not necessarily mean a teacher who is young in years, but a man who is young in his feelings, who loves young people, who delights in their company, who can command their respect and admiration and exercise a great influence over them,” wrote Merrill, whose description was later published in a 1938 edition of the Improvement Era and the Religious Educator. “We want a man who is a thorough student, one who will not teach in a perfunctory way, but who will enliven his instructions by a strong, winning personality and give evidence of a thorough understanding of and scholarship in the things he teaches. … A teacher is wanted who is a leader and who will be universally regarded as the inferior of no teacher in the high school."
More than 100 years later, Merrill’s description of the ideal seminary teacher is still accurate, said Brad Howell, who oversees the training of seminary teachers for LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion.