Today I sat in Sacrament Meeting while the youth took turns speaking about Seminary, the youth program designed to give high school kids religious education. They extolled how awesome it is, how they are memorizing scriptures and working hard at meeting the class expectations while juggling their regular school classes, extra-circular actives and family responsibilities. Oh, and they attend Early Morning Seminary, which means they attend at 6am in the morning, before their regular school day begins. It was quite impressive. These are the good kids – probably even great kids. As their Seminary teacher stood up and spoke about his joy in teaching these students, he quoted the oft- repeated, “ These spirits are the Chosen Generation. I know they have been reserved to come to earth in these Last Days to do Heavenly Father’s great work.”

“News flash,” I thought. “I was told WE were the chosen generation back 25 years ago when I was in Seminary.” And that thought alone got me completely off track, not listening to the Seminary teacher anymore, but instead remembering my own.

Brother Davis was average height, brownish hair and super skinny. During our first week of class he explained he was diabetic and told us what to do if he had blood sugar problem. It sounded scary to me and I prayed he wouldn’t fall into a diabetic coma on my watch. He was married and had three small children. At the end of my freshman year he hosted a Seminary party at his house and I met his wife, who was pregnant with their fourth child. I saw their tiny starter house on the edge of a neighborhood in decline. On the side of his house was parked an ice cream van. During the hot Arizona summers he drove it around town, selling treats to kids. He also had an early morning newspaper route.

He taught Seminary at two high schools. He was at Maryvale High during the morning school hours and Trevor Brown High in the afternoon. It was his full-time job, what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. I wish I could say Bro. Davis was an awesome teacher. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. He did dress up as Moses one day, and he did other object lessons that I still vaguely remember all these years later. It wasn’t his teaching skills that got me. It was that he made time to get to know me and become an important part of my high school years.

I had been adopted, along with my natural brother, when I was seven. We got adopted into a certifiably dysfunctional Mormon family, back when that was not a glamorous thing. I had reached out over the years to school teachers and church leaders in small ways, but no one knew the full story of how messed up things were at home. I had learned while living in foster care that it did no good to complain because wherever I got shipped to next was going to be worse.

I was living hunkered down in bunker, trying to avoid flying missiles of physical and emotional abuse while keeping a happy face on for the world. It was safer that way, and all I had to do was mark time until my eighteenth birthday, when I could legally leave and never go back.

As my four years of high school unfurled Seminary went from being another thing on a list of expected behaviors, to my salvation. By my sophomore year I recognized that the daily hour I spent listening and talking about the scriptures fed my soul in ways I couldn’t explain. By my senior year I was blessed with receiving a testimony about the Book of Mormon, thanks to Brother Davis’s encouragement to read the book I had resisted for years. When religion is used the way my adopted parents did, as a punishment and weapon, it is hard to think of God as anything other than ugly. Brother Davis changed that.

I didn’t tell Brother Davis everything that was happening at my house. Looking back as an adult, I’m sure he figured out a lot. The rumors about my family extended beyond our ward boundaries. Twice during my four years I told him of situations at home that demonstrated the religious fanaticism of my parents. He told me he would pray for me. It meant a lot to know that someone was watching out for me. I think now a Seminary teacher would probably do more, but back in the early 1980’s there wasn’t intervention unless there were obvious signs of physical abuse.

At my Seminary high school graduation Brother Davis presented me with a new set of leather bound scriptures with my name embossed on them. He said it was because I was his first student to graduate with perfect attendance for four years. What he didn’t know, what I never told him, is that I needed Seminary’s daily infusion of the Spirit to make it through another day.

Because of Brother Davis, I stuck with the church even when I moved out of my adoptive parent’s house on my eighteenth birthday, never to return. I married in the temple and have stayed true to the covenants I made there. I want him to know that now I see the financial sacrifices he and his family made so that he could be my Seminary teacher. Thank you for saving me. I needed to be saved.