Church Educational System

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The Church Educational System, also known as CES, is a key part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ emphasis on the importance of education. Former President and Prophet of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley stated,

Get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith. Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity for you. It is worth sacrificing for. It is worth working at, and if you educate your mind and your hands, you will be able to make a great contribution to the society of which you are a part.... Take advantage of every educational opportunity that you can possibly afford ("Inspirational Thoughts," Liahona, June 1999, 3).

The scriptures also teach of the importance of education:

"Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth (Alma 37:35).
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— (Doctrine and Covenants 88:78, 79)

The programs of The Church Educational System have far-reaching effects. In 2004 over 1.2 million people, both members and non-members, were taught by CES. The Church Educational System provides four programs: religious education, which includes seminary and institute classes; higher education, which includes Church colleges and universities; elementary and secondary schools; and continuing education.

Religious Education

The seminary program is offered to students in the high school grade levels. It is a four year program where students spend time reading and learning about the scriptures. Usually, seminaries meet early in the morning, before normal schools begin. In areas with many Mormons, some high schools offer released-time seminary. Students are allowed one period during the school day to go to seminary. They do not receive any sort of school credit for seminary. After four years, students can graduate from seminary. Institutes are similar to seminaries but are for young adults in college or who want to continue learning about the scriptures. This part of CES is run by the Church Board of Education.

Seminary and institute attendance is encouraged so that students can continue to grow spiritually, as they grow in their secular knowledge. Dallin H. Oaks, former president of BYU and current apostle, said—

Cherish and nourish your spiritual life. Seek spiritual growth at the same time that you are seeking to enlarge your learning in other areas. Nourish your spirit just as regularly as you nourish your body or mind. Don’t neglect study of the gospel and activity in the Church during the period of your schooling. It is needed then as much as or more than at any time during your life.... Make the institute or seminary or home study part of your program (Dallin H. Oaks, “Strive for Excellence,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 109).

Another Church leader, Elder L. Tom Perry bore his testimony of the importance of seminary and institute:

I know the power that comes from associations in the seminary and institute programs. It has enriched my life, and I know it will do the same for you. It will put a shield of protection around you to keep you free from the temptations and trials of the world. There is a great blessing in having a knowledge of the gospel. And I know of no better place for the young people of the Church to gain a special knowledge of sacred things than in the institute and seminary programs of the Church.... I promise you that the foundation you receive in these two great programs will bless you throughout your lives (L. Tom Perry, “What a Way to Grow,” New Era, Aug. 1998, 4).

Higher Education

The Church currently has four higher education facilities: LDS Business College, which provides career-focused education specifically in Business, Medical transcription, and Interior Design; Brigham Young University, which provides numerous undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate programs; Brigham Young University-Hawaii, which provides undergraduate programs, a wonderful cultural environment (this university has the highest number of international students in the U.S.), and very close ties with the Church's Polynesian Cultural Center; and Brigham Young University-Idaho, where the main focus is on teaching. These institutions are run by Boards of trustees that include the First Presidency, three members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the President of the Seventy, the Relief Society President and Young Women President. More than 45,000 students are able to attend these campuses and another 472,000 are able to attend through continuing education courses.

About the Church’s higher education institutions, Church leaders have said the following:

  • We shall keep these as flagships testifying to the great and earnest commitment of this Church to education, both ecclesiastical and secular, and while doing so prove to the world that excellent secular learning can be gained in an environment of religious faith (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Liahona, Jan. 2000, 62).
  • For those privileged to attend a Church school, there is a tuition other than money which we must require of you—a tuition of conduct and performance. Students who enroll in Church schools do so after an interview with their bishop and, beginning this year, with their stake president. They must commit to a standard of conduct consistent with faithful Church membership (Boyd K. Packer, “To Be Learned Is Good If … ,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 71).
  • Our purpose is to produce students who have that rare and precious combination of a superb secular education, complemented by faith in the Lord, a knowledge of the doctrines He has revealed, and a testimony that they are true (Ibid.).

Secular Education

CES institutions that provide secular education, in addition to religious education, include elementary and secondary schools in Mexico and in the Pacific Islands, BYU Adult Continuing Education, Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, and LDS Business College.

Elementary and Secondary Schools

Higher Education

General Histories

Regional Histories


There were a series of Academies under the Education System for the Church. These included:

There were other colleges and schools that fell under the Education System later. These included:


  • Arrington, L. J. (1967). "The founding of the L.D.S. Institutes of Religion," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 2:137-47.
  • Berrett, W. E. (1988). A miracle in weekday religious education: A history of the Church Educational System. Salt Lake City, UT: Salt Lake Printing Center.
  • Berrett, W. E. (1992). "Church Educational System (CES)," in D. H. Ludlow (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan.
  • Church Educational System (2005). Church Educational System annual information update. Salt Lake City, UT: Intellectual Reserve Inc.

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