LDS high-schoolers commit to early-morning seminary class

Izzy Gaspar’raj | The Chronicle

While some are just waking up for the school day, certain students are already up, studying religious scriptures.

From 6:30 to 7:15 each morning, high-school members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) attend a seminary class, taught by adult members of the Church, in which they study the scriptures of their church. These texts include the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. The early-morning aspect of this class can sometimes serve to be an obstacle, but many are instead using it to further a connection to their religion. 

Senior Alex Rose, a member of the LDS Church, has attended seminary classes throughout his four years in high school. He said that in his church, the idea of “spiritual nourishment” places a focus on becoming fluent in one’s religious beliefs, and is emphasized frequently. The daily seminary class is a part of that “spiritual nourishment,” and is a large part of the reason why he goes to the class. Not only does this “nourishment” of their spirit help to maintain their spiritual health, but it helps to sustain all different aspects of their health.

“We feed our bodies, we feed our minds, but we also have to feed our spirit,” Rose said. “Our faith and our spirit do not grow without us building it up somehow.”

Rose said that he is encouraged by his peers and also his father to attend seminary classes so that he can learn more about their religion and so that he stays connected to the faith through his adolescence.

“[My dad] wants me to use seminary to build up a testimony,” Rose said. “Or, a deep-rooted truth inside of me that I know that these books are true.”

Sophomore Eli Clayson, who has attended seminary classes for two years, said that due to the early time of seminary classes, he sometimes finds it very difficult to find the energy to get up in the mornings. He feels it is important he attends seminary classes, however, and has put into place precautions to ensure his attendance.

“I have to set several alarms,” Clayson said. “I have my lights hooked up through my Alexa system so it automatically turns on in the morning. [It’s] really difficult to get up at that time.”

Despite the obstacle of having to get an early start to his day, Clayson views seminary class as an advantage, because it causes him to be more alert at the start of the school day. He said that the incorporation of seminary into his daily routine has been a healthy addition to his schedule.

“I personally like to think of [seminary] as a start-up for the day,” Clayson said. “Whenever I go to that class, I always feel a lot more energetic throughout the day. And whenever I don’t go and sleep in, I always feel way more groggy and tired. I really like going to class because it wakes me up.”

Clayson said that although everyone may not find the content engaging, it interests him, and he finds that in addition to a community of peers of the same faith, he feels more “spiritually in-tune” due to these classes, and also generally helps him feel better afterward.

 A group of universities connected to the LDS Church called Brigham Young Universities (BYU) also provides these students with a community of similar-minded students. BYU often looks for the completion of seminary classes on an applicant’s resume, and will even offer large scholarships to students who have proof of completion. While Rose is planning on pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State University, junior Lauren Nguyen has a “big goal” of attending a BYU college. Seminary classes supply her with needed credit, as well as provide her with a community of similar-minded students.

“Seminary is only offered to high-school students, and in high school, it’s sometimes hard to keep your values while being with your friends,” Nguyen said. “Going to seminary and knowing that you’re not alone and that other kids have the same values as you, then you’re not strange or an odd one out because of it.”

In the LDS Church, Nguyen said that there are discussions and readings that each family is encouraged to follow along with at home in between church meetings on Sundays. Nguyen finds that seminary gives her a “better way to elaborate” on ideas presented during church meetings and that she “finds them interesting because [she] really engages with them.” 

At the start of the pandemic, church meetings were not able to be held in person, so studying scriptures within families became increasingly important. Though they are able to meet in person again now, seminary classes continue to help students connect with the scriptures more.

Furthermore, Clayson also said that this “extension of church” provides a supplementary element when attempting to follow along with the recommended family discussions for the week. The connected content of church meetings, home study and seminary class allows for a more cohesive learning environment for the Church as a whole.

“The Church is always encouraging us to study with our families, but they know that as high-school students we have loaded schedules and that won’t always happen,” Clayson said. “I feel like seminary classes give relief from the stress of [outside] study.”

After three years of seminary, Nguyen now has a bedtime of 8:30 p.m. to help her wake up by 6:00 a.m. for class. Nguyen said her adjusted sleep schedule has helped her be more “refreshed” for her day and to be “way less sluggish.” In addition, she has noticed that she is often more attentive than her peers during the first couple of bells, due to the fact she has already been up for an hour and a half before them. Similar to Clayson, Nguyen said that she loves having seminary class as the first event of her day, as it helps her mentally prepare.

“The spirit that it brings in the morning is such a great way to start off my day before the stress of having to do homework, going to school and having to endure the day,” Ngyuen said. “It’s a good way to start off my day because it’s a moment of peace and being around kids who believe the same things I do because there are not many people in school who are a part of the Church.”

Ultimately, Nguyen makes room in her schedule for seminary classes because of the vital role religion takes in her life. 

“Making the commitment to seminary and going to church, it’s important to me because it’s the most important thing in my life,” Nguyen said. “School doesn’t define who I am, sports doesn’t define who I am, but this does.”