R-Jeneration: Students see benefits in rising early for seminary class

It is 6:12 a.m. -- 12 minutes late. But just in time for the main part of the lesson: "Nephi then took the sharp and mighty sword of Laban and chopped off his head!"

Such stories from Mormon scriptures are discussed every weekday morning by high school students attending seminary classes sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Seminary classes are offered for students at every high school in Clark County. Students in grades 9-12 receive religious instruction from adult volunteer teachers. Most students attend the classes at a nearby church meetinghouse, but some schools, such as Legacy High School, have class in their school's library and other classrooms.

Austin Turley, a sophomore at Centennial High School, says there are roughly 12 seminary classrooms just for his school.

Each class begins with a prayer and the singing of a hymn. In most classes, students then work on a designated scripture assigned for them to memorize. There are 100 scriptural references in the seminary program that students are to memorize by the end of four years of attendance; 25 assigned each school year.

In addition, each year a new scripture section is taught: the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Class then continues with a short devotional by a student, followed by a lesson given by the teacher. Every class varies, but every session ends with a closing prayer.

"Every morning, in my seminary classroom, the spirit is brought into the meeting and felt throughout by everyone attending," Turley says of his class. "My teacher does not tolerate the use of cellphones during class and also prohibits students from doing homework. This helps everyone to pay closer attention to the lesson and allows everyone to be involved in the teachings."

Though it is a class, there are no grades. There is a pass-fail system where a student must have at least 80 percent attendance to pass. At the end of the school year, a graduation takes place where students receive a certificate for passing and are recognized for memorizing the assigned scriptures.

Religion is not the only thing taught in seminary, according to Palo Verde High School senior Chandler Yamane.

"In a time and age where high schools are filled with corrupt language and behavior, seminary is a light that directs students towards a wholesome lifestyle," Yamane says. "I feel a sense of confidence and strength wherever I go (after attending seminary)."

Turley adds, "When I am at seminary, not only do I learn, but I also begin each day knowing that I will be encouraged to make right choices when I am faced with difficult challenges, situations and decisions at school."

One of the most common questions seminary students say that they are asked is, "How and why do you get up so early every morning?"

Yamane says it's a sacrifice he's willing to make.

"Unlike school, seminary is full of students who are hungry for knowledge," Yamane says. "Waking up is a sacrifice, especially for those like me who love to sleep. Making a sacrifice for God ensures us blessings."

Yamane and Turley say they'll benefit in the future from attending seminary.

"I will be more familiar with the scriptures and will be glad that I was able to abstain from frequent high school challenges," Yamane says.

Turley agrees.

"Attending seminary will help me in my future because I will be able to share my knowledge and testimony. I know that I will be an influence to others and I strive to do so in a positive manner."

The majority of the students are Mormons, however, all students are invited to attend.

"There have been two nonmembers (who have attended) my seminary class this year. Both of which have continued to attend after their first visit," Turley says. "I know that seminary has positively affected them."