While many High School students are celebrating their hundredth day of school this week, some are also celebrating their hundredth day of early morning seminary. An interview with Mormon Texas High School senior Kallie Clark this weekend revealed that she along with hundreds of thousands of Mormon teens around the world attend early morning religious study classes before school each day during the school year. As Clark nears the end or her four years of seminary, she has less than 100 days to go.
Clark, a senior at Cypress Creek High School in Houston, has every reason to be tired. She currently takes six AP classes, plays on the school soccer team, serves as class president of the older teen girls at her church, and also works 10-20 hours a week.
Most people might think over-achieving students like Kallie should hold onto whatever sleep she can get. But each day Kallie sets her alarm to 4:45am and drives her 16-year-old brother Cameron and herself to their local church building for seminary at 6:00 a.m. There Kallie and the other students have a prayer, sing a hymn, and open their scriptures for 50-minutes of gospel study. She then drives several of her seminary classmates to Cy-Creek High School in time for class by 7:25 a.m.
Kallie is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is one of hundreds of high-school students in the Cypress area sacrificing an extra hour of sleep to attend 6 a.m. seminary class each school day.
Outside the Church, the word “seminary” usually refers to a place where one trains for the ministry. But for Latter-day Saint high school students, seminary is a course of daily religious instruction and in-depth scripture study. Latter-day Saint students are encouraged to attend seminary from their freshman through their senior years, during which the students spend a year each studying the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants.
“It can be hard to get up early sometimes, but I go to seminary each day because I love it,” said Clark. “When I was younger I used to go just because my best friend was there, but now I have found a real love for the scriptures. Every day I learn so much and gain new insights on the things we read.”
Seminary is generally taught by lay instructors, who also volunteer their time away from family and other commitments to teach seminary.
Trevor Pope, Clark’s seminary instructor said, “It’s a challenge, but at the same time it’s a rewarding one.” Pope added that rewards come as “we talk about a concept when, one, we start seeing light bulbs going off …oh I never thought of it like that, or two…taking their day to day stories and start to applying them to what they hear in the scriptures.” Said Pope, “These kids don’t have to be here and to do this it takes a tremendous amount of faith and a tremendous amount of discipline.”
Unlike weekly Sunday School classes at church, seminary students have reading assignments, homework and topics are discussed frankly and in much more depth than other church instruction. Students who attend all four years and meet attendance and assignment requirements receive a formal certificate and attend a graduation ceremony.
The Church has provided seminary instruction for over 100 years. Today there are nearly 370,000 high school-age students participating in seminary classes in more than 140 nations of the world.
“If I don’t go to seminary, it affects the rest of my day. I feel like things don’t flow, and I don’t have the spirit with me as readily,” says Clark. When asked what the hardest sacrifice is for her to attend, she said, “now that I recognize the blessings of seminary in my life, it honestly doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all.”
When asked if she was glad she came today, Clark answered “Of course, always.”
Lisa Hyde contributed to this article.