As a whole, youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “Mormons,” are bucking national downward trends of increasing school drop-out rates. They’re also less likely than other teens to engage in premarital sexual relations or use drugs and alcohol.
A report on a study done at the University of North Carolina, published by Oxford University Press in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, indicates that LDS youth in general have strong religious beliefs and live in accordance with those beliefs. While all youth have challenges, LDS youth are less likely than other youth to drop out of school, and are more likely to be committed to their faith and live socially responsible lives.
One reason for this that is suggested by the Church at newsroom.lds.org is seminary. Seminary is available to youth of high school age, and is intended to be a daily program to help them study the scriptures and apply the principles they learn in their daily lives.
Students who live in areas with a high concentration of Latter-day Saints, such as Utah and Arizona, can take “released time” seminary during their regular school days. Most other students participating in seminary take “early morning” seminary, which meets – you guessed it – early in the morning before school each day. Seminary classes may actually be held at any time during the day, but most groups find that the early morning hour works best in everyone’s schedules. Classes are held five days a week during the school year, and students attend each year they are in high school.
Certainly all youth can make their own choices, but daily seminary attendance can’t help but make an impact on their lives. The daily exposure to the scriptures and principles of righteous living gives them a “lift” throughout their day at school, and helps them keep their hearts centered on God rather than on the cares of the world. And the self-discipline needed to succeed in seminary can extend to the rest of their lives as well.
“It takes a lot of self-discipline,” said Lisa Kell, a seminary student in New York City, to lds.org. “You just have to say, ‘ I’m going to attend seminary every morning.’ If you say, ‘Maybe I’ll attend,’ it won’t happen. You have to make a really strong decision and make it a priority.” Lisa herself leaves home at 6 a.m., takes a subway, a bus, and then finally walks across Central Park in order to arrive at her seminary class on time at 6:30 every morning.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, explained why seminary and spiritual education are so important: “Remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly with spiritual sight, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder at your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision.”
With a perspective like this, it’s no wonder that so many LDS youth are making morally responsible decisions.