Does Seminary Make Kids Fat and Stupid?

October 15, 2007 | 106 comments
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And, if so, what should we do about it?

106 Responses to Does Seminary Make Kids Fat and Stupid?

  1. Bob on October 15, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    I wish I could blame Seminary for being my being fat and stupid, but that I owe to my self.

    For me, looking back, at getting up at 4:45 AM, seemingly putting in a full day before school started, I am not sure it was worth all the effort everyone had to put into it. Not worthless, but maybe the ‘cost’ was too high.

  2. Ray on October 15, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    No.

  3. Timer on October 15, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Move to Utah when your kids reach high school age.

    Given that the entire Mormon parent population of California seems to have figured this out, I’m a little surprised, frankly, that you have to ask to the question.

  4. Justin Hart on October 15, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    It may make them fat a stupid but it certainly makes them good Mormons! A study done a few years ago in BYU Studies interviewed return missionaries and found that the most active members had a high correlation with seminary attendance.

  5. Mark IV on October 15, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Julie, there is no question that early morning seminary imposes costs. The highest cost is represented by the fatalities that occur every year when teenage drivers try to navigate icy roads in the dark. For our family, it is almost impossible to find time for family prayer and gospel study when the kids leave every morning at 5:20 and we’re not together again at home until 11 at night. The questions is, are the costs worth it. It is not clear to me that they are.

    The church continues to stress the importance of family prayer and to place the responsibility on parents for teaching the gospel to their families and. Am I being too smart alecky to ask exactly when that is supposed to happen? (Any of you righteous people who get the whole family up at 4:15 to pray and read the scriptures, please keep it to yourselves.) The best time for us would be in the hour before school starts, and that is when the church takes our kids out of the home, five days a week. The church has created an interesting dilemma. What’s more important, seminary teaching or family teaching?

    I really wish somebody would publish data showing whether released time, early morning, or home study seminary bring different results in the way kids stay active in later life. I suspect that there is very little difference, which makes home study my preference.

  6. Sarah on October 15, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Seminary as practiced in the early-morning parts of the world, combined with typical educational practices, and family policies, could together create significant barriers to mental and physical health. So could all kinds of other things: I’ve known kids whose parents had never given them bedtimes at all, and I don’t think it’s surprising that they can’t wake up in the morning. I have limited sympathy for parents who let their kids sign up for music, swimming, and a standard full-time school schedule and then wonder why their kids aren’t getting enough sleep.

    Relevant strategies for LDS parents would include (excluding any kind of “move to another state” solution):

    1. Actually parent your kids and get them to bed at a reasonable time for their age, activity level, and needed get-up time. Don’t let the have TVs and computers in their bedrooms, enforce a lights-out policy, etc.

    2. Teach Seminary yourself and give the kids about an hour of sleep back.

    3. Sign up for home study and arrange for the one-day-a-week meeting to take place in the afternoon.

    4. Homeschool and keep your kids from wasting 4.5 hours per day on other children’s behavior problems, basic organizational inefficiencies, etc.

    We homeschooled and did home study (not our choice: there were only two students per year in Seminary from my senior year through my little sister’s junior year, and then it dropped to one or zero.) My mom also taught seminary for my sister’s sophomore and I think junior years. I knew that I had to be in bed by 10pm or so to have any hope of getting up in time for our Wednesday meetings (the other kid was in band, wrestling, football AND track, so Seminary had to be over by 6:45am,) and almost always came home and slept afterwards. The one thing I didn’t have in high school was sleep deprivation. In elementary school I had strict bedtimes; for a while I had to leave for daycare at 4:30am and my bedtime was 7:30pm — I didn’t get a 9pm bedtime until we began homeschooling. Parents aren’t nearly as powerless as the linked article seems to make them out to be.

  7. Curtis DeGraw on October 15, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Our children are allowed two extra-curricular activities at any given time, and one of them is Seminary when they are that age. We have six, ages 5-19. None of them are fat; all of them are honors students; none of them are sleep deprived, including the one with diabetes who needs an extra 30 minutes to get ready for early morning seminary. Usually, I am sensitive to the concerns of others, but I have a hard time with this one.

    What Sarah said – expect for the homeschooling, which would result in dead kids and parents in jail with us – and would curtail much of their sociality that we value highly. If parents insist on responsible parenting, the only thing that will make their kids fat and/or stupid is genetics.

    Mark, we have family prayer and scripture study each night – either right after dinner or right before bed. On the rare occasion when not all of the kids are able to be there, we do it anyway with the others. We have Family Home Evening on Tuesday or Sunday night, depending on my wife’s schedule. These things simply are at the top of our priority list, and it hasn’t harmed our children in the slightest

  8. Wilfried on October 15, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Touchy but needed topic, Julie. I look at the international church and some situations there. Long distances, few members, risky early morning hours on the road, a demanding school system with many hours of after school work at home… If you have local leaders who insist on early morning seminary to prove devotion… And on top of that cult-watchers who use as criterion unreasonable strain put on members and deprivation of sleep as a cult-technique… Thanks for broaching the subject. What a (normal) luxury Release time is…

  9. Bill on October 16, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Early morning anything is not a good idea for teenagers:

    “Convinced by the mountain of studies, a handful of school districts around the nation are starting school later in the morning. The best known of these is in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable. “Truly flabbergasting,” said Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director for SAT Program Relations, on hearing the results.

    Another trailblazing school district is Lexington, Kentucky’s, which also moved its start time an hour later. After the time change, teenage car accidents in Lexington were down 16 percent. The rest of the state showed a 9 percent rise.”

    “We have an incendiary situation today,” Walker remarks, “where the intensity of learning that kids are going through is so much greater, yet the amount of sleep they get to process that learning is so much less. If these linear trends continue, the rubber band will soon snap.”

    http://nymag.com/news/features/38951/

  10. Bill on October 16, 2007 at 12:14 am

    Sorry, I just realized I posted the same article.

  11. Mark IV on October 16, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Curtis, that is exactly my problem. Based on the description of your family’s arrangements, you have about an hour a week for family goepel study (either on Sunday or Tuesday) while the church takes your kids for five hours a week. I think that is how most families handle this, but it is exactly bassackwards from what the church teaches, that the family is most important and no other success can compensate for failure there. I feel like the church has backed me into a corner where the imbalance in time is so heavily in favor of the church and it’s programs, but I’m still responsible for the way the kids turn out. Seriously, I think teenagers are overscheduled, and between afterschool activities and jobs, it really is hard to get together even for prayer.

  12. queuno on October 16, 2007 at 12:42 am

    Please.

    My family had gospel study, we all went to early morning seminary AFTER we did our paper route (had to be up even earlier), we all had after school sports and clubs, and we all got good grades. No fat or stupid amongst us.

    Of course, my dad is one of the three Nephites and my mother keeps a shrine to Julie Beck.

    (Although, I was serious about paragraph 2. Early morning seminary not only was taught much better than what I’ve seen from Utah seminaries, but it was well-attended and didn’t interfere with school or sports or the paper route.)

  13. Mark IV on October 16, 2007 at 12:50 am

    queuno, pray tell: what time did you get up in the morning, how long did your paper route take, and when did your family have gospel study? Those are serious questions.

  14. m&m on October 16, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Seriously, I think teenagers are overscheduled, and between afterschool activities and jobs, it really is hard to get together even for prayer.

    I wonder, is Seminary the thing that should go?

    I don’t see how you figure only a couple of hours a week if you do scripture study at night, if you do a decent FHE, if you do dinner together, and if you spend time as a family on weekends.

    I know of a father who doesn’t wait for all the family to be together since mornings are crazy (they had eight children). He had a prayer with each one as they left in the morning. There are ways you can be creative to face this challenge. I’m sure the Lord has lots of tricks up His sleeve He could share. :)

    Elder Perry just spent part of his talk talking about Seminary as good prep for mission service, so I think it must have value if the leaders are still advocating it.

  15. m&m on October 16, 2007 at 1:04 am

    All that said, I am supremely grateful for released time that I had and that my children will have. I am NOT a morning person.

  16. Curtis DeGraw on October 16, 2007 at 1:12 am

    Mark, my children attend seminary for an hour a day, school for 7 hours, homework for 1-2 hours (that’s a serious issue with me, but that’s another post), extra-curricular activities for 1-4 hours. This leaves 10-14 hours every day that is available, with sleep taking 8-10 hours – depending on the needs of each child. That’s on the weekdays. On the weekends, my oldest have musical competitions during the seasons every once in a while on Saturdays.

    This means that on weekdays (at the “worst case scenario”), the church has my kids for 5 hours per week; the school has my kids for 40-45 hours per week (that includes homework); they have scheduled extra-curricular activities for 5-20 hours; we have our kids relatively activity free for 10-20 hours per week; they get plenty of sleep. Saturdays have a few activities here and there, and Sundays are ours at least 50 weeks per year.

    None of my kids is involved in sports. That was a natural consequence of their size and ability, but it also would have been different *only* if they had potential to make a living at it – since sports (and the related activities) is the biggest time commitment among the youth programs in schools and communities. A few years ago, we realized we were over-scheduled, so we chose to reorganize our priorities and focus on something each child really wanted to do more than anything else. By doing that, they got very good at that one thing, and we freed up lots of time to spend as a family.

    We are nowhere close to “packed” and running ragged – and, interestingly, our children’s friends flock to our house just so they can have a chance to sit around, laugh, relax and spend time with a real family that isn’t pushing them to be busy every waking minute. (We have had more than one friend phrase it in those words.) Our house is noisy and chaotic and as far from immaculate as it is possible to be – specifically because our children spend more time here than almost any of their friends do at their houses. It was difficult to make the changes necessary to make it happen, since we had to deal with “taking away” activities from our children, but it was one of the best things we have ever done.

  17. Lulubelle on October 16, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Hated every waking moment of seminary. Maybe that was my downfall. Or maybe being \”forced\” by my dad to go to seminary was my downfall. During my high school years, I needed the extra 1.5 hours of sleep far more than I did more church. After 3+ hours of church on Sundays, YWs, FHE, family prayer, that was plenty. It wasn\’t like I was studying to be a priest for goodness sakes. When my kids are old enough to attend, it\’ll be 100% optional. Can\’t say I got a thing out of the entire miserable experience. My friends thought us Mormons were insane.

  18. Ray on October 16, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Interesting how few comments are about the actual question.

    Fwiw, I have worked in education most of the last 14 years. In our Ohio school district, the youth who are the most over-represented in the Gifted program attend early morning seminary. I happen to think that also is a result of Priesthood baby blessings and the Gift of the Holy Ghost at the age of eight, but if there’s one thing the Curriculum Director in our 99% non-Mormon district can assume each year it’s that there will be more Mormon kids in the Gifted program than there “should” be. I know, because the teachers notice each year.

    Yeah, here in Ohio, seminary makes our kids fat and stupid.

  19. Jean Blasco on October 16, 2007 at 1:51 am

    Well I am one mom who did the experiment!
    The first 3 did early morning seminary, contrary to the last two.
    I have some personal opinions on the subject. Just like with most family “to do” lists there is usually an ongoing change of format due to some controllable, and some uncontrollable situations. With that said, do not dissect my miniscule opinion!
    I think it is so individual with each family let alone each child.
    Practices vary, principles remain.

    Is your goal to have them graduate from seminary so they can go to church schools?
    Is your goal have their baby picture on the seminary grad presentation? (then & now is cute) well then more then now!
    Is your goal to teach them self discipline?
    Is your goal to assist them to become more acquainted with the scriptures?
    Is your goal to look good to your peers?
    Is your goal to keep the cult-like Bishop off your back. (how old are you?)
    Is your goal “because I said so!” (Ooooo)
    Is your goal all of the above and more?
    Please share your more.

    This is not a put down to Utah Mormons but….. we did consider the move rather than the torture until a U.M. told us that the kids STILL sleep through it.
    Lost my point and never moved.

    I’m sure that students who are A+ in seminary could go inactive,
    and teenagers who don’t for any given reason may also stay active.

    Here goes my opinion ; -) I am against early morning seminary. My test is proving it to be conclusive to the affirmative!
    Teaching the gospel and aborbing it into daily application is the outcome we all want I’m sure.

  20. manaen on October 16, 2007 at 1:53 am

    I went went to early-morning classes for four years. We used to sing, “There is an Hour of Peace and Rest — but We Go to Seminary!”

  21. Jean Blasco on October 16, 2007 at 2:00 am

    A little side note. Oh yes the question at hand.
    Not fat and not stupid, some seminary some not.
    But were all active and happy!

  22. Julie M. Smith on October 16, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Thanks for the comments, all. I realize that my original post didn’t give you much hint as to what I was thinking, and that my title was inflammatory (but, hey, too good to pass up), but here’s what I’m thinking:

    (1) To what extent do we let science shape our decisions?

    (2) When I was a stake seminary supervisor in CA, I got so sick of the parents (NB: not students) whining about how busy their students were with seminary, sports, music, jobs, etc. and I finally kinda lost it one day and said, “And why should being 16 be any different from being 26? I sure as heck don’t get to do everything that I want to do–why should your kid? Tell them to drop band and start showing up for seminary!” In no case could we show that seminary makes your kid fat and stupid, but it may well be that seminary+band+job+chores+family+sports+AP classes do in fact (and I do think the research looks pretty convincing, although certainly not airtight) make your kid fat and stupid. So which will they (and you) give up?

    (3) I think because attending seminary is the default setting for Mormon youth, we forget what a big deal it is. I know that when I have taught seminary, it has made a *huge* difference in my life (as in: having to go to bed about three hours earlier) and it is interesting to think how many kids and families go through that without really blinking.

    (4) There are some real issues to consider without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For example, if parents have any sway in convincing their high school to start later (and, given this research, I suspect that might become a trend), then that allows for a later (sometimes two hours) seminary start time. As the article and commenters have pointed out, we can trace a certain number of fatalities to early morning driving by teens. Might this be a worthwhile soapbox to get on at the next PTA meeting?

    (5) As Wilfried points out, the dimensions of the issue are different in different areas. I found it amazing that in CA, where schools often had a “zero period” to allow kids to take extra courses, seminary was scheduled _before_ zero period–I believe our earliest start was 5:30 or 5:45, IIRC. It didn’t seem right to me that all the kids would lose an extra hour of sleep just so some kids could be there for zero to take an extra elective. And that example doesn’t begin to touch the more serious international issues that he raised.

  23. Julie M. Smith on October 16, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Two more thoughts:

    (1) I know from personal experience that the blessings that come from attending seminary are real.

    (2) As you can tell from the timestamps, I am a huge hypocrite.

  24. Ray on October 16, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Julie, #23 (2) might just be one of the funniest comments I have heard here or anywhere.

  25. Megan on October 16, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Julie – the school district that my family is in has just moved to a later start time, and there is a zero period, and seminary is over before it. Part of this is the necessity of zero period being open for tutorials, sports teams, etc, but I think a bigger part of it has to do with getting people where they need to be. Even if high schools start late, the rest of the world really doesn’t, and if seminary starts late then it really puts a prohibiative restriction on who can teach it.

    My personal opinion is that early morning seminary sucks. I know the point is to learn, and get something out of it, but I don’t know how often that actually happens. I slept thorugh so many classes in high school. In terms of a simple cost benefit analysis, it wasn’t even close to being worth it.

    I went (and had the absolute minimum attendence that you can have) only because BYU was my college backup. Since I didn’t go to BYU, the whole thing ended up being pretty much a waste of time. Plus, my younger brother, who didn’t go, still got into BYU (although he, too, opted not to go).

  26. Megan on October 16, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Julie – the school district that my family is in has just moved to a later start time, and there is a zero period, and seminary is over before it. Part of this is the necessity of zero period being open for tutorials, sports teams, etc, but I think a bigger part of it has to do with getting people where they need to be. Even if high schools start late, the rest of the world really doesn’t, and if seminary starts late then it really puts a prohibiative restriction on who can teach it.

    My personal opinion is that early morning seminary sucks. I know the point is to learn, and get something out of it, but I don’t know how often that actually happens. I slept thorugh so many classes in high school. In terms of a simple cost benefit analysis, it wasn’t even close to being worth it.

    I went (and had the absolute minimum attendence that you can have) only because BYU was my college backup. Since I didn’t go to BYU, the whole thing ended up being pretty much a waste of time. Plus, my younger brother, who didn’t go, still got into BYU (although he, too, opted not to go).

  27. Naismith on October 16, 2007 at 7:46 am

    “Actually parent your kids and get them to bed at a reasonable time for their age, activity level, and needed get-up time.”

    This might work for younger children,but when it comes to teens, there is preponderance of scientific evidence that teenagers operate on night-owl schedule. I’m particularly impressed with that body of work because there are studies all around the world–in Israel, Italy, and Japan as well as the US–which indicate this is so, and it is not just an artifact of USAmerican culture.

    My teens just can’t go to sleep early, no matter how much warm milk or whatever. And I kinda resent it when people blame parents, when it is physiologically NORMAL for teens not to be able to sleep before 11 p.m.

    I lobbied our public school system to push the school start time an hour later (with the help of many other non-LDS parents), and that has made things much easier–we now start seminary at 6:45. My girls do go to sleep by 10 p.m. some nights, but that’s not as bad a shift from the ideal as 9 p.m., which would have been required in the old days.

    However, just moving the public school start time does not guarantee that seminary will fall into place as well. In Austin, TX in the late 1980s my son’s high school started at 9 a.m. but seminary was still at 6 a.m. This was partly because the teacher had to get to work, and partly because 6 a.m. seminary was viewed as a right of passage.

    (I’m not convinced that he wouldn’t have learned more with a teacher that was maybe not quite as good, but willing to start 45 minutes later.)

  28. Ardis Parshall on October 16, 2007 at 8:14 am

    What is “physiologically NORMAL” isn’t uniform by any means. I had no trouble whatsoever getting up and walking a half-hour to early morning seminary for two years (I had two years of home study in another state) — and staying awake, and getting out of it what I needed — but one of the greatest trials of my miserable mission was staying awake and out and working as late as mission rules required. Even now I’m apt to be asleep at 9:00 and up and working again at 4:00. So while I understand it is easy for me to brush off the difficulties of early morning seminary, it would have been disastrous for me not to be able to start my day until, say, 9:00 when my best hours for alert studying were past, and somebody needs to speak for kids like me.

    Why is it a sacrifice for seminary to start at 6:00 when so many kids are willing and eager to start football or band or some other school activity at 6:00?

  29. Mark IV on October 16, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Julie, looking back on the thread, I can see that I am probably the most responsible for taking the thread in the direction it went. I apologize if that is not the direction you intended. I do want to make clear that I am not anti-seminary, just anti-early A.M. seminary. I’m interested to know how a committed home-schooler such as yourself sees this.

    Curtis, our seminary starts at 6. The church is twenty minutes away, but my kids need to pick up others on the way, so they need to leave at 5:20, which makes for a forty minute, one-way commute. And because some of the kids attend different schools, it takes even longer getting them to their various destinations after seminary. Before 7:45, my son has spent close to ninety minutes driving, every day, for the sake of a 40 minute seminary class. And you didn’t mention whether your kids have jobs. We have felt that after school paid employment is a priority for our kids, but that also takes a toll on family time. When they go out the door at 5:20, that is the last that we will all be together until late at night. I look at that ninety minute drivetime and wonder about the benefits of home study seminary, as opposed to early morning. I really do wish the church would look into this. If early A.M. is clearly better, I’m fine with that, and can do it with a smile, albeit through gritted teeth. But so far I’m not convinced.

    m&m, the dad that prays individually with each of his eight children is doing an admirable thing, but, whatever we call it, let’s not call it family prayer. I love having all our family together for prayer and gospel study, and I think I’m on pretty solid ground in saying it is important. That is why I think the church has created something of a dilemma. It simultaneously stresses the primary role of parents, while also emphasizing the importance of seminary. Sooner or later, as in the case with my family, those two priorities will collide, and it has been my experience that it is always the family that has to give way. If we can stretch the definition of family prayer to include individual prayer with each child, we can jolly well stretch the definition of seminary to make it an mp3 podcast that kids can listen to with their earphones at their own convenience.

  30. AHLDuke on October 16, 2007 at 9:39 am

    I actually got up twice at 4am a couple of weeks ago to substitute teach Seminary for a friend of mine. Both times it was a rewarding experience for me, and I think for the students as well. They seemed to be mostly attentive (none fell asleep though the quality of the attention may have been lacking). On the other hand, I think the idea of release-time seminary is a JOKE. Let those kids take real academic classes in school like the rest of us.

  31. Ivan Wolfe on October 16, 2007 at 9:46 am

    My entirely anecdotal experience:

    We had early morning Seminary. There were also some Zero-hour classes at the high school. It was impractical in my Hometown of Homer, Alaska to put Semianry any earlier, though. Several high acheiving LDS youth choose zero hour classes over seminary. But since this was Alaska, several of the youth already had a 45 minutes or more trip to make just to get to seminary. Making it any ealier would have meant people needing to get up at 4 in the morning just to be ready on time.

    I don’t think Seminary makes kids fat and lazy, but I do think, as suggested above by Julie and others, that doing too much can. I choose seminary over zero-hour classes and think I turned out just fine. I’m working on a PhD, so academically it didn’t hurt me (and of the LDS kids who chose zero hour classes, quite a few went inactive once they got to college, though I doubt that means much overall, since some of the kids who went to early morning seminary also went inactive. Only the ones who skipped both went to jail).

    I also participated in sports and Scouting, and that was just about enough. I wouldn’t have had time for dance lessons, piano lessons, etc. Life was full enough as it was (I can say I was lucky I got my Eagle at age 14, though. I doubt I could have dedicated the time to earning it once I hit 10th grade).

    FWIW.

  32. Last Lemming on October 16, 2007 at 9:48 am

    what should we do about it?

    Online interactive Seminary. A stable of CES employees in Provo would teach the classes at all different times. Kids could sign up for whatever time meets their needs.

    With the advent of the $100 computer (actually $180), you could outfit a low-income kid with the necessary hardware for less than it costs to keep a missionary in the field for a month.

  33. Matt W. on October 16, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Does the Church allow Homeschooled Seminary where Early Morning Seminary is easily available?

  34. John Mansfield on October 16, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Matt W., it’s up to the stake president.

  35. Mark IV on October 16, 2007 at 10:32 am

    John Mansfield,

    I wish it were that simple. CES has it’s own hierarchy, bureaucracy and budget, and doesn’t answer to local priesthood leaders. I have seen some pretty spectacular turf wars between the local CES guy and the SP.

  36. Peter LLC on October 16, 2007 at 10:42 am

    I was never leaner than when I was attending early am seminary, playing in the band and breezing through AP courses. Now that I spend my time boasting on the interweb, well, my waistline has blossomed like a rose.

    I didn’t like getting up at 5 to get to seminary at 6 (and going to bed at 9pm), but I can’t say I noted any adverse effects at the time. I think I was pretty well indoctrinated. I doubt I would show the same commitment today. I like the approach in my current ward in Vienna–bring the flock together on Thursday evening and get it over with at one fell swoop.

  37. Adam Greenwood on October 16, 2007 at 11:07 am

    And I kinda resent it when people blame parents, when it is physiologically NORMAL for teens not to be able to sleep before 11 p.m.

    My and my considerable number of brothers and sisters always hit the hay between 9 and 10. Never had any problems with weight or school, far from it.

    That’s anecdotal, but so is everyone’s subjective story about why seminary stank in this thread.

  38. John Taber on October 16, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I know I would have been better off physically, emotionally, and yes, perhaps spiritually, had I never attended early morning seminary. (I graduated having attended four years.)

    Meanwhile, for most of that time, Sunday School was a joke.

  39. Tanya Sue on October 16, 2007 at 11:16 am

    I grew up in Southern CA and I had afternoon seminary. I still could get to my afternoon job and many athletes could get to practice after seminary. However, in the stake I was in there was usually a church building within walking distance of the high schools which helped. I think it was a great option other than early morning.

  40. steve on October 16, 2007 at 11:30 am

    This is an interesting topic and well worth our consideration. I am not sure that the complexities lend themselves well to the brief \”blog\” format. I could write a long comment on any of these:

    Safety issues: they are real. We have an extremely low threshold for cancelling seminary if the roads are wet/slick. This needs to be done the night before, based on even the HINT of bad roads. Even with this policy, members of our ward have been involved in two car accidents in the last two years: both with parents, not kids, driving. No one got hurt (yet.)

    Tiredness issues: As Julie asks: to what degree do we let science govern our decisions. Most research, as I understand it, suggests that it is not good for teens to get up early. My kids get up at 5:15. It is hard! And it gets harder in January/Feb, etc.

    Its easy to recommend an early bedtime. But do the math. If my kids get up at 5:15, then if they get eight hours of sleep they need to go to sleep by 9:15. Even Mutual goes until 8:30. Its hard to get in bed by 9:00; its usually 10… and this adds up bit by bit through the year.

    What can we do to mitigate this? Home-schooling is the most obvious solution. In my ward, with about 30 attending early mornng seminary, there is tremendous peer pressure to attend seminary. In fact, this is great! The kids all support each-other, but it makes it harder for someone to do the home-study option. I have wondered about making seminary a 4 day-a-week option. Would that be so bad? When I have recommended this… or recommended early morning only once a week… sort of combining early morning and home-study I have found little support or enthusiasm. Again, there isn\’t much support for making any changes. I believe that this flows from the idea that the church couldn\’t and wouldn\’t ask us to do anything that could possibly be bad for us. So any changes would be easier to make if they came from the top down. There was a New Era article last year examining a ward in Alaska or somewhere where school starts at 6:30 and seminary begins at 5 AM. The article was full of praise for the students who are getting up at 4 AM. Is this crazy?

    Teacher issues: My wife\’s family all did home study because of the era and geography of their youth. They all believe that home study is supreme because you aren\’t being entertained, but are made to read the scriptures. It has been easy for my children to conclude that they don\’t have to read the scriptures because they are studying them at seminary. There is no substitute for studying the scriptures in depth, and home study may be the best way to encourage this.

  41. steve on October 16, 2007 at 11:35 am

    One more brief comment:

    Just because it is easy for some people to do it, doesn’t mean that it is something that we all can do. My oldest daugher seemed to never have a problem getting up at 5:15, while my son has found it to be much harder. He is involved with heavy sports activities and he takes a more academically challenging schedule… and it is much much harder for him. I saw Julie Smith’s amazing post a few weeks ago about what “she did today.” While some people are highly functioning and able to do alot, others simply can’t. I could never accomplish what she did. Am I to conclude that I should? Because seminary is easy for some students, does this mean that all should do it?

  42. David Clark on October 16, 2007 at 11:38 am

    I teach early morning seminary in Texas. I think both the church and the parents/students need to compromise on this one.

    Where parents/students need to compromise: Kids and parents need to be told to put church first. It is insane how little sleep the kids in my class get on any given night. They need to sleep more and that means ditching an extra-curricular activity or two. You simply can’t go to school, go to seminary, work part time, play football, take music classes etc. Something has to give.

    Where the church needs to compromise: The church’s program for the youth is an uncorrelated mess, ironic given the fact that it is the product of correlation. Between Sunday School, Priesthood lessons, YW lessons, mid week activities, the YW program, Duty to God, and the Scouts there is simply too much that the youth are expected to do and too much for church leaders to keep up with. I also think that having so many unrelated activities dilutes the message that one or two carefully chosen programs might have. My preference would be to eliminate all those programs and just have seminary be the program for the students. Restrict seminary to 2-3 days a week. One of those days would be Sunday. Sunday School, YW instruction, and Priesthood lesson would be replaced with 1.5 hours of seminary instruction. Keep .5 hours for quorum and class business. Then one or two other days a week, depending on geography and member concentration, have one or two more 1-2 hour classes. Assign homework and _expect_ students to do the homework. Make the scriptures the center of Mormon Youth experience. All other social stuff can be replaced by monthly or bimonthly activities that are appropriate and desired in the culture the youths live in. The main idea is streamline what we expect the youth to do, but then _really_ expect them to do it. I think something like this will ultimately need to happen so that youths in the international church, in the 48 heathen states, and Utah/Idaho all get a reasonably good youth experience.

    Of course this will never happen. CES would cease to exist as an organization because seminary/institute would be forced to be unpaid (since it’s partly on Sunday) and completely local. Of course, to me, that’s reason enough to give it a try!

  43. John Taber on October 16, 2007 at 11:43 am

    David #42:

    I can’t say I disagree with you about the problem or its scope. I’m just not sure that Seminary would be the “last program standing”.

  44. a random John on October 16, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Seminary did not make me fat and stupid. However seminary is fat and stupid.

  45. steve on October 16, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    I like the idea of incorporating Sunday School into Seminary, or visa versa. Why haven’t we been doing this for years? Let it replace Friday or Monday, and let the kids “sleep in” until 6 AM once a week.

    Just FYI, our youth have been challenged every year to read the BofM. One year it was President Hinkley’s challenge, then it was the Stake President’s, then it was someone else. The point is again, that such uncoorelated requests could undermine the youth experience. They are expected to read the Bible and the BofM. Not a bad challenge, but possibly unrealistic for a number of kids.

  46. John Mansfield on October 16, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    I listen to accounts from my wife of the multi-day discussions in her seminary class. In some places the logistics may require it, but home study or once-a-week seminary would severely flatten the learning possibilities. There’s something to be said for being able to take a question/comment from one of the students five minutes from the end of class and return to it the next day. Also, if you skip the reading and writing assignments in Sister Mansfield’s class and merely show up, then you get a D grade to take home. It’s a little hard to fit that kind of feedback into our Sunday worship.

  47. steve on October 16, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Isn’t seminary pass/fail?

  48. Susan M on October 16, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    LOL @ a random john.

    My daugher’s a morning person and can handle early morning seminary. My son can’t and he isn’t going. I also can’t handle it—my daughter gets a ride from other people. I really want my son to go, and he’d like to, but they only offer it at 5:30 am, and it’s just not going to happen.

  49. Adam Greenwood on October 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    The Bloggernacle: one long whine.

  50. Anna on October 16, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    One real difficulty with discussions about early morning seminary (as has been pointed out already) is that we have only anecdotal information and no hard data showing what works. But another difficulty is that I don’t think we have a clear understanding of what it means for seminary to “work.” Consider (some of) the potential purposes of seminary:

    -learning the Scriptures
    -getting a daily dose of church
    -spending time with other church youth, supporting each other
    -learning to put church first in their lives (early morning makes this literal as well as symbolic)
    -learning to sacrifice

    How do these various purposes interact (or conflict) with each other, and which is most important to us? If it’s substantial scripture study, it’s arguable that students would learn more through home study since they’re taking more responsibility for what they learn (and are actually awake). If it’s the “daily dose” theory, then once-a-week home study might not be an adequate substitute for early morning seminary. And so on.

    What irks me is when people emphasize the “sacrifice” aspect of early morning seminary to the exclusion of all else. All sacrifices are not necessarily good or godly simply because they are sacrifices! Once the railroad was completed, the pioneers didn’t insist on crossing the plains on foot in order to demonstrate their righteousness.

  51. Kaimi Wenger on October 16, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Ahh, yes.

    Early to bed, and early to rise,
    Makes a man snark at commenters for addressing the topic posed in the thread.

  52. James on October 16, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I did home study seminary growing up in the wilds of Iowa. My kids have had early morning in Washington and Southern Arizona and now released time in the Phoenix area. In Washington, the school district happened to have a bus route running past the church that came past just after seminary ended. The kids rode the bus from church to school with the others from that road. In southern Arizona, everyone went to the same school so the parents that were the instructors and the seniors with cars loaded everyone up and convoyed to school. The down-side of home study has already been discussed. A 45 minute class on Sunday or whenever it is held can’t have the same depth of discussion that an hour per day five days a week can have. One aspect of the released time program that is not usually discussed is the savings that accrue to the local school district when they can off-load large numbers of students to the local seminary each day. A year ago or so, it was reported that Utah schools save millions of dollars per year thanks to released time seminary in reduced personnel overhead.

  53. Scott Fife on October 16, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Wow. For those who complain about seminary being a waste of time, too hard on your little darlings, etc, I have a solution: Don’t send your kids to seminary. Seminary attendance is encouraged, but not mandatory. It is not a temple recommend question. While you’re at it, cancel your Ensign and New Era subscriptions. Those magazines are mostly a waste of time and money, and seldom read. All the same complaints about seminary could basically be said about Sunday church meetings. Let’s put all our Sunday meetings on line, and those full time missions have to go. Missions are inconvenient and disruptive to our lives, big time.

    The Church wouldn’t spend millions of dollars every year in sacred tithing funds to maintain a seminary program that began over 90 years ago, if it was “fat and stupid.” Sure, all programs evolve and require tweaking from time to time, but our seminary program: (1) release time for Utah/Idaho, (2) early morning, and (3) home school, provide essential daily religion classes for our Mormon youth. Seminary is the most important class of their school day by far, and wild horses shouldn’t prevent them from attending.

  54. Jacob M on October 16, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    I went to seminary, and I’m not stupid. (Notice what I’m not saying)

  55. DavidH on October 16, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Anecdotal, but not statistically significant data:

    1. We moved from the west to the midwest in the middle of my high school years, and I went from released time to early morning. My experience was that the released time instruction was much better than early morning. Perhaps it was a function of the released time instructors’ having teaching as their full-time job, rather than the early morning teachers’ having it as an unpaid “calling” over and above their “day job.”

    2. In the ward in which we have lived for about 20 years, the relative percentage of church attending young men and women who serve missions and marry in the temple has been about the same regardless of whether they attended seminary or attained eagle scout or young womanhood recognition. {I have heard of studies indicated a strong correlation between seminary graduation and temple marriage, but I wonder how those studies control for level of church activity in other respects.)

    3. A few years ago, our stake presidency pushed for and received approval for home study seminary as an option in our stake. My wife taught home study seminary last year. To our knowledge, ours is the only stake in a metropolitan area of about 70 stakes that offers home study as an alternative to those who need it. Our youngest son started home study during a year when he had a zero hour math class (which was the only time he could take it). I am glad our stake offered this alternative, rather than forcing the seminary classes to start an extra hour early or “encouraging” our son to drop the math class.

    4. Our other children graduated from early morning seminary. Our son had two years of early morning and two of home study. While I do think there is value in meeting each day for seminary, and there are blessings associated with sacrifice and the early morning rite of passage, I personally am not persuaded that the “value added” of early morning versus home study is worth the cost.

  56. Naismith on October 16, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    “In Washington, the school district happened to have a bus route running past the church that came past just after seminary ended. The kids rode the bus from church to school with the others from that road.”

    One doesn’t need to rely on it “happening to be” that way.

    We call the school district every year and explain about the need for the bus stops at church, and it is provided. As long as the kids are consistent about a regular pick-up and drop-off schedule, even if those are in different places, then it is no problem.

  57. Visorstuff on October 16, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Is it bad to be fat and stupid? :)

  58. Adam Greenwood on October 16, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Some of my best friends are fat and stupid . . . but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one.

  59. roland on October 16, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Certainly not stupid!

    There is a big survey by the University of North Carolina that came out two years ago and is
    online at http://www.youthandreligion.com

    They compared kids of different religions to see which ones best understood the tenents of their parents faith and which had faith had the highest retention level. The LDS kids blew away the competition.

  60. John Mansfield on October 16, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    You wouldn’t want your daughter marry one of your best friends? She’ll be relieved to know.

  61. roland on October 16, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    However – my oldest son is absolutely not a AM person and there is no Release time here in California. He is certain that he can homeschool himself instead. (And his parents cringe.)

    Signed – hoping for evening seminary in California

  62. Adam Greenwood on October 16, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    You wouldn’t want your daughter marry one of your best friends? She’ll be relieved to know.

    Absolutely not. My daughters’ suitors should not love me. Oderint tum metaunt.

  63. David Clark on October 16, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Absolutely not. My daughters’ suitors should not love me. Oderint tum metaunt.

    oderint dum metuant. When you quote in Latin you have to get it right, even the spelling.

  64. Adam Greenwood on October 16, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Let them fear my memory lapses. :)

  65. Rosalynde Welch on October 16, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    My mother is a long-time early morning seminary teacher, and she runs a fantastic program with the kids in her SoCal ward; the kids genuinely enjoy the class (or so they say in testimony meetings) and real gospel learning takes place. Early morning seminary is definitely worth the costs in her class. But my mother is unusually gifted and dedicated, and a scaleable program can’t be based on the presumption of gifted and dedicated teachers. I like the idea of synching seminary with Sunday instruction, and cutting down the early mornings to two or three a week.

  66. Scott Fife on October 16, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    David, #55: Early morning seminary teachers are paid for their service. They are not unpaid volunteers, and they go through training and evaluation prior to being hired by CES. I would agree with you, that as a general rule, full-time seminary teachers are usually a level or two above their early morning part-time counterparts, as might be expected. I believe the professional level of teaching in the seminary program has steadily improved over the past 20 years. CES does a good job overseeing the program and the greatly improved salary/benefit package for full-time seminary teachers has dramatically decreased the turnover rate, which had always been a major problem before.

  67. David Clark on October 16, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Early morning seminary teachers are paid for their service. Then I’m getting screwed, where do I get my check?

  68. SteveG on October 16, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Scott #53 – My thoughts exactly. Wonderful post.

    At times I wonder if those who frequent this site believe the Church (or its leaders) do anything right.

  69. Ray on October 16, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    #66 – None of whom I am aware are paid, Scott, unless you are speaking exclusively of those early morning teachers who are attached to a released time building but teach before school starts for those students who can’t attend during released time.

  70. Kevin Barney on October 16, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve substitute taught early morning seminary a number of times, and man, it’s brutal. Half the class is asleep, and the other half is trying but looks like zombies with fried brains. It’s very difficult to reach them under those conditions. (And it’s not just that I’m a bad teacher; I talk to the seminary teachers, and this has been their experience as well.)

    On the other hand, when I went myself many years ago, I don’t remember the kids being so zoned out all the time. We were awake and actively involved in discussion. For me, seminary was a nice break, because I got to stop doing my paper route and actually got to sleep in later than what I was used to. And I really enjoyed being able to spend time with my Church friends every morning.

    Which is to say that seminary was worthwhile in my particular case, mostly for social reasons, but something doesn’t seem to be working anymore, and sleep deprivation would appear to be a likely culprit.

  71. Scott Fife on October 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    I stand corrected, and thanks Ray for the clarification. Sorry Dave. I hope you haven’t spent that check you thought was coming.

  72. roland on October 16, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    My senior year in high school was tough.

    I had to get up at 5AM to do my paper route promptly.

    Then I was alternating between seminary and early morning cross country workouts.

  73. queuno on October 16, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    @13 -

    Up at 5:00, delivered papers with my brother.
    Seminary from 6:15-7:00
    School from 8-3
    Practice for whatever sport from 3:30-5:00
    Dinner/chores/homework, 5:00-8:30
    Mandatory family scripture, 8:30-9:00
    Bed at 9:00.

    The schedule was varied a little bit when home teachers came and when we had scouts and FHE (basically, had to make sure homework was done earlier).

    I took 4 AP classes in high school and other advanced classes (physics, architecture, etc.). My grades were good enough to get a scholarship from BYU my first year. I finished my Eagle at 14 (at which point my dad let me stop going to YM on nights they were only doing scout work). I don’t remember having that much homework, but I did a lot of studying on the weekends. We usually had athletic events on Tuesday nights and Saturdays during the spring and fall.

    It should be noted that we didn’t watch TV, didn’t have Internet, didn’t have video games.

    Oh, and Ray (18) — this was in Ohio.

  74. John Taber on October 16, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Just because it’s “always been done” means we should always do it? Hardly. That’s like saying the way Deseret Industries barely exists outside Utah is the way it always should be – when it was set up, it served the majority of members but hasn’t kept up.

    Released-time seminary has been around a half-century longer than early-morning. And the evidence is that released time was set up to show that the Church was still in charge in Utah (with a seminary building next to each public high school – something that persists today), more than any effort toward religious education.

  75. queuno on October 16, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    I finished my Eagle at 14 (at which point my dad let me stop going to YM on nights they were only doing scout work).

    And since Scouts were basically nonexistent in my ward (my dad made us do it, to which I am grateful), we were usually at YM every week.

    My senior year, I attended YM maybe 3 times a month, because I was trying hard to finish with good grades (AP computer, AP calc, physics, physics lab, architecture, government, psych, and my “sluff” class — World Literature with a teacher who had us reading Tolstoy and Chekov and the like).

    I found I got much more sleep when I got to BYU.

  76. queuno on October 16, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    I should also point out that my parents were VERY insistent that we attend, and stay awake for, early a.m. seminary.

    My dad’s philosophy: If you’re not well enough to attend seminary, you’re not well enough to attend school.

    My school’s philosophy: If you’re not well enough to attend school, you’re not well enough to attend varsity athletic practices.

    My coach’s philosophy was that if you didn’t practice, you didn’t play.

    I admit, there were mornings where I didn’t want to go to seminary. But my desire to play sports made me go every day.

  77. Julie M. Smith on October 16, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Some follow up thoughts:

    (1) No one can meaningfully say, “I did it and I was fine” or “My kids are doing it and they are fine” academically. You have no idea what the academic performance or attitude would look like on an extra 1.5 hours sleep.

    (2) Way back there, someone asked me what I as a homeschooler thought of seminary. My oldest is 9 and so my only contact with seminary (as I am a convert who didn’t attend) was as a teacher and stake supervisor. I suspect that attending early-morning seminary will be required here (unless the teacher is truly terrible), but I also imagine that my kids will either come home and sleep for a few hours or nap later in the day.

    (3) Thinking more about the article, it said that one harmful practice is to have a later wake-up on weekends (they described it as self-inflicted jet-lag). I am sure I will make no friends by suggesting that one way to improve the sleep of YM/YW is to make them get up at seminary time on the weekends. So while I philosophically like the idea of 2-4 times per week seminary that many have proposed, the reality is that it may make sleep issues worse.

    (4) David Clark wrote, “Between Sunday School, Priesthood lessons, YW lessons, mid week activities, the YW program, Duty to God, and the Scouts there is simply too much that the youth are expected to do and too much for church leaders to keep up with.”

    I do agree with this. When my husband was in YM, I kept thinking, “He’s never here! And he’s not even involved in seminary!” And some areas add church-sponsored youth sports to this.

    (5) DavidH in #55: I’d like to defend the early-morning teachers: it is waaaay harder to be a good teacher at 6:07 than it is at 11:15 to kids that were asleep at 6:07.

    (6) I’m surprised that, except for the most isolated reports, we don’t hear more about afternoon or evening seminary. I would think that especially in icy areas, this might be more popular.

  78. paula on October 16, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    #42 has it right. There is way too much repetition in the youth program, and too much wasted time. Homestudy seminary is currently not an option for most kids, if there is an early morning program or released time program in their area. My son chose to attend a magnet school in our district , further from home that the regular high school– then we found out that no seminary program in our stake fits with transportation there. It’s a great school, and I’m glad he’s going there– but I certainly wish he could do home seminary. His older brother’s experience with early AM seminary was what convinced us that giving up the good school for AM seminary was not a good idea. The older son was continually exhausted, most of high school, and he did go to bed fairly early most nights– it was just that his internal clock didn’t adjust at all to early morning waking at that time in his life. He also complained that most of the kids just sat in class and slept, or even did makeup or other grooming tasks. He’s a fairly earnest serious kid, and I think he would have done very well in a seminary program. By my calculation the church takes up at least 9 hours a week, not counting travel time, and often there’s much more than just church, mutual and seminary– frequently they have home teaching, service projects, etc, that add even more in. I think that 2 of the three hours of the block should go for seminary, and then maybe one more evening hour a week– and that would be plenty.

  79. Julie M. Smith on October 16, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Given that the seminary manuals are online, it is possible for someone to do a version of home study seminary even if the stake doesn’t formally permit it. I’m sure this wouldn’t “count” for BYU attendance or whatever, but if that isn’t the goal of seminary in your family, it may be a better solution than no seminary at all.

  80. adcama on October 16, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    I’m with Mark in #4 and #11, the second part of #42 and 77. I’ll go a step further and say that we have way too many youth programs (ahem, okay, church programs generally) and to me, streamlining (or terminating the non-essential ones) would be a welcome relief. I have found myself very frustrated when we’re counselled to cut out the extra activities when the church seems to drive much of the youth busy-ness.

  81. Mike the Horebite on October 16, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    This thread, or at least the comments on overscheduled kids, reminded me of Elder Oaks talk in General Conference, in which he says:

    Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time.

    So does that mean if families start making an vigorous effort to increase family togetherness, the church might cut back on some of the extra meetings and activities–perhaps even seminary? If we lived in a perfect world where families studied the scriptures and prayed together daily, would there be a need for any other meetings and activities besides sacrament meeting and perhaps one other meeting for relief society, priesthood, primary and young men and women on sundays. It would be hard to justify mutual, seminary, and many other activities and programs in such a world. Of course, we don’t live in that world, which is why the programs are there–and why those who really do make an effort to teach their children can become frustrated by all the church activities.

    I should note, however, that pretty much every church activity besides sacrament meeting is optional (by optional I mean not necessary for eternal salvation). No one’s forcing you to take your kid to seminary (unless they want to go to BYU) or mutual or anything else. When I was a young man one of my leaders asked me if I was going to attend some activity, and I didn’t want to go. I struggled to find some excuse, to which he said, “You know, you don’t have to have an excuse. If you don’t want to go, that’s fine.” That was a revelation to me.

  82. Keith on October 16, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    My wife and I team-teach early morning seminary. I’ll grant you all the hardships some of you describe, though in many cases, I’m not sure the youth would get much more sleep than they do now (that is, if you can get up later, you can and usually do stay up later the night before.) People seem to adjust schedules (we certainly had to) to get sleep, though with the odd activity here and there, that schedule can be interrupted and the usual sleep gets shortened. I know what it’s like for the alarm to go off at 4:45 and to wish for more sleep. And (I’m not kidding here) I found my waist was almost 2 inches larger after the first four months or so of Seminary.

    Despite this, I’m convinced that, if done well, the youth MAY learn the scriptures better in Seminary than in any other official church program because you have more time to look closely at the chapters and learn them, spend more time in them, etc. For this reason I’m convinced early morning seminary is worth the drawbacks and that it will probably be the most practical way of reaching the greatest number of LDS youth as far as scriptural knowledge goes. (I think there’d be less participation (numbers wise) if moved to the afternoon. And for most, the once a week gatherings wouldn’t do more than Sunday School as far as being able to study thoroughly.)

  83. adcama on October 16, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    “Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time.”

    I promise, I promise!

  84. Lupita on October 16, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    I have learned so much from this thread.
    I think that options are wonderful. Someone who mentioned a potential online course–what a great idea. Out here in the arctic tundra, weather conditions make driving in the dark trecherous. It just seems unwise to send any driver out.
    I didn’t know about the homeschooling option. I hope that’s available when my sons are seminary age.
    As one who slept through too much seminary (and calculus–oops!) I think that the afternoon option is also inspired. I’ve just never heard of the options.
    One question–if you are LDS and don’t graduate from four years of seminary, does one absolutely forfeit the chance to attend a Church-affiliated school? I hadn’t really thought about this, either.

  85. m&m on October 17, 2007 at 1:39 am

    I can’t help but wonder if the repetition in the youth programs is on purpose. If they weren’t busy with good church stuff, isn’t it likely that they’d be busy with other stuff that might not be as wholesome? I think getting youth together to strengthen each other often takes more than once a week.

    I dunno…I’m not at that stage yet, but I can’t help but think that it’s not redundancy without some intent.

  86. m&m on October 17, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Lupita,
    I was interested in your question about seminary and attending a church school, so I looked at byu.edu to see if I could find anything. It appears that seminary is not necessarily required, but it is considered. There is a part of the application (it looks like for all church schools) that is a Seminary/Institute Evaulation (http://www.besmart.com/application_part_4.pdf). This is filled out by the teacher, not the student. Probably good motivation to attend Seminary if one wants to go to one of the Church schools.

  87. Naismith on October 17, 2007 at 6:41 am

    I also think being a seminary grad may affect where one can serve a mission…my daughter was called to Brasil, and they wanted her Seminary graduation certificate as part of the pre-MTC paperwork.

    She had already graduated from Institute by then, but the church said, no, they didn’t want that–they wanted the Seminary diploma. The reason being that “institute” didn’t mean anything to Brasilian officials, but being a Seminary graduate qualified her to enter the country as a minister.

  88. John Mansfield on October 17, 2007 at 8:21 am

    To be entered into the record, we had a girl in our ward who chose not to enroll in seminary last year, her senior year. She’s now a student at BYU.

  89. Adam Greenwood on October 17, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Its probably different in most wards (it was in the ward where I grew up and went to seminary) but out here the majority of our seminary kids do not come from unbroken, loving, gospel-centered homes. They need something regular like seminary and they need the kids who come from better circumstances in there with them.

  90. John Taber on October 17, 2007 at 9:34 am

    And weekday afternoon Primary was designed to catch the kids who might not make it to Sunday School. Worked great in (urban) Utah, but another trip to the meetinghouse for everyone else.

  91. Mark IV on October 17, 2007 at 10:10 am

    m&m,

    There may be some purpose to the repetition and proliferation of programs for the youth, but there is also evidence that much of what goes on isn’t intentional. Spencer W. Kimball said that he was shocked when he saw the burden that church youth programs place on families, and every few years, Elder Packer gives a talk in conference wherein he tries to winch us back a little bit, with absolutely no results that I can see. In 1999, he said:

    In providing out-of-home activities for the family, we must use care; otherwise, we could be like a father determined to provide everything for his family. He devotes every energy to that end and succeeds; only then does he discover that what they needed most, to be together as a family, has been neglected. And he reaps sorrow in place of contentment.

    How easy it is, in our desire to provide schedules of programs and activities, to overlook the responsibilities of the parent and the essential need for families to have time together.

    We must be careful lest programs and activities of the Church become too heavy for some families to carry. The principles of the gospel, where understood and applied, strengthen and protect both individuals and families. Devotion to the family and devotion to the Church are not different and separate things.

    Adam Greenwood in comment # 89 gives what I think is the real reason for the continued bias in favor of early a.m. seminary. If it were only about scripture or gospel learning, a home study or online option would work just fine. But the reality is that many home are incapable of following through, so it doesn’t happen. The seminary program is properly seen as the backup system, and it gets used a lot.

  92. John Mansfield on October 17, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Not all of the pressure to get up early is being imposed on the youth; some of it is generated by them. I asked my home teaching companion how seminary was working out for his freshman daughter. He said he wished she would sleep in later and spend less time getting ready to go. For a couple months in 1997 I taught seminary to students who went to Venice High School in California. Some of them complained at one point that our seminary finishing time rushed their breakfast and final preparations at home at go to school. I was astonished. They had time to go home between seminary and school? If that was the case, why weren’t we holding seminary twenty minutes later? The students didn’t like that idea.

  93. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2007 at 11:06 am

    m & m wrote in #85, “If they weren’t busy with good church stuff, isn’t it likely that they’d be busy with other stuff that might not be as wholesome?”

    It sounds like you don’t have much confidence in LDS families. I imagine some youth (like those in Adam’s ward) are better off at another YM/YW activity than at home, but others . . . I was thinking of Pres. Packer’s (and others) comments before Mark IV even posted them. Church leaders warn repeatedly that the church isn’t supposed to take the place of the primary unit: the family.

  94. David Clark on October 17, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Julie (#93): I’d go one further and say that in the vast majority of cases the church _can’t_ take the place of the family and attempting to cram calendars full of activities is usually futile. Yes, there are a few cases where good youth live in bad families and they are the ones who do benefit from these activities. I’d like to think that those few cases could be handled by one on one mentoring and invitations to participate with more active families in family centered activities. It seems like something like that would still help struggling youth while at the same time relieving the time pressures that adults face who have to run the extensive church activities.

  95. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    David, How do propose that happen in areas where those youth live miles from each other and attend different schools – especially if they don’t drive? Also, “Yes, there are a few cases where good youth live in bad families and they are the ones who do benefit from these activities,” comes across as totally ignorant of reality in many wards and branches outside of the Inter-Mountain West. “A few cases” turns into many cases frequently. We have a hard time in some of our units getting rides coordinated for all of those who want to attend Sunday meetings but don’t have transportation; what you propose would be an absolute nightmare here. Many of our kids only can attend seminary specifically because it is early in the morning – before all of the conflicts of the day rear their heads and start inundating the adults.

    The issue, imo, is the mentality that says if it exists it is mandatory – or that one model is the only true model. It seems like the issue would be moot if we really believed what the Church teaches and fit the programs available to our individual family needs – both as individual families and as local leaders.

  96. zeezrom on October 17, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    This whole debate is avoiding the broader picture. Utah parents have no idea what a hardship early morning seminary places, for good or ill, on LDS families outside of Utah. Early morning seminary is the result of a Utah-raised Church leadership and Utah-oriented CES bureaucracy imposing burdens on Church members outside of Utah in an unthinking effort to duplicate the raw hours of exposure that released time allows and to promote job security for CES bureacrats (it takes more personnel to administer a five-day a week program than a one-day a week program).

  97. Ray on October 17, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    #95 – Get a grip.

  98. Naismith on October 17, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    “I can’t help but wonder if the repetition in the youth programs is on purpose. If they weren’t busy with good church stuff, isn’t it likely that they’d be busy with other stuff that might not be as wholesome?”

    No, my kids would be asleep.

  99. David Clark on October 17, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    #96: What is it I am proposing you are objecting to, please be more specific.

    Also, “Yes, there are a few cases where good youth live in bad families and they are the ones who do benefit from these activities,” comes across as totally ignorant of reality in many wards and branches outside of the Inter-Mountain West. I live in Texas and teach early morning seminary in a member’s house because going to church for us costs $2.20, just for the toll roads, roundtrip each time you go. If you want to avoid the toll roads it’s a 45 minute drive, one way. Of what am I ignorant?

  100. Adam Greenwood on October 17, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    I doubt we’re that overworked. We work more than gentiles, true, but I really doubt we have more demands on our time than used to be the case. And more of our demands are optional.

  101. Adam Greenwood on October 17, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    At a certain age, parents can’t substitute well for peers.

  102. Jacob M on October 17, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I echo 98.

    More importantly, it seems obvious that there different variants to people’s experience with early morning seminary. Sorry, Utah, but throughout the day seminary just doesn’t count in this discussion. When I think of the original question of the post, I wonder whether the costs of seminary outweigh the benefits. My inclination is to say no. Seminary, even at the ungodly hour of 6:15am, was a remarkably important part of my high school life. Without it, I would have still gone on a mission and stayed in the church, but my true love for the scriptures started there. That said, I was incredibly lucky. My church building is next door to the high school, so traveling wasn’t much of an issue. So my costs weren’t anywhere close to the benefits that I was getting. I wouldn’t want to stop anyone else from having the same blessings I did.

  103. bbell on October 17, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    When I teach Seminary I regularly bring K Kreme donuts. That will make the kids fat. Esp if washed down with Choco milk.

    I am the back-up in our area. So I will teach a week a month usually. 20 HS Seniors. I taught all of last week.

    I think that 10-12 of them are 100% attendance right now this year so far. 2-3 have like 10% attendance and the rest range from 70′s to 90′s I normally get pretty good participation and attention from the kids. The exception is our local star QB (5 TD passes last friday night) he seems like he is in a coma during class.

    I generally believe that seminary is hard on the kids but worth it. It seems harder on the teachers though. They actually have to find time to prepare a lesson in addition to work and family responsibilities.

    My favorite student right now is a convert girl who joined the church when she was 15. She says that her Seminary attendance “makes up for” the first 15 years of non LDS attendance.

  104. Jack on October 17, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Early morning seminary was a wonderful thing for me. I was one of maybe three LDS kids at my high school–and that little bit of gathering each morning went a long way in establishing us mormon loners in a gospel-centered social group. It also helped me meet the relentless flood of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll–which poured through the public arena on a daily bases–with a lot more stamina than I would have had otherwise.

    I don’t hear anyone bitching about the difficulties that “secular” education imposes upon families. Why must religion always be viewed as an imposition?

  105. Jack on October 17, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Good man, B Bell. But why the choco milk? You can’t even taste it after a Krispy Kreme–they’re so sweet. Go for the regular milk, dude. It’s all about contrast.

  106. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    I’m closing comments for now; thanks for the good discussion.

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