“LDS Students Seem to Counter Dropout Trend,” Liahona, July 2008, N4–N5
While an increasing number of teenage students are dropping out of school, according to a report from a U.S. advocacy group for youth, many young Church members are not only staying in school, they are also taking extra classes.
Both secular and religious education have been emphasized in Latter-day Saint doctrine and culture since the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in the nineteenth century, quoting scripture, “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36).
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized the link between religious and secular study in a speech to Church educators in 2001.
“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,” he said.
This love of spiritual learning by Latter-day Saint youth was documented in another report, the National Study of Youth and Religion, which studied religion among U.S. teens. It described LDS youth as excelling in religious knowledge and devotion in a time when church attendance and religious study among teenagers in general are at an all-time low.
The results of the study have caused many to wonder what it is about Latter-day Saint culture and doctrine that helps parents shape dependable, educated, and well-adjusted young people. Part of the answer is the emphasis on learning in LDS culture, and part involves an important rite of passage for many 14- to 18-year-old Latter-day Saints—graduating from seminary.
For the majority of LDS teens, graduating from seminary requires young people to meet five days a week, generally from about 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., for four years to study the scriptures and discuss how scriptural principles can be applied in their daily lives. All this happens outside of regular high school classes—though many in the western U.S. are allowed to meet during school hours—and involves approximately 1,056 hours of religious education.
Attending seminary requires a tremendous amount of commitment and sacrifice for students who live in areas where there are not large populations of Latter-day Saints. But consistent self-discipline begins to turn into confidence and character, and it shows in other aspects of these young people’s lives.
One of the reasons for this early-morning dedication comes from the teachings of the Church. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), 15th President of the Church, said: “This Church came about as a result of intellectual curiosity. We believe in education, and we spend a substantial part of our budget on the education of our young people. We expect them to think. We expect them to investigate. We expect them to use their minds and dig deeply for knowledge in all fields. If we have a motto, it is this: ‘The glory of God is intelligence.’ ” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 127).
More than 360,000 high school students are enrolled in seminary, 211,000 of whom attend in the morning.