BEDFORD — While some teenagers are barely managing to shower, eat breakfast and make it to school on time each morning, there is a dedicated group of youth in southern New Hampshire that wakes early each day to focus on the bigger picture — their faith.
Dozens of students are realizing that sleep is not as important as their connection with Jesus Christ. In various places throughout the state, teens are gathering in small groups each morning to learn scripture and prepare for the day in a positive and enriching way through seminary classes, a four-year religious educational program operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Seminary gives me a spiritual start every morning, and it helps me see the day with a new light,” said Katie Spencer, 16, and a third-year participant in the Bedford seminary program. “Because of this class, I have another chance to closely study the multiple sets of scriptures that we follow. It also gives me another time to learn more about everything that makes me who I am.”
While it is difficult to get up early each day for seminary, Spencer says she is motivated to participate because it prepares her for real-world obstacles in her life while also strengthening her faith.
Cole Nimmo, 17, is a senior in the Bedford seminary program.
“Not only does seminary teach me things such as charity, service, love, meekness and humility, but it helps me to apply them in my daily life,” said Nimmo. “My classmates are there and I get to start my day off with an uplifting, happy topic that is able to carry me through the school day.”
According to Nimmo, seminary is preparing him for the future by helping him learn more about the scriptures. Once he is 19, Nimmo plans on serving a two-year mission for the Church.
“In order to be prepared to teach the people about the gospel, I first need to know what I am teaching,” he said, comparing seminary to a preparatory class for his future mission.
In seminary, the curriculum is organized by an instructor who concentrates on a different scripture each year, rotating among the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Church history.
Pam Hagen is the instructor for the Bedford seminary class that has about 10 students. The class, she said, is just as beneficial for her as it is for her students.
“It is so amazing to watch these kids grow, and I really can’t wait to see where they end up and where they go in life,” said Hagen.
Seminary is a unique opportunity for teens as it allows them to study the gospel and scriptures while starting out their day with a positive affirmation about who they are, according to Hagen.
“For them to have this moment together each morning gives them strength and power,” she explained. “It also gives them a factual basis for their faith.”
Hagen says she helps students develop lifelong habits of praying, reading scripture and consulting with God.
For Chase Hughes, 16, of Bedford, participating in seminary helps him lead a good life and expand his religious training. Hughes, who is a sophomore at Bishop Guertin High School, is enrolled in a new pilot program that allows him to attend seminary class online so that he can make it to school on time each day.
“Participating in seminary has been great to help remind me of my standards and who I am. It takes dedication to complete a program, it improves our study skills and teaches us to be good people,” he said. “My religion is important. I rely on it everyday to keep me going.”
According to Spencer, seminary gives her the serenity and the daily opportunity to study topics typically reserved for Sunday School.
“Many people think that we are so different because of the standards we follow, but really that is all that is different,” she said. “We are teenagers too and we go through many of the same obstacles as others, we just overcome them in a different way.”