AKRON, Ohio — Trevar Dahl spends an hour before school each morning studying the Bible with seven other teens.
“It's the best way to start the day, and it helps us with a pretty good knowledge of Scripture,” said Trevar, 16, a junior at Cloverleaf High School near Lodi, Ohio. “We attend classes for four years. We call it seminary.”
Seminary, or the study of religious history and Scripture among high school students in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, includes courses on the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon and church doctrine, covenants and history. The seminary program has been part of the Mormon tradition for 100 years.
Trevar's teacher and mother, Cynthia Dahl, said the predawn religious classes give Mormon teens a chance to learn the gospel and to apply the teachings to their lives.
A place in culture
Mormonism has been in the national spotlight recently, in large part because of Mitt Romney, a Republican poised to become the first Mormon presidential candidate from a major political party. Other flashpoints of Mormon interest include the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” and the popular “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer, a Mormon.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, was organized in 1830 by Joseph Smith in upstate New York. He said he had a revelation that God wanted him to restore the true Christian church.
According to church history, an angel gave Smith a set of gold plates. Through the power of God, Smith translated the plates, which contained the history of an ancient American civilization. That translation, called the Book of Mormon, is a sacred text of the church and is considered a companion to the Bible.
“We believe in Jesus Christ, and we believe in the Bible as the word of God,” said Elder Craig Christensen, a church authority from Utah who recently presided at a semiannual Akron stake conference in Tallmadge. “We also believe that prophetic words come in our time. We invite people to get to know us — we welcome visitors — and they will find that we are traditional, conservative Christians, faith-filled people trying to live out our faith.”