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-
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.”
According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, Mormonism is one of the fastest-
A Pew survey released in January indicates that although Mormons are certain in their beliefs: 98 percent believe that Jesus rose from the dead; 94 percent believe the president of the denomination is a prophet; 91 percent believe the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets and translated by Joseph Smith; and 94 percent believe God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate physical beings.
In addition, the majority of Mormons surveyed showed strong religious commitment: 82 percent say religion is very important to them, compared to 55 percent of the general public; 83 percent pray at least once a day; and 77 percent attend religious services at least once a week.
Mormons also were strong in adhering to church teachings. The survey showed 79 percent report they tithe, or donate 10 percent of their earnings to the church; 51 percent regularly spend time with family; 49 percent don't drink coffee or tea; 82 percent keep a three-month supply of food stored for emergencies; and 73 percent work to help the poor.
Missionary service is one of the more distinctive practices in the Mormon church. The church teaches that full-time missionary work is the responsibility of all followers of Jesus Christ. Couples tend to serve in missionary work after their children have left home.
Women typically serve for 18 months, beginning at age 21. Men generally serve two-year missions from ages 19 to 21.
The Pew survey shows that 92 percent of Mormons who have served a mission said it helped them grow in their faith.
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