SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is raising the bar for high school students enrolled in seminary, adding tests and reading requirements to a program that previously just required attendance.
Church-run seminary classes are geared toward students ages 14 to 18 and overview the Mormon scriptures in 50-minute, daily sessions typically held at a home or LDS meetinghouse in the mornings before regular high school classes begin.
Under new changes implemented this year, teenagers will now have to take biannual tests and meet reading requirements in order to graduate from seminary.
The tests will be given at the end of the first semester and at the end of the school year. Students who fail can retake the tests as many times as they need.
Teenagers who don't meet testing or reading requirements can still receive a certificate of recognition.
Church officials say the new rigor should better prepare teenagers for their missionary assignments and instill regular study of church scriptures.
"We hope it will then give the students more confidence in what they know, and they will then be able to apply and share what they've learned," said Wayne Davis, a spokesman for the church seminary program. "That's really what we're after, is what they're able to do as a follower of Jesus Christ and as they move ahead and leave seminary."
Kelly Haws, an administrator with the program, said officials don't want students to shy away from seminary because of the new requirements.
Haws told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/Ykdlqf) that's why the church will still offer a certificate for attending the program.
Christian Grow, a 16-year-old from Sandy, Utah, said he welcomes the new requirements.
"It's a good way to learn the material," Grow said. "But I know some people probably won't be too happy because seminary in the past has been a class where you could kind of zone out and not focus and do much."
Parent Jerron Hale said the stiffer requirements will help prepare young Mormons for their missionary assignments, which they can now take on at an earlier age.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com