Wright Words: Summer homework — give thanks to early-morning seminary teachers, students

Published: Tuesday, June 4 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Students from Matthew Parker's freshmen and sophomore early-morning seminary class in the Harpers Ferry Ward in West Virginia pretend to doze off on one of the days.

Matthew Parker

Last Friday, our family tucked in another year of early-morning seminary for the summer. It was the third year for my oldest daughter and, after nine months of rising at 5:15 each morning, she's earned the right to sleep a bit later this summer before her last journey begins anew in September.

What a journey it is!

For the Wrights, early-morning seminary has always been a family affair. Like my three older siblings, I attended seminary as a young man. As an adult, I’ve taught seminary in two different wards for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and learned to deeply love both the program and the students. Recently my mother ended her own long tenure as an instructor in her cozy living room in Charlottesville, Va., and my mother-in-law just completed her second year of teaching in Woodstock, Va.

Let’s be clear: We absolutely love our youths wherever they live and however they attend seminary. We admire them whether they meet in a nice classroom in a building next to the high school during third period, or in a chapel, a basement or even at a kitchen table 30 minutes from home.

But consider for a few seconds — or in this case, paragraphs — the sacrifice made by LDS youths and teachers living away from traditional release-time programs.

Remarkable!

Here in the Woodstock Branch of the Winchester Virginia Stake, some students drive nearly 30 minutes to attend a class that begins each day at 6:40 a.m. One drives over a dangerous mountain that separates his valley from ours. Because of the distance, students have no time to return home and must leave straight for school. In our branch, and in other wards across our large stake, some students must drive long distances past their own high school, only to return 50 minutes later to begin their school day.

In other parts of the church where release time from the school isn’t an option because the facilities or number of potential students doesn’t permit it, classes start even earlier. When I taught years ago in a northern Virginia ward, we began each day at 5:55 a.m. — and I am aware of classes starting as early as 5:30 a.m. This means that during much of the year, students walk into class in the cold, pitch-black morning air.

Inspiring!

We can’t forget the enormous sacrifice of parents. In many cases, students are either still too young to drive as underclassmen or the family can’t spare a car. Mothers and fathers often drive children many miles only to sit inside on church couches, in parking lots or quietly walk neighborhood streets to pass the time. When class adjourns, they’ll deliver children to school — sometimes to more than one when carpooling is possible — and finally tackle their own responsibilities of the day.

Awesome!

How about the instructors? They are simple, humble volunteers who haven’t asked or applied for the calling. They are mothers, fathers, businessmen and women, doctors, nurses, retail clerks and emergency services workers. Rarely do they have teaching backgrounds or formal training, yet they immerse themselves with the Spirit and pour themselves into the material each and every day. They love the kids and they love the Lord. What more can we ask of them?

Incredible!

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