I wrote the first half of this a year ago.
In breaking news, teens are either not getting enough sleep or don’t need as much sleep as we used to think. Either way, I can state with certainty that parents of teens who attend early morning seminary aren’t getting enough (consecutive) sleep.
This is a huge pet peeve for me. Here’s the circle I fall into:
- BYU is far and away the cheapest way to get my kids a decent college education. It’s simply a good value. The next lowest tuition at a semi decent state school is exactly double the cost. Let’s be honest. I’m cheap.
- Both early morning seminary and good grades are required to get in.
- Early morning seminary (and being a teenager in general) contributes to my son’s mediocre grades. He’s up at 5:20am to get out the door by 6am for seminary. He comes home at 4pm and crashes for a few hours until about 7pm when we have a hard time waking him up. Then he’s up doing homework (and looking at funny videos on the internet) until at least 10pm, often later. Then he goes to bed and the cycle starts again.
- Studies show that teens often have a later sleep cycle, but given when school starts, skipping seminary only gives him one extra hour of sleep.
If I could get him exempted from early morning seminary, I would in a heartbeat; he’d get more consecutive sleep and so would we, since he requires a human alarm clock and doesn’t yet have his driver’s license or a car. But I can’t because he needs it to get into BYU, which I’m not sure he’ll get into because his grades are not good enough, partly because of early morning seminary.
The church has also now added a test to the requirements for seminary graduation. Students must pass with a 75% to get credit for seminary. I can state with conviction that my kids are terrible scriptorians . I think they view me quoting scriptures conversationally the way I viewed my mother singing “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” when she was making dinner. It just seemed like old-people weirdness, alternately endearing and horrifying. It seems to me that early morning seminary and in classroom seminary create a lazy approach to studying the scriptures.  Instead of personal close reading of the scriptures, we get a CES interpretation which then just has to be regurgitated on a test (which is basically what Rel Ed is like at BYU). On the upside, I imagine the kids benefit from the social aspect and the group spiritual experience thing, but this has never been my jam in the church. I’d rather have personal spiritual experiences than group ones, and I am skeptical about cheesy object lessons and eccentric teachers.
- Do the benefits of early morning seminary outweigh the drawbacks?
- Should the church be more consistent in allowing a home study alternative? 
- Would a hybrid approach (e.g. meet twice weekly in the morning) get better results?
- Is it fair that BYU weighs seminary graduation so heavily?
- Are the odds of kids falling away too great if we don’t indoctrinate and socialize them daily in seminary classes in addition to their twice weekly commitments?
Just for fun, I thought I’d add a quick poll to see what type of seminary experience you had as a teen.