Student-led scripture study gatherings are ‘clique-free zones’ for Utah high schoolers

DRAPER, Utah — Try counting all of the high school “crowds.”

There are the hipsters, the brains, the jocks, the cheerleaders, the thespians, the band kids, the guys in auto shop — and the list goes on.

But crowds can sometimes be a bit cliquish. Stick to one group and your path might not cross much with the others beyond, say, history class or the school cafeteria.

But scores of Utah high schoolers are learning that the scriptures can be first-rate clique-busters.

Each Tuesday night during the school year, teenagers from Corner Canyon High School gather in the basement of one of their classmates’ homes for an informal, student-led scripture study session.

Some nights there are as many as 40 or 50 kids cramped together with their scripture apps open on their devices. Other weeks, there are a dozen or so.

A crowd of teenagers enjoy studying the scriptures together in a weekly student-led scripture study group.
A crowd of teenagers enjoy studying the scriptures together in a weekly student-led scripture study group. Credit: Courtesy of Elle Stoker

Meanwhile, students at South Jordan’s Bingham High School gather on Sundays in host homes for similar scripture-driven evenings they simply call “friendly home evening.” 

“We usually get around 20 or 30 kids, but we’ve had as many as 77 together at one time,” said Logan Baker, a Bingham senior.

Student scripture study “has just become a school tradition, … and it’s been awesome,” said Elle Stoker, a senior at Corner Canyon High School.

Elle recently started a group chat for anyone interested in the gatherings. It’s an open invitation for all high schoolers. “And now there are over 190 people in our group.”

And, yes, the weekly scripture study group is defined by its friendly diversity. Counted among the regulars are young men and young women with wide-ranging, seemingly disparate interests collectively drawn to the fellowship discovered in reading scriptures together and sharing testimonies. 

Most are Latter-day Saints, but a few of the regulars are not. No matter. Everyone’s welcome.

Logan said the Bingham students’ Sunday-night gatherings were started a couple of years ago by a couple of young men who are now serving missions. “Friendly home evening” typically begins with a brief lesson taught by one of the students — “and then we use the rest of the time to give people opportunities to share scriptures and their testimonies.”

A trio of girls read from their scriptures as part of a weekly student-led scripture study group in Draper, Utah.
A trio of girls read from their scriptures as part of a weekly student-led scripture study group in Draper, Utah. Credit: Courtesy of Elle Stoker

Student-run scripture study “is a place where everyone feels like they have a friend,” said Elle. “We have people from all different groups and grades and even different schools. It makes everyone feel loved.”

Each study session typically lasts about an hour. There are no adults directly involved (the parents/home hosts are upstairs). And each week typically focuses on the material being covered in “Come, Follow Me.”

Since the beginning of the year, Elle and the rest of the Corner Canyon group have been focusing on the Book of Mormon.

“We try to incorporate everything we’ve been learning [in home and personal study],” she said. “We tie everything together with ‘Come, Follow Me,’ and then we always share testimonies at the end and talk about what we’ve learned that week in seminary or at home or in personal scripture study.”

Logan called “friendly home evening” a popular event for Bingham students of all backgrounds “who want to have a spiritual experience in a friendly environment. We have a good time.”

Emma Murdoch calls herself a proud alum of the Corner Canyon student scripture study group. 

 She helped start the informal student scripture studies last year during her senior year of high school. She had heard about other students getting together for informal weekly study and wanted in. 

Teenagers participate in a student-led home scripture session in Draper, Utah.
Teenagers participate in a student-led home scripture session in Draper, Utah. Credit: Courtesy of Elle Stoker

“So I texted some of my friends and said, ‘Let’s get together and start reading scriptures.’ ”

It was an easy sell.

“People wanted to come,” said Emma, who hosted the evening sessions at her home. “It brought a lot of the senior class together and brought me close to the Savior. I could also see the differences in my friends as they drew closer to the Savior.”

Now a freshman at Utah State University, Emma soon realized she missed the camaraderie she enjoyed in the student scripture study sessions in high school. So she and a roommate started a college version on Wednesday nights in their apartment.

“We don’t get as many people — we usually get about 10. But it’s helped me make so many more friends and helped me make the transition to college.” 

Some of Emma’s Utah State friends have also started a “Come, Follow Me” night on Mondays.

Youth meet at a Draper, Utah, home on Jan. 21, 2019, for a weekly, student-led scripture study session.
Youth meet at a Draper, Utah, home on Jan. 21, 2019, for a weekly, student-led scripture study session. Credit: Courtesy of Elle Stoker

Elle said the informal scripture study gatherings have been a remedy for high school’s many cares and worries.

“Just having everyone come together with the Spirit is the best thing ever,” she said. “Everybody has bad days, but if you can get together with a group of people that normally don’t hang out — but who are united through the Savior — then you can feel a lot of peace and hope.”

Emma has also witnessed the power of studying the Book of Mormon and other scriptures while sitting knee-to-knee with her peers.

She remembers sometimes struggling to keep up on her personal scripture study while in high school. “But when I was studying the scriptures with my friends and with people that I love, I seemed more willing to open to the scriptures and share my testimony.”

Now Emma is excited to soon share the scriptures she grew to love in student scripture study with many more people as a full-time missionary in Concepcion, Chile.