Cedar City Bible Institute offers alternative to LDS seminary

CEDAR CITY – A new Bible class is being offered to students who attend Cedar and Canyon View High Schools in Cedar City in like manner to the traditional seminary class offered to Utah students by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the first-of-its-kind alternative in the state for those who are not of the LDS faith.

Cedar Bible Institute Organizers Hanan Pruitt, Tom & Janet Jackson, Natasha Tebbs, Melissa & Rob Bantum and Kole Dotson, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 13, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News
Cedar Bible Institute Organizers Hanan Pruitt, Tom & Janet Jackson, Natasha Tebbs, Melissa & Rob Bantum and Kole Dotson, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 31, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

Over 30 people attended a community awareness meeting Friday night at the site of the new Cedar Bible Institute.

The institute started out as the idea of a Bible club at the school, but quickly evolved into a first-period class every other day.

In December 2013, Melissa Bantum, a Cedar High School English teacher, and Natasha Tebbs, a Cedar High School counselor, were approached by students asking to start a Bible club at the school. That discussion quickly developed into having a class off campus during a release time period, similar to the seminary classes offered by LDS church.

The LDS church introduced the first off-campus seminary classes in 1912 in a building adjacent to Granite High School in Salt Lake City, according to a January 2012 article published by the Mormon Newsroom.

In LDS seminaries during release time, students study the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and LDS church.

Based on her research, the newly formed Cedar Bible Institute appears to be the first of its kind in Utah that is not sponsored by the LDS church, Tebbs said.

Tebbs approached school administrators with the idea in mid-December, and was immediately given the green light to start a nondenominational Christian Bible class during first-period classes every other day on what the school refers to as “A days.”

Students Hanan Pruitt, 16, a junior, and Kole Dotson, 18, a senior, were instrumental in promoting the class and informing other students that it was going to start.

“Everything seemed to sprout out of thin air. It was a miracle of God,” Dotson said, referring to how quickly everything came together.

Two weeks before winter break 2013, school administrators asked Melissa Bantum and Tebbs if they could have the class ready to start at the beginning of the new semester.  After that, things started moving fast and falling into place.

Community members mingle at the new Cedar Bible Institute, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 31, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

“From the beginning to now, God has opened doors for us,” Bantum said.

Melissa Bantum and Tebbs met with four area pastors to see what role they would like to play in the new Bible institute.

Pastor Michael Cooper of Sonrise Church, Pastor Randy Bond of Red Hill Southern Baptist Church, “Pastor Joe” from Calvary Chapel Cedar City, and Pastor Jerry Van Iwaarden of Westview Christian Center agreed to teach at the institute, rotating on a weekly basis.

Melissa Bantum and Tebbs then started looking for a place to meet.  Parents offered to open their homes near the school, which was a good possibility, but soon a building opened up near the school’s soccer field that filled the need.

Local author and retired educator Tom Jackson attends each class.  Since the pastors are there once every four weeks, Jackson is the familiar face the students see each day.

Rob Bantum, Melissa Bantum’s husband, also plays a key role in providing the students with continuity.

When classes started in January, organizers hoped to see at least four to five students.  But as news of the new Bible class quickly spread, it has grown to 21 current enrollees, and includes students from Canyon View High School as well.

Student Anna Niznik, 15, a ninth grader, found out about the Bible institute through her pastor.

“It was so heartwarming because we were praying for God to make a move like this,” Niznik said. “I like the fact that the pastors teach from the Bible, God’s word.”

Cedar City English teacher Melissa Bantum talks to parents about the Cedar Bible Institute on Friday night, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 31, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

Pruitt said that for the first few weeks of class they have been learning about the history of the Bible, how to know the Bible is true, how the English version of the Bible came into being and why there are so many versions of the Bible.

Organizers are creating a four-year curriculum to be in place by the fall semester of this year. This curriculum will enable freshman students to have four years of Bible instruction by the time they graduate from high school.

The Bible Institute has been well received by parents and community members alike. Community member Gen Phelps learned of Friday night’s meeting while volunteering at the Loaves & Fishes, a community soup kitchen.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s wonderful that kids have an outlet to ask questions, and it’s great that there are different pastors to provide a variety of insight,” Phelps said.

Those interested in the Cedar City Bible Institute are encouraged to contact its organizers via the institute’s website and Facebook provided below.


Cedar Bible Institute website | Facebook

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • D Hodja February 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Ridiculous that any religion; since they all defy learning with faith and science with creationism would be allowed in any public school…but, this should be a good eye opener for mioptic thinking Mormons who are unaware other religions are about to start using their loopholes. Go to school to learn kids!

    • Preston February 4, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Nice try at spelling the word myopic. Your understanding of people of faith didn’t fare much better.

      • Doofy February 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

        You can’t refute his points so attack the spelling–cute!

      • Chris February 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm

        No, maybe he can’t spell, but he nailed people of faith.

  • Sgnative February 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I think this is great. I love when schools offer more than just the “regular” curriculum and give students more choices for finding their paths for life- spiritual or otherwise.

  • Kudos February 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    This is FANTASTIC! My daughters attend LDS seminary before school starts and they say it makes a big difference. And those who are misinformed, the seminary buildings are not on school grounds and not in the schools. I feel every student should have this right to be able to attend bible study of any kind. Again, seminary is not taught in the schools. It is separate, in a separate building, the kids don’t get any school credit, they don’t bring their bibles to school, and is not even on school grounds. You should have no problem then, and I do hope this spreads across the US. The kids who are really interested in learning about religion should be given that option of being able to go to a safe place with informed educators. We are a free country, after all. So PROUD of these kids who got this ball rolling!

  • Doofy February 3, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    The LDS mind control corporation will soon have its stranglehold on the state broken. Diversity in religion will be a good thing.

  • cmg February 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I’m glad to see an alternative for the non-lds kids who are interested in studying the bible. It is life changing to dedicate a small portion of the day to religious studies. I wish I had something like this growing up. Thank for a great article Rhonda.

    • Steve D. February 4, 2014 at 7:13 am

      I’m glad to see a local news source even talking about it. it’s a really interesting story.

  • Andrea Roberts February 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I think its exciting that the kids want to keep God in school. Thanks to the pastors and teachers supporting this. Seems like a great group of kids!

  • History Student February 3, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    @D Hodja –
    Learning the history of release time would teach you that although Utah is the largest participator in release time programs (based on percentage), all States allow for release time – which is an OFF CAMPUS and in no way funded by the school districts program where students can participate in religious instruction with parental consent. Just as a student can participate in off campus job training and other programs. (Release time actually SAVES districts a lot of $ as it helps reduce class sizes and allows for fewer students in the school at any given time.). This is upheld by the Supreme Court case Zorach v. Clausen (based on a New York case – not a Utah case or even one based upon the LDS faith).
    And yes, it is possible for other religions to have seminary classes, all they have to do is organize one – as the article shows… And in this case, good for them for doing it. I hope it continues to be a success.

  • Ryan White February 3, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    It is nice to see God working in Utah.

  • Adam February 3, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    As a Mormon myself, I think this is an excellent idea! Any honest Mormon would. However, knowing Utah, I am well aware of the fact that this class can and probably will devolve into an anti-Mormon training course for those who do not have the resources to fact-check.

    From my own personal experience, most people can’t even explain what it is about their church that sets it apart from all of the others. Essentially, they can’t provide valid answers to the question of why one would want to attend their church over another. This kind of knowledge is commonplace among Mormons. If other religions could encourage that sort of knowledge among their congregants, maybe the comments on threads like this one would become a little more civil. I doubt that this class will have far enough reach for that though; interest in those classes is low even among the LDS teens.

    • Ryan White February 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

      You are a good tool for the lds Inc.

    • Doofy February 4, 2014 at 10:36 am

      Hello Adam, have you taken the time to fact check Mormonism? From what I’ve seen most members know almost nothing of the history. Most don’t even know that the founder Joseph Smith was a polygamist. This is an agreed on fact by almost all historians, even LDS ones. And president Hinkley denied key doctrines of mormonism when he would speak to the media (why the lies?)

      “Essentially, they can’t provide valid answers to the question of why one would want to attend their church over another.”

      I’ll disagree with this and respond with a question. If the mormon faith were not true, how would you know? would you want to know?

    • Nonbeliever February 4, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      You sir are doing an incredible valuable service for southern Utah.
      The chasm of fear and distrust between non LDS and LDS people is staying comfortably wide with comments like yours.
      I fear that you actually might have friends or family that you are infecting with your hateful rhetoric.

    • Doofy February 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      I’ll just add, the problem isn’t the beliefs or the believers. It’s the behavior of the LDS organization. If I’m wrong please correct me.

      • Doofy February 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm

        A big problem we face is the unwillingness to have an open discussion. Bring up things some LDS members don’t like and you’re labeled an ‘anti’, a hater, offended, an apostate, a gentile, influenced by satan, a liberal, etc etc. It puts up a brick wall to having a discussion. All I’ve seen is denial of facts and unwillingness to even listen. Everyone needs to be open to dialogue. And yea I’m probably wasting my time. thx anyway 😀

  • Curtis February 4, 2014 at 1:49 am

    As an LDS person I think this is good. It is great kids are willing to take the time study scripture and learn with others of similar faiths.

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