While many schools in the U.S. are hesitant about religious discussion in the classroom, American Heritage School, located across the street from the Mount Timpanogos Temple, makes religion a central part of discussion in all subjects.
AHS is a private K-12 school that integrates LDS gospel principles into academic teaching.
According to the school’s website, the vision of AHS is, “…To become an effective educational resource for parents worldwide in assisting children and families to maximize their divine potential.”
Jamie Gardner is the mother of two students at AHS. Gardner said she loves how scriptures and gospel are taught in the classroom.
“My fourth grader comes home, and they’re reading the Book of Mormon and they map it out, where the Nephites and the Lamanites are,” Gardner said. “He comes home and he tells us things and we’re like, ‘How do you know that? You’re only in fourth grade.’”
Although AHS has a faith-based atmosphere, its academic scores are well above national and state averages on standardized exams. AHS has 630 students enrolled on campus and the student-teacher ratio is 10:1.
Shirley Larsen, reading specialist at AHS, said she is thrilled she has the freedom to involve gospel lessons in her everyday teaching without worry of being scrutinized.
“Sometimes I’ll say to them, ‘Well you have to think about in the scriptures when it says this . . . ,’” Larsen said. “It’s really easy for me to say that kind of stuff. Or even if they’re just having a bad day, you can say, ‘Now let’s think about this, what would Jesus do?’ You know? It’s just so easy to put that into the conversation.”
Along with being taught gospel principles in the classroom, students at AHS must live by the school’s Honor Code. For students over 12, the Honor Code is based on the LDS “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet. A few points in the school’s Honor Code include wearing modest clothing, remaining sexually pure and being honest with others.
Elizabeth Jacob, assistant principal at AHS for Middle and High School, said the school has freedom to teach the gospel as part of the curriculum because they receive no government funding. The school also receives no funding from the LDS church — they are completely privately funded.