Recently, BYU-Idaho students returned from their semester at the BYU Jerusalem Center. Allie Clawson, a junior studying elementary education, is among those who experienced this opportunity.

She said she began to understand the purpose of her trip to the Holy Land a little better when she first went to the Garden of Gethsemane.

“The first time going to the Garden of Gethsemane was almost a month into our trip and that had been one of the top things on my list for where I had wanted to go,” Clawson said.

She said she wanted this experience to truly change her.

“I had really prayed to have a good experience so I could know that these things really did happen,” Clawson said.

She explained that the garden was located right next to a busy road. As she approached the gates all she could hear was traffic and cars honking.

“Once we walked through the gates to the garden area it was as if the sound just stopped, and I couldn’t hear anything but the birds chirping, and an overwhelming, peaceful feeling filled my soul,” Clawson said.

Clawson said this event changed the way she views holy places and finding the Spirit.

“I want everyone to go to Jerusalem to have the experiences that I had, but in the end what I learned the most is that you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to know for yourself that Jesus Christ lived and died for you.” Clawson said.

She said that she believes people need to just find time and quiet places to allow the Spirit to testify to them.

“Christ did die for your sins, was resurrected, and his tomb is empty. And that’s clearly what the focus of this should be on,“ Clawson said.

She said that being at a site isn’t what makes it so important, but it is the message a person receives while they are there.

“This is the Holy Land and great things happened here and you can feel the Spirit definitely, but you can be in Rexburg, or you can be in Jerusalem, and no matter where you are the events in Christ’s life are true,” Clawson said.

Clawson said she felt the most important truth she had learned while studying in Jerusalem has been echoed by Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We need not visit the Holy Land to feel him close to us,” President Monson said, in his April 1974 general conference talk. “We need not walk by the shores of Galilee or among the Judean hills to walk where Jesus walked. In a very real sense, all can walk where Jesus walked when, with his words on our lips, his spirit in our hearts, and his teachings in our lives, we journey through mortality.”