Home Features BYU-I students feel charity as they understand religious diversity

BYU-I students feel charity as they understand religious diversity

Going to a religious university can be intimidating for those who are non-religious. However, a class like Religion 100 promotes gospel learning so that all BYU-Idaho students can feel a little more at home.

Religion 100, or Introduction to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a course that teaches the foundational doctrines of the Church. It is offered for students not of the faith, those who have recently been baptized into the church and those who want a foundational church understanding.

Nate Williams, the professor for Religion 100, has taught this course for 23 years.

“There are three main things that the class tries to accomplish,” Williams said. “One, introducing people to very significant, foundational teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ. Two, understanding basically how the church is organized … Three, a little bit about its history of how the Church of Jesus Christ came to be.”

Williams explained that there are 300-400 non-members attending school at BYU-I.

“There’s a large diversity of people here who are being blessed by the Savior’s church to get a very good education,” Williams said. “And they find comfort, safety and inspiration while being here at this university.”

With so much diversity in one class, students get the chance to learn from one another. The emphasis of the course is to understand others with the intention to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ.

“I have loved taking this class,” said Joey Hokulani, a sophomore studying theater and current student in Religion 100. “We start the class by listening to one of our classmates’ religious backgrounds. It’s so cool to hear how all these different people got to BYU-I. So many different stories. It inspires us to promote understanding. Not just of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but for every religion.”

Williams has heard stories he finds miraculous as he has watched students touch the lives of others. He recalls the story of a student from Rwanda. This student shared his upbringing in a genocide-plagued country, surrounded by war and massacres. As he finished his story, he sat down quietly and was surprised as a fellow classmate from Saudi Arabia, a Muslim, reached over and gave him a hug.

“Somehow, something powerful happens in the gospel of Christ that unites people, whether again, they have different faiths or not,” Williams said. “I think they’re all feeling the spirit, a spirit of love, a spirit of compassion and kindness.”

Rather than focus on how many baptisms occur in one semester, Williams explained that the course’s success is truly dependent on the personal relationships students make together as a class and in their faiths.

“It’s amazing, not only how much God loves them, but how good they are — how good people are everywhere,” Williams said. “Again, not all of them are perfect or anything, but I think generally they’re trying. And you come away … (thinking) just how miraculous every human being is — that every human being has a story of overcoming and persevering … and you can see and feel the love and the power of God in their life.”

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