One of the differences between BYU-Idaho and other universities is the foundational religion classes required and offered. This can be a change for many students who grew up in areas where religion wasn’t commonly included with education.
These students may be excited at first, smiling as they get used to the prayers that begin classes and as they start attending devotional on Tuesdays. As the semester goes on though, they begin procrastinating their Foundations of the Restoration homework, speeding through the readings and barely writing down their thoughts.
The Religion Department Chair, Brother Robert Chambers, said that the focus of education at these religious institutions like BYU-I is seen from the perspective of the Church, and what these institutions can do to develop not just Latter-day Saints, but disciples.
Chambers quoted Elder Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“True learning must have a powerful spiritual component,” Elder Eyring said to a congregation in Moscow, Idaho. “Remember, you are interested in educating not just for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning.”
Chambers said a fellow faculty member shared their thoughts on the required classes. They looked at the 14 religious education credits taken in pursuit of a 128-credit degree as a spiritual tithing on a student’s academic experience. He sees these classes benefit students in more ways than one, just as tithing does.
“First and foremost, we focus on discipleship and conversion,” Chambers said. “Perhaps second, we focus on teaching a skillset that will allow the practice of their faith, even amidst the most trying of circumstances.”
Students can learn more than fun facts and historical dates in these classes if they apply themselves in the correct way.
Chambers offers two suggestions for students to get the most out of their religion classes.
1. Be ready to receive revelation
Chambers said that students should come prepared to expect God to speak to them in class. He encouraged students to think to themselves, “Today, the Lord is going to reveal to me what I didn’t know before, and I’m ready to write it down when He does.”
As students attend classes, they can experience more than what any regular class offers.
“If they knew that these classes, more than any other, can serve as a direct conduit for revelation from the Lord to them, I can’t help but think there would be more excitement about a one-hour experience, two days a week that can provide that revelatory experience,” Chambers said.
He promised students would be amazed at what the Lord gives them.
2. Meet with the Religious Education professor during student hours
Chambers wants students to understand that their professor is there as a mentor, someone in their corner, to answer questions or guide them to the help and assistance they might need.
“And I think that everybody needs a somebody,” Chambers said. “Sometimes that outside relationship can help with the in-class learning experience.”
Londyn Hardin, a junior studying business management, has loved her religion classes. It often gives her a break from all of her other assignments. She said that to get the most out of her religion classes, she has to be intentional, with a mind to participate in class.
“I’m not just there to be there, I’m there to learn,” Hardin said. “And so it takes on a whole other level of preparation.”
Hardin tries to look at her religion homework as not a task to be completed, but as a tool to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“All words from the Lord bring the Spirit, and that can bring a deeper conversion and a more lasting discipleship,” Hardin said.