BYU-Idaho recently started inviting each of the students to attend lunch before devotional every Tuesday. This gives students the chance to eat and gain inside information on the devotional speaker for that day.
These lunches opened to all students towards the beginning of the semester. Each week before it opened up, devotional lunches happened on a much smaller scale and there was only enough room for 20 people, according to Trish Gannaway, a faculty member from University Public Affairs, who helps to coordinate the lunches.
“It was always such a wonderful experience, but President (Eyring) said he wanted to open it up to more people so that they could also take advantage of this opportunity,” Gannaway said. “He said (this new way of opening the lunch up to all students) was just as good if not better, and I agree. We are having the same feeling but we are expanding it to more people. Hopefully, people will come to that and want to care more about the devotional. They will feel like they have inside information about the speaker and their talk.”
When you walk into the ballroom, there are long tables set up with white table cloths and glass goblets filled with ice water. The lunch is set up as a buffet, and the students are invited table by table to fill their plate with food.
University Catering makes all of the food and a link to their website can be found here. They have caterers at the event that constantly refill the food at the buffet line. There are smiles all around as people talk and wait in line for their food.
Imagine all the food you can think of on your glass plate as you eat using silver utensils. Yes, for only $3, you can eat there too.
“The price (for the food), can you beat that? A lot of people we see week after week after week, and they feel like they’ve caught onto the best secret on campus,” said Gannaway.
Austin Nelson, a freshman studying pre-med has gone almost every week.
“I like going to the devotional lunches because it’s a great chance to get to know a little bit more about the background of each speaker, and there is always something to learn from each of them, so being able to eat at the same time as listening to the speaker, it’s great spiritual experience while you’re being fed. It’s a great deal for $3, so that’s why I always go,” said Nelson.
Attending Devotional lunches can give you inside information and access to the speakers that will help prepare for their talk. There are also microphones set up that allow students to ask questions during a brief discussion with the speaker at the end.
Whether it is a general authority at the lunch or a university faculty member, it’s an opportunity to be physically and spiritually fed.
“The campus employees know the students so well and they are able to put together messages that the Lord wants them to. It’s so divinely directed,” Gannaway said. “It’s crazy how much time each of them put into it. It takes hundreds of hours to prepare one devotional talk. It’s so much work because they are just trying to say exactly what needs to be said, there is not one word that is not poured over. It happens every week and this makes the Q&A really cool because you get to get inside the brain of the person who has been thinking about you for the past month when preparing this talk.”
The students also share this opinion that they have a better experience with attending the lunch before the devotional. Attendance has been slowly rising as more students come each week.
Micah McPherson, a sophomore studying psychology, works at the devotional lunches every week.
“The coolest thing about it is that you get to interact with the speaker and get a feel for what their talk is going to be like and what you can learn from it before it starts. So I think it‘s been really cool to see the speakers in a more individual setting rather than speaking to 5,000-10,000 students at the same time and the food is a bonus,” said McPherson.
The speakers interact on a more personal level with the students and they laugh as they make jokes and share experiences about their lives. These moments that bring smiles and laughter fill the room add to the atmosphere as people walk from the ballroom and over to the BYU-Idaho Center.
Devotional Lunch will continue to be offered every week throughout the semester and tickets can be bought through the ticket office website. Tickets should be bought a week in advance so if you are thinking about going, buy your tickets now.