By Elisa Anderson
Watch the lectures online
The fifth annual Religious Education Student Symposium was held Thursday and Friday, Feb. 27 and 28, to honor students who wrote papers for the event.
“This year”s religious education student symposium saw a substantial rise in the number of papers submitted,” said Robert Freeman, an associate professor of Church History. “We were very heartened by the response of the students to the call.”
Around 150 students submitted papers to the symposium, nearly a third higher than the number of submissions in previous years, Freeman said.
“The more the symposium is becoming known, the more we are attracting participants,” Freeman said. “We expect that to continue.”
Forty-eight students were chosen to participate in the symposium presentations Friday. About a fifth of those 48 were awarded prizes for the papers they had written.
The awards were presented to the following individuals:
Best historical paper, $100 award: “Mormon Reactions to the Millerite Movement: 1843-1844” by Shawn Callihan, a senior from Irmo, S.C., majoring in history and geographic information systems.
Best freshman paper: “Hidden Treasures: The Life and Legacy of Mosiah I” by Brandon Zeller, a freshman from Greensboro, N.C., majoring in psychology.
$100 award: “A Mighty Nation Amongst the Gentiles: The Mission and Destiny of the United States” by Brent Taylor, a junior from Gilbert, Ariz., majoring in political science.
$100 award: “A Time to Dance” by Erin Johnson, a senior from Washington D.C., majoring in Print Journalism.
$100 award: “Of a More Divine Origin: Joseph Smith”s Teachings on the Nature and Fatherhood of God” by Joshua Bills, a senior from Tacoma, Wash., majoring in psychology.
$100 award: “Christ and the Three Pillars of Eternity” by Jared T. Parker, a graduate student from Orem, majoring in chemical engineering. “Christ and the Three Pillars of Eternity.”
$100 award: “…A Slave of Christ Jesus: Ancient Slavery as a Biblical Metaphor for Salvation” by Matthew J. Grey, a senior from Frankfort, Ill., majoring in Near Eastern studies.
Best Creative Entry, $100 award: “O Sing Now, Muse” by Thomas Wolfe Kohler, a senior from McLean, Va., majoring in English.
$500 award: “Blind Eyes and Hard Hearts: A Look at Apostasy in the Book of Mormon” by Michael J. Fear, a graduate student in religious education from Ogden.
$750 award: “The Sicarii and Book of Mormon Secret Combinations” by Benjamin H. George, a junior from Milpitas, Calif., majoring in history.
$1,000 award: “Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, and the Near East” by Michael Clark, a junior from Bountiful majoring in statistics.
To enter the symposium, students had to write 10 to 12 pages of original work.
Shawn Callihan, 22, was awarded the best historical paper for the symposium.
“They accepted a wide variety of different papers,” Callihan said. “Mine was a research paper, but there were others that were doctrinal papers and personal narratives.”
Michael Fear, who was awarded $500 for his paper, said Nephi”s commentary on Lehi”s dream was the basis of his paper.
“Nephi said that the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil that blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men,” Fear said. “I looked throughout the Book of Mormon for those who had apostatized and noticed that all of them had been blinded in some way or hardened.”
Topics for papers varied from church history to church doctrines to philosophy.
Michael Clark, who was awarded the largest cash prize, wrote his paper as an assignment in a Book of Mormon class and then added to his research for the symposium.
“I”ve gained a lot more insight from participating in the symposium,” Clark said.
He also gained a better understanding and appreciation of the Book of Mormon, he said, as well as a stronger testimony of it.
“Once we have a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon there are a lot of other evidences we can look at that will help build upon our testimonies of these spiritual things that we learn,” Clark said.
The religious symposium has a publication in which the papers written by students are published.
“We try to use the symposium as a means for students to get their scholarship and their writing out in public view,” Freeman said. “And it”s worked beautifully.”
Freeman hopes the symposium will continue to grow.
“We keep an eye on people who produce and participate in this symposium because they are some of our best minds, in terms of religious thought,” Freeman said.