By Shannon Speirs
The ideal summer vacation for most college students wouldn”t typically include learning more about church history, but a BYU summer program allows students to see it first hand.
The BYU Travel Study Program offers several tours that visit sites in Ohio, Missouri and New York among others. Participants in the tours also have the opportunity to visit locations important to the history of the United States including Boston and Washington, D.C.
These tours bring a deeper meaning and understanding to the history, said John Best, program developer for BYU Travel Study.
The Church History tours were started in 1951 with the creation of the Travel Study program. The mission of the program is to provide travel that is educational as well as spiritual.
“It”s an opportunity to create a lifetime of memories,” Best said. “With the instructors that go, it”s an enriching opportunity to increase testimony.”
Tour directors include former or current BYU professors or Church Educational System instructors. The director provides participants with knowledge about the sites and individuals in history.
“Our director helped us feel close to each person he talked about,” said Sharon Lester of Le Grande, Ore. “It”s as if he knew them each personally.”
Lester participated in a tour last July that visited American and church history sites.
“We gained great insight to our American heritage and the history of our church,” Lester said.
There are 19 Church History tours offered through Travel Study ranging from one week to four weeks. The tours begin in April and continue into October.
Participants of the tours have the chance to visit places such as the birthplace of Joseph Smith in Vermont, the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, N.Y., and Winter Quarters in Omaha, Neb.
The tours provide an opportunity for many church members to visit the places they have learned about, Best said.
“The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words and being there on site is worth a thousand pictures,” he said.
Delber Chipman, of Pleasant Grove, participated in a Church History tour last summer. He said being on-site was a learning experience.
“If you”re actually on the site and see the things they [church members] went through, it was not easy,” Chipman said. “There”s a strength in seeing firsthand what they went through.”
The BYU Travel Study program also provides tours throughout Central and South America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific.