New church history study abroad program

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This upcoming summer presents a new opportunity for BYU students to not only learn LDS Church history but to also experience it through a new church history study abroad program.

Participants in this new program have the opportunity to go to major historical sites such as the Sacred Grove, the Nauvoo Temple, Carthage, Kirtland, all along the pioneer trail and everywhere in between.

Richard Bennett, the associate dean of religious education and faculty director of the program, grew up going to Church history sites and LDS pageants, which is what helped him realize their importance.

“We used to go to the pageants all the time,” Bennett said. “That’s when I realized early on the value in Church history site visits. There is nothing comparable. It certainly is enriching, fulfilling and broadening of knowledge in Church history and doctrine.”

Students enrolled in the program will spend the first two weeks on BYU’s campus studying and preparing for the trip. For the next four weeks, participants will fly to New York and then stop at Church history sites in a charter bus along the way back to Utah.

Students view a historic church site on their “semester on wheels.” Photo courtesy of Richard Bennett.

This “semester on wheels” is just one of the many available choices for students wanting to do one of BYU’s study abroad programs. The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies strives to provide students with a quality academic experience where students are able to get outside of the classroom to learn.

Malcolm Botto, a program coordinator for the Kennedy Center, believes the new program will give students something other programs cannot.

“This is a program that is focused on LDS Church history,” Botto said. “Some of our other programs have Church history elements to them, but this is very specific to the Restoration.”

As a new program, it is contingent upon the number of applications received.

Lauren Harris, a senior from American Fork studying elementary education, has participated in a study abroad program and recognizes the value of experiencing what has only been discussed in classrooms and books.

“Being able to travel, study, form close friendships and discover more about yourself while learning about Church history sounds like an experience too good to be true,” Harris said. “It would be great to take what I’ve heard about my whole life and learned from my religion classes and see the sites of the Restoration.”

Bennett described this program as a Jerusalem Center, but for Restoration-specific sites. The Jerusalem Center experience focuses on the Old and New Testament, and the study abroad program focuses on LDS Church history.

“For many, it is life changing,” Bennett said. “There’s nothing quite like this.”

For more information on the new Church History study abroad program, or to apply, go to kennedy.byu.edu. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 2, 2012.

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