Book of Mormon classes undergo changes

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Returned missionaries and non-returned missionaries will no longer have to be in separate sections for Book of Mormon classes. At least for now.

The Department of Ancient Scripture has traditionally kept returned missionaries and other students separate in Book of Mormon classes by requiring RMs to enroll in different sections. But through fall semester, there will be no such distinction.

Book of Mormon classes like Tyler Griffin's currently do not separate returned missionaries from students who have not gone on missions. (Photo by Chris Bunker)
Professor Tyler Griffin teaches a Book of Mormon class. Classes like his currently don’t separate returned missionaries from students who haven’t gone on missions. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

Department Chair Camille Fronk Olson described this change as an “investigation” and said the department is trying to find what works best for students.

“We decided to try offering Book of Mormon classes that allow both RMs and non-RMs in the same class to see how the students and instructors responded to the dynamic,” Olson said. “We conducted a survey at the end of spring term and will do the same at the end of summer term and fall semester to collect enough data to make a more informed decision.”

Olson said she doesn’t know what factors were considered in the original decision to offer separate sections but said the perception has been that returned missionaries might dominate the conversation.

So far, this hasn’t seemed to be a problem.

Brad Farnsworth, instructor in the Department of Ancient Scripture, taught a combined Book of Mormon class during spring term and said the experience seemed positive for returned missionaries and new freshmen alike.

“I’ve found it to be a very good discussion,” Farnsworth said. “I found that the freshmen participated as much as I think they would have if the returned missionaries had not been there.”

Farnsworth emphasized that this is an experiment to ensure that students have the best experience possible, but for some Book of Mormon teachers, this change has been a long time coming.

“I’ve never been in favor of the segregated RM sections,” said Keith Wilson, associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture. “If you want it to be a Sunday School class where everybody can speak up, then you can make it that, but this is a university, and even religion classes are taught on the university level.”

This change to Book of Mormon classes is another in a list of changes brought about by the lowered missionary age requirement. With so many freshman-aged students deciding to serve missions, administrators in the Department of Ancient Scripture had no way of knowing how many Book of Mormon sections to reserve for freshmen.

Olson said combining returned missionaries and non-returned missionaries was the best use of resources, at least until the department gets through what Olson called an “uncertain era,” when larger numbers of students are away from campus on missions.

Whether this change will be permanent is still unclear, but Olson says she can imagine this policy fluctuating back and forth as circumstances and freshman population change.

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