Students react to President Nelson devotional announcement

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Claire Gentry
President Russell M. Nelson addresses the congregation at the 188th Semiannual General Conference in this October 2018 photo. (Claire Gentry)

Advancement Vice President Matthew O. Richardson announced as the first devotional of the academic year commenced Tuesday, Sept. 10, that President Russell M. Nelson, prophet and head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be speaking at next Tuesday’s devotional.

Audible gasps and cheers echoed throughout the Marriott Center in response to the news.

A prophet of the Church has not spoken at a BYU devotional for almost eight years, as President Thomas S. Monson last addressed the BYU campus on Nov. 1, 2011.

BYU neuroscience student Natalie Mallavia said she was surprised by the announcement and couldn’t believe the prophet is taking the time to come to BYU.

“I was excited and just felt that we all have to prepare in order to get the most of the experience because it’s going to be something extraordinary,” she said. “It’s not every day that a prophet comes.”

Political science junior Jena Burgess said her first thought after hearing the announcement was, “Wow, he must really love us.”

“That was my first feeling,” she said. “Wow, (for him) to take the time, especially at the beginning of the school year, to try to make sure we knew that we were important.”

Burgess said she hopes next week will change everyone’s perspective on devotionals, which she admitted to not always fully appreciating.

“President Worthen today invited us to be there in person every week,” she said. “I hope that having this experience helps highlight how important and unique that offering is that BYU gives us, because it doesn’t exist anywhere else. This is the place where you can come to find secular knowledge and spiritual strength at the same time, in the same day. So I hope it changes our priorities in a good way.”

BYU sophomore and pre-business major Helaman Coca said he thinks students will prepare more for next week’s devotional.

“Next week’s devotional will probably be something that everyone’s looking forward to,” he said.

Freshman Truman Brown said he immediately made sure his schedule was clear so he could attend when he heard the announcement.

“I (am) super excited because I love our prophet,” he said.

Both Brown and Coca said they hope they will receive counsel to help them make important college decisions by listening to the prophet Tuesday.

BYU sophomore Ellie Gerstner said she thinks hearing the prophet will be a special opportunity and bring a feeling of unity to campus.

“Like President Worthen was talking about today, it will bring a feeling of unity because we all know him and we all adore him,” she said.

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