Students, community members express appreciation for President Nelson’s campus devotional

From left: students Trevor McLaws, Aaron Wooden, Nate Lant and McKay Cummings outside the Marriott Center where the prophet of the Church spoke at BYU’s devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 17. (Emma Benson)

Thousands of students lined up as early as 7 a.m. to file into the Marriott Center and listen to President Russell M. Nelson, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speak at BYU’s Tuesday devotional.

BYU biology senior McKay Cummings said he felt the spirit as soon as he walked into the Marriott Center.

“I just felt all this love that I had for (President Nelson) and that he had for all of us,” he said. “It was just cool to (see) all of the respect everyone had for just this one man.”

Cummings noted the challenge he’s faced trying to explain to friends the changes in the Church’s LGBT policy. Though he said he’s tried to answer them as well as he could, today’s devotional was especially enlightening, because President Nelson specifically addressed the reason behind the 2015 and 2019 changes.

“Though it may not have looked this way to some, the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter were both motivated by love — the love of our Heavenly Father for His children and the love of the Brethren for those whom we serve,” President Nelson said in his devotional address. “Because we feel the depth of God’s love for His children, we care deeply about every child of God, regardless of age, personal circumstances, gender, sexual orientation or other unique challenges.”

Cummings called it an answer to his prayers.

“I thought it was really neat, because a lot of students have had difficulties understanding the policies and how often they change. But (President Nelson) just shows up and says, ‘This is why: it’s because we love you and the Lord loves you,'” he said.

Economics senior Aaron Wooden agreed. “The bottom line is love,” he said. “Everything that the brethren do and everything that God does is because He loves us, which I definitely felt from (President Nelson’s) message. No matter what questions we may have, we can always draw the line back to love.”

Graduate student Nate Lant said President Nelson “has such a greater perspective than what we have and you could feel (that).”

From left: Mya Jacobs, Lauren Casper and Arynn Casper gather outside the Marriott Center after hearing President Nelson speak at the BYU devotional. (Emma Benson)

Arynn Casper said she liked seeing the change in the audience’s behavior when the prophet walked in the room.

“People were chatting before and then when (President Nelson walked in) it was just silent. Everybody stood.”

Casper added that she liked the opening hymn choice: “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.”

“The power of (hearing) all the voices together was something you don’t experience a lot,” UVU student Mya Jacobs said.

UVU student Jaston Duncan said that though she’s not a BYU student, she wanted to come see and listen to the prophet speak in-person for the first time in her life.

“It was super cool when he first walked in. I just started crying, and I got chills,” she said.

BYU elementary education senior Madison Wilson said she had never seen the prophet so up-close until today.

“It was kind of surreal to think that the prophet of God is in our presence, especially because I was like, the third or fourth row from the front. But it was just really cool. I mean if you think about it, who knows what experiences he’s had … and the fact that we’re in person with the person who is close to God is such a cool thing,” she said.

Wilson also said she thinks the fact that President Nelson took time out of his busy schedule to come speak to BYU students “just shows how much he does love us.”

Wilson added she has never seen the Marriott Center filled to capacity for a devotional throughout her years at BYU.

Thousands of students and community members filled the Marriott Center to listen to President Russell M. Nelson, the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speak at a BYU devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 17. (Samuel Benson)

BYU pre-nursing student Sharron Rappleye commuted from her home in Sandy to get in line at 7:30 a.m. Rappleye said the line into the Marriott Center had wrapped all the way around the south to the north side of the building by the time she arrived.

“I feel like one of my favorite moments was just being able to stand (for) the prophet,” she said. “It just brings a certain type of spirit, which is really amazing.”

Rappleye added that she enjoyed seeing President Nelson’s personality come out, and she liked how President Nelson promised specific blessings for the student body. She said she especially liked how he waved to the audience when he was leaving the Marriott Center.

Nimrod Juarez expressed his excitement to have heard from President Nelson on Tuesday, Sept. 17. (Emma Benson)

Mexico native and Orem resident Nimrod Juarez expressed his excitement to have seen the prophet at the devotional.

Following the devotional, Juarez did a live stream for viewers on — a Spanish Church website where Juarez helps translate Church news for Spanish-speaking members of the Church.

Juarez said he appreciated President Nelson’s remarks about continuing to receive personal revelation and finding answers to questions.

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