Students reflect on recent changes, look forward to General Conference

(Claire Gentry)
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attend the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Oct. 2018. (Claire Gentry)

BYU students largely reacted positively to changes announced since General Conference last October, and several said they are looking forward to prospective changes during this week’s upcoming conference.

President Russell M. Nelson announced last fall that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would update its meeting schedule to better accommodate home-centered gospel learning. The update reduced church meeting blocks from three to two hours and introduced the Come, Follow Me home study plan.

The change also reduced the number of second-hour classes offered. Rather than holding various class options like gospel principles, gospel doctrine, temple preparation, missionary preparation and family history, Church members and guests can attend Come, Follow Me classes on the corresponding Sundays.

“To me, that means that we need to start being a lot more self-sufficient and not rely on other people to help us with our spirituality,” BYU student Erin Berglund said. “It needs to become a lot more personal and individual.”

The commencement of two-hour church and the Come, Follow Me program were just two of several changes issued by the First Presidency within the past year. Other announcements include the implementation of abuse prevention training for ward and stake leaders, clarification on the Word of Wisdom doctrine and plans to build 20 new temples around the world.

The prophet addressed one change in his recent BYU devotional address — the reversal of the policy preventing children of LGBT parents from being baptized without First Presidency approval.

“We knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others,” President Nelson said during his Sept. 17 address. “That grieved us. Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep — for whatever reasons — we weep.”

The prophet said the original policy, its reversal and another 2019 policy change instructing ecclesiastical leaders to treat homosexual and heterosexual immorality the same way, were all motivated by the First Presidency’s love.

“The reversal was good for people,” BYU graduate student Hannah Murdock said. “It was a good acknowledgement that the policy was wrong.”

Berglund also said she appreciates the prophet’s acknowledgement of the LGBT community and speakers will address the topic again in the upcoming General Conference and answer the questions many members still have. She said she anticipates one of the speakers to offer a message of love for the LGBT community.

BYU student Nathanael Eifert said he loved President Nelson’s devotional message that truth is truth. In regards to potential upcoming changes, Eifert said, “I just follow the prophet and roll with it.”

Murdock also noted President Nelson’s emphasis on truth and said she expects that will color his delivery of any forthcoming changes this General Conference.

“To me, it made it more clear that when something does change, it doesn’t mean that truth is necessarily changing but that it’s more of a policy change with the Church rather than the gospel,” she said. “I think (President Nelson) is signaling toward that.”

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