BYU students listen to General Conference differently amid pandemic

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Church Newsroom
Young adults in Idaho gather to watch general conference on Saturday, October 3, 2020. BYU students also watched conference. (Church Newsroom)

BYU students tuned in to General Conference differently due to pandemic and remote streaming.

The 190th Semi-Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held remotely once again due to the coronavirus pandemic. This time, students were still in Provo, unlike April’s remote conference when many students were home with family after classes shifted online.

“The way that (General Conference) is being presented in our homes is pretty similar to a lot of the work and the normal things that we have,” BYU junior Elise Sandland said. “I don’t want it to feel like any other Zoom call or conference that I’m attending.”

Since BYU’s fall class plans have been a mixture of in-person instruction and online components, students are spending more time online than regular semesters.

In order to make General Conference feel more eventful, Sandland said she planned to watch conference and eat chilaquiles (a Mexican dish) with a few close friends while following social distancing guidelines.

“Pretty much all of the people we’re getting together with are also very, very strict about mask wearing and social distancing,” said Sandland. “(One of the girls we’re meeting with) has three couches in her apartment, so we’re going to be socially distancing there.”

In an Instagram question on the Daily Universe’s account asking students what their plans were for conference weekend, one frequent answer was to watch conference with family or friends — a common tradition. The way some students listened to conference with family and friends, however, is unique.

Kyrie Papenfuss, a BYU senior studying psychology, said she was looking forward to conference because she is listening in “a very different way.”

“I’ve always been kind of the one that invites all of my friends over and we all watch it together,” she said. “Obviously with the pandemic going on right now and the need to social distance, that isn’t really feasible.”

Kyrie Papenfuss went on a hike as she listened to General Conference with her friend. (Kyrie Papenfuss)

Papenfuss said she went on a hike with a friend while listening to the women’s session on Saturday.

“I feel really close to God when I’m in nature,” she said.

Papenfuss said she was looking forward to conference because she needs “that guidance right now” as she thinks about post-graduation plans.

“I feel like we’re all kind of wanting answers like wanting some sort of comfort from God,” Papenfuss said.

“I think (the pandemic) definitely allows more of an opportunity to focus and not be so worried about trying to get somewhere or looking your absolute best to be in the Conference Center,” Sandland said. “It helps us to really focus on what matters, which is just that message.”

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