Two BYU religion professors were chosen to be moderators on Come Follow Up, a new BYUtv show which acts as a supplement to gospel study program Come, Follow Me.
The moderators are Barbara Morgan Gardner and Daniel Becerra. Each episode focuses on a specific week of Come, Follow Me study with a new guest and a live audience. Those watching from home can also participate live through social media.
Both moderators are currently teaching at BYU. Gardner is a Church history religion professor and author, and Becerra teaches in the ancient scripture department.
The schedule has been hectic for both teachers. They said they are filming for the show on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while still teaching classes during Fall Semester, but the religion department has offered support.
“It’s definitely very time-consuming. It’s working our brains. It’s putting us in situations we’ve never been in, but it’s enhancing our experience here at BYU, and hopefully, we’re enhancing other people’s experiences as they’re studying the scriptures,” Gardner said.
Over the summer, BYUtv contacted the professors and asked about their interest in moderating the show. Interest came quickly for Gardner. She said she thought it sounded like a good way to reach a larger audience to fulfill the mission statement of BYU and “speak about the parts of the scriptures that are important to people but sometimes aren’t necessarily discussed as much.”
Becerra wasn’t initially interested in the opportunity. He turned down the offer a few times because he isn’t an actor and thought he probably wasn’t what they were looking for. His perspective then changed.
“What sold me on the idea is they wanted to create this show that offered a platform for diversity of voices to talk about the gospel,” Becerra said.
BYU media arts student Jen Baker is an assistant producer on the show. She has been behind the scenes of the production and has noticed her testimony grow. “It’s not about two moderators teaching the gospel, it’s about us all learning the gospel together, which really goes back to the purpose of Come, Follow Me,” Baker said.
Come Follow Up thrives off of having a live audience and hearing their comments. “I love working with the audience,” Gardner said, noting that it’s like teaching an in-person class again.
The show is following COVID-19 protocols by issuing each member of the audience a rapid test for COVID-19 upon entrance. Each grouping of individuals is compiled by household and placed six feet away from other families. Masks are also required when the cameras aren’t filming.
“All of our discussion is unscripted,” Becerra said. He said the show creates an authentic space where questions and concerns can be resolved.
“This show is helping model what we really hope gospel discussion can always be. We want to model an open space where people can ask questions and give comments and be able to learn more about the things that matter to them in a way that feels safe and open,” said Christina Torriente, a producer of Come Follow Up.
New episodes air every Sunday on BYUtv. Next year, Come, Follow Me and Come Follow Up will focus on the Doctrine and Covenants.