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LDS stu­dents visit the Detroit Michigan Temple | Wiki­media Commons

A group of stu­dents from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has started a local chapter of the LDS Student Asso­ci­ation, hoping to foster com­munity and service among their members. The club sprung from stu­dents who spent time together but wanted to start an official orga­ni­zation.

Hillsdale’s LDSSA has unof­fi­cially started activ­ities and hosted scripture studies since last semester, so this year is not rad­i­cally dif­ferent to what the LDS stu­dents have been doing. Last year, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Lansing reached out to junior Hannah Schaff, pres­ident of the club, about orga­nizing the group into a spon­sored club. As part of the group’s mission, the stu­dents will focus on fel­lowship, service, and growth, Schaff said. The role of club pres­ident, according to Schaff, is actually a calling from the Church, like any other forms of spir­itual lead­ership.

“The stu­dents from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have tried to do things together the whole time that I’ve been here,” Schaff said. “But last year, the lead­ership of the Church…said, ‘You guys should start a club.’ I hadn’t thought of that before because we are such a small group.”

With official club status, Assistant Pro­fessor of Spanish Todd Mack, the group’s faculty advisor, said a benefit is that they will be listed on the college website. This will allow LDS stu­dents inter­ested in Hillsdale to know there is a com­munity ready to greet them on campus, perhaps inciting more interest in the school.

“We thought it would be nice to have some­thing official,” said Todd Mack, assistant pro­fessor of Spanish and LDSSA faculty advisor. “We are inter­ested in doing things on campus, doing service on campus.”

LDSSA is a nationwide orga­ni­zation ded­i­cated to sup­porting LDS college stu­dents in their faith in Jesus Christ, according to the website for the Harvard Business School chapter’s website. Like many other campus reli­gious clubs, it pro­vides a com­munity in which like-minded members can encourage and support each other.

Schaff said the goal for this semester is to host a variety of events open to Hillsdale stu­dents of any tra­dition of faith, including regular scripture studies which will explore the topics of the person Jesus Christ and the idea of ever­lasting gospel.

“We’re trying to do some­thing fun every Sat­urday. We’ve got some board game and movie nights, some out­doors stuff — like soccer and frisbee — and then we’ve got a couple of dif­ferent service projects, helping people around the com­munity,” she said. “We have a scripture study, and that’s been con­sistent. We have it once a week. It’s led by a teacher called from the church, so it’s not a student-led thing.”

Freshman club member Ben­jamin Burnett said the scripture study, called Institute, is important for stu­dents to grow in their under­standing of Christ and what he has done for the Church. The first study, he said, explored the concept of Jesus Christ as a creator.

Another one of Hillsdale LDSSA’s more reli­giously-ori­ented activ­ities is vis­iting the Detroit Michigan Temple together. While this is not open to stu­dents from other reli­gions, Schaff said the five-hour trip is a lot of fun and strengthens their com­munity. It’s a pri­ority, she said, for the club to go there a few times a semester.

Schaff said there are unique ben­efits and chal­lenges to being LDS on campus. The small size of the LDS club, Burnett said, can actually be a benefit.

“Some­times when there are a lot of members for any­thing, people become com­placent. That’s probably the same even in Hillsdale with all the people seeking truth. Some people might become com­placent,” Burnett said. “One thing I knew would be good here in some ways, and also a chal­lenge, is knowing that I would have to be strong in truth and that there would be people to help me follow along.”

According to Schaff, there is a lot of mis­un­der­standing and neg­ative views on what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually is, but she hopes the club will clear up per­ception of their faith.

“I think having this club helps us grow a little bit stronger and feel a little bit more secure,” she said. “We show up a little more, and people are able to see that we are normal people. We do believe in Jesus Christ; we do good things; we’re happy people.”

Mack pointed out that Hillsdale’s pursuit of truth is an LDS way of approaching life. This pursuit, he said, is achieved when stu­dents from dif­ferent faith tra­di­tions discuss their beliefs and walk away with an appre­ci­ation of dif­ferent ways of looking at spir­itual con­cepts.

“There’s so much that joins us at Hillsdale. The mis­sions of the college are built into who we are as a Church,” Mack said. “Some of the greatest things I’ve read about pur­suing truth are from church leaders. Our job is to find truth. We’re at home here.”

Regardless of whether a student is Catholic, Protestant, or LDS, Mack said he believes we are all working together to dis­cover truth. He cau­tioned, however, that the pursuit of truth isn’t about rel­a­tivism. Instead, it’s about exam­ining dif­ferent beliefs on con­cepts like agency and redemption to come to con­clu­sions about what the truth is.

“We look at some things, and see things dif­fer­ently,” Mack said. “We’re engaging in important con­ver­sa­tions. That causes us to think about what we believe, what others believe.”

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Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan is a junior from northern Michigan, studying English and journalism. He is this year's News Editor at the Collegian, as well as a student writer with the marketing department. This summer, he is interning with the editorial and news sections of the Detroit News. You can find him reading good poetry and trying desperately to be better at appreciating art. Email: nryan1@hillsdale.edu | Twitter: @NolanRyan76