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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.”