The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by a talented student journalist at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Cafe' for inclusion in Utah State Today.
Religious Groups on Campus Help Support Students' Faith
Recent visits of Eli Brayley, a 21-year-old self-proclaimed preacher, to Utah State University's campus have stirred emotion with students of USU. Brayley spent several days standing outside the Taggart Student Center preaching about the Bible and contemporary Christianity.
Some students were glad for his visits and others not.
On Brayley's blog one person said, "I sincerely appreciate you coming out to Utah State. It has opened up my eyes so much more towards Christianity. I feel like there is hope for me again . . . thank you for bringing me back to a position where I will study the bible."
Other students stood by, critiquing and challenging Brayley about his interpretation of the Bible's messages and doctrine.
"I think that it's good to hear views of other religions but also I didn't think it's good to cause all that contention between people," said Craig Hibbard, a USU student and bystander. "He [Brayley] would argue a lot and that's not how you get your point across."
So why do Brayley, and other religious figures choose to come to universities to speak to students about faith and religion?
For Carly Bleadorn, an English major and participant in the Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS), religion on campus provides fellowship with other students, helping them come closer to God; whether Christian or not.
"Religion can improve the quality of life of the the student," said Nate Stark, a former USU student now attending the University of Minnesota. Religious groups at U of M "is where [Nate] met a lot of [his] friends.
"Having friends with the same religion helps you to become more religious," said Nate, "and friends keep you happier, to keep going in tough times."
A study done on the role of faith groups at the University of Western Ontario for the Journal for the Study of Religion found that "students who belong to Christian faith groups at the University of Western Ontario are healthier and happier and handle stress better than a comparison group of students with no such affiliation."
Other sociologists such as Emile Durkheim, an early 20th century sociologist, Christopher Ellison, of Duke University and Ellen Idler of Rutgers suggested that religion has a powerful effect on individuals and whole societies enhancing healthy lifestyles, social life and support, and linking them to a, powerful, higher source. (See The Role of Faith Groups on campus.)
Many university campuses have religious groups and programs to help students with their social, spiritual, and emotional lives while attending the school. The Logan Institute of Religion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of Utah State's largest religious groups, currently enrolling 6,866 people.
Cam Lee, president of the Institute of Religion Student Council (IRSC), said the Institute has "something for everybody." It is a place where students "having common faith" can come together and attend classes based on scripture."
The biggest part of the institute is to provide opportunities to serve by being involved and using talents. "A happy student is a serving student," Lee said. The Institute "helps to educate [students] on why we are here and where we are going... There they find joy, and when they have joy they feel like they can accomplish more. It's all about joy, it's all about serving."
Personally for Lee the Institute has been very valuable and an enormous source of joy to his college experience. "I feel like I'm stretched and my capabilities are expanded. By being involved (with institute) I am able to do things easier," Lee said. "There's more purpose behind every moment of the day, there's more power with purpose."
Another religious group on campus is Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS). It is a non-denominational fellowship on Utah State University's campus. FOCUS is a partnership between Campus Crusade for Christ, a group nationally recognized on 1,029 campuses, and Maranatha Baptist Church in Logan where most of their activities are held.
"FOCUS is a student-led and organized club seeking to grow in fellowship with fellow believers on campus, as well as promoting study of God's Word in the Bible, prayer, local and campus service projects and outreach, worship and mission projects throughout the local and world body," according to their Web site
Bleadron, who is a member of one of the committees in charge of planning for FOCUS, said participating with FOCUS has helped to learn about religion which helps "to have a knowledge about different cultures."
FOCUS offers students the opportunity to fellowship with each other as well as those that have different views. FOCUS is "very positive because it's in an academic atmosphere," said Bleadron, "people are more accepting in college, more willing to learn about other people."
"College is about experience," said Bleadron. "FOCUS has improved my college experience and been my support group in times when I need it, (those in FOCUS) have been my best friends."