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BYU student symposium tackles LDS perspectives on addiction, suicide

By Braley Dodson daily Herald - | Feb 16, 2018
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BYU student Nadia Lund, center, answers questions after presentations during the 20th Annual Religious Education Student Symposium in the Wilkinson Student Center on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Provo.

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BYU student Nadia Lund, gives her presentation during the 20th Annual Religious Education Student Symposium in the Wilkinson Student Center on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Provo. Lund's presentation focused on addiction by using a cookie and baking analogy.

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BYU student Thalia Hull gives her presentation during the 20th Annual Religious Education Student Symposium in the Wilkinson Student Center on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Provo. Hull's presentation focused on the LDS perspective on suicide.

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BYU student Isaac Wu gives his presentation during the 20th Annual Religious Education Student Symposium in the Wilkinson Student Center on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Provo.

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A quote covers the projection screen for Thalia Hull's presentation during the 20th Annual Religious Education Student Symposium in the Wilkinson Student Center on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Provo.

Two-year-old Nadia Lund sits grinning in a blue, frilly dress in a family photo, with a cookie missing a single bite gripped in her hand.

Using an analogy filled with cookies, Lund, now a student at Brigham Young University, explained that everyone is addicted to something.

“We are all subject to, or we frequently fall victim to, cycles of recurring sin, with sin being anything that distances us from God,” Lund said.

Lund’s presentation, “Cookies, Imperfection and Reliance: A Study of Addiction,” was one of more than 30 student presentations Friday during the BYU Religious Education Student Symposium. The symposium, in its 20th year, included student presentations on topics with a Mormon perspective, including sessions on subjects from cloning to the right age for marriage.

“Our topics are pretty eclectic because the only guidelines we gave them is to relate to religion,” said Casey Griffiths, the chair of the student symposium committee and an assistant teaching professor in the school’s church history department.

About a third of the papers submitted to the symposium were chosen to be presented; 12 students went on to win cash prizes and have their papers published.

Griffiths said the symposium’s topics have broadened in the last two years. In the past, students focused on scriptural subjects.

The hope is for the symposium to boost students’ confidence about presenting and become a resume-building event for them.

Griffiths said the event is unique.

“I have never seen anything like this anywhere,” he said.

Lund’s presentation on addictions recommended for people to rely on God to help fight against addictions. She said there is no escaping moral imperfection and that God’s plan will always exist.

“As we turn to God, the source of perfection, we are essentially saying our grit and willpower and discipline are not going to cut it,” Lund said.

Thalia Hull shared her own experience with depression during her presentation, “LDS Perspectives on Suicide.”

Her presentation included quotes from leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on withholding judgment from those who have attempted to or have taken their own life.

She encouraged people to start conversations about depression and suicide instead of believing that discussing suicide will give someone the idea to take their life.

“If someone comes to you with their problems, it’s not a good idea to shove them off, shut them out right off the bat,” Hull said. “It is always best to start off by listening, even if it takes a while. It’s not a time to preach.”

Hull said that feeling like a burden isn’t necessarily a bad thing and pointed to the story of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“He had the power to call on God, and we can do that, too,” Hull said.

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