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Students Present on Religious Topics at Undergraduate Research Conference

Student presenting at the Undergraduate Research Conference
Students attend presentations on gospel and church history topics during BYU–Hawaii URC.
Photo by <em>Po Nien (Felipe) Chou.</em>

“Already writing a research paper for religion class? Why don’t you also submit it to the BYU–Hawaii Undergraduate Research Conference (URC)?” These are the words from a religion professor that was later replaced by “I was so happy when I heard your name and paper announced! Congratulations on your research paper that was awarded $1,000 and several other prizes!”

On March 31, 2022, various faculty units coordinated and organized the return of the annual BYU–Hawaii URC. Although other faculty units had held the URC prior to the pandemic, this was the first time the Faculty of Religious Education would participate by inviting students to submit research papers on a gospel or Church history topic. In total, 15 students were invited to present their research in four different sessions sponsored by the Faculty of Religious Education, including “The Church in Oceania and Asia,” “The Church and Modern Society,” “Sacred Spaces,” and “Exegesis.”

Weeks earlier, students worked with faculty mentors and submitted their abstracts and gospel topic papers, including Church history in Asia or the Pacific, Book of Mormon insights, religion, life, or other scriptural or doctrinal topics. Students had the opportunity to study and research a gospel or Church history topic more deeply. Natalie Day said, “I had the opportunity to learn and study a gospel topic in an academic [setting] about a gospel topic.” “It was an awesome opportunity to research and hear other people’s research and studies,” explained Leneah Olsingch. Nikayle Henderson added, “I proved to myself that I can dive into a subject and produce a [research] paper that shows extensive research and competence.” Chris Manongdo explained, “This experience has allowed me to [research and] to present a gospel topic in a more professional setting.”

On the conference day, many rooms filled as students presented their research to their peers. Presenters developed research and critical thinking skills and confidence in presenting. “It has given me experience presenting at a research conference,” said Jacqueline Forrest. Tiera Kammerman noted, “I loved having the opportunity to share with my peers and professors. It gave me a wonderful chance to get experience and confidence in presenting.” More importantly, presenters and attendees were able to deepen their understanding of various gospel topics and rely upon and deepen their testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Chaniporn (Rose) Tangsitpan said, “I felt I relied on God and [drew] closer to God more when I studied about [His] work. She explained that at one point she was “stuck in [her] research” because of the lack of information available, but when she prayed for help, “God showed me more resources to [help me] find more information.” Lindokuhle Mbule acknowledged, “This opportunity allowed me to know and understand the efforts that go into striving to learn more about a subject. Most importantly, it has shown me that the one thing that matters the most, more than anything else, is to trust and have faith in Jesus Christ.” Conner Hansen summarized this by saying, “Thinking deeper about the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a blessing in itself.”

After the presentations, presenters and faculty mentors grabbed their lunch bento boxes and headed to the religious education awards ceremony conducted by Aaron Shumway, the Faculty of Religious Education director. Before Shumway announced the winners and prizes, he thanked the following sponsors: Book of Mormon Central, BYU Maxwell Institute, BYU Studies, Interpreter Foundation, and BYU Religious Studies Center. Students received certificates of participation and various prizes, including issues and subscriptions to scholarly journals, Church books and DVD movies, t-shirts, and backpacks. Cash awards from the Maxwell Institute, including $100 to Tiera Kammerman, Nikayle Henderson, and Abigail Harper, who tied for fourth place, $200 to Allie Donato’s paper on The Origins and Legacy of Maui’s Pulehu Meetinghouse, and $500 to Chris Manongdo’s paper on That They May Worship in Thy Holy House, for third and second place respectively.

Elder Jack Welch from Book of Mormon Central presented a $1,000 cash award to Chaniporn (Rose) Tangsitpan, for her research paper entitled "From the Palace to Dust, From Dust to the Clouds", which examined the inspiring story and experience of Srilaksana Suntarahut or “Mother Sri,” who translated the Book of Mormon into the Thai language. Her research included existing books and journal articles about this sister from Thailand and primary research in the form of oral interviews Tangsitpan personally conducted with various members and leaders. Tangsitpan was so surprised she had won and said, “I was so happy, and I just wanted to cry!” Elder Welch congratulated her and all the students, encouraging them to continue their research on the Book of Mormon and the inspiring stories from the Asia-Pacific region. He also expressed gratitude that Book of Mormon Central was invited to co-sponsor this event and congratulated the BYU–Hawaii Faculty of Religious Education for taking part in the undergraduate research conference for the first time.

Award winners and prizes

Tier 3 Awards (Places 11-15)

Awards: T-shirt and BYU Studies journal (from BYU Studies), and book: Helaman (from Maxwell Institute)

  • “Blacks and the Priesthood” by Lindokuhle Mbule.
  • “All Things Common Among Them” by Jacqueline Forrest.
  • “The Translation of the I Vola I Momani (Fijian Book of Mormon)” by Jared Horton.
  • “Selective Case Study and cross-examination of the first three chapters of the Book of Ether” by Preston Russell.
  • “Saints and Conservatives: How Church Leaders and Influencers Used Communism to Shift Latter-day Saints to the Republican Party” by Matthew Templeton.

Tier 2 Awards (Places 7-10)

All of the above prizes plus a backpack (from BYU Studies), book: Yet to Be Revealed (from Maxwell Institute), DVD: Witnesses (from Interpreter)

  • “Suva Fiji Temple: Historical Account” by Rishan S. Prasad.
  • “Kava in Relation to the Word of Wisdom” by Natalie Day.
  • “The Doctrine and Legend of Creation: Comparing the creation story found in Genesis and the creation story as told in Palau” by Leneah Olsingch.
  • “Righteous Envy: Enhancing Connections with Christ through a Historical Exploration of Atonement Theory” by Connor Hansen.

Tier 1 Awards (Places 1-4)

All of the above prizes plus: ash award for fourth place $100 (from Maxwell Institute) (three students)

  • “Goddess in a Box” by Abigail Harper.
  • “Where Are We?” by Nikayle Henderson.
  • “Temple Worship: A Comparative Analysis” by Tiera Kammerman.

Religious Educator two-year journal subscription (BYU RSC) and cash awards as follows:

  1. $200 (from Maxwell Institute): “The Origins and Legacy of Maui’s Pulehu Meetinghouse” by Allie M. Donato.
  2. $500 (from Maxwell Institute): “That They May Worship in Thy Holy House” by Chris Manongdo.
  3. $1,000 (from Book of Mormon Central): “From the Palace to Dust, From Dust to the Clouds” by Chaniporn (Rose) Tangsitpan.