Some students enjoy going to a bar to release stress from a long day of studying and exams. Many Mormon students deal with the same struggles without ever having a drop of alcohol touch their lips.
Mormons abstain from alcohol, drugs, tobacco and avoid premarital sex.
“The one comment I usually get is, ‘Oh my goodness you guys are having so much fun and you’re not wasted,’” said Rachel Eyestone, an American studies graduate student and active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon). “We just have fun. We don’t care, we just enjoy the activity and have fun with it.”
Despite the fact that 38,000 students at Cal State Fullerton, some Mormon students may find it difficult to find other people on campus with the same values.
However, Mormon students have places at secular universities to meet members and hang out. Many universities, including CSUF, have an “Institute of Religion” near campus for Mormons to attend church classes and socialize. Students are highly encouraged by church officials to attend the institute for educational and social purposes.
Mormon students who attend institute classes study the Bible and the Book of Mormon throughout the day. Some students also go to the institute to study during down time and participate in various activities.
Philip Rosell teaches eight of the 11 classes offered at the institute. Rosell said he tries to incorporate social lessons in his classes.
“For the last decade or so it’s been about, ‘Here’s what the scriptures teach. How does that apply? How do we use that in our day? What would that look like in our lives?’” Rosell said.
During breaks between classes, the institute offers casual social events. The institute also provides food for students so they can eat and socialize before class, along with a game room where students can play pool, ping pong and foosball.
Eyestone spends her time at the institute attending classes and socializing with other students. Attending the institute allows her to keep the church on her mind while taking secular courses at CSUF.
She said she prefers attending CSUF over a Mormon affiliated university, such as Brigham Young University (BYU).
“Some kids really do need to have that environment and that safety for them,” Eyestone said. “If they did go to another school, they would definitely go off the deep end. Being at BYU is a little bit of a safer place for them.”
Some students elect to go to Mormon universities to avoid the temptation of breaking church rules. BYU has an “honor code” students are required to follow upon attending, according to the BYU website. The honor code requires students to abstain from alcohol and tobacco, observe dress and grooming standards and avoid premarital sex.
“One of the main reasons why I don’t want to go (to BYU) is because I don’t want to be shoved into the Mormon bubble,” said LDS Institute Council President Sara Koszyk. “I have high standards, but I don’t live in a world where I’m sheltered and only see one direction.”
While BYU may not be a fit for some LDS students, it provides higher education to those with common values. Going to a non-Mormon university gives LDS students an opportunity to interact with those outside their faith.
However, many Mormon students socialize with each other as well as non-Mormon people. The church had 15 million members as of late last year and is rapidly growing, according to the LDS website. A contributing factor to the church’s growth is the socialization of church members with non-Mormon friends.
Eyestone said that her non-Mormon friends are extremely supportive of her lifestyle, especially when going to parties.
“If they are having a party, they invite me but when I’m there they usually go around and tell their other friends, ‘Don’t offer her drinks.’ They usually have to do it. I never usually have to do anything,” Eyestone said.
Nicole Harrison, a junior majoring in dance, said sticking to her morals has gotten easier as she has gotten older.
She said she struggled with temptation in high school more than in college. The longer she is living the Mormon lifestyle the less frequently she is tempted.
While most Mormon students are not shy about their faith, many do not like to talk about the church regularly.
“I don’t like to push religion on people. I don’t like to open up and start religious conversations,” Eyestone said. “I prefer to just keep it casual.”