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May 3, 2017

Gatherings Unite Students Around the World

Students worldwide have a variety of reasons why they love their gatherings

From New Zealand to New York and from Ghana to Guatemala, students bring a variety of cultures, traditions, and personalities to PathwayConnect. No two gathering locations are the same because of the amazing people who make them up, but there is a universal element among these groups: Students love the gatherings and the opportunity for face-to-face meetings, something that sets PathwayConnect apart from other online education opportunities.

Distance learning can be difficult; you can’t just walk into a professor’s office or meet your group at the library. Gatherings help overcome this challenge by bringing regional students together. Elder David A. Bednar said, “This spirit of gathering brings assurance, encouragement, and a sense of purpose greater than self.”1 For many, it’s a way to make friends, elevate learning, and enjoy the journey alongside others.

Gatherings are more than just a bunch of students. They are opportunities to become more.

Sense of Unity

One benefit of gatherings — and probably the most popular one — is the social aspect. Still pictures or Skype sessions can be difficult to create friendships through, but PathwayConnect gatherings are a great way to overcome that barrier and make friends. Many students find others in similar situations or from very different backgrounds and make friends that last beyond PathwayConnect, bringing a sense of unity to the sites and to PathwayConnect as a whole.

Students gather at the Institute Building to further their education through the Pathway Program.

PathwayConnect students review each other’s assignments at a gathering 

“I really like the PathwayConnect gathering because everybody is friendly and nice. It’s easy to make friends with the people there.” Stacey (Pennsylvania, United States)

Sister Sue Clark compared being able to gather to creating a tapestry. She said, “Each of us contributes threads of our own gifts and experiences to this tapestry, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes the gifts we share are known only to the Lord. This tapestry is a living thing that grows in its beauty, strength, texture, color, depth, and design as our contributions are added every day. Our gifts and talents are so different.”2

“Connecting with others.” Brandee (British Columbia, Canada)

At the gatherings, everyone brings their unique gifts and talents together to create something bigger and something beautiful. Students leave with new friends and a knowledge that they’re part of something great.

Learning from Each Other

Many students either love or hate group work, but most PathwayConnect students love the group learning opportunities. It gives people the opportunity to share what they’ve learned, teach others, and continue to learn. While this is possible in online classes, it can be more difficult through Skype or Adobe Connect.

“My favorite part of gathering is being a lead student and learning from my classmates.” Goshendom (Cape Coast, Ghana)

In gatherings, however, people can break into smaller groups and work more closely with each other. Sister Clark said, “Large or small, gatherings give us access to the spirit which we refer to here on campus as the Spirit of Ricks, a blessing of gathering promised by the Lord.”

Mexico-Pathway gathering at the Institute building.

Students discuss assignments during a weekly PathwayConnect gathering

Students as far away as Ukraine can feel the Spirit of Ricks as students help each other, creating a comfortable, more conducive learning environment. It becomes easier to ask a neighbor or the lead student for help or to offer help in return.

“My favorite part is when we share our thoughts on the weekly topics and help one another to understand the lessons.” Kharym (Lima, Peru)

The opportunity to act as a lead student is another form of learning. By teaching fellow students and conducting the discussion, students learn and apply leadership skills and explore their strengths and weaknesses in a friendly, supportive environment. While this is possible online, it can sometimes be difficult to keep attention and student interaction. In-person discussions enable students to interact more personally and look to each other for clarification.

Strengthening Testimonies

While PathwayConnect is an educational opportunity, it’s no surprise that 98% of students report an “increased testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ” when they complete the program. This comes with improved personal prayer and scripture study.

“We are all striving to become better and to grow closer to the Lord. The support from the missionaries and from our fellow classmates makes it all worth it. The Spirit strengthens us.” Jim (Idaho, United States)

Diving deeper into the Book of Mormon and exploring its teachings brings a special spirit to the gatherings that may be difficult to obtain during an online discussion. Students are able to bear testimony in a dedicated building of the blessings, counsel, and miracles they have seen or currently see in their lives.

Mexico-Pathway gathering at the Institute building.

A student takes notes during a weekly gathering

“It is interesting to hear others stories in group discussions about their lives and how they have been strengthened by following gospel principles. Sometimes I notice that the members have similar experiences and by sharing what they did, they help someone else in the group.” Liseja (California, United States)

For many students, college can be an intimidating opportunity, and they have to put their trust in God. They may seek divine help in managing work, family affairs, callings, and other responsibilities with the added burden of school, and because of PathwayConnect groups, they are able to share their blessings with others and increase their faith.

It’s More Than a Gathering

Even though people have varying cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds, everyone is working toward the same thing: a chance to learn and grow — or create a beautiful tapestry. Students learn the same material as their fellow students across the world, but every person brings a unique perspective to the gatherings that create something larger than the individual.

As Elder Bednar said, “You gather together to learn and to prepare for your mortal and eternal opportunities and responsibilities. You gather together to strengthen each other. You gather together to develop appropriate relationships and to create eternal families. You gather together to increase in understanding about the purpose and measure of your creation.”3

“It makes me feel like I am in a family, and I really can feel the spirit.” – Leandro (Rome, Italy)

All of this is possible thanks to BYU-Pathway’s partnership with the Church. Because the PathwayConnect program is able to use institute buildings and meeting houses across the world, the program saves money on rent and buildings, a problem other online programs are unable to replicate. This is the foundation of gatherings.

In his inaugural address, President Gilbert said, “As online learning continues to expand, we will need to amplify opportunities for local gatherings in centers of strength around the world.”4 PathwayConnect gatherings are the first step to reaching this goal and set a strong example for future opportunities.

Share your favorite part of gatherings below and help new students who may be anxious about gatherings realize the value of meeting together.

  1. ^ David A. Bednar, “The Spirit and Purposes of Gathering,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, October 2006.
  2. ^ Sue Clark, “One Heart, One Mind,” Women’s Advisory Council, December 2013.
  3. ^ David A. Bednar, “The Spirit and Purposes of Gathering,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, October 2006.
  4. ^ President Clark G. Gilbert, “A Pioneer’s Heart, A Disciple’s Future.” September 2015. Inaugural Address.

Comments on "Gatherings Unite Students Around the World"

Valeea says:

I love the PathwayConnect Program. I am learning and growing spiritually. I love and miss the in-person gatherings. There is a special spirit that can only be found through these weekly spiritual and physical gatherings. For two of my PathwayConnect semesters, I traveled 2 hours one way, sometimes through ice, snow, and fog over a mountain pass to attend my weekly gatherings. It was totally worth it! I am now attending my 3rd semester gathering online. This has been a blessing in my life that I am grateful for, and I enjoy the online weekly gatherings. However, I miss the special connection I had with the members of my in-person PathwayConnect gathering group, as well as the special spirit I felt in each week’s meeting. I hope and pray that more in-person gatherings will be made available in rural areas such as mine. Until then, I can be very grateful for the advantages of being able to meet weekly online. The biggest benefit is that I am no longer having to drive a far distance in bad weather conditions.

Lauren Conrad says:

Thanks for sharing your experience, Valeea! Your dedication to education and willingness to sacrifice will bless your life in so many ways! You are a great example to us.

Maggie Warkie Cooper says:

I am blessed to be part of PathwayConnect which makes gathering a must. I am a shy person who is not expressive, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and faith in the Savior, I am convinced that my participation in the gathering will help me to be a bold person and my interactions with people will improve.

Maggie Cooper

Onyema Uzodinma Michael says:

I am blessed by Elder Bednar’s talk. I cherish my enrollment in PathwayConnect. I promise to do better than I’m doing now to improve my time in this wonderful program.

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