Students, Faculty Travel to the Temple on 8th Annual Service Day

Nearly 200 Southern Virginia University students, faculty and staff attended the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the university’s eighth annual Service Day last week.

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A small group of students and faculty gathers in front of the temple on Service Day

Each year, the university cancels classes on Service Day to provide students the ability to travel to the temple and serve with their classmates and professors. Cody Byrd, a freshman who was baptized a member of the Church earlier this month, attended the temple for the first time on the Service Day Tuesday.

“[Attending the temple] was the most wonderful thing that I’ve ever been able to do,” said Byrd. “It was very nice to be able to go up and have a whole day just focused on the temple. I was able to [be baptized for] a couple of my family members that have passed away.”

Byrd, who has served in the military for four years, began attending Southern Virginia last semester after becoming friends with several members of the Church while deployed in Afghanistan.

“When I was in Afghanistan, I had a couple of LDS buddies that helped me through a lot of questions and pointed me this direction,” Byrd said.

Dr. Scott Dransfield, professor of English at Southern Virginia and the bishop of Byrd’s ward, said that he felt attending the temple so soon after being baptized was a “great opportunity” for Byrd.

“The day before we went [to the temple] I met with him and others to ordain him a priest and then right away issued him a temple recommend,” Dransfield said. “He was very excited about it and I think his own enthusiasm and deep feelings are just confirmed in going to the temple right away . . . and feeling the peace and spirit that dwell in the temple.”

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In addition to performing ordinances in the temple, those who attended also rendered service in other ways. Inside the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center, participants worked together to sort, organize and store over 600,000 Christmas lights that adorn the temple’s grounds each winter during the Festival of Lights.

“It was overall a great experience being able to do service and even learn more about the temple while interacting with others who wanted to help out,” said Miranda Sever, a Southern Virginia freshman from California.

Participants began the day early, meeting at the local Institute of Religion at 6:45 a.m. to begin the three-and-a-half hour trip to the temple in three charter buses and a number of cars.

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Southern Virginia students Chelsea and Cameron Burgoyne walk toward the temple

“I enjoyed it very much,” said Dransfield. “On the weekdays there’s not a whole lot going on so it felt like we had the temple to ourselves. It was just wonderful being there with colleagues, students and members of my ward. It brings us together and clarifies our priorities.”

Wright Noel, a sophomore from Washington, also appreciated the sense of unity that came from attending the temple.

“Attending the temple as a school reminds me that when all is said and done, we are Heavenly Father’s children,” Noel said. “Our differences and disagreements become smaller as we understand the larger truths that unite us.”