EFY? Stake? FHE? Connor N. Sullivan (’19) was confused, but it wasn’t American Heritage homework that baffled the new BYU freshman. For a devout Catholic, coming to BYU meant a whole new set of vocabulary to learn.
As a high school senior in Connecticut, Sullivan had looked for a school with good values and stumbled upon BYU: “exactly the kind of school I wanted to be at.” The deciding factor, he says, was the Honor Code. “I knew that no matter what other school I decided to go to, there was going to be a similar culture [to my high school] of drinking, doing drugs—having that be the main social thing. I wanted to be somewhere where that wasn’t the case.” He didn’t realize that his decision to attend BYU would lead to major changes in his life.
Vocabulary notwithstanding, Sullivan immediately felt like he fit in among his religious classmates in a way he hadn’t in high school. “I knew I was at school, but almost everything was related to the gospel,” Sullivan says. “[Mormons] don’t just go [to church] on Sunday. . . . This is their lifestyle.”
Even as a Catholic, Sullivan attended many ward and stake activities—but not church. Although he was active socially, he didn’t see a need to depart from his Catholic roots. When Sullivan began taking the missionary lessons, it was just “out of curiosity” and to help him get a handle on a required religion class: Book of Mormon, taught by associate professor Keith J. Wilson (BA ’75, MA ’81).
Wilson noticed Sullivan’s devotion to religion and saw something different in him. “You could tell he had deep belief in God and that he’d lived a circumspect life,” says Wilson. “In many ways, I think Heavenly Father handpicked him to come to BYU.”
It took Sullivan several months of meeting with missionaries to resolve his concerns about joining the Church. But things changed when he learned about priesthood authority. He explains, “Once I realized how necessary it was for me to be baptized and to be a member of the Church, I made that decision.”
In March 2013 Sullivan was baptized in the Joseph Smith Building. “I already felt so much peace here at BYU, but that day, it was just an overwhelming feeling of peace,” Sullivan says.
Just five months after joining the Church, Sullivan baptized his parents and two younger siblings. A year later the Sullivans were sealed in the Boston Massachusetts Temple. Since then Sullivan has served a mission in Chile and is now studying accounting at BYU.
While BYU helped to bring him to the Church, Sullivan has brought a lot to BYU, says Wilson. “People see him on campus, and they just think, ‘There’s a guy who was born and raised in the Church,’. . . not realizing that he was attracted to BYU because of our light, and now because of his light, [he] is really enhancing BYU.”