The majority of St. George residents identify as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Dixie State campus is predominantly Mormon.
With less religious diversity comes feelings of rejection, especially because one’s spirituality or religious affiliations have a strong influence on morals, perspectives and philosophies. It is important to feel connected with a community who shares similar experiences, which is why Pagan Ideology (originally Spiritual Sciences) was introduced to DSU in 2008.
DSU is not the only Utah campus with one religiously diverse club in southern Utah as Southern Utah University’s only religiously diverse club is the Atheists, Agnostics and Non-religious Community. To put it in perspective, the University of Utah, one of the top three largest universities in Utah and one of the most diverse in Utah, has seven non-traditional, religious-based clubs.
DSU’s Pagan Ideology is an all-inclusive club directed toward non-Christian spiritualities. Club Secretary Zsa‘Jade Ervin, a senior English major from Los Angeles, said the club serves as a way to learn about and celebrate diverse spiritualities.
“Pagan is an umbrella term, and people seem to forget that a lot,” Ervin said. “It really means anything that’s not under Christianity.”
Club Vice President Cheyenne Dutson, a senior art sciences major from Colorado City, Arizona, first joined the club to learn about new spiritualities. She later joined the council to help others who are looking for something similar.
Pagan Ideology does a variety of activities as a club to help members explore their own spiritualities along with those of others. They hold lessons, teach about how to use different materials such as crystals or runes, and hold trips.
“For example, this year we are taking the club to the Chinese New Year celebration in China Town Las Vegas,” Dutson said. “We also participate in service projects to help better our community. These events give students the opportunity to learn, meet new people and get involved with the community.”
Some of the club lessons include learning about tarot cards and how to use them, teaching about how to conduct different types of rituals and what they may be used for, the significance of semi-precious stones, or simple lessons on the basics of certain religions or spiritualities. Club members always have a say in what the lessons will be and what the activities will be as well.
Pagan Ideology also works with other clubs on campus and in the community for events. The club has teamed up with the LGBT Student Association to hold festivities, and with the Dixie Motorcycle Club and St. George Street Bikes for a Christmas charity event. The club collaborates with other clubs at the Multicultural Inclusion Center for events like Diversity Week.
Club President Kamron Larsen, a sophomore music major from Ferron, Utah, believes the club is important to educate students and bring diverse students together. When he found out DSU had a Pagan Ideology club on campus, he felt like he found a place where he would belong and feel accepted. He said the club means a lot to him as he grew up in an LDS family and never felt connected to the religion.
“Pagan Ideology has taught me how to see a different side of the world,” Larsen said. “Seeing things from a different side or viewpoint gives us knowledge and a broad horizon for how we view the world and its people.”
Larsen said it is common for students on campus to have a negative, pre-concieved idea of the club and sometimes frown upon the club because it doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the LDS religion.
“A lot of people, they see Pagan Ideology and they’re like, ‘Oh, they’re evil,’” Ervin said. “It hasn’t been well received. I’ve been outcasted…”
Nevertheless, Larsen, Dutson and Ervin agree the club serves as an effective support system.
“I like it because it’s not just a club,” Ervin said. “In a sense, it’s a group of people who share a collective idea of being different.”
The club is always willing to reach out to any student on campus and support their spiritual journeys as well, regardless of their belief system.
“Everyone is welcome, and everyone deserves a chance to feel accepted,” Larsen said. “Come and see that just because we are different and worship different than you doesn’t mean we are any less.”