You will never see Stephen Nelson walking out of the Gelman Starbucks with a caffeinated beverage. Nor will you ever see him taking tequila shots in Thurston. Or smoking. Or having sex – before marriage at least.
“It’s all about keeping it wholesome,” said Nelson, a freshman political communication major.
You may see him, though, being followed around by a camera crew.
Nelson is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormons. He is one of nine young Mormon men being filmed as part of a church documentary and reality series that follows their lives in the time they spend before going off to serve two-year missions around the world.
A mission involves being assigned to a location around the world for either 18 months or two years, teaching “the gospel of Jesus Christ” and performing “community service in the areas they are called to,” according to the official LDS Web site.
The purpose of the film project, according to Nelson, is to clear up misconceptions and urban legends people may have about Mormons, and to bring the church out of obscurity.
Mirror Lake Films, the company contracted to make the show, filmed Nelson’s graduation, graduation parties, and came with him for about a week to film GW move-in and the first few days of school. Nelson said the crew will be back in about four months to film more footage. Although Nelson said having a camera crew following him at all times can be fun, he said it can get a little awkward.
“Especially on move-in day, having a camera crew trail behind you is not the most convenient thing, especially because you’re moving your luggage in, setting up your room,” Nelson said.
For the most part, Nelson said fellow GW students were receptive to the camera crew.
“If anything, the camera crew was an attractive force and people came up to me and asked me what they were doing and then they introduced themselves,” Nelson said.
The fourth of six children, Nelson is the first child from his family to attend college outside of the state of Utah, where his family lives. Nelson said he came to GW for the political communication major in the School of Media and Public Affairs, and to live in a culturally and historically diverse city.
“(Attending GW) seemed like a great opportunity for me to grow because I came to realize Utah is rather insulated from the rest of the United States.”
As far as typical college life goes, Nelson said he sometimes attends parties but does not drink, adding that “the University has a lot of other great things to offer other than just the reputation of Thurston Hall.”
“You can be in the GW world and not be of the GW world,” he said.