During my time at BYU-Idaho I had many ideas about academic subjects that mattered deeply to me. However, even though I recognized that many professors were accomplished in their field and could give insightful feedback, I rarely felt comfortable discussing my ideas with them for fear of the consequences, direct and indirect, social and official. However, due to the profound loneliness caused by such severe repression, toward the end of my time there I progressively became more open about my beliefs in conversations with other students and occasionally in class, even to the point that I lost points on an assignment for my answer “not being aligned with gospel principles” and was suspended for disagreeing with a talk by an LDS apostle.
When I was a senior at BYU-Idaho, I personally expressed doubts regarding a talk given by Elder Bednar in a conversation with another student, who informed the bishop. The following Sunday the bishop asked me to meet with him, and in the meeting he asked if I believed in God. I admitted that I no longer believed, but that because I was within months of graduation I desired to remain at BYU-Idaho. I was referred to the stake president, who contacted the president of the university at the time (Kim B. Clark). The stake president informed me that President Clark had made the decision that I could no longer stay at the university, even though I had done no other objectionable action than to express my sincere beliefs in a personal conversation. I subsequently received a letter from the university stating that I could no longer attend BYU-Idaho because my ecclesiastical endorsement had been removed and that I had to leave my apartment within three days.
Why BYU Doesn’t Give Full Academic Freedom
I attended BYU-Idaho for over seven full semesters and it is clear that the university does not allow its students or faculty the academic – indeed, human – freedom to express their sincere beliefs. Students are not allowed to disagree with the doctrine of the LDS religion without severe repercussions, including suspension via withdrawal of one’s ecclesiastical endorsement. As a biology student it was especially disheartening when I could not openly espouse unguided evolution or express my doubts concerning the literal interpretation of Noah’s ark. This severe censorship is damaging intellectually, and indeed, emotionally.
Why the Policy Needs to Change
Because a university should be, first and foremost, a place where students and faculty are allowed to pursue honest reasoning wherever it leads, BYU should not be considered an accredited university in its current state. BYU stifles honest reasoning and encourages even the most trite and untenable rationalizations of LDS doctrine. It is therefore not a university, but a camp of indoctrination and intellectual stagnation.