I attended BYU during the late 80’s and early 90’s. I graduated from the “Y” with a bachelors degree in Marketing. I have since gone on to receive an MBA at another instituion. I have very fond memories of Deseret Towers, the Tanner Building, the Library’s closing music, my roommates and wonderful teachers. In addition, I met my future husband while I was at BYU (always a plus).
I chose to attend BYU because it was the best name I could afford. During my senior year of high school in Bedford, Texas I knew my family of seven was not going to be able to help me through school but I really wanted to get a college education. I needed to be able to put myself through school and while my test scores and grades had interested a number of enticing and well known colleges I knew I would be unable to afford even the cost of living in these areas even if I had received tuition scholarships. BYU, in contrast, was known world-wide as a good school and I was very excited to attend when I was accepted.
During my time at BYU there was much I learned that challenged me to grow and mature. I needed to learn self-discipline to get my classes completed. I worked harder intellectually as well as physically than I had ever done in my short life in order to keep my grades up, pay my bills and still stay fed. In addition, as a tutor for non-LDS, international students I was exposed to a myriad of beliefs. I was proud of my ability to help these students prepare for religion tests and succeed. None of my tutoring students ever chose to convert to Mormonism but this did not bother me as I respected their personal religious beliefs.
As I became older my husband of 25 years, myself and our family chose to leave the LDS faith. As we had stayed in the Utah County area, the home of my husband’s family, we became active in supporting young adults who chose to leave their faith during their time at BYU. Often times these kids find their parents, their friends and their University turn their back on them during their deepest trials. Many struggle to come to grips with doubts in their faith they have never experienced before and are stunned at the harsh consequences their honest doubts cause.
My concern with BYU’s current Honor Code policy is that almost all of these kids enter BYU with a strong testimony of their faith and have no idea they may end of dealing with a crisis of faith prior to their completion of their studies. These children find themselves stuck in a situation where, once confessing to serious doubts, often times these children are labeled as honor code violators, their ecclesiastical endorsement is put in jeopardy and they realize they could lose their good standing at BYU as well as their credits they have earned during their stay at BYU earned even when they were faithful, non-doubting members of their LDS Community.
When these children seek advice from those who have gone before them they are often given a choice of playing along with their religious leadership, pretending to have renewed their faith so they can maintain their familial support and their ecclesiastical endorsement and good standing at BYU or they are cast out of BYU for being unwilling to lie about their doubts and find themselves without their credits, unable to stay in their apartments and losing their employment. This harsh treatment does not engender righteousness and is not faith promoting. These children often leave and never re-consider their faith crisis. Their treatment at the hands of the Honor code office and BYU proving to them that they are not valued within the religion and they are not wanted due to their doubts.
I do not feel children that enter BYU as LDS members but have serious crisis of faith should be allowed to keep their preferential tuition. Nor do I feel the University has an obligation to keep them enrolled after the current semester they are currently enrolled in. I would ask that these children be allowed to finish out the remainder of their paid semester and then be allowed to leave with dignity and transfer their credits to another University.
I have opened my home to many of these children and my heart and a listening ear to hundreds of these kids as they navigate the harsh realities of their doubt and possible disaffection. Over the years my husband and I have provided food, shelter, and support to kids that have nowhere to go for holidays as their families struggle to embrace them. Our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are always open to children that have been left out of their families’ celebrations, we always find a way to add a plate at our table.
I would hope in the future that BYU would allow these children and their families to deal with faith crises with dignity and grace. Understanding that BYU has no obligation to maintain their enrollment but does so to the end of the current semester and allow the child access to their credits so the child can land on their feet and successfully move forward in life. I feel this policy change might give some students an opening to work through their doubts and feel they are welcome back, not possibly to BYU, but back to the religious fold if their testimonies lead them back to the Church.