[Editors Note: Because this BYU student faces dismissal from the University for changing his beliefs, his name has been changed for this story]
I am currently a student at Brigham Young University on the Provo campus. I am a senior, a returned missionary, and a newly wed. I have only a few semesters until I graduate. I support the movement for freedom of religion at BYU because the current policy has been extremely problematic and damaging to me and my wife. I feel backed into a corner and forced to live a lie. I choose to remain anonymous for fear of being reported and losing all the progress I have made in my education over the past several years.
I grew up in a strong Mormon household and was known as a very active member throughout my high school. When it came time to apply to college, I submitted two applications- to BYU Provo and BYU Idaho. I was overjoyed when I was accepted to BYU Provo and I had a very fun and spiritual freshman year. I was more than eager to leave on my mission and serve the Lord. I served an honorable mission and returned to BYU promptly afterwards.
Months afterward, a close friend approached me and told me that he had decided to leave the church. He had left BYU with his credits intact and was eventually planning to remove his records. I was floored. It completely shattered my universe. How could anybody, let alone my close friend, make such a life-destroying decision in good conscience? He told me it was because of doubts he had been struggling with for years. I didn’t even want to know what they were.
Although my friend almost never brought it up after that, I began to wonder what facts about the church and its history could possibly bring my friend to his decision. I began to research things on my own, careful to avoid “anti-Mormon” sources. What I found, confirmed by both church sources and church apologists, was devastating information about the history of the church. I felt confused, disgusted, and angry at the things that I found. I could no longer identify with the LDS faith and I quickly began to feel like an uncomfortable outsider as I attended church meetings and other church/school functions.
I was especially surprised to learn that if I made my disaffection or separation with the church public, I would be expelled from BYU and lose years of work and progress in my education. I remember reciting the articles of faith over and over in primary when I was a child. The 11th article of faith for the LDS church states that “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, WHERE, or what they may.” I didn’t realize that LDS BYU students were an exception to this.
Myself and students like me are forced to either live a lie and stick it out until graduation, or cut our losses and leave. The second option would mean losing years of my hard work. I choose to keep my head down, work hard to get good grades, and get out when I can. I can’t help but feel bitter that I can’t express my true beliefs or enjoy true freedom of religion at this school. I am more than happy to abide by the rest of the honor code, and even pay a high non-LDS student tuition. I don’t want to sin, I only want to be true to myself.
If you are reading this, please spread the message and make our voices heard. I don’t care if you are LDS, a non-member, BYU student or not. Surely you value the freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We want these things at BYU. It will make our school a better place for everyone.