Hi, my name is Maria

[Editors Note: Name has been changed per the author’s request.]

I think the Free BYU movement hits on an issue that is critical to the emotional and mental well-being of students at BYU. I feel that oftentimes the culture within the Church is one of anxiety and fear of stating one’s opinions freely, particularly when they are the minority and question doctrines of the Church or opinions of Church (and university) leaders. This policy of expulsion from BYU, housing, and on-campus jobs catalyzes that culture of suppressing opinions and free expression, which I think leads to bitterness and anger. Changing the policy is unlikely to cause more people to leave the Church, but it is likely to encourage a more (visible) diverse population at BYU, more free speech and expression, and to demonstrate more love and compassion to those who decide to go inactive or that they no longer subscribe to the beliefs of the LDS Church. When those who have doubts or disagree feel stifled, it causes more animosity.
I transferred to BYU as a non-member and shortly thereafter was baptized in the Church. The decision to get baptized was a difficult one for many reasons, but one of those reasons was the fear that if I got baptized and later changed my mind, I wouldn’t be able to back out without having to leave the university that I had just transferred to. Even though I did decide to get baptized because I felt that it was the right thing to do and didn’t think I would change my mind later, it still felt like an extra pressure from a Church that already provides so much pressure not to leave. It was more than just making a religious change (which already is a huge decision), but it was committing myself to saying that I will maintain this exact same mindset for the next four years unless I am willing to severely upset the course of my life before those years are over. That kind of commitment is extremely difficult for anyone, not just converts to the Church, when we are constantly changing beings with new perspectives and ideas. Often this policy is seen as affecting primarily those who want the right to leave the Church, but also can be a major negative impact on those who are considering joining.