507: Free BYU — Religious Freedom and Faith Transition at Church Schools

freebyuThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long affirmed the importance of religious freedom, even issuing a press release in 2013 declaring that “it is the right to think, express and act upon what you deeply believe, according to the dictates of conscience.”

But a group of current and former students is concerned about implications for students who find themselves transitioning away from belief in the church while still enrolled at a church-owned school. It creates, they argue, an impossible situation where students are seemingly forced to choose between their integrity and the education they have worked and payed for.

In this episode, we’re joined by several members of Free BYU, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of what they consider a lack of religious freedom within the Church Educational System.

We discuss with Free BYU leaders the Honor Code as it relates to religious freedom, ecclesiastical endorsements and how to handle a faith transition while at a church school. We’ll also talk with two current students as they talk about how they are trying to navigate their faith transitions while attending BYU.


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  1. I was at BYU in the late 80’s when they started requiring ecclesiastical endorsements. At the time I had several heated discussions defending the new policy. “There are lots of others who would be happy to take your place and participate in church as well as the subsidized tuition members enjoy” was the argument. While I don’t disagree with that (even as a disaffected member) it appears that, yet again, something with good intentions has (like the honor code)been twisted into something that is used to beat people into submission. Very Pharisaical. Very Mormon. Thanks for the discussion!

    1. The issues that will have impact are if the required academic freedom and support for intellectual honesty exist as required for an accredited university. When compared to these core concerns, religious freedom as a civil right, becomes of secondary concern. The BYU is not accredited as a theological seminary, but otherwise. The BYU disciplinary procedure reads as it may discourage academic freedom to study, investigate, analyze, and discover. Then to punish the intellectual results of the process discourages intellectual honesty. For the benefit of all BYU students, past, present, and future, I believe academic freedom and intellectual honesty this is a serious matter for consideration of the N.W.C.U. Northwest Council on Colleges and Universities accredits BYU as a university. This organization will then determine if this BYU policy is inconsistent with the requisite academic freedom and intellectual honesty. For example, how will this BYU policy affect academic freedom to research matters of history, especially that of the US, New York, Illinois, Missouri, and Utah? Studies of linguistics of ancient languages? Studies of world immigration patterns for ancient people? Archaeology? Studies on Utah History and Political science and Sociology if the the murders of David sheets, by Mark Hoffman, and the exchanges between Church and State are not freely accessible. Academic freedom is required for NCCU accreditation. Their website may be http://www.nwccu.org. Asking for a review of BYU’s accreditation in light of the policy would be relevant, fair and necessary.

      1. Beautifully stated Mike! BYU deserves to lose its accreditation as a university. And BYU should not be supported by taxpayer dollars when they are suppressing knowledge and acting like a cult.

        1. Brad, go to the website, accreditation standard #15 is the one at issue. The students who have been dismissed have the standing to complain. The fair question, “What is a young student suppose to do when they read and see?” The LDS leaders ask students not to look because their is no need. Dallen Oaks lecture to the BYU history department, not all truth is useful or helpful. Find your student with standing. Find a local, non-LDS attorney, to help write the complaint. http://Www.nwccu.org. The effort is worthy. Mike

        2. What kind of creep are you? BYU is one of the top schools in the nation and it turns out great graduates ready to serve society. If you don’t like to keep the standard we agree to when we ask to be admitted, then go elsewhere.

          1. Not a BYU fan but I couldn’t agree more. Don’t like it, don’t go.

            Just like idiots who move next to an airport and complain about the noise.

          2. Truly great students, & myself excluded, wonderful alumni. Dallas, I read we are both in our 50’s and you have enough experience to know better than name call and bully your way in a manner below the dignity of BYU alumni. The issue is accreditation by the “private” NWCCU standards. I suppose if BYU does not like to abide what it agreed and promised the Council, then it may have to leave. Many other schools may be waiting to take its place. Bob Jones University also faced the same struggles over its regional accreditation. Honoring the commitment as an accredited university to its students or openly recasting will be a matter of integrity for BYU.

          3. Even a “top school” must keep its commitments to Academic Freedom if it hopes to continue with its accredited status. The gaps between these Standards of the NWCCU for its member schools and BYU reads as glaring.
            Both 2.A.27 & 2.A.28 present as difficult challenges for BYU, Standard 2.A.28 below, last sentence reads as if it may require that BYU abandon those policies that forbid and punish students who have a change in their religious beliefs. Because the University denies that it is a parochial school, all candor and honesty demand that BYU either recant on these claims or be faithful to these Standards as it has before promised its students to abide. In its intolerance of religious diversity among the private lives of its students, BYU may have transgressed its own commitment to the NWCCU and the students to be more tolerant. Read for yourselves the Standards that BYU has accepted as a member of the NWCCU.
            Academic Freedom 2.A.27 The institution publishes and adheres to policies, approved by its governing board, regarding academic freedom and responsibility that protect its constituencies from inappropriate internal and external influences, pressures, and harassment.

            2.A.28 Within the context of its mission, core themes, and values, the institution defines and actively promotes an environment that supports independent thought in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It affirms the freedom of faculty, staff, administrators, and students to share their scholarship and reasoned conclusions with others. While the institution and individuals within the institution may hold to a particular personal, social, or religious philosophy, its constituencies are intellectually free to examine thought, reason, and perspectives of truth. Moreover, they allow others the freedom to do the same

          4. Who makes you competent to charge someone with being a “creep”. When you point your finger to label someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you. Those that find themselves in this difficult situation did not enroll to deliberately violate an “honor code”, they found out things that in conscience made them change their views on the overreaching claims of the Mormon Church.

  2. This brings to mind a long-ago, puzzling and distressing dream on Joseph Smith’s birth-date (23 Dec 64), where I am in the Los Angeles temple as a ‘beautiful woman with a bad reputation’. I’ve come to get my things from my locker. There are church education administrators nearby who do not notice me, but who look wholesome. A woman friend in a locker next to mine says, “When it comes your turn to stand, there will be no one there to defend you.”

    The dream image of “wholesome educators” characters now catches my attention. It took decades before this dream made sense to me. At the time I was at the peak of my new professional career as a nuclear scientist, a pillar in the church and with wife and five children. It was not to last….

    Several years later (after a 7-year wilderness period) I became friends with John R. Howard, then president of Lewis & Clark College, who headed an accreditation committee to assess BYU’s graduate school application for accreditation. Dr. Howard told me they could not then approve BYU’s request because the committee determined that BYU was more concerned with “declamation than search”. In other words, “ideology” was then more important than a genuine “search” for truth.

    My question: Has anything really changed at BYU since then? And, are the Church educational administrators really ‘wholesome’?

  3. Good discussion. I went to the Y right after the mission. I quickly realized some of the issues with academic freedom and transferred to the U. Loved my time at the U and very much respect BYU. Sorry for those who have to endure this odd conflict between faith and education. The solutions proposed by the panel seem reasonable.

    1. Alex- thanks for your comment (“The solutions proposed by the panel seem reasonable”): it’s similar to Maddy’s as well (we’re “making a reasonable request to be allowed to continue as students while agreeing to pay a higher tuition rate”).

      I’ve been advocating on this subject for some time, and it has been my experience that individuals consistently conclude as you have- namely, that the solution we propose is reasonable. If what we propose had been the status quo all along, I think most people wouldn’t think twice about it. What would be the driving force to make the policy as it, unfortunately, is today? Treating former LDS students the same as other non-LDS students is a common-sense approach whose result is not only humane treatment of LDS students who go through a faith crisis, but also a positive reputation for the institution: because it is seen to practice what it preaches.

  4. I have come to think that the 11th Article of Faith does not apply to LDS members. Once you are “in”, you obey your priesthood leaders, period. There is no freedom of religion inside of the church. I completely understand why the church would want to remove disaffected members from BYU. It is unfortunate that the church treats students this way, but after all it is a private institution.

    1. GM- You mentioned that “I completely understand why the church would want to remove disaffected members from BYU.” Would you mind expanding on that? I’ve given this issue some thought, and I’m still unable to articulate the institution’s net gain from the status quo policy.

      Here’s how my thought process goes when I try to articulate the net gain. A substantial number of of LDS BYU students are converted in their hearts (either to a different religion or to irreligion)- the majority stay in the closet, and the minority exits the closet and are consequently expelled/evicted/terminated. How does the church benefit from either outcome? In what way does (1) expelling/evicting/terminating the openly disaffected or (2) intimidating the closeted disaffected to stay in the closet, deliver value to the church? The students in both camps are harmed (sometimes deeply) by the practice; and given the inconsistency between the policy and the church’s own construction of what religious freedom means, what counterbalancing benefit justifies the status quo policy decision?

      Even if one were to assume the worst about the church (i.e. that it is only self-interested), our proposed reform wins the day when compared to the status quo.

      1. Ex-members poison the well. It is that simple. If I had “The GM Club” along with my private “U of GM” and a member did not agree with my positions any longer and wanted to leave the club, I would do the same. BYU is much more than a school. It is structured to maintain and enforce lds belief along with getting an education. I went to one of the BYUs and never knew of this policy, but I do not find it surprising.

        I do not think the church performs any sort of emotional or spiritual cost/benefit analysis on their policy of excluding ex-members. There must be hundreds of kids who do not get in each year who are ready to fill the seats. If I were in the church’s position, I would be circling the wagons and strengthening the core believers.. (which is not me, BTW). Rank and file members will not sympathize with the Free BYU cause. These are the people who are providing value to the church.

      1. Yes, they do take those funds. BYU has danced that dance with Feds many times and they get away with it. Maybe they have a few well-placed senators and congressmen on their rolodex?

    2. My heart aches as I read of the unwary students trapped by the CODE’s powerful “ad-terrorum” clauses. They were crafted by the Mormon Church to police its members using cryptic policy that forces obedience to Mormon Religious Authority in an occultly burried, cynically drafted legal ploy. Because it needs deciphering this is truly a “CODE” somewhat without candor, transparency, and honor. Hereinafter, may we properly make reference to this as the “CODE”? The Mormons’ penchant for obfuscation has historical precedents dating back to JS’ polygamous shenanigans in Ohio and Illinois, BY’s execution of the Fancher pioneers, and more recently in hiding from its negligence in the sad Hoffman murder of the faithful LDS member DS. It is merely a Code used to manipulate absolute theocratic control over Mormon students and Faculty to enforce a cultist’s power over its members.

  5. Have you ever noticed that when someone says that they’d like to share their religion with you, they aren’t particularly interested in hearing anything about your religion? The sharing goes only one way.

    The purpose of BYU is to give the kids a good academic foundation, without the dangers any differing opinions or thoughts. That way no one ever gets confused by different ideas! The purpose is, like a mission, to cement your membership into the church, especially if you find your future spouse at BYU.

    I went to BYU in the late 80’s. At that time I started reading church history, and my faith radically changed to something more nuanced. I feel for these students.

    BYU is about solidifying the base. If you aren’t going to be a customer, why should you be shocked that they don’t want you around to erode the base?

    BYU is a private institution and I support their right to be xenophobic and fearful.

    The problem for BYU and the LDS church is that they can no longer control the conversation. This is bigger than them. Their only option now is to place a scarlet letter, (through excommunication/resignation) on those who say true (and embarrassing) things about the church.

    The members will say, “Well, you know that D. Michael Quinn was excommunicated, right?” Or “why would you listen to anything that an excommunicated person says?”

    I think the brethren are in a real pickle. When I was a kid, in my ward, all the boys went on missions. My ward now, about 30% don’t go.

    The Community of Christ (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of LDS) membership was decimated when they decided to be honest about church history. I imagine that this portends of things to come.

      1. Well, from our perspective, our faith is based on current involvement from God above through his living prophets and apostles. All other religions are simply creations of men who have their interpretations of the scriptures, much like the Scribes and Pharisees at the time of Christ. I’m not sure what they say is relevant for your salvation. So it is only natural for us to want tell what is relevant. Latter-day Saints believe in obeying the commandment “to be ye therefore perfect…” We don’t believe a watered down form of Christianity nor one that condemns others, we love our neighbors and help them when times are tough. We take seriously, by their fruits ye shall know them. Within our ranks, we try to do our best and obey the commandments and forgive one another whether the sinner repents or not. Joseph Smith was not smart enough to write the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, so the only answer is that they are true. If you study and pray about them, the Holy Ghost will tell you whether they are true or not. That is our message. When you are pricked in your hearts, then you will ask what the next steps you should take to get into the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life. We welcome your sincere interest.

        1. You coment would be more accurate if you removed one word from your second sentence. The word “other”. The level of your smug hubris is most impressive.

        2. Dallas, “bless your heart” as I read your sincerity and even pain on any imagined possibility that JS and all thereafter if not as claimed. You intend well, and should know that Faith need not be so difficult. The historical, little “o” orthodox, Biblical Christianity is not at odds with Meso-American archeology, linguistics, ancient and recent history. Reasonable Faith exists, and you are not limited to only two choices: the LDS view or a hopeless atheism. No, contrary to what you have been told, hope and Faith exist, in a larger and more accessible Faith in an orthodox Biblical Christianity. The Church is not a building or a denomination, but the whole of all believers collectively counted who have trusted and believed as one may read in John 3:16 and through the entire Bible from Genesis to the end : Baptists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, LDS, Methodists, Presbyterians, and all the Believers who are seeking a Biblically faithful fellowship. The “Be Perfect” requirement is plainly read to convince readers that only by Grace, un-merited favor, can the sons Adam and daughters of Eve enter the straight and narrow gate. There is no hope trusting in a church, or some religious system for your Faith. Get yourself some readable translation of the Bible and read it yourself. Can we all believe that King James English may have been useful 16th Century. We all need a readable and textually faithful translation in our own language: Modern Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Spanish, then any any every tribal language known on our earth. Try it, and be bold. Don’t be afraid. Fear is not helping you, read 1 John 4, the entire chapter. Go man. Find your own readable Bible, in your own language. Reliable and generally accepted Biblical, modern English texts include NASB, NIV, NLT, NKJ, Homan, and many others. Perhaps, for a start, find a parallel Bible, with side by side columns, KJV, NASB, or NIV, side by side. Don’t fear, you will be wonderfully amazed at how simple and plain The Book is to read in your own language, and not in 15th century Old English. Be brave and go forward with your eyes and mind looking and thinking. Start with the whole Gospel of John. Read, in any text Acts 17:11 and see if checking is not what we are all required to do. Only by ignorance can the likes of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and a long list of others be such a destructive force. Real and reasonable Faith is not so hard to believe. Don’t give up. Best wishes for success as you open up your eyes and mind to more and more truth. Acts 17:11. Go for it. God Bless. Mike

          1. Attorney Mike. Please tell me. When Christ returns to the earth, will He go to all the thousands of Christian Churches and preach exactly what they are accustomed to hearing, or will He teach one consistent Gospel? If “one consistent Gospel” is it not reasonable to believe He has the intent that one consistent Gospel be preached in our current Churches? And if so, how can that be accomplished except He have a Prophet to communicate His will?

          2. McGyver – the pretense of a question is actually a syllogism rather than any logic. The returning Jesus, as Biblically known is not a door-to-door or whatever you describe in your so called question. Presently, in Biblical Christianity, if you become familiar only has one Gospel “Good News” with four historians: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. Please, take my advice, Read Acts 17:11, buy a Bible in your own language. If the Bereans were praised for holding the Apostle Paul to the written word, Paul having been commissioned by Jesus personally, how can the “presidents” of any organization ask for less? Go read McGiver and study and be more Berean. Be brave and don’t fear what you might learn could change your life for the better. Start with the Gospel of John, and try to read the whole Gospel of John in one day, it’s not too long and will give you more context and understanding. Buy a NKJV if you are afraid of the other texts, and try the parallel Bible so you will be less fearful. Go. Learn. Enjoy.

          3. I have a NIV amd consulted others. Have dead sea scrolls. Reading Acts proves need for priesthood authority. John is great. He shows need to draw near to the Lord through obedience and Christ will personally attend you and visit you. No priesthood, no valid baptism, no gift of the Holy Ghost. That’s what the Acts of the apostles teaches.

  6. I had similar but different experience at BYU from 2007 to 2010. I entered Graduate school at BYU already a non-believer, but I was still actively participating in church at the time. Now I was 30 years old and not young and ignorant and therefore knew full well the ramifications of signing the endorsement as far as remaining a devoted Mormon. I immediately noticed the contradiction of claiming they don’t discriminate against Mormons unless your former Mormon. So I knew the rules of the game. A personal tragedy occurred while attending BYU that did make church attendance and participation exceptionally difficult. After that I did hate the honor code but accepted the reality of it. It was mentally draining playing the game to get the endorsement. But on the other hand I loved BYU. My graduate chair Brian Cannon was and is an excellent history professor and great teacher. Most the other professors were great as well. In LDS history class and Western History class I did push the envelope in discussing Mormon topics and was never at all questioned or threatened. That said I highly doubt any of my fellow students would be at all shocked at my disaffection. I liked BYU, disliked the honor code, but would not change my decision to go there. And once I received my degree I havn’t been back to church and now enjoy my Sundays!

  7. Comments and a question for your panel:

    Your cause is sound, but your approach and tactic, is questionable. I hope that the cause is successful…that the current “Honor Code” can be adjusted to allow an individual to be true to his own conscience, and complete their education. If the new code is adjusted, it could include that dissenting views cannot be actively promoted on campus, with proselyting, demonstrations, etc….but, contrary views, be held as personal convictions, without false pretense, as now required, to remain.

    First Question:
    Was the decision to select a convert to Islam, rather than another Christian sect, or atheist “convert”, a conscious decision or just a “happy accident”?

    My own guess is that you knew that it would give your cause a political gravity, advantage, and pressure, that selecting a convert to another Christian sect, or atheist would not. Nobody these days worries about offending a non-believer, Christian, or Jew.

    Second Question:
    Did you ever considering reaching out to the top church leaders with these concerns, first, with a behind the scenes, more private plea for such a change, rather than an “open letter” proclamation type of approach?

    I don’t mean to be cynical, but this approach, does have a feel and “optics” of achieving some notoriety on your own part, even if unintentional…and “making a scene”. If you have previously attempted the more quiet approach and less confrontational, then I apologize right now for this comment, and your current effort is appropriate. I am sure all of your intents are honest and sincere, but sometimes, behind the scenes negotiations can be more successful.

    My final observation is, that I am surprised that more BYU students are not commenting on this subject. I must admit, that when I attended BYU (graduated 1977), most of us were just too busy enjoying student life, playing intramural sports, skiing, dating, studying, going to cheer on our teams, and working. For most of us the “honor code” was more of a test, to see how long we could grow our hair, without being called out for it.

    Hopefully we will see progress in the days ahead. Thanks for your efforts!

    1. These students have made a compelling case for BYU to change their Honor Code, and, I believe, are making a reasonable request to be allowed to continue as students while agreeing to pay a higher tuition rate.

      I think they are taking the right approach in making a public case rather than doing it privately. I was once told by a local leader if I tried to communicate with leaders in SLC, they just routinely return letters to the local letters to deal with. This puts the students in a very precarious spot (though the public case is risky too). SLC leaders could refer the case back to the student’s local leaders and the local leaders could then refuse to give the students the required ecclesiastical endorsement resulting in their expulsion from BYU. But the SLC leaders would then be able to avoid having to respond and blame could be assigned to local leadership.

    2. E.E.T.- First question – I’ll have to defer to John, since he selected the panel.

      Second question- I’m interested in what “reaching out to the top church leaders with these concerns, first, with a behind the scenes, more private plea for such a change” looks like from your perspective. Certainly, the decision makers’ awareness is not the obstacle. As an example, BYU Spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said “BYU has not considered changing this policy. BYU has been very open and forthcoming about [it]” (https://issuu.com/studentreview/docs/sr_issue3/8). The policy issue has been raised many times over the years by many people (e.g. Dan Burton).

      Given that awareness is not the issue, the only two candidate obstacles are (1) willingness and (2) ability. No one doubts the Board’s ability to change the Honor Code- they own the content and could change the text tomorrow. That leaves #1- willingness. The decision makers (i.e. the Board) need to be persuaded.

      I don’t see how your proposed “negotiations” approach would persuade those who have the power to make the change. I also can’t visualize what that would look like in practice. I have no direct access to the decision makers (the Board); and from my training and experience, negotiations are only successful when both parties have something the other party wants. Those like myself that advocate change are beggars in this exchange- the Board holds nearly every card in the deck.

      For my part, I have personally made vigorous attempts to achieve this reform- talking to a member of the Honor Code committee, the ICLRS director, the BYU Chaplain, a former Law School dean, and two BYU VP’s (one of whom is now the president of BYU). I document my failures here. https://bradcarmack.blogspot.com/2012/12/byus-policy-of-kicking-out-lds-students.html

      Last, E.E.T, I will join with you in expressing my surprise at the relative silence of BYU students on this subject. The Student Review article referenced above was among the most popular articles in the publication, sure- but given the level of understanding about religious freedom and civil rights issues among professors and students on campus, I’m frankly surprised by how unexercised most have been on this issue in the last decade.

      As an anecdote- I recall discussing this issue with one of my law student peers who specialized in religious freedom, and he flat out told me the policy didn’t bother him from a religious freedom perspective. I can maybe see how drinking the cool-aid of a legal perspective (which focuses on the religious freedom of organizations at the expense of individuals, an approach anathema to LDS statements which emphasize the religious freedom of God’s children rather than soulless corporate entities) would pacify some. But, there are too many activisty students at BYU for that explanation to satisfy- leaving me perplexed.

      1. Hello Brad,

        Thanks very much for your reply. You have removed any question I had about your attempts in “reaching out” to solve this problem. You have made numerous efforts, before deciding on your current action. You certainly have gone the extra mile and have proceeded in an honest and respectful manner….a great effort!

        I sincerely hope that you will receive a prompt response, with a favorable outcome. A change to the “honor code”, that will give more dignity and integrity, to the term honor, as well as being true to one’s convictions, while respectful of others.

  8. As a BYU alum and active mormon I had no idea that BYU allows non-believers to attend BYU unless that person is a former member of the church. This is a double standard that is amazing to me. I’m dumbfounded. It makes no sense.

  9. “These students have made a compelling case for BYU to change their Honor Code, and, I believe, are making a reasonable request to be allowed to continue as students while agreeing to pay a higher tuition rate.”

    I agree that the case is compelling, and the Honor Code should be changed. I am not sure I understand why they should pay a higher fee.

    It seems to me that there should be a Grandfather clause that allows people who suffer from a crisis of faith to complete their education at BYU and move on with their lives in dignity, as they see fit, without being “cast out” or humiliated. The thought that someone must leave or pay more because of a “loss of testimony” is mind-boggling to me. It is degrading, and anti-Christian.

    I certainly understand the paranoia of the powers that be, that apostates will poison the well. And there certainly should be consequences for those that take it upon themselves to publicly make disparaging remarks about the institution and religion, but those that are willing to unobtrusively go focus on their education and not become a detractor, after a crisis of faith, should be allowed to finish out their schooling with dignity and without persecution.

    Truth be known, there is a high percentage of “active members” at BYU that secretly question the truth claims of the church or who are indifferent to them, and are simply going through the outward motions so that they can get an education.

    The only difference between them and those that openly acknowledge their change in beliefs is personal integrity, which should be respected if not applauded.

  10. As a progressive-minded Latter Day Saint, I have learned to accept the fact that The Church is a community of fallible human beings and some of those faults become institutionalized. This happens in all institutions – political, academic, corporate, etc. but the institutions that survive and flourish develop formal and informal processes to adapt. Mormons have canonized concept of “continuing revelation,” which I believe makes us much more adaptable than many other institutions. The application of that process takes on different forms but I see the work Free BYU is doing as very much a part of that process.

    That said, it made me sad to hear some these young men make major decisions about abandoning faith, religious practice and affiliation on such a short time horizon. In my experience, the process the blogosphere has labeled “faith transition” is a lifelong journey. For many Latter-day saints, there is an exercise of either decoupling themselves from religion completely or evolving their LDS faith to a less literal belief structure. My own path has followed the latter and I am incredibly grateful for the blessings that have come to me by sticking with it. The church serves my desires to enhance the virtues of love, beauty, compassion, and spiritual awe and discovery. If the church community, with all its warts, enhances those virtues, I am better with it than without it.

    Community is important and there is a substantial body of data that shows that an individual’s connection with a faith community has a significantly positive effect on their psychological well-being and life satisfaction. So Free BYU… While you work to improve some administrative policies at BYU, don’t give up on that community! You own this church as much as any other member so work to make the community better for everyone and yourselves.

  11. Brad… I really respected you while I was at BYU. I lived in an apartment that you visited and left a book in and I just wanted to say that it really took guts for you to publish that book on homosexuality at BYU. I completely believe in this cause to “free BYU” that you and others are undertaking.

    I went to BYU because I wanted to become a church historian but instead I lost my faith in Joseph Smith, the BOM, temples (basically what makes mormonism, mormonism) and went on to study other things. I did graduate from BYU and I still love the school but it was tough… Sundays were the worst. Luckily, my church leaders never bothered me much. I think it might have something to do with me being a girl. Also, I kept as quiet and religiously non assuming as possible. When I was asked direct questions about something I didn’t believe in, like Joseph Smith, I would think about the JS I was raised to believe in— a very good man— and answer questions based on that JS. That helped me because I just really have a hard time with lying straight out.

    I strongly suspect that if an anonymous survey was done about faith issues at all the church schools that hundreds of students would confess to having experienced a faith crisis by their senior year– or stopped believing all together. I feel like the internet has made having a faith crisis almost certain for thousands of members now– especially inquisitive young people researching lds topics on the internet that are connected to their classwork. For this reason, I wish the church/BYU did not see people suffering with a faith crisis, or as a complete lose of faith, as such a threat because it is happening with young people, and, in my opinion, with cream-of-the-crop typse that honestly are the kind of people an organization doesn’t want to lose. They are the kind of inquisitive and sensitive people that would make any organization vibrant and better.

    To be honest, I wish those that were having faith issues in general, be allowed to stay at BYU and in good standing in church because the church needs leaders that don’t feel like polygamy was from God or that people struggling with homosexuality chose it. The leaders today seem so removed from the pain people have suffered “in the name of God” in our religion. It is astonishing to me how undisturbed they are in the face of apparent agony— past and present.

  12. I attended byui from 2008-2014. Upon returning from my 2 year mission from Mexico I began to have a faith crisis. While at BYUI I reached out to a Bishop and Stake President about what I was going through. They were very understanding and sympathetic. When those conversations took place I was a believing, but hanging by a thread, member. The anxiety, depression, and personal fear experienced during a faith crisis was greatly increased because I was surrounded by thousands of TBMs who I couldn’t relate to. I never said a word to anyone (besides leaders) about what I was experiencing. I would say that whether the honor code was changed or not, it wouldn’t have made a difference in my case. It was an awful time and I was happy to be able to graduate and get the heck out of there.

    Some environments are just not healthy for people who have a difference of opinion. That is especially true for BYUI and TBMs turned non believers.

  13. It’s pride & arrogance that causes the Church & it’s members & BYU to think it is a true Church that can’t be wrong or have false prophets or lead anyone astray.

    It is pride & arrogance that causes BYU to not allow differing opinions & discussion & beliefs. If they were righteous they would welcome open discussions about differing beliefs and reason together rather then force their prideful opinions on everyone and expect them to unquestioningly accept them.

  14. I think this is such an interesting topic and feel like I have so much to say on the issue, but I’ll consolidate it.

    First, I’d just like to say that I am 100% behind the Free BYU idea and believe that it is a long overdue change that must take place. I attended BYU in Provo from 2005 to 2010 and had no idea that there was a clause in the Honor Code that discriminated faith changing LDS members so brutally.

    Personally, I didn’t start seriously doubting the church until after I graduated (which eventually led to a complete loss of testimony) because I was just trying to finish my classes and get my degree. To be honest, I never felt the urge or reason to ask questions in school because I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Even if I had found something disturbing, I knew that I would have to suck it up and fake it so I could finish the education I had invested so much into. That might sound like cowardice, but it was just more efficient for me to be ignorant than proactive in finding the truth.

    I was very interested in hearing the legal side of the argument. Like many of the previous comments have pointed out, it’s very unlikely that BYU would change it’s Honor Code to make room for “apostates”. They have an image and community to upkeep. I believe the only thing that could “persuade” them into changing anything is legal argument. I’m not suggesting starting a legal battle just yet, merely an evaluation of the validity of the Honor Code agreement in the perspective of the law. I didn’t go to law school, but can BYU really persecute their students based on religious choices? I know it’s a private institution, but they still have to play ball like the rest of us don’t they?

    Anyway, thank you all for bringing this conversation to light and good luck in all your future efforts!

  15. I don’t have names to confirm this, but I seem to recall that in the last 5 years there was a BYU football player who left for a mission, decided it wasn’t for him, came home early, left the church and even started his own church with himself as pastor. He was allowed to continue attending BYU and play on the football team. This wasn’t a hushed occurrence either. Seems like this is all the ‘Free BYU’ group wants for everyone who feels similar.

  16. If you don’t believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church on the earth, then don’t get involved with the church and its organizations, including BYU. You either believe that the Lord leads His church through His priesthood leaders or he does not. If you don’t want to live the commandments and agree to abide by the requirements of the honor code, then live your life as you wish and go away.

    1. former BYU student

      I truly believed in the LDS church when I began my education at BYU. Events in my life caused me to question and my beliefs eventually changed. Maybe you think I’m wrong or evil. But I plead with you to try to find some compassion for me, and others in my position. The policy you are endorsing here has caused a great deal of psychological trauma in my life, and is now causing harm to other BYU students.

  17. Pingback: Mormon Stories Podcast Publishes Episode on Religious Freedom at Church Schools | FreeBYU

  18. As a current BYU student who transferred from another university to BYU, I think that this whole story is about as worthless as the the time spent putting it together. I left my old university because it was extremely liberal and I was forced to look at “art” of pictures of penis’s in the only hallway leading to my classes. The multiple day camps for kids that were offered in the school were also down the same hall and little kids were subject to a collage of male genitalia as well. I left because my values were different than the schools. Not all my classes transferred for credit either at BYU, leaving me with classes that were taught quite well but unfortunately didn’t have an equivalence at BYU. This meant I had paid a few thousand dollars for classes that would not help me graduate.

    If students at BYU find themselves no longer believing in the dogma or find themselves unwilling to follow the honour code they signed, then that is their choice. But that choice has consequences. We’re not doing anyone any favours by telling these students to try to make the world conform to them. They might well decide to transfer, if that is their choice, to another university. Like myself, they may lose credits or classes and have to take an extra semester. Since when has standing up for your own principles meant that the organization your protesting can’t stand for their principles? Stop coddling your kids and telling them the world revolves around them. Grow up, man or woman up, and own your life. I chose BYU because it mirrors my values and it cost me an extra year in school. I’m okay with that. Also, you are painting quite the hypocritical picture if you disagree with BYU but fully accept the subsidized tuition. Essentially, you are using the school for selfish reasons and biting the hand that feeds you. Not smart and not fair.

    Well this is just one students experience from the flip side of the coin. I love going to school at BYU. I agreed to the standards and have decided to honour my agreements.

    1. former BYU student

      It’s great that you were able to transfer to a school you liked better. However you weren’t expelled from your first school – you had the CHOICE to stay or leave. I was expelled from BYU as a graduate student, simply because I was truthful about my changes in belief. As noted in the podcast, you can’t really transfer a master’s thesis.

  19. N.W. Council of Colleges & Universities
    Standards for Accreditation
    (revised 2010)

    “Academic Freedom
    The institution publishes and adheres to policies, approved by its governing board, regarding academic freedom and responsibility that protect its constituencies from inappropriate internal and external influences, pressures, and harassment.

    Within the context of its mission, core themes, and values, the institution defines and actively promotes an environment that supports independent thought in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It affirms the freedom of faculty, staff, administrators, and students to share their scholarship and reasoned conclusions with others. While the institution and individuals within the institution may hold to a particular personal, social, or religious philosophy, its constituencies are intellectually free to examine thought, reason, and perspectives of truth. Moreover, they allow others the freedom to do the same. “

    1. Dear Dallas, GM & all here. Truly the so called “private” school argument is both true and smug. I don’t believe a freshman comes to BYU believing they will ever find any truth that will shake their “testimony.” The BYU so called “honor” code is read by incoming freshman likely to concern behaviors, honesty, lying, cheating, and the prohibitions on recreational substance use. In the past it was known as “Standards.” These freshman come to BYU believing perhaps hoping that no truth can exist that will challenge, let alone change, their world view. They have been reassured that all science and truth will ultimately, if pursued honestly, support the LDS Church world-view. Who knew, until November 2014, that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy in Ohio and Illinois. He was on record denying it.

      Many private schools, like BYU, are voluntary members of private organizations, like the N.W.C.C.U and have committed to follow “Standards” of these organizations. In coming freshmen may likely rely on this organizational commitment, and would not have come and paid any tuition whatsoever, but for the N.W.C.C.U accreditation. The same, smug, reasoning that GM and others apply to students also applies to the organization. If an organization, say BYU, cannot keep the standards of a private accreditation group (the N.W.C.C.U.) nobody is forcing them to stay. Perhaps the BYU may shop for a more accommodating organization. Perhaps the likes of Bob Jones University, or any number of private religious schools, will share their notes on accreditation organizations who have lesser standards for such secular ideas as “academic freedom.” Again BYU is private and the Board of Trustees may find the private standards of the N.W.C.C.U unacceptable, and then should be candid to all concerned and move-on. Perhaps get out of secular education, move under the Church Education System, and become a graduate seminary for LDS leadership and CES teachers. Its a private school. For the present, even this private school must abide the agreed standards for accreditation or loose its status.

      1. I never said that I agreed with the policy. If the accrediting organization wants to take issue with BYU’s honor code, then that is between them. If a current student wants to open an incident with N.W.C.C.U, then that is great too. I personally think BYU would lose their argument if the process was open and transparent which I doubt that it would be.

        Bottom line, smug or not, is that there are hundreds of schools out there that are as good or better than BYU. Choose one of those if you have a problem with the honor code. As a private institution, there are much fewer avenues of recourse if you have a problem or complaint. Fighting against a multi-billion $$ organization like LDS inc. is a losing proposition considering that they have armies of attorneys that are better educated and more well-connected than so-called Attorney Mike. University is four years. Get in, get your piece of paper, and get out. Live your life.

        If I knew then what I know now, I would not have chosen to attend BYU.

        1. My belief is that honest young people and their families are taken in by a system that is built on limited disclosure on the front end with a mean spirited, even anger if later the undisclosed surfaces later. Stephen Hassan, a former of the Unitarian (Moonie) cult, describes the unethical and deceptive practices used by the Unitarian organization. No mention or reference of anything LDS is made anywhere in his book “Combating Cult Mind Control.” If any of my LDS friends here are secure, brave, and sure of themselves, read this short book, less than 100 pages. Then ask yourself if your experience at the MTC, BYU and other LDS experiences have far too much in common with the Unitarian (Moonie) experience as told by this author. The NWCCU and other such like organization help disclose the occult so the public may make informed choices on the front end, as you suggest. Because the LDS culture puts forward that all truth in the whole universe ultimately “proves” the message of the LDS church. How is it reasonable to blame any honest truth seeker who stumbles on facts that don’t fit and then, by integrity and honesty finds cognitive and ethical dissonance? It is neither reasonable nor fair. BYU promotes itself as a University of unlimited secular excellence and totally faithful to the Mormon cause. Only after a university education might the indoctrinated have the tools and skills to critically reason enough to find the hidden problems of LDS teachings that will make continuing Faith in the LDS broad claims impossible. Then, as you suggest, apparently, the student should compromise integrity, lie, deceive the BYU authority to get your “paper” and get out. For those trapped in the system, I understand your practical advice. Such compromise is very harmful to otherwise honest and genuine people. However, I believe some of us here see this pain and hope for a better future. My hope is that BYU will be forced to disclose, if as a private school, secular academic excellence must always bend or break when it confronts an accepted Sacred Cow of Mormon Dogma. This is not the grand “Glory of God is Intelligence” and “The World is Our Campus.” Candor, however it comes, will eventually solve the problem of Religious Freedom (or Not) at BYU and such candor, honest integrity will be better for all involved. My hope remains is that the NWCCU becomes involved and helps settle the matter so all, both the Mormons and unaware students avoid harmful future conflict.

          1. Attorney Mike, some years ago I was the house guest of the late John R. Howard, then president of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Knowing of my Mormon background, including my struggles with the LDS ecclesiastic system, he told me of having led an NWCCU accreditation team to assess BYU’ graduate school and reluctantly denying their request because BYU was “more motivated by declamation than search”. I thought that was an astute and succinct assessment. Do you know if that decision has changed or is up for review these days?

          2. I received a degree in philosophy at BYU, and I never felt that our department hindered thought. In fact, our philosophy of religion class was great. I took versions of the Bible and we investigated the various translations comparing how they treated the message of the divinity of the Savior. As a former chemistry major, I don’t see how truth in chemistry was hindered by some religious agenda. I just don’t get where you all are coming from. Living the commandments is always a challenge and accountability is not appreciated by those who don’t like commandments.

          3. David Macfarlane

            (heavy sigh) Dallas, do you just come here to be smug and sanctimonious about how you are living the commandments, despite the obvious difficulty, and how those who have left the church are simply self-indulgent hedonists? Fine. You are morally superior. Enjoy the afterlife while I muddle along in the Telestial. And thanks for offering the real-time reminder of at least one thing I dislike about the church and many members.

          4. Then why persecute the church if you don’t believe it. Joseph Smith taught that people should be righteous and follow the savior. Christ did not persecute those who did not believe him. If you believe in Christ, then teach the truth in love and truth will prevail.

          5. Funny how Mormons view any criticism of the Mormon Church as persecution. But do they view their missionary outreach, wherein they often diminish other religions, the same way? No, there is a double standard here that is patently obvious to anyone with a lick of sense. Given the excesses of Mormonism, and its founder, criticism is easy and well justified.

  20. David Macfarlane

    Dallas, despite your obvious disagreement with the belief system espoused on this web site, you are free to stay. You don’t even have to pay more to disagree and call people names. Enjoy the rest of your stay.

    1. Every time I attend the temple, I understanding of the plan of salvation is refreshed and I better understand how Satan desires to lead people away from the truth. Truth is eternal, and I have learned in my 59 years that Satan has created counterfeits of nearly if not all aspects of the Gospel to deceive. As I have gained more knowledge, my testimony has grown, and sharing the gospel with others has brought the spirit not only into other’s lives but into my life. Being led by the Spirit is hard to ignore. My hope would be that others, such as yourself would reengage in growing in the gospel rather than try to tare it down. There are true intellectual giants graduating from BYU who go on to better the plight of mankind and spread the gospel. I would suggest you read The Power of Everyday Missionaries by Clayton Christensen. Get back to basics and your eyes will clear up and you’ll see a brighter day.

      1. David Macfarlane

        Every time I attended the temple way back when, I understood that it was a bunch of gruesome rituals intended to gird up the faithful. Since then, in my 49 years, I have learned that truth is subjective and individual–nothing works equally well for everyone unless they are willing to submit, which makes us all a bunch of automatons incapable of creating great art, music, cultural revolutions, etc. As my humanism and sense of self has grown, I have been privileged and blessed to share with others the idea that they are enough, in and of themselves. I have seen others realize a full conception of themselves and extend the grace, generosity and equanimity they embody to all they meet. Being led by a universalist philosophy that doesn’t ask people to sacrifice a basic belief in scientific principles is self-fulfilling. My hope would be that others, such as yourself, would abandon dogmatic systems that create defined groups of “us” and “them” and truly focus on belief systems that make room for all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. There are true intellectual giants graduating from most top-tier universities that work daily to improve the human condition and share messages of hope and a better tomorrow. I would suggest you read Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan. Break free of limiting ideologies and you’ll see a realistically illuminated day.

      2. Dallas, now that you have a copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls you now may read that the Old Testament we have today, especially noting Isaiah, has been faithfully preserved by the early scribes and later monks, and accurately translated into English. The Mormon (JS, BY, JFS, BRMc) teachings that our modern O.T. Is unreliable is False, False and False if you accept the Isaiah scroll found in the caves. Look in your copy of the DSS Isaiah about ch 43 : 10 “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. Then there is 44 :6 – 8 ” I am the first and the last; apart from me. There is no God”…. ” Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock, I know not one.”. Then again 45:5-6 ” I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God … so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.” So, JS is not going to be a G-d, neither BY, they were both wrong on point. When GBH tried to deceive 60 minutes when he claimed he did not know of the LDS teaching that Mormons may become gods. I suspect, if a BYU student, studies the DSS, reads these verses, learns the DSS & today’s OT’s plain teaching on monotheism, asks his Mormon Bishop why JS, BY, JFS, GBH, & TSM teach contrary to the plain ancient texts? The student receives no reasonable answer (except something about “Jello” quoting GBH). The student concludes reasonably that his Bishop has no possible answer. Then concludes that JS, BY, TSM err in teaching contrary to the plain Word. How is it right, fair or even honest to withdraw the student his Ec Endorsement? Dallas? McGiver?

  21. Another big issue is that the church has no business accepting Federal Money, paid by tax payers to create productive members of our secular society, and then denying an education to those trusted to them in exchange for that public money.

    This policy, can be interpreted as a breech of public trust.

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