I’m backpacking with short windows of time where I can check the Internet and get calls from people trying to sell me an extended warranty on my car.
And then I get calls from friends trying to give me a hard time for getting my law degree from BYU.
“Did you hear the latest about Elder Holland and BYU?”
“Of all the times to call, and then to get your guaranteed snark out of context.”
“No. Hear me out. Elder Holland is brilliant. So he must have intended how his talk was received regardless of what he said, down to the valedictorian getting interviewed by the Times.”
“Look, I’m going to check the weather report…”
“Hear me out. This talk is proof that no matter how much your church values BYU, it doesn’t respect BYU—and I’m right to give you a hard time.”
“No. I’ll prove it to you. Take the last ten Presidents of your church or the last twenty or thirty Apostles. How many graduates from BYU?
H—- Steve. How many served missions? I’m sure your church values BYU and missionaries. But they don’t respect them. I know. You are going to hang up on me, but check it out and show me how I’m wrong”
Well. He was right, I did hang up.
But I don’t have time to prepare a response. So I’m asking our readers for one instead.
I’ll be checking in and look forward to help from our readers.
Stephen R’s so-called friend has used an attack on BYU to really attack the Church. This is faulty reasoning at best, and malicious at worst.
Church leaders don’t have to graduate from BYU in order to respect it. Most people on this planet respect the Sun, even though they have never set foot on it. Likewise, someone can respect BYU even though he has never been enrolled.
I suspect that what this really comes down to is the tendency of the younger generation to show a lack of respect themselves. They do not show respect for institutions, whether governmental, religious, or educational. This appears to be an attempt to rile up others and in turn, create further disrespect.
This response won’t help you but I’m commenting anyways. I graduated from BYU during the last years of the Lavell Edwards golden era, then went to a name-brand school on the east coast for a graduate degree. I also had a faith transition shortly thereafter. On my Facebook account I don’t even list my undergrad from BYU. I have one child at BYU now and three at Arizona State. Recently one asked what colors I will wear when the two schools play each other and I said I’d wear maroon and gold. I value my education at BYU and the opportunities it gave me. But I’m embarrassed when the church does something stupid. I haven’t decided whether I respect it but I’ll never be a rabid BYU football fan like I used to be.
I’m a BYU graduate of BYU but none of my kids wanted to follow my footsteps and attend BYU. I can think of two main reasons:
1. BYU’s students are 98.5% LDS. If the demographic of a university is 98% anything, you have to question what kind of perspective you’ll get.
2. BYU’s so called Honor Code treats college students like children. When I attended, students who complained about the HC were told to go somewhere else if they didn’t like it. After all, they signed it. And that’s what my kids did…they went somewhere else.
My view of BYU is that if you’re a certain kind of person, there’s no better place to spend four years of your life. There’s no place like it. But, for more and more LDS kids, the formula there isn’t for them.
Elder Holland is a perfect illustration of my last point.
I think church leaders still care deeply about the institution, but not so much about the students.
For example, the Honor Code fiasco two years ago made it very clear that the institution’s good name came before the student’s individual stories. Guilty until proven innocent.
This summer a colleague in my stake mentioned that his daughter is a marketing major at BYU and their professors told them the largest marketing firm would no longer recruit on campus as the university’s values don’t align with the firm’s values. This was before Elder Holland’s remarks. And Elder Holland made it clear that the church is now willing to forgo accreditation in order to defend their right to discriminate. How unbelievably hurtful to students who are halfway through a program to now wonder if their degree will be worth the paper it’s printed on.
Don’t get me started on BYU football.
Like Josh h, I graduated with my Master’s of Accountancy, which changed my life. I’m still with the firm that recruited me out of BYU 16 years ago. I’m grateful for a lot of my BYU education. It was really the only school I wanted to attend.
My oldest just started high school. We are making sure she is aware of all her options.
I have a lot of beef with Church stuff these days, and this was just the latest to add to the pile. But if I had to summarize my issues into a concise TikTok, it would be this: I’m no longer interested in supporting organizations that put institutional values above people. And in my experience, the Mormon church does this better than any other organization I know.
Despite the ways in which I disagree with BYU policy, those things were 1/100th or 1/1000th as difficult to deal with for me personally as the family I grew up in. (I am straight, white, male, and was very believing, so I was barely impacted by the BYU policies I disagree with now). Family issues were very hard for me to work through, with financial problems not nearly the biggest challenge.
BYU was my first step towards building my own path in the world and a start at building a functional and stable family as I got engaged during my last semester. I had to work 30 hours a week during the time I was a student to support myself and to contribute to my parents and siblings, so I missed out on many of the great undergrad experiences. I see college kids these days and the personal growth so many of them experience. I am glad for them, whether they are at BYU or elsewhere. I was just grinding through lots of stress trying to pass my classes and hoping my parents wouldn’t lose their house and that there would be food on the table for my siblings. I didn’t have time for outrage.
So to me it is a big deal that BYU is affordable for poor students compared to almost anywhere else in the U.S. All of us who graduated from BYU can be proud of that and should be. Thanks to that start, I ended up with more education from a name brand school, which is what allowed me to launch a career that is challenging, fascinating, and fulfilling.
During the time I was in Provo, I experienced kindness and decency from BYU administrators and faculty that have often been vilified on the web. I believe they are good people.
If the church had any sense it would track me down and excommunicate me for my apostate thoughts and words. But even if they did that, I would always be grateful for the opportunities that came into my life because of my time in Provo. I attend pride parades, I have gay children. But I will always be grateful for my BYU experience. May the day will come when all BYU students will be loved and will be able to be themselves and find their path.
Stephen’s friend seems to be implying that senior Church leaders lack confidence in BYU students/graduates or are purposely trying to undermine the school. I doubt that, considering most of Elder Holland’s talk was filled with praise and adoration for the university and his lifelong association with it. But I also take Elder Holland at his word when he speaks about his perception that his beloved school is “under attack” from ideological forces within and without–I don’t believe it personally, but I believe he believes it. He’s stated that BYU’s sanctity as a religious-based institution is worth more than accreditation, secular recognition or employability of it’s graduates, which is clearly the sign of someone who loves BYU a little too much. Spoken like a lifelong CES man.
But your friend may be on to something. Perhaps some Church leaders (not Holland) purposely want the BYUs to be academically unspectacular so that they churn out generations of dutiful lifelong Church members rather than critical thinkers and dangerous “intellectuals” like the kind BKP warned about–BYU Idaho is a prime example, with it’s low bar to entry, excessive rule enforcement and diploma-mill academics.
There are also many BYU alums and football fans who’s Church membership and identity are so intertwined with their school allegiance, they are practically one in the same. I have family members like this and it’s nauseating to be around. It turned me off from wanting to go there and I don’t regret it at all.
What’s so unfortunate about the honor code fiasco & the Holland speech – in addition to the actual harm they did to students – is that I think there are a ton of good students, faculty, and staff at BYU who are inclusive and who are there because it’s a good school in a beautiful place at an affordable price. It’s just the stupid honor code (I agree with the above comment that it’s totally infantilizing and needs to go – completely) and governing board (aka first presidency & apparently large conservative donors)) meddling and honestly I think a bit of a generational war.
Elisa, if BYU is truly beholden to wealthy donors (and I believe it is, like pretty much every other private university out there) then that says a lot more about the university’s academic and social aims than Elder Holland could in his eloquent speech. And it may be that the most offensive portions of Elder Holland’s speech were included deliberately to appease those donors. Again, not surprising that big-money conservative patrons have influence at BYU, but I expect better from a university that is owned and operated by God’s One True Church. It makes me wonder who is really calling the shots in Provo. And it calls into question how far Elder Holland will actually go to preserve the “uniqueness” of the institution–far enough to lose accreditation and get boycotted by opposing sports teams, but probably not far enough to lose the biggest donors–and who exactly is drawing that line?
BYU is an interface w/ The World that the Brethren will pro forma complain loudly about but basically leave alone – because they have to. A large part of LDS Inc’s social, business and cultural capital flows inbound/outbound through BYU. If the Brethren were smart, they’d do less talking & more listening there. Also: they should leave those poor kids at BYUI alone. It’s like they test the winds in Idaho w/ their crazy stuff to see how much pushback they’re gonna get. I understand that getting booed at BYU is traumatic, but Gentlemen, that’s why you get the big bucks.
Guys just a small correction. Byu funds come mainly from tithing and mostly from tithing paid by Canadian and British members. That is because both countries require annual disclosures of income and disbursements. Thus the Church has to disclose how it uses it tithing generated from those particular countries ( including NZ and Aussy land ) If it wants to hide the way it uses it charitable contributions ( which it surely does ) it allocates safe uses like BYU to those receipts. Last time I check 1/2 of all tithing paid by Canadians went to BYU while the actual number of Canadians attending BYU is a much smaller percentage. As a rich American I am grateful to Canadians for subsidizing my kids education . Thanks Canadians.
The Church has a vision for what it wants BYU to be. So do its donors. Neither of these is what the institution is, wants to be, or what the majority of the students want. It’s a school by Karens for Karens, with Karen donors. But the people attending and teaching there are mostly better than that. That is until they are chased out by nonsense like what Holland said.
Adding on to Bellamy’s comment: Not sure if the percentage of tithing paid by Canadians that goes to BYU has fallen in recent years, but according to data available at exmormon.org (make what you will of the value of said information, but the author does link directly to the Canadian Revenue Agency), roundabouts 2013 roughly 90 percent of all tithes paid by Canadians went to BYU. One commenter theorized that Canadian tax code makes contributions to foreign schools tax deductible without designating which schools in which countries, a loophole the church exploited. So, per this info, in 2012 or 2013, Canadians subsidized BYU to the tune of $103 million without actually choosing to do so. Brother Spring is correct in that criticism of BYU is criticism of the church, but the reasoning is far from flawed. BYU is the educational arm of the corporation that is the COJCOLDS. Respect for the committed educators that care about their BYU students? Sure. Respect for BYU as an institution? Probably not unless I’m prepared to respect Bob Jones as well. The goals are the same.
Sorry. Forgot to include a link: https://www.exmormon.org/d6/drupal/LDS-Church-financial-data-filed-in-Canada
We had a friend over for dinner who has a phd in education and lectures at universities, is on curriculum committees etc. We also know of 2 young people who are doing byu pathways, and an adult whose calling is to facilitate byu pathways people.
The phd said the byu provides nothing that is recognised in Australia. That young people are being conned, they are paying for something that is provided for free by Australian universities.
So these 2 young people (friends of grandaughter) are paying for the church sponsored byu pathways course which is a waste of time, rather than the free alternative which leads to qualifications, provided by the government. One of these is a young man who has been doing this full time for 2 years, has no job and will have no qualifications.
Not sure how this plays out when they realise they have been conned by the church who are promoting this.
This is the only benifit (?) we get from BYU in Australia, though we may be subsidising Americans with our tithing.
I did 2 years at Ricks College in the early 70s, and got a junior college degree. When we got to Australia, the University here did not recognise it, said it was equivalent to high school leaving. It was an experience living in poverty in Idaho, and we had our second daughter in a blizard. Not something we get here. But not productive, did not contribute to our future wellbeing.
@Bellamy I agree BYU doesn’t need those donors so I don’t understand the kowtowing. Maybe they (JRH and co) are just trying to make it look like this isn’t just their pet issue but also matters to alumni and parents.
There’s little doubt the leaders of the LDS church find value in BYU and missionaries, but apparently only as far as they support the bottom line, finances, power, and the all-important “good name of the church”. I tend to agree with Stephen’s friends, the leaders don’t seem to respect either missionaries or BYU and I think it is most obvious by how the leaders treat them, like children in need of strict boundaries and oversight. They don’t trust missionaries, so they isolate them from outside influences, and create a very specific set of rules and programs for them to follow with nightly checkups, and make sure they fill their schedules with selling the brand. They don’t trust students at BYU, so they maintain a strict set of rules and threaten expulsion for non-compliance. They just showed last week with Holland’s message they don’t trust the BYU administration and the faculty and have now laid down the law on what is and is not acceptable forms of scholarship on campus. Any scholarship has to support the ends and designs of the church first, and all others second. They also don’t trust the general membership as represented by the elementary-level lessons and discourses. Extensive learning is no longer encouraged or acceptable, particularly in history or doctrine. However, these all represent the one inescapable conclusion, the leaders fear the people and what might happen if they no longer have control. But I guess it’s not all bad, at least they still fear some things, including not gaining evangelical approbation. Public opinions apparently still hold some sway 😉
Church leaders no longer aspire BYU to be the Harvard of the West. They now want it to be the Bob Jones of the West. Unfortunately.
@Stephen Where are you backpacking? Your picture looks like many a place in Tennessee and North Carolina. I am jealous wherever you are putting in 20 miles with such nice elevation changes.
I am grateful to hear so many comments that differentiate Gospel, Church, and Institution. This kind of framework is good.
The BYUs are not the problem: the CES is the problem. The CES has become jury, judge, and prosecutor of idiotic, unsupportable, unsound belief systems that obfuscate doctrine. If Jesus showed up and wasn’t blazing in glory, the CES would lock him up like the Cardinal did in Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.
The institution has emnity towards the congregation. The CES promotes a culture of self-entitled bureaucrats and tenured Pharisees, who feel they have no obligation to the rest of the congregation unless money has been transferred through the institution that pays them. We can do better.
BYU football is the darling of the moment, re: conference expansion and filling a void where Texas and Oklahoma are moving to another athletic conference.
In that sense, I agree with p above.
I would recommend watching “Come Follow Up” on byutv – maybe not for the scholarship but just to see who the guest scriptural commentators are. They have had Bob Millet and Tad Callister but also Ben Schilaty.
Travis‘ marvelous rant against the CES. When GBH was President of the Church, he was dealing with a situation involving the CES. President Hinckley got exasperated and stated, “I hope that the CES will join the Church some day!”
I echo Travis’ thoughts.
Do you have a source or additional context for that GBH remark? I believe you, but I’m not sure others will believe me when I repeat it, unless I can cite it properly.
10ac. That was Vermont. Currently in Massachusetts promising myself no more long days like that after just hiking too far again today.
Plvtime— nicely said.
Everyone else. Thank you for the comments. I actually have Wi-Fi where I’ve stopped for the night. 10 out of 20 minutes so far.
My education as a visual artist really got rolling at BYU. But Provo was a culture shock to this Mid-Atlantic man, so I dropped out after a year, returned east, and finished my BFA and my MFA elsewhere. I feel lucky. In the Arts and Humanities, a BYU degree is hard to take seriously.
With the exception of two fabulous elective classes within my education major my training at BYU was a joke. I was taught how to teach small classes of no more than 22 students made up of well adjusted white students who came from middle to high income homes who went to schools that had more than adequate funding, parents who cared and a principal who was a good leader. The school I ended up at was known as “Gang Banger and Abused Child Elementary School” throughout the school district and in the larger community. Our principal was afraid of the parents and always sided with them against the teachers regardless of the situation. What few textbooks we had had to be shared between 3 or 4 kids. My most up to date text book was a 1949 Utah History book. We had to have restraining orders against a handful of out of control parents who had threatened various teachers with bodily harm. During my first month teaching 4th grade I had an exhibitionist (yes, really!) removed to the district behavioral disorders unit, a new student who’s just been put into foster care suddenly go into a catatonic state and had to be taken to the Primary Children’s psychiatric unit and another new student who was diagnosed as a psychopath after trying to kill several children (for no other reason than that it sounded like fun to him) at recess his first day at school. He was sent to the State Mental Hospital. To say that I was woefully unprepared to teach in this school was an understatement. Oh, and did I mention that I had 40 students in that first class, that there were a wide variety of races and ethnicities represented in the student body and that I was teaching in an open school system where there were no walls between classrooms and grades?
Fortunately, another teacher was added to our team to lighten our class loads. This man was working on a PhD in education leadership and was a master teacher. I learned more from him in 1.5 years than I did in 3 years of college. His inspired and inspiring instruction made it possible for me to stay in education for another 8 years rather than give up and leave after that nightmarish first year. When BYU’s College of Education called to see how my first year was going I gave the poor interviewer an earful. In talking to other friends who had been in the program with me and who had graduated at the same time as I did they also gave the university an F for failing to prepare them for the realities of education in the real world. The only thing we were taught concerning discipline was that we were supposed to “love the students into being good”. How do you do that when you have an out of control child who decides to knock you unconscious with their chair when your back is turned because you took their very sharp Power Rangers pencil away because they were poking other students in the back with it?
I was relieved when I heard that the College of Education nearly lost its accreditation some years back because so many graduates at the elementary and secondary levels of education had stories as bad or worse than mine to tell about the egregious lack of preparation and training that we had received. The college was on probation for quite a while. They have now updated and improved their teacher training and are no longer on probation. If the university decides that it doesn’t need to be nationally accredited anymore because of their hard stand on LGBTQ+ policies I fear for both the BYU education students and the schools who get the BYU trained teachers.
I have heard from multiple sources that graduates in education from BYU are unprepared to teach and require extra mentoring/supervision after being hired in Utah.
E, I’m sad to hear that the BYU College of Education really didn’t learn its lesson about the correct and effective way to train education students to be successful teachers after nearly losing its accreditation. It’s too bad that there’s no way for all of us who received such poor training to get our tuition returned to us especially in light of the continuing defective nature of the education training.
That’s odd. I mentor new secondary teachers in a large Utah school district and would give relatively high marks to BYU for the quality of their secondary teaching grads. I would give mediocre marks to Utah and Weber. However, Utah State seems to be the best at the moment.
Old Man now that you mention that my main sources are Utah State grads. Maybe there’s some bias there.