Seeking Pastoral Care at BYU

Note: This is the second of a two-part post resulting from a lengthy conversation among the permabloggers at BCC regarding repentance, and should be considered a group effort more than my own personal post. Part 1 was posted previously and can be found here.

To this point, I’ve focused solely on the concept of “worthiness” as a social status and the perverse incentive to avoid repentance that may follow as a result. As noted in at least one of the comments on the previous post, the conflict of interest in repenting need not be limited to social circles. It is (sadly) easy to imagine a man or woman putting off repentance because of the fear–which may well be justified–that their significant other will pull the plug on the relationship. In this post, I’d like to focus on circumstances where the conflict of interest is most explicit: students and faculty at a Church-owned educational institution, such as Brigham Young University.

A friend of mine who worked at BYU once wrote,

“Changes to the bishopric were always a time of great fear and dread for me, for the bishop had complete and absolute power over my employment. That there were people in my ward who believed I was a pernicious influence on the hearts and minds of the youth … always gave me a sense of dread.[1] It’s like a cooperate takeover when the new owners come in. Will they clean house? Ack. If your bishop could fire you at will how would that change your relationship with the church and its leaders?

According to the 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog,

”Students must be in good Honor Code standing to be admitted to, continue enrollment at, and graduate from BYU. The term “good Honor Code standing” means that a student’s conduct is consistent with the Honor Code and the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints automatically results in the loss of good Honor Code standing.” (emphasis added)

A additional requirement to being in “good standing” relates to the Ecclesiastical Endorsement (“EE”)–a signed document from a student’s Bishop stating that the student is, essentially, “worthy” to attend BYU in terms of Honor Code compliance. All students are required to receive an EE prior to each academic year; if an EE is not completed or if it is withdrawn, the student is immediately disqualified for continued enrollment at BYU.[2]

There are some quirks about the EE that deserve attention. First, “LDS students may be endorsed only by the bishop of the ward … in which they live and … that holds their current Church membership record.” Second, while it is obtained annually before each school year, the EE can “be withdrawn at any time if the ecclesiastical leader determines that the student is no longer eligible for the endorsement.”[3] Third, if a student’s EE is withdrawn, “the decision to withdraw an ecclesiastical endorsement may be appealed through appropriate ecclesiastical leaders only.”[4]

It is sobering to consider just how powerfully the requirement for EEs for students and employees alters and compromises their relationships with their bishops. When examined through the lens of a religion where a) geography, not personal preference, determines which congregation we attend and b) local leaders have broad latitude when it comes to discipline, worthiness, and…general willingness to sign a paper saying they endorse a member, these three quirks create a strong disincentive to seeking pastoral guidance–especially where sin or doubt is involved. Confession of serious sins or crises of faith–even for the truly penitent or searching soul–no longer take place in a solely spiritual sphere. Instead, a person in need of pastoral care must calculate considerable educational, professional, social, and financial risk into the equation.

A bishop should be, and often is, an invaluable resource in dealing with serious problems–whether doubts, frustrations, or transgressions. However, when an individual’s status at the university or current/future employment are contingent on not having a bishop revoke an EE, it is a virtual certainty that such authority dramatically alters many individuals’ choices about what to and what not to speak to him about. Tragically, the more serious the problem, the powerful the the disincentive to confide.

While it is easy to dwell on the instances of “sin,” the more devastating situation perhaps involves cases where an individual has a crisis of faith. Many people–if not most–go through periods in life where they doubt and question things they once “knew” to be true. As tempting as it might be to assume that some major sin lies beneath the surface of such doubts, that is simply not a necessary condition, nor should it be an assumption that we ever make without cause. Doubts and concerns about one’s beliefs can arise at virtually any time in a person’s life–deaths, broken relationships, sickness, unemployment, and myriad other life events can result in significant doubts. Sometimes these doubts are fleeting, while other times the questions linger, as no apparent solutions can be found. Another friend, who is familiar with the administrative procedures at BYU, said:

“I’ve seen its harm to the students over and over. When you are a senior or Junior say, and you find yourself with serious troubles deep and wide, do you go to the man who may or may not strip you of your graduation and toss your hard work away?…It’s a sad truth but for many people to attend or teach at BYU is essentially to give up any chance to avail yourself pastoral care.”

Importantly, the loss of a job or expulsion from school need not be required in order for the disincentive to seek pastoral care to exist. Last spring, when BYU basketball player Brandon Davies was found in violation of the Honor Code, he was suspended from the basketball team for the remainder of the season, but was still allowed to remain at BYU. The school’s administration drew both praise and criticism for the decision to suspend Davies. While most discussions in the aftermath of the suspension focused on the consequences for the basketball team, it is worth considering what effect that suspension had on the willingness of other student-athletes, students, or employees to come forward in seeking atonement.

Unexpected pregnancies, lost or dying testimonies, addictions–these are only a few of the areas where we need spiritual counsel most desperately. Yet, the conflict of interest for church employees is enormous, and ironically results in a situation where, as dependence on the Church for physical livelihood increases, the incentive to depend on the Church for spiritual livelihood decreases.

_____________________________________
[1] Oh those intellectuals…
[2]While this statement applies specifically to students, it is my understanding that the same situation applies to faculty members. While I was unable to find an actual statement on this from BYU’s website, the faculty members I spoke to indicated that, available statement or not, they have to submit EE’s regularly.
[3] “A student’s endorsement may be withdrawn at any time if the ecclesiastical leader determines that the student is no longer eligible for the endorsement. If an endorsement is withdrawn, no confessional information is exchanged without authorization from the student. Students without a current endorsement are not in good Honor Code standing and must discontinue enrollment. Students who are not in good Honor Code standing are not eligible for graduation, even if they have otherwise completed all necessary coursework. Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints automatically results in the withdrawal of the student’s ecclesiastical endorsement and the loss of good Honor Code standing.”
[4] “As a matter of practice, BYU does not intervene in ecclesiastical matters or endorsements. In unusual circumstances, however, a student may petition the Dean of Students Office to allow an exception to the ecclesiastical endorsement requirement … When considering the petition, the Dean of Students will focus not on the merits of the ecclesiastical leader’s decision to withdraw the endorsement but instead on whether the student has demonstrated sufficiently compelling grounds to warrant an exception to the university’s ecclesiastical endorsement requirement. In addition to speaking with the student’s present and former ecclesiastical leaders, the Dean of Students may also choose to personally interview the student, who may further explain the circumstances which might justify an exception to the ecclesiastical endorsement requirement. The student bears the burden of persuasion that he or she should be considered to be in good Honor Code standing, notwithstanding the lack of an ecclesiastical endorsement. The Dean of Student’s decision regarding the petition will be reviewed by the Vice President of Student Life if requested by the student. The decision by the Vice President of Student Life is final.”

Comments

  1. observer fka eric s says:

    This hits too close to home.

  2. yep, its pretty messed up. a lot of people here will just say ” tough break, you dont like the rules, dont go to byu. or dont work at byu. etc” that would be completely missing the point, but people like that are in control. dont expect any changes any time soon.

    i think the biggest problem is inconsistency. im sure everyone knows situations where people in drastically different situations are allowed to get their EEs, and others that have lost them. I have a cousin that masturbated, voluntarily told his bishop, and was expelled from byu eventually. i know a girl that had sex with multiple people, got pregnant, and was not disciplined in any way. the guy who knocked her up, immediately expelled.

    The inconsistency is what draws the most fear about seeking help. theres just no way to know what will happen if you say anything at all to a bishop. not a cool system in my opinion with it.

  3. I work for BYU, and I did have to turn in an ecclesiastical endorsement when I was hired. I also sat on an honor code hearing once and it was one of the strangest religiously based experiences of my life… I absolutely agree that having that sort of temporal power over one (entirely different that spiritual power or ecclesiastical administrative authority) is a huge conflict. This point actually arose in the HC hearing I sat on, and I could not get past it even though the other members of the committee could. It forced to me reevaluate the HC and many other aspects of Church discipline that I hadn’t had to before. You raise excellent points, thanks for writing this. It articulates so many of my qualms far better than I did at the time!

  4. Having been a bishop who had to sign these statements for BYU students (and at least one church employee, not at BYU), I can tell you that I was fully aware of the consequences of a negative evaluation. Whether or not someone was not coming to me for pastoral care, I could never say. In the most abstract terms, however, I would view that someone coming forward in that situation to begin the repentance process would indicate to me that they were serious about repenting, and based on that, likely to live in accordance to the honor code.

    This is all, as fka eric says, a bit too close to home. I’m glad not to have that responsibility anymore.

  5. This is one of those obvious problems that is surprisingly non-obvious to lots of folks who are too busy defending the abstract good of “worthiness” to notice the terrible unintended consequences that can follow from deciding to institutionalize it.

    On a minor note:

    “As tempting as it might be to assume that some major sin lies beneath the surface of such doubts, that is simply not a necessary condition, nor should it be an assumption that we ever make without cause.”

    Well said, but good luck persuading many in our community of this. You’re quarreling with an Article of Faith of many Mormons here. Might as well argue that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God. :)

  6. Peng,

    The inconsistency is what draws the most fear about seeking help. theres just no way to know what will happen if you say anything at all to a bishop. not a cool system in my opinion with it.

    This is exactly what I was trying to explain with this passage in the OP:

    “When examined through the lens of a religion where a) geography, not personal preference, determines which congregation we attend and b) local leaders have broad latitude when it comes to discipline, worthiness, and…general willingness to sign a paper saying they endorse a member, these three quirks create a strong disincentive to seeking pastoral guidance–especially where sin or doubt is involved.”

    For whatever reason, the word “inconsistency” never came into my head, though it certainly should have. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Steve Evans says:

    It all starts pretty innocently: how can we help raise standards at BYU?

  8. Aaron B. (5),
    Believe it or not, I wrote that specific passage because of something you wrote in an email like 2 years ago.

  9. BTW, I think it’s fairly important for me (personally, anyway) to say that I am in favor of the Honor Code. I think that, because of the money that goes to BYU from every member of the Church, it should be a place of quality–in every sense of the word, including spiritual health.

    However, my support of the Honor Code, and of committing to live it upon enrollment/employment, does not reduce the reality of the conflict of interest I am describing here.

  10. observer fka eric s says:

    The conflict is resolved if termination of employment and expulsion were discontinued as consequences. That recalibration of expectations would more accurately reflect the age demographic of the institution (college kids who are ragging) and at the same time create healthier access to pastoral nuturing without fear.

  11. Anon for this says:

    While this may be most familiar to bloggers wrt BYU, it is also a factor in employment with the church. It’s a common statement when someone is close to retirement that he’s looking forward to not having to maintain a temple recommend in order to keep his job. Some may be joking but there is an obvious element of resentment in the tone of voice. The church is one of that dwindling number of ‘companies’ where employees often stay 30 or more years. Some jobs are so specialized that employees are virtually unemployable elsewhere. With that much invested in a career the fear of being labeled ‘unworthy’ and losing employment is a terrifying disincentive to seeking pastoral counsel. It has also played a significant role in one case I’m aware of where interpersonal conflicts and ‘empire building’ led one employee to ‘tattle’ on another with the explicit goal of causing him career difficulty. (The tattled offense was suspicion of riding alone in a car with a married female colleague, something that would be giggle-worthy anywhere else.)

  12. The post makes a big deal about crises of faith. Do you have any evidence that ecclesiastical endorsements are denied because someone has doubts? Are there any guidelines to that effect?

    The EE doesn’t seem like a perfect system, but apparently someone decided it was better than the alternative (which would be BYU hiring or subsidizing the education of unbelieving, non-practicing Mormons). Does that situation seem better to you? Or not enough worse to justify the EE system?

  13. observer fka eric s says:

    . . . and if a college student or employee engages in behavior that–in any ordinary ward and stake–may require church discipline, the handle it as an ordinary situation that doesn’t involve loss of job or education.

  14. Scott B.,

    It would be easier for me to support the Honor Code if there were all about honor. The fact that you can be temple worthy and simultaneously in violation of the Honor Code is troubling.

  15. arJ,
    Let me rephrase: I am in favor of behavioral standards at BYU, whatever the “title” of the list of standards is.

    I don’t have strong opinions on the actual specific standards, though–it’s just a general of support for a code of conduct.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    Frank, interestingly the EE does not mention faith. See http://www.byu.edu/gradstudies/images/forms/GS_Form_E.pdf. You must “continue to do his or her duty in the Church and abide by the rules and standards of the Church” and keep the law of chastity, WoW, etc. but no mention of actually believing or declaring your testimony. In that respect the EE does not parallel a temple recommend.

  17. As to inconsistencies, I totally get that. There is no guarantee that any other bishop in my stake would have viewed things the same way I did, nor the bishops of the student wards at BYU. And as I recall the form, it had an instructive paragraph or two, but primarily was looking for that signature and check off at the bottom of the page, establishing “worthiness”. I new that it put some heavy responsibilities on someone in the role of bishop, but I hadn’t really viewed it a s quite the conflict of interest that you’ve described here. This is an important discussion to be having, I believe.

  18. *knew, sigh.

  19. Frank F., I don’t think the current system solves the problem of unbelievers at BYU…it only drives them underground, where they aren’t open to receiving pastoral care.

    The strange thing about the honor code is that it is likely secondary to the self-selection that *already happens* among prospective students and faculty (and church employees). Perhaps crises of faith and serious sins should be considered in that context.

  20. Frank F.,

    See the following chat transcript between Steve and myself about this issue:

    Steve: it’s true that the EE has nothing to do with belief. actually that is very interesting.
    Scott: not so
    Steve: ? not true, or not interesting
    Scott: it’s directly true, but indirectly not true. if your “belief” precludes you from sustaining the brethren, you are out.
    read the fine print on the post being non-mormon? a-okay. _becoming_ non-mormon? nope.
    Steve: yes, that’s true. but you could fail a TR and still get an EE.
    Scott: I disagree, actually.
    Steve: I’m reading the EE form right now
    Scott: I think on a very literal basis, yes–you could. on any kind of practical basis, in which you actually discuss a non-belief in the church…nope.
    Steve: the TR, for example, asks about your testimony in God and Jesus. The EE does not.
    Scott: also, the faculty policy statement now specifically states that failing to hold a TR is the standard.
    Steve: Sure — you can’t undermine the faith of other students. re: ee
    so faculty actually have a higher standard than students in terms of forms. the EE doesn’t require you to believe; it does, however, require you to fake it.
    Scott: yes
    Steve: the TR requires you to believe.

  21. Also, in response to this:

    “The post makes a big deal about crises of faith. Do you have any evidence that ecclesiastical endorsements are denied because someone has doubts? Are there any guidelines to that effect?”

    Yes, but it’s not my information to share, so you can take that for what it’s worth.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    I would add that it’s easy to pass a temple recommend interview if you either (a) lie or (b) self-justify answers that probably aren’t what the questions intended to elicit.

  23. Steve, my understanding is that the lack of statements about belief in the EE are only intended to apply to non-LDS (that is to say, never LDS) students and faculty. You can be a non-member and not believe and get an EE. You cannot be a member and not believe and get an EE.

  24. Right, Cynthia–like I said in the chat transcript in 20:

    Being non-LDS: fine
    _Becoming_ non-LDS: not fine

  25. Chris Gordon says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this and the previous post lately. Thanks for the food for thought. I suppose that overcoming a fear of consequences is a key component of repentance (not calling it a “step”!). The question becomes whether our institutional consequences and our social consequences are just or whether they should slant towards the merciful.

    Does anyone have a greater familiarity with the appeals process should an EE be revoked for a student or employee? I’m probably less comfortable with what is perceived of as undue rigidity in that appeals process than I am with just accepting the variable in whoever happens to be bishop where you live. Since we rarely hear about the appeals process except from people who feel that they got a raw deal, I really don’t have a good feel for how it goes down.

  26. I know several people who work for BYU and we had this discussion and all of them worry about their bishop not signing off on their EE. I think to work at BYU you have to have a current temple recommend. From talking with them it seems like they feel like they are walking on eggshells and are careful of what they say or don’t say. They’re also more careful what they say in their church meetings too. I think it takes away their free agency to be able to voice their opinion even though it may be different from the norm. If the bishop doesn’t like your opinion he doesn’t have to sign your EE. I’m also taking 1 class a semester at BYU and it angers me that I have to go in every year to get my EE. I’m 50 years old……what trouble am I gonna cause??? I don’t like any part of it.

  27. I work at BYU and I see the current EE as nothing but harmful. I’ve had many students who need counseling from their leaders. College is a time of change and growth, a time of emerging sexuality and the reality is that likely at no other time will they need help from an ecclesiastic source more than these years. The attitude that somehow BYU’s “purity” is maintained by EEs is demonstratively false. Although it is more hidden, BYU students face the same struggles as elsewhere. And that’s the key word, ‘hidden.’ They have to be, because you risk more by disclosure than anywhere else. BYU’s problems don’t get solved by EE, they get masked.

    As rink above points out, my interactions at church have employment consequences. I can not trust that I could see my Bishop about a problem for fear of losing my job.

    EE seems to fail at every level. It masks sin. It separates people from help, and actually undermines the purity it seeks to promote by making sin something that cannot be dealt with in healthy ways and so putrefies and morphs into deeper and more insidious forms. BYU can be for some people a spiritual disaster.

  28. Rink & BYUFac,
    It’s important to emphasize, as you both demonstrate with your comments, that the mere _threat_ of a withdrawn EE is sufficient to alter your relationship with the ward and ward leadership. It doesn’t require sin or doubts or discipline at all–the mere threat alone alienates.

  29. There’s certainly a lot of potential for false witness testimony here, and not just co-worker v. co-worker. A fellow student at BYU told me his roommate had a grudge against him (they were sworn enemies even before this incident) and falsely accused his fiance and him of breaking the honor code. The bishop believed the roommate’s story, and the student was kicked out of BYU mid-semester. He later returned, but it cost him a lot of time and money to make up for that lost semester.

  30. I’m generally in favor of the EE, mostly because our church needs more acronyms.

  31. threadjack:
    Other Mormon things EE should stand for:
    e-Ensign (online version of the journal);
    Elder Envy (felt by high priests who remember a time when lessons were slightly (slightly) less boring);
    Eternal Earnings (the brownie points scored in heaven thanks to paying your tithe on gross income).

  32. I’ve heard this kind of story first-hand, but from a BYU-I student and his roomate, who were later in a ward with me.

  33. Another BYUFac says:

    Amen to the post and the follow-up comments from BYUFac and others. I would add, too, that the problems outlined here as a structural, organizational issue are exacerbated even more by the specific fact that BYU is located in the reddest county in the reddest state, but hires academics educated all over the country and inclined toward political liberalism and occasional heterodox views (or even simply heterodox questions). Moreover, as housing in Provo has (until very recently) gotten dramatically more expensive while faculty salaries have remained flat, faculty increasingly find themselves dispersed among outlying communities among co-congregants who may have even less sympathy for intellectualism than someone in the Provo Riverwoods or “tree streets” neighborhoods. Let’s say I wrote something in my research that addressed some aspect of the Church in a critical way (and not in the derogatory sense, simply the academic sense): if there was some complaint from a member of my ward that I’d written something less-than-faith-promoting about the Church, no one in my Bishopric would be in a position to even engage with the issue.

    Another issue with the honor code is that, because (as others have pointed out) it has the effect of hiding, rather than preventing or remedying, problems, it automatically assumes a cosmetic function. A student of mine was helping with a project recently; he had shown up at 7am, helped move equipment all day and prepare for an important event. After all of this, a low-level administrator saw him in a hallway with no shoes on, and, without asking for any explanation, berated him for not having shoes. Meanwhile, reporting academic dishonesty or plagiarism is a nightmare.

  34. In the end, like anything in the Church, this is why it’s so important that each individual feel the responsibility for their own worthiness, regardless of circumstance. In the end, each individual needs to know that their honesty in each circumstance will hold them accountable at the judgement bar, and they will be responsible to answer to God for lying, or not lying. This is the Spirit of the Law, and we’re all held to it. I’ve had some employees openly come out to me with issues that have caused them to be terminated – this is to be commended, and I look up to them so much when they do. Yet, I am sure there are just as many employed at the Church, BYU, or attending BYU that are holding these secrets, the “hypocrites”, as the scriptures talk about in the last days, and regardless of whether they’re telling the truth or not, they will be held accountable for the lack of the Spirit that was with them as they went about the Lord’s work. They know if they’re in the right or wrong – that’s something, in the end, that ‘s between them and the Lord.

    Yet, I know this is the Lord’s work and the Church will continue to move forward with or without these people. I have witnessed it personally and know that the Spirit leads this Church, with or without bad apples within. The work will move forward boldly, nobly, and independent, until the voice of the Lord shall say, “The Work is Done”.

  35. Jesse,
    This is how I am reading what you are saying: someone who allows these fears to prevent them from approaching a bishop is a gross sinner and someone with the courage to approach their bishop, even though they correctly surmise that they will lose their job, meets some minimum standard of righteousness, even he or she doesn’t really and that’s why they were eventually fired. And that you are a-okay with that sort of understanding.

    But probably, I’m wrong. Could you clarify your position on this, please?

  36. Jesse, your work here is done.

  37. Jesse,
    I also believe the same things about the Lord guiding the work. I am not sure how that relates to the post, though. The question isn’t whether people should or shouldn’t repent or be honest. The question is how we, as an institution, can maximize the likelihood that people will make that choice.

  38. I happen to be a “professor” (really just an adjunct faculty member) at BYU, but I am mostly a mom. I’ve had more conversations than I can count with students who are reeling from guilt and find themselves kicked out of BYU–just before graduation. I’ve had gay students come out to me; self-loathing students confess their sense of unworthiness in everything; students dealing with suicidal thoughts and behavior; students with eating disorders, etc. I listen. That’s pretty much all I do. Sometimes, I cry with them. As a creative writing teacher, I get “confessional” writing a lot. I consider it private, and find it an honor that my students have trusted me with their secrets or fears. There has been only one time I’ve felt that a misbehaving student shouldn’t be at BYU. He was predatory. Otherwise, I love these kids.

  39. As tempting as it might be to assume that some major sin lies beneath the surface of such doubts, that is simply not a necessary condition, nor should it be an assumption that we ever make without cause.

    Someone once wrote:

    ‘In light of how McCraney discusses his own drug and alcohol abuse, he seems to believe that some Saints inevitably attribute apostasy to sin. He is quick to explain at the outset of the book that in presenting such an “unadulterated expose” he risks “jeopardizing the small amount of credibility more anonymous authors generally enjoy” (p. ix). While there is scriptural warrant that various sins can lead to apostasy (Alma 24:30; Doctrine and Covenants 93:38–39), there is also abundant scriptural precedence indicating that, if such were invariably the case, there would be no faith in God, we’d all leave—for example, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6) and “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).’

  40. Re Tim (29) Maybe the problem was that the guy had a fiance in the first place. He should have played it safe and had a fiancee, at least until he graduated.

  41. Mark B.–#40–Good catch. That kind of engagement would have to be incredibly well-hidden at BYU, although now that I think of it, I knew some recently-returned RM men who acted way too familiar with each other in public.

  42. Staydogger, just because someone is having a crisis of faith does not mean that they are a bad person – or a “bad apple.” The mission of the Church is to perfect the Saints, not to force the Saints to assume a facade of perfection. Part of a Bishop’s responsibility to his flock is to help them with their crises; the EE directly conflicts with that.

    I have a serious problem with just casually casting aside our brothers and sisters who might be going through difficult spiritual times. It certainly doesn’t help them – your attitude that “the Church will continue to move forward with or without these people” misses the fact that the work of the Church is to move forward with these people.

    Much of my greatest spiritual growth over the years has come through spiritual struggles and crises. Would that be possible if I had to hide them from my bishops? It would certainly be much more difficult.

  43. Yet another reason that many probably dislike Provo (or general Utah). I think Steve and Scott nailed one solution, whereby much of the EE ambiguity could be removed. I wonder, though, that everyone has a right to a higher confirmation (or, as some would have it, higher level of politics). Though not reassuring, this does provide some sort of safety net from power abuse, yes? Because ultimately what this comes down to is whether an eclesiastical leader can abuse their power (intentionally or unintentionally), and if so, how much power should they be granted.

    Perhaps this is a strange form of democracy, where we must place our faith of goodwill in largly unknown people who may “rule” over us. Its also tough to trust unproven people to important responsibilities, though. What if an “EE” came from a far more democratic, diverse group of people, such as the ward council, or if it included various people from outside the ward as well?

  44. “Bob”, woah – that’s not at all what I was saying. I was suggesting just the opposite – it’s up to the individual to confess their sins. I’m not judging anyone here. So you’re saying if someone is excommunicated or unworthy of their temple recommend they should be working for the Church?

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    How ironic that if you’re not actually Mormon, the EE requirement is much less problematic, because you have significantly more control over who can sign it. But if you’re actually Mormon and you just happened to fail at the geographic lottery, you’re screwed…

    There was a time when I had a fantasy of becoming a BYU professor. Had that happened, would I have broached the topic of whether Paul was the author of Hebrews in my Sunday School class two weeks ago? Possibly not. It would suck to have to walk on eggshells like that in one’s relationship with the Church.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Jesse, I guess one of the real problems with worthiness-based employment is that people will feel intense pressure to keep mistakes secret rather than confess them and forsake them. It’s an unintended consequence to be sure, but a problem nonetheless. If someone is subject to ecclesiastical discipline, isn’t that a matter between them and their bishop? Aren’t we adding to the burden of that person by threatening to take away their livelihood?

    The counter to that, I suppose, is to say that nobody’s forced to work for the Church. That’s true enough. But we’re all sinners. People that start off in Church employment with great intentions and a clean record may slip up. And when they do, instead of giving them incentive to repent and get their lives on track, their jobs give them every reason to keep their sins hidden. There must be a better way.

    As for having unworthy people working for the Church, that’s problematic too, especially so with some more sensitive jobs where private behavior may be relevant. But I suspect that number of people is relatively small. What’s more — and this might be controversial — the individual need to find forgiveness is more important than the institution’s need to have unspotted employees. Isn’t there a way for us to help people to repent and find forgiveness without ruining their careers and financial lives?

  47. Jesse,

    To expand on what Steve Evans just said:

    Imagine a man who works for the church, and has a certain set of job skills that would make it very difficult to find work elsewhere (meaning if he lost his job he would not be able to provide for his family). In this economy I imagine that’s fairly common. Imagine he begins having some kind of addiction problem (prescription meds, pornography, etc.) He wants to go to the bishop for help in overcoming his addiction. The bishop recommends a counselor, pulls the temple recommend–and reports him to this man’s employer. The employer, the church, immediately fires the man for not holding a temple recommend.

    He struggles to find adequate employment to support his family. he probably becomes depressed due to lack of job, and the depression feeds his addiction, making it even worse despite counseling (assuming he can afford counseling without holding a job). Of course, his feelings for the church are affected too, and he holds the church partially responsible for his predicament.

    It’s pretty obvious why church employees would be reluctant to go to their bishop when they’re facing a problem–it could cause them their jobs. Instead of going to the bishop to try to fix the problem, they go without help so they can continue supporting their family.

    Now imagine this same man could go to his bishop without worrying about losing his job. The bishop recommends treatment, pulls his temple recommend, and helps him recover from the addiction. He continues going to church, continues the repentance process, and, after a few months, is able to return to the temple. He continues working, and his family is financially stable.

    Which scenario is better?

    I’m not saying an unrepentant church employee who has stopped trying to live the commandments should be able to work for the church. But the current system–where members employed by the church can’t go to their bishop for repentance purposes without losing their jobs–is seriously flawed.

  48. What Steve said. And I appreciate that you’ve somewhat clarified your comments.

    Stay, people who are excommunicated are pretty much open-and-shut cases when it comes to worthiness. The problem is where the behavior falls short of excommunication – or may not even be sin-related. If someone slips, but is penitent, should they not be given a chance? Is this not the gospel of second chances? I can’t see too many Church jobs – outside of ones that are Temple-related – which couldn’t allow a merciful probationary period for repentance. But an EE is open-and-shut. You lose it, you’re fired – even if you might be able to resolve it in a reasonable time.

    Not only are we making our brothers and sisters choose between their spiritual welfare and their temporal welfare, but we are making conscientous bishops choose between their pastoral responsibility and the EE. If kevinf is your bishop, you are okay. But if you’ve lost the geographic lottery and have a bishop who was called but not chosen, well, there goes your job.

    Furthermore, as several people have pointed out, people who have spiritual crises don’t always have them because of serious sin. If I’m having doubts about the truth of the Church, must I hide it lest I lose my job? If I don’t think that Thomas S. speaks for God, would it not be better to counsel me and work with me than fire me because I cannot honestly pass a temple recommend interview?

    Real people, Stay, go through ups and downs in this life. Sometimes we are spiritually strong, and sometimes the Lord allows us to be tested and our faith may falter. What to do about such individuals? We aren’t here to look down upon them. We are here to give them a hand up. And we are especially not here to give them the boot.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    Bob, why are you calling Jesse “Stay”? Are you his superior officer or something?

  50. Very thought-provoking post – and something that really needs to be addressed head-on.

    I wish I had more to add, but everything I might say has been said by others.

  51. Just thinking out loud here. Maybe the honor code should address only the following: academic honesty, not undermining the Church, obeying the laws of the land, and not being excommunicated or requesting to have your name removed from the records if you start out as a member of the Church. (I know – there would be problems with operationalizing the second rule. Some folks would deem teaching evolution to be a Church-undermining activity, for example. But maybe it could be codified reasonably well. It’s certainly an ongoing discussion in many departments.) Everything else should be between employees/students, God, and their Church leaders if necessary. Perhaps an EE should be a one-time thing, required for hiring or admission.

    When I was on the BYU faculty I concluded that the EE has become a contributor to what I see as a progressively less healthy spiritual culture and value system there. I certainly would prefer that each person at the school operate righteously and under the influence of the Holy Ghost. But, as others have pointed out, there are many paths to and detours from this state of being, many levels or forms of righteousness, and a wide range of views that can be accommodated by the gospel (well, according to us liberals, anyway). The EE can be a strong deterrent to spiritual progress and openness.

    My little ad hoc HC model is inadequate, and I didn’t address how it would be enforced. But at least it provides a different box to think in.

  52. A family member works for CES (or whatever it is called these days). Adding to the above, he told me that divorce is also grounds for termination when you teach seminary/institute. Imagine a seminary teacher who wants to repent of a moral issue that might also upset his/her spouse.

  53. One of the most interesting parts of the church’s version of the 12 step programs is that the group facilitator is supposed to not report what he / she hears to the bishop. I suppose this allows those in the class to talk openly about their addiction without fearing ecclesiastical consequences. This is the first time I have seen a policy that favors non-reporting (or at least no pressure to report) to an ecclesiastical authority. I think something along these lines could be implemented for students who need help with various problems they might be having.

    Bonjo, I have heard of truly hateful marriages that endure to maintain CES employment. Not fun. Hard to put on your smiley face for the kids.

  54. I would guess that more temple recommends are lost for failure to pay tithing than any other cause. And in that case, the church as employer is positioned to actually do something about it prospectively! So why no tithing withholding?

  55. gst, you and Ernest Wilkinson would’ve been like two peas in a pod! Too bad you weren’t born in the 40’s.

  56. I mean, BYU already does caffeine withholding!

  57. Folks, I read every post on this site and almost all of the comments. This is some of the best discussion I have seen on this blog in years.

    Thank you so much for shining some light on this topic.

  58. I can’t help but make the obvious analogy to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Which is rather distressing, since the latter did not work out well at all, serving neither national security nor unit cohesion.

  59. So why no tithing withholding?

    Because as an unvoluntary contribution it would bring down upon the participants the rebukes of Providence.

  60. These posts are important for how they point out this conflict of interest and prompt discussion about it. As you’ve noted, the biggest downside is the effect of disincentivizing people from seeking desperately needed pastoral care. This is ironic because it would seem that someone desiring or seeking pastoral care is by definition a believer, i.e. a believing Mormon. So if the overall purpose of the EE process is ultimately to guard against nobelievers taking space as students at BYU or in Church employment — or to prevent people with critical views of the Church or aspects of its culture to have a voice in those settings — then the effect here is not constructive since repentant members are those who are actually following the deeper precepts of the Gospel.

    Of course, it would be better if they had not sinned in the first place (if the issue is confessing a sin). I think that the intention of those who crafted and have reinforced the current policies has been in large measure to help prevent sinning in the first place. In other words, there is an awareness of these consequences and the thinking seems to be that if we create such disfavorable consequences then it will cause or “force” people not to sin in the first place.

    Also, as I pointed out in a post last year, the TR policy for Church employment has won the day recently in the European Court of Human Rights, at least from the perspective that the TR has been found as a legally effective device to secure certain behavioral commitments from Church employees.

    In other words, it seems like the Church should be able to find a way to retain the EE approach as a means to reserve space at BYU or in Church employment for believers without simultaneously disincentivizing them from seeking out pastoral care, which all of us need. The answer might be as simple as de-coupling continuing status from “worthiness” issues that are being resolved through proper ecclesiastical channels. Achieving that in policy terms might be pretty complicated though.

    By the way, the EE concept is not unique to BYU. We are applying for spots in various local secondary schools for one of my children right now and for the Jewish and Catholic High Schools in the area, we need to fill out the equivalent of an EE complete with a signature from our Bishop. This is like a non-Mormon applying to BYU and needing to have the pastor in their own church fill out and sign the EE. And in reviewing the questions on each of those forms, the requirements are more stringent for the Jewish or Catholic applicants, respectively. Even for non-adherents of those religions, however, the forms require certification from a pastor of regular religious attendance.

  61. Outstanding discussion and OP. Thanks for this.

    For me the interesting element is the concept of pastoral care. I suspect many bishops believe their pastoral care is delivered by church discipline (in the “court of love”). While church discipline may ultimately be necessary, I suspect that in most cases true pastoral care will encompass much more.

    Like Scott B (in #9), I support the concept of an honor code for BYU. I believe that it is reasonable for a church sponsored institution to have standards of behavior for those who attend and those who work there. But I acknowledge the concerns raised in the post and the comments.

    What is the process these days at BYU when someone loses the EE? Does it result in immediate dismissal or is there some kind of hearing?

  62. Scott @28 brings in an important point. It is not only the loss of pastoral care, which I’ve seen many time do extensive harm to individuals who must put on a mask to hide their concerns, sin, doubt, fear, or just the need for advise, or even any of the many reasons people seek help from their bishop, but it also creates a culture of suspicion and distrust within the church. I do not offer my opinions in church, I do not let people get to know me. Who will be my next bishop? Be careful.

    Like AnotherBYUFac I live in a Ward where my political views are seen as outside of the extreme right wing norms, and there are people who see their political views as part of the gospel. There is no doubt in my mind that there are people that if they became my bishop would not sign my EE. Or at least that’s a possibility enough for me to be worried.

    It feels like to me that all Church Employees, the workers at the BYUs, and others in its employ, have lost the option of pastoral care. It’s just not worth the risk. I would be unlikely to find another position given my age and stage of career and so should I need help on an issue the church cannot be one of those sources of help. It’s a lonely feeling that one of the most basic services of the church are denied those who have in essence given their lives over to the church in various ways by entering into its employment.

  63. Being on the verge of getting a my doctorate and entering the academic job market (even though I am a horrible proofreader) I can say that absolutely the policies of BYU have effectively taken it off the table as a potential employer. This despite the fact that I work in one of the areas where BYU has good, competitive research faculty. As stated by others, it isn’t that I worry about me not living the standards of the Church it is the crap shoot of having the interpretation of those standards change based on the opinion of some random bishop or even just the swings that take place from administration to administration. One day your activities are fine and then wham all of a sudden you are dangerous. Think of Eugene England! Being left leaning and sympathetic with BYU students who may take less orthodox positions or beliefs relative to the Church I would feel it would be my duty in some ways of providing a safe place or at least a set of ears to students who struggle with these things. One of the very reasons I would be drawn to a position there is the same one that would put me and my family at risk no matter how carefully you try and tread the line. Even if I wanted to I just can’t justify that risk for my family.

  64. Oh and I am no Eugene England by any stretch of the imagination. He is just one of my church heroes.

  65. Anon even now, after all these years says:

    BYUFac’s point re: the culture of suspicion hits very close to home for me. The net of distrust is thrown far and wide, even to extend to the spouse’s worthiness, political leanings, etc. Years ago my husband was a full-time church employee, moving up the ranks within his department. At that time many peace rallies, etc. were being held (this was around 2002), and I attended many of these events. An older employee took my husband aside and counseled him that he’d better keep his wife’s political activities under wraps, because “that kind of thing” was not looked upon favorably in the department.

    Honestly, up to that point, we hadn’t even thought that my involvement in the anti-war cause was on anyone’s radar screen, and certainly hadn’t felt any need to keep it quiet. Once we figured out it could be impacting my husband’s career, however, you can bet that I thought twice before I spoke to others about….well….anything that could be construed as even slightly controversial. The degree of separation amongst members in the church is so small, you really never know who you can trust.

    You can imagine that this put a bit of extra pressure on our early marriage relationship. It was certainly liberating the day he quit that job.

  66. Sharee Hughes says:

    When I was at Church College of Hawaii (I realize that dates me–it’s npw BYU-Hawaii), I directed a play in which the male characters would need to have beards. Anyone who has ever used fake facial hair in a production knows how horrible that is, so I went to the President of CCH and asked permission for my male cast members to grow beards. He willingly gave that permission and an item in the school newspaper let everone know these people were okay to have beards until the production was over. However, the bishop of one of these young men refused to sign his EE because his beard was contrary to the college standards. How petty! The CCH President had to actually intervene with this bishop so this young man could stay in school. Although I agree that we need an honor code, we also need to remember that the church is a “hospital for sinners.” No one is perfect, even the bishops who sign the EEs

  67. #65- I kinda had a similar experience. I’m also a spouse of a BYU professor and a few years ago during the elections, we had a democratic elective sign outside of our house. A member of the bishopric came and told us that we were going to hell because of our beliefs. I’m not saying all bishops or bishoprics are like this but sometimes it’s like playing the roulette. You just don’t know.

  68. From my understanding (I am not a lawyer, nor do I work in Church HR, nor do I represent the Church in this answer), the current policies are set up to allow the Bishop to work with the employee to remain in employment. There are only a couple exceptions, but I believe that’s the way it’s worded, and I also remember several Bishops at BYU working with students to try to maintain their EE so they didn’t have to leave. So I think the policy is in place to allow that. Perhaps the main issue being argued here is just the assignment by geography to a Bishop, and that you get the pick of the draw in whether they are willing to work with you?

  69. “the current policies are set up to allow the Bishop to work with the employee to remain in employment”

    I know of no such policy. See [3] above in OP.

  70. Jesse,

    Perhaps the main issue being argued here is just the assignment by geography to a Bishop, and that you get the pick of the draw in whether they are willing to work with you?

    I think that is a big part of it, yes. I don’t have much doubt that a majority of bishops are willing to work with a majority of people towards the end of retaining an EE. Here, of course, we suffer from a lack of data, because no one ever hears about those instances since they are, by their nature, non-events in the long run. We only hear about the other cases, which perhaps makes the problem look more frequent than it really is.

    Nevertheless, I think that there is something to be said for the simple “threat” of it, as I described in #28 above: The existence of that threat, exercised or not, necessary or not, is sufficient to alter the relationship in an unfortunate way.

  71. After reading this post and all the comments, it’s dawning on me how incredibly lucky I was in my time at BYU. I had the most amazing bishop for three years–which is notable in itself, since BYU students often go through bishops much more frequently–he was the most understanding, accessible man I’ve ever known in that capacity, and I’m becoming very aware that if I’d had a different bishop for those years, I probably would have been kicked out. In fact, I had so much trust in him that it never even occurred to me the bullet I was dodging–I hated getting the Ecclesiastical Endorsement done, but never worried about it, because I knew my bishop understood me so well. If I’d had that experience with some of the bishops I had at other times while I was there… Yeah, it would have been very different. This, like so many other things at BYU, is a policy that intends to do good but does so much harm instead.

  72. BYUFac (69),
    Actually, Jesse is correct there. The official policy statement sent to me by a BYU Faculty member includes specific language to that end.

    Whether those efforts are undertaken is the key issue.

  73. Miri (71),
    I think it’s important to give both sides here. The EE requirement absolutely does some good–it without question provides sufficient incentive for many people to avoid certain sins, just like any of the commandments in the scriptures do. Laws benefit many people.

    However, in celebrating the good it does, it is equally important to acknowledge the existence of costs, and that is what this post is about. I don’t know how to do a calculus of net good or bad for this kind of thing–I think the best thing is to be aware of the potential harm, so that any bishops who have students/employees in their wards approach EE interviews with their eyes and hearts wide open.

  74. My bad, Scott, I miss read Jesse as saying there was a policy that demands that the Bishop work toward helping retain EE. The language allows that he may be trying to do so. But there is no policy as far as I know about what goes into that allowance.

    And yes the real issue is that you never know what your bishop will do and too much is at stake to even consider it for many people.

  75. Isn’t there some kind of recourse if your Bishop won’t give you an EE because of your political beliefs. I’m not trying to diminish the fears because I’m sure I would have them as well. But if you made a stink about it to the Stake President or even to the brethren wouldn’t they overturn the Bishop?

  76. The organizational incentives all work towards the sp being inclined to side with the bishop–the bishop is someone the sp knows well, works with, and (presumably) about whose calling and worthiness the sp experienced confirming personal revelation. The upstart member with the outré beliefs has the deck pretty well stacked against him/her.

  77. Yeah, I think that in extremely clear-cut cases of baseless denial simply via unrighteous dominion (which, hopefully, are few and far between), a Stake President is likely to be of assistance. However, if there is any gray area and the decision could go either way, my guess is that the SP will be inclined, other things equal, to side with the bishop.

    I probably would be, admittedly.

  78. Also CJ–make sure to read footnote #4 to the OP. That gives some extra info on the appeals process, which is pretty dismal-looking for someone hoping to overturn a ruling.

  79. Chris Gordon says:

    On the list of “Interesting Ideas that would Never Happen,” I submit the following experiment: grant EE amnesty for church school students and church employees (including faculty) for a year. See how many otherwise “un-repented of” sins surface, and evaluate from there.

    Failing that, I’d be interested in an anonymous survey of church employees, students, and alums, asking how many avoided confessing sins that needed confessing due to fear of losing employment or student status. We’re all sharing some pretty good anecdotes here, but I’m not sure how much stock can be put there.

  80. Chris, I like the idea, but that would only take into account “sins”, not doubts, and not the “walking-on-eggshells around fellow ward members” feeling described by many comments. I think the survey would need to include these categories as well.

  81. Chris Gordon says:

    As diligent as the church research department can be (will they get a website already so we can start seeing some of the stats firsthand that only occasionally get quoted in conference!?), it’ll never happen.

  82. You’re right, Scott, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “instead”. I’m on board with the idea of the Honor Code, and I do agree that it does good things for the atmosphere of the campus–I just think that, like we’re all saying, the actual implementation does a lot of damage that isn’t necessarily common knowledge. I should have replaced “instead” with “at the same time.”

  83. I avoided confessing sins and confronting my doubts at BYU. My bishop was a nice man, but he also often spoke about sins and identified which ones would make you ineligible for an EE. I turned down a few callings one semester and was threatened by a bishopric member. I recall a lesson in EQ where we discussed the role of home teachers in helping identify code violators. There was a lot I liked about BYU, but its effect on my relationship with the church was a disaster.

  84. I went through a sort of crisis in my last year of my master’s degree at BYU, but I couldn’t talk to my bishop for fear of losing my endorsement and years of hard work. I looked forward to a new ward experience where I could talk to my bishop openly, but I’m sad that my confession had to wait. I could have used a confidant.

  85. I started at BYU about 6 months after my first real crisis of faith (I had applied to college before then, and it was the only place I applied), but eventually I came to terms with the culture at BYU, found a group of friends, and a place in my ward. Fast forward a year and while I like BYU more than ever, the effects of the fear of losing an ecclesiastical endorsement on my friends have made it extremely difficult to keep my good will towards the church. The stories range from scary bishops (and the horror of having a girls-only dance party in sports bras and shorts) to serious depression. Add to that a new calling on the Friendship Council (or really the fellowshipping council) and church is suddenly all about that ecclesiastical endorsement instead of good will to all men.

  86. The medical community switched about a decade ago from the concept of “compliance” to “adherence”. The thought is that even though the doctor knows better than you how to fix what ails you, only you can do the fixing and too many patients were lying about symptoms to avoid unpleasant or expensive treatments. This is true even of reportable contagious illnesses such as TB, since mandatory quarantines only drove the problem underground and increased the probability of spreading the contagion.

    Of course, if the sin itself is considered less infectious and less harmful to others than the idea that sinning is not a serious thing, then lip service might be a valid end in itself, irrespective of whether the server of said lip believes it or not. In this case, compliance with the theory is much more important than adherence to the practice.

  87. anon for this says:

    I’m pre-CFS status at BYU-I. The newest faculty policy regarding EE says that if you lose your temple recommend, you have 90 days to get it back before you will be terminated. If it is something that cannot be resolved in 90 days, you will be immediately terminated.

  88. There is a history of indefensible applications of the Honor Code, to be sure. I had a student dismissed from school, because she imprudently confided her doubts to her room-mate. The room-mate went straight to the bishop–with good intentions, seeking help for the doubter. The Bishop, more indignant than pastoral, gave the doubter six weeks to regain her testimony. Predictably, the time-limit only fortified the doubts, and the outcome, inevitable. These sorts of documentable episodes may be the consequence of uncharitable adjudication rather than the code itself. There is, most assuredly, no system of checks on dominion exercisers, save from higher campus authorities, who value the zeal of the lower. While acknowledging that there are un-responsively destructive personalities, from whom the larger group must be protected, It is monumentally short-sighted for people to think that defending the institution is more important, to God, than caring for individuals, or that the institution is protected by means other than caring for individual persons. Charity seems so much more difficult than easy enforcement, unless one is born of the spirit, perhaps.

  89. What if a person suddenly finds themselves a single parent and the bulk of their credits (completed in their younger days) are at BYU? What if that person was once a happy, non-questioning BYU student who signed the EE eagerly and easily, but now has serious doubts about whether the church is REALLY true? Now that this person desperately needs a degree, where will he or she go? Back to BYU to finish quickly, faking a testimony and activity in the church because those credits won’t transfer anywhere else? What if that person doesn’t have time for a church calling while single parenting/working/going back to school? What if that person drinks coffee to stay awake while trying to do all these things at once? What if this person finds tithing impossible without neglecting a real family need? Should these things keep this person from getting the degree that means so much to the lives of his/her children? A pat answer which tells such people that they should ‘just attend elsewhere’ misses what it means to such a person in time and money and time away from children to have to start over. Might such a person hide the coffee drinking, pretend a testimony, claim a full rather than partial tithe out of an integrity that is far more important than loyalty to a church that demands belief in order to graduate?

  90. Pastoral care is a huge issue, but I believe that it is merely symptomatic of the real issue at hand: the HC is a secular redundancy placed upon young people who already live under a baptismal covenant. I realize that some students are non-members, but they shouldn’t be held to the same standards as LDS students. They shouldn’t be recruited to play for the school’s sports programs in the first place. The HC is an uninspired apparatus that merely plays into the hands of the Adversary’s exploitation of punk ethic.

    I still have a poster that i stole from BYU-approved housing where one of my friends used to live. It has a picture of a cougar and says “Remember, part of obeying the honor code is to report infractions.” Thus the student body are coerced by way of guilt into turning their friends and roommates in for things that are often none of their business. There is a piece of paper that each one of those students sign, and it is kept in a file cabinet somewhere. If they do what common sense dictates (i.e. let their friends and roommates resolve their issues with their bishops), then their signature necessarily loses its meaning. Their name becomes another trivial abstraction lost to an administrative bureaucracy that is more concerned about public perception than the perceptions of its students.

    Such a redundancy has vast ramifications upon the entire valley, not just the students of BYU. Everyone in Utah Valley either supports the HC or despises it, and many become terrorists that either enforce it or defy it. My friends, who normally wouldn’t swear, drink, vandalize, undermine authority or get laid suddenly had a cultural impetus to do so after signing that line because each one of those behaviors suddenly became currency towards underground street cred. When their testimony of the Gospel was on shaky ground (often the case for some) that option of being “punk” against mainstream BYU culture simply amplified their decisions that were against the grain.

    The Lord already has his covenants. Why lace them with a code that turns a portion of the student body into the equivalent of the Nazi SS? Because the truth is that we simply don’t trust these students to honor their baptismal covenants. We fear the Natural Man more than we trust the Light of Christ.

  91. new anonymous says:

    As a past BYU student HC offender, I saw the inner workings of the HC office. I had one legitimate dealing with the HC where I worked with them for 6 months and 4 subsequent unfounded allegations made to the HC office by friends/relatives of my ex-gf (however, my ex-gf and I still got along fine). The HC office was extremely fair and understanding. They brought me in for each allegation, asked a couple of questions, realized the situation, and thanked me for my time. I finally asked what it takes to get kicked out. This was a seasoned HC office veteran who had been there for decades. He told me that no one had been kicked out for 5 years unless they basically asked to be or were completely unrepentant. Granted, my bishop was supportive, but at least in my five anecdotal experiences, the HC office was exceptional.

    My advice to any EE problems is to probably go to the HC office itself. Talking to a close friend who is going through testimony and moral issues at BYU, we both agreed that the HC office on the 4th floor and the counseling center in the basement of the Wilkinson center are the most understanding and accepting places on campus (ironic isn’t it?). My honor code officer gave me the best pastoral care I’ve ever received. I even sent him a wedding invite.

  92. It took me a couple of days witha busy schedule to finish reading all these comments Great post and provocative comments that made me think about this issue. I was glad to have made it through the heady days of pre-EE BYUY in the 80’s when the Bishop went from from shepherd to corporate security guard. Imagine the shepherd of any flock that would close the gate just because some of the flock were stragglers or munching on some extra green grass when the He called them into the fold. What would a Good Shepherd do? I say, leave the gate latching to a bean counting flunkie in the admissions office and let the Pastor do His job.

    I know some who would argue that BYU is an extra special “fold” where the bar is higher to get in–maybe the “gate” is that much more narrower. That may make perfect sense to someone who is “in” the fold, but in light of everything that is said about the gospel in the Bible and Book of Mormon, that just doesn’t feel right.

  93. #90 – The rest of the comment is a different story, but I just can’t agree with:

    “They shouldn’t be recruited to play for the school’s sports programs in the first place.”

    If peope can’t participate fully in the normal activities on campus, they shouldn’t be admitted in the first place – and I would hate to see that happen.

  94. That’s even more true of “people” than it is of “peope”.

  95. Chris Gordon says:

    I was talking with my family about this a bit (bunch of BYU alums) and we are hoping that there are more readers giving credit to well-meaning pastoral leaders and folks in the HC office than seems to be happening.

    I’ll only point out that the loudest anecdotes are those from someone with an axe to grind because they either received or feel they received a raw deal. I count myself among the presumably vast number of students who struggled with issues related to the HC and to, you know, sin, and received fantastic, loving, accepting counsel from my bishop. I know I wasn’t the only one. From what limited insight I got into the makeup of my wards while serving on the WC, I know that there were plenty of students in similar situations.

  96. I’ll only point out that the loudest anecdotes are those from someone with an axe to grind because they either received or feel they received a raw deal.

    Oh, Chris.

  97. Why lace them with a code that turns a portion of the student body into the equivalent of the Nazi SS?

    I believe what you are looking for here is the Stasi, not the SS.

  98. @30 & @31: I came in on a link about the problems with EE at BYU, and I was like “What? There’s something wrong with Electrical Engineering…?” But it could also be Extra Earrings.

    Good post and good discussion, BTW.

  99. Ray,
    “If peope can’t participate fully in the normal activities on campus, they shouldn’t be admitted in the first place – and I would hate to see that happen.”

    Admitting non-members and actively recruiting them for a competitive edge are two different things. If someone wants to participate with BYU, I say fine. Let them participate with full freedom to live according to their own dictates. Subject them to the influences of a student body that are being trusted in full faith to live their covenants, and perhaps require that they take some religious courses so that they can participate in the ideology from the periphery. Miracles follow faith, not force.

    LDS kids should only be kicked out of BYU if they refuse to repent. This would open the floodgates of repentance because it would return confession to the realm of acts of faith. As it stands, repentance at BYU is in the realm of calculated risk.

    If there are morality-related consequences to allowing Non-member enrollment, then take care of the LDS side of things by turning it over to the bishops only. Have the bishop pay a visit to the non-member and explain in full the repentance process that the LDS party has to go through as a result of incidents, and then levy absolutely zero consequences on the non-member. Then just watch what happens. By not holding them responsible for covenants that they never entered into in the first place, they will still have to witness their significant other go through the repentance process. I bet that more often than not, such individuals would commence policing themselves in the absence of any threats by the administration.

    Only the absolutely vacant would respond otherwise, and thereby ostracize themselves on a campus where any underground subcultures have relatively few administrative policies to rage against. The ‘Korihors’ of the world would look ridiculous at that kind of BYU, whereas now they rule the underground with god-like status and influence…. because of the HC. The Korihors at BYU are veritable magnets to those who feel shoved and coerced by an administration that appears more concerned with appearances than with education.

    To dangle a football/basketball scholarship in front of non-member 18-year-olds and then force them to participate in a cosmetic PR program once they agree is not a recipe for setting up young people to succeed. It’s a bureaucratic apparatus that demands that these individuals re-code themselves as agents of the BYU brand. No wonder the school has a scandal every year now.

    For members it’s worse. When you categorically disregard the ability of the majority to uphold their covenants with God right out of the gate, and lasso their testimonies into branding, you can’t help but harm faith.

    The BYU honor code isn’t about impressing God. It’s about impressing the world. Which is interesting when you consider that God was more impressed by Jesus’ plan of faith than Lucifer’s meat puppet scheme.

  100. Peter LLC,
    “I believe what you are looking for here is the Stasi, not the SS.”

    Stasi was post-Nazi Germany, right? Either way, same effect. To encourage a culture of ratting out those who are “in violation” is not the kind of education these people are paying for, but it is what they are getting. When Wilkinson ran things, the metaphor was even more apt.

  101. Obulus, you have excellent posts. A voice of reason. Common sense. Even though there are those who had good experiences with the HC office (#91 – which I’m glad to read), freedom to choose should be paramount (it is obviously paramount to God). As you pointed out, members have already made a covenant at baptism.

  102. I’ve come to the uncomfortable conclusion that it is better to work within the system, even if that requires lying, to get what I want (my degree!), rather than trying to make a statement that hurts me and does nothing to BYU. The Honor Code mandates behaviors, not beliefs, and I highly doubt that BYU cares if you’re a closested apostate.

  103. Chris Gordon says:

    @Scott B. (96): Yes?

  104. Turning in fellow students = Nazi collaborator. Reading through these comments literally gave me that panicky squeeze in my chest I had as a student there. I had an RA who felt it was perfectly all right to peek in my roommate’s window from the bushes because he suspected her of an HC violation. I said I would turn him in for being a peeping tom if he didn’t get out of our bushes and stay out.

    I also had a terrific professor who shared an essay he wrote about his conflicted feelings because while he (and pretty much everyone else) supported his feminist colleagues, he knew his employment was at stake. This was 1992. Rather than firing someone, the school can simply not give them tenure. Either way, the result in the same: no job. Requiring a TR or an EE really doesn’t sit right with me on any level. I think the problem is when we try to make windows into people’s souls. Why not let the EE be just about church attendance and not tie in the TR? That seems fairer. All can attend. Not all can believe.

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