Religious Exemptions, BYU, and Beards

About two months ago, BYU admitted in the New York Times that, although it had a medical and a theatrical exception to its no-beard policy, it didn’t allow for religious exemptions from the policy.

That struck many of us as outrageous (see this prior BCC post and the comments), especially in light of the LDS church’s sincere commitment to encouraging and protecing religious liberty. Well, the policy has changed. 

As Utah’s KUTV reported tonight, BYU has officially changed its policy to incorporate three areas where an exemption to the beard policy may be granted: medical conditions, theatrical performances, and religious reasons.

Hurrah!

A handful of things to note: the religious exemption isn’t codified yet. I’ll be interested in the language: based on BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins’s statement, the religious exemption apparently won’t be automatic. Rather, it appears that it will be on a case-by-case basis. Hopefully, codifying the religious exemption means that the case-by-case review will be largely pro forma (that is, limited to determining whether a student is, in fact, a Sikh, rather than an inquiry into how observant the student is). Only time will tell how effective this change in policy is as a practical matter, but I have high hopes.

Also, this change just affects BYU-Provo. I don’t know whether BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, or LDS Business College provide religious exemptions from their beard bans. If they don’t yet, I hope they follow BYU-Provo, for all the reasons laid out in my prior post.

Finally, this: “Jenkins insists this change is not in response to [the criticism BYU received].”

Look, this is a celebratory post, so I’m not going to argue. But really?

Comments

  1. ““Jenkins insists this change is not in response to [the criticism BYU received].””

    This will replace “There’s no market demand for caffeine on campus” as my favorite spit-take nonsense from Carri Jenkins.

  2. John Harrison says:

    Would it be so hard to say, “As an institution we are always striving to improve and we appreciate the constructive feedback we received regarding this matter.”?

  3. [Slow clap]
    I’m really befuddled with the fact that policies protecting and strengthening the free practice of religion aren’t fully applicable to all campuses?

    (^That’s funny jot)

  4. John Harrison: Yes, as this would be implying that The Hand of God™ is not directing each and every action undertaken by the employees of The Lord’s University™.

  5. My newish member husband has a few thoughts/questions:

    “Wait, so the guys in our ward who graduate from high school with a full beard have to shave them to go to BYU? What do beards and college have to do with each other?”

    “Didn’t Brigham Young have a beard? Why would he want people to shave?”

  6. Aaron Brown says:

    Hooray!

    Long overdue.

    Jettisoning the beard ban in its entirety would’ve been even better, but ridding ourselves of too much stupid all at once might have threatened fragile testimonies, so…

  7. Good to see this change, but we really need to just get rid of the beard ban altogether. It’s not too-orthodox, or too-strictly religious, it’s just anachronistic in a way that is irrelevant to any religious orthodox-unorthodox scale. Someone at BYU really needs to step up and show leadership and basic common sense, and allow BYU to grow to its full potential. Nevermind its secular or academic mission, its ability to fulfill its religious mission is restricted and harmed by this kind of anachronistic silliness. The degree of the harm will increase over time, and eventually the institution will suffocate. It would be a tragic loss for our community, and I hope that a leader emerges who is willing to change course. There’s so much uncontroversial, low-hanging reform fruit that could be done before you start getting into anything that could be called a tough call or require some real spine to enact. I hold out hope that change will come. It would just be too big of a loss if it doesn’t.

  8. “Allow BYU to grow to its full potential.”

    Good one, Cynthia.

  9. I’m very relieved to hear this news. In fact, it deserves a celebration, and what better way to celebrate than with a collection of the best beards in Mormon history?

    The Best Beards in Mormon History

  10. We need a new game. Who said it: Kim Jong Un or Carrie Jenkins? Neither is capable of admitting any error.

  11. primaryteacher says:

    Sister Jenkins, lying will get you to ‘heck’…

  12. It looks like the great state of South Carolina has decided to compete against BYU for the title of most disingenuous PR statement. According to NPR, the long-standing tradition of having the state’s poet laureate recite a poem at inaugurations will be cut out this year. Why? Well, it’s certainly not because this year’s poem mentions slavery. No way. It’s just because, this year, there simply is not time to squeeze in a 2 minute poem. The ceremony is already overbooked.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/14/377028376/for-s-c-s-poet-laureate-an-inauguration-poem-without-an-inaugural-audience

  13. On the subject of religious liberty, it must be noted that LDS students at BYU are not eligible to receive a beard exemption if they convert to Islam. BYU respects all faiths … unless respect means allowing a student to convert to that faith. Students converting to another faith are deemed apostates, honor code violators, and are summarily expelled. Just what you would expect from an institution committed to protecting religious liberty.

  14. The only places that enforce beards is the testing center and religion professors anyway. No one in my department actually cares.

  15. Christopher J. says:

    In other news, BYU-I announced that it has altered its own facial hair policy to disallow not only beards, but also mustaches, sideburns, and eyebrows. /end snark/

  16. Christopher J. says:

    More seriously, this is wonderfully welcome news, and I’m thrilled BYU has reinstated the religious exemption.

  17. Dave K.–one miracle at a time, right?

    Perhaps Jenkins is technically correct–perhaps the criticism prompted a GA to ask for a change, and BYU made the change due to that request from the GA…

    In any case, it’s good to know that, despite what Jenkins might state, our voices can make a difference.

  18. Since Dave K obviously doesn’t think that BYU should be able to discipline students for apostasy, I wonder if he thinks that the church likewise shouldn’t have that power.

  19. dave brunson says:

    My spectacular beard and I still could not attend BYU. O.K., I graduated from the “Y” 43 years ago sans beard. And my spectacular beard really is more of a hobby than a religion. And I am in good company–many of the latter day prophets could not attend (even that bearded namesake Brigham).

  20. There is no such thing as “BYU-Provo.” Your “BYU-Provo” is BYU, and there is only one “BYU.”

  21. Mark says, BYU should be able to discipline students for apostasy

    Mark, FYI, BYU is not the students’ ecclesiastical leader. It is (allegedly) a world-class and accredited institution of higher learning. It ceases to be so, and rightly earns the ridicule of most of the explored universe, when it allows non-LDS students to enroll but expels LDS students who convert to something else. Add me, if you wish, to the list of champions of religious freedom, like Dave K and Joseph S, who are appalled at BYU’s ludicrous and antediluvian policy.

  22. Mark B., is BYU a religion? It does seem odd to expel for, say, conversion to another religion, if they are willing to live the honor code. Why not simply charge them the non-member tuition rate? Otherwise, BYU is basically providing a threat as a means of keeping people from following their religious consciences.

  23. I guess I will be the only dissenting opinion lol, but I think it’s stupid to expect a religious school to change it’s standards for someone else’s religion. Other than the Amish, who don’t believe in education past about the 8th grade, I don’t think there are any Christian religions that require beards in the first place. If you aren’t even a Christian much less a Mormon what the heck are you doing at BYU anyway? Basically, if you don’t like the standards just go somewhere else, I don’t understand the arrogance of people that think the world needs to change just for them.

  24. Karen, when I was at BYU, I knew a number of Muslims who went to BYU because they (and their parents) appreciated the opportunity to get a good education in a faithful environment and without the omnipresence of alcohol that can arise at other schools. I also knew non-Christians who went to BYU because of particular programs (mostly science, though BYU also has really strong music and foreign language programs).

    I’m not entirely sure why you think that we should cater to Christians, but not to non-Christians, but that distinction makes absolutely no sense to me. The church doesn’t encourage religious liberty solely for Christians; we are broadly in favor of religious liberty as an inherent good. Period.

    Which is why the former policy was so troubling, and why there’s so much celebration about the change.

  25. Mark B., I’ll try not to reiterate others’ defenses of my remarks. I’ll just add this. The church has every right to decide its membership standards. BYU too. But it is hypocrisy to set a standard whereby non-members can attend and fully participate at BYU, where non-members are allowed to change religions based on their conscience, but where LDS students are not allowed the same privilege. A member who chooses to leave the faith can rightfully be denied access to the temple or recognition of ordinances performed – in other words, to be treated like any other non-member. But if the school/church are going to allow non-members access to education, they cannot in good faith deny the same access to former members, while at the same time claiming to support religious liberty.

    Also, as it relates to Muslims, I graduated from BYU 15 years ago and one of the best memories I have is working on a senior-level engineering program with Muslim students from Jordan. That experience greatly shaped my views of the arab world and islam for the positive. It’s also strangely ironic to remember that in those pre-9/11 days our assignment was to help a rocket manufacturer get more explosive into their rockets.

  26. Steve: I guess it depends on whether you believe that apostasy is consistent with the commitments that a person makes under the Honor Code. (The real test of that would be whether the school would expel a student who violated his previous religious covenants by converting to Mormonism!)

    New Iconoclast: I understand what “religious freedom” means when applied to a government. I don’t have any idea what you think it means when applied to a church, or an institution operated by that church. Are you suggesting that the same principles that apply to the government should be applied to a religious institution? Talk about ludicrous. And keep the flood out of this!

  27. Dave K.: I don’t know the context in which BYU “claim[s] to support religious liberty.” But supporting religious liberty with respect to a government is completely different from supporting the “religious liberty” you’re suggesting should apply to BYU’s enrollment decisions.

  28. Christopher J. says:

    Karen, to add to what Sam said, it is my understanding that many of the Muslims and Sikhs who attend BYU do so because the school provides a welcoming environment that resonates with their own strict moral codes more than most state schools do. They typically feel safe at BYU. Given the current climate of ignorance and hate regularly displayed toward Muslims and Sikhs in post 9/11 America–ignorance and hate that sometimes turns violent and/or deadly, as it did in the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting of 2012, the brutal murder of Rahmatollah Vahidipour in NYC later that year, and dozens of other such instances in the last decade–that is no small thing.

    BYU should probably take that as a compliment and do all it can to accommodate what should be, from the school’s perspective, a minor nuisance at most, but which is, to the individuals seeking the more welcoming environment, a matter of forsaking one of the five central tenets of their faith.

  29. “(The real test of that would be whether the school would expel a student who violated his previous religious covenants by converting to Mormonism!)”

    They enthusiastically embrace such students, and often given them featured stories in BYU Magazine. I understand why they have the rule in place that doesn’t allow students to leave Mormonism at BYU, but I fear that the primary result of the rule is that it forces some students to inauthentically practice their religion solely to maintain ecclesiastical endorsement; at worse, it encourages some students to refrain from discussing serious issues like sin or doubt with ecclesiastical leaders out of fear that it may harm their educational career.

  30. Karen asks,
    If you aren’t even a Christian much less a Mormon what the heck are you doing at BYU anyway? They might just want to get an education in a less secular environment, a thing that drives many LDS and non-LDS Christians to BYU as well.

    I don’t understand the arrogance of people that think the world needs to change just for them. Like the administrators who expect the members of a millennium-old religious tradition to shave to meet the whims of a 40-year-old American political pet peeve?

  31. Mark B, to answer your question ( I don’t have any idea what you think [“religious freedom”] means when applied to a church, or an institution operated by that church. Are you suggesting that the same principles that apply to the government should be applied to a religious institution?), this is what I think it means when applied to a church, and I suggest we apply this principle to BYU:

    “11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

  32. “Basically, if you don’t like the standards just go somewhere else, I don’t understand the arrogance of people that think the world needs to change just for them.”

    And I don’t understand the arrogance of people who are unwilling to make a trivial change to accommodate others. Non-Mormons sometimes want to come to BYU because they appreciate our high standards. Why drive them away with such intolerant pettiness?

  33. New I: That is a patently silly argument. Suggesting that we believe that people should be free to worship however or wherever they want in no way requires that we confer upon persons not members of the church a benefit reserved to members of the church.

    And, to clarify an off-hand comment I made to Steve Evans, apostasy from the LDS church is different in kind (as to BYU admission standards) from a change from one non-LDS religion to another, and BYU has made (and has every right to make) a rational distinction between the two. If that leads to anxiety for those who leave the church while enrolled at BYU, so be it.

  34. Mark B., your last comment to me is very helpful as it gets to the real rub. The church speaks to religious liberty only when it’s own interests are at risk – an approach that, in my judgment, is a reasonable natural man way to interact in the world. Unfortunately, when our actions do not match our demands – when we treat former members differently from how we expect to be treated – I find that my neighbors are less than sympathetic to my pleas for religious liberty. I’d like to preach religious tolerance to my neighbors, as Elders Oaks, Cook and others have asked us to do. I just wish I had more credibility to do so.

  35. Here is the way to bring beards back to BYU. As other professions/guilds/etc. sometimes do, make a fundraising opportunity out of beard-growing. Allow each department chair to choose a worthwhile charity external to BYU that matches that department’s culture or set up a scholarship fund for that department’s majors and then allow the department chair to issue beard cards to interested faculty at the cost of $50 or $100 per academic annum. Everybody wins. The faculty who want beards have beards, charities and/or students benefit, the university looks goofy but in a measurably good way to the press/outside world, and those who really dislike beards can opt out. For the students, allow BYUSA (the student govt) to choose a charity/set up a scholarship fund and have the Honor Code office issue beard cards for a smaller fee per annum. To really look good, make that scholarship fund specifically for Non-LDS students with financial need. Lighthearted, fun, beneficial progress that still maintains the beard ban on the books. C’mon, BYU administrators, this is pure gold!

  36. Dave K: you conflate religious liberty as a right we hold vis-à-vis the government with an imagined religious liberty that persons supposedly hold vis-à-vis a private institution, whether it be a church or a church-owned university. I suspect that with a little effort we might be able to educate our unsympathetic neighbors about the difference between the two.

  37. Christian J says:

    I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of people of religious backgrounds where growing a beard is actually sacred and pious, applying to/attending a University -owned by a church- which bans beards – not because of devotion or piety or requirement from the religion, but because of a long overdue cultural quirk specific to the decades old cultural wars of the USA. So glad there is some evolution on this.

    And yes, that BYU has a legit code of conduct that attracts Muslims, Jews, Sikhs or any other traditional/conservative person of faith (or their parents) should be taken with pride and encouraged. If adjusting a cultural quirk is all you have to compromise – great.

    BTW, I complained about my time as a missionary on BYU campus, but in reality we did teach a lot of people and saw a lot of them baptized. So that’s another reason, if you need one.

  38. Boy, leave it to beards to bring out the crazy in a BCC comment thread.

    Praise the powers that be – i.e. the Board of Trustees – who recognized a bad policy and bureaucracy run amok when it was brought to their attention.

    Anyone asking BYU to get rid of the beard ban will probably need to wait for Elder Bednar to pass away. There are likely moderates in the Q of 12 who are holding him and a few other older hard cores in check.

  39. Mark B., are you seriously suggesting either that the 11th Article of Faith only applies to the members of the Church (i.e., that “all men” actually means “all Mormons”), or that it applies to the government but not to the Church and its members? I’m curious to know how it is you think the Church’s statements of basic belief shouldn’t be applied to the Church’s university.

    I do agree that BYU can apply whatever standards it wants. I think, however, that they are hypocritical, inconsistent, and foolish to do so in the cases of the beard ban and the conversion double standard. I am happy to see the beard exemption for religious reasons in place. Let’s hope that they decide to live up to Church standards and extend freedom of religious conscience to ex-LDS students as well.

  40. Since this all began, I have heard on good authority that the particular people whose stories were featured never actually applied for a beard card. I’m not sure what they did do, but they apparently never actually sent anything to, for example, the honor code office itself.

  41. DC, I’m not sure what particular people you’re talking about, but I’m also not entirely sure how that’s relevant. BYU’s honor code had no religious exemption for students from the beard prohibition (it did, however, have a religious exemption for faculty and staff). It may have granted religious exemptions, but it didn’t have any explicit policy for doing so.

    Which, to your point, harms individuals with a religious obligation to wear a beard, because having no policy means there’s no procedure laid out for getting an exemption. So even if somebody shaved (in violation of his religious obligations) without first approaching the honor code office, I think we can forgive that person for not understanding procedures that did not exist.

    Add to that anecdotal evidence of individuals who did go to the Honor Code Office and had their requests rejected (see here, for example), and I hope we can agree that this change is both warranted and necessary..

  42. It’s a good thing we have Meet the Mormons or I’d swear Mormons always make everything weird.

  43. Mark B., is BYU a religion? It does seem odd to expel for, say, conversion to another religion, if they are willing to live the honor code. Why not simply charge them the non-member tuition rate? Otherwise, BYU is basically providing a threat as a means of keeping people from following their religious consciences.

    If BYU’s non-member tuition rate reflected the national average for private four-year-universities of around $29K per year, I’d agree with you. But as it is, BYU’s undergrad non-member tuition rate is actually $5,000 per semester/$10K per year. Assuming that other private four-year institutions tend to operate as nonprofits on a break-even basis, that would mean that that the ex-Mormon BYU student is still claiming a subsidy of around $9K in tithing funds per year.

    I think a lot of people here would already argue that the Church over-subsidizes BYU. Why, then, the insistence on using the contributions of the widow in West Africa to subsidize ex-Mormon, predominately white American BYU students? Shouldn’t these kids be–I dunno–checking their privilege, or something?

  44. JimD, for whatever reason BYU has decided to use tithing funds to heavily subsidize tuition for both LDS and non-LDS students. I was a beneficiary of the subsidy (my kids likely will be too), though personally I think it is too much. But that’s a different topic. The point here is that some non-LDS students are being treated differently from the general population specifically because they used to be members of the church. That is religious intolerance.

  45. Sincere question – couldn’t a former Mormon just get an ecclesiastical endorsement from their new religious leader? You have to renew those every year anyway, so BYU could up their tuition to the nonmember rate at that point. Is Mormon apostasy actually stated as grounds for expulsion from BYU? My understanding is it had more to do with the status of the ecclesiastical endorsement.

  46. it's a series of tubes says:

    Why, then, the insistence on using the contributions of the widow in West Africa to subsidize ex-Mormon, predominately white American BYU students?

    This old saw remains as factually incorrect as it has ever been. Why, then, the insistence on utilizing it in an attempt to advance your point?

    Through a well-placed friend a couple years ago, I saw some data on facilities-related expenditures for various parts of the world. Let’s just say that west Africa was doing very, very well as compared to tithing receipts.

    This shouldn’t be surprising. My own western american ward collects local tithing donations (i.e., excluding amounts paid directly to SLC, which are also substantial) in excess of 100x our ward budget every year.

  47. WI_Member says:

    I’m picturing Carrie Jenkins being transported back to the 1840’s, and imagining what her “carefully worded denials” of plural marriage would have sounded like.

  48. New Iconoclast: Your perplexity is stunning. Do you seriously mean to suggest that Joseph Smith meant, when he wrote the 11th Article of Faith, that any person could believe or worship whatever or however he pleased but still call himself a Latter-day Saint?

  49. And, I agree: let the ex-LDS students exercise their freedom of religious conscience by continuing their university studies elsewhere. There’s nothing at all hypocritical about that.

    Why should apostates be welcomed at BYU?

  50. DC has heard something on good authority? (Ten comments back in the discussion now.) Oh, yeah, I have a habit of taking the word of random commenters operating under pseudonyms and quoting unidentified sources.

    If DC is willing to comment under his or her own name and list the name of the source and how he or she has first-hand knowledge of the people involved in this event, I’m sure we’d be happy to consider whether it has anything whatsoever to do with this discussion. It doesn’t seem like it does.

    Sometimes something needs to be done because it’s the right thing to do, and trying to bury a good and virtuous course correction under a layer of gossip and innuendo is the stuff of dirty politics or dreary office intrigues.

    In other words, saying that someone somewhere might not have followed every step in an obscure bureaucratic system does not invalidate the institution’s move to correct that bureaucratic error. (My calling it a bureaucratic error is based on documented information in the prior discussion on BCC about the President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, publicly supporting an observant Sikh student wearing a beard.)

  51. Shh, Mark, I don’t think they call it apostasy anymore; I think it’s “faith transition” now.

  52. yourpeople says:

    I can’t help but wonder how long it would have taken BYU to address this issue had it affected only women rather than only men?

    (I realize there is a hilarious joke to be made about women with facial hair being liberated, too, but my question is sincere).

    Forgive me for not feeling super-celebratory about Mormons quickly addressing the concerns of men. While I think it is entirely appropriate to allow people to exercise their religions in their entirety, I think the moaning of Mormon men about the oppressiveness of BYU dress code is tiresome at best. Throw your moaning behind something that matters to more than the 1 out of a million Sikhs who choses BYU.

  53. yourpeople: Female beards are definitely encouraged at BYU. All gay students should get one. Ba-dum-ching. I’m here all week, folks.

  54. Mark B., if we really cared about apostates, we’d want to try to keep them in the fold as long as we could. This does not equate to forcing them to pretend to be believers in order to not waste several years of education.

  55. Mark B: “Why should apostates be welcomed at BYU?” Why did Jesus sup with sinners, harlots and publicans? The whole have no need of a physician. But then again, it’s been observed that BYU resembles the Pharisees more than Jesus and his followers.

  56. Amy T., it will come as little surprise to you to learn that you are not in fact in charge of determining appropriate levels of proof for this blog’s discussion of confidential information.

  57. “Jenkins insists this change is not in response to [the criticism BYU received].”

    sigh…We **never change** in response to criticism. It’s just a coincidence that we make many changes right after criticism is received. That’s almost as good of PR spin as “The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball….sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday”

  58. Sam Brunson…It isn’t that I think we should cater to Christians and not non-Christians, I think we don’t need to “cater” to anyone at all. I don’t see anything wrong with saying “this is who we are, this is how we live, this is the expectation, join us or don’t, your choice.” It’s not a buffet where you get to pick and choose which of the rules you like, your choice was in the beginning, go, don’t go. And I truly don’t mean that in a snotty or snarky way, but what’s wrong with having an expectation? And to those who think it’s such a small thing, what’s the big deal, I say, You are right! It is a small thing so, why can’t you accept it and move on? What makes it a big deal is the people who don’t know how to let things go and accept that they don’t make the rules. It’s pretty basic really, wanna go to BYU, shave, don’t wanna shave, don’t go to BYU. There are thousands of other schools to choose from. If being in a specific program or atmosphere that you feel is only at BYU is what you want then shaving should be a very small sacrifice to make to have it. Let the pummeling begin, gee this is fun.

  59. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    If they do need a minimum number of bans and are searching for one in lieu of this limited ban lifting, perhaps they can ban the unibrow.

  60. WI_Member says:

    @Karen P – If we were talking about a behavior that was a doctrinal issue (non-marital sex, alcohol, etc.), that’s one thing. This is asking people to conform to an antiquated grooming preference. Not doctrinal. Not. Doctrinal. Not even close.

  61. My experience with discussions on BYU policies has been that the response “If you don’t like it you can leave” usually comes from support of an indefensible position. The question, whether it deals with beards, shorts, or academic freedom, is about improving the institution. Telling affected individuals to leave doesn’t solve problems, it only hides them from view.

    Which I guess is fine if all you’re concerned about is appearances.

  62. You are correct about that, Steve, and I defer, as always, to your prescience and perspicacity.

    (And thanks for the laugh, and on the missionary thread, too, since January’s been kind of somber.)

  63. Karen, if we were talking about a practicing Strawmanist, whose religion requires him to fornicate at least twice weekly, you’d have an argument, because that would be directly opposed to LDS values. Likewise, if we were talking about a dude (like myself) who has a weak chin and wants to hide it under facial hair, you’d be golden, as well.

    But we’re not talking about a simple grooming choice, nor are we talking about something that actually matters to LDS doctrine or practie. We’re talking about adherents of a religion that requires them to not shave being required to shave so they can… I dunno, demonstrate they’re not hippies?

  64. Mark B., you’re either a not terribly clever troll, or you have some cognitive issues. Either way, you win.

  65. Amy, January is the worst month. It’s like February without the makeout holiday.

  66. Steve Evans: I didn’t think that we were talking about people within the fold who were struggling, but about people who had left the LDS church. And “waste several years of education” raises a false dichotomy. Surely you’re not suggesting that no credits from BYU are transferrable.

    New Iconoclast: You’re the one who said this: “Let’s hope that they decide to live up to Church standards and extend freedom of religious conscience to ex-LDS students as well.” So please don’t lecture me on either non-clever trollishness or “cognitive issues.”

  67. Mark B. surely you are aware that “struggling” is enough to lose an ecclesiastical endorsement in many wards and stakes. Being a member of feminist organizations have led to that for several BYU-I students that I know personally.

    While some classes from BYU transfer, if a student going to BYU transfers to a school outside of Utah, it is rare for all the credits to transfer. More of my credits from my Oregon community college were accepted, even though I finished my associates almost 2 decades ago, than a student I am tutoring. He is a returned missionary who spent 2 tears a BYU before leaving on his mission, and who had As and Bs in all but one class. The religion classes not transferring wasn’t a surprise, but most of his science classes transferred as electives, because BYUs standards for those classes don’t meet the criteria needed take upper division classes in those departments. It essentially is leading to an extra year in college for him. He chose our university, over his first choice, because they accepted more of his BYU credits than the first choice university would have.

    We have talked several times about his choice not to return to BYU. It comes down to realizing on his mission that the students in the university programs in his mission area were much more rigorous than BYU, and if he wanted to go to grad school and be competitive, a BYU degree wasn’t going to cut it.

    He also realized that he had no desire to live in Utah, and if he didn’t go to grad school, no one outside Utah would be at all impressed with his undergraduate degree. He is pretty frustrated that he was talked into going to “Mormon Harvard” out of high school, when he had been accepted, (after high school) into several schools with much higher academic rankings than BYU. He got a lot of pressure from his ward and parents to go to the Lord’s University. He is just glad that a mission to Boston opened up his eyes to the differences.

  68. Mark, if you got expelled from BYU, no doubt some of the credits might be transferable, but a lot won’t. It’s a big deal.
    As for in the fold vs left the church, that can be a very gray line, as you know. Wouldn’t we prefer the option that does not encourage dishonesty, in any event? Right now, a student that confesses sins and doubts essentially puts his studies at risk. That is not good.

  69. Or, what Julia said.

  70. Mark B: “Why should apostates be welcomed at BYU?” Why did Jesus sup with sinners, harlots and publicans? The whole have no need of a physician.

    Did Jesus also give these people $9k per year of other people’s money?

    Let’s say there are 100 ex-mos allowed to attend BYU at the standard non-Mormon tuition rate. That’s still a cumulative subsidy of around $900K of church money per year, and if the average tithepayer earns $45K, then those one hundred students are being subsidized by roughly two hundred faithful church members. A million dollars, almost; spent in a loyalty buy-back program that (let’s face it) will be largely fruitless. Such a program strikes me as of dubious wisdom generally; and the two-to-one ratio of members funding the program versus ex-members targeted by the program seems almost inexcusably inefficient.

    Through a well-placed friend a couple years ago, I saw some data on facilities-related expenditures for various parts of the world. Let’s just say that west Africa was doing very, very well as compared to tithing receipts.

    The trouble with this reasoning is that tithes received in Africa internally are still funds that Salt Lake doesn’t have to send to Africa to keep things going there–and funds which, under the paradigm you advocate, would be used to give handouts to first-world BYU students whose presence actually undercuts BYU’s formal mission statement.

    BYU exists to “assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” and to build a corps of people who are wiling and able to assist the Church in its work. The Church is well within its rights to subsidize students who will subscribe to that mission; and to decline to subsidize–or even terminate the BYU association with-students who won’t. We aren’t talking about the Spanish Inquisition here; we’re talking about being wise stewards of the widow’s mite.

  71. As for in the fold vs left the church, that can be a very gray line, as you know. Wouldn’t we prefer the option that does not encourage dishonesty, in any event?

    There’s already incentive for dishonesty–being a Mormon saves you $5K of tuition per year. Are you suggesting BYU eradicate the tuition discount for Mormons?

    Methinks you’re letting become an illusory “perfect” become the enemy of an admittedly imperfect “good”.

    Right now, a student that confesses sins and doubts essentially puts his studies at risk. That is not good.

    I agree that the ecclesiastical interview should allow leeway for doubting/questioning; but there’s a difference between “doubting” and “rejecting”.

  72. Jim, I haven’t addressed the tuition discount at all and consider that a separate and secondary concern. Methinks thou dost intend to obfuscate.

    As for the difference between doubting and rejecting, I am not sure that a BYU bishop is capable of correctly perceiving which is which. I know I doubt my own abilities in that respect.

  73. WI_Member says:

    JimD,
    Perhaps we should start applying a religious requirement/beliefs test to other recipients of members’ charitable giving as well? Who’s to say that students whose beliefs change won’t have another change of heart later in their lives, and remember the charity extended to them in their struggles?

  74. JimD, although this post has nothing at all to do with BYU’s policy of kicking out students who disaffiliate with the church, it’s worth noting that 100 ex-Mormons attending BYU (assuming 100 ex-Mormons would want to, and, more to the point, assuming 100 Mormons attending BYU would change their religious affiliation every year) would not, in fact, cause the church to expend an additional $900,000 a year. I’m not sure what the marginal cost of an additional student is, but I suspect it’s not terribly high. With ~30,000 students, 100 students would represent about 0.3% of the student body. Maybe not having them would warrant eliminating one or two faculty positions, but I doubt it. Essentially, BYU will incur the same costs with or without those students. With those students, though, BYU gets an extra $500,000 of tuition a year (if they pay LDS rates) or $1 million (if they pay non-LDS tuition rates) a year, less whatever marginal costs these students impose on the school.

    Which is to say, I’m pretty sure the financial consequences of allowing Mormon students to convert to other religions while at BYU are, at best, negligible and, without more information, it’s hard to see which way they cut.

    BYU certainly may have other reasons for the rule, of course. But I’m pretty sure cost isn’t it.

  75. it's a series of tubes says:

    The trouble with this reasoning is that tithes received in Africa internally are still funds that Salt Lake doesn’t have to send to Africa to keep things going there–and funds which, under the paradigm you advocate, would be used to give handouts to first-world BYU students whose presence actually undercuts BYU’s formal mission statement.

    Jim, I’m not sure if you are being dishonest here, or just obtuse: Nowhere in my post did I advocate discounted tuition for ex-members. I merely stated that fact that far more tithing funds are expended in Africa than are received. For the three years where I saw data, the net flow into Africa exceeded the receipts there by more than an order of magnitude. To claim that African widows subsidize BYU students is, as they say, not even wrong.

  76. “I am not sure that a BYU bishop is capable of correctly perceiving which is which” Steve makes a great point. I’m not sure that the individual with doubts can correctly perceive which is which, and the doubts are occurring in their own heads and hearts. For example, do I have doubts that the church treats women equally (actually it’s obvious women are not treated equally), or do I reject unequal treatment and the promise of eventual celestial polygamy? Where does doubt end and rejection begin? Am I not Mormon as a result? Do I deserve to be kicked to the curb for not getting in line? Should my higher education credits be forfeit in addition to the inconvenience of changing schools?

  77. Did someone already answer Mary Ann? No, once you’re admitted as a Mormon, you must remain active in the church. “Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints automatically results in the loss of good Honor Code standing.” https://honorcode.byu.edu/
    See also this story in the Trib: http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/1845868-155/byu-lds-students-church-mormon-faith

  78. Oh, Amy T (last name unknown), you don’t have to react so indignantly. My source was one step removed from the president of the university. I can’t say anything beyond that because the discussion was not really on the record. I can say that evidently President Worthen was upset because none of this was brought to his attention or anyone higher up in the university, and so all of it could have been resolved without making a fuss about it. But instead of working for a solution, like the one that was reached (and to be clear, I agree that was the best solution) the whole community had to be outraged. My personal take is that this should have been policy, set in stone and included in the verbiage of the honor code all along, but forgive me for not being outraged that something that affects a tiny fraction of BYU students was handled on a case by case basis before this week.

  79. Thanks for explaining further, DC. How does your source think the president would have found out about the problem? Could he have found out about it coincidentally without the New York Times article or the action by this community? Do you really think that this would have reached action status without people contacting the president’s office?

  80. DC, it’s nice to hear that Pres. Worthen was as upset by this poor policy. But, like Amy said, the powers of inertia are strong; without the New York Times and the various people here and other places calling, emailing, and otherwise raising the issue, it probably wouldn’t have come to his attention, and certainly not in a timely manner. And the ad hoc procedure doesn’t appear to have worked all the time.

    But, more importantly, we’ve been encouraged to actively promote religous practice and liberty. And I’m tremendously happy that things got better.

  81. The major incidents of Sikh students being required to shave their beards contrary to the mandates of their religion or seeking out a bogus medical exemption to be able to live their religion happened long before Kevin Worthen became president of the University. But, as I argued on Sam’s initial thread, knowing President Worthen, I was confident that he would not have been in favor of forcing devout Sikhs to shave their beards in order to attend BYU, and it is very comforting to hear that he was irritated that this had been done and that the honor code did not include a religious exemption, thus allowing petty middle managers to “do their worst,” so to speak, and blatantly refuse to listen to arguments about being allowed to practice one’s religion, which is what appears to have happened based on particularly the series by James Goldberg to which Sam linked in his comment above.

  82. DC: “all of it could have been resolved without making a fuss about it” I really wish this were true, but alas, it almost never is true when you are talking about complacent bureaucratic organizations.

  83. Rather than “iron rod” Mormons vs “liahona” Mormons, or “TBMs” vs “liberals”, I propose the following classification for Mormons: those who prefer being liked by non-Mormons and those who prefer being disliked by non-Mormons.

    The division between the two groups is illustrated beautifully in this thread.

  84. Doug, who on earth prefers being disliked by non-mormons?

  85. Steve,

    Granted I was being a tad snarky, but there are definitely Mormons who favor conciliatory approaches when working with non-Mormons (or Mormon minority groups), and those who favor hardline, “our way or the highway” approach. And its generally the same people in each group no matter the outside group, so much so that I find it a more useful way to categorize Mormons than “liberal” and “conservative”.