A Guest Post, converted from an email, by permission.


Every time I read one of your “what’s the matter with BYU” posts I feel so sad and discouraged about the state of our church school—but I wanted to defend the other side of BYU as well.


(I thought of leaving this as a comment on the blog, but I didn’t want to seem argumentative—since I largely share your worries about BYU’s liberal drift).

However, my husband teaches at BYU in [a practical, professional] program (he’s been there several years now), and my dad taught in the [sciences] for my whole life. I grew up in a ward where nearly every family had someone employed as faculty or staff at BYU. (We lived right by campus.) My ward was amazing! Full of humble, solid, Christlike people. Of course we had our few democrats and our left-leaning types—but for the most part the different sides of the political divide all served shoulder to shoulder and loved each other. I didn’t see snobbishness or worldliness, just genuine charity and a love of learning. Elder Oaks was in our ward when he got called as an apostle, and his wife June served with my mom in Primary. It was just the best ward to grow up in. So I am of course biased favorably toward BYU—everyone I admired growing up was associated with it! I went there on a presidential scholarship for all 4 years of college. But I think I can also see its flaws, since I have watched it through much more than just the eyes of a student, and for my whole life! We do our share of getting mad at various decisions BYU makes (“10-year-plan” committees—grrrr) but it’s also part of who we are!

Here’s what I love about BYU, and though the inexorable drift left is real (I presume—no hard data, of course), this is why I think BYU is not doomed. It is FULL of people—faculty and staff—who earnestly love the church and all it stands for. These are humble, hard-working, faithful defenders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People like my husband, who prays earnestly over his class preparation—agonizes over how best to help his students struggling with their testimonies—plans in spiritual content for every single class period. He starts class with prayer. He bears his testimony. He has the students share favorite talks from General Conference. He is constantly pondering how elements of his discipline] fit into the principles of the gospel. He takes the spiritual side of his responsibilities very seriously! He and his colleagues talk constantly in faculty meeting about ways to help the students share the light of Christ and reflect their values in an often very worldly industry. And the thing is—my husband is not unusual! MOST of his colleagues are approaching their classes the same way he does. He certainly encounters bureaucracy (worst part of his job) and of course there are people at BYU who don’t seem to want to let the gospel permeate their lives, but these extreme liberal views are just not present in his department’s ethos at all. I imagine that this is true of MANY departments on campus.

I suppose it may be partially due to the strong professional/industry focus of [his] program, as opposed to a focus on “academia”. My husband doesn’t have an advanced degree (he worked at [a large industry corporation for a decade] and in [a related industry for another decade] before being hired at BYU). I know [a related academic department] leans more liberal and some of them kind of look down on the “professional” faculty like my husband, who don’t have advanced degrees. But I know my dad always said that the weaponized “politics” and anti-church biases were nonexistent in[his science] department as well. He loved working with a group of such fine men—faithful priesthood holders, earnest scholars, men who found no conflict between God and science. He often said he had the best job in the world, exploring with his students how the universe works.

Obviously just because I can pick out a few faithful members of the church who also happen to teach at BYU—I know that doesn’t prove BYU isn’t in trouble as an institution. But I still think it’s somewhere special. I don’t think it is just another leftist indoctrination center. I go to the opening faculty meeting every year where they address all the faculty, and the talks are always so good! They’re almost like conference talks—all about how to keep spiritual focus in a darkening world, and the importance of leading students to Christ. And even if half the faculty don’t follow those ideals, or have their own liberal agendas, still—where else in the world could you go where even a fraction of the professors had that as their goal? My husband and many others are constantly working to teach by study AND faith, just like Brigham Young would have wanted. And then there are the weekly devotionals, which are AMAZING, and the strong student wards, led for the most part by great local bishops, and the fact that everything that goes on at BYU starts with a prayer—I know none of that guarantees students leave BYU with strengthened testimonies. But it’s no small thing either!

I guess I’m just hoping to convince you that it’s not a lost cause. I really hope that faithful Latter-day Saints like you don’t write BYU off entirely. Sending our good, faith-filled (homeschooled, in our case) children is part of what will keep BYU a special place, I think! I still hope my kids will go to school there, and I think they can have a wonderful experience. There may be other places that would be great for them too. Hillsdale would probably be wonderful. And I like the community college/live at home route as well, or a trade school if that’s their inclination. But I don’t think BYU is (yet) simply a place where students will be indoctrinated with liberal values and come out the worse for it. Far from it. There are just too many good people that still teach there and believe in BYU’s mission. We don’t hear about them because they’re quiet and unimportant and not publishing political screeds in academic journals or getting admiring profiles in the NYT. They might not ever be in administrative positions, but they love their students and they love the gospel and they are quietly making a difference. And BYU has got to have more of them gathered in one place than anywhere else on earth! (And maybe BYU-Idaho is the same, I don’t know.) Yes, I’m thinking of my husband of course—but so many other professors I know, as well. So many of my professors at BYU had a PROFOUND impact for good on my testimony. And I don’t think those type of faculty have died out—they’re still there! Just not making waves. But the students who need them will find them—at least that’s what my husband hopes! He loves and prays over his individual students, counsels them in his office, listens to their fears and excuses and doubts. He does notice a huge upsurge in students with depression, anxiety, etc.—students who haven’t been prepared for college and can’t cope—students who are entitled and want to be coddled—sure, he sees all of those. And he’s hard on them academically. But he does love them and try to share his testimony whenever he can, and he says for the most part he is still impressed with the caliber of the students. They mostly are earnest in their attempts to figure out the world. They mostly want to seek truth. Some drift away anyway, but it’s not because of BYU (at least not wholly!). I guess it’s just the world we live in.

Anyway, that’s my defense of BYU, for what it’s worth. I love BYU, “yes, yes, with all her faults.” Don’t give up on it! 🙂

PS Home Church is going well. I’m gaining a testimony of it! 🙂

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