“As a university population, we must have a bottom-up approach—tolerance and love, but with a backbone. However, we will be more effective if the administration meets us in the middle with an approach from the top to meet our bottom up.“Logan Spears
In late spring, I published an article for the The Cougar Chronicle titled, “A Wall of Separation: Church, Faith, and State.” The purpose of that article was to address members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—specifically, students at Brigham Young University—and highlight things we can do to combat ideologies contrary to the commandments of God and the teachings of the Church while still acting as disciples of Christ.
Growing up, I enjoyed baseball. I never excelled at it, but I was intrigued at how information and data could be combined to make informed and educated decisions about game time strategy. BYU is a large enough organization that understanding the opinions, attitudes, and topics that are represented daily creates a strategic nightmare. However, we must unite as a BYU community to overcome our differences and become one in Christ.
Despite feeling a sense of satisfaction after publishing my previous article, I knew there was more to be said and certainly more that could be done if we are to unite such a large group. As a university population, we must have a bottom-up approach—tolerance and love, but with a backbone. However, we will be more effective if the administration meets us in the middle with an approach from the top to meet our bottom up.
The BYU administration balances its varying personalities via rules and regulations (especially to remain accredited), and their own oversight responsibilities. However, a lack of serious honor code enforcement is obvious: one must only walk a short distance on campus to see people dressed immodestly or visit off campus housing to see students not living according to standards. When the rule is not enforced every time, it will eventually be enforced none of the time.
In a 1990 Ensign article, then Elder M. Russell Ballard explained, “Members sometimes ask why Church disciplinary councils are held. The purpose is threefold: to save the soul of the transgressor, to protect the innocent, and to safeguard the Church’s purity, integrity, and good name.” I am not recommending a mass amount of disciplinary councils, but I do think several key principles about discipline are represented:
The innocent are the young students: young in testimony, age, and life experience. That young students must have an environment where they can grow in mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity. They must become unwavering in right and wrong. In Ephesians 4, Paul taught about growing into spiritual adulthood and maturity: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
Essential to protecting the innocent from these pitfalls is controlling the controllable institutions on campus. The BYU administration must implement a policy to prevent and dissuade those with significant influence over the young adults of the Church, such as professors, clubs, and on-campus organizations, from causing this harm. The administration should develop a policy based upon the temple recommend questions. In particular, the question: “Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”
The administration of BYU is not the same as Church leadership, but they have a similar prerogative. It is to keep the doctrine pure [at BYU] and part of doing that is ensuring that those who teach at a religious university are on board with the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The University’s Mission Statement reads:
“The mission of Brigham Young University—founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. That assistance should provide a period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued.”
I plan to explore how a three-strike policy would allow the administration to protect students, The University, and its mission statement.
The first time a professor endorses or supports any organization, institution, or ideology that promotes ideas that are contrary to the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints they will lose the privilege to teach any religion courses on campus and receive a formal letter of reprimand from the university administration. If it is a club or an organization, they would lose the privilege of club membership for one term (eight weeks) with immediate reinstatement after the suspension.
A second strike, within a one academic year window, would lead to further disciplinary action such as a teaching or gathering suspension, no less than one full semester (or two eight-week terms). If the second strike takes place after three years from the first, it should be treated as a first strike. This permits a level of lenience and repentance for those making unintentional mistakes and growing in their testimony.
The third time, within the three academic year window of the first strike, would lead to the permanent removal of a professor, employee, organization, or club from the University. Additionally, this policy would apply to anyone who reaches six total strikes.
A style of policy that is similar to these three strikes allows offenders to have room to grow, protects students, and protects the university. It would also have stipulations for certain courses that may teach, but not support false doctrines. Often, these courses must be taught to maintain the accredited status as a university. These courses should be expected to explain and restate truth alongside the misleading narratives. Accreditation is not worth losing our ability to use the blessings of the gospel to help our earthly neighbors.
Staff, clubs, and organizations may complain that this policy style inhibits freedom of speech and thought on campus; however, the Constitution does not protect these rights in this private, religious, and contractual setting. In fact, this policy is a demonstration of the rights of the Church to assemble, teach, and keep their doctrines pure. This policy will not turn the Honor Code Office and administration into a modern campus-wide Gestapo, instead, it will allow The University to be tolerant of and promote the growth of the testimonies and understanding of what can be hard doctrines to some in The Church.
The University cannot in good conscience teach tolerance to ideology and love to all people. If all relationships within the BYU community should “reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor” we cannot pretend or permit the idea that same-sex relations, gender transitioning, or other social contagions are not troublesome practices when considering the commandments of God and His teachings for our exaltation.
This strict enforcement need not be public or shameful, instead, it should be an opportunity to repent and restart. We cannot miss the opportunity to help the institutions and staff on campus set an example and live according to God’s laws, prophetic council, and university standards. If the administration misses the opportunity to govern, BYU, not just those opposing Church teachings will strike out. As the administration attempts to enforce this on-campus governance, a Zion society will emerge and the Holy Spirit will abound.
Written by: Logan Spears
Senior Contributor at the Cougar Chronicle
The opinions in this article are those of the author.
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.