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I was just wondering why BYU expels LDS students who have left the Church? I don’t completely understand this?





Dear Nathaniel,

The students at Brigham Young University agree to living the standards of the Honor Code while enrolled at BYU. The idea behind this is to populate the student body with men and women of integrity. The collection of standards take their name from a quote of Karl G. Maeser (the influential principal of Brigham Young Academy, the precursor to the university):

“I have been asked what I mean by ‘word of honor.’ I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls–walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground–there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it.


“Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!”

Included in this character pledge is a religious component. This is an integral part of the BYU experience. As stated in the university’s Aims:

“A shared desire to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith (D&C 88:118) knits BYU into a unique educational community. The students, faculty, and staff in this community possess a remarkable diversity of gifts, but they all think of themselves as brothers and sisters seeking together to master the academic disciplines while remaining mastered by the higher claims of discipleship to the Savior.”

This welding of study and faith is central to the culture of BYU. BYU’s mission states as one of its four goals:

“All students at BYU should be taught the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that His is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved. Certainly all relationships within the BYU community should reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor.”

Since BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it can easily ensure that the campus is populated by religious students of sound character by getting endorsements from local bishops. Ideally, such an endorsement would not be required and the student’s signature would be all that was needed. But this is not a world where everyone’s “yea [is] yea [and] nay [is] nay” so BYU calls for local clergy to screen applicants for their intent to contribute to the desired culture lest some disingenuous applicant gain admittance and corrupt the academic Hadleyburg.

BYU’s Honor Code spells out the conditions of continued enrollment based on “devout love of God”:

“Students must be in good Honor Code standing to be admitted to, continue enrollment at, and graduate from BYU…. Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints automatically results in the loss of good Honor Code standing. Further, a student is not in good Honor Code standing if his or her ecclesiastical endorsement has either lapsed or has been withdrawn”.

So you correctly state that those who leave the Church (or who simply fail to get their bishop to renew their Ecclesiastical Endorsement) may no longer attend BYU (with an exception that I’ll address momentarily). I think BYU’s stated objectives make it clear as to why students should be members of the Church in good standing. Remember that BYU is not the Church. Back in the student’s home ward, he or she can work on repentance or obedience and return. Or not. Never attending (or returning to) BYU over a distinguished handlebar mustache is not something that will cost a person his or her salvation. If a person no longer attends BYU because of a loss of faith then that loss needs to be addressed, and the local ward and bishop has better resources to deal with the spiritual crisis than a university. Indeed, BYU acknowledges that “a commitment to this kind of education has inspired the prophets of the past to found Church schools, like BYU, on the principle that ‘to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God’ (2 Nephi 9:29).”

Now, one other area where this policy has come under fire is that BYU has opened it’s doors to non-members, so if they can enroll as non-members why can’t the disenchanted LDS? A simple reading of the Honor Code will show that it’s not merely non-Mormons attending BYU. It’s “Non-LDS students … endorsed by (1) the local ecclesiastical leader if the student is an active member of the congregation, (2) the bishop of the LDS ward in which they currently reside, or (3) the nondenominational BYU chaplain.” Further, “Students who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are also expected to maintain the same standards of conduct. They are encouraged to participate in services of their preferred religion.” That is, they are faith-filled individuals screened by their local clergy or by LDS clergy.

For the most part, this policy prohibiting disaffiliated LDS from attending BYU makes perfect sense, as 2/3 of those that leave the Church leave religion altogether and aren’t contributing to the faith-filled atmosphere.

For those that leave the Church but still feel they are coming to Christ, there is an appeals process.

“[A] student may petition the Dean of Students Office to allow an exception to the ecclesiastical endorsement requirement. As part of the petition, the student must (i) complete an Application for Exception to Policy (this form may be obtained from the Dean of Students Office); (ii) prepare a written statement outlining the reasons why the university should allow an exception; and (iii) within five business days of receiving notice that the ecclesiastical endorsement has been withdrawn or that a Continuing Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement has been denied, submit the completed application and relevant statements to the Dean of Students Office for consideration.”





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