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Here are some thoughts about apostate professors at @BYU. (A really, really long thread)
I am an alumnus of BYU, as well as the father of a BYU student. Apostate professors who use their position to undermine the faith of their students is not a new problem at BYU. It has been happening for decades. We go through repeated cycles of increased apostasy & retrenchment.
When I started BYU in the fall of 1993 the English department in particular had a bad reputation for heretical ideas, questioning doctrine, and criticizing the prophets. Feminism and Postmodernism were all the rage.
I know of one student in that era who had considered pursuing a degree in the BYU English department, but quickly changed majors after one of the English professors announced on the first day of class that any student with a penis would be denied an A grade in the class.
It is worth noting many of the more influential internal critics, heretics, and apostates today were educated by these same English department professors in the 90s.
I left on a foreign mission in May of 1994 and I returned to BYU in the fall of 1996. During that time, some of the more heretical professors in the English department had been forced to leave, and the influence of those who remained was diminishing.
I changed my major to English in 1997. I learned how analyze literature according to popular critical theories, including feminism and postmodernism.
I mostly managed to avoid those professors with reputations for undermining the church. But I did get rather tired of discussions about the supposedly ubiquitous phallic symbolism in just about everything we studied.
Eventually, however, I ended up in a class with a professor who was supposed to be teaching us about Victorian era literature, but instead used large parts of our class time to critique the church and the gospel through a postmodern/deconstructionist lens.
Many of the more vocal students loved his deconstruction of gospel principles. Most just remained silent. Often it felt like it was only me and a couple of other students who were willing to speak up and defending the church.
That professor soon left BYU and the Church.
I had chosen to major in English with my eyes wide open about what I was going to encounter. But I felt bad about the students who were not expecting or prepared for their faith to be attacked at BYU.
I came to BYU knowing that there would be apostate professors and students. My father had been at BYU more than a decade beforehand working on his PhD and had often told us about his apostate professors.
When my own daughter was accepted to BYU last year we had a good talk about the fact that she could not assume that either her professors or her fellow students would be faithful members of the church.
She started BYU knowing that some of her professors and the other students might push apostate ideas and reject the teachings and directions of the prophets and apostles.
I want to make it clear that there were many good, faithful professors and students at BYU too. You can learn about deconstruction, and marxism, and feminist readings of literature without adopting them as your personal philosophy or letting them undermine your faith.
I have shared these experiences to illustrate that the problem with apostate professors at BYU isn’t at all new. My father encountered them. I encountered them. And my daughter will encounter them.
But just because it has been a problem for a long time doesn’t mean that it is acceptable.
And the problem of heretical and apostate professors at BYU seems to have become much worse in recent years. It’s not just the English or Psychology departments with an unusual number of heretics.
As academic trends have moved in directions increasingly at odds with the Church, administrators and middle managers, as well as professors in many departments appear to have rejected the Church’s teaching about prophets, sexual morality, and the Family Proclamation.
Don’t get me wrong, many students arrive at BYU with misconceptions and faulty assumptions about the Gospel and the Church that will inevitably be challenged by their college experience. Professors can help them navigate those challenges with their faith intact.
I am also aware that there are overzealous students who complain to the administration about perceived heresy that is really just a function of their own misunderstanding of the Gospel.
I know of a BYU professor who was so religiously orthodox that he refused to publish articles in magazines like Sunstone or Dialogue because he believed that they were vehicles of apostasy.
His faith and orthodoxy were well established, but he was still regularly reported to the administration for apostasy by students who had a sincere, but faulty understanding of the Gospel.
So I understand that we can’t take every accusation of apostasy at BYU at face value.
That said, it seems that there are now many professors who think it is their job to disabuse students of their belief in prophets, revelation, and the doctrines of the Church, rather than helping students navigate academia from within a framework of faith.
That may be the way things typically work at secular universities, but at a university owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where salaries are paid out of the tithes of faithful members, it is a wicked and perverse thing to do.
If you are a BYU professor or administrator, and you use your position to undermine the faith of your students in the teachings of the prophets and apostles, including the Family Proclamation, you should not be employed there.
I work in the private sector and I know what it is like to be laid off from a job. I’ve experienced it and it is devastating. I don’t like the idea of anyone at BYU losing their job.
And I get it— professors have a very specific skill set and the number of job opportunities in academia is limited. It’s rough out there, and they may have a great deal of student loan debt too. And they have a family to feed. Where will they go?
Nevertheless, their need to make a living does not give them a right to subvert the religious institution that pays their salary. They should be ashamed of what they are doing and should either repent or leave.
I’m not saying that you can’t work for BYU unless you agree with every single thing that any General Authority of the Church has ever said. You can even disagree with major policies or non-core doctrine. But it isn’t your place to push your own agenda contrary to the Church.
Professors who are not members of the Church should be welcome to come teach as visiting professors at BYU. But they shouldn’t be using their time there to argue against the Church or its doctrine or the legitimacy of its prophets.
When I was at BYU I had classes with two different visiting professors who were not members of the Church. They were excellent and they were always respectful of the Church and the faith off their students— more respectful than some professors who were members.
Some people have suggested that BYU will lose its legitimacy as a university if it focuses on hiring professors who are faithful.
They say that if there are two candidates for an open position, and one candidate has top notch academic credentials, but is heretical, and the other candidate has poor credentials, but is faithful, that choosing to hire the faithful candidate undermines the academic program.
What is left out of this argument is that ALL universities filter out candidates for ideological or political reasons and turn down better credentialed candidates because they don’t align with the predominant ideology of the university.
(For an example see this article:…
The department faculty in a college where the author applied would have been interested in hiring him, but they didn’t even try because they knew the HR dept would nix his application for political reasons.)
The difference between BYU and secular schools is that BYU is a religious school and open about the bias in their hiring, while the secular schools pretend that they don’t hire based on ideology when they really do.
Realistically, there will probably always be some apostasy at BYU. That is inevitable. But it should never be normalized or considered acceptable. Apostate professors should feel out of place and fear for their jobs. If they start to feel comfortable then it is time for a change.
“Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” If so, and you are a member of the church instead of a visiting non-member, then you probably shouldn’t be teaching at BYU.
To steal a metaphor adapted from the Book of Mormon by a friend of mine:
BYU is like an olive tree planted in a highly favored part of the Lord’s vineyard. It’s been left alone for a time. But the time is coming for the servants of the Lord of the Vineyard to circle back, evaluate the fruit, and perhaps do some major pruning.
The End.
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