Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

So Grateful for BYU: An Answer to the World's "University of Destruction"

My second son is home for the summer after his first year at BYU. Some of the changes I see in him remind me of the positive changes I saw in my eldest son after his mission. He's more confident, more talkative, even more wonderful to have around the home, and seems to have grown in several ways, including spiritually. I don't know how much was due to influences from BYU, but I can see that it was a positive experience for him.

While there are plenty of problems at BYU and plenty of dangers and temptations, it is a place where the leaders and role models generally are striving to help the students grow not only academically, but spiritually. It is a place where there are high standards and high moral expectations, where flagrant immorality is not the standard fare, and where safeguards have been provided to help protect our young people. How grateful I am for that!

Contrast that with life at many typical universities. University life has become so bad in most parts of the country that it is not unreasonable to refer to a typical school as a "university of destruction" - the title of a new Christian book by David Wheaton. I heard him on the radio recently explaining how tragic it is that Christian parents work so hard to save money to send their kids to universities where are the values they tried to teach will be deliberately undermined, where immorality will be encouraged and rewarded, where faith in Christ will be mocked, etc. And the parents PAY handsomely for this privilege, often having no clue that they are sending there kids to a moral cesspool that can destroy their child spiritually.

Christian youths can survive this, but they need a lot of strength to overcome the many direct assaults on their faith and purity that they will face. Wheaton offers a lot of advice - but I don't think an LDS school is one of them. Maybe it should be.

Below is an excerpt from Wheaton's book that describes his first day at Stanford. The excerpt is available on David's Web site:
Welcome to Stanford

My duffel bags had barely touched the dorm room floor when two tennis teammates-to-be barged through the door with pitchers of beer in hand. It may have been the middle of the afternoon, but the party had already started. Girls and guys roamed the co-ed dorm, checking out their new surroundings. Classes started the next day, and I kid you not, I had neither pen nor paper.

The first assignment in Great Works of Western Culture, a required freshman class, was to read the books of Genesis and Job. "Easy enough," I thought, since I came from a Christian background and was familiar with the Bible. Imagine my disbelief when the professor and other students ridiculed the Bible and mocked God for the "stupid" way He dealt with mankind. I had never heard "God" and "stupid" in the same sentence before! I was so stunned, I didn't know what to say.

The night life was just as shocking. It was as if all moral restraint had been lifted from the campus. Drunkenness and sexual activity were seemingly everywhere. The overall scene brought to mind images of wanton sailors coming ashore at a foreign port of call. Surely this wasn't Stanford--it was Sodom!

Why was I so surprised by my introduction to college? After all, I had heard what college was like. I had already seen and experienced a taste of campus life on college recruiting visits. I was no potted plant--I had been out of my own backyard plenty of times.

But this was different ... way different. I was now living full-time in the midst of a world diametrically opposed to the one I had grown up in--there would be no returning home to Mommy and Daddy every night. I would soon find out that an excellent upbringing coupled with academic and athletic success was no match for the maelstrom called college. The waters were baited, the sharks were circling ... spiritual shipwreck loomed.
Whatever school our LDS youth select, BYU included, they will need to be prepared for the challenges of being on their own. As a parent, I am grateful for the bishops, teachers, youth leaders, and others who recognize the urgency of the challenges before our young people and who lovingly help them grow strong enough to stand on their own. And I am grateful for the wisdom of the Church in sponsoring BYU and other institutions (Institute included) for blessing the lives of young people in college.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

though it may be better than some of the other universities in our nation, byu is not a perfect university by any stretch of the imagination. many kids, away from their parents for the first time, look for ways to toe the line and be as immoral as possible w/o actually having sex. they have long passionate make out sessions on dark roads or in other areas near campus. The term NCMO (non-commital make out) is disgustingly common these days. Forgotten is our general authorities' advice that passionate kissing should be avoided, or that lying down on the same bed as a member of the opposite sex is wrong (even if you're not doing anything). Too many latter-day saint young adults, thinking they are moral and pure compared to the rest of society, seem to have forgotten that morality is not comparitive to the rest of society. being better than other college students doesn't mean a lot these days, and actually, because they have been taught better and know the truth, things may actually be worse than them. I think the church is losing touch with many of the younger generation; some still have very high and impressive standards, but there are too many who are toeing the line and don't have a true testimony. it disappoints me to see it, and i'm worried for when my sister attends byu next year as a freshman. hopefully she meets and befriends students such as your son, and not the many kids who are involved with NCMO.

Mormanity said...

Granted, there are problems. But these kids are defying the standards they are taught and promised to keep. They are rebels.

Contrast that to what the world offers, where such kids might be in trouble with their peers or faculty role models for NOT being even more immoral.

One acquaitance of mine sent her daughter to Oberlin. She had no idea what kind of environment Oberlin offers, with the leaders of the school aggressively promoting immorality. Contrast these two articles with what one might encounter at BYU:

Article One and Article Two on Oberlin.

J. Stapley said...

For the record, it is pronounced "nicmo" and it has been common around BYU for at least 15 , but I would imagine alot longer than that. Though, "friends with benefits" is a more descriptive terminology and couches are much prefered to beds.

I imagine that I will not be looked upon favorably for saying this, and I recognize that one thing can lead to another, but kids making-out for an hour really is not that consequental. Having experianced both BYU and Purdue (a relatively conservative school), parallels can't even be drawn - there is almost an ontological chasm.

Regardless of where we or our kids are in our lives, there will always be challenges. To castigate kids that are doing, while less tha perfect, a superlative job is not appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Surely you're not implying that Purdue has even worse problems that BYU??? They've got kids making out, too?

Stephen said...

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Apparently I should have referred not only to current college students who lead half-hearted "moral" lives, but to 30 and 40 year old adults who feel that prophetic counsel is not very important and that hour-long make out sessions are not very dangerous. Why do you suppose, J., that pornography is so prevalent in the church? I would guess that much of it stems from starting off slowly, hooking up w/ someone of the opposite sex. While it may not always lead to premarital sex, I really really doubt that Jesus would approve of such nicmo, J. Would you disagree? Rather than applauding our children for "only making out" instead of prescribing to the full-on depravity at other American schools, I think we need to focus on the work we still need to do. Nonmormons are shocked when they see active mormons heavily making out; why aren't we shocked enough at ourselves?

Anonymous said...

The purpose of a university education is to challenge assumptions. It shouldn't be suprising that, at most universities, that includes the assumptions about one's faith.

BYU of course is careful not to challenge any assumptions about the Church -- even those that are completely non-doctrinal and which desperately need challenging. So no one at BYU need worry that their feathers might get ruffled about topics ranging from which hand is proper for taking the sacrament to blood atonement.

Unfortunately, BYU's reluctance to challenge any assumptions related to the Church tends to spill over into every other subject matter at the University. Consequently, it's a nice, safe, non-threatening place for a young person to spend four years. Then it's time to go to graduate school someplace else and actually get an education.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous, let me challenge YOUR assumptions. BYU's not quite as easy-going as you think.

I certainly challenged some assumptions when I taught there last summer in the Rel. department. Nothing foundational (as I firmly believe in the foundational claims of the Church), but secondary things. My students thanked me...

J. Stapley said...

Why do you suppose, J., that pornography is so prevalent in the church?

Probably because guys like to look at it.

I'm not in anyway saying that nicmos are virtuous, nor am I condoning them. I am simply stating that I believe that there are greater dangers to our youth. I can understand if you disagree.

Jared* said...

I think the famed NCMO is more of a common joke than reality. Yes, I know there is some, but the people I knew talked about it in a more subtly sarcastic way. I would bet that the vast majority of make-out is at least somewhat committal--if that matters to anyone.

One of my roommates had a cardboard cut-out with a picture of Einstein on it. We put it in our window, where lots of people passed by, with a sign that said "E = NCMO." It was more of a joke than a call for "action".

danithew said...

There are a lot more CMOs at BYU going on than NCMOs. Of course there are the MCMOs (married committal makeouts) and the UMCMOs (unmarried committal makeouts).

Anonymous said...

whether ncmo or cmo, my point is that the GAs have said that make outs of any kind should not be happening. i am happy to hear your belief that it is less common than the rumors may suggest, but nevertheless i know it is still pretty frequent. i heard just the other day from one of my good nonmember friends who respects the church that an lds couple i know was heavily making out at a concert they all attended. this same couple is very active in the institute program, running FHE, etc. so on one hand i am glad that their passionate kissing has not led to grievous sins (that i know of, anyway); yet it had the effect of bothering my nonmember friend who assumes we are better than the average college student and practice more self restraint. cmo may be a step above ncmo, but i dont think the GAs have said passionate kissing is ok if you are in an unmarried relationship. many of the couples i have known over the years have forgotten this and participate in make out sessions. i think there needs to be a general reemphasis on passionate kissing in the church and how church leaders have repeatedly warned against it.

Jared* said...

My (then not) wife and her roommates decided to get a colored light for their porch light. They chose red, not even thinking of the conotation. That got some tisks.

Then there was the busy-body who saw birth control in my (then not) wife's bathroom and contacted the Bishop about it, which led to a probing interview with her.

My advice, anonymous, is to live what you believe to be right, and not worry so much about other people's (potentially grievous) sins.

BTW, my wife has an ovarian disease, which is why she was on birth control. Not that it was really anybody's buisness, IMO.

J. Stapley said...

For the record: Making out in public (regardless of the level of commitment/mariage) is lame.

Anonymous said...

BYU of course is careful not to challenge any assumptions about the Church -- even those that are completely non-doctrinal and which desperately need challenging. So no one at BYU need worry that their feathers might get ruffled about topics ranging from which hand is proper for taking the sacrament to blood atonement.

Unfortunately, BYU's reluctance to challenge any assumptions related to the Church tends to spill over into every other subject matter at the University. Consequently, it's a nice, safe, non-threatening place for a young person to spend four years. Then it's time to go to graduate school someplace else and actually get an education.


You were clearly never in the BYU film program....

Paul Weller said...

I did my undergrad at BYU. At my graduate school, the ASB president asked a porno mag guy come and give a forum to the school. Does that give enough contrast to the "University of Destruction" and BYU. Of course BYU is not perfect, but I guarantee it that you won't find nearly as much filth there.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I got out of this church.