Nate Delgado: Are BYU’s religion requirements enlightening or inappropriate?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Statue of Brigham Young on the BYU campus in Provo, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.

Brigham Young University is a four-year university best known for its association with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon church. Students come from across the globe to experience a unique academic, social and religious experience.

However, a growing concern is rising among students, staff and other members of the church. Where is the line between spiritual and inappropriate drawn?

Every student in attendance at BYU is required to take 14 units of religiously oriented courses in addition to their major and general education requirements. These 14 units average out to about seven semesters of classes, and failure to complete these units would disqualify you from graduation. Although the university is well within its rights to mandate this curriculum, the program can result in a variety of unforeseen repercussions that can have a negative impact on students and the sanctity of the material.

College is no joke. Students commit themselves to four or more years to intensive studying, grueling courses and minimal sleep. In addition, students must attempt to maintain their social lives and mental and physical health. Some even commit themselves to part-time jobs and other extracurriculars. These are essential for students to prepare themselves for their future careers. For some, their ability to work can determine if they are able to make tuition payments and stay in school. However, the added responsibility of taking an additional demanding class every semester can challenge students’ abilities to keep their heads above water.

Eliminating the requirement of religious education would prove to have countless benefits for students. Primarily, the new curriculum would give students the opportunity to focus on classwork that pertains to their areas of study and classes that will have an effect on their professional lives. This should be the primary purpose of any university. Students already have many classes they are responsible for as it is. Adding more to anyone’s plate can distract them from the primary purpose of this institution. For some, it can even have a negative effect on their GPA.

Some may ask, why come to a religiously sponsored university and not expect to be taught religious content? My response is that there is still an abundance of amazing opportunities for students to be exposed to doctrine, including socials and exclusive devotionals. That’s not to say that religion classes still can’t be offered as electives.

This proposal would give students the best of both worlds. It allows students to expand their spiritual growth and journey, but on their own time, without the stress of being judged according to their performance. Furthermore, this solution reflects a large part of the church’s new doctrine, Come Follow Me, which highlights the importance of making an effort to grow your testimony on your own time, dictated according to what you as an individual think is pertinent to you.

At first glance, there may not appear to be anything wrong with the university’s curriculum, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that there is a blemish when it comes to the gray area surrounding BYU’s outdated education style. This proposal reinforces the ideology of both learning institutions and the church, but it has been disregarded because of a pressure to uphold tradition and bygone standards.

At the end of the day, change wouldn’t diminish the spirituality of the university or ruin what makes this university special. It would strengthen it and its students. If Brigham Young truly wants the best for its students, it will take these factors into consideration and make the appropriate changes.

Nate Delgado

Nate Delgado, Provo, is a Southern California native and a first-year mechanical engineering major at Brigham Young University.

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