BYU withholds Degree because of “Church Discipline”

Posted: October 22, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-10-20-byu-diploma_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

You can read the story at the link above. I am just shocked that BYU would operate as an Ecclesiastical body, withholding ACADEMIC degrees because of behaviour unfitting the LDS church. I personally think that they are simply being vindictive towards this gentleman because of the embarrassment his actions have brought the church.

I am curious if BYU does this with everyone upon graduation. Do they ask for bank account information to verify the mandatory tithe? Do they have an exit exam probing the prospective grad’s faith? I thought that BYU even allowed non-LDS students to attend. If so, then how can they withhold a degree from one because of excommunication?

I can also imagine that certain BYU alum have in fact left the LDS church. Their academic degree doesn’t become null and void because they have left the church, does it?

Again, I think the LDS church is using their collateral by wagging a degree in the face of this young man and asking him to recant if he wants it. What makes me sick is that this young man had earned his degree legitimately based on his academic ability and that he has also spent a large amount of money on tuition. I don’t condone his actions and can see where BYU may have grounds to kick him out if such behavior (making a calendar of male LDS missionaries posing without shirts on) is strictly forbidden by the student body. I doubt it is. If the LDS church runs BYU, then I guess they can do what they want.

I am curious if male BYU students are prohibited from removing their shirts while swimming or at the beach. I realize the intent is different in the case of making a calendar which portrays the LDS missionaries as being immodest and seductive and trying to profit from such….but I still think it dangerous to withhold an academic degree based on his actions. I can understand a Bible college or seminary withholding a degree from a prospective pastor because of actions that would disqualify such from holding such a position, but BYU strikes me as a University that trains young people in a wide variety of fields. I just think it odd….I could be wrong.

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Comments
  1. Heidi says:

    I have met a BYU student that no longer considered themselves LDS. They were afraid to tell anyone because they could be kicked out, if I recall. Or they would lose their scholarship/discount. LDS students get a ridiculously huge discount to go to BYU, because it is pretty much owned by the LDS church. And since it’s a private religious institution, I think they could probably make whatever rules they want. You should know the rules of the school you are attending…break them at your own risk, or don’t attend a school that has rules you don’t agree with. I think it is odd that they revoked his degree between completion and graduation, but he made the calendar a while ago, so this could have been in process for a while. I’m sure there are lots of reviews before a person is excommunicated, and I’m sure he knew that his degree was at risk. While I don’t agree with revoking his degree, nor do I agree with many of BYU’s rules, I don’t think they were outside of their jurisdiction.

  2. Good points Heidi…agree with you. BYU can’t strip previously awarded degrees to alum who eventually leave the church, I don’t think…unless it is proven that there were academic violations. If such is the case, then I don’t think a college should prohibit awarding a degree unless there were legal or academic violations. But you are right…abide by the rules or go elsewhere. BYU didn’t act outside of their jurisdiction because they are operated by the LDS church and thus they can kick out an unrepentant coffee drinker if they wanted.

  3. Jacob Farnsworth says:

    I’m a friend of Heidi’s and she thought I might be interested in this discussion. I hope I’m not intruding. I agree with Heidi’s points and thought I might add a couple of things to consider.

    1) I completely agree that BYU’s standards are strict, even rigid sometimes. I had to be clean shaven just to take a test. However, the rules do serve the purpose of maintaining the ideals and atmosphere of the school (i.e. being set apart from the world). Without them, human nature will push the school’s standards farther and farther back until the school is no longer distinct from other universities.

    2) I don’t know the specific reasons why Mr. Hardy was excommunicated, and I highly doubt the media outlets do either. The exact reasons for an excommunication in the LDS church aren’t discussed publicly for privacy reasons. The LDS church posted a response to a similar article (see link: http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/mistakes-in-the-news-associated-press-errors-more-than-semantics)

    3) Just google “missionary calendar” and see the taglines websites have started attaching to LDS missionaries. Missionaries who also happen to easily be the most recognizable element of the LDS church. Hardy had every legal right to create and disperse the calendar, but it’s impact on the image of the LDS church can’t be overlooked. Hardy’s actions show, at the very least, a severe indifference to LDS doctrine and values. He might (and I stress might) have not had his degree denied if his offense had been purely personal in nature, but his actions affected the LDS church as a whole, and thus are much more serious.

    4) As for the process of excommunication in the LDS church, members aren’t excommunicated for making honest mistakes or even, perhaps, instances of poor judgment. Instead, members are excommunicated for open defiance of their leaders and gross violations of their moral commitments. And even then, excommunication typically only happens when the individual shows a complete lack of desire to repent. Mr. Hardy can’t reasonably be seen as a victim here. He knew the standards when he enrolled at BYU and he intentionally pursued a course that he knew would lead to excommunication.

    The situation is unfortunate for everyone involved, and one might disagree with the standards of the LDS church and BYU, but I don’t believe people should be offended at them for staying consistent to them.

  4. Jacob Farnsworth says:

    I forgot to add that I’m a recent graduate of BYU and an active LDS member. Hopefully that frames my comments a little better. Thanks!

  5. Jacob,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I respect the fact that you can speak openly and honestly. You seem to be a fair-minded person. I was just taken back that an earned degree could be withheld for such reasons. I know that some BYU grads have left the church, but their degree remains and its academic credibility allows such an individual to pursue certain jobs that require such a degree. I don’t respect the actions of Hardy, but I did think he should still get his degree. I may be changing my mind a bit when I think it over some more. Every grad is an ambassador of BOTH the university and the LDS church…If Hardy’s actions would embarrass the school and church, then I can see why they would withhold his degree. I just think that the LDS church has been long concerned about their reputation and public perception, even to the point of adjusting certain doctrines and covering certain things up (Polygamy, Blacks being seen as cursed, etc). I initially thought that this was just another example of the church strong-arming a grad and using his degree as collateral.

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