Posted by: rusch | April 17, 2008

Hope the “i”

I read BYU Idaho’s student newspaper Scroll.  I really enjoyed reading it when I was going to school in Idaho and after I transfered to BYU Hawaii.  

Scroll is a mixed bag.  Sometimes the opinion articles are great and sometimes they justify why I don’t donate money to them.  But everyone once in a while, someone writes something I wish had been written when I was up there.

Take a look at what Shane Snow has written.

Since its transition to a four-year institution in 2001, BYU-Idaho has undergone a multitude of transformations. Much of the cherished tradition of Ricks College still remains, but much has also changed.

President Kim B. Clark has stated that one of BYU-I’s primary goals is to create “disciple leaders,” or quality graduates who will go out into the world, make a difference and bring others to Jesus Christ.

The university has done a lot to encourage the development of students as leaders and disciples of Christ. However, many of the attitudes and paradigms that are remnants of former Ricks College days may be preventing students from fully realizing their potential as such disciple leaders.

In connection with Christ’s higher law, church leaders have explained how gospel doctrines should be taught and applied.

“Teachers who are commanded to teach ‘the principles of the gospel and the doctrine of the kingdom’ should generally forgo teaching specific rules or applications,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Rather than prescribing a list of do’s and don’ts, such as what specifically to not do on the Sabbath day, Elder Oaks taught that “such specific applications or rules are generally the responsibility of individuals and families.”

This is congruent with what the prophet Joseph Smith explained about how Latter-day Saints are governed: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

Yet some of the culture in Rexburg revolves around the idea that students are young and cannot be trusted. Trust is required for any measure of responsibility or growth. Governing oneself is simply a more effective way for one to learn true doctrine, not to mention grow up.

For example, one BYU-I-approved housing complex currently enforces a posted rule list from the year 2000 which states that three females must be present if a male is in the apartment. Focusing on detailed rules like this does not help students focus on the principles behind the Honor Code but rather promotes a pharisaical attitude—precisely the attitude that may prevent students from becoming disciple leaders.

Recently, some resident assistants in the women’s dormitories have enforced a rule that disallows tenants from placing a foot or leg up on the couch when men are in the apartment.

One may argue that these rules are loosely based on doctrines, such as chastity. Students should be taught strict chastity, but they should also be allowed to create rules for themselves about what kind of couch-and-foot conduct they deem to be appropriate in their situations. We must remember that students at this university are adults.

Besides, no General Authority would agree that placing your foot on the couch is unchaste.

This is not to say, however, that bishops and other priesthood leaders cannot prescribe specific counsel and create personal guidelines in individual settings. We must be careful to not teach sweeping rules rather than the principles from which we self-govern. Examples of this can be found in current Church counsel for tithing and Sabbath-day observance. We are taught the doctrine and prayerfully decide for ourselves what “one-tenth of our increase” or “day of rest” means for our families.

Contrary to what some believe, the Honor Code was not written by the prophet. It was written by students and administrators with the purpose of encouraging a high-caliber student society that can be recognized by the world as unique. Yet many students have been treated as if they are questioning God if they question or feel patronized by a specific rule, such as the policy that prohibits the use of I-Cards to scrape one’s car windows (see page 30 of the 2003-04 Student Handbook).

One student was recently told by her resident assistant that she could not be trusted to obey the law of chastity without supervision now that she is engaged. This mistreatment of a fellow student is an abuse of power, and such pride is unbecoming of a future disciple leader. Yet attitudes like this have been surprisingly commonplace at BYU-I. Many students are treated as if they are just waiting for the opportunity to sin when no one is looking.

If students are treated like children — incapable of discerning bad situations or living pure lives without a parent, manager or R.A. hovering over them — they will likely fill the childish shoes given them. If they are treated as adults, they will learn to be adults and, in turn, become effective disciples.

Of course, many of those at BYU-I are very respectful of others and do treat students as trustworthy adults. Already, many have noticed a distinct difference in the maturity of BYU-I students as a whole compared to those of Ricks College. Such maturity and growth must and will continue. BYU-I students are, generally, living higher standards and deserve some credit.

The university is implementing ideas and policies that lead to personal discipleship and outward leadership. For example, as of last fall, R.A.s are no longer supposed to check bedrooms or kick people out of apartments, although this has not been widely publicized. They are to cultivate relationships and serve, rather than act as policemen. This policy illustrates a higher law in action. □

It may seem kind of long.  But really good.


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