In a recent op-ed piece in sltrib.com, student Nate Delgado proposes that Brigham Young University eliminate its graduation requirement of 14-credit hours of religion classes:
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.
When I was at BYU in the 1960’s, it was required that students take 2 semesters of “Book of Mormon.” I waited and took mine my last undergraduate year. The second semester I got tossed from the class. I objected to the instructor’s “political” interpretations of the scripture. It was right-wing BS. But I couldn’t graduate without the BoM credits and I had been drafted into the armed forces (the Viet Nam war was ongoing). My advisor cut a deal with the instructor. I was required to write a study guide for the second half of the BoM, but I couldn’t return to class. I completed a wonderful study guide; unfortunately, I only got a B (no explanation). I graduated and served 3+ years in the U.S. Coast Guard. For some reason, the Religion Dept at BYU has always attracted its share of religious zealots and right-wing fanatics. Think Bott, Magelby, Peterson, Joseph Field McConkie, and their ilk. I understand that things are improving; I certainly hope so. I’m forever grateful to my Advisor.
I wrote a letter to the “Daily Universe” suggesting that “Book of Mormon” classes be renamed “Political interpretation of the BoM.” I should have suggested it be renamed “Right wing interpretation of the BoM.” The university didn’t take my suggestions.
I would recommend that the Mormon-specific religion classes be moved off campus. Much like Institute classes are at other non-LDS universities. And that as Nate suggests, religion classes no longer be required. This would mean that “poor” teachers would not be propped up by religion-graduation requirements.