Picture this: A sleepy morning stumbling around in the bathroom in my new apartment at college. Just a few weeks in, and things are going well. My path has been different than many around me. Getting here has not been easy, life has sent me many challenges, but I am here now. I work full time and squeeze in classes, it’s demanding, but it will be worth it. I am starting the rest of my life. It’s nice. I feel secure and safe for the first time a in a while.
In walks my roommate, WAIT! that is not my roommate, it is her her boyfriend! Quick hide in the stall! Did he see me? What did he see? I certainly didn’t want to see that! What is he doing here at this extremely early hour of the morning? No one is awake but me. Did he sleep here? How could that be? What about the “chastity door”? What about the rules? What about the commandments? We are living in BYU housing. Is he mormon? Is my roommate Mormon? Does that mean anything? What about the contract we signed? Why is he in my bathroom while I am exposed and supposedly safe? What about…well, what about a lot of things.
Thus began my road of enlightenment in my delusion that BYU was the place for me to avoid the worldly nightmares at other schools. I happened to see many things that shocked me and had me on a road of seriously questioning image and outward appearance verses what’s really going on behind closed doors and in dark corners of our souls. It continued as I met with things on a large and frightening scale that had me questioning the same things, but on a church/BYU level.
I am not talking about: forgetting to read your scriptures for a day, wearing a bikini to the beach, a skirt that’s a little bit high above the knee, or frequenting the local make out spot up the canyon with the latest returned missionary that had a vision of you while serving, and was now home to take you to the temple. I am talking about: not worthy to use the priesthood, take the sacrament, say a prayer in church, serve a mission, get married in the temple, excommunication types of things. Life altering decisions that are hidden, only to come out later when there are spouses and children pummeled by the shrapnel.
I was labeled a prude, among other things, and told so regularly by all 5 of my roommates, that just so happened to each have a boyfriend sleeping over regularly. I wasn’t the confrontational, whistle blower type, but I did eventually “tell” on them after attempts at resolving the issue through “apartment counsels,” failed miserably. Apartment counsels, that’s funny. They were good liars. I was then left in the situation with no help and 5 other girls that knew I was a snitch. It was Awesome!
What exactly are the odds and how did I somehow manage to get stuck on the wrong side of the line? My life seems to be a lesson in just that question as I regularly meet with the exception and not the rule.
Can this happen anywhere, you bet! Does it damage life more when it’s a part of secretive sub-cultures because appearances need to be kept up? I see great evidence in the affirmative with close friends and acquaintances.
It seems to me, that it would be easier to come out unscathed in a situation where things are out in the open rather than transpiring under the radar, in just enough secret to avoid being caught, but in your face enough to get tangled up.
Of course, I know many people that are completely unaware of all the hanky panky at BYU. I also know many that were once unaware and then married into the results of all the hanky panky. Their lives are definitely not unscathed anymore. And no, this does not refer only to women marrying men, it goes both ways.
If BYU is the standard then it is easy to understand statements such as, “I don’t know why I am getting sent home for it. Every one else in my ward was doing it.” This statement I heard first hand just recently from a BYU Idaho student. Of course the everyone part would be an exaggeration on her part, but the perception was there and it was not just her. She is happily back to her studies and free from sin.
Her statement illustrates a point. If BYU is the standard, and there is plenty going on at BYU that doesn’t actually meet, even closely, with gospel standards, then aren’t we giving a false sense of reality, or what to expect and prepare for, to our youth that so diligently work to get into BYU?
Are we creating a situation where it is difficult for the youth of the church to differentiate between loose interpretations of God’s laws and God’s actual laws. If it is so easily found, accepted, and lived under the radar at the school that is supposed to be like a little piece of heaven on earth, isn’t it more easily accepted by those that might have been able to see through it in another context?
I mean none of this flippantly. I am genuinely representing what I see happening in a lot of families I am personally involved with. From the cradle, it is ingrained that BYU is, not might be, but is the only place to go to school, and will, not might, but will be safe and secure and ensure you temple marriage, successful careers, and a life of relative ease. It’s not my view, but I see it prevalently all around me and I don’t know how to navigate that with my children. And just to be clear, these parents I refer to are wonderful people and parents, that I care about, and they are doing what they feel is best for their children. I am not questioning whether or not they are harming their children, just earnestly seeking the best approach for mine.
I honestly have not even approached the subject yet. They hear it from friends and in the culture of the church. I tend to shy away from wanting to give absolutes to my children in matters such as school choice. I don’t happen to believe that BYU is the only place you can get a great education and fulfill all those things that are important to eternal salvation. My children are hearing these absolutes from others and I wonder what my role is. I also don’t want to paint a negative picture of BYU because I know that, as a whole, it is a great school with a lot of wonderful opportunities to offer.
How much of what was applicable to my life and those I am associated with, is needful for my children. I believe that children are born to parents for a reason. We are in our family units (however they are defined) to get the greatest good and best opportunities for individual progression and growth. I don’t know that the idea behind that means that I need to share all I know about BYU because it would be directly applicable to my children. I also don’t know that it’s not. Have I been made aware of these things because it is applicable to my children? Is it just life? Life happens, there is not always a reason. Or is there?
I realize that percentage wise we are talking about a very small number that bite the dust at BYU. I just happen to care deeply for quite a few that have been caught in said dust. Of course, personal accountability trumps all, I get that. I do however come from a place of seeing that circumstance can have a great deal to do with opening our eyes and minds to temptations that otherwise would have been better left shut tightly out of our lives.
How many times have we heard things like: don’t look ever, not even once, not one drop of alcohol, 1 time is enough to get pregnant/diseases/and take away a piece of you, keep the stagecoach as far away from the edge of the cliff as you can. Statements like this run through my mind as I wonder how to best prepare my little birdies for life out of the nest.
“In your face,” seems easier to navigate than, “stumbling upon in secret.” in a trusted place.
Now, while I am sure we could have a rousing go at “my alma mater is better than yours.” My suggestion would be that it’s not school pride or alumni integrity I am questioning here. It is simply the question of how to shove our little birdies out of the nest with the best options for soaring to their greatest heights, rather than getting stuck in the mire that is everywhere, and in every school. Does silence result in a false sense of security that will end up having lasting effects that could have been avoided?
How many of those momma birds have heart attacks when they push those precious babes into the abyss? I just might be one such momma bird.