If we’re going to speak of Salt Lake City as a priority destination (as part of your search into and study of Mormonism), we should also mention the Church’s University, BYU—Brigham Young University—an hour south in Provo, Utah (and also in Rexburg ID and Laie HI), mostly since they’re owned by the Church and are affectionately referred to as The Lord’s Universities. (We in the Church think of them as being “endorsed by Him” because of their focus, their funding, and their overall mission).
BYU Provo (and BYUs Idaho and Hawaii too) are like many respected universities across the country with a few notable differences. They all have award-winning instructors and programs, writers, researchers, science and technology departments, and more; top-tier sporting teams; a prestigious law school and business school; and the list goes on. BYU (Provo) is one of the largest privately held schools in the world. (It’s my alma mater too so I am a little biased of course). There’s much more to BYU than meets the eye though.
You don’t have to be Mormon to attend BYU. Many do who aren’t. What’s interesting, though, is just how many end up joining the Church while or after they attend the university. A great example would include
Ty Detmer, the Heisman Trophy Award-winning quarterback (1990) from Texas who played for BYU and went on to play for 14 seasons in the NFL and coach at a private high school in Texas and also two seasons as BYU’s Offensive Coordinator. Why is this though? What is it about the Y that touches the hearts of so many, visitors and students alike?
Just like Salt Lake City and other Mormon historical sites, BYU has a spirit about it that you can feel almost the moment you enter campus. Sure, there are lots of student activities, sports, dances, and more, that make it fun too, but it’s different: you won’t see
sororities or fraternities, there’s no drinking, smoking or drugs allowed on campus and you just don’t see the kind of partying and craziness that seems to go on at a lot of other schools. The students abide by an Honor Code that was written by the students themselves many years ago.
Every BYU student attends religion classes as part of their curriculum, studying the New and Old Testaments, Church History, World Religions, and if they would like to, the Mormon canon of scripture like The Book of Mormon, D & C and Pearl of Great Price.
BYU sports are a hot topic, of course, especially if we’re ever playing our rival just up the road, the Utah Utes. But, one of the biggest highlights each week is the BYU Student Devotional, held every Tuesday morning, at the Marriott Center. (I shared one of these with you previously, if you saw my recent post, Chad Lewis, The Mormon NFL Football Player. It’s one of the best talks I’ve heard in a long time. (Click Here if you didn’t hear it before and would like to listen in. I strongly recommend it).
At these devotionals, various professors, dignitaries, and leaders from the church come and speak to the student body and faculty. It’s a weekly opportunity to be enriched and inspired and, though it isn’t required to attend, most make it a point to do so; they’re excellent. I’d be lying if I didn’t say, they were one of the highlights of my time at BYU. (Who else gets to attend a top-rated school and have a great college experience AND be taught by prophets and apostles of God on a frequent basis? That alone would have been worth the tuition, to me). Think about it! If it’s true, wouldn’t it be worth any price to sit at the feet of some of God’s anointed servants and … just take it all in?
Some may disagree with me and actually see this next point as a downside, but I
personally enjoyed being able to attend school and learn without being bombarded by all the angst and conflict and animosity/contention that seem to exist on so many other college campuses these days. Free speech and dialogue are of course encouraged but, as a private Christian school, boundaries can be set and standards enforced. Some poke fun at this fact. I really liked it though. You just don’t see anyone burning flags, campaigning for the legalization of marijuana, or holding pro-abortion rallies at BYU, just for example. There’s a place for this kind of demonstrations, but this just isn’t it (thank goodness).
Folks come to BYU, I believe, in large part for the peace and tranquility of the overall experience. It’s a cutting-edge, top-rated, highly respected institution, but it’s also a place where you can really focus on your studies (and future) … without being barraged by the negative cacophony of influences you find in so many other environments. It’s actually really nice.
I think the spirit of BYU is, at its essence, a combination of the cleanliness and morality of it all, the inclusion of inspiring religion classes, devotionals, and more (weekly “doses of the spirit,” if you will), and ultimately, the central mission and purpose of the school as a whole. The two signs you see as you enter BYU campus say it well: “Enter to Learn – Go Forth to Serve” and “The Glory of God is Intelligence.” Both true statements and good reflections of who BYU is. I don’t know about you, but isn’t this the message every university should extend to—and through—its students?
If you’re sincere about learning about the spirit of Mormonism, BYU’s a good place to start. Pay any of the campuses a visit (including BYU-H and the world famous Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie HI) if you can. Take a tour. Ask questions. Visit BYUTV.org and BYU.edu to learn even more. You’re always welcome and will be impressed by what you find. I hope you’ll check it out one of these days.
I wish you the best in your ongoing study and search.
Patrick Laing – BYU Alumni (‘01) – Portland, Oregon USA
Click Below for a phenomenal overview of BYU and “The Spirit of the Y”: