My second son is home for the summer after his first year at BYU. Some of the changes I see in him remind me of the positive changes I saw in my eldest son after his mission. He’s more confident, more talkative, even more wonderful to have around the home, and seems to have grown in several ways, including spiritually. I don’t know how much was due to influences from BYU, but I can see that it was a positive experience for him.
While there are plenty of problems at BYU and plenty of dangers and temptations, it is a place where the leaders and role models generally are striving to help the students grow not only academically, but spiritually. It is a place where there are high standards and high moral expectations, where flagrant immorality is not the standard fare, and where safeguards have been provided to help protect our young people. How grateful I am for that!
Contrast that with life at many typical universities. University life has become so bad in most parts of the country that it is not unreasonable to refer to a typical school as a “university of destruction” – the title of a new Christian book by David Wheaton. I heard him on the radio recently explaining how tragic it is that Christian parents work so hard to save money to send their kids to universities where are the values they tried to teach will be deliberately undermined, where immorality will be encouraged and rewarded, where faith in Christ will be mocked, etc. And the parents PAY handsomely for this privilege, often having no clue that they are sending there kids to a moral cesspool that can destroy their child spiritually.
Christian youths can survive this, but they need a lot of strength to overcome the many direct assaults on their faith and purity that they will face. Wheaton offers a lot of advice – but I don’t think an LDS school is one of them. Maybe it should be.
Below is an excerpt from Wheaton’s book that describes his first day at Stanford. The excerpt is available on David’s Web site:
Welcome to Stanford
My duffel bags had barely touched the dorm room floor when two tennis teammates-to-be barged through the door with pitchers of beer in hand. It may have been the middle of the afternoon, but the party had already started. Girls and guys roamed the co-ed dorm, checking out their new surroundings. Classes started the next day, and I kid you not, I had neither pen nor paper.
The first assignment in Great Works of Western Culture, a required freshman class, was to read the books of Genesis and Job. “Easy enough,” I thought, since I came from a Christian background and was familiar with the Bible. Imagine my disbelief when the professor and other students ridiculed the Bible and mocked God for the “stupid” way He dealt with mankind. I had never heard “God” and “stupid” in the same sentence before! I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to say.
The night life was just as shocking. It was as if all moral restraint had been lifted from the campus. Drunkenness and sexual activity were seemingly everywhere. The overall scene brought to mind images of wanton sailors coming ashore at a foreign port of call. Surely this wasn’t Stanford–it was Sodom!
Why was I so surprised by my introduction to college? After all, I had heard what college was like. I had already seen and experienced a taste of campus life on college recruiting visits. I was no potted plant–I had been out of my own backyard plenty of times.
But this was different … way different. I was now living full-time in the midst of a world diametrically opposed to the one I had grown up in–there would be no returning home to Mommy and Daddy every night. I would soon find out that an excellent upbringing coupled with academic and athletic success was no match for the maelstrom called college. The waters were baited, the sharks were circling … spiritual shipwreck loomed.
Whatever school our LDS youth select, BYU included, they will need to be prepared for the challenges of being on their own. As a parent, I am grateful for the bishops, teachers, youth leaders, and others who recognize the urgency of the challenges before our young people and who lovingly help them grow strong enough to stand on their own. And I am grateful for the wisdom of the Church in sponsoring BYU and other institutions (Institute included) for blessing the lives of young people in college.