Questions and Policies
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the purpose of Religious Education at BYU?
BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The university is funded largely by the tithes of the Church. It is anticipated that students will achieve a balanced education, will leave BYU as built up in their faith and commitment to the Lord and his kingdom as they are prepared to engage the world of ideas and work through education or training in their chosen field. A knowledge of the gospel and an individual testimony can lead to peace and happiness in this life and prepare us for eternal life hereafter.
2. What should take place in class?
It is hoped that students will be stretched and strengthened, both intellectually and spiritually, challenged to discover new truths (and internalize old ones), and at the same time grow in their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the restored Church. The religion class should be an enjoyable and uplifting part of the BYU experience.
3. How does a course in Religious Education differ from a Sunday School class? from an Institute of Religion course?
The Church seeks to make available to its members many opportunities for learning and applying the gospel. Courses in Religion at BYU are expected to be credible, rigorous, university-level experiences in learning, with assignments, examinations, and grading as important elements of that experience. Though the content and rigor of an institute course may be comparable to BYU, at an institute of religion the gospel is taught “across the street,” with the spiritual instruction serving to balance the secular instruction received in the college classroom. Further, institute classes are taken in addition to a student’s regular class load, whereas BYU Religion classes are taken as part of that load. Religion at BYU is part of the overall educational experience, not ancillary to it.
4. Why are Religion classes graded at BYU?
Religion courses are an integral part of the students’ university experience. They are not hurdles to leap over or hoops to jump through, not something to get behind us so we can move on to the important stuff of the university. Because of the distinctive mission of BYU, Religion courses are just as important as GE courses or major courses. We expect students to study, memorize, synthesize, and be evaluated in Religion, just as we would expect them to do those same things in Geography or Psychology or Humanities. We ask students to learn facts, details if you will, just as they would be expected to do in Zoology or Anthropology or Statistics. In addition, because the accreditation of many programs on the campus depends upon a solid and rigorous curriculum, Religion courses are expected to be as academically challenging as they are spiritually stimulating.
5. Isn’t the growth of testimony (something that is very difficult to evaluate) most important?
Though it matters a great deal that students leave the Religion course built up in their faith, it is equally important to us that they leave with a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3: 15). To learn by study and by faith (D&C 88:118) requires that our conversion be as satisfying to the mind as it is to the heart. Examinations and grades often help to discriminate between the student who really pays the price to learn and synthesize new material and the student who merely comes to class and seeks to coast, to operate and perform solely on the basis of past knowledge.
6. What does a poor grade in a Religion course signify?
Students are not being evaluated on their testimony. Though, as indicated above, we sincerely hope that spiritual growth is a result of each religion class, grades generally signify the degree to which students have acquired the material covered in class and the assigned material for the course.
7. Who are the full-time Religion Faculty?
The full-time Religion faculty are men and women who have obtained graduate training and experience in varied fields of study: Religious Studies, Biblical Lands and Languages, History, Education, English, Family Science, Psychology, Instructional Science, Law, Botany, Archaeology, Judaic Studies, and Family History. Their full-time teaching and research interests are usually in the areas of Scripture, History, or LDS Theology.
8. Who are the other faculty in Religious Education?
There are three groups of non-full-time faculty in Religious Education. One group, known as “adjunct faculty,” are faculty members in other departments on campus. They serve as instructors in Religion as a part of their teaching load. The second group are personnel from the Church Educational System who teach for us while they are here completing graduate study. The third group are members of the community who have a love for and commitment to the gospel, and who have demonstrated competence as gospel teachers.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in his dedicatory prayer on the new Joseph Smith Memorial Building on 10 December 1991, said: “We pray for those who will walk its halls and sit in its classrooms, that their minds may be enlightened, that their understanding may be quickened, that they may learn those things which will bless their lives in the world of which they will become a part, and, in a more particular way, that they may become familiar with the truth which is eternal in its nature and everlasting in its consequences.
“Bless the faculty who will teach here that they may be qualified through scholarship to do so effectively, but, more important, that they may teach by the power of the Holy Spirit, that their faith may be strengthened, that truth shall be established, and that thy divine will may be done. . . .
“Let thy Holy Spirit abide constantly within these walls and be felt by all who teach and learn. May there be an absence of intellectual arrogance; rather, may there be that humility which comes of recognition that man, with all his knowledge and understanding, shares only a feeble light when compared with the wisdom of the Almighty.”
9. What of institute or Church school (BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii) religion credit? How much of it may be transferred to BYU?
Students who plan to attend BYU should make appropriate arrangements with the instructor(s) to be certain that they accomplish the readings, assignments, and examinations needed to receive a transferable grade in their religion courses. Even though all graded institute or Church school religion credit may be transferred and contribute toward total graduations hours, transfer credit does not reduce the religion requirement of residency hours. Only BYU classes count. (For the number of resident hours after transfer, see BYU Undergraduate Catalog, p. 19.)
10. Why may a student count only four hours of Religion credit each semester toward graduation?
As mentioned above, Religious Education at BYU exists to assist students in gaining a balanced education. This is best accomplished by pursuing one's formal gospel study in a consistent, ongoing manner, rather than "loading up" on religion classes in a few semesters in order to fill the 14-hour requirement.
Religious Education Policies
As a condition of attending BYU, students affirm that they will help others obey the Honor Code. Religious Education is committed to the Honor Code at Brigham Young University. As one of the honor code expectations, students are expected to come to their religion classes dressed appropriately.
Also the honor code demands academic honesty of all students. It is college policy that those who cheat on examinations, plagiarize the work of another or otherwise display dishonest behavior will be subject to options outlined by the university, which include requiring additional work, adjusting the grade, failing the class or being referred to the university for possible dismissal from the university.
See https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=26 for details of the university honor code.
PREVENTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity receiving federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU’s policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.
See https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=155&s=s879 for details of the university sexual harassment policy.
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Brigham Young University is committed to compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which extends civil rights to people with disabilities and provides for reasonable accommodations. See https://uac.byu.edu/content/faculty for details of the university policy.
Disruptive behavior including multiple tardies, cell phone interruption or use, sleeping, and/or other disruptions (students who dominate class discussion or lecture with excessive comments/questions, talking during class discussion and lectures, reading newspapers, eating in class, etc.) will lower your grade.
Religious Education supports the use of online evaluations, and students are expected to complete them as directed by their course instructor.
Intentional plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft that is in violation of the Church Educational System Honor Code and may subject the student to appropriate disciplinary action administered through the University Honor Code Office, in addition to academic sanctions that may be applied by an instructor. Inadvertent plagiarism, while not in violation of the Church Educational System Honor Code, is nevertheless a form of intellectual carelessness that is unacceptable in the academic community. Plagiarism of any kind is completely contrary to the established practices of higher education where all members of the University are expected to acknowledge the original intellectual work of others that is included in one's own work. In some cases, plagiarism may also involve violations of copyright law.
Intentional plagiarism is the deliberate act of representing the words, ideas, or data of another as one's own without providing proper attribution to the author through quotation, reference or footnote.
Inadvertent plagiarism involves the inappropriate, but non-deliberate use of another's words, ideas, or data without proper attribution. Inadvertent plagiarism usually results from an ignorant failure to follow established rules for documenting sources or from simply being insufficiently careful in research and writing. Although not a violation of the Church Educational System Honor Code, inadvertent plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct for which an instructor can impose appropriate academic sanctions. Students who are in doubt as to whether they are providing proper attribution have the responsibility to consult with their instructor and obtain guidance.
LDS Doctrinal Questions
Go to www.mormon.org for answers to your doctrinal questions.
Seminary/Institute Preservice Training
If you are interested in becoming a seminary or institute teacher for the Church Educational System, please contact the Seminary/Institute Preservice Training office at (801) 422-2031, or go to 207 JSB.
Student Employment in Religious Education
If you desire to be a student employee in Religious Education, you can do so in two ways:
- Contact Religious Education professors directly and ask them if they have need of a teacher’s assistant. Speaking directly with a professor you know is more helpful than talking to a Religious Education secretary. The secretaries do not keep lists of job openings for professors.
- Occasionally Religious Education jobs are listed in the Student Employment Office in 2024 WSC, 422-3561. You can check their listing of jobs to look for openings in Religious Education.
Hiring Future Faculty in Religious Education
What are the criteria to be used in deciding whom to hire?
Orientation means having a firm testimony of an unquestioned commitment to the Savior and his gospel, to Joseph Smith, the Restoration, the Church, and the prophetic destiny of Brigham Young University. Other qualifications, no matter how impressive, do not override the necessity of this criterion.
2. GOSPEL SCHOLARSHIP
Although we want faculty members who are carefully trained in specific disciplines or particular books of scripture, we want all faculty members to be "perceptive generalists," well acquainted with all the Standard Works and with the teachings of the prophets of the Restoration, living and dead. A solid foundation in the doctrines of the gospel is critical to our work.
Gospel scholarship, in addition to understanding the doctrine, requires that the faculty member possess tools and inclination to read widely and critically, to analyze and respond intelligently to others’ writings in the field, and to craft articulate pieces of their own.
Teaching in Religious Education is to be substantive and inspirational. Students should become familiar with the text studied in each course taken and learn the implications of the text for daily living. They should feel free to raise honest questions, with confidence that they will be treated with respect and dignity and that their questions will be discussed intelligently in the context of faith. Where answers have not been clearly revealed, forthright acknowledgment of that fact should attend, and teachers should not present their own interpretations of such matters as the positions of the Church. Students should see exemplified in their instructors an open, appropriately tentative, tolerant approach to "gray" areas of the gospel. At the same time they should see in their instructors certitude and unwavering commitment to those things that have been clearly revealed and do represent the position of the Church. Teachers should be models of the fact that one can be well trained in a discipline, intellectually vigorous, honest, critical, and articulate, and at the same time be knowledgeable and fully committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, His Church and Kingdom, and His appointed servants.
Religious instruction cannot be effective without the power of the Holy Ghost. Religious Education faculty must therefore live their lives, prepare their lessons, and conduct their classes in such a way that the Holy Ghost will be present.
4. TRAINING AND CREDENTIALS
Full time faculty are to be trained at the doctorate level. Normally, part-time teachers must have a masters degree. Such training presupposes that one has mastered certain intellectual skills and perceptions important to the life of the mind. Critical thinking, research tools, and effective communication skills (both verbal and written) should have been acquired. Such skills should come with whatever particular discipline or specialty in which one has been trained and transfer nicely into the field of gospel scholarship.
Religious Education needs faculty trained and competent in a number of disciplines: languages, Bible, history, comparative religion, doctrine, latter-day scriptures, teachings of the living prophets, missionary preparation, and family history. The hiring process strives to maintain a balanced faculty with expertise in each of these areas.
Citizenship has a number of dimensions. Within Religious Education it means to work harmoniously, happily, and effectively with the administrators, staff, and other faculty. This includes attending appropriate meetings, accepting committee assignments and serving well, reviewing others’ written work when requested, being willing to mentor junior faculty. It entails sharing ideas and sources which help others to improve their performance, and treating students, visitors, staff, and colleagues with respect and courtesy. It also involves abiding by the guidelines necessary to efficient, cost-effective administration of Religious Education. In summary, it means being a good team player.
Beyond Religious Education, good citizenship requires a university mind-set. Participation in university-wide functions such as devotionals, forums, and symposia is fundamental. In addition, participation in interdisciplinary studies, publication, group or one-on-one exchanges is important, as is accepting appointments to serve on university committees and performing well. There is a great need for honest collegiality with our brothers and sisters across campus. If BYU is to accomplish what it is intended to accomplish, it will require the concerted, best efforts of all associated with the campus. Recognizing and acknowledging the contributions of all--administrators, faculty, staff, and students--is critical.
Religious Education Part-Time Faculty Policy
Qualifications: Application for a part-time faculty position in Religious Education is made through either the Department of Ancient Scripture or the Department of Church History and Doctrine, both located in room 375 of the Joseph Smith Building. To be considered, applicants must have obtained at least a master’s degree or equivalent. In exceptional cases, applicants enrolled in and nearing completion of a master’s program may also be considered. All applicants must complete required paperwork, submit letters of recommendation, and be interviewed by the respective Department Chair to determine if their academic training and teaching experience meet Religious Education standards. Endorsement from the applicant’s local ecclesiastical leaders and approval by the Religious Education Administrative Council are also required. These will be obtained by the Department Chairs if it is determined the applicant is a potential part-time faculty candidate. Part-time faculty are hired on an “as-needed” basis. Religious Education makes no guarantee of future employment to any current part-time faculty or qualified applicant.
Orientation and Training: Part-time teachers are to attend an annual orientation meeting at the beginning of each academic year. Each part-time teacher is to receive a “Part-time Faculty Handbook,” which outlines teacher responsibilities, rights, resources, expectations, policies, and procedures. Part-time faculty are encouraged to attend monthly inservice classes held to assist them with curriculum content and pedagogy. Sample syllabi, tests, course objectives, reading schedules and online instructional materials for each course are also available for part-time faculty through the respective department faculty inservice coordinators.
Evaluation: The status and performance of all part-time faculty is reviewed annually by the Department Chairs. Part-time faculty are also required to conduct the university’s “Student Ratings of the Learning Experience” evaluation for each class they teach each semester. Results of these evaluations are reviewed by Department Chairs and the Religious Education Dean’s office. Acceptable levels of performance are required as a condition of continued employment. Institutional evaluation of the part-time faculty policies and procedures occur at least every five years as part of the university scheduled department reviews.
Can Graduate Students Enroll in Undergraduate Religion Classes?
Graduate Studies provides a “No Cost/No Credit Religion Course” Option for graduate students desiring to take a religion class. This means that graduate students can audit a religion class at no cost with the professor’s approval. Go to the following website to print out the official form and for a more detailed explanation:
Summary Statement of Student Learning Outcomes
A BYU education should be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging and character building, leading to lifelong learning and service. As part of obtaining a BYU education students who successfully complete the required Doctrinal Foundation core in Religious Education will be able to demonstrate that they have acquired an understanding of LDS scripture, doctrine and history through the process of rigorous study and personal faith (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
Inherent in the process of learning by study and by faith is the responsibility each student assumes for their part in the learning process. Therefore, students who apply themselves will be able to demonstrate competence in the following areas:
- The ability to demonstrate an understanding of the foundational or factual information essential for a basic understanding of LDS scripture, doctrine, and history.
- The ability to comprehend, analyze, and interpret LDS scripture, doctrine, and history.
- The ability to use foundational knowledge and conceptual understanding of LDS scripture, doctrine, and history to problem solve.
- The ability to receive the Holy Ghost as an aid in studying and pondering LDS scripture, doctrine, and history.