By Study and Also by Faith

The Faculty at Brigham Young University Responds



In 1968 a monumental book entitled The Academic Revolution appeared, culminating a ten-year sociological study of more than 150 colleges and universities in the United States. The authors, Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, documented the transformation of higher education in America from the church-related colonial college to the modern secular university.

Jencks and Riesman identified a few universities, among which was Brigham Young University, that did not conform to the trend. Referring to BYU as one of a few “holdouts against the onrush” of change, they summarized the chances of BYU embracing this academic metamorphosis with this assessment: “All in all, Brigham Young is probably as unlikely to be secularized as any Protestant college in America.”1

This prediction has now aged over thirty years. The pressures on BYU to accept outside norms have persisted if not intensified. Now, in light of a 1998 survey of BYU faculty, it is possible to measure the accuracy of the 1968 assessment and to gauge BYU’s continuing commitment to higher education in a strong religious atmosphere. This article will examine the recent survey and how it confirms the accuracy of the Jencks and Riesman prediction.

Historical Background

Shortly after the Puritans founded Massachusetts Bay Colony, they laid the foundations for the first American college. They named their school Harvard and fashioned it after the English system with a church at the center of campus. After receiving a formal charter in 1636, they dedicated their educational program to training ministers and informing students that ‘‘the maine [sic] end of [their] life and studies [was] to know God.2 Over half of Harvard’s graduates in its first hundred years pledged themselves to the ministry. Eight of the first nine universities founded in America followed this lead, and with few exceptions the church-controlled college dominated higher education in the United States well into the nineteenth century.3

During that century, a different system of higher education arose, largely in Germany. Based upon the epistemology that science and rationality are the reservoirs of truth, this new university model challenged the assumptions of colonial colleges. The freedom to learn and the freedom to teach were heralded as the twin virtues of the university system. Governance rested collectively with the professors, and religious connections were noticeably absent.

Following the Civil War, an ideological battle for the control of higher education commenced in the United States. Within a few years, the new university movement controlled the vanguard of American higher education, especially at state-sponsored institutions. A key aspect of this shift occurred as universities became the authoritative body for credentialing future professors and public-school teachers, enabling the university system to impose its philosophies on most educational institutions.4 This dramatic educational shift is what historians have called the “academic revolution.”

History of the BYU Survey

About 1990, a large research initiative commenced under the sponsorship of the national Lily Endowment Inc. Named “Religion and Education in American Public Life,” this project sought to assess the current role of religion in American higher education and predict what further changes the academic revolution might bring. Two researchers from Baylor University, Michael Beaty and Larry Lyon, received Lily support to conduct a case study at their Baptist university. They developed a questionnaire that probed sensitive issues surrounding religiously supported higher education. Their survey, first headed “Faith and Learning,” was distributed initially at Baylor during 1994 and subsequently at two leading Catholic universities, Notre Dame and Boston College.

After visiting Brigham Young University in 1996, Beaty and Lyon extended to me an invitation to have BYU participate in the study. The opportunity of comparing BYU with other facilities was appealing, even though some obstacles remained. The first of these challenges was to prepare an appropriate survey instrument for use at BYU that preserved the comparability of data gathered at the other institutions. We decided to keep as much of the original survey language, examples, and questions as possible, even though the phraseology might reflect a slightly different meaning in an LDS religious setting than elsewhere. Small adjustments were made in some questions to ensure proper comprehension, and to field-test these modifications, a few sample surveys were administered across campus.

Early in 1998 the BYU administration approved the survey. It was sent during February through campus mail to all 1,520 people on Mail Service’s full-time faculty list. A cover memorandum from the academic vice president’s office encouraged participation. In all, 876 surveys were returned, garnering a response rate of 58 percent. The BYU surveys were sent to Baylor, where they were read, tabulated, and codified and the results for key questions compared to those of Baylor, Notre Dame, and Boston College.

Survey Overview

The survey consists of three sections. Twenty-nine questions comprise the first section, which probes the faculty’s support of the BYU mission statement and asks about the extent to which BYU should emphasize certain teaching, research, or other educational goals and methods of achieving those goals. The second section consists of twenty-five questions examining the intersection of religion and academic life. The third section gathers basic information about the demographics of each participant. (See the appendix to this article.) Admittedly, the survey has its shortcomings and limitations, especially because its questions were not crafted in the first instance with BYU circumstances and vocabulary in mind. Still, it offers at the present time the best comparative evidence currently available on the educational attitudes of the BYU faculty as a whole.

While the survey results yield information about faculty positions on many subjects, the most salient data pertains to the two fundamental modes of learning that are distinctive to church-related universities. Those two are captured well in the LDS scriptural mandate to “seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). This dichotomy presents an ideal framework for understanding these twin virtues at BYU: faith (titled “spirituality” in this survey) and study (or “education”). The following discussion focuses on these two educational virtues, their importance individually, their balance collectively, and whether or not one has preeminence at BYU.

The Intellectual Dimension

A frequent criticism leveled against most church-related universities follows the drumbeat of chiding them for weak intellectual values and poor scholarship. How strong is BYU’s commitment to the intellectual dimension of higher education? Almost every question involves the intellectual component of learning to some extent. Certain questions, in particular numbers 2, 9, 21–23, and 33, focus on this value. The answers to these questions show that BYU is strongly committed to high intellectual pursuits, although not at the expense of faith.

Question 2 reads, “To what extent should BYU emphasize advancing knowledge through research?” Combining the 40 percent “maximum emphasis” with 54 percent “moderate emphasis,” 94 percent of the faculty agree that research is important at BYU (see fig. 1). While Boston College (59 plus 40 percent) and Notre Dame (76 plus 22 percent) are higher, BYU’s numbers here are similar to Baylor’s (37 and 58 percent).

Question 9 reads, “To meet its academic and faith-related goals, BYU should hire faculty who have achieved a high degree of academic prominence, and whose religious commitments are deeply significant to them.” Of the BYU respondents, 96.3 percent marked either strongly agree (74.6 percent) or agree (21.7 percent) for this question. This high affirmative response necessarily endorses the intellect as essential, and as discussed below, it also produces significant evidence of the desire to balance the twin values of faith and reason.

Question 21 asks if the university should “require religion courses in the scholarly study of the scriptures.” Here 88 percent marked either “strongly agree” (41 percent) or “agree” (47 percent). BYU’s professors support this requirement to a considerable degree; interestingly, their total affirmative response is very close to that of Notre Dame (48 plus 41 percent) and Boston College (48 plus 40 percent) and considerably above Baylor (22 plus 52 percent), whose somewhat comparable question asks if their universities should “require courses in the scholarly study of the Bible.” The operative word in this question relative to intellectual priorities is “scholarly,’ which may be understood in several ways.

Questions 22 and 23 inquire about helping students “develop a wellthought-out philosophy of life” and “a well-thought-out Christian philosophy of life” respectively. While all four universities are 96–97 percent in agreement with question 22, the percentage drops to 75, 73, and 49 percent with respect to question 23 at the other universities, but stands at an even stronger 98 percent at BYU. In other words, the need for careful thinking becomes stronger when the faith dimension is added.

In addition, question 33 asks if BYU faculty “should use the resources of their academic disciplines to illuminate religious issues.” To this, 83 percent either agree (56 percent) or strongly agree (27 percent) with this question, the highest scores of the four universities. And the nearly unanimous sentiment of 876 BYU respondents (99 percent) affirm to some degree that it is “possible for BYU to achieve academic excellence and maintain a Christian identity” (question 39), with 80 percent strongly agreeing. Such responses speak clearly to the issue of academic emphasis at BYU. A virtual consensus emerged that the BYU faculty sees the intellectual processes as valued and necessary.

In recent years, a number of respected Christian scholars have wondered if the intellectual dimension has been overlooked in religious circles and at their universities. Such notable works as The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship by George M. Marsden5 and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark A. Noll6 treat this aspect of declining intellectual priorities.7 Even though many of the predictions in these books are cautious, bordering on pessimistic, the results of the BYU faculty survey present a professoriate that prides itself on intellectual pursuits.

The Faith Dimension

As previously mentioned, faith as a system of learning has been either eliminated or greatly attenuated through the academic revolution in higher education. This revolution marginalizes the role of faith within the university system as an unwarranted limitation on the freedom to learn and the freedom to teach. Yet the LDS view fosters learning through faith. Brigham Young’s statement to BYU founder Karl G. Maeser “You ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God” publicly echoes within the walls of BYU.8 But what are the BYU faculty’s private beliefs regarding the role of faith in a university environment?

Although it is difficult to separate the deeply interwoven dimensions of faith and reason in the survey, questions 10, 11, 23, 31, 34, and 41–43 are posed in such a way as to specifically highlight the faith component.

Question 11 reads, “To meet its academic and faith-related goals, BYU should hire faculty who have achieved the highest levels of academic prominence, regardless of religious beliefs or commitments.” The faculty responded emphatically with 89 percent either disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with this statement (see fig. 2). While this query is framed only in the context of hiring seasoned faculty, it shows broad support for faith as a necessary element in the BYU learning environment. The BYU faculty is even willing, by an overwhelming margin, to function shorthanded for a time until an appropriate faculty member could be hired (question 10). By contrast, the faculties at the other universities are widely split on the issue in question 11 and are considerably opposed to the idea of functioning shorthanded.

Another question concerning faith as a philosophical foundation is number 31, the second element of which states, “BYU’s distinctive task is to provide an atmosphere congenial to authentic spirituality—that is to encourage spirituality and education.” Here a remarkable 88.5 percent indicate that they agree with this premise. While this statement does not read “provide learning by faith,” it does deal with an overriding “atmosphere” of faith or spirituality in which to learn. Certainly, the response to this question evidences the value of faith at BYU.

Closely following is question 34, which tests the proposition that “BYU faculty should use the truths within the Gospel to illuminate issues in the disciplines other than religion.” This statement places pivotal emphasis on using spiritual truths to open up intellectual issues. Each respondent had to choose whether or not faith is an important learning tool. A solid 93 percent either agree (54 percent) or strongly agree (39 percent) with this idea. The results of this question reinforce the case for high faith priorities at BYU. Whereas even more BYU faculty members see value in faith contributing to their disciplines than vice versa (see question 33, discussed above), this trend is reversed at the other universities.

Two parallel statements, questions 42 and 43, shed additional light on the faith issue. They are phrased as “My Christian beliefs are relevant to the content of my discipline” and ‘‘My Christian beliefs are relevant to the way I teach my discipline.” The “agree” and “strongly agree” responses total 89 and 95 percent respectively, considerably above the responses elsewhere. The slight difference (6 percent) between the results for these two questions is understandable, given the lower relevance of faith in some disciplines.

Further evidence for a faith-inclusive mind-set at BYU comes in the very first question of the survey. Question 1 restates seminal phrases from BYU’s mission statement and asks the participants if they endorse the declaration. Virtually all (99 percent) responded “yes.” To be sure, most mission statements tend to include a little bit of everything for everyone, and 91, 92, and 97 percent of the other faculties support their mission statements as well. Beyond this, however, BYU’s statement unabashedly proclaims the necessity of faith in the university processes. Unequivocal phrases such as “to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” and “to develop students of faith”9 place faith and spirituality at BYU in an exceptionally conspicuous position.

The Tandem of Faith and Reason at BYU

The history of higher education in America documents the harmony that characterized the educational foundations of the first colleges and universities. Seventeenth-century schools accepted completely the notion of the “unity of truth.” This philosophy, which is a mixture of medieval scholasticism and Christian humanism, places God at the center of a circle of the arts. For two centuries, this philosophy prevailed with only slight modifications from the influences of the Enlightenment and Scottish common-sense realism. As late as 1874, the noted Harvard chemistry professor Josiah Cooke wrote, ‘‘All truth is one,” meaning that ultimately “all truths . . . could be related to one another in a single system.”10 But his voice was soon muffled by the educational revolution, which excoriated the idea that religion had anything to do with reason.

Not all colleges or universities accepted this academic metamorphosis. Two of these dissenting clusters chose different paths or responses. The first group, which comprised a small but ardent minority, opted to retain a colonial mind-set and pursue learning only through faith and religious lenses. These schools, which continue to the present, are generally referred to as ‘‘Bible” or ‘‘Evangelical” colleges. They pride themselves in their position that true learning occurs through God’s word to man.11

The second and larger group took a less reactionary stance and asserted that learning occurs through both reason and revelation. Where possible, these proponents sought to combine the two modes of learning in a symbiotic relationship. The colleges and universities that chose this path were numerous at the onset of the academic revolution, yet they have dwindled considerably in recent years. Perhaps the underlying factor for their decline is couched in a recent comment by Elder Boyd K. Packer. Speaking of reason and revelation, he declared, “They mix like oil and water mix—only with constant shaking or stirring.”12

From its inception, Brigham Young University has built its educational foundations on both faith and reason.13 A glance at BYU’s annals reveals an institution and a faculty that have experienced some of the “stirrings and shakings” of this mixing process. What then is the current climate among BYU’s faculty as to the integration of both faith and reason? Questions 9, 10, 16, 21, 31, 32, 39, 40, and 46 from this survey were designed to key in on this relationship.

As discussed above, questions 9 and 10 (regarding faculty hiring) show the paramount importance at BYU of combining, in each faculty member, both academic prominence and deep religious feelings. Similarly, questions 16 and 21, on helping students develop in virtue and philosophy of life, strongly support the convergence of critical thinking, morals, scriptures, and scholarship.

Question 31, part 5, explicitly dealing with the integration of spirituality and education, moves to the heart of the integration issue by describing the “distinctive task” of BYU with the words “to identify and develop the relationships that exist between the Gospel and secular knowledge, as expressed in various academic disciplines.” Of the faculty, 85.4 percent selected this assertion as an accurate description. The responses at the other participating universities range from 51 to 61 percent acceptance of essentially the same proposition.

Question 32 continues probing this issue from the opposite direction, proposing that spirituality and education are “separate tasks and ought not to be integrated.” The combined responses of “disagree” (41.6 percent) and “strongly disagree” (52.7 percent) total an even stronger 94.3 percent.

Question 39 probes this mixture with the further assertion ‘‘It is possible for BYU to achieve academic excellence and maintain a Christian identity.” Asked about the balance of reason and faith as a theoretical possibility, the faculty sound in virtual unison, as 99 percent agree with this statement (with 80 percent strongly agreeing, quite a few more than at the other universities). The BYU response does not decline when this assertion is rephrased in question 40 in terms of “an LDS identity.” In contrast, the response declines at the other universities when question 40 is rephrased in terms of a specific form of Christian identity.

Question 46 is positioned as a sequel to question 39. It is one thing to believe in a value but another thing to practice it. Question 46 asks whether or not BYU professors currently “discuss gospel-related questions raised by class material.” If not, the possible choices include ‘‘willing to experiment” or “not willing.” The faculty show their consistency with 93 percent saying “yes,” affirming that they already do this, and another 6 percent expressing a willingness to try (see fig. 3). Interestingly, questions 39 and 46 both yield the same nearly unanimous figure of 99 percent.

The academic revolution effectually forced all colleges and universities into choosing one of three educational epistemologies. The first is the heart of the revolution, demanding that all learning follow a rational, unrestricted scientific model. The second option spurns the university model outright and clings tenaciously to the faith-only approach. The third option promulgates the idea that learning can come through the venues of both faith and reason. BYU professors demonstrate emphatically in this survey that they not only acknowledge faith and reason as sound ideas, but also that they currently employ both of these learning modes in their university work. Their responses leave little doubt about their joint commitment to both faith and reason at BYU.

Preference of Faith over Reason at BYU

At the heart of the academic revolution ultimately stands the question of whether faith or reason will take precedence in the face of a conflict between the two. Initially, Darwinism epitomized and galvanized the rift between science and religion, but the gap between natural theology—the idea that nature and science work hand in hand to confirm the existence of God—and logical positivism or strict empiricism soon ran much deeper.

Academics who were not willing to abandon the benefits of both faith and reason were forced by the rapid advances of modern science to develop ways of dealing with irreconcilable differences in their learning communities. The most common solution is what Beaty and Lyon have called “the two spheres” model.14 This explanation proposes that the university enterprises be divided into two spheres, the material and the spiritual. In the material sphere, scientific methodology governs the academic disciplines, while in the spiritual sphere faith and religion govern the moral development and atmosphere of the college. Thus if a schism develops on campus, it is resolved by determining whether or not it involves the spiritual or the material side of learning.

Other options for resolving conceptual collisions are possible. For example, if impasses persist, an institution might follow, on the one hand, a preestablished preference for reason; or on the other hand, one might be predisposed to opt for faith. Any choice poses complications. If the institution favors reason too frequently, it is in danger of complete secularization. If it favors faith too readily, it will position itself on the periphery of the educational landscape.

While the faculty survey does not reveal much about BYU’s approach to inevitable clashes between faith and reason, questions 12, 15, 38, 54, and 55 show a deliberate preference for spirituality over intellectuality. In particular, when faced with irreconcilables, the secular model typically emphasizes intellectual freedom, hoping that greater experimentation and individual preference will diminish the brunt of the clash. The majority of the faculty at BYU, however, do not see greater freedom as much of an answer but instead favor values and views that come with the support of credible spiritual credentials.

Thus, in response to question 12, which asserts that “BYU should guarantee its faculty the freedom to explore any idea or theory and to publish the results of those inquiries, even if the ideas question some orthodox LDS beliefs and practices,” about two-thirds (68 percent) of the BYU faculty disagree, but nearly a third agree (32 percent), with higher-ranking faculty supporting this proposition at a rate that is 5 percent higher than that of the other faculty. This result, preferencing faith, is decidedly out of step with the preferences expressed in the survey at the other universities.

Question 15, regarding unrestrained academic freedom in the classroom, meets with similarly divided results. Still, more than half (58 percent) prefer faith over freedom; the other 42 percent, however, agree with the statement that “BYU should allow the faculty to read and discuss anything in the classroom they believe pertains to what they are teaching even if the material questions some orthodox LDS beliefs and practices.” This is the most closely contested question in the survey. The need for freedom in classroom discussions is felt the strongest in the humanities and law, followed by the social sciences, and then the physical sciences. Although the faculty is distributed on this question quite evenly by rank and sex, 9 percent more men feel “strongly” about their agreement or their disagreement than do the women. In an interesting way, the tension disclosed by this question can be taken as evidence that both forms of learning are highly valued at BYU, even though faith is given the nod when push comes to shove.

Another question, number 38, tackles the issue head on: “If conflicts develop between academic freedom and orthodox LDS doctrines, BYU should in most cases preserve academic freedom even if it reduces LDS support, financially and otherwise, for the University.” This proposition places faith and reason on a collision course with each other. It then calls for academic freedom to be spared. BYU’s professors reverse this decision. 84 percent disagree, of whom 50 percent strongly disagree (see fig. 4).

Although these results may appear to say that BYU professors are willing to sacrifice freedom for faith, in actuality most of them do not feel that their freedom has been compromised. At the same time that half of the faculty feels that the emphasis at BYU has shifted away from academic freedom and toward faith (question 54), 88 percent of the women and 89 percent of the men say that they “have more freedom at BYU to teach” as they deem appropriate than they think they would have elsewhere, with no single college below 78 percent and no group by length of service, rank, or degree below 84 percent (question 55).15

The comprehensive analysis of these questions reveals a sensitive balance between faith and reason. One third feel that even publishing nonorthodox religious ideas is appropriate, and yet, when irreconcilable differences demand a decision between faith and reason, most are unwilling to push the line any further. These numbers reflect a university faculty who has internalized what their former president, the late Rex E. Lee, articulated:

It is almost inevitable that there will be some instances in which the rational method will lead us to some conclusion—not many, but some—which is at odds with what we know to be true because it has been revealed from God. . . . In those few instances in which we find disparity between the conclusions reached by our rational and extrarational processes, the extrarational must prevail. We must recognize that in those few instances the seeming inconsistency is attributable to the fallible nature of our rational capacity. The answer is not to stop the rational struggle with the problem, but rather to recognize the fallible nature of the rational process.16

Thus in the most difficult intersections of faith and reason at BYU, the large majority opt to favor their religious foundations. There are other options. BYU’s professors could favor their professional preparation. Over 84 percent of the respondents hold a doctorate (question 60). They also could prefer a two-separate-spheres approach. Instead they opt solidly to see both faith and intellect in tandem.


Thirty years ago, two renowned sociologists summarized the modern history of higher education in America with the words “academic revolution.” In part what they were saying was that higher education had revolutionized its epistemology. What once had been essentially a faithbased paradigm had been exchanged for an intellectually based system of scientific or logical positivism. In their summation, those researchers predicted that BYU (for reasons other than strict sectarianism) was as unlikely to become secularized as any institution they had reviewed. They also complimented BYU for its aura of professional competence and mature students.17

The 1998 survey of BYU’s faculty substantiates those predictions through a variety of indicators. First, the faculty speaks as a group of intellectuals who fully accept the concept that “the glory of God is intelligence.” With high-ranging scores, 79–97 percent, the faculty espouses the importance of bona fide intellectualism. Second, this emphasis on intellectualism does not preclude a tandem value of faith. The professoriate respond to faith-based issues with percentages of 85–99 percent agreement. Together, these responses resonate deeply with the LDS scripture “seek learning by study and also by faith.” This survey also examines the intersection of reason and faith, disclosing near unanimity. Not only does BYU’s faculty uphold the twin ideals of reason and faith, but they are willing to sacrifice to achieve their integration.

Not fully answered, however, is history’s most vexing problem for integrated learning, namely, what happens when faith and reason collide? In a rare display of schools that possess both a professional professoriate and a foundation of faith, the majority of BYU’s faculty subordinates reason to revelation, echoing the counsel of the Book of Mormon that “to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Ne. 9:29).18

In a 1992 address at Brigham Young University, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared unequivocally:

This institution is unique. It is remarkable. It is a continuing experiment on a great premise that a large and complex university can be first class academically while nurturing an environment of faith in God and the practice of Christian principles. You are testing whether academic excellence and belief in the Divine can walk hand in hand. And the wonderful thing is that you are succeeding in showing that this is possible.19

This survey of BYU’s faculty substantiates this prophetic declaration and provides the most specific evidence to date that the experiment of integrating faith and reason is indeed succeeding at BYU.

Spirituality and Education:
A Survey of Brigham Young University Faculty

Compiled by Keith J. Wilson. (Values expressed in valid percentages.)

l. Do you endorse this [BYU’s mission] statement?
Yes: 99.1%      No: .9%

To what extent should BYU emphasize the following goals
1=maximum possible emphasis      2=moderate emphasis
3=minimum emphasis      4=should not be a goal

2. Advancing knowledge through research
maximum: 39.9%      moderate: 54.2%      minimum: 4.9%      not a goal: 1%

3. Extending knowledge through undergraduate teaching
maximum: 87.1%      moderate: 11%      minimum: .7%      not a goal: 1.3%

4. Extending knowledge through graduate teaching
maximum: 33.1%       moderate: 56.7%       minimum: 9.2%      not a goal: 1%

5. Training students for productive careers
maximum: 51.5%      moderate: 39.1%      minimum: 7.8%      not a goal: 1.6%

6. Encouraging the students’ moral development
maximum: 86.2%      moderate: 12.2%      minimum: .2%      11ot a goal: 1.4%

7. Developing the students’ sense of civic responsibility
maximum: 48.8%      moderate: 44.6%      minimum: 5.8%      not a goal: .8%

8. Other (answers varied)

(9–29) To meet its academic and faith-related goals, BYU should:

9. Hire faculty who have achieved a high degree of academic prominence, and whose religious commitments are deeply significant to them.
strongly agree: 74.6%      agree: 21.7%      disagree: 3.2%      strongly disagree: .5%

10. Search for and hire faculty who share the institute’s religious commitments and have achieved academic prominence, even if it means that the department may have to function short-handed until such a candidate is found.
strongly agree: 38.1%      agree: 43.8%      disagree: 14.9%      strongly disagree: 3.2%

11. Hire faculty who have achieved the highest levels of academic prominence, regardless of religious beliefs or commitments.
strongly agree: 2.2%      agree: 8.9%      disagree: 41.5%      strongly disagree: 47.4%

12. Guarantee its faculty the freedom to explore any idea or theory and to publish the results of those inquiries, even if the ideas question some orthodox LDS beliefs and practices.
strongly agree: 11.6%      agree: 20.5%      disagree: 40.4%      strongly disagree: 27.5%

13. Admit students without preference based on their religious beliefs or commitments.
strongly agree: 3.3%      agree: 11.2%      disagree: 47.9%      strongly disagree: 37.6%

14. Actively strive for a diverse ethnicity in students.
strongly agree: 24.2%      agree: 52.3%      disagree: 19.1%      strongly disagree: 4.4%

15. Allow the faculty to read and discuss anything in the classroom they believe pertains to what they are teaching even if the material questions some orthodox LDS beliefs and practices.
strongly agree: 11.4%      agree: 30.8%      disagree: 33.9%      strongly disagree: 23.9%

16. Require specific academic courses designed to help students think more critically about their moral commitments.
strongly agree: 23.7%      agree: 49.3%      disagree: 22.4%      strongly disagree: 4.6%

17. Require specific academic courses designed to help students to think more critically about their moral commitments and to help them live more virtuous lives.
strongly agree: 40.3%      agree: 37.6%      disagree: 18.1%      strongly disagree: 4%

18. Require specific academic courses designed to help students think critically about their civic responsibilities.
strongly agree: 17.5%      agree: 55.8%      disagree: 23.2%      strongly disagree: 3.5%

19. Require specific academic courses designed to help students think critically about their civic responsibilities and to help them be good citizens.
strongly agree: 28%      agree: 45.2%      disagree: 23.5%      strongly disagree: 3.3%

20. Require courses that provide technical, work-related skills relevant to a successful career.
strongly agree: 29.4%      agree: 47.1%      disagree: 19.9%      strongly disagree: 3.6%

21. Require religion courses in the scholarly study of the scriptures.
strongly agree: 41.4%      agree: 46.6%      disagree: 10.6%      strongly disagree: 1.4%

22. Provide an academic environment that encourages students to develop a well-thoughtout philosophy of life.
strongly agree: 51.6%      agree: 45.6%      disagree: 2.1%      strongly disagree: .7%

23. Provide an academic environment that encourages students to develop a well-thoughtout Christian philosophy of life.
strongly agree: 59.3%      agree: 38.8%      disagree: 1.2%      strongly disagree: .7%

24. Encourage students to attend university devotionals.
strongly agree: 37.8%      agree: 59.4%      disagree: 2.6%      strongly disagree: .2%

25. Encourage faculty to attend university devotionals.
strongly agree: 34.1%      agree: 59.4%      disagree: 5.8%      strongly disagree: .7%

26. Require students to attend university devotionals.
strongly agree: 1.1%            agree: 7%      disagree: 67.2%      strongly disagree: 24.7%

27. Require faculty to attend university devotionals.
strongly agree: 1%      agree: 6.1%      disagree: 64.2%      strongly disagree: 28.7%

28. Require students to attend ward and stake meetings.
strongly agree: 14.2%      agree: 31.6%      disagree: 38%      strongly disagree: 16.2%

29. Require faculty to attend ward and stake meetings.
strongly agree: 20.3%      agree: 35%      disagree: 28.8%      strongly disagree: 15.9%

30. At BYU, spirituality and education issues:
(Choose the one response that best fits your view.)
• Need more discussion 38.4%
• Are discussed sufficiently 54%
• Are the focus of too much discussion 7.6%

31. BYU’s distinctive task is: (Check all those with which you agree.)
To offer the best possible education in caring environment 82.4%
To provide an atmosphere congenial to authentic spirituality—that is to encourage spirituality and education 88.5%
To prepare students for service within the LDS Church 66.6%
To consider Christian perspectives more than others in the core curriculum 32.5%
To integrate spirituality and education—that is, to identify and develop the relationships that exist between the Gospel and secular knowledge, as expressed in various academic disciplines 85.4%

32. Since BYU strives to be a Christian university, the encouragement of both spirituality and education are important tasks; but these are separate tasks and ought not to be integrated.
strongly agree: 1.7%      agree: 4%      disagree: 41.6%      strongly disagree: 52.7%

33. To help integrate spirituality and education, BYU faculty should use the resources of their academic disciplines to illuminate religious issues (e.g., an anthropologist discusses cultural relativism in a World Religions class, or a psychologist discusses Freud’s account of wish fulfillment in a religion class).
strongly agree: 26.5%      agree: 56.1%      disagree: 13.9%      strongly disagree: 3.5%

34. To help integrate spirituality and education, BYU faculty should use the truths within the Gospel to illuminate issues in the disciplines other than religion (e.g., a faculty member discusses Joseph Smith’s concept of time with a physicist, or a philosopher critiques Rawl’s theory of justice in light of Christian love).
strongly agree: 38.6%      agree: 54.1%      disagree: 6.4%      strongly disagree: .9%

35. Some faculty have had little experience in relating spirituality to education. If BYU were to offer a seminar on spirituality and education issues, would you be willing to participate? (Choose the one response that best fits your view.)
• would like to participate 35.8%
• would be willing to participate 46.2%
• would not be willing to participate 15.8%

36. To help integrate spirituality and education, some courses in BYU’s core curriculum, beyond those in religion, should include discussions of Christian perspectives: (Check all those with which you agree.)
• on God (in philosophy, for example) 65.3%
• on the nature of the universe (in physics, for example) 61.5%
• on society (in sociology, for example) 63%
• on human beings (in biology and psychology, for example) 62.9%
• as opportunities arise in the various disciplines, but not systematically, in most disciplines 74.5%

37. If I wished to do so, I could create a syllabus for a course I currently teach that includes a clear, academically legitimate, Christian perspective on the subject.
strongly agree: 29%      agree: 42.5%      disagree: 21%      strongly disagree: 7.5%

38. If conflicts develop between academic freedom and orthodox LDS doctrines, BYU should, in most cases, preserve academic freedom even if it reduces LDS support, financially and otherwise, for the University.

strongly agree: 6.6%      agree: 9.4%      disagree: 33.7%      strongly disagree: 50.3%

39. It is possible for BYU to achieve academic excellence and maintain a Christian identity.
strongly agree: 79.6%      agree: 19%      disagree: .9%      strongly disagree: .5%

40. It is possible for BYU to achieve academic excellence and maintain an LDS identity.
strongly agree: 79.1%      agree: 19.6%      disagree: 1%      strongly disagree: .3%

41. Some church-related universities require faculty to subscribe to doctrinal affirmations or creeds. Do you think BYU’s LDS identity requires adherence to certain orthodox theological or doctrinal affirmations (such as the existence of God and Christ as our Lord and Savior) by: (Choose one.)
• all faculty 49.1%
• majority of faculty 42.3%
• significant number of the faculty 3.4%
• no particular percentage of BYU faculty 5.2%

42. My Christian beliefs are relevant to the content of my discipline.
strongly agree: 57.4%      agree: 31.6%      disagree: 9.1%      strongly disagree: 1.9%

43. My Christian beliefs are relevant to the way I teach my discipline.
strongly agree: 63.5%      agree: 31.9%      disagree: 4%      strongly disagree: .6%

The following are sometimes mentioned as appropriate practices at other Christian universities. Please mark those that you currently practice as a teacher with “CP;” those that you would be willing to experiment with “EX;” and those you would not be willing to adopt with “NW.”

44. Treat my students with respect
CP 99.8%      EX .2%      NW 0%

45. Discuss, when appropriate, personal beliefs with students outside of class
CP 95.2%      EX 4.2%      NW .6%

46. Discuss gospel-related questions raised by class material
CP 92.5%      EX 6.4%      NW 1.1%

47. Share personal religious experiences in class
CP 75.1%      EX 17%      NW 7.9%

48. Lead my class in public prayer
CP 38.3%      EX 44.1%      NW 17.6%

49. Bear testimony in my class
CP 58.4%      EX 29.1%      NW 12.5%

50. Other (answers varied)

51. Based on your understandings of BYU’s procedures and policies for interviewing and hiring new faculty: (Choose the one response that best fits your view.)
• too much emphasis is placed on the candidate’s religious views 17.4%
• about the right emphasis is placed on the candidate’s religious views 72.2%
• not enough emphasis is placed on the candidate’s religious views 10.4%

52. During the last decade, the role of religion at BYU has: (Choose one.)
• become more prominent 58.1%
• become less prominent 35.4%
• remained about the same 6.5%

53. The current approach to academic freedom and religious devotion (institutional values) at BYU is:
• about right 74.6%
• leans too much in favor of academic freedom 4.7%
• leans too much in favor of religious devotion 20.7%

54. During the last decade has the emphasis shifted concerning the concepts of academic freedom and commitment to faith?
• No, it has not changed 38.1%
• Yes, it has shifted towards greater academic freedom 8.1%
• Yes, it has shifted towards greater commitment to faith 53.8%

55. Do you have more freedom at BYU to teach your subject matter in the way you feel is appropriate than you would at other universities, or do you have less freedom here than you would have elsewhere?
• more freedom 88%
• less freedom 12%

56. I have been a faculty member at BYU for:
• less than 5 years 21.9%
• 5–10 years 20.8%
• 11–20 years 23.7%
• More than 20 years 33.6%

57. My College or School is:
Biology & Agriculture 6.2%      Engineering 7.5%
Library 4.8%      Fine Arts & Communications 5%
Humanities 12.8%      Nursing 2.5%
Physical & Mathematical Sciences 11.9%      Law 2.3%
Religious Education 5.5%      Health & Human Performance 6.1%
Management 7.4%      Education 6.4%
Student Life 2.1%      Family & Social Sciences 14.4%

58. My rank is:
full professor 44.4%      associate professor 29.8%
assistant professor 20.7%      instructor 5.1%

59. I received a degree from BYU.
Yes 71.9%      No 28.1%

60. The highest degree I have earned is:
bachelor’s 1.3%      master’s 14.4%      doctorate 84.3%

61. My religious affiliation is
LDS 98.5%      Other 1.5%

62. I am:
Female 17.6%      Male 82.4%

About the author(s)

Keith J. Wilson is Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University.


1. Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, The Academic Revolution (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968), 332.

2. Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1935), 247, 432–34.

3. John S. Brubacher and Willis Rudy, Higher Education in Transition (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 7, 23.

4. See Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University (New York: Knopf, 1962); Brubacher and Rudy, Higher Education in Transition; and George M. Marsden, The Soul of the American University (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).

5. George M. Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

6. Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1994).

7. See George M. Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield, eds., The Secularization of the Academy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Merrimon Cuninggim, Uneasy Partners: The College and the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994); and Douglas Sloan, Faith and Knowledge (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994).

8. Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser: A Biography by His Son ( Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1928), 79.

9. Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University Bulletin Undergraduate Catalog, 1999–2000, vol. 96 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1999), xii.

10. Julie A. Reuben, The Making of the Modern University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 17.

11. David Riesman, “The Evangelical Colleges: Untouched by the Academic Revolution,” Change 13 (January–February 1981): 13–20, 328–33.

12. Boyd K. Packer, “I Say unto You, Be One,” in Educating Zion, ed. John W. Welch and Don E. Norton (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1996), 181.

13. For an extended discussion of the mutuality of faith and reason, see John W. Welch, “The Power of Evidence in the Nurturing of Faith,” in Nurturing Faith through the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 149–86.

14. Michael Beaty and Larry Lyon, “Baptist Higher Education,” The Baylor Line 59 (winter 1997): 46.

15. For a discussion of the comments or blank responses on the survey to questions 53 and 55, see Keith J. Wilson, “Academic Freedom at BYU: The Faculty Responds,” Religious Studies Center Newsletter 14 (September 1999): 5–6.

16. Rex E. Lee, “By Study and Also by Faith,” in Welch and Norton, Educating Zion, 140–41.

17. Jencks and Riesman, Academic Revolution, 331–32.

18. For further discussion, see Robert L. Millet, ed. “To Be Learned Is Good If . . .” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), especially chapters 1 and 12–14.

19. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Trust and Accountability,” in Welch and Norton, Educating Zion, 206, italics added.

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