The Lord’s University
by Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel

Chapter 5
A Tale of Two Statements: Academic Freedom and “Recent Symposia”

[p.177]During the 125 years since its founding, Brigham Young University has repeatedly struggled with determining the place and extent of academic freedom on campus. From time to time, heated debates have gone public, as in 1911 when popular professors Ralph and William Chamberlin and Henry Peterson were dismissed or resigned for teaching organic evolution and higher biblical criticism,1 or seventy years later when tenured history professor D. Michael Quinn resigned, lamenting, “[A]cademic freedom merely survives at BYU without fundamental support by the institution,”2 and Near Eastern studies professor David P. Wright was fired for believing but not teaching—that the Book of Mormon was a religious, but not an ancient, text. Following Quinn’s and Wright’s departures, BYU spokesperson Paul Richards told one reporter: “There are professors who have paid a price pursuing what they perceived as academic freedom, and I dare say there will be more who do so.”3 Indeed there were, with the subsequent dismissals of faculty members David Knowlton, Cecilia Konchar Farr, and Gail Turley Houston as the most public examples (see chaps. 6 and 8).

Amid the media attention and public criticism that accompanied these skirmishes, BYU administrators have been quick to point out that they, and other private religious institutions, are exempt from some of the traditional tenets of academic freedom that govern more secular universities. Accrediting agencies generally acknowledge a religious school’s right to enforce such limitations—as long as they are clearly stated and published. But this recommendation is one area where BYU has historically been vulnerable especially in its attitudes on faculty writing for independent Mormon-related publications such as Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and Sunstone and participating at meetings such as the Sunstone Symposium, a sometimes freewheeling, sometimes reverential conference founded in [p.178]1979 that draws 1,500 attendees each summer to Salt Lake City to discuss a wide variety of Mormon topics

In July 1991 BYU announced that a committee appointed by the administration had begun drafting an official Statement on Academic Freedom. The next month, when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church released a cautionary statement on “recent symposia,” some hoped that between these two politically charged documents longstanding issues of academic freedom at BYU would be easier to negotiate. Others predicted pessimistically they would do little to mitigate existing confusion.

Setting the Stage

From BYU’s 1986 self-study, completed as part of the school’s regular ten-year reaccreditation process, one section stands out as particularly relevant, a passage acknowledging that university administrators, are “advised not to publish in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, or to participate in Sunstone’s symposia where they may be viewed as attacking the General Authorities … or the foundations of [the LDS] faith.”4 When word of the study leaked to the media, BYU spokesperson Paul Richards admitted that naming those specific venues was lamentable—it had been “one person’s” interpretation of a “generic policy” discussed in the self-study. “[I]t should have been written better,” Richards said. “It’s unfortunate these publications were picked out, it could have been Time, Fortune, or a newspaper in California—if a person is involved in an issue on a side that implied university endorsement, it would not be allowed for high-level administrators.”5 Unfortunate or not, history professor D. Michael Quinn, though not an administrator, just one year earlier had felt the effects of such a policy. Following Dialogue’s publication of his comprehensive study of plural marriages contracted after an 1890 “Manifesto” ostensibly banned such unions, one church official, acting on instructions from several unnamed apostles, told Quinn’s stake president to confiscate his temple recommend, thus preventing him future access to the church’s most sacred centers of worship. The stake president held the interview as requested, but warned Quinn that since temple recommend worthiness was an unstated requirement at BYU, this might be a “back-door effort” to have him fired.6

Contributing to the tense environment, Apostle (and former BYU president) Dallin H. Oaks asked church members in 1986 not to criticize the church’s general authorities. “[I]t does not matter that the criticism is true,” he said. “The council against fault-finding and evil speaking applies with special force to criticisms of Church leaders, but this is not for the benefit of leaders. It is to safeguard the spiritual well-being of members who are prone to murmur and find fault.” Oaks also said that he found some “wisdom in liberalism, some wisdom in conservatism, and much truth by intellectualism, but I find no salvation in any of them.”7 The following year Apostle [p.179]Neal A. Maxwell, when asked about the church’s stand on “so-called liberals who question doctrine,” said, “Whether one’s a bricklayer or an intellectual, the process of coming unto Christ is the same: ultimately it demands complete surrender. It’s not a matter of negotiation.”8

The mid-1980s had seen rising tensions between some Mormon scholars—professionally trained historians in particular—and some church leaders, especially as historians and church leaders tried to come to terms with controversial documents produced by Mark Hofmann that later turned out to be forgeries. From the midst of these events emerged Quinn’s most controversial publication yet: his 1987 book, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Controversy surrounding the book, including vocal criticism from colleagues and church leaders on and off campus, contributed to Quinn’s decision to retire from his tenured full professorship in BYU’s history department. Until he filed his 20 January 1988 letter of resignation, Quinn had remained largely quiet about pressures he had received to abandon his topics of inquiry, including a loss of university travel funds to present papers at academic conferences.9 On the eve of his exit, he published in the independent Student Review (and later in Sunstone) an essay titled, “A Marketplace of Ideas, a House of Faith, and a Prison of Conformity,” in which he remained silent about the specifics of his departure, but which contained a description of a “prison of conformity” that sounded at first like BYU but turned out to be Soviet Russia.10

Quinn’s resignation was followed that summer by the termination of Near Eastern studies professor David P. Wright, another BYU faculty member who had participated in the independent Mormon sector. (The month after he was fired, Wright was scheduled—and had been for months—to participate in a Sunstone-sponsored Book of Mormon lecture series.) The letter from Provost Jae Ballif informing Wright of the firing explained that although “the foundation of any academic institution is careful inquiry and open discussion,” administrators felt that Wright’s positions on Mormon and Judeo-Christian scriptures—that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient text and that the Hebrew Bible was best understood using historical critical tools and not as a document containing prophesies of modern times—were so divergent “from those taught by our leaders that they would make it impossible for you to teach large portions of the subject matter of your discipline without either compromising your own beliefs or the position of the University.”11 (While Wright’s position on Hebrew scriptures did affect his classes, he noted that his beliefs regarding the Book of Mormon were not aired in class.12 )

As in Quinn’s case, opposition to Wright on campus had reportedly originated in the College of Religious Education, whose professors were alarmed that Wright taught Hebrew and other courses to some of their students who were training for jobs in the Church Education System.13 In response to Wright’s firing, Quinn, who had still not commented widely on [p.180]his own case, told one reporter that “BYU is an Auschwitz of the mind.”14 While most other professors apparently did not feel as strongly, some feared that a crackdown on other liberal professors would follow: “Now they’ve tasted blood,” one professor told Quinn, “and you’re leaving the rest of us here to face the consequences.”15 These fears seemed confirmed to some when Apostle Boyd K. Packer subsequently rekindled controversy over another sensitive topic—organic evolution—during a fireside address on campus, implying that one cannot believe in both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the theory of evolution.16

Warnings against “intellectualism” continued to stream from church leaders. In April 1989, church president Ezra Taft Benson delivered a sermon warning members against the sin of pride, including intellectual pride.17 During the same general conference, Apostle Dallin H. Oaks warned members not to listen to “alternate voices.” Some of these voices, he said, are well-meaning men and women, some are “pursuing selfish personal interests,” others “call out for guidance—the lost leading the lost,” and still other voices are those whose “avowed or secret object is to deceive and devour the flock.”18 Presiding Bishop Glenn L. Pace called “inappropriate intellectualism” an activity likely to produce critics of the church. Quoting Apostle James E. Faust, he said this type of intellectual is “a person who continues to chase after a bus even after he has caught it.”19 Apostle Russell M. Nelson, continuing this theme, said, “Certainly no faithful follower of God would promote any cause—even remotely related to religion—if rooted in controversy,” because contention is not of God. “Surely a stalwart would not lend his or her good name to periodicals, programs, or forums that feature offenders who do sow ‘discord among brethren’ (Prov. 6:19).”20

Two weeks later, in an essay published in the off-campus Student Review, BYU English professor Eugene England said that the university’s anti-Dialogue and Sunstone policy amounted to prior restraint. He also criticized restrictions placed by the administration on distribution of the Review. “Though other universities also restrict what their people say, I cannot find any that restrict where [they may publish] or prevent distribution of responsible publications,” he wrote. Such policies are a “gratuitous insult” to faculty and students who have written for Dialogue, Sunstone, and Student Review, “and they intimidate and silence faculty and students who might want to participate in the unusual opportunities to unite faith and creativity these forums provide.” England had been told that the policy of not allowing administrators to publish in Dialogue (which he had founded) or participate in Sunstone was “not mandated from above.”21

Liberal Mormon intellectuals were singled out again when, during spring 1990, some voiced, to the national news media, their support of recent changes in the LDS temple ceremony. Speaking in general terms, most considered the modifications—which eliminated references to violence and softened women’s vows of obedience to their husbands—a positive step for-[p.181]ward. Shortly thereafter, Lavina Fielding Anderson, F. Ross Peterson, Keith Norman, and others—none of whom were BYU faculty members—were called in by local church leaders. Peterson and Norman had their temple recommendations taken for speaking publicly about the changes. Several months later Sunstone printed a summary of news stories from across the country about the changes, prompting LDS officials to meet with editor Elbert Eugene Peck and publisher Daniel H. Rector. They too were asked to surrender their temple recommends.22

Gordon B. Hinckley, a counselor in the First Presidency, spoke out against “alternative” LDS publications at the annual regional representative’s seminar in 1991. He explained that the scriptures are the “standard by which all gospel doctrine is measured.” All other church books, manuals, and study courses should “spring” from them. Nonetheless, he said, there are some non-scriptural works that are “as treasures” to us. But on the other side of the line are a number of publications whose major objective, it seems to me, is to question and criticize the teachings and activities espoused by the General Authorities. They seem to feed the critical natures of those who still have one foot in the Church while the other is out. Those who so write are highly resentful if their Church loyalty or membership is challenged. And yet, they seem to be constantly looking for faults, criticizing, and holding up to the light, in an effort to find flaws, that which is taught as the doctrine of the Church.23

Release of the Statement on Symposia

Over the course of the 1980s, symposia sponsored by the independent Sunstone Foundation became the principal unofficial venue for discussing Mormon studies. On the last day of August 1991, just two weeks after the annual Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles released a joint statement expressing concern about recent symposia “that result in ridiculing sacred things or injuring the Church … detracting from its mission, or jeopardizing the well-being of its members.”24 The official statement, called “curiously vague” by some,25 did not mention Suns tone by name but condemned several presentations from the August conference, including non-Mormon University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell’s paper on the history and symbolism of Mormon temple garments and librarian Dennis Clark’s on changes in the temple ceremony.26 “We deplore the bad taste and insensitivity of these public discussions of things we hold sacred,” the statement read. In addition, the statement continued, “[s]ome of the presentations … have included matters that were seized upon and publicized in such a way as to injure the Church or its members or to jeopardize the effectiveness or safety of our missionaries.” One popular session dealt with terrorism against the LDS church in South America. BYU anthropologist David Knowlton posited that the church itself may be jeopardizing the safety of missionaries by inadvertently maintaining an image of [p.182]cultural imperialism in its proselyting efforts. The statement also chided those who publicly speak on matters that “are more appropriate for private conferring and correction than for public debate.” Some felt this referred to a presentation on the 1943 excommunication of Apostle Richard R. Lyman for adultery or other sessions on such topics as homosexuality, premarital sex, or abusive relationships in LDS communities.27

“We are very sorry if some deliberations at our symposia gave offense or were interpreted as detracting from the mission of the Church,” wrote Sunstone editor Elbert Peck and publisher Daniel Rector, the latter of whom was himself the son of a general church authority. Their prepared statement continued: “Our intent is to conduct thoughtful discussions of religious questions in a spirit of good will. We believe that, in the long run, an open and honest examination of the varied perspectives of the Latter-day Saints and their friends helps to build the kingdom of God.”28 Peck later added that the discussions at Sunstone are the “very things that go on in the foyer of every chapel, not necessarily what’s said from the pulpit.”29 Providing some context to the statement, D. Michael Quinn reported: “Consistently, from the beginning, the church’s leadership has … been uncomfortable with open forums that have been organized by the rank and file. In the nineteenth century, the leadership recognized the existence of a loyal opposition and [in the] twentieth does not.” That has been particularly true since the 1966 founding of Dialogue and, in 1975, Sunstone magazine, he explained. With the broad spectrum of beliefs represented at Sunstone’s symposia, Quinn felt that the annual forum was a genuine marketplace of ideas, despite the fact that church leaders had tried to convince members not to participate or attend.30 Longtime Mormon educator and humanitarian Lowell Bennion was more pointed: “We are asked to love the Lord with all our hearts and minds,” he said. “It is a poor religion that can’t stand the test of thinking.”31

Other Mormons voiced their concerns about the statement as well, sometimes with repercussions. Kim Clark wrote a letter critical of the statement to the Salt Lake Tribune. His local stake president subsequently told him that he was “undertaking an investigation that could result in [Clark’s] disfellowshipment or excommunication.”32 Salt Lake City resident Christian Fonnesbeck sent a letter to the First Presidency explaining that he was “puzzled” by the statement. He was later released from his church teaching assignment and told that the action came from “high Church officials.”33 David Knowlton, after sending a letter to church president Ezra Taft Benson regarding the statement’s reference to his paper, was asked to speak with his stake president, a response Knowlton found intimidating and raised questions about academic freedom at BYU, where he taught.34


When asked by the media to comment on the statement, church officials declined but released a written definition of dissent as. “conflict, discord, strife, objection, protest, rebellion, contradiction, or to differ, disagree or oppose.” Those members whose “actions fit those definitions subject them-[p.183]selves to the possibility of church discipline, whether it be formal or informal,” spokesperson Don LeFevre said. “Informal discipline would include private counsel and caution, whereas formal discipline is administered in a disciplinary council.” LeFevre added that one of the purposes of such discipline “is to safeguard the purity, integrity and good name of the church.”35

Church leaders used sessions at the following October’s semi-annual general conference to elaborate. Apostle Boyd K Packer, sometimes blunt and controversial, reminded Mormons of the statement’s advice to avoid the “dangers of participating in circles which concentrate on doctrine and ordinances and measure them by intellect alone.” He continued: “If doctrines and behavior are measured by intellect alone, the essential spiritual ingredient is missing and we will be misled. …There is safety in learning doctrines in gatherings which are sponsored by proper authority.”36 Charles Didier of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a convert to the church, encouraged church members to build their faith “by asking your Heavenly Father in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. Do not turn to public discussions and forums.”37 Apostle Marvin J. Ashton said,

Some of us may be inclined to study the word with the idea in mind that we must add much where the Lord has said little! Those who would “add upon” could well be guided by the anchor question: Do my writings, comments, or observations build faith and strengthen testimonies? Often-times we can cause confusion and misdirection in our lives and in the lives of others if we promote the startling and unorthodox. Feeble knees are strengthened by those who lead with purpose rather than with personal interpretations. 38

The Statement and BYU

During the fall of 1991, student editors at BYU’s Daily Universe used the 1986 self-study as a springboard to discuss academic freedom and the “statement on symposia,” as it was popularly called. Referring to David Knowlton’s meeting with his stake president, Lynn England, chair of the sociology department, told the paper that a number of colleagues were disconcerted about the church’s recent actions. “I think it’s intimidating to some and angers others to see ecclesiastical leaders call them in and question their research.” England added that presentations at Sunstone are an extension of his department’s work. Knowlton, in a letter to the chair of the anthropology department, agreed: this type of action “not only damages our willingness to explore critical concerns, but also could damage the national reputation of the university.” Marie Cornwall, director of BYU’s Women’s Research Institute, said it was unfortunate the administration had to spend time dealing with conflicts that arise when scientists study religious phenomena. “But,” she said, “that has more to do with who the Board of Trustees are, than who the faculty are.”39

Several months later BYU sociologists, already under scrutiny, were un-[p.184]wittingly thrust into the spotlight when a confidential memo became the subject of a February 1992 Associated Press article.40 The memo, signed by all twenty members of the department, explained to President Rex E. Lee why they thought continued participation at Sunstone symposia was valuable. “While we recognize some presentations … are weak and unprofessional, we believe our own presentations and most others have been of the highest quality.” Commenting on those who had recently been called in by their ecclesiastical leaders to discuss Sunstone participation, the sociologists wrote: “Actions such as these, if encouraged by Church leaders, will have a chilling effect on those who have worked long and hard to promote the study of Mormonism.” And since all BYU professors must be temple recommend worthy, they asserted, “such actions must be viewed as a constraint on academic freedom, especially for LDS Church members.”41

Within days of the A. P. news story, the Universe and others jumped into the fray42 with an unsigned editorial declaring the Sunstone Symposium un-academic and little more than “a tempting way” for faculty to present their research to a larger audience than traditional academic venues afford. The editorial stated that the church had made it clear that what one says and where one says it both matter. “Members of the Church who are professors teaching at the University of Utah, Harvard, or any other university, are under the same advice …. [I]f a professor decides not to follow the statement, it’s between that professor and the Church, and that relationship should be the professor’s first concern.”43 BYU law professor Edward Kimball and BYU English professor Eugene England quickly responded to the editorial’s “serious errors.” They defended Sunstone as being just as academic as other professional conferences they attended, including BYU’s own Joseph Fielding Smith and Religious Education symposia. Kimball and England also addressed the idea that to be loyal to the church, one should not participate at Sunstone. “Not so,” they wrote. “We have all been advised … against participation in presentations” relating to the temple and cautioned not to promote anything that would injure the church. This was an “excellent example of teaching correct principles so that we can govern ourselves,” they concluded. “Improper limitations on freedom of inquiry do not come from the statement from the Brethren last August, but rather from people who are willing to expand upon that statement.”44

In a separate letter David Knowlton said Sunstone was academically important because it drew the largest number of academics from the widest spectrum of disciplines of all such Mormon-oriented symposia: “There frankly is not another more rarified … forum for scholars of Mormonism.” He also argued that Sunstone benefitted the body of the church, since it helped keep in people “who otherwise would feel themselves forced out.”45

Students and others sounded off on the subject over the next several weeks. James Gulbrandsen, a freshman from Dallas, Texas, wrote that Sunstone was an anti-Mormon’s “greatest dream come true.” To those outside of [p.185]Utah who have to deal with anti-Mormon propaganda, he wrote, “it doesn’t help when members of your own church join forces with anti-Mormons in criticizing the LDS church.”46 Another student, Bryan Waterman, replied that there were many times during his mission when he had used Sunstone and similar publications to answer church critics. “Anti-Mormons don’t have to depend on Sunstone for their arguments,” he added. “The bulk of their works come from statements by leaders from Brigham Young to Bruce R. McConkie. Does this mean we should ban the Journal of Discourses and Mormon Doctrine?”47

The Universe also published a follow-up article, which conspicuously quoted only BYU religion faculty. Robert L. Millet, dean of religious education, said the statement on symposia did not surprise his faculty; they bad discussed the topic for years and agreed with the statement. Millet made it clear that it was not the intellectual exploration of the gospel that the church was worried about. “The last thing in the world the brethren want to do with that statement is to cause people not to think,” he said. Rather, the issue was that independent symposia could foster too much reason and too little revelation. Richard O. Cowan, professor of church history, said the statement had made him “think more carefully” about which conferences he would attend “We know that even our presence gives an endorsement of it,” he said.48 “If we spent less time attacking others’ beliefs,” responded a weary Waterman, or worrying about who said what at which symposia, and would each spend more time caring for others, serving, helping those we are able to influence, we might find that we are moving a little more quickly toward our goal of building the Kingdom of God.

What would our community be like if we were willing to allow people the right to worship God as their own consciences dictate—”how, where or what they may”? If we realized that God communicates with different people in different ways? If we allowed differences, enjoyed similarities and rejoiced in diversity? Perhaps we might never become one in doctrine, but we could put more than rhetoric in becoming one in charity.49

As discussion continued on the topic, a March 1992 poll at BYU found than 42 percent of faculty said they would not participate in that year’s Sunstone Symposium.50 It was out of this environment that an ad hoc faculty committee on academic freedom was formed, marking the first time in more than twenty years that members of the BYU community had organized to discuss academic freedom. Over time as many as 150 professors participated in committee discussions. Several years later the core of this group brought back to BYU a campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors (see chap. 9).

The Statement and the Symposium

After the church’s 1991 official statement, some predicted doom for the [185] 1992 Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium. BYU historian Michael Allen was told by colleagues that “given the current atmosphere” at BYU his participation was unadvisable.51 It turned out to be a banner year, instead, with some 1,500 people attending52—a record turnout that has remained more or less constant since. The number of BYU professors participating, however, has dropped roughly by half each year since the statement was published. (For details of the 1992 and subsequent Sunstone symposia, see chap. 7.)

The church has continued to assert the importance of its statement. Early in 1993 a director in the Church Correlation Department, William O. Nelson, included it in his list of “Selected Doctrinal Revelations in the “Dispensation of the Fullness of Times,” published in the LDS Church News.53 That October, following the high-profile disciplinary actions against the “September Six” (see chap. 7), one BYU religion professor’s Ensign article opined that if “Satan can’t intimidate us with physical trials, he’ll sometimes try to fool us with substitute programs.” The professor elaborated: “Again and again the Lord has warned the Church about following other voices …. If we are to endure, we must avoid alternate religious ‘special interest’ groups,” he wrote in the church’s official periodical for English-speaking Saints.54

While most faculty continue to feel that Sunstone participation could jeopardize their status at BYU and despite the fact that some deans report having been told that faculty are not to participate, in 1991, immediately following the statement’s release, university spokesperson Paul Richards said that the statement did not prohibit professors from participating at Sunstone.55 Three years later another BYU spokesperson, Brent Harker, reiterated that it does not matter where a professor speaks, it is what she or he says that is important. He added that while the church had urged all members “not to participate in the Suns tone Symposium,” BYU employees have been involved in the symposia since then and “have not suffered ill effects simply because of their participation.”56

Nonetheless, the numbers are telling, and only a few faculty members have continued to present at Suns tone, sometimes employing a range of strategies to downplay their BYU affiliation. Some, such as BYU history professor Steven Epperson (since fired57), participated on the condition that his name not appear in the program. Others, including English instructor Marni Asplund-Campbell, used pseudonyms in the program. Still others, such as Eugene England, have declined, out of deference to personal requests from President Rex E. Lee, to participate at the symposium in Salt Lake City-where there is usually extensive media coverage-but sometimes spoke at regional symposia in Seattle, Chicago, or other cities. Other former participants, such as William A. Wilson, BYU folklorist and director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, said: “I may not agree with the rules, but I’ll follow them as long as I’m collecting a paycheck.”58

What the rules were was not precisely clear. With BYU spokespeople saying one thing and church leaders another, some faculty remained con-[p.187]fused. “It’s so unclear in the BYU community what the policy is,” said English professor Gail Turley Houston in 1994. “Some people go to conferences with no repercussions, while others go and are called in.”59 One thing, however, is clear in 1998: there is no written policy forbidding faculty participation in independent LDS forums. It is the apparent existence and uneven application of an oral policy—participation in independent forums is treated differently by various departments—that troubles some faculty. For example, Douglas Campbell, a tenured professor of computer science, wanted to present a paper on the history of textual changes in the Book of Mormon at the 1994 Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium. He gave a copy to his department chair and dean with a note explaining his intention and asking that they contact him if there were problems. He was informed by his department chair that there was nothing offensive in his paper, and to go ahead with the presentation.60 William A. Wilson, who was on leave from BYU when the statement was released, said he initially did not pay much attention to the issue but became interested when he was asked to present a paper on Mormon humor, one of his specialties. He wrote a letter to his department chair asking that any existing policy on participation at independent forums be put in writing. His chair later said that there was not a written policy—nor would there be one—but that an oral policy was in effect. Wilson withdrew from the symposium.61 Shortly thereafter Lynn England said Provost Bruce Hafen told him BYU prefers that no faculty participate at Sunstone but that there was no policy against participation and there would be no sanctions for doing so.62

The Academic Freedom Statement, First Draft

According to BYU’s reaccreditation 1986 self-study, “The only point of closure [on academic freedom] is that the University will not freely tolerate an advocacy of its destruction through attacking the foundations of the religion that sustains it.” With that guiding philosophy, the university was reaccredited, the fourth time since 1956. The accreditation committee from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges reported that many faculty members believed they had more academic freedom at BYU than at other institutions where they had taught. “BYU could benefit from more ‘loyal opposition,’” the committee said: “[W]hile there are some public policy, moral, and religious positions that BYU faculty cannot advocate with impunity, there is hardly any subject that cannot be explored, described, evaluated, analyzed, and opened for debate within the class room.”63 As discussion surrounding academic freedom began to escalate in the early 1990s, however, faculty members were not so sure of the classroom’s safety. Robert Millet, dean of religious education, advocated self-censorship, instructing his teachers not to do or say anything that would embarrass the church. In contrast, BYU spokesperson Paul Richards told a reporter: “What better place to discuss controversial topics than at a Church-sponsored university where, for [p.188]the most part, the faculty are faithful, devoted members of the Church who can help young people deal with the opposing views they will experience in the world.” He added: “People who cannot tolerate open discussion are basically insecure in their own beliefs.”64

In July 1991, the month before the statement on symposia would be issued, preparations for the next reaccreditation had begun with work on the university’s first formal statement outlining an official policy on academic freedom. A draft of the document, prepared by a committee of administrators and professors and approved “in principle” by the board of trustees,65 was released at the end of April 1992 for faculty review. Up to that point, BYU had not had a written policy on academic freedom. “Academic freedom and subsequent limitations have been inherent in the BYU culture, but they have been too vague in the past,” said James (“Jim”) Gordon III, a professor in the J. Reuben Clark Law School. “There was a genuine need to articulate the standards and clarify the limitations.”66

Working to achieve a balance of individual and institutional rights, the document limited statements or actions that would “seriously and adversely” affect the university’s or the church’s mission. Examples included expression “with students or in public” that: “(1) contradicts fundamental Church doctrines or opposes, rather than merely discusses, official policies of the Church; (2) attacks or derides the Church or its leaders; and (3) violates the Honor Code because the behavior or expression is dishonest, illegal, unchaste, profane, or unduly disrespectful of others.”67 In protecting BYU’s scholars, the document stated, academic freedom must include “not only the institution’s freedom to claim a religious identity but also the individual’s freedom to ask genuine, even difficult questions …. Freedom of thought, belief, inquiry, and expression are crucial no less to the sacred than to the secular quest for truth.”68

Debate surrounded the document from the moment of its release. Sociologist Lynn England worried about the statement’s emphasis on restrictions. “I think the faculty will fear that,” he said. “Given the wording of the document, it doesn’t look like [participation in independent symposiums] will be protected.” Another fear, he continued, was involvement in non-violent protests. England’s colleague Larry Young, for example, routinely was involved in non-violent protests against nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada test site.69 “Peaceful protests, where the only law broken may be trespassing, should be protected,” England said. “It doesn’t appear that will be open to the faculty either.” Clayne Pope, professor of economics, questioned who exactly constituted the “Church leaders we should be wary of ‘attacking.’ Is it a local leader, a regional representative or the apostles and prophet only that the document refers to?” Jim Gordon, vice chair of the committee that drafted the document, said other faculty questions included what is “official church doctrine” and what actions would be taken against those who violate the policies.70

[p.189]Provost Hafen said in press accounts that the statement would not apply to students—only to full-time employees. “Students do not have the same role; they are not employees and do not speak for the university.”71 Nonetheless, the committee gave BYU’s Student Association (BYUSA) a copy of the document and encouraged them to comment. In July Steve Turley and Jason Hall, the two heads of the organization, submitted a letter expressing their concern that “many students have misunderstood the purpose of this document”; they felt it directly impacted them as well as faculty. Turley and Hall advised the committee to state explicitly in the final draft that the document “does not in any way govern the behavior, research, or discussion of students.” They pointed out that the document would “indirectly” affect students due to the “faculty and teachings to which the students will have access.” The student leaders said they understood that “BYU endeavors to provide an education that will foster and not destroy” student faith. “There are students that do not want their testimonies challenged by people whom the Church/University has sanctioned as teachers,” they wrote. “We hope, however, this document will not impede open discussion of any issues and questions which students need raised and examined.”72

On this topic, university spokesperson Paul Richards said that while students would “probably pay a price” if they pursued subjects in a class where they knew a particular professor might take offense, they would not encounter resistance from the administration. “The students have to stop waiting to be told what to do,” Richards said. “Sooner or later they will realize that in order to get things done, they need to stop waiting for someone to tell them they’re not going to get in trouble.” Richards encouraged students to speak their minds. “There are many students who want to have everything so sweetness and light-oriented that they view anyone bringing up controversial issues as some type of dissident,” he said. “We need students who are willing to express themselves even though they might get labeled contentious.”73

BYUSA, on several occasions, worked to interest the larger student body in these issues with varying degrees of success. In one Student Advisory Council forum (SAC is the “government” arm of BYUSA), several students voiced concerns, as had faculty, that the phrase “Church doctrine” in the proposed academic freedom statement was too vague. “If we’re going to call someone on the carpet for contradicting them (Church doctrines), we ought to at least publish in this statement” what the doctrines are so that faculty members won’t get in trouble over areas they weren’t aware of, one student said.74 More common, however, were comments like those from student Chris Simkins, who said the statement rightly protects against classroom criticism of religious subjects. “You weren’t forced to come to BYU,” he told the applauding audience. “If you’re really unhappy, go somewhere else.”75

But a prime example of the indifference BYUSA often encountered came that summer when SAC sponsored a noon “Soapbox,” an open forum for discussion, held outside in the center of campus, where the only rule was [p.190]“Don’t speak sarcastically or negatively of Church officials.”76 A SAC official, after twenty minutes of begging for participation, grew frustrated and tried to provoke a response from the crowd by complaining about their “cowardice and apathy.” Eventually, his efforts bore fruit: one student climbed atop the platform and pleaded, “Would someone tell this guy to shut up? I’m trying to get a date here!”77 In the meantime the Universe ran editorials encouraging students to think for themselves and to form opinions about the issues surrounding academic freedom.78

Teaching assistants (TAs), however, comprised one student group concerned with how the statement would affect them. Some TAs requested policy clarification during an annual training session. The matter was resolved when Associate Vice President John Tanner sent the group a letter stating that the “elaborate” policies were developed for faculty whose “contracts bear a presumption of renewal.” This is usually not the case for teaching assistants, he wrote, but would be for professional faculty such as lab technicians and librarians.79

While critiquing the Academic Freedom Statement and awaiting a draft of the university’s Grounds and Procedures document (specifying how the statement would be implemented and enforced), faculty had other matters vying for their attention. In May 1992 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK), a national honor society for the liberal arts and sciences, rejected BYU’s third bid for a campus chapter. The venerable 215-year-old society said that while BYU is an “institution of excellence,” its “narrow mission statement precludes inquiry. … If students are unable to question, there is no liberal arts education.” Other reasons cited by the group included the university’s lack of professors who were PBK members—at the time there were twenty—and provincialism among the few BYU did have (85 percent were initiated in California, Arizona, or Utah universities). Provost Bruce Hafen called PBK “naive and misinformed about pluralism, and religious liberty in the First Amendment,”80 while Academic Vice President Stan Albrecht believed PBK was “grasping at straws,” “They have egg on their face,” he said. “They seem to be rationalizing their poor decision in not considering BYU for a chapter.” Neil Rasband, an associate dean of general honors education and the faculty member who had submitted BYU’s application, said, “We do not need Phi Beta Kappa. If they demand that we abandon our mission, we will simply go our separate ways.”81 BYU administrators later said they would reapply for a chapter.

Other BYU events relative to the academic freedom discussions surfaced over the summer. Martha Sonntag Bradley, a BYU history professor and recently appointed co-editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,82 told a Salt Lake City newspaper that she had received hate mail for her research and writing.83 An article reporting Bradley’s harassment also discussed the “ongoing intimidation of Mormon intellectuals” by local and general church leaders and the founding of the Mormon Defense League, [p.191]later called the Mormon Alliance, dedicated to documenting and combating cases of “ecclesiastical spiritual abuse.”84 (For more on these events and their outcomes, see chap. 7.) Feeding this tense environment were rampant rumors of an “academic hit list” of BYU professors the board of trustees wanted ousted. The Associated Press and other media looked into the rumor, and, when asked, Provost Bruce C. Hafen firmly stated: “No, we have not been given a letter listing faculty members to be investigated.” He did say the administration had recently received a letter about a professor, but that it did not originate with the board of trustees; it was only “passed down from the board.”85

In August 1992, as the university was preparing for the returning throngs of fall students, the annual University Conference for faculty convened. President Rex E. Lee addressed the topic of academic freedom: “We firmly reject the notion that we must choose between being either a high-class university or a seminary …. Our great strength is in the mutual support that each of these derives from the other.” He encouraged all university employees to be “BYU ambassadors” twenty-four hours a day. In addressing the extent of academic freedom enjoyed by facility, Lee said that BYU “actually enjoys a greater measure of academic freedom …. When it comes to matters that really count … our range of uninhibited academic freedom is both broader and richer than at any other institution in the world.”

At the same time Lee, who had himself spoken at Sunstone by invitation in the mid-1980s, also reaffirmed that the warning to members in the church’s statement on symposia “surely includes all BYU personnel” and warned that, in some contexts. “agreeing to speak can itself carry an implied endorsement” of the whole symposium.86 “We are especially saddened at the participation of our own members, especially those who hold church or other positions that give them stature among Latter-day Saints, and who have allowed their stature to be used to promote such presentations,” he said.87 “If there has ever been another comparable statement during my lifetime, I cannot recall it. … There are certain things we should do privately rather than publicly,” he added, “certain issues and points of view that should more appropriately be raised directly with the persons affected, rather than with a broader audience.”88

In his speech to the fall conference, Hafen explained that the mission of BYU “embraces all truth” but gives “priority to the truths that lead to Christ.” “We cannot allow our most sacred premises to be altered or even minimized by secularist assumptions,” he said. Hafen thought that “spiritual lives are at stake” in resolving the fundamental question of faith versus reason. He warned that some of the deepest “spiritual casualties” are inflicted when a “thoughtful student senses, even through subtle hints, that a BYU teacher she respects is cynical about the Church.” Hafen also said he knew of students who were “too trusting, too reliant on authority figures, and …[who] expect the Holy Ghost to do their thinking for them. We must rouse [p.192]them from their dogmatic slumbers.” Nonetheless, he cautioned against the public expression of disagreements over church issues, discussions that “may simply spray another burst of spiritual shrapnel through the ranks of trusting and vulnerable students.”89

Academic Freedom Statement: The Final Version

In September 1992 a final draft of the Academic Freedom Statement was delivered to the university’s approximately 1,400 faculty. Vice chair Jim Gordon said his committee worked to incorporate concerns and suggestions gleaned from the fifty or so memos and letters they had received.90 Some felt that because the draft was circulated during the spring and summer, when many professors were off campus, there were fewer comments than there normally would have been. But Gordon’s co-chair, John Tanner, took the low response rate as a sign that there was a “certain degree of basic acceptance [of the document] among faculty members.”91 Indeed, professors were satisfied. Nevertheless, as organizational behavior professor J. Bonner Ritchie pointed out, “Some want more limits, and some want more open doors. The difference comes on both sides of the continuum.”92 The final draft stated that any limitation on academic freedom must be “narrowly drawn so as not to impede the robust interchange of ideas,” and the guidelines now acknowledged the freedom to “discuss and advocate controversial and unpopular ideas.” Professor Douglas Campbell told a Universe reporter he appreciated that addition: “Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to discuss such areas as evolution, the position of women in the Church, the Mountain Meadow Massacre or blacks and the priesthood.”93

To others, that opportunity was not as apparent.94 Lynn England, chair of the Sociology department, continued to express concerns about the “psychological impact” of the document. “It might lead some faculty to be afraid to do research or take positions based on their data that don’t agree with positions of church leadership,” he said.95 German professor Scott Abbott made a similar point: “Although the new Statement ‘“argues that academic freedom must include the individual’s freedom to ‘ask hard questions,’ it also says that faculty behavior must not ‘seriously and adversely affect the university mission or the church.’“ Abbott continued: “As long as the work is unrelated to Mormonism, and as long as it is real scholarship, BYU will permit it.” But if the subject is human sexuality, feminism, or politically sensitive topics, then “a pattern of arbitrary micromanagement arises.”96 An example of what Abbott described, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, was the case of BYU sociologist Tim Heaton, who had been criticized by school and church officials after publishing research on premarital sex among Mormon women. For one of Abbott’s colleagues, Bill Davis, the school’s reaction to Heaton’s work was one more reason convincing him and his spouse, non-Mormon psychology professor Tomi-Ann Roberts,97 to leave the university. [p.193]“If I am not free to take basic LDS principles and translate them into my own political opinions, then I don’t feel I belong at BYU,” Davis said.98

Finally in October administrators released a draft of policies that would implement the ideas of the Academic Freedom Statement. In the cover letter to the Grounds and Procedures Document, President Rex Lee reiterated the “long-standing expectation” that all LDS faculty at BYU are “active members of the Church in good standing.” He wrote:

Through ecclesiastical channels, the Church will periodically remind Bishops and Stake Presidents that LDS faculty at BYU should meet the standards of conduct consistent with qualifying for temple privileges. Bishops will be invited to communicate with their Stake President only if there is an excommunication, disfellowshipment, or failure for a reasonable period of time to meet the standards of conduct consistent with qualifying for temple privileges. In such cases, Stake Presidents may then contact a single confidential source in the Academic Vice President’s office. When the circumstances are deemed to warrant it, the vice president will contact the individual, who, if appropriate, will be invited to resolve the concern with ecclesiastical leaders within a reasonable time.99

BYU spokesperson Brent Harker worried that the Grounds and Procedures document gave the appearance that “we are pulling out some big guns to shoot someone. I just hope that we don’t communicate to the faculty that we are circling the wagons and preparing for war.” He said that in the past, faculty terminations were rare, and “there is no indication the situation will be on the rise.”100 English professor Gail Turley Houston, who would be placed on probation the following year and fired in 1996, was publicly critical of the two documents. Specifically, she was concerned that faculty members were not allowed to vote on them; that the faculty and administration have a “hierarchical, theocratic” relationship, rather than the traditional university standard of faculty governance; and that faculty members are required to be “models of spirituality” even though no one should be responsible for another’s personal faith.101 (For more on Houston, see chap. 8.) English professor Eugene England said the temple worthiness standard should not have been put on paper. Although he acknowledged the standard had always been expected, he found it a “little intrusive” in written form, adding that “it starts to look like it’s going to be used as a tool against you.”102

Several weeks later religion dean Robert Millet acknowledged during a faculty conference what he saw as a “painful reality”: it is “extremely difficult for faith to survive in a purely academic climate.” He elaborated: “The fact of the matter is that we do not have academic freedom at BYU in exactly the same sense that we might have it elsewhere,” an admission that seemingly contradicted Lee’s notion that the school actually has “more academic freedom” than universities elsewhere. “The apostasy”—referring to the Mormon [p.194]concept that Christianity had fallen into spiritual darkness prior to the advent of Mormonism— was long and deep and broad; it made its way into every phase of human endeavor and study, not just religion,” he continued. Nonetheless, “[t]he People in a covenant society are committed to a cause higher than anything earthly; they have matured beyond the point where they feel any desire to rebel or bristle under standards.”103 During the church’s semi-annual general conference that October, Elder Boyd K. Packer took that idea a step further: “For those very few whose focus is secular and who feel restrained as students or as teachers,” he said, “there are over 3,500 colleges and universities where they may find the kind of freedom they value.”104 The next week, during a BYU devotional address, first counselor in the First Presidency Gordon B. Hinckley adopted a more healing tone. “You have the trust and confidence of the governing board,” he assured the faculty, whom he called “colleagues” (in contrast to Packer’s term, “employees”). “I am confident that never in the history of this institution has there been a faculty better qualified professionally, nor one more loyal and dedicated to the standards of its sponsoring institution.” Nevertheless, he added, “that trust involves standards of behavior as well as standards of academic excellence.” It is not that church leaders do not trust BYU professors, he said. “But we feel that you need reminding of the elements of your contract with those responsible for this institution …. Every one of us who is here has accepted a sacred and compelling trust,” he said. “With that trust, there must be accountability.”105


Faculty were not the only ones at BYU to find themselves subject to newly written policies in 1992. In November of that year, Michelle Warner, a full-ride presidential scholar, asked that her name be formally removed from LDS church records after confronting doubts she had about the church. She understood that she would lose her scholarship and would pay the higher non-LDS tuition rate, but she did not expect a letter from BYU’s dean of admissions stating that, without the required ecclesiastical endorsement, she could not continue at the Mormon school. When Warner did not subsequently experience a “change of heart,” she was officially excommunicated, expelled from BYU, and told she could not appeal the actions. In widely circulated news articles, BYU’s chief legal counsel, Eugene Bramhall, said the university had started drafting a policy on the difference between voluntarily withdrawing one’s name from the church rolls and formal excommunication.106 A subsequent article in the Daily Universe quoted school officials as saying they would handle each case on an individual basis. The article gave examples of two students who had disaffiliated themselves from the church but had not been asked to leave.107

Such ongoing controversies and policies—fueling the fear of some observers that BYU was becoming more like a Bob Jones University than a [p.195]Notre Dame108—prompted reports that at least seven professors were looking for “greener pastures.” David Knowlton said BYU’s handling of certain issues had created an “institutionalized paranoia” that left some faculty members looking over their shoulders.109 Botany professor Sam Rushforth, who, at the time, had been at the university for twenty-two years, explained, “I’m looking around because I believe there are other places where a friendlier atmosphere toward exploration and discovery exists.” Associate Academic Vice President John Tanner said that some of the professors contemplating leaving were uncomfortable in the Mormon culture anyway, but conceded that with approximately 40 percent of BYU’s faculty expected to retire by the twenty-first century, the controversies could harm recruitment.110 For example, Astrid Tuminez, a highly recruited BYU graduate who received her Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, told reporters in 1992 that “I don’t want to be in a situation where I feel paranoid and have to watch out for everything,” she said. “If the church meddles too much in the university or takes a dictatorial stance on intellectual issues, I would have a problem taking a job there.”111 (Several years later various BYU officials would tell the media that the university had a steady stream of good candidates to choose from, due at least in part to a dismal academic job market generally.112)

Academic freedom debates Came to a head when it was announced during the summer of 1993 that both Cecilia Konchar Farr and David Knowlton, two outspoken young faculty members who had received considerable media coverage during their first three years at BYU, had been officially terminated. Both had received high teacher evaluations and had publishing records comparable to others who passed the usually perfunctory third-year reviews, prompting some to cry foul when the school explained that their dismissals were a result of scholarship deficiencies, not problems with their citizenship in the BYU community. Here, less than a year later, were two cases to test the limits of the church’s statement on symposia and the integrity of BYU’s new Academic Freedom Statement—all within a very public arena.


1. Richard Sherlock, “Campus in Crisis,” Sunstone, May 1985, 30-35; Gary James Bergera, “The 1911 Evolution Controversy at Brigham Young University,” in Gene A. Sessions and Craig J. Oberg, eds” The Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 23-41.

2. D. Michael Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath),” in George D. Smith, ed., Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 69-111.

3. Geoffry M. Thatcher, “Combine Secular with Spiritual, Hafen Says,” Daily Universe, 22 Nov. 1991. Richards said that while the university perceived Wright’s [p.196]views as attacking the foundation of the church, “From my perspective, I saw that it was not to threaten or tear down but expand the ways we can deal with conflicts that arise.”

4. “BYU Receives High Marks in Reaccreditation,” Sunstone, Jan. 1987, 45.

5. Dawn Tracy, “Despite Some limitations, Y. Teachers Report They Have Academic Freedom,” Salt Lake Tribune, 2 Apr. 1986; “BYU Receives High Marks in Reaccreditation,” 45.

6. Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath),” 91-92; Lavina Fielding Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 (Spring 1993): 24.

7. Dallin H. Oaks, “Criticism,” Ensign 17 (Feb. 1987): 68-73; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 26.

8. “Apostle Answers Queries,” Sunstone, Nov. 1987, 45. The interview appeared on KUTV, a Salt Lake City television station. Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 30.

9. Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath),” 92-94.

10. Quinn, “A Marketplace of Ideas, a House of Faith, and a Prison of Conformity,” Student Review, 6 Apr. 1988; reprinted in Sunstone, Mar. 1988, 6-7.

11. Ballif to Wright, 13 June 1988.

12. Wright, “Statement,” 21 July 1988, reprinted in Sunstone, May 1988, 44. For student responses to Wright’s firing and for samples from his written class evaluations, see Stirling Adams, “Scholar Dismissed: BYU Releases Professor for Religious Beliefs,” Student Review, 21 Sept. 1988.

13. “BYU Professor Terminated for Book of Mormon Beliefs,” Sunstone, May 1988, 43-44.

14. Cited in Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath),” 94.

15. Ibid.

16. “Elder Packer Provokes Academics,” Sunstone, July 1988, 49-51; Packer, “The Law and the Light,” 30 Oct. 1988, BYU fireside address.

17. Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign 19 (May 1989): 5.

18. Oaks, “Alternate Voices,” Ensign 19 (May 1989): 27-30. Sociologist Armand Mauss responded with the exhortation to “endure to the end. The calling of ‘alternate voice’ is too important for us to allow ourselves either to be intimidated by the exercise of unrighteous dominion or to be silenced by our own fatigue.” Mauss, “Alternate Voices: The Calling and Its Implications,” Sunstone, Apr. 1990, 7-10. Anderson, “The LDS intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 30.

19. Pace, “Follow the Prophet,” Ensign 19 (May 1989): 25-27.

20. Nelson, “The Canker of Contention,” Ensign 19 (May 1989): 68-71; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 31.

21. England, “Reflections on Academic Freedom at BYU: Prior Restraint and Guilt by Association,” Student Review, 12 Apr. 1989.

22. “Comments on Temple Changes Elicit Church Discipline,” Sunstone, June 1990, 59; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 33-34.

23. This came from a talk on the four important cornerstones of the LDS Church. The cornerstone this example illustrated was “To Keep the Church Doctrinally Pure.” See “President Hinckley Renounces [sic] Praying to Mother in Heaven,” Sunstone, Sept. 1991, 69-70.

24. “Statement,” Deseret News, 31 Aug. 1991. There was no accompanying news article or editor’s note.

25. Vern Anderson (A.P.), “LDS Church Censures Group of Intellectuals,” Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Oct. 1991.

[p.197]26. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS Church Decries Sunstone Sessions, Calls Content Insensitive, Offensive,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Aug. 1991.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Vern Anderson, “LDS Church Censures Group of Intellectuals.”

30. Ibid.

31. Stack, “LDS Church Decries Sunstone Sessions.”

32. Lavina Fielding Anderson Diary, 4 Apr. 1992; “Church Issues Statement on ‘Symposia,’” Sunstone, Sept. 1991, 58-59.

33. Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 36.

34. Anderson, “LDS Church Censures Group of Intellectuals”; David Knowlton, “Of Things in the Heavens, on the Earth, and in the Church,”Sunstone, Oct. 1991, 12-15; Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Academic Freedom Still Questioned on BYU Campus,” Daily Universe, 20 Nov. 1991.

35. Anderson, “LDS Church Censures Group of Intellectuals”; Earnest Phillips II, “Elder Packer Warns of Intellectual Dangers,” Daily Universe, 7 Oct. 1991.

36. Packer, “Reverence Invites Revelation,” Ensign 21 (Nov. 1991): 21-23; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 36.

37. Didier, “Testimony,” Ensign 21 (Nov. 1991): 62-64; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 36.

38. Ashton, “Strengthen the Feeble Knees,” Ensign 21 (Nov. 1991): 71; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 36.

39. Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Academic Freedom Still Questioned on BYU Campus,” Daily Universe, 20 Nov. 1991.

40. Vern Anderson (A.P.), “BYU Sociologists Say They Fear Intimidation From LDS Leaders,” Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Feb. 1992; Associated Press, “Excerpts From Letter to Lee Reflect Concern of Faculty,” Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Feb. 1992. The memo, which had undergone a number of drafts over several months, was leaked by Knowlton, an act that angered many of his colleges who had hoped to engage BYU administrators in a constructive, private dialogue. “We didn’t want it to appear that we were lining up against President Lee,” Lynn England told the A.P. “We wanted this to be something that stood in support of him that simply informed him of a departmental concern. It was neither an attack on him nor on the Board of Trustees, for that matter.”

41. Copy in our possession. See also “BYU Memo Highlights Academic Freedom Issue,” Sunstone, Feb. 1992, 62-63; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 41. Several months earlier Lynn England had told the Daily Universe that BYU was supportive of myriad academic venues. “When I was on the Faculty Advisory Council we were always reassured that faculty had the freedom to choose what they wanted to participate in,” he said. Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Professors’ Freedom Questioned,” Daily Universe, 21 Nov. 1991.

42. Two years later the Universe would again be the site of a debate over the value of Sunstone. One student wrote a letter to the editor in which he described running across “something that [he] would have never expected to find in the BYU library”—a copy of Sunstone magazine. Jason Bringhurst scanned it to see if it really was as bad as he had heard. It was, he concluded. “This magazine basically, without going into a lot of detail, expresses apostate views of members and former members, or should I say intellectual views, or views that differ from the Brethren … however you paint the picture it still spells APOSTASY!” he wrote. Bringhurst wondered why BYU would want this in the library, where “all students have free access to it? Is this the type of material that the Lord would have us’ read?” he asked. Bringhurst to the editor, Daily Universe, 19 Jan. 1994, emphasis in original. Bringhurst’s letter prompted a variety of responses. Several readers signed a [p.198]letter stating, “If your testimony can be shaken by a falling Sunstone or two then you obviously need to gain a stronger foundation for your beliefs.” They also defended the library’s right to carry the magazine. “A university is defined by the scale and scope of its research facilities,” they wrote. “If we were to categorically rid ourselves of each piece of literature that offends some self-righteous student, the library would shortly be reduced to pabulum and milksop.” Joseph Ficklin, Scott Faulring, and Raymond Daniel to the editor, Daily Universe, 25 Jan. 1994. Sunstone editor Elbert Peck also chimed in, challenging the ‘‘‘apostate’ label” Bringhurst had attached to Sunstone. “Without question, the overwhelming majority of Sunstone’s authors and readers are church-going, calling-holding, believing Latter-day Saints who read Sunstone because it engages their hearts and minds about things they care about the most,” he wrote. Peck acknowledged that those “few whose sole religious diet is Sunstone forums put themselves in danger of spiritual malnutrition. Sunstone is at best a supplement to the full course the Church offers,” he wrote. “But its dangers are no greater than dozens of other paths to apostasy, including that of the Pharisees—having the outward appearance of righteous activity but lacking the gift of charity.” Peck to the editor, Daily Universe, 1 Feb 1994.

43.Sunstone Symposium Not an Academic Forum,” Daily Universe, 26 Feb. 1992. Sunstone reported that the editorial was ghost-written, in part, by a professor; see “BYU Memo Highlights Academic Freedom,” 63.

44. Eugene England and Edward Kimball to the editor, Daily Universe, 4 Mar. 1992; emphasis in original.

45. Knowlton, “Meaning of Church’s Statement Open to Multiple Interpretations,” Daily Universe, 4 Mar. 1992. See also James E. Chapman to the editor, Salt Lake Tribune, 12 Aug. 1992.

46. Gulbrandsen, “LDS Foes Love Sunstone,” Daily Universe, II Mar. 1992.

47. Waterman to the editor, Daily Universe, 12 Mar. 1992. The brouhaha prompted Waterman, who had read Sunstone but had never been to a Sunstone symposium, to attend the conference that August. In a report of his experience there, Waterman debunked three common myths the Universe and others had perpetuated. First, the symposium was clearly academic, Waterman wrote. “In almost every case, the talks were presented by people well prepared professionally to speak on their subjects.” Second, the general atmosphere was not rebellious or contentious, he wrote. “Instead” many speakers focused on the need the LDS intellectual community has to make peace with the main body of the Church.” Third, the Spirit was “not sacrificed to appease the intellect.” After attending the “Pillars of My Faith” session, featuring BYU organizational behavior professor Bonner Ritchie’s and others’ faith journeys, Waterman wrote, “The Spirit attending the session was more intense by far than any Sacrament meeting or fireside I have attended in years.” Waterman, “Symposium is Academic,” Daily Universe, 12 Aug. 1992.

48. Jannae Jensen, “Professors Agree with LDS Stand on Symposia,” Daily Universe, 29 Apr. 1992.

49. Waterman to the editor, Daily Universe, 6 May 1992.

50. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Despite Church Warnings, 1,500 Attended Sunstone Symposium,” Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Aug. 1992. See also Jan Thompson, “Scholars at Symposium Debate BYU Document on Academic Freedom,” Deseret News, 8 Aug. 1992.

51. Stack, “Despite Church Warnings.”

52. This has not necessarily been the case for regional Sunstone symposia. Although many factors contribute to good or poor attendance—the speakers, the topics, the location, the publicity, weather conditions—editor Elbert Peck says the statement has driven some attendees away.

[p.199]53. Nelson, “An Overview of Selected Revelations in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times,” LDS Church News, 2 Jan. 1993.

54. Stephen E. Robinson, “Doctrine That Made a Difference,” Ensign 23 (Oct.  1993): 15.

55. Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Professors’ Freedom Questioned.” In that article, Provost Bruce Hafen added that if professors decide not to follow the counsel of the statement that was between them and the church. “We have not been asked to interpret that statement to BYU faculty,” he said. Eugene England pointed out that, nonetheless, the statement was intimidating because “if it were to go to the point of anyone’s [temple] recommend being pulled, their standing at the university would be at risk.” Hafen replied: “I hope we don’t have to address that issue.”

56. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “BYU Professors Uncertain on Conferences,” Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Oct. 1994; Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Y. Teachers Pull out of Feminist Conference,” Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Oct. 1994.

57. For more on Epperson’s firing, see Scott Abbott, “On Ecclesiastical Endorsement at Brigham Young University,” Sunstone, Apr. 1997, 9-14. See also chap. 9.

58. Stack, “BYU Professors Uncertain on Conferences”; Stack, “Y. Teachers Pull out of Feminist Conference.”

59. Stack, “BYU Professors Uncertain on Conferences.”

60. Authors’ interview.

61. Authors’ interview.

62. Authors’ interview.

63. “BYU Receives High Marks in Reaccreditation,” Sunstone, 45. The social sciences were criticized as an area where “a latent but pervasive constraint on academic freedom does lurk.” Specifically, the college’s lack of diversity “does not create an intellectual environment which fosters controversy, dissent and debate—the essential stuff of a vibrant intellectual climate,” the accreditation committee reported.

64. Thatcher, “Combine Secular with Spiritual, Hafen Says.”

65. “BYU Memo Highlights Academic Freedom Issue,” Sunstone, Feb. 1992, 64. John S. Tanner and James D. Gordon were the chair and vice chair of the ten-member Committee on Competence and Academic Freedom. The members of the committee were Stephen E. Robinson, religious education; W. Steve Albrecht, accounting; Mary Stovall Richards, history; Barbara Lockhart, physical education; Allen W. Palmer, communications; Steven R. Goates, chemistry; Dennis L. Thomson, political science; and Eugene H. Bramhall, general counsel. Brooke Adams, “Draft Document at BYU Notes Limits of Academic Freedom,” Deseret News, 30 Apr. 1992.

66. Adams, “Draft Document at BYU Notes Limits of Academic Freedom.”

67. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “BYU President Issues Paper on ‘Freedom,’“ Salt Lake Tribune, 1 May 1992. One Orem resident, responding to Stack’s article, said that BYU may be guilty of “false advertising” in calling itself a “university.” “A university, it may be argued, is a place where truth is both searched for and taught,” he wrote. “The search for truth is inevitably compromised if it is conducted in an atmosphere in which it must be molded to avoid conflict with religious dogma. In a real university, dissent is not only tolerated, it is encouraged.” Charles E. Strother to the editor, Salt Lake Tribune, 17 May 1992.

68. “Draft Statement on Academic Freedom,” 30 Apr. 1992, copy in our possession; Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 42.

69. This issue came to a head in 1993 when Young and another BYU sociologist, Jim Duke, helped organize a “Mormon Peace Gathering” during which more than a dozen BYU faculty and students were arrested for trespassing on the federal test site. No action was taken against Young or the others, though the protest cre-[p.200]ated a stir on campus. See Russell Fox, “Forty Mormons Arrested at Nevada Test Site During First Mormon Peace Gathering,” Sunstone, Nov. 1993, 76-77. For Young’s reaction at the time of the academic freedom statement, see Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Academic Freedom Defined for Faculty,” Daily Universe, 5 May 1992.

70. Brian Kagel, “Eyebrows Raise Over Faculty Policy,” Daily Universe, 13 May 1992.

71. Dallas Scholes, “BYU Statement Puts Practiced Principles in Writing, Professor Says,” Deseret News, 2 May 1992.

72. Steven C. Turley and Stephen Jason Hall, “Opinion of the Student Advisory Council Regarding the Proposed Statement on Academic Freedom,” 17 July 1992, copy in our possession. See also Stacey A. Leonard, “Forums, Opinions Basis for Report on Freedom Statement,” Daily Universe, 21 July 1992.

73. Trent Ricks, “Is Academic Freedom Possible at BYU?” Daily Universe, 20 Nov. 1991.

74. Wendy C. Wright, “Academic Freedom Statement Vague, Students Say at Forum,” Daily Universe, 17 July 1992.

75. Stacy A. Leonard, “Students Express Views at Soapbox,” Daily Universe, 2 July 1992.

76. Trent Ricks, “Is Academic Freedom Possible at BYU?”

77. Brian Kagel, notes from the meeting. Earlier, the Daily Universe had tried to interest students in these issues by running a page of faculty essays headlined “When Faith Conflicts with Scholarship.” “It is true that some secular ideas are not compatible with the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is true that some persons are destroyed spiritually by the university experience,” wrote Chauncy Riddle, professor of philosophy, in one essay. “But it is also true that there need be no destruction of an individual’s faith in Christ in even the most adversarial university environment. The real question is, how ready to meet the world is an individual?” Riddle asked. “Secular Ideas Needn’t Kill Religious Faith,” Daily Universe, 12 Nov. 1991.

78. “Freedom Statement Offers Understanding,” Daily Universe, 13 May 1992.

79. John S. Tanner to Margaret Wolley, “Academic Freedom for TAs,” 27 July 1993, copy in our possession. See also Wendy A. Bell, “Tanner Says Proposal Presents Opportunities, Not Academic Limitations,” Daily Universe, 14 July 1992.

80. Wendy C. Wright and Tad R. Walch, “Phi Beta Kappa Won’t Let BYU In, Cites V’s Mission,” Daily Universe, 20 May 1992.

81. Wright and Walch, “Phi Beta Kappa.”

82. A Universe article identified Bradley as “the first [Dialogue] editor to serve while concurrently employed” by the LDS church. According to the Universe, Bradley said she recognized that some may see her editorship as inappropriate given her teaching appointment at BYU. She added that while she and her co-editor, Allen Roberts, didn’t plan to shy away from controversial topics, they would try to distance themselves from Sunstone and the image it has created. “I know how important it is when you’re playing with people’s faith,” Bradley said. Ken Meyers, “Can BYU and Dialogue Mix?” Daily Universe, 19 May 1992.

83.. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “BYU Professors Mix Politics, Culture, Academics,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Oct. 1992.

84. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS Intelligentsia Is Grouping to Fight Defamation,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 June 1992. The Mormon Alliance’s founding trustees were Paul and Margaret Toscano, Janice Merrill Allred, Erin Silva, and Paul Swenson. Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 44.

85. Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Academic ‘Hit List’ Rumor Untrue, Provost Assures,” Daily Universe, 22 July 1992. The faculty names most often connected with the “list” were Cecilia Konchar Farr, Tomi-Ann Roberts, Marie Cornwall, Martha [p.201]Sonntag Bradley, David Knowlton, and Sam Rushforth. Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership,” 44-45.

86. Dennis Romboy, “Mingling Academics, Religion Brings Freedom, Y. Chief Says,” Deseret News, 25 Aug. 1992. Lee also said the idea that the church should abandon its attempts at higher education and sell BYU because of the controversies over academic freedom was “borderline nonsense,” a sentiment that has been confirmed by other BYU officials and general authorities. Some felt Lee may have been responding to former BYU political science professor Omar Kader, who said in August at the Sunstone Symposium that giving up control was the only way the church could “avoid the negative attention it will continue to draw by curtailing academic freedom in the name of doctrinal purity.” Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Critics: For BYU’s Good, Church Must Loosen Grip,” Salt Lake Tribune, 9 Aug. 1992.

87. Dawn House, “Lee: BYU Leads World’s Schools in Freedom of Speech, Research,” Salt Lake Tribune, 25 Aug. 1992. “It would be nice to have private discussions,” responded David Knowlton, in the same article. “But there is no way to protect oneself against the capricious intervention by church leaders in day-to-day academic life.”

88. At the same conference Robert Millet, BYU’s dean of religious education, said professors can freely debate ideas among their colleagues, family, and friends. But faculty should not publicly criticize the church while collecting a BYU paycheck. “It is not so much a matter of freedom,” Millet said, “as a matter of covenant.” See House, “Lee: BYU Leads World’s Schools in Freedom of Speech, Research.”

89. Hafen, “The Dream is Ours to Fulfill,” Addresses Delivered at the 1992 ,University Conference (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1992). One example of the public comments on these issues in letters to the editor includes a BYU graduating senior who said that he was “disgusted” by professors who “refuse to see the higher purposes” of the university and have “suggested that the church abandon BYU so that they can pursue only the academic side of education.” Richard Farr to the editor, Deseret News, 12 Sept. 1992. See also Michael J. Barrett to the editor, Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Oct. 1992; William Norman Grigg to the editor, Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Nov. 1992; Carolyn J. Harmer to the editor, Deseret News, 26 Mar. 1993; R. W. Rasband to the editor, Deseret News, 28 Mar. 1993; James Siebach to the editor, Deseret News, 7 Apr. 1993.

90. Brian Kagel and David Farnworth, “Freedom Statement Delivered to Faculty Daily Universe, 18 Sept. 1992.

91. Tanner said that some of the suggestions were substantial; others centered on a word or two or tone. A number of faculty wanted clear notice that his or her expression had violated the document’s guidelines before any disciplinary action could be taken. Scott D. Tiffany, “Faculty Gives Proposal Mixed Reviews,” Daily Universe, 16 July 1992.

92. Peg McEntee (A.P.), “BYU Tries to Juggle Faith, Free Thinking,” Salt Lake Tribune, 6 June 1992.

93. Brian Kagel, “Faculty Positive About New Statement,” Daily Universe, 8 June 1992.

94. John M. Armstrong, a philosophy student, wrote that one serious problem with the academic freedom document was that it assumed there is a set of values that all LDS people have in common. The list of fundamental LDS values and doctrines is shorter for some people than it is for others, he argued. “It seems inevitable that, in the coming years, those with the long lists will want all others to adhere to their lists.” Armstrong wrote that when others “do not adhere, and the peer review process upholds the opinions of the so-called ‘rebel,’ there is nothing to stop those people with the long lists from contacting their General Authority friends as they [p.202]have done historically in an effort to squelch the infidel.” Armstrong to the editor, Daily Universe, 27 May 1992.

95. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Will BYU Guidelines Bring More Academic Freedom?” Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Sept. 1992. England added that occasionally church leaders “deserve to be criticized and opposed. As scholars we need to be free to point out where they have made mistakes,” he said.

96. Peggy Fletcher Stack and Michael Phillips, “The Mind May Know No Boundaries, But Intellectual Pursuit Does at BYU,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Oct. 1992.

97. Roberts, whose feminism and pro-choice position on abortion caused her problems on campus, said she was looking for a new job because she felt “muffled.” “There isn’t an avenue of discussion for issues that are controversial in this culture,” she said. Geoffrey M. Thatcher (A.P.), “BYU Instructors Seek Greener, Freer Pastures,” Salt Lake Tribune, 23 Nov. 1992. For more on Davis and Roberts, see Geoffrey M. Thatcher, “Husband, Wife Team Find Niche at BYU,” Daily Universe, 16 Apr. 1991. On their departure from BYU, see Rachel Poulsen and Bryan Waterman, “An Interview with Tomi-Ann Roberts and Bill Davis,” Student Review, 24 Mar. 1993.

98. Fletcher and Phillips, “The Mind May Know No Boundaries”; “BYU Continues to Debate Academic Freedom Issue,” Sunstone, Mar. 1993, 63.

99. Copy of letter in our possession.

100. Brian Kagel, “Freedom Plan Addendum to Be Reviewed,” Daily Universe, 7 Oct. 1992.

101. Gail Turley Houston, “Opinion,” Student Review, 4 Nov. 1992.

102. Dennis Romboy, “Y. Draft Policy Outlines University, Religious Roles,” Deseret News, 12 Oct. 1992.

103. Millet, “BYU as a Covenant Community: Implications for Excellence, Distinctiveness, and Academic Freedom,” BYU Faculty Lecture, 29 Oct. 1992, later published as a booklet, copy in our possession.

104. Packer, “‘To Be Learned Is Good If … ,’” Ensign 22 (Nov. 1992): 71-73.

105. Associated Press, “Hinckley Relieves Faculty Fears of New Discipline Policy at BYU,” Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Oct. 1992; Hinckley, “Trust and Accountability,” BYU 1992-93 Devotionals and Fireside Speeches (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1993), 21-27.

106. Vern Anderson (A.P.), “BYU Will Put to Paper Unwritten Policy on LDS Students who Leave the Church,” Salt Lake Tribune 20 Feb. 1993. See also Vern Anderson (A.P.), “BYU Bans Students Who Quit LDS Church,” Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Mar. 1993; Michelle Erickson, “Students Who Leave LDS Church Must Also Leave BYU,” Daily Universe, 22 Mar. 1993; Michelle Erickson, “Some Students Attend Local Church,” Daily Universe, 22 Mar. 1993.

107. Michelle Erickson, “Y. Enrollment Reviewed Case by Case,” Daily Universe, 23 Mar. 1993.

108. Peggy Fletcher Stack, “BYU, Notre Dame Balance Missions As Spiritual Schools in Secular World,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Oct. 1992. Scott Abbott said those who worry about BYU becoming too secular should be equally fearful that “it will become sectarian like Liberty Baptist or Bob Jones University.” See Stack and Phillips, “Critics: For BYU’s Good,” Salt Lake Tribune, 9 Aug. 1992.

109. Stack and Phillips, “Critics: For BYU’s Good.”

110. Thatcher, “BYU Instructors Seek Greener, Freer Pastures.”

111. Stack and Phillips, “The Mind May Know No Boundaries.”

112. Mark Eddington, “BYU Luring First-Rate Faculty, Official Says,” Daily Herald, 11 Dec. 1996; Michelle Kowalski, “Faculty in Steady Supply Despite Y’s Religous Emphasis,” Daily Universe, 13 Dec. 1996.