Non-Mormons lose own course

A version of a required class on The Book of Mormon tailored to the uninitiated is canceled

By Sheena McFarland
The Salt Lake Tribune



   Adista Regar is nervous about delving into next semester's course work at Brigham Young University.

   It is not the film courses her major requires or the general English classes she must take that have the international student from Indonesia worried. It is the rigorous Book of Mormon class required of all BYU students.

   Regar, a practicing Muslim whose parents agreed to send her to BYU because of the Provo school's strict honor code, does not mind learning about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU.

   But she and other non-Mormon students are lamenting BYU's cancellation of a Book of Mormon class designed specifically for them.

   They fear their grades may be adversely affected when they are thrown into classes with peers who have studied Mormon scripture since they could read. "Not everyone is familiar with the scriptures, and the normal Book of Mormon courses are designed for someone familiar with the scriptures," Regar said.

   She emphasizes that she does not expect special treatment as a non-Mormon student.

   "I don't want a nonmember class to make a nonmembers club," she said. "It's just that there are questions you can ask and things you can discuss more easily with a nonmember class."

   BYU started making accommodations for its nearly 300 non-LDS students in 2000 by offering a section of the Book of Mormon class for nonmembers. The class ended, however, with the retirement of Paul Warner, the faculty member who proposed the class.

   The school decided against continuing the class because it already offers another option for non-Mormon students, said John Livingstone, associate chairman of the department of church history and doctrine.

   Students twice a year may enroll in an Introduction to Mormonism class that gives a basic overview of LDS doctrine and practices.

   "The introductory class really is the place for good basic questions," he said. "Students feel a lot more comfortable in their other religion courses after taking it."

   In a statement, BYU outlined several other reasons for canceling the class.

   The school said, for example, that it does not believe it is a good practice to offer different versions of the Book of Mormon class when it does not do the same for other religion courses, such as a Doctrine and Covenants course all students must take.

   In addition, the statement says the Book of Mormon courses offer the easiest text and the classes are often filled with freshmen.

   "BYU students, whether LDS or not, are capable and bright. Years of experience with mainstreaming students of other faiths, including those for whom English is their second language, have proven that by effective study, attendance and attitude they can and do succeed in LDS Book of Mormon classes," the statement said.

   Regar said she has taken the introductory class and is unconvinced she is sufficiently prepared to take religion courses with Mormon students.

   "Most of us want the nonmember classes not because we're special students, but because we're intimidated in regular classes," she said. "There are things that are obvious to members. We ask questions that would be completely a waste of time for Mormon kids, and members themselves may want to talk about things beyond our comprehension."