"I want you to understand that this decision has nothing to do with what you said about me," Brother Simmons told me yesterday. "You can think or say whatever you want about me. What you can't do is violate the Honor Code that you signed and expect to have a BYU diploma hanging on your wall."
"I haven't used my mutant ability in months, and when I did, I confessed it to my bishop." I had little hope that anything I could say--or was willing to say--would change Brother Simmons's mind, but I thought this worth mentioning.
"You know that's not the issue, Brother Christensen. Tell me this: Do you sustain Thomas S. Monson as a prophet, seer, and revelator?"
I sighed. It would be so easy to just say "yes." One word, and a week later I'd have my college degree. Just one word. But I couldn't. "No. I once believed he was a prophet, and I wish I still believed it, but I don't."
Brother Simmons nodded. "I understand. And I hope you understand, a degree from BYU is not just a certificate of academic achievement. It's also a symbol of spiritual achievement. It's a sign telling the world that you represent Brigham Young University, that you are the type of person this university produces. When you go out into the world with a BYU degree in hand, you go as a representative of Jesus Christ."
"What about Muslims or Jews or other non-members who attend BYU?"
"They also have to abide by the Honor Code."
"Which I've done!" I insisted. "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't have girls in my apartment after curfew, I even go to church every Sunday. I just don't believe in the church anymore. What's the difference between me and any other non-Mormon who goes to BYU?"
"The difference is that you had light and knowledge that they didn't, and you have rejected it."
I buried my face in my palms. "I can't choose what I believe. I just... do."
"I think," Brother Simmons said, putting a hand on my shoulder, "deep down, you still know the church is true. I understand where you're coming from--I'm sure it's difficult to resist the temptation of living a mutant lifestyle, so it's easier to believe there's no God. But I assure you, Brother Christensen, there is. And he never said it would be easy, but I promise you, it will be worth it."
I stood up, brushing his hand away. I was done. Take away my degree, tell me I'm violating the Honor Code because I don't believe what I used to, but I will not sit there and listen to you telling me what I do or do not know. "You understand nothing," I said on my way out the door. "If I wanted easy, we'd be having a very different conversation."
So that's that. I'm done. I'm no longer a BYU student, one week short of graduating. I considered taking my finals, just to say I did, but the official email I received later yesterday afternoon explained that my professors have been instructed not to let me participate in final exams. So where do I go from here? I don't know. I'll transfer to another school to finish my degree, if I can. Maybe go on to get a master's or a doctorate. I've heard horror stories about BYU not releasing transcripts of students kicked out for Honor Code issues, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
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Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I might be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first.It would have been so easy for me to tell Brother Simmons what he wanted to hear yesterday. There were no walls between me and that diploma; just a chalk line. One little step, and I'm on the other side. One simple lie. One word. I may have been expelled from BYU for violating the Honor Code, but I like to think Karl G. Maeser would recognize me as a man of honor.