While new students were preparing for new beginnings, their parents were learning about the role Brigham Young University will play in student development. Parents left a New Student Orientation session with a reassuring promise that BYU will assist incoming students in acquiring an individual ideology.
During this orientation meeting for parents, Professor Lane Fischer of the McKay School’s Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education talked about the “nature of the beast” (freshmen development), and the “nature of the joint” (Brigham Young University).
The “Nature of the Beast”
“Human development is slow, hard work that takes years—especially for higher-level development,” Fischer said. During development from infancy to young adulthood, individuals transition from rigid group identification to individual ideology. Fischer referred to the freshman phase as “the beast,” acknowledging that BYU will influence this stage of development.
About 50 percent of the general population of Americans maintain a primary group identification and “follow the crowd,” according to Fischer. The high school “herd mentality” persists, and individuals rarely break away and form individual ideology.
A major bridge in the development for young adults can be a mission. Missionaries experience group identification with common standards focused around individual work and ideology.
An example of group identification is the collective voice emphasized in the Articles of Faith: “We believe . . .” Fischer said that BYU’s mission can help students graduate from the young adult development stage and form their own ideology. They would then be able to say, “I believe . . .”
Parents can encourage students to form their individual ideology by asking “What do you think?”
The higher stage of development is reached when two persons with individual ideologies integrate to “create something entirely new,” Fischer explained. “God is smart. He knows that the higher development is enhanced and fortified by marriage between a man and woman.”
The “Nature of the Joint”
As a place, BYU symbolizes light and the pursuit of virtue. While serving as BYU’s dean of students, Fischer had lunch with the dean of students from another university who mocked BYU’s standards of morality. According to Fischer, he argued that BYU’s model of virtue and honor was outdated and that it interfered with students’ development because “students learn best by encountering the world of alcohol, sex, and self-exploration.”
Fischer explained that, on the contrary, recent sociological research and other evidence show that alcohol use and sexual violence on campuses cause serious damage to student health and development. Fischer’s model “boils down to how one conceives of light and dark, good and evil.”
Referring to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Fischer differentiated between knowing “good from evil” and knowing “good and evil.”
“Satan would argue that we must disobey Heavenly Father in order to gain knowledge. Satan’s argument that we must experience evil to understand good is a dangerous lie.” Fischer reminded the audience that we are continually working towards greater and greater light, and that light and dark do not complement one another.
Fischer said light teaches us about both the light and dark; however, the dark informs us about neither. He remarked that BYU has not given up on virtue and will continue to live up to its divine destiny. “Walking any path other than the path of light leads us to become less discerning, less free, and more captive,” Fischer said. “We seek the light to teach us of all things.”
Fischer recommended participants read “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” a BYU devotional speech given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January of 1988. He also suggested that parents read “The Plan of Happiness,” a talk given by Elder Boyd K. Packer during a 2015 general conference address.
Writer: Fran Djoukeng
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922