I’m sure many of us have realized that BYU’s Religion Department uses the title “Religious Education” rather than “Religious Studies”. BYU-Hawaii even refers to their religion department as “The Department of Religious Education”.
There seems to be a distinction that Church schools are trying to make by differentiating themselves as religious “educators” rather than religious “studiers”. The home page of BYU’s religious department states that their mission is “to build the Kingdom of God by teaching and preserving the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” “Education” in this respect seems to be about fostering good members of the Church that are well versed in their tradition. Personally I can see the role for such a program; but are we losing something by “educating” in this manner? I would have to say that personally I left BYU not even knowing how much I really didn’t know. In other words, while I feel like I learned about Mormonism I was completely unaware that there was a world of “religious studies” going on outside of Mormonism; and that Mormonism in all actuality has so few voices taking place in the larger conversations.
The other issue I’d like to raise is, could (or should) BYU ever have a Religious Studies Department? If so how could such a thing ever come to pass? The background behind this question is that Utah State has started a BA in religious studies ( http://www.usu.edu/provost/forms/pdf/USU_religious_studies11_10_05.pdf); and in some regards I can’t help but feel that demand is abundant, and if BYU doesn’t develop a religious studies program they will continue to sit on the sidelines of the conversations about religion which ironically is also about themselves.