Since Wednesday, when I read the Washington Post article that cited BYU Professor Randy Bott, I have been surprised at two elements of the news and commentary I’ve read about it. First, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the unanimity of the response—no one that I’ve seen has tried to defend the ideas that Bott expressed. Second, I’ve been surprised at the speed of the official response. If it is possible, the response makes the views expressed by Bott seem anachronistic to Mormonism today. And I hope this response will make clear to those who still maintain some version of these racist views that they are no longer tolerated among Mormons.
In order to gain some sense of how these events occurred, I’ve put together a chronology of the events, and in the process, I think I’ve learned a little about how the reaction to news items like this and who is reacting. I’ll let you make your own conclusions about this chronology, except for two observations that seem important:
First, I am very favorably impressed with FAIR and Mike Parker, who were apparently either first or very early in publishing their reactions to the publication of the article on Tuesday. In addition, the response was quite comprehensive. Best of all, my impression of FAIR was that they usually sought to correct non-Mormons or apostates, not those who would normally be considered orthodox, so the response to the ideas Bott expressed was a very pleasant and welcome surprise.
Second, the online reaction to the article seems to be confined to the bloggernacle and BYU students. I haven’t seen reactions on other blogs, or in many facebook posts or twitter feeds that weren’t somehow also connected to the bloggernacle. While I assume others at BYU and elsewhere noticed the issue and made complaints, they didn’t seem to talk about it online.
[FWIW, I've chosen to call this a "gaffe" because I think the term best fits the events. On twitter the hash tag has been "Bottgate," but I think that term is unnecessarily harsh, giving a sense of intentional criminality that is certainly not here.]
Please feel free to add to the information below in the comments, and I’ll try to update the post as I can.
- Bott has expressed these ideas before on his blog. (see ldskyr.blogspot.com on Blacks and the Priesthood – pdf of blog post from Bott’s “Know Your Religion” blog from 2008)
- Bott will retire in 2 1/2 months
- A 2008 Deseret News article reports that as many as 10% of all BYU students take his classes, especially his popular Mission Prep class.
- The same article indicates that in 2008 he led the nation in ratings on the Rate My Professor service (link is to Bott’s page).
[Times are those stated on the item as I saw it, or on the comments or replies to that item when a time isn't given. I have ignored time zones.]
- BYU Religion Professor Randy Bott gives an interview (reportedly 2 hours long) to Jason Horowitz of the Washington Post.
28 February 2012
- 9:37 am: Washington Post publishes Horowitz’ article
- 12:43 pm: David Heap posts link to the article on Facebook without comment [added 3 Mar 2012 00:02 am]
- 3:40 pm: Nate Oman criticizes the article in a Facebook post [added 2 Mar 2012 11:48 pm]
- 3:59 pm: Tamara Kemsley calls Bott’s reasoning “unfortunate” in a Facebook post [added 3 Mar 2012 00:05 am]
- 4:17 pm: BYU Professor Margaret Young says Bott is “dead wrong” in a Facebook post [added 3 Mar 2012 00:25 am]
- 4:43 pm: Joseph Trevor Antley links to the article in a Facebook post [added 3 Mar 2012 00:08 am]
- 4:51 pm: Post on Feminist Mormon Housewives Society Facebook group calls attention to the Washington Post article [added 2 Mar 2012 11:59 pm]
- 5:35 pm: Post on Mormon Stories Podcast Community Facebook group calls Bott “a racist moron.” [added 2 Mar 2012 11:54 pm]
- 5:35 pm: Post on Feminist Mormon Housewives Society Facebook group points to Botts views on women and the priesthood as found in a post on his blog. [added 2 Mar 2012 11:57 pm]
- 5:43 pm: Mike Parker makes a point-by-point rejection of Bott’s reasoning on the FAIR blog.
- abt 10:00pm: Sam Brunson posts My Cri de Coeur to Randy Bott on Times & Seasons
- abt 10:00 pm: ByCommonConsent posts excerpt from Lester Bush’s article on the priesthood ban.
- 10:53 pm: Fellow BYU Professor Daniel C. Peterson writes a blog post strongly disagreeing with Bott’s comments and calling them an “unfortunate attempt to explain the priesthood ban.”
- 10:55 pm: SLC’s ABC4 reports on controversy
- before 11:52 pm: BYU student Joseph Trevor Antley reports that BYU students are planing a protest against Bott’s statements.
29 February 2012
- 2:48 am: Student Review tweets about controversy, creating #bottgate hash tag
- 7:56 am: Joanna Brooks reports on the controversy on Religion Dispatches.
- morning: Bott is replying with a generic email messages to those complaining, saying that his comments were misinterpreted.
- morning: Armand Mauss replies to Bott’s comments on ByCommonConsent
- before 10:52 am: Guest post by BYU professor Rachel Cope on Juvenile Instructor mentions the controversy [added 3 Mar 2012 00:13 am]
- 11:09 am: Tweet from Hunter Schwartz: Best post I’ve seen re: #Bottgate #BYU: I wrote this man a two page email while I was in his class to keep his opinions to himself and just teach the scriptures… he told me to be more humble…. guess he should have listened…
- 11:22 am: BYU student Craig Magnum reports that Bott’s comments had become the topic of discussion in his illustration class.
- afternoon: LDS Church responds to controversy by disavowing Bott’s comments and issuing a statement on Church doctrine about race.
- afternoon: Bott’s email replies on the subject now simply refer to the Church’s statement.
- afternoon: Bott’s blog, “Know Your Religion” goes off-line.
- 1:46 pm: Salt Lake City’s ABC4 reports on the Church’s response.
- 2:52 pm: Nate Oman’s column on the controversy published in the Deseret News‘ website.
- 3:17 pm: In the Salt Lake Tribune’s On Faith blog, Peggy Stack reports on the controversy.
- 3:31 pm: McKay Coppins reports on the controversy on BuzzFeed. [added 6 Mar 2012 9:42 pm]
- 5:15 pm: BYU’s Student Review reports on reaction to Bott’s statement.
- 5:17 pm: On the Huffington Post, Sam Brown sees the potential death of a “Racist Mormon Fringe.” [added 3 Mar 2012 00:22 am]
- 5:34 pm: Fox 13 Salt Lake City reports on the criticism of Bott [added 3 Mar 2012 00:15 am]
- 6:12 pm: Post in Mormon Stories Podcast Community Facebook group suggests Church’s statement condemns past Church racism. [added 2 Mar 2012 11:52 pm]
- 6:34 pm: Salt Lake Tribune reports on LDS Church’s statements
- before 7:40 pm: This Week in Mormons podcast covers the controversy.
- 9:57 pm: KSL TV reports on LDS Church’s statements [added 3 Mar 2012 00:17 am]
- 10:18 pm: BYU’s Daily Universe reports that Bott didn’t follow BYU policy when he talked to the Washington Post reporter.
- evening: ByCommonConsent looks at what Bott controversy means for members.
- 11:25 pm: Brazilian blog Vozes Mórmons reports on the controversy in Portuguese.
- sometime: Australian blog at all times and in all things, and in all places comments on the controversy. [added 3 Mar 2012 00:11 am]
- night: Jana Reiss summaries the controversy on Religion News Service. [added 3 Mar 2012 08:10 am]
1 March 2012
- 1:22 am: Provo Daily Herald blogger Randy Wright says the controversy is a “question of clarity.” [added 3 Mar 2012 00:47 am]
- before 8:21 am: Doves and Serpents has fantasy press releases from the Church on the priesthood ban—what would you write in such a release? [added 4 Mar 2012 11:26 am]
- morning: 4th ByCommonConsent post on Bott blames correlation for the fact that Bott could continue to teach his ideas on the priesthood ban.
- 11:07 am: BYU student newspaper The Universe posts article about Bott’s blog going down and continued controversy, but the article is soon removed for unknown reasons (cache of the article here). [added 4 March 2012 11:33 am]
- 1:04 pm: Huffington Post reports on LDS Church’s statements [added 3 Mar 2012 00:19 am]
- 1:28 pm: Joanna Brooks on Religion Dispatches discusses the Church’s statements and reactions to the Bott controversy. [added 3 Mar 2012 01:19 am]
- before 3:00 pm: FMH observes that the Church’s statement about Bott’s comments arrived at the end of Black History Month and just before Women’s History Month begins — and makes some points from this coincidence.
- before 3:45 pm: Ogden Standard Examiner says Bott’s ideas have been taught for decades.
- 4:40 pm: Joseph Trevor Antley reports BYU student protest planned for tomorrow.
- 8:07 pm: UPI reports on Church statement rejecting Bott’s remarks [added 3 Mar 2012 00:40 am]
- before 9:13 pm: Juvenile Instructor Guest Paul Reeve discusses Elijah Abel’s experiences in response to Bott’s comments. [added 3 Mar 2012 o1:03 am]
- evening: Ben Park sees difficulties in how Mormons understand an open canon in the controversy. [added 3 Mar 2012 08:02 am]
2 March 2012
[all added after 3 Mar 2012 00:30 am]
- before 4:04 am: Ronan Head looks at how another faith apologized for historical racism. [added 4 March 2012 11:22 am]
- 8:30 am: Academic Max Perry Mueller reviews the controversy on Slate.
- before 10:16 am: Kevin Barney takes a strategic look at disavowal of the priesthood ban. [added 4 March 2012 11:22 am]
- before 10:26 am: A guest post on Keepapitchinin by Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo looks at the cost to black Church members of racist attitudes and former teachings.
- 11:43 am: Juvenile Instructor adds a Black Latter-day Saint’s Response.
- 3:01 pm: KSL reports on BYU student group Provo Peace Forum which protested by handing out flyers.
- 5:56 pm: Deseret News columnist Vai Sikahema discusses the controversy.
- sometime: As Sistas in Zion gives a very charitable response to the controversy. [added 4 Mar 2012 11:15 am]
3 March 2012
[all added after 4 Mar 2012 11:10 am]
- before 1:51 am: John C. at BCC talks about “How I learned to stop worrying and love Mormon racism.”
- 12:06 am: Ray of Things of My Soul says “God bless you, Bro. Bott – even as I condemn your words and beliefs regarding this particular issue.”
5 March 2012
[all added after 6 Mar 2012 9:30 pm]
- 11:03 pm: Ohio State University newspaper sees discomfort among African Americans there connecting Bott controversy to Romney campaign.
6 March 2012
[all added after 6 Mar 2012 9:30 pm]
- 1:15 am: Dave Banack reviews who were the winners and who were the losers in the controversy.
- 9:00 am: Deseret News reports on response of Genesis members to the controversy.
- 2:32 pm: Kaimi Wenger sees similarities between the Bott affair and writings of fellow BYU Professor Ralph Hancock reacting to Joanna Brooks.