BYU Professors Calling the Brethren Autocratic Fascists is Not Going to Help Anybody

At a recent post over at BCC, a tenured BYU-X professor communicates some anxiety about CES’ new direction, which is certainly their right, but in doing so the author calls the people who made this decision (i.e. the brethren, if that wasn’t clear from Elder Holland’s talk) autocrats, and prominently displays the fasces at the top of the post. Now, I don’t know if this is a weird attempt at a “they who have ears to hear” thing, but the fasci is a well-established symbol of fascism. Implying that the people who actually have the power to do anything about this are autocratic fascists isn’t going to help their case.   

While as a matter of principle I think non-inflammatory rhetoric is generally best, for what it’s worth I’m on the other side of this. However, I’m actually skeptical that the new direction will achieve much, although I might be wrong. It doesn’t matter if all the deans are on board with the church’s “teachings on marriage, family, and gender” (which they aren’t, in at least one case I’m aware of); I suspect that the faculty who fundamentally disagree with the Church on hot button social topics and are in part at BYU to “reform” the Church through its institutions will just lay low and continue to hire the kind of people who also fundamentally disagree with the Church and are trying to reform it.

I suspect that the concern over arbitrariness, while valid, is also in part simply masking a concern that the Church is putting their foot down on the expectation that faculty’s primary ideological loyalties lie with the Church when its teachings directly conflict with another ideology (usually the predominant ideology of the academic discipline). For example, a less “bishop roulette” and more “one size fits all”  alternative that I suspect would cause even more gnashing of teeth is for the Church to ask more direct questions (e.g. do you support the Church’s theological position that only a man and woman married together can be exalted? Do you believe that President Nelson is God’s most authorized representative on earth? For non-members maybe replace “support” with “respect”) that don’t leave any wiggle room like the current wording does. 

Then, the Church is very public and open about asking these questions, so eventually word gets around the relevant academic professional organizations that every BYU professor has signed a faith statement to that effect, essentially forcing BYU professors to be more transparent about where they stand instead of being coy about where their primary loyalties lie when the Church’s position conflicts with the predominant ideology in the field. If that makes it so BYU can’t recruit enough to field a full department, then so be it. There are a lot of other places the widow’s mite can be spent, because at the end of the day BYU is not the gospel or the Church, and the mission of the Church is less dependent on recruiting a theorist from a top ten school than some academics think. The implicit threat that the departments will be hollowed out if the Church presses these issues does not have much leverage, as I suspect the Board of Trustees would be fine if the English Department was operating at half strength. (Although I have no idea where the BYU English Department is on these issues, for all I know they’re all Molly Mormons who never skipped seminary). 

Of course, it’s not my place to tell the First Presidency what to do here, but I’m making the point that from some perspectives the new direction is less restrictive than it could, and possibly should be in order to get BYU faculty on-mission.

76 comments for “BYU Professors Calling the Brethren Autocratic Fascists is Not Going to Help Anybody

  1. A better approach might be to require professors not to contradict the Church’s teachings in the classroom or in a public forum, rather than insist that they agree with all of the Church’s teachings. It does bad things to people’s consciences when they are required to commit their personal beliefs to a comprehensive set of teachings for the rest of their working years. What if they come across new insights or evidence that makes them question a teaching that they once accepted? They’re forced to lie or suddenly find a new academic position.

    To choose an easy example, I’m sure that there are male BYU professors who don’t actually believe that they preside over their wives, even though they may be absolutely committed, Christlike members of the Church.

    Of course, I find the position that you’re not a good Latter-day Saint if you don’t agree with every teaching of the Church to be untenable and harmful to the body of Christ.

  2. @ Genevive,

    I don’t think the point is to require concordance on every teaching ever, but in particular there’s a huge issue with people who are supposed to be teachers in Israel viewing the Church’s “teachings on marriage, family, and gender” as bigoted or backwards, and that’s a problem when they’re being funded by tithing money.

    I think for the most part there isn’t a huge issue with BYU professors clearly and directly contradicting the Church in class (but that’s because of the norms that settled because of conservative boundary maintenance in the past). It’s more subtle but still quite damaging for young, impressionable students that are letting their guard down under the assumption that BYU is a faith-affirming learning environment; often it’s quite obvious what people feel and don’t have a testimony of even if they don’t say it.

    Additionally, faculty have additional responsibilities beyond teaching, and thinking the Church is fundamentally wrong in such a big issue leaks into those areas as well. Hires happen largely at the faculty level (at least at BYU-Provo), which affects the next generation of teachers, faculty are responsible for the curriculum, including for the Eternal Marriage class, etc. There are a thousand little ways that being fundamentally opposed to the Church on a major issue of the day can have drip down effects outside of direct teaching.

    As far as beliefs changing: I think the Church should make the transition as easy as possible with severance pay, etc., but no, I don’t believe that you have a right to teach at BYU after a loss of faith. Additionally, if faculty can’t find a job—academic or not—after being given a long enough transition period, then that raises other questions about why people are paying you to teach them the skills to be marketable—but that’s something else I have strong feelings about that’s a different issue.

  3. The author of the BCC piece called for faculty to not “cave” and to stand steady doing what they have been doing, so it seemed as though the fasci as a metaphor of solidarity was being borrowed from the fascists. It was surprising to see such a borrowing; could such a symbol really be rehabilitated? A non-fascist fasci eventually seemed too much of a stretch though, particularly since the writer was calling for solidarity against the “autocrat.”

  4. Stephen C, some of us who pay tithing don’t agree with the Brethren’s “teachings on marriage, family, and gender” so BYU professors who publicly disagree are just doing their job. Have homosexual Mormons stopped killing themselves? Perhaps a more important consideration.

  5. What the author fails to realize is that the fear, anxiety, and concern at BYU over the changes in policy over the past several months (opt-in, lack of confidentiality) is not limited to faculty who have issues with the Family Proclamation, LDS policy on same-sex marriage, or other doctrinal stances. There are TBMs who worry that their jobs might be at risk because of a political disagreement with a bishop, or that a publication of theirs might be misinterpreted by a BYU administrator, or that they might need to go to a priesthood leader to address a pastoral issue (none of us are perfect…the expectations that now exist notwithstanding), or any number of other scenarios. Unless you are on the faculty, you cannot appreciate the negative atmosphere that currently exists and the shocking and ubiquitous lack of morale on campus.

  6. I think Dan gets at the heart of the issue. It’s counter-productive messaging to throw out “autocrat” and fascist symbols unless you want to alienate the vast majority of church members, parents, administrators, students – and I’d wager faculty as well. In normal people world, the only surprising thing about asking faculty who are church members to hold a temple recommend and support the church’s teachings is that it hasn’t always been the case.

    I suspect there’s a mighty small chance that disgruntled faculty leaving BYU could weaken any department. There are a lot of qualified people out there who would leap at the chance to teach – even at BYU, or especially at BYU.

  7. p,

    Middle aged white men are killing themselves at greater numbers than any other demographic. Considering that the salve needed to reduce those numbers might be turning back the clock to a more male friendly culture–my guess is that heralding the church’s teachings on marriage and family would go a long way toward achieving that end.

    That said, I’m being a little facetious in my response to you. Yes, I believe every word I said–with the clear understanding that any suicide in any demographic is tragic. But the real issue is whether or not the church’s teachings are true and mandated with proper authority–and not who may be offended by them.

    But even so–true or not–BYU is a church school. And as such it has the right to require loyalty on the part of its faculty to its foundational teachings.

  8. Doc, based on my experience with campus controversies at a half-dozen places, the low morale is not ubiquitous. It might not extend very far outside your own office and your circle of friends. That doesn’t take away from your personal concern, but it’s just the reality of these situations. BYU faculty is already highly self-selected for people who want to be in that environment. Most of your colleagues are happily going about their research and teaching same as ever, because that’s what most faculty everywhere do in these situations. The requirement to hold a temple recommend doesn’t bother them because they already have one. They’ve figured out responsible ways to deal with the possibility of something going haywire, rather than stewing in paranoia. If they have to choose sides between the Board of Trustees and the type of faculty member who refers to the Board of Trustees as “autocrats,” well, I have some bad news for you.

  9. John Mansfield: I mean, the fasci is on our dime, but I highly doubt it meant anything other than fascism given the context, and I think any attempt to backtrack on that is disingenuous.

    p: The Church isn’t a shareholder corporation–paying tithing doesn’t give you voting rights or buy-in. It’s a freewill offering that nobody is forcing you to do. The whole “change your theology or else people will kill themselves” weaponization/blackmail is old and has been discussed elsewhere.

    https://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCranneyMyths.html

    https://medium.com/mormon-views/on-the-weaponization-of-suicide-and-moral-culpability-cc3bc4e816e

    https://publicsquaremag.org/sexuality-family/is-latter-day-saint-theology-responsible-for-lgbt-suicides/

    Doc: I doubt people are getting kicked out of BYU for voting democrat (or not getting vaccinated, for that matter), but sure, I would support some kind of explicit instructions to serve as a safety net for the occasional crazy bishop who wants to take away a temple recommend for absurd reasons. I’m actually fine with allowing some space for pastoral work (e.g. somebody with a drinking problem in the past broke down and had a drink), but I think there’s a difference between weakness of the flesh moments and fundamental, intentional doctrinal discordance, and there’s always a tradeoff between “one size fits all” and “bishop roulette” solutions.

    Jonathan: Plus the job market stinks so bad in some areas that it’s not exactly like candidates can be super choosey. In some cases it’s literally BYU or teach high school.

    Jack: I’m starting to get back into the suicide literature, differences in suicide rates among groups is a hard nut to crack sometimes (but sometimes not).

  10. Stephen, a few points in response to your response:

    “I don’t believe that you have a right to teach at BYU after a loss of faith.” There are miles of nuance between total loss of faith, and disagreement over a particular teaching of the church (such as the doctrine that the man presides in the home, which was the example I used in my comment). Acknowledging this would do wonders for the strength of the Church.

    The new questions that bishops must answer are vague enough that they could be interpreted to exclude anybody who questions any single policy or teaching. This is a problem. Take the recent discourse on the Bisbee case for example. May a BYU professor have an honest disagreement with the Church’s policy/practice regarding reporting abuse? And what about policies of the past? May a professor believe that the temple and priesthood exclusion policy was a terrible mistake? (Or may they believe that the Church made plenty of mistakes in its past teachings and policies, as long as they believe that its current teachings and policies are uniformly correct?)

    A note about what makes a faith-affirming environment: I am greatly strengthened by interactions with faithful people who don’t agree with all of the Church’s policies and teachings. They model for me a living faith that doesn’t shatter when it bumps into a specific teaching or historical oddity. I greatly admire, and aspire to cultivate, the kind of faith that grows to embrace newly discovered truths and accommodate new evidence.

  11. Wow, Jonathan….condescend much? You completely misunderstood Doc’s point, although based on your past comments–especially on issues dealing with the BYUs–I should not be shocked. Enjoy living in your nice little bubble, which is clearly not at BYU. Don’t bother trying to understand someone else’s point of view, since it might shake that overwhelming certitude that drips from your comments.

  12. @demosgen: Hi! I didn’t realize it was you until you changed your username. Like I mentioned in my response, the point isn’t to have 100% orthodoxy on every point ever (or else every department really would be hollowed out!). There is a clear non-overlap in Overton windows for gender and sex issues between the Church and different disciplinary ideologies, so the result is we have a large number of faculty who are at discordance with an issue that the Church has signaled is quite central and fundamental. If it was only a handful of professors I think the heterodoxy would be much more manageable in terms of its effects, but we all know it’s not just a handful. If the majority of your professors who deal with these issues think the Church is behind the times and is eventually going to get with it, then that’s not faith affirming nor even benign, because they’re the ones shaping what BYU is on the ground, and that’s a different thing than if there are a few who show that you can have doctrinal disagreements and be a good member.

  13. It’s one thing to share concerns about a certain policy. It’s quite another to use an openly fascist symbol to describe the brethren.

    Of course, we share concerns all the time whenever we sustain or oppose local/general authorities. There’s a misconception that opposing a motion to sustain someone in a calling is “apostate show and tell.” It is not. The choice of opposition is allowed for this reason: it notifies the presiding officer of a meeting (Stake President, Bishop, etc…) if something is wrong. Then, after the meeting, the person can then meet with the presiding officer privately to candidly express their concerns. Their concerns can range from a serious sin that a specific individual is concealing to any given policy.

    For example, I was NOT a fan of the decision to remove historic murals and progression from the Salt Lake Temple. I was even more horrified that the Manti Temple was going to share the same fate. It was like in the 1970s all over again with the Logan Temple fiasco. However, if I (in my fit of anger) publicly called the First Presidency a bunch of iconoclastic tyrants with robotic hearts devoid of appreciation for the artistic legacy of earlier Saints, it would have just antagonized the situation even further and harrow up my heart. Instead, I turned to the Lord in order to find understanding. After I did that, tender mercies began to show up little by little. A few weeks later, the First Presidency announced that they would collect letters from concerned members (with my letter being among them) and return to the Lord for further inspiration. Miraculously, President Nelson was able to find a solution: build a newer temple in Ephraim to accommodate further growth in Sanpete Valley while keeping the Manti Temple preserved for future generations.

    The key towards effective communication of issues is to express them with genuine love and concern for the welfare of the Church, not antagonism by alluding to fascist imagery.

  14. I think it’s great that the CES is getting an overhaul of sorts. Over the years I have debated several BYU professors and it appears they generally hold fast to hard left wing ideologies.

    I have always felt that all CES positions should not only carry endorsements from one who has power and authority but also that anyone teaching actual doctrine should be called and set apart and work under the direction and stewardship of local leadership. Teaching the doctrines of Christ in classroom settings should require one who is called and set apart so that they can teach with both power and authority from God. Whereas a professor who is academically trained may have more knowledge, from a worldly standpoint on a given subject, they have neither power nor authority from God officially to teach and expound on doctrine.

    Doctrinal clarification always relies on priesthood keys. A bishop has keys, or has the correct authority, to direct how the doctrine is taught, and that it is correctly taught.

  15. I was not familiar with the fasces / fascio or its association with fascism and did not recognize it as such when I saw the BCC post. I would not have made the connection had I not seen this post.

    Personally, I think the label “fascist”, is grossly over used and it should really only be applied to actual literal fascists, like for people who wish Germany had won WWII. Which clearly is not the case with respect to this policy at BYU nor the people that put it in place. Calling some one a fascist is not exactly taking a page out of “how to win friends and influence people.” Kudos to OP for educating me on the symbol.

    That said, my personal opinion is that requiring faculty to waive confidentiality of their discussions with bishops is kinda weird and not a god look for the church. Why is the church being so protective of confidentiality in some cases and not others? One would think that clergy confidentiality, if it exists at all, is meant to facilitate the confession in the repentance process. For the church to suggest that someone waives clergy confidentiality, this implies to me that confession is not actually important. If the church wants confession to bishops as a necessary party of repentance, they should protect confidentiality for their BYU faculty as much as for anyone else.

    Personally, I don’t know why anyone would take a faculty position at BYU under such conditions unless they had an expectation that they will never need to share anything embarrassing or troubling with their bishop. Okay, most faithful members think that way until something happens. Most people don’t plan to “sin” ahead of time. They also don’t expect to have a trans child who changes our perspective on the family proc. People don’t think they’ll switch political parties until something happens to change our view. But those of us who have been around the block know that these things happen. It might not happen to you, but it will certainly happen to someone you know. I personally think it’s a mistake for anyone to chase a tenure position under such fragile circumstances. If a friend asked me advice about taking a career position at BYU, my suggestion would be to accept only as a last resort and find a new position elsewhere expeditiously. Even so, I don’t expect BYU to have too much trouble filling positions. There are plenty of folk who think differently than I do, and it won’t be long before BYU faculty is full of them.

    On a side note, the OP’s usage of the widow’s mite to lament misused tithing funds is a common LDS application that I loathe. The story of the widows mite was not about wasting tithing money. It was more about calling out the hypocrisy of those who were signaling their virtue by making a big deal about how much they were paying. It’s fine that if one doesn’t think tithing funds should be spent a certain way, but referring to the widow’s mite on that topic is an attempt to gain the imprimatur of Jesus for something he really wasn’t talking about.

  16. We certainly wouldn’t be in this boat if there wasn’t any problems at BYU. You absolutely cannot have a paid employee of the church teaching things that are not only contrary to the church teachings but outright defiance against church leadership. For quite a long time now BYU has been slipping down the slippery slope. Think of this- at church on Sundays you don’t have gay clubs or lgbtq pamphlets being handed out. Neither do you have leaders teaching youth about how same sex marriage is okay. Why then is it different at BYU? BYU doesn’t really align with the church anymore and the Brethren know this and are cleansing out the wickedness that has been allowed to creep into the school.

  17. Maybe what happens at BYU is non of your business, really. You already concede that paying tithing doesn’t give you voting rights and buy-in. So, unless you are a faculty member here or part of the staff, I kindly suggest you butt out. My guess is that nobody participating in this thread works for BYU. It is weird that you care so much. But I think I understand it. You actually *do* think that you have voting rights and buy-in due to your tithes. You just don’t like when others claim the same privilege.

    Stephen, I will be blunt: you have zero say in what happens at BYU. And you have zero say in what happens in any corner of academia. As far as I can tell, you have no stake in the industry beyond some hostile talking points. Unless you work in academia and/or are getting published in recognized scholarly venues, your voice is no different than everyone’s weird uncle at Thanksgiving going off about 5G and deep state stuff.

    Guys like you and others in this thread call the BYU president’s office all time complaining about this liberal thing or that apostate doing whatever and you know what he does? He gives you a brief moment to deliver your rant and then he ever so politely tells you go mind your own garden patch. And that’s that. Because. You. Have. No. Say. How do I know this? I have heard it from Pres. Worthen’s own lips. More than once. We are running a full-fledged university here with commitments both to the academy and to the sponsoring institution. And we are a doing a bang-up job. How do I know that? I heard it from Elder Holland’s own mouth just a few months ago. But you weren’t privy to that meeting because, and I can’t reiterate this enough, you have no say or knowledge about what goes on here. Yeah, we have some things to correct from time to time. But no, there will be no purges, no cleaning house, no bizarro right wing fantasy revolution.

    Words from Elder Holland delivered here in April: “I just want you to know—President and your associates, and that includes everyone in the room on out to the campus, on out to the faculty and the staff and the people who are at work out there already and not here with us—I am so proud of this school.” He goes on to say, “Frankly, I don’t care if I don’t say anything else today beyond “We love you and honor you and are grateful for you.” And thank you for your care and attention to this institution which is the most visible
    extension of the Church that we have in all the world.”

    So please, enough already.

  18. “So, unless you are a faculty member here or part of the staff, I kindly suggest you butt out.”

    So, faculty are there to serve faculty? Sorry, you’re there to serve students, so youth teachers like myself, early morning seminary teachers, parents, and everybody who has an interest in the students who go to BYU has a buy-in.

    “Guys like you and others in this thread call the BYU president’s office all time complaining about this liberal thing or that apostate doing whatever and you know what he does?”

    Yes, occasionally cranks call the President’s office about how a postmodern literature class is causing apostasy, so what? That doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues.

    “And we are a doing a bang-up job. How do I know that? I heard it from Elder Holland’s own mouth just a few months ago.”

    Great! Then the concerns outlined in the BCC post aren’t warranted, because if the brethren think everything’s going swimmingly then clearly there isn’t actually some kind of house cleaning going on, and people who think that are are being paranoid.

  19. Blogger saying BYU Professors are trying to “reform the church” is not going to help anybody.

  20. A professor’s loyalty is to: the academic standards of their field, whether in research and/or teaching; the academic success of their students; the legally protected rights of their colleagues and students.

    A professor’s loyalty is not to any religion, not even the religious institution that may be sponsoring the university.

    Anyone who says otherwise does not know what a university is.

    Professors are not paid clergy.

  21. Just because 1) the BYUs have the legal and religious right to behave the way they do, and 2) those who teach there at some point ‘agree’ to teach under the stipulations listed and are ‘free’ to leave, does not mean that the requirements and those imposing them are neither Autocratic nor Fascist.

  22. g. wesley: Nobody’s saying that BYU should just be seminary teachers. They should be loyal to the accepted standards and methodologies of their field of study, but layered on top of that is usually an non-methodological ideology, and I think it’s okay for BYU to have an issue when those points conflict with the Church.

    This is a particular issue for some (few and small) fields where it’s a lot of ideology and not a lot of methodology (try getting a social science of sexuality paper through a queer theorist reviewer who is skeptical about the use of sexual categories in a statistical analysis)–and in those cases it’s basically a seminary for a particular worldview, but again, another argument for another day.

    Brian: Well, yes, that’s exactly what it means. An autocrat is somebody who uses the monopoly of violence of the state to impose rule without consent of the governed, not when a employer transparently insists on certain requirements.

  23. Stephen C: Well, no, that’s not exactly what it mean. An autocrat is “a ruler who has absolute power” or “someone who insists on complete obedience from others.” Check on both of those in this case. In practice, what you want to argue is about connotation and the rhetoric. That’s fine. I’m simply pointing out that their use of those words via their denotation is accurate.

  24. This sort of thing (cultural fence building) occurs in the private sector as well. A few years ago the company for whom I worked– a Fortune 100 company– decided to go full woke complete with the most rabid version of CRT you can imagine. Managers were expected to read Kendi, Coates, and DiAngelo and then play-act various scenarios where we were encouraged to behave in patently racist fashion. We were expected to affirm, publicly, our own White Guilt or Minority Subjectivity (I politely declined to participate). Half way through the required courses I suggested to the other managers that we might want to expand the reading list to include Steele, Sowell, and Riley but they had no clue to whom I was referring so I brought in some of the titles from these authors to share. The response I received was… not positive. At that moment I knew that unless I wanted to fully engage with the radical left culture that was being imposed upon a conservative Midwest office culture (this was a program developed by a few executives in our NYC office) then my career would be limited. So I chose to have a sit-down with HR and my CFO and lay out my personal thoughts and feelings on the subject of diversity. We left the meeting with each side fully understanding each other and I left the meeting with a severance package. I knew I needed to conform or leave. I was OK with that. University professors should be OK with it as well.

  25. PaulM and others: You have no idea what a university is supposed to do. Every university has a mission to produce knowledge, preserve knowledge, and disseminate knowledge. In order for these things to happen, it cannot be run as a business where “it’s my way or the highway.” Producing knowledge may mean uncovering the uncomfortable. Preserving knowledge may mean holding space for the uncomfortable. Disseminating knowledge may mean discussing the uncomfortable. This is why tenure exists. I cannot be fired for producing the uncomfortable. I also have the obligation produce the uncomfortable in ways that are accessible and repeatable. This is what it means to be a part of open/public conversation. Anything other than this is not a university.

    BYU’s recent move is an extension of past practices to curtail the ability of faculty to produce uncomfortable knowledge but it does more. BYU does not have tenure. Employment has always been at the will of the sponsoring institution. There have always been areas of knowledge that BYU faculty simply stayed away from because of how uncomfortable it makes the Church. Now the terms are shifting even further away from producing knowledge to sussing out folks whose areas of research and classroom activities are totally benign but maybe they harbor some kind of personal disagreement.

    Let’s take as an example a faculty member who lives in Provo; perhaps above the university. One day the church decides to expand the MTC; to build several more buildings to accommodate more missionaries. The proposed buildings will block the skyline so local folks organize to lobby against it. This faculty member ends up as head of the coalition. The church, knowing that he’s a BYU faculty member, has his stake president contact his department chair (i.e., his boss) to tell him to back down because the brethren want these built. The threat is thinly veiled; your job is predicated on your ecclesiastical endorsement. The faculty member backs down. At what point is this not an autocracy?

  26. “I doubt people are getting kicked out of BYU for voting democrat (or not getting vaccinated, for that matter).”

    That’s an interesting dichotomy, and I think it says something about the thinking process of the author of this post.

    The First Presidency has made very clear what members of the church should do regarding vaccinations. I know the letter they released a little over a year ago regarding vaccinations was largely ignored in some areas, but it was still very much instructions given by the prophet of God. Given that, can someone truly support current church policies and practices and sustain the leaders of the Church if they disagree with the First Presidency on vaccinations? I could see that being argued either way. But apparently BYU professors are being asked if they “support current church policies and practices and sustain the leaders of the Church.” To be consistent, if people are getting fired for their response to that question on other issues, why wouldn’t they get fired for being against vaccinations? Or do we only take the words of the prophet seriously when it’s something we already agree with?

    On the other hand, the First Presidency hasn’t issued a public letter regarding whether or not to vote Democrat.

  27. @Cosmo: The MTC expansion example sounds oddly specific, especially considering how tall the buildings in the most recent MTC expansion are. Without naming names, is that a true story that happened to someone you know?

  28. @Cate: Ouch. That story mixes religion and politics and development on so many levels. That is such a bad look. That kind of thing is definitely something to be afraid of.

  29. A weary BYU prof: I think you’re mostly training your musket fire in the wrong direction. Right now there’s a weird convergence where some far-right soreheads are convinced that that BYU faculty are a bunch of liberals who should be fired, and some (so far anonymous) faculty who claim that most BYU professors are liberals who are depressed about the danger of being fired. I think both cases are vastly overstated, so I appreciate your comments.

    But in any case I think you’ll have to put up with some non-BYU people as interlocutors. Alumni and parents of students are usually considered stakeholders in a university community (I’m both), and I also taught at BYU-Idaho a while back. As for working in academia and getting published, I teach part time and I’m still active in research (I just had a book come out this summer from a press you wouldn’t scoff at). I think Stephen’s situation is similar, and have you seen his CV? It’s pretty solid. I’m actually kind of sympathetic to the argument that most people have no idea how universities work and can’t contribute anything meaningful to the conversation, but at least a few of us here have been around the block a few times.

  30. A weary BYU prof:

    You might have some basis for your argument if it weren’t for the fact that it is BYU faculty members that are airing out their issues in public forums. If we “Have. No. Say.” then why is this even being brought before the public. The obvious answer is the disgruntled faculty are trying to obtain support for their position from the church public but are not happy when the response is not what they hoped for. If everyone on this and other blogs were espousing positions with which you agreed I doubt we’d see your “You. Have. No. Say.” comments.

    As for Holland’s comments, I note that in his August, 2021 talk to BYU faculty and staff it didn’t appear he was really on board with the “bang-up job” view as it was clear he thought there were things that the faculty and staff needed to change. I can, and do, tell my kids I love them and honor them and are grateful for them even as I tell them some things need to change. That is what is happening at BYU.

  31. I will say that even though I do support BYU for its historical value and prevalence in LDS culture, I can definitely see a difference in what happens at BYU- Idaho vs. BYU in Provo having family members who attend each. BYU- Idaho more closely reflects true LDS conservative culture and values whereas BYU provo more reflects this new liberal movement sweeping the country otherwise known as “woke culture”. It doesn’t surprise me because much of Utah’s metropolis is now woke. Even church members in Utah’s more populous areas tend to sway more to this new cancel culture, woke culture, social justice culture, etc… I grew up in Utah in the SLC metroplis during my teen years into adulthood some 30 years ago and even way back then I could see all the pieces falling into place that would go on to create the problems we now are dealing with.
    What’s interesting is that it is and has been spreading like a cancer from all large metropolis centers in America. For the last 25 years I have lived in a small town in Idaho and we have just started seeing some of this woke culture that has spread out from Utah. Encouragingly though, cities like Rexburg have been able to avoid the woke politics and culture surrounding Utah and BYU Provo for the most part. I personally have not encouraged my children to seek out enrollment at BYU Provo because of their liberal politics and woke culture there and how it effects the school dramatically.

  32. @Rob: I find your use of the phrase “true LDS conservative culture” remarkable. There’s a lot to unpack there, as also in your use of the term “cancer”. You don’t need to unpack it for my benefit, I think I understand your use of those phrases pretty well.

  33. Woke culture and all of that new social justice is all politics in allowing the cancer of modern day liberalism to spread their cancer on society. Almost all of the problems we have seen at BYU stem from liberal politics that have been entrenched and spread through society over the last few decades.

  34. Are any of you commenters actually Randy Bott, using a pseudonym? The resemblance is striking.

    But seriously, since I didn’t notice anti-woke sentiment in the OP, my first impression of several of the comments was that they were off topic and rather odd reactions. Then I was reminded of Bott, who was essentially fired for saying things that church leaders had spoken from the pulpit 30-40 years earlier, things I was taught in seminary in the 90s. Not early morning seminary, either, these were paid CES teachers.

    If anyone doubts that people will use the BYU policies to push a political agenda to solve “all these {unnamed and unspecified} problems” you need only look in the comments above to see what the potential bishop endorsements may look like. But it cuts both ways. A commenter at BCC was concerned about their vaccine hesitancy being an issue, for example. Some of y’all’s antiwoke sentiments could raise concern as well. It all depends on who your endorser is and who is reading the endorsement. Just ask Professor Randy Bott.

  35. Anti-wokism and all of that resistance to social justice is all politics in allowing the cancer of modern-day conservatism to spread their cancer on society. Almost all of the problems we have seen at BYU stem from conservative politics that have been entrenched and spread through society over the last decade.

    So easy to write. So little it adds. So little it proves So little substance. So little.

  36. Rockwell,

    Randy Bott not only repeated what church leaders may have believed in times past. What he said was almost a carbon copy of what *Hugh Nibley* had written on the subject–one of the most liberal thinkers in the church.

    Brian,

    I think many of those problems (you speak of) at BYU stem from people complaining about conservative ideals.

    ***

    Re: non professors not having a say: The community of the saints should have a say in anything that stems from its collective identity and commitments. You cannot suggest that they are not in a position to offer any input because, forsooth, things are done differently in academia. It’s the Kingdom first–and everything else second.

  37. I didn’t go to BYU in favor of another university. Posts like this make me realize that was a good thing. It seems BYU aspires to be a Mormon safe space more than a university. So now you are all debating whether BYU is safe enough for ‘youth’ who happen to be adults that are often married and often have kids of their own. As if someone who privately disagrees with the church on some issue can’t teach a good chemistry class. This is so silly.

  38. Young people are vulnerable, Miles. Most of them are “little ones” with respect to their gospel knowledge. And we have a solemn obligation as parents, church leaders, and, yes, CES employees not to offend the Lord’s little ones.

  39. About the fasces and what it communicates:

    It could well have been meant as a symbol of solidarity (as a kind of many sticks bound together have increased strength visual metaphor).

    See: https://www.govmint.com/coin-authority/post/a-fascist-u-s-dime

    Given the stick-together/solidarity/collective themes of the BCC piece, this seems to be an entirely credible reading.

    I suppose it *could* also be an oblique accusation of fascism in BYU/CES. Perhaps it could even be used by some to express their own fascist sympathies. What one sees in the BCC author’s use of it probably could tell us as much about them as the author, but in any case, I could agree the cryptic nature makes it a poor choice for communicating clearly, which is about the last point I can agree with Stephen’s piece on.

    As for what the BCC piece actually *does* say: if the reports that faculty are being let go without they or ecclesiastical leaders even knowing why, then “autocratic” is one of several fair terms to discuss the reasons that’s alarming.

    Perhaps the point is that whether this is good depends on how much faith you put in the right autocrats? After all, we’ve learned by pleasant experience that it is the nature and disposition of The Right People to take God’s appointed position, particularly if one defines God’s appointed position as the position of The Right People. Because all those that are called are chosen, right?

    Seriously: dissent is a difficult problem for any organization, and the problem we’re talking about here is that problem. But no discussion of this is going to be complete to the extent that it blithely categorizes most of the BYU faculty under discussion as being not “on-mission.” It’s a non-starter to assume these faculty members understand themselves in this way. People who see themselves as in opposition to the mission of the church do not as a rule *want* to be in positions at BYU schools.

    If someone is at a BYU it’s far more likely they understand themselves to be gospel adherents and that where positions of merit within their field conflict with positions of the church, they believe there should be an effort to circumscribe all truth into one great whole, and that they may well be positioned to be among contributors to this effort. But that approach would require belief in something more than an authoritarian vision of the church, one in which the restoration is indeed ongoing.

    This piece appears to reject that view.

    But it’s persuasive in a way. It almost persuades me that there’s merit in separating people by what they believe is on-mission and what’s not, that any organization with an actually divine mission would be better off if Stephen were as aggressively expelled from its graces as he seems to advocate for here. Almost.

  40. With “autocrat” in the title directly followed by the fasces image, the suggestion that it was only meant as a call for solidarity is not going to fly. The author of the BCC post isn’t dumb and certainly understood all the historical uses and meanings of the symbol. It’s not a Rorschach blot with no meaning except the one the viewer brings to it.

    As for faculty being let go, this is where you have to understand American universities in order to comment usefully on the situation (as the weary person above mentioned). These faculty members – if they exist; the information is more hearsay than survey – are adjuncts. Their – or I should say, our – employment category does not come with an assumption of continuing appointment. Any given semester/academic year, our contracts might not be renewed for any number of reasons. If it’s happening in August or September, the usual reason is enrollment numbers not meeting expectations, but universities don’t have to give any reason for not hiring an adjunct again. It could happen to me just as easily where I teach. It’s just a reality you have to account for. It’s ridiculous to rail against “autocrats” at BYU for making decisions that Pizza Hut assistant managers make twice a month.

    The discussion is about who is best suited to teach at BYU, not about who can be considered a member of the church in good standing. The only suggestion of excommunication so far is L’s, directed at Stephen. Which is interesting, and revealing in its own way.

  41. Jonathan, the BCC post implies that the “firing” is coming from the Ecclesiastical Clearance Office. If that is true, and I’m not sure how the author knows that, then the decision is not related to enrollment numbers but rather something to do with worthiness or mission alignment. As a university employee, to me what is described does not seem to be normal university behavior, and even for BYU sounds atypical.

  42. PaulM, I wasn’t sure who all the authors were that you mention so I searched Google for each of those names (searched for “{lastName} author”) to figure out the full name of each author. I think I figured most of them out that way as early search results for most of them yielded names of people that write in the topic of race and social issues. But why you pushed the corporate culture to study Danielle Steele is beyond me. :)

  43. In reality, ALL BYU faculty are contingent faculty; tenure does not exist…despite the fiction of “continuing faculty status.” Hence the consternation about job security, regardless of political persuasion.

    The comments comparing BYU students to “little ones” is utterly ridiculous. University students are, in fact, adults and should be treated as such. The infantilization of the students (and, frankly, faculty) at BYU is ridiculous. College is exactly the time when students should be exposed to new ideas, assess them, figure out who they are and what they believe, and create a foundation for their future. And, lest you think this iconoclastic, that is precisely the process by which we are instructed to learn in Moroni 10.

    Still put off by Jonathan’s condescension and Stephen’s inability to appreciate viewpoints that do not correlate perfectly with his own.

  44. Jonathan: the only thing that doesn’t fly here is a “there can be only one” approach with regards to the image.

    If you think that “autocrat” is such a slam-dunk as evidence that it justifies totally ignoring evidence for other readings, then ask yourself this: are we *really* to believe that the BCC author would be entirely free with a word as inflammatory as “autocrat” among other rather unrestrained criticisms but somehow coy about “fascist”?

    There’s multiple pieces of evidence available to support different readings. That means by nature it’s a Rorschach test. If you’re truly content with your reading, then no need to pick at the generally uncontroversial idea that readings often have something to do with the reader.

    As for your comparison between BYU and Pizza Hut, personally I’d hope that they have so little in common that any analogy between the two would be useless, but perhaps someone with a truer understanding of the mission of the church than mine will understand why former should be productively compared to the latter. Though I can’t say I’d be sorry to embrace continuing my spiritual and intellectual development with extra cheese.

    The details of university operations and faculty status of those being let go might make a worthwhile exchange against the BCC piece itself; perhaps you could help ameliorate their unfamiliarity with academia’s workings by submitting commentary there. These details are much less relevant in response to a piece like Stephen’s which seems to accept the premise that ecclesiastical politics as judged by an opaque entity (opaque to both faculty and their ecclesiastical leaders) not only *are* the reasons for firing but should be, and could even justifiably be more heavy-handed.

    As for what my invocation of excommunication reveals about me, I’m happy to accept it, the heart of that revelation is that I’m thinking about the connections between the stakes invoked by Stephen. He states the topic is “faculty who fundamentally disagree with the Church.” That’s *very* distinct from the kind of stack-ranking of faculty applicants suggested by your phrase “best suited.” This is instead a who’s-on-the-Lord’s-side-who boundary conversation, always accompanied by a conversation about exactly what the Lord’s side is. And once you’ve done that, you are inevitably talking about the boundary marking good standing within the church in general. Those are the stakes when accepting Stephen’s frame.

    Now, my view of the church is different than Stephen’s. My view is that part of what the church is includes a process of reconciliation between people who have tension about “hot button social topics” and “teachings on marriage, family, and gender,” and that as the BYUs are part of the church they’re one place that process would play out. Stephen would probably characterize that as some kind of unacceptable attempt at reform, though. And when he reaffirms boundary-drawing as the solution (except, of course, to the extent that it might be difficult to do effectively), well, I’m almost persuaded that his view and the implied divorce is a better one. Perhaps that’s the view you’d choose to lend your weight to as well. Perhaps you can persuade me to drop the “almost.” Would you be proud of that achievement?

  45. “The comments comparing BYU students to “little ones” is utterly ridiculous.”

    Come now–not *utterly* ridiculous.

    All joking aside–I have six young adult children and I treat them like peers for the most part. We have wonderful in depth conversations–and I am often taught by them. Still, I serve as an anchor for them–when needed.

    That said, I think there are many young adults who don’t have that anchor–and they can easily be tossed about by one false notion or another. And what’s worse is when those false notions go unchallenged — or are even promulgated! — by faculty members who serve as authority figures to the Lord’s little ones.

    That’s why the church has certain ecclesiastical duties that must precede or even preempt some academic concerns. The church has every right to say: my boat; my rules.

  46. Your Food Allergy: I largely agree, but it comes down to “If that is true, and I’m not sure how the author knows that.” I don’t see how anyone would be in a position to have the information that’s being stated as fact.

    L: I think the BCC author is in fact being coy about “fascist” because most people are okay with throwing out “autocrat” but don’t want to deal with the fall-out of saying “fascist” out loud. I believe the topic has been in the news lately.

    It’s not BYU specifically, but universities in general that make decisions that are only slightly more complicated versions of what goes on at your average fast-food pizza restaurant. Is pepperoni more popular than cheese? Then have more of it ready for quick sale. Is Jim so incompetent at making pizza that he slows the whole restaurant down and cuts into the bottom line? Cut his hours until he gets up to speed or let him go altogether. Or if Dr. Jim can’t make it through a semester without generating student complaints, departmental drama and local headlines, maybe looking farther down the list to staff courses next semester might be in order. I’m not saying this is the ideal. It’s just the reality of academic staffing.

  47. Young adults, especially in today’s present world, are easily swayed into ideologies. They are still very impressionable. The illusory truth effect is alive and well at universities around the world. Adult professors use their platforms all too often to teach their liberal secular biases as if they are facts. I remember some years ago having some back and forth dialogue with professor Duane Jefferies a BYU who worked in the zoology department and I had pressed him on his views regarding the Creators involvement in the formation of life and he basically dismissed Christ from the actual nuts and bolts of the creation. He is not the only one, I’ve talked with quite a few other professors at BYU Provo who hold the same sentiment.
    It was a passion of mine years ago to call out these professors which ultimately led to my blog getting banned from the LDS blogosphere and I was pretty much banned from most forums and blogs also. It’s good to see the church cracking down on this at BYU and hopefully rid itself of some of these bad professors who teach contrary to church doctrine.

  48. You know, religious insistence on teaching creationism is one of the main reasons why religious interference in education gets a bad name. You know there was a big fight about teaching evolution at BYU in 1921, or so right? “Calling out” professors, reputable scientists, who (rightly) don’t want to mix the theology of creation and the sciences of geology and evolution is in my opinion a VERY GOOD REASON to politely kick you off the blogosphere. “Cracking down on [evolution]” and “ridding” “bad professors who teach contrary to church doctrine” (when, as is very well documented, the Church has no official doctrine on evolution, ie it’s good science and the Church isn’t going to get in the way of teaching it) would be the DEATH KNELL of BYU as a serious academic institution. You know that, right?

    Of course you know that. That’s what you want. But you see, that would destroy the worth of a BYU education, which would be in direct opposition to another long-cherished doctrine of the Church: “THE GLORY OF GOD IS INTELLIGENCE.”

    Not ignorance, not superstition, not fear. Intelligence.

    So shut the f— up and leave the BYU faculty alone to teach good science if they’re scientists and good religion if they’re in the religious education department, and don’t cross the streams.

  49. //The church has every right to say: my boat; my rules.//

    Not if it wants to be an accredited university. Just like churches have to play by the legal rules of what makes something a church or accounting firms have to play by the rules of certification to have CPA’s, a university has to play by the industry standards of what makes something a university.

    BYU has long flirted with these standards. Here’s a report about academic freedom from nearly 25 years ago by the AAUP, which is essentially an organization that among other things monitors industry standards. https://www.aaup.org/file/Academic-Freedom-and-Tenure-Brigham-Young-University.pdf

    These new policies push in a dangerous direction. If BYU fired every faculty member teaching about race or gender it would probably generate something much worse than the aaup report (and Holland has said himself he’s willing to risk losing accreditation), but these new policies are essentially trying to nip the problem in the bud by weeding out any chance of a problem. It doesn’t matter if otherwise good people get cut out, it only matters that no bad actors make it in. I suspect BYU would go full Minority Report if it could. Why this doesn’t raise the ire of accreditors is because it’s done to the most marginal folks—adjuncts and potential hires. It also makes the situation really hard for CFS faculty who are otherwise good people and faithful members. They have to stay away from the third rail without knowing exactly what it is. This is not a healthy situation for a university.

  50. As Elder Holland says (and as you quote him saying) in so many words: BYU is willing to lose its accreditation (if it must) in order to protect the foundational teachings of the church. There’s nothing ambiguous about that commitment. And as such there should be little confusion on the part of those who apply for work at BYU as to what the church expects of its faculty and staff. Nor should there be any question as to what the “third rail” is to CFS faculty.

    Having said that, perhaps I’m misunderstanding your comment–or maybe I’m just naive. But even so, as I consider the problem from that standpoint of the church–the sponsoring organization–the whole thing seems pretty down to earth. They’re just placing a finer filter on the selection process in order to maintain their standards–a perfectly reasonable thing to do from time to time.

  51. Panties Python,
    I never mentioned anything about creationism. I was bringing up the point that some BYU professors have dismissed Christ as the Creator and publicly teach and acknowledge that paradigm. Then, if you don’t agree, they have enough sway to cancel you out. Are these people really the type of instructors we want at BYU? Whether it be a sociology class professor who teaches that marriage can mean different things in some cultures or a psychology professor who may teach that pornography addiction isnt bad it all means the same, we dont need you here at our school. Secularism has deep and firm roots in universities and what is taught and we are witnessing that reality at our own university.

  52. Indeed, adult professors use their platforms all too often to teach their conservative secular biases as if they are facts. I remember some years ago having some back and forth dialogue with professor about how it wasn’t necessary to repent for being a Democrat. The professor was the son of a church authority and taught in the religion department. He basically dismissed the church’s position and claimed it was a sin to be a Democrat. And he is not the only one, I’ve talked with quite a few other professors at BYU Provo who hold the same sentiment. As well, many of them held the view that being gay was a choice and was a sin, regardless on it one engaged in sexual intimacy. As well, one of them claimed that the blood atonement idea suggested all church members were required to advocate for the death penalty. None of this is in line with the Church’s official positions! But, it’s good to see that the church is going to cracking down on this at BYU and hopefully rid itself of some of these conservative professors who are passing off their ideas as Church sponsored!

    (No, in all honesty, I don’t mean that last line at all, though everything else is true). I’m happy to live in a mature, pluralist church, stickiness and all. The truth will out.

  53. Jack,

    A couple of things. First, if BYU were to lose its accreditation BYU would be no different than Trump University. BYU in any meaningful sense of the term “university” would cease to exist. Holland’s remark must be understood as essentially saying, “we will go down with this ship.” As the sponsoring institution they have every right to sink their organization, but practically speaking those are the terms he’s bringing to the table.

    Second, and more importantly, regarding your comment: “Nor should there be any question as to what the “third rail” is to CFS faculty,” that is precisely the problem. There are questions as to what the third rail is. I’m not sure you’ve read the BCC post that lists new questions being asked of new hires and faculty. But even before those were implemented, go and look at Cosmo’s comment and the story I linked to. The third rail there was trying to stop the MTC from building taller buildings. I know another BYU prof who several years ago mentioned to his bishop in an informal conversation that he didn’t like the church putting so much money into City Creek. The bishop yanked his temple recommend.

    The new ecclesiastical endorsement includes these questions:

    “Does this member have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of its doctrine, including its teachings on marriage, family, and gender?”

    “Does this member support current church policies and practices and sustain the leaders of the Church?”

    How clear is this third rail? I know BYU profs who ask for permission before going to a relative’s gay wedding. I know BYU profs who ask not to appear in public photos at these events. Can BYU profs post a rainbow flag outside their house? What if their spouse (not a BYU prof) advocates for LGBTQ+ folks? What if their child does? On the other side, what if a BYU prof is an anti-vaxer (the church was quite clear on its position)? Or, what if I publicly advocate for death with dignity laws because of the painful death I saw my father go through (the church is explicitly against these)? The list could go on, and that is precisely the problem. Don’t even let me get into the fact that it’s entirely unclear who is making these decisions in the “Ecclesiastical Clearance Office,” or how they make decisions, or what exact information they are looking at.

  54. Rob said:
    “Panties Python,
    I never mentioned anything about creationism. I was bringing up the point that some BYU professors have dismissed Christ as the Creator and publicly teach and acknowledge that paradigm. Then, if you don’t agree, they have enough sway to cancel you out. Are these people really the type of instructors we want at BYU? Whether it be a sociology class professor who teaches that marriage can mean different things in some cultures or a psychology professor who may teach that pornography addiction isnt bad it all means the same, we dont need you here at our school. Secularism has deep and firm roots in universities and what is taught and we are witnessing that reality at our own university.”

    First: I’ll assume the misstatement of my screen name was due to autocorrect and was not a deliberate insult.

    Second: If it is relevant to the class (ie a class on marriage and family in different cultures), a sociology teacher should absolutely be teaching that marriage can mean different things in some cultures, because it is indisputable fact that it can and does. That is not advocacy of alternative forms of marriage, it is simply teaching the facts.

    Third: I apologize for overreacting. It sure sounded like you were playing “gotcha” with zoology and biology professors and calling them out (in class, in person, and on the blogosphere) for not agreeing with (and not teaching) your own personal, idiosyncratic, idea of exactly what constitutes God’s nuts-and-bolts involvement in the Creation. That would, actually, be a bad-faith effort to bring creationism into biology classes.

    However: I highly doubt that any BYU professor will “publicly teach” that Christ is not the Creator and actively “try to cancel you out” if you insist on your own personal, idiosyncratic, idea of exactly what constitutes God’s nuts-and-bolts involvement in the Creation. In fact, my own personal experience with life sciences professors at BYU suggests exactly the opposite. And certainly most professors would prefer to avoid the “evolution vs creationism” fight altogether and just teach the science without getting involved in religious arguments. You had to “press” Duane Jefferies for his views, perhaps because he suspected you might then do something like “calling him out” on a blog. You describe his own personal, idiosyncratic idea of a reduced nuts-and-bolts involvement in the Creation as a “liberal secular bias [taught] as if [it was] fact.” As far as I can tell, he didn’t teach his own views on the Creation as fact, in class – you pressed him on it (whether inside or outside of class is not clear from your post), and he expressed his opinion. So he was not “publicly teaching” his views and trying to “cancel you out.” The fact is, if he had “publicly taught” in a biology class that Christ was actively involved in the nuts and bolts of the Creation, that would be a “conservative religious bias taught as if it was fact,” so to speak. There is no factual evidence for any religious account of the creation. Religious accounts of the creation of the Earth and the creation of humankind function as myth, not history. Nor is there any scientific reason to favor one religion’s creation myth over another. Should a biology professor teach or publicly support the creation as in Genesis, or perhaps a Japanese creation myth, or perhaps one of the many different creation myths of distinct Native American tribes? Arbitrarily favoring the Genesis account in a biology class would be unscientific in the extreme. So the vast majority of biological scientists, including those at BYU, will just prefer to keep out of all that and stick to the science.

    BYU has the reasonable expectation of being able to limit its hires to people of faith who are in good standing with their churches, and the reasonable expectation of being able to give preference to members of the Church, as the Church sponsors the institution. To go farther than that simple statement is dangerous to academic freedom, institutional accreditation, and the freedom of conscience of all faculty, students, and other employees affiliated with the school.

  55. Cate: The AAUP report merely demonstrates how toothless that organization is and how little effect its actions have. BYU has blithely ignored it for 25 years without consequence. (And take a look over the horizon and you’ll see that opaque hiring and firing decisions are not exactly unique to BYU these days.) The rules of accreditation are set by accreditors, and BYU’s long track record of uneventful accreditation suggests to me that nothing is likely to change about that. Just like “Catholic university wants Catholic professors to be Catholic; controversy ensues” seems like a tempest in a teacup to most outsiders, how the church determines the religious side of qualifications isn’t something an accreditor is going to touch. There’s certainly a possibility for useful discussion about how BYU can best address whatever concerns it may have, but waiting for the accreditor to bring down the hammer over who the university hires and fires is a pointless distraction.

  56. Pontius Python,
    Sorry about the mispel. That was auto spell correct. My bad.
    The reason I was pressing certain BYU professors was because of their belonging and affiliations at that time with certain atheistic associations that were attacking religious beliefs. That’s what started it all. I don’t care about the teaching of evolution at BYU, whatever, it’s when they start to cancel others, bully, manipulate or censor others beliefs publicly that’s a problem and we don’t need those types teaching at BYU. Duane went so far as to actually lie and change the actual words I was posting online. I called him out publicly fir doing that and it wasn’t long after that he censored me intentionally so that he could spout off lies about me to his audience.
    Liberals are all about this new cancel culture where only their view should be heard and tolerated.

  57. Pontius,
    Just because liberals have changed the meaning of “marriage” doesn’t mean we as a church should also change what we believe about what “marriage” actually means. If a BYU professor supports the liberal definition, and thus support SSM in any setting publicly, they should be removed from teaching.

  58. Ok, Rob, I’ll accept that explanation. Thanks for the apology. No hard feelings, have a nice day.

    Oh, and God save the Queen! (And God save the King.)

  59. Jonathan,
    I’m not sure “blithely ignore” is accurate. I actually agree with you regarding the toothlessness of the AAUP, but the tempest in a tea pot analogy fails on several levels. Perhaps most importantly, the current policies harm people I know and care about so teapot is a matter of perspective. Secondly, if the 1970’s are any prediction of what’s to come for BYU, things aren’t looking good (a bit of weather forecasting from within my teapot). How do you think it would play out if BYU made public its criteria for firing adjuncts and hiring faculty? What would happen if BYU were to use this criteria to fire CFS faculty? I’ve tracked this for some time and personally know half a dozen people who were selected for hire by a department after being vetted by their bishop and a general authority and were then subsequently cut loose because of the Ecclesiastical Clearance Office. What they had in common was the study of race or gender (and, no, that is not my field of study). Candidates were subsequently hired that did not study these areas. What would happen if BYU fired its faculties in these areas except for the small few deemed appropriate? It might only be a minor storm, but each of these things add up. Some sport teams are not wanting to play at BYU. Some academic organizations have rescheduled conferences that were supposed to be hosted at BYU. The full blown loss of accreditation might be a long ways away, but all it takes are a few large companies refusing to hire BYU MBAs or the loss of accounting certifications in combination with these other things to practically bring BYU down.

  60. Cate,

    I’ll defer to Jonathan’s knowledge of the inner workings of accreditation–with the caveat that (IMO) that doesn’t change the fact the church’s commitments towards its teachings are unambiguous.

    I like the way Neal A. Maxwell described Hugh Nibley’s commitment to the church. He said (in so many words) that Nibley could get away with being a gadfly because his commitment to the Kingdom was so visible. In like manner, the church wants faculty who are “all in.” They want to be assured that those who are teaching the rising generation will not shrink from edifying the Kingdom–which includes boldness in testifying of the reality of living prophets and witnessing of the inspiration of their counsel vis-a-vis the foundational teachings of the church.

    In that light, if a modern day Hugh Nibley were to be seen attending a gay wedding ceremony the leadership would probably assume that he had good reasons for being there–and not rashly judge that he must’ve gone off the rails. His commitment to the Kingdom would be so well established in the eyes of all who knew him that those in authority would be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  61. @Cate: Sorry, just jumping in here re the particular issue of people getting the ax at BYU because they study gender or race: BYU has no shortage of people studying gender and race. I’ve been out of that particular game for a while now, but gender, race (and inequality) is the primary thing that sociologists at least study nowadays, and BYU is very conventional in that sense.

  62. Jack:
    Nibley did take some heat at BYU. He did align more with the political Left than the Right. IMO it was his family relationships/pedigree that saved him more intense trouble until he could establish his reputation.

  63. I was councillor to a bishop who voted conservative before he went to BYU Provo for a few years. When he came back he was so disgusted with how extreme right the culture was, and how problematic he saw that as, he switched to progressive.

  64. I really hate to see the culture war come to BYU, whether it’s brought by members of Team Red or Team Blue. It’s inimical to the purpose of any university, but especially BYU. Notre Dame likes to call itself “the place where the Catholic Church does its thinking.” That’s more than a bit much, but the fact that we have a prophet does not mean there isn’t thinking to be done and BYU ought to be a good place to do it.

    An example: Gender dysphoria is a real and serious problem. The medical community is convinced the best treatment is for the patient to transition to their preferred gender. The Church, for good reasons, rejects this approach. So what’s the best alternative? Can we demonstrate that it’s as effective as transitioning? Doing so would be a great service to both people who suffer from gender dysphoria and the Church.

    But suppose a BYU researcher studies the available alternatives and finds that they do not have as good outcomes as transitioning. (Note: this is hypothetical. I know nothing about the alternatives to transitioning and their effectiveness.) This does not shake their faith in the Church, the Proclamation on the Family, or the Church’s policy on transitioning; it just tells them they need to keep looking for better approaches. As a researcher they have a duty to the truth to publish what they found. As a practitioner they have a duty to give their own patients and those of others accurate information so they can make informed decisions. I believe being a disciple of Christ gives them the same duties.

    But people with a culture war mindset from Team Blue will latch onto that paper as “proof” that the Church’s policy is wrong and harmful. People with a culture war mindset from Team Red will accuse the researcher of being disloyal for publishing something that harmed Team Red (i.e. something that let Team Blue “own” Team Red in social media). They may question the researcher’s commitment to the Church’s policies–maybe even accuse them of only being at BYU to try to change the Church from within. This is why most universities give tenure: so researchers can seek the truth and publish what they find without fear of the consequences.

    I firmly believe that faculty at BYU should be faithful to the Church if they are members. They should be there because they believe in BYU’s purpose and mission. (The same applies to students.) But enforcing that is a fraught enterprise. There’s a reason bishops and stake presidents are given exact wording for temple recommend interview questions and told not to stray from them. We’ve seen from the comments here that some Church members from Team Red completely fail to distinguish between their politics and the gospel. (Members from Team Blue have their own failings, but that’s not likely to be one of them.) My fear is that some bishops, stake presidents, and BYU administrators with a culture war mindset will take what’s happening here as permission to probe the loyalty of BYU faculty to Team Red, thinking they’re probing loyalty to the Church.

    This is a hard issue, and I don’t envy Church leaders as they try to deal with it. They deserve grace and the benefit of the doubt as they do so. But the stakes are high.

  65. RLD, I agree that it’s very unfortunate to see that kind of divide between the saints. I’d hope that all of us–red, blue, or purple–would remember that prophetic counsel should trump our best thinking–whether it has to do with human sexuality or pandemics.

  66. Jack,

    You’re naive if you think being “all in” is self-evident. As Old Man points out, Nibley was not uniformly well-regarded. Even post retirement he was not always welcome on campus. You could spend years depicting how all in you are, only to get a new bishop and have it all wiped away.

    Stephen,

    As I stated, we don’t know why these people were not hired, but I do know that in approach, commitment to the church, etc., they are no different than many faculty (to your point). If they deem these new faculty unsuitable, then so are the old faculty. Firing the old faculty would be a larger fiasco than simply being opaque about why the new ones are not hired (to my point).

  67. This may be only somewhat related to the topic at hand, but of all the hills to die on, I can’t imagine BYU being willing to sacrifice accreditation and it’s status as an academic beacon, simply to enforce full compliance on whether a professor supports LGBT kids.

    I mean, reject professors for not following Jesus’s teachings or not being Christlike, or for outright opposing the church. But this?

  68. Jack,

    Would it be fair to re-word one of your phrases as follows?

    “…remember that prophetic counsel should inform our best thinking…”

  69. ji, I think that’s fair–as a general rule. Even so, I think we should be willing to let prophetic counsel *trump* our best thinking on those occasions when we may not understand the whys and wherefores of said counsel.

  70. Rld asks, “Gender dysphoria is a real and serious problem. The medical community is convinced the best treatment is for the patient to transition to their preferred gender. The Church, for good reasons, rejects this approach. So what’s the best alternative?”

    This is a tangent, but it relates to a valid function of university research. Just as the BYU requires essentially “table stakes” understanding that gender is eternal, most academia (seems to) requires table stakes that people are often born in the wrong body, requiring biologically unnecessary, but mentally necessary amputations, etc.

    My comment is, BYU will lose eventually if it has no science to back up its position and is increasingly pushed into a corner. And academia outside (and increasingly inside) BYU has made exploration of alternative explanations to gender disphoria out of the question.

    What’s the alternative explanation for wrong body for the brain types?
    What percent are sex abused? What percent are broken homes? What was diet like in the womb? What was diet like after? Breast milk vs formula? What are estrogen and testosterone levels like? What are physical activity levels like? What is BMI index? Media type exposure (porn etc). Dinner with family, Just for fun let’s throw in vaccination schedules and types. (This isn’t my laundry list of peeves, but if you got your pontiuses in a twist maybe you are part of those that contribute to chilling of knowledge). There are all kinds of quantifiable metrics that can be taken to explore the gender disphoria hypothesis rather than simply taking someone’s “truth” at face value. There are undoubtedly even more ways that haven’t been considered.

    Doing so… Will invite controversy and pressure to suppress and down play the conclusions. I hope whatever side we fall in, we can all see that these topics are so loaded socially and culturally in one direction.

    Research into attaching shock electrodes on various body parts to affect mental state = bad.
    Chopping off various body parts to affect mental state = good.

    Research into the presence of various hormones that might lead to “negative” behavior (from traditional conservative, and evolutionary biological perspective, I might add) = bad.
    Research into in giving hormones to change said “bad” behavior into “good” behavior = bad.
    Actively giving additional hormones contrary to biological balance to affect mentsl and physical state contrary to otherwise normal biological function= good.

    The deck is stacked in one direction on these issues which is requiring apriori BYU to avoid doing science to support its position lest it seem barbaric.

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