Ralph Hancock’s excellent article on the future of BYU

We urge all readers to take a look at Prof. Ralph Hancock’s excellent articles on BYU. As many readers know, there is widespread dissatisfaction among Latter-day Saints regarding the type of education students are receiving at BYU, specifically BYU-Provo, but also other BYU institutions.

To summarize the dissatisfaction from the conservative and traditional perspective, the concern is that BYU is becoming too worldly and embracing too many “woke” causes. But progressives are also unhappy that BYU is not like other universities in the U.S.

Prof. Hancock addresses these are other issues here.

Clearly something is stirring at Brigham Young University. The university is re-examining its fundamental mission, taking stock of how it has drifted away from this mission, and undertaking a realignment with that mission. All Latter-day Saints, and indeed all friends of religious higher education in the United States, have a stake in this challenging ongoing process. The university’s leading officers, under the direction of the Commissioner of Church Education, Clark Gilbert, and of the Board of Trustees in Salt Lake City, have addressed the university audience repeatedly, clearly, and emphatically — especially over the last two years — concerning the need to realign BYU with its distinctive religious as well as intellectual mission as a university sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is much less clear, though, how these efforts to redirect BYU will unfold or what will be the eventual outcome of the present ferment. This article is mainly a reflection on the university’s annual conference, August 22, 2022, as well as on meetings and conversations at the college and department level that same day, and on subsequent reverberations throughout the institution that I have witnessed directly or that have been reported to me by BYU colleagues who share my concerns. I aim both to clarify the nature of the changes being called for by BYU leadership and to explain the very significant obstacles that stand in the way of these changes. Let me say at the outset that I wholly embrace the present call for mission realignment, and that I also understand that the obstacles to it are in many cases structural and not a result of deliberate opposition or disloyalty on the part of recalcitrant faculty.

As I will show below, President Kevin Worthen and Vice President Shane Reese made it very clear in their respective addresses on August 22, 2022 to the whole BYU community — and to the whole faculty — that improved alignment with the Church and the Restored Gospel is a high priority in the school’s updated strategic planning. VP Reese, in particular, offered some very bold and suggestive reflections on BYU’s need to articulate a “gospel methodology.” What remains unclear is just how the re-commitment to a gospel-centered education approach is to be articulated and just how this mission realignment is to be conceived and implemented, given the university’s deep involvement with and dependence on the mainstream establishment of higher education in the United States. I will argue, further, on the basis of observations at the “operational” level of the university (academic colleges and departments), that in the absence of a clear and substantive articulation and organizational incentivizing of the administration’s mandate to integrate religious faith and intellectual learning, the faculty as a whole will likely continue in their familiar professional grooves, and that many professors will continue to interpret gospel imperatives in ways that align conveniently with the humanistic religion, now largely driven by victimhood identity politics, that is prominent in the mainstream academy.

Finally, returning to the most important message from the annual university conference, I intend to show that a careful reading of Elder Christofferson’s speech of August 22 provides the key to a fuller and more practicable articulation of BYU’s mission and shows the way forward to a difficult and gradual but necessary implementation.

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Returning BYU to its Original Mission

The founding of Brigham Young University was a long process. Although the official date is considered 1875, it wasn’t a full university and accredited until after the turn of the century. It started out as an LDS high school before receiving the designation as a higher education academy. A few years in and a fire destroyed the original main building. Presidents of the school came and went as some wanted to improve their professional opportunities. Benjamin Cluff Jr. was the president possibly most responsible for BYU becoming the university it is today, splitting the high school from the college students and implementing updated college curriculum. During his time the LDS Church formally took over the institution and it became a full university in name and purpose. Later presidents of the university would build on these changes and continue expanding its place in higher education.

Not only was the process for BYU long, but it had early controversies. When university President Benjamin Cluff Jr. introduced athletics to the school, they were rejected by those who made final decisions and cancelled. Some who were concerned about making it a university instead of remain an academy, including Elder Anthon H. Lund, didn’t think it would be successful. A huge argument about allowing the teaching of evolution ended with, at least for a time, a rejection of the subject in the school. Concerns were expressed that land bought from Provo for the school would be used for other purposes. It wasn’t until the 1920s that any accreditation organizations recognized it as an acceptable university. From almost the start the academic and spiritual mission of the school seemed to be at odds, or seriously questioned.

At a founding day event on October 16, 1891, the presiding BYU President Karl G. Maeser said about the reason the school existed and its mission:

A glance over the conditions of mankind in this our day with its misery, discontent, and corruption, and disintegration of the social, religious, and philosophic fabrics, shows that this generation has been put into the balance and has been found wanting. A following, therefore, in the old grooves, would simply lead to the same results, and that is what the Lord has designed shall be avoided in Zion. President Brigham Young felt it in his heart that an educational system ought to be inaugurated in Zion in which, as he put it in his terse way of saying things, neither the alphabet nor the multiplication table should be taught without the Spirit of God.

More than ever the dual purpose of education and spiritual development at BYU has become challenged. Those who should be the stewards have largely become offenders. It would be preferable if the spiritual side of an LDS owned university overshadowed the academic, but that isn’t the case. Too much of the world has overtaken to the point that the spiritual is often ignored and even mocked. The secular false gospel of “woke” has displaced the saving truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unless changes are quickly made, BYU will become fully nothing more than just another secular educational institution hostile to its original religious purpose.

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What did the Church actually say about the Respect for Marriage Act?

I was going to post something on the Church’s statement on the Respect for Marriage Act, and then I saw that Public Square had already written what I was going to write, and done it much better than what I would have written, so why produce an inferior product?

Please read this:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released this week an “Official Statement on the United States Congress Respect for Marriage Act,” which (1) affirmed its teaching on marriage and the family, (2) expressed gratitude that religious liberty was being protected in new federal legislation on same-sex marriage, and (3) affirmed that such balanced cooperation over otherwise strongly contested rights was “the way forward” on these kinds of difficult matters.  

The statement ended, “As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.”

To read the actual statement, you might come away thinking the Church was wanting to affirm its commitment to its classic teachings on the family, hail a willingness among bipartisan legislators to protect religious liberty, and raise its voice on behalf of peaceful cooperation between differences.

But a very different message emerged in reporting and public commentary on the four-sentence statement.

“A historic shift is underway!” Rather than highlighting the Church’s public affirmation of its long-standing efforts to defend covenant marriage—by, in this case, protecting religious freedom alongside LGBT+ legislation—headline articles all across the nation proclaimed that the Church “voices support for same-sex marriage law.”

Bryan Pietsch writing for the Washington Post, called the church statement “a marked shift from decades of attacks on LGBTQ rights” and “perhaps the clearest declaration of support yet on same-sex marriage from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

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Choosing evil

Helaman 5:For as their laws and their governments were established by the avoice of the people, and they who bchose evil were cmore numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were dripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.

Yea, and this was not all; they were a astiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.

It’s pretty clear that one of the biggest dynamics of the 2022 midterm election was that voters see killing babies as one of their most important priorities. Moloch is pleased.

From Lifesite.

Americans voted Tuesday on abortion-related ballot initiatives in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont, and as of 5:30AM CST Wednesday morning, abortion allies have maintained the lead in all five vote totals.

A proposed amendment to the Vermont Constitution expressly guaranteeing “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy,” including abortion, was the first to be decided, with 77.4% voting in favor, making Vermont the first state to formally enshrine abortion “rights” in its constitution.

As of the time of this writing, a California initiative to add a “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion” to its state constitution had 65% of the vote in its favor with 41 percent of the votes counted. The amendment’s success was a foregone conclusion given California’s status as the most liberal state in the Union.

Michigan’s so-called Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative seeks to establish a state constitutional “right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.” As this update is being published, 55.6% of Michiganders voted to approve it. The Associated Press called this vote with 84% of the vote counted.

While the above results are disappointing to pro-lifers, two all come from more left-wing states while the third in Michigan comes in a battleground state that saw Democrats win statewide by significant margins. Heavy Democratic turnout likely helped propel the abortion measure in Michigan. The remaining two referendums, however, may be cause for greater concern.

Kentucky’s proposed amendment clarifying that its constitution does not “secure or protect a right to abortion, or require the funding of abortion,” meant to stop abortion allies from blocking pro-life laws in court, is currently behind with 52.6% voting against it.

Lastly, Montana posed to voters not a constitutional amendment but a proposed state law to recognize the personhood of preborn babies who survive abortions and guarantee they be cared for. At the time of this writing, 52.6% of voters oppose it.

These percentages are potentially subject to change once the remainder of the states’ votes are counted. But if they hold, they suggest a serious challenge for pro-life reformers moving forward.

By restoring states’ ability to fully decide abortion policy, the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade in June unleashed a new status quo and rampant speculation about how voters will react to it. Tuesday’s defeats follow a proposed amendment to clarify that the Kansas Constitution does not protect abortion failing at the ballot in August. At the time, pro-lifers attributed the loss in large part to pervasive misinformation about pro-life laws’ impact of women facing medical emergencies.

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