Singing as a Sign of Mental Illness

Only at BYU. The Deseret Morning News reports today that BYU student Nathan Langford was threatened with a police citation for singing between his classes. 

A “self-proclaimed fantasy geek,” Langford dressed in a Hobbit-like cloak and often sang folk songs outside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on campus. But such outbursts of nonconformity are not appreciated at the Lord’s university.

“Officers confronted Langford in response to several reports of suspicious activity, said BYU Police Lt. Arnold Lemmon. Callers were concerned about the singer’s mental health.

“‘In today’s world, we can’t just blow off people saying there’s something going on here,’ he said. ‘For us the bottom line was his peers were concerned about his behavior.'”

This reminds me of chanson’s run-in with University Standards for her unusual hairstyle. One thing BYU students are good at is policing the actions and behavior of other students. In fact, they are encouraged to do so. Many of my friends have had to report to the standards office (read: Honor Code enforcement) because someone reported them for some sort of violation, whether substance-abuse-related or merely their not wearing socks (I’m not kidding). The sad thing is that often my friends were not guilty of these infractions, but someone reported them out of spite, apparently.

It’s not surprising that this kind of superficial judgmentalism thrives in a religion that cares about whether its bishops have facial hair or its fair young women have more than one hole in each ear. Apostle David Bednar went so far as to suggest that you could tell how faithful a girl is in following the prophet by her willingness to remove superfluous earrings. The scriptures tell us that God looks on the heart, but Mormonism looks on the beard and the skirt length.

As for poor Mr. Langford, he’s learned his lesson. He’s through singing: “Yeah, hello,” he said. “Like going against authority really isn’t my thing.” Of course not. If it were, he wouldn’t be at BYU

7 Responses to Singing as a Sign of Mental Illness

  1. C. L. Hanson says:

    LOL, I immediately thought of that story as well. The story is fiction, but it’s based on piecing together various real-life incidents, so it’s not surprising to see further real-life examples of the same sort of thing.

  2. chriscarrollsmith says:

    People who think this fellow is crazy just don’t understand role-playing culture. I mean, I wouldn’t be caught dead playing D&D or dressing up like a hobbit, myself. But I know plenty of people who do, and this really isn’t that atypical. At least he’s dressing as a relatively harmless hobbit instead of as a vampire, like some of the people I know do. I can see, though, why somebody who has no comprehension of nerddom might be concerned by this sort of behavior. After all, we all remember how the kids at Columbine loved to play ultra-violent video games and don’t seem to have been able to separate fantasy and reality. With all the college shootings lately, this may be as related to America’s culture of fear as it is to BYU’s culture of conformity.

  3. Jay says:

    One thing BYU students are good at is policing the actions and behavior of other students.

    I’m not sure about that. I always viewed BYU as one of the more liberal LDS schools. People always broke the honor code: short shorts, guys with earrings or facial hair, wearing bikinis at the pool, having the opposite sex in your apartment after hours, etc. These don’t sound like a big deal, but they are all against the honor code. I never turned anyone in and didn’t really have the desire to. After all I liked looking at girls in bikinis:) Needless to say, only the most fanatic of Mormon adherents would turn in another student. I usually just stayed away from those people.

    It’s not surprising that this kind of superficial judgmentalism thrives in a religion that cares about whether its bishops have facial hair or its fair young women have more than one hole in each ear.

    I’d have to agree with this one. I think LDS members get so caught up in things that don’t really matter that earrings become something to judge someone’s worthiness on. As members we tend to forget what really matters when we focus so much on silly rules.

  4. runtu says:

    Jay,

    I would agree that BYU is less conservative than, say, BYU-Idaho, but when I was there years ago, there was definitely a culture of “tattling.” Of course, I was such a straight arrow that I never did anything that would get me sent to Standards, but my roommate had a few interviews there.

    I read your blog and sympathize with where you are. I used to be in that position, where you want to believe but you do a lot of “word watching” as you put it. Wherever you end up, I wish the best for you.

  5. runtu says:

    Jay, you might want to check out New Order Mormons (http://newordermormon.org/), who are a group of people in the same boat you are. You might find understanding and support there.

  6. Jay says:

    runtu,

    Thanks for the kind words. I have been going to the NOM site for some time now and I really do like it there. There are all kinds of LDS members that comment (though very few TBMs).

    Having attended BYU-Idaho (Ricks when I was there) and BYU I would whole heartedly agree with what you said. Though I never directly knew about it, I heard several accounts of people getting turned in for honor rule infractions. I did not however see this so much at BYU. I’m not discounting your account, I just know that I didn’t have the same experience at BYU that I did at BYU-Idaho where tattling was much more prevalent.

  7. Korian says:

    The next thing you know there won’t be anyone left to report to the authorities. I guess then it will be their turn to come after me. That’s what happens when people in authority expect others to snitch for them. Just like what happened with the Nazis during the 1930’s and 1940’s – that’s a Society I do not want to live in.

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