Truth Hurts

January 18, 2016

I was going to write about the appalling remarks by Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of the last post’s subject, Russell Nelson, but really, what can you way about someone who thinks it’s a good thing for gay church members to become desperate enough to pray for God to change their sexual orientation? There’s so much wrong with that, I don’t know where to start. Suffice it to say that it’s been unnerving and a little depressing to see the LDS church take so many steps backwards in the last few months. For an excellent discussion of where things stand (at least for me), see Greg Prince’s blog: The Exclusion Policy and Biology vs. Behavior.

I once knew a woman who would say the nastiest, most personally demeaning things to other people, and when the target of her attacks took offense, she would shrug and say, “I’m sorry the truth offends you. I’m not being mean. I’m just telling it like it is.” Invariably, these personal attacks were part of an effort to play people off each other. In her mind, those who really cared about her and respected her would accept “the truth,” and she could in some weird, twisted way feel she had helped them and bonded with them. The reality was that she caused a lot of hurt and pain, and most of her family and neighbors resented her deeply. A few particularly insecure family members took every criticism to heart and tried in vain to gain her approval. Of course, she never gave it, and the cycle of hurt continued until she died. Come to think of it, I don’t think it ended with her death; family members are still hurting from her nastiness over the years.

Some religious groups follow this same pattern. I knew a man who had been a Jehovah’s Witness, and he told me that, when they went door to door proselytizing, they would sometimes try to get people angry with them, as they felt they would be blessed for being hated and persecuted, as the scriptures say. It seems to be part of the motivation of the Westborough Baptist Church’s “God hates fags” program. Often used as a justification for intentional division is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

This theme is expanded in the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 16:

And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for itcutteth them to the very center.

As I said, the problem is when the division is intentional and unnecessary, and it usually happens because someone is trying to assert dominance and exclude those who won’t accept their dominance. When called on it, people always say they’re just telling the truth, and it’s not their problem if you find truth offensive.

It’s this weird “I’m only saying this for your own good” attitude that explains, at least for me, the church’s retrograde statements and policy changes in the last few months. Like the woman I knew, there’s an unsubtle message behind the “truth-speaking” going on: you are with us, or you are against us, and you must choose which side you’re on.

I’m sure a lot of people will take issue with what I just said, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me at this point. Witness where the church has gone in the last few months:

Almost exactly one year ago, the LDS church was using the relationship between Tom Christofferson (Apostle Todd Christofferson’s gay brother) and his LDS ward as an example of how gays and the LDS church could find harmony. According to KUTV, Elder Christofferson noted that his brother had “returned to the faith” and he and his partner were “active participants in their neighborhood ward.” In November, we learned that the church now considers Tom Christofferson and his partner to be “apostates,” which would preclude them from any kind of participation in the ward beyond attendance. This month, Apostle Russell Nelson doubled-down by affirming that the policy excluding gays and their children from church blessings was given by revelation from God.

In 2012, the official church web site, mormonsandgays.org, acknowledged that same-sex attraction is not something that people can change but that it was something to be “borne” or “endured” in the hope that it might change in the next life:

We believe that with an eternal perspective, a person’s attraction to the same sex can be addressed and borne as a mortal test. It should not be viewed as a permanent condition. An eternal perspective beyond the immediacy of this life’s challenges offers hope. Though some people, including those resisting same-sex attraction, may not have the opportunity to marry a person of the opposite sex in this life, a just God will provide them with ample opportunity to do so in the next. We can all live life in the full context of who we are, which is much broader than sexual attraction.

Just over a week ago, the church published on the LDS.org web site a talk that suggested that, if gay members would only get “desperate” enough, they could through prayer have their sexual orientation changed:

Gratefully, the Savior has paid the price for every gift of the Spirit we will ever need to help us. It’s up to us to prayerfully discover which gifts we need. We may need the gift of self-discipline or of cheerfulness. Perhaps we need the gift of patience, or the gift to be healed, or the gift to forgive. Perhaps we need the gift to have our sexual feelings be in harmony with eternal laws. Perhaps we realize that we cannot live one more minute without the gift of unshakable faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. When we’re desperate for any gift of the Spirit, that is when we will finally pray with all the energy of heart for that gift. And the great news is that each spiritual gift we receive takes us one more step forward into our true selves. …

I pray that this year you will have some moments of anguishing desperation that will propel you further along the path to becoming the man or woman you were born to be. Your true self is spectacular! Never settle for less.

The problem, of course, is that desperation only drives change where change is possible. Say I decided that I am not the man I was born to be because the physical condition I was born with makes it difficult for me to swallow some kinds of food without extreme care. I’ve had many medical procedures to make it easier for me to swallow, but my doctors tell me I’ve progressed as far as I’m going to go. I suppose I could become desperate to change this aspect of my body, enough so that I would pray that God would “heal” me and make me the person I was born to be. After all, I shouldn’t settle for less.

What would be the end result? All the prayer in the world isn’t going to change the fact that I have a narrow part of my esophagus ringed with scar tissue. If I followed Sister Nelson’s counsel, in the near-certain absence of change, my desperation would turn to despair. At some point I would be forced to accept that I can’t change that aspect of my body, or I would give in to despair, which derives from the Latin de esperare–literally “without hope.” Given my history with depression, I have a pretty good idea where things would end.

If the church itself acknowledges that sexual orientation–whatever its roots–isn’t something you can will or pray away, what is the point of Sister Nelson’s wholly inappropriate remarks? Does she–a trained and licensed therapist–really believe gay Mormons can and should follow her counsel to change their “sexual feelings”? I doubt it very much.

What this is about is drawing clear lines between the church and “the world.” If we take her at her word, the problem is not only behavior, but also desire, because, she wants us to believe, both can be changed. Obviously, someone who doesn’t change his or her sexual orientation through prayer and the gifts of the Spirit isn’t desperate enough. And those members who give into despair (and let’s not kid ourselves, there will be more than one) clearly didn’t channel their desperation into righteous avenues. It’s not her fault if lives are destroyed; she’s only telling it like it is.

In the end, however, I don’t believe any of this was meant for the benefit of gay or lesbian members or nonmembers. It was directed at straight members as another distinction that makes for a peculiar people. “You are not like them,” the members need to be told, “and you must not tolerate people like that in the ranks of our people.”

Like the woman I knew, the point is to divide, to pit friends and family against each other, forcing them to put the church first. It’s a destructive and wholly unrighteous game, but that is what is happening.

 

 


How BYU Destroyed Ancient Book of Mormon Studies

September 8, 2015

As I noted in earlier posts, Dr. William Hamblin of my alma mater, Brigham Young University, engaged in a rather one-sided “debate” with Baylor professor Dr. Philip Jenkins over the legitimacy of “Ancient Book of Mormon Studies” as an academic discipline. For more than two months, Hamblin continued to flail about, unable to provide a single piece of solid New World evidence that the events depicted in the Book of Mormon ever took place. In the end, Dr. Jenkins graciously ended the discussion, having showed fairly definitively that Hamblin had nothing to offer but postmodernist musings about the nature of reality and history as a discipline.

Instead of acknowledging his utter failure, Hamblin has now posted a follow-up in which he identifies the real villain in delegitimizing the “fledgling discpline” of Ancient Book of Mormon Studies: LDS-owned Brigham Young University.

How BYU Destroyed Ancient Book of Mormon Studies

Hamblin identifies the following key ways in which the powers that be at BYU killed a promising new academic endeavor:

  1. College and Department Politics. Hamblin explains how he was praised and given merit pay raises and promotions when he published in non-LDS fields of study but was reprimanded and denied career progress when he focused on the Book of Mormon. He appears to be mystified that, even at BYU, Ancient Book of Mormon Studies (ABMS) is not considered a legitimate field of study, but he explains rather clearly the university’s thinking: “you must publish outside the ‘BYU Bubble’—that is, BYU or LDS sponsored publications,” if you want your work to be considered legitimate scholarship, and that means you can’t publish anything in Ancient Book of Mormon Studies. But there’s nothing puzzling about this at all: BYU wants to be taken seriously as an academic institution, but that won’t happen if its professors turn inward and spend their time on topics that no one else accepts as legitimate. Surely, Hamblin understands this. What he is describing is not politics but part of any university’s quest to excel and build a reputation, and professors who publish on Nephite horses and smelting ore to create obsidian-edged clubs do not contribute to a positive reputation.
  2. Religious Education. Here he complains that the one department with a legitimate interest in ABMS is not allowed to teach it. No, the Religious Education department teaches what Hamblin calls “the ‘Three Ds’—doctrine, devotion, and daily application” to the exclusion of “serious academic study of the Book of Mormon as an ancient text.” I wonder what school he’s been teaching at because it has always been this way at BYU. Religion classes at BYU are taught out of the LDS Institute manuals and have always been intended to be devotional in nature. Sure, a few professors have sneaked in their pet ABMS theories (such as the course I took from Paul Hoskisson many years ago), but Religion classes are part of your General Education classes, not a serious avenue of academic study (see #1 above).
  3. BYU Curriculum and the Book of Mormon. This is really just an extension of #2 in that he’s complaining that BYU offers only two classes in the Book of Mormon. Instead of an in-depth study of “Book of Mormon geography, history, archaeology, linguistics, literature, theology, culture, language (ancient Near East and Maya), textual criticism, religion, law, warfare, apocalyptic, reception history, the Bible in the Book of Mormon, etc.,” he laments, “This cannot be an oversight or random chance.  This is obviously a conscious policy that implements curriculum decision which minimizes the opportunities of students to study the Book of Mormon as a serious academic discipline at BYU.  Which, for all practical purposes, means students can’t do ancient Book of Mormon studies at all, anywhere.” Of course it’s no oversight but a rational and obvious decision to avoid putting time, money, and effort into something that would damage the university’s reputation.
  4. Graduate Studies and the Book of Mormon. Hamblin is unhappy that the “only way that young LDS scholars can study the Book of Mormon in graduate school is to study it as a nineteenth century text in a secular religious studies program, or US history program.” Again, the reason isn’t hard to divine: the Book of Mormon is best seen in its historical context, which is 19th-century frontier America, not ancient Mesoamerica (see #1 above).
  5. BYU and the Destruction of FARMS. I think this section gets to the heart of the matter. FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) was near and dear to the heart of Dr. Hamblin and his friends, notably Daniel C, Peterson. For years it operated independently of BYU, raising funds and publishing without oversight. But that changed in 1997, when it was brought in as an official part of the university, which renamed it The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Studies in 2006. At the time, its absorption into BYU was seen as giving it legitimacy and the stamp of approval of not only the university but of its sponsoring church, but Hamblin describes it as a “hostile takeover” and says the university has broken its promises made to FARMS. In 2012 MI director Gerald Bradford fired Daniel C. Peterson as editor of the FARMS Review of Books and announced that the institute would henceforth avoid apologetics and instead focus on Mormon Studies, a broader, non-devotional, non-apologetic approach to the Mormon religion. I need not get into the details other than to say that Hamblin and his colleagues have not been happy with this turn of events. Again, the reason for the university’s actions isn’t difficult to understand.

The reality is that Ancient Book of Mormon Studies never was a fledgling academic discipline. One need only look at the long list of FARMS publications over the years to see that the institute was never academic in nature. Serious academic work develops a hypothesis based on the evidence and then tests that hypothesis against further evidence. Apologetics comes to the question with the answer already provided, and then works backwards to fit the evidence to that answer. Hamblin can complain until he’s blue in the face, but the hard truth is that BYU understands the difference between scholarship and what FARMS was doing. Even if you ignore the controversies about personal attacks in FARMS publications, it was always going to be apologetic in nature, and BYU made a conscious decision not to do apologetics, whether Hamblin likes it or not.

Apologetics has its place, certainly. I am not saying that what FARMS and its supporters (now publishing the Mormon Interpreter) did is illegitimate or dishonest, but it is by nature partial and often polemical. Universities are supposed to be in the business of promoting knowledge wherever it comes from, and that’s not what apologetics does. As a BYU alumnus (2 BAs and an MA), I’m happy that BYU has walked away from the pursuit of Book of Mormon apologetics. It just seems very strange for apologists to complain that a university is refusing to engage in a pursuit it finds academically illegitimate.


Vintage Runtu: FARMS and Fast Food

July 24, 2015

The increasingly hilarious exchange between Baylor History Professor Philip Jenkins and BYU Professor William Hamblin reminded me of something I wrote a number of years ago. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find it. Hope you enjoy it.

FARMS and Fast Food

Although Daniel Midgley-Welch is well-known in apologetic circles, most people are unaware of his prior career as cashier/fry cook in a local Burger King. Our researchers have transcribed the audio from a surviving security video to give an exciting glimpse of his young mind at work.

DMW: Welcome to Burger King. May I help you?

Patron: Uh, I’m not sure what I want. I’ve never been here before.

DMW: Just take your time. Look over the menu, study it out, and perhaps pray for guidance.

Patron: What?

DMW: Oh, never mind. We have a lot to choose from.

Patron: What’s this Big King sandwich?

DMW: It’s two beef patties, our secret sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.

Patron: Sounds just like a Big Mac.

DMW: Clearly you’re not familiar with the work of Corey Pants, who showed in his survey that the Big King cannot be derived from a Big Mac. No, it has its roots in an ancient Sumerian sandwich, which not coincidentally used the same sort of wrapper we use. Of course, it was made of papyrus. Really, you should keep up with the research.

Patron: What about the BK Fish Sandwich? Is that like a filet o’ fish?

DMW: Look, you don’t need to get belligerent. That question was answered in the 1960s by our respected ichthyologist, Drew Squibley. Don’t even bring up the filet o’ fish until you’ve read Squibley. It makes you look foolish.

Patron: Look, I just want something to eat. What do you recommend?

DMW: I’m not going to do your research for you. If you want me to give you a list of articles, fine. But I don’t have time to bring you up to speed if you’re not willing to put in minimal effort.

Patron: Are your fries any good? I heard you changed your recipe back in the 90s.

DMW: That’s an anti-Burger King lie. They have never changed. Our fries are unlike any others in the world.

Patron: They’re just fried potatoes, like everyone else’s.

DMW: Silly boy. We invented fries.

Patron: That’s ridiculous. If Burger King invented fries, I’d like to see some conclusive evidence for that.

DMW: What kind of evidence are you looking for?

Patron: I don’t know. Wrappers, something in print, anything that mentions Burger King as inventing the fry.

DMW: You are so ignorant, aren’t you? Why would you expect that kind of evidence?

Patron: Well, if a large corporation had developed such a product a long time ago, you’d expect it to leave some trace of its actual occurrence.

DMW: Obviously, you’ve never heard of the Limited Potato Theory. Burger King in those days did not start within a vacuum. There were thousands of other fast-food businesses surrounding it, and it was merely absorbed into the larger economy. In fact, Burger King was so good at hiding its impact, that we really have no evidence that it even existed, but we know it did; otherwise, how do you explain the existence of french fries? Did Burger King just make a good guess?

Patron: Can’t I just get something to eat? I just want to know what you have that’s good.

DMW: Jeez, you’re a real fundamentalist. Really, how do you expect anyone to take you seriously if you use such outdated Enlightenment terminology, such as “good”? You’re never going to survive unless you take a more postmodern approach to the world.

Patron: I think I’m going to go over to In-N-Out instead.

DMW: Oh, sure. Ignore the evidence. Just stick your head in the sand and cling to your predetermined beliefs.

Manager: Did we lose another customer?

DMW: Yeah, boss. For some reason, people don’t seem to be interested in the truth.

Manager: Losers.


Top Ten Things Overheard When President Obama Met with LDS Leaders

April 3, 2015

10. What do you mean, was it my mother or father who was “white and delightsome”?

9. We wanted to invite some prominent LDS Democrats to meet with you, but we couldn’t find any.

8. I really appreciate the family tree. I had no idea you could trace my ancestors all the way back to Cain.

7. What were you thinking, building a mall?

6. That’s a tie pin, not an emblem of my power and priesthoods.

5. Which one are you guys, again? Xenu or Moroni?

4. Does that jello have ramen noodles in it?

3. No, I’m not interested in Melaleuca.

2. That’s not the five points of fellowship; it’s just Joe Biden greeting an intern.

1. Why do you keep calling me the “so-called president”?


Repost: On the Pasos Kanki Bridge

January 21, 2015

We walked home from downtown La Paz along the uneven sidewalk past the zoo and the botanical gardens, the large “super” slide quiet in the dark, the amber streetlights reflecting from the sagging wrought-iron fence. We hadn’t said much that day, as usual. Davidson, the missionary companion I had been assigned, wasn’t exactly a talker. I pointed out that this was the place where a couple of sister missionaries had been flashed the week before, an unknown pervert having stuck his genitals between the iron bars as the sisters walked to an appointment. At lunch they had told us all about it, Hermana Stevenson relishing every minute while her companion squirmed uncomfortably.

“What was weird was that he was circumcised,” Hermana Stevenson had said, clearly unfazed.

“How could you tell?” her companion had asked.

“Don’t worry, I’ll draw you a picture.” We had laughed as her companion’s face turned a bright red.

Davidson said nothing but jammed his hands farther down into his dusty overcoat. Tall with rugged features, he might have been handsome had parasites not spent five months attacking his digestive system. Now, his tall frame was hunched under a billowing overcoat, his cheek bones protruding at sharp angles, setting off the saddest eyes I have ever seen. I think they were brown, but you couldn’t tell because there wasn’t much light left in them. Five months in Bolivia, and not a single letter from home. Three months with a sadistic “trainer” who thought a naïve Texan was nothing more than a practical joke waiting to happen. And two months with me, both of us trading bouts with salmonella and strep throat. But we were both finally well and ready to get some missionary work done.

We crossed the gray, cut-stone pavement in the plaza bordering the football stadium, the transplanted Incan statues casting long shadows on the gravel of the garden at the center of the plaza. The wind picked up again with its familiar cold, dry, dusty sting, like nothing I had experienced anywhere else. The cold went through you as if you weren’t there, and I could almost see the salesman back in Utah snickering to himself as I paid for the worthless Czechoslovakian overcoat at the “missionary” store. Another half-mile, and we would be home. It wouldn’t be much warmer inside, but at least we had some wool blankets to huddle under.

We came up over the last rise before the river. Even though I’d been in La Paz for three months, the altitude still made me breathless climbing even the gentlest slopes. As we descended toward the bridge, we joined a long line of tired workers quietly making their way home. No one talked, and all you could hear was the dragging of worn sandals on the cold stone sidewalk. It was always like that.

The Pasos Kanki bridge wasn’t particularly impressive. Perhaps thirty meters across, it straddled what the locals charitably called Río Orko Jahuira, a muddy wash full of trash and excrement with a gray-beige stream passing through it. By day people washed their clothes in the river, except on the days when the textile mill upstream emptied its dyes from a pipe into the ravine. On those days the river would run in brilliant purple or green or blood red, and the disappointed cholitas would turn sadly and take their unwashed laundry home.

The still-quiet stream of paceños continued perhaps three abreast as we neared the bridge, and I found myself unconsciously staring at the ground as I walked, shutting out the cold and the crowd around me. I nearly ran into the elderly man in front of me when the crowd stopped suddenly. I could hear some muttering up ahead as the line of people made a wide turn out into the middle of the bridge to avoid whatever was obstructing the sidewalk.

The bridge was well-lighted, and I could see what looked like a pile of rags shoved up against the small concrete railing. As we approached, I could see it wasn’t rags at all. It was a person, though I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. Whoever it was had clearly died on the bridge. Unthinking, we both turned and followed the traffic into the street, around the body, and back onto the sidewalk. Still no one said a word.

We walked up the unpaved street on the other side of the river toward our apartment, the smell of pig entrails frying in lard over a kerosene burner joining the dust in our noses as we passed the Cruce de Copacabana, the main bus stop in Villa Copacabana. We climbed the steep hill to our apartment building, opened the red metal gate, and crossed the courtyard into our tiny room. Neither one of us spoke as we changed into our night-time clothes: long johns and sweats to keep out the Andean cold.

Davidson sat on his bed, staring at his feet.

“Maybe we should go back and do something,” I said, helpfully. “We shouldn’t have left him like that.”

“Look, you’re the one who kept on walking, so don’t blame me,” he said, his eyes showing anger I hadn’t seen before.

“All right, let’s go,” I said, pulling on my overcoat. He dressed quickly, and we headed back down the hill.

Nothing had changed since we left. The line of pedestrians continued steadily maneuvering around the body.

“What are we supposed to do?” Davidson asked, knowing neither of us had a clue.

“I don’t know, but we can do something.” I wasn’t sure we could.

As we approached the body, I’m not sure what I expected. I’d never felt such sadness and yet such terror at the same time. But I made myself squat down beside what was now obviously a woman. She was dressed in traditional cholita clothes: wide pollera skirt, stiff woolen shawl, and battered bowler-type hat. She was absolutely still, almost in a fetal position, leaning against the railing, as if she had just decided to stop walking once and for all.

I touched her shoulder, and she stirred slightly. Not dead. Thank you, Heavenly Father. I asked if she needed help, and she turned a grimy face flecked with bits of coca leaf to me. “What the hell do you want, gringo?” she slurred at me angrily, clearly drunk.

“We just want to help,” I said softly.

“Go to hell!” she shrieked.

A man behind me said, “Stupid gringos, just let the bitch die. She’s not worth the time.” I turned and saw that the crowd had stopped, and they were watching to see what these two American boys were going to do. “En serio, just leave her alone. Let her die,” he repeated. They were right: I knew she would freeze to death if she stayed on the bridge.

“Please, señora, you need to go home,” I tried again. This time she spat at me.

I turned to ask if anyone could help me get her home. At that moment, I saw an ancient green taxi heading toward the bridge, the driver’s eyes staring at the crowd gathered around us. Another car approached from the other side, its driver also trying to figure out what was going on. The cars collided perhaps fifteen feet from where we were.

Half the crowd, including Davidson, rushed to the crumpled cars to see if they could help. I stayed with the woman, trying hopelessly to get her to go home. Presently the police arrived in a rickety Land Cruiser. One of the officers rushed to where I was still squatting and asked, “Which car was she in?”

“Neither.”

As the police worked on the accident, I noticed a small girl, perhaps seven or eight years old, standing a few feet off. “Do you know this woman? Do you know where she lives?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s my mother,” the little girl said. She looked as if she had been crying, but now her face looked stiff and cold.

“Let’s take her home,” I said, trying to smile. I reached my arms under the mother’s shoulders and lifted her to her feet, as a stream of profanity flowed from her mouth. Her daughter smiled at me and said, “We live only a couple of blocks away. I’ll get her home.” I watched them stagger slowly up the hill toward the stadium, the mother now screaming what were likely obscenities in Aymará.

I turned and saw Davidson holding the hand of a woman who sat on the opposite sidewalk, her head against the railing, blood trickling from her temple. We stayed a few more minutes until a policeman told us to go home. Davidson told the woman one last time that it was going to be OK, and then we started up the hill towards home.

As we passed the bus stop, a woman was packing up her kerosene burner and pot for the night, and a few men stood warming their hands near a fire burning in the gutter.

At the gate, I fumbled for my key.

“So what did we end up doing?” Davidson asked, his eyes again dark and empty.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know.”

If you like this, there’s more: Heaven Up Here


Singing as a Sign of Mental Illness

March 26, 2008

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