I was catching up with a good friend of mine the other day. He’s not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but our families both have roots in a farming community in Northern California. We attended a small school together from kindergarten to eighth grade. As such, we have seen friends that we know very well begin to live lifestyles alternative to the conservative and Christian ones they were raised in. My friend and I were mulling over why this is. We concluded that perhaps our friends love the subjectivity of truth held in their new lifestyles, which allows them to live as they please and to do whatever they want without the guilt or perceived constraints of their upbringing.
Jurisprudence understands the establishment clause to mean that the state cannot have an established religion and the associated implications; Thomas Jefferson paraphrased this by saying that there is a “wall of separation” between church and state. With a growing trend at BYU to accept progressive politics, such as a professor teaching about her gender dysphoric child, lack of oversight in the civic engagement office, and canceling debates with pro-life advocates, it is increasingly difficult to see how a university sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plans to stay any different than other universities.
The Loud Minority
There appears to be a loud minority of people on campus, similar to my group of friends, who subscribe to beliefs that would redesign the family and other heavenly-approved social ideals. On the other hand, there is a very doctrinally sound and inspired school President and Board of Trustees, with many professors and administration following their lead. Despite these faithful individuals, the loud minority has the power to captivate audiences and portray their ideology as one of love and tolerance.
Would you give your sibling who struggles with alcohol more alcohol? Would you give a child or spouse that struggles with pornography and masturbation encouragement in fulfilling these vices? This vocal group seeks to feed vice and temptation. By applying various social pressures, they force their associates to comply via affirmation and validation in fear of being labeled a bigot. When you love someone, you will not conflate wrong with right, nor allow the appearance of it. Jesus demonstrated this when asking who was accusing the woman caught in adultery, “She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
It appears that this vocal group have misheard Jefferson. Instead of behaving as though there is a wall of separation between church and state, they attempt to infuse the state, and the university, with the progressive ideology they worship. They have also misunderstood the Savior by condoning sin. That is, they separate the goals of their Church from the daily actions that represent their personal faith.
Just as in the United States, in the Book of Mormon there was a promise of religious freedom. In Alma 30, Korihor taught that there would be no Christ. After some questioning and deliberation, Korihor was given a sign that God and Christ are real by being “struck dumb” (i.e. having his voice taken away). In the following verses, Korihor explains to his judge that a devil had deceived him and that he always knew there was a god. We are in a similar position. We might not deny that there is a God or that our sins can be forgiven, but when Christians accept the progressive status quo they are rubber-stamping their approval onto those messages – messages that are contrary to the laws of God.
We cannot in good conscience stay quiet like Korihor. Acknowledging sin and wrongdoing is not condemnation. If we truly cannot work up the courage to declare the truth, at the minimum, we have the responsibility of counseling with our ecclesiastical leaders about it. It’s not to be a snitch and it’s certainly not to be spiteful. We have this responsibility to raise awareness regarding false ideologies and sinful behavior, to save the sinner, protect the innocent, and safeguard the Church.
After reflecting on the experiences of my friends and the growth of radical liberal ideology in the Church and at BYU, I have thought of a few ways we can help love the vocal minority, fulfill this responsibility, and take steps towards building Zion.
We must understand that being supportive of someone who struggles with things contrary to the laws of God does not mean being supportive of them pursuing those things. Instead, we must support them in their journey of obedience to Christ. This support can be tailored to each person; but it is always unequivocally truthful about God and Jesus’s love for them, your care for them, and the power of living the commandments. We can relate this to what the apostle Paul identified as charity, one of the key virtues for Christians to pursue. He wrote that charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth” (1 Corinthians 13).
In his groundbreaking 2019 BYU Devotional, The Love and Laws of God, President Nelson taught:
Wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed? It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!
The truth sometimes hurts, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life heals.
Secondly, there is a plethora of counsel given to members of the Church, and to BYU specifically, that we must be willing to be different than any other people and institutions. When vocal groups within the Church use their platforms to push their quasi-religious agendas, they tend to use manipulative language that creates a false dichotomy. You either are in favor of the agenda or hateful, a bigot, and unaccepting. An example of manipulative language is often found in regard to diversity. A statement from a supervisor, professor, or other leader that says ‘we need to be more diverse and inclusive’ is actually telling you that you must think the same way as them. According to those wielding the diversity club, the only appropriate form of diversity is in appearance or sexuality, but never in thought. We must resist the tumult of opinions and stand up for the Lord’s standards.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a rich history of diversity of thought and opinion. It consistently teaches its members to be thoughtfully involved citizens. However, the Lord and the authorized leaders of His Church are extremely clear that we must be united when it comes to many social and nearly all moral issues. We cannot be ashamed for thinking, acting, and promoting teachings that are God’s will. Elder Holland said, “It seems clear to me in my 73 years of loving it that BYU will become an “educational Mt. Everest” only to the degree it embraces its uniqueness, its singularity.” The Church will only ever become “one” when the most important social and moral issues are understood by the least of us.
For those members of the Church who have received their endowment, we have covenanted to consecrate our lives to Jesus Christ. The General Handbook explains the covenant as “members dedicate their time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed them to building up Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth.” We must keep this covenant in our mind at all times. Some members of the Church and BYU professors, students, and faculty are supporting things that are contrary to our teachings, practices, and doctrines. The truth of our teachings and doctrines cannot be swayed by worldly pressures. We must ask ourselves if the things we choose to support align with the precepts given by the Lord in His church. It is a consideration that all members must take before they support any issue, program, or institution.
The General Handbook further illustrates that when we keep the covenants made in the endowment we are promised:
- Greater knowledge of the Lord’s purposes and teachings.
- Power to do all that Heavenly Father wants His children to do.
- Divine direction when serving the Lord, their families, and others.
- Increased hope, comfort, and peace.
If the loud minority or other Saints wish to navigate these issues, being true to our temple covenants will help us to have the ability and understanding to aid those who need it, and be true to what we stand for. It is through our disciplined and intentional adherence to our covenants that we can tear down the wall of separation.
How can BYU and all members of the Church prevent the wall between our actions and our faith? By living Gospel principles, being Christlike, and carefully considering how we can uphold the truth. Finally, through conscientious and careful consideration of the practices, institutions, and thoughts we promote and disavow.
Written by: Logan Spears
Contributor at the Cougar Chronicle
The opinions in this article are those of the author.
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.