Anyone who has been paying any attention at all to the political atmosphere at Brigham Young University knows that it is anything but uneventful. The university has recently made national news for allegations of racism, homophobia, and for protests taking place. Usually, these headlines have brought damage to the image of the school, often by its own students. One member of the BYU community, 21-year-old Josh Nelson, is looking to change that perception.
On October 8, 2022, Nelson officially launched a campaign called ,BYUnique, which includes an Instagram account directed towards BYU students and provides a voice for students who experience same-sex attraction, but still love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and want to follow its doctrinal principles. In the future, the account will address other issues pertinent to the university’s social and political climate.
Nelson believes that the devil is working hard to gain influence at BYU, stating that “if [Satan] can distract the Lord’s . . . university and its students, the lesser amount of people can leave the university prepared to serve the Lord’s church.” He also thinks that God will always prevail in the university’s mission, because BYU belongs to the church, not secularism. Universities across the nation have become increasingly more progressive, and BYU is no exception. Authorities in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Brigham Young University presidents have been making the point that BYU needs to be different than the world for decades. In 2021, ,Elder Jeffrey R. Holland remarked that BYU “must have the will to stand alone” in a sea of academic learning institutions. Last month during his ,speech to all members of the BYU community, President Dallin H. Oaks reminded students to follow the inspired counsel of prophets and leaders of the university and not the expectations of the world. In a ,Deseret News article, the Church Commissioner of Education, Clark G. Gilbert, noted the importance of BYU and other religious universities to stay committed to their “spiritual purposes” and not give in to the secular focus of other universities. The list goes on, but central to all of these speeches is President Spencer W. Kimball’s 1975 address “,The Second Century of Brigham Young University,” where he states that BYU should never “follow the false ways of the world” and always be a “unique university in all the world.”
President Kimball’s speech is a major inspiration to Nelson, and many of the ideas in BYUnique’s platform originate from that address. According to Nelson, the overall goal of the campaign is to “[echo] the same counsel that the second century addresses go over” with a more straightforward delivery and clear message. He believes that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is already pushing the message he is sharing. However, he wants BYU to get more on board with the instruction and teachings of the church.
Those who visit BYUnique’s Instagram page (@byuniqueorg) will find commentary on questions that many members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction are often faced with, as well as questions that members who experience same-sex attraction may be struggling to find answers to. Members of the BYU community who experience same-sex attraction answer questions such as: “How do you feel when LGBTQ+ people or allies post content attacking the church and its leaders?” and “What hurtful assumptions do people make about you based on your sexuality and membership in the church?”
Nelson hopes that when people visit the page, they will find Christ in the messages that are shared. Themes of Jesus Christ are prominent on the page. One at BYU having similar struggles may find it helpful.
BYUnique provides a perspective in a culture where the answer to discomfort or difference can often be anger and resentment. The campaign teaches all members of the church at BYU to consider different perspectives before making a judgment or decision. The contrast of the page to the “worldly ideologies” that President Kimball warned against in his second century address is stark, and the page provides an outlet where members can navigate these issues with a Gospel focused outlook.
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run publication and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints