Tag Archives: BYU

Byers’ Remorse

Keli Byers attained a level of stardom (or infamy, depending on your view) recently when an article she purportedly authored appeared in Cosmo (the shining bastion of journalistic excellence that it is). It’s title?

I’m Fighting BYU’s Ban on Sex.

It turns out that Byers also has a blog entitled The Hypocritical Blogger (“hypocritical,” I think, because she says that she hates blogging, but still ironic given the positions she takes in Cosmo). On September 1, she published a post as a follow up to the Cosmo piece. It’s title?

I’m Not Fighting a Ban on Sex. Continue reading Byers’ Remorse


Correlation is for the Dogs

Lots of Rules

Mormon missionaries have a lot of rules. You can read them for yourselves in the Missionary Handbook.

There are 92 glorious pages, filled with gems like these:

  • “Refer to other missionaries, including your companion,
    as “Elder” or “Sister” and their surnames, not
    by their first names, nicknames, or surnames alone.”
  • “If you play basketball, volleyball, or another sport, do
    not allow the situation to become intense or competitive.
    (For example, do not keep score.)”
  • “Do not watch television, go to movies, listen to the
    radio, or use the Internet (except to communicate with
    your family or your mission president or as otherwise

I’ve intentionally taken these rules out of context to heighten their “weirdness,” particularly for those who aren’t familiar with how Mormon missions work. They demonstrate some examples of the “do”s and “don’t”s that I was expected to live by for two years. Continue reading Correlation is for the Dogs

Racing to Beat Traffic

In the Pearl of Great Price we learn more about the Enoch of the Bible, who “walked with God: and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). He was the leader of a city so righteous that it was taken up into heaven.

From time to time I hear variations on a common fable dealing with this scriptural account. For example, someone teaching about keeping the Sabbath day holy will joking say that the City of Enoch was taken up into heaven on a Sunday afternoon when some less committed citizens were out fishing, instead of worshiping as God commands. We, therefore, should be careful to keep the Sabbath day holy rather than going boating on Sunday in case (jokingly) the Savior comes again during Sunday school!

Another variation I’ve head is that, similarly, we should be careful to attend the Saturday night adult meeting (one session of the bi-annual stake conference) in case (jokingly) the Savior comes again then! (It is never as well-attended as it should be.)

Ironically, during the last stake conference I attended, the adult meeting was moved from Saturday night to Sunday night. I’ve heard whispers that this was to accommodate the BYU football game that was taking place on Saturday.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

But that is neither here nor there.

These just-for-fun fables make sense, but I’ve always thought that it won’t be during Sunday school (to the peril of the boaters), or during the adult session of stake conference (to the peril of the football fanatics), that the Savior will come. Rather, it will be during the closing prayer of the general conference priesthood session, right after waves of men and boys have skipped out.

Why would the Savior come then? It is because, for some reason that is literally beyond my comprehension, scores of people get out of their seats as the closing speaker says “Amen” in a mad dash for their car, presumably to beat the traffic.

Spoiler: There’s not that much traffic coming out of a stake center. It was in college before I noticed any traffic at all. I had a father who’s expectation was for his sons to help set up chairs. By the time the chairs were put away, the parking lot was a ghost town.

Still, without fail, people – whether at a stake meeting, or a general conference meeting, or BYU devotional – will get up and leave during the closing song.

It boggles my mind.

You Can’t Pick

Why is this on my mind tonight?

Or rather, why is this on my mind other than the fact that I watched it happen in front of me, again, just last night?

Let’s take a step back to one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned in a sacrament meeting.

I forget most of the content of the talk that this particular woman was giving, but a line that sticks out to me was this:

“You can’t choose the commandments your children break.”

I will do a horrid job of paraphrasing the talk of this wonderful woman, but I will try to explain her meaning. She was talking about parenthood, but it applies to being an example in any setting.

What she was saying was this: we will, through the choices we make, influence the perceptions of others. While we have control over how we act, we do not have control over how people perceive us. We may bend the rules in a case where we think the exception is acceptable, but those who see us won’t learn that it’s acceptable to bend the rules in that specific case; they will learn, rather, only that it’s acceptable to bend the rules. We don’t have control over the way they then bend the rules, or the cases where they deem it acceptable.

In short, as exemplars we can inspire or excuse, and in the instances we excuse, we have little control over what we excuse.

These men that jump from their seats as soon as the closing hymn begins may be exemplifying that it is acceptable to leave a meeting early if you want to beat traffic, or if you have a dinner at home getting cold.

The problem is that others may be perceiving that it is acceptable to become casual in our relationship with God when it’s more convenient to cut corners.

A Necessary Balance

As I was discussing this with my mother-in-law (who I love dearly), she gave me a bit of kind-hearted grief about being too invested in something that wasn’t worth the attention I was giving it. As she told me,

“It’s not worth having it rent space in your brain.”

Now, let me say this – her advice was very wise, and to tell you the truth, I can usually use a little grief.

And she’s right! This can be perfectly filed with other “pet peeves” of mine that don’t deserve a second thought, like when the young men who bless the sacrament wear goofy ties with Simpson characters, or adult priesthood holders wear bright orange shirts to church meetings even though they may be asked to officiate in some way. These are my personal standards, the gospel according to AlohaLarsen, if you will, and they should not be imposed on others who don’t feel the same way.

(Read: Don’t give me crap for drinking Dr. Pepper. That may be fine for you, but I love my “leaded” soda, and will drink it for years to come.)

But that does not make the principle any less true. We should be mindful of the example which we set before others who identify us with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In other words, don’t worry about leaving meetings early to beat the traffic, or wearing a goofy tie when you’re exercising your priesthood, or wearing bright shirts to church when you may be exercising your priesthood. I’ll think you’re kind of a dweeb, but that’s my problem – that tendency is a character flaw I’m still working on.

What should you worry about, though?

Actions Fit for Bearers of God’s Priesthood

In the priesthood session last night, Elder David A. Bednar spoke on priesthood, and told a personal story from his childhood. His father was not a member, but still attended the LDS Church like one. Elder Bednar says,

As a boy I asked my dad many times each week when he was going to be baptized. He responded lovingly but firmly each time I pestered him: “David, I am not going to join the Church for your mother, for you, or for anyone else. I will join the Church when I know it is the right thing to do.”

One week the conversation they had was different. Elder Bednar continues,

I believe I was in my early teenage years when the following conversation occurred with my father. We had just returned home from attending our Sunday meetings together, and I asked my dad when he was going to be baptized. He smiled and said, “You are the one always asking me about being baptized. Today I have a question for you.” I quickly and excitedly concluded that now we were making progress!

My dad continued, “David, your church teaches that the priesthood was taken from the earth anciently and has been restored by heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith, right?” I replied that his statement was correct. Then he said, “Here is my question. Each week in priesthood meeting I listen to the bishop and the other priesthood leaders remind, beg, and plead with the men to do their home teaching and to perform their priesthood duties. If your church truly has the restored priesthood of God, why are so many of the men in your church no different about doing their religious duty than the men in my church?” 

This is not a terrible question. If the LDS Church is true, and the men he met at the local ward really held God’s priesthood, then why did local ward leaders have to so desperately urge them to do their duty, week after week?

Elder Bednar concludes,

I believe my father was wrong to judge the validity of our Church’s claim to divine authority by the shortcomings of the men with whom he associated in our ward. But embedded in his question to me was a correct assumption that men who bear God’s holy priesthood should be different from other men. Men who hold the priesthood are not inherently better than other men, but they should act differently….

I have never forgotten the lessons about priesthood authority and power I learned from my father, a good man not of our faith, who expected more from men who claimed to bear God’s priesthood. That Sunday afternoon conversation with my dad many years ago produced in me a desire to be a “good boy.” I did not want to be a poor example and a stumbling block to my father’s progress in learning about the restored gospel. I simply wanted to be a good boy. The Lord needs all of us as bearers of His authority to be honorable, virtuous, and good boys at all times and in all places.

As Elder Bednar says, it is wrong to gauge the truthfulness of the Church based on the imperfections of Church members, but there is a stinging hint of truth in that question. As holders of God’s holy priesthood, what does it say when we don’t act in accordance with what we know to be true?

More importantly, what does this tell others?

In this case, it told a father that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not an organization he wanted to join. How tragic!

(Luckily, this changed some time later, and Elder Bednar was able to baptize his father.)

Actions Fit for the Lord’s Ministers

I don’t wish to belabor the point, so perhaps a short final example will suffice.

A prophet in the Book of Mormon named Alma had a number of sons who acted as missionaries. Most were faithful, but one son, Corianton, made some visible mistakes. His father told him,

“And now, my son, I have somewhat more to say unto thee than what I said unto thy brother…

“Now this is what I have against thee; thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom.

“And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.

“Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted” (Alma 39:1-4).

And what was the result of Corianton’s poor example? His father continues,

“Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words (Alma 39:11).


Let us be mindful of the examples we set, even when it’s something so simple as leaving a priesthood meeting early to beat traffic. Let us consider the lesson we’re teaching.

The “Enemies” of My Church

The Book of Mormon Girl

Joanna Brooks, the self-proclaimed Book of Mormon Girl, is sometimes an advocate of what I think of as “Burger King Mormonism” (or what others have called Mormon-Lite or uncorrelated Mormonism). This, consequently, makes her a popular Mormon voice in secular media.

Go figure.

“Have it your way” in the Mormon church since, well, never.

This post, though, is not necessarily about Brooks. It’s about Boyd K. Packer. Continue reading The “Enemies” of My Church

Judging a Hospital for Sinners

Those familiar with me know that I have plenty of soapboxes. Some of them have to do with the non-gospel practices of LDS Church members. For example:

These soapboxes have nothing to do with the doctrine of the Church, or legitimate practices encouraged by the Church, but rather with personal orthodoxies (that I see as contrary to the gospel) preached as the gospel.

I’ve recently taken a stance on the way a BYU student reprimanded a peer for breaking the dress standards of the BYU honor code, and I commented on a follow-up story published by BYU’s paper, the Daily Universe. A Facebook friend had this to say:

You are way too worked up about this incident. Aren’t your judgmental words about the boy worse than his own?

(Never mind the irony of these kinds of statements, with the criticism of being judgmental a judgment in its own right.)

I replied that “love everyone, judge no one” is junk religion, and summed up the stance you can read about in the post mentioned above. I also inferred that the letter-writer was a “sheltered, bubble-craving isolationist” and straight-out called him “a cowardly, small-minded boy”. As an example of how short-sighted, childish actions can convict the Church in the court of public opinion, I brought up the proxy baptism scandal that has resurfaced in the wake of President Romney’s campaign (recently, LDS “dweebs” have disregarded prophetic counsel regarding the baptism of holocaust Jews). The same friend replied:

Sorry, but I still don’t see name-calling within our own religion as ‘righteous judgement.’ You are obviously free to make your opinions known; however, your negative comments may have the very effect you see these ‘dweebs’ having: harming the image of the church. Some negative opinions are better left unsaid.

And then, a few days later, a stranger posted this:

Don’t you think the guy has gotten enough flack for it by now? Who would come forward and dare express their opinion with the entire world ragging on them? The guy never intended this to go to the press. He was shy enough not to just talk to Brittany about it in the first place. Whether he was right or wrong, he probably feels terrible and wishes he never would have written the note. It was probably a built-up of all the things he saw and considered to be immodest on campus, and he thought he should do something about it this time. I’m not saying it was the right method or it was a good judgement call, but give the guy a break. We all have motes and beams from time to time, do we not? I personally wish I could find this guy, give him a hug, and say, “Okay, that might not have been the best decision, as we’ve seen, but I’m sorry for all the hate thrown at you right now.”

(Speaking of my soapboxes, why can’t people online use paragraphs?)

There are two arguments in these Facebook comments, both of which I take issue with. The first deals with concealing internal issues, and the second with withholding all judgment. While I welcome people who disagree with me, I take issues with those who discourage open dialogue and healthy disagreement. That, in my humble opinion, is reprehensible.

Internal Name-Calling

The first argument is that we shouldn’t “name-call” within our own ranks. This mirrors the view of C. S. Lewis, who said in Mere Christianity,

“So long as we write and talk about [our disputed points] we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.”

I talk about this argument when I discuss the preface to Mere Christianity. You can read more there, but in brief, I think that this position is off. Why?

An Active Faith

First, who says that talking about disputed points will deter others from investigating the gospel? Could it not encourage them to investigate further instead? I think so. In the words of William James, those otherwise uninterested in a religion can have a previously “dead” option made “genuine” as they study deeper.

All the times I’ve dug deeper into my beliefs, or investigated a controversial issue, or struggled internally with some gnawing question, I’ve come out of it with stronger faith.

What’s more, religious organizations, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not cookie cutter groups. We are not all the same. Why would we want to sweep internal conflicts under the rug, particularly in this age when things will always come out? (Brittney Molina’s own twitter picture is what originally went viral on the modesty story.) I’m not like the note-writer, or the LDS dweebs baptizing Ann Frank for the fourth, fifth, or sixth time after the First Presidency has told members not to. I want others to know! We’re not all crazy, and white-washing the mosaic that is the LDS Church is not the way to encourage people into the fold.

Religious Dishonesty

Second, it seems slightly dishonest, if not at least disingenuous, to sweep our disputes entirely under the rug. I like what Dan Peterson said in his article “The Restoration stands up to history”, which I recommend you read in its entirety.

He describes the three “versions” of history that are often used to describe the LDS Church.

  • “Thesis” is the rose-colored history taught by the LDS Church.
  • “Antithesis” is the opposite to thesis, the hardened and critical history taught by anti-Mormons.
  • “Synthesis” is the combination of the two – the fullest, most complete history that incorporates elements from both.

The history taught by the Church is not all-encompassing or historically complete, but why? Peterson offers,

“Because souls can be and are lost on [antithesis]. And, anyway, the church isn’t some sort of floating seminar in historiography. Regrettably, perhaps, most Latter-day Saints — many of them far better people than I — aren’t deeply interested in history, and, more importantly, many other very important priorities demand attention, including training the youth and giving service.”

If I were in a leadership position, I would probably make a similar decision to stick to thesis history. The purpose of the Church is to invite people to come unto Christ, not to educate them in exact historical matters that have no bearing on that invitation.

And yet I am not in a leadership position, and I am not the Church. Neither is the media the Church. The Church is more than welcome to censor its Sunday school material, but I can make my own choices about what I discuss in an open forum. An early LDS poet wrote,

Think not when you gather to Zion,
Your troubles and trials are through,
That nothing but comfort and pleasure
Are waiting in Zion for you:

No, no, ’tis designed as a furnace,
All substance, all textures to try,
To burn all the “wood, hay, and stubble,”
The gold from the dross purify.

Think not when you gather to Zion,
That all will be holy and pure;
That fraud and deception are banished,
And confidence wholly secure:

No, no, for the Lord our Redeemer
Has said that the tares with the wheat
Must grow till the great day of burning
Shall render the harvest complete.

And what of my friend’s insinuation that it’s not okay to name-call internally, but okay to name-call others? I’ll leave that to you.

Judging and “Judge Not”

The second argument, and by far the more important one, is that I was wrong to judge, and “way too worked up” over something that didn’t merit it. I should have kept to myself, and tended to my own beams rather than pulling at the motes of others.

I repeat my affirmation that “love everyone, judge no one” is junk religion, and that discouraging open dialogue is reprehensible. Where does judgment fit in to our every day behavior?

Maybe we would do well to define some of our terms before we get started.

Final Judgments

In 1972, N. Eldon Tanner talked about what he called “unjust criticism and judging without the facts.” What did he mean by this?

He gave a few examples. One example involved what’s commonly known as “self-fulfilling prophecy” or the Pygmalion Effect, when we pigeonhole someone else by treating them based on who we expect them to be. Another example involved what Crucial Conversations calls telling yourself stories, or attributing motives to the actions of others. Both of these behaviors are inappropriate, and examples of prejudice and gossip. President Tanner decries the “vituperative talk of personalities” and “trying to tear down another”.

Dallin H. Oaks gave a devotional at BYU in 1998. You can find the transcript of it here, or a copy of it in the Church magazine Ensign. He further clarifies the type of judgment that President Tanner condemns. He says,

“I believe this commandment was given because we presume to make final judgments whenever we proclaim that any particular person is going to hell (or to heaven) for a particular act or as of a particular time…. The effect of one mortal’s attempting to pass final judgment on another mortal is analogous to the effect on athletes and observers if we could proclaim the outcome of an athletic contest with certainty while it was still underway.”

Gossiping, stereotyping, or ignorantly attributing motive is “proclaim(ing) the outcome of an athletic contest” before it concludes. We don’t give others the chance to make redemption.

Intermediate Judgments

So is all judgement inappropriate? President Tanner says,

“Each must try to understand the questions and then stand firm by his convictions.”

Elder Oaks says,

“In contrast to forbidding mortals to make final judgments, the scriptures require mortals to make what I will call “intermediate judgments.” These judgments are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency…. The Savior also commanded individuals to be judges, both of circumstances and of other people.”

How can one “stand firm by his convictions” without judging? How can we make intermediate judgments “both of circumstances and of other people” without judging? The truth is we can’t.

Righteous Intermediate Judgments

We are not left to our own in determining how to make righteous intermediate judgments. Elder Oaks gives us six principles as a guide.

  1. “First of all, a righteous judgment must, by definition, be intermediate. It will refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire….
  2. “Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest….
  3. “Third, to be righteous, an intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. We should not presume to exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities….
  4. “A fourth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment of a person is that we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts….
  5. “A fifth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations….
  6. If we apply unrighteous standards, our judgment will be unrighteous.”

I’ll be the first to volunteer my comments to the standard given by Elder Oaks. Arguably, it may not meet that standard.

But that is not the point here. The point is that this stance, that we should in no circumstance judge other people, is far from the gospel truth.


I make judgments all the time. I judged that the student who wrote Brittany Molina that note did so inappropriately. I judged the actions of those who disregard the teachings of the Church, whether it be in terms of Prop 8 or proxy baptisms. These judgments aren’t in violation of the commandment to “judge not”.

Keep a close eye around you, and you’ll see righteous judgments all over the place. I can even help. Excuse an analogy that may help put my own judgment in perspective.

  • A BYU professor makes a blatantly racist statement (you can find it in the Washington Post article “The Genesis of a church’s stand on race”)
    • Remember how a BYU student wrote a remorsefully critical note of a fellow student
  • The LDS Church clarifies the doctrine and stance of the Church in a press release which clearly denounces the stance attributed to the BYU professor
    • I respond to the action and position of the BYU student using the scriptures and modern prophets.

Don’t be so quick to vilify those who take a stance against a position with which you agree. You may find yourself at odds with your own Church.

UPDATE: This past general conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a fantastic talk about this subject entitled “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”. Check it out.

Free to Choose Immodesty

There is a scandal going on at BYU as we speak. It’s such a horrible atrocity that the subject hardly fits within civilized conversation. In fact, it probably has the force to bring the Church Educational System, nay, the Church itself, to it’s knees!

Or maybe not. Maybe some self-righteous guy was just being a bit of a prick.

Why even discuss something like this?

Two of the missions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are to proclaim the gospel and perfect the saints. In Preach My Gospel, we are told that the purpose of missionary work is to “invite others to come unto Christ”. This type of incident interferes with the offering of that invitation, and consequently with the potential happiness and peace that follows the acceptance of that invitation. Continue reading Free to Choose Immodesty

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount – Salt

What lessons can we learn from the Sermon on the Mount? Below are some of my thoughts.

The Salt of the Earth

I hope I don’t offend anyone, though I’d be lying if I didn’t expect the possibility. This subject can be somewhat divisive. My hope is that those who feel attacked would consider what the scriptures say, and the possibility that I might not be too far off the mark.

In connection to being a “light of the world”, the Savior talks about how we are also to be salt. The uses of salt at this time period were varied, so it is difficult to pin down the exact meaning of the parable. Still, the people of the day knew salt to be essential for human life. Stemming from that, it’s not too much of a stretch to at least suggest that we, as salt, can bring necessities of spiritual life to others when we act as “salty” witnesses for the Savior.

But how can salt, an extremely stable compound, lose it’s savor?  It’s not in any chemical change in the salt, but how the salt is delivered.

When we offer our “salt”, do we offer too little? Do we offer impure or diluted salt? Or do we offer too much salt?

Salty Communities

The first two ways that salt can be delivered aren’t the focus of this post, but I’d imagine that offering too little salt might be like hiding our light and not sharing the gospel, and offering impure or diluted salt might be like how our good actions are corrupted by mistakes or sins.

But too much salt? How can we have too much salt?

Most of us have likely heard of the pranksters that loosen the lid on the salt shaker, only to watch their victim dump the entire contents of the shaker on their steak, or burger, or potatoes. More of us likely have accidentally added too much salt to a dish and been left unsatisfied with how it turned out.

Is this like being overbearing (see Alma 38:12)?

I would say no. When our boldness crosses into overbearance, that’s like our good salt being diluted with poor choices; the purity of our message is lost in the unwise delivery.

What, then, is having too much salt?

I would suggest that there is value in thinking of too much salt in terms of what I call “salty communities”. Here in Utah, what one of my hometown friends affectionately calls “Mormon Land,” we have too much salt in one place to the point that it looses its savor. When I was a student counselor, I would talk every day with business majors at BYU (a university with the motto “go forth to serve”) who saw their “forth” as up the street in Utah Valley somewhere.

What a tragedy it is when so much salt is concentrated around the Wasatch front! What a tragedy it is to sit in a high council group with six ex-stake presidents, five ex-bishops, and a handful of ex-stake presidency members and ex-bishopric members who could all be out in the world doing gospel good! What a tragedy it is when you haven’t had the chance to bear your testimony outside of fast Sunday meetings in years because everyone you have a close relationship already knows that the gospel has been restored!

It’s true that the salty members who live here probably do a lot of gospel good, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s gospel good, or salt, we don’t need here. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s gospel good, or salt, desperately needed somewhere else. An appropriate amount of pure salt somewhere less concentrated could make all the spiritual difference in the world.

Does this position come up from the real doctrine makers, the First Presidency and the Apostles? Of course it does. For example, just in this last General Conference, President Monson himself made the plea:

“And now to you mature brothers and sisters: we need many, many more senior couples…. Make yourselves available to leave home and give full-time missionary service.”

What is he asking? He asks that couples leave their salty communities to do gospel good in the world.

As you consider your career and life plans, consider the Savior’s admonition to be salt that does not loose it’s savor, and consider that in order to retain your personal savor, you may have to leave the “salty communities” of Utah.

Continuing the Series