Thursday, May 6, 2021
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Well today I'm going one step in the opposite direction by listing eight of my material failures! These are things I tried quite hard to achieve or change, and mostly missed the mark.
Promotion at work
Bar prep course at law school
Change laptop policy in the MPA program
Advancing governance equality in Mormonism
Getting a profitable job that leveraged my law degree
Normalizing homosexuality in Mormonism
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Hi Brad,We are planning on posting your article to the blog this friday. I have some questions from our editorial team to help refine the article.Reference:"A professor of mine who was on the honor code committee shared with me his belief that the honor code was changed to make it more difficult for conservative voices to succeed in ensuring I was publicly disciplined..."Question:1. Would you be willing to say which professor it was?
2. Are you aware of any other pressures besides protecting you for disciplinary action that may have prompted the change to remove the advocacy clause?
3. Do you believe your book was, in large part, why the honor code changed?
- The disaffiliation clause (where leaving the church violates the honor code), which appears to have been added after a controversial public exit from the church by a BYU student
- The 2015 honor code changes, which took effect shortly after a series of news articles reporting on a boycott and related accreditation challenges, including to BYU Law's accreditation by the American Bar Association. (ABA timeline, Daily Universe interactive timeline, and causation analysis)
4. How do you feel about the idea that the honor code can be changed to protect students from itself?
5. What are your thoughts on the duality of the Honor Code protecting you from conservative voices, but also representing conservative voices? Do you think there is conflict within the Honor Code committee and CES?Though I'm grateful that I didn't become the subject of honor code discipline, as mentioned above that outcome seems more likely attributable to preserving institutional reputation than it does protecting an individual student.
"I am not at all surprised at the warning from the ex-GA, nor the sensitivity of Pres. Samuelson; such stuff is totally predictable. People in the hierarchy are part of an organization that wants to control everything possible that is in any way associated with them. Individuals elevated to positions in that hierarchy get there by buying totally into the mindset. And yes, you should realize that the folks upstairs have very very long memories. If you personally have any leadership aspirations at all, this book will greatly complicate your future...
We are always counseled to not "aspire to ecclesiastical office" -- but a great proportion of our people definitely do --- and that definitely includes BYU presidents. Wives and relatives are all a-flutter when their husband or relative is called to be a bishop, and it only gets worse as men climb the ladder... it is sadly true that you should consider your own situation and that of any wife involved; wives have to carry whatever fame or opprobrium their husbands incur. I say this not to discourage you from publishing a truly unusual and valuable work, but so that you may make decisions fully aware of long-term implications."
It has been over four decades since I gave that talk and I still have to struggle not to believe mercy killing would be better “in some cases” than allowing people to suffer when they have no hope of a quality life if they survive. I can still quote the power statements I made in the talk. What did I learn from all this? It is very dangerous to come out in opposition to the prophets and what the Lord reveals to them.
You are obvious a very bright individual. Even if you were to admit that your reasoning and quotes, etc.(which go against prophetic counsel) were wrong, you will find (if I am any example) that it will take you a lifetime to align yourself with what the Lord and His leaders have taught. You have argued persuasively but (from my perspective) against what God has revealed.
Now a word of caution. You are free—because that is a God-given right—to exercise your agency and publish the manuscript. However, you are not free to dictate what the reaction of Church leaders will be towards it. I would suspect (having interfaced with the General Authorities for many years) that they are not going to take kindly to your book which will, because it is logical and well-written—lead many people away from the Church’s mainstream teaching. If I were to counsel you, I would say to put the manuscript away until the Church changes its stance. Otherwise you will be viewed as untrustworthy in defending the doctrine of the Church. Remember, the term “Elder” as defined by President Harold B. Lee, mean “defender of the faith.” You can’t oppose what the Lord reveals through His prophets and still be viewed as being in the mainstream of the Church. You can be as smart as can be and as worthy as any other person and still be passed over for leadership positions because the Church leaders do not want to run the risk of having you in a power position but in opposition to Church policy and doctrine.
- Many members of those organizations both then (2011) and now (2021) are deeply conservative
- Aspirants in the hierarchy have an interest in not being seen to contradict those in power
- Peer institutions of higher learning and mainstream academia are part of a liberal consensus that expects (1) tolerance of student and faculty's support of marriage equality and (2) academic and intellectual freedoms
- That liberal consensus is inconsistent with the honor code's current constraints on religious and intellectual freedom, as well as its historical limits on supporting marriage equality,
Reference:Article overallQuestion:1. So far, we have concluded the message of the article to be that challenging the honor code can change it and that within the honor code system there is conflict between protecting and disciplining students. What would you say is the overall message of the article?As a director of FreeBYU, I believe that challenging the honor code can change it, because we've seen our activism do exactly that (see the 2015 change above). However, I did not write my book to challenge the honor code: I wrote it to explore a number of subjects related to homosexuality, such as causation and mutability, and included a few chapters on same-sex marriage that some happened to think violated the honor code (I don't think it did, but I realize some disagree- at the end of the day, few have actually read it).
Also, I'm not convinced the framing about protecting and disciplining students is well-supported. Given the abundant evidence we have of callous honor code-related treatment of BYU students by Honor Code Offices, BYU bishops, and BYU Administrators, it appears interests such as reputation and power are valued above students. If the primary forces at play were genuine interest in either protecting or disciplining students, we would expect a myriad of realities we don't observe such as consistent honor codes (they vary substantially across CES institutions), consistent enforcement (don't get me started), proportional discipline, and meaningful appeal processes. To me, the example of the Feb. 2011 change speaks more to the causative relationship between controversy and honor code change, than it does the relationship between honor code change and either direct action or student welfare. Just my two cents of course, as the editorial team your conclusion is a valid one.Thank you,[name removed]
Saturday, February 20, 2021
BYU's LGBT association which I co-founded, USGA, recently posted The History of BYU and LGBTQ Issues to their blog. I reached out today to one of the authors with the below, providing additional context on that change.
I just finished your/Hayden/Elijah's excellent article, The History of BYU and LGBTQ Issues! Would you be interested in additional context behind the Feb 2011 honor code change? You may wish to add a line or two to the article, or perhaps publish a dedicated article on the subject. I'm one of the original founders of USGA, helped with the BYU LGBT history Wikipedia article, and have some insight into that change.
The emeritus general authority contacted me again, this time saying "There is enough concern about your book that the President of the University, your priesthood leaders, and General Authorities are worried about it and my counsel remains even stronger that you need to put it aside and let anyone know to whom you have sent it that you are going to let the Church handle the issue as its leaders feel inspired to do. In no way do you want to end up in a disciplinary situation." A BYU stake president pulled me aside to condemn my book and actions and warn me that Satan was "separating me from the herd" so he could take me down. An influential BYU professor wrote "you are not free to dictate what the reaction of Church leaders will be towards it. I would suspect (having interfaced with the General Authorities for many years) that they are not going to take kindly to your book which will, because it is logical and well-written—lead many people away from the Church’s mainstream teaching. If I were to counsel you, I would say to put the manuscript away until the Church changes its stance." Two law school deans confronted me about the draft and reminded me they have no power over the Honor Code Office (HCO).
To keep a long story short, I nevertheless persisted in publishing the book the next month (December 2010), and sold copies to several libraries and the BYU Bookstore (where it sold out). QSaltLake featured me on the cover of their 3 Feb 2011 edition, including articles about (1) my book and (2) the Feb 2011 honor code change. My book included a chapter entitled "A Moral Case for LDS same-sex marriage" that explored moral arguments for and against same-sex marriage in the context of a thought experiment.
Hope that helps,
Thursday, December 10, 2020
My spouse and I were recently discussing the tech and screen saturation we and our kids live in, juxtaposed against the simpler and more people interaction-oriented milieus of our childhoods. This led to reflections on the improved medical and information technologies avail to us compared to our parents' generation, and the advances we're likely to witness over the second half of our lifespans.
This caused a reflection on generational luck. We're luckier than any previous generation relative to expected lifespan, access to medical care, and more. However, how likely is this trend to continue? Will our kids experience the continuation of these trajectories? I think in the next 50 years there are likely to be a couple big changes, and possibly some extremely destructive or disruptive ones. Existential or extreme risks associated with environment degradation, AI, easy access to nuclear-level destructive technologies (including biological attacks), world war-level conflict, totalitarianism, and the many others pointed out by folks who publish on this sort of thing- all could lead to various dystopias or, at least, a state of affairs net worse than present and trending worse. Should any of these futures come to pass, it may well appear to a putative researcher many millenia in the future, that my generation was the "luckiest" in the sense that it benefitted from more choice and healthspan and size than the generations before and after it.
Part of me is insatiably curious about how this far future will unfold: angered that the certainty of my death precludes that particular satisfaction.
Monday, October 28, 2019
Thursday, June 1, 2017
The amount I comment on other platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, and other blogs) has significantly decreased as well. It's not because I'm too busy: it's because I view "being more right" as less pragmatic and valuable than I did when I started this blog (especially between 2010 and 2012).
Early on, partly due to my distinctly Mormon value of "pursuing truth from whatever source," I put a lot of energy into trying to be more right in my thinking and positions. For example: in early 2010, I uncritically accepted the LDS position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I then researched the subject immensely (including writing a book and speaking on the subject), applied the critical thinking tools I picked up in higher ed, and changed my position. Awesome.
The thing is, it didn't matter much to the big picture. Sure, my activism and research definitely helped some folks. And personally, it matters a ton that I changed my position: both because of the journey of getting there, and because of the other conclusions that has led me to. However, with respect to the root causes of the suffering of LGBT Mormons, my "being more right" counted for very little. The words of LDS leaders and the consequent rejection of their LGBT family and ward members by mainstream Mormons, are much more substantial drivers. Those factors don't change much because a few people at the bottom of the totem pole achieved a more enlightened position.
In other words, power counts for much more than being correct. The recent presidential election readily illustrates this principle as well- despite the immensity and abundance of the logical and ethical flaws of Mr. Trump's behaviors and rhetoric; and despite the far superior marks in those same categories of other candidates, he nonetheless won tens of millions of votes and ultimately the electoral college. Demagoguery counted for much more than the "being more right" of competitors: much as the authority of LDS leaders counted for much more than the superior morality and logical consistency of my new position on homosexuality.
Dictator-associated suffering in Syria and Venezuela is similarly explained by the victory of power over principle, and I could provide many more examples. Together these observations suggest to me that, although pursing truth is good and valuable, it's often powerless or at least inefficient at increasing human happiness, reducing suffering, and bringing about justice. Since I care about those things, I'm now focusing my limited energy more on activism and philanthropy, and less on the research, dialogue, and critical thinking that result in "being more right."
[I also think folks don't change their positions often, even when presented with more ethical and logically consistent alternatives. This immunity to merited persuasion is another reason I consider "being more right" to be inefficient at producing change].