A Safe Space for the Faithful

The debacle at BYU shows the world will stop at nothing to keep us from having any space “not of the world.”

If you’ve been following the noise at Brigham Young University for the last few weeks, you know about the situation with the Honor Code Office, and how a few bad operators deliberately endorsed sinful acts on campus. This noise easily spilled over onto social media with LGBT activists praising it, and faithful Church members seeking further clarification.

The end result was the Church Education System issuing a statement reaffirming the doctrines of Jesus Christ, especially on such points as chastity and eternal progression. What resulted was at least one knee-jerk protest on campus (in which a faithful student was accosted for reading the Family Proclamation aloud.) In addition, protestors traveled to Rexburg and to the Church Office Building in a fruitless attempt to change thousands of years of unchanging doctrine.

As I watched all this unfold, I thought about the debate raging in a space where it ought not even to be an issue. Homosexual activity–and behaviors tangential to it–has the full backing and support of virtually every other corner of academia. BYU, owned and heavily subsidized by the Church, should be immune to these incursions by social agitators.

When all this was going down I spoke with my mom, who attended BYU in the late 1970s. She offered up a perspective she’s shared before. However, in light of the Honor Code Office debacle, it makes a new kind of sense to me.

For context, my mom grew up in a blended family with five daughters. Her stepfather was a staunchly religious Roman Catholic his entire life, a first-generation American born to Italian parents. Her mother comes from Latter-day Saint Pioneer stock by way of the Hesses and Pulsiphers. Two sisters were Catholic, two were “Mormon,” and the fifth was both.

My mom spent her entire youth in a household without the priesthood, where Gospel standards weren’t enforced, and the sisters were held to wildly different standards based on their religious affiliations. Because of this, my mom looked forward to eventually attending BYU, a place that should have been chock full of righteous and worthy priesthood holders, and where Gospel standards were a comfortable norm.

Yet even 40+ years ago, she was frustrated while at BYU by the number of fellow students who only paid lip service to the Gospel and the Honor Code. If she could come home to her BYU-approved apartment and catch her roommate getting horizontal with a guy on the living room couch, what was the point of going all the way to Provo for school?

The issue of rampant unchastity at BYU hasn’t lessened in the intervening decades. Not remotely. Not with LGBT protesters waiting in the wings for anything resembling a chance to subvert Church doctrine and Church standards. An unordained officer in a school capacity told students that dating rules had changed at a Church school, and they pounced without any hesitation.

More to the point, they flaunted their behavior on campus, and took several victory laps on social media, until the CES issued a statement last week reaffirming the gospel standard.

Today, in the age of so-called safe spaces, the expectation of shared standards deserves greater respect. To a degree, this is why the Honor Code exists in the first place so every student who agrees to it knows how they ought to conduct themselves at BYU–whether they are members of the Church or not. Honor is not a quality exclusive to Church members; it ought to be something we all have, regardless of our creeds.

Consider a story in the Book of Mormon, a bloodthirsty Lamanite commander called Zarahemnah–who led armies against Christian Nephites and personally killed several of them with brutal hand weapons–would not make a covenant of peace with Captain Moroni because he knew he would turn around and break it.

Zarahemnah was at least honorable in the sense that he would not lie about his intentions, his values, or his plans for the future. He refused to give his word if he did not intend to keep it.

One would hope that a movement like the LGBT protests on BYU campus could aspire to the level of integrity of a violent mesoamerican killer. Especially a movement that is so vocal about “carving out safe spaces for the marginalized.”

BYU is the safe space for faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those members want a safe space to practice their faith while continuing their education. And the campus is open to non-members who are at least willing to live that same standard while they are there.

If you’re opposed to that, that is your right. And there are plenty of other places to practice without consequence (at least from the University). Now begins the discussion of figuring out how to get everyone where they want to be. That, perhaps, is a subject for another day.

Supplemental Reading:

Graham Bradley is a truckernovelist, and illustrator. He served a mission in Barcelona, Spain, from 2003-2005.

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