21 October 2011

BYU and the Sunday Compromise?

I read an article by Brad Rock this morning where he quoted heavily from Dr. Thomas Forsthoefel who was giving his opinion on religious institutions being involved in sports. BYU, of course, came up.

I think Forsthoefel came off sounding a bit misinformed about the culture, drive, mission, etc. of BYU. Below is the email that I sent to Brad Rock this morning after finishing the article:

Brad -

That was an interesting article. I tend to disagree with Forsthoefel, though, or at least disagree with what I may have read into his comments.

A quote in your article says:

"There may be a kind of growing pain. BYU is in the real world and the real world works on Sunday. Can we (BYU) live with the adjustment? I'm empathetic with that, whatever decision is made, people are going to be unhappy.… Some will say get with the program, we'll be OK at the next level, others will say we've sold out and we've made a deal with the world."

This seems to suggest one or two things; first, that in order to get to the next level, BYU will need to be willing to play on Sunday, and, second, that BYU will pay that price instead of staying where they are at. I half-disagree with the first and almost completely disagree with the second.

A lot of people consider that their allegiance to a faith is mostly to help them be better people, feel better about their problems and the world's problems, etc., and I think that is missing the mark a bit. Certainly, all people of faith are comforted by what their faith assures them of, but Mormons (and certainly some other faiths) tend to see this as less of a factor. I find that the character of Latter-Day Saint institutions is definitely that adherence to their faith, above all, serves God, obeys His will, and molds them to Him, not Him to them.

The first approach makes it a lot easier to justify "compromises" because really in the end if the faith is supposed to just help those who claim it, why not make concessions in order to better serve the whole? The second approach, while still allowing for change, gives a much lower priority to whether these kids have a super-high-profile college career.

Another quote:

"the institution itself, be it BYU or Mercyhurst, has to attend to the overall needs and make some compromises. If your A.D. (athletics director) can't do that, it's probably not a good place to be."

I agree with this, if maybe interpreting his comment differently than intended. BYU does have to attend to the overall need which is to create an institution that adheres to God's law. If the A.D. at BYU can't do that, then I wouldn't want to be there either.

Last one:

"It's not all bad, because it's forcing the BYU community to really gaze at themselves and sort out who they are and what they're about and how to take that and move into the next 15, 20, 30, 40 years. It's anxiety-provoking right now."

This sounds pretty trite (and Disney-like) and a bit misunderstanding to me. I could be misinformed--maybe BYU's recent rise in notoriety really has created an identity crisis for the BYU community; however, when I hear "forcing the BYU community" in the context of how they run their institution, I implicitly hear "forcing the Brethren". You've got to be kidding me that those that run BYU as an institution don't already know "who they are" and "what they're about!"

Anyway, Forsthoefel may have just been trying to be ecumenical/diplomatic, and I can respect that. The reality is, though, that the honor code and the no-Sunday play are seen much more as God's direction than men's ideas on how to best mold college kids into upstanding adults. He may also be right that ultimately BYU's hand will be forced by the invisible hand of economics. Personally, I believe that BYU would forfeit their football program before doing that.

Thanks for the article. It made me think.


So what do you think? Will BYU inevitably allow its football team to play on Sunday one day, maybe even relax or drop the honor code, in order to accommodate a continued rise in notoriety?


Josh Cummings said...

Very cool! I just received a reply from Brad Rock. That's awesome. He's got to be a busy guy, and to have him take time to respond makes me respect him.

Mishqueen said...

What did the reply say?

Josh Cummings said...

He basically thanked me for taking the time to write and shared his personal opinion on a couple of the points I made. You'd have to ask him for the rest. =]