Subject: "BYU professor let go for questioning LDS leadership"
Date: Jun 13, 2006
Excerpt from SLC Tribune:
BYU professor let go for questioning LDS stand on gay marriage
The Salt Lake Tribune
PROVO - A Brigham Young University adjunct professor who recently called into question the LDS Church's opposition to gay marriage will not be rehired after spring term.
The decision to let Jeffrey Nielsen go was based on an op-ed piece he wrote for the June 4 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune.
"I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral," wrote the part-time philosophy professor at the LDS Church-owned school.
In a statement read over pulpits the previous week, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged members to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and asked them to "express themselves on this urgent matter" to U.S. senators.
Jeffrey Nielsen, a practicing Latter-day Saint, learned of the school's decision regarding him in a letter dated
June 8 from BYU Department of Philosophy Chairman Daniel Graham.
"In accordance with the order of the church, we do not consider it our responsibility to correct, contradict or dismiss official pronouncements of the church," the letter reads. "Since you have chosen to contradict and oppose the church in an area of great concern to church leaders, and to do so in a public forum, we will not rehire you after the current term is over."
Link to entire article:
Subject: What the article should have said...
Date: Jun 13 16:31
"In accordance with the orders of the church, we do not consider it our responsibility to think for ourselves . . . Since you have chosen to think for yourself on an issue on which the church leaders have already done the thinking, and had the nerve to express yourself publicly, we will not rehire you after the current term is over."
Jeff Nielson's response:
Subject: The Limits of Free Speech within Mormonism: Jeff Nielson's Exit Letter to his Department Chair
Date: Jun 13, 2006
Author: bob mccue
The Salt Lake City Tribune has a copy of the letter below, from Jeff to his department chair, but apparently decided not to run it. It eloquently addresses the topic of free speech in a variety of useful contexts.
The hubris of Mormonism's leaders continues to amaze me.
"June 13, 2006
Daniel W. Graham, chair
Department of Philosophy
Brigham Young University
I regretfully read your letter of June 8 informing me that because of my
opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune of June 4, you have decided not to
rehire me to teach the philosophy courses I had already been scheduled to
teach through next year. I have only the utmost respect and admiration for
you and for the students, faculty, and staff in the Philosophy Department at
Brigham Young University. In my experience, the students and faculty have
always been engaged and lively participants in the academic pursuit of
truth. Now let me address some of the issues you expressed in your letter.
Church leaders have consistently opposed same-sex attraction and gay
marriage. I have never agreed with this position believing that it was based
in misunderstanding and in a purely human bias of cultural place and time
and not reflective of divine will. Yet I have never publicly, or in the
classroom, opposed their policy. Yet when church leaders take a political
stand on a moral issue, then I am not only engaged as a member of the
church, but also as an American citizen. As an American citizen, I publicly
expressed an honest opinion contradicting a political statement by our
church leaders. I fear for the church and the university if the time comes
when the members of the church, including faculty at BYU, are not allowed to
disagree, either in public or private, with political positions taken by the
church. If such conformity is required, then we deserve to be called neither
a church nor a university.
I also strongly disagree with the implications of your statement that
faithfulness and loyalty to the church and church leaders never permits
expressions of disagreement, or questioning of our church leaders –
especially in an academic setting. Unquestioning acquiescence and blind
loyalty to leaders in positions of power over human beings have no place in
any institution of higher learning that values the pursuit of truth and
search for justice. And in my mind, what is philosophy but the quest for
truth and justice. I believe that there is great potential at BYU that will
never be realized if the faculty, in certain areas of study, are limited in
their research and work by the necessity of arriving at pre-approved answers
given by church leaders.
Finally, when it comes to the sustaining of church leaders, I will always
argue for the privilege of church members to examine, question, and dialogue
with each other and with their leaders in order to genuinely sustain and
support church doctrines and teachings. I do not believe that sustaining
leaders requires either silent acquiescence or unquestioning conformity, but
it does require active engagement with one another and with our church
leaders, regardless of our place or position within church leadership
hierarchies. If sustaining our leaders is to be real and genuine – not a
sham as are elections in totalitarian governments – then members must be
free to examine, question and benevolently criticize. Ultimately, I strongly
believe that every person possesses the privilege to speak and the
obligation to listen.
Again, I have only respect and admiration for you. I have enjoyed our
association, and I also wish you the best.
Subject: Wow, that's an incredibly meaningful response...
Date: Jun 13 18:15
He's just revealed for even the most brainwashed to see that the tactics of the cult are...well...cultish.
Surely this story will get picked up by some of the other media outlets across the country. What an impact this whole story could have on any thinking non Morgbot.
Again...WOW!!! I can't wait to see this in the LA Times or on cable news.
Subject: How many sleepers in the Morg will this action make...
Date: Jun 13 18:20
wake up? Or will they simply roll over when they are told to go back to sleep, everything is fine, we are in control!
God (or whatever) grant them exactly what they deserve when they bow down to the one they serve.
Subject: A fine letter.
Date: Jun 13 18:31
What a very decent person Jeffrey Nielsen must be. He is so clear and logical. It's possible there is no place for a mind like that in the church or at BYU. The most compelling statement for me:
"I fear for the church and the university if the time comes when the members of the church, including faculty at BYU, are not allowed to disagree, either in public or private, with political positions taken by the church. If such conformity is required, then we deserve to be called neither a church nor a university."
Subject: A gracious and eloquent reply...
Date: Jun 13 19:06
Nielson effectively got my attention even more-so in reading this reply that this Church is not interested in an honest public exchange of ideas on any front. Thank you for making this available.
Dissension from Church party-line and prefabricated answers undoubtedly will be met with strong and severe repercussions by this institution (Church).
"I also strongly disagree with the implications of your statement that faithfulness and loyalty to the church and church leaders never permits expressions of disagreement, or questioning of our church leaders – especially in an academic setting. Unquestioning acquiescence and blind loyalty to leaders in positions of power over human beings have no place in any institution of higher learning that values the pursuit of truth and search for justice."
Subject: BYU: An idea whose time has come - to an end
Date: Jun 14 05:24
Author: Tal Bachman
I don't get BYU.
I attended it for one semester as a flaming TBM RM, and I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. No doubt members will attribute my incomprehension to a "lack of the spirit"...maybe, maybe not. All I know is, it doesn't make sense to me, and it doesn't make sense to a lot of other people. Here are a few reasons why.
BYU (as is their prerogative) is refusing to re-hire a philosophy instructor because he publicly questioned the church's stance on gay marriage. Okay, let's say that's fine.
But on the very same campus, every single day school is in session, Mormon professors in all kinds of disciplines teach ideas which are just as "apostate" as anything Jeff Nielsen has come up with, yet nothing will happen to them.
For example, in classes dealing with astronomy and astrophysics, I am quite sure no BYU professor, at least in the last century, has ever announced that light from the sun comes not from internal nuclear processes, but from the sun "borrowing" its light from Star Kolob. But why not, when the claim of Kolobian light borrowing is CANONICAL? (See PGP facsimile)
In anthropology classes, I am quite sure no professor teaches that the entire human race was wiped out by a global flood a mere 4500 years ago, and then had to build itself back up from the three kids of a Jewish guy named Noah (and I'm not even mentioning the animals). But this event would be a very important thing for anthropology students to know, if it were true. So why isn't it taught explicitly as fact, when this is a canonized statement of supposed fact? It's Mormon doctrine. Why is it that those BYU professors who blatantly contradict Mormon doctrine in their anthropology classes are allowed to keep their jobs?
What of my own BYU professor of earth science, who began his class by announcing that he "didn't agree" with how the teachers over at the religious education building described the formation and age of the earth, or their account of how life came to be on this planet. And that was the first day. I sat in that class for weeks, and there was absolutely no mention of the earth only having been populated by humans from about 3000 BC on, once Adam and his wife showed up. There was no mention of the official First Presidency statement, issued under Joseph F. Smith, stating that Adam, and Adam alone, was the "primal parent" of the human race. Why not? This FP statement was well backed up by numerous LDS scriptures. Yet my own BYU earth sciences professor taught the history of the earth, including its population, just as any other professor at any other university would have. Life evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, etc. No mention of the cataclysmic effects of Adam's fall on creation. But why not, when Adam's fall - and its role in the population of the world - is canonized doctrine? Why is that just ignored, if it's true?
At BYU, it is possible to attend your Religious Education class and learn that Adam and Eve were real, and that their fall was real, and had real consequences for the physical world including the human race and the animal kingdom, and then walk five minutes to your next class and watch a biology professor roll his eyes and tell you "they teach what they need to teach, and I teach what I need to teach" when you mention your religion teacher to him.
And bear in mind - the biology and anthropology and astronomy teachers are all teaching this stuff - this truly apostate stuff - IN CLASS, to Mormon students. Jeff Nielsen, by contrast, wrote an op-ed piece for the Salt Lake Tribune. There has been no report of him "misbehaving" in class, or even sharing his opinion about gay marriage in his classes. Jeff Nielsen, an instructor at a university, was let go because he disagreed with Mormon church authorities in a newspaper piece, while all around him at BYU, there are professors who are blatantly contradicting Mormon scriptures and official First Presidency statements and positions while they teach actual BYU students. But nothing happens there. Why not?
BYU, for all its achievements (law, for example), seems bent on becoming an unwitting parody of a private university run by a fundamentalist religion. On the one hand, all associated with the school must convince themselves that "there is no inherent conflict between the gospel and higher education", while at the same time, they support an institution which embodies just that conflict. To be specific, that's the conflict between a "gospel" which contains not just false, but spectacularly false, claims about the world, and an intellectual impulse represented by the university, the purpose of which is to *uncover* false claims about the world. How can those two things be reconciled? Only by a religion capitulating entirely and acknowledging that at least some of what it stands for, appears to be nonsense; barring that, a "religious fundamentalist university" makes about as much sense as "a triangular square circle" or a "fat slim infant man": none.
As a result, the main differences between BYU and public universities are (pretty much irrelevant to learning) BYU's dress and grooming standards (which of course would probably prohibit Jesus himself from studying there - not that I think Jesus will be too bothered), and its shameful incoherence and capriciousness, and antagonism toward things like...professors declining to abide by death oaths of allegiance to a cult fuhrer.
But really, it's the chaos and contradiction that bother me. BYU professors, all teaching students under the authority of the "one, true religion", teach students totally contradictory things. BYU wishes to be afforded the respect of a conscientious university, but then acts capriciously, unfairly, and in violation of the standards that other universities try to abide by. And BYU fires professors for doing the same thing that other BYU professors do, professors which it would never think of firing. That's not fair.
I think BYU should make a decision: buck accreditation altogether so as to eliminate all incoherence and chaos, and make the whole thing into a Mormon Madrassah, full-stop (of course, that's supposing Mormonism could actually eliminate incoherence and contradiction from itself first); or get out of the university business altogether, and just focus on running their religion. This business of trying to play two contradictory games at the same time, and all the weird manifestations of that - like maintaining you're a real university while firing profs for writing op-ed pieces in local newspapers, etc. - seems nuts.
Subject: I can't help but think that this guy knew the consequences of that article in the paper.
Date: Jun 13 16:38
He had to know he was pushing the envelope and forcing their hand.
I doubt he is very concerned about being let go. Wasn't he there for a short assignment anyhow?
I am thrilled to see the church take this kind of stand! For a church that does not like negative publicity, they sure know how to make themselves look stupid!
Just because you work for BYU do you have to check your opinions at the door? Guess so!
Date: Jun 13 16:38
Author: Tal Bachman
Okay friends -
The CHAIR of a PHILOSOPHY department, at an accredited university in the United States of America, demands that no one question the "official pronouncements" of a CHURCH?
It's funny - Daniel Graham ought to try reading a bit from a guy named Plato, who described in great detail the questioning attitude of one Socrates, who by most accounts, was THE FOUNDER OF GRAHAM'S DISCIPLINE.
These people are hilarious...!
P.S. Nielsen says in the article he has "no desire to be anything but a member of the church". But why, when even HE knows it's the embodiment of spiritual Stalinism, and is a patent fraud to boot?
Subject: This is going to come back and bite the church in the arse.
Date: Jun 13 17:09
All this does is show the world that they really are intolerant, biased idiots and makes BYUs standing in the educational community look suspect.
Subject: What is "The order of the church"
Date: Jun 13 17:15
Author: Who Knows
I found this quote interesting, "In accordance with the order of the church, we do not consider it our responsibility to correct, contradict or dismiss official pronouncements of the church."
What the heck is the 'order of the church'? Whatever happened to AOF 11.
Wow - this totally goes against the whole free agency argument.
I still can't believe I'm reading what I'm reading.
Subject: Letter to the Editor on Sunday (reader predicts the
firing of the professor)
Date: Jun 13 17:29
"I applaud Jeffrey Nielsen's extremely well-written, well-thought-out, open-minded, refreshing, logical op-ed regarding a gay marriage amendment (Tribune, June 4).
It was a truly heartening experience to read the opinion of one who hasn't let blind acceptance of church teachings get in the way of his ability to apply logic and reason to a question and reach a carefully considered conclusion. It was all the more impressive coming from a member of the BYU faculty.
As soon as BYU fires him for writing the op-ed, I hope the U. offers him a gig.
Matt R... (letter to the editor)
Wow, could Matt have been any more prescient?
This is so silly.
Subject: Re: So much for Academic Freedom
Date: Jun 13 17:58
Everyone please contact your local newspapers and ask them to run both pieces from the Salt Lake Tribune. This is newsworthy and press to have it in the local paper. I just emailed our local paper.
Wow! We still live in the dark ages and we will continue to until more people speak out.
Subject: Nielsen's better off...
Date: Jun 13 17:49
...now he can go to a REAL school at be a REAL teacher.
BYU once again shows what a joke institution they are.
Subject: In the name of incoherence, amen
Date: Jun 13 18:26
Author: Tal Bachman
"...the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter Day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived it's members of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter Day Saints have no creed...". ("The Journal of Joseph: The Personal Diary of a Modern Prophet, p. 203").
Date: Jun 13 18:28
One of the bottom posts on the fair board, by ed2276, said that he was just speaking as a man, not as a professor:
"Nielsen's expression of criticism of the church and its stand against homosexuality wasn't an exercise of "academic freedom". It was an expression of his personal views. The good professor has every right to express himself on the principle of freedom of speech , as he did. However , the church and/or BYU , upon the principle of freedom of association , has the right to disassociate Nielsen from itself when he expresses a position contrary to the fundamental doctrines and policies of the church."
How is this different from "oh, the prophet was just speaking as a man, pay no attention."? The church doesn't fire prophets for saying dumb things, until it's contradicted by later prophets, it's the Word Of God.
I guess this just goes towards the brainwashed mentality. What's good for the goose doesn't apply.
Subject: Joseph Smith vs. BYU and Gordon B. Hinckley
Date: Jun 13 23:07
As the Mormon Church so proudly declares that Joseph Smith taught:
"I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like Methodism and not like Latter-day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammelled."
- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Official History of the Church 5:340
Compare that to BYU's explanation for letting professor Jeffrey Nielsen go:
"In accordance with the order of the church, we do not consider it our responsibility to correct, contradict or dismiss official pronouncements of the church."
"Since you have chosen to contradict and oppose the church in an area of great concern to church leaders, and to do so in a public forum, we will not rehire you after the current term is over."
The church has a long history of explicitly telling members that it expects "uncompromising loyalty" - even in political matters.
The church has been saying this for years, so it should come as no surprise when the church acts against members who cross the line.
If Jeffrey doesn't quiet down, do you think they'll pull him into a disciplinary court?
Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church