Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tattletale

I am a Mormon and also a BYU-Idaho student, so I took interest when I saw this on my Facebook news feed:


So I clicked the link to BYUI's online newspaper, which lead me to several things: the video in question (below), and the criticizers in question, RawStory, DaileyCaller, and SFGate


Now, let me correct some of the things I think the other articles got wrong and then clarify why this video seems normal to most Mormons.

The “cruel, ruthless and relentless” “enemy” is not masturbation as the articles write, but Satan, who tempts the young man into watching pornography/masturbating. Therefore, the great war being waged is not against masturbation, but against Satan.

If you are Mormon, then you wouldn't bat an eye at analogies like this. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I have heard war parables a hundred times over about a hundred different things. If you're not Mormon, I can see how it might seem strange or perhaps extreme.

With that said, the pornography/masturbation aspect of the video and whether it's bizarre or not, as the critical articles believe, is not what concerns me. What concerns me is the promotion and fostering of tattletale culture on this campus under the guise of 'helping' your fellow students.

For those of you who do not attend BYUI, let me explain the situation for those who do. Until you are married, or unless you receive special permission, you must live in school approved housing. That does not just mean on campus, I am not just talking about the dorms. You have to live in apartments that have received the BYUI stamp of approval or else you will have a hold placed of your account and you will be unable to register for classes.

What the BYUI stamp of approval means, is that the apartment abides by the rules of BYU-Idaho. Otherwise known as the honorcode. Every student upon admission must sign the honorcode. The school summarizes it as:

What that really means to the students:
  • No cheating
  • No further intimacy than kissing the opposite sex
  • No homosexuality
  • No masturbation/pornography
  • No member of the opposite sex allowed in bedrooms (or past what is referred to as the chastity line)
  • Curfew of midnight every night except 1:00am on Friday. Meaning you must be home and opposite sex must be out of your apartment
  • No skipping church
  • No facial hair for men besides mustaches
  • No flip flops
  • No shorts/capris
  • Skirts/dresses to the knee
  • No piercings for men, one ear piercing for women
  • Naturally died hair colors
  • No clothes with rips
  •  If you know someone isn't compiling with the honor code and don't report them, you can also be found guilty


Therefore these rules apply not only on campus, but where you live. And in fact if you are found to break these rules anywhere, even when you are gone for the summer, for example, you could still get into trouble. And by get into trouble, I mean you could very well be kicked out of the university.

That's why the tattletale aspect of the video, which is also in the honorcode itself is so concerning to me.

About two weeks ago I was sitting in a reading room with a view of the parking lot, waiting for my ride. There was another girl in the room talking on her phone and I couldn't help but overhear her conversation. She was explaining to whoever was on the other end, that she had gone to her bishop to tell on her roommates, for what I don't know. She then expressed that the Bishop had instructed her to work things out for herself with the other girls. She went on to say into the phone that she had later found out that what she'd told the bishop wasn't even true.

I had to restrain myself from berating this girl. Because of her over-zealousness to tattle she could have gotten a girl kicked out of school, putting her college education on hold up to a year, for something she didn't even do.

Perhaps this is a good time to clarify something else for those who are not Mormon. Members of the LDS church believe in confession. Not in the same way that Catholics do. You don't go into a booth where your face is hidden and you are prescribed hail Marys. You go in to see your bishop, face to face, and disclose your sins. If the breach of church conduct is severe enough, you could face having your membership put on probation or even excommunication. In any case, whether severe or not, you will need to go through "the repentance process", which is seen as necessary to be clean before God and entrance into Mormon temples.

The problem when you are a BYU Idaho student, is that your education and steadfastness as a church member are inseparably intertwined. Your confession which you see as necessary for your salvation could also get you removed from the university. The bishops of BYUI wards have the ability to report you to the school's honor code office which can then expel you.

For many Mormons the choice between your salvation and your education seems like a no-brainier, but I think it is incredibly unfair to encourage students to make that decision for someone else.

An important doctrine in the LDS church is that of agency, which is simply the right to choose. Mormons believe that there were two plans proposed before we came to earth, one by Satan and one by Jesus Christ. To be concise, Satan's plan was that no one would be able to choose wrong and therefore all would return to heaven and he would receive the glory. Christ's plan was that we would have the ability to make choices, and consequently he would sacrifice himself to atone for sins, so we would be able to return to heaven if we made use of that atonement. In Christ's plan the glory would go to God and that is the plan Mormons believe was chosen. So the school's policy is not only unfair, but is also contradictory of church beliefs.

When I heard that girl in the reading room, it was clear to me that she did not go to her bishop out of 'love' and 'concern' for her roommates, but was acting out of her own self-interest. 

The video above portrays love and redemption, but the fact is if you tattletale on your roommate to your bishop, the end scene won't be playing pool as best friends and getting girls. It will be your roommate packing his bags resenting you for tattling. If you really want to express Christ like love towards your roommates, don't act like a child telling a teacher or a parent. Be an adult. Confront your roommate, express your concerns, have an honest conversation, but most importantly respect them. Because they are adults too.

It is my belief that confession and repentance are deeply personal and if you force someone to do those things before they are ready or against their will, you could do far more damage than good. You could drive them even further from the belief you wish them to embrace.

Stop the tattling and grow up BYU-Idaho.

13 comments:

Daniel Ryan said...

The ending scenes where the roommates are talking, and when he is walking into the Bishops office is not meant to give the appearance of tattling. The roommate was helping to encourage his friend to seek help with the bishop. He was there to show support for his friend, not tattling on him. You don't see the roommate talk to the bishop, you see him talk to his friend, and the guy struggling goes to the bishop. Yes, there should be less tattling on each other. But that is not what this video portrayed.

Hailey Cox said...

What President Clark is imploring in the video, is that you "talk to someone who can do something", meaning the bishop. The video doesn't represent reality.

Thank you for your comment! I appreciate other views.

Laura Landis said...

Hailey, I don't know how much you compehend President Clark's message. Here's a statement from him that clarifies what he means about, "go find someone who can do something":

"The purposes of this standard are to help you learn to love your neighbor, to save souls, and to protect and strengthen the Spirit on this campus. Those to whom you reach out will have to choose: will they “come to themselves” and turn to Christ, or will they “become for themselves” and turn away? As Jesus taught in Matthew, chapter 18, verses 15-17: “If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother [or sister]. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.”

See it here:
http://www2.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2013_01_08_Clark.htm

Laura Landis said...

Also, I think you'd be interested in learning how the honor code investigations are carried out! All you do to find out more is call their office. They're really nice :)

Here's their phone number:
Honor Office
208.496.5102

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your views. Your interpretation of the video is yours and you are entitled to that. A video like this must have been sponsered not only by President Clark, not only by byui, but by the first presidency and general authorities of the church who oversee the university. I think it's important that we see what the real message and purpose is of the video. It isn't to try and pick apart the content to try and support your biased opinion. I for one stand by this video and the leaders of the church behind it. I'm sure if you have this much disdain for the honor code you could easily attend another university that doesn't have standards as high as byui does.

Hailey Cox said...

Let me perhaps clarify my thoughts for some of you who have commented.

It's not the bishop's role to kick kids out of school, his role should be to guide you back into the fold. And yet he does have the power to have you expelled. Meaning that before you confess you have no idea whether you will be helped spiritually or be sent home to be helped there. So while confessing sins is already difficult and often humiliating simply to face the bishop, you may now have to explain to your family why you can no longer attend the university, and perhaps friends as well. Further your education will be put on hold, blocking your progress in that regard. Most likely you will have to move. You'll probably lose a fair amount of money, etc.

With all that in mind, I understand that salvation is more important than all those things. However, if it were me in that position, I would not want to face all those consequences against my will. I would want to be prepared and accept them as part of my penance and a worthy sacrifice to return clean into God's presence.

I would imagine facing all those consequences because someone, whether out of sincere concern or not, went to the bishop without express permission, would fill a person with bitterness.

The church discipline in and of itself, is not well known by most members, and I'm sure would be daunting to someone unprepared for it, on top of all the issues with the school.

So while I can see that the intention behind such a policy in the honor code and President Clark's message is that students will look after one another and be their brother's keeper. In reality I don't think that's what takes place.

In reality it creates an environment of judgment and threats and tattling. Where rather than sincere concern being the driving force, it is conflict and an easy way to deal with roommates you don't get along with. And so to me, caring about your roommate is not going over their head and forcing them to deal with a slew of difficult consequences that have the very real possibility of pushing them further from the church. But to express your concerns TO them, do what you can to help them, and continuously encourage them to be brave and speak to the bishop for themselves. I think it would even be ok to tell the bishop you think it would be a good idea for them to reach out to your roommate without usurping what I think is their RIGHT for a personal confession.

And to anonymous, who said "you could easily attend another university". First of all I think that's in bad taste. Just because I have a different opinion doesn't mean I need to leave the school. It means I have a different opinion, which if you didn't realize is still allowed, even on the "Lord's Campus".

Secondly, I actually see that argument a lot on pages like BYUI-secrets for example. Also in the scroll, in class, etc. "If you don't like it, you can go somewhere else" type of statements.

And the truth is, however, transferring to another school is not "simple" as anonymous put it. You have to apply to another school, be accepted, see if your credits will transfer, and very likely lose credits (which equal time and money). You have to move and all that, that entails. So no. I don't think I could 'simply' go somewhere else, and I also don't need to.

BYUI Grad said...

Hailey - Thank you for redeeming my opinion of BYU-I students. When I attended 10 years ago I remember feeling constantly scrutinized by people who had nothing better to do that meddle in other people's business. I also had a hard time finding people who were capable to considering different opinions, let alone hold any. It's nice to see there are well-spoken, thoughtful individuals willing to stand up for their unpopular ideas.

DeeDee said...

Well said, Hailey. All of it. It's nice to know there are a few Mormons left that still think with their own mind rather than behave like the typical fear-driven drone. Thank you for expressing all of my thoughts it afar more graceful fashion than I could have.

Brandt said...

I don't think that Brigham Young University has the expertise, authority, or training to be able to administer, educate, or advocate through Public Service Announcements for subjects the president of the university calls "sinful".

There are plenty of free speech issues about pornography and there are plenty of scientifically documented negative impacts of pornography on mentally unstable people but I don't think BYU Idaho has the right approach or the answer to the general publics sexuality and/or for a minority of their students with sexual "addictions".

It's a weird and creepy misleading approach to educating a public about sex addiction. This video is typical religious fire and brimstone garbage propaganda. If they wanted to make a real video and service message about sex addiction or porn then do it. Don't try to entangle guilt, fear, domination, crime, self-esteem, doubt, Jesus, shame, sex, war, redemption, relationships and all this other irrelevant subtext and social messages into it. If a person has an addiction issue the last thing they need are 5 or 6 more irrelevant issues needlessly convoluted in the mix and the people who approved this need to go get some counseling themselves. It's a good idea to offer help and services, but this ad was the wrong messaging to solicit a positive health behavior and outcome. Good intentions bad ad. I would not want my my children watching it.

Hailey Cox said...

Thanks Brandt, I didn't think of it that way, but you make a really good point.

And DeeDee and BYUI grad, I'm glad there are some people who agree with me.

Seth Carter said...

Starting at 2:16: "Stick together. You don't need to be a more righteous than thou person. We are all sinners. We all have troubles. We all have been spiritually wounded in the battles of the great war."

From that statement, I don't think President Clark is saying, "Be a tattletale." He is saying we need to look out for each other. The whole comparison is with the battlefield. Don't leave a fellow brother or sister behind. Go after them. Talk to them. Let them know you care about them and are concerned for them.

Now, I never went to BYU-I, so I don't know the culture up there. Perhaps there is too much tattling without any genuine love and concern. That seems like a different issue than the one presented here. President Clark is not encouraging that. He is discouraging that (see quote at the top again). What he is encouraging is pure love and concern for those who are struggling in addiction. He is encouraging us not to listen to the culture that says, “Mind your own business,” but instead to listen to the culture of, “We are all in this together. You get my back and I’ll get yours.” Additionally, he never said, "We need to find these people and throw them out of this school."

I would also like to comment about the role of the bishops. Again, I don't know what it is like at BYU-I. I went to BYU-Provo, so my experience is based on that. I would also like to add that I speak from a lot of experience as a freshman mentor, RA, and home teacher. I came across a lot of honor code issues. What I have learned is while the bishop does have the ability to report honor code violations, it is not the first tool he uses to help the student. His first tool is the Atonement. As an example, I once home taught a young man that was struggling with pornography. I had earned his trust, so he told me about it. We talked about the Atonement. We talked about the power of prayer and scripture study. We also talked about seeing the bishop. When he was ready, he did talk to the bishop and confessed everything. Did he get thrown out of BYU? No. The bishop counseled with him about the Atonement some more and then talked to him about attending addiction recovery meetings and seeking counseling from LDS Family Services. I have heard of similar stories about people confessing to the bishop, but I never saw them get kicked out of school. The whole controversy around Brandon Davis was on national news for weeks. What happened to him? He sat out the rest of the season and played his final year. Did he get kicked out of BYU? No. Yes, BYU has the ability to terminate students not obeying the honor code, but it is rarely used because the Atonement comes first. Again, this is from my experience with many student and many different bishops and many different honor code violations. In every case, the BYU's first priority was to help the student spiritually through his or her bishop. Again, perhaps that isn’t the issue at BYU-I. Maybe there is too much tattling, but don’t misunderstand President Clark’s message. He wants people to look out for each other and to help each other.

Seth Carter said...

I would also like to comment on Brandt's comment. I don't think we are watching the same video. This video focused on encouraging others to get involved when people are struggling in addiction. The comparison was made to war in that we wouldn't leave a wounded man (or woman) behind. Even when others say we shouldn't risk our lives, we do it anyway because we all have been wounded before, and we all would hope someone would come back for us. The audience this video is meant for is BYU-I students who have roommates that are struggling with pornography and is intended to encourage them to reach out and help. Not all of us know what to do in these circumstances, so we are encouraged to speak to a bishop or someone with more experience to know how we can help. This video is not a "Public Service Announcement" designed to educate the public about addiction. It is a video encouraging us to take action, to go after the wounded, and to recognize that all of us will need similar help at some point in our lives.

I would also like to challenge your comment that BYU doesn't have "the expertise, authority, or training to be able to administer, educate, or advocate" on sexual addiction. You must not be familiar with BYU, so let me share a few things with you. BYU is one of the leading research institutions in the nation (and I would add the world) on family relationships and issues and has done extensive research on the effects of pornography. They have also researched methods and models for overcoming all forms of addiction, pornography included. They have multiple organizations, programs, and services designed to help people overcome pornography and substance abuse, including LDS Family Services, the Addiction Recovery Program (modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), Women Services, Family and Marriage Counseling, one-on-one Addiction Counseling and much more. Many of these programs are run with professional psychologists, sociologists, counselors, and social workers directing and actively participating in their implementation. By society’s standards, they have every expertise, authority, and training to handle such a delicate matter. Further, they provide that counseling with a spiritual overlay that makes for better treatment and more successful outcomes. And if you have issues with spirituality being a part of recovery, take a look into the overwhelming evidence that has been published on the subject of spirituality and healing. There are numerous articles in many peer-reviewed journals on the benefits and strengths to having spirituality a part of all types of recovery, including addiction recovery.

Hailey Cox said...


To Seth Carter: I appreciate your comments and perspective! I'm going to respond the first comment you made as the other isn’t really addressed to me.

I agree that what President Clarke is advocating is NOT what I have described in my post. What president Clarke is advocating is the idealized version of this particular aspect of the honor code. He is advocating what you described in your comment, which is also what I am advocating coincidentally. However, what I described is unfortunately the reality in many cases. Not to mention that as the President of the University, the reality that occurs based on what he is advocating matters. It matters that it produces so much negativity on this campus.

I would argue that the reason what he envisions isn't reality, is largely because of a lack of maturity here at BYU-Idaho.

In my personal experience, the people who have gone to the bishop on behalf of someone else, or in one case, straight to the honor code office, were not doing so out of love. They were doing it because they did not like the person in question. And beyond my personal experience, I would I say, often the driving force is something even worse- it’s love that seems sincere, but in actuality is hollow.

President Clarke is rooting in students, an idea that they are responsible for their roommates. Therefore when they discover their roommate is doing something to defy the honor code, they feel an obligation because of that responsibility, to do something about it. And so in order to relieve their conscious, they will push their roommates to action- which can be dangerous for reasons I’ve already described. Feeling obligated to shepherd someone else to salvation is not the same as love. Love is patient and understanding and it takes precedent to your own feelings of responsibility. I think it dangerous to consider them one in the same. Love and responsibility are not interchangeable.

Beyond that, it fosters an environment of spiritual superiority. It allows students to have power over other students because of their spiritual standing. It allows students to evaluate themselves as greater and their fellows as lessor because of transgressions, which feeds into the culture of immaturity and tattling.

What President Clarke is trying to create is an atmosphere of love and support, but I would contend this facet of the honor code accomplishes almost the opposite. If he truly wanted this to be a campus with those feelings, he wouldn’t give students the option to sell out their roommate (if their intentions are bad) or to pass them off so they can wipe their conscious clean (if they have presumably ‘good’ intentions). He wouldn’t push obedience through fear and scare students in their vulnerable state to push off repentance. If he wanted BYU-Idaho to be a place of love and support, then he would leave room for kids to make mistakes without it being, quite possibly, the end of their education.

We all make mistakes, but the culture at BYU-I doesn’t allow you to be supported and loved while you make your way back from those mistakes. It forces you to be secretive for risk of expulsion and judgment from your peers and no matter what the intention, that’s the reality here.