Stuart C. Reid: Holland was correct to urge BYU to stick to its mission and God’s laws

Many universities used to insist that their students stick to a higher moral standard than the rest of the culture.

Jeffrey R. Holland

A recent Salt Lake Tribune article and podcast featuring Michael Austin, a Brigham Young University alumnus and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, promoted an interpretation of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s address before faculty and staff at BYU that tilts at windmills in the extreme.

Austin’s main charge against Holland’s address is that it will undoubtedly motivate researchers from the social sciences at BYU to compromise academic integrity in an effort to defend and advance doctrinal positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet, no where in Holland’s address can one word be found about how research should be administered at BYU.

Austin knows this is true but he still insists on promulgating this piece of fiction to support his stated position that BYU should not “police” student or faculty sexual relations of any kind, let alone forbid same-sex relations within marriage or otherwise. Austin’s advocacy for no sexual standards at BYU reveals everything needed to know about his agenda.

Austin compares BYU to other universities sponsored by disparate religions to suggest that because these other universities are not in conflict with approved academic conventions, BYU should adopt their standards that recognize the academy has settled the question about same-sex relations with no restrictions that might be based on any kind of institutional moral standards.

Of course, Austin fails to acknowledge that, once upon a time, BYU’s moral standards were not so unique within the academy, especially among those universities sponsored by various religions. Those universities once believed their student bodies were better off being held to both a higher moral and academic standard. But then, in pursuit of popularity, each of the religiously sponsored universities Austin heralds as examples for BYU to follow, compromised its identity and abandoned its unique mission for which it was established to intentionally distinguish itself from the otherwise wholly secular academy.

Austin’s advocacy for BYU to go along to get along with the academy rejects the very point that was central to Holland’s address. Namely, that BYU presently holds and will maintain in the future a unique position in the academy and society not to be compromised no matter the consequences.

Behind Austin’s advocacy is a hackneyed progressive notion that persists in assaulting the purity of Christianity by insisting on promoting a nicer-than-Jesus gospel — prioritizing the “second commandment” to love one’s neighbor over the “first and great commandment” to love God. It is an advocacy requiring God’s laws to be summarily subordinated to how people might feel about themselves in relation to those laws, including even when they purposely put themselves in the crosshairs of those laws and then protest about how they have been unfairly targeted.

Providentially, President Russell M. Nelson and President Dallin H. Oaks, presiding officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have recently addressed this perverted prioritization and the devastating consequences it can have for individuals and the church by preaching the proper relationship between love and the law of God.

To his credit, and for the benefit of BYU, Holland’s address simply included the same corrected prioritization for the church’s educational institutions when he counseled: “[W]e have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy, or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people. As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, ‘Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.’ We are tasked with trying to strike that same sensitive, demanding balance in our lives.”

Holland should be applauded for his courageous effort to reorient BYU faculty and staff to the proper prioritization lest they forget “the glory of God is intelligence” to be obtained only through obedience to His laws — an obedience demonstrating first and foremost love for Him: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

File photo Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.

Stuart C. Reid, Ogden, is a former member of the Utah Senate and a Brigham Young University alumnus.