Gordon Monson: Why do fans at BYU road games chant obscenities at ‘Mormons’? And how out of bounds is it?

Such outbursts are more than a personal foul. They’re fouls against personnel — against all the adherents of a particular religion.

(Andy Nelson |AP) Oregon students and fans cheer the during the first half of an NCAA college football game against BYU Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Eugene, Ore.

No doubt, you know by now the chant that came from a part of the student section at Autzen Stadium during Saturday’s Oregon-BYU football game. It was also heard during the USC-BYU game at the Memorial Coliseum last season. I’ve heard it at other venues, too.

With the way the game turned out, a lopsided BYU defeat, the students should have chanted, “Duck the Mormons.” That would’ve been more appropriate, and almost as insulting.

“F--- the Mormons”?


Who does that?

Why does anyone do that?

It’s a college football game, not the feeding of the Christians to the lions at the Colosseum in ancient Rome.

What the hell?

It wasn’t even directed at “BYU” or “the Cougars.”

That might be more understandable, considering the nature of sporting events and college rivalries and the heat of the moment. Ask Utah fans about what comes out of their minds and mouths when the Utes are playing the Cougars. Moreover, I’ve seen and heard people yell things at a football or basketball game that they never would say in any other setting.

But even in a day and age when that particularly profane word is more commonplace than you might want to admit, can you imagine heading into the office in the morning and hearing rivals in the workplace scream at one another, “You suck, you dumb f---.”

No. No.

But even at a football game, emotions flying all over creation, going after an entire religious group — this particular religious group — like that, engaging in a profane chant, again and again and again, is … what’s the word … ugly? … angry? … disrespectful? … prejudicial? … bigoted? … hateful?

Take your pick.

I’ve never heard at a Notre Dame game, “F--- the Catholics.” Never heard such vicious vitriol at a Baylor game about Baptists. Never heard it at an SMU game about Methodists. Maybe it happens but not to my knowledge. Can you imagine anyone at a game yelling that about Jews, Presbyterians or Episcopalians?

Wouldn’t happen. Certainly shouldn’t happen. Ever.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gordon Monson.

A whole lot of religions and their adherents have faced all kinds of awful, even unspeakable treatment in the past and, unfortunately, in the present.

Jews, Catholics, Muslims, others have their sad-and-sorry tales to tell. Religious prejudice and its turbocharged extension — persecution — exist. But for it to be so prominently displayed in such a public setting seems uncommon.

Apologies have emerged out of Oregon since the chant swelled up — as they did in the aftermath from USC last season.

But, again, why the wave of disdain in the first place? What does it say about the chanters and about those on the receiving end?

Brigham Young University is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is the faith’s flagship school. That partially explains the expansion of the detestable chorus from the school itself to its sponsor. As recently as this past week, apostle Dallin Oaks exclaimed that BYU wouldn’t fold to any pressures from the world, pressures to do things more like the world. There’s no doubt that BYU and the greater Latter-day Saint organization glory in their peculiarity.

They see it as a virtue, as a calling card, as a singular line extending straight up to God himself, a God who sanctions the church’s and the school’s uniqueness.

But one person’s uniqueness is another person’s weirdness or, even worse, arrogance.

I’m not blaming the victim of these disgusting chants here, just exploring from where those sentiments might come.

As an example, in reaction to the chant, one former BYU basketball player who now is a broadcaster on Cougar games, tweeted: “People mocking Mormons in a great and spacious building. Shocker.”

OK, that great-and-spacious-building reference comes from the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, that reduces those doing the mocking to a low level of human behavior. It is one of the worst designations/condemnations anyone inside or outside of the book can hurl or receive, referring to people who are substandard in God’s eyes to the righteous who are being mocked. This is an example of Latter-day Saint scriptural trash talk.

Yes, the chants aren’t decent, but neither is a holier-than-thou defense. Those Oregon students were being vulgar and stupid, but they’re not necessarily an affront to God.

People who aren’t Latter-day Saints don’t like being left out, or made to feel as though they somehow are at a lesser level, especially when it comes to matters between heaven and earth — the whole notion that if you join with us and follow our prescribed covenant path, obey specific commandments and avoid certain lifestyles as dictated through our lens, you, too, can find best favor with God.

Some folks don’t see that as an invitation; they see it as an indictment. They view the major premise of the Utah-based faith, that it is the only true church on God’s green Earth, as elitism and exceptionalism.

Mix that with past polygamy, with former racist policies, with the present treatment of the LGBTQ community, with all of the strictures and self-congratulation of the faith highlighted even more at BYU, and anger percolates.

Again, I’m not justifying profane chants at a football game. No religious group should be subjected to that. There should be room for acceptance of every faith in our modern society, even if that faith is perceived to be less than accepting of others.

Perhaps a line can be drawn if that faith outwardly hurts people, and if that’s the view of those who are mad at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its prominent university, then find a more useful time and place and way to protest or educate it.

College teams putting up signs of solidarity and demonstrations against BYU and the church’s racist policies regarding Black members with its former priesthood/temple ban in the ‘60s and early ‘70s were much more effective.

Dislike it if you’d like. But yelling “F --- the Mormons” at a football game just stirs confusion, antipathy and hate.

Groups chanting profanities at religious people, at an entire religion, at fans rooting for an opposing school’s team, regardless of what their faith is, is about five freeway exits past the nearest edge of uncivil behavior — regardless of what the chanters believe they know and feel about what those on the other end believe, know and feel.

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