BYU is in trouble.
It has set itself up for trouble, outside and inside of sports, making a difficult situation worse with its sponsoring church’s stumbling and fumbling this week of recently updated policies regarding “same-sex romantic behavior.”
That bumbling might as well have pushed the burning heap of a future of BYU sports off a cliff.
I don’t know it for a fact because I’m not a prophet.
But it’s easy to speculate about a fire raging when you see more than smoke, you see the flames themselves. There are students, athletes, too, at the school who are confused and righteously bothered by the so-called clarification coming from the commissioner of the Church Educational System, the man who leads all of the schools owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about honor codes and the prohibiting of demonstrations of that same-sex romantic behavior among students.
That behavior, Paul V. Johnson wrote, “cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.”
There had been a whole lot of “misinterpretation” about those demonstrations after an earlier section of BYU’s code had been deleted, the part that disallowed “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.” Students had said Honor Code office folks had told those inquiring about that deletion that students would not be disciplined for dating, kissing, holding hands with others of the same sex, as long as they upheld the faith’s existing expectations about remaining chaste before marriage, marriage between a man and a woman.
What the hell does this have to do with sports?
BYU had seemingly made some inroads to making itself more acceptable to other schools, other associations of schools, in the weeks since the original adjustment to its Honor Code. It’s no secret that BYU wants to be invited into a P5 conference, and the last time it made a pitch to the Big 12, back when it thought it was all but in, LGBTQ groups lobbied heavily against an invitation that never came.
Meanwhile, schools such as Notre Dame and Baylor, sponsored by religions — the Catholic and Baptist faiths, respectively — with similar doctrinal stances on homosexuality skate without much of a problem. Why? Because those schools, with their own honor codes, had adapted language that provided more inclusion for LGBTQ students, language that provided a greater sense of safety for them.
On account of this latest mix-up/mess-up, BYU, no matter how much love and charity, respect for and service to others is preached within the LDS Church’s teachings, will be seen as a place where harsh discipline is not only thrown down, but it trumps all.
If BYU is the “Lord’s university,” as the school’s patrons like to believe, would Christ himself toss the hammer at students who feel the inclination to hold one another’s hands, to hug and kiss, to demonstrate their heart-felt affection, even as they remained chaste?
Answer that any which way you see fit.
The way other schools and associations of schools answer it is a bigger deal. BYU’s chances of getting into a power league with this policy in place is next to none. And it’s not out of the question that, at some point, other schools will refuse to schedule and play BYU.
Already, there have been demonstrations among students enrolled at the school, and the concern goes past just the student body. Faculty members are troubled, too. Many of them want to see an increase of compassion toward those who are adversely affected by harmful phraseology, not an increase of rejection.
The LDS Church plainly can espouse any doctrine it finds correct, and it should, but the way that doctrine is enforced, if that’s the right word, at a university or anywhere else, certainly can be managed to conjure a feeling of love, not negative aggression, and of inclusivity, not exclusivity.
The whole notion of, “Hey, if you don’t like it, go someplace else,” is as lame as it is weak. And what if huge numbers of students and parents and faculty of the future decide they don’t like it?
As it pertains to sports, if harsh enforcement and intolerance remain, it might be BYU that finds itself rejected, to the point where it no longer will be tolerated, it no longer will be welcome to compete.
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.