BYU students from Utah want R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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    By John Candland

    A dialogue over BYU culture has gone national.

    A segment promoting the first episode of MTV’s “Real World: New Orleans” features BYU student Julie Stoffer being told by an unidentified voice that she lives in an isolated, white world.

    Cameron Baird, 21, a junior from Kaysville, with an open major, said that he is irritated by the ridicule Utahns constantly receive from BYU students who have come from other states.

    “They say that Utah is lame,” Baird said. “They say that we’re sheltered and that we can’t drive.”

    Stoffer, who is from Wisconsin, commented on BYU culture in MTV’s “Real World Casting Special 2000.”

    “I definitely feel, like, sheltered at BYU,” Stoffer said. “When you aren’t unique you find yourself wanting to be unique.”

    Ryan Register, 24, a senior, from Eureka, Calif., majoring in English, said that he has struggled in adjusting to the culture at BYU.

    “There’s no more originality to your faith,” Register said.

    “Here, I think it’s really easy to just kind of melt into the crowd and just kind of forget what your religion is really about,” Register said.

    Victoria Larsen, 23, a sophomore from Oslo, Norway majoring in English, said that she had trouble adjusting to a culture that she describes as “too perfect.”

    “For a total stranger to pass me on the sidewalk and just say ‘hi’ and smile to me, I was shocked. (In Norway) if you did that you are a weirdo or drunk,” Larsen said.

    Larsen said she has difficulty trusting the sincerity of others in Provo.

    “It’s easier for me with people who aren’t raised to be friendly,” she said. “I know they’re honest even though they might be rude or treat me bad.”

    Matt Andersen, 21, a senior from Grande Prairie, Alberta, majoring in computer science, said that Utahns often get blamed for elements of a culture that are actually heavily influenced by outsiders.

    “People think that anyone here (at BYU) is from Utah, where there’s quite a few that aren’t,” Andersen said.

    Register said that he feels that a major problem in Utah’s culture is when Utahn Latter-day Saints try to stand out in a negative way.

    “More often than not, it’s the people from Utah who are trying to prove that Utah kids can be just as wild as kids from other states,” Register said.

    “I’ve seen a lot of guys trying to pick fights over the most foolish stuff, trying to prove that they are not some goody-goody, ‘Peter Priesthood’ guy,” Register said.

    Register said that another cultural difference of Utahns was apparent during his LDS mission to Budapest, Hungary.

    “I saw a higher level of shock by the Utah missionaries to things that wouldn’t faze me at all,” Register said.

    Register said that it is important to remember that there are ignorant people everywhere in the world.

    “I’ve seen people unable to talk to homosexual people because they think they are different,” Register said. “You need to treat people with respect because they are your brothers and sisters, they are human.”

    Larsen said that one thing that bothered her about the culture in Provo was a lack of respect toward non-members.

    “I think that this environment allows people to be that way, because we are 99 percent Mormon, so we feel like we’ve got the power,” Larsen said.

    Jericho Whiting, 23, a junior from Payson, majoring in wildlife biology, said he does not feel that members discriminate against non-members.

    “In my case, and a lot of other people I know from Utah, everyone has someone close to them that is either a nonmember or not active in the church.”

    “I don’t think that I’ve been sheltered,” Whiting said.

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