Our fading civility


A few summers ago, our family attended the Fourth of July Parade in Provo. After we arrived early to secure our spot for a great view, a family with about 10 people showed up just as the parade was coming down the street. The family parked their chairs in front of us and proceeded to set up a huge tent. We politely explained their giant tent was blocking our view. In fact, their tent was so big many people sitting around us couldn’t see anything either.

This family packed up their stuff and left, but not before giving us some dirty looks. Obviously, they were not happy that we had asked them to take down their tent. However, I was more surprised that this family was completely unaware of the people around them who had arrived hours earlier so they could see the parade.

One of my students recently told me that on the day BYU played Utah, he and his brother had waited in line for several hours to secure great seats in the student section. However, when the gates finally opened, mote than 50 students cut in front of those who had waited for so long to get in.

Mark Ogeltree is an associate professor in the Church History Department.
Mark Ogletree teaches in the Church History Department.

To be uncivil is to be so selfish that you are completely oblivious to other people and their needs. It is to say, “I really don’t care about anyone else but me.”

Speaking of the BYU-Utah game, many have seen the YouTube clip of BYU fans booing the referees and pelting them with trash as they left the stadium. Like many of you, I too, was disappointed in how the game ended and at how many mistakes the officials seemed to make that changed the game. However, I think we can expect more from each other when it comes to how we treat opposing teams and referees.

You may remember Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke recently about the poor and embarrassing behavior of Latter-day Saints at sporting events. With passion, Elder Holland stated, “You never ‘check your religion at the door.’ Not ever. My young friends, that kind of discipleship cannot be — it is not discipleship at all.”

Last year I attended the BYU-Notre Dame game in South Bend, Ind., and can honestly say I have never been treated so well by opposing fans. It was one of the most wonderful football experiences I have ever had. I wondered how opposing fans are treated by BYU students and other Latter-day Saints at Lavell Edwards Stadium. I hope they have a similar experience like I had at Notre Dame.

Incivility is something that is not only manifest at sporting events and parades. We see evidence of incivility all around us: people who text on their cell phones during church; individuals who talk out loud with their neighbor during class lectures; those who spread their backpacks and books at the top of the stairway in the MARB, making others walk around them; talking out loud in “no talking” areas of the library; standing up in front of people at sporting events; and cranking up music over the “legal limit” as they walk across campus.

In his book “Standing for Something,” President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “Civility carries with it the essence of courtesy, politeness and consideration of others.” To practice civility, we need to be in tune with the needs of others. Civility is demonstrated when we look someone in the eye and say “hello” as we are walking to our classes; civility is manifest when we stop to help someone who just dropped an armful of papers; civility can be found when we see someone alone on campus and we reach out to them.

There are also wonderful examples of civility on our campus. Recently I saw a disabled student trip and fall while walking on an uneven sidewalk. Several students came to this young man’s aid to help him up. I have seen men in my classes give up a chair so a young woman could have a place to sit. I have watched some of you help a student who has slipped on an icy sidewalk. If each of us will strive to be in tune to the needs of those around us, not only will BYU be the most beautiful college campus in the nation but also the friendliest.

Mark Ogletree is an associate professor at BYU in the Church History Department. 

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