Readers’ Forum Jan. 26


‘Beard is a choice’ backed by poor arguments

A letter entitled “Having a beard is a choice” was recently published in these pages which made some specious arguments. For example, the letter read, “Everybody who goes to BYU signs the Honor Code. They have every opportunity to read through all of the restrictions and then agree to them. Complaining about the beard rule is like signing a contract and then afterwards complaining that the contract isn’t fair.”

Nothing in the Honor Code requires that we refrain from critiquing it. It is entirely acceptable to voice disagreement and work towards change while still following the stipulated conditions. The benefit of attending BYU may outweigh the cost of shaving, but just because benefits outweigh the cost doesn’t mean we are forbidden to minimize costs.

Additionally, the letter claimed that “the Honor Code was put in place for the students, by the students.” The truth is that the Honor Code has been out of student hands since 1967, when Ernest Wilkinson compelled the student Honor Council to surrender its oversight of punishment for Honor Code infractions by threatening to create an Honor Code with no student input. After the council acquiesced, Wilkinson created a new Honor Code without student input anyway. Information on the controversy that ensued can be found in “Ernest Wilkinson and the Transformation of BYU’s Honor Code, 1965-71,” a Dialogue article by Bryan Waterman.

Regardless of one’s position on the Honor Code, the poor arguments (such as these) on all sides need to be exposed and retired in favor of dialogue that can move the conversation forward.

— Nathan Phair
Pleasant Hill, California

The world isn’t ending

Since Christ’s ascension into Heaven, believers have looked forward to His return.  It seems to be part of the

Since Christ’s ascension into heaven, believers have looked forward to His return. It seems to be part of the human condition to believe that one’s own era is that of the last days. Whether we speak of early apostles, modern-day “preppers” or Islamic extremists, all believe that they have a part to play in the symphony of human history that ends in a crescendo of divine destruction and the return of Jesus Christ.

This world view often leads to a conviction that mankind is currently facing the toughest times the earth has ever seen. In 2013 Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before a Senate committee that the world is “more dangerous than it has ever been,” and with the rise of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, times have gotten tougher — right? One also finds the belief that we live in our planet’s darkest hour within the LDS Church. Sunday lessons and testimonies often include solemn declarations of the world’s sliding moral compass, increasing violence, and global disparity. But the fact is, statements that our world is worse off now than ever before are simply untrue.

While I believe the world has great room for improvement — and as a member of the LDS Church I believe that great destruction will precede the Second Coming — I also believe that God has blessed us with an unparalleled time of peace, health, prosperity and justice. Furthermore, I believe that as His children we ought to recognize these blessings and give thanks for them as we continue to seek solutions to the world’s problems.

Harvard Professor Steven Pinker recently published his research on the evolution of global violence. He concludes that, “compared to our anarchic beginnings, levels of violence are at an all-time low and the ‘Long Peace’ after the Second World War is, for now, still with us.” Research from Our World Data shows that for centuries it was common for 0.10 percent of the world’s population to be violently killed in a year. Today that figure has fallen to 0.0025 percent.

While political and social landscapes can change rapidly, and the world is still plagued by tragedy, humanity has come a long way. As disciples of Christ, the good Lord might appreciate our gratitude for these improvements and less of the doomsday talk we often share in His churches and send His way in our prayers. It may be our nature to focus on the gloomy, but it is our charge to overcome that nature. As President Monson so poignantly taught, “The future is as bright as your faith.”

— Drew Smith
Seattle, Washington

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