Category: BYU

Limited Government Via Incremental Politics

By , October 21, 2013 10:09 am

George Will (who, by the way, is speaking at BYU tomorrow) nails it in his October 18, 2013, column:

[Barack Obama] and some of his tea party adversaries share an impatience with Madisonian politics, which requires patience. The tea party’s reaffirmation of Madison’s limited-government project is valuable. Now, it must decide if it wants to practice politics.

Rauch hopes there will be “an intellectual effort to advance a principled, positive, patriotic case for compromise, especially on the right.” He warns that Republicans, by their obsessions with ideological purity and fiscal policy, “have veered in the direction of becoming a conservative interest group, when what the country needs is a conservative party .”

A party is concerned with power , understood as the ability to achieve intended effects. A bull in a china shop has consequences, but not power, because the bull cannot translate intelligent intentions into achievements. The tea party has a choice to make. It can patiently try to become the beating heart of a durable party, which understands this: In Madisonian politics, all progress is incremental. Or it can be a raging bull, and soon a mere memory, remembered only for having broken a lot of china. Conservatives who prefer politics over the futility of intransigence gestures in Madison’s compromise-forcing system will regret the promise the tea party forfeited, but will not regret that, after the forfeiture, it faded away. (Emphasis supplied)

(Wills’s visit reminds me of a couple of other media luminaries who stopped by to chat when I was at BYU, including to David Halberstam, in the Marriott Center, and Bob Woodward, in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. I read Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest as a consequence of his visit.)

Music for a Sunday Evening

By , June 23, 2013 11:01 pm

Fantasia on Early Latter-day Saint Hymns is one of my favorite choir pieces. Arranged and directed by Mack Wilberg and performed by BYU’s Concert Choir, it tells the story of the Mormon gathering to Zion, or the story of our journey from the pre-existence to life on earth and back to our Father’s presence, or _______ (insert your own interpretation). Unfortunately, I can’t find a YouTube video of the performance, so you’ll have to just listen. Here are the words:

Fantasia on Early Latter-day Saint Hymns (“Yes, My Native Land” “Redeemer of Israel” “The Glorious Day Is Rolling On”)

Yes, my native land I love thee.
All thy scenes I love them well.
Friends, connections happy country!
Can I bid you all farewell?

Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?
Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?

Holy Scenes of joy and gladness,
Ev’ry fond emotion swell.
Can I banish heartfelt sadness,
While I bid my home farewell?

Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?
Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?

Bear me on, thou restless ocean:
Let the winds my canvas swell.
Heaves my heart with warm emotion,
While I go far hence to dwell.

Glad I bid thee, Glad I bid thee,
Native land farewell, farewell.
Glad I bid thee, Glad I bid thee,
Native land farewell, farewell.
Redeemer of Israel, Our only delight,
Oh whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day and our pillar by night,
Our king, our deliv’rer our all!

How long we have wandered
as strangers in sin,
And Cried in the desert for thee!
Our foes have rejoiced when
our sorrows they’ve seen,
But Israel will shortly be free.
The glorious day is rolling on, All glory to the Lord!
When fair as at creation’s dawn the earth will be restored.
A perfect harvest then will crown the renovated soil,
And rich abundance drop around without corroding toil.

For in its own primeval bloom, Will nature smile again:
And blossoms streaming with perfume, Adorn the verdant plain.
The saints will then, with pure delight, Possess the holy land:
And walk with Jesus Christ in white, And in His presence stand.

Then while the pow’rs of darkness rage, With glory in our view,
In Jesus’ strength let us engage, To press to Zion, too.
For Zion will like Eden bloom: And Jesus come to reign,
The saints immortal from the tomb, With angels meet again.
Words by Samuel Francis Smith, William W. Phelps, and Eliza R. Snow. Hymn tunes by Jacques Rousseau, Freeman Lewis, and anonymous. Musical setting by Mack Wilberg. From “All Creatures of Our God and King: Hymns of Faith and Praise,” by the Brigham Young University Concert Choir, Mack Wilberg, Conductor. Tantara Records

O Sapientia

By , November 13, 2012 1:06 pm

BYU Combined Choruses Sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

By , March 11, 2012 12:15 pm

American folk hymn (NETTLETON)
Arrangement by Mack Wilberg

Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above;
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand’ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, as a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Slightly Informed Anti-Mormon Bigotry on Display

By , March 3, 2012 11:06 am

Okay, so I’m a Facebook friend with Bruce Bartlett, a one-time big player in D.C., still a player, largely in the economics and tax policy sandbox. He posts on Facebook a lot and has a pretty good following. I toy with de-friending him now and again because he is quite negative generally and very negative when it comes to Republicans. A former member of the party–under Reagan, IIRC–he has since left the party and cannot help himself when it comes to taking potshots at the idiotic Right (his favorite word has to be idiot).

Anyway, yesterday he linked to a story on Slate about the recent Randy Bott controversy and attendant bruhah over Blacks and the Mormon priesthood. (More on that later.) Among other things–and ironically it turns out, given the question Slate posed in the title of the article, “Is Mormonism Still Racist?”–the conversation in on Bartlett’s wall revealed some, shall we say, revealing attitudes about Mormonism:

I rarely stand silently by when people go off on my religion like that, so I entered the fray:

I have no idea where the conversation has gone since my post. I haven’t been back. If I did return, I would ask whether those disparaging Brigham Young would like to have one quote, one aspect of their lives–that part they would be most ashamed of today–paraded around as representative of their entire life. I think I know what the answer would be.

Did Brigham Young have his faults? Yes. Is his quote about interracial marriage offensive? Yes, certainly today, probably then–only much less so. (Presentism is a fallacy we should avoid, by the way.) Does it tell of the whole man? I think not, not even close. And by the way, Brigham was known for firery rhetoric, words he used to stress the importance of what he was saying, but words he never intended to follow through on. I would venture that the interracial marriage rhetoric fits that bill. Yes, he thought interracial marriage was wrong. No, he never intended to kill anybody for marrying someone of another race.

Now, about that Slate article. Therein, the author tells of an informal survey/video that went viral. Apparently a number of BYU students were pretty weak on Black history (emphasis mine):

Just this past month, the BYU campus became embroiled in a controversy concerning racism—or, at the very least, racial insensitivity and ignorance. In a satirical celebration of black history month, comedian David Ackerman dressed in a hoodie, Utah Jazz gear, and blackface, and quizzed BYU students on their knowledge of African-American history. On the video, which went viral, BYU students failed to correctly identify February as black history month and failed to name important black American figures beyond Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. (The rapper 50 Cent was also named as a hero of black history.) And Ackerman succeeded in getting his painfully naive interviewees to imitate what they believed to be typical black behavior, with finger snapping, the “gangsta limp,” and jive talk all making appearances.

According to Darron Smith—an African-American convert to Mormonism and a BYU alum who, from 1996 to 2006, taught a course there called “The African American Experience”—Ackerman’s video reveals that problematic attitudes about race are not limited to “older generations” of Mormons. Ackerman “provided a microphone for today’s BYU students (even the few black BYU students) to voice their ignorance about the black experience in America.” And while you might very well see something similar at other “isolated, conservative” college campuses around the country, in Smith’s view, the deference of BYU students to church authority makes church leaders responsible for such ignorance—a point now driven home by Bott’s remarks. Smith places the lion’s share of the blame on BYU’s administration. (Smith’s own contract at BYU was not renewed in 2006.)

This indictment is patently unfair. Time was that BYU’s student body came largely from Utah and the intermountain west. That’s no longer the case. Today, 33% of the students are from Utah, 67% from other states. Thirty-six percent come from California (12%), Washington (5%), Texas (5%), Arizona (4%), Colorado (3%), Oregon (3%), Nevada (2%), and Virginia (2%). These students come to BYU with an average GPA of 3.82 (2011) and have SATs to match. Many of these students have served missions throughout the world. In short, they are not blindered, stupid people. They’ve been around. They are simply students, many recently graduated from high school, and they–like their white peers in virtually any and every college across the country–don’t know that much about Black history*. Is that an indictment of BYU, the Mormon Church, or our high schools? I think we all know the answer.

*Of course, this is my hunch. Challenge me, and we’ll all learn the truth. Otherwise, I’ll go with my hunch because I don’t have the time to back up my hunch with research.

The Pre-1978 Priesthood Ban and a BYU Professor’s Misguided Comments

By , February 29, 2012 9:26 am

There is much to say about this, but all I’m going to do for the moment is link to this.

The Temple and Baptism for the Dead

By , February 22, 2012 11:47 am

I want to thank Daniel C. Peterson for pointing me (and you) to this video:

In turn, I’ll direct you to his blog where he discusses baptism for the dead. Petersen, by the way, is an Islamic scholar and teaches at BYU. You might be interested in his short book Muhammad: Prophet of God.

Did Romney Save the SLC Olympics?

By , February 17, 2012 4:55 pm

The AP’s Kasie Hunt and Jennifer Dobner go round and round before they essentially acknowledge that, yes, Romney played a big part in saving the Salt Lake Olympics, a conclusion I came to years ago. During the run-up to the Games, I wrote an extended profile on Fraser Bullock for the Marriott Alumni Magazine, a publication of BYU’s Marriott School of Management.

Bullock was Romney’s right and left hand man and the CFO of the olympian bid to save the SLC Olympics. I interviewed Bullock extensively and Romney once for the article, among a variety of other people. To quote from my article:

According to his boss, SLOC President and CEO Mitt Romney,“he is one of the best CFO/COO’s in the country, if not the best.” And Romney needed the best because when he took over on 11 February 1999, SLOC was tottering at the top of a very challenging bobsled run of its own, one littered with tawdry headlines of tarnished Olympic rings, unhappy sponsors, and financial mis-management. “I always joke that I was already living in Utah, and Mitt wanted to save the relocation expenses,” Bullock adds.

Actually, saving those expenses was a harbinger of things to come. In short order, Romney and Bullock discovered that what you don’t know can hurt you. It was no secret that the media’s new favorite target was SLOC, that the Justice Department was looking for skeletons in SLOC’s closet, and that radio talk show hosts were shouting SLOC’s name from the rooftops. Moreover, SLOC had no operations plan, they weren’t using appropriate financial systems, and they had no Paralympic organization—SLOC is the first organizing committee to do both games. Morale was nonexistent. “The organization was virtually paralyzed; it didn’t know which way to turn,” Bullock explains.

What wasn’t readily apparent at the time of the scandal was that there was a severe financial crisis. Adding up all the numbers, Bullock and Romney discovered that SLOC was headed for a projected $400 million budget shortfall. And the previous twelve months gave little reason for confidence that they could fix the problem: SLOC had raised only $13 million the year before the scandal hit the headlines. “It doesn’t take a math degree to figure out that with about three years to go, the Salt Lake Olympics were in trouble; and at that rate, we weren’t going to be able to raise the funds to close the budget deficit, ” Bullock explains.

Now imagine Santorum or Paul, Gingrich or Obama in the same situation. Hard to do, isn’t it?

So how did Romney and his crew manage? Well, according to my article:

As of the end of October, SLOC had raised $859 million dollars, $395 million more than Atlanta,the previous high. Because SLOC gives 40 percent of what it raises to the United States Olympic Committee and because some of the donations were in kind and therefore not budget relieving, the net impact of the fund raising was to reduce the budget deficit by about $200 million dollars. Add that to the $200 million Bullock and his team were able to cut, and the snake was dead. “So at this point, we believe we’re in a break-even situation, which is exactly where we want to be,” reports Bullock, who recently relinquished one of his SLOC titles, CFO.

Read the story(beginning on page 21). It tells of a turnaround effort that should cause everybody to take a second look at Romney–and then beg that he ask Bullock to be his VP.

UPDATE: On my Facebook page, BYU Professor Warner Woodruff responded to this post:

Warner Woodworth – This sounds too naive, or at least too one-sided. This guy must be a Mormon or a Republican fanatic to have such a love affair with Mitt’s Olympics. From the sources I knew who helped manage the games in 2002, it was a lot more complicated, and Mitt was made to look better than his leadership really warranted. But maybe they were all wrong back then.

And I responded:

Gregory Taggart – Warner, this guy is me, and the article was for an alumni magazine–your school’s–and written before the games even started, so yes, it is one-sided. Nevertheless, the sources I know give him great credit, even as they acknowledge that Mitt didn’t carry the Games on his back, something I don’t think he has ever claimed. Finally, I plead guilty to being Mormon–how did you guess?–and a Romney fan. Fanatic? No. Neither am I naive. Just someone pulling for a guy I like, gaffes and all.

I’ll add that I’m vaguely aware that some of the people involved in bringing the Games to SLC were put out that Romney got so much credit and they so little, due in large part to the scandal. I can understand that. My feelings at the time were that the original organizers were unfairly tarred by the so-called scandal. Not that there was no scandal, mind you. There was, but the goings on seemed to be part and parcel of the bidding process, a process–tainted as it was–that apparently had been going on for years. The unfairness was that it came to light on SLC’s watch. (I stress that these are vague memories, so don’t quote me on this.)

They’ve Got Rhythm!

By , April 19, 2011 10:59 am

Brigham Young University’s Cougarettes surprised the competition and walked off with the National Hip Hop Championship. The Hip Hop Championship!

Who knows. Maybe the Jazz belong in Utah after all.

Get Your Metaphors and Similes Right Here

By , March 3, 2011 9:09 am

Dick Harmon has never met a metaphor or simile he didn’t like, and he uses them like most people eat potato chips or popcorn–by the hand full. His indiscriminate use of these and similar figures of speech is on full display in his story today in the Deseret News about BYU’s loss to New Mexico, a loss occasioned by the suspension of star center Brandon Davies for violation of BYU’s Honor Code.

I’ll give you the first few lines of the story to illustrate what I mean. It’s not pretty. In fact, it kind of like sucks.


All it took to humble BYU as a No. 3 ranked team was New Mexico.

The Lobos came to the Marriott Center Wednesday and slapped around BYU good 82-64.

It was a painful end to a very emotional 24 hours for Dave Rose’s Cougars, a shadow of their previous selves.

The Cougars came out against the Lobos in a daze as if in a fog. They pressed on shots like they were all life and death and cost a million bucks.

Gone was the confidence witnessed last Saturday in the win over then No. 4 San Diego State. It was like somebody turned on a faucet since that day and all BYU synergy leaked out of the tank.

And New Mexico turned into the Celtics.

The atmosphere in the Marriott Center, one of magic for 12 straight home games, turned weird, like somebody cast a spell on the guys in white jerseys. (helpful bolding mine)

Had enough?

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