I should be in bed right now, but I couldn’t let an entire month go by without writing. The problem with organizing my thoughts so much with Evernote is that I now have too many ideas for blog post topics that it’s hard to decide what to write about. I decided to take a ‘request’ as it were. After my post about college a friend told me he’d be interested to hear more about what it was like being a Liberal at BYUI in Rexburg, ID. I have some pretty strong opinions about this so keep the disclaimer in mind.
By the time 2008 rolled around I was decently established at college, living with some of my best friends to this day, and enjoying my Sophomore year. I already leaned left in many of my political views and had some very different views than many of my friends and classmates, and most definitely different from my professors and ecclesiastical leaders. I’d always been taught by my parents that the church always took a neutral position when it came to politics. I learned this was not true, or at least not entirely accurate, though it wasn’t until months later that I learned the full extent of what was going on in California on a local level, but we can get into that another time, this is about my story.
Discussion about this issue was everywhere. Literally. I mean, at this school you already had issues with people bringing up Nephi or the the Apostle Paul in Math class but this was just on an entirely different level. It was mentioned in people’s prayers, in devotionals, CES firesides, at meals, just about everywhere you went it was a topic of discussion always close at hand. This really didn’t bother me too much. I’ve always enjoyed discussing with people and this gave plenty of opportunities. The tipping point that made me angry had to do with a certain FHE activity the ward had planned.
Let me back up to cover this for those who might not know. LDS church members are divided up into wards, or congregations, by geographical area and you are expected to attend your ward whenever possible. This is all quite practical, well and good on an organizational standpoint. Family Home Evening (FHE) is a weekly activity that is encouraged by the church as a way to promote family unity and to strengthen family bonds. When you’re single however they break up the singles into groups of boys and girls, usually by apartments, and assign leaders. We called them mom & pop though we were encouraged not to. Many great friendships came from these groups because it had you socialize with people you might not otherwise meet. You plan activities together like game nights, sporting groups, service projects, really just whatever you want to do. Sometimes, however, the ward will do an entire ward FHE where everyone in the congregation gets together.
I remember in church, the day before, it was announced we would be having a ward FHE and that everyone was to meet in the building where we had church. I don’t even recall the name of the building anymore. It was the one past the Hinckley Building up on the hill where I had statistics class… Anyway, it’s not important. I showed up and, before it started, asked the girl leader of our ‘family’ if she knew what was going on. She didn’t know the specifics but she’d heard it had something to do with a phone bank and Prop 8. That got me worrying. We all gathered in and the Bishop told us we would be carpooling to Idaho Falls to participate in a phone bank where we would be calling voters in California and encouraging them to vote yes on Prop 8. When the little opening meeting was finished and people started being organized into carpools I approached one of the counselors to the bishop. I told him I didn’t agree with Prop 8 and wouldn’t be going. He told me he was extremely disappointed with me and that I should reconsider. When I told him I wasn’t going still he told me it would reflect badly on my upcoming ecclesiastical endorsement (something required for continued attendance at the school) if I let my FHE attendance drop “over something petty like this.” I laughed, told him that to me this was far from petty, that the church had no business being as involved as it was, and he could do what he felt was right concerning my endorsement. I went home.
To the bishopric’s credit, my next endorsement went through with no issues and I never heard anything about it again.
This incident was the most blatant but was really the tip of the iceberg. There was very much an intense cultural feeling that if you were not vocally for Prop 8 then you were simply not a good Mormon. It was everywhere.
This is going to have to be cut a little short because I’m finally starting to get very tired. I’ll work on a followup to expound a bit more of the dominant culture present at that school at the time and talk about how much fun it was to be an Obama supporter at that school. Love you all, good night.