Elections, Hope, and Religious Freedom | Dallin H. Oaks


♪♪>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS WITH ELDER DALLIN H. OAKS WAS
GIVEN ON SEPTEMBER 13, 2016.>>GOOD MORNING,
BROTHERS AND SISTERS, AND WELCOME TO OUR DEVOTIONAL. WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO HAVE
AS OUR SPEAKER TODAY ELDER DALLIN H. OAKS
OF THE QUORUM OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES. WE ESPECIALLY WELCOME
SISTER KRISTEN OAKS, WHO IS SEATED ON THE STAND,
AS WELL AS THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS
WHO HAVE JOINED US. WE ARE GRATEFUL ALSO TO
HAVE WITH US THIS MORNING ELDER KIM B. CLARK,
COMMISSIONER OF THE CHURCH EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM,
AND HIS WIFE, SUE. ELDER OAKS HAS SERVED AS
A MEMBER OF THE QUORUM OF THE TWELVE SINCE MAY 1984. A NATIVE OF PROVO,
ELDER OAKS IS A GRADUATE OF BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY
AND OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL. HE PRACTICED AND TAUGHT
LAW IN CHICAGO, AND THEN SERVED AS PRESIDENT
OF BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY FROM 1971 TO 1980. HE SERVED AS A JUSTICE OF
THE UTAH SUPREME COURT FROM 1980 UNTIL HIS CALLING TO
THE APOSTLESHIP IN 1984. ELDER OAKS IS THE AUTHOR
OR COAUTHOR OF MANY BOOKS AND ARTICLES ON RELIGIOUS
AND LEGAL SUBJECTS. IN MAY 2013 THE BECKET FUND
FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AWARDED HIM THE CANTERBURY MEDAL FOR
“COURAGE IN THE DEFENSE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.” ELDER OAKS AND HIS LATE WIFE,
JUNE DIXON OAKS, ARE THE PARENTS OF SIX CHILDREN. SHE PASSED AWAY IN JULY 1998. IN AUGUST 2000 HE MARRIED
KRISTEN M. MCMAIN. NOW WE WILL HAVE THE PLEASURE
OF HEARING FROM ELDER OAKS.>>I AM PLEASED FOR THE
OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK AT THIS BYU DEVOTIONAL. THE FIRST BYU DEVOTIONAL
I ADDRESSED WAS EXACTLY 45 YEARS AGO, IN 1971. THAT AUDIENCE INCLUDED
MY OLDEST DAUGHTER, JUST ENROLLING AS
A FRESHMAN HERE. MANY YEARS LATER I SPOKE AT
THIS DEVOTIONAL ASSEMBLY TO AN AUDIENCE THAT INCLUDED
SEVERAL OF MY GRANDCHILDREN. TODAY THIS AUDIENCE
INCLUDES OUR OLDEST GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER,
A SOPHOMORE HERE. TIME GOES ON. THIS OPPORTUNITY COMES
AT A UNIQUE TIME. I AM THE ONLY GENERAL AUTHORITY
ASSIGNED TO ADDRESS THIS BYU AUDIENCE BETWEEN THE BEGINNING
OF SCHOOL THIS FALL AND THE ELECTION NOVEMBER 8TH. AND THIS AUDIENCE INCLUDES
THOUSANDS WHO WILL SOON HAVE THEIR FIRST OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE. I, THEREFORE, BEGIN BY
SPEAKING ABOUT OUR NATIONAL AND LOCAL ELECTIONS. THE FEW MONTHS PRECEDING
AN ELECTION HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TIMES OF SERIOUS
POLITICAL DIVISIONS, BUT THE DIVISIONS AND
MEANNESS WE ARE EXPERIENCING IN THIS ELECTION,
ESPECIALLY AT THE PRESIDENTIAL LEVEL,
SEEM TO BE UNUSUALLY WIDE AND UGLY. PARTLY THIS RESULTS FROM
MODERN TECHNOLOGY, WHICH EXPANDS THE AUDIENCE
FOR CONFLICTS AND THE SPEED OF DISSEMINATION. TODAY, DUBIOUS CHARGES,
MISREPRESENTATIONS, AND UGLY INNUENDOS
ARE INSTANTLY FLASHED AROUND THE WORLD,
AND THE EFFECTS INSTANTLY WIDEN AND INTENSIFY THE GAPS
BETWEEN DIFFERENT POSITIONS. TV, THE INTERNET,
AND THE EMBOLDENED ANONYMITY OF THE BLOGOSPHERE HAVE
FACILITATED THE CURRENT UGLINESS AND REPLACED
WHATEVER REMAINED OF THE MEASURED DISCOURSE
OF THE PAST. NEVERTHELESS, AS THE FIRST
PRESIDENCY ALWAYS REMINDS US, WE HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO
BECOME INFORMED ABOUT THE ISSUES AND CANDIDATES AND
TO INDEPENDENTLY EXERCISE OUR RIGHT TO VOTE. VOTERS, REMEMBER,
THIS APPLIES TO CANDIDATES FOR THE MANY IMPORTANT
LOCAL AND STATE OFFICES, AS WELL AS THE CONTESTED
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. WE SHOULD ALSO REMEMBER
NOT TO BE PART OF THE CURRENT MEANNESS. WE SHOULD COMMUNICATE
ABOUT OUR DIFFERENCES WITH A MINIMUM OF OFFENCE. REMEMBER THIS TEACHING OF
THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH: “…WHILE ONE PORTION OF
“THE HUMAN RACE IS JUDGING “AND CONDEMNING THE
“OTHER WITHOUT MERCY, “THE GREAT PARENT OF THE
“UNIVERSE LOOKS UPON THE “WHOLE OF THE HUMAN FAMILY
“WITH A FATHERLY CARE “AND PATERNAL REGARD;
“HE VIEWS THEM AS “HIS OFFSPRING,
“AND WITHOUT ANY OF THOSE “CONTRACTED FEELINGS
“THAT INFLUENCE THE CHILDREN OF MEN….” I SPOKE ABOUT THIS SUBJECT
TWO YEARS AGO IN AN OCTOBER CONFERENCE TALK TITLED
“LOVING OTHERS AND LIVING WITH DIFFERENCES.” MY MESSAGE FOCUSED ON DOCTRINE
AND ITS APPLICATION TO THE DIFFERENCES WE FACE IN OUR
DIVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES IN CHURCH AND FAMILY AND IN PUBLIC,
BUT THE PRINCIPLES I TAUGHT ARE ALSO RELEVANT TO
POLITICAL DIFFERENCES. I SAID: “WE ARE TO LIVE IN THE
“WORLD BUT NOT BE OF THE WORLD. “WE MUST LIVE IN THE
“WORLD BECAUSE, “AS JESUS TAUGHT IN A PARABLE,
“HIS KINGDOM IS ‘LIKE LEAVEN,’ “WHOSE FUNCTION IS TO
“RAISE THE WHOLE MASS “BY ITS INFLUENCE. “HIS FOLLOWERS CANNOT DO
“THAT IF THEY ASSOCIATE ONLY “WITH THOSE WHO SHARE THEIR
“BELIEFS AND PRACTICES…. “HE ALSO TAUGHT THAT
“‘HE THAT HATH THE SPIRIT OF “‘CONTENTION IS NOT OF ME,
“‘BUT IS OF THE DEVIL, “‘WHO IS THE FATHER
“‘OF CONTENTION, “‘AND HE STIRRETH UP THE HEARTS
“‘OF MEN TO CONTEND WITH ANGER, “ONE WITH ANOTHER’…. “EVEN AS WE SEEK TO
“AVOID CONTENTION, “WE MUST NOT COMPROMISE OR
“DILUTE OUR COMMITMENT TO “THE TRUTHS WE UNDERSTAND. “WE MUST NOT SURRENDER OUR
“POSITIONS OR OUR VALUES…. “[IN] PUBLIC DISCOURSE,
“WE SHOULD FOLLOW THE “GOSPEL TEACHINGS TO
“LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR “AND AVOID CONTENTION. “WE SHOULD BE EXAMPLES
“OF CIVILITY. “WE SHOULD LOVE ALL PEOPLE,
“BE GOOD LISTENERS, “AND SHOW CONCERN FOR
THEIR SINCERE BELIEFS.” TODAY, I SAY THAT IF THE
CHURCH OR ITS DOCTRINES ARE ATTACKED IN BLOGS
AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA, CONTENTIOUS RESPONSES
ARE NOT HELPFUL. THEY DISAPPOINT OUR FRIENDS
AND PROVOKE OUR ADVERSARIES. FINALLY, “WHEN OUR POSITIONS
“DO NOT PREVAIL, “WE SHOULD ACCEPT UNFAVORABLE
“RESULTS GRACIOUSLY AND “PRACTICE CIVILITY WITH
OUR ADVERSARIES.” IN THE DISTRESSING
CIRCUMSTANCES THAT SURROUND US,
WE MUST TRUST IN GOD AND HIS PROMISES AND HOLD
FAST TO THE VITAL GOSPEL TEACHING OF HOPE. THE PROPHET NEPHI TAUGHT THAT
WE MUST “PRESS FORWARD WITH “A STEADFASTNESS IN CHRIST,
“HAVING A PERFECT “BRIGHTNESS OF HOPE,
“AND A LOVE OF GOD AND OF ALL MEN.” LATER, THE APOSTLE PAUL
TOLD THE CORINTHIANS, “WE ARE TROUBLED ON EVERY SIDE,
“YET NOT DISTRESSED; “WE ARE PERPLEXED,
“BUT NOT IN DESPAIR; “PERSECUTED, BUT NOT FORSAKEN;
CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED.” WHEN WE TRUST IN THE LORD
THAT ALL WILL WORK OUT, THIS HOPE KEEPS US MOVING. HOPE IS A CHARACTERISTIC
CHRISTIAN VIRTUE. I AM GLAD TO PRACTICE IT
AND TO RECOMMEND IT TO COUNTER ALL CURRENT DESPAIRS. HOPE BASED ON TRUST IN THE
LORD AND HIS PROMISES HAS SUSTAINED ME THROUGH ALL
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MY LIFE. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I
APPROACHED MY FIRST ENROLLMENT AT BYU,
66 YEARS AGO, THE KOREAN WAR HAD JUST BEGUN. I HAD JUST CELEBRATED
MY 18TH BIRTHDAY, AND MY UTAH NATIONAL GUARD
FIELD ARTILLERY GROUP HAD JUST BEEN ALERTED TO
JOIN THE WAR IN KOREA. TWO OF OUR BATTALIONS HAD
ALREADY BEEN MOBILIZED AND SENT TO TRAINING LOCATIONS
IN THE UNITED STATES. ONLY THE GROUP HEADQUARTERS
HERE IN PROVO, TO WHICH I BELONGED,
HAD NOT YET RECEIVED ITS MOBILIZATION ORDERS. WE WERE EXPECTING
TO BE SENT ANY DAY. AS WE WAITED,
IT CAME TIME FOR FRESHMEN TO ENROLL FOR THE
FALL QUARTER AT BYU. WHAT SHOULD I DO? I DECIDED TO ENROLL,
PAY TUITION, START SCHOOL, AND TRUST IN THE LORD
FOR WHATEVER HAPPENED. IF MY UNIT WAS MOBILIZED,
I WOULD LEAVE. IF NOT, I WOULD
AT LEAST BE PROCEEDING FORWARD WITH MY EDUCATION. INCIDENTALLY, THE TOTAL
ENROLLMENT AT BYU THAT QUARTER WAS ONLY 4,500
STUDENTS AND THE TUITION AND FEES WERE ONLY $45. AS IT TURNED OUT,
OUR SMALL GROUP HEADQUARTERS WAS NEVER MOBILIZED,
SO I CONTINUED AND COMPLETED MY FORMAL EDUCATION. EVERY GENERATION HAS
CHALLENGES THAT CAN CAUSE DISCOURAGEMENT
IN THOSE WITHOUT HOPE. THE FUTURE IS ALWAYS CLOUDED
WITH UNCERTAINTIES– WARS AND DEPRESSIONS
BEING ONLY TWO EXAMPLES. WHILE SOME ABANDON PROGRESS,
YOU OF FAITH SHOULD HOPE ON AND PRESS ON WITH YOUR
EDUCATION, YOUR LIVES, AND YOUR FAMILIES. SOME YEARS AGO PRESIDENT MONSON
GAVE THIS VALUABLE COUNSEL: “MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
“TODAY, AS WE LOOK AT “THE WORLD AROUND US,
“WE ARE FACED WITH PROBLEMS “WHICH ARE SERIOUS AND OF
“GREAT CONCERN TO US…. “MY COUNSEL FOR ALL OF
“US IS TO LOOK TO THE “LIGHTHOUSE OF THE LORD. “THERE IS NO FOG SO DENSE,
“NO NIGHT SO DARK, “NO GALE SO STRONG,
“NO MARINER SO LOST BUT WHAT “ITS BEACON LIGHT CAN RESCUE. “IT BECKONS THROUGH
“THE STORMS OF LIFE. “THE LIGHTHOUSE OF THE
“LORD SENDS FORTH SIGNALS “READILY RECOGNIZED
AND NEVER FAILING.” THOSE WORDS COMFORT ME AS I
VIEW THE TERRIBLE CONFLICTS IN TODAY’S WORLD AND THE
EXTREME MORAL AND POLICY DIVISIONS THAT SEPARATE
DIFFERENT CITIZENS AND DIFFERENT ASPIRING LEADERS. WE ALL SHOULD RELY ON
THIS ASSURANCE IN MODERN REVELATION:
“FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK; “DO GOOD;
“LET EARTH AND HELL “COMBINE AGAINST YOU,
“FOR IF YE ARE BUILT UPON MY ROCK, THEY CANNOT PREVAIL.” WITH FAITH AND HOPE,
AND WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL PREVAIL AGAINST
OUR CHALLENGES. AS ELDER KIM B. CLARK
TOLD YOUR TEACHERS AND LEADERS A FEW WEEKS AGO,
BYU AND ITS VALUES ARE UNDER ATTACK. WE ARE ALL BEING ASKED
TO DO HARD THINGS, FOR WHICH WE NEED “GREATER
FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST,” WHO “WILL OPEN DOORS
“THAT ARE CLOSED. “HE WILL INSPIRE AND
“GUIDE AND PROVIDE. HE IS IN CHARGE.” I NOW SPEAK OF ONE OF THE
CHALLENGES THAT FACE US– THE MEANING AND APPLICATION
OF THE VITAL CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES THAT GOVERNMENT
AUTHORITY SHALL MAKE NO LAWS OR REGULATIONS “ABRIDGING
“THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, “OR OF THE PRESS,
“OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE.” THOSE RIGHTS ARE FUNDAMENTAL
TO OUR CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER– NOT JUST TO PROTECT
CITIZENS AGAINST REPRESSIVE GOVERNMENT ACTION BUT ALSO
TO FOSTER THE CHERISHED OPEN SOCIETY THAT IS THE SOURCE
OF OUR FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY. BEYOND THAT, THE FREE EXERCISE
OF RELIGION IS VITAL BECAUSE IT INSURES CITIZENS THE RIGHTS OF
WORSHIP AND ACTION THAT ARE FUNDAMENTAL TO THEIR BEING. FOR MANY YEARS I HAVE PAID
CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE SOCIAL AND LEGAL TRENDS THAT
ARE LIKELY TO AFFECT THE FUNDAMENTAL GUARANTEES THAT
ARE SO VITAL TO FULFILL OUR CHURCH’S MISSION
AND TO ACCOMPLISH BYU’S EDUCATIONAL MISSION. I AM CONVINCED THAT A
WORLDWIDE TIDE IS CURRENTLY RUNNING AGAINST BOTH
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND ITS PARALLEL FREEDOMS
OF SPEECH AND ASSEMBLY. I BELIEVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
IS DECLINING BECAUSE FAITH IN GOD AND THE PURSUIT
OF GOD-CENTERED RELIGION IS DECLINING, WORLDWIDE. IF ONE DOES NOT VALUE RELIGION,
ONE USUALLY DOES NOT PUT A HIGH VALUE ON
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. IT IS LOOKED AT AS JUST
ANOTHER HUMAN RIGHT, COMPETING WITH OTHER HUMAN
RIGHTS WHEN IT SEEMS TO COLLIDE WITH THEM. I BELIEVE THE FREEDOMS OF
SPEECH AND ASSEMBLY ARE ALSO WEAKENING BECAUSE
MANY INFLUENTIAL PERSONS SEE THEM AS COLLIDING
WITH COMPETING VALUES NOW DEEMED MORE IMPORTANT. SOME EXTREMISTS HAVE EVEN
OPPOSED FREE SPEECH AS AN OBSTACLE TO ACHIEVING
THEIR POLICY GOALS. IN OUR CURRENT CULTURAL
AND POLITICAL ATMOSPHERE WE ARE DISTRESSED TO SEE
OFFICIAL AND PRIVATE INFRINGEMENTS ON FREE SPEECH,
FREE ASSOCIATION, AND THE FREE EXERCISE OF
RELIGION THAT POSE THREATS TO OUR FREE AND OPEN SOCIETY. WHILE A POLITICAL PARTY IN
POWER AT THE FEDERAL OR STATE LEVEL HAS GREATER POTENTIAL
TO SPONSOR OFFICIAL THREATS, SUCH THREATS CAN ALSO
BE MADE BY OTHERS. MOST OF THE EXAMPLES I WILL
GIVE ARE IN HIGHER EDUCATION, BUT COMPARABLE EXAMPLES COULD
BE GIVEN IN THE BROADER SOCIETY, INCLUDING THE MEDIA,
THE ARTS, BUSINESS, POLITICS, AND OTHER AREAS OF CULTURE. I HAVE CHOSEN TO CONCENTRATE
ON HIGHER EDUCATION SINCE THESE EXAMPLES ARE MOST APPROPRIATE
FOR DISCUSSION WITH A UNIVERSITY AUDIENCE AT BYU. FREE SPEECH HAS ALWAYS BEEN
HIGHLY VALUED IN EDUCATION, BUT OPEN INQUIRY AND
COMMUNICATION ARE CURRENTLY BEING REPLACED ON TOO MANY
CAMPUSES BY A CULTURE OF INTELLECTUAL CONFORMITY
AND THE SILENCING OR INTIMIDATION OF OPPOSITION. THIS CULTURE EVEN INCLUDES
FORMAL OR INFORMAL PUNISHMENT OF THOSE WITH POLITICAL VIEWS
NOT CURRENTLY IN FAVOR. AS I PROVIDE MY
LIST OF EXAMPLES, I INVITE YOU TO AUGMENT
OR CHALLENGE THESE WITH OBSERVATIONS OF YOUR OWN. WEIGH THE WHOLE AND REACH
YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. AS YOU DO,
NOTE THE CLOSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE FREE EXERCISE OF
RELIGION AND THE ASSOCIATED RIGHTS OF FREE SPEECH
AND FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY. EARLIER THIS YEAR A GROUP
IN THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE SOUGHT TO DENY STATE FUNDING
TO STUDENTS OF PRIVATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
THAT RELY ON RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS FROM TITLE IX
NON-DISCRIMINATION REQUIREMENTS. FORTUNATELY, THAT
EFFORT WAS BLOCKED, BUT IT WILL RETURN NEXT YEAR. TITLE IX IS THE SAME FEDERAL
STATUTE THAT WAS SOUGHT TO BE USED TO FORCE BYU
TO HAVE CO-ED DORMS WHEN I WAS PRESIDENT 40 YEARS AGO. BYU PREVAILED IN THAT
EARLIER CONTEST, BUT IN TODAY’S POLITICAL
CLIMATE SUCH ATTEMPTS TO OVERRIDE THE FREEDOMS OF
RELIGIOUS COLLEGES SEEM CERTAIN TO CONTINUE. A MORE COMMON AND MORE
PERSONAL CHALLENGE TO FREE SPEECH IN CURRENT POLICY
DEBATES IS THE LABELING OF OPPOSITION ARGUMENTS AS
“HATE SPEECH” OR “BIGOTRY.” THIS KIND OF NAME-CALLING
CHILLS FREE SPEECH BY SEEKING TO PENALIZE THE
SPEECH OF OPPONENTS– PERSONALLY, SOCIALLY,
OR PROFESSIONALLY. A LEGAL SCHOLAR’S
RECENT BOOK, WHICH ADVOCATES PLURALISM,
MUTUAL RESPECT, AND COEXISTENCE,
STATES THAT THE LABEL BIGOT IS A “CONVERSATION STOPPER”
BECAUSE IT “ATTRIBUTES “A PARTICULAR [NEGATIVE]
MOTIVE TO AN ACTION.” THE AUTHOR OBSERVES THAT THIS
KIND OF LABELING “FREQUENTLY “APPEARS AGAINST RELIGIOUS
“BELIEVERS AND GROUPS “THAT MAINTAIN TRADITIONAL
“BELIEFS ABOUT SEXUALITY “IN THEIR INTERNAL
MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENTS.” INCIDENTALLY, MY WEBSTER’S
DICTIONARY DEFINES BIGOT AS “A PERSON WHO IS UTTERLY
“INTOLERANT OF ANY CREED, “BELIEF, OR OPINION THAT
DIFFERS FROM HIS OWN.” WHO FITS THAT DESCRIPTION
IN THIS CONTEST OF MOTIVES AND OPINIONS? OF GREATER CONCERN ARE
THE INSTITUTIONALIZED “FREE SPEECH ZONES” ESTABLISHED
BY SOME UNIVERSITIES TO PROVIDE A SMALL DESIGNATED
SPACE WHERE STUDENTS MAY SPEAK FREELY. THE REST OF THE CAMPUS IS THEN
A RESTRICTED SPEECH ZONE, WHERE CERTAIN WORDS AND IDEAS
(INCLUDING WHAT ARE CALLED “MICRO-AGGRESSIONS”)
ARE NOT TO BE SPOKEN. SUCH GENERAL RESTRICTIONS
ON CAMPUS SPEECH SEEM UNLIKELY TO SURVIVE THEIR
CURRENT LEGAL CHALLENGES. ACADEMIC FREEDOM SHOULD NOT BE
LIMITED TO THOSE WHO AGREE WITH PREVAILING POLITICAL VIEWS. BUT THE FACT THAT SOME
EDUCATORS HAVE SUCCUMBED TO PRESSURES TO CREATE SUCH
RESTRICTIONS IS WORRISOME. FREE SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION
ARE ALSO CHILLED WHEN CAMPUS PRESSURES RESULT IN
ADMINISTRATIONS’ CANCELLING COMMENCEMENT SPEAKING
INVITATIONS OR HONORS TO PERSONS WHOSE PRIOR ACTIONS
OR WORDS ARE BEING ATTACKED BY FACULTY OR STUDENTS. ALTHOUGH INSTITUTIONS OF
COURSE EXERCISE JUDGMENT ABOUT WHOM TO HONOR OR INVITE,
ONCE INVITATIONS ARE EXTENDED THEY SHOULD NOT BE CANCELLED
JUST BECAUSE A SEGMENT OF CAMPUS IS HOSTILE
TO THE HONOREE’S OR SPEAKER’S POLITICAL VIEWS. CONSIDER ANOTHER ACTION OF
SOME STATE INSTITUTIONS. STUDENTS SEEKING OFFICIAL CAMPUS
STATUS FOR SOME RELIGIOUS, SOCIAL, OR POLITICAL CLUBS
HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT THEY MUST NOT HAVE ANY LIMITATIONS ON
THEIR MEMBERSHIP OR LEADERSHIP. CAMPUS ORGANIZATIONS MUST
“TAKE ALL COMERS” AND LET THEM SEEK ORGANIZATIONAL
LEADERSHIP EVEN IF THEY OPPOSE THE ORGANIZATIONS’
PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS. A NEW AND RISING RIGHT BEING
URGED IS THE RIGHT NOT TO BE OFFENDED IN THE PUBLIC
SQUARE AND ON CAMPUSES. CONSIDER HOW THAT ALLEGED
“RIGHT” WOULD SUPPRESS RELIGIOUS TEACHING AND
FREE SPEECH BY GIVING ANY OBJECTOR THE RIGHT TO
POLICE AND CONTROL THE COMMUNICATIONS OF ADVERSARIES. SUCH A CONCEPT WOULD
ALSO COMPROMISE THE MISSION OF UNIVERSITIES. ON THAT SUBJECT,
WE CANNOT DOUBT THE WISDOM OF CLARK KERR,
PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SEVERAL
GENERATIONS AGO. SAID HE: “THE UNIVERSITY
“IS NOT ENGAGED IN MAKING “IDEAS SAFE FOR STUDENTS. “IT IS ENGAGED IN MAKING
“STUDENTS SAFE FOR IDEAS. “THUS IT PERMITS THE
“FREEST EXPRESSION OF VIEWS BEFORE STUDENTS,
“TRUSTING TO THEIR GOOD “SENSE IN PASSING JUDGMENT
“ON THESE VIEWS. “ONLY IN THIS WAY CAN IT BEST
SERVE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY.” IN RECENT YEARS,
SOME SCHOLARS WHOSE WORK HAS QUESTIONED OR OPPOSED
MAJORITY THINKING IN THEIR DISCIPLINES OR CONTRADICTED
THE CURRENT DOGMAS OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
HAVE FACED DISMISSAL OR OTHER ACADEMIC SANCTIONS,
OR, IN ANY EVENT, HAVE HAD DIFFICULTY HAVING
THEIR WORK PUBLISHED IN PROFESSIONAL JOURNALS. SIMILARLY, COLLEGES
AND UNIVERSITIES– ESPECIALLY RELIGIOUS
INSTITUTIONS OR THOSE ASSOCIATED WITH CONSERVATIVE CAUSES–
ARE FACING INCREASING PRESSURES FROM SOME
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS AND ACCREDITING
BODIES TO CONFORM. LESS VISIBLE ARE THE MANY
REPORTS OF HIRING DECISIONS THAT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST PERSONS
WHO HOLD OR ARE PRESUMED TO HOLD UNPOPULAR VIEWS. THESE EXAMPLES OF DISCRIMINATION
TO DEFEND PREVAILING POSITIONS ARE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVE,
BUT THEIR EFFECT– EVIDENT IN THE FACULTY
COMPOSITION AND IN THE HIRING DECISIONS OF VARIOUS
ACADEMIC DEPARTMENTS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS–
MAKES THEM OBVIOUS TO THE CRITICAL EYE. FINALLY, I CANNOT
REFRAIN FROM CITING THE TACTICS OF PUBLIC
SHAMING, BOYCOTTS, AND OTHER ACTIONS TO PUNISH
OPPONENTS AND INTIMIDATE FURTHER OPPOSITION. SUCH TACTICS,
WHICH OUR CHURCH AND ITS CALIFORNIA MEMBERS
EXPERIENCED DURING AND AFTER THE PROPOSITION 8
SAME-GENDER MARRIAGE REFERENDUM, OBVIOUSLY POISON THE
ATMOSPHERE FOR OPEN DISCUSSION AND INQUIRY. ALTHOUGH OFTEN INVOKING
THE POPULAR RHETORIC OF EQUALITY AND RIGHTS,
THOSE WHO EMPLOY THESE TACTICS ERODE THE VITAL
PROTECTIONS OF FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, SPEECH,
RELIGION AND ASSEMBLY, AND DIMINISH OUR COUNTRY’S
BEACON LIGHT OF FREEDOM TO THE WORLD. WE ARE FORTUNATE THAT THERE
ARE LEADERS WHOSE EXAMPLES AND WORDS PROMOTE THE
VALUES OF FREEDOM. TWO YEARS AGO THE LEADERSHIP
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO NOTED “RECENT EVENTS NATIONWIDE
“THAT HAVE TESTED INSTITUTIONAL “COMMITMENTS TO FREE
AND OPEN DISCOURSE.” THEY ESTABLISHED A FACULTY
COMMITTEE ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION WHOSE REPORT HAS
NOW BEEN INFLUENTIAL WITH OTHER SENIOR INSTITUTIONS. THAT REPORT GAVE EXPRESSION
TO SUCH TRADITIONAL IDEAS AS THESE:
“[I]T IS NOT THE PROPER “ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY
“TO ATTEMPT TO SHIELD “INDIVIDUALS FROM IDEAS
“AND OPINIONS THEY FIND “UNWELCOME, DISAGREEABLE,
OR EVEN DEEPLY OFFENSIVE.” “[T]HE UNIVERSITY’S FUNDAMENTAL
“COMMITMENT IS TO THE PRINCIPLE “THAT DEBATE OR DELIBERATION
“MAY NOT BE SUPPRESSED BECAUSE “THE IDEAS PUT FORTH ARE
“THOUGHT BY SOME OR EVEN “BY MOST MEMBERS OF THE
“UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY “TO BE OFFENSIVE, UNWISE,
“IMMORAL, OR WRONG-HEADED. “IT IS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL
“MEMBERS OF THE “UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY,
“NOT FOR THE UNIVERSITY “AS AN INSTITUTION,
“TO MAKE THOSE JUDGMENTS FOR THEMSELVES….” THAT REPORT OF COURSE
ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE UNIVERSITY MAY RESTRICT
CERTAIN KINDS OF EXPRESSIONS, SUCH AS THOSE THAT ARE
ILLEGAL, DEFAMATORY, THREATENING OR HARASSMENT. SIGNIFICANTLY, IT ALSO
RECOGNIZED RESTRICTIONS ON SPEECH THAT IS “OTHERWISE
“DIRECTLY INCOMPATIBLE “WITH THE FUNCTIONING
OF THE UNIVERSITY.” AS SOME UNIVERSITIES CONTINUE
TO CAVE INTO PRESSURES FOR PROHIBITION AND
ACADEMIC CENSORSHIP, I FERVENTLY HOPE THAT MOST
WILL FOLLOW THE PRINCIPLES STATED IN THAT PERSUASIVE
CHICAGO REPORT. SOME OF YOU ARE WONDERING
WHETHER I WILL SPEAK OF HOW MY CONCERNS
FOR FREEDOM IN HIGHER EDUCATION APPLY TO BYU. I HAVE OBVIOUSLY PONDERED
DEEPLY ON THAT SUBJECT, ESPECIALLY DURING THE
NINETEEN YEARS OF MY SERVICE IN IMPORTANT POSITIONS
OF ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP, FIRST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
CHICAGO AND THEN AT BYU. THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN
THOSE TWO GREAT UNIVERSITIES ARE FAR LARGER THAN
THEIR DIFFERENCES, BUT THERE ARE DIFFERENCES,
WHICH I WILL DESCRIBE. BOTH ARE PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES. BOTH MUST BE FREE TO PURSUE
THEIR SEPARATE DECLARATIONS OF MISSION AND PURPOSE AND
TO DEFINE AND ADVOCATE THE FREEDOM NECESSARY
TO ACHIEVE THEM. BOTH ARE VITAL CONTRIBUTORS
TO THE VALUABLE BUT THREATENED DIVERSITY OF HIGHER
EDUCATION IN AMERICA. THE DIFFERENCES ARE ROOTED
IN BYU’S UNIQUE RELIGIOUS MISSION AND TO THE METHOD
OF LEARNING INHERENT IN IT. AS STATED IN BYU’S OFFICIAL
POLICY ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM, DATED OVER 23 YEARS AGO,
“THE BYU COMMUNITY EMBRACES “TRADITIONAL FREEDOMS OF
“STUDY, INQUIRY, AND DEBATE, “TOGETHER WITH THE SPECIAL
“RESPONSIBILITIES IMPLICIT “IN THE UNIVERSITY’S
RELIGIOUS MISSION.” THOSE SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES
INCLUDE SOME LIMITS ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM. LIMITATIONS ARE COMMON
TO ALL UNIVERSITIES, AS THE CHICAGO REPORT CONCEDED,
BUT BYU’S LIMITATIONS ARE EXPRESS AND WELL PUBLICIZED. AS ITS POLICY STATES:
“BYU DEFINES ITSELF “AS HAVING A UNIQUE
“RELIGIOUS MISSION AND “AS PURSUING KNOWLEDGE
“IN A CLIMATE OF BELIEF. “THIS MODEL OF EDUCATION
“DIFFERS CLEARLY AND “CONSCIOUSLY FROM PUBLIC
“UNIVERSITY MODELS THAT “EMBODY A SEPARATION OF
“CHURCH AND STATE…. “RELIGION OFFERS VENERABLE
“ALTERNATIVE THEORIES OF “KNOWLEDGE BY PRESUPPOSING
“THAT TRUTH IS ETERNAL, “THAT IT IS ONLY PARTLY KNOWABLE
“THROUGH REASON ALONE, “AND THAT HUMAN REASON
“MUST BE TESTED AGAINST DIVINE REVELATION.” IN THAT CONTEXT, BYU STUDENTS
COMMIT TO A CODE OF HONOR THAT PROHIBITS
SPEECH THAT IS DISHONEST, ILLEGAL, PROFANE, OR UNDULY
DISRESPECTFUL OF OTHERS. THE LIMITATIONS ON FACULTY
EXPRESSION APPLY TO EXPRESSION THAT “SERIOUSLY
“AND ADVERSELY AFFECTS THE UNIVERSITY OR THE CHURCH.” EXAMPLES INCLUDE
“EXPRESSION WITH STUDENTS “OR IN PUBLIC THAT:
“CONTRADICTS OR OPPOSES, “RATHER THAN ANALYZES
“OR DISCUSSES, “FUNDAMENTAL CHURCH
“DOCTRINE OR POLICY; “[OR] DELIBERATELY ATTACKS
“OR DERIDES THE CHURCH OR ITS GENERAL LEADERS….” CONSIDER THOSE LIMITATIONS,
WHICH ARE CLOSELY RELATED TO BYU’S DECLARED
METHOD OF LEARNING, AND I BELIEVE YOU WILL
CONCLUDE THAT BYU’S ACADEMIC FREEDOM POLICY IS
CORRECT WHEN IT SAYS THAT “[I]NDIVIDUAL FREEDOM
“OF EXPRESSION IS BROAD, “PRESUMPTIVE, AND ESSENTIALLY
UNRESTRAINED EXCEPT” FOR THESE NARROW LIMITS. INDEED, IN MANY WAYS
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT BYU EXCEEDS THAT AT MANY
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THAT PRETEND TO HAVE
UNQUALIFIED ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND THEN APPLY OR SUBMIT
TO THE KINDS OF EXCEPTIONS I DESCRIBED EARLIER. BYU’S POLICY CONCLUDES WITH
THIS IMPORTANT AFFIRMATION: “FOR THOSE WHO
“EMBRACE THE GOSPEL, “BYU OFFERS A FAR RICHER
“AND MORE COMPLETE KIND “OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM THAN
“IS POSSIBLE IN SECULAR “UNIVERSITIES BECAUSE TO
“SEEK KNOWLEDGE IN THE LIGHT “OF REVEALED TRUTH [AND I
“WOULD ADD BY THE METHODS “OF REVEALED TRUTH]
“FOR BELIEVERS, TO BE FREE INDEED.” AND SO, I HAVE SPOKEN OF
ELECTIONS, HOPE, AND FREEDOM. IN THESE DISTRESSING TIMES
OUR FREEDOM AND HOPE CAN BEST BE FOSTERED BY FIVE ACTIONS:
(1) WE MUST CONCENTRATE ON WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON WITH OUR
NEIGHBORS AND FELLOW CITIZENS. (2) WE MUST STRIVE FOR
MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND TREAT ALL WITH GOODWILL. (3) WE MUST EXERCISE PATIENCE. (4) WE SHOULD ALL SPEAK OUT
FOR RELIGION AND THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. AND (5), WE MUST ABOVE ALL,
TRUST IN GOD AND HIS PROMISES. I TESTIFY OF THE REALITY
OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST,
AND OF THE PROMISE EXPRESSED BY HIS SERVANT MORMON, WHO SAID:
“AND WHAT IS IT THAT “YE SHALL HOPE FOR? “BEHOLD I SAY UNTO YOU THAT YE
“SHALL HAVE HOPE THROUGH THE “ATONEMENT OF CHRIST AND THE
“POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, “TO BE RAISED UNTO LIFE ETERNAL,
“AND THIS BECAUSE OF YOUR “FAITH IN HIM ACCORDING
TO THE PROMISE.” IN THE NAME OF
JESUS CHRIST, AMEN. ♪♪
>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS WITH ELDER DALLIN H. OAKS WAS
GIVEN ON SEPTEMBER 13, 2016.

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