Friday, May 05, 2017

Rexburg Socialists?

EDIT (5/8/17): Now my wife tells me that the homeschool discussion group commenters were complaining about BYU-Original Recipe, not BYU-Idaho. I blame my wife's inherited ability to ambiguously use every pronoun she utters (when my mother-in-law says "she," it could be in reference to any woman she's thought about in the past two weeks).

My wife belongs to some online discussion groups for homeschoolers. In one group this week, an intense discussion erupted regarding the desirability of sending your kid to BYU-Idaho. Some of the group members said the faculty at Rexburg is indoctrinating students in socialism.

When my wife shared this with me, I told her I think there are three possible things going on here.

  1. Students who are unclear about the differences between socialism and Zion are hearing about Zion and thinking, "What's with these socialists?!"
  2. Parents who are unclear about the differences between socialism and Zion are hearing about their kids hearing about Zion and thinking, "Glenn Beck was right about the dangers of college!"
  3. Faculty members who are unclear about the differences between socialism and Zion are indoctrinating students in socialism because they think they are doing God's work.

One, two, or three of these things could be happening at the same time. As a professor, I'm aware of students' ability to hear what they want to hear (last week I got an e-mail from a student who wrote, "I know you said you drop the lowest homework score," when I have, in fact, said nothing like that). Also, a friend I have who teaches at BYU-Idaho is definitely enamored of socialism because he seems to think the godless aspects of the Republican Party imply the opposite of the Republican Party must carry God's favor.

Because this is related to my dissertation, I had previously printed a copy of Marion G. Romney's 1966 General Conference talk "Socialism and the United Order Compared." Elder Romney said, "The United Order is implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men,.... On the other hand, socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state." But the end goals could be the same, so we cannot reject something like Universal Basic Income merely because it looks a lot like socialism. At the same time, we shouldn't accept UBI because it looks a lot like Zion. My family functions along many of the principles of Communism, but I'm not a Communist. If we voluntarily redistribute our resources along socialist lines, we don't necessarily need to be socialists. Elder Romney said, "What prohibits us from giving as much in fast offerings as we would have given in surpluses under the United Order? Nothing but our own limitations."

In his conclusion, Elder Romney prayed for three things, the first of which was "that the Lord will somehow quicken our understanding of the differences between socialism and the United Order and give us a vivid awareness of the awful portent of those differences." Perhaps the BYU-Idaho faculty could use a better understanding of the differences, but it's also possible the students and their parents could use a better understanding of the similarities, as well.

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