The BYU Caffeine Protests of 2012: A Chronology

Normally when BYU students throw fits about something, I’m all over it. But frankly I just missed this one. I don’t know what happened. Anyway, below I’ve put together a brief chronology of the world-rocking protests that have shook BYU’s campus over the past few weeks:

August 29, 2012 — The LDS church releases a statement on saying that “the Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond (tea and coffee).”

August 30, 2012 — The LDS Church’s official OK to caffeine receives national media attention. The Salt Lake Tribune publishes an article titled, “OK Mormons, drink up — Coke and Pepsi are OK.”

August 30, 2012 — BYU student Skyler Thiot creates a “BYU for Caffeine” Facebook page for his marketing class.

August 30, 2012 — The LDS Church removes the statement saying that “the Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and softens the wording in the released statement to say,  “the church revelation spelling out health practices … does not mention the use of caffeine.”

August 30, 2012 — BYU Spokeswoman Carri Jenkins tells the Salt Lake Tribune that BYU does not serve caffeinated beverages because there hasn’t “been a demand for it.” The ban on caffeinated sodas is “not a university or church decision but made by dining services, based on what our customers want.”

August 31, 2012 — Washington Post: “It’s Official: Coke and Pepsi are OK for Mormons.”

September 2, 2012 — The Facebook page “Petition to BYU Dining Services for DR Pepper and Other Sinless Drinks” is created.

September 6, 2012 — The Facebook page “BYU Against Caffeine” is created. Its mantra: “Let’s keep BYU the way it’s always been, caffeine free.” On September 16 the page had only gathered 56 likes.

September 7, 2012 — Skyler Thiot tells FOX 13, “When I started this Facebook page, I started getting people posting how counterproductive this was to the good of the church, how this was a terrible thing. I didn’t really understand, especially since we’re a week removed from the church saying caffeine is not against the Word of Wisdom.”

September 8, 2012 — Josh Belnap creates the Petition “Brigham Young University: Please offer caffeinated beverages on campus and at venues.” By September 16 the petition has received 965 signatures.

September 11, 2012 BYU’s Daily Universe: “‘No Demand’ for Caffeine at BYU?”

September 13, 2012 — Thiot shuts down the “BYU for Caffeine” Facebook page due to negative reactions. The page had received more than 2,300 likes.

September 14, 2012 — Another BYU student (likely Seth Howard) creates a second “BYU for Caffeine” Facebook page.

September 14, 2012 — BYU students, led by Seth Howard, plan a caffeine “protest” in Brigham Square where they would give away caffeinated beverages to passing students. Howard and his followers gave away around 50 cans of soda in three minutes before being asked to leave campus by BYU police.

Image source: Facebook.

BYU Professor Accuses BYU’s Maxwell Institute Director of Negligence, Reveals MI’s Inner Workings

Yesterday after days of rumors, BYU’s Maxwell Institute was rocked when it was announced director Gerald Bradford had fired BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson as the editor of the Mormon Studies Review, previously named the FARMS Review, which Peterson had founded twenty-three years ago. Peterson’s associate editors were also fired, some reportedly without notice. The publication has since been suspended.

BYU Professor William J. Hamblin

BYU professor William J. Hamblin, who is a close friend of Peterson’s and has worked with the Maxwell Institute for several years, quickly took to the internet commenting on the scandal.  Giving brief background to the scandal, Hamblin notes that FARMS — the previous organization that has effectively evolved into the current Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship — initially became part of BYU as part of what Hamblin calls “a hostile takeover” — Hamblin was on the board of FARMS at the time — and Hamblin says that he “resigned in protest” when the University effectively forced FARMS to merge with BYU, predicting at the time that a merger would prove disastrous for the organization’s future.

FARMS’ main work at the time was in “defending the faith” — a.k.a., Mormon apologetics — and Church President Gordon B. Hinckley approved of their work at the time saying, “FARMS represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis.” However, since then Hamblin claims that anonymous higher-ups and the Maxwell Institute’s current director do not approve of Church or University-sponsored apologetics, prompting Hamblin to ask emphatically, “If the University does not want to sponsor apologetics, why in the world did it force FARMS to become part of the University?”

Hamblin called Bradford’s actions in firing Peterson and others “absolutely shameful.” “I feel that Bradford’s failure to contain months or years of ongoing leaks to apostate enemies of the church from within his organization shows disastrous negligence,” Hamblin says. “Let me be very clear.  Gerald Bradford is not a bad person. … I sincerely believe he is doing what he thinks is best.  And I sincerely believe he is dead wrong.”

Giving more commentary on Bradford, Hamblin writes,

“He was brought into FARMS as a manager to run the day-to-day operations of FARMS when it became too big to be administered on a part-time basis by the full-time BYU faculty on the Board.  He was not brought in as a scholar to single handedly determine the future academic direction of the institute.  That was the responsibility of the Board, not of any single individual.  … [Bradford] is academically at home with 19th century Mormonism, but is by no means conversant with biblical studies, ancient languages, Mesoamerica, archaeology, etc., which were the bread and butter of FARMS scholarship.  When he was the executive administrator for the Board this didn’t matter, since the Board determined academic policy; but now he is the sole director, with sole discretion to determine the future of the Institute.”

Dr. William J. Hamblin is currently a history professor at BYU who teaches classes on the Crusades, the Middle East, and various religious topics. He served on the board of FARMS until 1997 and has published scores of articles, papers, and reviews with the organization before and since then.

BYU Professor Daniel Peterson Fired as Editor of Mormon Studies Review at BYU’s Maxwell Institute

After rumors circulated earlier in the week, BYU’s Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship confirmed today that Daniel C. Peterson and his associate editors would be removed from the staff of the Mormon Studies Review, previously the FARMS Review.  The periodical, which publishes articles and reviews on LDS-related topics and books, was founded by Peterson 23 years ago. Along with Peterson were also dismissed his associate editors Louis C. Midgley, George L. Mitton, Gregory L. Smith and Robert White.

In a brief, anonymous statement posted on the Maxwell Institute’s website today the Institute stated, “For many years the FARMS Review has filled an important niche in the intellectual life of its many readers under the vigorous editorship of Professor Daniel C. Peterson and his associates…. We thank these colleagues and the many contributing writers to the Review for their industry and scholarship over the past twenty-three years.” The Institute also stated that publication of the Review would desist indefinitely until a new editorial team was formed and that subscribers would be receiving a refund.

In a leaked e-mail sent June 17, Maxwell Institute director M. Gerald Bradford wrote to Peterson, “The time has come for us to take the Review in a different direction. … What we need to do to properly affect this change in the Review is to ask someone else, someone working in the mainstream of Mormon studies, who has a comparable vision to my own for what it can accomplish, to edit the publication.”

The Review has been criticized in the past for ad hominem attacks in its publication. Reportedly the tipping point for Peterson’s dismissal was a personal 100-page article targeted against John Dehlin, the founder of Mormon Stories, which often focuses on controversial topics within Mormonism such as homosexuality and apostasy. Bradford has the article pulled reportedly after being requested by multiple General Authorities and University President Cecil O. Samuelson, who apparently read at least portions of it. Peterson claims that Bradford and others never read the article.

Almost immediately after the Maxwell Institute’s website posted the public statement, Peterson posted about his dismissal on his personal blog. Peterson stated that he was not receiving the change “enthusiastically” and that he has “deep concerns about the significance of my dismissal (and the reasons behind it) for the future direction of the Maxwell Institute.” Peterson also suggested that the reason he was fired from the Review was because of insinuations “that the Review was in a crisis that necessitated emergency mid-volume intervention, and that it now requires a post-Peterson “detoxing” period before it can be permitted to resume publication.”

Peterson also complained about the manner in which he and his associate editors were fired, saying that the e-mail notifying him of his dismissal came “completely out of the blue” and that the other editors “didn’t even receive an e-mail” notifying them of their removal from the staff. He stated that one of them even inquired of Bradford days earlier but did not receive a response. Another claims to have called Bradford but also received no response. Peterson himself says he has e-mailed Bradford several times but received no acknowledgement. According to Bill Hamblin, another BYU professor who has published many times with the Maxwell Institute, “Bradford fired Dan [Peterson] by email while Dan was on a multi-week journey in the Middle East specifically so Dan could not be in Provo to defend himself.”

Hamblin goes on to say that the firing came as “the culmination of a long-term struggle between radically different visions for the future of the Institute. Peterson wishes to continue the traditional heritage of FARMS, providing cutting edge scholarship and apologetics on LDS scripture. Bradford wants to move the Institute in a different direction, focusing on more secular-style studies that will be accessible and acceptable to non-Mormon scholars. Bradford is especially opposed to LDS apologetics, which he wants to terminate entirely as part of the mission of the Institute.”

Bradford and the Maxwell Institute are currently not making public statements regarding the situation, other than the previously cited statement posted on their website.

The Man Who Challenged Orrin Hatch: A Look at a Dan Liljenquist Town Hall Meeting

After not having a serious challenger for his entire 36-year tenure as Utah’s U.S. Senator, Orrin Hatch is now facing his first primary battle since he won office in 1976. Hatch is the longest serving senator in Utah state history, but after failing to get the super-majority of votes needed at this year’s state Republican convention, Hatch is now facing former state senator Dan Liljenquist in Utah’s Republican primary on June 26.

Liljenquist held a told hall meeting in Provo, Utah on Saturday evening in an upstairs conference room at the city’s Wells-Fargo building. Outside the office building several college students stood waving “DAN Liljenquist for U.S. Senate” signs to passing traffic, some yelling “Honk if you love America!” As the event started upstairs about fifty people sat in attendance, not including the student volunteers who later came up. It was a Liljenquist-friendly crowd with most seeming to be decided supporters as many sported his campaign badges and t-shirts. But a few undecideds were there, and there was at least one Hatch supporter present.

Bain Capital & Mitt Romney

Liljenquist began his speech, complete with a few jokes about his last name and meeting his wife while studying at BYU. In giving his introduction Liljenquist made sure to mention his work at Bain & Company, which he refers to as “Mitt’s company,” although Mitt Romney had not worked at Bain & Company for almost a decade during Liljenquist’s brief tenure there. He later name-dropped “Bain” and “Mitt” several more times, although Liljenquist’s work at Bain was only a small part of the former state senator’s decade-long work in the private sector. Later in his speech Liljenquist stated that he was a “huge Mitt Romney supporter.” Romney, who ran the 2000 Salt Lake Olympics and used to have a vacation home in the state, is a beloved figure in Utah.

Audience photo of Liljenquist giving his speech at Provo town-hall meeting.

Entitlement Reform

In his town-hall address Liljenquist attacked Congress’ detachment from the American people, saying that the U.S. Senate has “lost its way” and that it was time to send new “fiscal leaders to Washington.” Liljenquist said that if elected he would first “use every ounce of my training at Bain Consulting and in the private sector to dive into the financial issues of our time,” to reform the nation’s welfare programs, to fix social security and medicare, and “to return our republic to what it was meant to be.” Programs like medicare and social security, Liljenquist argued, were best run at the state-level. “I am running on entitlement reform,” he emphasized.

The Budget & Congressional Term Limits

Discussing balancing the budget, Liljenquist said he will “propose reforms, not just amendments,” to accomplish the feat. He criticized other U.S. Senators, including Hatch, for their failure to commit to achieving a balanced budget during their tenures and accused them of “hypocrisy.” Liljenquist also promised that if elected he would not move to Washington, D.C., but that his family would stay in their Bountiful, Utah home, joking that they had just remodeled it. “We are not moving,” he reiterated. “When people move to Washington, they start representing Washington.” Liljenquist also committed to serving no more than three terms in the Senate if elected and that he would sponsor congressional term-limits. “This was never meant to be a lifetime gig,” he said.

No Federal Pension for Liljenquist

Liljenquist received his first applause from the audience when he promised not to take a federal pension, and he then promised to sponsor legislation that would eliminate pensions from congress. “Congress should not get a better deal than we the people,” Liljenquist  stated. “There is a disconnect of trust between Congress and the American people…and I am determined to change that.”

Regarding Hatch: “No One Senator is King”

Liljenquist lambasted Hatch, accusing him of constantly seeking more power and in each election asking to be reelected while saying, “I’m almost there.” Liljenquist rebutted, “No one senator is a king, no matter what seat he sits in,” and he accused Hatch of using the “politics of fear.” “No one senator is too big too fail, no one senator is too important to lose.” He then argued that the Senate was moving beyond its traditional leaders and that new relationships need to be forged with the future of the Senate. Liljenquist then name-dropped Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), and others, saying he “knew these guys.”

The Plane Crash

Finally in his speech Liljenquist told a personal story of a plane crash he had experienced in 2008 during a humanitarian trip to Guatamala where eleven others died. Liljenquist said his survival of that tragedy created an “urgency” for him to become involved in politics and help his community.

Audience Q&A

During the Q&A that followed Liljenquist’s speech most of the raised hands were softball questions from supporters. In response to one question, Liljenquist accused Hatch of “largely insulating himself from the people of the state” and “refusing to debate,” suggesting he was afraid of Liljenquist. While answering another question Liljenquist said “Obama has done one thing with absolute honesty,” to which one of the audience members shouted out “Golf?” Liljenquist laughed and said, “Maybe two things then.” Liljenquist later referred to President Obama, saying that “we are on the verge of having an emperor.”

Asked by a young man whether it would be hurting a President Romney not to have Hatch in the Senate, Liljenquist noted that Romney’s endorsement of Hatch came months before Liljenquist was ever in the race and that Romney and Hatch had “been friends for a long time” and that the two “have a deep and abiding relationship.” The questioner then curtly said that Liljenquist didn’t answer his question.

Finally in answer to another question Liljenquist said that he supported repealing the 17th amendment to the Constitution, arguing that the Founding Fathers never would have supported electing U.S. senators by popular vote. Along with that he dinged Hatch once more for not being in touch with the Utah state legislature, saying that that was why the majority of Republicans in Utah’s state congress were supporting Liljenquist.

Liljenquist’s conversation with another supporter discussing bailouts and other issues is available in a video (3:58 minutes) at the end of this article.

Liljenquist’s Chances?

Hatch is still the favorite to win the June 26 primary. At the Republican convention he received 2,243 votes — roughly 57% — against Liljenquist’s 1,108 votes, or about 28%. But since then the primary battle has received the attention of a number of state and national figures, with Liljenquist receiving the endorsements of the majority of his colleagues in the state legislature, along with the endorsements of the Gun Owners of America and popular conservative commentator Michele Malkin. On the other hand Hatch has been endorsed — many of them given, however, before it was clear that he would have a real primary challenger — by popular national figures such as Romney; Mike Crapo, Idaho U.S. Senator; Sam Brownback, Kansas Governor; Sarah Palin, former Alaskan Governor; and Hugh Hewitt, a popular conservative talk show host. In a very early poll taken in January 2012, 42% went for Hatch, 23% went for Liljenquist, and 30% said they were undecided.

Liljenquist has held over 200 town-hall meetings since declaring his candidacy in January.

BYU’s Gay Mormon Panel a Huge Success, Overflow Crowds Turned Away

Students and visitors vainly vying for seats in the full auditorium. Photo courtesy Christopher C. Smith.


On Wednesday night at Brigham Young University, a panel of three self-identified homosexual students and one bisexual student talked openly regarding their struggles with their sexuality and how they have coped with their same-gender attraction along with their Mormon faith. All four students were attending BYU and had committed to living Church standards and the BYU Honor Code.

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According to New Study Bears Immune to Bullets, Vulnerable to Pepper Spray

Pepper-spraying the animal in the face could have prevented this.

By Trevor Antley.

That’s right. According to a new study coming out of BYU, pepper spray fares better against an angry bear than, say, a bullet traveling 896 miles per second. While this may come as a surprise to some, those who have been following developments in the bear community know that in recent years both grizzly and black bears have begun donning Kevlar vests. Where exactly the bears are getting the vests is currently unknown.

Scientists are also quick to observe that due to the 6-foot range of most pepper sprays, its use means that the eager camper or hiker will get to see the large animals up close. A gun, they note, could be used from a less-exciting (although safer) distance, and the sound of the gunshot unfortunately often scares the animals into fleeing. If you want to get to know a bear up close, scientists say, guns are not the best option.

We can all pray for a day when humans and bears will coexist without having to maul, shoot, or maim one another, but that day–if it’s anything more than a pipe dream–does not appear to be coming soon. Until then we can only stock up on pepper spray and hope that whoever is supplying the bears with the vests doesn’t give them pepper spray too. If the bears have pepper spray then our advantage is gone, and the last thing you want is to be pepper sprayed by a bear.

In New Student Review, BYU Student Discusses Trials of being a Gay Mormon

By Trevor Antley.

This month’s edition of the Student Review, an independent newspaper managed by current and former BYU students, features an editorial by Nick Norman, a gay BYU student who writes candidly about his coming to terms with his sexuality in a culture and religion that is not often seen as sympathetic to homosexuality. You can read the fascinating editorial here.

“Kony 2012” Campaign Sweeps Provo/Orem, BYU

[Update: Invisible Children will be visiting BYU and screening their new viral documentary “Kony 2012” on March 15, 2012. Ugandan war-victim Nimaro Grace will be speaking as well. Location: 151 Tanner Building. Time: 7:30 PM, March 15, 2012. Facebook event.]

The humanitarian group Invisible Children posted their film “Kony 2012” on YouTube on March 5, 2012. Immediately the half-hour film, which is the flagship of Invisible Children’s new marketing campaign, went viral across social networking sites. Midday yesterday (March 6), the video had around 175,000 views on YouTube. Today (March 7), the video has netted almost 10,000,000 views. The purpose of the film is to bring national awareness to Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony and the atrocities that he and his group (the “Lord’s Resistance Army,” or LRA) has committed over the past two-and-a-half decades in central Africa.

Many Provo/Orem residents and BYU students readily got on board with the campaign. In lieu with the film’s goal, a Provo/Orem Facebook event was created for April 20 when those attending will “cover the night” with posters and images featuring the “Kony 2012” slogan and Joseph Kony’s image. The creators of the Facebook event, who are Provo and Orem residents, carefully note that while they are participating in Invisible Children’s campaign to raise awareness, they do not endorse people donating to the humanitarian group after several reports surfaced today and yesterday that questioned Invisible Children’s financial transparency. “There is some debate as to where money goes when donated to non-profits. This is something that should be considered whenever supporting any organization,” they write.

At the time I posted this article, the Provo/Orem Facebook event had 522 attending and 7,000 more invited, but the number was continuing to tick up. Those who are in the BYU, UVU, Provo, or Orem networks on Facebook are already being flooded with propaganda for the campaign as Facebook users continue to share Invisible Children’s YouTube film and post “Kony 2012” images and logos.

While today the campaign’s momentum seems to be continuing its crescendo, it seems incredibly unlikely that it will retain this amount of interest over the next month and a half leading up to its national April 20 event.

BYU Students Plan Protest after Uproar over Professor’s Remarks

After an uproar this week over allegedly-racist remarks made by popular BYU religion professor Randy Bott, a coalition of BYU students known as the Provo Peace Forum are planning ways to protest. The students are careful to emphasize that they are not protesting Professor Bott or his comments directly, but rather that their goal is to assist generally in “eliminating racism from the modern Mormon narrative.”

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BYU Professor Randy Bott’s Allegedly-Racist Statements; Students Plan Protest

After being quoted in a Washington Post article regarding the LDS Church’s evolving positions on race, popular BYU religion professor and LDS author Randy Bott has been accused of making racist remarks while defending the LDS Church’s historical ban on blacks from the church’s priesthood. On Tuesday the story began to go viral on social networking sites, leaving many BYU students deeply divided over whether Bott’s comments were appropriate.

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