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 Change.org 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.

“Mormons for Ron Paul,” Libertarians Protest Outside of Paul Ryan’s Provo Fundraiser

As Wisconsin Congressman and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan had dinner with wealthy donors and spoke to local students in the new Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, a small group of Libertarian protesters had their say on the sidewalk outside the event.

One man wore a dollar bill taped over his mouth and carried an American flag and alternating signs reading “Occupy Provo” and “A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the Status Quo.” Another man carried a large “Mormons for Ron Paul” sign, while a nearby woman carried “Vote for Gary Johnson” and “Romney/Ryan are Not Truly Conservative” signs. As Romney/Ryan donors left the convention center following the event, the woman supporting Gary Johnson shouted, “Ryan voted for the Patriot Act!”

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.

Review: The Student Review, Issue 1

By Trevor Antley.

Besides being an expert on relationships and social awesomeness, I also keep my ear to the ground about new happenings in the Provo, Utah area. And it happened just two days ago that my ear found outside my door the inaugural issue of a back-from-the-dead Student Review.

The Student Review was an independent Provo student newspaper established in 1986. Despite periodic popularity (and sometimes controversy), it was eventually discontinued only to be resurrected in the noble year of 2011. It’s self-described purpose is to provide “an independent forum for student thought” in Provo and at BYU. The paper lists its editorial staff as Tamarra Kemsley, Craig Mangum, and Hunter Schwarz, all three of whom, I believe, are current BYU students.

To sum up my impression of this first issue: the Student Review is comparable to that guy who only wears colored shirts to church. The paper seems to be eagerly trying to portray an “edgier” feel and to reach out to that colored-shirts crowd, something made obvious by the topics of articles and editorials in the first issue. Topics include: Mormons & Masons; BYU Women’s Services; “Confessions of an LDS sex therapist”; an interview with a Muslim BYU professor; and even a plug for the club/forum “Understanding Same-Gender Attraction.” If your brain is exploding from all the potential controversy, don’t feel bad. That’s why it took me two days to actually write a review.

This sort of colored-shirts-at-church attitude which oozes from the Student Review seems somewhat reminiscent of the Provo music scene where many Provo musicians struggle to portray an image that does not conform to traditional “Molly Mormon” and “Peter Priesthood” (have I ever mentioned I hate those terms and that they’re stupid generalizations of people? but I digress). And I’m guessing that the editors (whom I have never met and know nothing about) likely have some connection to that unique aspect of Provo culture, since the only adverts in the Student Review are for Provo’s Muse Music venue, and the published events calendar includes Muse’s as one of the few extra-BYU events listed.

Unfortunately, though, most of the Student Review‘s apparent edginess seems to be superficial. For example (and I admit this is a minor one), Sarah Smith’s article “Mormons & Masons” fails to even casually mention the very reason that the two groups’ relationship is controversial: the undeniable similarities between LDS temple and Masonic rituals. Although a provocative topic that immediately grabs readers’ attention, the article serves merely as a feel-good piece about how Masonry doesn’t conflict with Mormonism. Of all the attention-grabbing headlines in the Student Review‘s inaugural issue, I failed to find anything particularly controversial. Other articles were very interesting (such as the interview with Shereen) and the occasional blurbs were entertaining and sometimes poignant (really, why no Men’s Services at BYU?).

The lack of actual edginess is understandable and I don’t mean it as a real criticism, only a personal disappointment. Of course the Review doesn’t want to exclude the majority of more straight-laced BYU students, and in the ’80s and ’90s, the Student Review‘s controversial printings sometimes caused serious conflicts with BYU’s administration and caused problems for its editors and contributors. In this resurrected version of the Review, the editors (probably wisely) are going to great lengths to avoid butting heads with the BYU establishment, even complimenting their now-rival, the Daily Universe–although the Universe‘s editors and faculty at the BYU Communications department will likely notice the intended barb behind the title of the Review‘s opening piece describing the history of the Review: “Expand Your Universe.”

My only real criticism of this first issue is that if you’re going to make controversial headlines, put your money where your mouth is. If the paper survives for more than a semester, which considering the investment of its backers it will likely have to, then hopefully it will provide some candid and honest perspectives on items of interest to BYU students and Provo residents. I’m still waiting on that exposé of the BYU gay underground.