[Editor’s note: This question has been edited to remove references to specific political or doctrinal topics, in order to prevent writers from going on tangents about individual issues and to help readers focus on the core question being asked. Such topics may be addressed by submitting individual questions with a narrower focus. This question has also been broken up into multiple paragraphs.]
Dear 100 Hour Board,
I've been a fan of the board for many years. You guys have been amazing for so long. I've really been amazed at the wittiness, quality, research, and admiration I've seen from your responses. By and large your performance has been phenomenal. I've seen it go through different phases. I've read thousands of questions. I just graduated from BYU and have read thousands of responses since I was in High School.
I apologize ahead of time if this offends the writers. The board has never gone this far as it has this year. The first trend that's alarmed me is that everyone is going wayyyyyyy liberal. Old writers from 10 years ago would be shocked at some of your opinions. By and large we Mormons are very conservative people. I'm not saying that you should all be ultraconservative, I'm just remarking that it seems that every writer here is left of center. I just think it's unfortunate that there's little diversity of opinion when you don't have any staunch conservatives anymore. I just want to know if there is at least 1 staunch conservative on the board. Is there??? I'm not implying that liberal Mormons make bad Mormons. But I am alarmed that so many board writers don't even have testimonies.
I know that there is a disclaimer that says that this site doesn't necessarily reflect the views of BYU. But I'm starting to feel that the board is becoming a den of apostates. I feel like if a board writer couldn't attend BYU because of their behavior and beliefs, then they probably shouldn't be a writer on the board at all. Are your answers assisting students on their path to eternal life? Many board readers are fed up with the subversive views that are creeping on to the board. I think it would be somewhat appropriate if the board writers were actually BYU students who were living the honor code. Why are ex-mormons still writing on the board? Why can't this be a faith based, faith promoting forum? Why would anyone still write here if they no longer believed in Christ's teachings? I'm legitimately wondering. WHY??? There are new-order Mormon forums and plenty of apostate leaning blogs in the Blogernacle for exmormons. I have loved this board for so long. And I am BITTER that it's changed so much.
The LDS church is GOD'S true church! I know that. You probably think that I'm some naive small town Utard that's super uninformed/non-intellectual. Guess what, I've grappled with almost every faith issue you all are, or have been dealing with. I'm not ignorant. All I'm asking is, can we have a board where the writers care about their covenants? Can we have a board where faith in God and His Son are valued? Can we have a board where we can all accept that Joseph Smith really did see God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God? Can we have a board where all of us are at least trying to get to the Celestial Kingdom?
Are there any of you board members who are just thinking some of the same things as me but are too afraid to admit where this board is heading? God loves all of you way more than I do. That's for sure. But I want you to know that I love and care about the board and that I'm heartbroken that collectively, it's going astray. So if you're some board member struggling with your testimony,can you promise to read the Book of Mormon every day for the next month? Can you promise to pray to God every night even if you may no longer believe that he's there? Can you try to make it to church this Sunday? So all I truly want to know is - can I pretty please have the board I love back?
Sword of Truth!
-My Name Here
We wanted to make sure that you are aware that we just concluded our annual alumni week, where former writers from any point in the Board's history are allowed to come onto the Board, give us an update on their lives, and answer any questions that happen to be in the inbox during that time.
For whatever reason, the population of former board writers that returns for this event typically feels like it skews liberal and less active. Nobody's really sure why that is. Even so, according to Board Question #89590 (which was asked during this past alumni week), two thirds of the writers who returned for alumni week are currently active in the Church. Board Question #89626 suggests that this activity rate is in line with the average retention rates for Mormon millennials.
At any rate, we welcome any and all of our writers back during this week. Although we prohibit writers and alumni from advocating apostasy, we want all of our writers and alumni to be comfortable expressing their opinions. We also want all of our writers and alumni to be able to be honest about where they're at in their spiritual lives.
Current writers must be current BYU students in good standing to be hired, which presumably means that they are living the Honor Code. The Board does not discriminate on the basis of political position when making hiring decisions. However, we have noticed that the current writers do skew more liberal, and that has honestly given conservative applicants a leg up in the hiring process, if anything. We want to be able to provide multiple viewpoints on any issue, and we want our writers to have interests and areas of expertise that lead to a well-rounded writership. If you know any current BYU students who are conservative, and have good writing and research skills, please feel free to encourage them to apply. We're always looking for new voices.
Writers who graduate during their time writing for the Board are currently allowed to continue to write. We've never had a writer who has lost their place at BYU due to an Honor Code violation, but I imagine if such a situation were to occur, we would take that very seriously.
We currently have multiple writers who are conservative or right of center in terms of politics. Specifically, Sunday Night Banter and Anne, Certainly come to mind. However, they are both pretty busy with other areas of their lives (SNB has been working a lot and Anne graduated from law school about a week ago). Haleakalā is politically pretty centrist, but definitely leans conservative when it comes to social issues. We also have a number of writers who identify as moderate, but have liberal or conservative views on individual issues.
As far as I am aware, virtually all of our current writers are active in the Church and are putting forth their best effort to live according to the commandments. (I say "virtually" because I'm not intimately involved in the personal details of everyone's lives). Although I am aware of individual writers who are struggling with specific points of testimony, I feel comfortable saying that the vast majority of the current writers have a testimony of the essential truthfulness of the Church and are trying to do what God would have them do.
I think it's possible that our liberal writers tend to be more outspoken on certain issues, due to the fact that BYU and the Church as a whole is pretty conservative, as you noted. Because of this, liberal writers may feel some pressure to make what they perceive to be the minority viewpoint (at BYU in general, not necessarily on the Board) heard. Writers who are more conservative, and thus more "mainstream," may personally hold conservative opinions, but might not feel as concerned about reiterating the status quo every time a question comes up.
I'm sorry to hear that you feel disappointed in the tone the Board has taken. I'd like to encourage you to continue to read, and maybe re-calibrate your views over the next couple months as alumni week fades into the distance. And, as always, please feel free to submit questions on any topic of your choosing. (When questions are asked about LDS doctrine or culture, they typically tend to be about more controversial issues, due to the fact that many readers have other sources they feel comfortable turning to for more mainstream questions. If you would like to see a more spiritual tone on the Board, can I encourage you to ask questions that are geared towards discussions of various gospel principles, or that would encourage Board writers to share spiritual experiences they've had? Those are almost always enjoyable to answer from our perspective, as well.)
I'm glad that you've loved the Board for so long, and am sorry you feel like it's going in the wrong direction. As the Editors mentioned, alumni week just ended, and to my knowledge (which isn't perfect on this matter) it is essentially only Board alumni and not current writers who have left the Church. To help settle some of your concerns, I'd invite you to read other questions outside of alumni week.
Combing through my own answers, keeping in mind that I've been writing for less than 5 months, I have mentioned God 108 times (not including this response, or responses commenced after May 3). That averages to a little less than 1 out of 3 answers where I talk about God (of course the distribution is different from the average, but still). In addition to the references to God, I've mentioned the temple 32 times in my answers, which averages to about once per every ten answers.
Like you, I'm a native Utahn, and I know God is my Father, and Christ is my Savior. I believe that Joseph was a true prophet of God, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is God's restored Church on the earth. I believe the doctrines taught in the Church are true, and I fully support and follow the prophet, Thomas S. Monson in whatever he directs the Church to do. Despite what you may think, I actually am a covenant keeper. Since taking out my endowments almost a year ago, there have been less than ten weeks where I have not gone to the temple (note: I am not implying that a person has to go to the temple every week in order to be a covenant keeper, but merely that it serves as a useful indicator of covenant keeping).
Honestly, it kind of hurts to to hear you say that I am going in the wrong direction, and contributing to an atmosphere of apostasy. What would you even have me do? I've been reading in my scriptures every day for years, pray to God not just every night, but every morning too, and often during the day. I even pray about some of my responses, believe it or not. I go to Church for the full block every Sunday, and do my best to faithfully serve in both my callings. Your question implies that while these are great things, what you really want to see is for me to change from slightly left of center to right of center.
Considering this, and how closely politics and religion are intertwined in your question, I want to take this opportunity to address that relationship a bit. From my perspective, religion informs people's core beliefs about what is right and wrong. Politics steps in at the implementation stage of those beliefs. To illustrate this, think of the belief that drugs are bad, and that people shouldn't do them (barring appropriate medical cases). Say that two people share this belief. The same belief causes one person to want all drugs to remain illegal in order mitigate their presence in society. The other person reasons that people will do drugs either way, and believes that legalizing drugs will allow for greater regulation, raising the price of drugs through taxes, and thus ultimately lessening drug use in the economy. Both people want to reduce drug use, but they have different beliefs about which is the best way to go about doing that. Is one more righteous than the other? If so, by what criteria? Does righteousness ultimately come down to who has more effective implementation strategies? I certainly don't think so.
You may have different ideas about the best way to implement gospel doctrines than I do, and that's okay. It doesn't make you a worse person to be different. But it also doesn't make me a worse person.
I've written several different answers in an attempt to capture how offensive your "question" is, in part because it's taken a lot of effort for me to remove the profanity. But in the end, what I want to say is this:
If you don't like the Board, don't read it. And maybe try not to be so rude to people who are just trying to help you.
I just want to say that I have a testimony, I am pretty conservative, and I have tried to do my best to bring the gospel into answers that I have written. A thank you would be nicer than your question came across. We (speaking of all of the writers as a whole, past and present) are really trying our best to live the best lives we can. Please be patient with us as we work things out.
Please keep in mind that most of us are still in our twenties and we are still trying to figure life out!
-Sunday Night Banter
Your question interested me, so I made a survey and had the current writers take it. It was anonymous, so I feel pretty sure that they answered honestly.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no experience in survey design or methodology. Also, I apologize in advance for the fact that the graphics are a bit blurry; I can't seem to fix that.
I'm pretty sure we have about 21 current writers, and the survey received 17 responses. This was a pretty good rate, since we have quite a few writers who are technically current, but haven't answered anything in months.
First, I asked some basic questions about Church activity and commandment-keeping:
In general, do you consider yourself active, somewhat active, somewhat less active, or less active?
What percentage of the time do you attend church?
When you attend church, which meetings do you attend (select all that apply)?
Which of the following best describes you?
Are you trying to get to the Celestial Kingdom?
These results pretty much speak for themselves. Current Board writers are overwhelmingly active, attending their meetings, and trying to get to the Celestial Kingdom. They are all keeping the Honor Code and/or living Church standards.
Next, I asked a few questions about the role that the Church played in their life:
With 0 being "do not value at all" and 10 being "value greatly," how would you describe role that faith in God and His Son plays in your life?
With 0 being "do not value at all" and 10 being "value greatly," how would you describe role that covenants play in your life?
Board writers overwhelmingly find that faith in God and Jesus Christ, and keeping covenants with them, plays an extremely valuable role in their life.
Then I asked some testimony questions:
Do you believe the Church is true?
Please respond with your beliefs about the following statements about Joseph Smith: Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ during the First Vision, Joseph Smith was a prophet, and Joseph Smith restored the original Church of Christ to the earth.
(I'd like to note here that the writer who answered "strongly disagree" also identified as active and answered "yes" to the "Do you believe the Church is true?" question. This leads me to suspect that they intended to respond with "strongly agree," and misread the answer options.)
Please respond with your beliefs about the following statements about the Book of Mormon: the Book of Mormon is doctrinally true, the Book of Mormon is a historically accurate record of an ancient people, and Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God.
(As with the Joseph Smith question, I'm pretty sure that the writer who responded with "strongly disagree" meant to respond "strongly agree".)
Assuming that my interpretations of the outlying answers are correct, Board writers overwhelmingly have firm testimonies of the basic tenets of the Restoration, with room for reasonable and normal questions or reservations that many active members have.
Next, I asked a few questions about where the writers fall politically, and how they believe politics intersects with the Church:
What is your political affiliation?
Please provide your opinions on the following statements about the intersection of the Church and politics: Church doctrine corresponds more closely to conservative politics, It is possible to be politically liberal and an active Mormon, I feel conflict between my political views and the doctrine of the Church, and I feel conflict between my political views and the culture of the Church.
These results show that the Board does skew liberal politically; about 2/3 of the Board writers identified as left of center. Part of me wonders if I should have provided an option to simply select "centrist," but I feel like if too many people selected that, there wouldn't be as much clarity.
The second graph shows that, in general, writers don't feel like there's much conflict between being a liberal Mormon and believing in the doctrines of the Church. It also shows that writers do feel that there is some conflict between Mormon culture and liberal political beliefs. The second graph also indicates that we have a writer who is pretty committed to a politically conservative approach to the Gospel.
Finally, I asked a few questions to gauge whether writers feel that liberal or conservative opinions are favored or discriminated against on the Board:
Please rate your opinion on the following statements about 100 Hour Board culture: there is little diversity of political opinion on the Board, there is little diversity of doctrinal opinion on the Board, the Board is more liberal than the average BYU population, liberal opinions are discouraged on the Board, and conservative opinions are discouraged on the Board.
Please rate how comfortable you feel expressing your opinions on the Board, with 0 being "extremely uncomfortable" and 10 being "extremely comfortable".
These results show that although the Board writers are aware of the fact that the Board writers are more liberal as a whole than the BYU population, they have pretty ambivalent feelings about whether this results in homogeneous opinions on political or doctrinal topics.
I found it interesting to compare the results of these two questions in regard to how welcome conservative and liberal opinions are on the Board. The first question would seem to indicate that writers feel that conservative opinions are slightly less welcome than liberal opinions. (Interestingly, one of the "somewhat agree" responses to that statement was by a writer who identified as "left" in the political affiliations question.) However, the second question indicates that Board writers felt ever so slightly more comfortable expressing conservative opinions, although the results are so evenly tied as to suggest that on average, writers feel equally comfortable.
I actually think these results make sense. Since the Board is currently two-thirds politically liberal, there is definitely going to be a peer pressure effect in terms of conservative vs. liberal opinions. I think the writers are pretty good at respecting each other, and it's kept to a minimum, but being the minority voice in a group is always going to feel a bit intimidating. On the other hand, since the Board is unofficially hosted by BYU, there's a sense that conservative opinions aren't going to upset the administration or reflect badly upon BYU, because BYU is overwhelmingly conservative. However, liberal opinions always run the risk of seeming too "out there" for a website that ends in .byu.edu.
The current Board writers are overwhelmingly active, testimony-holding, good members of the Church. The Board also is more liberal than the BYU population. This results in some inevitable skewing towards the left, but overall, the Board is happy to allow writers to express both conservative and liberal opinions, and the writers feel reasonably comfortable expressing themselves regardless of political affiliation. Writers acknowledge that liberal opinions are often at odds with church culture, but do not feel that they are incompatible with Church doctrine.
Personally, I would echo the Editors' suggestion to read for a little while and see if your perception was skewed by alumni week. If, after further reading of only the current writers' answers, you still feel that the Board is apostate, you might need to reëxamine whether you truly believe that one can be liberal and a good Mormon.
Thanks for the opportunity to do this survey, it was fun.
So I'd like to point out to you that saying "I'm not implying that liberal Mormons make bad Mormons" and immediately following it with "But I am alarmed that so many board writers don't even have testimonies" actually does imply that liberal Mormons don't have testimonies and, as such, make bad Mormons. Like, you are correlating through your own words lack of testimony/apostacy and liberal political tendencies. That's not okay, that's not fair, and that's most certainly not Christlike.
As many writers have already pointed out, Alumni Week just happened and about a third of the alumni writers who come back for that event are no longer a part of the Church. Also, as alumni, they are not required to live the Honor Code regardless of their current level of involvement with the Church. This understandably leads to a week of Board answers that perhaps lean farther left politically and don't necessarily fall right in line with the teachings of the Church.
But maybe you're not just talking about Alumni Week. Maybe you're talking about the overall tone of the Board over, say, the past year. Well again, as has been pointed out, we here on the Board are mostly students at BYU and as such are required to be living the Honor Code as much as you were prior to graduating. Yes there are a few current writers who are graduated and thus not bound by the Honor Code, but they are all still trying their best to live the best lives they can.
The thing is, whether or not you are basing your question off of Alumni Week answers or the general tone of answers over the whole past year, the way you've decided to address the issue at hand is quite possibly the worst option you could've chosen. Accusing people you don't know of being apostate, of having no testimony, and of not deserving to write for the Board because of *GASP* liberal political opinions is stellar way to make people not want to listen to you at best, and at worst, a great way to drive people who are actually struggling further away.
I'm sorry you feel uncomfortable on the Board now. I truly am. But the thing is, if the reason you're uncomfortable is because I (and other writers) don't align perfectly with your personal worldview, that's not my problem. I encourage you to check out Elder Holland's talk from the most recent General Conference. He talks about the Church as if it were a Choir made up of all sorts of voices: sopranos and basses, altos and tenors, and everything in between. He then says that every voice in that choir is important, and that the harmonies created by these differing voices lead to a more beautiful "sound" then if it were all just in unison or if there were only one single voice.
That's a prophet, seer, and revelator telling me that I, a liberal Democrat from a small town in North Idaho have an important place in the Lord's Church. Telling me that my bisexual, liberal, Democrat wife from Canada has an important place in the Lord's Church. Telling me that my inactive, gay, liberal, Democrat brother has an important place in the Lord's Church (if he'll take it). Telling me that my cousin and aunt and uncle from the Midwest who are conservative, Trump-supporting Republicans, have an important place in the Lord's Church. Telling me that YOU, evidently a conservative, Republican BYU graduate, have an important place in the Lord's Church. I may not agree with all of the people I just listed on every point of politics and doctrine. But I'm strongly inclined to believe Elder Holland when he tells me that the presence of all these people in the Church make it better and more beautiful. The question is, are you?
To an extent, I understand where you are coming from. It's sad for me to read about past writers leaving the church. It's sad for me that my best friend left the church. When I was growing up, it was sad for me that my parents didn't care about the church. This is because deep down, I love the church and am deeply loyal to it. I feel eternally indebted to it because without it, I would not know the people that I know, I would not have the education that I have, and I would not be the person that I am (not that I'm anywhere near great, but I would be struggling hard). However, it pains me just as much that there is a lot wrong with LDS culture. I think it pushes a lot of people away because, frankly, aspects of it are repulsive. The perfectionism and shame it inspires makes me sick. Eating disorders, LGBTQ youth killing themselves, women who feel they are at fault for being raped or sexually abused are all TERRIBLE HORRIBLE THINGS. (I know that that these problems are not exclusive to LDS culture, but I think they are particularly deeply entrenched.) There are also some doctrinal and historical issues that pain me. For the most part I have made peace with them, but I continue to feel a lot of empathy for people who feel driven away by them.
I don't think having nuanced or complicated feelings makes me a bad Mormon. Actually, I think it makes me a better Mormon than I would be otherwise. I'm pretty orthodox in my beliefs about essential doctrines and consider myself pretty much in the center, politically speaking. I land to the left on some issues and to the right on others. At times I've discussed the fact that I don't really resonate much with the LDS cultural obsession with immediate biological family, mostly because my personal life experience with immediate biological family hasn't been good. I've also talked about how having OCD can make going to church hard. I don't think any of that is particularly subversive, and when appropriate I probably will still share my feelings about this when appropriate and relevant.
One last thing:
"By and large we Mormons are very conservative people. I'm not saying that you should all be ultraconservative, I'm just remarking that it seems that every writer here is left of center. I just think it's unfortunate that there's little diversity of opinion when you don't have any staunch conservatives anymore. I just want to know if there is at least 1 staunch conservative on the board. Is there??? I'm not implying that liberal Mormons make bad Mormons. But I am alarmed that so many board writers don't even have testimonies."
With all due respect, I think you actually are conflating being conservative with being a good Mormon. It seems like you think that most Mormons should be conservative even though the church does not have a political affiliation. I hope you reconsider this view.