Maybe it was the pressure of knowing we were under the microscope during the “Mormon Moment.”
Maybe it was pent up anxiety about the looming end of the world and the prospect of all of us having to move to Missouri or fight zombies or whatever.
Maybe it was those girls on campus who continually insist on wearing leggings under skirts in spite of all those very polite BYUSA banners that read “To the knees, please!” just to drive the rest of us to the edge via righteous indignation and/or sexual frustration.
But for some reason or another, Brigham Young University and the greater Happy Valley area in general couldn’t seem to keep from letting it all hang out on the World Wide Web this 2012. And so, here at the end of the year in a miraculously not-post-Apocalypse world (unpack your bags, unload the shotguns), I throw off all semblances of journalistic objectivity and general reverence and present to you:
Happy Valley Goes Viral: Best and Worst of 2012
Worst Black History Month Ever
In February, BYU celebrated Black History Month by executing the rare Double Public Relations Face Plant. First, it was a YouTube video entitled What Do You Know About Black History? in which “comedian” David Ackerman did man-on-the-street interviews about Black History Month on campus. The responses were less than flattering to the public image of BYU students. The video got over 700,000 views, sparked Internet controversy, and several local papers wrote articles about the incident. However, in the end it was the comedian who drew the most criticism for his use of blackface and for intentionally attempting to depict BYU students as ignorant and racist.
Three weeks later, a Washington Post article quoted popular religion professor Randy Bott as he explained why the Church did not grant Black male members the priesthood until 1978 in a manner which some have described as “no worse than what my old, racist grandfather would have said.”
The Church quickly released a statement stating that Professor Bott did not speak for the church and his comments did not reflect doctrine. Articles and blog posts were written, social media comments were made, and a small group of students protested the remarks on campus.
And that was February.
Oh shoot, I forgot about the Worst Valentine Ever
During the intermission between awkward racist comments, an unknown male student took time out of his presumably busy life to act as a one-man Civic Virtue Brigade. Apparently driven to madness by the visibility of fellow student Brittany Molina’s stockinged knees, he handed her a note that read:
“You may want to consider that what you’re wearing has a negative effect on men (and women) around you. Many people come to this university because they feel safe, morally as well as physically, here. They expect others to abide by the Honor Code that we all agreed on. Please consider your commitment to the Honor Code (which you agreed to) when dressing each day. Thank you.”
And there was much Online Raging. (Though things apparently turned out okay for Brittany).
And THAT was February.
Best Debate About a Mall Any of Us will Likely Ever See
In Salt Lake City, the lavish City Creek Center opened on March 22 again causing an explosion of opinion in the Bloggernacle, due to the fact that it is owned in part by the LDS Church and cost roughly $5 bajillion worth of the widow’s mite to build. Detractors called it the Anti-Christ of Shopping Malls (Retractable Roof/Fake Creek Division) and supporters insisted it was the pure manifestation of God’s Will on Earth. The unaware proletariat streamed in happily to look at things they couldn’t afford, and all the cool stores ditched Gateway to hang out with the popular new kid.
It Gets Best in April
Thanks to the efforts of BYU’S Understanding Same Gender Attraction and Sociology faculty members Renata Forste and Charlie Morgan, BYU hosted a student panel in which Adam White, Bridey Jensen, Brandon Bastian, and Nathan Paskett discussed their experiences as homosexual or bisexual students and answered audience questions. Several hundred students attended the event, many of whom crowded around the doors and in the hallway, unable to get a seat. USGA saw a huge increase in membership following the panel. A few days later the “It Gets Better at Brigham Young University” video was posted to YouTube, in which USGA members offered experiences and messages of support to LGBT Mormon Youth. The event and video were widely hailed as a great success in opening up dialogue about homosexuality on campus and in the Mormon community.
On June 3, Mormons Building Bridges became the first-ever all LDS group to march in the Salt Lake City Pride Parade. Over 300 members of all ages walked at the front of the parade to enthusiastic reception as they expressed love and support for their LGBT brothers and sisters. Mormons Building Bridges was the first of the more-than-seventeen LDS groups that marched in Pride parades across the United States in 2012.
Best New Direction/Worst Petty Man-Drama
In June, a long, drawn-out and dramatic battle of words ended with BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship firing Daniel Peterson, prominent LDS apologist, as editor of the Mormon Studies Review. Peterson had written a personal attack against John Dehlin, founder and host of the sometimes-controversial Mormon Stories podcast, for publication in the journal. The 100-page article (100? Seriously?) was brought to the attention of a friend of Dehlin’s, who also happened to be a General Authority, there were many long e-mails, the word ad hominem was used a lot, the article was pulled, and Peterson was fired. The change represents a new direction for the journal, which aims to assimilate more into the academic world of religious studies. The new editorial team is still being assembled, and the Mormon Studies Review is on hold until further notice.
Though this event was not “viral” in the more typical sense of the word, though it sent the Bloggernacle into frenzy. The mainstream media merely poked its head in for five seconds, dodged a glass being thrown against the wall, got bored and confused and walked out.
Best First World Cause
At last, the BYU student body proved itself capable of uniting around a common cause and working together for the betterment of society. Sort of.
In September, after the LDS Newsroom released a statement clarifying that the Word of Wisdom does not forbid all caffeinated beverages, just tea and coffee, BYU Spokesperson Carri Jenkins said that the reason no caffeinated sodas are sold on campus is because there “has not been a demand for it.” In response, students attempted to demonstrate the demand that everyone knows exists by creating Facebook groups and even staging what was possibly the briefest protest in all of history. Creator Skyler Thiot later shut down the BYU for Caffeine Facebook page, stating it had become too contentious.
And then the buzz wore off and everyone got sleepy and sank back into their still-not-caffeinated stupor.
Worst Location for a Fight
On Halloween night, a 3-a.m. fight in a popular local Mexican restaurant Rancheritos led to the dismissal of two BYU football players and made everyone realize that stereotypes of football players as testosterone-fueled man-beasts are completely unfounded. In addition to being dismissed from the team, Joe Sampson and Zac Stout were charged with misdemeanor assault charges, along with two other men. On the upside, our boys did us proud and upheld the Honor Code, managing to get into a 3 a.m. brawl without even having to be appallingly drunk to do it. Go Cougars!
Wait, that makes it worse.
Best to Keep Laughing
In spite of the turbulence of the year, BYU students managed to keep their sense of humor. Twice, BYU student’s unique brand of good-spirited pranking got its coveted fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube. First, in April, this video of a girl’s apartment being turned into an unbearably adorable Easter wonderland went viral, with over 900,000 views. In December, an experiment conducted in the Wilk on the use of Mistletoe got over 18 million.
Worst Thing to Make a Death Threat Over
A group of Mormon feminists declared December 16 “Wear Pants to Church Day,” as a gesture of solidarity among LDS feminists and as a statement of desire for discussion about equality between the sexes in the LDS faith. The initial posting drew mild interest and a “Meh. I don’t think it’s much of a story,” from recently retired Student Review Editor Tamarra Kemsley.
Within a few days however, Facebook feeds had turned into time machines and transported users back to a simpler time, late 1960s perhaps, when for some reason, everyone had an incredibly strong opinion about women wearing pants. More moderate detractors stuck with calling the event participants “Evil Prideful Man Wannabes of Satan,” while the extremists went straight for death threats. About 2,000 people were listed as “Attending” when the event was removed from Facebook due to two such threats, which were subsequently investigated. Several major news sites, including National Public Radio and the New York Times, reported on the event. On Dec. 16, some women wore pants to church. The world failed to end five days later, in spite of this blatant prophetic sign.
It was usually the Student Review’s pleasure (sometimes not as much) to cover these stories and more over the past year. We cannot wait to see what Happy Valley has in store for 2013 (correctly pronounced “twenty-thirteen,” right? I don’t recall anyone saying “one thousand nine hundred ninety-nine”). Hopefully we’ve all learned some Do’s and Do Not’s from this year’s wrap-up. When planning your next viral local video/scandal/outfit, remember to be creative, take pictures, and stay classy! We’ll see you all next year!