Happy Valley: Best and worst of 2012

Best & worst of 2012

Caffeinated beverages are okay to drink, two BYU football players duke it out, a boy gets kissed under mistletoe, and a girl gets her own fashion line after receiving a nasty note.

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.

Bonus Round:

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!



  1. Stephen Smoot /

    I enjoyed the article, but have to comment on number 5, which has been highly garbled. What I write here are the facts of the matter as I have in my possession, which comes from reading both the emails in question and speaking with those involved. I am sure that as more details are released, things will be clarified.

    1. Daniel C. Peterson did not write the article. Gregory Smith did.

    2. The article was not a “personal attack” on John Dehlin. That’s what Dehlin, who hasn’t even read the article, nor the author of this piece, I would wager, tried to spin it as when he heard a critique of his online material was coming out from the Maxwell Institute. His intention, it seems to me, was basically to get it censored before it could be published, instead of doing the professional, honorable, and academic thing and responding to it after it was published. (One wonders precisely why Dehlin is so afraid of someone scrutinizing his podcasts and online material.)

    3. After being tipped off by someone inside the Institute (whose identity has elsewhere been revealed, but for discretionary reasons I will not repost here) of this alleged “hit piece”, Dehlin complained to a Seventy, and went along with his informant’s characterization of it as a “hit piece” without so much as first reading it for himself. In the e-mail to the Seventy, Dehlin threatened to take the matter higher up to an Apostle if he didn’t get his way. Dehlin succeeded in censoring it before the article could see the light of day.

    4. The directive to scrub the article came not from an Apostle or a Seventy, but from an emeritus GA who is in the current BYU administration.

    5. Peterson was sacked, but not solely because of the article. The article was the catalyst, you might say, that led Bradford to finally fire Peterson and take over the Institute in a coup, but there’s much more to the story than Dehlin and his supporters keep saying. Internal politics in the Institute came to a head with the article, but it wasn’t the cause of the firing itself, it was the excuse.

    The whole affair, I have been told, is going to be published by those involved. At the end of the day, I am convinced that Dehlin is not going to come out of this looking good. Having been privy to some of the inside details to all of this, including having read the article in question and a detailed history of what went down, I can say that Dehlin has good reason to worry about the very carefully crafted public image he has made for himself over the years.

    • Do you listen to Mormon Stories? You make John Dehlin sound like a conniving man with a masked anti-Mormon agenda. I have listened to over 100 episodes now and feel it’s one of the most balanced, honest podcasts on Mormonism available.

      I don’t mean this to be an ad hominem attack towards you, but I do feel a need to defend John because I believe he has made a great contribution to the Mormon world with his podcasts, particularly for those struggling with a crisis of faith and/or those who are marginalized members of the church. I, for one, know he has helped me significantly.

      • David /

        Nothing in Steven Smoot’s response is inaccurate. John Dehlin, without having read the paper or speaking with anybody who had, characterized it as a hit piece and initiated the censorship, which I find highly ironic given nature of his website.

    • Corey L. Wozniak /

      this is titillating. i wish you’d spill more details.

    • I’m grateful to Stephen Smoot for setting the record straight regarding Item 5, above.

      As he says, I didn’t write the article. But, unlike John Dehlin and (it seems) anybody at the “Student Review,” I’ve read it, and I disagree with any characterization of it as a “personal attack.”

      As for the role played in the matter by an unnamed member of the Seventy: He hadn’t read the article, either. And it’s not precisely clear what he may have said. By the time it got to me, however, after the Seventy had spoken with a BYU administrator who then spoke with the director of the Maxwell Institute who then spoke with me, it had become a directive that the “Mormon Studies Review” not publish the piece, which none of them had seen. I instantly complied. I withdrew the article from the forthcoming issue and substituted another.

      My dismissal from the editorship of the “Mormon Studies Review” followed a week or two later, and came by email while I was out of the country. But — just to be clear — at that point I also resigned (I wasn’t fired) as director of “advancement” (fundraising) for the Maxwell Institute, because my dismissal as editor had expressly been described as part of a realignment of the Maxwell Institute that I felt I could not support (for, among others, ethical reasons).

    • palerobber /

      so Steven, when you say you’ve spoken to “those involved” (plural), who exactly are you refering to? could you list them, please. it would really help in evaluating the veracity of your claims. thanks in advance.

      • Stephen Smoot /

        Palerobber -

        I’m not at liberty to say. Suffice it to say that it involved at least three of those directly involved, one individual close to Dehlin, and copies of the e-mails sent out by Dehlin and others involved while the debacle unfolded.

        Patience. I am told that the details of the full story will see the light of day sometime in the future. In the mean time, I am obliged not to say much more.

        Also, remember that I’m only a third party to all of this. Anything you get from me you get secondhand, as I did not participate directly in the events relating to this episode. I am sure, as I said above, that as the details are slowly revealed more will be clarified, which may include things I have both said here on this article, and which I wrote in the article I published last year with the SR on this subject.

  2. This is a good list.

  3. I know that the student review serves to kind of “oppose” the daily universe in a realistic sort of way, but honestly, does it always have to be so negative and sarcastic about everything? You can report the facts without putting people down.

    • What Jules said.

    • Corey L. Wozniak /

      I feel this, too.

    • Jenna G. /

      The student review doesn’t serve to oppose the daily universe, it just tries to do what the daily universe doesn’t, which is to actually address issues. It’s not always negative (hence the positives listed in this article) it just doesn’t sugarcoat everything

    • I have an amazingly simple solution for the problem of reading a paper which reports on BYU stories and a non-flattering light (should the stories deserve to be reported in a non-flattering light). Don’t read it.


  4. Anton /

    Readers shouldn’t expect to get an honest response from the apologists who’ve posted comments here. For John Dehlin’s own assessment, see here:


    Notice that, in contrast to both Smoot and Peterson, Dehlin says that he spoke with people “who had read” the article. So, some people who read it felt that it was a “hit piece”; on the other hand, the Mopologists, who don’t exactly have a track record of treating people nicely or fairly, object to that characterization.

    What’s the truth, then? My suggestion is that you go through some of the articles in “Mormon Interpreter” (especially the ones by Midgley), or read some of the old email exchanges archived on SHIELDS. Or read Daniel C. Peterson’s “Text and Context,” where he argues that the works of gay writers shouldn’t be trusted because they’re “tainted” by sin. This should give anyone who’s curious a sense of whether or not Dehlin was justified in thinking that the article was a smear piece.

    • Among other things, Anton wildly mischaracterizes my argument in “Text and Context” and, on the whole, provides a textbook illustration of the classic logical fallacy often called “poisoning the well.” (His use of the term “Mopologists” is an unmistakable indicator, for those who’ve paid attention to these matters, as to where he’s coming from.)

      Not worth a point by point response.

      • palerobber /

        excerpt from “Text and Context”, Daniel C. Peterson, FARMS Review 1994:

        However, the classical ad hominem is an argument, and I do believe, along with virtually all logicians, that ad hominem arguments can be legitimate, relevant, and significant—provided their limitations are clearly understood and their conclusions properly weighted. [...]

        The uneven but fascinating book ‘Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior,’ by E. Michael Jones, will serve as an example of the logically legitimate use of ‘ad hominem’ analysis. With learning and passion, Jones shows repeatedly how certain influential theories, writings, and works of art [...] grew organically from the often warped and immoral lives of those who produced them. [...]

        In the brilliant third chapter of Degenerate Moderns, entitled “Homosexual as Subversive,” E. Michael Jones demonstrates the crucial and explanatory role of personal lifestyle [...] in the theories of [British economist] John Maynard Keynes [...]. “Modernity [...] was a radically homosexual vision of the world and therefore of its very nature subversive; treason was its logical outcome [...] Keynes’ economic theories [...] were the sodomitical vision for public consumption.” [...] In any event, it seems clear that immorality (not merely of the homosexual variety) and intellectual apostasy are, and always have been, frequent (though not invariable) companions. [...]

        • Thanks to palerobber for providing that excerpt, which demonstrates that I didn’t say that “the works of gay writers shouldn’t be trusted because they’re ‘tainted’ by sin.”

          I appreciate palerobber’s efforts to show how poorly Anton had read my article. I should have done the work myself, but have been very busy of late, and it was good of palerobber to step forward.

    • Oh. One point, though: There is no such journal, so far as I’m aware, as “Mormon Interpreter.” There is, however, a journal called “Interpreter,” or, more fully, “Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.” It’s online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com.

    • Stephen Smoot /

      I would wager that Anton has not read Smith’s article, just like Dehlin hasn’t.

      It doesn’t help one’s credibility to say, “Well, I haven’t read such-and-such. But so-and-so has, and they told me what it was about, so that’s good enough for me.” Yet this is precisely what Dehlin did and what his followers continue to do.

      For the record, I have read Smith’s article. (Heck, I’m even credited in two footnotes for having helped him with a part of it.) It is nowhere near the “hit” or “smear” piece I keep hearing from Dehlin’s followers, who, incidentally, also haven’t read it. It does, however, shed a very piercing light on Dehlin’s very carefully crafted public persona, among other things.

  5. All in all, I think I’d like to send my kid to a school where the ‘Best’ of 2012 included a bunch of guys stealing a female student’s front door combination, stealing all of their belongings out of the front room, violating the rental agreement by installing sod on the front floor and then putting, and leaving, live animals in strange place without food and water.

    One has to wonder what they did for follow up? Throw the chicks and the rabbits off the balcony? Who’s parents paid for the ‘clean up’ on this travesty?

    Doesn’t the ‘Honor Code,’ at least, prohibit lying and cruelty to animals?

Feel strongly (or maybe not)? Comment away.