An Open Letter to Rick Miller, BYU Sociology Department Chair

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On September 28, 2016, LDS Answers released, “BYU Sociology Department encourages students in Karl Marx’s class struggle”, in regard to a free t-shirt giveaway sponsored by the BYU Sociology Department with the words “The class struggle is real” and a portrait of Karl Marx.  

Rick Miller, chair of the Sociology Department at Brigham Young University, left the following comment on the article:

I am the chair of the sociology department at Brigham Young University, and I thought it might be appropriate for me to respond to this post. The t-shirt with a picture of Karl Marx and the caption “The Class Struggle is Real” was chosen as part of our social media promotion because the faculty felt that it was a good joke. It was a play on words, a pun, with class struggle referring to the struggle of students trying to get an A in classes at BYU. Our students got the joke, and our faculty got the joke.

Our decision to delete comments from our Facebook page was based on the fact that the posts were distracting from the intent of what we were trying to do. We weren’t making a statement about Karl Marx; we were trying to get students to start looking at our social media in order to create a better learning community among our students and faculty. This was supposed to be a little fun activity with our students, not a serious discussion about the merits of Karl Marx and whether or not his writings should be taught at BYU. It wasn’t the right time or place to have that discussion. Consequently, we deleted those comments.

I assure you that our curriculum, what we teach in the sociology department, is approved by our university administration and our Board of Trustees, which includes the First Presidency and other church leaders. We are teaching what the Brethren want us to teach. What better place than at BYU for students to be exposed to the “philosophies of men”, where it can be taught from a gospel perspective by inspired instructors who are faithful disciples of Christ?

Thank you, Rick, for your response and for your time.  

You may be interested to learn why so many thousands of Latter-day Saints are having a problem with the BYU Sociology Department’s “t-shirt giveaway”. We believe the problem many are having with the “giveaway” is that it was a “joke”. The issue is the content.  The “joke” isn’t funny, even more, some find it extremely offensive. 

“The class struggle is real.”

The t-shirt your department promoted featured the words, “The class struggle is real.”  You may be unaware of the countless millions who have suffered because of Karl Marx’s “class struggle”.  To Christians and patriots throughout the world, there is nothing funny in Marxist ideology.  It is not a joke.  

Are we oversensitive?  Do we just need to lighten up?  To those who understand the history of Socialism, a t-shirt with the phrase “The class struggle is real” is very comparable to a pro-Hitler t-shirt emblazoned with “Help Hitler go the rest of the way”.  If your department was promoting pro-Hitler t-shirts of this flavor, it would be deeply offensive to those of us who are Jews, including the authors of this letter.  To be honest, it would be very difficult to distinguish who was the more evil and wicked, Adolf Hitler or Karl Marx.  Certainly, Karl Marx has had a far more damaging and destructive long term effect.

Sadly, this knowledge is not being passed to the rising generation.  Note this poll.  

victims of communism study
Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes towards Socialism, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Many Latter-day Saints are struggling to understand why the BYU Sociology Department would promote pro-Marx t-shirts and ideology.

Consider as another example, how funny would it be if a Kurdish teenager wore a t-shirt with the words, “Saddam Hussein had great arguments and promoted a liberating ideology!”?

AllRiot.com

Again the question, “Is it merely a good joke?”  

As you know, AllRiot.com is the manufacturer of the t-shirt promoted by the BYU Sociology Department.  What do the designers of the t-shirt at AllRiot.com have to say?  What was the intent behind this “work of art”?  What does an overview of their merchandise reveal?

A Facebook comment on the BYU Sociology post was left by someone who appears to have been a former BYU Sociology student. She urged students to “spread the love” and buy their own “Marx t-shirt” with a link to the original manufacturer, AllRiot.com. Should BYU be promoting AllRiot.com?   

facebook-allriot-byu-sociology-facebook-page

A brief overview of AllRiot.com reveals other t-shirts and merchandise of a similar bent for Marxists, Socialists or Left-wingers.  Just a joke?  

Big Brother Loves You CCTV T-shirt  

AllRiot.com advertises their stock “of protest-ready urban graphic t-shirts” as “disarmingly funny political t-shirts, and progressive liberal, left wing, statement and activist t-shirts.”  Do we all just need to lighten up?  They are “funny”, right?

We sincerely hope you do not find the following t-shirts humorous.  For example:

allriot-10

FUNNY BIG BROTHER T-SHIRT: CYBER CHRIST

Oh, come all ye faithful and hear Word of the Overlord!

Big Brother, our Unseen Hand, who hath come down from the Ivory Towers above to give us his only begotten brainchild.

Heed the commands of our Cyber Christ — our Shepherd, who protects his lambs for the slaughter, who was resurrected through false-flag terrorism, who will lead us to the Gates of Gitmo and into eternal detention!

Anti NSA surveillance t-shirt features a parody of the “Cruci-fiction of Cyber Christ” and how its loving sacrifice will bring us a world free of privacy and will brainwash away our sins.

Once YHVH, now CISPA and TTP. The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Description by AllRiot.com)

Nothing could justify this kind of blasphemous jest. Comparing the Son of God to the NSA and then mocking His sacrifice is not funny. While some find it amusing, others consider it sacrilegious.   

allriot-7

Profanity?

A simple overview of the site reveals language that reflects anything but that which is “. . . virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy . . .” (Articles of Faith 1:13)

allriot-11

allriot-1

allriot-2

LGBT

AllRiot.com also has “. . . many amazing LGBT, gay & lesbian pride shirts available on [their] website.”

allriot-8 allriot-9 allriot-5 allriot-6

Abortion Promotion

AllRiot.com is also pro-choice.  

allriot-4

Again, is this who and what the BYU Sociology Department should be promoting?

When Nothing Goes Right Go Left T-shirt

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The traditional political spectrum places Socialism and Communism on the left with Fascism on the right.  Dr. W. Cleon Skousen produced a far more accurate scale with complete tyranny, totalitarianism and zero freedom for the common man on the left, with anarchy and complete lawlessness on the right.

AllRiot.com’s “When Nothing Goes Right Go Left T-shirt” asserts that the “right” has failed.  Our only recourse is to turn left.  Is this really a message the Sociology Department wishes to promote?

graph-rulers-peoples-law-001

Karl Marx Told You So Political T-shirt

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How did Marx “tell us so”?  In addition to his work to destroy free enterprise and other principles of liberty, perhaps we should recall his demand for the abolition of the traditional family.

“Abolition [Aufhebung] of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists. . . . The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.” (The Communist Manifesto, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm)

“Blessed is he who has no family.” (Marx to Engels (21 June 1854), in MEW, XXVIII, p. 371.)

Is this humorous?  Is this a message that should be promoted?  We would suggest that the man who stood against everything The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands for, should not be respected, admired or even just condoned.

Karl Marx’s “family”

The t-shirt featured in the BYU Sociology Department giveaway featured a portrait of Karl Marx as well as his words.  For those who are not aware, Marx’s personal life and character is not funny and certainly nothing to be celebrated.  Karl Marx was a failure as a father and husband.  His wife and children languished in inhumane conditions as he apathetically indulged himself in pursuing “revolution”.  His wife endured the cries of her starving children, filthy living conditions, little to no finances, a consistent stream of creditors and the constant fear of being thrown into the streets.  Her husband on the other hand seemed to care very little for the plight of his family.  Two of his children eventually committed suicide. (Learn more at the Inspira Wiki)

Do your students learn the true character of Marx?  Do they learn the true nature of Marxist ideology?  Of course, the BYU Sociology Department should teach Marxism, but promoting this ideology as a healthy, viable philosophy is troubling to some Latter-day Saints. The following are several resources on Marx and Communism.  Would you and your department support teaching this perspective?

This recent t-shirt promotion has many Latter-day Saint parents worried that their children are not being taught the true history and perspective of the Presidents of the Church.

Endorsement of the First Presidency?

You claim that “. . . what we teach in the sociology department, is approved by our university administration and our Board of Trustees, which includes the First Presidency and other church leaders. We are teaching what the Brethren want us to teach.”  This is a curious argument, as we’ve never seen President Thomas S. Monson wearing an AllRiot.com t-shirt. Additionally, we’ve never seen him make any pro-Marxist or pro-Socialist statements. While on the other hand, President Monson reviewed the manuscript for what is now considered an extreme right wing work, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. It is also curious that you feel everything at BYU is approved by the First Presidency. We are not aware of any explicit endorsement of the following statements by BYU faculty members. 

BYU professor, Margaret Young:

Transcript:
We have some awful statements from all of the leaders of the Church.  So how can Darius and I do what we do and hold current temple recommends and know everything that was said in the past and still support The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  And basically it’s because we don’t believe in the infallibility of prophets. . . .

I’ve had to just kind of pinch my nose as I read through the terrible things that have been said by past leaders of the Church.  Understanding the damage that they’ve done and the damage that they continue to do. . . .

The way I see it, it’s kind of like when the Salt Lake Temple was constructed on the foundation of sandstone that simply was not adequate to hold up.  And the instructions came down, “tear it down!  It’s got to come down.  Tear it down so that you can build it on something that will last.”  And so all of that work had to be completely torn apart and the temple started again. (Listen to full interview)

BYU Associate professor, Chris Clement:

“President Benson obviously was not an intellectual giant, so we have to forgive him.  I am sure, out there in the afterlife, he is terribly embarrassed about many things he said and wrote . . .” (Read more at DefendingUtah.org)

BYU professor, Steve Peck:

Q: What’s your regard [thought on] to evolution with regard to man?

A:  “I absolutely believe that this physical body evolved.  I see lots and lots of evidence and to see it otherwise I would have to abandon the science of evolution to do so.  Um, however, interestingly in light of this fossil question, the spirit doesn’t fossilize well, so I don’t know anything about the nature of things, you know, in the distant past.  But I do believe that the human body is an evolved structure.

Q: What about the commandment to plants and animals to multiply in their own sphere?   How can evolution fit or work with this?  Can there still be still be species drift?

A: Uh, that’s a great question and I think, again, as was pointed out by Jeff, that the scriptures, when they conflict deep biology, or deep biology that we see, we can reinterpret them in different ways and so when it says that the plants command to do within their sphere we don’t know what that sphere means.  Does it mean the earth? Does it mean the sphere of life? Uh, there are lots of different interpretations and since we see from the fossil record and from DNA that clearly species have changed and evolved I think we don’t have to take the interpretation that they’ve evolved in their sphere. (Steven L. Peck, “Why Evolution and LDS Thought are Fully Compatible: Overcoming our Suspicions of Science”, Science & Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, & Man conference, November 9, 2013 Provo, Utah)

One might ask the question, “Is everything seen, taught and promoted by BYU approved by the President of the Church?”  President Benson acknowledged that there were many issues he wished to see corrected.

There is certain music heard and art seen and clothes worn on this campus [BYU] that must pass away not because the styles change but because our standards will be improved. (President Ezra Taft Benson, Brigham Young University Devotional Address, December 10, 1974)

President Benson clarified that the Lord will at times allow “tares” among the “wheat” as a test to see whether we will follow the Lord or be deceived. Some of us feel that simply because a t-shirt is promoted by the BYU Sociology Department, it does not follow that the Lord necessarily wishes that message to be conveyed.  

Sometimes, from behind the pulpit, in our classrooms, in our council meetings, and in our Church publications, we hear, read, or witness things that do not square with the truth. . . . Now, do not let this serve as an excuse for your own wrongdoing. The Lord is letting the wheat and the tares mature before He fully purges the Church. He is also testing you to see if you will be misled. The devil is trying to deceive the very elect. (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 134 and An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 317)

The prophet Moroni saw our day and one wonders who he was speaking to when he issued this somber warning about Latter-day Saint teachers in our day:

O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? (Mormon 8:38)

Could it be that some of these teachers foreseen by Moroni are those who promote Marxism, Darwinism, Deweyism, Keynesianism, Freudianism and other anti-Christ philosophies?  President Ezra Taft Benson warned parents that they must prepare their children to encounter these philosophies of men in their educational institutions.  

As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children; and if they have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others.  Today there are much worse things that can happen to a child than not getting a full college education. In fact, some of the worst things have happened to our children while attending colleges led by administrators who wink at subversion and amorality. (Ezra Taft Benson, Strengthening the Family, Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 21-25, also quoted in The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 307.)

In closing, we hope you can understand our perspective, that Marxism is not a joke.  We think it would help if you could clarify how your department teaches Marxism in light of the Gospel.

We welcome any comments if you feel that we are not understanding this issue correctly.  Thank you for your time.

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24 Comments on "An Open Letter to Rick Miller, BYU Sociology Department Chair"

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Hugh McKail
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According to the progressives, while a prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such, a BYU Department chair or professor teaches “what the Brethren want us to teach” all the time. They seem to have a special tap into the delegated authority and power of God none of the rest of us can or do enjoy.

Melanee
Guest

Hugh, well stated through tongue-in-cheek.

Aaron
Guest

Wow, this article illustrates the point perfectly. “Empty levity,” as Brigham Young called it, detracts from the dignity of those who indulge in it to excess. Such people “have little sense, and know not the difference between a happy smile of satisfaction to cheer the countenance of a friend, or a contemptuous sneer that brings the curses of man upon man.” (Journal of Discourses 9:290) This is not how the Prophets would have the youth exposed to the godless “philosophies of men”.

Kenneth
Guest
Everybody is entitled to free speech, and the last thing I would do is promote censorship of anybody for any reason. However, I get to choose whether or not I associate myself with people who choose to exercise their freedom by spreading asinine messages and tasteless rhetoric as “jokes”. As an ardent patriot and as a champion for God and His righteous principles of Liberty, it distresses me that BYU would encourage even the likeness of Marxism. While they may not be encouraging his evil ideology, they certainly seem to be representing it in a favorable fashion. I would readily… Read more »
Bradley Young
Guest
Marx is certainly not a joke. I am of the opinion that such ‘jokes’ are made because of a frightening general lack of knowledge about communism–something President Benson called, “Satan’s plan on earth.” Sadly, that ignorance apparently holds sway even among the highest levels of church education. The statistic above showing the ignorance of the majority of people in relation of the ‘evilness’ of Stalin, Hitler, and Bush are clear evidence that communism is not understood…perhaps because our nation is currently welcoming it in under the more friendly name of socialism. In order to do their best to correct their… Read more »
G.W. Sage
Guest
Thank you for the insight and invitation to conduct an open discussion on this topic. I find it very telling that Karl Marx was Jewish by race, and raised a Christian until he entered the university setting, and then rejected his own race and Christ while under the influence of his professors. (“To the Victor go the Myths and Monuments”, pg 342). My hope is that the professors that approved this “fun social media promotion” can be honest in their selection of the t-shirt design, the website they used, and the true socialogical experiment that was being conducted. Hiding behind… Read more »
Amy Brown
Guest
We are commanded to avoid loud laughter, lightmindedness, be serious minded, avoid the appearance of evil, teach all things from the Revelations, clearly collectively we are not doing this and I can only hold as tight as I can to the Rod for my family and myself and for that reason I doubt we would ever want our young kids to attend BYU. Satan is subtle, how anyone could think that things of this nature wouldn’t be suberbly effective to undermine young minds is beyond me. I seriously worry about how far, far we have fallen from our duties as… Read more »
Caleb Young
Guest
While I can understand that Rick Miller’s attempt to create a ‘funny’ class t-shirt might have been relatively innocent, I would agree with the article: this ‘joke’ and others like it make a “mock at sin.” (Proverbs 14:9) The true nature of communism has been very well put forth in comment by Bradley (shout out to my older bro!) as well as in the article. Another clarifying quote on communism made by President Benson FROM THE PULPIT at General Conference (speaking as a prophet): “Communism introduced into the world a substitute for true religion. It is a counterfeit of the… Read more »
Julie
Guest
I believe there is a time and a place for studying evil. But you have to teach the light AND the darkness to help youth understand why the Gospel is relevant to the real world. If you are going to study Karl Marx, Freud, Darwin, Dewey, Keynes etc. we need to make sure we know why they are FALSE. If we are studying them for light and truth we will be in serious trouble.This is just one of the areas we are being compromised by the enemy right now. If we are going to study the anti-Christs we should study… Read more »
Caleb Young
Guest

After hashing this over with my mom, we came to the additional conclusions that any publicity is good publicity. Joke or not, the t-shirt advertises and promotes Marx’s philosophies. Rick Miller says that BYU students should learn the “‘philosophies of men’, where it can be taught from a gospel perspective.” The philosophies of men and a gospel perspective are total opposites.

Jack of Hearts
Guest
Laying the deaths caused by communist dictators at the feet of Marx is an unfortunate rhetorical technique that simply doesn’t bear out. Was Brigham Young responsible for the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Are modern Church leaders responsible for the suicides of LGBT youth in Utah, as many would have us believe? Or perhaps, to make it more like the comparison to Marx, should we say Joseph Smith is responsible for those? We would never lay the atrocities of Europe’s religious wars, the Crusades, forced conversions to Christianity, or the Inquisition at the feet of the early apostles, would we? Attempting to… Read more »
Ken
Guest
I don’t disagree with you, Jack of Hearts. You make a valid argument. As I posted below, there’s a level of free speech at play. But one thing to consider: It’s true that Marx is not and cannot be held responsible for the actions of Stalin, Mao, Hitler, etc. they are responsible for their own actions. And the comparison to BY over the Massacres is a valid one. No, Marx cannot be held accountable. But the ideology that he pushed can be and IS accountable. But again, that can’t be blamed on Marx because Marx didn’t create it. His ideology… Read more »
Leah
Guest
So obviously you are disagreeing with President David O. McKay: Video version We are witnessing one of—one of those tidal waves of human though, which periodically sweep over the world and change the destiny of the human race. In the beginning a being known as Satan came before the Father saying: Behold, here am I. Send me . . . I will do it; (saving the human family who were to people this earth) wherefore, give me thine honor. (Another—) But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me, Father, thy will… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

“So obviously you are disagreeing with President David O. McKay.” Not sure where you go that idea. You can disagree with Marx and consider him a bad man without laying the victim of every subsequent development and elaboration of his theories at his feet. It’s a great rhetorical strategy, certainly, but not an intellectually rigorous one.

bboy
Guest
Laying every single sin committed in the name of communism at the feet of Marx may be not be completely justified. I, however, find it interesting that you comment about rhetorical strategies but the rhetoric used in your initial post doesn’t seem to stand up to scrutiny.(See post by Bradley below) It seems that the only thing you (Jack of Hearts) are doing is disagreeing with individual phrases or words while ignoring the actual issue. Do you think that publicizing Marx is a good idea? You stated that you find him, “a bad man.” If you find him a bad… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

“If you find him a bad man, why do you seem to be against encouraging the BYU sociology department to teach the truth about him?” Because the ends do not justify the means. I can agree with the OP’s stated goal while still pointing out bad arguments.

Bradley Young
Guest
Jack of Hearts, Not only is there a blatant fallacy in the comparison of Marx’s followers and those who carried out the Crusades or the Mountain Meadows Massacre but choosing to strain at a gnat, nitpicking about words (like approved or endorsed), while ignoring principles and clear doctrine which condemn Marx and all who follow or support him to damnation in some form, is pointless. (Please note that I am using the word damnation in an LDS sense meaning a loss of eternal progress and celestial blessings.) Let me explain. Let’s start with the fallacy of comparing those who followed/follow… Read more »
Samuel
Guest
Aside from the very many deaths caused by Marx, let’s look at his teachings. Let’s say for a minute that all of the death and destruction was not caused by him, do we really want these people to take the absolute horrific teachings of Karl Marx so lightly? Now, getting back to reality, where Marx was the cause, were the nazis that followed Hitler, even after his death, not Hitlers fault? I would say that the very men that invented such an idea should be taken as “the cause”. More specifically, I think this article hit the points it needed… Read more »
Leinad
Guest
In order to have absolute control over another person one must have crushed their spirit. I am not meaning when some one who loves another and serves with all there heart. To control someone against their will, their spirits must be crushed. Marx, came up with the method to do so, to do it oh so carefully. Once we have lost that freedom, the will to be free can come back to us, for we are naturally free. With the idea of putting oneself over another can only be done through a fight. Stalin killed to keep others in line… Read more »
Debra Holbrook
Guest

Lighten up people!

Caleb Young
Guest
Debra, Imagine we are presently in the war in heaven. Satan comes to one of your best friends, telling him/her to join his side against Heavenly Father. If your friend firmly and even passionately refuses, would you turn to him/her and say “Lighten up people!”? As has been shared, communism is Satan’s plan. It has brought untold pain and horror to many people over many generations. When we oppose thinkers like Marx, Darwin, Freud, Dewey, and others, we are merely trying to follow God’s plan for us and reject the pain and suffering that Satan’s plan will bring upon us… Read more »
Melanee
Guest

This well-written article illustrates not only the carelessness/presumed progressiveness of the BYU Sociology Department, but also exposes the progressive ideology that has taken root at BYU. I would be interested to know what the Sociology Dept. actually teaches about Karl Marx, etc.

Can we see what the curriculum is?

Katharine Moore
Guest
I wrote an email to BYU’s Dean of Students on September 28, 2016. I have never received a response. I am now posting it here as an open letter. Dear Brother Heperi, I was dismayed to learn about the t-shirts being given away by the BYU Department of Sociology. I probably would not be writing this email if BYU was a public university. But BYU is not and was never intended to be so. In fact, I own the book, Educating Zion, and am therefore aware of the unique mission and oft-repeated purpose, goals, focus and ideals of Brigham Young… Read more »
Danielle
Guest
There are several aspects of this post which are highly problematic. Not the least of which is the fact that the authors of the article seem to know very little about the actual content of Marx’s theories and use the words “Marxism” and “Communism” interchangeably as if they were the same things. While there is much in Marxism and Communism with which I disagree, I think it is important to note that Marx’s writings were inspired by a deep sense of concern for laborers whose position was exploited by inhumane 19th C. labor practices (which unfortunately, continue today in many… Read more »
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