Second Response from Rick Miller (BYU Sociology Department) to LDS Answers

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Rick Miller has responded to our recent post, An Open Letter to Rick Miller, BYU Sociology Department Chair.

After sending my initial response to the LDS Answers team, I was determined not to send any more responses.  However, I want to make two comments to your open letter to me.

  1. In your letter you said, “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.”  So everything at BYU is endorsed by the First Presidency?  How do you feel about these BYU “highlights”?”You left out the crucial word, curriculum, from my quote.  And the answer is, yes, our curriculum is approved by the Board of Trustees.  I made no claim that everything at BYU is endorsed by the First Presidency.  (To say that is trying to twist the argument.) Again, what I said was that our curriculum is approved by the Board of Trustees, and our curriculum includes discussions of Karl Marx and other sociological thinkers.  I have stewardship over my sociology faculty and what they teach, not comments made by professors in other departments. Based on that stewardship, I assured you in my first response that our curriculum is approved by the Board of Trustees.  Your inclusion of rogue comments by other professors at BYU outside the sociology department has no bearing on whether or not our curriculum is approved by the Board of Trustees.
  2. We are very loyal to our church leaders, and our strongest desire is to follow them, including our living prophet.   Your main argument against our teaching of Karl Marx is based on quotes by Ezra Taft Benson and others.  Here is another quote by Ezra Taft Benson, from his 1980 BYU Devotional talk, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet:

    “Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

    God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence” (June 1981 Liahona, First Presidency Message).

As much as we revere and honor our past prophets and apostles, our focus is on following our living prophet, along with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Our curriculum is 100% consistent with what our current Board of Trustees wants taught in the sociology department.

In your open letter to me you stated that “We welcome any comments if you feel that we are not understanding this issue correctly.” In my mind, what you are not understanding correctly is the difference between a living prophet (and First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) and words spoken by church leaders 45 years ago and longer.   According to Ezra Taft Benson’s teachings, the former always supersedes the latter.  That is why we are following the guidance of our current leaders in our curriculum.

Best wishes,
Rick

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16 Comments on "Second Response from Rick Miller (BYU Sociology Department) to LDS Answers"

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Amy Brown
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Wow! This brings up a lot more questions for me that I’d like to ask Rick Miller. 1st, please show me where the living prophet encouraged us to joke about and make light of a system of government responsible for the torture of countless children of God? I’m serious. Please, if you are using “I follow the living prophet”, as a shield to justify your actions, show me the quote where Thomas S. Monson has stated we should put Karl Marx on a t-shirt letting others assume or atleast wonder if it is an endorsement of such, so that I… Read more »
Jarom Barlow
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People just need to read the scriptures, man. Some people are deceiving themselves and really do not have the spirit simply because of the decisions they make.

LC Brooke
Guest
Rick Miller, can you show me where a living prophet has told us that a living prophet was more important than a dead one? You, thus far, have only used dead ones’ quotes to prove that point, which contradicts what you’re even saying… Also, did “not commanded in all things” come up in anyone’s mind when reading this? We have been previously warned of the dangers of socialism. Many prophets have tried so hard to get us to listen! I mean, come on, you can’t get a whole lot clearer than President Benson on this topic. Maybe the Lord is… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

“Maybe the Lord is teaching us the Samuel principle… He’ll only warn us so many times.” I’m not sure this idea holds water. We just spent a year on the teachings of President Benson (and as you note, “you can’t get a whole lot clearer than President Benson on this topic”), and yet his teachings on socialism were not highlighted. Is the current Church leadership not listening to the Lord then?

Caleb Young
Guest
Jack of Hearts, “Is the current Church leadership not listening to the Lord then?” This is a personal issue/decision and in no way connected to this discussion. It is a gospel principle that if we as a people blatantly disregard the teachings of prophets (such as Pres. Benson’s on communism) the prophets will cease to teach them (see my comment below with Alma 12:11 and examples). However, this tangent is in no way connected to the issue being discussed: the ills of communism and how we as church members (and the BYU sociology department) have a responsibility to shun and… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

“It is a gospel principle that if we as a people blatantly disregard the teachings of prophets . . . the prophets will cease to teach them.” Indeed it is. My question was if that principle applied in the situation LC Brooke outlined, given evidence that seems to indicate otherwise.

“However, this tangent is in no way connected to the issue being discussed.” That’s fine; you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. LC Brooke and I can have the conversation ourselves.

Caleb Young
Guest
Jack of Hearts, It is important to confirm the validity of President Ezra Taft Benson’s words in regard to socialism and communism therefore I will do my best to answer this as it relates to the article. This part is pertinent to the article. The tangent is getting into an argument over whether current church leadership is listening to the Lord. “My question was if that principle applied in the situation LC Brooke outlined, given evidence that seems to indicate otherwise.” Which given evidence? You make this comment but fail to share any evidence as to why this principle does… Read more »
Bradley Young
Guest
Jack of Hearts, Caleb makes a very valid point that a discussion about the current flow of modern revelation is a different discussion which is completely separate from the evils of communism and socialism. Historically and religiously there is no doubt that communism, socialism, and Marx are BAD news. BYU, especially as a church school with a responsibility to teach the whole truth, needs to be actively teaching the evils of communism and Marx…not making jokes about the issue. Another principle that should be remembered is that the Lord takes away from a people the light and knowledge that they… Read more »
Caleb Young
Guest
Brother Miller, You have quoted above a First Presidency Message warning us against those who use the word of dead prophets against the word of living prophets. You then state that: “our focus is on following our living prophet.” You imply that you can ignore the words of past prophets and apostles because you are only “following our living prophet.” We hold the words of prophets (living and dead) to be the word of God. The Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants are all words of prophets deceased at least “45 years ago and longer.” Does this mean… Read more »
Melanee
Guest
I’m curious to know exactly what the BYU Sociology Dept. teaches about Karl Marx’s ideology. Is it different than it was 45 years ago? 100 years ago? I understand that a living prophet always trumps a dead one with respect to revelation, but is Rick Miller implying that Pres. Monson (or other recent prophets) have changed positions with respect to what the Sociology Dept. should teach regarding Marxism? The fact that he states that the Dept follows the “guidance of our current leaders in our curriculum” makes me think he’s defending the Sociology Dept’s position on Karl Marx. If he’s… Read more »
Caleb Young
Guest

By his own admission we are no longer discussing the ‘joke’ about the t-shirts as he claimed in his last response but now their “teaching of Karl Marx.” To quote him: “Your main argument against our teaching of Karl Marx is based on quotes by Ezra Taft Benson and others.” This topic started because of the t-shirt giveaway. Is he avoiding taking responsibility for the t-shirt giveaway? Or is he admitting that it counts as part of their “teaching”? If it does, is it “approved by the Board of Trustees”?

Bradley Young
Guest
I am amazed that Rick Miller seems to have become so defensive that he is stepping away from the actual issue in order to jump into a justification struggle. Let me try to clarify a few things and maybe refocus and cool a few heads. Brother Miller complains that LDS Answers quoted a few, “rogue” professors and declares that he does not claim stewardship for their words. He also makes the very valid point that it is the, “curriculum” that is approved and not, “everything at BYU is approved by the First Presidency.” I hope that Brother Miller recognizes that… Read more »
Aaron
Guest
In his first response Rick Miller stated, “What better place than at BYU for students to be exposed to the ‘philosophies of men'” Evidently, the student body is not being “exposed” to these philosophies with the perspective of President Ezra Taft Benson (nor any other President of the Church), namely, that Marxist Communism is a “godless gospel counterfeit,” as Caleb noted above, it is Lucifer’s plan incarnate, the complete antithesis of the Restoration. Rather than denouncing that Marxism was being taught in a rosy glow at BYU he went to lengths to dismiss the revelation of what he refers to… Read more »
Bradley Young
Guest

Great point Aaron. I agree that if Rick Miller actually understood, believed, and taught the teachings of the prophets, he would be quick to denounce that Marxism is being taught with a rosy glow. Instead, he seems determined to justify himself by raising a mute point about living vs dead prophets.

Kani
Guest
I have heard a lot of people talk about following the living prophet. Similar to LC Brooke I have never heard a living prophet tell us to disregard what past prophets have said. Along with that statement, theirs a reason we study and read books from the past prophets in church every year. I have Come across a comment in the book “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball” that should help bring sufficient reliance on following quotes from past prophets as a well as living: “Following leaders is the path of safety. Every normal person may have a sure way… Read more »
Bradley
Guest
Wow, I just found this and felt that it should be on the record. Here’s a President Benson mic drop on the subject! “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… Read more »
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