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.
- 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.
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.