I’ve had a number of anti-Mormons send me emails telling me that they know it is the will of the Brethren that I stop publishing hard-hitting apologetics. (As if they actually care what the Brethren want.) I don’t bother to approve most of these to be posted on my blog. They can make their claims elsewhere if they want; the internet is a big place, and I weary of the endless flow of ranting from apostates and anti-Mormons.
Their criticism are based on a phantasmagorical view of how things work at BYU. They believe that BYU is micro-managed in every administrative decision by the Church. This is simply absurd, and practically speaking, it’s impossible. BYU is a university, and for the most part operates just like any other university. I have worked there for nearly thirty years and have never had a church leader, directly or indirectly, tell me to do something or not do something. My one direct contact with a general authority was in the Jerusalem Center where I shook his hand; he thanked me for my work, and said my three year old son was cute. That’s it. (On the other hand, I’ve also heard numerous general authorities give speeches approving of the work of classic-FARMS.) 99+% of the time the church leaders are not involved. They lay out the plan and vision, and leave the administrators and faculty to implement it. They are busy men with have lots of other things to do, and BYU is only a small part of the church. They will occasionally intervene if there is some major problem. Perhaps the Maxwell Institute scandal will prove to be one of those cases, but it certainly hasn’t yet.
What happens more often is that administrators will try to make decisions they think the Brethren will approve. Of course, almost everyone tries to please their bosses; there is nothing unnatural in that. What can become toxic, however, is when an administrator tells someone that they know the mind of the Brethren. And remarkably, the Brethren always want exactly what the administrator wants. That’s happened to me perhaps twice in nearly 30 years. In both cases, it was eventually shown that the Brethren actually had no opinion on the matter. (This happens more regularly in Religious Education, I’m told.) My opinion has always been that if the Brethren want us to do something, they’ll tell us, and if they don’t, then we need to muddle through making the best decisions we can. Life’s like that, you know.
Which brings us to this case. Much as the apostates want to make this a manifestation of the will of the Brethren–not because they care what the Brethren think, but as a stick to try to silence their critics–the fact of the matter is that there is absolutely no evidence that anyone other than Bradford and the Maxwell Institute was involved in the decision to oust Dan and redefine the goals of the Review. It has been rumored that President Samuelson may have approved (not ordered) the decision, but I don’t know this for sure. (I do know that Dan never had any discussions with President Samuelson on these matters.) These type of administrative decisions are made all the time at BYU, and the Brethren are almost never involved, except in selecting administrators at the very highest level, which is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees. If the BYU Administration or the Brethren want to say something on the matter, they will. Until then, apostate claims of knowing the mind of the Brethren should be treated as sheer nonsense.
So, I don’t know what the Brethren want in this matter. If they ask me to stop doing hard-hitting apologetics, or ask me to stop blogging on this issue, I will. But this raises the question: if the Brethren ask John Dehlin and his pals to stop publishing “Mormon Stories” or their blogs and apostate message boards do you think they will? So who really cares about the will of the Brethren?