Political correctness continues to worm its way into LDS ranks. On November 18th, 2011, Universe Managing Editor Joel Campbell took down a letter to the editor critical of homosexuality after it was published. Prompting Campbell's sudden volte-face were complaints from a few readers, some of who printed up a protest flyer and inserted it into a number of copies of the newspaper. Campbell explained that the letter did not represent the standards of BYU and did not show sufficient "understanding and respect", citing a recent statement from the LDS Church Handbook of Instruction, which reads “While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.”
However, one enterprising individual scanned a copy of the original letter and posted it online:
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In reading the letter, the only reason I can see why it was censored was in the second to last paragraph, where a homosexual or transgender is compared to a prostitute or a serial killer. That's clearly hyperbolic and misleading. But if this was so offensive, then why did Campbell publish the letter in the first place? To publish it and then take it down because of a few complaints strikes me as cowardly. Joel Campbell placed political correctness ahead of free speech.
It's bad enough when this happens at a secular university. But when it happens at Brigham Young University, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's over the top. Taylor Petty's letter actually reflects current LDS doctrine on homosexuality; namely, that while homosexual orientation alone isn't a problem, homosexual practice continues to be forbidden.
Brigham Young foresaw the effects of political correctness upon the modern-day LDS community:
He dreaded the time when the Saints would become popular with the world; for he had seen in sorrow, in a dream, or in dreams, this people clothed in the fashions of Babylon and drinking in the spirit of Babylon until one could hardly tell a Saint from a black-leg. And he felt like shouting, “To your tents, Oh Israel!” because it was the only thing that could keep the people pure.
The line between saint and black-leg has certainly become blurred in the case of Joel Campbell. In fact, an increasing number of Latter-day Saints seem to be bending over backward to accommodate gay people, disrupting the balance between justice and mercy. While we want to reassure celibate gay Mormons that they have our full support as they juxtapose the feelings with which they struggle against the requirements of full Church membership, we must remember that in Alma 42:25, we're told that mercy cannot rob justice, otherwise God would cease to be God. Justice without mercy may be tyranny, but mercy without justice is anarchy.
In addition to his editorial duties at the Universe, Joel Campbell is a former reporter for the Deseret News and a current associate professor of communications at BYU. His reporting does not necessarily reflect the views of BYU. He also writes on First Amendment and open-government issues for the Salt Lake Tribune.