Friday, August 20, 2010

BYU Shaking Things Up ... Plus Education Week

My level of journalistic activity this week has been inversely proportional to this week's blog activity. Time to catch up.

It's a break between semesters, but The Daily Universe has still been published every day of Education Week. Without any COMMS 321 reporters available, four or five of us have been going to Education Week classes and writing stories about them. The rest of the paper was filled with AP stories.

Getting to go to Education Week classes for free was even more fun than I thought. Here are the stories I did:

Lessons from Lehi's dream a source of hope
by Ron Bartholomew

When I saw that Brother Bartholomew was teaching a class at Education Week, I immediately assigned myself to it. I've had two classes with Brother Bartholomew, and he is one of my favorite BYU professors. He is amazingly personal and touching, and has a gift for speaking to college students. A lot of my post-mission spiritual growth came thanks to him and his lessons. (My second class with Brother Bartholomew I took after being married, and Erin had the class with me. So we both love Brother Bartholomew and the blessings that have come from his influence.)

The eternal perspective: being the best parents in the world
by Richard Eyre

Bythway: The hazards of criticism in marriages
by John Bytheway

I used to be in love with John Bytheway as a teenager, but I think I based my young testimony too much on his talks and not on my own scripture study and personal revelation. And I know many LDS youth are doing the same thing. But it's not necessarily John Bytheway's fault, and he is a good, inspirational speaker and he is very funny.

It's sort of interesting to hear him give a talk about marriage, because I remember listening to talks he gave back when he was famous for his perpetual bachelorhood.

One strange moment ... in John Bytheway's talk, he interrupted himself to say he hoped there were no reporters there from The Daily Universe or anything, because he's never read an article about him that he liked. I have no idea how that thought connected to anything else he was saying. I took it as a challenge, to write the first article about John Bytheway that he would like. I wonder if he read it.

Second Coming unknown but not scary
by Randall Bird

Understanding our pre-mortal existence

by Craig Ostler

It's really strange discussing subjects like Lehi's dream, the Second Coming and pre-mortality in a journalistic setting! But it was pretty fun and I think I did a good job with it.


I would have gone to more Education Week classes, but some breaking news took precedence.

On Wednesday, rumors of BYU football going independent and other sports participating in the WAC became more legitimate. And, BYU fired its men's volleyball coach, likely because of some NCAA violations.

So I skipped a class to write about the volleyball coach leaving:

Volleyball coach fired; BYU investigating program

And, I spent all afternoon yesterday gathering reactions and quotes from students on campus about the changes in BYU sports:

Students react to possible BYU football independence

And a viewpoint on the subject:

BYU appears ready to venture into great unknown

My viewpoint may make me sound like I don't approve of football independence, but I do. I do think every other sport will suffer, which is unfortunate. But that doesn't outweigh my hopes for Cougar football. I think I maybe focused more on the plight of other BYU sports in my viewpoint just because that was easier to write.

Whew! Well there's a week's worth of journalism in one blog post.

Next week, David and I will be preparing for fall semester, especially writing about the football team. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Signing Off

Here it is, my very last J Squared column as Issues & Ideas editor for The Daily Universe:

Another proclamation on the family - 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'

This is another of my personal, emotional and fairly preachy viewpoints, which I thought made it a good one to end on. It's a touching shout out to my wife and soon-to-be born daughter too.

(The only thing I'm a little worried about is any adverse reaction that may come from high school friends who I know support gay rights and same-sex marriage. I don't mean to offend, and I definitely don't mean to turn gay rights supporters into enemies. Politically, I can understand both sides of the argument over same-sex marriage. But I admit to being completely one-sided on the issue, for reasons that make sense spiritually but maybe not politically. I don't apologize for my view, but I do apologize if I made it sound harsh in this viewpoint.)

Here's the "Red Families vs. Blue Families" page on, if you want to find out more about the book.

I found out about the book in the first place from this Slate Political Gabfest podcast. If you want to hear the discussion on "Red Families vs. Blue Families, fast forward to the 28 minutes and 47 seconds mark.

And here's a New York Times editorial on the subject.


There were a lot of interesting letters to the editor this time around, and I tried to include as many as I can. They aren't in the archives of the Daily Universe website yet, but click here and go to page 3.

My favorite was a response to last Thursday's J Squared about the LDS Church in Iraq. In addition to many antagonistic emails and blog post comments, I have received quite a few compliments about my work on the opinion page. But this was the first one that came in the form of a letter to the editor, so it was the first one I could actually publish in the Universe.

You can read it here, or right here:

His influence in everything

I really appreciated the recent viewpoint
titled “Operation Iraqi Spiritual Freedom:
LDS Church makes it to the Middle East.” My
husband is an active duty member of the United
States Navy and is currently deployed overseas.
Recently, I encountered a fellow student who was
quick to let me know my husband is a sinner and
not in the Lord’s favor for being a member of the
military. This, in her opinion, proves he does
not love his fellow men as the Anti-Nephi-Lehis
from the Book of Mormon did. She wanted me
to be sure to understand my loving, strong and
amazing spouse could only be doing the work of
My husband and I, however, believe our Heav-
enly Father has His hand and influence in ev-
erything, including war. My husband has been
to areas devastated by hatred and anger, but he
has seen how the light of Christ is slowly filling
these areas with hope. People who never would
have had the chance to know about their Savior
are able to gather around faithful soldiers (who
are in fact keeping temple covenants and not do-
ing the work of Satan) to hear their testimonies,
to feel comfort and to learn about Christ.
So thank you Brother Despain for shedding
light on this long war (and the faithful soldiers
who are fighting it) and proving our Heavenly
Father is truly mindful of all of His children and
can have a strong positive influence even in the
midst of a terrible war.


And, the big news: I'll be a sports editor in the fall!!!

I got the job, and I'm super excited. Like I talked about on July 29, there are some great things about the opinion page and some great things about being a sports editor. I am really looking forward to working with 321 reporters and sharing what I know about good writing, helping to plan front page packages on sports, and getting paid to pay attention to sports. Not too bad.

My fellow sports editor is David "Sparky" Mortimer, already quite a celebrity in the sports journalism world. Long before writing about sports as a COMMS 321 student, and even long before coming to BYU, he was the official sports correspondent for David Letterman. Check it out:

Until then, I'm helping to cover BYU's Education Week. I get to go to a couple classes a day for free, and write about them for the paper. It will be fun to do some good old fashioned reporting again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Into the Four Corners of the Earth

I came across a story in Mormon Times that was very interesting for any member of the LDS Church. It turns out the LDS Church does have an official presence in Iraq.

Former district president in Iraq reflects on unique calling

And a couple other stories about it:

Military district in Iraq will be 'big difference'
Guy's story: Preston man tells of time in Iraq
Working for freedom - BYU-Idaho's Hollingsworth returns from year-long mission in Iraq

So in today's column I basically passed on the story, with a little bit about the little bit I know and feel about the Iraq War.

Here's my column:

Operation Iraqi Spiritual Freedom - LDS Church makes it to the Middle East*

And, a cartoon. Erin and I have been enjoying the Discovery Channel's Shark Week for the first time. And of course I found an obvious correlation with the BP oil spill.

* Go to page 3.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Faith Over Football

Once again, I woke up Monday morning without an idea but was able to find a good one when it was time to write.

I was listening to Friday's ESPN Radio podcast*, and it included an interview with UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel. He was talking about his upcoming season, but he happened to mention Xavier Su'a-Filo, a UCLA lineman who is gone for a couple of years to go on a Mormon mission.

I got to thinking about what it must be like to take a two-year break from college sports at a university outside of Utah, a university that is not as used to Mormons and missionaries. I did a lot of research and found out a lot of interesting stuff.

Here's my column:

'Faith over football' - LDS athlete decides right

And here are a bunch of stories and websites I read about Xavier Su'a-Filo (in alphabetical order):

Brian Price and Xavier Su'a-Filo won't return

Manti Te'o, other Mormon prospects face recruiting challenges - This story is mostly about Manti Te'o, another LDS high school recruit. I admired with how adamant he was with college recruiters about going on a mission. Then I found this story written a year later, saying Te'o had changed his mind and was indefinitely delaying his mission. I found a couple other examples of LDS athletes who thought about missions but decided to stay with college football. It only made Su'a-Filo stand out more.

Offensive tackle Su'a-Filo leaving UCLA to fulfill Mormon mission

Player Bio: Xavie Su'a-Filo Xavier Su'a-Filo Profile

UCLA football: Xavier Su'a-Filo to go on Mormon mission

Before I sign off, I do want to reiterate my point that I am not trying to judge anyone who decides not to go on a mission. Going on a mission is a commandment, but I do not claim to understand every individual reason or set of circumstances. I know lots of people, including my own dad, who did not serve missions and yet are still active in building the kingdom of God on Earth. I do not mean to badmouth Te'o, Longshore, Prince or anyone else who chose something other than a mission. I just hope my article shows how Su'a-Filo impressed me.

It looks like I actually have two more opinion pages after today. I thought next Monday would be the last paper of the summer, but I just found out there will be another Tuesday paper and therefore another Issues & Ideas page.

I had my job interview today. I think it went pretty well. The only problem was my class schedule. But then I fixed it! I'm no longer taking some classes I was really looking forward to, but the classes I replaced them with should still be good, and they still fulfill requirements for my political science minor. And now I don't have class on Fridays this fall!

* Click on the 7/30 podcast.
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