Check these out….

Personally, I believe that the “Brethren” are both smart, and sincere….so my main question is…..which of the following scenarios are more likely?

  • The brethren knew that they would get this type of press over this firing, and WANTED this coverage as sort of a public/PR/political “stake in the ground”, or
  • Was it more of a moral decision–standing on principle (from their perspective)? Sort of a, “We’re gonna get hammered for this, but we’re willing to face the consequences because we believe it is/was the right thing to do?”

Any opinions?

Very interesting indeed…..


  1. CraigBa! June 15, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Just because The Bethren are both smart and sincere doesn’t mean they thought through all the consequences of their actions.

    Personally, I wasn’t all that impressed by Prof. Nielsen’s column. I hope it’s not typical of his work. Perhaps I’ve set the bar too high, but I think that an academic’s reasoning and writing ability should at least surpass that of, oh, me. Substantially, I would hope. Especially at a university such as BYU.

    BYU’s argument that, because “he publicly criticized his employer” that “in any other work setting, no one would bat an eye at his termination” is asinine, though. The problem with that comparison is that he’s not employed at PepsiCo or FedEx. Pepsi sells sugar water; FedEx sells a service. The “product” that a university “sells” is knowledge and it’s discovery. That relies on free inquiry. Nielsen may be no great loss, but I wonder what this will do to the university’s ability to attract promising professors and students; and I wonder what affect it will have on those already there.

  2. Ben June 15, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    What in the world do “the Brethren” have to do with this? It’s clear that this decision was made in the Philosophy department, not Administration, and not SLC. Any supposition otherwise is simply conspiracy-mongering.

  3. Loyd June 15, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    While the *Brethren* may not have been directly involved, I would not be surprised if the firing was a pre-emptive plan to avoid having to deal with and respond to the *Brethren* breathing down their necks. If there was no fear that pressure would be coming from above, I would hardly envisage them firing Neilsen.

  4. Doc June 16, 2006 at 8:45 am

    And I would not be surprised if it were a reflexive response to protect the “brethren” and an institution they love.

  5. Kirk Faulkner June 16, 2006 at 9:24 am

    Cospiracy mongering though it may be, don’t fool yourself into thinking that the manager above Nielsen was the one who made this decision. This stuff comes down from the top. BYU has been in enough Snafus with firing that it is something they take very seriously these days. I am positive that a GA was consulted before this happened. And I think Jeff Nielsen killed Kennedy.

    My favorite part of the coverage was that BYU op ed piece. So ominous : “Now he has to suffer the consequences.” It makes it sound like BYU has instituted castration.

    BYU can whine about having academic freedom and how it doesn’t count as academic unless it is published in a certain periodical or unless it is in a certain field (how do you concrete research as a Philosophy Teacher) or unless you are trying to actually teach through your actions. The truth of the matter is: Academic Freedom comes after Dogmatic Cohesiveness on the BYU list of “top 10 most important things to have at university”.

    Has anyone noticed that this guy actually wrote a book about this kind of thing? The Myth of Leadership (as far as I can tell from reading Amazon reviews) is alll about the pitfalls of leadership in modern organizations and how people further down the tier often get the short end of the stick. He talks about having leaderless groups in order to avoid these distinctions between the ranks of a group (apparently BYU professors are low in rank). I don’t think Jeff did this just to sell books (though if he did, it was a really good idea) but I could see that what has happened is probably proving a lot of points he has already put forth.

  6. WillF June 16, 2006 at 11:16 am

    “I don’t think Jeff did this just to sell books.” Interesting though how RadioWest plugged his book during his interview.

  7. Ben June 16, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    “This stuff comes down from the top.”

    Having been on the faculty end at BYU, my experience leads me to believe otherwise.

  8. john f. June 16, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    I am positive that a GA was consulted before this happened.

    I am very dubious about this assertion. I think Ben probably has a more accurate view here.

  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) June 16, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    He’s an adjunct …

  10. jose June 20, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Describing the event as a “firing” is inaccurate and biased. Fact is Nielsen was not (re)hired for a temporary position.

    “The “product” that a university “sells” is knowledge and it’s discovery. That relies on free inquiry.” Free inquiry in an academic setting that CraigBa! describes isn’t “free”. Consider Harvard’s past president who was canned for speculating why men succeed more than women at science and math. Academic inquiry still comes at a price if our words are not popular with those in power (donors, public, trustees, etc.). This price is irrespective of the validity of those words.

  11. Jeff R June 21, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Mr. Nielsen successfully achieved a PhD. This doesn’t mean he is smart or accomplished. It simply means he satisfied the requirements of the PhD program. People who are rallying behind him might want to know that his text book on how to run a successful company has flopped. And Mr. Nielsen has never been successful in his career. His consulting skills must not be in high demand, and he is not now, or ever achieved, the rank of full professor.
    Mr. Nielsen is entitled to his opinion. But that’s all Mr. Nielsen has offered. His credibility to assert that his opinion is correct simply doesn’t exist.

  12. Jo June 27, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    In a response to an interview with Nielsen, Timm Heaton states “The church here entered, has entered, and will enter the realm of politics when politics substantially interferes with morality. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” a document jointly created and signed by all 12 apostles and the First Presidency, which addresses the issue of gay marriage, concludes saying, “WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” Government and the legislative process are clearly the intended vehicle of execution. We are being urged to legislate morality.”
    BYU had no other choice but to take this action with Nielsen. He has come out publically against the very foundation of the gospel; the family. How could they have done otherwise. To do so would have begged the question, are the Mormons changing their religion to coincide with modern philosophy like the Episcopalians?
    I certainly would wonder why “the brethren” were being lenient. I depend on my church being the same church “yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

  13. John Dehlin June 27, 2006 at 10:16 pm


    I see your point….until the very last one that you made. If there’s one thing that the church has been consistent about, it has been change–RADICAL changes. No more polygamy. We’ve gone from “polygamy is required for salvation” to President Hinckley claiming that “it’s not doctrinal” (even though 2 apostles over the past few years have entered into polygamous marriages). No more speaking in tongues (as we once did). Blacks have the priesthood. No they don’t. Oh….now they do. No more “law of adoption”. Garments have changed dramatically. The temple ceremony has changed dramatically. The Book of Mormon has undergone changes. The D&C has undergone a TON of changes. Some very significant. The Word of Wisdom didn’t exist, then it was a recommendation…now it’s required. Adam-God theory. Blood Atonement. When asked by Larry King if God was once a man, president Hinckley replied, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it.” And I’m just scratching the surface.

    I’m not even sure Joseph Smith or Brigham Young would recognize the church today. Brigham would definitely call us apostates.

    Were you pulling my leg? I don’t mean to be rude…I’m just don’t understand the statement.

  14. Just for Quix June 27, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    I, frankly, find it scary that homosexuals have become the scapegoat upon which the “foundation of the gospel” resides for its vitality and perpetuity. I’m personaly chagrined that I’ve heard reasoning along the lines of Jo’s from the pulpit and lessons of my own ward. Carry it to its logical conclusion: here we have an “omnipotent” God who has created some of his children only to be the subterfuge of His own plan. Hail George Bush. Let’s drop a few more bombs in the crusade to spread American imperialistic interests and a mass consumerist greed. Silence from the pulpit.

    LDS members were not urged to legislate morality. We were told to speak to our legislators with our opinion as citizens. I did that: I told my representative that I, a Mormon, vehemently oppose a Constitutional amendment along these lines. Granted, it appears I hold the minority opinion in this debate but why should it be silenced? Perhaps if I had written an op-ed piece explaining the moral reasoning upon which I base my opinion and passion for this subject, I, too, would be in the firing sights of some Mormon goose-stepper. Whew! Glad I’m not at BYU.

    Mr. Nielsen didn’t assert his doctorate qualified him as having a more legitimate opinion. Certainly along the lines of his study ethics and morality is a subject up his alley, and he brings that familiarity with the subject to bear in forming his opinion. But, if anything, I found Mr. Nielsen very circumspect about questioning his own opinion and action. If anything he came off to me as a morally-guided, self-aware man trying to balance his conscience with his duties as a church member, husband and father. It’s so predictable to see the straw man ad hominem smoke screens trying to draw attention away from a very legitimate moral debate. After all let’s not evaluate the merits of Nielsen’s reasoning. He’s not a real Doctor. . . He just plays one on TV.

  15. Pete Howlett July 16, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    I am curious – all this straining at a gnat. Any crack is got at with a crowbar and wedged open by the skeptics who for some bizarre reason want the best of all worlds. A non- renewal of a temporary contract becomes a firing. John’s list of historical inconsistencies looks remarkably like this very contemporary inconsistency don’t you think? Where opinion is more a question of position than right who can debate this fairly? Am I dull or devoted, blind or simply obedient? I think that when you have a personal witness of truth it doesn’t really matter in the end. After all you can’t expect perfection from the imperfect and since the stories of scripture deal with the reconciliation of mortality with an impossible perfection we have to expect there to be flaws. No one said the Church was perfect – at least not to my knowledge. Why then this obsession with challenging an ascertion that has never been made? Stating that it is the True Church is not the same as stating the it is the perfect Church – goodness, it allowed me in!

  16. Pete Howlett July 16, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    I am curious – all this straining at a gnat. Any crack is got at with a crowbar and wedged open by the skeptics who for some bizarre reason want the best of all worlds. A non- renewal of a temporary contract becomes a firing. John’s list of historical inconsistencies looks remarkably like this very contemporary inconsistency don’t you think?

  17. Pete Howlett July 16, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Sorry about the duplicate – you need an edit function on this pod cast thingy :)

  18. Non-Winter Meat Eater July 16, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    I don’t know which surprises me more: the fact that the Church would urge members to adopt a particular political position, or the fact that BYU would fire someone for disagreeing with that political position. And I understand there are those who will classify this as a “moral issue” that the brethren have a right to be involved with, but I wonder how this issue differs from, say, encouraging members to support a particular government welfare program–which I don’t expect to see any day soon.

    I recognize the Church has become involved in politial issues in the past–e.g., the Equal Rights Amendment, and various state propositions against gay marriage. But generally speaking, the Church has a long history of abstaining from taking political positions. We members are taught that political participation is a moral duty, but we are generally left to decide for ourselves how to vote, whom to support, etc. It is interesting to observe which political issues are viewed as being important enough to break from the Church’s traditional political abstinence.

    Also, from a purely Constitutional law perspective, I am opposed to a constitutional amendment regarding this issue because it would take this issue away from the states and put it in the hands of the federal government. As drafted, the Constitution provides that the states are responsible matters relating to the marital status of their citizens. This is a states rights issue, and I am surprised to see the Church take a position that would make this a federal issue.

    And for the record, I have to say that I think the greatest threat to marriage is abusive, neglectful, and unfaithful heterosexual spouses. How about a Constitutional amendment against that?

    I feel more comfortable when the Church leaders teach us correct principles and let us govern ourselves, particularly in deciding what to vote for or against.

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