What is an Association Worth?

This past week I received a card in the mail from the BYU Alumni Association, asking for my help in “editing” my biographical information in an “Alumni Directory” in preparation. While I’ve certainly given the Alumni Association biographical information in the past, for some reason this time I started asking myself “is this worth my time?” and, in the Mormon context, “is this worth anyone’s time?”

My responses in the past have, to be honest, not seemed particularly beneficial to me or to anyone else, as far as I can see. No one using the information has ever contacted me. I’ve also never sought information from the Alumni Association about anyone else (don’t even know if I can get it). I don’t even know if the directory is something that I have to pay for or not. I don’t even know if the Church uses the information at all.

The only thing I’m certain that has happened when I give this information, is that the Alumni Association has asked me to donate to BYU. [FWIW, I decided before leaving BYU that I would not make any donations to BYU’s general fund. In my final years there BYU made significant changes to student-run programs I cared about and felt were of high value. These were killed without student input and, IMO, in an effort to increase University control, part of a pattern I’ve yet to see change and that still bothers me about BYU. So, they don’t get my money.]

In recent years I’ve noticed that the Alumni Association is just one of several BYU organizations that collect information from alumni and friends, if not also donations. In addition to the Alumnis Association, I’m also familiar with the BYU Management Society, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the BYU International Society, all of which purport to have local chapters around the world. I’m sure that the alumni from other LDS-owned and LDS-oriented student bodies also have chapters for multiple organizations.

Here in New York City, over a decade or more, I tried to help the BYU Management Society get off the ground. Recently, its seen some success, as the New York LDS Professional Association — which includes both the BYU Management Society and the J. Reuben Clark Law Society chapters here. I hoped (and in some ways I still hope) that this organization would meet a need I perceived — that of helping LDS Church members meet and communicate across stake boundaries — something that doesn’t happen much out here. Without such communication, members have struggled creating any kind of regional community of Mormons. Arts and cultural activities in particular suffer, as does our local New York City LDS History Committee.

Despite my own and others attempts to make these associations work locally, I sense a general apathy among LDS Church members about these programs. While being a BYU alumni isn’t always required (as I understand it, both the BYU Management Society and the BYU International Society don’t require an affiliation with BYU — anyone can join), members don’t seem very interested in participating to any significant degree.

If I take a step back away from the problem, and try to look at it objectively, I’m not even sure what benefit these organizations are supposed to provide to members. Are they any different than other fraternal and service clubs like the Elks, Lions or Knights of Columbus?

In a way, I think the Church itself provides most of the functions that fraternal and social clubs would otherwise provide for members. While Church is certainly more than just a social club, we certainly have a lot of social activities and there are many social aspects to Church. I think most members find the Church their principal charitable outlet as well.

I’m not saying that Church members don’t need additional fraternal, social and charitable outlets. Nor am I suggesting necessarily that Church members shouldn’t join these organizations. I’m just wondering what is the value of these BYU-related associations and does it make sense to have so many of them?

Where’s the value in these associations?

60 comments for “What is an Association Worth?

  1. Earl B
    August 24, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Yeah, I got the initial contact, then the second one followed up asking me to call an 800 number to finish updating my data. I did not call. If I couldn’t do it online without talking to someone, I didn’t want to be bothered. And the second, underlying concern (maybe I’m just cynical that way) was that it was some convoluted way to hit me up for money since they hadn’t been too successful calling me. I would rather donate directly to the church above and beyond my tithing than donate this way. I like the idea of the perpetual education fund.

  2. queuno
    August 24, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    If your information is correct on the BYU Alumni Association webpage, then there’s no reason to call.

    And since neither of my BYU degrees has an active alumni group of any sort, I don’t often get called for money. But in theory, if I were looking for a job in Provo, I could call BYU and get help. (Oh wait, I can already get superior service from my local Church Welfare and Employment office.)

    And it’s not like BYU ever fosters the idea of class spirit. Any ever attend a 20th BYU reunion? They’ve left that to missions (only if you travel to Utah at GC time), and I presume that they feel sacrament meeting at your ward is a mini-BYU reunion of people you’ve never met before.

    So I ask myself the same questions.

  3. Kevin Barney
    August 24, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    I’ve appreciated the JRCLS for fostering a sense of community among LDS lawyers in Chicago. I served a term as the local chair. The most effective thing we do here is have lunches with various speakers, some locals and others high profile people who fly in. In a way this is perhaps more practical in Chicago, because the downtown “loop” is pretty concentrated and everyone can just walk to our lunch meetings.

    We’ve also had more formal dinners with speakers like Elder Oaks one year and Elder Wickman another.

    There have been other things like golf outings and such that have probably been less succesful. Everyone has limited time to expend on such an extravagance. But everyone has to eat lunch anyway, which is why the lunch gatherings I think have worked especially well.

  4. August 24, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Are those cards that get sent out really from the Alumni Association? I always thought they were from some secondary company gathering all the info and trying to sell you the directory. The Alumni Association must have your info correct if they could send a card to your address.

    In my stake, the Alumni Association was going strong, sponsoring events and firesides, until the latest president came in. He seems to be a bit of a slacker. We have had maybe one activity since January. I am hoping that next year someone else will step up and take over. The year prior, we had a dinner that had a professor from BYU speak at it, an alumni golf tournament, Jack Welch came and spoke about chiasmus, and there were a couple of other activities that my husband and I missed.

    I enjoyed the alumni activities, and found the talks by the BYU professors very interesting. It is great to have the association available to put these types of events together for those of us that live far from Utah.

  5. CatherineWO
    August 24, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    My husband and I and our four adult children are all BYU alums. One of us received a similar card in the mail this past week, and I called out of curiosity. They are indeed publishing a hard-copy alumni directory with all of the same information contained on the alumni website (which any alum can access). And yes, they will invite you to purchase a copy of said directory if you call. Since all of that information is already available to me online, I declined the invitation.

    We used to contribute to the BYU annual fund each year and specify where our money would go (usually the library or the college of humanities), but for many of the same reasons you mention, we have chosen to make our charitable contributions elsewhere. BYU has gone quite a different direction since the 70s than I care to have my money go. A couple of years ago (the last time I was called during a BYU fund drive), I asked that we not be called anymore. That request has been honored, and I haven’t received a phone call or a mailing since (other than the BYU Alumni Magazine).

    I appreciate the education I received at BYU, but I’ve never really had any desire to be active in the alumni association. When we left BYU in 1975, we also left Utah, and I just never felt a need to be a part of an alumni group.

  6. CS Eric
    August 25, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I was just talking to some friends last night about what I would donate money to if I won the lottery. My first choice would be to BYU for a students’ parking garage. For most of my time there, the closest parking I could get was my apartment a couple of miles away.

  7. queuno
    August 25, 2008 at 12:06 am

    One of my favorite professors (initials JH, to somewhat protect his privacy) used to sit on some advisory committee. In 1996, my last semester, he was talking about various attempts to build a parking garage. Apparently Rex Lee had always blocked it, saying that they would build a garage “over [his] dead body”. A few months after his death, JH surmised that perhaps it was now time to build the Rex E. Lee Memorial Parking Garage.

  8. Jonovitch
    August 25, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I saw the beginnings of a parking garage on BYU campus when I visited this summer, as part of the Tanner building expansion. Apparently, the expansion is being privately funded, so I’m assuming that’s the only way a three-level garage would be built.

    At the risk of piling on, I will also likely never give money to BYU, no matter how many times they call and no matter what useless building-named-after-a-living-prophet (tacky!) is next on the master plan. I received less-than-satisfactory help when I was there and I saw too much money go to waste and misuse, so they will be receiving no money from me. (No cash for you! Call back one year!)

    I’ve used the online alumni search a couple times to find phone numbers of old friends, so that was useful, but there’s no way I’d buy a printed directory from that lame company, and I’d certainly not respond to its request for my contact information.


  9. August 25, 2008 at 1:31 am

    If you’d like to donate to something else, that’s fine.

    But I think BYU is worth donating to as well. They gave me an education for a very small tuition relatively speaking. The campus was very well taken-care of. More or less, I enjoyed my time there. Warts and all, I think it’s worth donating to.

    You’re never going to find a charity without serious issues. Half the humanitarian NGOs in Africa are hopelessly inefficient and corrupt, for instance.

  10. Drex Davis
    August 25, 2008 at 1:52 am

    I’m OK with donating there. I’d have a little guilt if I didn’t. I received a great education that was, in part, subsidized by the tithing funds of others who couldn’t go.

    I hope that BYU gets off tithing funds altogether – I’m uncomfortable with the notion that everyone’s tithing funds would be used to subsidize the educations of only the most (so-called) “intellectually worthy” members.

    There’s also some hope that as alumni fund the university, and not general members through tithes, that a little more academic freedom might be in the cards.

    Thread-jack Alert (but I want to ask it here in case someone knows . . .)

    I’ve never understood why general authorities children get to attend BYU at no charge, regardless of academic merit, and at the expense of other members/students who might be more qualified and who also would pay for at least a portion of the education.

    Does anyone know why this is, when it began and the justification for it?

    My attempt to understand it led me to surmise that
    (1) to help those general leaders who may have left lucrative jobs for less-lucrative church work, forgoing income-potential that may have allowed them to send their children to college; also the church wanting to help minimize any resentment children might feel that their fathers went to work for the church, or (2) to babysit the kids – since it’s always problematic for the church when leader’s kids don’t live the principles; if they’re at byu [and the “free education” draw is likely to get them there] they’re required to live the honor code, minimizing the chance of having general authority children create problems for the church during waht might otherwise be “hellraising” college years. Anyone, just interested in knowing.

  11. queuno
    August 25, 2008 at 2:02 am

    I hope that BYU gets off tithing funds altogether – I’m uncomfortable with the notion that everyone’s tithing funds would be used to subsidize the educations of only the most (so-called) “intellectually worthy” members.

    So you dislike the fact that your tax dollars go to subsidize — in very unequal amounts — the educations of only the most (so-called) “intellectually worth” residents?

  12. MSG
    August 25, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Do GA’s still get free tuition and acceptance into BYU just because their dad is who he is? What about the General Relief Society Presidents kids or the General Primary Presidents kids? I remember Bro. Packer telling us all in General Conference 1993 that his family couldn’t be expected to just get in anymore–it’s too competitive because the Church has grown and BYU can’t expand anymore so we’d have to use our local universities. (Which isn’t a bad idea because then we’d have LDS influence on our nation’s campuses.)

  13. August 25, 2008 at 6:50 am

    I wonder if church members are a little wary of Mormon organizations which aren’t run through the church hierarchy. The European Mormon Studies Association had its conference near here last week, and members asked me what it was, who ran, etc., with suspicion.

  14. Left Field
    August 25, 2008 at 7:59 am

    In 1980, just a few weeks after I returned from my mission and before I had re-enrolled, BYU called for a donation in the middle of a World Series game (not even between innings, I might add). It didn’t help my mood that the AL representative was losing when they called. I suggested that this was not a good time to be making calls. They must have been going through the list alphabetically, because just a few minutes later, the phone rang again and they asked for my father. He returned to the room after taking the call and muttered with irritation, “I TOLD them I was watching the World Series.”

  15. August 25, 2008 at 8:29 am

    We got the card at our house too, and because I felt like bragging about my recently acquired advanced degree, I called the number and answered the questionnaire for my husband & I. It is a third-party directory provider that apparently has been contracted to make this directory thingy, which I can have in hard-bound or CD-rom version for just two affordable payments of (something like) $45 each. I laughed and told the poor fellow with a Virginia accent that I knew where to find anyone I was interested in finding. He countered with the advantages of having my graduating class highlighted and potential for reunions. I pointed out to him that BYU is unlike any other school, so the classmate information should be organized by starting year, not ending year (my closest friends were from freshman year, and we graduated anywhere from 1987 to 1996, depending on missions, marriage, and number of kids). That left him non-plussed and silent.

    I imagine that this directory company had been bugging BYU Alumni Association for some time about getting a contract to make the directory, and finally the Alumni Association said “Fine, go ahead. See how much good it does you.” Bet they lose money on it.

    And I am happy to donate to BYU. It was one of the best experiences in my life.

  16. August 25, 2008 at 8:45 am

    My wife and I were on the ball once, and as soon as they called, we figured out to put their Telefund number in our cell, so we never have to answer again.

  17. August 25, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Now that I said my piece about the directory card-in-the-mail, I figure I oughtta answer about the actual question of the post. (My bad.) In North America, at least, there is at least one official cross-stake coordinating group that every stake participates in, and that is the local LDS-BSA Relations committee. The interesting thing about this committee is the inside-outside alignments going on, in that this committee has both called LDS leaders and (potentially/usually) non-member leaders participating. Women are supposed to be very involved in it as well. But there are immense challenges to keeping this committee working well: continual change-over of participants, variable buy-in by those who should be involved, and a certain level of timidity as to who is “in charge.”

    My husband has been reading a book with a title something like The Spider and the Starfish, which describes organizational structures: a spider-like organization has one controlling head, so if you cut off the head, the spider dies, but a starfish-like organization has no head, but does its job even if damaged. We were thinking that the Church has features of both structures, with the ideal taught being more starfish-like than spider-like (more-or-less autonomous families, autonomous wards, autonomous stakes). This works because as members we learn the forms and patterns of leadership (and follower-ship) allowing units to function on a routine and even extraordinary basis. What we don’t learn or practice, though, are patterns and forms of leadership that require us to coordinate effectively across units.

    I suspect, from experience with the LDS-BSA Relations Committee, that the ability to do cross-unit non-hierarchical leadership is a rather rare skill, that requires a people who are both patient and excellent communicators, and who have a degree of spiritual strength to know when to stand up and say something is amiss, and yet to let it roll off their back when they aren’t listened to, to not take it personally–and above all, to not get a ‘big head’ about themselves because of the role they play.

  18. sscenter
    August 25, 2008 at 8:51 am

    This is not, of course, limited to BYU. I have four degrees from various universities and get alumni newsletters and petitions for money from every one of them. For a while we were busy paying off those student loans from four degrees but lately things have been good and and my wife and I have talked about donating – to BYU. I know BYU has problems but when I see the projects these other universities are bragging about, I do not feel I can contribute to them. Programs fostering the acceptance of lifestyles that I consider immoral are common and bragged about. For instance at my sister-in-law’s graduation from the school I got my BA from, the president of the school gave a twenty minute speech on what we could learn from the life of Richard Pryor – and neglected to cite don’t use drugs as one of those lessons. I didn’t start school until after my mission and and by the time I was a sophmore I was married so I think I was somewhat oblivious to what all was going on at these places. Looking back now, I am glad I went to these schools and appreciate the education, but do not feel I can support these institutions and what they represent. At least I know that BYU will do its best to represent the standards of the church.

    BTW – Even if every child of every general authority went to BYU for free, what does that total, a couple hundred people? If you look at the guidelines for people who want to work for the church, one of the expectations is that you will work for below market value. I think that that is a great example of looking for things to be offended by.

  19. August 25, 2008 at 8:57 am

    I never donate to my university (I didn’t go to BYU). They don’t use the money for things that matter to me, like education and libraries. Instead, the main reason a campus even exists is to give a place of focus to all the rabid football fans. I just have to be more choosy with my charitable dollars. I put my money where it does what I see as a lot more good. (kiva, PEF, CAI, etc.)

  20. anon for this one
    August 25, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Re #3: Can’t speak to the current state of affairs, but what passed for an “LDS Lawyers Association” in Chicago around 2000 was very much a “BYU Alum club,” and members were fairly rude to me and another person who were LDS but not BYU alum clubs. Although some of the clubs the OP mentioned aren’t necessarily open to non-BYU alums, perhaps the ones that are open suffer from the perception that they are exclusive clubs. Whether this perception is real or imagined, perhaps that hurts attendance and participation.

  21. August 25, 2008 at 9:34 am

    A follow-up problem with the LDS Lawyers Association being more-or-less a BYU Alum Club is that it tends to be a very “Male” organization. The J. Reuben Clark School of Law graduates many more men than it does women, and this imbalance is reflected the meetings of LDS Lawyers. I went to my first meeting in a nearby city last month, and during the panel discussion on maintaining life balance, focus was mostly about how men could balance their careers with high-visibility leadership callings and their families. There were no women on the panel… indeed, there were only four women present, and two of us were new-grads attending for the first time, and a third was in the first year of law school. I wonder if LDS professional associations aren’t quite sure what to do with professional women.

  22. Mark B.
    August 25, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Clark Kerr famously said that his job as chancellor of the University of California was “providing parking for faculty, sex for the students, and athletics for the alumni.”

    Nice to see that at BYU the president’s job leaves out the sex part, and he can just concentrate on parking and football.

  23. August 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Kevin (3):

    You are right about the advantage of having a concentrated downtown. Here in NYC, we really have both downtown (i.e., wall street) and midtown (Rockefeller Center, etc), and the two are 3-4 miles apart. Most people can’t walk to any meetings. And there are also plenty of people that don’t work in the city at all.

    But that’s really beyond the point. Is JRCLS anything except a fraternal/social club? Yes you get a nice lunch and interesting speaker. How useful is that?

    And in Chicago, how many of BYU’s law school graduates there actually participate?

  24. August 25, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Ginger (4): Your interest in a connection to Utah is perhaps a large part of the difference in perspective here. I don’t have much of an interest in a connection to Utah.

    But, again, I’m trying to see exactly what the advantage to these activities are. Is it just the Utah connection? Or is there some benefit that I don’t see?

  25. August 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    (6), (7), (8), (22) Its very interesting that so many people mentioned a parking garage for students. When I was at BYU (during the Holland years), I asked the same question. I was told that parking garages are 10 times more expensive than spaces on level ground. Sounds like a large incentive to avoid building such a facility.

    On the other hand, I’m not opposed to such a facility. But if you ask me whether I think BYU should spend $10 million on parking or $10 million on the Portuguese program (I’m quite biased here, choose your own favorite program), don’t be surprised if I don’t think much of parking.

  26. Kevin Barney
    August 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    #20, I’m sorry someone was rude to you. 2000 would have been before my time as local chair, but I’ve never seen nor experienced that at all. Nor have I experienced any class distinctions between those who attended BYU and those who didn’t.

    #21, yes, the JRCLS skews heavily male. We’d love to have more women members. We do have some, but the number of LDS women who come to Chicago to practice law is not very high.

    #23, the Chicago JRCLS mostly just works for those who work in the City. Technically we cover a wide territory, including neighboring states, but for all practical purposes attorneys practicing away from the City aren’t involved. We have about 80 LDS attorneys that work in the City and at least occasionally attend events.

    I like the JRCLS because it’s a chance to meet and get to know other LDS lawyers in the area where I live, which would happen in no other way. We try to be a resource for graduating LDS law students (really, for us the focus is more on LDS than BYU) who want to come and practice in Chicago. We get lots of requests for referrals of work to various specialties (many coming from local bishops), which we’re able to fill because of the organization.

    It could be more than it is, but what it is seems useful to me, fwiw. (And I personally have no problem donating to BYU.)

  27. August 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Regarding the value of donating to BYU — (8), (9), (10), (18), (19) — I don’t want to suggest that everyone should take my view. But I do want to suggest that there is a view of the school’s role at BYU that is at odds with mine. The school seems to believe less in “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” and more in loco parentis. I’m not comfortable with that level of control.

    But, really, this is a subject for another post.

  28. August 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Norbert (13): You are right, I think. There is a hesitation among at least some members to work with Mormon organizations that aren’t run through the Church. And I suspect that the farther away from the formal hierarchy they are, the greater the hesitation. (i.e., BYU is safer than the EMSA for these people). Fortunately, I don’t think these feelings are common everywhere. But they are probably more common in places where the Church is new or relatively small.

    This is a great subject for another post, IMO.

  29. August 25, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Re: fundraising tactics (14), (16). Ouch! During the middle of the series!

    I suppose one of the reasons that BYU’s Alumni Association misses in their efforts to reach out to me is the emphasis on football at BYU. Ever since the early 1990s, I’ve been a baseball fan. I haven’t followed football since I left BYU.

    Calling during the World Series is a good way to loose me also.

    But, in an attempt to be objective, I should point out that this is the kind of error that any fundraiser can make. BYU isn’t the only one that makes this error.

    And, in case anyone is a fan of getting telemarketing calls, start a small business! You’ll get even more!!

  30. August 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Cofinberry (17):

    Are you saying that the problem of cross-stake organizations is one of leadership? That we don’t have people in the Church with the proper kind of training to make these groups successful (because they aren’t like the leadership we normally see in Church)?

    I guess I’ve been focusing more on the benefits of these organizations. What exactly are they supposed to do?

    Why doesn’t it seem like very many Church members interested in participating in these organizations?

    And can they be successful in bringing together members across stakes if members aren’t interested in participating?

  31. Someone's Wife
    August 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    My husband gets together for lunch from time to time with the other LDS employees at a large pharmaceutical company. They might have 10-15 each time. Research scientists, a corporate lawyer, business types, a salesperson, summer interns. Mostly active members and returned missionaries; sometimes an inactive member or two. They’re spread throughout three different stakes.

    I love it when they get together because it’s an opportunity for my husband to socialize and network and find out what’s happening in different places in the company in a way that would be difficult otherwise. From what he’s said, everyone comes every time unless they’re out of town, so it must fill some basic need for these men. (Yes, no women; there was one there for a while but she moved out of state.)

    I can’t imagine this happening in Utah or anywhere else in the Mormon corridor. (The LDS lunch club at Novell? Don’t think so.)

  32. Drex Davis
    August 25, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    “So you dislike the fact that your tax dollars go to subsidize — in very unequal amounts — the educations of only the most (so-called) “intellectually worth” residents? ”

    Nope, I don’t like theft, errr, tax subsidies for anything.

  33. Drex Davis
    August 25, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Er, rather, yes, I dislike that fact . . .

    I don’t like involuntary income redistribution. period.

  34. Kristine
    August 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    “I wonder if LDS professional associations aren’t quite sure what to do with professional women.”

    Of course they’re sure–marginalize and ignore the women until they go home where they belong!

  35. Naismith
    August 25, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    It took me more than 15 years to get the BYU alumni association to admit my existence.

    The problem is that I married someone who graduated at the same time, and while I filed a change-of-address, etc., they ignored me, sent stuff to his parents, I never got anything. Whenever I wrote, they agreed that I did exist, and sent me various presents to apologize.

    Even now I have problems, such as when our college (we both graduated from the same college) sends a survey to alum, but only include one copy of the survey addressed to both of us.

    But the absolute low point was when I donated money and they sent the thank-you to him.

  36. Matt W.
    August 25, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    how men could balance their careers with high-visibility leadership callings and their families

    Ok, let’s give this the sexism test:

    how women could balance their careers with high-visibility leadership callings and their families

    Yep, passes the test.

  37. Matt W.
    August 25, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I am a member of the MBA alumni association, but I didn’t go to BYU here in San Antonio, but I didn’t go to BYU.

  38. Matt W.
    August 25, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    RE 37, sorry, that got totally jumbled up. What I meant to say, is yes, it is prominently a male organization, in that 90% of the people there are male, but the women are always welcome (the org sponser is a woman). Ultimately though, it’s just a lunch date once a quarter, unless you golf, and then it is an annual t time as well.

  39. sscenter
    August 25, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    “Of course they’re sure–marginalize and ignore the women until they go home where they belong!”

    Kristine – I am assuming this is sarcasm. If not, could you help me find the reference where the church leadership has encourage women not associate with other church members, after all that is all we are discussing, people associating with other Mormons with similar interests. I anxiously await the reference.

  40. Mark B.
    August 25, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Actually, Kent, I was only talking (22) about parking as it related to sex.

    Besides, I solved the parking problem while at BYU by (1) riding to school in my dad’s car with the faculty sticker or (2) riding my motorcycle, which allowed me to park within about 5 steps of any building or (3) riding in my wife’s car, with her staff parking sticker.

    During the 1980s when my father was in a position to say something about parking, he always argued in favor of removing all the roads and parking from central campus–including the parking for faculty. Needless to say, those ideas didn’t get too far.

  41. JimD
    August 25, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    On the bright side, vacuous promises to “do something” about the parking situation (or to implement a [non-feasible] campus-wide shuttle system) have gotten more than one BYUSA presidential candidate elected over the years.

  42. August 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Parking is lousy at the University of Colorado, too, but the shuttle and local bus transit system make up the difference. Students are expected to walk, ride bike, or ride bus in Boulder. The buses have integral bike racks to facilitate transport, and the cost of the pass is rolled into the fees paid with tuition. From what I can tell (having graduated from both), Boulder is a lot like Provo (town of ~ 100K, nestled up against mountainside, with major city/airport a respectable drive away. Why wouldn’t a campus-wide shuttle system work?

  43. Kristine
    August 25, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    sscenter–yes, it was sarcasm, or at least hyperbole. I think many Mormon men disapprove of women practicing law or medicine or whatever their professional associations are for, and that disapproval might be felt in subtle ways. But I do assume they would be subtle.

  44. August 25, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I was peeved by BYU because they sent my husband a card, asking for an update. DH has a PhD now. But they didn’t send me a card. We both graduated from the university. I felt a little miffed.

  45. JimD
    August 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Last time BYU solicited money from me, I wrote back and told them point blank that I wouldn’t contribute to them until they no longer employed Student Life Dean Vernon Heperi. Heperi, you may recall, is the guy who fired Todd Hendricks and threatened to (and then did) yank Hendricks’ pregnant wife’s medical insurance if Hendricks went public with his story (see http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/59043).

    I haven’t heard from them again.

  46. August 25, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the JRCLS has had a number of non-BYU Alumni as chairs. A few Alumni as chairs as well (including myself), but just as many Arizona, etc. alums. It is a great group.

    We’ve also spent a good deal of time soliciting female attorneys in the area to join.

    Unfortunately, they keep leaving the area, though we have had some great female speakers.

  47. August 25, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    I hope that BYU gets off tithing funds altogether – I’m uncomfortable with the notion that everyone’s tithing funds would be used to subsidize the educations of only the most (so-called) “intellectually worthy” members.

    The Church seriously considered that approach, which would have turned BYU into an LDS SMU or USC — a place for the rich members to send their kids to marry each other rather than a place for people to attend and have a core cultural experience.

    I think that BYU as it is is well worth what the Church is doing with it and the cost.


  48. Ray
    August 25, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Amen, Stephen. Sometimes the reality is so far from the perception that they aren’t even on the same continent.

  49. Drex Davis
    August 25, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    “The Church seriously considered that approach, which would have turned BYU into an LDS SMU or USC — a place for the rich members to send their kids to marry each other rather than a place for people to attend and have a core cultural experience.”

    And what culture would that be? Wasatch front culture?

    Is BYU culture the embodiment of LDS culture? Or what LDS culture should be?

    I don’t think the church’s mission with BYU is or should be about providing core cultural experiences. If it were, I don’t think you’d see the admissions process you see now. My opinion.

  50. Drex Davis
    August 25, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Ray and Stephen,
    Out of curiousity. Were you students at BYU? Is your opinion shaped by your attendance there?

    I am a BYU graduate. I’ve had a good many long conversations with church members, and their parents, who paid tithing funds, which subsidized my education, while they were rejected from BYU. High GPAs, just not high enough. Worthy. Dedicated. Faithful.

    I do feel an obligation to utilize my education to build the kingdom, and to serve my faithful brothers and sisters who desired to have the experience I did, but who were denied it.

    Perhaps their lot in life is to sacrifice for people like me. So that I can have doors of opportunity open for me for the education their tithing funds provided me.

    Perhaps this is a form of consecration at work.

    I’m just not personally comfortable with it.

    You are also making assumptions about people in the church – that the rich are somehow insular, only mingle with one another, only care about their own, etc.

    There are many wealthy members I know who support multiple missionaries on their missions – many have done the same helping others through college. The rich aren’t just insular “inbreeders”. Unless you consider Mormons to be indistinct from Methodists.

  51. Drex Davis
    August 25, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Since irony doesn’t translate in print, I need to provide the html tags.

    Perhaps their lot in life is to sacrifice for people like me. So that I can have doors of opportunity open for me for the education their tithing funds provided me.

  52. August 26, 2008 at 1:26 am

    JimD (45): I see things haven’t changed much. The complaints I have are about incidents that showed the same attitude, just 20 years earlier.

    As for the rest of this, I think I’ll post later this week about BYU’s role. This seems to be an issue that interests a lot of people.

  53. Jonovitch
    August 26, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Drex, you are also assuming that rich Mormons are not insular, that they don’t only mingle with one another, that they don’t only care about their own, etc. Mormons are by no means immune to the effects of money. People are generally people, and money changes people — always has, always will. Being Mormon gives some people a fighting chance at not letting money warp them totally, but it is not an absolute protection. I’ve known rich Mormons who fund others’ missions who are still self-absorbed and lacking perspective. Being someone’s Sugar Daddy doesn’t mean you’re not insular.

    At any rate, I guess I could consider my tithing to be an indirect donation to BYU. Next time they call begging for handouts, I’ll tell them I already gave at church. :)

    As for the original topic, my mom bugged me for a while to get involved in the BYU Management Society around here (which she led for a couple years), but I never saw the point of forcing myself to engage in small-talk with a bunch of perfect strangers just to exchange contact information with someone I may never see again. Unless someone can explain to me what else I’d get out of it, “networking” just isn’t a big enough draw. LinkedIn and Facebook work much better for me.

    I’m wondering if online social networks are making associations like these obsolete?


  54. Drex Davis
    August 26, 2008 at 2:03 am

    You’re correct. Noted. We are a mixed bag as a group and there are all kinds . . . and I certainly bring my assumptions to the discussion. Perhaps I give rich people too much credit. Not being one of them (at least by my country’s standards), I’m not quite sure how they think and feel, and whether it’s any different from the way I do. :)

    At any rate, I suppose my heart just hurts for people who get passed over. Perhaps it’s just come residual guilt I feel – why did I deserve that “blessing” any more than another. Being able to attend BYU certainly opened up a lot of doors for me, professionally. Doors that I seriously doubt would’ve been available had I not received tithing-subsidized tuition there.

    I hope that church schools will become more, not less prevalent, and that those who attend them will take responsibility on themselves to support them financially. It is possible that after a monthly tithing payment, there’s nothing left over. I understand that.

    I just hurt to see some people benefit disproportionally (in my opinion) from the tithing when other equally deserving and faithful people who pay into the system don’t receive that blessing. I hope everyone who desires can someday receive it.

    As a thought for a future topic, somewhat related to the notion of the association – one of the reasons many LDS associations (particularly Management Societies) form is to help generate work for the people who attend – good old fashioned lead drumming, job hunting, prospecting, etc. I’ve often considered how this social construct affects LDS business people in general. Are LDS-centric business associations – where someone is a member not based on their professional considerations, but on their faith affiliation – in any way a net negative for the larger LDS community and its objectives?

    I live in Mesa, AZ and on more than one occasion have been told by a non-member that they felt passed over for a job because they other person was a member and the people hiring were/are members and favored the member. Maybe sour grapes, maybe not, just that there’s sometiems a perception that LDS business people are chummy with one another and may tend to award work based on (to some degree) religious affiliation, and not (at least at some level) merit. Do we ever feel pressured to pass over more qualified non-members in order to “take care of our own”?

    I’ve felt pressure from people at times to do business with them b/c they’re members and the competition isn’t. I try to politely point out that I don’t want to be a stumbling block to the missionary efforts of the church by “punishing” an otherwise meritorious business associate because they aren’t a member of my faith.

    I can’t see this really being an issue in most areas of the world, but in places where church members are very prevalent and influential there exist in the minds of non-members “Mormon Mafias” – do associations foster that sort of perception (or reality).

    In areas where members are fewer and farther between, these organizations can foster a sense of community and solidarity. But where there’s already community and solidarity, are they gratuitous and exclusive (if they don’t make explicit efforts to reach across faith divides)?

    I’m interested in this if anyone else is . . .

  55. gst
    August 26, 2008 at 3:25 am

    Most JRCLS chapters offer something much more important than social interaction with other LDS lawyers–required Continuing Legal Education credits. You’ve got to get them somewhere.

    I once went to a meeting in Chicago in which Kevin gave an interesting talk on the Nauvoo Charter.

    Another time I attended a JRCLS lunch in California in which Judge Milan Smith gave a talk on how to become a federal appellate judge. (First, see that your brother gets elected to the US Senate. I don’t remember the other steps.)

    So even though the quality of the presentations varies, the CLE is constant.

  56. Eric Boysen
    August 26, 2008 at 8:31 am

    It is not my school, but I don’t begrudge tithing funds going to support BYU. I do think, however, that alumni support would reduce the need for tithing money, and therefore that alumni that don’t want tithing money going to the school should be the first to pony up.

    Marc #22 – Providing a social venue for the gathering of students of opposite genders and encouraging marriage is, I am sure, part of BYU’s president’s job. There are more ways than one for students to get their needs met.

  57. August 26, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Re: Tithing money subsidizing church schools.

    1. I don’t see why this is a problem. If you believe in paying tithing because of an obedience clause in your relationship to God, where it goes should make no difference to you whatsoever because you’ve fed the Big Vending Machine in the Sky. If, however, you want a prospectus and an income statement to find out where it goes, then you probably just shouldn’t pay tithing.

    2. What, exactly, is an alumni association for? I still don’t know and I am one. Of two universities. They both hit me up for money and I still can’t figure out what on earth they do. Or maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

    I do think, however, that alumni support would reduce the need for tithing money, and therefore that alumni that don’t want tithing money going to the school should be the first to pony up.

    3. Doesn’t BYU invest and manage its endowment fund like the ivies? I mean, Harvard Management Company regularly hits between 15% and 25% return each year. I googled with the same keywords for both Harvard and BYU, but I with a quick glance, I don’t see any comparable information.

  58. Drex Davis
    August 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    #57 “where it goes should make no difference to you whatsoever”

    Really? I actually became aware and concerned about it after I heard a talk by Pres. Hinckley in the 90s.

    He was speaking at BYU, to BYU students in 1990 (I was not there, I read the talk years later).

    “I compliment you, each of you, on the great privilege and blessing you have in being here. I am grateful for the opportunity to be associated, in some measure at least, with this remarkable institution.

    But this responsibility is not without worries and concerns. I remember many years ago, when Ernest L. Wilkinson was president, we had an important discussion in our board meeting. For some years prior to that, the university had vigorously recruited students, with General Authorities at stake conferences being a part of that effort. Then, suddenly, there were more applicants than could be accommodated, and there was much discussion concerning enrollment ceilings. There was talk about who should be eligible to come and what should be the qualifying factors. That meeting was conducted by President Harold B. Lee, who was then serving as a counselor in the First Presidency. As the discussion went on, I remember saying, “The basic question we face now and will continue to face is simply this, ‘Who will the Church educate, and who will it turn away?”’

    The question was faced then, and it has troubled us ever since.

    But perhaps I’m not OK being “troubled” by it either?

    (October 1990, Speech at BYU http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7061)

  59. August 26, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    #58. I guess my confusion is that if you’re troubled by where it goes, stop paying it. It either is or is not a measure of obedience to the Lord.

    Tithing is not taxation. It’s voluntary (uh, except for those who work for the church and the compulsion to pay tithing as a withholding, IMO, is wrong wrong wrong). If you pay tithing because of your faith, then, no. Where it goes should make no difference even if that means some people don’t get to go to BYU.

    I don’t get the benefit of someone else’s ward building. I can barely make it to a temple because the nearest one is 250 miles away, it’s not “open” like the larger temples, and it takes such a great effort to get there. I don’t benefit from the church welfare program because I haven’t required its use (knock wood), though I pay my fast offerings. In short, I don’t see a whole lot of church-sponsored return on my investment of tithing. I don’t see a whole lot of any other return on my investment of tithing that can be directly linked, either, but I pay it because I believe that’s what God asked me to do.

    I also believe that all those people in cathedral churches are being obedient even when they put money in the plate for some charlatan evangelist because it’s their faith doing the work, whether the evangelist uses the money wisely or not. That transaction is between the giver and the Lord. The middleman makes no difference.

  60. August 27, 2008 at 10:44 am

    #22 Nice to see that at BYU the president’s job leaves out the sex part, and he can just concentrate on parking and football.
    Given the high percentage of married undergrads at BYU, and the larger part of them are newlyweds (less than 2 years), I would guess the amount of sex going on at BYU is as high if not higher than any other comparable university.
    #55 That reminds of Vince Vaughn’s advice for meeting women. First star in several big movies…
    I like the phone call I get every year from BYU thanking me for my GENEROUS donation the previous year. I always make a statement that I didn’t know $25 was generous and the poor student on the other end gets flustered. That is worth $25 a year alone. Though I have noticed the Y is systematically erasing every evidence that I even attended; first it was my major building the Smith Family Living Center, then it was my freshman dorm W-Hall. They just have to redo Y mount and it will be like I never existed.

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