ONLY AT BYU-I

“Only at BYU-Idaho,” was a phrase I muttered countless times during my six years in Rexburg. And if I’m being completely honest, it was usually meant in a derogatory manner.

Oh, your roommate got engaged to a girl he met just last week?
Only at BYU-Idaho.

It’s -35 degrees after wind-chill and class still isn’t being canceled?
Only at BYU-Idaho.

You were asked to leave class because you had the audacity to wear shorts in the middle of July?
Only at BYU-Idaho.

You have to shave your five o’clock shadow to work out even though the kid running the spinning class has a Hitler ‘stache?
Only at BYU-Idaho.

Those are just a few examples of the cultural abnormalities that I knew I wouldn’t miss when my family and I left Rexburg for graduate school. I wasn’t going to miss wearing jeans every day, I wasn’t going to miss nine months of winter, and I definitely wasn’t going to miss being immersed in the often obscure “BYU-I culture” 24-hours a day.

But for the first time in two years, a story shared on my Facebook feed this afternoon made me miss (almost) everything about BYU-Idaho.

Shared by BYU-Idaho’s student media organization, the Scroll, a BYU-I student has been charged with felony video voyeurism after police say he hid cameras in some girls’ apartment. According to the story, the student, who admitted to the crime, hid two pin hole cameras in the apartment, one in the bathroom and another in a bedroom.

After reading the article, I started going through the comments. One of the first read, “Of course this happened at BYU-Idaho.” Another proclaimed, “We don’t need this type of behavior here in Rexburg!”

I initially agreed with the angry commenters. I mean, my wife lived in the same apartment complex that this incident took place when we were dating. If something like this would have happened in her apartment back then, I would have lost my mind. I would have demanded an apology, restitution, and, likely, blood.

But then I kept reading.

I noticed one post was earning ‘likes’ faster than Madison County locals speeding through icy roundabouts (that’s a regional joke, you see).

A young woman was defending the guilty party. She said:

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In another post, she went on to explain that it was her and her roommates who were the victims of this story. It was her fiancée who acted so recklessly, violating her trust and the trust of her roommates. And she didn’t seem angry with him at all. Instead she was pleading for others to spare the perpetrator any further embarrassment and withhold judgement. I couldn’t believe it.

As I continued to read through the comments, I found the other girls who were victimized were making similar comments.

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At this point, my mind was blown.

How could a young man enter the home of his fiancée and her roommates, take advantage of their trust, expose the most private parts of their personal lives, and have  those same women forgive and defend him?

Instead of being filled with wrath, anger, rancor, or vitriol, they were expressing feelings of love, concern, and forgiveness.

Instead of trying to make their perpetrator suffer for his stupid, thoughtless, selfish mistake, these amazing young women were making a concentrated effort to engage with others on Facebook and remind them of the healing power of Christ’s Atonement.

There is no doubt in my mind that this young man will suffer. He will pay for his crimes and sins, just like everyone else eventually will. There is no excuse for what he did. And the way the victims responded does not excuse or diminish the gravity of their perpetrator’s assault.

But that is not the story here.

These women are the physical embodiment of everything that is great about BYU-Idaho. How a group of young women could forgive their perpetrator and extend a level of Christlike charity only found in the scriptures and conference talks is beyond me.

I sit here shocked, at a loss for words. I am left with just a single thought running through my head.

“Only at BYU-Idaho.”

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42 comments

  1. This is beautiful. It sheds so much light on this otherwise depressing story. I’ve had some frustrations about BYU-Idaho too but you just encapsulated the goodness of it in a nutshell so perfectly. Thanks. I am glad to be attending here at BYU-I.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks you so very much for sharing this. I shared it on my Facebook as well and am grateful to be able to give a different side of this.. We have known Devan’s family for years (one of the absolute best families out there) and are praying for everyone involved.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Ignorantly trust him”

      I don’t think his former fiancee’s statement merited to her trusting him; it’s more along the lines of she understand who he is, and she is willing to help in any way she can. But she’s no longer engaged to him, so she’s not throwing her trust back into his arms, ya know?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is because “Only at BYUI” are women objects for men to move around, consume, own… These women are so possessed by men, that they are willing to forgive someone who violated them in an extremely heinous way. This was no innocent mistake. He had to premeditate and specifically plan how to accomplish his voyeurism. He didn’t accidentally put pinhole cameras in a bedroom and bathroom. He had to obtain the cameras, put them there in a place that they wouldn’t be noticed-at a time when they wouldn’t notice him in their bathroom/bedroom. She is entitled to forgive him, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should ignorantly trust him. He took advantage of her naïveté, and victimized both her and her roommate. If this happened in ANY other city, he would be vilified and justly so. But since it is in Rexburg, he is a victim and needs protection. This right here is why I tell ALL of my friends with college-bound children to send them to other schools. The BYU school system is NOT so great that the safety of their child merits being compromised.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the situation. I don’t live in Rexburg, attend BYU-Idaho, or work for the school, and agree that it is not a perfect institution. If something like this happened to my wife, sister, or one day, daughters, I don’t believe that I would have the capacity to forgive and come to the defense of the perpetrator, like his victims did. I agree that this wasn’t harmless mistake, but something that required meticulous planning and repeated violation of trust. The perpetrator is obviously guilty here, and will rightfully pay the consequences, but he is not the focus of the post. I wrote this because of the unique perspective the victims have on the situation. I am amazed by the reaction of the victims of this crime. I still can’t understand how they would defend him and ask others to pray on his behalf. The charity the victims are extending to their perpetrator do not excuse his behavior at all. It is just a testament of their character.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Of course he will be tried for his crime. His ex and her roommate were violated and he perpetrated a criminal act. That they have already chosen to forgive his crime is admirable but I didn’t notice anywhere in their decision to forgive, a plea for him to have no consequence, no penalty. To forgive does not mean to negate justice. I think you were absolutely on that he destroyed trust…he will have to live that. I hope too that he will recover…repentance, counselling and addiction recovery.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Are you aware of the sexual assault statistics at other schools? There are problems in the BYU system, but they are FAR less prevalent than almost any other university. BYU is the only place I would feel safe sending my children when compared to sex crimes at other schools. Having done both my undergrad and graduate degrees at BYU Provo, I can tell you it is extraordinarily safe, ESPECIALLY for those who obey the Honor Code. Hearing about the routine sexual assault and binge drinking occurring at other universities made me so grateful to have been a student at a school where the vast majority of the male population respects women.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The sexual assault statistics are so low at BYU and BYU-I because ecclesiastical leaders, school administrators, and even the local law enforcement SHAME victims of sexual assault into not pressing charges. The BYU school system and their dogmatic worship of the honor code has created the perfect Hunting Ground for sexual predators. They don’t “respect” women. They objectify them. They practice benevolent sexism. They see them as a next step in their eternal progression. And the sexual predators see them as easy targets that will be too shamed, scared, and stupid to stop their actions. Just look to the recent Title IX lawsuits against BYU. These are not as safe schools as you think they are. And you are being a sheeple if you put that much trust in a flawed system.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You are very mistaken. Not only at BYU-idaho are women consumed and used as objects. This is an issue our whole society is facing. Sadly, because we are all human, this issue also exists in Rexburg. Also, where did any one of these girls suggest that he should be trusted? No one is saying that. This man will go to jail, be put on the sex offender registration database, and this action will greatly impact his available future options (as it should). However, these girls being able to forgive this act, and asking for others to tone down the hate train, shows great strength not weakness. Statistically, you most likely are close to someone who has an addiction to porn. Because the porn industry is filled with women being taken advantage of, along with a whole host of other crimes and horrific acts, supporting the industry is only marginally more moral than this man’s act.

      Like

  4. What a great post! I definitely miss the “Spirit of Ricks” (actually is the Spirit of Loving Others as Christ did) when I’m back home in Chicago. Thank you for expressing what I’ve felt before.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m interested in how putting a camera in someone else’s bathroom and bedroom for your sexual gratification is an honest mistake? He can be forgiven but we still must remember that he is a sexual predator.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Completely agree. This was anything but a harmless mistake. It wasn’t my intention to defend the perpetrator or minimize any harm he caused, but instead share how amazing I thought it was that his victims were handling the situation with so much charity and compassion for the man who violated their trust.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure that they really ARE handling it. The timeline shows them catching him, he gets arrested, article printed, public forgiveness… They don’t seem to have gotten the time to unpack being violated in what used to be a safe space, at a supposedly safe school.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Forgiveness is so powerful. It’s so important to recognize that when we fail to forgive, the greater sin lies with us. For example, my step father molested my sister for years. My mother accepted the advice of her bishop and taught us that when we don’t forgive, we are sinners. I was so grateful for this lesson. Now I know that my sister is a much bigger sinner than the man who violated her from the ages of 6-10, because she just can’t forgive him.

    You’re right. Only at BYU is immediate forgiveness of someone who has violated you seen as virtue rather than as the unhealthy coping mechanism that any person who works with traumatized women could recognize.

    And just to be clear, I truly hope that someday these women and my sister can be truly at peace. But let’s not ignore the enormous pressure these women and hundreds like them feel to pretend it’s all ok.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you for sharing your comment. I don’t live in Rexburg, attend BYU-Idaho, or work for the school, and agree that it is not a perfect institution. I haven’t directly spoken to or contacted the victims of this crime. I don’t know anything about this situation other than what I have read on social media. This was not just a harmless mistake, but something that required meticulous planning and repeated violation of trust. I certainly didn’t mean to dismiss his crime or excuse his behavior. I just wrote this because of the unique perspective the victims have on the situation. I still can’t understand how they would defend him and ask others to pray on his behalf. The charity the victims are extending to their perpetrator do not excuse his behavior at all.

      And I agree that you cannot put a timetable on someone’s forgiveness, nor can you ever expect someone to immediately forgive their offender. If something like this happened to one of my loved ones, I don’t know if I could ever truly forgive the perpetrator.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Only thing I am against is no beards. I think it’s stupid that we(men) can’t have beards. Look at that prophets from Brigham Young to so on, some had beards. Jeusu has a bread.

    As long as it it clean trim beard and no shaggy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember listening to a friend argue (unsuccessfully) with an intramural official who made him go home and shave before he could play a game of basketball. “You’re saying I can look like Hitler, but not Jesus?” I always thought that was pretty funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I knew the fiancee/victim on my mission and she is a wonderful person,obviously. I also grew up in Rexburg Idaho and can attest that although unique and peculiar,it is an awesome place.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Would you be OK with him working in your ward’s Primary when he graduates and moves away? What about when he gets called as a bishop and gets to interview your 12-year-old about chastity? Sure, if you want to, go ahead and forgive him. But he should be prosecuted for voyeurism, a sex crime, so no other victims accumulate in his wake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a father of daughters, I would not be okay with anyone guilty of a crime of a sexual nature serving with the youth. I also don’t know the rules about felons serving in leadership positions, but in this case, I can’t imagine I would ever feel comfortable with a felon of a sex crime being alone with my children. And I do completely agree that he should be prosecuted.

      But I didn’t intend for the perpetrator to be the focus of the post. I was just amazed by the ability of these young women to forgive and defend him so quickly. Assuming that their efforts were genuine, they displayed a level of maturity and perspective that I admire and hope to reach one day.

      Like

      • As far as I know, the only individuals barred from serving with youth are adults whose violations of chastity involved minors. I don’t think there are any other restrictions placed on individuals who have repented of their crimes and fulfilled their sentences, though local leaders may elect to not call him to certain positions.

        Like

    • Clearly, you do not understand the mechanisms that the church has in place to ensure that no one guilty of such a crime will be in a position of trust with children or young men and young women. The church takes abuse and protection of children incredibly seriously.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Very interesting. I just wonder what this young man can do for himself as far as the repentance process. How can he remedy his actions towards those he offended.? Likely . And I’m making an assumption, was pornography part of his young life before this.? I’m supportive of the young woman who who broke off the engagement, she deserves better.
    BYU campuses all have hidden stories just not shared to all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well reality is, he’ll be convicted of a sex crime, ergo sum, labeled a sex offender. Jail/prison inmates do not look kindly on this category of offenders. Just saying

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you so much for this post. It has really helped my family and loved ones to feel some sort of peace with this horrible situation. What happened is not okay. But repentance is such a real thing. Punishment is definitely a part of that process, but so is compassion. I figure that if Heavenly Father can forgive people such as Saul and Alma the Younger and then go on to mold them into instruments for His hands, then why did it be act different for Devan?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reaching out. I hope you know that you deserve nothing but happiness. I am sorry you have dealt with so much negative backlash for just extending forgiveness to Devan. I, for one, think you are amazing for being able to go through everything that you have and still possess such a Christlike attitude.

      Liked by 1 person

    • TheFormerFiance, I’m terribly sorry for the difficult situation you and your family have been put through.

      I was amazed to hear this story and your reaction to it. I recently started a Mormon-based website with freelance contributors, and I’m wondering if you would like to write about this experience for us. We would be honored to share your wonderful spirit and message with others. My name is Braden. Feel free to message me at braden.jenks@gmail.com and we can discuss further. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I am frustrated that the perpetrator’s actions were dismissed as a “mistake.” They were not a mistake, absolving the perpetrator of responsibility for his actions. They were a result of forethought and acts of malice. This should not be dismissed so lightly as a mistake. Having said that, I am in awe of the victims’ grace and forgiving spirits. I hope it sustains them through the next coming weeks and months

    Liked by 1 person

    • Years.

      The forgive and forget mentality has consequences of the soul tjat drag on and on. The forgivness process should be slow. Not immediate. I know from my own experiances. Things that get forgotten stay witg you deep in your soul until they come crashing down, usually when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What he did was wrong, he should feel shame. He should be held accountable and be tried as a sex offender. You can have nice, forgiving feelings towards him, but that doesn’t change what he did.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m glad this guy got caught and that he will pay a price for his crime, and I agree that forgiveness should be applied and I respect the way those women reacted to this situation. However, I will say from personal experience that people who seem “incredibly sweet, loving, silly, and all around lovable” can end up doing terrible things behind closed doors. I’m not judging this man in particular. I’m just saying we need to know that just because someone we think we know well appears to be wonderful doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of doing terrible things. It is a sad truth and we have a bad habit at assuming people are more perfect than they are in our culture. Again, I’m glad this guy got caught so he can get the help he needs. I hope he can fix it and move on.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I feel sorry for those in the LDS church who don’t understand how important this forgiveness truly is. Having recovered from many addictions and having worked with many who have suffered from addiction I am able to understand that it is the unforgiving heart that tears people apart and drives them further into their problems. Love is the only thing that heals. God deals justice only to those who do not seek out repentance. If Devan simply has the desire to overcome these issues and if he works to do so then he has every right to be a leader for those around him. We all have done many things that we wish we hadn’t, and I would bet that you would be quite surprised by things that those you respect have done. The scriptures tell us that God forgives and forgets. Why should we not? If only people would wake up to the true difference between good and evil and not be blinded by their own hipocratism, then would we find greater peace. I would ask that as we read this that we contemplate some of the things that we have done in our lives. Have we sought forgiveness for them? Have we sought to restore what we have broken? Having gone through this process I can tell you that there is nothing that feels better than to give restitution, knowing that we have done what we can to fix what we have broken, and feeling the warmth of knowing that we are clean. I find the strength of these women to be quite admirable. They truly know what it means to be Christ-like. Christ told us that the greater sin lies with those who do not forgive. These women did just that. If a jew having gone through a concentration camp can forgive his tormentor and Christ could forgive those who caused Him to suffer so much, why can’t we do the same?

    What Devan did was not good and what has happened will be a good learning process for him, but it is not for us to judge, because as we judge so will we be judged. What we should hope for is that Devan can see the light and seek help. Our love is the only thing that will help him. Let him overcome and forget his past so that he too can achieve the greatness that we can inherit as children of our Divine Father in Heaven.

    Like

    • Forgive and forget is how a pedophile who hadn’t been tried yet wound up serving in a youth calling. He molested several young men, who all testified against him. He is currently serving time in one state. And when he finished there, there are 2 other states where he will serve time for sex crimes against juveniles. But God forgives him, so the victims can just endure the PTSD and inability to trust ecclesiastical leaders… Because they need to forgive the man who stole their innocence.

      Like

  17. We can dismiss the girls’ forgiving attitudes as signs of their naïveté or their repression or whatever. Or, we can recognize it as something that is not only unusual but instructive and inspiring. Why would I say that? Christians, including LDS Christians are taught to embrace the very attitude being exemplified by these girls. A must re-read for all LDS, especially LDS that are condemning this kid for his sin and his crime, is April 2007 General Conference James E. Faust. I won’t say what he said. Just go read it if you dare. Feeling outraged, angry, judgmental, righteous, self-righteous. These are very natural responses to a story like this. Calling him a “creepster”. “Pervert” is very natural. But, when are we to apply the admonition to “put off the natural man?” Does that apply to us here, in this instance? I think it does. These BYUI girls have actually and really “put off the natural man” and have embraced a spirit of forgiveness in a very usual and unnatural way (which is why it is newsworthy and we are talking about it.). That is what is instructive to me. That is what is inspiring to me. But, what is enlightening to me is that their reaction should not be unusual.. It should not be newsworthy. Instead, it should be commonplace for us who wish to be Christians! How these girls responded to these events is exactly what Christ taught! Yet, it is so rare, even among us who profess righteousness, that it becomes a news story. When I first saw the story of the young man charged, I, like almost everyone, judged him. I spoke of him as a “creepster.” I thought I was being righteous in condemning his obviously evil act. I was glorying in that I myself have never done that and never will – affirming my own superiority. All the while ignoring the Savior’s admonition to “put off the natural man” and “judge not” and “forgive”… Even your enemies. I am to forgive… Even my enemies? And, it occurred to me that this young man didn’t even do this to me! I am nothing but an observer. That the young ladies that he did offend have chosen to forgive and not judge is their great example of really following Christ and truly being Christians. Now, just imagine how the world would be if everyone acted and responded as they did! The world would be a much more peaceful and loving place for sure! Their response was unusual, unnatural, and newsworthy. I just wish it was more commonplace among us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What is more commonplace among us is how many people you don’t know that you know, who are sexual assault survivors. Or who are survivors of a sex crime. Thing is, women are conditioned to expect it.

      Like

  18. Megami, it is clear that the spirit of this post has eluded you. Everyone agrees that what this man did is not okay. He should/will pay for his crime. I can appreciate what you are trying to say, however, I think you are perpetuating the problem with society despite your efforts to expose it. It is clear that you have biases towards the LDS faith. It’s not my place to say whether those biases are justified or not. I do know from personal experience that these situations are in no way unique to that faith. I am the daughter of a sexual deviant. His crimes are too many to list… but like this man, one of them is voyeurism. He drilled holes in the walls of my bedroom as a child so that he could look through. For this reason (among many others) my mother left him. I was also, for a time, a step-daughter to a sexual predator. He molested many young girls. These men were converts. My cousin (not a member) was also molested & later raped by her neighbor (not a member) time & again over the course of 6 years. I am also the victim of an attempted rape in my teens by a non member. These crimes are atrocious. They seep in and affect every part of your being. They stay with you no matter how hard you try to escape them. There are times when you believe yourself to be free from the pain only to be blindsided with flashes of memory, both physical & mental. Forgiveness, for me, is imparitive to my healing. I have suffered long enough. I deserve to move on. I have pity for a father who was abused himself. Who endured so much horror as a child only to fall victim to his own loss of boundaries & sin as an adult. I have sorrow for a mother who was molested by her own father. Who tried so hard to live a different life & was failed by those whom she chose to marry. I forgive him for what he did. I forgive her for the situations she placed me in unknowingly. I choose to forgive. I. Not you. You do not have the right to question their forgiveness. Not the act itself nor the timeline of its presentation. You do not know them. You do not have the right to deny them any measure of peace afforded by that forgiveness. Do not victimize them further through your own agenda. You are not them. Your life experiences are not theirs. You may find peace in different ways. Allow them the right to choose for themselves. To regain control in a way that they see fit & however quickly they choose. Allow the possibility that not all women of our faith are brainwashed into believing that they deserve to be victimized. Despite all of my experiences I have not been conditioned to believe that I deserve to be violated, nor that I will be again in the future. I do not believe that society fails women unilaterally whether in the church or without. I believe that individuals fail them. Circumstance fails them. Even if groups of people fail them, they are not automatically conditioned to believe that everyone else will. That is a choice. I choose to believe that I deserve better. My daughter deserves better. These women deserve better. Better than to continue to be victims & better than being subjected to your condescension….however well intended. Forgiveness is partly for the accused but mostly for the victim. It is their right. Allow them the freedom to fight and regain whatever measure of peace they can attain. They do not need nor deserve your antipathy. Extend them prayers, love, & grace. They will need it. Forgiveness is a balm but it is not an eraser.

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