Religious Freedom and Plurality: What Can YOU Do?

“What is religious freedom?” asked Hannah C. Smith, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund and former clerk for Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito at a recent Durham event. “Nothing answers this questions better than the Eleventh Article of Faith, which states: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” This has been corroborated through our government in the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Why, then, is religious freedom an issue? Why did we have a lecture discussing it?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “We live in challenging times. Religious freedom is indeed under fire.”  Mrs. Smith put forward a number of legal cases the Becket Fund has worked on that showcase this: the fight over whether or not the phrase “under God” should be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance and the right of a Muslim inmate to keep his beard. There are countless other cases that can attest to the fact that religious liberty is under fire. That being said, though,pexels-photo-134607 America has a history of being a religiously diverse country. Puritans, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and members of other religions practice in  our country. As such, we have had to adopt a policy of religious pluralism. At its conception, the motto of the United States was “E Pluribus Unum” which translates to ‘from many, one.’ However, in 1956, “In God We Trust” was declared as the official motto of the US. From these, we can see that religious plurality and freedom were values esteemed by our leaders over the course of our entire history.

What can You do?

What can be done, then, to restore religious freedom to the state guaranteed it by the Constitution and claimed by our church’s Eleventh Article of Faith? Mrs. Smith listed ways that we as individuals can continue to promote religious liberty and plurality:

  • Support “religious freedom for all”
  • Stand up for what we believe to be true: “[The] real work of defending religious liberty begins [with you.]”

If we want to carry on the tradition of religious plurality and freedom, we will have to make it a priority and stand firm in our convictions.

What can you do to support religious freedom and plurality?


Capitalizing on Your Education: Know Your Style

Kinesthetic. Visual. Audio. Those three words, these learning styles, categorized us in grade school. They shaped the way we learned, and the ways our teachers taught. The idea of learning styles has been around for decades. “For more than 30 years,” says the Association for Psychological Science, “the notion that teaching methods should match a student’s particular learning style has exerted a powerful influence on education.” As its influence has grown, so has the study of it. Ryan R. Jensen of our Geography department has researched the learning styles of student swithin different majors and learning environments. He identified three new learning styles that describe students working on group projects. And in a 2012 study published in the Asia Pacific Media Educator, he identified four types of communications learners:

Ryan Jensen, All Rights Reserved

Four types of Communications Learners

Global Conceptualizers care about the big picture, the “why” behind lists of facts and details. Concepts are easier to understand than memorized facts, and being sensible is better than being imaginative. These students remember what they see better than what they hear. They are globally, realistically, and sequentially (when it comes to writing) oriented. Global conceptualizers prefer classes dedicated to theory and concepts.

Verbal Learners gravitate to text rather than graphs and charts. They do not like theory-oriented courses. Surprisingly, they do not like reading for fun. Verbal learners do not like proofreading their own work because they are not detail-oriented. They remember things better when they experience them, rather than when they think about them. These students express their opinions boldly in group settings.

Realistic Visualizers see themselves as highly realistic and detail-oriented. These students prefer graphs and charts to obtain information. They understand the overall structures of subjects at the same level that they do their details. When these students remember or recall something, they can picture it in their minds. They learn better by talking things out with other students. Group work is their favorite when they can make a plan for the project. These student rarely get to know their classmates.

Ambiguous Conceptualizers feel most comfortable learning concepts and theory. Remembering what the teacher said is easier for them than recalling visual aids. Reading is their past-time. They love to share their thoughts in group collaboration and dive into projects without planning. These students can remember things that they have thought about easier than things they have done. These students like to master one concept before learning more.

How does this apply to you?

“In recommending a deeper understanding of learning styles,” says Jensen, “we do [not] propose a hyper-individualized approach in which each student is given a unique curriculum to match his or her specific style. But friction may be destructive when existing…thinking and learning learning skills are not called upon and developed. One example of destructive friction is the tendency instructors frequently have to take over as many learning and thinking activities as possible. Knowledge remains inert; that is to say students may learn many facts, formulas and theories but are unable to apply them to new problems.” Jensen suggests that teachers use their knowledge of learning styles to help students “gain satisfaction form learning and thus develop lifelong skills by better understanding their own learning processes and preferences.” It thus behooves students of all majors as well to gain that understanding to further capitalize on their education.

Do your instructors teach to your learning style?

Dr. Frank Fincham on the Paradox of Marriage

This post is fifth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advise on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and  your family live better lives.

There are struggles and successes in any close romantic relationship, as we talk about here and here, but those who can forgive forge a lasting bond, said Dr. Frank Fincham in a 2013 Hinckely Lecture. “Here’s the paradox of close romantic relationships such as marriage,” he said. “We get our deepest affiliate needs fulfilled in our close romantic relationships, and it’s a rare person who has never been hurt, betrayed, wronged, or let down by their partner.” Because marriage is such an intimate relationship, spouses are their most vulnerable. This vulnerability is deeply satisfying, but also reveals what hurts the most, he explains in this two-minute highlight video and in the full lecture, found here.


To this Fincham said, “So forgiveness needs to be available in that relationship, because in those types of relationships we make ourselves vulnerable.” To properly argue and forgive in close relationships like marriage, one must their partner as the whole person that he or she is. While it is important to keep in mind that forgiveness is not necessarily trust, as he mentions here, it’s almost important to remember that “there’s more to the offender than the offending behavior.” A Florida State University professor, Fincham’s research focuses on understanding marriage/partnerships, particularly cognitive processes involved in conflict and the impact of interparental conflict/divorce on children. He’s also conducted two more recent research programs on forgiveness and on prayer in close relationships. He is integrating hemodynamics and cardiac functioning into his research on families. Fincham’s research has been recognized by multiple awards from professional societies.

As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University he was named “Young Social Psychologist of the Year” by the British Psychological Society. Other awards include the Berscheid-Hatfield Career Award for “sustained, substantial, and distinguished contributions to the field of personal relationships.” A Fellow of five different professional societies, he has been listed among the top 25 psychologists in the world based on number of citations per published article.




Benjamin Madley to Present on the American Genocide

We know that American Indians suffered greatly during the expansion of our country in the mid-1800’s. Author Benjamin Madley actually calls what happened to them “An American Genocide.” Fully aware of the dramatic label he gives their sufferings, he details them and their specific causes in his book by the same name, and will discuss it at an upcoming event on BYU campus. He does so, not necessarily for the purpose of being polemic, but so Americans can be more fully aware of their history even as they condemn other countries for similar crimes. 

Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies

According to The Nation, Madley writes because “in a world of genocidal violence, claims of American innocence and exceptionalism are dangerous.” His book, which has been talked about in Newsweek, truthdig,  The LA Times, and his upcoming discussion will help those desiring to know more about our history as it relates to the American Indian, and what can be done to change things.

An American Genocide

“Accusations of genocide in California are hardly new,” says Richard White of The Nation. “Many historians, anthropologists, and Indian activists have made them, but An American Genocide stands apart for two reasons. First, Madley is interested not just in spectacular crimes, but also in their institutional basis. Second, he doesn’t use the term “genocide” for its shock value; instead, he considers the term carefully before applying it to state and federal policies.” At the lecture, we can expect an educated account of what truly happened in California in the mid-1800’s.

California Indians have pointed out that although the Holocaust and the Rwandan and Armenian Genocides are taught in schools, the massacre of their ancestors is not. Madley is seeking to rectify this: “He argues that what happened to California Indians was, according to the most widely accepted definition of genocide, not all that different from what happened to Jews, Armenians, or Rwandans.”

The Event

Dr. Madley is a professor of History at UCLA. Originally from Redding, California, he spent a fair amount of time in Karuk County. The Karuk are a Native American tribe based in Happy Camp, California. From them, Dr. Madley “became interested in the relationship between colonizers and indigenous peoples.”  In 2016, the researcher published his book An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873. It won the 2016 Heyday Books History Award. However, that is not all he’s written; he has authored papers as well as book reviews and chapters. Dr. Madley further studies genocide in other countries including Australia and Namibia.

Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies

This lecture is part of the annual “William Howard and Hazel Butler Peters Lecture” series. It will be hosted by FHSS’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies

Do you think learning from the past can help us change the future?


Eating Disorders: Findings About Treatment and What You Can Do

Eating disorders, or the mental disorders that are defined by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person’s physical or mental health, affect a relatively low amount of men and women in America, but the effects they have on the lives of those people and their loved ones are deep and far-reaching. Studies have shown that people suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or other such disorders tend to also have anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders, and a much higher chance of other disorders and even death than the general population. Given that, one would assume that anyone suffering in this way would would aggressively and consistently seek treatment. But a study done by BYU School of Family Life professor Russell Crane found that only a small amount of sufferers utilize treatment, and when they do, they have very different experiences in terms of cost, type, and length of treatment. Ultimately, his study, published in Eating Disorders: the Journal of Treatment and Prevention, showed that, for whatever reason, people with eating disorders tend not to get the treatment they need to resolve their problem.

The Study

The younger a patient is, the more expensive their treatment was, for instance, except for patients with bulimia nervosa who were between the ages of 15 and 24. They had the least costly treatment. More importantly, though, his analysis of 5,445 patient records showed that the average length of treatment for sufferers of all ages was significantly shorter than what clinicians recommend. “Across all diagnoses and ages, average treatment length ranged from 3.86 to 6.73 sessions,” he said, as opposed to the recommended 18 to 40 sessions. Research does not yet explain why this is so, but Crane advised clinicians and researchers to explore how to deliver effective treatment in shorter doses if clients do not attend treatment long enough to receive the recommended length of treatment. His study also found that a majority of adolescents with eating disorders tended to receive individual therapy instead of family therapy, despite family therapy’s validated effectiveness. “Clinicians should be sure to discuss its importance with families of adolescents, and to incorporate it into treatment when possible,” he said.

Individuals under age 15 had the highest return to care rates, meaning they needed a second or further group of sessions. Conversely, individuals aged 45 and higher had the lowest return to care rates.” Dr. Crane cites a possible explanation for this: “It may be that older individuals require shorter stays of treatment or fewer episodes of care. Alternatively, since older individuals are more likely to refuse treatment, it may be that they refuse to return to treatment even if another episode of care could be helpful. The youngest individuals may be under more family pressure to receive treatment, and may be more responsive to this pressure.” It may behoove the family members or friends of those sufferers to learn about the benefits of ongoing family therapy treatment, not only for the sufferer but also because of the fact that, as Barnes says: It’s really important that those closest to the individual with an eating disorder get involved in treatment.”

Doing so may be difficult though. In a 2015 Connections article, Dr. Lauren Barnes said: “navigating a relationship with someone experiencing mental illness can be tricky. The surefire way to help such people is by offering educated support and unconditional love. Rather than telling [sufferers] to ‘just eat,’ loved ones should seek understanding. Do your own research on what the person is going through. Call up a clinician, a therapist, a doctor. Get some background information. Look up good books.” This research will foster empathy and make the supporting friend, parent, or sibling much more accessible to the struggling party.

What can YOU do?

friends-by-lakeDr. Barnes offered these other pointers for those who know someone with an eating disorder. In addition to facilitating treatment, Dr. Barnes recommends “being there and listening,” which can make a world of difference in the life of someone struggling with an eating disorder, abuse, or any of a variety of mental and emotional illnesses. But, she says, “rather than blaming the victim, a loved one could say something like, ‘I can’t believe something like that happened to you. I’m going to fight for you.’”

That being said, Barnes also cautions family members and friends to be aware of their own health and not overtax themselves in the care of someone with an eating disorder. There is such a thing as “caretaker burnout.” “It can be exhausting physically, emotionally and mentally to care for a loved one who is struggling with an illness and watching them suffer.” She suggests finding support for yourself if you become overwhelmed caring for someone with a mental illness.


Do You Know Someone with an Eating Disorder?


Students: How Participating in the Fulton Conference Will Help You




The College of Family, Home and Social Sciences invites undergraduate and graduate students from all departments in the college to participate in the Annual Mentored Student Research Conference funded by the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair.


Class Project Participants: Some classes require you to complete a research project. You may use that project to present at the conference. Individual and group projects are welcome.

Students with Specific Research Interests: You may have a particular idea of what you would be interested in researching. Search for a faculty member that shares that interest and see if they are willing to guide your project.

Students who have been invited by faculty to participate: You may be selected by a faculty member to assist with their research.


1. Create a research project.

2. Make a poster with your findings. This video can help you with that…

…or you can go here to get more instructions and view samples of previous winning posters.

3. Submit your poster at by the deadline, Thursday, March 30, 2017 at noon. Submissions are already being accepted!


• Your participation gives you an opportunity to develop your presentation skills by articulating your findings to a broad audience.

• It may help clarify your future educational and career goals.

• It looks good on a resume.

• Networking- you get to know faculty members who may write letters of recommendation.

• You may be able to publish your findings.

• You learn more about the research process.



Cash prizes are offered for winning posters in each department.

All students are welcome to participate!


April 13, 2017

For more information, visit

Fulton Photo
Mary Lou Fulton

Upcoming Hinckley Lecture

Overwhelmed by America’s problems sometimes? Dr. Kathryn Edin, a prominent sociologist from Johns Hopkins University, has spent decades researching the family formation and dissolution behaviors of low-income men and women in this country, and she’s published three publicly-accessible books and numerous scholarly publications that shed a lot of light on why they tend to choose to have children but not marry, why the romantic relationships they form tend to be fragile, and how parenthood gains powerful meaning in their lives. A delightful, down-to-earth individual, a devoted wife and mother, and a caring citizen involved in not only researching her subjects but trying to improve their lives with community service, she can help members of both the campus and wider communities understand those problems better, and be encouraged by the solutions she suggests.

Dr. Edin will explain what her research has revealed regarding family instability and complexity, and the kinds of public policies that have been most effective in helping those families. All are invited.


Dr. Kathryn Edin

Kathryn Edin is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Her extended ethnographic research among low-income U.S. populations has helped to shed light on why they tend to choose to have children but not marry, why the romantic relationships they form tend to be fragile, and how parenthood gains powerful meaning in their lives. She has published a number of general interest books and academic studies on these subjects. She received her PhD in sociology from Northwestern University, her MA in Sociology from Northwestern University, and her BA in Sociology from North Park University. She has taught at Harvard University as a Professor of Public Policy and Management and served as chair of their Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. She is a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation and on the Department of Health and Human Services advisory committee for the poverty research centers at Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford.

History of the Hinckley Lecture

This much-anticipated event is the Hinckley Lecture, offered by the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair in Social Work and the Social Sciences. The Chair is dedicated to strengthening home and family and offers research, mentoring, and conferences towards that purpose. This will be the thirteenth year that a prominent social science scholar has delivered a lecture aimed at alleviating the various stresses that families face.

Past lecture topics have included positive youth development, forgiveness in marriage, the effects of playing violent video games, and teenager’s spirituality.

“Forgiveness is not the Same as Trust,” Says Dr. Frank Fincham

This post is fourth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advise on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and  your family live better lives.

If you’ve ever been the victim in a hurtful incident or relationship, you’re probably familiar with the miasma of emotions they can kindle. How to handle them often seems unclear. Dr. Frank Fincham, in a 2013 BYU lecture, provided some powerful, research-backed words of advice and direction: “You the victim have a right to feel resentful,” he said, “but forgiveness involves working through, not avoiding that emotional pain. Hence, the Mahatmas [Gandhi] statement: ‘the weak can never forgive; forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Because you have to work through the emotional pain, you have to be strong to forgive.”

As the holder of a Rhodes Scholar doctoral degree in social psychology from Oxford University, then a professor and director of clinical training at the University of Illinois, a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo, and an Eminent Scholar and Director of the Family Institute at The Florida State University, as well as an award-winning author of more than 250 publications about personal relationships and a Fellow of five different professional societies, he spoke with authority on the subject of forgiveness. His lecture was the ninth in a series of annual lectures honoring the legacy of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, wife of former president of the LDS Church Gordon B. Hinckley.

“We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds,” Fincham continued. “What happens to the people we forgive depends on them. When we are forgiven, remember that doesn’t put us back to the same status we had with the person. That’s why forgiving is not the same as trusting the person again; you forgive them, then they have to behave in a way that earns your trust back. Forgiveness is not the same as denial or foolishness; you may forgive someone and yet protect yourself from future harm by that person. So if you’re the victim of spousal abuse, you may forgive the abuser, [but] that doesn’t mean you run back and put yourself in danger. That is foolishness…not forgiveness. You can forgive and keep your distance, and then when it is safe and prudent, you may or may not choose to reconcile with him or her. If you’re in a relationship where there’s consistent hurt all the time, then forgiveness doesn’t involve forgiveness of a specific hurt, it involves forgiveness for a hurtful relationship, and maybe the grounds for your thinking very seriously about whether this is a relationship that should continue.”

Watch these highlights here in the two-minute video below, or catch the full lecture here.


Social Media Comparisons and Motherhood: All Too Common

If you compare yourself with others while on social media, you are not alone; such comparisons are fairly common. But if you’re a mother making those comparisons,the likelihood that you’ll feel worse as a result of them is increased, according to a recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior, and the number of people affected by your comparisons is potentially greater. School of Family Life Professor Sarah Coyne examined the connection between making social comparisons on social networking sites with a mothers’ parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes. Results concluded that mothers making social media comparisons are affected in their parenting, mental health, and romantic relationships.

Coyne, Sarah
Sarah Coyne

Coyne and her associates, Brandon T. McDaniel and Laura A. Stockdale, asked 721 mothers social media use, parenting behaviors, and health outcomes, for the iMom Project.  Most of them were caucasian, had a college degree, and one or two children, with their youngest or only child being about 1 1/2 years old. Most of them were middle-class, married, heterosexual. Coyne’s research acknowledged that people post their idealized life and best self on social media. “If people compare others’ ‘best selves’ conveyed through social media to their own ‘normal selves’ or ‘worst selves’ this may result in increased negative social comparisons and decreased overall mental health and well-being,”she says.

“Even when difficult parts of parenting are presented,” she continues, “many parents laugh it off online or portray themselves as cool under pressure. Rarely, do we see the true face of parenting online, where parents present the frustrations, exhaustion, self-doubt, and pressure combined with the joy that exists in a typical parenting context. They may wonder why parenting is so easy for others, when it feels so difficult to them. These feelings may increase a sense of role overload…, parental stress…, higher levels of depression…, lower feelings of support, and less positive perceptions of the coparenting relationship.”

Feeling Content in a Comparing World

With this in mind, Coyne et al. caution others to “focus on developing a positive view of self as a mother as opposed to focusing on comparing one’s own self with the many idealized images and portrayals of mothers online. [This] may be helpful in mitigating the negative impact of social comparisons on social networking sites.” The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU provides many resources to support mothers in those kinds of efforts, from posts and publications on parenting, single parenting, marriage, and relationships, as well as publications and events on those topics, and places to spend family time, like the Museum of Peoples and Cultures


Nine Mile Canyon & Forty Miles of Truth: an Event

“Outlaws and lawmen, schemers and dreamers, cattle barons and sod busters, shady saloon keepers and water witches.” It is more than likely that at some point in your life, you have seen a film or read a book featuring these very topics. Our media is infused with Old Western characters. But did you know that you don’t have to look to books or film to experience the culture? You have it right here in Utah! On February 2 at 11 am in room 3220 of the Wilkinson Center, you can learn all about it from renowned Nine Mile Canyon experts Jerry and Donna Spangler. Put on by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences’ Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the event, titled “Jerry & Donna Spangler: Nine Mile Canyon: Where the Old West Came to Die” aims to “inform the audience of new research, but [also] to spark curiosity and passion for them to engage further with better understanding the West.”

petroglyphs-500261_1280-nine-mile-canyonNine Mile Canyon

Nine Mile Canyon, often promoted as “the world’s longest art gallery” because of its extensive rock art and rich archaeological history, sits in eastern Utah, south of Vernal and north of Moab. Like other desolately beautiful, mineral rich areas of the state, it has found itself a focal point of tension between those who would preserve it as-is and those who would use it for more recreational and economically-advantageous activities.

Jerry and Donna Spangler

Jerry Spangler is the the executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance and was previously an environmental reporter for the Deseret News. He is also the author of several books and reports including Nine Mile Canyon: The Archaeological History of an American Treasure and Horned Snakes and Axle Grease.  He graduated in 1993 with a Master’s of Arts in Anthropology from Brigham Young University.

His wife Donna obtained a Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Portland. She is currently employed as the Public Information Officer/Communications Director at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. She was previously a reporter for Deseret News and a senior reporter for Exchange Monitor Publications, Wash. D. C. Donna coauthored Last Chance Byway: The History of Nine Mile Canyon and Horned Snakes & Axle Grease with her husband.

Charles Redd Center

Founded in 1972, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies came about because of growing ethnic studies: “ New areas of study included Mormon, women’s, African American, Chicano, and Native American studies. Scholars interested in those fields created new professional organizations, journals and conferences.” charles-redd BYU’s research center was formed when history professors petitioned the administration for the center so as to: “promote and enhance western studies on the campus.” The center hosts six programs, a few of which are the Western Studies Minor,the Oral History Program, and K-12 History of the West Lesson Plans.

In the coming months, be sure to keep in the mind the Charles Redd Center’s upcoming events: Benjamin Madley: An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe and the annual Annely Naegle Redd Lecture presented by David Wrobel on John Steinbeck’s effect on the country and his representation of Western America.

According to Dr. Brenden Rensink of the BYU History Department, this event is intended for everyone, not just BYU students. For those not able to attend in person, the presentation will be live streamed online here.

Have You ever been to Nine Mile Canyon?