Accountability, Agency and the Atonement: Dean Ogles on Moving Forward From Sexual Assault

BYU may not be of the world, but by being in the world, the university and its students still deal with many troubling issues.

Sexual assault is one of them.

In his campus devotional address, Family, Home, and Social Sciences Dean Benjamin Ogles, as a member of the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault, spoke on this poignant topic. He focused on the accountability, agency, and the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in relation to sexual assault.

“Sexual assault is a difficult, highly charged, and sometimes political topic not easily discussed in any setting…I did not volunteer to participate on the advisory council and certainly never imagined that I would deliver a devotional focused on the gospel doctrines associated with sexual assault. Yet my experiences led me to this moment where I feel an urgency to address this delicate topic,” said Dean Ogles.

Of the 12, 739 students who answered the question concerning experiences of unwanted contact in the university’s  Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault, 475 (3.7%) had experienced some form of such contact while enrolled at or attending BYU in the 12 months prior to the survey. Capture

There were 1,692 surveyed students who reported that they had experienced sexual assault or abuse as a child or adolescent prior to coming to BYU.

Gospel Doctrine

Dean Ogles framed  the discussion of assault in terms of the gospel principles of accountability, agency, divine creative powers, and the Atonement. Agency gives us opportunities, accountability requires us to take responsibility, and the Atonement allows us to repent and progress. In addition, sexual intimacy, when used within the boundaries of marriage, can be positive and healthy.

“Within this doctrinal context, it is easy to see why committing sexual assault is such a grievous sin.  The perpetrator exerts power over another person disregarding their agency and depriving them of their right to control their own physical body while treating them as an object to satisfy their selfish desires,” said Ogles. “Individuals who force or coerce sexual contact engage in one of the most personal and invasive forms of aggression.  The very definition of sexual assault underscores the idea that the perpetrator is denying the agency of the victim.”

Consent

“I believe some instances of unwanted sexual contact at BYU occur because one person assumes the other is interested and ‘goes for it’ without ever checking to see if their perception of the other person’s wishes is accurate,” shared Dean Ogles.

To combat this, he suggested asking beforehand and offered the following example: “I like you.  I really enjoy being with you and getting to know you.  Would it be alright if I kissed you?” While some students may hesitate to adopt this approach, fearing that it might “ruin the moment,” Dean Ogles insists that students think about the alternative: jumping to conclusions about consent might “ruin the moment.”

The need to give and respect consent is also an issue in marriage. “When we understand physical intimacy is a profound expression of love, trust, and creative powers within covenant marriage, then the issue of consent becomes even more vital.  Marriage itself is not consent to intimacy.”

Self-Blame and Victim Blaming

One reason people do not come forward and get help after being sexually assaulted is because they blame themselves. They might think that if they had acted differently, the assault would not have happened. Oftentimes, third parties hearing about the assault may think the same.

To illustrate how incorrect these thoughts are, Dean Ogles shared the story of when his family moved to a small town in Ohio. On their first night there, someone broke into their car and stole the items inside. The Dean’s first thoughts were of self-blame: Why didn’t I lock the doors? I should’ve parked away from the street. If only I had been more alert. “I automatically took the blame because I could imagine things that I thought I should have done differently,” said Dean Ogles. His actions, however, never would have changed the fact that what the thief did was illegal and wrong. There was no reason to blame himself. The same is true of victims of sexual assault: no matter what the victim does, the perpetrator’s actions are still illegal and wrong.

Healing

Victims of sexual assault can be healed through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  To emphasize this point, Dean Ogles quoted Elder Richard G. Scott’s conference talk To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse:

“Our [Heavenly] Father provided a way to heal the consequences of acts that, through force, misuse of authority, or fear of another, temporarily take away the agency of the abused … That secure healing comes through the power of the Atonement of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to rectify that which is unjust.  Faith in Jesus Christ and in His power to heal provides the abused with the means to overcome the terrible consequences of another’s unrighteous acts.”

Dean Ogles, along with Elder Scott, urge survivors to:

  • Seek professional aid
  • Ask your bishop for help
  • Understand that Satan will try to convince you that there is no hope for your future.

“There is hope!” said Dean Ogles. He advises survivors to read Elder Scott’s talk and to utilize available resources on lds.org.

How to Help

Dean Ogles offered the following suggestions for helping victims of sexual assault:

  • If someone shares that they have been assaulted, “tell them you believe them, express your concern for them, and encourage them to seek professional help.”
  • Be respectful
  • Don’t tolerate inappropriate speech; if you hear it, stop it
  • Watch out for signals that a relationship is becoming inappropriate

“As we treat one another as children of God, we base our relationships on the love, respect for agency, and kindness necessary to form a stable foundation for eternal relationships.”

When we respect others’ agency, especially in healthy relationships that can lead to, and thereafter enrich, covenant marriage, we have the potential to jointly, mutually, and consensually engage in an intimate and eternal marriage that can bring us a fullness of joy with our families in the presence of our Eternal Father.

The full devotional is available for viewing at BYUtv.org and the text will soon be available on the BYU Speeches website.

Madelyn Lunnen contributed to this article. 

2018 Hinckley Lecture: Fostering Belonging, Inclusion, and Friendships for People with Disabilities

New Year’s resolutions often focus on strengthening and improving our lives. They might include strengthening your cooking skills or your muscles, but how about strengthening your home and family?

In the name of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, the late wife of Gordon B. Hinckley, and in honor of her commitment to strengthening home and family, the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences will hold its fourteenth annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley lecture on February 8th, 2018. The topic for this year’s lecture is Fostering Belonging: Inclusion, MarjorieHinckleyFriendship, and People with  Disabilities” presented by Dr. Erik Carter of Vanderbilt University. In the past years, distinguished scholars have come to BYU to address pertinent issues such as family instability and complexity, social media, and social aggression, and factors that put children and the American future at risk.  

This year’s topic: Inclusions, friendships, and people with disabilities

Disabilities have always been a present aspect of individuals and society but have only recently received the attention and focus they need and deserve. Whether they be mental, physical, or learning disabilities, these impairments often present challenges to individuals and families who deserve the opportunities to succeed.

In his own experience and research Dr. Carter has found that educational, community and religious organizations all play powerful roles in providing opportunities that  help people with disabilities find valued roles, employment, and relationships with their local community members and peers. These relationships themselves go on to unify and strengthen the community as a whole.

During his lecture, Carter will focus on ten aspects of belonging and how attitudes and actions toward people with disabilities can create more meaningful and lasting inclusion in the community.

BYU research and experience

BYU professors have collaborated among themselves and with other scholars to form groups that research and educate on disabilities. One of these groups is Autism Connect which helps families and individuals with autism better understand the disorder and available resources through research. In addition, BYU also puts on the annual Autism Translational Research Workshop to educate on and share best practices in autism.

While research is fundamental to this field, the next step is making sure that people with disabilities and those associated with these individuals are able to receive the access and support for opportunities such as education, jobs, community, and peer relationships. In a recent article by BYU Psychology and Neuroscience professor Mikle South and Associate Clinical Professor Jonathan Cox, BYU’s own environment for supporting individuals with disabilities and autism was observed and critiqued. In order to succeed in post-secondary education, individuals with disabilities may need transitionary programs, “safe spaces” with minimal sensory stimulation where they can take tests, and have support groups or student mentors.

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A Community of Inclusion

Success in education and in the community is something that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve. Just like no one should be excluded from receiving an education or job, no one should feel excluded in their community. It is detrimental that we look to establish friendships and relationships with people who need our support.

Learn how to foster belonging within your community through inclusion and friendship with people with disabilities by attending the fourteenth annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture on February 8th, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hinckley Assembly Hall. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Individuals from the BYU community, families, community leaders, and educators will greatly benefit from Dr. Carter’s presentation.

Finance and the Gospel: Using Gospel Principles as the Foundation for Family Finance

Living joyfully within your means can seem like an oxymoron when you’re a poor college student who can afford nothing but Ramen and oatmeal.

Money and finances can be large burdens– especially when you’re a young student family. Both patience and relationships are tested as you decide what to cut out of your lifestyle to minimize expenses. These trials are testing and  real, but BYU Family Life professor Jeff Hill and Finance professor Bryan Sudweeks suggest that we see these

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Courtesy of BYU Bookstore.

problems with a new perspective: “The single most important lesson [in finance] is the importance of bringing Christ into our personal and family finances.”

In Professors Hill and Sudweek’s book Fundamentals of Family Finance: Living Joyfully within your Means, the core text for SFL 260: Family Finance, we learn that finance is not only something we deal with in mortality, but that it is something that is based in gospel principles and will affect us for eternity. While money does not buy true eternal happiness, in the words of Professor Hill, “money makes important things possible” to help us grow in this life and prepare for the future, such as family resources and education.

Keeping an Eternal Perspective

Finance isn’t just about getting rich, it’s about  “prudent financial management so you can more fully bless yourself, your family, and others.” But again, where do we draw the line between focusing on money and finances because we need to and focusing on worldly possessions instead of the Kingdom of God?

According to Hill and Sudweeks, the key is keeping an eternal perspective.

If we make it a point to remember that everything belongs to God and that we are simply the stewards over the things he blesses us with, we will remember to be grateful and responsible with what we have. When it comes down to it, our finances and the stewardship of resources should be the “temporal application of spiritual principles.” We have agency to decide how we use our resources, and we will are accountable for these actions.

In summary, “with very dollar you spend, you choose which perspective you will take– either the eternal perspective or the world’s materialistic perspective. The sooner you understand that managing your finances is part of living the gospel of Jesus Christ, the greater your motivation will be to obey the commandments and get your financial house in order…. With an eternal perspective, we can be laying up for ourselves true “treasures in heaven” while simultaneously planning for our careers and supporting out families.”

A Family Ordeal

“Share finances as equal partners in your marriage” counsel Hill and Sudweeks. You, your spouse, and your current or future children will all have different opinions on how brooke-cagle-170053to use resources and money. While it may seem easier to do it all yourself, this responsibility must be shared equally between you and your spouse. Budget as a family, and be honest and transparent about you financial past, plans, and current spending.  As stated by David O. McKay, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” No amount of extra time or money will make up for losing your family.

Also, as you learn financial principles yourself, share and teach them to your spouse and children; the principles of hard work, thrifty living, and saving can benefit your present and future. Families who love each other share financial wisdom.

Living Within your Means

Adobe Spark (51)There are things that we really want and there are things that we really need. When figuring out how to have these things, it is detrimental that you budget according to your/your family’s needs and the money and resources that are currently available to you. This might mean that you don’t drive the nicest car now (or drive a car at all), but that you live comfortably from the resources and money you currently have. Sacrificing  what you want now will often allow you to have what you want most in the future. As Robert D. Hales said, “the three most loving words are ‘I love you,’ and the four most caring words for those we love are, ‘We can’t afford it.'”

Prioritizing your spending and finding happiness in your current situation is how you go from living within your means to living joyfully within your means.

Plan for the Future

Planning is essential to successful finances and preparedness. To plan for the array of financial situations that you will or may face in life

  • Make family goals (then work to achieve them!)
  • Have food storage, a 72-hour kit, and monetary savings
  • Invest “early, consistently, and wisely” and remember “TTT: Things Take Time”
  • Get insurance to protect yourself and your family
  • Make a plan to minimize and eliminate any debt
  • Establish a habit of saving and set money aside every time you get paid.

Share with Others

Of his own young family, Professor Sudweeks shared that they “learned the importance of giving: that God shovels it to us, and we shovel it back (and God has a bigger shovel).” Prioritize giving back to others and the Lord by paying your tithing and contributing a generous fast offering. Like Professor Sudweeks shared, God is constantly shoveling blessings and resources our way, he just asks that we shovel a little back. Likewise, remember the law of consecration; all that we have is God’s and we have a responsibility and calling to be responsible stewards and efficiently share our resources with others.

“It is not so difficult to accomplish your monetary and spiritual goals if you build your finances upon a firm foundation: the gospel of Jesus Christ.” As we work to progress in all aspects in our lives, we will find joy as we support and uplift ourselves and others through responsible and gospel-based financial principles and practice.

 

Students: Deadline Approaches for Martin Luther King Day Student Essay Contest

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to the nonviolent pursuit of racial equality. Our national celebration of his birth each year is meant to honor, not only him and his legacy but the lives and work of countless lesser-known leaders, as well as that of ordinary men, women, and children who helped to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. The King holiday is also intended for us, today, to consider what we can do to serve our fellowmen and to promote the eternal truth that each of us is a beloved child of God.

June 8, 2018 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the LDS Church’s historic revelation restoring priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy members. In connection with the King holiday and in celebration and contemplation of this important moment in LDS history, we invite you to explore and reflect on Official Declaration 2, the Church’s “Race and the Priesthood” website, and recent statements by LDS leaders on current racial issues, and to write an essay of 777 words or less discussing the long struggle for freedom and the work of building Zion.

Submit your essay no later than Noon on Friday January 12th to: blackhistorymonth@byu.edu as a Word attachment. Please include the following information with your submission: your name, year in school, major, home town, email address, and phone number.

The first-place winner will receive $150 and the opportunity to read her/his essay at BYU’s MLK Walk of Life Commemoration on Wednesday January 17, 2018. The second and third place winners will receive $60 and $40, respectively. (Previous first place winners are not eligible for the top prize.) Questions about the essay contest can be directed to the above email.

Talking About Pornography: an Upcoming Event

Pornography can be a painful topic to talk about, but not talking about it can hurt you and your loved ones even more.

“In religious cultures, sex is kind of a taboo topic, which means we tend not to talk about it very much,” shared BYU School of Family Life Professor Brian Willoughby in a Universe article earlier this year. But just because religious individuals do not talk about pornography as often does not mean that they are free from its reach.

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In a study that he co-authored with graduate students Nathan Leonhardt and Bonnie Young-Petersen this past spring, Willoughby found that religious individuals are more likely to experience unhappiness and depression from their pornography use and are more likely to see themselves as addicted to pornography “regardless of how often they use the material.” These individuals will in turn experience greater relationship anxiety, feelings of powerlessness and more anxiety about talking about their pornography use with others, leading to dissatisfaction and damage in relationships.

With pornography becoming more accessible and pornography use becoming more prominent, it is important that parents and spouses know the truth about pornography and how it effects their families.

To That End…An Event on January 10th

families at risk
Courtesy of BYU Continuing Education

Keep your family safe from pornography’s negative influences by learning how to discuss it with your loved ones and learning strategies on how to deal with pornography at the Families at Risk lecture, Understanding the Modern Threat of Pornography: Myths and Reality, given by Professor Brian Willoughby. The lecture will take place on January 10, 2018 at the BYU Conference Center. “We need to be able to have a more open dialogue on this issue,” said Professor Willoughby. He encourages everyone to take an active role in learning about the harms of pornography and how to keep their families safe.

brian_willoughbyProfessor Brian J. Willoughby is an associate professor in the BYU School of Family Life and is considered an expert in couple and marital relationships, sexuality, and emerging adult development. Professor Willoughby has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on these topics, currently serves on the editorial board for four journals, and was elected as a full member of the International Academy of Sex Research. In addition to teaching several classes at BYU, Professor Willoughby often appears on media and news outlets to share his research and expertise. Professor Willoughby has been married to his wife Cassi for 15 years and together they have four children.

 

 

Does Reducing Tuition Boost College Enrollment?

It seems intuitive that a tuition reduction in colleges would increase enrollment; however, BYU Economics professor Dr. Jeffrey Denning recently published a study showing that decreasing the cost of attendance boosted enrollment at community colleges but not necessarily at four-year universities. “Community colleges are a large part of the higher education system in the United States but have received relatively little research attention,” said Dr. Denning, “Voters interested in whether they should support proposals to reduce tuition may…find the study useful.”

Free Tuition Considerations

In 2015, former president Barack Obama decreed that he intended to make community college free, making it easier for people to get a college education. A Washington Post article that cited a previous study of Denning’s—published when he was a PhD student at University of Texas, Austin—as it applied to Obama’s plan said: “If Obama’s proposal is rolled out, Denning’s data [from a case study in Texas] suggest that there will be more people who choose community college over a four-year college, but perhaps not that many, and probably not to their detriment.” He found, however, that tuition cuts at community colleges slightly increased the number of people transferring to four-year colleges, and that the four-year college graduation rate rose slightly: “About a quarter of people helped by the discounted tuition ended up transferring and getting a four-year degree. This is evidence that there are talented students who would use community college as a springboard to a bachelor’s degree, if only they could afford to start down that path.”

Denning’s 2017 study is an expansion of his previous paper, studying data from Texas, but examines it from a slightly different angle and with slightly different findings, showing that lower community college tuition still increased transfer from community colleges to universities, but that there were a variety of mitigating, complicating factors that made it difficult to gauge the exact extent.

Why Does This Matter?

Many states are considering legislation that would enable this transition. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, eleven states are debating laws that would implement free community college tuition, and five either already have legislation passed or programs in place to implement it:

comm college

According to Dr. Denning, it is imperative that people understand the impact tuition reduction in community colleges can have: “Understanding the effects of community college tuition is important because policymakers must decide how to price community colleges…. Reductions in community college tuition [have] very different implications if [they]…increase overall college attendance or shuffle students from the four-year sector to the two-year sector.” Public policy and school attendance can be affected by the price of community college.

Criticism

Despite Obama’s support and Dr. Denning’s study, free community college tuition has been decried by critics. He says: “A common criticism of ‘free tuition’ programs is that they are just subsidizing students who would attend higher education without the subsidy. My study suggests that these sorts of subsidies are likely to target new students and students who would already be in the community college sector.” Instead of denigrating the higher education system, tuition reduction will boost enrollment.

Do you think community college tuition should be reduced?

Map courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislators

The Connection Between Religion and Families: A New Book

A recent publication from professors in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences provides answers to the questions of how religion affects marriage, ways parents should talk to their children about their religious beliefs, and whether practicing a faith — whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or yet another belief system — strengthen families. in their 2017 book, Religion & Families: An Introduction, BYU School of Family Life professors Loren D. Marks and David C. Dollahite write about how religion strengthens faithful familiesThe two researchers wrote the book for emerging adults, in the hopes that it could help them navigate important decisions as they transition into marriage and parenting.

religion-families-book-home

How Does Religion Strengthen Families?

Relying on existing research and their own American Families of Faith project, Dr. Marks and Dr. Dollahite teach relationship-building, faith-promoting lessons to their readers. The American Families of Faith project draws rich data from lengthy in-home interviews of 200 religious families living all across the United States. The diverse sample includes Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families, as well as immigrants and ethnic minorities, so Religion & Families provides a broad look at the connections between religion and family.

Perhaps the most useful way to study the nexus of religion and family is to explore three dimensions identified by the authors:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Religious practices
  • Religious community.

“Family members who consciously consider and discuss how their religious beliefs, practices, and community can work together for the good of their marriage and family relationships are likely to discover ways to increase harmony between these dimensions,” Marks and Dollahite write. Dollahite, when interviewed about the book, said: “We all ‘live into’ our answers to life’s biggest questions in patience and faith. As we face the realities and challenges of marriage and family life, the confident idealism of youth evolves into a mature and realistic optimism…. We hope that the kinds of information provided about the healthiest way to live one’s faith in marriage and family life in Religion and Families can help young adults be more likely to make that transition more smoothly.”

“There will always be one more unanswered question related to our faith that we do not currently have the answer to,” Marks added. “That question is not a reason to abandon the ship of faith. It is motivation to get to know the captain better. Part of my testimony is that God is a lot smarter than I am.” In other words, we can all build our lives, our marriages, and our families on faith, patience, and trust.

When Husbands and Wives Share Beliefs And Commitment

The American Families of Faith project, a national long-running research project led by Marks and Dollahite, allowed them to connect their three dimensions of religion (beliefs, practices, and community) to marriages, father-child relationships, and mother-child relationships. The findings suggest that husbands and wives enjoy greater marital satisfaction when they share beliefs and are similarly committed to those beliefs. What’s more, spouses can strengthen their marriages by participating together in meaningful rituals, including service attendance and holiday traditions.

As far as children are concerned, Dr. Marks and Dr. Dollahite’s research indicates that parents and children have more positive emotional experiences when they engage in “youth-centered conversations.” In these conversations, parents listen while kids do most of the talking and ask for understanding. The conversation is open, the parent helps the child connect religion to his or her life, and the parent-child relationship becomes richer and deeper.

Dr. Marks explained that visiting those families’ homes and observed those relationships, he learned how he could be a better partner and parent. Regarding their examples, he says: “We hope that we can convey enough of the exemplary power of these faithful families to young adults that a fire and hope will be kindled that they can do likewise. Gratefully, through their interviews, these families also tell us how they did it — and this may be the book’s most important contribution.”

Family-Centered Priorities Cut Across and Supersede

Elder L. Tom Perry, who attended a 2014 marriage and family colloquium at the Vatican, reported that all major religions value family life. He said: “It was remarkable for me to see how marriage and family-centered priorities cut across and superseded any political, economic, or religious differences. When it comes to love of spouse and hopes, worries, and dreams for children, we are all the same.” Dr. Marks and Dr. Dollahite share a similar message in their book. In each chapter, they remind their readers that practicing a religion can lead to healthier marriages and happier family life.

 

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Religion & Families: An Introduction is available for purchase on Amazon, Google Play, Target.com, and Walmart.com.