Econ Major Takes First Place in Wheatley Essay Contest, on the Religious Roots of Rights

“Religious freedom is the first freedom, not merely in order of mention in the Bill of Rights, but as the source of human rights and their best line of defense,” argued Jacob Fisher in an essay that won first-place winner in the Wheatley Institution‘s 10-Year Anniversary Essay Contest. “If we believe that our beloved democracy will simply persist without commitment to religious liberty, we are admiring the flower while killing the root.”

He continues:

Some voices question the validity of promoting religious liberty in modern America. Though it is prominently mentioned in the Bill of Rights, there are those who insist that religious freedom is a “redundant right” because its content, like religious speech and religious assembly, is already included in other enumerated rights. Far from being redundant, religious freedom is the root of all freedoms, because rights are a spiritual concept. Where does society obtain its knowledge of human rights? Do we find inalienable rights under the frontal lobe? Are they secreted by the liver? No. Rights are not a physical attribute of our bodies; any sense in which we believe human rights to be real must be a reflection of our spiritual understanding of human nature.

For limited government to work, personal behavior must be primarily governed by internal directives, rather than fear of legal enforcement. Religious institutions promote this voluntary right living. Those who support the project of limited government should be alarmed at America’s declining religiosity, because as religion recedes from public space, it leaves a gap that expansive State power is all too ready to fill.

Fisher, an undergraduate in the Department of Economics, wrote his essay, entitled “The Roots of Rights” in response to one of 10 prompts provided by the Wheatley Institution. His focus on rights forms part of a larger conversation within the college on a variety of rights, including civil, and the responsibilities and benefits that come with them.

The Wheatley Institution works to “enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU, and to enrich faculty and student experiences, by contributing recognized scholarship that lifts society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.”

How the Wheatley Institution Can Help Students Strengthen Their Values

BYU students understand what it’s like to stand up for their beliefs. Living the Honor Code and church standards makes the lifestyle of BYU students different from other young adults their age. But they are not left to stand and defend their values on their own. The BYU Wheatley Institution works to help students have a gospel-centered education that helps them have the knowledge, insights, and skills necessary to successfully implement world-changing improvements. In a society that measures success and value by money and fame, Jack Robert Wheatley, co-founder of the Institution with his wife Mary Lois, counsels that we “weigh success not in gain, but in improvements to the world.”

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Courtesy of the BYU Wheatley Institution

Celebrating a decade of enhancing “the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU” and “enrich[ing] faculty and student experiences,” the Institution celebrated its tenth birthday this fall with lectures by Princeton University professor Robert P. George and Sir Paul Coleridge, a former judge for the British High Court of Justice, on topics such “The Constitution, Political Culture, and Civic Virtue” and marriage in the UK. In addition to those lectures, BYU students were able to participate in an essay contest where they defended and expounded upon their’s and BYU’s values and beliefs.

How does the Wheatley Institution connect with the Family, Home and Social Sciences?

Focusing on the patterns of human behavior and the family as the basic unity of society, the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences shares many of the key scholarship interests that the Wheatley Institution emphasizes, as seen in the topics focused on in the Wheatley’s anniversary celebration lectures and the fact that many of our current and past faculty members serve as fellows of the Institution and deliver lectures on current societal and cultural issues (such as past School of Family Life professor Jenet Erickson’s presentation on what it means to be a children in today’s culture). Both organizations conduct unique collaborative research experiences to expound on ideas that can create practical solutions and insights for real societal issues. More important than that, however, is the quest to provide students with the tools they need to develop, strengthen, and defend their own beliefs.

Unaware of that quest, many students find themselves worrying more about their grade point average than the opportunities available to them that can help them develop the skills and testimony that are needed when GPA’s become irrelevant. “Enter to learn, go forth to serve” is a daunting phrase when you do not have the understanding of personal values and testimony you need to succeed and make a difference in the world.

A Call to Action – How the Wheatley Institution Can Help Students

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Coutesy of lds.org

Well, Cougars, the time to act is now.

Attend Wheatley Institution lectures, such as the Reason for Hope conference November 16th, and enrich your BYU experience with more than your course load of required classes.

In a 1976 New Era magazine, Sylvia Willich share the following poem:

Until now
I merely
Existed
On the
Outside,
With my nose
Pressed
Against the
Window of life,
Looking in.
I had often
Dreamed
Of how it
Would be,
How it
Could be,
If I were to
Enter,
Enjoy,
Become a part
Of it.
Then—
You
Opened the door
And invited
Me
To join.

 

In the past several years, church leaders have called upon the rising generation, including BYU students, to strengthen their beliefs and protect religious freedom. By becoming more involved in extracurricular organizations and groups at BYU, you can further develop the knowledge and skills you already have to make positive change in he world while strengthening your core values and testimony.

How will you enhance your education and strengthen your testimony this week?

 

A Reason for Hope: Wheatley Conference to Discuss Questions and Provide Answers

We have been told, in a 2014 Liahona article, that “the questions that matter are the ones that make you think and feel deeply, the ones that lead you to truth, testimony, and change.” What questions do you have concerning your faith and education? Tough questions only receive answers when they are asked. And you have a chance to receive those answers not only in prayer but also at an upcoming event on campus, from experts.

Adobe Spark (22)To arm students and community members with the insight and answers they need to hold strong to their values in a secular world, the Wheatley Institution will hold its semi-annual event Reason for Hope conference on November 16th at the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall. The event will include a morning full of inspirational speakers such as former General Relief Society president Julie B. Beck, author and philosopher C. Terry Warner, and past School of Family Life professor, family science expert Jenet Erickson, and Islamic Studies Professor Daniel Peterson. The event will culminate in a Q&A panel with the speakers at 3 PM that afternoon.

Discuss with the Experts

Focusing on the dynamics of personal faith and intellect, the event itself calls for dynamic thoughts and questions from its attendees. Students are urged to submit a question on faith and intellect for the opportunity to participate in a small discussion group with Sister Beck, Dr. Warner, or Dr. Erickson at the conclusion of the event.

If you lack wisdom, attend the Reason for Hope conference November 16th to ask questions, get answers, and discuss faith and education. Attendance at the event is free and open to the public. Students are strongly encouraged to participate by submitting discussion questions for the panel and small discussion groups.

Image and video courtesy of the Wheatley Institution.

 

 

 

Upcoming Event on Religious Freedom

If you’ve been listening to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently, chances are high you’ve heard them talk about religious freedom. This issue is a growing concern to a church trying to find their way in an increasingly secular world. As the primary school owned and operated by the LDS Church, BYU is also heavily involved in the fight for religious freedom, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of practitioners of other religions as well. At 4:00 p.m. on January 17th, Dr. Daniel Mark will deliver an address on BYU’s campus regarding on this issue, one that has been recognized as universal but which has also proven to be, over the course of human history, one of the most difficult to define and uphold.

This forum, hosted by BYU’s Wheatley Institution, will be particularly useful to individuals interested in issues of religious freedom, contemporary politics, philosophy, family and marriage, and family law. As a political scientist, Dr. Mark researches heavily the role of religious freedom in America, and his forum address will contextualize and deepen our understanding of the realities of current religious freedoms and trends. Attendees will be able to educate themselves on what religious freedom means and does not mean for them.

Dr. Mark, an assistant professor of political science and a faculty associate of the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, holds the rank of Battalion Professor and serves as the university representative to the performance review board for Villanova’s Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit and is a mentor in the university’s Faith and Learning Scholars Program. Dr. Mark holds a BA, MA, and Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University.

BYU’s Wheatley Institution’s mission is to “enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU, and to enrich faculty and student experiences, by contributing recognized scholarship that lifts society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.

 

Note: featured image provided by Flickr Creative Commons.

How to Promote International Religious Freedom: an Event

For the faith community in the United States, religious freedom has become a growing concern. In an increasingly secular world, many fear that social trends and new policies will either infringe on their right to worship or force them to accommodate things that contradict their beliefs. These worries are not solely confined to America, though; they are worldwide. “About 74% of the world’s population are living in countries with serious restrictions on religious freedom, according to David Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. He will speak on this issue, and on the United States’ efforts to promote international religious freedom, at a lecture hosted by BYU’s Wheatley Institution, on November 17th.

780x400sapersteinThe lecture will be delivered on November 17th from 7:30-9:00 PM in the HBLL auditorium. at BYU. Ambassador Saperstein will speak on the importance of promoting religious freedom around the world, as well as combating religious persecution and discrimination in all of its forms–including genocide and other atrocities committed by groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Religious freedom has recently been a central focus of Brigham Young University and the church which owns it, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many devotionals, conference talks, and online articles have covered the issue in-depth and argued for an increase in the freedom of religious people to practice and live their beliefs.

These conversations have taken place outside of Mormonism as well. Many Christians have refused to serve homosexuals at their places of work, citing their religious beliefs as justification. This has resulted in several high-profile lawsuits, perhaps most notably the 2015 arrest of government employee Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling and a federal court order addressed to her.

In January 2015, President Barack Obama appointed David Saperstein to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Before that, Ambassador Saperstein served on the boards of numerous national organizations and was the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a prolific writer and speaker, and holds degrees from Cornell, Hebrew Union College, and American University.

The Wheatley Institution: Academic Research on Important Issues

Hot-button social issues such as marriage and family, religious issues such as faith and science, and political issues such as education and international affairs have all long been examined by  Brigham Young University. As a religious institution operating in an increasingly secular world, BYU provides education and academic research on those topics. The aims behind all of these endeavors is that they be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and leading to lifelong learning and service. The Wheatley Institution, an on-campus think tank, seeks to forward those aims by contributing recognized scholarship that preserves and strengthens the core institutions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and BYU.  Doing so, it claims, will both enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU and enrich the experiences of students and faculty alike.

Many faculty members from BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are fellows of the Wheatley Institution or have otherwise been involved in some way. Perhaps most prominent among them is Jason S. Carroll, a popular professor in the School of Family Life. Professor Carroll is an internationally-recognized researcher and educator on various aspects of marriage, and has spoken at the Wheatley Institution, most recently on key lessons for young adults can prepare for marriage.

Ed Gantt, a faculty researcher in the Psychology Department, has also contributed scholarship to the Wheatley Institution in the form of theologically-centered essays on “faith, reason, and critical thinking,” “happiness or joy?,” and “scientism and the temptations of orthodoxy,” and ”

The Wheatley Institution holds numerous events throughout the course of the year in an effort to promote scholarship in line with BYU’s core values. The next one will be a presentation by United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein on November 17th.