December 09, 2015

BYU vs. Utah Vegas Bowl: 10 reasons I’m stoked

BYU fans rush the field after an overtime victory against Utah (2009)
photo by qbac07

I know some folks are bummed about the news of BYU playing Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl this year. I have to admit that I was bummed at first too.

Wait, no I wasn’t.

I was stoked. And that excitement has only grown. I can’t imagine a more epic way for either team to cap a three-loss season. 

Here’s why:

1. BYU is more of Utah’s equal than Ute fans want to admit.

I will confess. The Cougars are the underdog. But just barely. Both football teams are 9-3. Of course, no two schedules are footballs to footballs.

However, don’t forget there was a four-game overlap between these rivals’ particular schedules. Both BYU and Utah played Michigan, Fresno State, Utah State, and UCLA. BYU outscored the four by 33 points; Utah outscored the lot by 30 points. BYU went 2-2 against the clan (including a one-point loss to UCLA); Utah went 3-1.

Both BYU and Utah have been ranked this season. BYU peaked in the AP poll at #19. Utah peaked at an amazing #3 before the team started losing. Utah is currently ranked #20 in the AP poll. BYU is technically unranked at the moment. But if the AP poll listed 30 teams—instead of 25—BYU would currently be #28. An eight-spot gap between Utah and BYU doesn’t mean much in a sport where rankings are largely a product of speculation—not science—and are in constant flux. Calling BYU “unranked” and therefore unworthy, is to exalt technicality over reality.

2. Brace yourself for the first-ever Holy War bowl game.

The Holy War. On steroids. I will take a Holy War battle anytime. Ironically, this historic Holy War of all Holy Wars is hosted in Sin City. [The last time BYU and Utah played in December it was 1897 (so says Wikipedia). I didn’t bother to figure out if it was technically a bowl game or not. I have no idea how bowl games operated more than a century ago, if they existed. What matters is BYU won…]

3. BYU’s chance to snap Utah’s four-game Holy War winning streak.

This one speaks for itself. Enough is enough. Come on, BYU!

4. BYU’s chance to definitively snag back the Beehive Boot from the Aggies.

In the 44 years since the Beehive Boot began getting kicked around to the best D-1 FBS football team in the state, BYU has dominated, bringing the 100-year-old authentic pioneer footwear (with likely mythical properties) home 22 times, compared to Utah’s 13 and Utah State’s 9. But this year, the boot ain’t in BYU’s bag yet—and arguably couldn’t be without this final matchup. Since both Utah and BYU beat Utah State this year, without a BYU vs. Utah matchup, the technical tie would have been broken by popular vote (which Utah would likely have won given its ranking, even though BYU outscored Utah State by 23 more points than Utah).

5. Bronco’s last game with the Cougars.

Despite signing a more lucrative head coaching deal with Virginia last week, Bronco Mendenhall will have one last chance to work his magic with the BYU squad. BYU football players have talked about trying to win this one for Bronco, sending him off with another double-digit win season. Of course, the Utes hope to send Bronco away with his seventh loss against them (since Bronco became head coach, the Utes have gone 6-3 against BYU).

6. Bronco’s chance at win #100.

Bronco has won 99 games during his BYU head coach tenure. A win against Utah would be win #100. Statistically, a thing of wonder.

7. Kyle Whittingham’s last game coaching Utah before taking over BYU.

Not actually true. As far as we know, anyway… One can hope, right? He’s certainly among the names being tossed around.

8. There are plenty of awesome sub-duals.

For example: Mangum v. Wilson.

Utah senior Travis Wilson will be quarterbacking his second bowl game. Last year, he was the Las Vegas bowl MVP, leading Utah to a crushing 45-10 win over Colorado State. His stats this year have been decent: He’s thrown 2000+ yards for 13 touchdowns and rushed nearly 500 yards for another 6 TDs. He has thrown a fair number of interceptions though: 10 (or one for every 1.3 TDs).

BYU freshman QB phenom Tanner Mangum will be playing his first-ever bowl game. His stats have been off the charts for his someone with his tenure: Though his rushing game is virtually non-existent (only one rushing TD), Mangum has tossed for 3000+ yards and 21 TDs. His TD to interception ratio is an astounding 3:1 (only 7 interceptions). No other QB in BYU history (not even NFL legend Steve Young or Heisman-winning Ty Detmer) has come even close to his freshman productivity or efficiency.

9. Things may get feisty.

Remember BYU’s last bowl game? Fists could fly again. Especially since BYU and Utah have a history of high tensions. For example, Ute fans (I acknowledge this kind of behavior is not representative of the vast majority of Ute fans) have not hesitated to throw beer at BYU player family members. I am definitely not encouraging or even condoning any form of violent or nasty behavior, on or off the field, by either team. Hopefully, it will be a gentleman’s game. But if history really does have a way of repeating itself, it could get interesting.

10. It’ll be a nail-biter.

Mark my word. In true Cougar fashion, it will come down to the final minutes. Remember the Mangum Miracle at Memorial? Or, the sequel a week later against Boise State? Not to mention the last time BYU beat Utah (sadly, we have to go back to 2009 for this...). It was overtime and BYU won 26-23.

In fact, four out of the last five BYU vs. Utah games (trying to repress any memory of the 2011 massacre…) have been won by a score or less!

Excited yet?


You should be.

[CORRECTION: This article originally highlighted a sub-dual between senior running back Devontae Booker (Utah) and junior running back Algernon Brown (BYU). But Booker won't be playing due to knee surgery. Obviously. My bad.]

November 06, 2015

Rethinking Mormon policies about married gays and their children

LDS church office building
One article on the Salt Lake Tribune has 3202 comments (and counting) this morning. No, I did not read them all. But I get the feeling that most of the comments mirror the sentiments of this sampling:

"The LDS Church. Always looking for new ways to alienate people and turn them away."

"Pitting parents against children is their MO [modus operandi] and has been their MO for a very long time."

"For those active [M]ormons that find the latest pronouncement of apostasy for those engaged in sex marriage or co-habitation offensive or embarrassing, you can make your voice heard."

"So kids get to suffer for the "sins" of their fathers? How Christ like [sic]."

Of course, the Tribune isn't the only website posting articles discussing the LDS (Mormon) Church policies related to gay marriage. The other articles I have seen have sparked similar commentary. As a Mormon who tries to be faithful, I feel obliged to respectfully dissent from the outcry against the church I know and love. To me, the policies make sense. They are not embarrassing. They are not shocking. Here’s my personal opinion why.

First, context. The LDS policies I'm referring to come from an updated version of a handbook for church leaders. The updated handbook appears to have first been made public by John Dehlin (who was recently excommunicated from the Mormon Church) on Scribd. The policies are these:

·         “Serious [t]ransgression . . . includes . . . homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation)” and “apostasy refers to members who [among other things] . . . [a]re in a same gender marriage.”
·          “A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.”
·         “A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may [not] be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service” unless church leaders believe that the child (1) is of legal age (currently, 18 in the United States), (2) no longer lives at home, (3) and disavows gay cohabitation and marriage.

Now, I will do my best to explain why I think those policies are wise guidance from the First Presidency for the times we live in.

It should come as no shock that the Mormon Church (along with most other Christian churches) condemns homosexual relations, especially sexual cohabitation. This has always been the case. What is new is an express, blanket determination that members in a same-gender marriage are apostate [i.e., abandoning or renouncing Mormonism]. This makes explicit what should have been implicit. It’s safe to say that if you’re Mormon and you enter a gay marriage, you’re not only breaking the sexual laws of the church, but you’ve essentially thrown up a white flag: You have told the world that you no longer have any interest in even trying to live the sexual laws of the Mormon Church. How could this not be an act of apostasy or abandonment of the Mormon Church?

Now, there may be members of the Church who plan on entering a gay marriage, in hopes that one day the Church will fundamentally change its doctrines, especially in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence. The updated LDS Church policy makes it clear that that door is forever closed (though that should have already been clear from previous official Church statements that the Supreme Court Decision Will Not Alter Doctrine on Marriage). This type of clarity is, in fact, a good thing for Mormons and non-Mormons who experience same-sex attraction. They don’t have to make important life choices (like whether to become or stay Mormon, or whether to enter or continue in a homosexual lifestyle) based on guesswork. They know the Church’s stance and what to expect. They should abandon any misplaced belief that the Church will change in this regard.

The policies regarding children are perhaps more controversial. To some those policies are difficult to reconcile with the LDS doctrine that people are punished for their own transgressions and not for the sins of their parents. But I don’t see the policy as a punishment. The policy is instead the product of careful balancing of competing principles applied to a complicated situation. Try to honestly answer the following questions:

·         Should the Mormon Church baptize minors against the consent of a gay parent?
·         Should the Mormon Church baptize a non-minor who still lives at home against the consent of a gay parent?
·         Should the Mormon Church baptize anyone who believes gay cohabitation and marriage are okay, when a fundamental LDS doctrine is that gay cohabitation and marriage are the opposite of okay?

My answers are, “No, no, and no.” I have a hard time believing that many non-Mormons  or anti-Mormons would disagree. These policies can’t be evidence that the Church’s modus operandi is to “pit children against parents” or brainwash children to call fundamentally wrong what parents believe is fundamentally right. The policies suggest the opposite.

The Church policies show respect for parental control—even homosexual parental control—and peace in the home—even homosexual homes. The Church can wait. Would-be church members can wait. There comes a time when respect for a child’s freedom of choice must trump respect for a parent’s contrary wishes or beliefs. And the LDS Church says, in these sensitive circumstances, that that time comes when a child becomes an adult and lives on his or her own. It is a hard line to draw, but that line seems reasonable to me. That gives gays ample opportunity to raise their children according to the dictates of their own consciences, without worrying too much about Mormon missionaries trying to teach their children the exact opposite.

I suppose it could be possible that a set of gay parents would want their children to become Mormon, but I have a very difficult time imagining it. Mormonism stands strongly for eternal, traditional families. Why would a gay parent ever want a child to join a church that fundamentally opposes the composition of the household?

I will leave it at that for now. Law school, work, and other priorities are calling to me. I hope that I have not said anything abrasive. Please comment below, especially if you disagree with anything I have said. Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it, I recommend a similar post published by one of my good friends. It is available here. Borrowing the words of that friend, "my post is intended for help and perspective, not as [official] pronouncements of Church doctrine or policy."

God bless.

Since posting this, the LDS Church has publicly discussed the updated policies via an apostle's video interview and an official letter to church leaders. Both are worth your time.

October 06, 2015

Let's #ponderize not #scandalize

Adapted from YouTube screenshot
We have proven it yet again. As Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we can be our own worst enemies in the media. The way we sometimes bicker and build mountains of molehills must cause outsider eye rolls.

The irony is that we are generally pretty forgiving and slow to leap to conclusions about others' intentions when it comes to non-members. But when it comes to the foibles of members of our LDS church family, from one small act we are somehow blessed with pure knowledge of the dark inner-workings of souls.

Remember how brutal some internet-vocal Mormons were in response to the color of LDS violin phenom Lindsey Stirling's dress back in May? Now, the angst is aimed at former NBA baller and current LDS leader Devin Durrant.

Last Sunday during general conference, millions heard Durrant's call to come closer to God through "ponderizing" a particular verse of scripture each week. While the coined phrase is admittedly cheesy (his whole demeanor seemed to say, "I know the word 'ponderize' is a bit silly"), the idea is awesome. The idea is putting a verse of scripture someplace you'll see it throughout the week and reflecting on its meaning and application in your life.

Personally, I was deeply touched by his invitation. Even before conference was over, I chose a scripture for the week and made it my phone background.

"What's your verse?" you ask.

You aren't going to believe it: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

I had never really paid much attention to that verse before. I came across it by way of random navigation in the Gospel Library app. I certainly had no idea just how timely 1 Corinthians 1:10 would be.

Last night, my wife got me up to speed about how some members have been attacking Brother Durrant because his son had set up a website to sell "ponderize" merchandise (T-shirts, wrist bands, etc.). I came across an article by an old classmate and friend of mine who reported on about how Brother Durrant promptly apologized. In response to public outcry, his son took down the site.

In a way, it looks pretty bad. Durrant is an investor by profession. Was this an opportunist's attempt to cash in on conference? Is the Durrant family really trying to serve God or is it trying to serve its own bank accounts?

I can see where critics are coming from. However, as a student of the law, I have begun to appreciate a little just how difficult it is to get into others' minds and figure out their intent. We have a very limited sampling of words and acts, and absolutely nothing from the actual thoughts of those we accuse. Even so, the idea that Brother Durrant or a member of his family would try to get rich quick on a conference-based T-shirt seems pretty far fetched.

As mentioned, Durrant is an investor by profession. I have only a little experience investing and the thought of making and maintaining a website, packing and shipping some "ponderize" shirts, sounds like a whole lot more of a nuisance than a rainmaker. In terms of opportunity cost, it just wouldn't make sense to me to go down that road, unless I was doing it more as a service, a way to remind people of what I thought was an important message.

The Durrant's have been "ponderizing" for some time. They are big fans. Making shirts to help others jump on board probably sounded fun. I highly doubt they had even a hint of nefarious purposes. Why else would they be so willing to drop their prices to just cover costs or donate any profits?source 

Alrighty, I think I have about made my point. There is a scripture about charity that says charity "thinketh no evil." Though it can be good to have our eyes open to what is going on around us, we really should give others the benefit of the doubt.

Even if they are Mormon.

Even if they are church leaders.

Rather than "scandalize" (mixing 80% negative assumption with 20% truth to come up with a theory about what's in others' hearts), let's try something more productive. How about we "ponderize"?

#whatsyourverse #ponderize #notscandalize

September 25, 2015

Dude Perfect tribute

Our love for Dude Perfect runs deep.  A few months ago, our five-year-old discovered their videos. He's pretty much an addict now. They deserve a definite shout-out for making good, clean entertainment. A few weeks ago, our boy wanted to try his hand at a trick shot video. He came up with his own shots (though we tried to give them Dude Perfect-worthy names)

Without further ado, here's the final product:

August 26, 2015

BYU Student Health Insurance loses ACA status: What every student needs to know

 Newsflash--starting August 31, 2015, BYU Student Health Insurance will no longer qualify as "minimum essential coverage" under Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. BYU hasn't really done much to advertise this fact or its potential tax ramifications on students. I have wasted a couple hours of my life trying to figure out what this means for me. Hopefully, I can save you some time.

Wait, is this for reals?

Yep. From BYU's own website:

    To meet the ACA medical coverage requirement, a health plan must qualify as “minimum essential coverage,” which is a type of health coverage approved by the federal government. Beginning August 31, 2015, the BYU Student Health Plan will no longer be considered minimum essential coverage. [I find this next part funny...] Although the BYU Student Health Plan will not meet the ACA requirements, it will continue to meet the university’s health coverage requirement. [Good to know BYU isn't about to sell you insurance that will put your eligibility to be a BYU student at risk!]

So, yes. This is a legitimate issue, even if untrumpeted until now. Here's everything I think you need to know about BYU Health Insurance losing its "minimum essential coverage" status.

There could be fines, like enough to buy a new (old) car.

This loss of status means if you're enrolled in BYU Health Insurance for fall semester, you may have to pay nearly a thousand dollars in fines or 2% of your yearly household income (whichever is greater) when you file your 2015 taxes next April. Joy, joy. If you're enrolled for winter semester, the fines on your 2016 taxes could crest two grand or 2.5% of your yearly household income (whichever hurts more). 

Adapted from a graphic available at

Should you be freaking out? Well, no. First, unless you take strange pleasure in the process, freaking out never helps anything. Second, odds are the fines won't apply to you. As a student, you're probably too stinking poor. 

Thankfully, there are exceptions. 

Some are more complicated than others. Some require work prior to filing your taxes. Thankfully, for many students like me, there is a relatively easy exemption to claim when we file our taxes because Utah never expanded Medicaid: Exemption G. As long as you make less than 138% of the federal poverty level and live in Utah, Exemption G will shield you from any fines. Here's a chart to help you figure out if you're currently poor enough.

Adapted from a graphic available at

Since I am married with three kids and we'll make under $38,516 this year, I don't have to worry. Phew. Hopefully, you're giving a sigh of relief too. If not, take heart (and be grateful for your relative wealth). There are other exemptions which may apply, but they're more difficult to decipher or calculate. I include a comprehensive table for those interested. Exemption A, in particular, may be a low-hanging fruit worth noting.

Table from, where additional information on each exemption can be found.

If no exceptions apply . . .

Typical enrollment periods for alternative insurance options are closed. However, an involuntary loss of minimum essential coverage can open a 120 window (60 days before and 60 days after the loss--Aug. 31) for you to shop for something else. That means if you have a fine to dodge or are disenchanted with BYU Health Insurance, you have hope. But the way BYU does things, you won't want to delay; you'll need to report another insurer by Sep. 9. That basically means you have a couple of days to get something else before Sep. 1 (most, if not all, insurers make you enroll at the start of a month).

I am not particularly upset with BYU Health Insurance, but I am interested in cheaper alternatives. I found a catastrophic plan (which I qualify for because I am under 30 years old) through SelectHealth which could save my family about $85 a month. There are, of course, cons in the SelectHealth insurance terms compared to BYU's terms, but we're thinking about it (there are also some pros).

Anyways, it's late and that just about endows you with everything I've learned through inspecting the intersection of Obamacare and BYU Health Insurance tonight.

Though I'm a law student, nothing in this should be looked at as legal or tax advice. Consider it general information from a well-intentioned, non-expert.

January 29, 2015

Freedom to force the artist’s hand

Some people have jumped on what I think is an incoherent bandwagon that creates crazy consumer rights.

File:Colorful three tiered wedding cake LCP.jpg
An uncontroversial wedding cake that the
baker could've declined to decorate
 for dislike of flowers or the color pink.
photo by tracyhunter

Under federal law, public accommodations are places where consumers go to receive a service. Consumers can’t be kept out of or denied services at public accommodations because of their sex or other protected attributes. [It's true that under many anti-discrimination laws, sexual orientation is not a protected attribute. But it should be. It's fair to allow people to go and buy regardless of how they self-identify.]

But regardless of who they are, consumers have no right to demand specific services. Sure, if a service is offered, it should be offered to all with only limited exceptions (like those based on age or individual behavior). But consumers generally can’t force a business to offer any particular service. You can’t sue a store for not selling alcohol, cigarettes, or the "morning after" pill.

That basic principle seems straightforward enough and many of its applications are uncontroversial. For example, a movie theater is a public accommodation. Movie theaters can’t kick people out because they are Mormon, but they can legitimately choose to not show Meet the Mormons. Likewise, museums can't deny entrance to women, but they can refuse to showcase feminist propaganda.

But when it comes to cake-decorating or photo-taking controversy suddenly abounds.

A bakery is a public accommodation. Of course, a baker who makes cakes should make cakes for anyone who wants to buy one (and I think regardless of what people plan on doing with their cakes). But bakers may refuse to decorate cakes in a certain way. Maybe they are morally opposed to conveying certain messages in their art or maybe they simply think the consumer’s design would turn out ugly.

If a baker doesn’t want to write “Gays are going to hell” or whatever on a cake, she shouldn’t have to. If a baker doesn't want to put gay figurines atop a cake, she shouldn't have to. It goes without saying that the cake-buyer can go home and say whatever he wants to say with his cake: He just can't force somebody else to say it for him.

A photo studio is a public accommodation. A studio may not deny entrance to protected classes of people (and yes, as stated, those classes should include LGBT communities). But studios may refuse to create certain types of pictures for various reasons. For example, a photographer may refuse to create pornography. While some forms of pornography (like child porn) are illegal, many forms of pornography are legal. But just because something is legal doesn't mean a photographer must capture it. A photographer, as an artist, is defined in part by the art she creates and the messages she sends through that art. The freedom of speech protects photographers from creating work which sends a message they disagree with or they simply feel is not in good taste.

If a photographer doesn’t want to capture a particular type of wedding, she shouldn’t have to. Maybe the wedding is on a Sunday, maybe alcohol is being served, maybe it is because the location and lighting will be terrible, or maybe it is because it is a gay wedding. Yes, I said it. What difference should it make whether the photographer’s personal reasons seem petty, unpopular, or nonsensical in the consumer's eyes? 

Why do some people favor forging a law that would force the artist’s hand? First, don’t you think the odds of getting the quality of art you want drops dramatically when you’ve dragged the artist against his will? Second, what about the artist’s rights? Artists should not face lawsuits, not to mention imprisonment, for choosing not to convey certain messages in their creations. Please, let's keep our country the kind of place where no artist is chained to his easel. 

January 06, 2015

Defense of the jury system

Lady Justice and a jury
           Juries are not perfect, but if I were on trial, I would rather have a group of biased strangers, who must reach a unanimous decision (at least in federal court) within the bounds set by a judicial referee, ultimately decide my fate than have one human referee call all the shots.
Juries are not as unpredictable as the news media often make them seem. According to a survey of 30 years of jury studies, “the jury system is healthy.”[1] "Quite a bit of their decision is determined by the case that the lawyers present to them. . . . [W]hat seems like a wild card, in fact, follows rules. The strength of the evidence in the case will give you a good sense about what a jury is going to do."[2]
Juries take the parties’ fates out of the hands of simply one human judge. “The strength of the jury is a diversity in decision making, which makes for a very robust process.”[3] Additionally, juries serve “many purposes and functions that go beyond the finding of facts in any one particular case."[4] For example, they may awaken a deeper sense of civic duty in the individual jurors, awaken them to a better understanding of the law in their jurisdiction, or instill in them respect for the judicial system.
However, the jury system is not without its flaws. Even those who claim the system is “healthy” have their reservations: “It's not clear that juries are the best way to decide to impose the death penalty, because of an inherent flaw in the system. People who oppose the death penalty are not allowed on capital juries.”[5] However, this limitation on jurors is not entirely illogical. Jurors are there to uphold the law and if they do not support the law, then they really have no place as an arbitrator of the law.[6] Moreover, judges have commented that jury bias in itself is not necessarily fatal to justice:
All jurors come to Jury service with certain biases and prejudices . . . Our system envisions these flawed individuals since no juror comes to jury service devoid of these leanings. The history of the jury system shows us that these flawed individuals can set aside these flaws and reach verdicts which are just and fair.[7]

            Others have been more cynical of the jury system:

Not long ago, the right to trial by jury was held to be so "justly dear to the American people," that regardless of "whether guaranteed by the Constitution or provided by statute, it should be jealously guarded by the courts." That is no longer the case.[8]

In doing so, they have claimed “lawyer manipulation” of juries through jury selection can stack the deck in favor of a result “completely inconsistent with the case itself.”[9] This challenge is weak. The adversarial system makes it highly unlikely any one side can stack the deck: the attorneys on the other side are trying to do the exact same thing. Further, even if one could theoretically hand-pick a jury, do you really think anyone can become so competent of human psychology to conclusively know which way any other individual, whom he or she has only known for a matter of moments via a survey of questions, will vote on a matter? Personally, I doubt it. People are difficult to throw in predictable personality boxes.
But critics have not stopped there; they have also complained of juries being “costly and time consuming.”[10] While that may be true, I am okay with paying justice’s price tag.

[1] Susan S. Lang, Judging the jury: Does the American jury system work?, Cornell Chronicle (Sep. 9, 2008),
[2] Id. (quoting Valerie Hans, author of American Juries: The Verdict).
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. (citing Hans).
[6] See Waterman v. State, 822 So. 2d 1030, 1033 (Miss. Ct. App. 2002) (“It is presumed that jurors follow the instructions of the court. . . . If the presumption were otherwise, it would mean our jury system was fatally flawed.”).
[7] Wright v. Ctl Distrib., 679 So. 2d 1233, 1234 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. 1996) (quoting the lower court trial judge).
[8] Matthew Forbes, Comment, Juries and Jurors: Juries on Trial: Constitutional Right Versus Judicial Burden: An Analysis of Jury Effectiveness and Alternative Methods for Deciding Cases, 48 Okla. L. Rev. 563, 564–65 (1995).
[9] Id.
[10] Id.