A [Love?] Letter to BYU (and Provo)

Hey BYU!

What’s up? I know our relationship has been a somewhat conflicted one, but you’ve grown on me. You’re weird and quirky (though I’d imagine you’d prefer the term “peculiar,” which is also apt) and sometimes do stuff that I just don’t understand and think, in some cases is wrong and not living up to the potential that you have (like all this honor code business with rape victims). But, isn’t everyone like that to some degree?

I’ve been with you on and off for close to 7 years and decided that I’d stick around for another couple beardless (*sobbing*) years. I guess we’re just not done with each other yet. Maybe there’s more I can get from you. Perhaps there’s more you can give to me. We’ll see how this goes.

The thing is, BYU, I actually really like it here. Yeah, I know I complain about you and talk about how much I want to leave Provo all the time, but there’s something about this place that speaks to me.

I’ve connected with truly wonderful people while we’ve been together—students, faculty, and guest lecturers and other visitors. The friends I’ve made have been instrumental in keeping me engaged with Mormonism in ways that have profoundly expanded my spiritual understanding. Thanks. Sometimes this happened in classes, engaging with professors and other students about literature and how things related to our faith.

Your strict newspaper controls led me to join up with the Student Review (an independent student-run news magazine). I made some lasting friendships through that experience with people that enlarge my understanding and frequently enlighten me. And made me feel comfortable with my snarky and arguably irreverent engagement with belief. If you’d been less tight-knit with what you allowed published, I probably wouldn’t have met those wonderful people. I guess this is one of those blessings in disguise that people testify of, huh?

There’s all sorts of Mormon-intellectual events around you that are wonderful. I don’t know if there’s anywhere else in the world that I could engage with Mormonism to the degree and in the unorthodox way that I do here. So thanks for at least allowing us fringey people to hang around your borderlands. And bringing us together. We need each other and elsewhere, we might be all alone.

You know what may be the greatest thing you do? International Cinema. I have seen some incredibly powerful, life-changing films that I never would have had access to without you (well, that’s probably not totally true, but wouldn’t have necessarily known to access). Amelie, Force Majeure, Elena, Timbuktu, and many others. That’s super cool. I haven’t taken as much advantage of it as I should (since I love movies as much as I do), but it’s been lovely. Keep it up (which you probably will, since it’s the longest running program of its kind in the world).

Through you, I had relatively easy access to internships in Washington, D.C. (for that lovely liberal Mormon Senator Harry Reid) and England at the Wordsworth Trust. D.C. was incredible (again associated with fantastic people in the student group and through Church stuff). But nothing could compare to the joy and wonder that was living in the Lake District for roughly 4 months. Absolutely breathtaking in its beauty. And again, just fabulous people. Could I have done those internships without you? Possibly. But no other university in America has the relationship with the Wordsworth Trust that you do. None. So thanks. Thanks for building bridges.

You’re not half-bad, BYU, you know that?

Yeah, I wish you didn’t care whether I shaved or not. Sure, I think you’ve done some pretty awful things in the past (not without reason, necessarily). But you’ve helped me be a far better person than when I came here. You’ve helped me travel around the country and to a small fraction of the world beyond (but likely the best fraction). You’ve introduced me to some of the most kind, intelligent, loving, thoughtful, and all around delightful people that I know.

So, thank you.

I’ll probably still complain about you and mock you, but it’s because I love you. I hope you can be better for the time I’ve spent (and will continue to spend) with you. You could say that because I knew you (and continue to know you) I have been changed for good.

Cheers,

Conor

 

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