by Hugh Faulkner

A Mormon girl named Julie finds life on MTV’s The Real World different from her experiences at Brigham Young University, which appears ready to disqualify her as a student. Is that authoritarian administration or naiveté on the part of a young girl offering herself to be used for ratings?

In The Beginning…
A friend of mine recently mentioned an MTV show called The Real World and thought I’d have interest in it. The primary reason this was brought up was because of a new “member” of this season’s show set in New Orleans: A young woman who attends Brigham Young University – BYU. My friend, knowing I attended BYU, thought I would find the controversy this college student’s presence had generated interesting.

Be it known from the start that I don’t watch MTV. Earlier, when it was first introduced, I found it didn’t reflect my musical tastes (it seems there are no Rush or Yes videos) and so I never bothered to turn it on. I missed much of the happenings of that culture and found that names many of my peers knew, like Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn, were unfamiliar to me.

As I’ve aged slightly since that time, I now find that, while I still think much of the music played there stinks, I’m equally offended by much of the content. Shows like Love Line and The Tom Green Show are useless to me and offer little valuable content to me — not that I don’t appreciate someone who just had a testicle removed and then showed his guts (literally and figuratively) as they were placed on the operating table so his lymph nodes could be removed. Today, MTV is blocked on my television so this content doesn’t enter my home. So the controversy surrounding this BYU student living with six other people (several who are men) in the ninth season of The Real World – New Orleans had escaped me.

On Your Honor
From what I’ve gathered, this woman’s first day on the show found her wondering whether she would be kicked out of BYU because she was living with the others on the show. Her views on sex, homosexuality and diversity have also apparently shown a level of immaturity.

BYU, for those few who don’t know, is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – commonly called — The Mormons. BYU is the nation’s largest private university with 29,217 full-time students and 99.5 of the student body is Mormon. It is, however, open to educating people of other faiths and countries. In fact, when I was there, one of my closest acquaintances was a man from mainland China. He was a devout Communist and we had numerous discussions about the merits of Capitalism and Communism, religion and atheism, Mao, Tiananmen Square, Viet Nam, etc. Through it, we enjoyed each other’s company and I found the exchange of ideas invigorating.

Regardless of one’s belief system, politics or religion, all students at BYU live under the Honor Code. “As a matter of personal commitment, students, staff, and faculty of BYU are expected to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Did you catch that part about on and off campus?

Prior to admittance, each student signs an agreement promising to uphold this code. Included in this code are such things as abstinence from sexual relations (not as defined by Bill Clinton, mind you), the use of tobacco, drugs, coffee, and tea (those items which are part of a doctrine called the Word of Wisdom). Another item in the Honor Code states that one will not cohabit with a member of the opposite sex, except in marital or familial situations.

It is this last item that is the basis for any disciplinary action the school may take against the Real World participant. Living in a coed situation while a student at the university — even if she took a semester off from BYU to entertain herself in New Orleans — is a blatant violation of the code she has promised to abide by and she confesses this on the show, but still clings to the hope that BYU will not, in the end, terminate her education for her willing and primal violation of its Honor Code.

Let There Be Light
What I find most interesting about this situation, aside from my opinion that this woman is not exactly a good representative of the school or church, is the amount of attention this is getting. I find it curious that people are looking at this case as a potential black mark against the school (and by extension the church). To me, it seems a trivial case of a person promising to do something, then breaking that promise. Any action taken against her, whether expulsion or suspension, seems completely justified given her disregard for doing that which she agreed not to do.

This is only an issue in a society that has complete disregard for consequences for one’s actions. We live in a society where terrible acts are perpetrated upon the citizenry, then go relatively unpunished. The idea of cause and effect, or in this case, action and consequence, seem so natural to me that it’s troubling to think that many discount the consequence part.

As a father, I am teaching my children that there are direct results and consequences to their actions. Some of these consequences are good, some of them are bad. If I tell my children to do some action they know there is a good consequence and a bad consequence awaiting, depending on what they choose to do. The good consequence may be that that is their only chore for the day, or they get to have friends over for dinner, or a trip out for an ice cream cone. The bad consequences, if their actions so justify, may be to have an additional chore, or a missed opportunity to go to a friend’s house. Either way, they are learning that the decisions they make, the actions they do, have a direct positive or negative consequence.

In this case of Julie, “The MTV Mormon girl,” — as she has unfortunately become known — may soon realize the consequences of her actions. Some time in the past she agreed and promised to act a certain way. Today, she is disregarding that oath and doing something to the contrary. If she is removed from the university, it will be because of her actions, not the actions of others.

So from my perspective, this is not about a church or school passing judgment on a particular lifestyle. It’s not about a student associating with people who do not uphold the standards she agreed to. It’s not about a church that has a strict moral code. It’s simply about a young woman who made choices, and those choices affect her life. I believe that’s the way this world works best.