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David Bednar's recent conference talk is said to have been plagiarized


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10 hours ago, Calm said:

Write Snopes asking them about it and who knows, they may just do it, though I assume they require a certain number of the question submitted before investing their time. 
 

This is more in FAIR’s area of expertise. If we get anyone actually questioning or see the argument gain some traction (I find it a ridiculous one myself given the actual citations he made were consistent with the debate and speech rules I am aware of), we will likely post a critique of the argument. 

My comment was intended to be in a jocular vein. I doubt very many people take this seriously enough to involve FAIR or Snopes. 

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10 hours ago, CA Steve said:

Another example of critics making much ado about nothing and defenders unwilling to admit leadership might of made a mistake.

Move on, nothing to see.

Might have (or might’ve), not “might of.”
 

To quote kenngo, “of =/= have.” 
 

(Notice what I did there. No plagiarism from me!)

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4 hours ago, morgan.deane said:

I hate to say it, but I teach a unit on plagiarism and this is a classic case. Elder Bednar repeated large portions of another persons work, word for word, and sometimes almost paragraph for paragraph, without proper attribution. This is all the more sad and confusing because he made one attribution to John Reid, but then failed to provide quotes or footnotes of the repeated material.

What is the expected standard these days for sermons?  Anyone know?

How are sermons referenced in other churches when they get published in written form to increase accessibility?

Navidad, if you are reading this thread, I would be interested to hear from you what you would expect.  Also from the Catholics…I assume homilies probably draw mostly from writings of church authorities if they reference something other than scripture or maybe there is another type of sermon that is a better parallel to a general conference talk.

Edited by Calm
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10 hours ago, morgan.deane said:

Spiritually its disheartening because a prophet, seer and revelator, apparently felt the need to rely on some random preacher for ideas and explanation of scripture. …

So is an apostle obliged, then, never to draw on ideas expressed by thinkers outside of the Church of Jesus Christ? Accusations of plagiarism aside, it appears from the above that you think so. And here I thought our attitude was to be that we embrace truth whenever and wherever we find it, to examine all things and hold fast to the good. (This is a paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Don’t want to be accused of plagiarism here.)

I will readily acknowledge that my appreciation for C.S. Lewis stems from, though is not wholly dependent upon, the frequency with which he was quoted by Elder Neal A. Maxwell and other Church leaders over the years. Now, come to find out, their quotation of him was a “disheartening” practice. Who knew?

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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I wish Elder Bednar had mentioned that he was inspired or (?) by the article at the beginning of the talk. Or that some of his thoughts came from the article and he will be putting it in his own words. Since the footnote with the article is provided then it would have came off better that he's admitting ahead of time that he would use his own words to relay the main points in the article and then add upon it. 

Edited by Tacenda
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12 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I wish Elder Bednar had mentioned that he was inspired or (?) by the article at the beginning of the talk. Or that some of his thoughts came from the article and he will be putting it in his own words. Since the footnote with the article is provided then it would have came off better that he's admitting ahead of time that he would use his own words to relay the main points in the article and then add upon it. 

I thought he did?

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5 hours ago, Calm said:

The thing is it’s not an academic paper nor an academic setting.  Why would you expect academic protocols?

Plagiarism is not some obscure hang up of college professors. A former college president should know that on a fundamental level plagiarism is a type of stealing. Because the plagiarizer is taking another person's thoughts and ideas as their own. That doesn't become okay if someone is ~only~ stealing in a religious setting. From the religious news article that everyone dismissed: 
 

Quote

Questions about Bednar’s remarks come at a time when preachers from many backgrounds are under scrutiny for plagiarism. Alabama pastor Ed Litton, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, apologized in 2021 for using sections of a megachurch pastor’s sermon without attribution, leading to a national controversy known as “Sermon-gate.” A Christian publisher canceled a devotional book several years ago by Hillary Clinton’s former pastor after learning that some of the devotions were plagiarized.

I'd say its even worse for Elder Bednar, because he was plagiarizing, a type of stealing, for a talk in his official capacity as one sent forth from God. I'm stunned at the people here minimizing that. 

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23 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

 

It looks like Religion News Service is due for a fact check. Where’s Snopes when you need it? 

OPENING: RNS did not make a mistake; but they did. It is your own misunderstanding of what they did not do.
Body: 12 paragraphs of red herring.
Conclusion: See we told you so. Sincerely your unbiased “fact” checker.

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I wanted to see if this story was being picked up anywhere, during my search I found this quote from Elder Bednar in a plagiarism article: 

file:///C:/Users/16148/Downloads/Donna%20Funk_Your%20Words%20or%20Mine_The%20Plagiarism%20Dilemma%20for%20Students.pdf

Quote

Let me now be just as direct and clear as I know how to be. If you leave this university with knowledge and skills and a degree but lacking integrity and honesty, then you have failed. And the sacred tithing from all over the earth that make it possible for you and all students to study here will have been wasted. Conversely, if during your time at BYU-Idaho you make meaningful progress toward becoming a person of integrity and honesty, and having done your very best academically you are considered only an average student, then you will have nonetheless succeeded magnificently. And you will be well protected against the effects of the latter-day disease of dishonesty and the epidemic of ethical failures

The article concluded with this paragraph about the spiritual dangers of plagiarism: 

Quote

Obedience to the commandments and covenants of God provide protection from the “fiery darts” of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16). Quotation marks and source citations protect against stealing or kidnapping someone else’s “intellectual property” (Wangaard, 2017). Most importantly, the Apostle Paul spoke of the “whole armor of God”…and “the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:11 & 16). Showing academic integrity and expecting academic integrity behaviors in course work will help our students keep the armor undamaged related to individual agency in writing skills. 

So school and church officials think plagiarism is super serious to the point that Elder Bednar calls you a dishonest and unethical "failure" and "waste." Yet the reactions on this board to Elder Bednar's plagiarism are...more mild. (And some even make jokes about calling snopes or mock the concept of citing sources). Comparing the above quotes to the minimizing on this board, I guess plagiarism is only wrong when students at school do it, but its no big deal when apostles of the Lord do it. 

Edited by morgan.deane
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13 hours ago, morgan.deane said:

I hate to say it, but I teach a unit on plagiarism and this is a classic case. Elder Bednar repeated large portions of another persons work, word for word, and sometimes almost paragraph for paragraph, without proper attribution. This is all the more sad and confusing because he made one attribution to John Reid, but then failed to provide quotes or footnotes of the repeated material. That is still plagiarism. After being asked about this, the transcript was quickly updated with some quotes and footnotes. That doesn't cover up or erase the original plagiarism. 

For example, even after the piece was updated with footnotes there are some word for word copies of the original that don't have quotes. This paragraph has a footnote, but it should have quotes, and since it doesn't that is plagiarism: 

Reid: "Commentators report that the custom in those days was for the one hosting the wedding feast—in this case, the king—to provide garments for the wedding guests. These wedding garments were simple, nondescript robes that all attendees wore. In this way, rank or station was covered, so everyone at the feast could mingle as equals."

Bednar: "The custom in those days was for the host of a wedding feast—in this parable, the king—to provide garments for the wedding guests. Such wedding garments were simple, nondescript robes that all attendees wore. In this way, rank and station were eliminated, and everyone at the feast could mingle as equals."


This is fairly serious and very disappointing because its sloppy or lazy at best, not to mention hypocritical for a former university president to do it. Spiritually its disheartening because a prophet, seer and revelator, apparently felt the need to rely on some random preacher for ideas and explanation of scripture, and then didn't even cite his source properly. On top of all that, the people on this board blame the messenger. Its not fake news or petty. Plagiarism is serious for anyone participating in the sharing of ideas, especially for oracles of God who claim that their ideas are divinely inspired. The same practices have ended the careers of politicians and generals. I agree there are lots of fatuous criticisms of the church and church leaders. This is not one of them. 

The quote above to me points to a lazy speechwriter.  The idea the Bednar would do something foolish like the above is pretty incredulous.

How did that text get into the speech?

Does Bednar have a ton of different quotes from different sources that he keeps over time and does not do a good job at sourcing them and when he writes a talk just starts pulling from a grab-bag of accumulated notes?

Does he research out ahead of time, prepare it and then writes the talk?

In my mind the way that it is written is pretty amateurish.  It's effectively a copy/paste with a review.  I can see a 25 year old speech writer making a stupid mistake like this . . .a 70 year old man with decades of experience . . .that's a really insane mistake to make at that stage-but possible.

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2 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

So is an apostle obliged, then, never to draw on ideas expressed by thinkers outside of the Church of Jesus Christ? Accusations of plagiarism aside, it appears from the above that you think so. And here I thought our attitude was to be that we embrace truth whenever and wherever we find it, to examine all things and hold fast to the good. (This is a paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Don’t want to be accused of plagiarism here.)

I will readily acknowledge that my appreciation for C.S. Lewis stems from, though is not wholly dependent upon, the frequency with which he was quoted by Elder Neal A. Maxwell and other Church leaders over the years. Now, come to find out, their quotation of him was a “disheartening” practice. Who knew?

I think it's great that they are well-read among other religious thinkers . . . if that is the case . . .or do they have speechwriters?

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54 minutes ago, YJacket said:

In my mind the way that it is written is pretty amateurish.  It's effectively a copy/paste with a review.  I can see a 25 year old speech writer making a stupid mistake like this . . .a 70 year old man with decades of experience . . .that's a really insane mistake to make at that stage-but possible.

Plagiarism unfortunately isn't practiced only by the young and inexperienced.

Some excellent scholars have been guilty of plagiarism. The most tragic case I can think of in recent years is that of biblical scholar Peter T. O'Brien, who wrote five acclaimed NT commentaries and had all of them—his entire life's work—taken out of print and pulped because he failed to attribute sources correctly. He's 86 now. He will never come back from this.

In a better world, Elder Bednar would acknowledge his error and apologize, but that isn't the Church's way. So, we get the usual deflections and excuses, and the messenger is duly shot.

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

Plagiarism unfortunately isn't practiced only by the young and inexperienced.

Some excellent scholars have been guilty of plagiarism. The most tragic case I can think of in recent years is that of biblical scholar Peter T. O'Brien, who wrote five acclaimed NT commentaries and had all of them—his entire life's work—taken out of print and pulped because he failed to attribute sources correctly. He's 86 now. He will never come back from this.

In a better world, Elder Bednar would acknowledge his error and apologize, but that isn't the Church's way. So, we get the usual deflections and excuses, and the messenger is duly shot.

Maybe this time will be different. Elder Bednar could just offer a quick apology for any oversight and pledge to do better. I hope there are no further deflections, excuses or shooting the messenger. I guess we will soon see.

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4 hours ago, YJacket said:

The quote above to me points to a lazy speechwriter.  The idea the Bednar would do something foolish like the above is pretty incredulous.

How did that text get into the speech?

Does Bednar have a ton of different quotes from different sources that he keeps over time and does not do a good job at sourcing them and when he writes a talk just starts pulling from a grab-bag of accumulated notes?

Does he research out ahead of time, prepare it and then writes the talk?

In my mind the way that it is written is pretty amateurish.  It's effectively a copy/paste with a review.  I can see a 25 year old speech writer making a stupid mistake like this . . .a 70 year old man with decades of experience . . .that's a really insane mistake to make at that stage-but possible.

I can see Elder Bednar asking a speechwriter to come up with several ideas about the wedding feast and this being one of them and the above happening and Elder Bednar not doublechecking as he should have because of a time crunch (don’t they have tons of meetings leading up to conference or does tech these days remove the necessity to cram them in while leaders are all in Salt Lake for conference…or do they still do it out of tradition, but include more long distance meetings given they can’t fit all the necessary leaders into the same space any more).

I think given the apostles’ heavy schedule it makes sense to have speechwriters for the background work for them to speed up the process.  Who wants to repeat the same talk over and over again, especially given they know they will be recorded at every opportunity and people could get offended and look at it as a one size fits all approach lacking inspiration or hyper focus on any differences as revelation for their area and read all sorts of stuff into variations. 

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6 hours ago, morgan.deane said:

Plagiarism is not some obscure hang up of college professors.

I am not suggesting there need be no attribution, I just don’t see it as necessary or even desirable to hold a sermon to the detailed level of the academics, so it is surprising to me that some have that expectation.  I do believe the written text should use quotes where applicable and at the very least in the speech a comment made that several/many of the ideas came from a particular author with the title of the reference.  I don’t think repeat citations to the author/talk need to be done though as if there are multiple quotes, wouldn’t people understand if there was a general reference made that those quotes were from such and such a talk just as when we use a conference talk as a basis for a lesson or SM talk, quotes are understood to come from there unless a different reference is provided?  For me sermons are about helping people improve their lives and not about recognition for the ideas that provide that help…so why would I be personally very troubled if some recognition is missing…even if I understand that others don’t see it that way.  I do believe that there needs to be improvement because the culture is changing with tech providing everyone access to theological libraries in essence. My guess is we are in a transitioning stage in the Church and elsewhere for ministers as tech improves and greater amounts of material are put online and sermon standards will be moving closer to academic standards to at least allow easier referencing for extended study, but also the practical reality of needing to avoid criticism.
 

My personal POV that I don’t expect anyone else to ever adopt….I think being concerned about citations in a sermon distracts from the purpose of the sermon, which in my view is really having a pastoral conversation, a hopefully intimate connection with the audience where the focus should be on the understanding of the audience rather than providing accolades for referenced authors, even brilliant ones.  The ideas/teachings are what is important, not where or who they came from.  Those ideas should be what the speaker helps the audience to receive.  In fact in an ideal setting, as long as the sermon was not about establishing authorized doctrine where the authority need to be understood by the audience, I would like to see no attributions being made in the spoken sermon so that during the sermon listeners focus on the ideas and not on who said them (and therefore give more weight to something said by someone with higher status while maybe ignoring those they are not familiar with).  Then with the written text, references for any borrowed ideas and especially for any quoted material would be provided for those who wished to dig deeper into the ideas/teachings for personal study…but that isn’t tradition and I don’t see the standard likely to be changed, at least not to my preference. Even in my preferred way, it would definitely have to be made clear that the speaker was not just sharing his own ideas, but others, of course.  

In an ideal world I would also like to get rid of the Sunday Sermon voice and have speakers speak more conversationally without nervousness, in fact looking like they are enjoying themselves while also using solid scholarship, intimate personal stories, and avoiding cliches and dogmatism, etc. plus the sound system being able to immediately remove the whistles and background noises that interfere with the experience for those us with hearing issues.   I have my dreams. :) 
 

PS:  I am solely talking about pastoral sermons above; theological studies that explore development of ideas, etc are academic exercises imo and should abide by academic standards. 

Edited by Calm
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1 hour ago, Calm said:

I can see Elder Bednar asking a speechwriter to come up with several ideas about the wedding feast and this being one of them and the above happening and Elder Bednar not doublechecking as he should have because of a time crunch (don’t they have tons of meetings leading up to conference or does tech these days remove the necessity to cram them in while leaders are all in Salt Lake for conference…or do they still do it out of tradition, but include more long distance meetings given they can’t fit all the necessary leaders into the same space any more).

I think given the apostles’ heavy schedule it makes sense to have speechwriters for the background work for them to speed up the process.  Who wants to repeat the same talk over and over again, especially given they know they will be recorded at every opportunity and people could get offended and look at it as a one size fits all approach lacking inspiration or hyper focus on any differences as revelation for their area and read all sorts of stuff into variations. 

Actually if you do searches for some talks you will find that they do sometimes recycle their talks after enough years have gone by.  Whatever they said 10 years ago is probably still true today.

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

I am not suggesting there need be no attribution, I just don’t see it as necessary or even desirable to hold a sermon to the detailed level of the academics, so it is surprising to me that some have that expectation.  I do believe the written text should use quotes where applicable and at the very least in the speech a comment made that several/many of the ideas came from a particular author with the title of the reference.  I don’t think repeat citations to the author/talk need to be done though as if there are multiple quotes, wouldn’t people understand if there was a general reference made that those quotes were from such and such a talk just as when we use a conference talk as a basis for a lesson or SM talk, quotes are understood to come from there unless a different reference is provided?  For me sermons are about helping people improve their lives and not about recognition for the ideas that provide that help…so why would I be personally very troubled if some recognition is missing…even if I understand that others don’t see it that way.  I do believe that there needs to be improvement because the culture is changing with tech providing everyone access to theological libraries in essence. My guess is we are in a transitioning stage in the Church and elsewhere for ministers as tech improves and greater amounts of material are put online and sermon standards will be moving closer to academic standards to at least allow easier referencing for extended study, but also the practical reality of needing to avoid criticism.
 

My personal POV that I don’t expect anyone else to ever adopt….I think being concerned about citations in a sermon distracts from the purpose of the sermon, which in my view is really having a pastoral conversation, a hopefully intimate connection with the audience where the focus should be on the understanding of the audience rather than providing accolades for referenced authors, even brilliant ones.  The ideas/teachings are what is important, not where or who they came from.  Those ideas should be what the speaker helps the audience to receive.  In fact in an ideal setting, as long as the sermon was not about establishing authorized doctrine where the authority need to be understood by the audience, I would like to see no attributions being made in the spoken sermon so that during the sermon listeners focus on the ideas and not on who said them (and therefore give more weight to something said by someone with higher status while maybe ignoring those they are not familiar with).  Then with the written text, references for any borrowed ideas and especially for any quoted material would be provided for those who wished to dig deeper into the ideas/teachings for personal study…but that isn’t tradition and I don’t see the standard likely to be changed, at least not to my preference. Even in my preferred way, it would definitely have to be made clear that the speaker was not just sharing his own ideas, but others, of course.  

In an ideal world I would also like to get rid of the Sunday Sermon voice and have speakers speak more conversationally without nervousness, in fact looking like they are enjoying themselves while also using solid scholarship, intimate personal stories, and avoiding cliches and dogmatism, etc. plus the sound system being able to immediately remove the whistles and background noises that interfere with the experience for those us with hearing issues.   I have my dreams. :) 
 

PS:  I am solely talking about pastoral sermons above; theological studies that explore development of ideas, etc are academic exercises imo and should abide by academic standards. 

Understood. I appreciate your explanation of where you're coming from. I'm still not sure that makes it okay. Maybe I had a visceral reaction to it because I teach a unit on plagiarism every semester and this was just so very disappointing to see what seems like a classic case from an apostle. But this gives me some items to think about. :) 

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7 minutes ago, JAHS said:

Actually if you do searches for some talks you will find that they do sometimes recycle their talks after enough years have gone by.  Whatever they said 10 years ago is probably still true today.

I know they recycle talks, people have reported a leader gave the same talk as one released unofficially online at their stake/region a couple of months earlier…but would you want to give the same talk stop after stop for 6 months or more?  I wonder how many talks an apostle gives each year, counting the usual church meetings, devotional, public appearances, etc.

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4 hours ago, morgan.deane said:

Understood. I appreciate your explanation of where you're coming from. I'm still not sure that makes it okay. Maybe I had a visceral reaction to it because I teach a unit on plagiarism every semester and this was just so very disappointing to see what seems like a classic case from an apostle. But this gives me some items to think about. :) 

I am big on plagiarism in other areas, recognition should be given for the work others do especially if someone is getting their own recognition for their work that includes the citation…plus it is just interesting to see how ideas develop and how different people think about the same topic.  I insist probably more than I should on people providing links here when quoting even and I try to remember to document anything that isn’t truly commonly known with at least a link to a summary with links to original work.  I used to look at every link provided being the semi obsessive I am, but am more selective these days.

Sermons probably fall more in the therapeutic category for me; there is a limited amount of time to share a teaching and give ideas for implementing that in our lives, so I want the effort put into making that work…kind of like if I am at a service project, let’s skip all the thank yous and pats on the backs and get to work. 

Edited by Calm
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7 hours ago, Calm said:

I can see Elder Bednar asking a speechwriter to come up with several ideas about the wedding feast and this being one of them and the above happening and Elder Bednar not doublechecking as he should have because of a time crunch (don’t they have tons of meetings leading up to conference or does tech these days remove the necessity to cram them in while leaders are all in Salt Lake for conference…or do they still do it out of tradition, but include more long distance meetings given they can’t fit all the necessary leaders into the same space any more).

I think given the apostles’ heavy schedule it makes sense to have speechwriters for the background work for them to speed up the process.  Who wants to repeat the same talk over and over again, especially given they know they will be recorded at every opportunity and people could get offended and look at it as a one size fits all approach lacking inspiration or hyper focus on any differences as revelation for their area and read all sorts of stuff into variations. 

I sure hope they don't have speechwriters, that's disappointing to me. They have 6 months to write their talks right? I think it should not be speechwriters, sorry.

Edited by Tacenda
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