The showing of a controversial movie on the campus of Oklahoma State University - a movie officially opposed by the Church - has resulted in the resignation of a stake president as chief executive officer of the university's Governing Board of Regents.
H. Jerrell Chesney announced recently at a board meeting that he was resigning the position he has held for 15 years. The announcement followed a decision by the board to allow the showing of the film "The Last Temptation of Christ."Pres. Chesney is president of the Norman Oklahoma Stake.
" . . . While I certainly endorse and support the First Amendment which gives the right to anyone who wishes to see this film, it is important to me that it be understood, if only by a single individual, that I do not support and, in fact, renounce the film and its promotion," Pres. Chesney said in the announcement.
He did not specify when his resignation would be effective, saying he had projects that needed to be completed before his departure.
He emphasized that he found no fault with the action of the regents, who voted 6-2 to rescind an earlier ban on the showing of the movie on campus. A lawsuit filed in federal court had sought to overturn the ban. The board's legal counsel advised that the showing of the film was protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Explaining his action, Pres. Chesney said: "My own personal loyalty, an attribute that I hold dear - as well as that beautiful word `integrity,' directed toward the One and the only One who could and did bring realistic hope into the lives of all people, who gave all He had to do this, who was scorned and vilified beyond description, - evokes personal feelings much too strong to enable me to passively stand by.
"More particularly, the fact that this false portrayal of Him will now be displayed in the most shameful, repugnant way under the sponsorship of an institution with which I am closely affiliated is what gives rise to this personal decision."
Pres. Chesney's action was widely covered in local news media as the culmination of a long-running dispute over showing of the film. Students and faculty members earlier held rallies to protest the regents' action banning the film.
An Oklahoma City newspaper reported that board Chairwoman Carolyn Savage wept as Pres. Chesney read his announcement. The campus newspaper quoted regent Robert Robbins as saying, "You people may have won the war, but you lost a great man on this board."
Among people lauding the action of Pres. Chesney was Glenn A. Brown in an editorial in the Oct. 26 issue of the Baptist Messenger published by the Baptist General Convention of the state of Oklahoma. Brown wrote: "Here is a man whose testimony is that he loved his job and holds both the regents and OSU in highest regard. Yet he chooses to give up a financially rewarding, tenured job to make a statement of principle."
The Church opposed the film in a statement issued Aug. 20. Richard P. Lindsay, then managing director of the Church Public Communications Department, said in part: "We abhor the unconscionable portrayal of Jesus Christ in intimate sexual scenes and as a voyeur. Men and women are left poorer by exposure to the stereotypes the movie portrays.
"As our name implies, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revere Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Having experienced the uplifting power of His spirit, we encourage all people to truly seek the Savior and the eternal truths He taught, and to shun those things that detract from the dignity and spirit of His divine mission."