The 2009 Alma Don Sorensen Essay Contest

Deadline: 15 June 2009






First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $500

Third Prize: $300

Top Ten Essays will be published in a special issue of SquareTwo.

Prize monies donated by

Purpose: Alma Don Sorensen, professor of political philosophy at Brigham Young University for almost 30 years, excelled at explicating truths in a manner understandable to both LDS and non-LDS persons.  His writings on freedom, equality, and law—though based firmly in an LDS perspective—were always expressed in terms that did not presuppose adherence to a religious worldview, for in his view truth lights a spark of understanding in all persons, regardless of religious affiliation. 

SquareTwo has noticed in the younger generation of the LDS Church an inability to articulate truths in language that does not presume a particular religious viewpoint.  While comfortable talking with other LDS members about the moral stands they take with reference to the pressing issues facing the world today, they have, generally speaking, not developed the talent that Alma Don Sorensen so exemplified.  As a result, this often leaves them inarticulate when discussing their moral stands with persons not of the LDS faith.  Not only does this inarticulateness leave them unpersuasive to their peers, or even silent in the public square, it may also leave them persuadable that their positions are indefensible.

SquareTwo seeks, in a modest way, to be of use in this situation.  We desire to sponsor an essay contest for young LDS persons aged 15-30 on a pressing moral issue facing the world family today, and for 2009 that issue is marriage.  The quality of the essays will be judged by a panel of LDS persons of the same age group.

2009 Essay Topic:

Resolved: Heterosexual monogamous marriage should be privileged by the state above all other possible gender arrangements or household partnerships.

Rules of the Contest:

1.  LDS persons aged 15-30 may submit essays for consideration.

2.  No appeal to the authority of scripture of any variety, or to religious authorities of any denomination, may be made. While you may use illustrative quotes from such sources, such quotes cannot be used as if they were authoritative on the subject or could settle the argument you are trying to make.

3.  No appeal to the authority of historical figures may be made.  While you may use illustrative quotes from such figures, such quotes cannot be used as if they were authoritative on the subject or could settle the argument you are trying to make.

4.  If appeals to scientific authority are made, judges will expressly look to see, a) if any misinterpretation of results has occurred, or b) if any cherry-picking of certain studies that support one’s proposition (while ignoring other studies on the same topic that contradict the former) has occurred.

5.  All references to the work of others must be accompanied by full bibliographic citation.  Citations may be made in any conventional format, e.g., MLA, Turabian.

6.  The audience for the essay should be considered to be a non-LDS person who may or may not hold any religious beliefs.

7.  Note that the topic makes reference to state privileging of heterosexual monogamous marriage.  This element of state involvement must be explicitly addressed in the essay.

8.  All entries, with contest coversheet, should be submitted in .doc or .txt or .pdf form by June 15, 2009 to (Contest coversheet will download to your desktop by clicking here.)  Essays must be original, and should not have been previously published (though previous online publication on your personal blog is permissible).  If an insufficient number of entries are received, SquareTwo reserves the right to extend the deadline until a sufficent number are received.

9. Essays may be co-authored, but entrants may submit only one essay.

10. There is no word limit for the essay.

Judging and Awards:

            A panel of judges (LDS in good standing, aged 15-30) will be convened by SquareTwo to judge the essays.  Each essay will be read by all judges.  Essays will be judged on persuasiveness, rigor of thought, ability to anticipate counterarguments, and adherence to the rules outlined above.  The length of time allotted for the judging process will ultimately depend on the number of essays submitted; nevertheless, our current aim is to post the results of the contest by August 1, 2009.




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