Certain aspects of my college experience surprise people sometimes. I attended a private university of my church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (often inadvertently called the “Mormon” church). I attended Brigham Young University-Idaho, and I will admit, there were a lot of unique features about my university years.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ, I obey many commandments including abstaining from alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and any sexual relations outside of marriage. This standard is upheld at the various church universities and adherence to an Honor Code set by the Church Board of Education is required to be accepted in order to stay in school.
Prospective students are interviewed by their respective ecclesiastical leaders regarding their adherence to these specific guidelines and are re-interviewed and pledge to follow the Honor Code each year. Ecclesiastical leaders themselves are not required to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ, as a person is not required to be a member of the Church to attend Church universities. .
Laughing at Quirks
I spent a semester abroad in college with a non-church school and had a wonderful time living with members not of my faith. I had so much fun sharing my beliefs and we had even more fun laughing at times at their sheer shock when they learned about some of my practices and beliefs.
Of all the things they learned about me and what I did, in what seemed to them to be a very “foreign” religion, though all my roommates were American, the two things they couldn’t believe the most were that I didn’t drink coffee and that at my school I didn’t get a spring break! Not having a spring break isn’t part of the Honor Code or part of the religion or beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ, but it sort of an inside joke among the students of church schools.
When I studied abroad, it dawned on me that I was going to have my first college spring break ever and I was SO excited!! My friends and I were able to laugh at this quirky difference in our educations.
BYU Is Stone Cold Sober for the 16th Time
Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah knows how to laugh at itself. For it’s 16th year in a row, BYU has been voted by The Princeton Review as #1 on it’s “Stone Cold Sober Schools” list.
Brigham Young University media relations manager Todd Hollingshead jokes that it’s his school’s version of a drinking game: Repeat as the nation’s most “stone-cold sober school” and tip back a carton of chocolate milk.
“I guess you could say it’s our sweet 16th,” he says. There is no double-secret probation at BYU; the school’s famed Honor Code makes total sobriety a condition of enrollment. “We absolutely embrace it,” he says. “It’s a major reason why people choose to be here.”
Why Are Education and Clean Living So Important?
So why is clean living so important to attend a Church University? Education is important to “Mormons”. In fact, we believe it is a commandment. On Lds.org under Youth, Education, it says:
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18 ).
Education is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help you become more like Him. He wants you to educate your mind and to develop your skills and talents, your power to act well in your responsibilities, and your capacity to appreciate life. The education you gain will be valuable to you during mortality and in the life to come.
The Honor Code : A Commitment of Honor
The Honor Codes for these schools are just what they say they are – a commitment by students to appreciate the opportunity they have been given and to not waste it with poor choices. It also shows a commitment to Christ and to following the commandments of God and to respect oneself.
Part of the BYU Honor Code states:
The Code of Honor, based on principles articulated in the thirteenth article of faith, reads:
Brigham Young University exists to provide a university education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That atmosphere can be preserved through commitment to conduct that reflects those ideals and principles.
As a matter of personal commitment, students, staff, and faculty of Brigham Young University seek to demonstrate in daily living those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will: Be honest; live a chaste and virtuous life; obey the law; use clean language; respect others; abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and drug abuse.
The dress and grooming standards state that students’ dress and grooming should always be “modest, neat, and clean, consistent with the dignity of representing Brigham Young University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Brandon Davies, the Honor Code and the Individual
In 2011, Brandon Davies, a star basketball player for the Cougars at BYU violated the Honor Code resulting in his dismissal from the basketball team. This caused a worldwide debate on the merits of such Honor Codes.
Michael Otterson, Head of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote a wonderful article on the topic in The Washington Post Faith Blog:
When I first heard about Brandon Davies suspension from BYU basketball for an honor code violation, my instantaneous reaction was probably like everyone else’s: “Oh no, what’s that going to do to this incredible BYU season?” About one nanosecond later, the next thought: “But good for BYU for its stand on principle.”
I wondered about the public reaction, however. Were we about to see endless commentaries about how the honor code was too strict, and that Brigham Young University needed to move into the 21st century?
But fortunately, it doesn’t end there. BYU isn’t going to throw this young man aside.
Ultimately, the honor code is as much about the individual as the team or the school.
Brandon Davies is more than a trending topic on Google. He is a young man full of energy, talent and opportunity, all of which remain present as he moves through what is undoubtedly a difficult time in his life. While this one mistake may redirect his life for a time it does not define who he is. Those that care for him, including his church leaders, are reaching out to help, guide and support. Friends, family and true fans likewise. There are a lot of people at BYU who will do all they can to help Brandon get through this trial in his life and come out on top. He isn’t just an athlete, but a child of God. No one knows yet how that will happen, but I do know that they will do everything they can to make it work and help him put all this behind him.
It was interesting to read about another BYU athlete’s reaction to all of this. Former BYU football star Reno Mahe suffered a similar tough lesson in 1998 after an honor code violation got him dropped from the football program.
“I’ve always shared this with people, that it was probably one of the best things that had happened to me,” he told the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. “I appreciate what BYU did to me. I appreciate the honor code and what it stands for. I appreciate that they enforce it. You get a lot of schools that say they have codes, but I don’t think anyone enforces it like BYU does…. It’s a great school. It’s a one-of-a-kind school.” As everyone knows, Reno went back to BYU and ended up playing in the NFL.
BYU is a one-of-a-kind school. But it’s not the only school with principles or honor codes. And wouldn’t it be a good thing if such principles and standards were so well and routinely enthroned that when they were applied in cases of honor code violations, they didn’t generate coast to coast publicity.
And I agree – because that is what Honor Codes are about – helping us maintain our personal honor and commitment to Jesus Christ; not worldly recognition.
Livi Whitaker is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - a "Mormon" woman in Idaho. She has worked in various professional Communications based positions in New York, Italy and Idaho since her first day at the United Nations on Jan 2nd, 2007. Livi now devotes her full attention to free lance writing. An avid writer since childhood, Livi has kept a journal as long as she can remember - yet some of the most fulfilling writing she has done is for the More Good Foundation, sharing her beliefs online.