The BYU Honor Code Office emphasizes the relationship between the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the standards outlined in the Honor Code.
The first paragraph in the Honor Code in the 1986 student course catalog defines “honor” as living voluntarily in accordance with the principles set by the Church.
“Pay a lot of attention to the first paragraph of the Honor Code,” BYU Honor Code Office director Kevin Utt said. “We [have the Honor Code] to maintain the atmosphere conducive to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Utt noted that there were some differences between BYU and the Church, such as the “beard rule.” However, BYU can’t have policies that are directly opposing the teachings of the Church.
“Remember, our standards are also coming from the Church,” Utt said. “We are a university whose purpose is to train students with the expectation that once you leave this university, you will use the skills and talents that you’ve obtained, to then go forth and build up the kingdom of God.”
However, some BYU students and alumni feel that the standards of BYU and of the Church are different, including BYU alumnus Bradley Talbot. Talbot started the “Color the Campus” movement at BYU.
“The teachings of the Church are much easier to follow than the Honor Code,” Talbot said. “The standards of chastity, modesty, and even the Word of Wisdom are much more strict at BYU than the Church regulates.”
The Church’s General Handbook says, “God’s commandments forbid all unchaste behavior, either heterosexual or same-sex.”
The General Handbook also says, “The Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential… God’s law defines marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.”
BYU’s most recent update about chastity came after the removal of the “Homosexual Behavior” section in the Honor Code in 2020.
“The moral standards of the Church did not change… There is and always has been more to living the Lord’s standards of a chaste and virtuous life than refraining from sexual relations outside of marriage,” Elder Paul V. Johnson wrote in a letter about the Honor Code.
Elder Johnson ended the letter by writing, “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to an eternal marriage.”
In reference to the topic of “modesty,” the Church’s For the Strength of Youth booklet says, “When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God.”
The For the Strength of Youth lists modesty standards as avoiding tight or revealing clothing. Short shorts, skirts, and shirts are also considered to be immodest. Men and women are compelled to avoid extreme clothing, hairstyles, and behaviors.
The BYU Honor Code’s Dress and Grooming Standards says that students should not wear tight or revealing clothing. Shorts and skirts need to be knee-length or longer. Extreme hairstyles shouldn’t be worn.
The biggest difference is that the Honor Code prohibits beards.
Word of Wisdom
Finally, the Word of Wisdom is described in the Church’s General Handbook: “Prophets have also taught members to avoid substances that are harmful, illegal, or addictive or that impair judgment.”
Likewise, the Honor Code says, “Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, and substance abuse.”
Bryan Bradley, associate director in the Center for Teaching and Learning, compared following the Honor Code to driving in the HOV lane.
“On the freeway, not everybody who violates the HOV lane rule is going to get cited,” Bradley said.
Bradley continued by saying all licensed drivers knew the rules, similar to BYU students signing the Honor Code.
“But if they get confronted and cited, then they shouldn’t be surprised,” Bradley said.
Utt added that BYU’s purpose is to provide spiritual and intensive learning.
“But none of [the Honor Code policies] will ever contradict the Church’s stance on [doctrine and policies],” Utt said. “The answer is, the gospel is what it is.”
Written by: Abby Tanner
Editor and Contributor for the Cougar Chronicle
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.