Last week the Church updated the General Handbook and released it to the membership at large. In conjunction with this BYU released some chances to its Honor Code which have caused a lot of confusion and have given BYU more press than it probably should have (seriously, we should all be talking about the Basketball game against Gonzaga instead of this).
The part of the Honor Code that was changed said:
“Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings of attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. Members of the University community can remain in good Honor Code standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code. One’s stated gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a straight commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Cord. Homosexual behaviors includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expressions to homosexual feelings.”
That is now gone and the Honor Code states:
Church Educational System Honor Code
Brigham Young University and other Church Educational System institutions exist to provide an education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That atmosphere is created and preserved by a community of faculty, administration, staff, and students who voluntarily commit to conduct their lives in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who strive to maintain the highest standards in their personal conduct regarding honor, integrity, morality, and consideration of others. By accepting appointment, continuing in employment, being admitted, or continuing class enrollment, each member of the BYU community personally commits to observe these Honor Code standards approved by the Board of Trustees “at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9):
- Be honest.
- Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.
- Respect others, including the avoidance of profane and vulgar language.
- Obey the law and follow campus policies.
- Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, and substance abuse.
- Participate regularly in Church services (required only of Church members).
- Observe Brigham Young University’s dress and grooming standards.
- Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.
Many people have interpreted this to mean that same-sex dating, if kept within the guidelines outlined in For the Strength of Youth book, is now acceptable at BYU. Some of these people include professors, LGBT activists, and members of the campus community. There has been no end of confusion to say the least.
I have always understood this issue thus, that having same-sex attraction is not the problem, but acting on the feelings are. So is same-sex dating allowed? Are “chaste” (eg: simple hand holding, hugging, kissing) same-sex public displays of affection inline with church teachings? The Honor Code office has not come out and said directly “Yes”, or directly “No.” I have seen many second and third hand accounts of conversations people have had with different Honor Code office staff. Some of those staff have been adults, other have been student workers. Every account has been wildly different. I’m not going to link to those, or post screen shots, because thou shalt not gossip and rumormonger.
I do think, however, the Honor Code Office bungled this royally, and should issue some clarification. Alumni want to know, students want to know, and parents want to know what is going on with the university and if its safe to send their kids to BYU. Or is BYU going to be just like any other secular university? You expect worldly ideas to be front and center at secular universities, but BYU is not a secular university. It is a Church run school — everything and everyone at BYU should support the doctrines, teachings, policies, and leadership of the church. That’s not to say BYU should be a bubble, or the students should not be challenged, but students should not have to put up with faculty and staff who are pushing an agenda that contend with the church and its teachings. Sadly there are professors, groups, and students with agendas that run contrary to the Church at BYU. They are a small but vocal minority, but they have the ear of the national media, so they appear to have a lot of influence.
Back to the question, is same-sex dating allowed at BYU? Perhaps the university is giving people more of a chance to figure out things for themselves — after all, we are not to be commanded in all things (see Doctrine & Covenants 58: 26). The opinions on this whole issue have been very revealing. I think it’s a wheat and tares situation, and that might be a good thing. That said, it will be hard for everyone to witness and be part of. I loved my time at BYU, and I was and am a big fan of the Honor Code. The Honor Code is simply another chance we have to commit to living the gospel and honoring those standards.
In the end though, we must ask, What is the point of dating as Latter-day Saint young adults? It is to find a spouse and to get married and sealed in the temple. Same-sex marriage violates the commandments of God and the doctrines of the gospel. It puts the individuals involved in a very precarious situation Same-sex dating, even if done by the standards of the church is a dead end if the people involved want to keep their membership in the church. Even hand holding and kissing is a dead end, as those things eventually lead to more physicality in a relationship. Why would we encourage people to go down that road? As I wrote last week, we need to do all we can to help each other keep the commandments and our covenants.
For those that think some day the leadership of the church will change the doctrine on chastity or marriage, this will not happen. The new and everlasting covenant of marriage has been the same through out all generations of mankind, starting with Adam and Eve. If the Lord were to change that now, how would He reconcile destroying the earth with the flood or burning Sodom & Gomorrah? Why was it right for those people to be destroyed for all types of sexual immorality and for those things to be permitted in this generation? I’ve heard several people also state that “We’re just waiting for the older apostles to die off, so that the younger ones can make the right changes”. That’s not going to happen either. As Latter-day Saints we need to have a testimony in Doctrine & Covenants 1:38, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Either Pres. Nelson and the Twelve are the mouthpieces of the Lord or they are not. If they are then we are in the Church of Jesus Christ and they are doing what God wants them to do. If not, we are no different than any other church out there.
In the end, we have to have faith thru these types of crises. It also might be a good idea to have a lot more patience as we watching things develop, and actually click on links to news stories instead of just reading headlines, and putting stock in 3rd hand accounts on twitter, and calling it good. I do hope, however that BYU will stop being so ambiguous. The world is watching us! A final reminder, we follow the prophet not the kid who answers the phone at the BYU Honor Code office. Look to what the brethren have said in regard to the commandments and how we as Latter-day Saints should be conducting ourselves.