What is the BYU Honor Code?
Although a student does not have to be Mormon to attend BYU, most students are LDS (Mormon.) Any student, whether or not they are Mormon, must sign the honor code and then live what it says. For BYU, unlike some universities, the honor code is not a PR tool or a suggestion, but a serious way of life. Students know about the honor code before agreeing to come to the university and they have given their word to live it. Not doing so results in suspension. The university puts this code above all other considerations and will enforce it even when the person who violates it is the star of a sports team. Some newspapers have noted that most schools who suspend a student for violating an honor code or even for breaking a law will do so during exhibition games or some other time that won’t hurt the team. BYU has gained attention several times for removing a student permanently from the team at great risk to their own success in the world of sports.
The Honor Code is perhaps one of the strictest in the nation. It applies to both students and staff, with the only exception being that non-Mormons do not have to attend church. Students agree to:
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code
It should be noted that no one, even Mormons is required to attend a Mormon-owned university and so students are electing to attend and to follow the rules. They must be living these standards at the time of acceptance and are required to continue to live them even between semesters and when off-campus.
Living the Honor Code helps students to uphold the standards of the Mormon Church, but it does more than that. Students learn self-discipline and they learn the importance of keeping their word. The Honor Code, simply because it is strict, allows students to learn the value of setting and keeping high standards, whatever the cost. While much of the nation considers standards outdated, we continue to see the consequences of not having any. Many political leaders resign due to their unwillingness to live up to moral standards of marital fidelity. Business leaders get carried away by greed and violate the law, ending a promising career with a prison sentence.
College years are formative. It is when many young people are choosing how they will live and who they will be. Living the Honor Code can help students get through this time safely and to become aware of the value of living with honor. While many students are using their first years away from home making mistakes they will have to cope with the rest of their lives—unwanted pregnancies or diseases, drug or alcohol addictions, even criminal behavior—a Brigham Young University student who lives the Honor Code gives himself time to grow up, get into the work force, and become mature enough to evaluate the long-term consequences of his choices. Young adults who develop the habit of living with honor go on to have successful and happy lives as honorable adults.
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