I’m sure many of you have read this article. It’s all about a sweet girl who is asking BYU to repeal its ban on sex. I’ve been asked by a few people to voice my comments, so here we go.
There are a few things you should know about the BYU Honor Code, and the LDS Standards.
1. The Honor Code and LDS Standards are a choice. People who attend BYU sign the Honor Code willingly. You don’t have to come to BYU and live the Honor Code. But if you sign that Honor Code, you are obligated to live it. I’m sorry if this is harsh, but if you don’t like the rules of your school, maybe go to a different one? Nobody is forcing you to be here, or follow those rules.
2. The Honor Code isn’t a list of horrible extra rules. They’re basically the Church standards, written down for people to agree to live by. If you’re a practicing member of the LDS Church, most of these rules shouldn’t be that big of an adjustment.
3. Never in the church or in the Honor Code, are women asked to dress modestly for men. They’re asked to dress modestly for themselves and for their Heavenly Father. While there are people who talk about modesty as it regards to men, more and more the conversation is becoming about your personal self-esteem, and how you can show a God up in Heaven that you respect him and the body he gave you. Yes, modest dressing does help the boys around you. Is that such a bad thing though? It’s not your responsibility to help boys have clean thoughts at all, but if dressing modestly helps them, why not do it? The bigger reason to dress modestly is to prepare for the temple, and because God has asked you to. End of story.
4. Sexual sin is viewed by the LDS Church as very serious. That’s not because a bunch of men sat down and decided it was. It’s because God said so. And the consequences are exactly the same for women as they are for men. Because it’s against LDS Church Standards, it will stay against BYU standards. There is no changing of God’s law here.
5. The church doesn’t blame women for sexual sin. This talk by Elder Holland says it all, and I’ve included a piece of it here:
“In this matter of counterfeit intimacy and deceptive gratification, I express particular caution to the men who hear this message. I have heard all my life that it is the young woman who has to assume the responsibility for controlling the limits of intimacy in courtship because a young man cannot. What an unacceptable response to such a serious issue! What kind of man is he, what priesthood or power or strength or self-control does this man have that lets him develop in society, grow to the age of mature accountability, perhaps even pursue a university education and prepare to affect the future of colleagues and kingdoms and the course of the world, but yet does not have the mental capacity or the moral will to say, “I will not do that thing”? No, this sorry drugstore psychology would have us say, “He just can’t help himself. His glands have complete control over his life–his mind, his will, his entire future.”
To say that a young woman in such a relationship has to bear her responsibility and that of the young man’s too is the least fair assertion I can imagine. In most instances if there is sexual transgression, I lay the burden squarely on the shoulders of the young man–for our purposes probably a priesthood bearer–and that’s where I believe God intended responsibility to be. In saying that I do not excuse young women who exercise no restraint and have not the character or conviction to demand intimacy only in its rightful role. I have had enough experience in Church callings to know that women as well as men can be predatory. But I refuse to buy some young man’s feigned innocence who wants to sin and call it psychology.
Indeed, most tragically, it is the young woman who is most often the victim, it is the young woman who most often suffers the greater pain, it is the young woman who most often feels used and abused and terribly unclean. And for that imposed uncleanliness a man will pay, as surely as the sun sets and rivers run to the sea.”
7. There are many outlets for those who are victims of sexual abuse. I’m not sure about this girl’s specific situation. Perhaps her leaders did handle it incorrectly. Even church leaders are human. The important thing is, the church takes sexual abuse very seriously, and does not blame anyone who is a victim. There are dozens of talks, resources, and counselors who deal with this very issue and are clear that the church does not view someone who was sexually abused as impure. Ever.
8. People are imperfect, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect. People may say or treat others in a way that’s unkind. We need to work on that. I’m a total advocate for fixing that in this LDS culture. But that doesn’t mean that the laws given by God are imperfect. Those are perfect, and never changing. And there is help! So many people are working on repenting, getting better. Sexual sin doesn’t mean you are less, as second-class citizen in this Gospel. God wants everyone to make it back. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is there for everyone! We all have things we are working on, nobody is perfect. The point is to work together to help our brothers and sisters make it back to Heaven. We are all on the same team.
9. The Honor Code is there to help you. Believe it or not, the Honor Code helps students at BYU have happier, more successful lives. It’s because they are mostly Church doctrine, God’s laws. Following those laws will help you, not hurt you.
10. I don’t judge anyone who has sinned. Because I am also a sinner. And so many people in the Church feel the same way. You get to work on your salvation with Jesus Christ and a loving Heavenly Father. Sins are sins, and we all have sinned. Remember, “don’t judge me because I sin differently than you?” Well I’m trying to do that, and so are so many others. Some of our sins may be that we are judgmental. We’re all trying. We’re all working. And we can work together.
I could be considered a bit of a feminist myself. I’m all for women being treated correctly. Being treated as equals and respected. A ban on the Honor Code will not do this. A look at how we teach young girls about modesty will, identifying the best ways to help everyone understand the law of chastity and their responsibility in staying clean will.
The BYU Honor Code, and the laws of the Gospel for that matter, are here to stay. We need to focus on changing a judgmental culture and looking at the way we treat one another, more than changing the laws that God has given us.
So, Keli, I hope you find what you’re looking for. I hope you are able to find the peace and reassurance that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints can bring. It’s a beautiful religion, filled with people who are trying to be better. Hopefully you can forgive all of us our shortcomings, and work with us to make this gospel welcoming to everyone, without trying to change the very laws that God gave us.