Debates and Discussions

Comment of the day: Who's absurd? Not the BYU Honor Code

While Ben Roethlisberger apparently gets a get-out-of-jail-free card for his numerous rapes on the well-known "Bro, I was wasted" defense, over in Utah, they do things a little differently: BYU forward Brandon Davies was dismissed from the Mormon University's basketball team last week for having sex -- consensual sex -- with his girlfriend.

That seemed a little strange to us. In fact, a lot of things about BYU seem strange to us, so Kiernan Maletsky compiled a list: The BYU Honor Code's Most Absurd Tenets. In an impassioned defense, though, reader Mike got all flip-mode on us.


I understand that you think the rules in the honor code are "old fashioned".

If you don't mind I'd like to take the rules in the honor code one at a time and see the benefits and disadvantages of each:

Be Honest

If I am honest with myself and with others, I don't have to worry about what I said to who. I am able to go forward without fear or worry of someone finding me out in a lie.

If I lie, I am constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering when I will be found out. If I lie about my relationships, sooner or later people will stop trusting me, and if I really tell the truth they will probably not believe me anyway.

Live a Chaste and Virtuous Life

If I refrain from premarital sex and am faithful to my marriage partner after we are married, I never have to lie about my relationships. I never have to worry about creating an unwanted pregnancy. I don't have to worry about AIDs or HIV, or any other STD. I set an example for my children so can speak from a position of moral authority when I teach them. I don't cause the grief of having to decide what to do if I get a girl pregnant. I don't have to worry about passing STDs on to my future partner when I find the right one. My wife knows that I love her and her alone in this way, and this makes our intimacy powerful and deep.

If I have numerous sexual partners, I use them as objects to satisfy my own desires, not as people with whom to build lasting relationships. I may contract various STDs, and if I don't, I am always worried about doing so. I may have to consider what to do with an unwanted child--do I abort him or her? Do I abandon her or him? Am I willing to settle with whichever partner becomes pregnant, and if not, what becomes of the child. Will he or she be loved, cherished and cared for? Will a Charlie Sheen type be his or her Dad?

Obey the Law and All Campus Policies

If I obey the law I keep my freedom. I don't hurt others by stealing from them, beating on them, raping them, defrauding them.

If I break the law, I have to worry about being caught. I hurt others. Would I want someone to steal from, hurt or kill me or one of my parents, spouse, brothers and sisters or children? Then why would I inflict any of these on someone else's loved one?

Use Clean Language

If I use clean language I find sufficient vocabulary to convey my message without offending others. If clean language is a habit, I don't have to worry about slipping up and saying words that might deep-six a job interview, a job or a relationship that I really want.

If I use profanity constantly, no one will know when I am really angry. If the F word is just a tired adjective used to describe every thing (It's _________ hot , It's ________ cold, It's _________ awesome, etc.) my speech lacks any substance or power.

Respect Others

If I respect others, then I don't do things that would cause them embarrassment, pain or difficulty. I "do unto others as I would have them do unto me." If I don't want my team to be without my skills, I respect them enough to not do anything that would cause my absence from the team.

If a fail to respect others, I run the distinct risk of them not respecting me.

Abstain from Alcoholic Beverages, Tobacco, Tea, Coffee, and Substance Abuse

If I don't drink alcohol, I can go to a party, have a wonderful time, not get sick, not do terribly embarrassing things, and wake up the next day without nausea or a splitting headache, and actually remember how much fun I had. If I don't use drugs, I don't run the risk of addiction. I don't run the risk of doing something stupid or illegal while I am drunk or high. If I don't smoke I reduce my risk of cancer, I don't smell like a smoke stack, I don't endanger my job by taking too many smoking breaks, and I don't teach my kids to do any of these. If I skip coffee and tea, I learn to wake up without a stimulant and don't have to worry about flaming out mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

If I do these things, I get to make an ass of myself at parties, throw up in the bushes or on my date, lose my inhibitions so that maybe I go too far too fast and ruin someone else's life by driving under the influence, forcing myself on them sexually when they don't want it, or robbing them to get the money for drugs. I wake up the next day with vague feelings of misgiving, no memory, a need to vomit and a severe headache, and I'm maybe addicted so I have to do this all over again tonight.

Participate Regularly in Church Services

If I find and attend a church, I build myself a circle of warm and caring friends who share my values and help me not to break the other rules and become, sad, sick, expelled or incarcerated.

If I run with the drinkers, the pot heads and the sex anytime crowd, I run all the risks and have all the worries listed above.

Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards

If I keep my dress and grooming modest and attractive, I don't cause others inappropriate thoughts. I show that I respect myself and I call attention to who I am, what my talents are and what I believe in rather than what I look like.

If I dress to shock, or to draw sexual attention to myself, I set myself up as a sexual object instead of a human being, deserving respect.

Encourage Others in Their Commitment to Comply With the Honor Code

If all these advantages are worth my time and they make me happy, safe and in control of myself, why would I not want to share them with others?

If I want everyone else to be as rudderless, lost, sick and worried as I am--If I want them to be miserable like me, I can see that the rules would seem "absurd."

So Kiernan, and those of you who think the honor code is absurd--would you care to explain how the alternative is superior?

I am reminded of the two men who wanted to fly.

One ran off a cliff, waved his arms and shouted, "I am free!" and thought he was--all the way to the rocks below.

The other went to flight school, earned his wings, put on a g-suit and helmet, strapped himself into a series of belts, hoses and wires, and sat in a cockpit that restricted his movement to some few inches of head and wrist action. Then he fired up the afterburners and flew at twice the speed of sound at 40,000 feet.

So who flew? Who was free? And who was absurd?

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte