To A Code of Honor


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I don’t know if you have heard about the “big news” that came out of Brigham Young University (BYU) recently, but it has definitely made a lot of people raise their eyebrows. To bring you up to speed if you haven’t heard the news, BYU dismissed Brandon Davies, a starting sophomore basketball player due to a violation of the school’s honor code.

The school made the announcement of Brandon’s dismissal on Tuesday, March 1st. This was the same day that BYU’s basketball program was ranked #3 in all the polls. Then on Wednesday, in their first game without Brandon, BYU lost to New Mexico, which began to fuel the discussion about the situation.

There are several things to consider:

1) Brandon Davies is a key player on the team. He averaged 11.1 points per game and was the team’s leading rebounder with 6.2 per game.

2) The BYU’s honor code is something that every student, regardless of being an athlete or not agrees to when they enter into school as a freshmen. You can read BYU’s honor code here.

3) If BYU does not uphold its own honor code, then it loses its credibility for what it stands for. But if they uphold the honor code then they jeopardize a great season (just to note, BYU lost to New Mexico this past Wednesday – their first game without Davies).

As more facts are coming out, it was discovered that Davies violated the second part of the honor code, which states, “As a matter of personal commitment… students of Brigham Young University… seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will… live a chaste and virtuous life.” Simply, Davies had pre-marital sex.

People in the secular world were going crazy about this and were asking, “how in the world can a college student live up to a code that says you cannot have sex outside of marriage?” In the blogosphere, people are calling this “ridiculous,” “insane,” “stupid,” and the list goes on.

But the more I thought about this, the more I began to realize that people are not really understanding all the principles that are in effect.

Now, first of all, if we had an honor code like this in the church, then I would say there will be a lot of people who will no longer be serving or hold positions in the church. On one hand, I was thinking as a Bible-believing person, “is it wrong to put a code of honor which reflects a biblical command?” I don’t think so. Even the leaders in our church agree to a “Code of Conduct” which is enforced to keep the standard and the integrity of our ministry. Then on the other hand, I am thinking about the doctrine of grace and how a person who is repentant and seeks to correct their ways, should be given forgiveness and grace.

The thing that shocked me the most is that there were sports commentators who disagreed with the honor code, but they respect what BYU did.

Pat Forde, a well-respected ESPN new analyst wrote,

“Would I have wanted to attend college at a place that has rules governing just about every aspect of your daily life, including how you dress and whether you’ve shaved that morning? No, thank you. In my youth I was not sober enough, chaste enough, conformist enough, dogmatic enough or decaffeinated enough to have been a very good student at BYU.

But today I am impressed by the school’s commitment to its rules, even at a potentially tremendous cost to its basketball team. He won’t play again this season, just as the games become the team’s most important ones. And in the grand scheme of things, that really doesn’t matter to the school.

What makes this such a powerful testament is the fact that so many schools have cravenly abandoned their standards at such a time as this, embracing athletic expediency over institutional principle. It happens so often that we don’t even raise an eyebrow at it anymore.

Player arrests or other antisocial behaviors are minimized as youthful mistakes, with strenuous institutional effort put into counter-spinning any negative publicity. Academic underachievement is dismissed as merely the price of being competitive in big-time athletics. ‘Indefinite’ suspensions often last only as long as they’re convenient – timed to coincide with exhibition games or low-stress games against overmatched opponents.

That certainly didn’t happen in this instance at BYU.

Consider the situation: Key player on probably the best team in school history gets in trouble in the final week of a 27-2 season. With a Mountain West Conference title and a probable No. 1 NCAA tournament seed there for the taking, the school learns of an honor code violation on Monday, a violation that school officials said was not a criminal offense. On Tuesday, Davies is suspended for the rest of the season.

The first impulse is to feel sorry for Davies – if only he’d gone to State U, where the punishment might have been a week of running stadium steps at dawn. In April.

But Davies knew what he signed up for. Literally. He grew up in Provo and went along, eyes wide open, with the agreement saying he’d live by the BYU honor code.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s remarkable that the school has been able to thrive athletically despite a code of conduct that would seem to be very limiting in recruiting.

Given the context in which it operates, Brigham Young might be the most unlikely success story in modern college athletics. But it won’t let chasing that success compromise what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the school is supposed to be about.

BYU isn’t willing to subordinate its principles for victories. That’s a rare stance these days, and a respectable one.

Forde was spot on regarding the whole situation and looking at it from a bigger perspective.

There are several things that were reinforced for me through this story:

1) FAITHFULNESS to commitments. It is easy to make commitments, but often times it is hard to keep them. Once we make the commitment, by God’s grace we need to stay faithful to it (Ecc 5:4-5).

2) FOLLOW through even when it is inconvenient. Our convictions will always be tested. God uses trials and various circumstances to see if we would follow through in our obedience to Him or if we will give in to our selfishness. God is constantly building character in us so that we can be mature and complete in Him (Jas 1:2-4).

3) FOCUS on the bigger picture. Sometimes we lose sight of the forest, when we are too focused on just one tree. We cannot forget that there are things in life which have connecting consequences. Nothing is just an island by itself, but rather, one decision can affect other things; therefore we have to see the bigger picture of things (Ex 20:4-6).

4) FIND God’s grace in our failures. Satan loves to use failure as a weapon to destroy us. Time and time again throughout the Bible, we see how God uses failures of humans for His glory. We cannot look at only the here and now, but we have to look into the future and see how God’s Sovereignty is greater than anything else in this world (Jn 21:15-23).

5) FORGIVE even when it is costly. It was encouraging to hear that Davies apologized to his teammates. This showed true character because he was taking responsibility for his actions and the negative consequences the team had to face. But the best part of the story was when his teammates forgave him. We are able to experience God’s love, forgiveness and grace when we have people who demonstrate it in a tangible way (Ro 15:1-7).

Spiritual ENTREPRENEUR, Church EQUIPPER, Leadership EDUCATOR, Ideas EXPERIMENTER & Global EXPLORER who is trying to transform lives and transform the world.
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