I am an alumni of a small school located in Southeast Idaho called Brigham Young University-Idaho. BYU-I is the sister school to BYU and BYU-Hawaii. These three institutions were started and still operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Being a private institution, BYU-I has the ability to implement an honor code. Because of this honor code, students and faculty are held to a very high standard of living.
Lately, I have been seeing different articles or blogs that indirectly attempt to question the honor code of these institutions. It saddens me to see young adults writing the things that they do because of the problems they have with a school that they CHOSE to attend. Attending BYU-Idaho was the best thing I could have ever done for my future life as far as my personal life and career are concerned. I won't lie, the stereotypical college experience was not found at BYU-I. But shouldn't that be something we celebrate instead of ridicule? I want to talk to you about my experience at BYU-I, including my run in with the honor code, with people that had opposing viewpoints, with some great and not so great church leaders and the overall experience of why BYU-I changed my life for the better.
I started my college career back in 2007 before serving a mission for the Church. Most of my closest friends ended up attending BYU in Utah and I just didn't have the grades to get there, so here I was, at BYUI, an 18 year old, without a clue of what to do. High school was very fun for me, but I lacked in the responsibility needed to attain good grades. (Shout out to my mom for pretty much helping me graduate.) I was a little worried that I would struggle with the actual schooling up here, but the social aspect I was more than ready to tackle. I remember accepting and signing the honor code but not really thinking about what I had actually signed up for. Well that all became clear in the middle of semester.
I don' really like to talk about it because it is not a big deal and mainly just stupid of me and my friends but we went camping with some girls. It seemed harmless, nothing immoral occurred, we all just stayed up all night hanging out and talking. At that time, I didn't realize we were breaking the rules. Well needless to say, someone told on us, and we all got letters asking us to come to the school's Honor Office. I remember when I got that, I called my parents immediately. For some reason, I have always felt inclined to tell them anytime I messed up, because I knew they would help me plus seeing their reaction scared me into never doing stupid stuff again. While talking to them about the situation and what was about to happen, I never felt guilty. I never felt like I did anything wrong. And they trusted me.
So I went to meet with the Honor Code Dean. It was like a church interview. They wanted to know what happened, compared all of our stories and wanted to make sure we didn't do anything immoral. I remember thinking it was kind of weird that they wanted to know so much, it felt like a bishops interview. Fortunately, they were willing to work with us. Through the remainder of the semester I had to attend the schools weekly Devotionals and take notes, I had to read a bunch of talks on Obedience, write a talk on obedience, present it and meet with the honor code office regularly til the end of the Fall semester. I had two choices at that point, either be bitter about my consequences or use them to benefit and learn. The idea of potentially getting kicked out was enough for me to choose the correct path. Through this experience I didn't necessarily gain a testimony of the honor code, but more of the importance of keeping commandments. I had, of my own free will, signed and promised to live this honor code and I had to live with the consequences if I didn't live it.
I do not look at the honor code as a set of rules or do's and don'ts. Just like the commandments we are given, I knew that the honor code was there to set us free, not trap us. Commandments are given as a blessing and opportunity to show our faith and love towards God and receive blessings in return.. From that point forward, I did my best to live the honor code while at school. Yes, there is the occasional curfew problem, but I never wanted to put myself in the situation where I would have to meet with the honor code again, so I didn't.
After that semester I prepared for my mission for the Church. I served 2 faithful years in Northern California and it was the best experience of my life. I grew spiritually, intellectually and physically (literally, I gained like 30 lbs, yikes). The mission was great, I learned so much and was again given the opportunity to live by a strict code as an Elder of the Church. I say given because it was a blessing and opportunity, not a burden to live in such a strict way. I had two years to strictly devote to my Heavenly Father and Savior and it was great.
After my mission I was heading back to BYU-I to finish college. From that point forward it was not hard to keep rules. It was easier to see the blessings of living the commandments and honor code. Throughout the remainder of my college career, I met both teachers,students and church leaders that just rubbed me the wrong way. And I am sure I rubbed people the wrong way too, if fact I know I did, I am human! But that didn't change my overall attitude about my school or the Church. My testimony and faith is built upon a solid foundation and nothing will change that. People, after all, are just human and they make mistakes. I could have been offended, I could have used a crazy teacher or church leader as an excuse to change my attitude about BYU-I but that seemed stupid to me and had no foundation. So I didn't let it change. Instead I embraced my imperfections and theirs and learn from them.
I believe it is all about your attitude. If you are looking for a reason to be upset, offended or hurt you will find it, because that is all you are focusing on. It goes the same if you are looking to be happy, positive and uplifting. When I let go of my imperfections and the imperfections of others, that is when I learned the most. There was and always will be those crazy people, those people that give you a reason to question your testimony or thoughts, but there are WAY more people that will help you strengthen it. My last two years of college, I had the same bishop and let me tell you, he wasn't just some old guy who was going through the motions of being a leader in one of many students wards across the campus. He was a friend, a colleague and a mentor for me and for all my friends. We all agree that he was the bishop we needed and loved. Was he stern and strict? Yes! Was our Stake President so in love with the idea of obedience? Yes! Did some people have a hard time with them because of their sternness? YES!!! But those people were looking for a reason to be. A scapegoat, a chance to get offended. And it was a choice for me, accept and sustain my leaders or be annoyed and upset by their viewpoints. Guess which choice allowed me to grow and gain a better testimony of obedience?
All I am trying to say is, I have seen and heard it gone on long enough from too many people about the "rules" and "annoying people" at BYU-I. Too much negativity has been shared about this amazing University. I feel like people ALWAYS focus on the annoyance of this school, when they should be so thankful for such a great institution that allows you to get your college education at a fraction of the cost of any of college. Not only is it an amazing deal, but you are truly given the chance to learn, to grow spiritually and get ready for the real world. I feel that if people have a hard time with "rules", commandments or the honor code while being around thousands of other people of their same faith, how will they do in a place where they might be the only LDS people?
My advice to anyone attending or about to attend BYU, BYUI or BYU-Hawaii:
- Embrace the honor code.
- Don't prove it to your leaders, prove it to yourself that you can live obediently.
- Use your time at these schools to prepare and become spiritual giants for the future.
- Gain a testimony or a better one of God's love for you.
I am thankful for my time at BYU-Idaho. It was full of great experiences, drama, fun, goofiness and I am so appreciative for everything I learned while there. To those of you who feel the need to blame BYU-I or be annoyed by the honor code, remember one thing, you signed it. You chose to come here. You have the ability to leave if it doesn't go in accordance with your thought process or beliefs. But please don't sit here and tell others about how horrible it is or about how some faculty member or church leader offended you, so therefore all of BYUI is a bad place. If you are considering leaving this school, I hope you come to understand the importance of being here and how it will bless you. Best of luck with whatever you choose. As for me, being at this school, was what I needed and I will forever be thankful for the honor code, for the good and bad experiences here because at the end of the day, I am a better person because of it.