My Positive Experience With “The Honor Code”


Many years ago, while one of my sons was away from home attending college, he called and complained about how restrictive and ridiculous the ‘honor code’ system was at the church sponsored university he was attending. As he put it, “I am a grown adult. I served a two-year full-time mission and I am capable of managing my own life without the interference of this code with its curfews, rules and enforcement.”  As this particular son had never given me reason to doubt his ability to manage his own life, I could see why he thought that living under such a code was intrusive in his life and upon his agency. I had no doubt that with or without it he would live an ‘honorable’ life unto the Lord. After he finished his complaining, I related to him my experience in attending a college without such a code.

I grew up on the east coast but selected a small college in the west where I could pursue my interest in athletics. This college was home to many students of like-minded faith, but whose actions certainly didn’t reflect the teachings of my youth. I soon found, upon arrival at the school, that my three roommates had very different standards than mine. It wasn’t unusual for me to be locked out of my bedroom at night, while the young man assigned to share my bedroom entertained female companions. On more than one occasion I found myself curled up at the bottom of another roommate’s bed like a stray cat looking for a place to lie his head. The walls within the rooms of the apartment we all shared were lined with inappropriate posters, and pictures. Magazines of the baser nature were everywhere, the language was coarse, and it was common that alcoholic beverages were the only thing that filled our otherwise barren fridge. In short, I had been raised in a house of prayer, and this was no doubt, similar to a den of thieves. (Mark 11:17)

But strange as it seems, I personally liked each one of my roommates and we got along well.  And I found that although they didn’t live a life of high Christian standards, they were still warm, charming, and kind.  I have since learned that there are many people who live basically good lives, but whose actions don’t rise to the standards that the Savior set. And even though I held my standards fairly well during that time, in my mind I knew that a long-term exposure to such an environment would become toxic to my body and certainly to my soul. I left after one semester abandoning my desires to play baseball the coming spring for the greater good of serving the Lord as a missionary. I never regretted that decision.

More than two years later I had the privilege of attending a church sponsored university which imposed a ‘honor code.’ I was never so grateful for such a code. My walls were clean, my room was available and my refrigerator, while still barren, was at least free of alcoholic beverages. Interestingly, all three of my roommates were not members of my faith,  but the ‘honor code’ was in place, and they obeyed it.  What a wonderful environment to learn in!

And so, telling my son the above story is how I answered his question regarding why it was important to have a ‘honor code’ in place at school. Because, while you may or may not need it, your friends and roommates might and without a code in place, there is no protection from living in an undesirable situation.

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