Commentary: BYU’s code needs more honor

Derik Stevenson

A big part of why I chose to come to Brigham Young University to play football was because of its honor code. I didn’t have many Latter-day Saint friends growing up. I was the only one out of my group who didn’t drink or smoke weed. Drinking, drugs, sex and violence were all around me as a young man growing up in Southern California. I wanted to go to a place like BYU.

It’s not that I was scared of any of those things. They were everywhere. They were an accepted part of my environment. While I didn’t drink alcohol, I did some stupid stuff that made drinking alcohol seem tame. I got into my fair share of trouble. I looked forward to going to a university that expected more of me than I expected of myself. I thought BYU could help make me a better man. A better future husband and father. It was part of why I wanted to go on a church mission as well. I knew those environments could be a huge blessing to my life.

But while at BYU I developed an addiction to prescription pain pills because of all the meds I needed to treat and get through all the injuries. I was 23 years old. I had never even had a beer before. I wasn’t prepared to deal with addiction. Maybe I let my guard down and wasn’t as vigilant in avoiding addictive substances like I had been early in life. The more pills I took, the better they made me feel and the more I wanted them. It wasn’t just the relief from the physical pain. I loved how the pills “helped” in other areas of my life. I no longer stressed about everything. My social anxiety disappeared. I was able to sit through long lectures in school. I loved what the drugs did for me in my life.

I knew I needed help. But I had worked my whole life to become a starter as a Cougar. And the honor code office had already shown me the year before that they were more interested in punishing me than they were in helping me. I knew I had to keep my addiction a secret. If they found out, I’d likely be kicked out again and lose all I had worked for.

I was so ashamed as a recently returned missionary that had just been married in the temple. I was living a lie. I would regularly stand up and give “firesides” to the youth at church, but I had this dark secret that I was scared to be honest about. They looked up to me as a role model. Inside I felt so much shame.

As I kept this secret in the dark, it grew until it consumed my life. But the culture I was in made it impossible to get help. As I looked into Narcotics Anonymous options, I learned quickly that “complete honesty” was step 1 to getting better. I knew I needed help, but for years I had to keep my secret between me and God. He understood. He wouldn’t kick me out. He just kept loving me. But I knew BYU and it’s Honor Code Office wouldn’t be as understanding as my Heavenly Father was.

The BYU Honor Code Office needs to be entirely revamped. They need to be more like our understanding master. They need to understand that we are all flawed. They need to be there to help, not to punish. They need to get rid of the employees on staff that are hired as “Investigators” charged with following up on all the snitches’ leads. Seems more like something that would take place in Eastern Germany in 1940, not Provo in 2019. My daddy used to punish the tattler more severely than the child that made the mistake. That principle should be part of our gospel.

A lot of fellow Latter-day Saints have said to me over the years, “The students know what they were signing when they accepted and signed the Honor Code. I don’t feel sorry for them if they get kicked out or punished.” It’s such an ignorant statement. Every one of us knew what we were signing up for when we told God we wanted to come to this earth. Also, every one of us agreed to follow Christ when we were baptized. And guess what? We all fall short of what we agreed to. We all fail. We all fall. Whether it’s at BYU or at life. So stop being so self-righteous to think BYU students should be punished when they don’t live up to the honor code that they agreed to live by.

To the administrators of the BYU Honor Code Office: Where is there any “honor” in encouraging students to rat out fellow students who are struggling with a personal religious issue in some aspect of their life? The text of BYU’s honor code instructs its students on how to turn in others if they witness them sin or break the rules. It also advises that you’ll be able to do this in secret, which doesn’t seem to be very honorable. There is no honor in turning someone in and the accused not being able to face their accuser.

Stop worrying about tattle-tales and going after struggling students. Use the honor code to help them be better people and get closer to God. Your “pristine” university doesn’t need to have its reputation protected from young people who struggle to live a perfect life.

And for crying out loud, if he can go worship and participate in the holiest of earthly ordinances in the temple with a beard, long hair and an earring, he should also be allowed to go to his Statistics 221 lecture in the MARB.

Derik Stevenson played football for Brigham Young University in 1992 and 1995 to 1998.