How the Honor Code Change Influenced My Faith
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The Honor Code change affected queer and straight students’ faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Here are our stories.
Anonymous Straight BYU Student #1
The honor code change in February 2020 broke my shelf and was the nail in the coffin for my relationship with the church. I was sitting in one of my classes when I got the news that the honor code was now allowing same-sex romantic relationships. I was so happy that BYU was making steps towards being a better place. Then, 2 weeks later, I was in my kitchen when I saw the announcement from the honor code office about the switch. I started sobbing. The cruelty of letting people think that they were safe in their relationships for 2 weeks before pulling the rug out from under them and then gaslighting people by saying that it had never changed astonished me. I knew I could no longer believe in a church that was capable of such cruelty.
My husband left the church just over a year ago. I wanted so badly for the church to be true that I kept going for several months. When they sent out the CES letter my husband just held me as I sobbed and said I couldn't do it anymore. I told him I was done and I couldn't make myself believe anymore.
Anonymous Bisexual BYU Student #2
The honor code change was the catalyst for me losing my faith. When the protests started I went so that I could talk to someone there about their perspective since I felt pretty uninformed. That conversation changed my life. I was told how the 2 week wait between announcements had put people in danger because they came out in an environment they thought was safe, but now found themselves outed and in danger of rejection from their families, friends, and community. The whole handling of the change felt like the Peanuts cartoon when Lucy holds out the football for Charlie Brown and then pulls it away once he's already running too fast to stop. Except this wasn't just a cartoon. This was a choice the Church Education System made deliberately. The church has an excellent PR team. There is no way they did not know the consequences for waiting 2 full weeks to announce that they actually didn't mean what they said before. They made the choice to postpone clarification with either the cruel intent to harm queer individuals or with the intent to make them feel neglected by demonstrating that they clearly do not care that their actions were putting people in danger physically and emotionally. There was no apology for this cruelty or neglect. Even if you think marriage should just be between a man and a woman, you can't ignore that fact that the way the change was handled is just cruel. The actions of the CES do not align with what a loving God would want.
I had never been able to find compatibility between church doctrine and being queer. I was always unsatisfied with the usual response that it's just something that will be resolved in the afterlife. For a long time I decided to be patient and hope that the church would eventually acknowledge that the love between two gay men or any queer couple is just as holy as the love between a cis man and woman. But I cannot, in good conscience, support this organization or its leaders anymore. I want to worship a God of love, Christlike love, but the Family Proclamation and the actions of the Church Education System are contrary to divine love. How can loving someone be contrary to God’s plan? A God of love would never arbitrarily forbid his children access to the sacred expression of love that is matrimony. So either God is not love, in which case I don't want to worship him, or this church does not represent him.
If it wasn’t the time before to extend the plan of happiness to all people, now is the time. I believe Mormon culture is accepting, loving, and ready. God cares about his gay children. If the church is true, God should be communicating these truths to his prophet or the prophet should be pleading with God on our behalf. It’s not enough for the church to just say “we love the gays.” The plan of salvation needs to be extended to all so that ALL people can have joy and authenticity in this life or else I am not going to choose that plan.
Anonymous Straight BYU Student #3
I lost my faith around the end of December of 2019. Once I had finally allowed myself to consider the possibility that the church was a fraud I could no longer convince myself that it wasn’t. I was in a bargaining phase for the next month or so, trying to find a way to make it work and I gave the church leaders the benefit of doubt and credit for improving. But then the Honor Code change happened. When it was first announced I thought it was an unprecedented change for the better, I thought it would be good if the Honor Code Office would stop policing people’s personal lives so intensely and that even if you may believe that “homosexual behavior” is wrong you can still recognize that enforcing a policy against such behavior becomes problematic very quickly. I thought it was a way to make amends for the awful ways LGBTQ+ students have been treated at BYU including being banned from campus regardless of whether they kept the law of chastity and being ensnared by BYU police officers posing as gay youth looking for a partner in newspaper ads.
But then the CES letter came out. After the confusion that ensued and the universities poorly handled response I realized that this was not a change that came from the goodness of anyone’s heart, it was most likely a legal issue that stemmed from classifying the homosexuality clause of the honor code as discriminatory. It’s like they were forced to “decriminalize” homosexual behavior, but did whatever they could so they wouldn’t have to tell the public that that’s what the change meant. They were ashamed of the change. Like every other progressive change in the church, this hadn’t come from revelation or good will from the leaders; this change had come because of intense external pressure from the public and the law. Other universities had started boycotting certain BYU sponsored intercollegiate events, the BYU police had narrowly escaped being decommissioned in 2019 and LGBTQ+ suicides have been the highest in the country in Utah. BYU was bathed in the blood of LGBTQ+ youth and the public and even some believing church members were starting to see it, that’s what brought about the change. I dared to hope that the church and BYU were making a change for the better, but the handling of the Honor Code change only further demonstrated to me that this is not God’s church.