As an addict involved in the LDS Addiction Recovery Program, I had to dig deep to find and embrace my inner Mormon. What follows is my journal from this point forward.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brandon Davies and Jim Dalrymple: The Relevance of Honor

I really didn’t expect to write on this.  The subject is  already getting overcooked.  But some of the arguments against BYU I was hearing around me were so...."raca"....(now I have to repent)....I was getting frustrated.  Then an unfortunate article from a reporter who seems in all his social contacts to claim himself a Mormon berated BYU for this.  His arguments seemed woefully sophmoric, but they combined all the other complaints I have been hearing into one place. I decided to call him out.

There is no doubt that many woud-be star athletes never go to BYU because of the Honor Code.  To even get a top seeded team with the Honor Code in today’s society is a major accomplishment.  Now that BYU is there, people are angry that they aren’t willing to sacrifice their standards for a chance to go all the way.  Since the loss to New Mexico, the tweets have definitely turned ugly.  Most just can’t comprehend living  BYU standards.  Most are now upset that a great team is looking more and more like they are done for.

But the response from sports reporters and pundits across the country about BYU’s decision have been positive, which is easy enough to see.  They understand the standards even if they don’t adhere to them. They agree that they need to be respected.  BYU’s honor code must be agreed upon by every student that enrolls there.  Furthermore, a reasonable belief that you will live by this code is also required of each student in the form of an ecclesiastical endorsement.  You must get this endorsement each year.  Violators are not blind sighted by the discipline.  The reporters seem to get this.

Of course, there are those who take the opposite view.  Many just don’t get the standards of the LDS Church and there isn’t a lot to be done about that. However, others use this opportunity to put up a facade of being a much more sophisticated thinker and show how cosmopolitan they are. Jim Dalrymple, a reporter at the Daily Herald  and a writer for an online magazine, is just such a person. His article puts the blame on BYU having standards.  His article seems to summarize all the other gripes I have been reading into a neat package of criticisms.
The majority of detractors focus on the standards being ridiculous. They use terms to characterize these standards in the worst possible light.  Dalrymple encompasses this by using the words bizarre, arcane, and antiquated .  I am sure he sat by his trusty thesaurus trying to decide if ancient had too many honorable overtones, or if archaic was too Mesoamerican, or if outmoded sounded too fashion forward.  Still, his short piece does reflect the idea that most detractors of the Honor Code feel it is unreasonable for present day society.  

But really what all of them are saying is simply that the Honor Code is too hard.  Or as my 10 year old says at homework time, "It's too haaaawwwrrd."   All of them, like my 10 year old, repeat their versions of this phrase to suggest they can't do something. Regardless of how sophisticated or witty they may try to make it, essentially they are telling BYU they can’t do it because it’s too hard.  

But they don’t really mean that either.  They don’t mean they can’t do it. They really mean that they don't want to do it.  None would ever confess this and instead detractors try to use clever language to mask their lack of conviction and to make their views seem honorable.  However, any Mormon who reads the scriptures regularly already knows this methodology.  It’s more ancient than any of BYU’s standards. It was used by gifted men of language such as Sherem, Coriantumur, Zeezrom and Korihor.  You want to talk antiquated? Dalrymple using one of the oldest tricks in the Book.

There are other approaches as well, like the questioning the methods of the Honor Council.  Those folks are even more vicious in their characterizations.  Two common terms used are KGB and Gestapo. I didn’t see Nazi anywhere.  Maybe it’s people think it's an overused term since Glenn Beck became popular.  

There was one poster on the BYU Board who says, that this matter should be resolved through ecclesiatstical leaders and leave BYU and the Honor Council out of it. They suggest that the religious leader should deal with this and it stops there.  In other words, break the honor code, see your bishop and BYU has no say.  This would be the equivalent of local leaders having override authority at every temple in the world or denying mission presidents any say over missionaries who refuse to live the standards while in the field. This is not how it works.  BYU is a religious institution like temples and missions.  It has a greater logistical challenge in that attendees are much larger in number and that it is interfaith.  But it has it’s stewardship and bishops have theirs and they are separate.  Surely we can see how a person’s actions could impact more that one entity and that each entity must deal with it according to their governance.   

Another poster claims that BYU’s purpose for the athletic department is for exposure of the church and this damages one of the biggest opportunities we have.  Well yes, but we also want our exposure to be about our standards and our faith, not our willingness to set it all aside for a super-star.  Isn’t that a major problem with collegiate sports everywhere?  Furthermore, this event has brought our honor code to the forefront and we are coming out of it looking like heroes. We live in the post Mike Tyson, post Michael Vick, post Tiger Woods, post Duke Lacrosse, post  <insert tomorrows scandal here> world.  We are weary of watching bad behavior allowed because of some celebrity status. 

Dalrymple encompasses these type of comments as well, but goes further into the ridiculous.  He makes repeated criticisms of BYU’s honor code for its invasion into areas beyond academics and sports. 
Here’s the raca part; Dalrymple is a crime reporter.  

Over the past two years, I could have picked up any newspaper in the country and read about educated people who lacked ethics and honor and the results it has had on our nation.  I could have read article after article about those who think they are exempt from rules based on their education and upbringing and seen the results of education without honor.
 I could read with perfect clarity how ideas like honor, morality, ethics, honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and doing good to all men are missing from people’s lives in every corner and class of society.  I could have done this with any paper except maybe the Daily Herald where Dalrymple is a reporter. Does he really think we shouldn’t instill virtue into the next generation of leaders via academic channels?  Are the crimes and malfeasance that have been committed by business leaders of the highest position and education lost on him?

If this economy has taught us anything, it is that we need more adherence to the BYU honor code in all parts of the world.  It was President Hinckley who said that one of the reasons we keep these institutions is to show to the world that secular learning can be gained in an environment of religious faith (October 1999 General Conference).  Dalrymple thinks this is anitquated. Dalrymple thinks not only does the world not need it, BYU doesn’t need it either.

I haven’t read a crime story in the Daily Herald, but based on Dalrymple’s philosophy, I am not likely read one any time soon. It’s not a refusal to do so out of protest, it’s more of an inability because their crime reporter seems incapable or recognizing any wrongdoing.

The standards in the Honor Code are known throughout the LDS church.  They are expected of every Mormon who wishes to enter the temple.  Some of the questions are asked of every convert who wishes to be baptized a member.  They are presented to every mormon teenager in a booklet called "For The Strength of Youth."  They are reiterated by our general leaders in every worldwide broadcast of our church. They are taught by local lay leaders in every chapel around the globe every Sunday.  Why should BYU abandon them?  They are timeless, ageless, eternal. They will last long after the jeers have died. They will outlive  the careers of those who both live by them and reject them.  They will exist long after the heavens and the earth pass away.  I believe in them enough that when I felt as though I was physically unable to hold to them, I entered therapy to improve my chances.  Now I live them.

This is what a standard is.  This is what standard means.  It is the mark that we commit to match everyday.  

No athletic profession should understand this better than basketball. I began working on this blog by googling the words basketball and standards.  Guess what I found?  A basketball standard describes the hoop size, height, and the dimensions of the backboard.  "Standard" is a standard term in basketball.  Let the irony bell chime.

The goal of every basketball player is to help his team reach, as often as possible, the standard. The standard height of the hoop has been 10 feet since the invention of the game, more than twice the age of the Honor Code.  If it were about 2 feet lower, I would stand a chance at the game.  Nobody thinks about doing this for me because everybody knows what lowering the standard means.  Basketball doesn’t lower their standards, BYU should not lower theirs.  Dalrymple needs to understand the value of both.

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