Updates issued Thursday to the honor code, student ecclesiastical endorsements and dress and grooming standards at Latter-day Saint universities and colleges standardize them across the schools and align them with church policies and principles.

One major change creates a list of questions for student ecclesiastical endorsements at Brigham Young University, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii and Ensign College, aligning the annual endorsement from a student’s church leader with the temple recommend questions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Each student will be asked 12 questions. For example, they will be asked if they are striving to deepen their testimony of Jesus Christ, if they strive to be honest and if they pay a full tithing. The questions are similar to those asked of church members who seek a recommend for access to temples.

The Church Educational System announced in January 2022 that all Latter-day Saints hired to work at the four schools need “to hold and be worthy to hold a current temple recommend.”

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Thursday’s announced updates also unified the dress and grooming standards at the four schools and aligned them with the church’s For Strength of Youth guidebook. This means BYU-Idaho students will now be allowed to wear shorts on campus like students at the other BYU schools, as long as they are modest.

The language in the CES schools’ honor code also was updated. The main changes included specifically listing marijuana as one of the substances students should avoid, and the addition of a sentence addressing LGBTQ relationships, reiterating the longstanding CES policy on same-sex romantic behavior.

“Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from sexual relations outside marriage between a man and a woman. Living a chaste and virtuous life also includes abstaining from same-sex romantic behavior,” the section said.

The changes are effective Aug. 30.

The news release issued Thursday said the updates to the ecclesiastical endorsement, honor code and dress and grooming standards — published in full below — “are principle-based, provide consistency across CES institutions, and better align student endorsement interviews with church leaders’ ecclesiastical responsibilities.”

“These changes will help everyone associated with CES further embrace the distinct purpose associated with CES institutions of higher education and to more fully accomplish our mission to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the church, and their communities,” said Elder Clark G. Gilbert, the CES Commissioner of Education. “Our goal is that all students and employees feel the love of the Savior, experience the growth from applying gospel principles, and more fully realize the joy associated with being part of a covenant-keeping community.”

The updates were made after CES conducted student focus groups at multiple schools. New BYU President Shane Reese, new BYU-Idaho President Alvin Meredith, BYU–Hawaii President John Kauwe and Ensign College President Bruce Kusch worked together on the update, according to the release.

The longstanding prohibition against beards at the schools did not change.

Ecclesiastical endorsements

The 12 new ecclesiastical endorsement questions align with 12 of the 15 temple recommend questions but do not use the exact language. In multiple cases, students will be asked if they are striving toward deeper faith and maintaining gospel standards.

The updated universal CES honor code removes language that regular church attendance is required only of Latter-day Saint students, but that appears to be a slight alteration. The ecclesiastical endorsement process already encouraged students who are not Latter-day Saints to attend worship services of their preferred religion.

The 12 endorsement questions are listed below.

Honor code

The new universal CES honor code, effective Aug. 30, 2023, says:

“The Church Educational System (CES) is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church) and directed by the Church Board of Education/Boards of Trustees, with the mission to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the church, and their communities.

“The CES Honor Code helps to accomplish the CES mission to build disciples of Jesus Christ. As faculty, administration, staff, and students voluntarily commit to conduct their lives in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they strive to maintain the highest standards in their personal conduct regarding honor, integrity, morality, and consideration of others. By accepting appointment, continuing in employment, being admitted, or continuing enrollment, each member of the campus communities personally commits to observe the CES Honor Code approved by the Board of Trustees:

  • Maintain an Ecclesiastical Endorsement, including striving to deepen faith and maintain gospel standards.
  • Be honest.
  • Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from sexual relations outside marriage between a man and a woman. Living a chaste and virtuous life also includes abstaining from same-sex romantic behavior.
  • Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, marijuana, and other substance abuse.
  • Participate regularly in church services.
  • Respect others, including the avoidance of profane and vulgar language.
  • Obey the law and follow campus policies, including the CES Dress and Grooming standards.
  • Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming standards.”

An FAQ released Thursday addressed the sentence about same-sex students.

“There are no changes to the LGBTQ policies,” it said. “CES is deeply committed to helping all our students, including our LGBTQ students, feel both the love and covenant expectations of the Savior. Same-sex romantic behavior has been and continues to be contrary to the principles included in the CES honor code. LGBTQ students are a welcomed and valued part of the campus community and share a common identity with every student as sons and daughters of God. All students will continue to be encouraged to live their gospel and university/college commitments.”

The FAQ said that instances of LGBTQ students dating, holding hands or kissing “will be handled on a case-by-case basis to help each student feel the love of the Savior and to encourage them to live their gospel covenants and university/college commitments.”

Previous CES honor code

The CES honor code that was put in place in 2020 is as follows:

“Brigham Young University and other Church Educational System institutions exist to provide an education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That atmosphere is created and preserved by a community of faculty, administration, staff, and students who voluntarily commit to conduct their lives in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who strive to maintain the highest standards in their personal conduct regarding honor, integrity, morality, and consideration of others. By accepting appointment, continuing in employment, being admitted, or continuing class enrollment, each member of the BYU community personally commits to observe these Honor Code standards approved by the Board of Trustees “at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9):

  • Be honest.
  • Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.
  • Respect others, including the avoidance of profane and vulgar language.
  • Obey the law and follow campus policies.
  • Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, and substance abuse.
  • Participate regularly in Church services (required only of Church members).
  • Observe Brigham Young University’s Dress and Grooming Standards.
  • Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.”

Student ecclesiastical endorsement questions

Here are the 12 new, required ecclesiastical endorsement questions. To see the church’s 15 temple recommend questions, see here.

1. Are you striving to deepen your testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?

2. Are you striving to deepen your testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

3. Are you striving for moral cleanliness in your thoughts and behavior?

4. Do you obey the law of chastity?

5. Do you sustain the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators?

6. Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

7. Do you regularly participate in your church meetings and strive to keep the Sabbath day holy?

8. Do you strive to be honest in all that you do, including keeping the commitments you have made?

9. The Church Educational System is supported and funded by the tithes of the Church of Jesus Christ. Are you a full-tithe payer?

10. Do you obey the Word of Wisdom?

11. Are you striving to live the teachings of the Church and keep the covenants you have made to this point in your life?

12. Are there serious sins in your life that need to be resolved with priesthood authorities as part of your repentance?

Dress and grooming

BYU-Idaho’s dress and grooming standard has been that, “Shorts are not appropriate campus attire” and “Shorts and other pants ending above the ankle are inappropriate for campus. Shorts are only allowed at playing fields and must be modest in length. Traveling across campus to activities in shorts is not appropriate.”

Here is the updated dress and grooming standards.

“CES Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations are part of the CES Honor Code and part of each student’s, employee’s, and volunteer’s commitment.

“When considering Honor Code and dress and grooming decisions, the teachings of the prophets and apostles, as well as Church instruction, such as “For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices” can be helpful.

CES Dress and Grooming Principles

“Each student, employee, and volunteer commits to:

1. Represent the Savior Jesus Christ, the Church, and the Church Educational System.

2. Preserve an inspiring environment, without distraction or disruption, where covenants are kept in a spirit of unity so the Holy Ghost can teach truth.

3. Promote modesty, cleanliness, neatness, and restraint in dress and grooming.

4. Maintain an elevated standard distinctive to educational institutions of the Church of Jesus Christ.

“Dress and grooming expectations as in the examples below should align with these principles.

“However, application of these principles is not limited to the expectations listed. Members of the university community are expected to apply these principles to dress and grooming questions as they arise.

CES Dress and Grooming Expectations

1. Dress for men and women should:

a. Be modest in fit and style. Dressing in a way that would cover the temple garment is a good guideline, whether or not one has been endowed. Accommodation may be made for athletic participation.

b. Be neat and clean. Sloppy, overly casual, ragged, or extreme clothing is not acceptable.

2. Grooming:

a. Hair should be clean, neat, modest, and avoid extremes in styles and colors.

b. Men’s hair should be neatly trimmed. Men should be clean shaven. If worn, mustaches should be neatly trimmed.

FAQs for student ecclesiastical endorsements, the CES honor code, and the dress and grooming principles and expectations

“The Church Board of Education of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced updates to the Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement, the Honor Code, and Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations for the Church Educational System (CES). These changes were made to help students draw closer to Jesus Christ and strengthen the overall student experience.

“These adjustments will:

1. adopt a principle-based approach, while retaining a set of common expectations;

2. simplify and unify dress and grooming principles and expectations across CES campuses;

3. better align the ecclesiastical endorsement interview with the ecclesiastical responsibilities of Church leaders.

“The following are questions and answers about these updates:

How will the changes to the Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement questions contribute to the accomplishment of the mission of CES?

The Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement has historically emphasized the CES Honor Code and dress and grooming policies. This change better aligns the topics addressed by Church leaders in their interviews with their core ecclesiastical responsibilities. Thus, as an ecclesiastical interview, it will focus on a student’s efforts to grow spiritually and meet ecclesiastical expectations, which is an important part of accomplishing the religious mission of CES institutions. The administration of internal university policies, including the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations, will now more fully reside with the CES institutions.

Why do the Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement questions differ from temple recommend questions?

There is a difference in the standard of worthiness to receive saving ordinances in the house of the Lord and being eligible to attend a CES institution as a student. The questions for temple recommend interviews and ecclesiastical endorsements are appropriate for their different purposes.  

The Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement includes some questions about “striving.” What is the intent of this language?

CES recognizes that students are striving to deepen their faith and testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Recognizing that we sometimes fall short of perfectly realizing these aspirations, and in order to encourage continued growth, students are invited to strive toward certain ideals while upholding foundational standards of conduct. As has happened prior to these changes, this allows ecclesiastical leaders to work with students who are trying but may sometimes struggle. It does not mean Church leaders should ignore clear violations of ecclesiastical standards, but it does allow them room to counsel with and help individuals progress.

What are the updates to the CES Honor Code?

The CES Honor Code has been and will continue to be consistent across CES campuses. Current adjustments emphasize the role of the Honor Code in accomplishing the religious mission of CES institutions. The underlying principles and expectations have not changed.

Can you explain the changes to the Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations? 

Previously, dress and grooming expectations varied across CES institutions. The new Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations identify an important set of foundational principles while retaining a set of common expectations to assist with the application of these principles. They also provide consistency between campuses.

Does the simplification of expectations and the inclusion of principles mean that other prior standards no longer apply?

In many cases, the prior expectations are still applicable. The Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations emphasize standards representative of Jesus Christ and CES and encourage modesty, cleanliness, neatness, and restraint. Students across CES campuses are expected to dress in ways that align with the dress and grooming principles.

Are there specific changes in dress and grooming now?

Yes. For example, students on each campus will be allowed to wear shorts, provided those shorts are in keeping with the principles and expectations given. As noted above, dress and grooming decisions should align with the Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations, and application of these principles is not limited to the expectations listed. We are striving to create a culture that is consistent with the distinct religious purpose of CES institutions.

What is meant by men’s hair being “neatly trimmed?”

As stated in the Dress and Grooming Expectations, hair should be “neat, modest, and avoid extremes.” The intent of this standard for men is that hair should be cut short and neatly trimmed.

Is there a change in the expectations for LGBTQ students?

There are no changes to the LGBTQ policies. CES is deeply committed to helping all our students, including our LGBTQ students, feel both the love and covenant expectations of the Savior. Same-sex romantic behavior has been and continues to be contrary to the principles included in the CES Honor Code. LGBTQ students are a welcomed and valued part of the campus community and share a common identity with every student as sons and daughters of God. All students will continue to be encouraged to live their gospel and university/college commitments.

Can members of CES campus communities who identify as LGBTQ or have same-sex attraction be disciplined for behavior like going on a date, holding hands or kissing?

Same-sex romantic behavior is not compatible with the principles included in the CES Honor Code. As in years past, each situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis to help each student feel the love of the Savior and to encourage them to live their gospel covenants and university/college commitments.

Did students provide input on these updates?

Yes. CES conducted focus groups at Brigham Young University, BYU–Idaho, and Ensign College to review, discuss, and gather input from students in the development of these changes.

The input of these randomly selected students was significant in developing and refining these updates. Students were enthusiastic about these adjustments and expressed their feelings that a focus on the Savior, combined with an emphasis on principles and expectations, would elevate dress, grooming, and behavior as students become more intentional and take increased ownership for dress and grooming decisions.

What is the timeline for implementation?

“These updates will take effect on August 30, 2023.”