PROVO — BYU announced Wednesday that it and other Latter-day Saint universities are operating under a freshly updated honor code that aligns them with the new General Handbook released earlier in the day by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The updated honor code no longer includes a section on same-sex behavior. That section had proscribed “all forms of physical intimacy.”
Under the code, each member of the BYU community continues to commit personally to “abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.”
The code continues to say specifically that all sexual misconduct is not permitted. Based on the new church handbook, that would include same-sex relations. The handbook states that “the Lord’s law of chastity is abstinence from sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”
BYU’s website says the code was updated on Feb. 12.
The Church Educational System honor code applies to all of the church’s institutions of higher education — BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Pathway Worldwide and LDS Business College.
Both the previous versions of the honor code and General Handbook were principles-based. The updates of each are intended to make them even more so, according to news releases both by the university and the church.
BYU enrolls gay students and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints welcomes gay members in its congregations. Students sign the honor code agreeing to abstain from all sexual relationship outside a marriage between a man and a woman.
Previously, BYU’s honor code included a section on “homosexual behavior” that stated, “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an honor code issue. However, the honor code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the honor code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”
That definition included hand-holding and kissing.
Wednesday’s announcement confused some people because it no longer specifies how same-gender couples can display affection. Students sought clarifications from the Honor Code Office, asking whether they now could hold hands and kiss on campus.
BYU responded on its Twitter feed.
“In speaking with Honor Code Office Director Kevin Utt this afternoon, we’ve learned that there may have been some miscommunication as to what the honor code changes mean,” the administration said via its @BYU Twitter account. “Even though we have removed the more prescriptive language, the principles of the Honor Code remain the same.
“The Honor Code Office will handle questions that arise on a case-by-case basis. For example, since dating means different things to different people, the Honor Code Office will work with students individually.”
The new church handbook is digital-only. It includes new links to allow church leaders and members “to better understand and support people whose lives are affected by same-sex attraction.”
For example, the church included a link to a relevant Gospel Topics page on the church’s official website.
The updated honor code still “allows each campus to support and guide its students on an individual basis according to the principles outlined in the honor code,” BYU’s release said.
Each campus, for example, will continue to maintain its own dress and grooming standards.