The BYU Honor Code has come under fire recently, and I don’t want to detract from that discussion, but it has caused me to reflect back on my own run-in with the Honor Code back in March 1984.
I’m pretty sure it was my friend Kent’s idea that we should run for ASBYU president and vice president during our junior year of college. We knew we didn’t stand much of a chance. We didn’t create signs or bribe students to vote for us by giving out free hotdogs. I don’t think we ever campaigned.
We did, however, run on a platform that was truly inspired: we dedicated our candidacy to pushing the BYU administration to construct the J. Golden Kimball Memorial Parking Garage. Our thinking was flawless. Even then, BYU needed more parking, especially for undergraduates like us. But the primary function of the J. Golden Kimball Parking Garage was something even more worthy. While many college campuses have a chapel or reflection center, the entire BYU campus was like one giant chapel. What BYU needed was a place where you could go to swear, and what better place than a parking garage dedicated to the memory of Mormonism’s most famous cussing General Authority?
All candidates for ASBYU office had the opportunity to place their photos in the student newspaper, the Daily Universe. Unlike most candidates who had professional headshots in which they sported a tie, their faded white shirts, and indestructible polyester missionary suits, Kent and I took a self-portrait in more casual attire. A couple of days after our photos appeared, we both got a call from the Honor Code office and were required to meet with an administrator about some unstated infraction.
I remember walking into the Honor Code office and being escorted into a small office where a nice Honor Code official seemed a bit confused about the charges. “Evidently you had a photograph appear in the Daily Universe?” he asked. Someone—no doubt one of our worried competitors—had seen our Universe photo and turned us in because our hair was too long. By that time my hairs were all appropriately short, but I still had to hear a twenty-minute discussion—complete with missionary flip chart!—about how my hair length was a measure of my commitment to live a Christ-like life. When he concluded, I committed to keeping my hair a righteous length and was politely escorted out of the Honor Code office.
Kent and I got a whopping 69 votes—my then fiancée Zina swears she only voted once, and we celebrated our not winning with a couple of cans of virtuous non-alcoholic Apple Beer. It wasn’t until after I married Zina that I discovered her father’s views about BYU’s dress and grooming code: “the haircut [is] the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.” I’m pretty sure the Honor Code administrator would not have appreciated my sharing that quote with him.