An Anonymous BYU Honor Code Office Experience

An Anonymous Account of an Experience with the Honor Code Office at BYU and its Aftermath that was Submitted to T&S as a Guest Post.  

Surprisingly, after the initial rush of dread the first feeling after seeing the pop-up message on the screen was one of relief. I had been caught, would be reported to the honor code office, and was told to log off immediately. 

It started very subtly. As a newlywed I had a basic curiosity about this new world of sexuality that I had just entered into, and that was the hook which led to me watching YouTube videos that I should not have been watching. I could typically find a little corner in the BYU computer lab against a wall. At first I tried to find some plausible deniability in what I was typing in the search bar, but as the hunger and risk taking grew there was little of that left. And besides, I had been doing it for a while now, if they were actively monitoring me, surely I would have been caught by now? (Many years later I found myself on BYU campus for the first time in a long time, and noticed that the computer labs had signs warning users that they were being monitored. “Now you tell me,” I thought). 

We had just moved wards so my initial introduction to my new bishop was a little awkward. (Hi, I’m emailing because we just moved into the ward, and oh, you’ll be getting a note from the honor code office about me soon). 

I only remember going to the honor code office once, but there may have been other times. I recall that its location seemed to be designed for maximum confidentiality. It was hidden around a number of corners. You had to really look for it to find it, but there were clearly other reasons to be in that area of the building to provide plausible deniability if somebody saw you there.  

I’ve confided this experience to a number of close friends, and I’ve been asked what it was like to be caught by the honor code office. To be honest, compared to dealing with the hurt caused to a spouse, I couldn’t give a damn what some old guy in the honor code office thought of me. The honor code office and meeting with the bishop was the easy part in comparison, and for the most part the HC office pretty much kicked everything over to the bishop after the first meeting. (I’m going to pass on speaking about the hurt caused to a spouse, suffice it to say it’s what you would think it is). 

Besides, I didn’t get strong guilting vibes from either my bishop or the honor code office. One of the times I met with my bishop he even claimed to forget what we were meeting about (or maybe he did forget, who knows). I got the sense that since I was clearly trying to improve in good faith that they didn’t freak out about it. (I’m sure the people intentionally trying to break the honor code and get away with it caused most of their headaches.) 

At the final interview he mentioned that on a scale from 1 to 10 I was going into a 1, so to go and sin no more. 

However, I suspected that wasn’t going to happen once I was away from the strictures of BYU that the temptation would hang like an albatross, ready to pounce whenever the opportunity availed itself. 

After BYU things became more explicit (YouTube in hidden corners had its limits). There were ups and downs, good months and bad months and many more struggles I won’t go into here, but thankfully at some point the ups and downs started trending upwards. People sometimes pushback against the connection made between porn addiction and hard drug addiction, and they might have a point. I haven’t ever tried hard drugs (or soft drugs) so I can’t say. Whatever the case, I can relate to some of the themes in media depictions about drug addiction. “I just need one more hit to take the buzz off, then I’ll be good forever”…the inability to stop when it’s hurting the people you love the most…major issues are hitting the fan but you’re looking for the next hit (often especially when major issues are hitting the fan)…finding an excuse to be in a position to have access to the product. Maybe it isn’t like heroin, but on the other hand neither is it like having tomatoes or not on your salad. I won’t go into the full details here about that journey with two exceptions. 

One day I walked out of a building after having had a particularly bad crash, and the familiar waves of guilt and despair started to wash over me as I had fallen once again. But this time, in a moment I felt a piercing, calming, very personalized message: “My grace is sufficient for you.” 

Of course I knew that Christ’s atonement didn’t justify what I did, but in the moment I knew it justified me. I knew that I would probably fall again and again, but through the atonement I could work through it.  

One model of the atonement that I was taught in Sunday school growing up is that we repent of our sins and never do them again, but if we do them again then all of the previous sins we repented for come back and we’re right where we started, on a sort of pointless eternal treadmill since we’ll always relapse with one sin or another. But now I have a much stronger testimony of the atonement as a process instead of a checklist. 

Also, while I understand why people say you won’t have the spirit if you’re sinning, in some cases my most spiritually powerful experiences were, like Alma the younger, precisely when I was in the throes of sin.  

My second experience was with another relapse. Once again the dark waves of guilt hung over me as I returned home, where I was greeted with my toddler unconditionally excitedly smiling at me as I walked through the door. At that moment I felt another clear message that that was the kind of unconditional love God had for me, and that if I met Him right then that’s what his response would be to seeing me. 

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