Random AsidesReligion

BYU Blues

Yesterday, Brigham Young University officials suspended sophomore, Brandon Davies, for violating the school’s honor code, just like they would any other student.

What’s interesting about this story is, with the NCAA post-season basketball tournament just days away, the BYU men’s team is poised to enter the spring classic as one of the top-rated teams in the country with a chance to do very well, and Davies is one of the Cougar’s standout players.

What’s even more interesting about this story is, like other schools that make the tournament and do well, BYU stands to gain a great deal of revenue from TV appearances and the attendant endorsements; not to mention what it stands to gain in recruiting, and the general warm and fuzzy PR for the school. And not having one of their best players in the line-up hinders their chances at realizing those gains fully.

What’s even morer interesting about this story are the specifics of the honor code Davies violated. The Salt Lake Tribune, citing “multiple sources,” said that the sophomore violated the honor code provision prohibiting premarital sex among students. The young man had sex with his girlfriend! The decision to remove Davies was made by the university athletics department.brandon davies about to dunk

What’s even morerest interesting about this story is the specifics of the BYU honor code. For the record, many (if not all) universities have an honor code in place. Basically the codes are general guidelines of how a school’s students should behave; no cheating, no drugs on campus, no murdering other students, etc. The BYU code, however, includes requirements for “modest, neat and clean” dress and grooming; abstinence from alcohol, tobacco or illegal substances; any physical intimacy that exhibits homosexual feelings; prohibiting members of the opposite sex from going in one’s bedroom areas; and regularly participation in church services, be they in the Mormon or another religious faith.

Really BYU? No butt sex? No regular sex??? Church??????

So where I have to admire the university for treating Davies like any other student and not showing preferential treatment for an athlete, despite the crazy money he represents, I’m still tripping balls over the specifics of the honor code. How do Mormons remain so nice?

What do you think of this story, oh sage Skepchick readers?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. BYU’s “honor code” is more than a little backward. No doubt about that.

    That said, all of the rules are legal for a private school to have and enforce, as far as I know. Assuming the guy agreed to the code when he signed up, and assuming he was made aware of the consequences of breaking it, I don’t think BYU is doing anything wrong here.

  2. He knew what he was getting into when he signed the honor code, he violated it, he got punished.

    What we think of the code is irrelevant; what’s relevant is that he knew the rules, volunteered to be subject to them and got caught.

    (what’s more interesting is HOW did he get caught?)

  3. The honour code at BYU may sound odd to most of us, especially those like myself whose entire family are either agnostics or atheists. Davies agreed to follow that honour code when he applied / got accepted to BYU, and was probably quite aware of the punishments he’d receive if he went against it.

    Grats to BYU to sticking to their guidelines and code regardless of a particular student’s status and/or potential positive publicity for BYU. They may seem a little odd, but at least they seem to stick to what they say, at least in this case.

  4. @SomeoneYouKnow: Assuming the guy agreed to the code when he signed up, and assuming he was made aware of the consequences of breaking it, I don’t think BYU is doing anything wrong here.

    I agree. He voluntarily went to a school with crazy rules and voluntarily broke them. I think his biggest mistake was the first.

  5. @SomeoneYouKnow:


    As I mentioned, I’m torn. BYU has done nothing wrong. In fact, they have acted according to their rules where some schools may be tempted to loosen them for such a student.

    But at the same time, the honor code is so . . . I don’t know.

  6. Well, if you’re gonna break the honor code, sex is a way better choice than drinking a Red Bull, imho.

  7. While I consider the Mormon faith to be utterly ridiculous and totally devoid of anything good, I will however give a huge nod to them for this. Now, I’m speaking as someone not in the know by any means, but the impression that I get is that schools are usually more than happy to bend the rules for a winning athlete right down to ushering them through courses they do not understand to keep them playing. Brigham Young may be a lot of things, but standing by their policies (especially in the circumstances of potentially throwing a major tournament) is nothing but admirable.

    I personally consider their policies ridiculous, but it doesn’t matter. The guy knew what he was supposed to do to stay on the team and he didn’t live up. ‘Nuff said.

  8. Wish the Mormon Church would have felt this way about rule-breaking before they poured all that cash into funding Prop 8

  9. A few things come to mind about this. Did someone want to harm the team or player? Was the girlfriend of another race/ethnicity? Was there involvement from someone associated with another school? If the girlfriend was a student did she also get in trouble from BYU admin’s? It’s my understanding that this honor code is the same for every student and not just athletes at BYU. And I’m curious if BYU has spies outside the Planned Parenthood office in Provo (yes there’s one I looked it up) to identify unmarried students availing themselves of birth control or abortion services. And finally I hope this basketball player will realize what a bazaar cult he’s involved with and consider taking his skills to the University of Washington.

  10. The Mormon Church only allowed black people to be members quite recently. I wonder if there was something about his race that contributed to this?

    If he is a good player, he should be able to get an education and a scholarship at a school that isn’t run like a crazy cult.

    When exactly did Mormons abandon polygamy, child-brides and forced marriages? Oh thats right, some of them still haven’t.


  11. @James Fox:

    Not sure of this source, but some info about Davies’ girlfriend is apparently starting to come to light:

    Danica Mendivil is a 6?1? volleyball player who is enrolled at Arizona State University. Apparently Brandon and Danica graduated from two high schools that were very close to each other, which is where they likely met in the first place. Frat House Sports did the research, so make sure you take a look at their site for more complete information.


  12. Watching several sports programs yesterday most of the commentators I saw said they didn’t agree with the code but commended the school for being consistent and enforcing it.

    Of course, one commentator actually read the BYU honor code and the penalties associated with violating it and pointed out that a first violation requires a “warning” not a suspension from any activity. So is BYU really being consistent or are they applying disproportionate punishment here?

  13. College without sex?

    That’s like college without beer!
    Or pot!
    Or haranguing fundie preachers!
    Or experimentation!
    Or getting arrested!
    Or getting something pierced!
    Or going weeks without doing laundry!
    Or seriously weighing the merits of smoking over eating!
    Or streaking!
    Or waking up to random strangers in your house!
    Or waking up in a random stranger’s house!
    Or joining a Ren Faire!
    Or attending at least one protest rally!
    Or surviving on ramen / mac and cheese!
    Or committing random acts of chalk graffiti!
    Or seeing how many pots of coffee you can drink in one day!
    Or listening to really shitty bands and thinking they’re the best!
    Or being in a really shitty band!
    Or road trips!
    Or staying an extra year!
    Or stealing a library book!
    Or free climbing the History Building / your dorm!

    Or so many other experiences that are part of the definitive college life!

  14. There is something that has puzzled me about BYU, and maybe someone here can answer it.

    I read in an article once that BYU faculty members had on occasion been dismissed for teaching a version of history that disagreed with the LDS church. I do not know more details than that, but since LDS church holds some very unusual beliefs about the history of people in the Americas that go against all empirical evidence (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology_and_the_Book_of_Mormon), it made me wonder: Do history, archeology, anthropology, genetics, and paleontology courses at BYU teach legitimate science and history, or are they required to conform to the Book of Mormon?

    (To summarize, the Book of Mormon claims that the Americas were colonized more than once by groups from the Middle East who crossed the Atlantic and built civilizations complete with cities, roads, and horse-drawn wheeled vehicles. They used to claim that all Native Americans were descended from these colonists, but I think they may have backed off on that claim in more recent years.)

  15. Mormons remaining nice? As John Pinette would say “I SAY NAY NAY!”

    I have been called a “morally disordered and evil person” by the church and a “homo and faggot” by the parishioners. Oh, an “abomination” as well… then again, I am not very good looking so I will grant them that one. As Stephen Fry put it, “that’s just not nice!”

    As for penalizing somebody for breaking the honor code, despite their being an athlete, good on you BYU!!! As a nerd and a geek, this is the exact sort of thing that makes me happy. We mentalismos deserve just the same treatment as star athletes!

    Their honor code is despicable but… c’mon… what about the Mormon church isn’t? The religious indoctrination of children? The homophobic or sexist doctrines? The insane and racist ideas in the Book of Mormon? You’d expect ridiculous rules from ridiculous people.

  16. I live in Salt Lake and have several friends/acquaintances who attended BYU both before and after they changed the honor code with regard to being gay. And while as a private religious school they have the right to dictate harsh terms in the honor code (stupid as they are), the problem comes in with enforcement. Many of you are assuming that their application of the honor code is consistent when it very much is not.

    Certain infractions, like confessing to your bishop (not used in the normal sense, think parish priest) that you may be gay instantly result in oversight and “counseling.” Some of my friends’ experiences are absolute horror stories. For other students, (white Mormons from “good families”) infractions discussed with church leadership are never reported to the honor code violation office.

    And while the reported or rumored facts in this specific case may have a number of facets, it’s certainly naive to assume that the skin color of this student was not a factor in how it has been handled. (The hidden and not-s0-hidden racism tied to religious history is still quite present.) A BYU alumnus’ take I read recently is quite pertinent: http://deadspin.com/#!5775738

  17. @James Fox:
    Can you find a source for this other than frathousesports.com? That site is blocked from where I am right now, and I get nothing by googling Jayci Stephen. (It doesn’t help that Jaci Stephen is some sort of soap opera actress.)

  18. @pciszek: Everyone seems to be sourcing the Frat House Sports blog. ESPN should have all the gossip sorted out on Sports Center this evening!

  19. @daedalus2u
    Actually, the Mormon church has always allowed blacks into their membership. They just wouldn’t let them be ordained into the priesthood.
    And Warren Jeffs isn’t a Mormon. He belongs to a fundamentalist offshoot of Mormonism, that has no ties to the LDS church at all.

    I grew up as a Mormon and my brother graduated from BYU. I went to visit him once and was treated with disdain by everyone I met there simply because my hair was too long, my shorts were too short and I was wearing sandals. Since then, it’s just been agreed that I hate BYU and BYU hates me- something my brother and I have argued about since.

    Yes, this whole situation is ridiculous, but it’s religion, right? Props to BYU for sticking to their honor code, though. It’s refreshing to see them actually live their values- something so rare in religion these days.

  20. @mlyavl

    Their honor code is despicable but… c’mon… what about the Mormon church isn’t? The religious indoctrination of children? The homophobic or sexist doctrines? The insane and racist ideas in the Book of Mormon?

    Let’s not forget what is perhaps the most dispicable of all, the posthumous baptizing of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

    As they are want to say in the American south, “well bless their racist little hearts.”

  21. Why do people continue to praise them for sticking to their honor code? They haven’t. They’ve over-punished a kid according to their own code. As another poster pointed out above there are numerous stories of double standards in the Mormon church. That isn’t even required here – all you need to know is what the violation was and what the expected penalty for that violation is according to their own code.

    He’s currently not only suspended from the team but facing a hearing to determine whether he can play next season (and even stay at BYU iiirc?) for a violation that others get warned for.

  22. Giving props to BYU for sticking to its honor code is like saying the Amish should be applauded for their practice of shunning or giving a Pakistani village and their Imam a pat on the back for having an adulterer stoned (okay, perhaps the stoning analogy is a bit strong) . It’s an outgrowth of a diseased and terribly flawed view of the world and deserves all the contempt and derision that it’s getting. And I’m fine with BYU being able to have their own code (within the law) based on their religion; but I’ll be damned if I can find anything humane, reasonable, rational or caring about it.

  23. Yeah, sorry. Rules are not “good” inherently. Following them blindly doesn’t help anyone.

  24. Thank you all for helping me view this in shades of gray…I was so ready to give BYU the benefit of the doubt and commend them for their willingness to bench one of their best players. But now I am willing to entertain the idea that the rules are not the same for everyone. Of course there has to more to it. I just wonder what that is. And what about the girl with whom he had sex? Does everyone on campus know her identity? Is she also being punished? Did he have sex with a white Mormon girl from a “good” family?

  25. @Laika:

    And what about the girl with whom he had sex? Does everyone on campus know her identity? Is she also being punished? Did he have sex with a white Mormon girl from a “good” family?

    His ostensible girlfriend goes to school in Arizona; judging from the photos in the link cited by Sam Ogden, I would call her white.

    The following is pure gossip so far:

    The girl he has been rumored to have knocked up is a different person. The word “girlfriend” as used in the original news story might for all I know be a placeholder for “girl he had sex with”.

  26. This is just anecdotal, but I grew up in a mormon home. I was raised to believe that black people were literally the descendants of satan. My guess is that recent doctrinal changes notwithstanding, racism is still likely to be a strong motivator for the old white men in charge of things at BYU.

    I’m also worried about the girlfriend. If she is also LDS, and has been publicly outed, the private social shaming is likely to be pretty terrible for her.

  27. I’m curious, as a private school does it still receive any kind of public funding in some form or fashion?

  28. Everyone saying “he knew what he was getting himself into” is missing something. This is a kid who grew up in Provo, in a Mormon community. He was probably not a legal adult when he made the decision to apply to/attend BYU. He was probably under a lot of pressure from family, friends, and community to go there.

    Being a scholarship athlete, he also would have had to sign a letter of intent to go to BYU fairly early in his senior year of high school (or even before). And once he got to BYU – honor code or no – transferring to another school could have forced him to sit out a year.

    So, in other words, it’s likely Davies *didn’t* know what he was getting into at first – or at least couldn’t legally consent to it when the decision was made – and once he was there he was stuck being subject to BYU’s medieval sexual policies. It is not healthy to repress the sexuality of young adults (I suspect the 2004 gang rape of an underage woman by BYU football players can be blamed in part on this repression). Furthermore, if Davies *did* impregnate a woman (and again, we don’t know for sure), rather than a strike against him, it should be considered an indictment of how this repression leads to a lack of basic knowledge about reproductive health.

    The archaic policies of BYU and the Mormon church put its young adults at risk for unintended pregnancy, STDs, and other serious health issues. And then, when someone invariably violates those policies by being *human*, that person is ostracized; shunned; banished from the community. The whole thing is ridiculous and we should not give it an ounce of support.

  29. @slignot:

    I am not wholly shocked with the idea that the Mormon church is still, at it’s heart, a racist institution. An insane doctrine begets insane ideas and sentiments.

  30. I wonder how much gambling there is on BYU sports? This would seem to be a way to influence it (if you were a woman).

    I wonder if there was any gambling involved in this case?

  31. Ok folks. As a Utahan and former Mormon, let me be frank. BYU is a PRIVATE school owned by the LDS church. It is run by LDS church standards and if Brandon Davies couldn’t keep his willy in his pants he should have gone to University of Utah. Brandon signed a contract stating he would follow honor code and all it meant. I am just glad that he was so forward in owning up to his violation as opposed to past players that have not. I do not deny that most if not all BYU sports players break honor code, especially the sex part. However if they cannot be more discreet and they get caught, they knew what they signed up for. Frankly, I am impressed that BYU is willing to deny themselves a potential championship to maintain their image

  32. “All housing has to be what’s called BYU-approved. Theoretically, that’s their way of enforcing the honor code. For example, you can’t have mixed housing. If they find out that a certain house is really problematic they’ll strip it of its BYU-approved status. But the honor code office wasn’t proactive when I was there. It’s not like they have a spy apparatus. If they did, they could walk out every weekend and in every other door and find a girl in a guy’s bed. If I’m Brandon Davies, I’m going, “This is a joke.” The public narrative is that you knew what you were signing up for. But there’s another side to it. The reality is that regular students get away with it just as much as — if not more than — athletes, simply because when they do run afoul of the honor code, it never goes public.”


    Now, it’s hearsay, I’ll admit, but so are a lot of the “facts” being presented to the public regarding this “case”. Heaping praise for selectively administering a rule, however unorthodox that administration, or scorn, on BYU at this point is somewhat premature.

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