Wednesday, August 10

The BYU Honor Code Bans Hugs, Handshakes, and Temple Attendance

If I'm gay.

Warning. This is a heavy post.

I've worked at BYU as a curriculum designer. I'm a BYU graduate, twice. My license plate says BYU on it. My best friend attends BYU. But just today I learned about something that has given me cause for concern.

There's a line in the current CES Honor Code (the guiding document to which every BYU, BYU-I, BYU-H, and LDSBC student, faculty, and staff member promises adherence) that reads thus (pulled Aug 10 from ):

"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."

Let's break this down.

"All forms of physical intimacy" means, literally, all forms of physical intimacy. Current definitions of physical intimacy encompass everything from prolonged eye contact to touch in every form, including hugs, handshakes, hand-holding, all the way up to sexual activity.

"That give expression to homosexual feelings" means anything that is motivated by, influenced by, or causes effect from attraction to the someone of the same sex.

This applies disparately based on whether I'm attracted to the same sex or not. In fact, there's a huge difference between the application to me (attracted to men) and the next guy (who probably isn't).

If I'm attracted to guys, then getting hugs, handshakes, and even high-fives from other men meets a deep physical need rooted in my attraction to men. Most men need physical touch from other guys, but I thrive when guys touch me, and my physicality with men is a huge part of my life. And while I can control how much contact I have with others, I can't change the fact that every kind of physical intimacy with men is different because I'm attracted to them (both specifically and in general).

Every single time I give a guy a hug, cuddle up with him on the couch while watching a movie, give him a shoulder to cry on, extend my hand to pick him up when he's fallen, arm wrestle with him, lay my hands on his head to give a blessing, or look deeply into his eyes, part of that action is motivated by my attraction to men. It has little to do if I'm attracted to the guy himself. Yes, being attracted to the specific guy is great, but sitting with any guy is wholly different than sitting with a girl.

If I'm not gay, however, this section has far less impact. In my case, then, the only physical contact barred by the Honor Code would be with another guy I found attractive (from the definition of homosexual attraction - simply defined as feeling that another person of the same gender is attractive). I could hold hands with guys, give them handshakes, hug them, cuddle up on the couch, or even fall asleep on their chests after talking all night like Joseph & Brigham did the night before the martyrdom, without any problem.

After reading the Honor Code statement, I was more than a bit distraught.

My best friend was the one that showed it to me. He asked me if he wasn't allowed to hug me anymore. As I mentioned, he's a BYU student.

My gut started twisting. I told him I didn't want to break the Honor Code.

I have never been in opposition to the Honor Code... I was in the Honor Choir, performed at New Student Orientation and gave firesides about the Honor Code, and still have my Honor T-shirts from Freshman year when every other one was thrown away.

I have always supported the Honor Code... and in every case that someone has attacked it I've always been able to help them understand.

But am I breaking it right now when I hug my best friend? Or when we watch a movie together cuddled on the couch? Those things have never been against Church standards - I mean, John the Beloved was laying on the chest of Christ during the Last Supper, and the modern "guys shouldn't cuddle with guys" has been a western cultural artifact for less than 100 years - proof that physical intimacy among men isn't a sin. All physical intimacy would mean that I could never touch another guy... ever. Is BYU really trying to tell people with same-sex attraction that they should never touch or be touched by another soul?

So I called.

The student at the Honor Code Office was polite and, after a short break on hold, she confirmed that the policy is worded exactly as intended. All forms of intimacy, including hugging, hand-holding, and everything else, are against the Honor Code when same-sex attraction is involved. She offered to put me in touch with the director of the Honor Code Office, and said he would call me back.

Half an hour later, the director called me back and I asked him to help me understand the policy. I explained my concern and the fact that physical intimacy covered things as benign as prolonged eye contact or handshakes, as well as sexual contact. He confirmed, when I asked specifically, that any physical intimacy that is affected by, motivated by, or that has an effect on same-sex attraction is against the Honor Code. I asked again, about hugging, handshakes, and holding hands, and he confirmed that if the action is at all motivated or causes effect to same-sex attraction, it is against the Honor Code.

"Those are things that you shouldn't do."

I didn't know what to say.

I asked for confirmation one last time, and he gave it again. Then I thanked him and hung up.




...I think there's something wrong.

Telling me that I shouldn't have sex with guys is one thing. Or that I shouldn't watch pornography or break the law of chastity in any way - with another guy or alone. I believe that. I support that. And the people who break the Honor Code in that regard need someone to help them repent and change.

But this is way, way more than sexual actions.

This affects everything.

I've officiated as an ordinance worker at the temple - pretty much the most sacred calling a single guy with same-sex attraction can have. Temple workers conduct all the sacred ordinances of the temple... and, when you're a guy, every single one involves male physical intimacy. From looking into someone's eyes for longer than usual, to holding hands, to laying hands on head, to the embrace of baptism, sacred ordinances are the physical representation of a spiritual covenant with God... and so they all have powerful physical aspects.

Does working at the temple, or worshipping at the temple, arouse me sexually? Not usually. But it most definitely affects and is affected by my attraction to men. In fact, working at and attending the temple, for a long time, was the only real, regular physical intimacy I had with men. No one would give me a hug, a handshake, or even hold eye contact with me in real life, but in the temple they had to... and I knew I could go there to not only feel a connection to God, but also to my fellow men. That connection with God and the physical connection I get with male humanity is still a major reason why I go.

And now that's against the Honor Code.

I'm the ward greeter in my ward. A big reason why I shake hands and make eye contact with every person in my ward is to feel connected with people, and to allow them that connection. As I said, every time I touch a guy, it's deeply influenced by the fact that I'm attracted to men. Touching guys, no matter the circumstance, touches me in a way that touching girls does not. And I don't think I'm alone in that regard. It's the exact same thing with heterosexual guys - in a ward missionary meeting just on Sunday my ward mission leader expressed, honestly, that if he got more hugs from cute girls in the ward, his life would be less stressful. I definitely appreciate getting hugs from guys whether they're cute or not. We added giving hugs to the ward mission plan.

But that's against the Honor Code, too.




As are "all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings."

Which means everything.




Looking at my feelings, right now, I'm terribly confused. It's blindingly clear that my actions - as simple as giving my same-sex attracted best friend a hug when I see him at work in the morning - are in violation of the Honor Code. I confirmed that with the director of the Honor Code Office.

But Isn't the Honor Code approved by the leaders of the Church? Shouldn't it reflect the standards of the Church - including those of love and inclusion and support and faith? It definitely didn't include a never-touch-anyone statement the last time I looked... did someone in a committee just add the language as a catch-all?


After I post this, I'll contact someone to ask them for advice.

If I were to change the wording, I'd copy the words out of For The Strength of Youth. Put simply, don't do anything with the intent to arouse yourself or others. Simple, clear, direct. And if we need to make a list of Thou-Shalt-Nots, they need to apply to everyone regardless of potential sexual feelings.

But as I wait for a bit more clarity, I find myself asking a difficult question:

What if, as I push to try to find why the Honor Code is worded this way... I learn that God, through the Board of Trustees (the Prophet, First Presidency, and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) really did intend to communicate that I should never be physically intimate with another guy... ever again?

What if I could never go to the temple? If I could never meet a guy's eyes? If I could never touch a guy, let him touch me, if I could never give my brother-in-law a hug as he leaves for work in the morning or hold my same-sex attracted best friend while he cries on my shoulder?

What if God asked me to never touch a guy again?

Would I be willing to follow His counsel?

I'd lose all my friends if I could never touch them or meet their eyes. I'd lose my calling, never be able to go to the temple, and never be able to give a blessing. I'd be an outcast and a leper with no mortal I could turn to. Life would be worse than it already is.

But if He asked... I'd still follow Him.

Somehow, He would make it right.

I just hope that isn't what He's really asking me to do...

...and that there's just been a terrible misunderstanding.


I sent an email to the Honor Code Office referencing this blog post and my conversation with the director, asking the wording of the section to be changed. I suggested using the wording found in For a the Strength of Youth - any action designed to cause sexual arousal or stimulation in self or others would be across the line. I'm still hopeful that my conversation was just a major misunderstanding, and that the policy simply needs much less vague, broadly-interpretable language. My concern in this matter is because I care about BYU. I'm not a student, and even if I were, I'd still hug and touch guys even if I were deeply attracted to them.

I'm just concerned that the Honor Code, which for me was always a source of simply, concrete guidance as a student, has potentially begun to isolate those who need help most. With an active underground sexual hookup culture that has always been present, the Honor Code traditionally split people into three groups - those who followed and loved it, those who didn't care for the letter of the law but still wanted to do the right thing, and those who lived in total violation. If platonic physical contact between men, whether or not attraction is involved, is part of restrictions in the Honor Code, that forcefully pushes anyone affected into the middle group. Obviously, the literal interpretation in this post is far-fetched and absurd that it would ever be enforced. But it was also the direct result of my conversation with the director, and doesn't have any logical fallacies or assumptions - I was told that since I and my best friend have same-sex attraction, we shouldn't ever hug each other. There's no sexual desire there, no arousal, no whatever - hence my concern for a policy that keeps the university I love a positive, safe place for people like me - those who love both the letter and the spirit of the law and love to know exactly what it means so that we can help others stay true to the faith.


  1. Just my own thoughts but I don't think he would ever ask that of youor anyone. From Sister Frain

  2. David. I'm praying so hard for you right now. My heart and my head are in knots trying to understand why. What you've written is so much of who you are at your core. "Willing to submit to all things, that the Father seeth fit to inflict upon His children." But I don't want to believe it. I want it to be a terrible horrible misunderstanding. You are so patient and I stand with you.

  3. You are a powerful example of a faithful disciple. This is heartbreaking. I pray for healing answers. and continued temple service and friendly hugs.

  4. I think there may be different definitions of "intimate." In the church we often use the word "intimate" as a replacement for "arousing." I'm nearly certain of this, as I have heard of Elder Holland and others hugging gay men ay BYU. You ARE free to do all of those things under the honor code. And you are awesome!

    1. I hope that you're right, and this can be changed to accurately reflect that, since the Director of the Honor Code Office confirmed that under the current Honor Code, hugging another guy as a guy with same-sex attraction isn't allowed.

    2. I really think he must have misunderstood you... That cannot be what the Honor Code requires. If Elder Holland hugs gay men at BYU, Elder Holland clearly must have a correct interpretation.

    3. An excellent point Alizabeth! In Mormon culture, because we know sexual relations to be sacred, we often use euphemisms to respect this beautiful part of life, and "intimacy" is certainly one of these terms with an implied meaning to many Mormons. On the other hand, "arousal" is a clearer meaning, I think, and everyone has an equal duty to be careful about this, saved for the limited circumstances that God has specifically defined. Physical touch, however, is an essential part of life -- it's the reason why Christ instituted the laying on of hands for blessings and why he invited others to feel the prints in his hands, feet, and side. A man attracted to women may hug and have a connection with those he finds attractive and yet still control the extent of that connection to remain appropriate to his wife, if married, and to the Lord. So for those with same-sex attraction and in the LGBT community.

      I also appreciate so much that the author of this post went to such lengths to try to understand how to maintain his honor. The Honor Code is to protect students and help them feel closer to God. In that respect, I believe the author has probably served that purpose more fully than most by doing the work to try to understand how to keep the code when it has been difficult to understand. I would be happy to give him a hug at this difficult time and can assure him that the Spirit of Christ will embrace him just as he has embraced me in my times of soul searching.

    4. Great points!! These comments make the things even clear. I believe that it will be found out as a terrible misunderstanding in the end or it would definitely against the teaching I've learned from the church for so many years.

      And the author is such an example of trusting in God and His church with such strong faith and love, I'm totally moved by his faith and obedience. I sincerely hope that he will have the answer replied soon.

  5. In all honesty, if the BYU Honor Code appears to be wrong, it's wrong. The Honor Code is supposed to reflect church doctrine, obviously, but it was never intended to establish it. The prophet does not tell us go home and read the Honor Code every day. It is not part of the Standard Works.

    Certainly BYU policy holds some doctrinal authority. But hugs and handshakes express the greatest part of our doctrine: the love of God as made manifest in men. The Honor Code is writing on a piece of paper.

    It's also possible that the Honor Code director misspoke, honestly. He's probably extremely stressed out by the (probably deserved) scrutiny the Honor Code has received lately. It's very possible to interpret the Honor Code in a way that is doctrinally consistent and entirely justifies all of the things you do. Are homosexual feelings "sexual arousal" or "a choice to live a homosexual lifestyle?" Either answer is possible, and the latter one exonerates you.

    Stay strong. Know that God loves you. That never changes, and it never will.

  6. As a gay Latter-Day Saint and having recently been released as an ordinance worker in the Jordan River Temple when it closed for renovations, I completely get where you are coming from. My service in the temple filled holes in my psyche that nothing else in my 54 years ever filled, and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to serve.

    I encourage you to confirm with the Honor Code Office specifically that physical contact as part of temple and church service would indeed violate the Honor Code under the circumstances that you describe. I suspect some backpedaling will occur.

    Dave, you have my love and respect; thank you for being you and for standing firm under difficult circumstances.

  7. I think that this is more a reflection of the limitations of human expression, not a problem with the Honor Code or your conduct. I think that you are giving too broad a definition to the word "intimacy" and the phrase "give expression to homosexual feelings." As someone already commented above, the word "intimacy" as used here clearly has a sexual connotation - I don't think it refers to acts that reflect a deep connection with someone, which is what you seem to be referring to (eye contact, temple ordinances, etc.). Also, you are correct that our sexuality has an impact on how we interact with people of both genders. But I don't agree that that means that every interaction is an expression of either homosexual or heterosexual feelings. As an example: say I am walking through a shady part of town or a scary haunted house with a female friend (I am straight) and she gets scared. I would feel perfectly comfortable holding her hand to comfort her; I would not feel comfortable holding a male friend's hand under the same circumstances. I suppose this is because I am straight, but I wouldn't consider holding my female friend's hand an "expression of [hetero]sexual feelings." It's an expression of my friendship, our trust, whatever, and HOW I interact with her might be tangentially related to my being heterosexual. But I would not consider every meaningful interaction I have with women to be an expression of heterosexual feelings. Obviously this is all just my opinion, but it seems to me that your feelings of deep connection with people, of whatever gender, are not "expressions of homosexual feelings," nor are the physical interactions you describe the kind of forbidden "physical intimacy" contemplated by the Honor Code.

    1. That's just the issue - you would be willing to hold hands with a female friend, and I wouldn't. You wouldn't be willing to hold the hand of a male friend, and I definitely would. That extends way beyond holding hands though - there's a huge number of actions you'd only be willing to do to/with a female and not a male, and for me vice versa. The only difference in our actions is our feelings toward gender... and that's where the whole thing becomes either suspect or a double standard. I look at your holding hands with a girl and I see a definite-positive-no-questions-needed expression of your sexual preference, just as when straight people see two guys holding hands they may induce the exact same thing, regardless of how shady the town or scary the haunted house.

      Homosexuality influences, and is expressed, in many more situations than just sexual. I have never had sex with a guy and never intend to. But a huge number of non-sexual actions are deeply influenced by my attraction to men. And if giving someone a handshake can honestly be banned as an inappropriate expression of homosexual feelings (as confirmed by my phone call), I feel there's something wrong. The current wording of the Honor Code, and especially the interpretation given by the director when I called, would definitely bar my holding a male friend's hand as we walk a darkened street as an expression of homosexual feelings, regardless of how sexless that exact same action might seem in a heterosexual duo.

    2. But the Honor Code doesn't bar "physical intimacy" alone, nor does it bar "homosexual feelings" alone....what it bans is acts of physical intimacy that are an expression of homosexual feelings. I don't want to split hairs, but that's exactly my point--I think you're breaking down the language too much, rather than looking at the intent as a whole. Rules and regulations need to be read in a way that doesn't yield an absurd result. The idea that you can't place your hands on a man's head to give him a blessing, even if your experience in doing so is somewhat different than mine because of your sexual preference, is an absurd result that clearly isn't intended by the Honor Code. Your second paragraph in your response is exactly right - homosexuality (and for that matter, heterosexuality) influences more than just purely sexual behavior. But the mere fact that your non-sexual actions are influenced by your sexual preference does not make every interaction you have with men an "expression of homosexual feelings." My holding hands with a girl is influenced by my hetersexualITY in the abstract, but I don't consider it an expression of heterosexual feelings (at least not in the circumstance I described) any more than the non-sexual touching you refer to.

    3. The concern I have, Kendall, is that the current wording leaves an enormous amount of room for interpretation. While intent of the writers may be useful for Supreme Court cases, in interpreting a code, I feel like literal interpretation is the only way to ensure universal understanding.

      While it may seem absurd to you to take the interpretation that I did literally, I don't see it as absurd, but as a logical, literal interpretation of the words in the policy. Hence why I, a non-student, called the BYU Honor Code Office to figure out what it meant. Whether or not the policy is actually interpreted or enforced that way by the Honor Code Office isn't my concern. As a student, I knew nothing about the HCO but everything about the Honor Code.

      My biggest concern is about how this policy affects cultural identity at BYU. There are already scores of men and women who attend BYU and leave the Church as soon as they graduate. There's a thriving underground counterculture that pulls people down to Hell from wherever they are. From my perspective, the timbre of the current Honor Code seems to tell men and women with same-sex attraction that all forms of meaningful physical touch are prohibited... and since the Honor Code is a central part of faithful BYU identity, that potentially pushes even more people into the flow of counterculture and all its attendant woes.

      I see so many people leave the Church already... I want to do everything I can to help the places I love truly help people stay.

    4. It would never occur to me to interpret the Honor Code that way, but the mere fact that we are having this discussion clearly means that it is open to different interpretations, including the one that concerns you. I guess I would wonder how many people are actually seeing it that way and being pushed into the shadows, which I agree would be tragic. That being the case, I applaud your effort to draw attention to the ambiguity; hopefully the language of the provision will be changed, or some additional guidance given about what is and is not considered inappropriate.

    5. I am late to the party but I think a large part of the confusion stems from the inability of those that made the changes in the honor code to understand how encompassing the feelings of those that experience same sex attraction or who are gay are. That was an awkwardly constructed sentence. But I mean I doubt they understand that those feelings affect more than the sexual. The same as many white people do not stop and consider how the feelings of minorities and their past experiences influence their perceptions of how they are treated. If you are in the majority you often do not stop and think about how your feelings shape how you interact with people and the world in general because it is so similar to what everyone else is feeling (at least you think so). Does that make sense? I just think the idea that your sexuality could influence your interaction and intimacy without it being sexually stimulating is not something that crossed the minds of those in charge here. And I am afraid it would take a lot more consideration on their parts to understand it than they are maybe willing to give but I hope they will! - a fellow BYU graduate and active member of the church

  8. I believe, as mostly all have expressed so far, that you can still adhere to the Code while doing those things you detailed in your service at the Church/Temple/day to day life. Keep praying and serving the Lord, and he'll give you specific inspiration that applies to you and only you. Every child of God has the same commandments to obey, but every soul is a unique individual who lives the gospel abiding to general laws, adapted to his particular case. I am sure the Lord loves you and He'll inspire you to work it out. King Benjamin said, there are countless ways to commit sin, there are also countless ways to live a faithful life. I am sorry if my English wasn't clear enough. I tried my best to express my feelings accurately. Adrián, from Uruguay.

  9. David, my heart and prayers go out to you and the church. I find this particular policy appalling and a difference between the gospel and the church. I believe the Savior would have qualms in holding your hand, giving you a hug, leaning on you or letting you lean on him, scratch your back in a meeting, etc; yet somehow, that is "wrong." Physical touch is critical in human development and for our well-being. Somehow that has been lost or corrupted in our society. One day we will understand all. I just wish it were today. Unfortunately, that doesn't answer the issue of the day. God be with you

  10. I think you are being far too literal. The wording in the honor code has room for interpretation. My suggestion would be to pray over how YOU should interpret it. Reading it myself, it seems to me that you shouldn't engage in behavior that causes homosexual arousal or that would lead to need to determine how heavenly father wants you to behave and not stress the exact wording of a document. Ask yourself what your motives are? are you behaving in a way to try to get romantic interactions out of someone, even though eventually you'll have to shut them down? Or are you just loving and enjoying being a human being who enjoys connecting with others regardless of the connotation of sexual preference. Pray, examine your motives, and interpret the "rules" as you feel heavenly father wants you to in accordance with the general standards of the church.

  11. I have a friend that told me that he had a straight friend and he was attracted to him. There was never anything inappropriate. Except that he was painfully attracted - in spite of the fact that nothing ever would have happened. He became obsessed and it was painful to him. He slowly withdrew from his dear friend because it was not healthy for him.

    Affection between men is fine as long as it isn't confused. But many would be very confused if you "cuddle" with them on the sofa. Maybe you could handle it, but could the other guy? Some "affection" seems to lead to a "next step". If there are sexual feelings, it is best to be a bit more reserved.

    I'm sure this would be the same for a married straight man and a single woman. Some "affection" crosses the line and could lead to confusion. If there is a possibility of confusing someone, caution should be exercised. Do you not agree?

    You wouldn't want to hurt anyone or lead them along a path that would be destructive, would you?

    These are hard times. Now that the world is so open to gay relationships, it is a bit more difficult to be intimate with a friend without someone thinking that something unseemly might be intended.

    I do understand... but the laws and codes are usually designed for the weakest of saints. Some people need to be far more careful; sometimes they may be weaker than yourself.

    I know that too much physical attention confuses me. Back-slaps, handshakes, side-way-hugs... usually good and reassuring. But lingering looks, soft touches and extended cuddling could absolutely drive me over the edge.

  12. I so admire your courage, and specifically your faith. I can't imagine that the Lord intends for you to not have any physical contact with those of the same gender just because you are also attracted to them.

    I am a straight female, but I too deeply value the bonds and physical affection that I give and receive from other females. The temple is a place where I feel very connected to my sisters in the gospel because of the reasons you stated above. Not to mention the appreciation and closeness I feel towards my brethren who perform baptisms and confirmation. I can feel of their love and service through that physical touch.
    I honestly don't think it is because I am straight or gay that I appreciate and value the physical touch of another human being. I honestly sometimes need the comfort of women more than men, it seems sometimes. I appreciate that women more often than not think like me, are often times more gentle than men, and they understand how I feel and what I'm going through. I know that there are probably many men out there that might as well, but there is a sisterhood that is unique as I also believe there is a brotherhood that is unique. I have seen it in the interactions between prophets and apostles and other men in my life. I am grateful for those bonds because I think it helps us to love ALL people and not just our spouses or those within our own families. I truly believe in the importance of connecting with people and I truly believe that it is very difficult to fully connect with someone without being able to share some type of physical affection (a pat on the back, a hug, etc.)

    That is why I can't imagine that the statement in the policy can possibly reflect the doctrine of Christ. I think we are at a very interesting period of time where many people think there should be absolutely no guidelines, rules, or commandments at all and they are furious even at the suggestion of obedience to a church or Gospel ideas. I think there is also the opposite side, where people are terrified at the sight of same-gender affection regardless of the sexual orientation. I think back in the day there was A LOT more love expressed between people of the same gender, but because homosexuality is so widely embraced and accepted by so many, some people who don't agree may be fearful of anything that might even appear that it is not "straight behavior". Which in my opinion, isn't necessarily a fair. I think we should be careful not to judge other people's affection. And likewise, I think in this world we often have to be careful when we show those affections because of how people misunderstand. I wish we could take a step back in time and be able to just love and express that love to everyone more openly.

    Anyways, I suppose I have gone on long enough, but thank goodness for best friends. Thank goodness for people, men, like you who are willing to comfort those in need of comfort. Thank goodness for men like you, who are faithful in-spite of feelings that I'm sure would try to pull you in another direction. You strengthen my faith. I pray that somehow our leaders will be inspired to correct things like this which don't seem to match what the Savior has taught. If not, may we have the faith to pray and find comfort in the big picture of the Gospel and know that God loves us...that Ge is all knowing...that He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. People are people with a limited view... But in the end, all will be made right.

    Thank you for your post. I feel grateful for the chance to have read it.

    Your friend,

  13. As I look at the honor code statement, from the point on a non-BYU student the part that stands out is "all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings." When I remove the prefix homo, this becomes something more general. If your physical interaction is expressing sexual desire or arouses a sexual feelings, then it's probably against the Honor Code. If you are doing things that are part of the deeply rooted human desire for human physical contact, then you are probably ok. If I put this statement in the context of me, if I am specifically attracted physically to a certain person, I refrain from hugging them, even casually. I understand my own psyche and those things that are crossing the line into arousing feelings that should be only between married couples.

    In the church, the word intimacy usually means things that lead to sexual intercourse, which can include holding hands, hugging, and kissing. If those actions are not being used as a prelude or substitution for sex, then you are probably ok.

    This is a conversation you should have in-person and not over the phone, in my opinion and I would take along someone who knows your personal struggle very well also (like your bishop), and ask them to spell it out for your own "personal interpretation and application".

    For me, when I encounter a policy that instructs me on behavior that I struggle with, I tend to be more sensitive and more harsh with my enforcement of that policy. My desire to follow the rules puts me in a more extreme interpretation than those who don't struggle with that issue might take.

  14. Has anyone ever been reported to the HCO for attending the temple or shaking hands? Did the honor code office tell you not to attend the temple?

    1. I doubt anyone has been reported to the HCO for attending the temple. I'm not concerned about enforcement - I'm concerned about impact of the policy itself. The office told me I shouldn't be hugging my best friend. There's not physical difference in the action of hugging him whether it's the I-Love-You-And-It's-Good-To-See-You-Today hug as I get to work in the morning or the Thank-You-For-Coming-To-The-Temple-With-Me hug in the font after I've baptized him for his ancestors.

  15. Here's the problem with the wording: while many are looking for an interpretation that is charitable and reasonable, the fact is that on it's face, the wording can just as easily be interpreted harshly and very strictly.

    The "offender" is the only one who will know if the action gives "expression" to feelings, but the "judge" is looking at observable behaviors.

    Unless you live like Gay Mormon Bubble-boy, you always live under an oppressive feeling of observation and are at risk of being reported for normal, innocent actions and expressions. "They" will always be able to find an excuse to bounce you.

    May God bless you in all t hings.

  16. Look, I'm not a BYU grad. I applied (many years ago) to appease my parents but I knew there were parts of the honor code even then that I wouldn't fully uphold. The Honor Code is not temple worthiness. It is a document, inspired or not, that dictates what students at a particular university can or cannot do. There may (or may not) be good reasons why certain statues are in the honor code but life in a university is not life in the real world. Unless the Church issues a similarly worded standard for the general membership (and specifically puts it into the Temple worthiness interview) *you* are fine.

    I do appreciate your frustration and confusion since you have friends who attend BYU. Personally the wording makes me angry and feels like a huge step back from Christian love and acceptance by setting a double standard and making same-sex attraction implicitly (despite saying it isn't explicitly) a sin.

  17. Such a great explanation of what you experience daily. I appreciate your honest sharing. We'll figure this out together.

  18. I was once told by a General Authority that there is (1) Doctrine, (2) Principles, and (3) Application in the Church. And, while the principles (like the word of wisdom) stem from Doctrine (our bodies are temples for our Spirits), the application (not drinking coffee, smoking, or even choosing to not drink soda) is usually personal and very seldom "given" to us. It's our own application. It varies from person to person and grows as we grow.

    In this case, the Honor Code is an Application of an LDS Doctrine. While it is implying everyone must live the application they have chosen at the University, they are allowed to do this. They are a private university. I didn't agree with everything in the Honor Code when I attended the BYU, but I abided by it (because I chose to attend and agreed to abide by it).

    The even stickier problem is when you then have (and encourage) people to police their own interpretations (dare I say, their own application) of the application. Where a simple handshake between 2 guys (even 2 gay guys) may not directly violate the honor code (although it says it could), an overzealous, "letter of the law" person may interpret to break the code. A person could be turned in by the word of that person. Now, you head down a slipper slope.

    Thanks for the blog. I don't always fully agree with you (although I do more than not), but I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts.

  19. I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. As others have stated, in this case, I think you are going with much too literal an interpretation. Although my experiences have been much different than yours, I have also struggled. I have found that when I go to people or institutions (including the Church as an organization), I end up feeling confused and frustrated. When I go to God with my questions, I end up feeling peace and a semblance of clarity. The bottom line is that you cannot rely on others to interpret things for you or to determine what is "right or wrong." Have confidence in your ability to feel whether or not you are doing things that God is okay with. Rely on that relationship and communication and carry on with your head held high. I wish you all the best as you continue to search for answers.

  20. Here's my take on this, there is a code word that has layers of meaning that I believe will clear this up. I've noticed that when some people, especially older people use the word "intimacy," its code for sex. Personally, I think your intrepretation is way too literal.

    1. I agree that intimacy is a word that usually has different connotations depending on the generation using it. The younger generation applies it to far more actions, while for the older it means sexual contact - similarly for homosexuality, which often means having sexual contact to the older generation and a broad spectrum of feelings to the younger. But this word seems pretty clearly to *not* mean sex to me, because of the statement prior. The verbiage "...not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy..." would be redundant if physical intimacy just meant sexual relations again.

  21. Would would and what did Jesus do? He hugged, kissed, and physically comforted his friends and apostles. As a High Priest who "came out" in the 1990s, I had trouble with this issue in my wards when I became active again. As much as I, too, would want to follow the Honor Code, I know I would continue to be as affectionate as I felt was appropriate.

  22. Great article and I'm sorry to hear that is such a frustrating situation for you. I believe that in this case what really matters is whether or not you are following the spirit of the law. Who's to say whether or not strictly platonic interactions male to male are sexually motivated. Only you can really know that. I don't what's it's like to feel the way you do but I know what's it's like to struggle. I commend you for staying worthy and faithful to what you know to be true and would encourage you to continue to do so. On another note I would discourage you from cuddling with other men. That at least for me is meant to be quite intimate and strengthen bonds of physical attraction. Holding hands should also be obvious. These actions can arouse certain feelings attraction and should be avoided with the same sex. Again I have no idea what is to feel the way you do but I know that if you heed the counsel of church leaders and the prophet, they will not lead you astray. Godspeed brother.

  23. I don't like the wording and intent of this Honor Code change because it separates actions and feelings of heterosexual people from homosexual people. Are heterosexual people not supposed to hug or hold hands or pat on the back or do any of those human intimacy things with people of the opposite sex? I think the letter of the law should be the same for everyone. I am female but have male friends and I am allowed to hug them. Italians are very physically demonstrative and kiss each other - is that now prohibited? I hope that the Church didn't think they could hide a strict interpretation in the honor code because it isn't required by the general population of the church.

  24. Let your intentions drive your actions.

  25. I think the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and depended organizations are sometimes a little too strict in their policies. And new policies are usually stricter than the old ones.

    Usually new policies comes to fix the problems that one person had or created.

    For example:
    - one missionary started an impropriate relationship with a member and now people of the other sex cannot hug a missionary and they may never been in presence of the investigators of the other sex alone.

    - one boy ended up making out in the room of a girl and now nobody can step even for a second in a room of a girl on campus.

    - the work in one ward became too difficult because the members out of the ward boundary were too many and too sparse on the territory and now ward boundaries are strictly enforced for all the members in all the wards.

    - two person of the same sex held hands on campus or a BYU sponsor event and now holding hands between people of the same sex is against the honor code.

    The idea is "We will not let this problem happen again!!! In order to do this we just have to create a wall that is a little larger that will prevent the evil to enter".

    Unfortunately for one bad apple, sometimes even just one bad instance of a behavior, we end up in a situation where everybody else has to pay with more restrictions. I have seen that the results of those new restrictions is sometimes a net negative, at least this is what it looks like to me. In general people that would be happy members end up becoming inactive and people that could hear the Gospel and progress to receiving temple ordinances do not.

    Sometimes the solution is to pray to accept those new policies or pray for those affected by those policies, other times you may talk with the right people so the policies can be adjusted.

    But NEVER let that the actions of any man or woman a wedge between you and the Lord.


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