The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated expectations for students at Brigham Young University, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii and Ensign College on Thursday, Aug. 24 — revising Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement questions, the Honor Code, and dress and grooming standards.
The Church Educational System updates — like other recent initiatives and efforts by the Church — are principle-based and designed to help students focus on the Savior Jesus Christ, according to a news release published on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
The revisions standardize expectations across Church schools and are consistent with the principles taught in the Church’s “For the Strength of Youth” guide that was updated in October 2022.
According to the release, these adjustments will help the Church Educational System:
1. “Adopt a principle-based approach, while retaining a set of common expectations.
2. “Simplify and unify dress and grooming principles and expectations across campuses.
3. “Better align the ecclesiastical endorsement interview with the ecclesiastical responsibilities of Church leaders.”
These changes will help everyone associated with Church education to further embrace its distinct purpose: “To develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church and their communities,” said Elder Clark G. Gilbert, General Authority Seventy and the Church’s commissioner of education.
“Our goal is that all students and employees feel the love of the Savior, experience the growth from applying gospel principles and more fully realize the joy associated with being part of a covenant-keeping community,” Elder Gilbert said.
Following are a few of the changes.
First, the updated Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement questions asked by a student’s ecclesiastical leader no longer include questions about the CES Honor Code or specific dress and grooming standards. This change, according to the release, better aligns with the ecclesiastical, or spiritual, responsibilities of priesthood leaders and focuses on a student’s efforts to grow spiritually and meet ecclesiastical standards.
The administration or enforcement of the Honor Code and dress and grooming policies will also now more fully reside with the CES institutions.
Next, language of the Honor Code has been updated to “emphasize the role of the Honor Code in accomplishing the religious mission of CES institutions.” The Honor Code itself has been consistent across BYU, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii and Ensign College for many years and, even with the updated language, “underlying principles and expectations have not changed.”
The Honor Code includes the commitment to “live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.” New language clarifies, “Living a chaste and virtuous life also includes abstaining from same-sex romantic behavior.”
The third change involves the dress and grooming expectations throughout the Church Educational System. Previously, those standards have varied by school. For example, flip-flops and shorts were acceptable at BYU, but not BYU–Idaho. The new Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations identify foundational principles and outline common expectations and will be implemented across all campuses.
By following the updated Church Educational System dress and grooming principles, each student, employee and volunteer commits to:
- “Represent the Savior Jesus Christ, the Church and the Church Educational System.
- “Preserve an inspiring environment, without distraction or disruption, where covenants are kept in a spirit of unity so the Holy Ghost can teach truth.
- “Promote modesty, cleanliness, neatness and restraint in dress and grooming.
- “Maintain an elevated standard distinctive to educational institutions of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
The expectations are that, for men and women, dress be modest in fit and style. “Dressing in a way that would cover the temple garment is a good guideline, whether or not one has been endowed. Accommodation may be made for athletic participation.”
Dress should also be neat and clean. “Sloppy, overly casual, ragged or extreme clothing is not acceptable.”
The grooming expectations state that hair should be clean, neat, modest and avoid extremes in styles and colors and that men should have neatly trimmed hair and be clean shaven. “If worn, mustaches should be neatly trimmed.”
The release explained that these changes reflect student input from focus groups conducted at some of the schools. “Students were enthusiastic and expressed their feelings that a focus on the Savior, combined with an emphasis on principles and expectations, would elevate dress, grooming and behavior as students become more intentional and take increased ownership for dress and grooming decisions.”
The updates have also been approved by the presidents of the institutions: BYU President C. Shane Reese, BYU–Idaho President Alvin F. Meredith, BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and Ensign College President Bruce C. Kusch.
These updates will take effect on Aug. 30.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will the changes to the Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement questions contribute to the accomplishment of the mission of CES?
The Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement has historically emphasized the CES Honor Code and dress and grooming policies. This change better aligns the topics addressed by Church leaders in their interviews with their core ecclesiastical responsibilities. Thus, as an ecclesiastical interview, it will focus on a student’s efforts to grow spiritually and meet ecclesiastical expectations, which is an important part of accomplishing the religious mission of CES institutions. The administration of internal university policies, including the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations, will now more fully reside with the CES institutions.
Why do the Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement questions differ from temple recommend questions?
There is a difference in the standard of worthiness to receive saving ordinances in the house of the Lord and being eligible to attend a CES institution as a student. The questions for temple recommend interviews and ecclesiastical endorsements are appropriate for their different purposes.
The Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement includes some questions about “striving.” What is the intent of this language?
CES recognizes that students are striving to deepen their faith and testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Recognizing that we sometimes fall short of perfectly realizing these aspirations, and in order to encourage continued growth, students are invited to strive toward certain ideals while upholding foundational standards of conduct. As has happened prior to these changes, this allows ecclesiastical leaders to work with students who are trying but may sometimes struggle. It does not mean Church leaders should ignore clear violations of ecclesiastical standards, but it does allow them room to counsel with and help individuals progress.
What are the updates to the CES Honor Code?
The CES Honor Code has been and will continue to be consistent across CES campuses. Current adjustments emphasize the role of the Honor Code in accomplishing the religious mission of CES institutions. The underlying principles and expectations have not changed.
Can you explain the changes to the Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations?
Previously, dress and grooming expectations varied across CES institutions. The new Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations identify an important set of foundational principles while retaining a set of common expectations to assist with the application of these principles. They also provide consistency between campuses.
Does the simplification of expectations and the inclusion of principles mean that other prior standards no longer apply?
In many cases, the prior expectations are still applicable. The Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations emphasize standards representative of Jesus Christ and CES and encourage modesty, cleanliness, neatness, and restraint. Students across CES campuses are expected to dress in ways that align with the dress and grooming principles.
Are there specific changes in dress and grooming now?
Yes. For example, students on each campus will be allowed to wear shorts, provided those shorts are in keeping with the principles and expectations given. As noted above, dress and grooming decisions should align with the Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations, and application of these principles is not limited to the expectations listed. We are striving to create a culture that is consistent with the distinct religious purpose of CES institutions.
What is meant by men’s hair being “neatly trimmed”?
As stated in the Dress and Grooming Expectations, hair should be “neat, modest and avoid extremes.” The intent of this standard for men is that hair should be cut short and neatly trimmed.
Is there a change in the expectations for LGBTQ students?
There are no changes to the LGBTQ policies. CES is deeply committed to helping all our students, including our LGBTQ students, feel both the love and covenant expectations of the Savior. Same-sex romantic behavior has been and continues to be contrary to the principles included in the CES Honor Code. LGBTQ students are a welcomed and valued part of the campus community and share a common identity with every student as sons and daughters of God. All students will continue to be encouraged to live their gospel and university/college commitments.
Can members of CES campus communities who identify as LGBTQ or have same-sex attraction be disciplined for behavior like going on a date, holding hands or kissing?
Same-sex romantic behavior is not compatible with the principles included in the CES Honor Code. As in years past, each situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis to help each student feel the love of the Savior and to encourage them to live their gospel covenants and university/college commitments.
Did students provide input on these updates?
Yes. CES conducted focus groups at Brigham Young University, BYU–Idaho, and Ensign College to review, discuss and gather input from students in the development of these changes. The input of these randomly selected students was significant in developing and refining these updates. Students were enthusiastic about these adjustments and expressed their feelings that a focus on the Savior, combined with an emphasis on principles and expectations, would elevate dress, grooming and behavior as students become more intentional and take increased ownership for dress and grooming decisions.
What is the timeline for implementation?
These updates will take effect on Aug. 30, 2023.