There has been a lot of chatter recently about the Honor Code at BYU with some students and groups both inside and outside the school loudly voicing a desire for reform. I won’t delve into the various issues that are being expressed specifically, as even those who desire reform have divided into factions. I’d like to have a word on the principle of agency.

I’ve noticed that it is common among those in the reform movement to argue the university is infringing on their agency by enforcing an honor code. At the same time, the very same people often display offense when it is pointed out it was their agency to attend the university in the first place, and it remains their right to attend another university should they choose. This demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of agency at best and intentional dishonesty at worst:


As Lehi taught, “men are free according to the flesh…to choose liberty and eternal life or to choose captivity and death.” We are granted agency, but we are not granted the right to choose the consequences for our actions. My friend explained the concept beautifully this morning on Twitter:

I commonly see the same complaints about the role of government in our society. “Don’t legislate morality!” or “it’s my right to choose!” is the common refrain when talking about issues such as abortion. However, I rarely, if ever, see the same debates about the government when laws are passed to protect citizens from murder or drunk driving. The laws are in place to protect the innocent when something inherently goes wrong and allows the victim to seek some amount of recourse or justice. Murders still exist despite laws being on the books. People are still able to choose to murder, but a consequence is in place to satisfy justice.

Before screaming at the top of your lungs that agency is being violated because of the honor code, remember agency also exists which allow actions against the code to occur. However, nobody has the right to choose their own consequences. The Lord has a higher law and standard than man’s laws and those laws are in place because He knows the path to freedom and eternal life.

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