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Why Dress Modestly?

The other day a friend  of mine, Julie Smith, blogged about the Young Women/Young Men modesty issue. It reminded me of a few past blogs here, such as Modesty Mores Than Skin Deep that touched on the issue.

For ages I’ve been fighting against the notion that was beat into my head as a youth in the church. Teaching young women to be modest so that they don’t turn on the young men, “cause” them to be immoral, or turn into walking porn is so wrong-headed that I can’t even express it.

Men — young or not — are responsible for their own choices.

In my experience (and opinion), teaching young women to dress modestly so that they will “respect themselves” doesn’t help. It’s nebulous and fuzzy — and easy to counter.

But if we don’t use that and get rid of the “so you don’t arouse the boys” position, how do we teach modesty? Why do we teach modesty? What are the spiritual, doctrinal reasons that we teach modesty?

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • DeeAnn June 15, 2011, 10:27 am

    While I don’t agree entirely with your premise, (I do think there is something to not parading around in front of young men half-dressed so as not to tempt them to think things they shouldn’t and yes they are responsible for their thoughts!) this is what I think might resonate with young women. If you want to attract a guy who respects you and your body, dress like YOU respect your body.

    I had an experience that really made this point to me. While in college I went dancing with some friends and one of them liked to dress with a lot of flesh showing, for lack of a better way of putting it. She was (and is) a great person, but we definitely had (and have) different dress standards. We were obviously not going to a BYU dance, but to one of the clubs in Salt Lake. At one point in the evening, my friend and I were dancing on one of those raised floors and I looked down and noticed this guy oogling my friend. It was really beyond oogling. It was totally disgusting. I vowed then and there that I would never dress in such a way that a guy would want to look at me like that. I can’t even describe how gross it was. It was obvious what was on his mind and there was no tenderness or love involved.

    So that’s my 2 cents.

  • jennycherie June 15, 2011, 10:42 am

    Those are all great questions – great food for thought, that I don’t have an answer for at the moment. What occurs to me right off the top of my head is that *I* feel differently when I dress modestly. I don’t respect myself more, but I concentrate more on the task at hand and my worth as an individual.

    When I wore immodest clothes as a young woman, and a time or two as an adult when I ended up with a blouse that wasn’t as modest as I thought, my focus changes – *I* am more aware of my “feminine wiles,” and tend to focus more on that than on the task at hand or my worth as an individual. When I was younger, *THE* reason I wore short skirts was because I had nice legs, and I liked the compliments, the attention, etc. I’d even go so far as to say that I really felt that was my best bet for meeting guys, though I probably would not have admitted it then. But wearing them, I tended to focus more on promoting my “wiles” than my intelligence and my talents. Now, I used to think that was mostly due to my youth, general cuteness 😉 and silliness, but that changed recently.

    Not too long ago, I found myself with a uniform top that was a size too small and rather snug. I tried to exchange it but the uniform counter was closed so I was stuck wearing it for one night. I was amazed at how much it affected me – I mean suddenly, my “wiles” were sticking out there, a bit too proudly, for all too see! I had forgotten I had any since they are usually well concealed! I am fairly certain that the virtue of the young men I was working was amply protected by my age and motherly demeanor, but it really was something *I* noticed. If I am going to be proud of something, or show something off, I want it to be my ideas, my intellect, my kindness, my ____, and NOT my ‘wiles.’ It would be great if I were concerned about protecting men everywhere, but frankly, I’m just not sure they care that much – I am far more concerned about how I view and value myself. It reminds me of a quote from “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, which I cannot find at the moment – but Marmee tells one of the daughters that she worries about them being overly concerned with their own beauty because doesn’t want them to believe that is they only value.
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  • jennycherie June 15, 2011, 10:45 am

    oops – that should read “young men with whom I was working” not “young men I was working” YIKES
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  • Alison Moore Smith June 15, 2011, 11:22 am

    DeeAnn, I’m sorry to be unclear. As I commented on Julie’s blog, I think we can acknowledge how the way a girl dresses might influence a boy without shifting BLAME and/or RESPONSIBILITY to the young woman.

    Many authoritative church statements reinforce the idea that girls are RESPONSIBLE for men’s virtue.

    If you want to attract a guy who respects you and your body, dress like YOU respect your body.

    This breaks down for me in two areas:

    (1) The boys are rarely taught to EXPLICITLY reward modest dress. In other words, stop dating, ogling, and giving attention to immodest girls and start giving attention to modest ones.

    Sometimes I dressed less than modestly in college. At BYU. And I averaged about 4 dates per week. From RMs. It worked. They liked it. My modest roommates were usually home. I promise, the contradiction wasn’t lost on ANY of us.

    (2) How does covering your body show “respect” for it?

    For the record, I’m a pretty freakish stickler on modesty. I have no underlying motive to try to skank it down. I simply think in a culture where modesty holds little value, we need to clarify the position.
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  • Darcee Yates June 15, 2011, 12:46 pm

    This is such a touchy topic for most people in the church. I like my wiles. It’s part of my whole package, intellect, interests, humor, athletic and creative abilities and my spirituality. If I’m going to choose something to wear, I want to it be becoming- and becoming because I am a women- not a genderless individual with a good mind. Will I cover all the parts?- absolutley. With the material, pattern, shape or cut that speak of my feminine personality?- absolutely.
    Everyone has their own idea of modesty- what I’ve described above- would not fit some people’s idea, and that’s fine. But it fits mine and my conscionce is clean.
    Sign me,
    Against a genderless society.
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  • Darcee Yates June 15, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Anyone remember the song from a musical that I’ve forgotten , it starts “I’m a girl and by me that’s only great. I’m a glad that my silouette is curvy….”
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  • DeeAnn June 15, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Julie – thanks for the clarifications. I agree that the YM need to be taught they are responsible for their thoughts and I also agree that YW are NOT responsible for what YM do.

    I can’t make a comment on the guys you dated – I’m sure they were nice. I can only comment on my particular experience. I had guys tell me that the way my friend dressed affected how they felt about her, and not in a positive way. I dated fairly regularly at BYU, although not 4 times/week, but I know the guys I attracted solely by how I looked were not in the same class as the guys I dated who got to know ME. So to me dating a lot does not equal getting the attention of the right guys necessarily. And I saw that reflected in the quality of the guys my friend dated.

    So, I do think respecting one’s body enough to not feel the need to show it off to get attention, DOES get the attention of the boys who are worth being noticed by. These guys are high caliber and are put off by immodest dressing. You will definitely get MORE attention from boys in general from wearing more revealing clothing. But I would say go for quality not quantity.

  • MB June 15, 2011, 3:45 pm

    The meaning of the word “modesty”, as you know, doesn’t just mean covering your body. It means the quality of being modest; free from vanity, boastfulness, showing off, powerseeking….

    As a young woman I could tell that when I dressed certain ways I got attention, had power to influence the focus of others, boys particularly but girls too. Both boys and girls were more willing to do what I wanted them to if I dressed that way. And in a teenage world where boys seemed to get more attention than girls and had more power than girls, and where I was certainly not one of the social elites, being able to add to my sense of power simply by choosing to dress a certain way was enticing. I also knew that when I dressed those ways I felt sexually more alert and powerful.

    What helped me in my twenties was the realization that powerseeking was not in my definition of what Christianity required of me and also the realization that dressing more conservatively allowed me more opportunity to develop the ability to lead and serve using my mind and the personal gifts God had given me. And I found that people paid more attention to those aspects of me when I dressed modestly. I began to experience the truth that leadership and service enabled by the exercising of those gifts was much more satisfying than leadership or other work made fueled or enabled by my employment of sexual attractiveness.

    I don’t know how many teenage girls would be honest enough about themselves to acknowledge the role that powerseeking plays in immodest dress, so I don’t know if that tack would work, but I do think that teaching the broader definition of modesty and teaching the worth of leadership and service fueled by strength of character, clarity of mind and brotherly love in spite of much of the world’s attention to leadership based on sexual attractiveness, may help young women to make that connection.

  • MB June 15, 2011, 5:11 pm

    I don’t think it is wrong to HAVE power or influence. History is replete with people who have had power and influence who have used it for good.

    But I do think that if SEEKING or enjoying power is one’s motivation in any endeavor it can wreak some havoc on your character. And powerseeking is, I think, hard to reconcile with the broader principle of modesty. Pretty much most of the people I know who have used power the most effectively, and with the least corruption, in order to do good in the world have been people who have not sought it. Rather it has come to them as a result of their efforts to do good.

    I think that real godly power (which is quite different than worldly power and much more amazing) isn’t sought or “attained” by anyone, man or woman. It rather “distills upon your soul” in the process of seeking to be a true disciple in charity and moral strength.

    Huh. So perhaps helping young people to discern the difference between worldly and divine power is also part of the equation.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 15, 2011, 4:39 pm

    I think you meant me? I’m Alison. 🙂

    Some of the guys I dated were “nice” and some weren’t. Some were so super nice that it freaked out people in the ward (the Elder’s Quorum president, a guy in the bishopric, the son of an apostle). Understand, I wasn’t a skank and I didn’t dress like a slut, but I was, hmmm, edgy I guess. For BYU.

    Either way, the point isn’t about whether I got the “right” kind of attention or whether it was “positive” by some particular definition. It’s that I DID get attention — lots and lots of it — from LDS returned missionaries. Even though they SHOULD have been looking for something else.

    And, frankly, I think you’re wrong about how “quality” guys, as some general rule, are turned off by immodesty. I’ve seen way too many decent, faithful guys who went after the girls who, shall we say, didn’t hide it under a bushel.

    For example, I have college daughters with whom I am “friends” on FaceBook. Over and over I see their friends get engaged — RMs for temple marriages — and the girls are wearing way less than we allow in our home in pre-wedding pictures.

    Why aren’t these quality guys running in droves to marry the fat sweet spirits? I’m guessing it has something to do with physical attraction.
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  • Alison Moore Smith June 15, 2011, 4:44 pm

    MB, wonderful insights.

    We all know the “broader” definition of modesty, but the church almost always means dress when they teach it. I do like the idea, however, of how that definition can connect.

    I’ll have to think more about the “power” issue. I’m not sure I agree that it’s wrong to have such influence generally. But to be aware of how we wield such power is very interesting.
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  • jennycherie June 15, 2011, 6:14 pm

    There is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

  • Matthew Chapman June 16, 2011, 9:40 am

    I would agree that, in general, and especially among the YW, “modesty” means “how you dress”.

    But I think that linking modesty more to humility, as MB suggests, might be a better approach to teaching this concept.

    As for myself, I have never had any problem being humble, as I have so much to be humble about.

  • Darcee Yates June 16, 2011, 8:56 am

    What bothers me about all this- is -the visual definition of modest. I assume everyone responding here believes that how they dress is modest. Yet, everyone here may not consider everyone ELSE here to be the absolute definition of modesty in dress, or may not consider everyone ELSE in thier ward to be modest. Some may not consider women’s attire to be modest unless it is what the sister missionaries wear on temple square, which is almost a uniform. I tend not to notice what someone else has chosen to wear unless a body part or crack is winking at me that I don’t want to see. And I’m surprised sometimes when someone I’m sitting beside in a meeting will lean over and whisper a comment about this or that person’s attire in church. It always surprises me becuase – invariably I haven’t noticed- or cared. Is her hem a little short? Or some other consideration. My first thought is—it’s not my concern. I don’t have her budget-or her problems, or her ethnic background- I’m not her. I’m me.
    For young women-teaching them? –

    Teach them to find out who they are and want to be and dress accordingly. Be true to themselves.

  • Tracy Keeney June 16, 2011, 10:24 am

    Alison, I’m not sure if I agree with your premise or not– maybe because I’m not exactly sure what the parameters of the premise are.
    I agree that ultimately, girls aren’t responsible for the choices boys make. But they ARE responsible for THEIR behavior that they know is a negative influence on them.
    If a girl is out at the mall with a guy, and sees that some clearance clothing out in front of a shop isn’t well attended and points out a top she likes and darts her eyes to a bag he’s carrying, tempting him to shoplift by stuffing it in the bag and he does it, did she MAKE him do it? Of course not. But is she partly responsible for the theft? YES– she’s the one who tempted him–and her tempting INFLUENCED his behavior. According the law, she’d be considered an accomplice in the crime.
    I really don’t see how tempting people to have sexually impure thoughts is any different. If a girl is wearing those “hot pant” shorts that are so popular now– trying to attract the sexual attention of boys, flaunting the flesh of their little hinnies by letting it hang out the bottom of their super-short shorts, then she’s INFLUENCING his thoughts. She’s tempting him. And she’s responsible for THAT.
    But as was already stated, modesty in dress is more than the influence it has on other people. The fact that a woman can walk scantily clad through a room full of heterosexual women, without causing an impure thought, doesn’t mean it’s okay for her to be scantily clad. Modesty isn’t determined by the beholder or by the effects it has on them. It’s a standard revealed to us by God.
    As I mentioned in a previous conversation about modesty– maybe in one of the ones you linked– there are styles and cuts of clothing that although I don’t consider them to be “immodest” in and of themselves, I DO consider them “innappropiate” through the standards given to us by revelation. I don’t think a top is “immodest” just because it doesn’t cover the shoulders. There are plenty of tops that are cute and appropriate that I simply don’t wear because 1. I’ve been instructed not to, and 2. because they wouldn’t cover my garments, and I’m NOT a hiker! 🙂
    I think of Audrey Hepburn, in her beautiful, elegant ball gowns, that by church standard would be considered “immodest”, because the shoulders aren’t covered. But could anyone really say this is “immodest”?
    Aside from the sexuality aspects, and even the self-respect aspect, I think there’s something to be said for dressing modestly simply because we’ve been commanded to. I know that’s not necessarily a “convincing” argument for teens who so often want to know the “whys and what fors”, but it’s one that should still be taught and emphasized nonetheless.
    I wouldn’t say that an LDS young woman (or woman, for that matter) wearing a sleeveless shirt or spaghetti strap summer dress is neccessarily being “immodest” as much as their being “disobedient”. And frankly, I think the latter is worse.
    For a good read on dressing immodestly and using dress, words, and other methods for tempting impure thoughts and actions, and what God thinks of it, I highly recommend Proverbs 7. http://lds.org/scriptures/ot/prov/7?lang=eng
    It’s a very short chapter, but pretty much says it all.

  • Tracy Keeney June 16, 2011, 10:28 am

    THEY’RE being disobedient, not their — good grief.

  • Howard June 16, 2011, 12:18 pm

    If a girl chooses to wear “hot pant” shorts flaunting the flesh of her little hinnie she IS responsible for that what ever “that” is. Is it a sin? I dunno I doubt it’s much of a sin but you would have to go to her state of mind and look at both her conscious and subconscious motivation in order to judge her. If a boy is turned on by this what kind of a sin would this motivation him to commit? Masturbation? Is that a sin? Make out with her? Have sex with her? Would she be willing I doubt it. So where does this go? It seems to go no where.

  • Tracy Keeney June 16, 2011, 6:19 pm

    The “that”– is her own behavior. Her own decision to dress inappropriately. If she’s been taught not to, then yes, she’ll be held accountable for being disobedient and dressing against the standards set by the Lord, whether or not she happened to “tempt” anyone by doing so.
    I’m not even sure that “motivation” is a factor, Howard. Does it really matter WHY someone dresses inappropriately IF they’ve been taught the standard and (probably over and over again) and have made covenants? What “motivation” could possibly be excusable? (These are honest questions– I’m not trying to be argumentative.) I just can’t think of a motivation that would be “innocent” if they’ve been taught otherwise. “I want to dress like my friends and wear the latest styles” doesn’t cut it. “I want to be accepted by the in-crowd” doesn’t cut it. “I wanted to get his attention because he doesn’t seem to notice me”, “I couldn’t find a pair of shorts that was longer”, “All my shirts that cover the shoulders were in the wash”……
    The ONLY rationale I can think of that would even come remotely close to “understandable”, would be if a girl thought it was “okay” to wear a bikini, or a strapless dress, or ______ (insert your choice of inappropriate clothing here) if the only other people around to see her in it were other females. Since “modesty in dress” for girls is so often related to how it affects BOYS, I can see how a young girl who’s thinking only on a very surface level might come to the conclusion that since “there won’t be any boys at girl’s camp” that it would be okay for her to wear a bikini. But I’ve been to girl’s camp many times… not a bikini in sight. And if the girl’s suit is “questionable”, (maybe a tankini that bears the midriff, or a suit that dips really low exposing the bust) she has to wear a T-shirt over it. The standard is the standard, and remains the standard whether or not boys are around.
    As to your questions about the boy– yes, masturbation is a sin. Making out with her would be a sin. Having sex with her would be a sin. But the point isn’t even necessarily that dressing immodestly would make a boy DO anything. Lustful thoughts ALONE are a sin.

  • Tracy Keeney June 16, 2011, 6:24 pm

    Oh– and I meant to say, that should a girl think that the “modesty” issue is only important when boys are around, (which would be understandable if she’s really young and if that’s how she interpreted the teaching if it wasn’t taught well or thoroughly) then the other reasons for dressing modestly that so many have already expressed need to be explained to her.

  • Howard June 17, 2011, 10:47 am

    Tracy how do you know it is the Lord’s standard you are holding her to and not a GA advise and counsel? I have never seen revelation on modesty or a even good scriptural reference have you? Motivation could be a factor if she was trying to tempt the YM to sin. What “motivation” could possibly be excusable? Fashon, style, dressing like others are all innocent motivators. Why do you say it “doesn’t cut it”? And what do you mean by that? Yes I agree lust is a sin but I live in SoCal where exposed female flesh is not at all scarce so I have a choice lust all day or get a grip YM should be taught the same YW should not be made to feel guilty for his lack of control.

  • Tracy Keeney June 17, 2011, 2:38 pm

    Howard, if you want to believe that the standards set forth by the Church, preached over and over again in conferences, published in For Strength of Youth and in several articles in church publications and enforced at Church owned schools and universities are nothing more than “the good advice” of church leaders then by all means, do so. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to believe otherwise.
    As per scriptoral reference, did you read the link to Proverbs 7 I put in my first post? There are TONS of apostolic talks on the matter– which surely you must be aware. But with your incinuation that modesty in dress is merely good counsel since you don’t have proof that it’s necessarily divine revelation, and since you say you haven’t seen a specific scripture, (do you REALLY have see a scripture that says “Thou shalt not wear short-shorts?” to believe that the prophet isn’t just making up his own standard?) then I hestitate posting a bunch of quotes from conference addresses– I think you’d just brush them aside as being “advice”. So I’ll just post one, and the very first sentence makes my point.
    From Robert D. Hales – Quorum of the 12
    ” Some Latter-day Saints may feel that modesty is a tradition of the Church or that it has evolved from conservative, puritanical behavior. Modesty is not just cultural. Modesty is a gospel principle that applies to people of all cultures and ages. In fact, modesty is fundamental to being worthy of the Spirit. To be modest is to be humble, and being humble invites the Spirit to be with us.

    Of course, modesty is not new. It was taught to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Unto Adam … and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21; see also Moses 4:27). Like Adam and Eve, we have been taught that our bodies are formed in the likeness of God and are therefore sacred.

    “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

    ….. When we recognize our bodies as the gifts they are and when we understand the missions they help us fulfill, we protect and honor them by how we act and dress.

    In everyday living, immodest clothing such as short shorts, miniskirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire are not appropriate. Men and women—including young men and young women—should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low cut in the front or back or revealing in any other manner. ”

    Maybe we’re using different qualifiers for what makes a motivation “innocent”. If the youth are taught over and over again not to where bikinis for example, and they’ve been taught the why’s and what fors, but where them anyway, they are being disobedient even if their “motivators” are the ones you listed. Wanting to look like your friends isn’t an “innocent excuse” for disobedience. They were TOLD they shouldn’t where them, and they wore it anyway. That’s just disobedience, plain and simple.
    My example of the ONE thing that I thought could possibly understand is the idea that it’s “okay” to wear immodest clothing if there aren’t any boys around because I think that sometimes, leaders aren’t careful about how the teach the subject and THEIR failure to teach it well could cause girls to misunderstand the teaching. If modestly it taught and emphasized from the perspective of how BOYS will react, then I can see how a girl might misinterpret and think that the only reason for dressing modestly is to “save the boys” from their own lustful thoughts, and end up thinking, “so if boys aren’t around, then I can wear my bikini”. That to me, would be innocent — because she wasn’t taught the concept well.
    My husband served in the Air Force and was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base at Cocoa Beach. He saw “flesh” all the time. My son can’t go to the pool or to the beach without seeing “flesh” hanging out all over the place. So he has to turn his head quite a bit and ignore alot. But that’s all a choice– some guys choose to look and stare, oggle, etc. My son turns his head and purposely avoids looking.
    While I agree that YW shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for some guy’s lack of control, I DO think she should feel guilty (responsible) for her OWN behavior that was disobedient in nature and may have negatively influenced someone else’s.

  • Howard June 17, 2011, 6:42 pm

    Tracy I asked how YOU know it is the Lord’s standard and not GA advise and counsel? Please answer without turning it around again. Proverbs 7 is about a harlot hardly comparable to Mormon YM. The President of the church is the only one authorized to receive revelation for the church and not everything he says is revelation. I am aware of scripture regarding fig leaves and coats of skins but I’m not convinced coats of skins were worn during the hot summer months. Is there more? If so please share. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” I love this scripture but what does it say about how YW should dress? In everyday living, immodest clothing such as short shorts, miniskirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire are not appropriate. Please support this with modern revelation or scripture.

    “If the youth are taught over and over again not to where bikinis for example, and they’ve been taught the why’s and what fors, but where them anyway, they are being disobedient even if their “motivators” are the ones you listed.” Who are they disobeying their parents their teachers and what is their motivation for doing so if it is not what I suggested?

    I DO think she should feel guilty (responsible) for her OWN behavior Why is any guilt necessary Joseph said teach them correct principles and they govern themselves of course that will take time and training for it to work with the youth.

  • Tracy Keeney June 18, 2011, 9:15 am

    I know it’s the Lord standard because I BELIEVE that when a prophet of God AND His apostles teach something as the Lord’s standard, then repeat it over and over and over again, year after year (and even print it up on little wallet sized cards so you can carry it around with you all day, everyday to remind you), that they aren’t doing so just because it’s THEIR opinion.
    The proverbs scripture said she “wore the attire of a harlot”, then explained how she uses her manner of dress, her words, her actions etc to entice men. She’s TRYING to capture the sexual attention of the men. All the the other stuff– the fact that she’s married, the fact she gets the guy to sleep with her isn’t what I was focusing on. I refered the scripture to point out HER behavior, not his.
    Even if her behavior DIDN’T WORK and the guy ignored her and walked off– she’s still responsible for her behavior.

    “In everyday living, immodest clothing such as short shorts, miniskirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire are not appropriate.” Please support this with modern revelation or scripture.”

    Howard, I believe what you quoted IS modern revelation. That IS the revelation. If the prophet of the Church says it, and apostles repeat it also, and if he approves it as part of “THE” main document that outlines the entire youth program and then asks the youth repeatly to LIVE by the teachings contained in it– I believe he’s saying so BY revelation. The quote I posted even SAID that members of the Church might think that modesty is just a cultural thing ( or in your case, the personal opinion of church leaders) but that it isn’t. He said it’s a gospel priniciple. He’s either telling the truth, or he isn’t. What you want to believe about that is up to you. But I’ve heard it over and over, from the prophets lips and those that serve with him, and that’s good enough for me.

    “Who are they disobeying their parents their teachers and what is their motivation for doing so if it is not what I suggested?”

    If they’ve been taught the priniciple, and they disobey, then they’re disobeying God. Assuming that they’re parents have taught them the priniciple, then they’re also being disobedient to their parents.
    I’m not sure I “get” the last part of the question– “What is their motivation for doing so if it is not what I suggested?”
    I didn’t say they had some other motivation… I said the motivations you suggested aren’t “innocent” or “excusable”.
    Let me give an example of what I mean by “innocent excuse” using a different subject– maybe that will make my point more clear.
    Outside of religion, kids are taught that they should avoid sex simply because they could get pregnant or catch an STD. They often aren’t taught the spiritual/moral reasons — only the temporal consequences. Chastity is alot more than “not having sex”– in fact, you can be “unchaste” even by yourself– you don’t have to be “doing anything” with someone to be “unchaste”. But they aren’t taught chastity. They’re taught “don’t get pregnant or catch HIV”. So it’s understandable then, that alot of kids would think that it’s “okay” to have sex (or perform any other sexual act) as long as they avoid pregnancy and use somekind of protection to avoid an STD. To me, the kids who are taught this important, yet substantionally more “shallow” reasoning, have an “innocent” excuse for engaging in what WE know to be fornication. They didn’t KNOW, because they weren’t taught.
    Similarly, if the reasoning for dressing modestly is placed soley (or ends up being the most emphasized) on the sexual responses of boys, and the message that the girls get (even if it wasn’t intended) is “the reason we dress modestly is to avoid getting the boys aroused” then a girl could innocently assume that it’s okay to wear a bikini to place where she knows there won’t be any boys.

    ” Why is any guilt necessary Joseph said teach them correct principles and they govern themselves of course that will take time and training for it to work with the youth.”

    Yes, Joseph said that– but what’s your point? When people do something wrong, and are repentant, they FEEL GUILTY. It’s the natural response. God GAVE us the ability to feel “guilt” as a way to help us recognize what we’ve done that’s wrong, and as a motivator to help us change and improve ourselves.
    Learning to govern oneself DOES take time and training– exactly. That’s one of the reasons we HAVE the standards for dressing modestly. It helps to teach us obedience, self-respect, respect for others, the sacred nature of our bodies, self-control, priorities (yes, I want to look cool like my friends and I LOVE that blouse, but it dips too low and being obedient and modest are more important than looking “hip and fashionable”), etc.

  • Howard June 18, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Tracy thank you for stating what you believe. Please provide a link of a Prophet of God specifically teaching this as “the Lord’s standard” I haven’t seen this but it may well exist. Sorry I misled you with a typo regarding the Proverbs 7 reference it should have read YW not YM. But the passage is not about a YW dressing or acting like a harlot she IS a harlot… a woman stranger that flattereth with her words…with the attire of an harlot…She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house…lieth in wait at every corner…So she caught him, and kissed him…she decked and perfumed her bed …Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning…For the goodman is not at home…With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him…many strong men have been slain by her. So what can we learn by comparing YW to a harlot, this is hyperbole .

    Modesty dress standards cannot be an eternal law because they are not consistent. We know of fig leaves and later coats of sins for Adam and Eve all this tells us is they at least covered their gentiles but I strongly doubt they wore coats of sins year round. Moroni appeared to Joseph wearing a modest robe that covered him from mid wrist to mid ankle but was open so that Joseph could see that he wore nothing else and could see his bosom and btw were were Moroni’s garments? Garments themselves have changed over time. So modesty MUST be a cultural thing what else explains these differences?

    “If they’ve been taught the priniciple, and they disobey, then they’re disobeying God.” What principle? The motivations I suggested ARE innocent they may or may not be excusable we haven’t gotten that far yet. They are innocent because they are normal for YM to feel and they not motivated by rebelliousness or evil. Ok I understand you point about being taught or not by using fornication as an example but my point is that modesty in dress is not much of a sin certainly not on the order of fornication so she wore a tank top or even a bikini so what? Is this some major sin?

    Guilt is a natural response but we shouldn’t be evoking it with our YW and we shouldn’t be making them responsible for the YM’s worthiness by doing so we train her to inhibit her sexuality every time she has a natural thought that is in any way sexual she feels the guilt she has been taught and shuts it down over and over and is thus trained then on her wedding night she finds it difficult to respond normally. I’ve read many comments describing this on the Mormon blogs. But modesty can be healthily taught and modeled without using guilt and without making YW responsible for the choices and actions of YM.

  • Howard June 18, 2011, 12:42 pm

    Sorry for the typos. Coats of sins should of course read coats of skins and normal for YM should read normal for YW to feel

  • Alison Moore Smith June 18, 2011, 3:09 pm

    I’m going to go out on a limb here. I was going to post a bit of what Howard did a couple of comments up.

    I do believe that modesty is a principle from God. But what constitutes modesty is extremely changeable (and thus, not doctrinal). If fact, my opinion (in raw form, I’ve never written this down or taken time to refine it) is that the church’s modesty standard is MOSTLY a standard that is simply a few notches more conservative that the culture at large.

    The clothing worn by our general female leader while attending General Conference would be considered outrageous and skanky by Brigham Young’s standard and by most of American society in his day.

    Today’s “modest” one-piece swim suits would have been incredibly offensive.

    What is (or is not) offensive (and even provocative) is almost always a function of how it compares to what else is around.

    Church schools have dress codes that prohibit “outrageous” styles. What are those? Merely things that are far enough outside the norm that they really stand out. It’s not a barometer on it’s own, only with the comparison intact.

    What is the “Lord’s standard” of modesty? To be honest, I do not think the general authorities pray and wait for God to appear on this issue (or, frankly, on very many issues). I think they use experience and common sense and restraint. I think they pray for guidance and live in tune with the spirit and do their best. But I don’t think that means that God himself has a huge issue with inch above the knew or inch below the knee — particularly given that the “Lord’s standard” 150 years ago was to the ankle.

  • Tracy Keeney June 18, 2011, 10:32 pm

    Well, now we’re talking about the difference between eternal law/doctrine and the WAY we practice things.
    I never said the standards for modest dress were “eternal doctrine”– if that were the case, we might all still be wearing prairie dresses— or long flowing robes with head coverings. The WAY we observe “modest dress” HAS changed over the years, but that doesn’t mean that the change wasn’t received by direction of the Holy Ghost. Lots of things within the gospel have changed over the years– and I’m confidant that the changes were inspired by God.
    I quoted an apostle who said that modesty was “a gospel prinicple”, and that modern prophets and apostles have given us the standard for HOW to live the principle.
    In the letter from the First Presidency in the FTSOY pamphlet, it says ” Because the Lord loves you, He has given you commandments and the words of prophets to guide you on your journey. Some of the most important guidelines for your life are found in this pamphlet. We testify that these principles are true.”
    I leave it up to either of you or anyone else wants to suggest that “the commandments and the words of the prophets” that they say are some of the most important and are contained in the pamphet are merely good counsel by wise men with a lot of experience and common sense, and that the Holy Ghost had absolutely nothing to do with it– that’s your prerogative.
    I’m done discussing this– I’m finding myself getting rather irritated and that’s not good for either of us. Besides that, I’m just going to keep saying the same thing as are you and we’re not getting anywhere. Maybe others will chime in and keep the discussing going.

  • Howard June 18, 2011, 11:47 pm

    Well now we’re getting somewhere there is merely good counsel by wise men, there is also inspiration delivered through the good counsel of wise men and there is revelation from the Prophet a sitting president of the church although not much of that has been apparent since the D&C was published save OD1 & Od2 . “I’m confidant that the changes were inspired by God.” So am I but is this revelation? Does it constitute the Lord’s standard? No this is inspired counsel and advise.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 19, 2011, 12:03 am

    That’s fine, Tracy. But I honestly don’t think the prophet or apostles fasted and prayed over how many earrings to “allow.” I really don’t.

    I think President Hinckley et. al. noticed the massive earring thing and that it seemed “extreme” and thought it was a good thing to speak out about. I also assume they had received myriad questions about it (from a bunch of people, like me, who don’t assume a roomful of 80 year old men will be worrying about piercings). And I think they said something like this (in a meeting that had begun with a prayer and was attended by some pretty darn decent folks), “The piercings that I hear about seem kind of extreme. Back in my day, only loose girls had their ears pierced [I took that line from my mom, born in 1925]. But these days most everyone does. But I’d say one pair of earrings is enough. No need to have more.” And some other guy said, “Sounds good to me.”

    I don’t think they stopped and waited for a lightening bolt or even a burning bosom. I think it made sense and they moved on. And I think that there’s a pretty good chance that if they’d said TWO pairs of earrings instead of one (or thrown in a limit on rings, or necklaces or length of bright red, bedazzled fingernails) God wouldn’t have much cared. I think that UNLESS what common sense dictated to these men would have COUNTERED God’s plan, he wouldn’t have seen a need to intervene. And maybe not even then. (There’s at least one example I can think of that may apply there (that has nothing to do with who get’s the priesthood!), but I haven’t thought it out very well.)

    When President Hinckley was asked about why the men/women differences are the way they are, he just said, “I don’t know.” President Kimball said he prayer for years and years about the black/priesthood issue. Honest and truly, I just do not believe that most issues that aren’t extremely pressing are met with, “Let’s all pray until we get divine intervention.”

    I honestly, truly believe that most issues are dealt with by people who are doing their best to keep the commandments and live the gospel, who are praying regularly and try to listen to the spirit, and who use common sense, past experience, input from others, etc.

    The first time I sat in a ward counsel, I was blown away by the fact that people talked about issues and compromised and accommodated and worked things out. I couldn’t believe that they even bargained over particular callings. Obviously that meant someone who wanted Sister H must not have been praying to the right god!

    I know that sounds stupid, but I was young and somehow — without it ever being explicitly stated to me — I thought ward counsels (on up) consisted of a bunch of people praying in a circle and then coming immediately to the divine conclusion. They must all know that Sister H was to have calling A and Brother Q was to having calling B. What else could inspired people conclude?

    And I believe most things in the church are run that way. You try to live right and you make decisions based on your experience and best understanding.

    Brigham Young said that when he prayed he’d tell God what he was going to do and he’d conclude with something akin to “and if you don’t tell me otherwise, I’ll assume you’re fine with that.”

    I think the same idea works a great deal of the time. I don’t have any kind of testimony that God demanded one-piece swimsuits and would have hated tankinis when I was a kid — an that now he loves them (even though the New Era explicitly says that some two-pieces are more modest than one and they are OK).

    Tracy, don’t misunderstand. I do follow the explicit counsel given and so do my kids. I removed three of my five piercings when President Hinckley said to. But it’s not because I think he had a vision from God about earring count. It’s because I believe the counsel we get is sound and that following counsel, as a matter of course, is good policy.

  • Diane June 21, 2011, 10:38 am

    ‘I enjoy being a girl!’ from Flower Drum Song.

  • momma7 June 30, 2011, 11:18 am

    This is my take on the issue: My kids have been raised/are being raised with parents who wear their garments. They know what parts of the body are and are not covered. They know the rule- if it can’t cover garments, it’s not modest.

    Granted, they are not wearing them though. So if the shorts come right to the middle of the upper leg or a bit lower, then that is fine with me. They know shorty-short shorts aren’t appropriate, but longer length shorts are. Old Navy just had all their demin bermuda shorts on sale for 60% off. You betcha we were there getting some. And while my daughter’s prom dress was modest, it wasn’t something that could have been worn with garments. But it was super modest, and she was the ONLY girl there who had a modest dress on, and numerous parents/teachers at the prom went to her date’s mom later telling her that my daughter was the most beautiful one there because she was modest in dress.

    And again- as for swimsuits. Have y’all read page 34 in the March 2011 New Era. Pretty much sums up the way I feel about swimsuits. (The immodest 2 piece that my daughter has is for backyard only so she can get an even tan- teenagers! LOL)

  • Erica September 15, 2011, 1:48 am

    If showing off a sexy body is what girls want, then they are going to be very miserable women. Life happens. Aging happens. I tell girls that they should want a husband who will still find them attractive as a wrinkly old lady. This means cultivating a good personality and not just trying to lure in the guy who wants some skin. You’re going to create some big problems for yourself if you can’t even manage to keep your own body parts a secret.

    The reality is that teenage girls just want to be liked and they want guys to want to hang out with them. If we can convince youth that they are liked by their peers for reasons other than sexiness and that they are truly fun to be around I believe modesty would improve.

  • Sandy April 24, 2012, 9:09 pm

    I love the dialogue on modesty. We may not all agree on exactly what is modest, or even how to teach it. But I think we can agree that it shows respect for ourselves, the Lord, and others when we are modest.

    I don’t think modesty equates to frumpiness. My website encourages teens to be beautiful, fashionable, and modest. Indeed it helps them find their own personal style.

    Why be modest? I feel better. I think I honor the Lord when I do. I think it shows respect for me and others.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this topic.

  • Anna Gibson October 9, 2012, 11:28 am

    I am a youth of the church. and modesty is important because when you are dressed modest you can focus and not worry what or who is hanging out. I try my best to be modest because when I am, I am that much closer to Heavenly Father and all his teachings. You cant just kinda be LDS or kinda be modest. Also, boys, you may think can control themselves but they really cant I’m sad to say; so yes a boy can become extreamly distracted when faced by any girl so can imagine how distracted they would be if they were confronted with an immodest girl?
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