A Few Thoughts on Modesty

Courtesy LDS Media Library

I’d like to share a few musings about modest dress. First of all, let me share a definition of the word modesty. The first meaning of the word, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities.” I am writing mostly about the second meaning: “the quality of behaving and especially dressing in ways that do not attract sexual attention.”

Modest dress, by the way, applies to both men and women, though this post is addressed to women. I am not, as some might think, “putting something on women.” Try as I may, though, you do influence me, but if that influence comes across to me as negative, I’m not blaming you for it, or for my choices. I need to learn to act independent of the influence of others.

I want to start out by saying you can wear or not wear whatever you want. Your choices are your own. You’re free to choose. God has given you that right. And what you choose does not cause another to make a choice. Our choices influence others, but they don’t force them to make good or bad choices. In other words, I cannot blame my good or bad choices on another, nor can you.

You’re certainly not accountable to me, but you are accountable, to someone. And I am not judging you or blaming you. Seriously, I am not writing this to judge or condemn anyone.

The human body, both female and male, is truly amazing. It’s beautiful, miraculous, complex, and divine—a gift from God. So when I see a woman who is dressed immodestly—and I mean immodestly as in wearing intentionally revealing clothes—I often feel a little sad and sick inside, though I’m not entirely sure why.

You might say, “You don’t have to look at me then.” You’re right. I don’t. And I’ll do my best not to. But sometimes it’s difficult to not get a glimpse of what I don’t want to see. That’s probably my issue, but I don’t know where the balance is between my agency and your agency. Yes, I am responsible for my own thoughts and feelings and actions. You don’t cause them. You do have some influence, however.

Maybe you are dressing this way because you feel more comfortable wearing less clothes in the warmer months. Maybe you want to look and feel cute or in style. Maybe you are making clothes choices innocently, maybe not. I don’t know and I am not judging you. All I know is that, intentional or not, your choice has an influence on me that I must consciously consider. That’s not your fault but it is my reality. I feel sad and somewhat repulsed when you show me way too much of your body. And I don’t think I am alone in my feelings.

Jesus warned men not to look at women to lust after them. It is not always easy for men to obey that counsel. We are visually oriented and have microwavable hormones. It takes determination and practice to live this commandment. Let me ask this, then: is it okay with you to intentionally and knowingly dress in a way that makes it more difficult for someone else to follow Jesus, or is it all just someone else’s problem? Where is the line between you and me? I don’t know. I am asking this question because I don’t have the answer.

Is it your intention that I notice you and give you my attention? Well, maybe not my attention, but the attention of men who you find attractive. I can understand that. We humans not only want attention: it’s essential for our survival. Maybe you’re seeking validation. We all need that too. But there is a better way to get attention and validation than by intentionally exposing your body to others.

I don’t know your real motives. How can I? But I feel a need to explore my own feelings so I can understand them.

I think I feel sad because I feel you’ve forgotten or set aside who you really are and where and to Whom you belong. Maybe you think your body only belongs to you. Of course it belongs to you, but I think it’s more on loan to you, to see what you’ll do with it. You did not create it and you cannot stop it from dying. Someone greater than all of us has ultimate power over it.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; emphasis added.)

Let’s say you have a boyfriend or a husband. Do you think he feels good about you showing so much of your body to anyone that happens to see you? Does that create trust for you in him, the only real cement that glues people together?

Would you like it if your husband or future husband stared at women who dressed immodestly? That would probably make you feel sad and a little sick. Why would you do the same thing to someone else’s husband or future husband?

Young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you. —Dallin H. Oaks

I’m not trying to judge you or condemn you or hurt you. I’d just like to understand you, your motives, and your intentions because it will help me understand myself.

I can’t really tell, but you seem proud of your body. I think it’s important that we feel good about our bodies and take care of them, but, honestly, I wonder if you are trying to make other women feel jealous of you, like there is some sort of secret competition for attention going on.

I don’t know that for sure. How can I? That’s why I am asking. But you won’t tell me, so I have to guess. But that’s a form of judging. That’s why I’m confused. Those feelings are all I’m left with, though I don’t know why entirely.

Where envying . . . is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:16.)

I would like to make a confession. I do notice when women and girls consciously dress modestly. I admire them for it, especially in this day and age. And I know I am joined by other like-minded women and men in this appreciation.

I am impressed by what feels like self-respect. Sometimes you are persecuted for making this choice, so I feel your intention and strength. I also feel more confident and safe in your presence, less on guard and less vulnerable. I feel like you are not asking me for my eyes: you are asking me for my trust and respect. You’ve got it.

And thank you for not asking me for something that I can’t give you. You have found what you need for yourself, independent of any other person. And you are sending out the message that you know who you are.

I am grateful for you, more than I can say.

P.S. I hope I have made my intention clear. It has been an exploration of unanswered questions. Once again, whatever we choose does not cause another to choose. But our intentions and choices do influence others, for good or ill, and for those intentions and choices, we are accountable to God. I believe that the tender influence of genuine and good women, other than the influence of God Himself, is the greatest force for good in the universe.

Second Coming: The Disintegration of the Family

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Almost 20 years ago, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” President Hinckley shared it for the first time at a general Relief Society meeting on September 23, 1995. He gave it as part of a talk entitled, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the Devil.” Before he read the proclamation publicly, he introduced it with these words:

With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.

To me the most chilling sentence in the document is near the end: “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

How has the traditional family held up in recent years? Here are a few telling indicators. I’ll let you judge and draw your own conclusions about these statistics.

  • In 2013, more than 41 percent of births in the United States were to unmarried women. The number was 5 percent in 1960. The following analyses of this trend comes from the Child Trends data bank and cites 15 studies:

    Children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to grow up in a single-parent household, experience instable living arrangements, live in poverty, and have socio-emotional problems. . . . As these children reach adolescence, they are more likely to have low educational attainment, engage in sex at a younger age, and have a birth outside of marriage. . . .  As young adults, children born outside of marriage are more likely to be idle (neither in school nor employed), have lower occupational status and income, and have more troubled marriages and more divorces than those born to married parents. . . .

  • Between 1973 and 2011, some 53 million legal abortions took place in the United States. In 2011, 85.5 percent of abortions were performed for unmarried women.
  • In spite of some statistics to the contrary, divorce rates have not declined but continue to be high though these rates may have flattened because younger people tend to wait longer to get married and cohabitation is now commonplace. 
  • Last fall (2014), the marriage rate reached a 93-year low with a rate of 50.3 percent for Americans ages 18 and older (this rate includes same-sex couples). The highest marriage rate occurred in 1960 when it reached 72.2 percent. 
  • A synopsis of the book The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (The National Academies Press, 2014) states:
  • The rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. Just under one-quarter of the world’s prisoners are held in American prisons. The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly 1 out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is 5 to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies. The U.S. prison population is largely drawn from the most disadvantaged part of the nation’s population: mostly men under age 40, disproportionately minority, and poorly educated. Prisoners often carry additional deficits of drug and alcohol addictions, mental and physical illnesses, and lack of work preparation or experience.

  • Between 2007 and 2014, a Pew Research report shows that those claiming to be unaffiliated with any religion grew from 16.1 to 22.8 percent, an increase of 6.7 percent, while Catholics and evangelical and mainline Protestants declined in numbers. 

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ asked, “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (see Matthew 7:16). In other words, “Can you pluck sweet fruit from noxious weeds?” The answer is, of course, no. Weeds prosper when the garden is neglected, and many families in the early 21st century are withering.

Stable families are the foundation of a stable society. Without strong, united families, society will unravel. I believe that, though much of society may unravel, many traditional families from all walks of life will remain intact and strong until the Savior appears, and that those families will be a means of spiritual and physical survival for many who are standing on the earth on that great and dreadful day. 

Paul’s Vision on the Road of Damascus

Courtesy LDS Media Library

There are three accounts of the apostle Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus in the Bible. They are all given in the Acts of the Apostles, in chapters 9, 22, and 26. Each account provides unique details.

The account in chapter 9 is a third person account and the versions in Acts 22 and 26 are given by Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus.

Here is a comparison of those accounts from Slideshare. You can also view another version of it here.

Are Mormons Brainwashed?

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryIf you’re a Latter-day Saint, have you ever been accused of being brainwashed? This is just one of the labels that have been slapped on us to dismiss us and our beliefs.

When I was first learning about the Church, this and other labels were quickly attached to me: stupid, idiot, dupe, brainwashed, cultist, etc. Even as a teenager, I realized that these were cheap Post-it Note knockoffs—the kind that don’t stick very well.

The psychologist Albert Bandura proposes four ways people are manipulated to disassociate them from their consciences:

  1. Offer moral justification
  2. Minimize the consequences
  3. Dehumanize the victims
  4. Displace responsibility 
These common human behaviors lead to social marginalization, or worse, persecution, and much, much worse, genocide. It’s ugly business. Really ugly. Labeling others is one of the first steps in falling in with these behaviors. Labels like brainwashed fit pretty well with number 3.

I wasn’t raised in the Church and I have written in other posts about my conversion experience. I was not programmed, tricked, deceived, misled, or otherwise manipulated into joining the Mormon Church. My experience was quite the opposite. The people around me were clamoring for me to go the other direction. If there was any “programming,” it was anti-Mormon.

I studied the Church, its scriptures, its history and doctrine, extensively, independently and alone, under lamplight in my room. I also studied anti-Mormon literature. For months, I researched all sides of the argument.

I read or heard most of the claims against Mormonism. They did not move me. They rang false. They were ripe with jealousy and contradiction. They were what I have come to call “the Chevy report on Ford.” In fact, these claims nauseated me.

No one cajoled me to make the choices I have made. I made them on my own under the tender guidance of a loving Heavenly Father. I felt and followed His Holy Spirit. I was led by a gentle, still, small voice. The love and power of God enveloped me. I acted of my own free will and conscience, under the guidance of that power.

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. . . . (1 Thessalonians 1:5.)

I chose to join the Church though I was cast out, threatened, persecuted, belittled, shamed, and berated by family and former friends. I listened to them but I didn’t believe them. I tried to not throw gasoline on their fire. It was their fire, not mine. I was singed by it, but not burned. 
I had seen a light and power, and I knew that the truth was in that light. I have walked in it my entire adult life. I hope and pray I will have the strength to endure to the end.
As time has passed, my study has broadened and my conviction has only grown deeper. I know that “Mormonism” is true. Label me as you will, here I stand. 

3 Reasons Why You Don’t Read the Scriptures

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryWe know that reading and studying the scriptures is fundamental to living the gospel. A previous bishop of ours used to call the scriptures “love letters from God.” So why on earth don’t we read them more consistently? It should be a non-negotiable for a disciple of Christ.

Here are three common reasons I’ve heard—and given myself—over the years for not reading scriptures regularly, followed by three solutions for getting them to be part of your daily life.

1. I Don’t Have Time to Read the Scriptures

If you catch yourself saying that you don’t have time to read the scriptures, think for a moment what you do have time to do. Do you have time to watch television, play golf, crochet, scrapbook, scroll Facebook, go clothes shopping, or fill in the blank? Of course you have time for those things because you really like to do them.

Try this: Set a goal, starting today, to read just one verse. How long will that take you? It will take 10 to 20 seconds tops. That’s it. Open them up and read only one verse. Then tomorrow, read two verses. The next day, read three. If you keep this up for a week, adding just one verse per day, you’ll find momentum and you likely won’t be able to stop. You’ll get engaged and curious and just keep reading.

2. I Don’t Understand the Scriptures

This is one reason I’ve heard a lot and felt myself. It can be discouraging, I know, to read and not understand what you are reading. It’s not very motivating. But there is a simple solution, though it takes some effort.

Try this: Remember when Nephi asked his older brothers if they understood the scriptures? What was his advice? “If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask [the Lord] in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping [His] commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:11; emphasis added.) Ask the Lord as you read a passage, “What does this mean?” then reread it several times. Then wait for an hour, or a day, or a month. Wait in faith and listen. The Lord is true to His word. He will not neglect a righteous prayer, but He often waits for our respectful attention.

3. I Don’t Like Reading the Scriptures

This is the toughest of the three. If you don’t like reading the scriptures, it’s probably because there is something that isn’t right in your life. If that statement just made you feel defensive or angry, that’s an even stronger indicator that something is amiss.

Look, I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but if you don’t like reading the words of your Heavenly Father, there is a reason why. Or maybe the real reason is you don’t like reading the scriptures because you are not friends with them. You aren’t well acquainted.

Try this: If it is clear to you why you don’t feel like reading the scriptures, I’d suggest that you sit down with your bishop or branch president to discuss it. If it is not clear, get out a blank piece of paper and a pen and start writing, “I don’t like reading the scriptures because. . . .” This will help thoughts and feelings bubble up to the surface so you can discover and deal with them. Circle the sentences or phrases that resonate with you, then take action. Resolving smoldering issues will help you get back on track. Maybe I’ve oversimplified things, but those are the basic steps.

There are other reasons, to be sure, that you and I don’t read the scriptures, such as not making scripture reading a priority or simply forgetting to do it. But there are many positive reasons to try and change, not the least of which is this habit of reading the scriptures daily will save your spiritual neck. Believe me, we’ve got to get this one figured out if we want to survive the last days.

I’ll close with a bit of scripture-reading inspiration from the Psalms.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7–11.)

P.S. You might also enjoy this post: “Scripture Marking Success.”