Different Perspectives on Modesty

Payson Utah Temple. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
“Ye are the temple of God, and . . . the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” (1 Cor. 3:16)

I shared some of my feelings on modesty in a recent post. I’d like to follow up by highlighting other perspectives on the subject.

First of all, you can find the standard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on modesty in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet:

Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.

Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.

Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.

Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports. The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change. (From “Dress and Appearance“; emphasis added.)

These standards apply equally to boys and girls.

Four Powerful Perspectives

Robert D. Hales. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
Robert D. Hales

Elder Robert D. Hales shared his inspired thoughts in Modesty: Reverence for the Lord in the August 2008 Ensign. You can also listen to it here. I really like this quote from the article:

Modesty is at the center of being pure and chaste, both in thought and deed. Thus, because it guides and influences our thoughts, behavior, and decisions, modesty is at the core of our character. Our clothing is more than just covering for our bodies; it reflects who we are and what we want to be, both here in mortality and in the eternities that will follow. (Emphasis added.)

Carol F. McConkie. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
Carol F. McConkie

Carol McConkie gave a powerful talk at the BYU Women’s Conference in 2013. It appeared in the Ensign in October 2014 as “The Courage to Choose Modesty.” I loved this part:

As we have covenanted to follow the Savior and desire to receive the fulness of the blessings of His Atonement in our lives, there is really only one outfit that matters. Moroni records, “Awake, and arise from the dust, … yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; … that the covenants of the Eternal Father … may be fulfilled” (Moroni 10:31; emphasis added). The beautiful garments are the robes of righteousness, worn by those who have kept their covenants. Are we preparing our children to put on these beautiful garments?

A well thought out article on the subject was posted recently on the Mormon Women Stand blog called “Modesty: Everyone’s Responsibility.” The article emphasized not judging others:

We are all imperfect and in need of repentance over our own weaknesses. Yet, we each carry the responsibility to help one another overcome the problems we face. Kindness, tact, and setting a good example toward others’ choices will go much further than harsh words of judgment.

Last year, I read this thought-provoking post that grew out of a conversation between a husband and a wife about some pretty young joggers. “Countenance Not Cleavage” appears on Colossal Thought. Here’s a key point that spoke to me:

I think it was a hot day when my husband noticed the lightly clad young women out running. So, practical reasons might have inspired their running attire that afternoon.  We will never know. What I do know, is that he remembered it. It was significant enough for him to share what he’d seen. It had a subtle effect on both of us. Let me emphasize this point, it affected us. (Emphasis added.)

The four articles and blog posts I’ve cited here all do a better job than I have on the subject. I highly recommend reading them.

 A Stumbling Block to the Weak

Some wonder if or how our choices affect others. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth about their freedom to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. To illustrate a point, I’ll apply Paul’s reasoning to those who knowingly and intentionally dress immodestly.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, [dressing immodestly], won’t that person be emboldened to [dress immodestly]? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I [wear] causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never [dress immodestly] again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (NIV 1 Corinthians 8:9–13.)

Your choices do influence others. No one is locked into neutral. Let me share again a thought from For the Strength of Youth:

When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act. (Emphasis added.) 

It’s Hard to Unhook

I’ll mention one last resource, a book: Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting our Children. If you want to protect your children from the world in the last days, it helps to have the reasons why you want to protect them. For many kids, “because I said so,” or “because the scriptures say so,” or even “because the prophet said so,” is not good enough. They want the big picture and the whole story. They yearn for it.

This book gives countless and powerful reasons to do all we can to protect our children and grandchildren from premature sexual involvement. One huge issue it covers: it is very difficult to emotionally unhook from past hookups.

You’ll be glad you read this book. Knowledge and understanding is a potent form of protection. Pass it on.

The Greatest Charity

Finally, I can never say this enough, so I’ll say it again. My purpose is not to judge or to blame. In my mind, such errors carry as heavy of a burden as the errors they decry. I admire these wise words from Marvin J. Ashton:

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

2 thoughts on “Different Perspectives on Modesty

  1. Tyler Smith June 9, 2015 / 8:26 pm

    Great treatment of a topic that has become a sensitive one in our day. I think you do a good job of teaching true principles and respecting everyone's agency to make their own choices. That is always scary business!


  2. Michael James Fitzgerald June 10, 2015 / 12:04 am

    Thank you, Tyler. I appreciate you chiming in with your support. I've felt compelled to write about this topic. Modesty is a castle wall.


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