What is wrong with…Modesty?

By: Jeff Spector
March 7, 2014

Victorian dressI have been thinking about all the complaints lately about various things in the LDS Church. Therefore, I thought I might tackle some of the stickier ones in the coming weeks. Subjects such as Male Priesthood, Simplified History, Traditional Marriage, Missionary Service, etc.

Today, in the wake of the brouhaha over Elder Tad R. Callister’s talk at BYU-I last year and the subsequent March 2014 Ensign Article, I’d thought I’d start with Modesty, always a hot topic.

So, there were a plethora of blogs and articles on the topic, some of them pointing out how wrong Elder Callister was from their perspective. Here are a few examples: (BTW, not all are totally negative)

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, “Moderating the Mormon Discourse on Modesty,” Exponent II, Winter 2014 (links to entire issue, with her article beginning on page 10)

Natasha Helfer Parker, “Morality? We Can Do Much Better than This . . .Mormon Therapist (blog), 15 Feb 2014

Jana Riess, “Especially For Young Mormon Men,” Flunking Sainthood (blog), 20 February 2014

Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects?Salt Lake Tribune, 28 February 2014

Becca A Moore, “Modest is Not Hottest,” The Life and Times of an Excessively Tall Mormon (blog), 15 February 2014

Mrs Hall, “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)Given Breath (blog), 3 September 2013

(Copied from the Mormon Matters website)

In addition, Mormon Matters just released a podcast, half of which discusses the very subject by Dan Wotherspoon, Natasha Helfer Parker and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.

I found myself agreeing with about 90% of what they were saying, but of course, there is that 10%…. I will get to that in a bit.

Modesty is not just about dress

In spite of what seems to be the over-emphasis on dress, especially female dress.

We are a conservative faith, with very strict standards of morality and conduct. We believe that this position is deeply rooted in scripture and the teachings of the Prophets.  The standards we teach and uphold are worldwide standards, in spite of culture. However, because we are an American-originated faith, exported to the world, there is apt to be some cultural proclivity imbedded in us. At least, that is some of the complaining you read and hear. Ironically, some will complain of a “Victorian” attitude in conduct and dress, even though “Victorian” is a turn of the century English standard. And, most English converts (about 30,000 of them) were already here in the US prior to the start of the Victorian era.

In my definition, modesty applies to thoughts, words, deeds, and appearance. It is a totality of all of it. Not just one thing or another. We would be no more accepting of a modestly dressed person using foul language while giving a Sacrament Meeting talk than we would a young woman in a halter-top or a young man in a tank top giving a talk. Yet, we have a tendency to focus on the outward appearance precisely because we can see it.

One of the complaints about Elder Callister’s talk/article is the phrase “In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.” I can understand their concern. It is really an incomplete thought, not necessarily untrue, but not complete.  In my mind, it should have said something like, “In the end, people usually end up marrying the types they associate with.” This more generalized statement is based on a number of factors, which may include dress, but applies equally to men and women. That makes more sense to me.

Women are NOT responsible for men’s thoughts or actions

This is one of the great fallacies continually taught in the Church, but negates a most important principle, agency. No one controls anyone else’s thoughts, regardless of the circumstances. Without a long-winded discussion from me, the bottom line is that men need to control their own thoughts and not blame women, no matter what attire they are wearing. Besides, speaking from experience, dress is not always the prime factor in those thoughts.

Here is a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, when he was BYU president. I found this on Becca Moore’s blog post, “Modest is Not Hottest:”

“I have heard all my life that it is the young woman who has to assume the responsibility for controlling the limits of intimacy in courtship because a young man cannot. What an unacceptable response to such a serious issue!

What kind of man is he? What priesthood or power or strength or self-control does this man have that lets him develop in society, grow to the age of mature accountability, perhaps even pursue a university education and prepare to affect the future of colleagues and kingdoms and the course of the world, but yet does not have the mental capacity or the moral will to say, I will not do that thing. No, this sorry drugstore psychology would have us say, He just can’t help himself. His glands have complete control over his life, his mind, his will, his entire future.

To say that a young woman in such a relationship has to bear her responsibility and that of the young man’s too is the least fair assertion I can imagine. In most instances if there is sexual transgression, I lay the burden squarely on the shoulders of the young man for our purposes probably a priesthood bearer and that’s where I believe God intended responsibility to be.

In saying that I do not excuse young women who exercise no restraint and have not the character or conviction to demand intimacy only in its rightful role. I have had enough experience in Church callings to know that women as well as men can be predatory. But I refuse to buy some young man’s feigned innocence who wants to sin and call it psychology.

Indeed, most tragically, it is the young woman who is most often the victim, it is the young woman who most often suffers the greater pain, it is the young woman who most often feels used and abused and terribly unclean. And for that imposed uncleanliness a man will pay, as surely as the sun sets and rivers run to the sea.” (Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments, BYU Devotional, 12 Jan 1988)

1988! This appears to be among the most enlightened thoughts on the subject and yet, we still hear the old rhetoric that the woman is to blame for men’s thoughts and she must use her dress to control them.

Culture is NOT an excuse

One of the most common excuses one hears about modest dress comes from in the form of different cultures have different standards; therefore, we should respect those standards.  Or that somehow, men, in particular outside of the US, where dress and nudity standards may be different, have a more accepting attitude than men, say in the US, who are not subject to those same standards. As an example from the Mormon Matters podcast, one of the women contrasted the reaction of a native Brazilian missionary to that of an American missionary when seeing scantily clad Brazilian women. The Brazilian missionary took it in stride while the American missionary struggled at the sight.

Having been to Brazil myself more than once, I saw a different scenario. The women and the men, wore next to nothing on the beach (but with private parts covered), regardless of body type. Upon leaving the beach, the men and the women took great pains to cover up in more modest clothing, the type you might see in any setting in a warm climate. Perhaps not as modest as a strict LDS standard, but covered up, far more than when they were on the beach. So frankly, I am not sure what the actual point of that story was.

However, if we are actually abiding by the Lord’s standard, then culture plays little to no role in that standard except as it is equivalent to the Lord’s standard. I’ll address some variations in the next section.

What is odd to me is some of the double standards that we see in the Church when it comes to dress. For example, the dress standards at BYU Idaho are different than BYU Provo ( no shorts/shorts) and I suspect different again at BYU Hawaii. Why is that? I won’t touch grooming standards in the Church, because that sets me off.

Context is everything, or is it?

You wouldn’t expect to see someone in a swimsuit at the Prom, nor see a young man in a tuxedo completing in a swim meet. So, context of dress is an important concept. But how do you draw the line, then?

No one would argue that a speedo swimsuit is appropriate clothing when completing at a swim meet. Yet, for both males and females, it leaves little to the imagination. But take the swimsuit out of that context, and it becomes somehow inappropriate. What the BYU women’s volleyball team wears during their games would get them kicked out of a YSA dance. The men too , for that matter. I have no real answer for that.

So, what does dress say about us?

So, if you are what you eat, then certainly, to some extent, you are what you wear. Clothing does speak something about you, whether intentional or not. In today’s society, less is usually more when it comes to clothing, though styles change from time to time. I can’t understand that if one were to dress comfortably that one would wear their pants so low that it is hard to walk in them and their butt or underwear must show. Or that one could wear a top that has them falling out of it. Or that someone would wear something tight that was quite unflattering for them.  To me, it is mainly about self-respect and what you are trying to say with your clothing. Sometimes, it is only that “hey, I am comfortable” or “the activity I am doing calls for this clothing.” In other cases, it is simply, “look at me,” or “check me out.”

But, I must re-state what I said above, no one gives anyone any thoughts through their clothing. Those are voluntary.

So, in closing, I restate my question, what is wrong with modesty especially when used in an appropriate manner to teach manners, self-respect, love of God and that our bodies are the temple they are intended to be?

45 Responses to What is wrong with…Modesty?

  1. Jettboy on March 7, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    I noticed that you didn’t give any links to opposing voices. Isn’t that interesting considering “liberals” are supposed to be more tolerant and open to such things.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  2. Jettboy on March 7, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Fine, I jumped the gun a bit. You do make some good points that I agree with that the other postings refuse to acknowledge. Clothing and self-presentation does matter if at least a part of the whole. A whore on the side of the road, for instance, dresses the way they do for a reason. Still, having a link or two opposing the other ones would give less of an impression (that is what this article is about after all) that you will simply be parroting them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  3. Jeff Spector on March 7, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    I am not part of the modesty “hysteresta.” So, no matter what I post, I have my own opinion, some of which I expressed in the post. I could have gone in a lot more detail, but the post was already long enough. Depending on the response, maybe a part 2 might be in order.

    But, I am not in the blame the females for male thoughts camp. And, unfortunately, that is still being taught in the Church. I’d rather see dress modesty taught as a measure of self-respect and respect for God.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  4. IDIAT on March 7, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Where is “blame the females for male thoughts” still being taught in church? Can you point me to a current manual or something officially promulgated by the church? My analogy to women’s dress and male thought has been this. An alcoholic is responsible for his own actions, yet I wouldn’t purposefully waive alcohol in front of him, nor take him/her to bars, etc. I’ve always taught the young men they are responsible for their thoughts, and to the young women I’ve said the same thing. But to both groups I say: wouldn’t it be Christlike if we helped each out by wearing, to the extent possible, clothing that doesn’t make the control of thoughts that much harder? You still have your agency to do what you want, but you might at least consider what your clothing communicates. Otherwise, we could all just walk around naked and say “not my problem — control your thoughts.”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  5. IDIAT on March 7, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    “In most instances if there is sexual transgression, I lay the burden squarely on the shoulders of the young man for our purposes probably a priesthood bearer and that’s where I believe God intended responsibility to be.” As an aside, note Elder Holland’s position that he places the major responsibility for sexual transgression on male priesthood holders. Although I read anecdotal comments from sisters where a Bishop/Stake President blamed them, my personal experience is like that of Elder Holland’s. If there is transgression, we treat the male priesthood holder much harsher because he is in fact a priesthood holder and held to a higher standard. I know this can be problematic in a number of ways, but according to Elder Holland, that is the way God intended it to be.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  6. Jeff Spector on March 7, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Well, here is a paragraph from elder Callister’s talk:

    “The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure. Elder Matthew Cowley once commented on the long flowing dresses of the Native American Indians—as I recall he said, “How beautiful—how modest—they leave everything to the imagination.”10 Men and women can dress sharp, they can be fashionable, yet they can also be modest. Women particularly can leave a lot to the imagination and in the process contribute to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  7. Jeff Spector on March 7, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Oh, BTW, as I pointed out in the post, Elder Holland’s talk was from 1988 and it appears he was and is the exception, not the rule.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  8. IDIAT on March 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Thanks for the references. It’s that word “contribute” that I think counters the position of people who claim the church teaches that women are to blame for men’s thoughts. I’ve never heard a church leader say to women: “if a guy reaches out and touches your breast it was obviously your fault for wearing clothes in such a way that it made him think you wanted him to touch your breasts.” Instead, leaders talk in terms of influencing others. I haven’t heard a leader say men/boys aren’t responsible for their own thoughts. That, to me, is self evident, along the same lines of “you can’t change anyone, they have to change themselves.” But, you can have an influence on them. Why do we have talks in sacrament and in general conference? Aren’t they to teach, exhort, and ultimately influence a person’s thoughts and behavior? Motivate them to change, to do? I view the brouha over modestly the same way. I think you can take just about anything anyone says and carry it to the extreme. I probably would have phrased things differently that Elder Callister, but it is much ado over nothing. As many times as I’ve read Callister’s quote, I do not get the notion that he is saying “women, you are to blame for men’s thoughts.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  9. IDIAT on March 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    Last analogy and I’ll bow out. Suppose a man tells his wife every day “you’re fat and ugly” and makes other such comments throughout the day. Wife gets depressed, does all sorts of things, thinks all sorts of things. When confronted, the husband says in defense: “I’m not responsible for her thoughts. My communication doesn’t have any bearing on what she thinks of herself. I ought to be able to say anything I want to her. What she thinks is her responsibility, not mine.” Isn’t that what people complaining about the modesty rhetoric are saying — that women ought to be able to wear (communicate) anything she wants because, after all, they’re not responsible for men’s thoughts?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  10. Jeff Spector on March 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Well, I think it is certainly implied. And I think, having been a YM adviser that not enough is said to the YM about their behavior. And judging from what the sisters are saying in many venues, they certainly felt that way.

    I just think thee is a more positive ay to spin the message and so much more about modesty than inciting men’s thoughts.

    Of course, having said that, that is precisely what Madison Avenue and Hollywood try to do.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  11. Howard on March 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Great post Jeff!

    I hear and see the phrase “the Lord’s standard” often applied to modesty in dress but I can find no scriptural or revealed support for it. Can you provide it?

    The 1988 Holland quote is interesting but an outlier. Unfortunately most of what passes for Mormon doctrine today is more folklore than God given. Not that most members actually care, as long as it sounds faith promoting or righteous the congregation will salute it!

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  12. EmJen on March 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    IDIAT: Sister Elaine s. Dalton said in last year’s YW leader training: “So it’s very important for us to continue to talk standards, to teach them, and to encourage them, young men and young women, to be guardians of virtue, their own virtue and others because there are so many who say ‘It is not a young women’s problem if a boy is doing something wrong. If she is immodest, it’s not her problem if the boy does something wrong.’ Well it is! We have to take responsibility for one another, we have to help one another.” http://www.lds.org/broadcasts/watch/young-women-auxiliary-training/2013/04?lang=eng&vid=2286754589001

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  13. el oso on March 7, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I do not think that Elder Holland’s quote is an outlier. It has been frequently repeated in official and semi-official ways ever since it was given. Other quotes cited are more recent and have been getting lots of play lately, but that does not diminish the quote from Elder Holland.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  14. Kristine A on March 7, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    “show it all of, it’s sexual” says the world
    “cover it all up, it’s sexual” says the church

    the definition of objectifying is to see others or yourself as an object. there are countless women who feel like their bodies are sexual objects when all you hear is to “cover it up” because a little glance here or there leads men to sin. you can still see and treat your body as a sex object even if you desperately cover it up for the sake of others.

    Now, this is not objectifying: “Women, dress modestly to honor your divinity, respect yourself, and to please God. Only think about pleasing Him, don’t consider anyone else when you are choosing what to wear. If God is happy with what you are wearing, why would you care about anyone else?”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  15. Howard on March 7, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Much of what’s wrong with modesty dress standards is that they are reduced to bright line rules instead of a principal that can be relatively applied to differing cultures and situations. In practice they become unhealthy when they are used to hold YW responsible for the thoughts and behavior of YM. This sends an unhealthy message to a YW to be hypervigilant about her dress and her sexual thoughts. If she is compliant she may learn to truncate or attinuate her sexual thoughts creating difficulty for her to release herself from this habit after marriage. There are many blog comments by women that testify to this problem. The church in it’s duality of good vs. evil lacks neauance in it’s miopic sin avoidance at any cost thinking and applies it with one black & white rule fits all simplicity. I don’t want my daughter to be parinoid about how she dresses or her sexual thoughts. We live in southern CA and the most immodest thing she owns is quite consertavily modest when worn there.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  16. jks on March 7, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    I dress modestly. I believe in it. The thing that is difficult as I raise my daughters is that it requires so much stress to find clothes that are modest. A guy goes into a store and buys clothes off the rack that affordable, that fit, are fashionable, and are modest. In fact, he can just grab something he likes and assume it will fit and be modest. Girls are not so lucky.

    One simple way to tell that this is a problem is that when my boys (age 5 and 14) outgrow their clothes their clothes are simply too small. When my girls outgrow their clothes (age 16 and 10) their clothes become immodest.

    As a parent I spend so much more time stressing about my girls clothes and no time stressing about my boys clothes. My boy currently has church pants that are too tight in the waist. Problem for him, but no stress for me. My girl has had dresses that are too short. My other girl has had skirts that are too tight. My boy has a shirt that is too big because I bought it too big on purpose last year. No problem, it just gaps at the neck a little. When my girl has a dress that is too big on top so it is long enough for her height she needs to wear a shirt under it because the neck would be too immodest.

    The amount of time and mental energy that a girl or woman has to spend covering up her body appropriately in our culture makes her very self-conscious and makes her treat her body like a sex object in an emotionally damaging way if she wants to be modest, or if she is the type to not obsess about her appearance because she cares more about what is inside herself then she’s going to have an imperfect wardrobe which means Mormon boys and men (and leaders) will treat her like she is evil.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 13

  17. Howard on March 7, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    The sexualizing of YW via. modesty talks and the displacement of responsibility from YM to YW drives feminist critism. The issue is awareness. It’s subtle enough that not everyone gets it (what’s the big deal?) but if these are truly “the Lord’s standard (hint, they aren’t) then given his perfection certainly he gets it so Christ is either chauvinist or there is something wrong here (again). I don’t think it’s intentional but I do think it’s pharisaically well intended and codefied. We’ve lost our way, no longer guided by thus saith the Lord revelation we are left with the well intended philosophies of men trade marked as “the Lord’s standard”. How do we know, the coorolation prophets or the Newsroom prophets tell us so.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  18. Handlewithcare on March 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of modesty, and that we are responsible as both men and women for the messages we communicate.
    That’s not what Elder Callister said however. He said that my daughters will get the partners that their dress deserves. He did not address that comment to my sons. My daighters are left feeling responsible for the behaviour of their dates. That can’t be right.
    I might also add that my son is dating an agnostic young women who dresses, to my eyes, in insufficient clothing to maintain modesty. She is a very accomplished girl. My son has, thus far, treated her with great respect and we have communicated to our son that we expect him to do so. It seems he is also able to exercise restraint.
    I hope the furore over Elder Callister’s talk will prompt him to reflect on what he has said. He mis-spoke, and I don’t think it’s anyone else’s responsibility to have to be his apologist.Time for us all to be as grown -up as my son is today.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  19. Rigel Hawthorne on March 7, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    I support the concept of modesty as well. Elder Callister’s comment was crass. It was below the dignity of someone holding the office of general authority.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  20. Nate on March 7, 2014 at 6:30 PM

    Elder Calister wrote: “The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.”

    He should have said “…has a powerful impact…ESPECIALLY in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.”

    Unlike the Gentiles, who rejoice when they see a beautiful scantily clad woman, saying, “I’d hit that!” and then walk away and forget the whole thing, the “pure” young man turns away in shame and burning lust, ignited by the Law, which has turned him into a sinner. As Paul said, before the Law I was free and could not sin. Then the Law came, and I died.

    The Gentiles do not sin when they see a scantily clad woman, but a young Mormon boy becomes a sinner when he sees her, because he desires her, and his desires have been pronounced unclean by the Law.

    The problem is not the woman, but the Law. The Law has set the body of the woman at odds with the body of the man. They desire naturally to come together, but it is forbidden. Even their desire has become sin.

    It reminds me of my favorite phrase from La Femme Nikita:

    “Il y a deux choses qui sont sans limite, la féminité et les moyens d’en abuser.”

    “There are two things that are without end: the femininity, and the means to abuse it.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  21. Carly Phillips on March 7, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    I have never had a problem with modesty, my mother taught it to me, my church leaders etc. I never was one to wear something which would make someone think something about me based on my dress alone, which was not so- which you cant always go on of course but you never have a second chance to make a first impression.When I got my endowments modesty was important to me even more- its embarassing to have your garments poke out and you should not roll them up. To me if you question what church leaders say, you need to question yourself. They dont speak what they do to force us in to burquas or even early saint dress. They say what they do because they see the world, they see what the world views as trendy, popular etc- and alot of its not pretty, not feminine but cheap,sends the wrong message which men and women do not need more of and not how the Lord wants his sons or daughters to present themselves, since we have to be in this world.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  22. Howard on March 7, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    They dont speak what they do to force us in to burquas… Please, how are garments NOT hair shirts?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  23. Jeff Spector on March 7, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    Thanks for all your comments. Let me make a few.

    I think that this thing about objectifying is pretty much psychobabble and if anyone is doing that it is Madison Avenue, Hollywood and the other so-called “entertainment” industries. Rather than protest and complain about the Church, I would suggest those efforts might be better spent in that direction where it has its import into every facet of our lives, like it or not.

    You’d have to live on a desert island to not be exposed to it.

    Howard, thanks for your usual obtuse, contrarian viewpoint. I have imagined that a game of tennis with you would be me hitting the ball over the net and you over the fence and then blaming the ball.

    If you actual read the post carefully, you might be closer to the actual discussion.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  24. Howard on March 7, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    Well Jeff if objectifying is psychobabble and only aproachable by Madison Avenue and Hollywood but not via. sexual repression I can see why you have trouble with my views. Talk about obtuse!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  25. Howard on March 8, 2014 at 12:24 AM

    Btw Jeff, were you able to track down sctiptual support for “the Lord’s standard” or is that just more Mormonbabble?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  26. Howard on March 8, 2014 at 7:24 AM

    Regarding “blaming the ball”. This phrase inplies displacing responsibility that is mine to another. After many years of work I can honestly say that this is not typically me or my default position. In addition, displacement of personal responsibility is one of the things I’m arguing against here, YW should not be held responsible for the thoughts and actions of YM. I do tend to be critical of a church which claims to be divinly guided. I hold the brethren past and present who are full time church employees to a higher standard because they claim to be prophets seers and revelators, can you name another orginazation that makes such a bold claim with a straight face? Neither Bush nor Obama are that openly arrogant! The problem is there tends to be little evidence of this in day-to-day practice, instead we see a somewhat backward status quo defending organization in a reactive position with regard to the world, hardly visionary! With few exceptions I am not typically very critical of local leaders who are simply a part of an all volunteer organization tightly controlled from the top.

    With regard to being a “contrarian”. You’re welcome! There is little bloggernacle market for so called “faithful” echo chambers – see Real Intent. They published twice a day in the beginning but now it’s more like twice a month, most topics receive fewer than 10 comments and most of those seem to be coming from the permas. Controversy and disagreement drive comments and readership.

    Regarding “obtuse”. Coming from you this sounds like a projection. objectifand by itself therebythe days you suffered a lot of dislikes attempting but repeadly failing to understand the subitlies of these arguments. You’ve come a long way since then and I have complemented you for the growth but discounting and dismissing objectification by calling it psychobabble shows there is still more for you to do.

    When someone is sexualized by society, by others or by an organization they are being objectified. I’m stating it this way, by using sexualize in place of objectify because I think it will be easier for you to see. If we dress our daughters sexually provocatively and verbably reenforce this bias in dress by referring to it sexually we are sexualizing her and by extension objectifying her by narrowing who she us to her sexuallity or sexual potential. The same is true when we overdress her in a berka and tell her it’s because OMG! men would not be able to control themselves if she were to ware a tank top. They are simply opposite sides if the same coin. LDS modest dress is not so extreem that it sexualized or objectifies but LDS modesty talks do cross the line by sexualizing women to fear men’s thoughts and actions and by extention to fear their own thoughts and actions. The problem is when this comes from the top it is picked up and copied in local congregations and the repetition of (wrong) indoctrination harms compliant girls who’s only sin was to blindly follow her LDS leaders. An organization that claims to be divinely guided by Christ himself would surely want to rid itself of even the appearance of harming the innocent, wouldn’t it?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  27. Howard on March 8, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    objectifand by itself therebythe days…
    Should read: I remember the days…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  28. Jeff Spector on March 8, 2014 at 9:17 AM


    “Btw Jeff, were you able to track down sctiptual support for “the Lord’s standard” or is that just more Mormonbabble?”

    I don’t have a ton of time today, but here is a few I found for you to dismiss:

    Gen. 3:7 (Moses 4:13) sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons
    Gen. 3:21 (Moses 4:27) God make coats of skins, and clothed them
    Philip. 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men
    1 Tim. 2:9 women adorn themselves in modest apparel
    Titus 2:5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home
    1 Pet. 3:3 let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting
    Jacob 2:13 lifted up in the pride … because of the costliness of your apparel
    D&C 42:40 let all thy garments be plain
    See also Isa. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:9; A of F 13.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  29. Howard on March 8, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Dismiss, well that’s the thing I don’t think they make the case the church is making today and how many of them are actually quoting the Lord? Am I expected to buy they wore animal skins with cap sleeves to their knees in the heat of summer to be modest? Does the church actually warn against costly apparel favoring plain apparel when the prophet says “Let’s go shopping” at the new church sponsored glitzy high end mall? So rather than tear apart your long shotgun list of s-t-r-e-a-t-c-h to fit scriptures why don’t you narrow it to support for the church’s use of the phrase “the Lord’s standard” as it has been applied to modesty in dress?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  30. Dax on March 8, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    True modesty is a great principle. It is NOT about hemlines and inches. The issue that arises even from teaching modesty in a “more healthy way” is that we draw lines in the sand that do not need to be drawn and then judge and shame those outward markers of righteousness”. Shoulders and knees become sexual body parts, even on babies and young children. Teach the principle and then leave people ALONE to decide for themselves what modesty means to them and them alone!! It is not defined in the scriptures as clothing inches. As a culture stop being terrified of anything sexual. We are in part sexual beings and that is not a sin, it is how god made us. We will have sexual thoughts and that’s ok…we are here to learn how to handle them appropriately. Instead teach members to see each other especially girls and women as real people not just some object of sexual temptation to be controlled.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  31. Kristine A on March 8, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    Unlike the Gentiles, who rejoice when they see a beautiful scantily clad woman, saying, “I’d hit that!” and then walk away and forget the whole thing, the “pure” young man turns away in shame and burning lust, ignited by the Law, which has turned him into a sinner. As Paul said, before the Law I was free and could not sin. Then the Law came, and I died.

    The Gentiles do not sin when they see a scantily clad woman, but a young Mormon boy becomes a sinner when he sees her, because he desires her, and his desires have been pronounced unclean by the Law.

    The problem is not the woman, but the Law. The Law has set the body of the woman at odds with the body of the man. They desire naturally to come together, but it is forbidden. Even their desire has become sin.

    Nate, repeat after me:

    “Arousal is not a sin. Arousal is not a sin. Arousal is not a sin. Arousal is not a sin…….”

    The biological hormonal reaction that God has given us and built into our bodies is NOT a sin. You cannot control arousal!! This is one of the most harmful messages the church culture teaches! That you involuntarily sin if something arouses you and you feel desire?? The only way to avoid that is to control others (through hemlines) and attempt to be asexual until after marriage. There is not one iota of sin that is attached to arousal in any way. I was walking out of the library one day and saw a guy drive up on a motorcycle, and let me tell you, apparently I have a thing for guys on motorcycles — who knew? I kept on walking and instead of entertaining any related thoughts, I purposely thought about making dinner that night.

    What you do next after arousal and those feelings and thoughts that lead thereafter, that is the test of the man and woman. And those thoughts are lust and sin.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  32. Geoff -A on March 9, 2014 at 4:17 AM

    Nate 20 Very much agree. In Australia perhaps 10% of women are dressed to Utah standards, and yet young men are not troubled.

    There is also the assertion that there is a relationship between a how modestly a woman dresses, and her self esteem, and also her relationship to God.

    Can someone please explain these please. I see this obcession as purely conservativeUtah culture being taught as if it is Gospel.

    Callisters talk inferred that this is the Lords standard -this must be coming very close to “taking the Lords name in vain”, if, as I believe it is purely culture, and nothing to do with the Lord. Certainly to include this harmful stuff is not the Lord way. If nothing it devalues the claim that anything is the Lords way.

    The rate of sexual assaults in Utah is the highest in the US, and higher than places like Australia, and the rate of teenage pregnancy is 3 times the rate in Aus. Not a good result for “the Lords way”.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  33. Geoff -A on March 9, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    The moral standard is universal in the church, but relating morality and dress are not always.

    I would be very surprised to hear a talk like this from Elder Uchtdorf, because the German culture does not make the connection between morality and modest dress. Most German villages have as one of the family meeting places a Spar. It contain, a pool, hot tub, sauna, cafe, and some even water slides. The point is that these ffamily activities are conducted in the nude.

    You could go with your teenage children, and meet the bishop there with his family. Utah culture, and others, to varying degrees relate modesty of dress to morality, but that is not necessarily a healthy or God given connection, an as Callister makes clear can be taken to damaging extremes.

    Since we have had these BYU organised youth activities in Aus the level of attention to modesty as an end in itself hasgone off the scale. Last Years YSA conference young women were excluded from water activities because the board shorts they had over their one piece swim suits did not cover their knees. Many of them took off the board shorts and went to the local beach where they were acceptable. This year this was reduced.

    I hope this Callister talk does not get repeated in Church.It would be good if the Ensign printed an apology or retraction, so it doesn’t become the new standard.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  34. […] it is… Well, watch the two videos here. If you’re female in the CoJCoL-dS, you are what you wear (and even outside the church you can’t just forget about it). And in response to the […]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  35. Hedgehog on March 9, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Just to add my voice, there’s nothing wrong with modesty. There’s an awful lot wrong with the way it is framed in much of LDS rhetoric, as has been pointed out on numerous blog posts.
    It is to do with attitude and bearing far more than it is to do with inches. To do with much more than the narrow confinement to dress.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  36. Jeff Spector on March 9, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    I think the modesty standard, as articulated through the Church is largely a result of some folks always asking the question, “What constitutes the standard?” And then having a standard put out. As I stated in original post, that standard is different in different parts of the Church, so is it really a standard? I am in the camp of “Teaching correct principles and allowing people to decide for themselves.” However, because some of our folks, largely younger tend to be more influenced by outside forces, you may have to establish some boundaries.

    There are those who will always push the boundaries in either direction, more liberal or more strict. That’s where you get keeping 4 year old out of sundresses when you have more than ample time to teach a different standard when it matters, if it ever really does.

    I do think that there is “the Lord’s Standard.” Perhaps it is more to the individual to demonstrate the outward appearance of the inward commitment.

    Oh, and lastly, as i said above, culture is no excuse.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  37. Howard on March 9, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    There may be a “Lord’s standard” but if the Lord hasn’t made it clear in scripture or revelation it is pretty arrogant to pretend to know what it is. This is folklore doctrine.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  38. Howard on March 9, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  39. Kristine A on March 10, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    sorry in advance for the long comment, taken from this blog:

    God says,
    •“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
    •”Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
    •”Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
    •”Flee sexual immorality.”
    •”I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

    That’s powerful, challenging, counter-cultural, life-changing stuff.

    We may worry that teaching modesty without a dress code is weak, that it won’t take, that our girls will be lawless wearers of tube tops and string bikinis. But in our reservations I see a lack of trust in the power of God’s Word.

    You see, teaching modesty isn’t about clothes. It’s about shaping hearts, about calling girls (and women) (and men) into a closer relationship with God, a relationship that will transform them into loving, submissive, selfless individuals full of joy and courage. As they learn to live with God, they’ll learn to turn every part of their lives over to God. They’ll learn that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Gal. 5:1) And they’ll learn how to be “as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from [their] heart[s].” (Eph. 6:6)

    When my daughters go to college, I don’t want them in a dressing room with a dress code in one hand and a ruler in the other. I don’t want them wondering whether their mother would approve.

    I want them to look in the mirror and see the truth. I want them to ask,
    •“Does this outfit flee sexual immorality?”
    •“Does this dress conform to the pattern of the world?”
    •“Does this shirt eclipse my inner self, the beauty of my gentle and quiet spirit?”
    •“Are these clothes appropriate for a woman professing godliness?”

    Those are good questions, God’s questions, and we discount them at great expense.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  40. Jeff Spector on March 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM


    I see absolutely nothing wrong with those thought in #39. The problem comes in when adults want rules. Rather than teach the spiritual intent, we acquire rules. It’s so much easier that way!

    I think God has acquiesced to the people’s desires if they were unwilling or able to meet God’s laws as given.

    Maybe, this is just one more weakness of the people to miss the spiritual intent and go for a defined set of rules.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  41. Howard on March 10, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    …adults want rules. In Moses absence Jews wanted a Golden Calf! Bright line rules are not Christian, we find them in the O.T. Jesus opposed Pharisaical rules and brought us principles instead, the beatitudes.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  42. Kristine A on March 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    with the rules, and we are looking beyond the mark

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  43. Jeff Spector on March 10, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    Than are the 10 commandments looking beyond the mark? Looking beyond the mark is generally associated with looking for a Messiah other than that role that Jesus fulfilled.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  44. Kristine A on March 10, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    “Focusing on the philosophies of men, pursuing “gospel hobbies” with excess zeal, and elevating rules over doctrine are ways we may look beyond the mark.”

    At the very least, we fall into the trap Paul described to the Corinthians: “For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6).

    Elder Quentin A Cook

    With these rules were are attempting to live the Jewish Sabbath without walking too many steps, using electricity, etc. When simple guidelines to live a principle become the ends instead of the means – that is looking beyond the mark. We are raising women to use rulers on the clothing to “check the box” of modesty, without truly living the doctrine of a modest heart.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  45. Jeff Spector on March 11, 2014 at 7:55 AM


    Thanks for providing those quotes. I tend to be sensitive to pointing fingers at Jews about their religious practice because for the most part people are trying their best to honor God in the way they were taught, the same as we do.

    But, there is some real irony in pointing the finger of “looking beyond the mark” given some of the unspoken rules, regulations and teachings of Mormonism.

    And while Elder Cook may speak about a modest heart, he and the other GA are presiding over a Church that does use a ruler to measure hemlines.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting


%d bloggers like this: