Friday, May 04, 2012

THAT WORD

I have strong feelings on the subject of Mormons’ misguided love affair with the concept of “modesty” but I thought I’d just keep them to myself. I did a good job of it, too, until something was said in Relief Society that nearly set me seizing with silent rage. The discussion was about how and why to protect our children from the evils of the world, and one woman, a high school teacher, asserted that when her female students aren't dressed "modestly"  (ugh, that WORD) it “always reflects the fact that her parents are vulgar and promiscuous.” Her exact words.

I was seething. I should have spoken up, but I was honestly so stunned by what had been said that I just sat there under a black cloud in angry rumination. This touches on almost every single thing that I take issue with in church culture. The harsh, ignorant judgment of people who don’t share our religious ideals. The assumption that others –non-members!- should somehow comply to our standards (and if they don't they aren't good people). The fact that the discussion then lingered on what women should wear in order to reduce the lust they incite in men. Wrong, wrong, wrong. (Did you know that in areas where women wear the burqa, men sexualize their eyes?) And the use of UGH, THAT WORD “modesty.” Look it up in a dictionary – it has a whole lot more meaning than the definition the LDS culture exclusively attaches to it.

I can’t voice my thoughts on this subject as intelligently or eloquently as others have (see here especially, and don’t miss the comments; I love the emphasis on the other meanings of modesty that are so quickly overlooked in our measuring of inseams), but I am better-than-average at making lists and I have feelings – SO MANY FEELINGS – on the topic of the cultural LDS view on bodies, skin, and clothing, so here goes.

I will begin any discussion even remotely referencing bodies with 1) WE ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. Our bodies are not pornography. They are not inherently shameful or evil; they reflect divinity and glorify God. That is what I will teach my children, and if anyone gets in the way of that message I will mow them down.

2) Endowed members of the Church are the only people who have covenanted with God in the holy temple to wear garment-concealing clothing. Everyone else – non-members and unendowed LDS adults, teens and especially children – have not willingly vowed to God to wear the holy garment, and therefore are not constrained by any law in heaven to wear clothing that covers their shoulders to their knees.

My friend in our old Tucson ward had a similar experience to the one Tracy M. describes in the blog post I linked to above: She had been baptized as a child but was never a part of the culture. Her second week back at church after 14 years’ inactivity, multiple women pulled her aside and told her she wasn’t dressed “modestly.” What she’d been wearing was a perfectly respectful and demure sundress – something that wouldn’t have been out of place in any other church. When Chelsea, mortified, confided this to me I told her it was none of their business what she wore and that they had no right to judge her clothing against their personal dress code which was made by covenant. She would have figured out the cultural norm eventually, ladies. There was no need to make her feel even more out of place.

I will certainly encourage my teens to wear age-appropriate clothing that isn’t overtly revealing. But 3) what’s appropriate for a teen to wear and what’s appropriate for an endowed member of the church to wear are miles distant.

4) CHILDREN CANNOT BE “IMMODEST,” period. I distinctly remember playing in an outgrown nightgown as an 8 or 9 year old and my dad admonishing me for being immodest when my underwear inadvertently showed. I’ll never forget the burning embarrassment and that sudden feeling that I had done something shameful, and I will not fetter my own children with those same adult projections.

My sister Corinne, a member of the Primary presidency in her ward, is sort of my hero for refusing to teach the “modesty” lesson. She wasn’t going to stand in front of a room full of children and tell them to cover their shoulders for any reason other than protecting their fair skin from the sun’s rays. I’m not advocating triangle bikinis on little girls (because it’s a mature look, not because it would make them ‘immodest’), but the far extreme – dressing a toddler in garment-appropriate clothing for fear of a man gazing too long at her shoulders – THAT is sexualizing a child, and it’s flat-out wrong.

5) More clothes does not equal less suggestive! Extra fabric does not necessarily make something less revealing! If you don’t believe me, go take a gander at the swimwear that BYU-I mandates for all pool-goers. For the women, threadbare, unsupportive one-pieces that gap wide open in the front if the wearer is doing anything other than standing still and erect. And for the men (oh gosh, I should have taken pictures) - translucent, clingy shorts that suction unrelentingly to penises upon exiting the water and leave absolutely nothing to the invagination-excuse me- imagination. My husband would literally have been showing less if he were wearing a Speedo; me, a sporty tankini. SKIN is not the enemy.

I’ve included side-by-side photographic evidence to further this point. This isn't a statement on whether or not these looks are right or wrong (well, except for the frumpy flesh-colored t-shirt with two inch nipples stabbing through), I'm just reiterating that how suggestive an article of clothing is isn't directly proportionate to the amount of fabric that went into making it.



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Frankly, I don’t know the fix. Somehow our culture ran rampant with this idea that we can judge someone else’s works by the length of their sleeves and that a girl’s virtue is tied to her hemline; that the unendowed are obligated to follow the same dress standards others have willingly taken upon themselves by covenant in the holy temple, and that there’s something inappropriate about a child’s bare shoulders.

I unquestionably disagree.

72 comments:

  1. I read the Perverting Modesty post a few weeks ago, and this topic has been on my mind ever since. First of all, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said here.
    Here's another great post on the subject subject, if you haven't read it already - http://www.religionnews.com/blogs/jana-riess/the-mormon-modesty-police
    This line in particular really struck me... "Instead of combating the host culture’s disturbing emphasis on young girls’ bodies as contested sites of sexualization, Mormons are contributing to it." Yikes. We seriously need to reevaluate some things, us Mormons. I'm all for "practicing for the future now", but what are we REALLY teaching our children when we tell them sleeveless dresses are BAD.
    I don't know the fix to this either. People get so caught up in rules rules RULES! that we sometimes push aside the "spirit of the law", if you will, and miss the point entirely. The spirit of "modesty" got lost in our Mormon culture somewhere along the way...
    I don't know if this made any sense. I'm just blabbering now. I LIKE THIS POST. That's all ;)

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    1. Everyone read that article she mentioned. It's much less ranty than this post and says exactly what I wanted to say.

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  2. Corinne is in the Primary Presidency?!? I think everyone should spend some time in a European country in order to overcome any fears of the human body. They are far more open about the issue and seem to have a smaller problem with moral decay than we do.

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  3. You obviously have very strong opinions on this matter. I am sorry for whatever incidents you have had in your past to make "the word" such a sore spot for you. I think you have some valid points-- particularly with the comments people made to your friend retuning to church. People need to spend more time concerned with themselves instead of judging all the mis-steps everyone else may or may not be making. However, I disagree with the fact that children and teens should be able to wear whatever until.... I sincerely believe that "modestly" AKA having respect for your god-like body-- is a principle that should be practiced before the time comes that you are "required" to live it. Like all principles of faith, we gain a testimony by living the principle, and seeing the benefits result from that living. How can we expect our children to appreciate those commitments if they haven't put time into gaining a testimony of that principle? Just my thoughts.

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    1. I appreciate your point of view, but I think you missed my line, "I will certainly encourage my teens to wear age-appropriate clothing that isn’t overtly revealing." I'm all for dressing in a way that reflects your respect for your body.

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  4. Bravo! I remember as a teen getting dirty looks when I wore a sleeveless (but otherwise perfectly modest) top with a long skirt as part of a stake youth choir performance. It was summer in California, for crying out loud! I remember my mom coming home from a Women's Conference at BYU and suddenly wanting me to wear only knee-length shorts. My current shorts were fine, but they must have drilled the necessity of covering kneecaps into those poor women. I refused and ironically(because she would only agree to buy long ones)I ended up wearing the same shorts for the next season or two -- the shorts got shorter as I grew taller.

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  5. love this.
    i never - not even as a 9 or 10 year old breaking free from my mom's shopping habits and begging to make my own fashion decisions - thought to wear sleeveless things or short things or two piece things. i don't have any sisters, so i supposed my example was my mom - who wore things to her knees and over her shoulders and so the thought never crossed my mind.

    greater than her example of what to cover, though, was her example to avoid judgement, to welcome all and to accept differences in people. i grew up in san diego, where we as shoulder-covering mormons were the minority. my mom spent days and nights organizing multi-faith conferences and activities with leaders of other (big, big, BIG and small, small small) congregations and religions with the express purpose (as directed by the public affairs folks in salt lake)to combat all the rumors and oddities they'd heard about "the mormons". i shuddered when i read the line about the r.s. lady pulling the woman aside to address her "immodesty". so much for the "visitors welcome" sign on the church building, eh?

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    1. Well, well, well, Aubs*! Fancy "seeing" you here. I came here from pinterest (via Dani's* pins) to read the awful baby names and then this post caught my eye.*

      Thanks for your post, Jessie, you really make me think. I appreciate your candor.

      *Aubry is my cousin. Dani is my sister.

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    2. I too linked through from another blog to read the awful baby names.

      While here, however, can't refrain from asking as an innocent Canadian, doesn't the U.S. Constitution have an amendment confirming the right to bare arms? Or something like that.

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  6. Remember the time we went on a youth temple trip to do baptisms for the dead, and the (what is it? A jumper? Unitard?) clothes they gave me were so huge, baggy and "modest" that when I bent over all the boys could see down the front. Then weren't they talking about my boobs in church the next day or something? So there's the proof, even wearing a sack in the temple can give boys bad thoughts. We're all doomed.

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    1. Yes! As you squeezed off your legs after exiting the font, facing the Young Men as per instructions. Someone didn't think it through.

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    2. One of those boysMay 4, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      Exciting the font.

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  7. Yeah we were supposed to face towards the young men instead of turn away, to prevent them from seeing our butt crack through the see-through white wet material. You really can't win.

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    1. Another one of those boysMay 30, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      The way I see it, it's a win-win.

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  8. I agree with you completely.

    On two separate occasions I have had issues with the whole "modesty or die" mentality. I have come out of both situations feeling frustrated with how ignorant and judgmental some people are.... One of the times involved a teacher, point-blank, questioning my Mom about how she felt about me making the decision to wear sleeveless shirts and a two-piece bathing suit while in High School. (this was immediately after I had spoken up about the importance of not being too quick to judge the parents of girls (or the girls themselves for that matter) who are allowed to make their own clothing choices). I had wanted to make the point that I wore sleeveless shirts, two-piece swimsuits and shorter shorts before I was married in the temple, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my parents. They let ME make the choice. The teacher could not wrap her head around the fact that I wore all of the things she deemed "immodest" and did NOT end up a common prostitute in the end....it ticked me off. It is called A

    Then a couple months ago a VERY outspoken lady in my own ward went off about how little girls should NOT be allowed to wear dresses without sleeves to church. To quote her EXACT words, "I mean what are we teaching our little girls when we parade them around church in sleeveless dresses like little skanks?"

    I felt so mad, but I didn't speak up about my feelings cause I didn't want to straight-up bust a cap on her ass in the middle of the lesson. KIDDING.

    I have a hard-time not glaring at her every Sunday though.

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  9. Like it or not. Modesty is a commandment to all members of the church. And the church is either true or it isn't. You either follow commandments or you don't. It isn't a situation where you can pick and chose which commandments fit into your life. We believe the church is true; therefore we follow commandments whether we fully understand or not. It is that faith that we need to strengthen. That is how we're tested. Everyone can make their own choices when it comes to this issue. But the church has made it clear. That's all I need to know.
    Btw, being a Mom with young children; with all the sexual predators out there, existing or potential, you can believe that I don't want my young children, even toddler girls going out in something revealing.

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    1. Agreed. You aren't inactive in church until the day of baptism and then decide to go to church. You prepare yodels for baptism. And your baptismal covenants... One is to keep his commandments. it's about preparation. You can't run a marathon if you haven't physically prepared, and you can't make covenants in the temple without spiritually preparing. Part of that is following the commandments, a big part. It's not necessary to wear things that are immodest. Your beauty isn't dependent on the clothes you wear. Being immodest does not make a woman more beautiful. There of no reason to be immodest unless you're really that insecure in yourself and think you have to wear those clothes to get attention. And if you think that, I feel sorry for you.

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    2. I find this a strange fixation, this notion that we prepare youth (yodels!) for the temple by what they WEAR. We don't prepare our young men for missions by dressing them in shirts and ties from birth.

      The slight change in dress standard, for me, was the absolute least transformative part of the endowment.

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    3. To the two "Anonymous-ers". Can I just point out that 1. It IS possible for Children/Youth to wear clothing not garment-appropriate (tank tops, shorts above the knee) AND have them still be modest. There is nothing about the shoulder or knee that is so horrendously sexual. And 2. There is nowhere in my knowledge where that our children have been commanded to not wear tank tops, shorts, two-pieces, etc. If you really chose to see this as so black and white, than I just might have to chose to see you as a simple-minded Pharisee.

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    4. I absolutely second Jessie's comment. The clothing change should be the least important part of going to the temple.

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    5. For Rebecca and anyone else out there who believes that "There is nowhere in my knowledge where that our children have been commanded to not wear tank tops, shorts, two-pieces, etc." May I please point you to the For the Strength of Youth, which comes from the First Presidency of the Church, which states, under "Dress and Appearance": "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." Some of this is up for interpretation, such as "extreme or inappropriately casual...clothing, hairstyle, and behavior", but it clearly states that shoulders, stomachs and thighs do indeed *need* to be covered. We need to prepare our children for making those steps to the temple. But I agree 100% that modesty is NOT limited to clothing, and it is our responsibility to teach our children that principle. BUT what we wear VERY MUCH signifies the way we feel about our bodies and the way we feel about our Father in Heaven. My daughter is five, and while I do not chastise her for doing flips in her jammies in front of the missionaries where her panties will show, I certainly whisper in her ear to try and make sure to keep her night gown down or to go put on some shorts. It is not our job to judge others, whether we think they are missing the point on modesty or over doing the clothing issue or whatever. It IS our job to do the best we can when teaching and raising our own children. And I can tell you will full confidence that when we pray about this somewhat simple subject Heavenly Father certainly guides us in what/how to teach our children.

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  10. Okay, there's an AMAZING ARTICLE about this very thing that I want to link, but I can't find it. Gimme like a day, and I'll send it your way.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I've been trying hard to let my anger about these kinds of things go, justified though it is, but sometimes I end up just feeling like I'm the only one in the world who sees things this way. I'm glad you do, too. I feel validated.

    Also, sometimes I pretend that we're friends in real life. Is that weird?

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  11. For the strength of the youth has very specific modesty guidelines. Don't agree with judgement of others, but I also don't agree with people differing with the prophets will citing their own righteous stance.

    However, I would wholeheartedly LOVE anyone who came to church, even if they looked like a hooker.

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    1. From the 2012 FTSOY:

      "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."

      I missed the part that talked about kneecaps. (Or armpits for that matter. Am I the only one that had to throw out perfectly 'modest' t-shirts because my garments came out the armpit?)

      There are also two paragraphs on avoiding pornography. If only we could gauge *that* with a measuring tape!

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  12. I agree wholeheartedly with this. Our eight-year-old niece told her baby cousin that she was immodest because she was wearing a sleeveless dress. A BABY. What are we teaching our kids?

    HOWEVER, I do think there are far too many young women who wear ridiculously short skirts to church and are not respecting the sanctity of the meeting. When it comes to church, I do think that parents should give their kids some guidance about what is appropriate. Just my opinion.

    And I can't believe that someone would take a sister aside who had been inactive and lecture her about modesty! No wonder so many people dislike Relief Society.

    And about the etymology of the word "modesty:" I had a professor at BYU-I who mentioned an experience that has stuck with me ever since. He ordered a sandwich at Subway, and the girl asked him if he wanted mustard. He said he wanted "a modest amount" -- and she covered his sandwich in it. It was funny and sad at the same time that this girl had no idea that modesty meant more than covering up.

    OK, the end. I like your blog and, like Liz-a-nator (whom I don't know personally, either) above, I pretend we're friends in real life. :)

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    1. YES! Please respect the sanctity of the meeting! I agree with most of what you're saying, Jessie, but I have a hard time when a small handful of girls in my singles branch show up at Sacrament meeting wearing skirts short enough that their bums are nearly showing, and low-cut, tight tops that show entirely too much of their boobies. I mean, wear that at home if you must, but...ugh. My heart goes out to the fellas in my branch who happen to look their way. Because, as you said, modesty/immodesty is more than what you wear, yes? This may sound judgmental, and I don't mean for it to be, but I can tell that some of these girls are wearing skimpy clothing for the very purpose of catching the boys' attention. And it just hurts my heart that it's happening when these same fellas are taking the Sacrament to renew their covenants (baptismal and Temple). My heart goes out to the guys, mostly. Because, I'm sorry, but bums and boobs hanging out are going to be distracting to any man...maybe most especially to those who are passing the sacrament? Anyway...I'm the relief society president of my branch, and sometimes this becomes an issue (when it's happening at church).

      Anyway...I'm kinda getting ranty about this, too, and it's not that I disagree with the gist of what you're saying; we, as disciples of Christ, ought to be looking beyond what people are wearing and loving them without judgment. (Totally mortified that so many ladies shamed your friend about her sundress when they should've been putting their arms around her and welcoming her back to church!)

      I'm certain that I sound a bit...off. My main concern is, as Lindsay said, to respect the sanctity of the meeting.

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    2. Dear Relief Society President (congratulations, by the way),
      I don't think Jessica is encouraging girls to show, as you say, their "boobies". People (parents in particular) need to mind their own business (children) and no one else's. I will tell my daughters they should wear a skirt long enough that they feel comfortable sitting down in it, and their shirt should be high enough and long enough that they're not always tugging at it to cover themselves up. No specific lengths will be pinned up on our bulletin board, and I won't make them do the tip-of-the-fingers test with shorts.
      As for your singles ward friends, just compliment them on being well-endowed, and if they don't get the hint, then just turn the other way. And don't feel too sorry for the boys in the branch; a great deal of them probably have issues with pornography and can get all the immodesty they want whenever they want. These girls are trying to get the wrong kind of attention, and they'll attract a guy you likely don't want to be involved with anyway.

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  13. Oh man, I loved this post. Particularly the part about those who judge those who aren't part of our church and don't understand that they are not obligated to hold our standards... I think this transcends past the modesty issue as well in so many ways. I grew up in a very Mormon-populated area, and was baptized when I was 18. Still, I am amazed that I opened my heart to it because prior to looking into the church, I saw Mormons as a very judgemental, righteous people unfortunately due to some bad examples that I had met. Obviously now I know that although the Church is true, its people are not perfect.

    I stumbled upon this article a few weeks ago and it stuck with me... it's more about chastity, but similar points are made: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=8666

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    1. After reading that link I just sent you maybe it isn't so similar to this post... but still a good read?

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    2. Wow, thanks so much for sharing. There are definitely ties into what I'm saying here. EVERYONE READ IT.

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  14. Jessie, I have to admit something kind of crazy. I saw a link to this blog on Facebook because of the crazy names (btw, I have nieces named Anistyn, Cambri, Vallen, and Ayden --all girls). ANYWAY, I just read your whole entire blog from start to finish in 3 days! Also, I totally agree with this post. I was an extremely modest person growing up--even more modest than my mom wanted me to be! She would try to get me to wear tighter dresses, etc, but I really really didn't want to be one of those "bad" girls who dressed immodestly. Looking back, I see that I really did judge those poor girls in my ward by the way they dressed...I feel pretty terrible about it now. Why do we teach our girls to be this way?

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  15. I didn't even know the "rule" was a one-piece or die until recently. I wear tankinis that cover more and are way cuter than a lot of one pieces.

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    1. I don't remember the last time I wore a one-piece. I have a long enough torso that if I did, I would be flashing WAY more cleavage than I ever do in a much more modest two-piece tankini. Its the spirit, not the letter.

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  16. I love your posts and some of the crazy comments the bring in :) Miss you.

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  17. Jessie,
    this post was great! I just wanted to add to Kristine's comment about the chastity article, here is a great great podcast on LDS Female sexuality: http://mormonstories.org/214-216-lds-female-sexuality-with-dr-jennifer-finlayson-fife/

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  18. I stumbled onto your blog by accident, unfortunately, and never post on blogs, but alas, I will today. A sad representation of the Mormon beliefs. And from a Mormon. And for the pictures you posted on comparing which is modest and which is not..... they are ALL immodest.

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    1. What's really sad is when people don't get the point of things.

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    2. Ugh, this doesn't even deserve a reply from me, but I can't stop myself. Are you saying that Mormons believe 1) We are NOT made in the image of God, 2)Non-members and youth ARE constrained by the same laws of heaven as the endowed, 3) teens are going to hell if they wear a skirt four inches above their kneecap, 4) children are little vessels of shame, and 5) the word modesty applies only to the amount of fabric you're wearing? If so, I think we belong to different churches.... :\

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  19. Jessie, all I can add is amen, amen and AMEN!

    I especially like the line:

    1) WE ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. Our bodies are not pornography. They are not inherently shameful or evil; they reflect divinity and glorify God. That is what I will teach my children, and if anyone gets in the way of that message I will mow them down.

    I WILL MOW THEM DOWN. Yep. I'll be right behind you, sister. And thanks for the link and shout-out. I clicked your link from FB not at all expecting to see my post mentioned.

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  20. Oh I'm sorry Jessie - "suction unrelentingly to penises" cant...stop...picturing, smiling, laughing. You made my day

    Right right right, your modesty post. Let's face it, I'm going to hell anyway for thinking unpure thoughts 24/7, so might as well dress immodestly while I'm at it.

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  21. While I appreciate the concern that some of you have about the issue of modesty, I think you are ALL missing a much bigger point. It's the elephant in the living room that no one wants to admit is there. I think the concern over modesty is largely coming from a different issue. Our society, including our church, has huge problems with pornography. By pornography I do not mean a short skirt or a shirt without sleeves, but graphic, obscene, sexual scenes that are available with the simple click of a button. Men, in particular, but many women as well, are addicted to the easy access to disgusting, vile, material. (Google a "golden shower", or youtube "women on women" if you need proof.) No one can admit when it's a problem in their home. It would betray family members to tell friends/family about a porn addiction. This porn addiction has ruined families I know personally with infidelity, abuse, and even jail as a consequence of the addiction. At least a drug addict can be "caught" or monitored with a simple blood test. But the betrayal and pain that a porn addict causes is hard to "catch" or monitor. I don't mean to be disrespectful to any of you who have time to worry/stew about the modesty issue, but many people who feel strongly about modesty may have experience the pain and humiliation of a loved one with a porn addiction. It may not be fair to associate the two things together, but when you are going through the pain of porn addiction, you try to do what you can. Someone may not be able to tell their Relief society sisters that their husband/son views horrible images of women, but they can tell other sisters to be modest. It may not make sense, but I think most of you who have commented are either ignorant of how bad this problem can be in a family or are else naive to where your family members are going on the computer. Even if you block internet from your child's iPod, they can still trick you into letting them download an "innocent" application that will (unknown to you) let them get on any site they want on the internet. Histories can easily be erased by a spouse. So while it's fun to re-hash the modesty issue, there may be a lot more to this issue than you want to see. Many more people are in the trenches painfully dealing with pornography issues than you would ever believe. The thing that is hardest about this addiction is that you suffer quietly and cannot tell anyone why. So, next time you hear someone pretty upset over the issue of short skirts of sleeveless shirt, realize that there may be more to the story, and please cut them a little slack. I'm sure I will get blasted over this comment, but what I say is true from personal experience.

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    1. Are you saying it's okay for a woman who's husband is dealing with a porn addiction to alienate investigators and inactive members? Or are you just saying it might be a contributing factor to why it happens?

      I'll pass on your Google suggestions :\

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    2. In Defense of CleanlinessMay 11, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      This is a primitive defense mechanism known as Displacement. Coupled with Denial, it can make people seem quite ignorant and outspoken on the topic of modesty in RS discussions. It is a delicate topic to be sure, but only points out the ease as which one can call out a short skirt as opposed to the admission of addiction. I must also protest that a 'golden shower' is, in and of itself, completely harmless.

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    3. This is the kind of argument that really gets my blood boiling. You're saying that someone's sleeveless shirt is to blame for someone else's porn addiction?? Better steer clear of Disneyland! (or anything outdoors March-October) How about we preach about ccontrolling our thoughts and taking responsibility for our own actions? And maybe don't watch/listen to/participate in things that suggest inappropriate sexual behavior?
      I'm all for modesty (it's the hottest!), and correct me if I'm wrong Jessie, but I'm sure you are as well. (I know you are because i READ this post. I don't think everyone here did.) I'm afraid anonymous... and others... have missed your point ENTIRELY. Whatever, I have to stop now before I start swearing.
      Ps shoulders are not pornography. A mother breast feeding is not pornography. Our bodies are not pornography (don't go crazy - I'm not suggesting we all walk around nude). Pornography is the depiction of sexual acts. Just just wanted to throw that thought out there.

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    4. Men and women will access pornography whether people are dressed modestly or not. Do not blame the those who dress immodestly for this prevalent problem. Also, you can't say it's an elephant in the room that no one wants to admit exists when every General Conference Priesthood session has at least one talk about it, and other articles are published in Church magazines in between conferences.
      And thanks for the Google searches. I don't see how those were pertinent here.

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  22. Why was my post taken off?

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    1. It wasn't, it just ended up in my spam filter.

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  23. Oh Jiassie. Great post. I whole-heartedly agree with your views. The comments are priceless. I was laughing outloud. OH MY GOSH. I can't wait to google those perverted things like that kind woman suggested. WHO SAYS THAT?! and they were very specific. We don't need your creepy abominable suggestions, lady.
    Loved your pictures too. "They were ALL immodest..." And Annie's comment? Bahahahhaaaaack. Oh people, so stewpid.

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  24. PS I want that one-peice.

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  25. I had kicked my porn addiction until I googled "golden showers." thanks a lot, lady.

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  26. Just stumbled on to your blog, and I love this post so. much. I am all for teaching modesty and the guidelines set forth by the church, but I hate how much people care about what others around them are wearing. Lets teach each other the correct principles and then it is between each person and the Lord how they apply them.

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  27. Ahh! So true! The young women in our ward were not allowed to sit in the front row at the temple for baptisms if their skirts were knee length. Just in case the men in the font looked up! People are so absurd...

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  28. How did I miss this post? It is awesome. Well said and Amen. I cannot stop laughing at Anonymous' google suggestions. WTH?

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  29. I have been wearing a knee brace, which keeps my knee straight by having a plastic and metal brace that covers me from ankle to mid thigh. None of my longer dresses or longer skirts work well with it. I have to use a cane too, which tends to get caught up in longer skirts. After trying a longer skirt my first Sunday, with the cane and brace, and falling right after sacrament meeting, in front of most of the ward, I decided I needed another plan.

    Since this is not a permanent situation, I haven't felt the need to go out and buy new clothes. So, my compromise was/is to wear grey leggings that go down to my ankle, with my leg brace over it and a shorter dress, that I usually wear with one of my long skirts under it. (I usually don't wear the long skirt-shorter dress combination unless it is that time of the month or I am feeling bloated.) So, the "short dress" comes almost too my knees, and while it rides up a little when I sit down, it doesn't do it a lot. And remember, I have full fledged winter leggings on both legs, underneath my brace.

    Since this is really the only outfit that works in my current situation, I just make sure it gets washed during the week and have it ready to go on Sunday, hoping I am having a good enough day that I can actually go, at least to sacrament meeting. Apparently the modesty police were able to tolerate this terrible situation for the first two Sundays I wore the outfit, but by the third time, their indignation was boiling over.

    I had four women come up to me that week to say something. Two asked me why I was setting such a bad example for my 10 year-old daughters, one asked me if I realized that the length of my dress was unacceptable, the last one was at least tactful enough to ask me if I wanted to borrow some of her daughter's dresses "until I could afford to buy something more appropriate."

    I wanted to ask them if they had noticed that I had a huge leg brace on, was standing only with a cane and that the pained look on my face came not from embarrassment about being immodest, but because I was actually in pain. Instead I politely explained that since my stretch pants were covering my entire legs, that really only my throat, the lower half of my arms and my hands were showing, and that I didn't think I needed to borrow any clothes. (At the time that offer was made all four of them were standing around me.) After declining their offer, they all stormed off to Sunday School, and I went home with my head pounding, as well as my knee hurting.

    The story mostly ends there, except with the humorous part that came two weeks later when my visiting teachers and two members of the RS presidency came to help me get caught up on some of the things it is hard to do with only one hand (since the cane is taking up the other).

    None of the four women who came to help me thought that there was a problem with my "outfit" but it had been mentioned in the RS lesson, which was about setting a good example. My outfit was remarked on by one of the "infamous four." She advocated that the whole RS could help me be more modest by making sure they were setting a better example for me. The RS president as well as about half the women in the class said that they thought that there was nothing wrong with how I was dressed.

    As the RS president was telling me the story, while I was sorting things and the other women were putting them away, we all had a good laugh. I am sorry to say we really were laughing at, not with the modesty police. :-)

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    1. That is absurd. Please oh please tell me that at least one of the modesty police was wearing a tank top with a t-shirt underneath, which is the exact same thing as wearing a short skirt with leggings underneath. There's all this discussion about if leggings under an otherwise "immodest" skirt is appropriate, yet The Modest Tank Top is so prolific in Mormon culture.

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    2. None of the four of them were, but lots of women do that in our ward. I admit I tend to wear tank tops with lace in the front if I feel a neckline is a little low., but I don't think wearing a tank top over a tshirt is very flattering.

      One of the modesty police was wearing a unflatteringly tight top, but I think it being so tight was more from weight gain than trying to have it be tight.

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    3. Okay, I hope this is the last additional craziness to my Modesty Police episode. One of my newish friends in our ward (we have lived here about a year) got an email from one of the Modesty Police. Apparently even the Modesty Police (or someone they know) loves you too Jen!

      Basically the email asked "my friend" to please talk to me because I was not only "advocating immodesty," but was also "gossiping about ward members," some of whom have leadership callings, and I am totally out of line. The person is hoping that "my friend," being five years older than me, but not as old as the modesty police, will be able to bring me back from the brink of apostasy.

      "My friend" is one of my favorite people in our new ward. We both have an appreciation for dead pan humor and see sarcasm, as long as it isn't done to publicly shame someone, as an art form. She sent me a copy of her email back to "Sister Modesty Police.". I have left several things out that pertain to ward activities or have names of other people and projects that don't relate directly to this. (I just left in the good stuff. I also am leaving out real names.)

      Dear Sister Modesty Police,

      Thank you for sending me the post by (my name) that you found on the web. Isn't it great that she thought out her choices so well? I am so glad you brought this to my attention. I have been following her blog, and I realized that her post today means she probably had a medical procedure done today, and she may need some help.

      I am going to call (my name) and see if it would help if a couple of us came up sometime over this three day weekend. Can I count on you to help out if I arrange a time? Are there any other sisters that are in ward that share OUR concern for "my name?"

      I really do appreciate your time and energy in contacting me. It just occurred to me that while I have emailed with "my name," I don't think she has been at church in two weeks. I hope her conditions aren't getting worse. I just called to put her name on the temple prayer roll.

      I am not sure that the posts this month are worrying for apostasy. I actually really enjoyed the poem, Oops, ( poetrysansonions.blogspot.com) as well as quite a few of her other poems. If you have time to read more of her blog posts, maybe you can help me come up with ideas and insights that could help both of us get to know "my name" better.

      Thanks for reminding me that we all need to be good friends with all members of out ward, especially those who are having specific trials. (Who of us isn't struggling right?)

      I will let you know if I can set up a time for this weekend.

      "My friend"

      Thank goodness for friends who get my sense of humor! Thank you Heavenly Father, for such a wonderful friend. Thank you Jen for starting the conversation. And thank you, my husband, for getting me ice packs, over and over and over!

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  30. Bravo.

    Modesty is 99.9% about what's on the inside.

    Also? FTSOY (2012) says NOTHING about sleeves. Only shoulders.

    P.S. On the bright side? You're totally going to have a new crop of readers who are currently searching for golden showers and will end up here. Welcome, everyone!

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  31. Your point is well made, but I respectfully disagree with you.

    Point one: WE ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. Our bodies are not pornography.

    Yes we are made in the image of God, but we don’t have the same mental discipline as he does. The only reason we wear clothes at all is because of the emotions it can stir in us can be lustful and consequently sinful. And as Jesus says in Mathew 5: 28, But I say unto you, That whosoever alooketh on a bwoman to clust after her hath committed dadultery with her already in his heart. God saw Adam and Eve in the garden naked. Did he sin? No. Because his mind is in an elevated state, where he can do no sin. We are in a different state, however.

    Nakedness is not inheritably evil (if it was, God would have sinned in the Garden of Eden when he saw Adam and Eve), but the lusting is, and immodestly can lead to lusting. Nakedness is not inherently evil; I don’t think any church leader would claim that. The very reason we are modest is because, as you said (our bodies) “reflect the divinity and glory of god…” Our bodies are not shameful, but they are sacred. Don’t cast your pearls before swine.

    Your second point: Endowed members of the Church are the only people who have covenanted with God in the holy temple to wear garment-concealing clothing.

    This is certainly an interesting point. Question: If someone did not make a covenant with god, does that mean that they won’t get the blessings for living the law of god? For example, if a non-Mormon pays tithing, even though they did not covenant to do so or even if they paid tithing to a different church—would they still get the blessings from heaven? The answer is yes. The laws of god directly correlate with the blessings of heaven. Even if someone has not made a covenant, they will still reap the blessings of living it.

    The blessings are many and include, but not limited to, another individual treating your child for who they are—and not how sexy their clothes are. Yes, people that have not made that covenant are not bound by it, but it does not mean that can’t receive blessings for living it.

    As far as your friend goes in the church, I would like you to propose another situation: What if she walked around church for X amount of time wearing immodest clothing and no one told her. I am sure those sisters that talked to her did it with the upmost respect—if they didn’t the sin is upon them—but I can’t see the harm in sisters talking to a new sister (in the most respectful way) and telling her that her dress is a little immodest. For example, if I have a chunk of food on my face, I would rather have someone tell me it is there rather than let me go through countless conversations with it clinging on for dear life.

    Your third point is answered by my second. See above.

    Your forth point: CHILDREN CANNOT BE “IMMODEST,” period.

    Unfortunately, we live in an evil world where children are regularly exploited for their sexuality, aka child porn, child brides, and children sex slaves. Do you think child porn contains children that are dressed immodestly or dressed like the Amish? If you think that children cannot be immodest, I disagree. This evil world has made even that possible. This point, I think, is again largely addressed in my second point. Let your children receive the blessings of modesty. Apart from that, preparing for the temple is much larger than just spiritual preparation. I have a cousin that only went to the temple once because she could not adjust to the idea of garments. Why make the transition from normal clothes to garments right before you go to the temple?

    Your fifth point: More clothes does not equal less suggestive!

    I AGREE WITH THIS POINT 100%. I think people too often people live the letter of the law and not the purpose of the law. Thank you for your excellent examples below.

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    1. Yes yes yes. Thank you for your eloquent response. I agree with you on all counts.

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    2. "The only reason we wear clothes at all is because of the emotions it can stir in us can be lustful and consequently sinful."

      Who was it that told Adam and Eve they were naked and should be ashamed? (Hint: It wasn't God)

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  32. Very well said Julia. I especially like your second point. Why deny the blessings for your children?

    If you really believe this is the true church, then you will also believe everything that it teaches (that is, the ideas and principle that come from the prophets) is something that will gives us more joy. It is called the plan of "happiness" for a reason; if you follow the plan, it leads to happiness. It is not called the "plan of following restrictive rules so you can be miserable in this life".

    One of the points the author makes is that children should not be forced to be modest--because that is not a covenant they have not made. Jesus himself says the best way to gain a testimony is to live the principle and reap the blessings (John 7:17). Why wait to let your children gain a testimony of modesty until they are weeks before the temple? Usually the blessings begin when you begin living the principles.

    And, as a man that works in a very...how should I put this...natural man environment, I can tell you first hand that when a girl dresses immodestly, she becomes an object of lust among men. I am not saying all men, but the men of the world. Some of my co-workers target girls that are specifically dressed immodestly because they appear to be easier than other women. Women would be amazed how men talk about women at my work.

    Now I am sure someone is going to say that there is a big difference between wearing short sleeves versus a mini skit and a low tank top. To that person I would ask, if short sleeves is so innocent, what is the motivation for wearing it in the first place? Because its cute? Cute is not the word my co-workers would use to describe it at my work.

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    1. This comment really bothered me. What's the motivation for wearing short sleeves? Because it's hot outside, and I don't feel like wearing a burka. Here's the point you are missing, modesty is NOT about how you are perceived by other people. I don't care what your coworkers think about me, that is between them and God. To say otherwise is to blame me for their bad actions/thoughts. Modesty is about my relationship with God, about ME respecting his creation, which is my body.

      When it comes to kids, especially teenagers, I absolutely believe that you should not force them to wear modest clothes. What you should do, teach them the principle, then let them make the choice. Point out the consequences, my personal favorite is being unable to feel the spirit at church because you are too busy pulling down your skirt. The prophet Joseph said, "I teach them correct principle and let them govern themselves". I think that is fantastic parenting advice for parents of teenagers (and yes, I have one).

      But one thing I will NOT teach them is that they are responsible for protecting young men from lustful thoughts. That goes against everything we are taught about free agency, taking responsibility for our choices, repentance, and the Atonement.

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    2. Except the way your daughters dress will alter the way they are treated. It may not be their job to guard young men's thoughts, but it is their job to set a first impression and decide how all their interactions with men will be colored. To believe otherwise is naiveté.

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  33. So I totally linked to this post in my blog and you asked what the 1% was with which I didn't agree - bahahahaha. I really agree with everything you said but I know that there are some ser-i-ous-ly conservative mormon ladies who follow my blog that would read this post and think I'm totally scandalous. Saying that I agree with you 99% leaves me some comfortable scandal-less breathing room so I don't come off as a TOTAL heathen, just mostly a heathen ; ).

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  34. Why do you think it is so important to show more skin? Judging others is wrong; Jesus made that quite clear. So as an adult and a Christian you should be able to turn the other cheek when judged, no matter how inappropriately. But it seems to me your fighting against more than inappropriate judgements; you seem to want the standards to change so we can show more skin. Why? Why would revealing more be better.
    We were created in the image of God and our bodies are sacred and should be respected. A major part of respecting our divine bodies is not using our bodies for our own gain and gratification. That's part of the problem with promiscuity, you're using your body for pleasure and ignoring its sacred function. So the real question is why do you want to wear less clothing? To look pretty by the world's standards, to follow current trends, to be comfortable, to get attention? It all comes down to a selfish use of your body.

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    1. Huh?

      This is getting ridiculous. I think some people aren't even reading the original post.

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  35. Sarah Lucy, I have 2 points I need to disagree with you on.

    Your info graphic is wrong. The right-side is more suggestive. Just saying as a hetero male, you've got it backwards: more skin is more suggestive. The top left picture may be more attractive, but the top right one is easier to fantasize about and is more provocative.

    Second, kids can be immodest. No, grown men (hopefully) won't be looking at them lustfully, but I promise you little boys do. They're taught at a young age to pretend they're older, and that usually means fantasizing about women. I remember a blog post by an inner-city teacher explaining the 10 year-old boys in her class were looking up the girls shirts-not because they'd hit puberty, but because they'd already been taught that's what teenagers do. I remember having to say no to porn when I was 8 years old.

    So yeah, little girls should be taught the standards in a purer, less judgemental way, but they need to know them. Even if they don't understand why all the cute girl clothes they want are low-cut and sleeveless, it still sends a message to the little boys, and to the little girls as well-that those are the kinds of clothes that are cute. I can't say this with experience from a girl's point of view, but I've found things you were taught by society when you were 6, such as clothing choices and tastes, can be hard to change when you grow up- especially when most little boys talk endlessly about how awesome you'll look in that shirt once you grow boobs.

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    1. Yes your comments on skin-tight stuff at the pool is right, I'm just talking about the info-graphic.

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  36. Non-mormon here. I understand if you don't want to publish this comment: it's weird, and it might make you feel weird. But I ran across this entry by accident and I've always needed to tell this story.

    I "dated" a Mormon girl in college (I didn't know that Mormon dating was 1) non-exclusive and 2) not going to become exclusive with people like me who weren't going to convert). She was very observant, wore temple clothes, modest skirts and dresses, slips, etc. Her temple president (is that a real term? Some kind of elder, I can't remember) had told her that no matter what she did with boys, she should stay on her feet; lying down was a highway to bad behavior. So we made out standing up, which from my perspective, whatever.

    The weird part (and the dirty part) was that these rules were the /only/ rules. So when we were making out standing up, it was okay to do all sorts of things, and eventually we had full-on unprotected sex (and this was scary for me because it was the first time I'd ever HAD unprotected sex) while standing up, while she was half-wearing her temple garments, with her nice modest long skirt hiked up over her waist. And then afterwards it was like it had never really happened because it didn't 'count', and then after /that/ I found out that there had been other guys, some of whom she was still dating, and I chucked the whole relationship and went and got an HIV test (negative! Pshew.).

    The whole point is that modesty isn't worth shit. Information is worth something; wisdom is worth something. But the letter of the law isn't ever going to keep you out of trouble. The spirit of the law might, but it seems to me like the spirit of the law for Mormons is pretty harsh and kind of ridiculous, so maybe that's not an option.

    Also, the Adam guy that's directly above me is a super creepy dude. Just being honest.

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