If your pants are too tight…

Dec 04, 12 If your pants are too tight…

Skinny Jeans! Party time!!

Recently in the news we got a little taste of a “Mormon moment” when on Valentine’s Day a male BYU student passed a note to a female student declaring that she was immodestly dressed and should think about how her appearance was affecting others. I’m sure he was just trying to do his duty as stated in the BYU Honor Code to “encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code”. Right? Well, she took a picture of the note he wrote along with a picture of what she was wearing at the time (you will love the floral print), and the story caught fire and even ended up on the home page of Yahoo. Why did it cause such a stir? Because there was nothing scandalous about her attire. At all.  Just months ago we had another “Mormon moment” at the BYUI testing center over skinny jeans (that weren’t really skinny jeans) where a testing center employee (an employed student) told a female student that she couldn’t take a test because her pants were too tight. Read about that one here. In both incidents it is important to point out that it wasn’t BYU imposing judgment, but students.

BUSTED! Oh wait, those aren’t skinny jeans… insert foot in mouth.

Let’s try to get a sense of where the complainants are coming from. First, the testing center flier posted in the testing center at BYUI: “If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight. If we can see the shape of your belly button, your top is too tight.” It goes on about “form fitting clothes” and blah, blah, blah (read the whole thing here). Toward the end you get to the really good stuff where they invite students to go home and pray about it and “recommit yourself to be a true disciple and abide by the Honor Code that defines your commitment to be a disciple” – a real gem there!

Next let’s look at the precious Valentine’s Day note from one BYU student to another:

You may want to consider that what you’re wearing has a negative effect on men (and women) around you. Many people come to this university because they feel safe, morally as well as physically, here. They expect others to abide by the Honor Code that we all agreed on. Please consider your commitment to the Honor Code (which you agreed to) when dressing each day. Thank you.

So according to both notes, we learn that a “true disciple” abides by the Honor Code and that not abiding by the honor code can have a negative effect on both men and women, morally as well as physically.

These are college-age students, mind you. I don’t think this type of thinking develops overnight. For Mormons, modesty and its importance are taught at a very young age. Growing up Mormon, I remember when the church first came out with the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet in the late 80s. These were guidelines that went over basic LDS principles for the youth of the church: education, entertainment, media, family, friends, agency, accountability, and dress and appearance. When it was first introduced it was focused on extensively during youth Sunday school classes, and still today it remains a focal point. LDS youth are taught:

The standards in this booklet will help you with the important choices you are making now and will yet make in the future…We promise that as you keep the covenants you have made and these standards…you will enjoy increasing happiness.

To focus on the segment of the pamphlet dealing with modesty (“Dress and Appearance”), I am going to insert the exact text from the pamphlet and interject some of my own thoughts and opinions, which will appear italicized and in parenthesis.

Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him. (So does not dressing “modestly” mean you don’t love Him as much? Are you not a disciple of Jesus if you’re not dressing modestly?)

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

Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. (What about BYU cheerleaders, the Cougarettes, the dancers at the church-owned Polynesian center, and my Ricks College P.E. issue shorts!) When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.

Ricks College Gym Approved!

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 really do have emotional scars from those Ricks College P.E. shorts and the very thin, sleeveless tops that showed my nipples, especially when it was cold in Rexburg. Wait, it’s always cold in Rexburg.) The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change.

Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.

Show respect for the Lord and yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities. This is especially important when attending sacrament services. Young men should dress with dignity when officiating in the ordinance of the sacrament.

If you are not sure what is appropriate to wear, study the words of the prophets, pray for guidance, and ask your parents or leaders for help. (Sound familiar? BYUI testing center?) Your dress and appearance now will help you prepare for the time when you will go to the temple to make sacred covenants with God. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”

Are you still with me? Okay, now let’s look at a few parts of the BYU Honor code. Hang in there…

As a matter of personal commitment, faculty, administration, staff, and students of Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University—Hawaii, Brigham Young University—Idaho, and LDS Business College seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will

Be honest
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Respect others
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

Dress and Grooming Standards

The dress and grooming of both men and women should always be modest, neat, and clean, consistent with the dignity adherent to representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any of its institutions of higher education.

Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church. Members of the BYU community commit themselves to observe the following standards, which reflect the direction of the Board of Trustees and the Church publication For the Strength of Youth. The Dress and Grooming Standards are as follows:


Not testing center material

A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.

A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles or colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.

Let’s go over some facts. You do make an impression by what you wear and what you do to your body. You dress differently for different occasions, and for some, the way you are dressed can modify your behavior. If you are not a rock star, celebrity, or athlete, that neck tattoo will not help you get hired for a high-paying job. That’s just the way life is.

The biggest beef I have with the Honor Code’s Dress and Grooming standards is that they create an atmosphere where a person will look at appearance as a requirement for who is and who is not a “true disciple of Christ”. This is wrong, very wrong. Hugh Nibley said this regarding the Honor Code:

The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism… the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.

Gospel Principles Chapter 39 states: “Our Heavenly Father wants us to keep our bodies covered so that we do not encourage improper thoughts in the minds of others”. It seems that in some ways, the more parts we cover, the more the covered parts becomes sexual! Here’s an example: I remember in the movie “Far and Away” when Nicole Kidman’s character’s ankle is exposed on their boat trip to America, Tom Cruise’s character gets mad at two men that stop to look at her ankles. That’s right…HER ANKLES!

Dallin H. Oaks speaking in General Conference in April 2005 said:

Finally, do not patronize pornography. Do not use your purchasing power to support moral degradation. And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.”

Elder Mark E. Petersen addressing Relief Society officers in 1962 said:

Do you know what tempts the boys to molest the girls today more than any other one thing?  It is the mode of dress of our girls… thus setting him [boys] on fire with an unholy desire.  When the boys are coming into their teens and reaching maturity, and such sights are placed before their eyes… can you blame them?

The Lord says we are to garnish our thoughts with virtue unceasingly.  Can a boy’s thoughts be garnished with virtue while he is looking at the plainly outlined form of a beautiful young woman?  Are the girls’ thoughts garnished with virtue when they wear revealing clothing? Mothers, unless you take a stand, your daughters will not take a stand.  You must set the requirements, you must make the decision.

So who carries the responsibility of controlling a man’s sexual drive – the covered, shapeless woman or the man? Are we trying to stop sexual urges or control them with these standards? Those urges are there and they are there for a reason. God created those urges so that a husband would “cleave unto his wife” that they might “multiply and replenish the earth”. It is natural and good to have those urges, but we have the power to control them as well. Does it make sense for a man to blame the woman for his lack of self-control? And at the same time, does it send the message to women that their bodies are something to be ashamed of? That their curves are bad or evil?

Are we teaching people to be victimized and to be victimizers? “Because I was wearing this dress he was forward with me”, or, “I couldn’t control myself when I saw her in that dress”.  This is a very dangerous way of thinking. It is out of line with everything I have been taught about accountability, choices, and consequences. If someone is to stand naked in front of you, do you still have a choice? Joseph of Egypt had a choice – he ran and got himself out.

Rabbi Dov Linzer says:

Rabbi Linzer

The Talmud tells the religious man, in effect: If you have a problem, you deal with it. It is the male gaze — the way men look at women — that needs to be desexualized, not women in public. The power to make sure men don’t see women as objects of sexual gratification lies within men’s — and only men’s — control.

Jewish tradition teaches men and women alike that they should be modest in their dress. But modesty is not defined by, or even primarily about, how much of one’s body is covered. It is about comportment and behavior.

One of my favorite quotes from Joseph Smith is found in the Articles of Faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” You are responsible for your decisions and actions. Don’t try to blame it on anyone else, including Adam or Eve for that matter!

I believe that in our culture we seek out the battle – carnal vs. spiritual. We tend to think that carnal pleasure subtracts from our spiritual endeavors:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever…”
“See that ye bridle all your passions”
“But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
“Watch your thoughts, words and deeds”

Although these scriptures are correct in their intention, we have interpreted them incorrectly in most cases and have applied them to modesty: “You need to cover up so my thoughts won’t get carried away!” We use scriptures like these to look down on sexuality, but what should be taught is that the body is beautiful and God-like and that our sexuality is a part of that. Having a body is necessary for progression.

So in regards to sexuality we are taught “no, no, no” throughout our youth, and then we get married and it’s “yes, yes, yes”. Well, some (I’m willing to guess that perhaps the majority) will interpret that as “bad, bad, bad,” and then “good, good, good.”

Negativity associated with our bodies creates negativity about sexuality, which creates anxiety. When we try to keep our kids away from sex we can easily paint a negative picture of sex. What methods are we using to teach them about sexuality and modesty? Wanting is bad? Pleasure is bad? Desire is bad? How do we create that bridge from shunning sexuality and then making it okay under the bonds of marriage? A lot of times guilt will be associated with feelings of desire even in marriage! Pleasure and desire are good and are gifts! We are that we might have joy! That capacity is God-given and good, and how we use it is what makes it even better.

To me, one problem with modesty lies in how it is taught. So how then should we as Mormons teach modesty? We should, in fact, teach that modesty and cleanliness are important

Found this on a blog… BYU keeping it real!

values that reflect personal dignity, respect, and confidence. From a very young age kids should be taught to love and respect themselves. And self-respect in return can be the key to successfully teaching about modesty and appearance. Kids should clearly understand that in all situations, not just modesty-related, they are responsible for their own actions and thoughts and nobody else’s. You cannot make someone else think or do something. We are our own free agents. I also think that we should teach our kids to love themselves just how they are, including physically. They should never feel bad about or be ashamed of their bodies, for any reason. Instead of teaching kids that sexuality is bad and shameful, we should teach that sexuality is natural and good in the proper context. Sexuality provides the opportunity to create a profound connection with someone, a deep and meaningful way to express your love to someone, and an unparalleled way of knowing someone and being known to someone. And most importantly, our children need to know that they are loved, regardless of their flaws.

Born and raised in Northern California, Paul received his education at Ricks College and BYU with a BA in Spanish, minor in PE Coaching. Paul served his LDS mission during the years 94-96 in Rosario, Argentina. He now runs a skate shop in Provo, UT. He's married and has 4 boys. He is currently inbetween callings ;).

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  1. Paul, well done. Well thought out and well worth the wait as you refined your arguments. I agree it is all in how modesty is taught – and how it is generally taught in our LDS culture is wrong. Modest dress should be done out of love for God and out of one’s own self respect. Specifically with women, heaping upon them the responsibility of controlling their own sexual desires as well as the desires of boys is just not right.

    I love how modesty with boys/men has mostly to do with grooming. At least BYU finally figured out that not wearing socks with shoes does not lead to passionate, carnal thoughts – which necessarily leads to illegitimate pregnancies.

    A couple of rhetorical questions. 1) Why does morality,within the context of Mormonism, almost exclusively mean sex? It is almost never about other moral issues: lying, stealing, etc. 2) I wonder if the BYU student who gave the note to the BYU coed suffers from scrupulosity? Scrupulosity is a form of OCD that manifests itself through religious and moral issues. I wonder if his compulsion was manifested in giving that girl the note. If so, he needs some psychological intervention; I am being serious. – Mike

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  2. Garrett /

    Well written piece. Mike, I’m surprised though that the wearing of shoes without socks does not create carnal feelings for you…I thought it did for everyone. I do agree that the focus needs to shift towards males learning to control their desires versus females being the cause of those desires within men.

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  3. m. rees /

    Couple of thoughts from a Human Resources professional. In most work places there is a dress code. In customer facing positions, most companies require their employees to dress a certain way. Why? Even in positions where employees don’t interact with the public there are generally dress standards enforced. Why? When interviewiing for a new job, serious applicants tend to dress in a certain way. As much as we are responsible for our own thoughts, how we dress can and does influence how others think about us. Research has also shown that how a person dresses can influece the person’s own behavior (part of the reason SouthWest Airlines had employees wear shorts as they reinforced the “fun” arilines).

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    • MIke,

      Thanks for not drinking the Barker KooI-aid and pushing back a bit. I agree with you 100% – with some nuance. When a dress code begins to fall under the auspices of religion, things can get a little crazy.

      Looking specifically at the BYU dress code, the ontology (upon what the code is based) of the dress code for men vs. women is different. Even though the code is about the same for both sexes, wouldn’t you agree that the code for women deals with the reaction that they might arouse in men? While the code for men deals more with them not looking like slobs?

      I would argue that if a man had gone into the testing center or a class room wearing a pair of tight 501 jeans or a 70’s punk-rock style skinny jeans, showing some “moose knuckle” up front, no one would have approached him about the dress code. The length of the mustache, too short of shorts, and the now recanted “no sock rule” has nothing to do with modesty or sexual arousal in the female sex. Unless of course she has a thing for Magnum PI !!

      Take the same rules (including the mustache) apply it to women and it is all about eliciting sexual arousal in men. I am serious about the mustache. A women with a thick mustache will not find an eternal companion. It is a fact.

      Now, it seems to me you told me a story about when you were at Ricks and were going across campus wearing shorts. If I recall correctly, you were stopped by a faculty member who castigated you for wearing shorts on campus and asked for your name. You basically told him, “No way,” and kept on walking. Didn’t you transfer to ASU the next semester?

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      • m. rees /

        I’m not too conflicted that the basis of the dress code is different for men versus women. I think there’s a valid argument that parents don’t focus on the right principles when teaching about sexuality or modest dress, but the fact that the basis for conversation and teaching is different for boys versus girls, makes perfect sense to me. Ultimately parents should individualize their teaching to each child’s learning style, but when developing standards for a group, (such as is the case with a dress code or The Strength of Youth) it becomes necessary to draw on some generalizations. And, generally speaking, men are attracted to and aroused by different things then women (fortunately). So it makes sense to approach subjects related to morality, dress code, sexuality, etc. from different places. So why speak to women in terms of what they can do to assist young men with keeping their thoughts clean? Because women can, in fact, have an impact on young men. But why not teach men in the same manner? Because, a young man’s ability to negatively influence a woman’s thoughts, through his manner of dress, is so much less likely.
        Yes, I was accosted while attempting to cross Ricks campus because I was wearing shorts. And shortly thereafter I did get the heck out of Dodge because I wasn’t willing to submit to the no-shorts standard.

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        • I am thinking about you right now in your shorts……

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        • MIke,

          Isn’t this a great discussion?! It is way more fun than just you and I bantering around ideas and arguments via private e-mails.

          In Judaism, there is a tradition of “arguing with God.” We in a way, are doing that via this forum. I believe Mormonism not only can tolerate such discussion and debate, but that it must engage in such.

          I have been thinking about your response Mike. I will be honest, the thought of how modesty is or is not taught to the young men did not cross my mind until I started responding to people’s different responses. If it is taught at all to the YM, it is something I need to explore and maybe write a post about. Actually you should right a post about it!!! What I think would be interesting is to see how it is taught in the YM manuals. Kind of do an analysis on it and then write a post about it.

          Garret Hall in his response gave Webster’s definition of modesty which included: propriety in speech, dress, or conduct. Anyways, I think it is a piece of Mormon thought that is worth exploring more.

          I disagree with you in your assessment of how modesty is taught differently between the sexes. I agree that it should be taught differently, but I do not think such emphasis should be put on females for controlling boy’s thoughts. I have noticed that a recurring rebuttal to the argument is that boys are “visual”. I agree. That is why I don’t wear the lingerie; at least not that anyone knows about.

          When I think what attracts females, I think of things such as wealth, status, etc. So perhaps modesty, in the context of men, has nothing to do with the way a man dresses, unless his dress is flaunting wealth or status. Perhaps that is why men like flashy cars, wear uniforms, and rap artist throw around money in their music videos. Just a thought I had right now.

          I am concerned that when modesty is taught the wrong way, that it makes it easier to objectify women. Our Mormon culture is what sociologist call a, “benevolent patriarchy”. Meaning that men run things, but are kind to women and that women do have a say in what goes on. We, as men, must be careful as benevolent patriarchs, not to become malicious patriarchs by objectifying our daughters and other women within the church.

          Thanks for coming back a second time on this post Mike. We have found that when most people disagree with the post, they respond, and then don’t write a second rebuttal. So the three Barker brothers appreciate you debating this with us.

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          • m. rees /

            Your comments about my shorts make me think I shouldn’t have let you ride behind me as often as I did.
            I found the following comment interesting, “I am concerned that when modesty is taught the wrong way, that it makes it easier to objectify women”. I agree completely with the comment, but when I think of how young women are taught about modesty through what they see in magazines and on tv, from friends, and from society, the very least of my concerns is church leaders who may over emphasize the impact the young woman can have on a young man. I can easily counteract the teaching of an overzealous church leader, but the daily bombardment my daughters will get from everywhere else, that’s where my real concern lies.

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          • Touché !!

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          • Amber /

            I hope you don’t mind me jumping in to your conversation. But I have to disagree with your statement ‘I am concerned that when modesty is taught the wrong way, that it makes it easier to objectify women.’
            I believe the heavy push for modesty and warnings of the possible effects on the opposite sex are, in fact, an attempt to protect against the rampant objectification of women that already exists worldwide. And on the flip side, I see fashion’s push to bare as much as possible for the consumption of all as a direct attempt to increase and make acceptable that very objectification. And I view this as dangerous to all women.

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  4. Jon Barker

    K I understand that how you dress reflects who you are. There’s a reason I never got that neck tattoo – I’m not a singer, athlete or celebrity; I’m a dude with a desk job. Getting a neck tattoo isn’t going to help in that department. Dress reflects who you are. Noted.

    What I don’t get is how your dress “defines” you. Sorry, but one thing doesn’t define anybody, disciple of Christ or not. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the “upper-management” didn’t see that note in the testing center. But what scares me is their thought that dress defines someone, not reflect… MAJOR difference there.

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  5. Cody Calderwood /

    Yeah Paul! You used one of my favorite quotes by Hugh Nibley. I think his quote illustrates the bigger picture in all of this honor code drama. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus go out of his way to ostracize and condemn people that violated some dress code? I believe that Jesus would have us be more concerned with intentions and what’s in the heart rather than appearances. I fear that as a mormon culture we have become far too concerned with outward appearances and as a result have lost sight of what truly matters. These two recent incidents at BYU-Idaho and BYU scream of Pharisaical attitudes and actions.
    On a side note, for those that want to devoutly idolize and follow the current BYU dress code and that found in For the Strength of Youth, do they realize that this dress code changes over time? Since it does and has changed over time (not since the late 80’s though), shouldn’t we just go back to the 70’s when women weren’t allowed to wear pants? Or better yet, shouldn’t we go back to the Brigham Young days when the women had to wear heavy dresses that went to the wrists and ankles?

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    • Cody Calderwood /

      And if a devout follower of the current dress code doesn’t want to go back to the one held in the 70’s or from Brigham Young’s day, why not? What could the rationalization be to not go back to those? They were instigated by prophets back then, so why should we be any different?
      And while I’m on the topic, what is up with the current thinking that bikinis are taboo? I have seen some bikinis that I would consider much more modest than some one pieces. Is it merely because the stomach is taboo? And, if women can’t show their stomach, why should men be allowed to show their stomach? I’m not saying that all women should wear a bikini, I just find it hypocritical to say women can’t wear bikinis yet it’s ok to wear a one piece that shows more cleavage and way more of the thigh and butt than some bikinis.

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    • cover up them ankles!!!

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  6. Camille Howe /

    Nicely laid out. I think I love you people. That is all.

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  7. Garrett Hall /

    Mike, I promise that i will never wear a bikini of any sort. Michael Rees brings up a good point about appearance and the perception that ones’ dress /fashion plays. Problem there for me is that someone can be fully covered and dressed modestly…and still look like a slob. The issue that i have with the church’s stance on modesty comes from the standpoint that there is a double standard for men and women. Like has been said, for men the focus is basically on grooming habits. For women it is focused on not making men have carnal, sensual thoughts about them. I think there needs to be some good discussion in the church on the fact that men need to be able to control their desires even if a women is dressed immodestly, provocatively, or whatever. There is not a one-size fits all approach either. Like has been said regarding swimsuits, there are many 1 pieces that are more immodest and sensual than some bikinis…and the same goes for regular clothing.

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    • Thanks for coming back Garrett. I have to agree with you. I think I have it figured out (for now) how to teach modesty to my daughters. I don’t know how to teach it to the Young Men. Absolutely no frickin’ idea.

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      • Garrett Hall /

        young men need to be taught in a very direct manner…the problem is that it has always been such a hush hush topic. no one wants to tell boys that they will have sexual thoughts. The best thing that can be taught to young men, in my opinion, is that it is perfectly normal to have feelings of arousal or desire when seeing an attractive person. this is something that god put in us as a way to create attraction so we’d want to be together. they need to be taught though that they shouldnt dwell on those thoughts…they can dwell on them when they are married all they want.

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        • What about teaching them modesty?

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          • Garrett /

            I think it comes down to teaching them the same things that you are teaching your daughter about self respect and love of god and the way we present ourselves can be a reflection of that.

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          • Garrett, how do boys dress immodest? Apart from showing their but cracks and undies because their pants are down to their ankles.

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          • Garrett /

            That’s the thing mike…I think for the most part teaching modesty As the church teaches it can be hard to apply to young men…
            That being said, I like old’ webster’s definition of modesty: propriety in speech, dress, or conduct. The best we can do is help give boundaries and teach proper principles…and set a good example. They have to be taught as well to not put a “one-size” fits all approach.

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  8. r.hegji /

    My father raised me to understand that it can be quite easy for men to think impure thoughts. When a Victoria’s Secret commercial came on the TV, we changed the channel. If my pants were too tight, my father would let me know. If I was wearing a shirt that was way too low cut, he would try to throw food down it at the dinner table. This didn’t make me ashamed of my body in anyway. My actions do effect other people, and yes they have choices, but I can always choose to help make those choices easier.

    With the way the world is getting so much more difficult to live in with temptations surrounding us, Satan is looking for anyway to sneek in and get around those guidelines. Take for example the bikini situation. Yes there are plenty of one-pieces that very immodest, and if you are following the spirit of the law, you would avoid those too. But our world today has become more of a letter of the law so that we can live IN the world as much as possible and fool ourselves into thinking that we are following the Lord’s commandents on wearing a one piece. I personally wear a takini because its much easier if I have to go to the bathroom, but I make sure the top half is long enough to cover my stomach.

    For the majority of men and women the following applies that men are microwaves and women are ovens. Most women can see a hot man without a shirt on and think “he’s hot” she may stare for a few minutes, and then our minds are on to something else without getting aroused or having impure thoughts. For men it can be completely different. I’m saying that it happens every time, but it can more easily reach that point for men than women.

    I’m not saying that if anyone who doesn’t follow my views on modesty are evil, or don’t love God. That is not true, I can’t judge them, they probably were raised differently from me and with slightly different values. That is one of the funny things about the church. I went to one ward where a Priesthood member had to be the one to say the opening prayer at Sacrament Service. It was just the way it was done in that ward because someone thought that. The church has given guidelines and rules for everyone to follow and people can choose to live however they want within those rules. And there is one thing that is said about the gospel and the church. That is remains constant. Its being saying wear one pieces for the longest time, because back then one pieces were the most modest swim wear. The gospel doesn’t change because the world does. If every followed or even understood the spirit of the law, they would understand the reason why we are told to wear one-pieces.

    Thats my opinion on the subject and i understand that it might be scattered and there are probably tons of grammatical errors.

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    • When your father taught you about modesty, did he put it in the context of helping a boy control his desires or did he put it in the context of doing out of your own self respect and as an expression of your love toward God? The reason I ask is because boys just aren’t told to dress modestly. We are just told not dress like slobs.

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  9. malinda barnes /

    Nicely put Paul. I have had a beef with these issues.

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  10. Ha ha! Ricks college gym clothes! And swim suits!

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  11. John Joseph /

    Excellent points made….To me, One of the Best pieces of literature that the Church has ever put out is FOR THE STRENGTH OF YOUTH. I think it should be given to every adult. Parents should know it by heart….Every investigator should be given one during their teaching….I think it would save a lot of trouble and help either strengthen the convert and help them to really know what the standards of the Church are…..I agree with the points that it seems that the Girls seem to be ‘Admonished’ about dress standards and being the ‘enticers’ more than the Boys. It sure seemed that way in those quotes from Elder Oaks and Elder Peterson. There needs to be more taught in the home about self-control and what is appropriate in music and film and literature……As a Bishop, I saw the heartache of Sisters whose husbands were involved in Pornography. Even one young woman came to me to confess. It is a plague and recently I’ve seen the breakup of marriages because of it. Jean and I were opening the mail and received ads for Sears and other stores and she remarked how disgusting it was that they had pics of women in bras….We spoke about the seemingly stupidity of the Women’s Rights movement wanting respect for women……and yet today, women are exploited more than ever….Is there really any reason to show women in newpaper ads, magazines and film in such a manner….They want respect and yet they continue to let Men, for the most part, exploit them this way….I am grateful for the standards that the Church has taught and the Honor Code at BYU…..It may seem trivial, some of the rules….but no one is forced to sign the contract……And it’s really about more than just “one pair of earrings.” The brethren and sisters that lead the church have a lot of experience with The World and the more we can follow their counsel, the safer we will be.

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  12. Patti /

    Sorry Paul, but I found your comments all over the place. But my guess is that you are making a point against dress standards at BYU, which morphed into women not being responsible for a man’s reaction to their dress (or lack of attire), which then seemed to lead to how sex is taught in a Mormon home, and you seem to finish with how morals regarding dress leads a person to turn out negative towards sex.

    Your Nibley quote is not applicable in this situation, unless you are implying that Prophet and other leaders over BYU are the religious hypocrites that Nibley was referring to. Nibley never said it about the BYU Honor Code!

    When I see a church member who wears a bikini, too short dresses, too low-cut tops, multiple earrings, tattoos, etc., I see someone who either does not know the teachings of the Prophet, or who does but chooses to not follow the Prophet. I taught my children (and now grandchildren) that Jesus still loves them, but that they either don’t know what the Prophet’s have taught, or are disobeying what Jesus (through Prophets) have taught.

    Jesus is not on trial during our mortality, to see if He will still love us in spite of our appearance. He loves us. Period. We are the ones “on trial” to see if we love Him enough to do what he directs us to do. And if we have love in our hearts for Him, following His counsel, both internally and externally, is the best way to let Him and others know it.

    Regarding the Valentine situation at BYU, her posture indicated that she was trying to get the dress as long as she possibly could for the picture. Like maybe she knew it was too short. And the pictures of her modeling the clothing line she was hired for shows attire that would not cause any concern with the BYU dress standards.

    And the outward compliance to BYU Honor Code is a terrific indicator of other moral issues, such as honesty. No one is forcing someone to attend a school with such a strict Honor Code. You did sign the paper. You don’t like the rules–bye bye!

    I’m sorry if you are troubled by the physiology that man is visual when it comes it things sexual, whereas with women it’s not so much. But not much you can do about that. It is the reality we live in. Mixing up a man becoming physically aggressive vs. having a physiological reaction (thoughts) is not even rational. Apples and Oranges. A woman who cares about others will be mindful of how their actions affect others. Just as she wouldn’t speed through a school crosswalk filled with children because she wouldn’t want to harm any of them physically, she also would not want to create images for a young man that he may have to struggle to remove from his mind, because that can be just as harmful.

    And Michael, as Rachel’s mother, I can tell you that she was taught of the physiological realities of responses to sexual visual stimuli. She was also taught that her dress (or lack of it) reflects her own feelings of self-worth. She was also taught that the Lord, through the Prophets, have given guidelines of appropriate behavior, dress, thoughts, etc.
    Michael, I also raised a son who decided against dating a girl because she was purposefully exposing her midriff to him. He viewed this behavior as being from someone who either had low self-esteem and thinks she can only entice a man by eliciting sexual responses in him, or else she was someone who had little respect for the Prophet. He was still willing to be friends with her, but as a future mate, she was not someone with the qualities he decided he wanted. Will you also label him with a mental disorder as you so quickly, and with no knowledge about the person, did to the man who gave the woman a note?

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    • Patti,

      Thank you so much for your response. It is this type of lively interaction that us three brothers were hoping for. I hope you will visit our blog again and leave another response; the push-back you are giving is great.

      Let me start with your last paragraph as that was directly addressed to me. I hope you did not view my question to your daughter as condescending; it was not meant to be. Rachel gave clear examples of how modesty was non-verbally taught in your home by your husband. I was honestly trying to get a better idea what was said when your husband would teach about modesty. As the father of two daughters, I was honestly curious. If either you or Rachel took offense, please forgive me.

      In regards to my mentioning of scrupulosity, your son’s decision to no longer date a girl that did not uphold his same standards has nothing to do with that mental disorder. Furthermore, I did not label the young man from the article as having the disorder; I asked a rhetorical question.

      Looking at your first paragraph, I have to disagree with your assessment of what Paul was saying about dress standards. He was not arguing against standards. He was making an argument of how standards are taught and what are their purposes.

      If a woman’s modesty is based upon how a man reacts, that is the wrong way to teach it. By doing so, the women has the onus of not only managing her own desires, but also her desirability, and the desires of the opposite sex. By doing so, women become objects to be desired. I am sure you would agree that daughters of God are much more than that.

      By teaching about modesty this way, we end up setting a double standard. As the Young Men’s President in my ward, I have yet to find in any of the church published manuals, the male equivalent to the female modesty. What the boys are taught is to look comely and clean; this is not equivalent to modesty. Furthermore,when one compares the Young Women’s Manuals to the Young Men’s Manuals, what you will find is that the majority of the YW’s manuals deal with their relationships to males. With the YM’s manuals, the majority of their lessons deal with their relationship to God – once again, a double standard. If a women sees her worth only in the context of her relationship to men, this can create problems later in life.

      Hugh Nibley’s quote is applicable. Paul was not using Brother Nibley’s quote to condemn the leaders of our church or BYU for that matter. He was using the quote to condemn our Mormon culture.

      In regards to members wearing bikinis, multiple earrings, tattoos, short skirts, etc. (notice that almost all those are directed towards women exclusively), I make the same judgements as you do; but I shouldn’t. I should be able to look past that and see into their heart. It is a struggle for me. If only all our weaknesses were as apparent as tattoos and multiple earrings.

      Now what about the “valentine note”? That was not a skirt she was wearing, it was a shirt. Furthermore she had pants on underneath. She was bending over so she could take a picture of herself in her outfit.

      I am confused by what appears to be a non sequitur in your conclusion of the BYU honor code and honesty. Once again, the issue is not whether or not to obey the honor code. The issue is why are people going around interpreting it themselves as if they are the East German Stasi? The young woman from the now infamous “valentine note” incident was not disobeying the honor code.

      “Mixing up a man becoming physically aggressive vs. having a physiological reaction is not even rational.” I am unclear from where you derive Paul’s presumed conclusion. From where did you derive the “physically aggressive” part of your argument? I just do not see it. Paul’s argument is that humans’ sexual desires are almost sub-conscience. It is going to be there regardless of outside stimuli. This is especially true in adolescent males. What a person decides to do with those urges is up to the individual. Our theology regarding agency is not deterministic.

      I agree that we should be mindful of others and how our actions will affect others. We should be kind, loving, and forgiving towards others. You have committed a logical fallacy in comparing modesty to harming school children in a cross walk. When a woman is dressed immodestly, the man has the agency to walk away; just like Joseph in Genesis. The children, in your scenario, do not have that choice.

      Thanks for the lively debate! Come back Saturday night and check us out again. I usually do a weekly post on that Sunday’s Gospel Doctrine Class. I think you would enjoy it and I personally would love any insight you would bring to the discussion. – MIke

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      • r.hegji /


        The only thing I can really say is that if you went to a Session at the Temple, you see that the young men’s and young women’s manuals are applicable to what is being taught there. It is not a double standard. Men and Women have didn’t roles in the family and in the gospel. If you feel that there are double standards in the church, then you have to believe that God has double standards as he is the Head the of the Church.

        In regards to the girls outfit, what she wore wasn’t very immodest. It is however a dress and not a shirt, and by the dress code go below the knee, which it doesn’t matter whether she is wearing pants underneath. But in this regard I think the divide on this subject comes to whether leggings are pants or not. I believe they are not and don’t make wearing a short skirt ok! Yes they cover the skin, but you can still the shape of the leg. They are just thicker tights. But I understand that others don’t think that same way, and I respect their choices and views. I may not agree with a girl’s clothing, but I don’t think that either her or God love the other less.

        While we are sitting here judging the boy and how he believes incorrectly, we should allow him the chance to voice his opinion as we are doing right now. The girl can choose to be offended or ignore it. He is one person in the community, not the whole community. So we shouldn’t condemn the whole mormon culture because of one individual, we would just be doing the same thing some people that aren’t members do.

        On teaching girls modesty I have always loved to hear from Elder Holland on the subject “To Young Women” October of 2005. The best way to teach your daughters is to read the Prophets words with her.

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        • Thanks for coming back! I enjoy the lively debate. One of the reasons my brothers and I started the blog was because you just don’t get this type of interaction at church.

          I am going to call this one a truce. We want all shades of members of the church to feel this is a safe place to have an honest and open debate.

          Come read my Gospel Doctrine post Saturday Night and let me know what you think

          Next week I will have part one of the Argument for the Existence of God based on Objective Morals.

          PLesae visit again.

          Best Regards,

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  13. Cassie S. /

    Lots to think about here. Allow me to give a perspective as a parent who is trying to teach her own children respect for their bodies as they are growing up.

    First of all, you asked the question:
    (So does not dressing “modestly” mean you don’t love Him as much? Are you not a disciple of Jesus if you’re not dressing modestly?)

    This made me think about the fact that God gives us so many incredible blessings in our lives, and asks so little in return. One of the things that is asked of us, however, is that we take upon us our Savior’s name, we will live in the way that He would if He were here. Now, of course, we all have different things that we struggle with, and nobody is expected to be 100% perfect in this life, but if we are advised to wear clothing that is modest and we choose instead to follow worldly trends, we are showing that we love the world more than we love pleasing God. I realize that this sometimes happens gradually, and that is where the prayer and seeking personal guidance comes in.

    Secondly, you talk about how the standards seem to emphasize neatness/comeliness in young men, and avoiding causing sexual thoughts indirectly for the young women. Perhaps this inequality is partly due to the way that women are already portrayed in the media. Young women are so often presented with images of women who are dressed in ways that were designed to entice and show off flesh. They need to understand that these trends are not appropriate to follow. So many ready-made clothing articles that are sold in stores follow these trends that they may even need help learning how to shop and find clothing that covers them appropriately. As far as I am aware, young men are not presented with this same moral dillemma, as most ready-made clothing for men can be worn appropriately, other than a few present trends such as skinny jeans or rocker pants.

    I completely agree that there is a tendency in the Mormon culture (as in many other Christian cultures, by the way) to treat sexuality with No-no-no … and then yes-yes-yes after marriage. However, we need to remember whose responsibility it is to teach about sexuality. This responsibility most appropriately lies with the child’s parents, not with teachers or church leaders, except under circumstances where the parents are unable to guide their children in this matter, as when a child is a church member but their parents are not. As such, it is also a parent’s responsibility first and foremost to teach appropriate attitudes towards dress and grooming. I believe that the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet was meant to outline appropriate dress standards, but not necessarily to teach everything a young man or lady needs to know about dress standards and how they relate to modestly and sexuality.

    I think the main thing that needs to be understood is that personal dress and grooming is a personal choice, in the same sense as honesty. I would never walk up to someone and ask them if they are a full tithe payer. That is between themselves and their bishop. Equally, I would never walk up to a stranger and seek to instruct them in their mode of dress. If it was my sister or my friend, I would certainly point out if their belly button was showing (or their tag was sticking out, or their shoelace was untied) because that’s what friends do. But it is not our job to tell others how they should dress. We all have the ability to avert our eyes from things that we should not be watching. Indeed, as church members, we should already be well-accustomed to doing so … how many times have I changed the channel on television because the subject matter was no longer appropriate to watch?

    This, of course, does not extend to include institutions themselves. I believe that institutions have a right to define a dress code that should be followed upon their property, just as parents should have the right to define what rules should be followed within their own homes. But if it is an institution-related dress code, it follows that, if discipline should take place at all, it should follow the proper channels. I don’t think there’s any need for modest-clothing vigilantes.

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    • Cassie,

      I loved your articulate response. You pointing out the difficulty in finding modest women’s clothing reminded me of a funny story with my two daughters now 10 and 6.

      Several years ago my wife bought a camisole/underwear pack for our then 5 (now 10) year old. The under wear had a cute, innocent floral print on the front. When she put the under wear on, to all our surprise, they were a bikini cut!! No kidding!! Why would someone make undies like that for my cute innocent, round little tummied daughter? My daughter’s statement was a classic, “Where did the rest of my underwear go?” We tried not to laugh.

      Please come again and visit us Cassie. We have only been up a few weeks now. – Mike

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    • Anonymous /

      Cassie, one comment that you made here bothers me. “This responsibility most appropriately lies with the child’s parents, not with teachers or church leaders, except under circumstances where the parents are unable to guide their children in this matter, as when a child is a church member but their parents are not.” I don’t quite see how nonmember parents would be unable to guide their own children. I have resigned my membership in the LDS church for doctrinal reasons, but that does not change my ability to be a good mother.

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  14. Tracy Reed /

    I am appalled by the suggestion that women need to dress to help men control their impulses, but at the same time it falls to a Christian woman (and Christian men, of course) to be kind; dressing modestly is not only essential to her own dignity but also expresses consideration of her male counterparts.
    The modesty standard is basic to most religions, but so, too, is being kind in our interactions. This does not seem to have occurred to the enforcing student in this tale.
    Mike, I also worry about this student, but more in the area of his apparent inability to extend kindness to his fellow student. I don’t see it as obsessive adherence to a code but as a failure to adhere to the Christian principle of loving-kindness. How unkind to insist on the enforcement of a rule that had not been spelled out clearly while humiliating and greatly inconveniencing the offending female student!

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  15. Jennifer Maruri /

    Having been a student at BYU for 5 years, I am quite familiar with the honor code. I chose to go to BYU, and chose to sign the code, so I had no problem complying with the rules while on campus. That didn’t mean that off campus I always did (have to admit I wore the occasional “short shorts” and “belly shirts”). We need to remember that how we dress is a way people judge us. It is not something, like many other sins, that we can hide. It doesn’t mean, however, that if we see someone (a member of the church) not dressing exactly modestly, that they have gone off the wagon, so to speak. Its just a choice, like any other choice in life that we make.

    During my college years, I exerienced a sort of rebellious streak. I chose to deal with it by dressing differently and getting henna tattoos. I chose that because I thought it was less harmful to me than the alternatives of drinking, drugs, or sexual activity. I’m not saying how I dressed was right or wrong, just that you never know the whole story, just by examining how people dress. When I finally went through the temple, I made a specific promise to God concerning dress, and have since made sure I followed those rules.

    In teaching my daughters about modesty, I will teach them from the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and emphasize respect for self and respect for God. I believe the same general guide can be given to my son as well.

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  16. John Prince /

    Nice post, Paul. Well researched and well thought out. I particularly like your closing paragraph–that seems like the right way to teach modesty.

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  17. Paul – seriously, so great. Who knew we shared so many of the same thoughts? I consider myself devoutly LDS, but I too take issue with how modesty is taught in our culture, and how quickly judgement is passed on those who dress “immodestly”.
    I loved Elder Uchtdorf’s talk this last conference on how the merciful obtain mercy. I loved that his two word sermon on judging others was “Stop it!”, and I loved that he quoted a bumper sticker to support his point that read “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
    Of course, we teach our children to be self respecting, but heavens – that can be displayed in so many ways! I work hard for the body I have, and I am proud of it. I follow the word of wisdom, and I exercise daily (usually). The argument that women/girls who have a desire to show a little leg, or heaven forbid, their shoulders, must have low self esteem is ridiculous. I am a confident woman. I am happy in my own skin, and I find conflict that my religion oppresses that. Yet, I am a garment wearing, temple going, calling holding, scripture reading, testimony bearing, spiritually fulfilled Mormon woman who follows the rules.
    May I weigh in on the topic raised by r.hejgi of whether leggings are pants or not…my vote…definitely pants. Remember the 80’s? That’s all we ever wore. T-shirts, scrunched at the side with leggings. The fact that girls these days wear them with longer t-shirts does not make them less of a pant. But, if a girl is committed to leggings as pants, that means that they are not allowed to double as tights at church. If you wear them to church under a “dress” – they are still pants. I’m cool with ladies who like to wear pants to church, but I’m just saying it can’t go both ways. You can’t wear them as pants one day and call them tights the next. And, I really have a beef with how this issue targets girls who happen to look cute in tight clothes. If an obese woman shows up on a church owned campus wearing leggings and a XXXL t-shirt that barely covers her midriff line, falling way short of knee length, no one would dare call her out on her “immodest” ways. Is that because she is dressing any differently than the size 4 girl in the seat next to her? No, absolutely not. It’s simply because her dressing that way doesn’t invoke the same feelings of desire in guys, and the same feelings of jealousy in other ladies. And there we are, back to the argument that a girl must dress modestly to prevent the carnal thoughts of those around her.
    Keep up the good work Barker boys.

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  18. Q. Rice /

    As a BYU student, I completely agree with the accusations that the Honor Code can get a little too out of hand. However, to me, it seemed like the argument was a little one sided. Girls should not have to be dressing a certain way for the sole purpose being that guys won’t have “carnal thoughts”, but I do believe that the way girls dress directly correlates to the ways guys feel, think and act around such girls. Men should “deal with the male gaze” and control themselves when they are around girls (scantily clad or otherwise) or simply get out of the situation like Joseph of Egypt did. But I also find it (keep in mind that I am a normal BYU student that just finished his freshman year) incredibly easier to keep thoughts and actions clean when the girls are dressed modestly! That is just how it is! I completely agree with what Mike Barker said about how “modest dress should be done out of love for God and out of one’s own self-respect.” If it is done that way then you should have no problems — ever! However, I don’t 100% agree with the statement saying that “you cannot make someone else think or do something. We are our own free agents.” The statement alone is true if you read it out of context, but it implies that if you wear something revealing that it is totally, 100% the other persons fault if they feel or think immodest thoughts. And that is where I find the inconsistency in the argument. The thoughts that come from a girl wearing revealing clothing is natural but should not be explored or they could lead you down a place that could be impossible to get out of. Girls don’t dress a certain way thinking “will God like it if I wear this?” but rather “will this guy think I am attractive if I wear this”. If everyone thought about God before they put something on it would be fine, but they don’t! People want to be wanted. And they will do what they see is working for other people, even if they know it isn’t right.

    So while I think that the Honor Code can get a little out of hand (that kid who told the girl off was almost definitely out of line), I also think that it is necessary. Thoughts, actions, and desires for the opposite sex are completely natural and essential! But there should be no reason why a girl (OR guy) cannot wear modest clothes to help control the raging hormones of their fellow teens (applies to everyone I suppose – not just teens). If you can control those thoughts and actions all by yourself you are truly amazing. But because (I am willing to bet) the majority of the population and I are not able to completely control those thoughts it would be nice if modesty was practiced by everyone for the benefit of yourself, God AND others.

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    • Q –
      Thanks for reading my post and I appreciate your well thought out comments. In this post I was trying to address the way that it is taught and the way that it is used as guideline for one’s worthiness. Modesty, I believe has been taught incorrectly. I think we agree that a person is responsible for their choices. from the post: “Are we teaching people to be victimized and to be victimizers? “Because I was wearing this dress he was forward with me”, or, “I couldn’t control myself when I saw her in that dress”. This is a very dangerous way of thinking. It is out of line with everything I have been taught about accountability, choices, and consequences. If someone is to stand naked in front of you, do you still have a choice? Joseph of Egypt had a choice – he ran and got himself out.”

      If I know a person dresses a certain way to get my attention in a sexual way, or to try to make me do something I don’t want to do – I just don’t associate with that person, that’s my choice.

      Modesty is a funny thing though, as I stated about the Nicole Kidman character in the move far and away when her ankle was showing – the men were checking out her ankle. PEEP SHOW! So as we cover up, more becomes sexualized. So there is a balance there to be found, but most importantly it needs to be taught in a much better way.

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  19. Sariah Hillam /

    One of the best treatises I’ve read on the subject in the last 10 years was the book Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit (not a Mormon) who was invited to speak at BYU. Hated the cover, really liked the content. Was particularly struck by her observation that girls with very short skirts seem to be constantly adjusting them, as if they are unconsiously uncomfortable wearing them.

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  20. Rochelle /

    bleeping amen! It seems constantly in YWs the answer to any question is “dress modestly.” I think it’s the new “Sunday School” answer. I keep telling my girls that yes, you don’t want to dress in an improper manner. Heavens, I don’t want to see your boozies hanging out and winking at me. I don’t want to see your thong sticking out of your pants or the bottom half of your cheeks. I despise that people in the church make it seem as though the boys have no control over themselves. It’s like we’re giving them a free pass to think dirty thoughts or do dirty things to the girls because hey, “It’s not MY fault, I can’t control my sexual urges when she does ___!” Puh-lease! We wonder why there are so many men in the world and church that are ridiculous and unable to be accountable, moral, respectful, and productive to society. Thinking that their “self-control” lies outside of themselves. We wonder why women feel like it’s their fault when something horrific happens to them. I love so many things you said in this post. We are punished for our own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions. I don’t think people think of it in the way in which you stated it. We are punished for our own sins and our own actions alone. “so who carries the responsibility of controlling a man’s sexual drive — the covered, shapeless woman or the man?…Are we teaching people to be victimized and to be victimizers?” I couldn’t agree more.

    I know I’m late to the discussion, but I just have to put in my thoughts. My husband, Nick, hears me rant about this nearly every Sunday on the drive home from church. Poor guy.

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    • I’m sure he’s a great guy! Ha! Good luck with your girls! Thanks for stopping by and come again.

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    • Rochelle,

      I am glad you found Paul’s post. I was hoping that one of these days one of the YW leaders in our ward would find it.

      You are in a very unique position. You have the responsibility of teaching the young women in our ward about modesty and also have the responsibility of teaching your boys about it.

      I learned a great word about two years ago – pedagogy. It’s not a word that has really entered our Mormon lexicon. The word has to do with the art of teaching, and less so about the material being taught. My issue, and the issue Paul brings up in his post, has to do with the pedagogy of modesty.

      We all agree that modesty is important, but the way it is currently being taught (the pedagogy) is wrong. I don’t like hearing that when a girl dresses immodestly that she is “walking pornography for the boys.” To do so is to put the onus of controlling her desirability as well as managing the desirability of the men solely on the shoulders of the women. That is just wrong headed.

      With young children in your home, I know your time is precious and very limited. There is a pod-cast that Cathy and I listened to about a year ago that ended up being a game-changer for me in regards to how I teach my daughters about modesty. The two participants are active LDS women that are family therapists and treat LDS clients. I know you will enjoy it and will give you some good, objective facts with which to arm yourself. It is also available on Itunes. Here’s the link:

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  21. One thing that I think your article didn’t quite touch on enough is how by emphasizing modest dress so much to the young women, we unwittingly sexualize them and frame the debate almost exclusively around young women’s appearance and sexuality, as if their primary value is in their physical appeal and function and in their relationship to men.

    The best thing I think we could do is to stop talking so much about it and (only very occasionally) teach modesty as a way of behaving rather than a way of dressing.

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  22. Stargazer /

    “By teaching about modesty this way, we end up setting a double standard. As the Young Men’s President in my ward, I have yet to find in any of the church published manuals, the male equivalent to the female modesty. What the boys are taught is to look comely and clean; this is not equivalent to modesty. Furthermore,when one compares the Young Women’s Manuals to the Young Men’s Manuals, what you will find is that the majority of the YW’s manuals deal with their relationships to males. With the YM’s manuals, the majority of their lessons deal with their relationship to God – once again, a double standard. If a women sees her worth only in the context of her relationship to men, this can create problems later in life.”

    Michael, this is the best summary of the problems of the (old) manuals that I have seen! I have 4 daughters and 1 son, and the 2 oldest girls are in YW, and we have frequent and lively discussions about what they hear at church. I am so excited about the new manuals for 2013 onward, focusing on their relationships with Jesus Christ.

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  23. Michael Barker,

    What makes most adults think that young girls are not affected by young men in a tank top, without a shirt, or in shorts or tight pants?

    As a former ‘young girl’ (and now a still-interested ‘older woman’), I have always found the male body rather compelling…thus I tried to cover the bodies of my 4 sons at least a bit more than the normal LDS society advocated, much to my frustration–since I suspected that many of the young women may have had the similar feelings I grew up feeling!

    Do most women NOT feel anything when they see a male body? Do they keep it as a well-hidden secret? Or are we–and the men in our life–TOLD so often that we do not HAVE those feelings, that we just all believe it…

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    • Laura,

      My brother, Paul, actually wrote this post, but I will go ahead and answer the question. I have found through private and not-so-private conversation with LDS and non-LDS women, that women do to not react to the male body as males react to the female body. To quote Elaine from “Seinfeld”:

      “The female body is a work of art. The male body is utilitarian. It’s for gettin’ around. It’s like a Jeep.”

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  24. Mary Magdalene /

    Cody, thank you so much for your comment about why bikinis are taboo to wear when there are plenty of “approved” one piece swim suits that are more immodest. You shared exactly what I wanted to say. I finally broke free of the strict dress code, and bought a “modest bikini” to wear for a video shoot I was asked to do, swimming and dancing underwater with fabric. I could not find a one-piece that I felt comfortable swimming in for all the reasons you mentioned, plus most one-piece swimsuits “hike up” more on the bottom and don’t stay in place as well as 2 piece, bikini bottoms. Even though the short video that I appeared in was a work of art, capturing tapestry fabric,and me swimming and dancing underwater in the ocean, my family (all devout mormons like myself), I think were offended or disappointed and fearful that I must be “falling away”, because our Church “dress code” says what I was wearing was taboo. I feel that it is sad that such emphasis is placed on adhering strictly to the letter of the law with little regard to what is inside a person’s heart. I also feel it is hypocritical to be judging someone wearing a bikini like myself where because I am toned and fit, I should be ashamed to be so free and heaven forbid, show my stomach/abdomen. Yet other Sisters can wear one piece swimsuits and show 4 times as much cleavage as I am, and way more butt and thigh, and that is more modest? How would guys feel if they had to cover their stomach/ abdomen when they went to the beach or swimming? It all sounds so petty. This brings me to another similar dress code question, why do we have to cover our shoulders? Why are short sleeves so immodest? Non-LDS men I have talked to do not think that regular short sleeves are immodest. Again, it seems there is a judgement with women who are showing a few inches of their shoulder and upper arm. Yet, it is ok for other “worthy” sisters to show their cleavage as long as they are covering their shoulders. What is up with this? I believe that purity comes from within and should not be defined or judged by whether you follow the exact dress code precisely.
    Maybe we need to watch and learn from children. they are not ashamed of their bodies, they are naturally sensual in a pure, innocent way. I have been around different cultures where people wore very little clothing and did not generate or project sexual or impure thoughts. I met a woman who had been an “exotic dancer”, and she told me that many of her clients in Salt Lake City were married Mormon men. Is this what happens when people over-repress and are too rigid?
    href=”#comment-84″>Cody Calderwood,

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  25. Jenny Laing /

    What’s wrong with beards?! Lots of great priesthood holders have beards! Heck, in paintings of Jesus HE has a beard!! Personally, I think the BYU dress code is just a little ridiculous. Also, if girls were to wear pants that did not show the shape of their legs, they would be reprimanded for wearing baggy and “sloppy” clothing. We just can’t win!! Having curves is NOT a bad thing. Lusting after curves in the wrong context IS a bad thing. Yes, girls do need to dress conservatively, but should never be ashamed of the shapes of their bodies! Girls should help men keep their thoughts under control, but it is ultimately up to the men to subdue those thoughts. *Eyeroll* Personally I think the person who wrote the dress code had one too many Mormon “pet-peeves.” If I was wearing what that beautiful young woman was wearing in the presence of God, I would not feel the least bit ashamed of myself.

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