I have two daughters. I am concerned with the messages they will receive once they enter the Young Women’s organization of the LDS church. At the top of my concerns is how, traditionally, modesty has been taught within our LDS culture. I am concerned with the pedagogy of modesty. Others are concerned as well. The reason? The prevailing method used in the church is to teach that girls should dress modestly so boys don’t have “impure” thoughts and boys should dress modestly so they don’t look like slobs.
In looking at the on-line discussions regarding the pedagogy of modesty, it is obvious that there is resistance to teach it differently; why should we if the truth is, boys get “turned-on” by girls dressing immodestly? The two things I have found lacking in the discussions are:
- Using quotes from LDS General Authorities affirming that modesty can be, and should be taught differently than what is commonly done in LDS culture.
- A pedagogy for modesty for teenage boys and girls.
- Affirming that, yes, boys get turned on by girls, but there is a better way to teach modesty
As I thought about it, I decided to develop an approach using a different model than “don’t turn on the boys”. Here are my notes from a three week lesson I gave to my Priest Quorum in my ward; I am the Young Men’s President. The young men loved it. One even e-mailed me later asking some questions about the etymology of words. It opened up a great discussion. My notes are very rough and I would appreciate any insight into how to make it better. It will be obvious that many of the quotes will need to be redacted depending on whom you are teaching.
One more thing. I want to acknowledge that many of the quotes used here came from a wonderful four-part post done by “Starfoxy”. She blogs at Feminist Mormon Housewives(FmH) and The Exponent. Other quotes come from the Beautyredefined blog, a FmH interview with Brad Kramer, and from a wonderful book by Elder Bednar entitled, Increase by Learning: Spiritual Patterns for Obtaining Your Own Answers. When possible, I will provide links to the web-sites from which I the different quotes come. Let me know what you think.
The Pedagogy of Modesty: An Approach
At the top of the classroom board write: MODESTY
The reason for the following definitions is to later show how our popular Mormon culture has narrowed the definition of what it means to be modest. Share these definitions later:
- having or showing a moderate orhumble estimate of one’s merits,importance, etc.; free from vanity,egotism, boastfulness, or greatpretensions.
- free from ostentation or showyextravagance: a modest house.
- having or showing regard for thedecencies of behavior, speech, dress,etc.; decent: a modest neckline on adress.
- limited or moderate in amount,extent, etc.: a modest increase in salary.
Some more definitions:
- having or expressing a humble opinionof oneself or one’s accomplishments orabilities
- reserved or shy: modest behavior
- not ostentatious or pretentious
- not extreme or excessive; moderate
- decorous or decent
What does it mean for a girl to be modest? Assume that the answer is going to go straight to how a girl dresses. Write down their answers on the right side of the board with the label “GIRLS” at the top. Expect to hear things such as:
- not too short of shorts
- shoulders covered
- no tank tops
- no bikinis
- so spagetti strap tops
- not too short of skirts
Then ask: What does it mean for a boy to be modest? There will probably be a pause. Write down the answers on the left side of the board with “BOYS” written at the top and a line dividing the boy’s from the girl’s side. Answers may include:
- Not too shaggy of hair
- no holes in jeans
- pants aren’t showing underwear
Ask why a girl should dress modestly. Answers will probably include:
To help boys control their thoughts
Then ask why a boy should dress modestly. Their probably will be silence but you might get something like:
So you don’t look like a slob.
THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS PEDAGOGY
- the function or work of a teacher;teaching.
- the art or science of teaching;education; instructional methods.
First, make it very clear that modest dress is important. But it needs to be done for the correct reasons. Here are three problems with how modesty is presently taught in our LDS communities:
1)We as a Mormon culture have narrowed the definition of what it means to be modest:
Now give the definition of modest.
Explain that it also applies to the way we speak, spend our money, cars we drive, etc.
So what does God have to say about our clothes? If you look in the scriptures they say quite a bit about clothes. Oddly enough most of what the scriptures do say about clothes has more to do with the cost of the clothing than the coverage they provide. For example Jacob 2:13 (Starfoxy, FmH, part 2)
And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they. (Starfoxy, FmH, part 2)
“We can use our clothing to communicate all sorts of things about ourselves. We can make statements about our wealth, about our tastes in music, or art, or humor. If one is to be modest in dress as well as actions we must ask ourselves if our clothing is saying things for us that we would never say with words. For instance most people would be appalled if someone started a conversation with “I have a six figure income.” Yet someone may be effectively saying just that through their choice of clothing and accessories” (Starfoxy, FmH, part 3)
2) The women carry the onus of controlling their thoughts as well as the thoughts of boys:
Point out that with the way in which modesty is normally approached, as it applies to girls, we are asking the girls to control their own sexual impulses as well as those of the boys.
Ask: With modest dress as it applies to boys, are we asking the boys to help control the thoughts of girls?
Do girls get “turned on” and have “unclean thoughts” when boys have long hair, holes in their jeans, etc?
“[Girls/women] have very little control of what other people think when they look at us. If we are teaching the girls in our lives that the primary objective of modesty is to keep themselves covered so boys and men don’t think sexual thoughts about them, then we are teaching girls they are responsible for other peoples’ thoughts and they are primarily sexual objects in need of covering. No girl or woman’s body is sinful, and no one should be taught that. Modesty, as an ideal, can be about so much more than shaming females into covering up”(beautyredefined.net)
3)It objectifies women:
What does it mean to objectify something?
Objectify: to present as an object, especially of sight, touch, or other physical sense; make objective; externalize.
If our culture objectifies girls. What does that mean?
It means to treat them as objects, especially of sight, touch, or other physical sense.
Is there a difference between purposefully dressing in a way to provoke a sexual response and dressing in a way to avoid doing that?
The former, most will agree, is the women purposefully objectifying herself and is generally frowned upon. The latter is also objectifying a women, though the women may not realize that is in fact what she is doing. Boys will be boys.
“Many discussions of modesty, from diverse cultural or religious perspectives, revolve around the idea of keeping sinful and unholy female bodies and body parts from the gaze of others — particularly men. This privileges the male gaze, in a backward sort of way, and puts females at a disadvantage for being the ones in control of what others think or feel when seeing their bodies. When we speak of modesty strictly in terms of covering our bodies from the sexual gaze of others, we are keeping the level of discourse at the shallow waters of women and girls as bodies alone”(beautyredefined.net)
“If modesty is a concept you subscribe to, there is great power in changing the modesty conversation from what you LOOK like to others to what you FEEL like inside. Studies on the epidemic of self-objectification show us that “clothing represents an important contributor to the body and emotional experience of contemporary young women” because body-bearing clothing leads to greater states of self-objectification, body shame, body dissatisfaction, and negative mood (the latest study of this kind was just published in May 2012’s Sex Roles academic journal). What this tells us (and what our own experience living in female bodies tells us is a no-brainer) is that when we wear clothing that is revealing or emphasizing our parts, we become very self-aware of those parts that are being looked at. We self-objectify and are in a near-constant state of adjusting our clothing, fixating on what we look like, and looking at other people looking at us. It’s OK to like being looked at, and even to like attention from others for our looks, but if it’s getting in the way of progress, happiness, and health — as so much research confirms that it is — we’ve got to move on to being more than an object to be looked at. Research shows a level of modesty can be an important tool in safe-guarding ourselves and our daughters from being in a constant state of self-objectification…….when we fixate on the inches showing we are missing the point. When we judge girls and women for the skin they are or are not showing, we are minimizing them to their bodies and repeating the same lies that females are only bodies in need of judgment and fixing. We are even perpetuating the shame-inducing belief that female bodies are sinful and impure, and must be covered to protect boys and men who can’t be held responsible for their thoughts or actions”(beautyredefined.net)
“But, the problem is that – so on the one hand I see the impulse to tell Mormon girls to be different – that’s an impulse I sympathize with. The problem is that we tell them to be different in a way that concedes what is happening. In other words, the larger culture is telling women and increasingly young girls, “Your bodies are primarily sexual; they are about desirability and desire; they are about the effect; the most important thing your body does is the effect it has on men; that your bodies are inherently pornographic.” And what we do as a church right now is we tell girls to cover up. So we tell our women and we tell our young women and increasingly young girls to cover up. But we tell them to do that in a way that reenforces the idea that to cover up because they are pornography. Right?
“In other words our modesty discourse – the way we talk about the importance of dressing with self-respect – is we do it in a way that actually reinforces and deepens and magnifies and distorts the already presence of sexualization of girls’ bodies – rather than in a way that undermines it. I mean, ideally, the way is, as I see it, ideally what we want, is for our girls to choose not to dress in a highly provocative manner, to dress in a manner that denotes self-respect, and that more than anything else, reflects a choice on their part not to use their bodies as objects of sexual power.
“Nothing, in my mind, better encapsulates everything that is wrong with Mormon culture, when it comes to gender and sexuality than the fact that, hands to God, in Salt Lake City there is a store called ‘Sexy Modest Boutique’. But, on some level it would be surprising if such an establishment didn’t exist because these two sort of points of tension in our culture intersect perfectly around this idea of being sexy and hot but also covering up your body. It’s the specter of walking pornography that underlies all of this….The idea that you run the risk becoming “pornography” as a girl or a women if you don’t cover up enough of your body, because by itself, your body is pornography; it just permeates. You can go to BYU’s website and go to their EFY program website and these testimonial videos from kids that attend and you see these teenage girls in these videos talking about the dress standards and testifying about how important the dress standards are because they don’t want to make themselves into the reason why the boys can’t go on a mission. It’s so horrible.
“So, it’s like we are pin-pointing the problem, the big picture, we see the problem in the world, and we are trying to solve it in the most counter-productive that way we can. I do want my daughters, when they become capable of having that effect on other men, I do want them to choose not to exercise that – to choose not to take advantage of that. I want them to treat their bodies and make wardrobe choices that reflect respect for their bodies. But, I want them to do that because….In other words, I want their choice of dress to reflect the fact that their bodies are not pornographic, rather than to reflect the idea that they are…You have to acknowledge and you have to own the fact as a parent and as an advocate for you children that it is not immodest for little girls to dress a certain way because they are little girls.” (Brad Kramer, FmH Podcast, Episode 16, 28:29 )
4)It makes boys/men out to be dumb, stupid Neanderthals that cannot control themselves:
You have little control over what thoughts enter your mind, however you have full control with what you will do with those thoughts.
2 Nephi 2:16 “…Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself….”
2 Nephi 2:26 “…to act for themselves and not to be acted upon…”
Helaman 14:30 “….for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves…”
“Nor should I be encouraging, pleading, or demanding that other people be perfect so that it will be easier for me to be nice to them. They have perfectly good reasons to try and be perfect, and my ability to be kind is not one of them. I have the duty to learn to be kind to everyone, even and especially when they are imperfect. So too, do Mormon boys have the duty to learn to respect, and not judge all women, especially the ones dressed immodestly”(Starfoxy, FmH, part 3).
My bishop,Bishop Wallace, recommended a book written by Elder Bednar entitled, Increase in Learning: Spiritual patterns for obtaining your own answers”. Chapter four of that book is called Doctrine, Principles, and Applications: A Framework for Gospel Learning. It is this chapter that provides a more powerful pedagogy for modesty:
1)Doctrine: “A gospel doctrine is a truth – a truth of salvation revealed by a loving Heavenly father. Gospel doctrines are eternal, do not change, and pertain to the eternal progression and exaltation of Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters. Doctrines such as the nature of the Godhead, the plan of happiness, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are foundational, fundamental, and comprehensive. The core doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ are relatively few in number.”
“Gospel doctrines answer the question of “why?” For example, the doctrine of the plan of happiness answers the question of why we are here upon the earth…The doctrine of the Godhead helps us understand why we are to become perfect even as our Father in heaven and His Son Jesus Christ are perfect” (pg. 115, Nook version).
Elder Packer has said:
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (“Little Children”, 17)
2)Principles: “A gospel principle is a doctrinally based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency. Principles are subsets or components of broader gospel…Correct principles always are based upon and arise from doctrines, do not change, and answer the question of “what?”….A principle is not a behavior or a specific action. Rather, principles provide basic guidelines for behavior and action…the fourth article of faith states:
‘We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…..”
“The Atonement explains why, and the principles focus upon the what. Thus, the principles of faith in Christ and repentance provide the necessary guidance so the Atonement can become efficacious in our lives…(pg. 117, Nook version).
He then goes on to quote Elder Oaks:
‘I will not suggest detailed rules, since the circumstances in various wards and branches in our worldwide Church are so different that a specific rule that seems required in one setting may be inappropriate in another. Rather, I will suggest a principle based on the doctrines. If all understand this principle and act in harmony with it, there should be little need for rules'(The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” 39).
3)Applications: “Applications are the actual behaviors, action steps, practices, or procedures by which gospel doctrines and principles are enacted in our lives. Whereas doctrines and principles do not change, applications appropriately can vary according to needs and circumstances. Applications answer the question of “how.”
Elder Bednar then goes on to give the example of Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the principle, and the actions would include:
- study the scriptures
- pay tithes and offerings
- attend church meetings
- partake worthily of the sacrament
- accept and magnify Church callings
(pg. 118, Nook version)
How can we apply this to the issue of modesty?
1) Doctrine (why): The plan of happiness teaches why we are here on earth and why we are to become like God. It is because we existed as spirits with our Heavenly Parents who are literally the parents of our spirits and we are created in their image. We are here to learn that, through the Atonement, we can control the bodies our earthly parents have provided for us.
2)Principle (what): What should we do? We should respect ourselves because we are literally children of Heavenly Parents.
3)Application (how): How are we to show respect for ourselves? My acting modestly in our thoughts, speech, actions, and dress.
“The clothes I wear can effect the way I think about myself, and the way I treat myself- and God cares very much about what I think about myself. God also cares about what we wear because we are created in His image and the way we treat and think of our bodies can change the way we think about God, and God cares what we think about Him too” (Starfoxy, FmH, part 4)
“…modesty “isn’t a line on your arm, it’s a line in your heart” (Starfoxy, FmH, part 4)
“Modesty can be a powerful concept when we believe we are more than bodies. And when you believe you are more than a body – that you are capable of more than being looked at and you can do more than work on perfecting your parts – then you might dress differently than someone who perceives her value comes from her appearance, or the amount of attention she gets from men. Someone who sees herself as a capable and powerful person with a body that can help her achieve great things might act differently than someone who exists solely to look “hot.” She’ll treat her body differently and think about it differently. If you believe your power comes from your words, your unique contributions, your mind, your service, then you don’t need to seek attention and power by emphasizing your parts and minimizing yourself to your body” (www.beautyredefined.net)
Read Moses 1:39
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
“Anything that stands in the way of that is His business. If the way [a girl or boy]dresses [her/him]self leads to be filled with fear and shame, then He cares. If [her/his] clothes lead to vanity, and selfishness, and other sorts of sins, He cares. But He can teach me how to cover myself, both body and mind, in a way that will protect me from those and other sins”(Starfoxy, FmH, part 3)
“It is very tempting to compare clothes to a form of communication. Clothes are like words that you wear! And this is true, but only to a certain point. First lets talk about the way that this is an apt comparison.
Clothing does communicate things to people around us.
Let me read the following story:
“My sister is a police officer and when she is in her uniform everyone knows that she is an officer of the law, and they treat her differently because of that. I once met her for lunch while she was on duty and people were reluctant to meet her gaze, yet stared at her when they thought she wasn’t looking. She said, “people don’t see you, they see the uniform.”
Another way that clothing can be a form of language is that the same way we can’t arbitrarily redefine words, and declare them to mean whatever we feel like (cough cough preside cough), we don’t get to pick what certain ways of dressing mean within our culture. Pocket protectors are nerdy. Sweaters slung over shoulders are preppy. Birkenstocks are for hippies. Cowboy boots are for hicks, etc etc. Knowing the language of clothing is an important part of being able to function effectively within a society” (Starfoxy, FmH, part3).
Here is another way to approach it:
1)Doctrine: Read Timothy 2:5; Doctrine and Covenants 45:3. “The doctrine of the Atonement explains why Jesus Christ is our mediator and advocate with the Father” (page 115, Nook version).
2)Principle: Repentance. “The principles of faith and repentance can provide the necessary guidance so the Atonement can become efficacious in our lives” (pg. 117, Nook version).
3)Application: We are to love and forgive others since we all need the atonement
Read D&C 64:10 “....but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
Read Matthew 22:36-40 “....love thy neighbor as thyself…”
Read John 13:34, 35 “...ye love one another; as I have loved you.…”
Yet another way to teach:
1) Doctrine: Fall of Adam and Eve tells us why we can choose
2)Principle: What can we do? Agency tells us we can freely choose how we can act and whether or not to take advantage of the Atonement.
3)Applications: You boys are not dumb Neanderthals. You have agency and can control your thoughts and should do so.
Read: 2 Nephi 2:26 “…to act for themselves and not to be acted upon…”
“Does that love for others include [a girl] covering herself up so that boys and men aren’t tempted by [her]? I don’t think so, and I have a few reasons why. One: There are other, better reasons [for a girl] to cover [her]self up that have nothing to do the needs of those around [her] and everything to do with [her] own needs, and [her] own salvation. We aren’t hurting for good reasons to dress modestly, so we don’t even have to go there. Reaching for that reasoning makes it sound like there aren’t good reasons to dress modestly for one’s self. And Two: “Going there” includes sending a message to the boys and men that they don’t *really* have to love others as Christ would, and learn to ignore how they look. They learn that as long as the girls are ‘being good’ in that particular way then they don’t *have* to learn how ‘be good’ for themselves- they can coast along on the righteousness of others rather than confronting and conquering- through the atonement- their own imperfections.
“Think of it like this, it would be so much easier to be kind and non-judgmental of other people if they were all perfect. Unfortunately other people are not perfect, and I cannot blame my lack of kindness towards them on their imperfections. Their imperfections may explain it, but explanations are not excuses especially in God’s eyes. Nor should I be encouraging, pleading, or demanding that other people be perfect so that it will be easier for me to be nice to them. They have perfectly good reasons to try and be perfect, and my ability to be kind is not one of them. I have the duty to learn to be kind to everyone, even and especially when they are imperfect. So too, do Mormon boys have the duty to learn to respect, and not judge all women, especially the ones dressed immodestly(Starfoxy, FmH, part 3).
Elder Bednar then goes on to give a social criticism of our popular Mormon culture:
“…the spiritual power and protection that come from “yielding [our] hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35) cannot be obtained merely by performing and checking off all of the gospel things we are supposed to do. Consistently completing the various tasks without experiencing the mighty change of heart and becoming more devoted disciples will not produce the spiritual strength we need to withstand the evils and opposition of the latter days” (pg. 120, Nook version)
He then continues (ASK THE BOYS THIS QUESTION) I modified the original to fit the lesson:
“Consider the following question – and answer it honestly and candidly. Please do not quickly give the obviously appropriate answer to the response you think you should give. Take a few moments to reflect on “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:3).
“In your living of the gospel of Jesus Christ (specifically as it applies to modesty) and in your serving and teaching both at home and in the Church, have you focused primarily on doctrines, on principles, or on applications?
“I have asked this question of tens of thousands of members of the Church, including priesthood and auxiliary leaders all over the world. The consistency of their answers is stunning. My posing of the question typically engenders a few moments of awkward silence. And then heads begin to nod and with knowing smiles come the responses, nearly always “applications.” It is interesting to me how reluctant members usually are to acknowledge the actual answer to this question – even though the answer almost always is recognized immediately.
“Now please ponder the additional questions.
“Why? Why do many members tend typically to focus on applications more than on doctrines and principles?”
“Here is a sample of some of the answers I have received to this follow-up question:
- Focussing upon applications is easier
- Applications are more tangible
- I can control applications
- I can accomplish things quicker by focusing on applications
- My profesional experience has taught me to get things done and make things happen – so I gravitate to applications
- I am not comfortable teaching doctrine
- I do not know the doctrine well enough to teach it with confidence
Elder Bednar continues his critique of our popular LDS culture:
“Somehow we seem to be drawn to applications as the primary way to “fix” things, to make life better, to be “doers of the word,” to achieve desired outcomes, and to help the Church operate effectively. And far too often we emphasize applications without the necessary understanding and divorced from the doctrinal context.
“We may focus on applications because we like to believe and feel like we are in control, because we have confidence in our own experience and expertise, or because we are only doing what we have seen others teachers and leaders do….I find it both noteworthy and troubling that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, a season in the history of the world during which all things are to be gathered together in one in Christ, many members are exasperatingly engaged in creating ever longer lists of detailed and disconnected gospel applications.
“Whatever the reasons, emphasizing applications to the exclusion of fundamental doctrines and principles does not produce spiritual power, protection, and direction….I am suggesting that applications, such as some of those presented earlier as items of lenghty “to do” lists of many members, tend to receive disproportionate and excessive attention” (pg. 123, Nook version).
I have seen grown “men” in my neighborhood show their butt crack while doing yard work and then heard same men preaching modesty to women. You must not depend on folks at church to teach your children! You alone are responsible for teaching your children. You must teach your children how to sort out what they hear at church from the best and well meaning folks. What about when your kids go to Seminary! I told all my kids don’t believe everything you hear, decide for yourselves what you know to be good and true 🙂
Great advice. I couldn’t agree with you more. Unless I am the one doing the teaching at church – then you should be believe everything!! HA!
Mike actually you just gave a great review of Elder Bednars book. He has a follow up to that book out now.
A quick and easy way to form every learning experience…
Principle (what is the subject – Modesty)
Doctrine (why is should this be important to me, why should I learn and implement this in my life, why would this make a difference in my life — answers can be found in scripture, talks, lessons, books and self reflecting prayers)
Application (How do i apply this to my life in a meaningful way that will bring about internal lasting change)
We difinately see a lot of us trying to apply applications to our lives without understanding the doctrine. Very faithful obedient people who go through the motions but don’t experience the change of heart, growth and joy.
Thanks. You are right-on bishop. Sorry, I blew your cover man.
It is so much easier to teach the application. We as Mormons love lists of do’s and dont’s
So did the Pharisees at the meridian of time, who wanted to reduce the worship of Jehovah down to a list of rules and regulations. Their success is evidenced in their willingness to crucify Him rather than change their ways.
Great post, Mike! I have made the decision to stop saggin’ muh pants.
I love this post my favorite part “It makes boys/ men out to be dumb, stupid Neanderthals that can’t control themselves” love that!!! That has always been my issue why can’t we teach boys that respect is the key. ( girls also I know) thank you for teaching this I hope this makes it to the YW, YM manuals!! 🙂
I really hate that ass picture on the article >)
He’s being immodest. Code-word for slob. Since I am sure he is not giving anyone “dirty” thoughts.
I have a lot of concerns about what is being taught to my daughter regarding modesty. There are many modesty messages found throughout society. But what she may hear in the Young Women’s organization is not one of my concerns. Here’s why:
1. Ratio of society versus religion. My daughter attends school 9 months a year, 8 hours a day, surrounded by messages of immorality. The prevailing thought at school is, “do what feels right or good”. Magazines fill the check-out stand with unnatural, airbrushed, “perfect” females. TV shows geared toward teens include themes of premarital sex being the norm.
Conversely, my daughter may get 3-4 lessons per year (at the most) specific to modesty. Church principles taught on a weekly basis are doing battle with societal messages being sent out every hour. I agree that women are objectified in our society, but the extent to which you attribute objectification to semi-annual modesty lesson is overstated.
2. Spiritual versus non-spiritual environment. Any time we receive instruction at church, we open ourselves to the possibility that the instruction may not be provided in the way or manner we would prefer. However being at church, we are more likely to be receptive to the spirit and therefore be more able to take away what Heavenly Father wants for us. Learning about modesty at church is a safe environment where questions can be asked, discussion is encouraged, and the spirit guides. Additionally, topics discussed during church are often followed up with family discussions where parents can further guide and direct.
On the flip side, messages sent during school hours, at the store, on our phones, or while watching tv, may make feeling the spirit more difficult.
3. It’s happening, let’s address it. The hypothesis in the post seems to be that the most effective teaching method is to only teach about the importance of modesty in how it impacts us personally or impacts our relationship with Heavenly Father- to the exclusion of any discussion about how our modesty can impact the thoughts of others. The hypothesis being that if we teach that dress can influence a man’s thoughts, then it will objectify women.
Everyone knows that the way we dress does (or can) influence the thoughts of others. It’s why we dress up for job interviews, why companies have dress codes, why the military uses uniforms, and why men and women take a lot of thought about how they dress before they hit the clubs. So speaking to this point in a Young Women’s lesson doesn’t seem unusual. It’s not to say it should be the focus of the lesson, but because dress is already used to influence the thoughts of others (and will continue to be if history is an indicator), it makes sense to mention that this influence should not be used inappropriately.
Also regarding content, I’m not convinced that the teaching method you suggest is predominant, is as prevalent as you suggest. A teacher would have difficulty spending the full lesson addressing the impact dress has on thoughts? The lesson would have to cover other topics. As I reviewed the LDS website I wasn’t able to find a lesson on modesty that focused on the impact dress has on thoughts, but I found several references to modesty having an impact on a person’s relationship with Heavenly Father. I’m sure teachers have made mention of modesty in the manner you describe, but I have to believe the teacher would also include much of what you suggest is the preferred method of teaching.
Is it possible the method of teaching has already begun to change? In the 2013 youth curriculum there isn’t a specific modesty lesson to be found.
I do have concerns regarding what/how my daughter is taught about modesty. But when I weigh the content and value of the message offered by society versus the message received in church, my concerns are not centered in what she receives at church. In fact, I send her to class confidently, knowing that I wouldn’t want her anywhere else.
What a wonderful idea! I am in the YW presidency in my ward and will definitely use this to help teach my girls (and my own daughter) about modesty. Last year for Standards Night, I wanted to address how we treat other people (mainly being a kind/thoughtful person since we have an issue with that). The rest of the presidency wanted to focus on modesty. We had a meeting with our bishop about what to focus on and he said that being modest was more important so to address that. I couldn’t have disagreed more. For me, modesty (as in what the girls are wearing) is never more important than how we treat other people. Well, I still gave a talk about kindness. I wish I would have found this sooner so I could have used some of these ideas. I’m sure I will have more opportunities to teach about modesty!
I’m going to respond to the last comment (M. Rees). Something that concerns me with what is being taught in YW (my ward at least) is that it isn’t okay to come to YW if you aren’t dressed “appropriately”. I have watched our YW president single girls out and tell them to pull their shirt down, put a jacket on (to cover up cleavage), to cover up their swimming suit, etc. I believe it is more important to have them there then to not have them come because of their clothing.
One more thing- Last year at girls camp, the girls weren’t allowed to wear swimming suits to swim in the lake. (But, they could wear white t-shirts with colored bras.) I couldn’t understand why we are teaching our girls that swimming suits aren’t modest especially when they were actually swimming. Somewhere, something has gone wrong in our teaching of modesty.
Collectively, you really got me thinking; thank you all. I’ll number my somewhat-scattered comments.
1.) When we Mormons define a cloth-line of modesty; and our boys see breaches in society, I wonder if we have trained them to think bad thoughts at that line? In an extreme example, men in the strictest Islamic sects may be aroused at sight of a woman’s ankle since their dress code requires hemlines to cover the same.
2.) Setting a fixed line of modesty may be problematic. The more conservative the line, the more frequent society will show infractions, the more frequent the wondering thoughts of our sons,.. see where I am going here?
3.) When I was a boy, I struggled most with my belief that society was corrupt as evidenced by the many breaches in clothing/modesty around me. Life was tough enough dealing with grades and acne; now I had to “save the world”, or so I felt. My modesty-orthodox burned up a lot of my time and thoughts; energy that could have been spent focusing on esteem issues, mine and others.
4.) As an adult, I (often but not always) view certain clothing choices as caving to Product Advertising, Marketing, Fashion, and Weak Self Esteem. In contrast, I recently saw a BBC documentary on Amish and Mennonites; and felt a great beauty from many of their women largely because they do not cater to 21st century advertising; their internal beauty and self assurance was more than enough to carry the day. I wonder if we, as parents and Mormons, could better spend time focusing on flaws within product advertising and persuasive marketing techniques, identifying logical fallacies, and etc, so that our kids will see the root causes of why people do, and wear, what they do.
I loved your idea of focusing on the flaws of product advertising; very insightful.
To your first point, I agree that whatever we try to cover up becomes sexualized by society. Does that mean we don’t cover up at all? Of course not, but the message has to be changed. Instead of using “cloth-line” modesty (loved that term by the way) the focus needs to be elsewhere and it will be reflected in how we act and dress.
Interesting to note, that even within conservative, burka-wearing, Islamic societies, women are still raped. A man’s desire doesn’t necessarily have to do with what a woman is wearing.
1. Excessive use of ‘pedagogy’ tells the reader you are as concerned with an academic message as your are with improving conversion, whether or not this is the actual case.
2. Local observations, short-sighted deviations, or personal inspirations do not necessarily reflect the general LDS culture or approach. Supporting quotations from Feminist blog sources, suitable though their opinions may be, is not supporting evidence of wider consensus, nor are anecdotal experiences from girls camp or the like.
3. Keeping our lessons for the youth close to the provided manuals ensures that 1) we correctly balance doctrine, principles, and applications, 2) we avoid personal interpretations of pet topics, and 3) earn guidance of the Spirit to place proper emphasis for local conditions as needed.
4. If I were Elder Bednar, I would not appreciate your use of my name, position, or publications to infer support your personal beliefs, as you have done here – nor would I call his invitations for more sincere conversion ‘critism’ or ‘critique’ of the LDS membership or religion.
5. The excellent material found in the new Come Follow Me lessons for youth Sunday School and Quorum/Class discussions should be the primary focus for youth lessons. Their topics and structure have been prayerfully ans painstakingly selected to address the unique needs of our youth in these perilous times.
6. Leaders who feel compelled to expound on the topic of ‘modesty’ do not need to confuse it will the separate (though related and important) topic of pride. When we speak of modesty to the youth, we speak of ‘dress and appearance.’ A wonderful lesson plan can be formed around this topic as defined in the For Strength of the Youth pamphlet (excerpt copied below). Again, staying close to the pricinples found here provide both youth and leaders suitable content.
Dress and Appearance
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? … The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 3:16–17
Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.
Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.
Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.
Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports. The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change.
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. 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?”
Genesis 1:27; Alma 1:27
How does my testimony of the gospel influence my choice of clothing? (For the Strength of Youth, Dress and Appearance)
There’s nothing in this post contradicting the strength of youth pamphlet. I think elder bednar would shout bravo! there does need to be a shift in the discussion of modesty. The principle is absolutely taught narrowly. That doesn’t mean the gospel isn’t true . We are just getting better at understanding it and teaching it! It’s so exciting!
I think that teaching girls to dress modestly because it turns boys on is like saying it’s your fault you were raped because of how you dressed. It’s not right and gives the wrong message. I think we should teach modesty by saying something more along the lines of our bodies are precious and sacred, what do you do with something precious and sacred? You take care of it and you treat it differently. We don’t talk about the temple that much because it is sacred, not because we are ashamed of it, we cover our bodies because they are sacred, not because we are ashamed of them, but because we love them.
you clearly have no sense or clue about the pervasive culture among LDS that is needlessly focused on hemlines, t-shirts and other straw men for modesty. Good heavens man, inform yourself, invest some actual REAL thought and agency into forming your opinions please. Also, what color is YOUR burqa?
Loved this, one thing I have always taught my daughter and my yw is that dressing modestly is about your attitude and relationship with Heavenly Father. You dress and behave modestly for yourself, you keep your standards to make you happy, not for some future spouse, or your parents.