Misunderstanding Modesty Part 2: Op Ed Meridian Magazine
Who knew modesty was such a controversial issue? I took a lot of heat and criticism about “The Costs of Misunderstanding Modesty” article, and even some personal attacks. But those comments were out shadowed by the outpouring of gratitude and appreciating for my willingness to speak up and share my thoughts. I decided to write a follow up article responding to comments, questions, and criticisms, and to provide clarity. Here’s an excerpt from the article…
Thank you to those who posted thoughtful and articulate comments on my article “The Costs of Misunderstanding Modesty”. I had no idea that this blog post would spark such intense conversation and elicit so many varied responses and questions. No matter what you thought about the article, I think it is a good thing for us, as individuals and as a group, to reflect on and discuss our approach to teaching modesty.
I’d like to address a few themes and questions that prompted some to (passionately) disagree or take exception to (parts of) the article. It seems that some of you may have misunderstood my intent in writing it. Hopefully I can clarify some of those misunderstandings. The following are questions or concerns gathered from emails, messages, online comments and discussions:
Q: Are you are suggesting something different than the standards in the “For the Strength of Youth” (FTSOY) pamphlet? Are you saying that our girls can wear two-piece bathing suits and not have to worry about it?
Many of you seem concerned that I didn’t outline LDS modesty standards in this article, and that because I didn’t, I am suggesting that modest dress is not important. I made an assumption that if you are reading Meridian Magazine, you are already familiar with the Church’s teachings on modesty, that you have read FTSOY pamphlet, or that you are easily able to search the term modesty on LDS.org and find pages of articles defining and outlining modesty.
Here is a comment that exemplifies this concern:
Please, I beg of you to just read For The Strength of Youth. And also, why is nobody talking about the significance of garments? We need to be modest in dress ALWAYS. There should be no exceptions to God’s commandments.
To be crystal clear, I wholeheartedly support the guidelines in FTSOY and the Church’s doctrines on the sanctity of the body. I teach them to my children, and I strive to live them. We do need to be modest and strive to follow the commandments. I didn’t summarize those teachings in this article because the focus of this article was not to outline or to challenge the LDS modesty standards, but to open up a discussion about how we appear to be applying those guidelines in ways that may be harmful, particularly to women. In the opening paragraph, I mistakenly thought it was sufficient to say, “As someone who believes in the teachings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I value and heed the counsel we’ve been given about modesty.”
It seems that including the word “modesty” in the title of the article set up an expectation for some readers that the article would be (or should be) a lesson on modesty focused on reiterating the Church’s guidelines for female clothing, or a sermon on the doctrine and principles behind modesty guidelines. This intense criticism partially illustrates my concern; that we have come to expect discussions on modesty to be about reiterating our dress guidelines. Teaching modesty guidelines to women is an important part of the modesty discussion, however, it is only one part of modesty as defined in the Church’s True to the Faith Manual:
Modesty is an attitude of humility and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If you are modest, you do not draw undue attention to yourself. Instead, you seek to “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also verse 19).
If you are unsure about whether your dress or grooming is modest, ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?” You might ask yourself a similar question about your language and behavior: “Would I say these words or participate in these activities if the Lord were present?” Your honest answers to these questions may lead you to make important changes in your life… (LDS.org)
If you’ll notice, the focus of this quote is on us, as individuals, reflecting on our own dress, grooming, language, and behavior. “Would I feel comfortable wearing, saying, or doing this in the Lord’s presence?” Not “Should she feel comfortable wearing, saying or doing that in His presence?”
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.