Way before I even knew about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, my parents taught me about self respect. My mother taught me to protect my body and treat it like a temple. My father taught me to wear my hair like a crown. I was never forbidden from wearing certain types of clothing. I was always taught to wear clothing that was appropriate and made me feel comfortable. I gained a love of fashion and accessorizing from my great-grandmother who owned a beauty salon. These early lessons from my parents and grandparents helped to shape my individual sense of style and my self worth. I have always used fashion as a way to express myself.
So basically, I was never taught specifically how to be modest. In fact, I don’t ever remember hearing my parents say this word. The word didn’t really have that much meaning for me until I joined the church. There seems to be so many different views on what constitutes as being modest that I don’t even know what it is anymore!
For The Strength of Youth includes standards for Dress and Appearance that go into a little detail:
“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.”
I’m going to save the argument about this standard being overtly geared towards young women for another post. But moving on, there are so many things that could be considered immodest just from reading this. Is lace immodest because it is sheer? Are short sleeved shirts immodest because you can see your forearms? Should I only wear turtlenecks to avoid my shirt being too low cut? If my shorts are to my knees, is that considered short shorts? Should I never wear a swimsuit because they are just immodest in nature? So I can’t wear sleeveless shirts even in the summertime?
Can anyone answer these questions?
Yes, a lot of people can answer these questions but I can tell you they will all have different answers!
Modesty is not just about our outward appearance. Yes, you can show your love for Christ through your attire and the way you carry yourself. But you also need to have modesty of the heart.
In I Samuel 16:7 it says: “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord not as seeth; for man looketh on the outward , but the looketh on the e.”
I interpret this to mean that we should not put so much emphasis on our outward appearance but on what is inside. My parents instilled in me faith, respect, responsibility, confidence and self worth. They unknowingly shaped my modesty on the outside by building my modesty on the inside.
So why don’t I like the word modest?
Because I feel that it creates a wall between church members and between the church and the world. I have actually heard church members judge another member because her skirt was knee length. I have also heard church members judge non-members because they wear bikinis. “Oh her skirt is not modest at all!” “That attire is so immodest!” Are we really basing others’ worth on their attire? Why are we doing this to each other?
So let’s get out of the closet (literally) and stop focusing on hemlines and sleeves and necklines. Stop using a person’s so called modesty as a measure of their heart. When teaching your children about modesty, take a lesson from my parents. Start working on the inside and it will show on the outside.