This past Sunday was the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11.  It was an emotional time for many people around the country.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir had a wonderful broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” with Tom Brokaw that morning.  Various sporting games and other events had touching memorials throughout the day.  It was a time when tragedy could be used to reflect on goodness, strength in unity, and higher purposes.

After watching the choir broadcast, I went with my family to our Sunday meetings as we do each week.  We had two hours in Primary (where I teach) followed by Sacrament Meeting.  And I was actually looking forward to Sacrament meeting.  We have a number of great people in our ward and I was expecting an inspiring meeting.

  • We have a pair of brothers who both served active duty in the Middle East over the past few years.  One of them is going on a mission this month.  The other one lost his life this past year in the line of duty while trying to protect us.  Hearing about his sacrifice in the context of his brother going on a different type of mission would have been awe-inspiring.
  • We have several other people who serve in the military as well, who could have talked about what the events meant to them.
  • We have ward members who actually worked in the Twin Towers in the past, and who knew people who died there ten years ago.
  • We have eloquent speakers who could have talked about how tragedy can (and did) help us refocus on God, family, and what is truly important.

It could have been an amazing and uplifting meeting.   But it wasn’t.

Instead, we had a series of 4 female speakers: a youth speaker from YW, a young adult speaker, the wife of someone in the bishopric, and the stake YW President.  And the common topic they were assigned: MODESTY.

The youth speaker gave a short talk about one of the YW values.  The young adult speaker actually gave what was by far the best talk of the bunch.  She explained that modesty is about much more than what we wear.  It includes what we talk about on Facebook, the websites we go to, the movies we watch and the music we listen to, our conversations and our thoughts.  It was well-thought out and a great talk.

But then the other two spoke.  They blended in a mass of things that jarred me.  Here are just some of the points they made:

  • Women in gym clothes and swimsuits entice men and could be the first step on men having a problem with pornography.
  • Even though they may not wear garments for 2 decades, little girls should only wear clothes that cover parts of the body that the current version of garments cover.  One of the speakers went through her whole daughter’s wardrobe and got rid of everything that didn’t meet this criteria.
  • Bikinis – Bad.  Need I say more.
  • Girls should do the “head-shoulders-knees-and-toes” in a mirror before they leave home.  They should reach above their head to make sure their shirt doesn’t creep up and show their stomach.  They should touch their shoulders to make sure they are covered.  They should check their knees to make sure things are appropriate there.  And they should touch their toes to again, make sure things don’t ride up or become uncovered.
  • Some women think their dress/skirt is long enough because it comes to their knees, but when they sit down it could come up higher and be revealing to men, so they should check for that by sitting down.
  • A story about two missionaries who had to fight at a baptism about who DIDN’T have to sit next to the girl in what they considered “revealing” clothing because it made them uncomfortable.
  • Even though it might cover “appropriate” areas, tight-fitting clothing should also be avoided because it could arouse someone else.
  • We shouldn’t worry about following fashion trends but should have plain clothing that doesn’t detract from our inner person.
  • Etc.

This went on and on and filled the entire Sacrament meeting – and it had apparently been planned for several months within the ward and stake.  Needless to say, for 9/11 Sunday it had the opposite effect of being inspiring.

So my points:

– There were no comments about men.  I guess this means that we’re being modest.  And if we could just keep those pesky women covered up, we’d be fine.  Is this really what we teach?

– There has been a big push in our stake about missionary work, and our fast the previous week was supposed to include that topic.  If I actually brought one of my neighbors to Sacrament meeting this week, I’d be embarrassed.

– In case anyone thinks this is isolated to my ward, a co-worker told me about a boy telling her daughter that he is glad that he didn’t know her when she was a cheerleader, because those outfits are too immodest and he wouldn’t have been able to like her.  Or any of hundreds of other examples.

– Do we really need to keep our little girls out of sundresses (as talked about in the June issue of the Friend)?  Are bikinis really wrong?  Etc.

– Many Muslims use the exact same arguments about keeping women modest to avoid stirring passion in the men, to maintain their purity, etc. that we heard.  They may choose different body parts to cover, but is this really much different? (Maybe this is the tie in to 9/11?)

– Most ironically, ALL 4 OF THE WOMEN SPEAKERS and 99% of the women in the audience would be considered immodest and to be following the standards of the world instead of God according to at least Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith.  In fact, when talking about women modifying the garment to accommodate the fashions of the society around them, President Joseph F. Smith taught (as from my previous post on changing garments):

“Each individual should be provided with the endowment clothing they need. The garments must be clean and white, and of the approved pattern; they must not be altered or mutilated, and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles, and around the neck. These requirements are imperative; admission to the Temple will be refused to those who do not comply therewith.”

So we CAN change garments themselves to follow societal trends, but our little girls can’t have their shoulders showing?   Hmmmm.

It’s Sundays like this week that make me wonder if we’ve lost sight of the big picture and are caught up in minutiae.  Is this truly the spiritual nourishment that we gather as Saints to enjoy?  Is this really the best we can come up with?

Anyway.  Back to my original point.

  • I’m thankful for the men and women who fight for our country to protect my right to write things like this.
  • I’m thankful for the people who put themselves in harm’s way to save others’ lives on 9/11/01.
  • I’m thankful for the families and children who sacrificed a father or mother on that day to show that we, as a society, are still good.
  • I’m thankful for reminders that I am so much more than the money I make or the car I drive or the house I have (or the clothes that I wear) – that caring for others is all that truly matters.
  • I thankful that I was able to go to bed that night and be thankful that I was still alive sharing this amazing world with my wonderful wife and my beautiful children, regardless of how they dressed for Church or for sports or for the beach or for school or anything else.



Addendum (NOTE: This is comment #27 which I posted on 9/19.  I’m just moving it here as well for people who might not make it through all the comments):

Just a short follow-up:

I didn’t know it was going to happen until I arrived at Sacrament Meeting, but yesterday WAS the meeting I hoped we would have had on 9/11. It was a “Missionary Farewell”, although we technically don’t have those anymore (which is a topic for a future post in itself – why not have a one-hour meeting devoted to someone who is willing to give two years full-time to the Church?)

Two fine young brothers had a dream of becoming Army Rangers in high school. They trained and prepared. And they both entered the Army. This young man served TWO long tours of duty in Iraq. As he was nearing the end of his 4 year commitment, he thought that maybe he had served others enough. Maybe he shouldn’t go on a mission but to school to “get on with his life”. And it would be hard to argue with that.

But then he found out his brother was killed in Afghanistan. Like many of us thought about when faced with the tragedy of 9/11, this tragedy caused him to reconsider what was REALLY important. And it’s not money or things or anything else we can hold. And at times, there is nowhere to turn but God.

When his time in the military was up, he prepared to serve a mission, and he is going to make a damn fine missionary. He wants to go. He is dedicated. He has his priorities straight. And, at times, his brother will be there along with him, also continuing to serve.

It was one of the best farewells I have seen in a long, long time – and one of the best meetings period. This is how I hoped we memorialized 9/11. Not some argument about the middle east or politics or what wars are “right” or anything else. But a celebration of heroes, of things that turn us to God, of priorities as to what really matters in this world.

And to this fine young man embarking on the next two years – God speed.