This is a guest post from LDS_Aussie. He is a PhD student in psychology and has served in many church positions including Branch president, EQ, HPGL and High Council in church land. This is his first guest post.
Just imagine you are lined up to take a penalty shot at the goals depicted to the left. What do you do? Having played a little bit of soccer myself, I would line up the ball, position my body, balance myself and then relax…..picturing the ball flying into the top corner of the goal with the subsequent and possibly humorous celebration. You start your run up to the ball and with all the preparation you did, the goalposts get moved to a new position!! All your preparation was for the goalposts in the original position, not the new one, and you miss. No goal and, unfortunately, no celebration…
An unlikely situation but a nice analogy for what I found myself in this week. I have daughters going to an FSY (For the Strength of Youth) activity. For those not familiar, this is a three to four day camp. Activities include dances, firesides and devotionals. For the most part, kids really enjoy the uplifting experiences, bonding and spirituality associated with going. I am supportive of such activities and the growth in the kids that inevitably follows.
Just a little bit about church culture before I go on…
Being from Australia, it is my feeling that we (Australian LDS) are a very conservative bunch. We are also a relatively “young” country as far as the church is concerned. For reason/s unknown to me, we feel the need to import the most restrictive and conservative elements of church culture from the USA. For example, very few people will publicly admit drinking Cola drinks, etc for fear of being identified as being on the slippery slope to apostasy.
Having been overseas many times, particularly to the USA, it strikes me as unusual that there are areas of the States are less conservative than us. For example, I was at a work conference in Mid-West and I was keen to visit the local Ward. The HPGL came to church in black dress pants, a blue and white check shirt, no tie and a brown sports coat. Apart from having significant issues with colour matching, I loved his outfit. Casual, but clean and respectful. However….not too much of that in Australia. For males, CEO style business attire…ONLY!!! The only people wearing clothes like that are visitors or the lost…we certainly get both…
As an interesting segway (sort of…) back to our original topic, the Bishopric member conducting the Mid West sacrament meeting indicated that the young women of that Ward recently had a wonderful time at girls camp…and what was the highlight??? Shooting a Shotgun at targets…probably no drama to people from the USA….but unheard of here in Australia!!! Back to FSY…
In registering my daughters and reading the FSY website I came across information that I found hard to reconcile. Quote from the FSY website:
“Clothing – Skirts, dresses, and shorts must extend at least to the knee”
Where did this come from? My daughters wear what I would consider modest clothing (more importantly they are modest in their behaviour and action) however some of their skirts do not exactly comply with this standard. Did the goalposts just get shifted?
The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet (and approved by the first presidency) states this:
“Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts”
How can a further, prescriptive definition be applied to this – just for the purpose of an activity?
I asked around with some friends in other areas of the city in which I live and received a few interesting replies. These were from parents who had served in both ward and stake youth positions.
- A number of young women reported significant levels of anxiety regarding attendance at FSY due to the heavy handed policing of this (and other) policies.
- A number of young women report anxiety about the potential for being publicly humiliated in front of other youth, should their dress standards not comply exactly with the policy. I have been provided examples of this occurring at previous FSY’s.
- Apparently this additional standard has its roots in BYU and its honour code – I understand FSY has its origins at BYU.
- It does not seem universal. For example on the South African FSY site there is no reference to this additional standard. REF: https://www.lds.org/youth/fsy/standards?lang=eng&country=za
- Any attempts to question this additional standard with leaders were met with either flat out refusal or stone walling.
I have attempted to clarify the disparity between these two different positions with my bishop and stake president. I received some genuine replies from my bishop, however none of them directly addressed my concerns. It was said that the additional policy assists leaders to have consistency in the youths’ dress. I have not heard back from the Stake President.
Whilst it may seem like a trivial issue to some, these are my concerns:
- The standard has been set. Why and who has decided to change it for FSY?
- How can I support an alteration in the standard when the clothes that my daughters currently wear can be worn in a Chapel and in the House of the Lord, and yet not be considered appropriate for FSY?
- Does this engender in our kids the thought that the longer the dress, the looser the top, the more modest?
- Are we, through this additional standard, discouraging those who should really be going to such an activity from coming? How do you bring a non-member given the significant restrictions placed on dress – amongst other things?
From a personal perspective……I have decided to leave the decision for my children’s choice of clothing to them. The clothing they have is consistent with the principles of modesty, respect and the first presidency stated position. I am supportive of their choice in this regard. I have no intention of enforcing adherence to the additional standard imposed by his activity. I’m confident that the spiritual uplift and experiences they will have at FSY will NOT be the result of wearing a longer skirt than they currently wear to the Temple.
- Have you found yourself in situations like this where the goalposts were shifted?
- Have you been asked to “police” this type of standard?
- What have been your experiences in raising potential concerns?
- Are we over-reacting or is there a potential for “slippery slope” here?
- Have you been confronted as a parent regarding this, or similar standards?
What did you do? Discuss…