I wrote about the more unfortunate part of my recent business trip to Hawaii here. While in Hawaii I always take time to get in the water, and was able to surf early before work and then in the evening after work. I spend a fair amount of time walking about Waikiki, on the beach and the streets around the beach. There are people in all manner of dress (or undress depending on your point of view).
While walking back to my hotel after an evening surf session, I saw a couple of young women walking ahead of me. From my distance, it appeared they were completely naked, as seen from the back, from the waist down. It was only upon closer inspection (done purely for the purpose of this post!) that one could notice that they did indeed have a small string type bottom. As they walked along, they were passed by an elderly couple that one could guess by their dress were from Kansas, or any of those flat states in the middle. Kansas couple did not turn or do a double take. It appeared to be perfectly normal for the throngs of people (throngs of thongs?) walking on the street for these women to be dressed like this. They weren’t the only ones. For further research on this post, I noticed lots of the younger women coming from the beach were dressed like this. And it did not cause a scene.
Of course context is everything here, and they were on the sidewalk adjacent to the beach. But for some reason I don’t think these same young women dressed like that would have been left to themselves if they had been at the Provo Rec Center Pool.
So how much of what we are taught as God given rules of modesty  are really from God? Is God a Victorian, who dictated the mores that seem to permeate the LDS Church today? Or is God a Swede and is OK with an Elders Quorum party ending up in a hot tub, everybody naked?
Is our Western Culture’s conservative view of dress something innate from God, or something learned? Adam and Eve did not noticed they were naked until Satan told them, so for them it was learned. Watching my little grandkids run naked around the house with mothers chasing them, it is obviously that “modestly” is a learned trait.
Who is to say what is appropriate dress? Should God, or the people that think they speak for God be the arbitrators of dress? Or should culture and society decide what is proper? If God is the decider of appropriate dress, then it would be unchanging. Yet if a wife of an current apostle were to get in a time machine and end up at a general conference in Brigham Young’s time, she would be deemed immodestly dressed. Her arms and legs below the knee would be showing, implying she was not wearing her garments, and she would be a scandal. I think Elder Holland said it best when in a March 2021 YSA broadcast, used his hands to explain where the world is—with regard to morality and marriage—and where the Church is. He then moves his hands to show the world progresses (getting more liberal), then the church follows, just lagging behind. He then says the “quite part out loud” when he realizes his church hand is where the world hand used to be (40 years ago), and says “and before long you look up and we are perilously close to where we never thought to be before”, and yet his hand is exactly where the world was at the start of his little hand show. The look on his face when he realizes he has painted himself into a corner is priceless. Yet this is exactly what the Church has done over the last 200 years with regard to dress and other social mores. (watch the video here to see this for yourselves)
Is there a happy medium where we can acknowledge God’s hand in dictating our dress, yet admit that it is driven in part by the current culture? Or is God’s dress standard destine to be 20-30 years behind the world’s for any given culture, and that, in fact is the purpose of the standard, just to be different?
 I’m using the Church’s definition of modesty. I know that modesty means so much more than how it is used exclusively in Church lingo to imply “proper clothing”.
Image by Remco de Vries from Pixabay
It is all culture and context. Those young women would likely be seen as immodest if they wore their string bikinis at the Provo pool as you pointed out, but also in settings where there are no church members such as any courtroom in the country, even in Honolulu, or to the reading room in the Library of Congress. It isn’t religion — it is culture.
Different locations have different cultures. I am okay with this as a fact of life.
I agree with ji. It’s about context and culture. In Europe, churches, even major tourist sites, require everyone to be respectfully dressed and remove hats before entering. And that’s the point for me, does what I am wearing show respect to where I am?
After I married my returned missionary, raised in SLC, now wife of 26 years I found out that she is essentially nudist in our home. I thought we had talked about everything before marriage, but apparently not! Her attitude is everyone has the same plumbing and there is nothing to hide. Of course when we are in public she’s the picture of LDS modesty. Sometimes she still surprises me when we are on vacation…
The church has managed to fetishize shoulders and to force people who havent made covenants to wear temple garments to live as if they had. I thimk to a large extent modesty is in the eye of the beholder.
I don’t think it’s God’s hand that has dictated dress codes in these days – particularly in TCOJCOLDS. I think we can look directly at the current leadership for that. It started long before these men were in charge, but they’ve added significantly to body shaming through the guise of “modesty”. I agree with the other comments that appropriate dress is expected in many places throughout the world, and I don’t have an issue with that. But in LDS culture, if a male wears a non-white dress shirt to church he is judged. I’m not even talking about a wildly patterned shirt that makes you dizzy. I’m talking about a solid pale blue or pale yellow button-up dress shirt. It’s ridiculous. Now men deliberately wear non-white shirts as a statement or in defiance.
I agree with @toad regarding the pressure and judgement for women not to expose their “porn” shoulders. As a woman who was never endowed, I never felt comfortable wearing a sleeveless top at church – being in a part-member family already carried enough judgement. Of course, the most ridiculous (and dangerous) “standard” of modesty is requiring YW to wear shirts (and sometimes shorts) over their bathing suits when they attend GIRLS camp, or requiring only large chested YW to wear a t-shirt. I acknowledge that this isn’t a church policy, but it’s been rampant and not addressed by leadership (silent approval).
Maybe the church’s standard is truly to just be different, but continually being 20 – 30 years behind the world hasn’t been a good optic.
I’m very libertarian and live-and-let-live about dress and modesty and these types of things (full disclosure: my three daughters are now adults so I have the luxury of not worrying about their teen years anymore). But I’d like to present to you an imaginary scenario that I think would be wonderful for Church members:
Imagine that LDS culture shifts to a point where nobody cares at all about dress and grooming and modesty. Imagine a culture in which people simply don’t care and where judgement about these kinds of things is almost non-existent. You can kind of see us heading in that direction with the latest FSY guidelines (principles over rules) but obviously we have a long way to go.
If you’ve ever travelled to other parts of the world, it can be pretty eye-opening to see how different cultures deal with the human body. Think of Africa, India, even Europe. They don’t seem as hung up on the dress/modesty mentality as we are in the US, especially in “Christian” settings. Does that make them less Christ-like?
I wish we had the guts to conduct an experiment to test my theory that the modesty / purity culture breeds more guilt/shame/pride than it does Christ-like behavior. Imagine BYU announcing that for the 22-23 school year there will be no dress and grooming standards. Yes, you’d have a few extreme cases that would really push the envelope. But my belief is that we would see people for who they are, not who they are pretending to be. And since we are all different, that would be a good thing.
I’ve never been one but I believe hippies and Harley Davidson types can be great Christians too. We should test it.
A quick survey of rape statistics for the US puts Hawaii below Utah and interestingly, if clothing is the issue, Alaska in first place.
Does being uncovered fall more into Toad’s wife’s assessment that we’re all equipped with all of the parts regardless of what’s over them or do Hawaiian men and the tourists from wherever have higher degrees of morality and/or self restraint?
It could be interesting to know what the BYUH student body makes of the question.
Adding, according to US News and World Report Utah also ranks in the highest ten of divorced women per 1,000. Don’ t know where Hawaii ranks but it’s somewhere between the top and lowest tens.
Another random thought to contemplate.
I had an Eastern European mission companion and once I suggested she wear a slip with her skirt. The skirt was basically sheer – the fabric was really cheap. She shrugged and replied, “legs aren’t that scary.” She’s right. I was channeling my modest Utah upbringing. Who cares if other people can see your legs?
It takes an effort to make nudity look sexual. It’s a body; everyone has one. Few people have bodies that sexy without being staged and airbrushed. I saw a movie once in which an older teen admitted to his father that he was having a sexual relationship. He was worried his father would disapprove, but his father’s response was along the lines of: “Enjoy your body and the pleasure it brings; soon enough you’ll be old and no one will want to see you naked anymore.”
I saw a mini-essay about the difference between USA views on nudity and European views on nudity that started out with the line “some of you have never seen your grandma’s tits and it shows.” The author was from a Scandinavian country where naked sauna family time was pretty typical. The author’s view was that people in the USA have a distorted and overly sexualized view of the body. If we saw more normal nudity of ordinary bodies, it might have the effect of reducing the sexualization of everyone/anyone. It might also reduce unrealistic beauty standards since it would be pretty obvious what real people look like.
I wish there was less stigma around bodies. As Toad points out, we’ve even fetishized shoulders.
All that said – I don’t like looking at naked bodies. All those talks about avoiding porn were wasted on me. I finally went and looked at porn and found it repulsive.
I think Toad hit on the substance of our modesty culture.
“ force people who havent made covenants to wear temple garments to live as if they had”
It starts with the idea that modesty is a good thing. Then someone decides to build a fence around that principle by making some concrete statements about how we are supposed to be modest. Someone else adds to the height of that fence and so on and so on. Until we get to the point where a 9 year old girl can’t wear shorts and a tank top because they’re not “modest”.
Hopefully the new FSOY will help take down these fences and we can get back to the reality of what modesty actually is (hint: it doesn’t have to do with the length of a hemline).
I do not and never have understood the argument I’ve heard some parents make that kids and teens (always the girls for some reason) need to “practice” wearing garment-ready clothes. It’s not a skill that requires practice to learn. That’s the dumbest argument ever.
As to the beach wear, I think it was Pres. Kimball (this is an old story, so I’m not 100% sure)) who was attending a parade somewhere and there were girls from the high school drill team wearing uniforms that had short skirts, and there were some Mormons in the audience tut-tutting and saying it was shameful, and he corrected them saying that modesty means wearing what is appropriate to the activity, and those uniforms were nothing unusual for a drill team. (That’s how I remember hearing this story anyway–I think I was in Primary or YW when I heard it). I always considered that to be the best guideline. Wear what is appropriate to the activity. If it’s 110 degrees outside, a tank top and shorts or a sundress are appropriate. If you’re swimming, a bikini is appropriate (or wear a one-piece, a speedo, board shorts, a rash shirt, or a wet suit–all of these are appropriate for the activity).
I’ll join the bandwagon and agree with “Dress appropriately for the activity.” Not because bodies are bad and they need to be covered up, but just because different clothing is appropriate for different settings.
It took me a long time to learn that “A body is just a body.” I was raised in a super conservative home, with strong messaging about the evils of pornography (porn shoulders, etc…). It had the effect of making me uncomfortable anytime I was around anyone who was showing skin. Any amount of cleavage became arousing to me. Making everything forbidden made everything enticing. As a scrupulous individual, I always avoided pornography and never got sucked into it. But it was on my mind like all the time. It wasn’t healthy.
After I got married (I was super comfortable around my wife and LOVED that part of marriage), my wife noticed how uncomfortable I was around others. As a feminist she took a very strong stand about how breastfeeding in public should be normalized. Intellectually I was on board, but I still made an uncomfortable face all the time. She basically told me, “You need to get over this.” Which I wanted to, but didn’t know how to.
She bought me a book of nude art models and I practiced drawing people and bodies with no clothes on. I was super uncomfortable at first like “Are you sure this is okay?” “Do I need to talk to the bishop?” She assured me that I was fine. I was doing this for the purpose of NOT getting aroused, rather than looking at naked people in order to get aroused. It has helped immensely, and I am on my way to being a normal person and having a healthy relationship with bodies. It turns out, like Janey said, a nude body by itself isn’t sexual and arousing. I would have been much better off just looking at nude bodies, rather than avoiding them (but imagining them as way more sexual and arousing than they actually are). Unlike Janey, I actually do enjoy looking at naked bodies. I think they are beautiful, and I can appreciate their beauty but not be sexually aroused or have “impure” thoughts. That feels healthier to me than my previous position, where I actually sexualized everything, even when people were wearing modest clothes.
I’m an active member of the church and believe that overall the church is good, but this is one area where I feel like church teachings really messed me up. I plan on having the art book available for my kids, and teaching them that “A body is just a body.”
Notice it is Uchtdorf (young life in Germany) who has liberalized FTSOY.
Visited a daughter living in Germany with her family. Invited us to join with them at the village spa. Which contained a pool, water slide, cafe, and sauna. Everyone left their clothes at the door reguardless of age or body shape.
We live 30 minutes from the best beaches in the universe, and go to the beach a couple of times a month. We have noticed the swimwear you describe becoming more popular. The first year it was only the beautiful bodies, last year more of the larger women. This year most of the women, and a good number of men.
My wife and I think they are beautiful.
It was satan in the garden who told them to cover up, not God.
Kansas here. Today, as per usual, the young gals looked like L.A.: low-cut blouses & short short skirts. Nobody cared. At least they’re in church. Amen
Yes, it is all about the culture. In the late 1960’s I spent my Junior year in France. ( I did not attend BYU, but went to a university in California, $90.00 a semester, such were the days.) At that time the students in the program were required to get chest X-rays. They set up a time for the girls to be x-rayed. They asked us to undress and wait together in the x-ray room. So there we were, completely naked, feeling very exposed and uncomfortable trying to converse as hospital personnel milled about. I have since learned that the French have a very different attitude towards the human body. Doctors exam patients in the nude and often hold consults with the patient while the patient is still completely undressed. The French call this attitude “etre bien dans sa peau”, meaning “being good/comfortable in one’s own skin” . I have yet to watch a French film where there isn’t a shot of someone in the nude, usually in the bath. The French find America’s cultural obsession with nudity amusing, as we seem to equate nudity with sex. The church just exacerbates the problem with its unhealthy attitudes towards human sexuality, modesty, and dress. I am with josh h on this. We all need to be “bien dans sa peau”.
Hoping you can open this link. It’s definitely culture – this is a picture of some of Brigham Young’s daughters. Exposed shoulders were obviously in fashion at the time.
I don’t believe that the Church should be defining specific dress standards. I think that God would like us to thoughtfully present ourselves as His children, but how we do that will change based on the time, place, culture, *and* our own individual feelings and preferences. This last allowance for individualism in dress is particular troublesome for the purity police.
For simplicity, we could group everyone into three groups based on how they choose to dress:
1. The trailblazers. These people are “pushing the envelope” on what is acceptable to wear. The modern bikini was scandalous in France of all places when it was introduced the late 1940s. The women walking down the street in the OP have these European trailblazer women of the late 1940s and early 1950s to thank for their ability to walk down a Hawaiian street in a bikini without having anyone bat an eye.
2. Mainstream society. Eventually, enough trailblazers dare to adopt a new style to the point where it becomes generally accepted by society when worn in the proper time and place. Bikinis were absolutely verboten for Mormon girls when I grew up in “the mission field” far away from Utah, but it seemed that bikinis were deemed acceptable by around 50% of the families in my high school based on what the girls were wearing, even though my community was rural and fairly conservative.
3. The puritans. Puritans are constantly critical of what mainstream society is wearing. Puritans will eventually adopt the styles worn by mainstream society, but they are always behind. Mormons are most definitely puritans when it comes to dress. We will adopt the styles of mainstream society, but we are always about 30-40 years behind the rest of society. I see about 50% of the high school girls in my very conservative Mormon Corridor community are now wearing bikinis. In other words, the Mormon girls here are just where mainstream society was 30-40 years ago when I was in high school. Mormons should be very grateful for the trailblazers and mainstream society who have adopted the more comfortable dress styles that we are wearing today. We constantly judge and criticize them for their “immodestly”, but without their help we may very well be dressed like the Amish (or the FLDS).
This process of evolution in dress is constantly happening. Trailblazers started adopting tattoos and piercings awhile back. These things have definitely entered mainstream society. I’ve recently noticed that a few Mormon women in my community have a small tattoo or two in discrete places, and a few young women are sporting nose piercings. These women are the Mormon trailblazers–they are far behind the trailblazers of society at large, but they are ahead of mainstream Mormons, who are, in turn, ahead of Mormon puritans.
Mormons have traditionally loved to make rules in an attempt to keep us in the fashion puritan category. I think that part of this comes from the fact that our leadership is very old and conservative–they think that the styles that they wore as youth should be just fine for today’s youth who are constantly being tempted by the world to dress immodestly. Another reason is Mormonism’s branding as a religion full of “wholesome” people whose morality is at least two steps above the rest of society. Modesty in dress is used as a proselyting tool. Do you want to raise your family in a religion that will teach your kids family values? Well then, Mormonism is for you–just look at how we dress to see what we’re talking about.
Is this process of making rules to keep Mormons in the puritan category helpful? I don’t think it is. There are no absolute standards of dress. Dress standards will be ever changing. Mormon teens have been trying to convince their parents that God has no eternal standards of dress for decades while many of their parents showed them the dress standards in the FSOY to argue that God did have standards revealed by prophets. Well, the teens were right in this case. The Church will never be in a position to define appropriate dress standards that apply to the ever changing fashions of society. The Church is right to teach people to thoughtfully think about how they want to present themselves as a follower of Christ and to just leave it at that. While some people may be attracted to the Church due to our puritan dress standards, there may be even more people that are turned off from the Church for this reason–they just think we look weird (I think male missionaries are really facing this right now in many places in the world as the Church has been very slow to adjust the standards of dress away from the white shirt, tie, and dress pants style that really is pretty strange these days. People’s initial impression is that Mormon’s are weirdos based on what they see the missionaries wearing.)
The lesson in 2nd hour today in my ward was on the new FSOY. It was interesting to hear the discussion. It seemed like most of the people (most of whom are parents) saw the changes to the FSOY to a principles-based rather than a rules-based approach as a good thing. However, many were apprehensive about how they were going to figure things out in their own homes. What if they have a rebellious daughter who wants to wear a bra and short skirt to prom? What if they have a son who wants to get a big tattoo on their face? With the old FSOY, parents could claim that God told prophets that bare shoulders and midriffs are not OK for girls or that tattoos are not OK for anyone because it was written right there in the pamphlet. With the new FSOY, some of my ward members were very concerned about how they would deal with these situations. They could ask their rebellious teenage son or daughter to prayerfully consider if wearing the bra to prom or getting the face tattoo is how God wants them to present themselves, but they fear that that conversation is going to go nowhere since their teen is just thinking like a teen and is not mature enough to make those decisions for themselves yet. My last kid just left the house for college a couple of months ago, so I don’t have any “skin in the game” any longer. As a parent, I chose not to teach my kids the old FSOY stuff at all since I didn’t think all the rules came from God. All we did is basically have a few discussions about being thoughtful about how they wanted to present themselves when they chose what clothes to wear, and I never had a single problem. All of my kids chose to dress in very mainstream styles. I do have some sympathy for parents with teens that want to really push the fashion envelope who might previously been able to rely on rules listed in the FSOY but who now no longer really have that as an option. Don’t get me wrong. I think the new approach is better. I do have sympathy for these parents, though.
Personally, I’m grateful for trailblazers. If not for one woman’s struggle to wear a one-piece form-fitting swimsuit in the 1800s for an appropriate activity(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annette_Kellerman), we might not even Have bikinis! Lol.
I grew up LDS in Phoenix. My mom sweat practically to death in her 60s-70s garments in the scorching summer sun there. Because she was a convert (& Scandinavian), she would then peel out of them at home in heat exhaustion and run around the house chasing us kids practically nude. The Valley of the Sun and my convert mother balanced out the dictates from Utah. And my mom taught me by her example that the female body is not to be ashamed of and should be comfortable going about its activities.
A century ago, European tourists went to Bali to stare at the ladies, who customarily went topless. Said ladies figured out what was going on, and started covering up. The Balinese tourist industry found other attractions to promote.
Recently, German women started covering up their boobies while swimming–apparently for fear that photos would wind up on the internet. Sic transit gloria mundi.
My Iranian friend once observed how the women at our university dressed more provocatively than back home. I asked him if covering up made him look any less. He said no. (Alert your religious authorities!)
Me, I’m still reeling from the Great Butt-Crack Epidemic of 2010.
Which reminds me:
https://www.clothesfreeforum.com/forum/naturist-rooms/legal-issues/552655-martyrs-for-nudism (naughty parts covered up, mostly)
And then there are these guys:
(Religious freedom FTW)
God has no hand in dictating our dress.
Why would he?
It’s a minor issue compared to everything that happens in our life and world.
Creating and dictating dress standards is means of control.
Physically and psychologically.
Worse, it gives a “select” group one more way to judge, shame, and distance themselves from others—shame on this.
“…is the purpose of the standard, just to be different”. Bingo.
Throughout history religious and cultural identity markers have often revolved around food, money, sex and dress. Some aspects of dress regarding modesty can be seen as a subset of sex; other aspects of dress, of course, can be vital identity markers but have nothing to do with modesty. They make such good identity markers, and thus boundary markers, because they are mostly quite visible and relatively clear cut and easy to police. (Of course there are nuances and exceptions.) And that’s also why some of the fiercest debates can be about these issues as opposed to the more important issues that actually are the essence of the Gospel. It’s why the temple recommend interview pivots on these things.
Identity and boundary markers are important. The sad thing is when those markers themselves are obsessed over and become substitutes for what the Gospel actually is all about. I think Jesus and Paul had stuff to say about this. Just a guess 🙂
As long as we are taking baby steps in getting rational about dress and grooming, is there a chance we could ditch the goofy rule about male temple workers having to be clean shaven?
I’m curious if anyone else is encountering what we are in our corner of the Mormon world:
The Wednesday after the new guide came out, our next YM activity the following Wednesday was “snacks and going over the new FTSOY pamphlet.”
Then the following Sunday the bishop had a fireside on the new FTSOY pamphlet.
For Fifth Sunday next week, second hour will be combined YM/YW to go over the new FTSOY pamphlet.
If the new mantra is to receive your own revelation on the guide, is there really this much to say about it? Anyone seeing their ward devote this much time to the new guide? I’m quite muddled on the disproportionate focus here.
We have a serious problem in the church with conflating conservatism and the gospel. Jesus was quite radical, but the politics of his day bore almost no resemblance to ours today and can’t be easily mapped onto our political landscape.
One of the biggest problems with this conflation is the reliance on a grievance narrative around the culture war loss which to many signalled the beginning of the end for religion–that secularism has won the battle, and must be fought at all cost. Thing is, there are a lot of great things that came out of the 60s culture war: civil rights, a greater measure of equality for women, the beginning of human rights for gay people, even laws that prevented discrimination against people with disabilities, and a lot less patriarchal repression that had made it impossible for so many people to pursue happiness and enjoy basic freedoms. Yes, there are some downsides to that culture war. We didn’t cure all of society’s ills in one fell swoop. We didn’t actually change the world’s bad structures, just opened them up to more people.
But at this point, it’s honestly embarrassing to see the Church equating things like shaving, hair length, and women being covered up beyond societal norms with actual “righteousness.” First, let’s unbox the notion that any of the rights gained during the civil rights movement and sexual revolution were *necessarily* anti-religion or a loss for the Church. By believing that these progressive gains were losses, we’ve rendered ourselves kind of silly in the process. Plus, it was over 50 years ago, folks; time to move on.
This discussion reminded me of this incident which I read in some forgotten book. At the beginning of the 20th century a colonizer/missionary criticized one of the African groups he was interested in converting/expropriating for their nudity. He told them that God did not approve of nudity and that now wearing clothes was disrespectful and displeased God. The leader noted that the missionary’s face was bare. The missionary responded that civilized people did not cover their face. The leader said to him, “to us our whole body is our face”.
A few tidbits. Like most LDS women, I have a lot of stories about modesty.
-From my Hawaiian/LDS family: One of my sons is fine with whatever clothing/non-clothing tourists wear on the beach, but said, “Stop wearing swimsuits in the grocery store. This is our home. We wouldn’t wear swimsuits into your places. Just act like normal people and wear clothes when you’re in our spaces.”
-A few years ago in the BYUH student-run paper, a popular story was titled, Modest Actually *IS* Hottest!” I don’t know what’s happening there now and church activities will always be dependent on who the leaders are, but I can vouch for plenty of LDS kids wearing whatever they want to on the beach, then they might or might not moderate for a church activity.
-When I started out parenting, I made my oldest daughter wear sleeves even though she was in a sport where she was outside all day in the heat. It took me a while to stop being ridiculous on that. But I did eventually learn, and with a younger daughter who was really into fashion as a kid/teen, I used her interests, and told her, “If your outfit is something an American Girl doll would wear, you’re fine.” And, “If your outfit is something Jackie Kennedy would wear, then you’re more than fine.” Sleeves or not.
-A different daughter had a non-LDS friend who would be attending girls camp. Daughter knew this friend’s family did not have money to buy a one-piece swimsuit just for girls camp, and was unhappy that her friend would get in trouble for wearing a bikini. Daughter was embarassed because she knew the local camp leaders wouldn’t hesitate to shame even a non-member guest. Daughter only owned one one-piece swimsuit. I asked if she wanted me to either pay for the friend to buy a one-piece, or pay for a bikini for daughter to wear so they could get in trouble together. Daughter said no, she’d figure it out. I found out later that when they got to camp, daughter and the friend traded swimsuits so her friend wouldn’t get in trouble. And yes, of course daughter got in trouble. But her mom was proud!
-On an annual trip to a week-long activity for LDS teens and parents–not church-sponsored, but it was for families with the same interests– there hadn’t been a dress code in the past, but one year at the first meeting for the teens, it was announced that all girls’ shorts had to be knee-length, saying that girls had to be “modest”. None of the girls had brought shorts that were super short or anything, but several of us parents had to take our daughters out to a nearby Target that day to buy boys basketball shorts for them to wear for the week. We thought it was quite rude to add a girls-camp-like dress code for the girls after the kids had meticulously chosen their outfits for the week and packed, and after we had already traveled and arrived. It wasn’t even a church activity, just an activity with random church members.
-The Jackie Kennedy wanna-be teenager eventually went to university in Florida. She was a ward missionary and would stand with the missionaries on campus at their weekly thing to talk to students. She was also an athlete and wore tank tops and shorts from morning practices to night workouts (which was totally acceptable attire on this particular campus, even for class, and even though Jackie Kennedy wouldn’t have done it!). So there she would be in her not-so-Mormon clothes with two elders in white shirts and ties. Students walking by would talk to her sometimes, but no one would talk to the elders. So my daughter talked to the mission president somehow and told him that no missionary work was going to happen unless the elders were wearing normal clothes. No students were going to talk to kids their own age who were wearing white shirts and ties! Shockingly, the mission president listened to an 18 year old girl, and told the elders they could wear jeans and Tshirts on campus. Problem solved: students walking by were willing to talk to elders and a random girl, as long as they looked like regular people.
-One problem I don’t think anyone has addressed yet is that the strict clothing rules the church has had for the girls has the side effect of girls losing respect for church leaders. They know sleeves and knee-length clothes aren’t appropriate or necessary for every activity, and they all have friends who are good people who don’t wear sleeves all the time. By making such strict rules, church leaders are training some of the kids to ignore church leaders.
I should clarify that the “Modest IS Actually Hottest” article by the BYUH student was about how wearing lots of clothes plus wearing garmets in Hawaii was too hot and too much to ask, temperature-wise.
Along the lines of struct rules making young people to lose respect for church leaders, to me the focus on “modest” attire (which seems to mean attire that is sometimes just inappropriate for the occasion) at church activities/girls camps etc just makes priesthood leader seem creepy. Nowhere else are older men seen as needing protection from seeing young women in swimwear or short or sleeveless shirts. Only at church functions with priesthood leaders present. Its kind of gross. Being objectified and sexualized at church just destroys respect and trust.
Yes, Chadwick I have seen something similar. Right now I am hoping it was just a one off moment, because it felt like the fact that the FSOY had changed was forgotten.