27 January 2015

Dressing Modestly ─ It's Totally A Plan Of Salvation Thing

NOTE: The words modest and modesty are too often used in an incomplete manner. Modesty refers to a person's character, and not merely to a manner of dress. Clarification needs to take place in discussions about modest dress so we understand that there is more to modesty than making sure your skirt hits your knees. Charity, virtue, humility, constraint, and meekness are all characteristics that make a person "modest". That being said, this post will concentrate only on modest dress.

I've seen several articles and online discussions over the years about dressing modestly, including discussions about the resultant feelings of body shaming, unfairness in the manner in which modest dress is taught to young women versus young men, and the shifting of responsibility of the thoughts and actions of another onto the wearer of clothing that someone else might judge to be indecent.

I'm certainly not the most qualified (or eloquent) writer to throw my two cents into this discussion, but I do have a thing or two to say from my perspective of the debate. While I hope my ability to be understanding and kind to those who may disagree will continue to evolve and grow, I won't ever change this position – namely that dressing modestly is a standard to uphold and is set by modern day prophets who receive guidance and revelation through the Holy Ghost for those of our day and age.

Here is what I believe to be the essential ingredient missing from discussions about modest dress – the plan of salvation. I know you might be thinking, “Huh?”

Hear me out.

We learn from the plan of salvation that this earth was prepared as a place for us to receive a mortal body and to learn obedience so we can become like our Heavenly Father. We also learn that Satan cannot have a body because of choices he made in the premortal existence. (PLEASE, let’s all finally stop saying pre-existence. That's just doctrinally wrong. We existed, therefore it isn't a pre-existence.)

Here’s the really important part – Satan will do everything in his power to get you to abuse your body. He teaches that your body is yours to do with it whatever you want. From one extreme to the other he will make you feel anything from anxiety, shame, embarrassment, disgust, and self-loathing, to exhibitionistic, shameless, vain, and self-obsessed...or any variant of body image across a wide spectrum of descriptors. From self-harm to self-worship, excess to deprivation, nowhere in his agenda is there room for a healthy attitude of indebtedness to our Father in Heaven for the marvelous gift of a physical body.

As in all cases of God's laws versus Satan's counterfeits, a line must be drawn between salvation and destruction. When dressing modestly is taught without the clarifying influence of boundaries that the Lord has set to protect our bodies, Satan is easily able to distort the beautiful doctrine of the sacredness of a physical body into guilt-ridden lists of manipulative restrictions. The learner often still wonders "why", while the teacher often ends up conveying an air of "because I said so".

Once, a young lady came to me and asked why our church taught that shoulders should be covered. “What’s wrong with bare shoulders,” she asked? Of course, nothing is “wrong” with bare shoulders. (That’s a doctrine of shame that comes from Satan.) And though to others her question and tone may have seemed defiant, I could tell she sincerely wanted to know why dressing modestly is a standard of our church. Instead of just giving her a quick answer and sending her on her way, I had a fairly rare moment of inspiration and clarity, and I asked her to give me a week to think and to pray about her question. I asked her to pray as well. I knew that Heavenly Father wanted me to be able to help His daughter find truth, but I also felt that I was unprepared at the time to really be of benefit to her. We ended up talking a week later and had a wonderful discussion about the plan of salvation, where questions were answered, and I learned a lot about the process of asking for and receiving revelation that pertained to my stewardship.

As I stated earlier, a line must be drawn separating salvation and destruction. For our day and time, the line has been drawn for the modest dressing of our bodies to just past the shoulders and at the knees. Those current guidelines aren't restrictions, but are blessings to help us understand the gift of our bodies. Wise stewardship of our bodies is essential to the fulfillment of the plan of salvation. Modest dress, for the right reasons, engenders appreciation for our bodies, and gratitude for our Father in Heaven who has given us our bodies as part of a beautiful gift of progression and joy.

So you see: Dressing modestly ─ it's totally a plan of salvation thing.

PS – Obviously the definition of modest dress is contextual. Different activities such as swimming, cheerleading, playing sports, dancing, etc, require adaptability and common sense in choice of attire. A hundred and fifty years ago, standards of modest dress were obviously very different from today. Even now, different countries and cultures have various standards for defining modest dress. This is why it is essential to have guidance and instruction from modern day prophets and apostles who represent the Lord.