In the March 2014 Ensign Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote of “The Lord’s standard for morality.” Elder Callister addresses a number of issues, including modesty for the women of the Church. Modesty in dress and appearance is not a new subject within the Church, nor is the way Elder Callister addressed it in his article.
When I was in Young Women’s as a teenager I can recall an innumerable amount of Sunday lessons as well as weekday activities dedicated to the subject of modesty. And sadly, the vast majority of the time it was stressed to me that I should cover my body because, heaven forbid, a boy might catch a glimpse of me and have a dirty thought or impure idea.
I developed a woman’s body pretty young in life. Because of that I’ve always been incredibly self-aware when it comes to my body. My mom would always tell me to pull my shirts up and I was always checking it make sure nothing was hanging out. I began to feel incredibly self-conscious about my body and felt like I needed to always be aware of it and how it appeared to others, mostly to the boys around me. I didn’t want to be “walking porn” and cause a boy to sin.
Just as my Young Women’s leaders of the past, Elder Callister says that “the dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men…it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.”
Sure, this is true. Equally true is that men have a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of women. When I see a shirtless man my mind goes there, if you will. If I see a man in a well-tailored suit, that’s probably the equivalent of a lady in a low-cut dress.
Women are sexual beings as well as men and are equally visually stimulated. Having a sexual attraction to a well-dress man does not make me a sinner, entertaining and acting of those thoughts do. And if I choose to act on those feelings after seeing an attractive or improperly dressed man the sin is mine, not his. He is not responsible for my sin, I am.
The quote that got the biggest reaction out of me was when Elder Callister said, “In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.” This shames women and their bodies.
As a faithful and active member of the Church, I would say that my dress is rather modest. I dress well and cover myself as best I can. I do not flaunt my body or try to show it off. I can say that not once has my clothing been what attracted a man to me.
If I attract a quality man I would sincerely hope it is due to my devotion to faith, my sense of humor, my kindness, my open-mindedness, my drive and ambition, and my compassion. In other words, who I am as a human being and not what I look like or my body because I am not my body. I am so much more than my body or what I look like.
What young and not so young women in the Church need to be taught is that modesty is about respecting the body as a creation and gift from God. Modesty is really about reverence for the human body as a sacred and special thing.
It is out of ownership and acceptance that I dress as I do. I don’t look in the mirror in the morning and say to myself, “will a guy find me sexy?” I say, “I should look like a woman who loves and accepts her body and wants it to look nice.”
I firmly believe that men are better than we give them credit for. They are not wild animals that see the slightest hint of cleavage and turn into ravenous creatures that cannot control themselves. They are more than capable of self-control and restraint, as are the ladies.
In the end, I am taking my body back. It is mine and I respect it, and if I respect it I treat it as more than a visual thing that may not be perfect but it isn’t something to be ashamed of. My body is not to blame for the improper actions of another.
Modesty is not about men. It’s about self-respect.