Welcome to Tween Talk for Latter-day Saints! This week, episode 15 of Tween Talk is about modesty.
Tween Talk Episode #15
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Tween Talk 15 Transcript
Have you ever wondered: why is modesty so important? And what exactly does it mean, anyway? Why do shorts have to be knee-length only sometimes? And why do some people say girls have to cover their shoulders?
Hey y’all, welcome back! Today’s topic is one that I’ve been asked several times to do: modesty.
sigh this is a hard one, guys.
The problem with tackling modesty is that there are SO many opinions out there. It’s one that people can get really, really judgmental about.
Remember how we talked about how people decide on applications, then try to force them on others?
That’s what’s happened with modesty.
The hardest part is that unlike the Word of Wisdom, modesty principles and applications change more frequently.
After all, how many times have the rules for sister missionaries changed? I was a missionary 15 years ago, and we had to wear skirts that were mid-calf to ankle.
In that time, the rules have gradually changed every few years – now they can even wear dress pants!
So questions about sleeveless shirts or two piece swimsuits seem to have a million answers. And some people feel like modesty applies more to girls than to boys, since girls seem to have a lot more rules.
See why this seems so hard?
So in order to answer this question, I followed the same pattern we always do: I started searching for the doctrine – the WHY of the question.
Why does God want us to be modest?
First, we should probably define modesty.
Did you know that modesty is more than just how you dress?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines modesty as “propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.”
Propriety is a fancy way of saying proper, suitable, or acceptable.
So how you dress is part of modesty, but how you speak and conduct yourself is also part of it!
Alright, so now, why does God care about how we dress, speak, or act?
1 Corinthians 6:19, which we read before when talking about the Word of Wisdom, says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
So our bodies aren’t ours, right? They’re God’s.
But then in the next verse it goes on to say, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
We are bought with a price. What was that price?
The Atonement. Jesus’s death resurrection. Our bodies are completely useless and pointless if it weren’t for the Resurrection.
Jesus died and was resurrected so WE could be resurrected and gain a perfect body.
He paid the price for our bodies, and He asks that we glorify Him with our bodies and our spirits.
So, now it’s time for the principles: WHAT do we do to glorify Him with our bodies?
We’ve already talked about one of those things, which is the Word of Wisdom. It’s one way He asks us to take care of our bodies.
Modesty is another way.
Most of the time, when we hear Church members talk about modesty, they tie it in with the Law of Chastity. They say it’s about helping others around us keep their thoughts pure.
While that is true to a certain extent, and we’ll talk about the Law of Chastity another time, there is so much more to modesty than making sure your bodies are covered up.
Like I said before, modesty is an attitude of propriety (meaning confining to social norms) and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior.
Let’s talk about each of those four categories one at a time.
First – language.
Did you know the kind of language you speak or the jokes you tell are tied in with modesty and the Law of Chastity?
If you’re making crude jokes that are sexual in nature, then that’s against the Law of Chastity.
If you’re saying something that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to the Savior or to the prophet, then it’s probably not something you should be saying.
Sometimes people will say that words don’t matter.
After all, it’s just a word.
This is used to justify profanity and other types of speaking.
Did you know that profanity is more than just swear words?
Profanity is disrespect or contempt for any sacred things.
This includes making fun of someone because of how they look, dress, or act – they are, after all, children of God.
It includes using the names of the Godhead in ways that are not reverent or respectful.
Any type of language that does not uplift or edify is profanity.
The danger with profanity is that it offends the Holy Ghost, and we will not be able to hear Him.
This can cause problems as you try to navigate your flowchart, your blueprint, and try to make right choices.
It may not seem like your language has very much to do with modesty, but modesty is more than clothes.
It’s about how you present yourself to the world and to God.
So please be careful with the words you use and the things you say.
If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it in front of the Savior, then don’t say it.
Because He sees everything, and you really are saying it in front of Him, whether or not you actually see Him.
Next, let’s talk about modesty in our behavior.
What actions are you taking on a regular basis?
Mosiah 18:9 says that when we are baptized, we are making a statement that we are standing as witnesses of God in ALL times and in ALL things and in ALL places.
Here are some things to ask about your behavior:
Do you make crude jokes or speak about inappropriate things?
Do you bully others, either with words or actions?
Are the things you do actions that are consistent with your claim of being a follower of Jesus Christ?
Last, dress and grooming: our clothes say a lot about ourselves, right? If you see a girl dressed in pink from head to toe with a frilly purse, do you think she is very likely to go out and play football on a muddy field?
Or if you see a boy in dirty, ripped clothing and pit stains under his arms, do you think he’s going to a job interview?
How we dress sends others a message. Now, before you get all upset with me about how people shouldn’t judge us, I want you to remember this: you can’t control what others do or think. You can only control yourself.
But you also promised to stand as a witness of God.
So you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing Him.
Your appearance matters.
And because you KNOW that you send a message with how you dress – because you get those same messages from others – you’re responsible for the message you give others.
The Church’s only study manual says under the topic of “Modesty” that we should “avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle.”
It goes on further to say that, “In dress, grooming, and manners, we should always be neat and clean, never sloppy or inappropriately casual.”
Now we come to a part where the Church is giving specific counsel about applications. It says we “should not disfigure ourselves with tattoos or body piercings. Women who desire to have their ears pierced should wear only one pair of modest earrings.”
Now, I know y’all are probably saying, What does earrings have to do with the Celestial Kingdom?
Honestly, not much.
Other than the fact that this is counsel from the prophet and other Church leaders, and we’re going to be judged on how valiant we are about this.
Are there ever going to be exceptions?
For example, some people get really bad migraines, and a piercing on their ear called a daith piercing can significantly ease that.
That is for the INDIVIDUAL person to decide with guidance from the Holy Ghost.
But if you think you’re the exception to something, you need to be really, really sure.
And you can’t judge others for decisions they make. It’s not your place.
Now, for the part I know you’re all wondering about:
This is probably one of the applications about the Law of Chastity that people get the most defensive and judgmental about.
How short is too short for a skirt or shorts?
Can you wear sleeveless shirts?
How come boys can wear swim trunks without a shirt, but girls can’t wear bikinis?
And that’s just the start of the conversation!
It also doesn’t help that rules for Church dances or Youth Conference are different a bit from stake to stake, and from family to family.
Just like keeping the Sabbath Day holy, dressing modestly has become one where applications are being treated as doctrine, and principles are being treated as applications.
So let’s get to the truth, okay?
That’s what these podcasts are all about!
Let’s take a moment to back up to the WHY.
God created our bodies. He also created sex for two reasons. The first is to bind a husband and wife together in a way they never will with anyone else. The second is to have children.
That process happens a step at a time.
When we’re born, our bodies are only figuring out walking and talking.
Then when we get a bit older, anywhere from 8 or 9 years old or older, our bodies start to change and prepare for adulthood.
Some of those changes are physical. Not only are you taller, but different parts of you begin to change as well.
Hair starts to grow under your arms and in your pubic areas.
You’ll get some body odor and need to wear deodorant.
And changes to your private parts, your sex organs, happen as well.
But in addition to that, your body begins to change on the INSIDE, too.
The hormones that are causing your body to change on the outside are also causing changes in your internal sex organs, and even in your brain!
Those hormones can be really, really overwhelming and overpowering.
Girls, your uterus (which is the part where the babies will gr0w), will develop a lining of blood that once a month will shed out of you if you aren’t pregnant. This is called menstruation, or is commonly referred to as your period.
Boys, not only will your voice deepen, but your penis will fill up with blood and become larger. This is also part of the baby-making process.
Now, with those changes come changes in your brain.
The hormones that make those changes are very different in boys than in girls.
For the majority of girls, the days leading up to your period can be REALLY emotional. You may cry really easy, or you might get frustrated and angry quickly.
Boys, you’ll start to feel intense physical attractions to young ladies, and your body – especially your penis – will respond almost uncontrollably.
Both of these types of changes are NORMAL.
But you need to learn how to CONTROL them.
That’s part of the human experience, right? We talked about that in the first few episodes of this podcast. Our bodies are imperfect, and God wants to see if our spirits will be able to control our bodies.
And you young men and young women need to respect each other and have sympathy for what the other person is going through.
Young men, most of you probably live with your mom, or an older sister, or any female that has already gone through puberty. You’ve probably heard them talk about being on their periods. They may have bad stomach cramps, or they’re really grumpy, or they cry super easily.
And you need to be extra patient with them during that time.
But young ladies, this respect needs to go both ways.
Just as your body is changing and you’re figuring out how to control it, the young men are going through something similar.
Let’s go back to something we learned in the last episode when we talked about pornography.
When it comes to pornography, the TYPES of pornography that are addicting are different for men and women.
Men usually use visual pornography, like pictures or videos.
Women, on the other hand, usually use explicit romance novels or stories that describe sex in detail.
Now, please know that I’m talking about the MAJORITY here, okay?
Not every single person is going to fall into this division, and that’s okay.
But for the MOST part, it’s because men and women are kind of like opposites when it comes to sex and relationships.
When a woman feels sexual desire the strongest, it’s usually because she is FIRST emotionally connected.
So a picture of a naked man isn’t as compelling to a woman as the story of a man who falls in love with a woman.
Men, on the other hand, are attracted physically first, and then the emotions come into play.
And we see this as you go through puberty!
For girls, your hormones are giving you all sorts of extreme emotions. You could be laughing one minute, then wanting to just cry for absolutely no reason at all the next minute.
You might love your parents, but suddenly and irrationally just want to yell at everyone because you’re super mad over something small.
I’m facing this now with my oldest daughter, and it’s so hard for her! Her emotions totally take control and she’s yells or screams or cries out of nowhere.
And then later once it’s passed, she feels TERRIBLE about it. She apologizes over and over again.
So when she’s yelling and screaming, I don’t get mad and ground her or something. Because I know where it’s coming from, and I try to be patient and kind as I help her figure out how to manage and control her feelings.
It’s a long, long process. Hey, even most adult women get cranky or weepy on their periods and when they’re pregnant!
Hormones are powerful things.
But what young women (and even adult women!) don’t understand is that the SAME thing is happening to young men.
Only it’s their thoughts and desires.
For young men, the hormones that flood their brains make it very, very, very difficult for them to control their thoughts and desires for sex.
Their bodies can become very aroused very quickly with little or no provocation.
This can be embarrassing for them, and it’s part of why boys that age make lots of crude jokes – they’re trying to pretend they’re not embarrassed or not thinking about things.
And for a young man who wants to follow Jesus Christ and keep the Law of Chastity, this is really, really hard.
A young man who has been baptized and may have already been ordained to the Priesthood is really trying hard to live worthily. But when a thought about sex or arousal enters his mind, the hormones are VERY powerful, and his body becomes aroused VERY easily.
That physical response makes it hard for him to turn his thoughts back as well.
Remember, the inadvertent thoughts and bodily responses are NOT a sin.
But once they’ve hit his mind, he knows he should replace the thought with something else and refocus, because he’s not married, and sex is for marriage to bond him with his wife.
Young women, this is why modesty is important.
When you wear revealing clothing, it makes it so much more difficult for that young man to keep his thoughts where they need to be.
Now I want to be clear – every single person is responsible for their own thoughts.
We all have agency.
BUT young ladies, just like you feel like your emotions are out of control sometimes and you want people to be patient and understanding with you, you need to give that same courtesy to young men.
This does NOT mean you need to go put on a baggy dress or pants and cover your face with a mask.
But where’s the line?
How short is TOO short?
How much skin is TOO much skin?
Just like it’s not fair for a young woman to say that her hormones are too strong so she can yell or cry whenever and however she wants to anyone, young men can’t say their hormones are too strong that women have to completely cover up.
So where’s the line?
Who says what’s fair?
And THAT is where having a modern day prophet is important.
After all, who created our bodies?
God did. And He understand the power of hormones and our ability to control or not control them.
And just like the Word of Wisdom, He has given the prophet and apostles counsel on what is best.
So we go to the Strength of Youth pamphlet:
Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.
Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back.
Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance.
I’m going to go far as to say, young men, that sagging pants where we can see your boxers, is immodest. As is wearing just a tank top – or what’s commonly referred to as a “wife beater” (which term is horrific in and of itself.)
Now, I know it seems a little unfair that girls have so many rules and boys don’t seem to. But remember, your bodies are created differently.
Hormones cause different reactions in each of you, and the triggers are different, too.
Young men, if you see a young woman who is acting more emotional than usual, you need to be kind and respectful about it, not condescending and rude.
And when you get dressed, young ladies, a part of you needs to do so with these FACTS about young men in mind.
Now, some wards and stakes have specific rules for youth activities that may be more strict than what you decide your application should be.
And you know what?
Those ward and stake leaders have stewardship. They have the right to receive revelation and make decisions for that specific activity or event.
Remember how God wants us to be valiant in our obedience?
Whether or not you agree or dress that way all the time isn’t the issue. It’s about having a willing heart to do what your Church leaders ask.
I promise you that you will be blessed for it.
I was your age when President Hinckley made the statement that young women should only have one piercing in each ear.
It made very little sense to a lot of people.
So many of my friends said things like, “It’s not like an extra piercing will keep me from the temple” or “It’s not actually a commandment in the scriptures.”
But others of my friends went home and took out any extra piercings they had.
As D&C 64:34 says, “The Lord requireth the heart and a WILLING mind.”
Please be willing to obey.
Please be valiant in following the counsel of the prophet and apostles.
Now, one last thing about modesty before we go.
The Strength of Youth pamphlet says, “Your dress and appearance now will help you prepare for the time when you will go to the temple to make sacred covenants with God.”
When you go to the temple for the first time, you’ll start wearing garments.
Garment bottoms go to the knee, and garment tops cover the chest and shoulders.
The garments are a symbol of your covenants with the Lord.
I had friends who would say things like, “Well, I can’t wear these types of clothes after I go to the temple, so I’d better take advantage now!”
But the problem was that once they got garments, suddenly wearing shorts that were knee length in addition to a layer of garments was NOT comfortable.
It was awkward and took a while to get used to for them, and what should have been a beautiful spiritual experience turned into something they dreaded or even hated.
On the other hands, my friends who were already wearing knee-length shorts and shirts that covered shoulders, stomach, and cleavage had almost no trouble adjusting.
Their attitude about it made a difference.
So as you work with your parents or other trusted adults to decide on applications for modesty for yourselves, keep these 4 thoughts in mind:
One – modesty is more than just what you wear. It sends a message to others about who you are as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Two – be considerate of those around you who are dealing with intense emotions, hormones, and bodily responses
Three – dress with the idea that you will be making covenants with the Lord in the temple.
Four – it’s not your place to judge others for their choices of dress or behavior. Leave that with the Lord.
Guys, the Law of Chastity isn’t easy. We’ve talked about some big things, like pornography, modesty, and waiting until marriage for sexual activities.
Next week will be our last week on this topic, and we’ll talk about something that I know many of you are dealing with: gender, sexual identity, and sexual attraction.
I’ll see y’all then.