We don’t have to go to the mall to be appalled by the sights.  Sad to say, too many are on display in our own church meetings. 

And it’s not just the kids.  In our travels we’ve seen sights at church meetings that have made us blush.  It’s embarrassing when LDS mothers, on the trendy edge of fashion, wear skirts well above the knee, who, when they sit and cross their legs, provide a view they would “spank” their daughters for showing. 

We can only imagine that they don’t realize what’s being displayed.  Sometimes they mask the immodesty by wearing dark panty hose, which provide a bit more cover up, but the impression is still the same – short skirts are okay.  This is true also of fashions that are too tight, revealing every curvature of the body, and low-cut tops that display what only hungry babies should see. 

President James E. Faust said, “When parents try to teach their children to avoid danger, it is no answer for parents to say to their children, ‘We are experienced and wise in the ways of the world, and we can get closer to the edge of the cliff than you.’ Parental hypocrisy can make children cynical and unbelieving of what they are taught in the home” (Ensign Oct. 2005, p. 3).  We believe there is a direct application of this warning when it comes to fashion.

We can relate to a bishop of a college ward who had apparently been unsuccessful with subtle hints on the need for modest dress.  One Sunday he had finally reached his limits. Looking out over his congregation, which was seated in a stadium-style classroom, he said, “Sisters, I can see what you don’t want to show.”  Legs immediately came together and skirts were tugged and pulled to cover up what should not be showing.  They got the message.

We’re still trying to erase one sight we saw at church that would have humiliated the young teenager had she been on the viewing end instead of the wearing end.  We were seated behind her, listening to the prelude music.  Just before the sacrament meeting began she saw a friend a couple of rows ahead. Standing up she leaned way over the pews to tap her friend on the shoulder and, oh, my!  Her short shirt went way up and the top of her long skirt went way down, and a lot of skin came into full view, as well as – hmmmm, how can we say this appropriately – we saw, uh, well, only one way to say it, her thong!

The Modesty Test

This young woman probably thought she was being modest because her skirt, though low rise, was long, and when she stood still the bottom of her shirt touched the top of her skirt, showing no skin as long as she didn’t move.  Mothers need to teach their daughters to look in the mirror and move their bodies, such as raising their arms, bending over, sitting, crossing their legs, and so on – just as they will when walk out the door. This lets them see what others will see, from the front and the rear. Give them a visual demonstration. 

We call this the Modesty Test.  If, in the course of moving as you normally would, you see parts of your body that are private and should not be shown, then don’t buy or wear that article of clothing. Let your daughter see you giving yourself the Modesty Test.  Teach her to do it with the clothing she purchases, including jeans.

Where to Find Modest Clothes

Because of the demand of faithful Latter-day Saint women and other women who are concerned, there are many stores that now carry fashionable modest clothing.  Go to Meridian Marketplace https://meridianmag.wpengine.com/marketplace/indexrandom.asp?cat=7) to find a wide variety of modest fashions.  

A second source is an on-line directory of stores specifically designed to meet the standards of LDS women and young women may be of help  https://www.modestclothes.com/index.html. On the left side of their home page find the entry for Latter-day Saints and click on it.  It will lead you to dozens of sites to choose from.

Mothers also need to teach their daughters about appropriate undergarments.  Sometimes these young women step over the edge in what they wear under their clothes in an effort to be “a little worldly” without it being obvious. 

The danger in this is that when they wear immodest underwear it gives them the feeling of being provocative and sexy and affects their behavior.  It can put unclean thoughts in their minds.  They may succumb to an opportunity to show what is hiding beneath.

If you think that would never happen, ask yourself why she would wear something that revealing if she didn’t intend for someone else to see it?  Keep her undies modest and she’ll want no one to see them.  It might not hurt to remind her that Heavenly Father knows what she’s wearing from the skin out.

Mothers need to know what’s lurking in their daughter’s closet and dresser drawers.  Remember, you are the mother.  You have every right – every obligation – to know what’s going on in your daughter’s life.  You may be thinking, “But I don’t want to invade her privacy.”  That begs the question, “Would you rather someone else invade her privacy?” which may well happen if she goes out into the world wrapped in the trappings of the adversary.

What it Does to Young Men

There is another element involved here.  Not only are we trying to keep our young women sexually pure, but also our young men.  Some young women don’t understand the impact their immodest dress has on young men.  One of the differences between men and women is that men are sexually stimulated by what they see.  They are visual. 

Women, on the other hand, tend to be less stimulated by the visual and more by the emotional.  It’s simply not fair for young women, or any age women, to parade their immodestly clad bodies in front of the young men we are trying so hard to help keep morally pure.  Fathers need to help their daughters understand this difference, and teach them that modest dress will not only protect them but also their brothers and male friends from impure thoughts and actions.

In his General Conference address a few weeks ago Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, speaking directly to the women and young women of the Church, said, “For you to fully claim Heavenly Father’s blessings and protection, we ask you to stay true to the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ and not slavishly follow the whims of fads and fashions.

The Church will never deny your moral agency regarding what you should wear and exactly how you should look.  But the Church will always declare standards and will always teach principles … [O]ne of those principles is modesty.  In the gospel of Jesus Christ, modesty in appearance is always in fashion.  Our standards are not socially negotiable.”  (General Conf. Oct. 2005)

At this same conference Young Women General President, Susan W. Tanner, said, “Modesty is more than a matter of avoiding revealing attire.  It describes not only the altitude of hemlines and necklines but the attitude of our hearts.”

Teach With Love

To make our teaching of these principles become an attitude of our daughters’ hearts we must do it with the utmost love.

  Being mean, nasty, ugly and firm will get parents nowhere but hated.  Boundaries need to be set by being kind, gentle, respectful and firm.  There are loving ways to handle these situations.

For example, you might consider doing the following.  If, after you as parents have carefully taught the principles of modesty, your daughter comes home wearing an immodest item of clothing, take her aside and calmly, kindly explain that it is inappropriate and she may not wear it again.  She may say, “But Daddy, (or Mom) I spent good money on this and I can’t just throw it away.”  Be understanding and ask her how much she paid for it.  Then say “I’ll buy it from you for what you paid so you can replace it with something modest.  Please go in your room and take it off now and bring it to me.” 

Promptly give her the money and a hug, then say, “I love you too much to allow you to wear immodest clothing.” When she returns with the item take the scissors and cut it up and throw it away as she watches. You will likely only have to do this once.  If you teach these principles in a kind and yet firm manner, expressing your love, your children will be more willing to make wiser choices.  Remember, some things are “not negotiable” and modesty is one of them.

An inspiring concept to teach your daughters was given by former General Young Women President, Margaret Nadauld.  She said, “Grateful daughters of God guard their bodies carefully, for they know they are the wellspring of life and they reverence life. They don’t uncover their bodies to find favor with the world. They walk in modesty to be in favor with their Father in Heaven. For they know He loves them dearly” (Ensign Nov. 2000).

The Final Step of the Modesty Test

In conclusion, help your daughters apply this final step of the Modesty Test: Look in the mirror and ask, “Would Heavenly Father be proud of me in this outfit?”  If the answer is yes, then she can feel secure in buying it and wearing it.  If there is the least bit of doubt, then she must follow her heart and not buy it or wear it.  Apply this final step to your own purchases as well.  Had this been applied by a woman we know who would never wear an immodest dress, but appeared at the community pool in a scanty bikini swim suit, this never would have happened.  Modesty applies to swim wear as much as anything else we wear.

In her General Conference talk, Sister Tanner reminded us of this teaching of Joseph Smith: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom.”  (Oct. 2005)  It is our experience that the majority of Latter-day Saint mothers are the example of women who are striving to achieve this purity and are helping their daughters do likewise.  We hope our young women will look to these women for a righteous example, and find their own mothers among them.

[We invite you to learn more about teaching youth to be morally clean in today’s world by reading Gary and Joy Lundberg’s book On Guard! Seven Safeguards to Protect Your Sexual Purity, available online at https://garyjoylundberg.com/products/guard.htm]