A Testimony (?) of Modesty

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A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by hawkgrrrl » 06 Aug 2018, 14:35

Several months ago, a woman in RS talked about her daughter's prom dress not being something you could wear with garments, and that her daughter hadn't yet gained a "testimony of modesty," which is something that she said most women don't get until they are older. That concept has been stuck in my craw ever since, and I'm still not done unboxing it. My reply at the time was to add to the discussion that I don't have a testimony of modesty, and I'm 50 years old, so maybe I'm just immature for my age.

Hear me out. Modesty--referring specifically to women's dress codes and not the broader definition of not drawing attention to oneself--as we all know, is very contextual. I've been asked to cover my head in a Cathedral with a shawl because that's their modesty standard. I've had to put on a zip up floor and wrist-length covering in some mosques because it is likewise their modesty standard. What you wear to the beach differs from what you wear to work. When an actor like Donny Osmond plays Joseph taken into Egypt, he's shirtless because that's what the scene calls for. When Claire in Outlander time travels, her very-modest-by-today's-standards-even-for-garments 1940s style dress is scandalous because everyone thinks she is wearing a "shift" (basically underclothes for women). "Modesty" isn't something timeless and static. It is fluid and contextual. We are conditioned to respond based on norms, and norms vary depending on time, culture, and other contexts.

Having a testimony of modesty therefore is problematic to me, but I do take this woman's comments at face value. So what is it that she has that feels like a testimony of a principle to her? Is it a confirmation that modesty protects her from something (e.g. unwanted sexual advances, not being taken seriously at work, being too focused on her own hotness)? Or is it a humility for her to suborn her own comfort for the preferences of others (patriarchy in particular)? Is the act of personal sacrifice something that in and of itself feels like a spiritual act? I tend to think it's the latter. When someone sacrifices something, even if nobody else appreciates it, they are being humble.

But I don't like that, and I'm not like that. Self-sacrifice is not always a virtue, particularly when we sacrifice something that truly helps no one in the long run and inconveniences us on a regular basis by making us feel unworthy or as if we (and our comfort and choices) don't matter or need to be suborned. John Wooden said that the only thing you should never do for another person is what they can do for themselves. Modesty for others is not a virtue but is its opposite because the more modest you are, the more you feed into the lasciviousness of those who are looking at you as an object. (There was an excellent post on that here: https://bycommonconsent.com/2013/06/18/ ... d-modesty/). Not everyone is making those types of sacrifices. Women are disproportionately asked to be self-sacrificing (usually for the benefit of men).

Maybe making meaningless sacrifices for theoretical others is the nature of religion. And if so, that's a problem.

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by LookingHard » 06 Aug 2018, 16:05

This is a bit of a tangent, but related. I recently found out about the concept of "Moral Licensing" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-licensing) One definition is
Moral licensing is a a particularly interesting mental glitch: apparently, doing something that helps to strengthen our positive self-image also makes us less worried about the consequences of immoral behavior, and therefore more likely to make immoral choices
I actually think this may have played into the story of the good Samaritan. The priests would likely be heading to the temple and shouldn't touch unclean things. Did they feel that because they were doing temple work that they were already doing enough "good" and could skip helping the poor sap on the side of the road?
I have seen this behavior in me and I am sure we all do it at times.
I wonder if some of this is in play when the woman feels like she is getting her quota of "good" by making sure her shoulders are covered.
I am there with you. Church isn't the right place to show up in a tank top or a guy in a muscle shirt, but just covering up more does not make you closer to God.

I can testify that I sweat less when I wear less.

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by Roy » 06 Aug 2018, 16:13

How much of what we teach in church is Mormon cultural baggage? How much of what we teach is structured to make the people better Mormons rather than better people?

Last week's YW activity was a lesson on modesty and how to make modest and cute outfits followed by a photoshoot. The parents were asked to have the girls come to the activity in a modest and cute outfit.

Yesterday's Sunday School lesson for the girls was on the importance of getting married in the temple because only then can you have an eternal family. In addition, the handout said to date only people with high standards and to not date and/or marry non-members.

DD is 12, does not own any immodest clothing and does not date. DW and I encourage/force DD to go to these things mainly because we are hopeful that our daughter will gain a stable and positive group of friends. However, I am feeling frustrated that the lessons appear to be pretty limited towards specific Mormon standards and not as applicable towards general life skills. How much does my DD need to conform to the Mormon mold in order to benefit from the Mormon social structure? It is a vexing question.

Specifically in regards to testimony, do we gain testimony of modesty the same way that we gain a testimony of WoW?

1) live the principle on faith.
2) observe other people not live the principle.
3) wait for something bad to happen to them.
4) tie their misfortune back to their non-compliance with the principle.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by dande48 » 06 Aug 2018, 17:56

I'm a big fan of the "golden mean" or "middle way". There is a modesty spectrum, and falling at either end will cause you trouble. As with most of the Church, it is easy when rejecting one master, to become enslaved to another.

On one end of the modesty spectrum:
Women are:
-Ashamed of their bodies
-Removed from their individual identity
-Physically uncomfortable

At the other end of the modesty spectrum:
(That's right, we're going K-Pop)
Women are:
-Ashamed of their bodies
-Removed from their individual identity
-Physically uncomfortable

The first group is exploited through religion, the second group is exploited through materialism. Both are miserable.
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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by Curt Sunshine » 06 Aug 2018, 18:38

I have a testimony of modesty, but it has almost nothing to do with specific clothing styles.

We cheapen the true meaning of the word when we apply it exclusively to clothing and ignore the much broader application to moderation, generally.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by AmyJ » 07 Aug 2018, 05:46

Roy wrote:
06 Aug 2018, 16:13
How much does my DD need to conform to the Mormon mold in order to benefit from the Mormon social structure? It is a vexing question.
Here is the 64,000 dollar question - how much does an individual need to conform to the Mormon mold [non-doctrinal cultural expectations that may or may not be verbalized and/or written down and/or "policed"/enforced] in order to benefit from the Mormon social structure?

I think some parameters that enter into the equation are as follows:
a) the "nature" of the rule that is broken - shoulder bearing teenagers are not treated the same as pregnant teenagers.
b) how often does the person attend Mormon functions - ie church, other activities.
c) how often does the person/how much can the person contribute - the more potential social currency or prospective social currency you develop allows you greater freedom (sometimes).
d) how connected is that person to leadership by blood or by tradition.
e) how badly does the church organization in the area need you or your family?
f) location - inside the Mormon corridor, California, or "in the mission field" also plays a part.
g) attitude - defiance and disrespect generate different results then seeking common ground and respect.

I don't have the answers - I barely have the question. For now, the social rules my daughter unwittingly breaks are within the forgivable bounds of the group because she is only 8.5 years old. The benefits she gets from church and church activities are fairly hit-or-miss these days. But we go because they are our community - for now.

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by AmyJ » 07 Aug 2018, 06:00

Curt Sunshine wrote:
06 Aug 2018, 18:38
I have a testimony of modesty, but it has almost nothing to do with specific clothing styles.

We cheapen the true meaning of the word when we apply it exclusively to clothing and ignore the much broader application to moderation, generally.

I think that 80% of modestly is tied to respect and awareness of cultural expectations and personal choices. For good or for ill, what a person wears says volumes about them. For good for ill, what a woman wears says more and is judged more than what a man wears. I plan to teach my daughter to be aware of those unwritten rules in self-defense, if nothing else.

About 20 years ago, I went out on a date/group activity with a friend. She was hanging out with one of her guy friends (Guy 1) because she had a boyfriend (Guy 2), while I was attending with an actual date. My friend had been friends with Guy 1 long enough that all 3 people know that Guy 1 was not a threat to Guy 2. Anyhow, we hung out together as girls before changing into our date wear - and her original selection was a sleeveless halter top. I asked her if she was wearing that - and she thought about it and went and changed into a more modest shirt that was more appropriate for the "hanging out with the guys" situation she was in.
I have thought about that over the years, "Why did I bring that up" - and concluded that my problem wasn't the sleeveless shirt, so it wasn't really a modesty issue. As her friend, I wanted her to be sure that the outfit she picked out did not send a mixed message to Guy 1 and Guy 2 - even though it was cool that she was hanging out with Guy 1, it could get murky pretty quickly.

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by mom3 » 07 Aug 2018, 09:34

I will get back to this later, I have family in town, but my Bishopric member and his wife are cavorting around a tropical island and their version of modesty would flip your lid.

Lot's of shoulderless dresses. Even in front of an LDS temple. They are the ward Barbie & Ken.

I am cheering their honesty all over Facebook. Someone has got to "Tear Down This (modesty) Wall"
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by hawkgrrrl » 07 Aug 2018, 19:10

mom3: that sounds a lot like my ward friends (and me!). It's in the 110s here, and it's completely nuts to be covering up to the extent we are expected to.

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Re: A Testimony (?) of Modesty

Post by Heber13 » 08 Aug 2018, 15:46

Does modesty for women in the church equate to men wearing white shirts and ties to church? I don't know if I'm mixing ideas up. Sorry if so.

Conform to the norm, self-sacrifice because it means something to the group? If you don't, it must be a lack of "testimony" or spirituality?

I view it as a part of practicing our religion with a group of people, not really just lists of right vs wrong...but how we do these things and why.

I'm guessing it is way harder for women, because there are not the same judgments attached to a white shirt, maybe different ones about lack of spirituality over a shirt which seems silly, but maybe not as harsh to the personal identity that women deal with, I suspect (having raised 2 daughters and having talks with them).

But perhaps there are some similarities.
- You worry what others think (which it is a nice life lesson to know how to not care)
- You stand out from others (which it is good to balance the extremes dande mentioned)
- You choose to ignore what leaders say (why do we care so much about volunteer leader opinions anyway?)

There could be some shades of testimony in these things, depending on where the person's heart is.

Different people are going to have various reactions around it...and in those reactions I think is what reveals true conversion...how we treat others, how we view ourselves, and how we react to others' reactions. This is how we practice religion.

When I was 12, I remember an older priest boy (very rebellious streak in him)...show up with pink hair (I kid you not). My dad was the YM president, and asked him to bless the sacrament. He did. The bishop got some comments from families afterwards that weren't pleased. But, the impression it left that young man was that he was more important to my dad than his hair, inappropriate as it was. (We still talk about it as a family...it was probably 25 years later my youngest brother married this kid's younger sister...this young kid has since served as bishop in a ward. He got over his rebellious phase. :smile: We keep in touch and laugh at the story of blessing the sacrament with pink hair).

Perhaps modesty for men's styles is a different subject.

In our ward, one family has a son on a mission, and the daughter has gone inactive, has tattoos and posts stuff on facebook about partying. She is proud of her path. She showed up in church a few weeks ago. First time in probably a year or more I've seen her there (of course I'm not always there). She had on an incredibly tight all white dress, bare shoulders and the dress was super short....she was constantly pulling the skirt down with any movement. It was a pretty revealing dress.

I'd say...it was inappropriate for church. Made me immediately uncomfortable. Then...the inner dialogue kicked in...

- first of all...it's good to see her here in church. I'd like to tell her it's good to see her rather than avoid her.
- second...just because I don't like it...maybe she does, and that is what she likes...and it is just different than my style.

I dunno what is appropriate, but it isn't my place to talk to her about it. She was standing there with her mom. I like their family. We have things in common with sons on missions. I know the daughter is into photography. I went to say hi...there were too many others around talking to them I didn't get to visit but waived and just told the girl it was good to see her.

Whether I like the dress or not...I dunno. A testimony of appropriate dress and attire should not be greater than a testimony to love and accept others.

I'm still not sure why my first reaction was that it was inappropriate. Perhaps something in HG's post that I should further consider about things. But I want to follow my dad's example and make that individual know they are more important to me than standards.

Perhaps there is a point where it is better to have someone be asked to cover up a little more if done by the right person, at the right time, in the right place, at a church meeting. But if we are going to err...let's err on the side of love and let God work out the rest.

If it is the first time you've seen that person in church in over a year...I'd say it isn't the right thing to lead with their clothing choice when you see them.

Then again...I let my son wear a black shirt to pass the sacrament. You just gotta take what I say with a grain of salt. I don't know much about much.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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