Modest Is More Than A Suggestion

By | September 10, 2015

Updated August 2017.

Brace yourself for what might be the longest post about modesty you’ve ever read . . . or attempted to read as the case may be.


SECTIONS:

Modest Is More Than A Suggestion
The PornTrigger Effect
29+ LDS Quotes On Modesty
Modesty Is Bigger Than Clothes


honest-true-chaste-benevolent-virtuous-good

To understand this section, put the following points in your paradigm:

  1. There is something that happens between the time a person encounters sexualized imagery and the time that person begins to engage in purposeful thought. The immodesty triggers a chemical/biological sexual response in the brain. This post is not about what people choose to think about after their purposeful thought kicks in. Instead, it’s about how a chemical process has already begun by the time their mindful thinking even starts and how that process increases difficulty.
  2. Because of this chemical process (which is a natural part of the sexual process), people who dress immodestly undermine the moral agency of others. (Being a moral agent means being capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.) According to God (the same who said lust is adultery), sexuality is for marriage. Sexuality within marriage (as God defines it) is lawful and encouraged (right) and outside of marriage is sin (wrong). Moral agency includes being free to choose whether or not to trigger that specific sexual response, but immodesty may impose the response.
  3. This is not an attempt to excuse immorality. We are responsible for what we choose to dwell on, think about, and fantasize about. The statement that immodesty violates moral agency doesn’t mean that immodesty forces others to do evil acts (the devil made me do it). Immodesty does, however, add more pressure to people already under pressure and makes relapse more likely. The choice immodesty takes away from others is the choice to look at sexual imagery and activate the chemical process in the brain but not the choice to act out on it. While it is true that some of what constitutes sexual imagery varies from person to person, there are standards that when followed may help the largest possible number of people. Those standards already exist in the teachings of the prophets and in For the Strength of Youth. We just don’t follow them. I’m not arguing for a new law. Instead, this is an effort to invite believing latter-day saints specifically to choose to dress modestly like we already know God wants us to.
  4. This post did not, does not, and will not focus exclusively on female immodesty. Immodesty is not strictly a female problem. Both males and females dress immodestly, and both struggle with porn addiction. The person quoted below is a straight man, so naturally his comments are about females. If you’re a straight female or a same-sex attracted male or female who wants to give a quote about how you struggle with the same thing, please contact me and I’ll see if I can fit your statement into this conversation.

. . . . . . . .

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Modesty Is More Than Just A Suggestion

This post is written to latter-day saints and pertains to chastity, modesty, pornography addiction, and our covenants.

For the sake of both prodigals returned to the fold and long-time faithful currently under intense pressure to depart from it, please take a moment to consider these things.

The Principle of Modesty Is Eternal

“Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. … Your dress influence[s] the way you and others act. … Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval. … Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.” For the Strength of Youth

Addressing the furor that followed Elder Kimball teaching people to dress modestly, Dallin Oaks (then President of BYU) said, “The principle of modesty—the commandment that you should avoid a tempting manner or appearance—is fixed and eternal and will not deviate. Don’t assume that anyone will be impressed with your experience, or your preferences, or your wisdom on this subject.”

Immodesty Undermines Moral Agency

Who has ever said, “But I’m not responsible for what other people choose to think about!” I have. Most of us probably have. And it’s true. We’re not responsible for what other people choose to think. But, if we’re saying that as a response to the modesty commandment, perhaps we’re not quite seeing the point. This isn’t about the choice someone gets to make when confronted by immodesty, it’s about the “choice” immodesty imposes. And, it happens before conscientious thought even kicks in, or beneath/outside of conscientious thought.

The eye sends images to the brain. When the human eye (especially in men, but also in women) captures a sexual image, the brain releases chemicals that prepare a person for a sexual encounter (what I’m calling a trigger). When it happens outside of marriage, I call it a porntrigger. Wearing clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner is, by our own culture’s definition, sexy. Sexy can be defined as sexually attractive or exciting, or arousing. What causes those feelings? Straight-thinking adults know the cause and effect, even when we don’t dare admit it in public. 

The person seeing the image doesn’t have a choice in the matter as to whether or not the trigger happens. If it’s going to happen, it just happens. They get to choose what to do with the experience, but they may get triggered regardless of their will. Therefore, the person who is immodestly dressed undermined the other person’s moral agency, even the choice they should have been able to make for themselves to look at something sexually stimulating. That’s one reason why modesty is part of the essence of chastity and a commandment of God. A portion of civil society used to understand this. 

Penitent porn addicts who have become self aware enough to comprehend what is going on in their brain know that their brain chemistry is altered within a second of seeing an immodest image. All they did was use their eyeballs to see. Yes, they don’t have to then act upon it and engage in abuse, but when you factor in that immodest images infiltrate the brain hundreds or thousands of times every single day, it begins to be clear that every one of them has a major battle—a battle that all of us could help them win.

Within communities of saints, I believe that battle would be much easier if we would help each other by dressing modestly. That goes for all of us—men and women, young and old, me and you.

We Have a Covenant Duty to Help

Dressing immodestly has become normalized in our culture even though immodesty clearly pushes out the spirit of the law of chastity. We’ve been taught over and over and over to dress modestly. And the immodesty is hurting people. Is that hurt tuned out by disbelief or distraction or disdain for truth?

God hears the cries of the striving men and women wrestling in agony. They’re suffering in the shadows. They have almost no support. I shudder to think of the recompense due if we ignore our covenant duty, putting the weak in peril.

What covenants am I talking about? There are sacred covenants made in the temple that apply. But beyond those, we learn from Mosiah 18 that members of the church make a covenant at baptism to do the following:

  1. Bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.
  2. Mourn with those that mourn.
  3. Comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
  4. Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in, even until death.
  5. To serve him and keep his commandments.

Why? “That ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life,” and, “. . . that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you.”

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 20, we learn, “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.”

Can you identify the covenants that we fail to take seriously when we are immodest?

Faithful People Are Hurting

Consider this quote:

“I first saw pornography when I was very young. I wasn’t even looking for it, but I was immediately hooked. I spent the next decade battling addiction. When I finally overcame it (with a lot of help), I felt free. It happened through the atonement. After that process, I was excited to fellowship and to serve the Lord.

After a few years (and a lot of study), I realized that the apostles had been teaching modesty for decades, but it seemed like many of us weren’t listening. I occasionally overheard some members say that the teachings about modesty were silly or offensive.

What they didn’t seem to know or believe is that immodesty is a stumbling block for many porn addicts. We hear it all the time with things like swim-suit magazines, the underwear stores at the mall, and risqué magazine covers at the grocery store, but the same effect takes place with ordinary immodesty in day-to-day life. And it’s so pervasive in our culture.

While I may choose to overcome the triggers by turning my thoughts to Jesus Christ or another potential antidote, it’s important to note that the trigger itself is not my choice. And each trigger places a heavier weight on a back already overloaded. Without Christ’s grace, I’d fail every single day. Even so, some days it feels like too much. The pain is overwhelming.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to tell them my struggle in a way that helps them understand and know that I don’t hate them and am not trying to judge them, so I just don’t say anything at all. I just want to be able to fellowship with the church without being reminded (tempted) of pornography all the time.” – Anonymous Addict (some parts changed to preserve anonymity and for clarity)

I feel certain that many of the hardest challenges we face come from within part of the culture, because fellowship is perceived as a safe haven (and it ought to be one) yet may be riddled with dangerous triggers.

Said Heber C. Kimball, “The Saints will be put to tests that will try the integrity of the best of them. The pressure will become so great that the more righteous among them will cry unto the Lord day and night until deliverance comes.” 

There are penitent men and women (you likely know some of them) who are crying out day and night today because they can’t find respite and refuge from the world in their fellowship with Christ’s covenant people. Some are fleeing babylon only to find that babylon is waiting for them at what they thought was a destination of refuge.

The doctrine is true. It is good. But just like has always been the case, the doctrine itself doesn’t make us into Zion. Zion comes from what we BELIEVE and THINK and SPEAK and DO. Zion comes from HOW we love. Are we merely affectionate (affection is good but is not enough), or do we strive to have the pure love of Christ that prevents sin?

For the sake of the abandoned, I am thankful that Jesus Christ is there. His love can fill the heart of even the loneliest disciple as He gives them patience and helps them hope for the day when fellowship embraces discipleship. Jesus Christ will lead them through sorrow into joy.

Men are, that they might have joy. Joy is a product of faithfulness and overcoming tribulation through Christ. The knowledge of future joy provides hope and the will to continue on. Our duty as latter-day saints is to help others be faithful and overcome tribulation so they’ll obtain true joy. I believe that it is urgent that we realize that our own immodesty undermines that effort and is a stumbling block to others, especially to those who feel desperate as they try to claw their way out of the dank pit of porn addiction.

During His mortal ministry, Jesus of Nazareth was a humble and obedient Son of God. He obeyed the Father perfectly because He loved perfectly. He taught us that when God gives us direction we should receive the witness and follow. In all things He leads us out of sin and into faithfulness and joy. And He leads us in the same way today. We may each repent and, through Christ, receive a fullness of joy.

God has repeatedly given us direction on modesty. I witness that the direction we’ve received through prophets concerning modesty comes from God.

. . . . . . . .

Update:

Someone must have shared this article with an anti-mormon or pseudo-feminist group, because I’ve received a lot of comments from that ilk. Even though many of the commenters may have resigned from the LDS church (some of them saying so), they still found the time in their busy day to share their feelings on a blog post written to LDS folks. That’s dedication.

Some of their feelings were very interesting. Because I learned quickly that responding to these comments only fostered contention, I’ve decided to extract relevant portions and frame them as questions and then comment on them.

Question:

Doesn’t it support rape culture to say that immodesty undermines moral agency and that sexual imagery contributes to addiction and relapse?

Answer: 

I’m not all that familiar with rape culture, but I assume what you’re referring to is that there are rapists who refuse to take responsibility for their crime and instead blame it on the person they raped.

It’s important to note that this blog post isn’t about rape, which means that you’re taking the things I wrote about sexual imagery and its connection to the chemical processes in the brain and that connection to porn addiction and applying it to something far more extreme, presumably in an effort to shut down a conversation you’re uncomfortable with.

I have heard that most (if not all) rapists used pornography. Is it a causal relationship with pornography triggering a latent tendency? I don’t know. I have read that rape is commonplace among pornographers, but I’ve also read that most porn addicts have never committed rape, even if they do lapse into fornication, promiscuity, and/or various forms of abuse and self abuse.

But I want to pose a question to you. What if there was a rapist who later deeply regretted what they did and, while incarcerated, went through a process of deep introspection and of learning from their crimes. I wonder if, in the interest of protecting victims from a similar fate, you’d listen to what they had to say about why they did what they did. Or would you discount all of it on the grounds that because they did something terrible, they are incapable of telling the truth about their experience?

That would be a foolish and dangerous way to go about learning about what contributes to rape. If you really care about protecting women (and children and men) from rapists, you’ll listen to any who are sincere about their penitence and who are eager to help others avoid the same downfall.

Question:

Jesus states very clearly in Revelations 3 that we must overcome (our fleshly desires) to sit at the right hand of God. Isn’t it true that your blog post basically says that porn-addicted people don’t have to work on themselves but that it’s only the immodestly dressed people that need to change?

Answer:

No. If you read this blog post with a mindset open to understanding its points, you saw that penitent porn addicts already are working on themselves and working with Christ to overcome the carnal man within. What they’re looking for in the faith is a helping hand. They’re recovering and they’re asking for help from their fellow saints, which is a group that has consistently been chastened and instructed by God to dress modestly and has covenanted with God to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” (Mosiah 18)

While those with tendencies toward porn addiction have work to do, so do those of us with tendencies to desire to dress immodestly. Both are in the wrong and both need to change. One big difference between the two is that it’s still culturally and politically correct within the culture to teach repentance to porn addicts. It’s not, however, politically correct to teach modesty, as is very clear (especially if the words “leggings” or “yoga pants” are mentioned). Whenever someone dares, there’s pitchforks and fire.

Question:

In our culture, why have women been so pressured to dress modestly while men run around (exercise) or mow the lawn without a shirt on?

Answer:

This is a wonderful question that I don’t know the answer to. The modesty commandment clearly applies to both sexes. In what I write, I always try to make it very clear that I am addressing both men and women. Even with my extra care to make that clear, most of the comments I’ve received still say I’m targeting women. I’m not. What I am targeting is immodesty.

Question:

What about the poor or other cultures where immodesty is normal?

Answer:

Give the poor some clothes. And teach the other cultures the gospel. For those who sincerely accept the gospel, modesty will become their cultural norm.

The apostles have set a simple standard that can be applied across the board.

“Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. … Your dress influence[s] the way you and others act. … NEVER lower your standards of dress. Do NOT use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval. … Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.”

Question:

Isn’t there more to us than sex? Isn’t it satan that wants us to wear clothes? Doesn’t God want us to be proud of our bodies?

Answer: 

There is more to us than sex, yes, but sex is one of the more powerful aspects of our nature (as it should be), as we are driven to procreate and connect with an Eternal companion. It is a gift from God and is meant to be powerful, but it’s also meant to be sacred, as are our bodies and the way we present them. We are meant to be beautiful and attractive to the opposite sex, but God commanded that sexuality be exclusive to a man and woman lawfully married.

Satan wants us to value gaudy and/or expensive attire and to dress in revealing clothing. And he tries to get us to cover up our sins so we won’t repent. He wants us to hide them from God. And let’s remember that God made Adam and Eve clothes. We learn in Moses 4 that, “Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, did I, the Lord God, make coats of skins, and clothed them.”

And does God not wear clothes? If Christ was the great exemplar, why did He not carry out his ministry in the nude and teach others so to do? If modesty is not important, why does God keep telling us to do it? Are you saying that the guidance we get from God and His servants actually doesn’t come from God?

The truth is that choosing to dress immodestly while being aware that doing so is against God’s will sends God a message. The message is this: I don’t believe you, and I’m going to do what I want regardless of your will. In so doing we embrace pride.



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The PornTrigger Effect

Addiction. It’s everywhere. It often goes unacknowledged, but it’s never benign. Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the case of the world’s pandemic pornography addiction.

Some wonder why pornography addiction is so pervasive and so hard to quit. There are various answers to that question, but one important answer is very simple (almost too simple). But, it is not politically correct, nor is it generally acceptable in contemporary western culture.

Talking about it openly may invite incessant mocking or even surprising vitriol, and addressing it effectively would interfere with the careers and social life of a lot of people. So, many people who might care seem to just do their best to forget about it altogether.

It becomes plain to see why we’re still battling this issue instead of celebrating the victory.

One big secret to the success of porn is that its triggers are nearly everywhere.

What’s a porn trigger?

pulling-hand-grenade-pin-is-like-porntrigger-effect

A porn trigger is a visual stimulus that causes a reaction in the brain that arouses and begins (whether subtly or more powerfully) to prepare a person for a sexual encounter. It’s like pulling a grenade pin.

This reaction can occur in both males and females, though males may have a higher rate of porn addiction.

You’re familiar with different kinds of addiction: alcoholism, nicotine, and heroine are three examples. An obvious difference between something like alcohol and porn is that with porn you don’t have to take an external physical substance into your system to get the high. The visual stimulus (porn or porn trigger) takes advantage of a natural sexual process in an unnatural way and “tells” the brain to go ahead with the adrenaline, endorphin, and dopamine releases that, when abused, lead to dependency and eventual addiction.

These addictive substances are manufactured inside your own body, and they are extremely potent. They’re positive substances in normal day-to-day living in a chaste society, but porn makes them pernicious.

Porn is easy to access, and the world-wide porn hazard brings with it its own kinds of triggers. They include various degrees of nudity, which includes tight, sheer, or otherwise revealing clothing, which is worn by nearly everyone of both sexes nearly everywhere. (It’s important to note that this type of immodesty isn’t the only porn trigger around. It is just one of the most ubiquitous.)

The triggers also show up in internet ads, billboards, bus ads, business signs, mud flaps, magazines, text books, social media, internet shops, “family-friendly” television shows and “family-appropriate” movie trailers, movies, commercials, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, media produced by religious organizations, public swimming pools, beaches, sport events, and just about anywhere else you can think of.

The ubiquitous porn triggers in our society are generally tolerated and sometimes celebrated. I hear people say, “If you don’t like these things, just don’t look at them,” much like other people will tell an alcoholic, “If you want to stop your dependence on alcohol, get some help and stop drinking.”

Alcoholics aren’t force-fed doses of alcohol everywhere they go like porn addicts are force-fed porn triggers. And if they were, the person forcing the alcohol would probably get arrested and go to jail.

When an alcoholic goes to church or work, fellow worshipers or coworkers don’t force open the alcoholic’s mouth and pour vodka down their throat.

When an alcoholic visits a news site on the internet or shops at a mall, the ads don’t pin the person on the ground, force open their mouth, and pour whisky down their throat.

The same can’t be said of porn triggers.

When a porn addict goes to church or work, fellow attendees or coworkers do force porn triggers into the addict’s brain by wearing tight, sheer, or otherwise revealing clothing.

When a porn addict visits a news site on the internet or shops at the mall, the ads do force porn triggers into the addict’s brain with nudity, lingerie, and other stimulating images.

It happens without consent

In the normal travels of everyday life, choice usually isn’t involved with porn triggers — at least not the choice of the addict who is striving to recover. It happens without the addict’s consent. It happens whether the addict wants it or not.

I’ll dress how I want. I’m not responsible for what other people think about.”

I’ve heard that general idea expressed so many times, occasionally in the least likely of places. This response may demonstrate some degree of ignorance of porn addiction and its triggers. It isn’t always about what the addict chooses to think about. When it comes to the recovering porn addict being force-fed porn triggers, it’s about the biological and chemical process the revealing and sexualized images push into the addicts brain without the addict’s consent.

We’ve got to understand that normal brains interpret nudity and revealing attire as sexual imagery if we’re ever going to start to help porn addicts. It is healthy to be aroused by nudity and revealing attire when such experiences happen between a man and a woman who are married. But in contemporary society, dressing in revealing attire is commonplace, which means that one of the preliminary stages of sexual relations is constantly being engaged (anywhere from subtly to powerfully). It messes with natural processes that are designed for a specific relationship.

Porn triggers cause a natural and automatic reaction in the brain that is beyond human ability to fully control. Can any of us stop our brains from flooding adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine just by wishing it so? Of course not! Some have learned to avoid dangerous situations while others have learned to corral the sexual energy into activities less harmful than porn use, but it becomes obvious just how enormous the task is when you understand how ubiquitous porn triggers are.

Triggers are EVERYWHERE

It’s not just a once-in-a-blue-moon encounter. Encounters happen dozens and dozens of times every single day. In trying to tally up the number of triggers encountered in a normal day, a man’s math may easily surpass 100 if not 1000. Imagine if an alcoholic trying to recover was force-fed just one ounce of vodka even 1 time, let alone 100. They’d likely fall off the wagon.

In many cases, a pornography addict’s only mistake is to look in the direction of the porn trigger. In other words, the addict has eyes and uses them.

I guess addicts could leave visual porn triggers behind for good if they’d just pluck out their eyeballs, but should we expect porn addicts to either accept and embrace their affliction or rip out their eyes? No, we shouldn’t. Instead, maybe we could do a better job of keeping sexuality in the privacy of marriage where it belongs.

While porn addiction can be overcome, it is ferociously difficult. We can each do more to help. To that end, I pray that our society has not entirely abandoned chastity and that individuals don’t only feel self worth when they flaunt their sexuality on every man, woman, and child alive who shares the space.

Nearly every person I know has either battled a porn habit or porn addiction in the past and is currently in recovery, currently feels hopelessly addicted and is struggling to come up for air, or has (or had) a close relationship with a porn addict.

These porn issues often contribute to many social cancers, including addiction, rape, infidelity, divorce, abortion, prostitution, and sex slavery. Yet people still defend porn triggers like a momma bear defends her cubs.

They might say, “In our free society, porn and its triggers (including sex-charged advertising that is piped into people’s homes or put on display for all to see) are protected by free speech.

Porn and its triggers are not victimless. They are not harmless. They don’t affect exclusively the lives of those who desire and seek to view them. In fact, the reason advertisers use porn triggers in advertising is because they know how the triggers affect the brain. In other words, the Porn Trigger Effect is a desired outcome. I wonder if these same advertisers know that what they do is a significant factor in the destruction of thousands and thousands of meaningful relationships.

Triggers are manipulative

I wonder if the same people who say that porn and porn triggers are protected by free speech would also say that a drug dealer would be within their constitutional rights to walk around injecting heroine into the veins of innocent passersby in order to get them to take a course of action that favors the dealer. If porn, then why not this?

Porn is as addictive as any street drug and can be as destructive, but thanks to porn triggers porn addicts can get a little high and stay high without even choosing to use the drug. All they have to do is encounter sexually charged advertising or others wearing revealing clothing. And if they say anything about it, they are ridiculed or silenced.

It’s sad that porn isn’t all that condemned by our society, and our churches generally condemn porn but seem to embrace its triggers. I don’t know if I’ll live to see the day when sexuality in our culture will again be respected and reserved for husband and wife in the privacy and sanctity of marriage, but I feel impelled to speak out anyway.

And you can help me fight back. Please.

We’ve all been there. We either are the addict or we personally know the addict. Let’s show solidarity with them and those their addictions have hurt. Top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out, let’s eradicate this plague.

Steps to take:

Conclusion

The principle of modesty—the commandment that you should avoid a tempting manner or appearance—is fixed and eternal and will not deviate. – Dallin H. Oaks

Perhaps as pandemic as porn addiction is the great tragedy of causing the porn trigger, whether through naivety, through weakness, or intentionally. And this isn’t something that only women do. Men are just as responsible. Why do we dress in public in a way that will likely awaken the sexual response in friends and strangers alike? Why will we not keep all of our sexuality within its intended scope?

Consider this counsel from God’s prophets:

Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are . . . modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress . . . influence[s] the way you and others act.

Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.

Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. – For the Strength of Youth

I witness that this counsel applies to adults as well and that it applies in all situations when how we dress may affect others. And when we compromise and rationalize, no matter how popular or innocent an activity may seem, we could easily become porn triggers. And in those moments, instead of bearing one another’s burdens that they may be light, we add to another’s burdens and make them heavier.

There is hope. There is a way back to the light and the right. It is through Jesus Christ’s atonement. Jesus Christ can help a person’s very motives to change. He can access and cleanse the heart.

Our Savior has the power to cleanse and heal you.

Sincere prayer that our Father in Heaven will fill you with His enabling power of grace can make all the difference.

Remember that there is healthy and righteous expression of sexual intimacy. It doesn’t involve pornography or public displays of immodesty. It happens naturally between husband and wife. Immodesty and porn complicates and corrupts that natural expression.

If you have found that your marital intimacy has been damaged by porn, there is healing to be found in repentance and in beginning to practice healthy habits.

Addictions can be overcome

Want to feel uplifted? Watch “Come Unto Jesus.”

Also, read Recovering from the Trap of Pornography by Dallin H. Oaks. 



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29+ LDS Quotes On Modesty

With a long history of teaching members the importance of modesty, the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made it clear that modesty is very important. It’s not taught as a temporary cultural necessity. On the contrary. Modesty is taught as an Eternal principle and an attribute of the character of God.

When we support and teach modesty, we build the kingdom of God.

To establish beyond question that modesty is a critical principle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’m publishing what turns out to be a rather large blog post of quotes about modesty, immodesty, references, and links to authoritative sources.

When I did a Google search using the search operator “modesty” site:lds.org, Google showed 2490 search results. Many of these quotes refer to modesty in females, but modesty is absolutely relevant to both males and females.

Note that modesty is more than avoiding revealing clothing. It also has to do with gaudy attire (in addition to other things, some of which have nothing to do with clothing but more to do with our attitude or paradigm or perspective and our thoughts and words), which might include expensive clothing or extreme styles that aren’t necessarily revealing. But the purpose of this post is to focus specifically on modesty as it relates to revealing clothing.

Quotes will be extracted from pages on lds.org. Quotes from the same pages will be grouped together and their source will appear at the end of each grouping.

Modesty

You can dress attractively without being immodest. Within the Lord’s guidelines, there is room for you to be lively, vibrant, and beautiful both in your dress and in your actions. – Thomas S. Monson

. . . . . . . .

Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19). …

Central to the command to be modest is an understanding of the sacred power of procreation, the ability to bring children into the world. This power is to be used only between husband and wife. Revealing and sexually suggestive clothing, which includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, and shirts that do not cover the stomach, can stimulate desires and actions that violate the Lord’s law of chastity. Source

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Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him. …

Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act. …

Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.

Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Source

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One of the challenges members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints face today is obeying principles of modesty in an increasingly immodest world. Difficult though it may be, we can show our discipleship to the Savior Jesus Christ by obeying the Church’s standards of modesty. …

The way we dress demonstrates our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. …

When we better understand the doctrine behind the principles of modesty, we realize that modesty is the virtue that guides and moderates action. …

From the beginning, the Lord has asked His children to cover their bodies. After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened and they became aware that they were naked. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with simple aprons made of fig leaves. But the aprons were not enough, so the Lord made them more modest coats of skins. (See Genesis 3:7, 21.)

God had a higher standard then, just as He does now. His standards are not those of the world. As He says in Isaiah 55:8–9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Because modesty is one of the Lord’s “higher ways” and not a passing social trend, it has been taught throughout the ages. …

Modesty shows humility. …

As modesty becomes the virtue that regulates and moderates action in our lives, we too will find an increased sense of self-worth. Recall the promises of Doctrine and Covenants 121:45–46:

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth.” Source

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…the choices we make to appear and behave modestly send a powerful message that we understand our identity as sons and daughters of God and that we have chosen to stand in holy places. …

Modesty is a principle that will help keep us safely on the covenant path as we progress to the presence of God. …

Modesty invites the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Elder Hales has taught, “Modesty is fundamental to being worthy of the Spirit.” …

…modest appearance and behavior helps protect us from the destructive influences of the world. …

Modesty enables us to “stand as witnesses of God at all times” (Mosiah 18:9).

…blessed are they who exemplify and teach the doctrine of modesty for all the sons and daughters of Zion. Source

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Some Latter-day Saints may feel that modesty is a tradition of the Church or that it has evolved from conservative, puritanical behavior. Modesty is not just cultural. Modesty is a gospel principle that applies to people of all cultures and ages. In fact, modesty is fundamental to being worthy of the Spirit. To be modest is to be humble, and being humble invites the Spirit to be with us.

Of course, modesty is not new. It was taught to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Unto Adam … and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21; see also Moses 4:27). …

When we recognize our bodies as the gifts they are and when we understand the missions they help us fulfill, we protect and honor them by how we act and dress. …

Modesty is at the center of being pure and chaste, both in thought and deed. Thus, because it guides and influences our thoughts, behavior, and decisions, modesty is at the core of our character. Our clothing is more than just covering for our bodies; it reflects who we are and what we want to be, both here in mortality and in the eternities that will follow. …

When we know who we are—children of God—and understand that our outward appearance affects our inward spirituality and ultimately our behavior, we show respect for God, for ourselves, and for those around us by being modest in dress and behavior. …

Are we determined to be Saints in the kingdom of God, or are we more comfortable in the ways of the world? Source

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Modesty in dress, appearance, thought, and behavior is an individual, personal witness to the Lord that we honor Him and that we ‘delight’ in the covenants that we have made in sacred priesthood ordinances. Source

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Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. Source

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“Another of the many things that lead to unchastity is immodesty. Today many young women and young men are smug in their knowledge of the facts of life. They think they know all the answers. They talk about sex as freely as they talk about cars and shows and clothes. And a spirit of immodesty has developed until nothing seems to be sacred.

One contributing factor to immodesty and a breakdown of moral values is the modern dress. I am sure that the immodest clothes that are worn by some of our young women, and their mothers, contribute directly and indirectly to the immorality of this age. Even fathers sometimes encourage it. I wonder if our young sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before young men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered. …

I am positive that the clothes we wear can be a tremendous factor in the gradual breakdown of our love of virtue, our steadfastness in chastity.” …

One of our most important responsibilities as members of God’s Church is to set a proper example of modesty and virtue. Source

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The Lord’s standards of modesty are not those of the world. From the Prophet Joseph Smith through our recent prophets, our leaders have asked us to create our own styles and fashions (see Spencer W. Kimball, “A Style of Our Own,” BYU Devotional Assembly, 13 Feb. 1951).

President Brigham Young described the kind of fashion that is a model for us. He said: “Suppose that a female angel were to come into your house and you had the privilege of seeing her, how would she be dressed? … She would be neat and nice, her countenance full of glory, brilliant, bright, and perfectly beautiful, and in every act her gracefulness would charm the heart of every beholder. There is nothing needless about her. None of my sisters believe that these useless, foolish fashions are followed in heaven. Well, then, pattern [your lives] after good and heavenly things, …” (in Deseret News [Weekly], 30 Apr. 1873, 196). Source

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That the Church’s stand on morality may be understood, we declare firmly and unalterably, it is not an outworn garment, faded, old-fashioned, and threadbare. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and his covenants and doctrines are immutable; and when the sun grows cold and the stars no longer shine, the law of chastity will still be basic in God’s world and in the Lord’s church. Old values are upheld by the Church not because they are old, but rather because through the ages they have proved right. It will always be the rule. (Kimball) …

Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel (seeAlma 60:23), beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church. …

“The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. This, the Prophet Joseph said, would be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the elders of Israel than any other. (See Journal of Discourses, 8:55.)

“President Joseph F. Smith said that sexual impurity would be one of the three dangers that would threaten the Church within—and so it does. (SeeGospel Doctrine, pp. 312–13.) It permeates our society” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 3, 6; orEnsign, May 1986, 4). (Benson) …

In forsaking the great principle of modesty, society has paid a price in the violation of a greater but related principle—that of chastity. The purveyors of the concept of irresponsible sexual relations that degrade and brutalize the participants have grossly masqueraded and completely missed the purpose of these divine gifts. (Faust) …

We cannot overemphasize immodesty as one of the pitfalls to be avoided if we would shun temptation and keep ourselves clean. (Kimball) …

Modesty in dress . . . is a true mark of refinement and a hallmark of a virtuous Latter-day Saint woman. Shun the low and the vulgar and the suggestive. (Benson) …

When you are prompted to immodesty in dress . . . you are playing Satan’s game and are becoming the victim of his lying tongue. Just so, if you allow the vain theories of men to cause you to doubt your relationship to God, the divine purpose of marriage, and your future prospects for eternity, you are being victimized by the master of lies, because all such is contrary to truth, which saves you from these perils. (Lee) … Source

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Virtue encompasses modesty—in thought, language, dress, and demeanor. And modesty is the foundation stone of chastity. Just as one does not hike trails inhabited by rattlesnakes barefoot, similarly in today’s world it is essential to our very safety to be modest. When we are modest, we show others that we understand our relationship with our Father in Heaven . . . We demonstrate that we love Him and that we will stand as a witness of Him in all things. Being modest lets others know that we “cherish virtue” (“Dearest Children, God Is Near You,” Hymns, no. 96).

Modesty is not a matter of being “hip.” It is a matter of the heart and being holy. It is not about being fashionable. It is about being faithful. It is not about being cool. It is about being chaste and keeping covenants. It is not about being popular, but about being pure. Modesty has everything to do with keeping our footing securely on the path of chastity and virtue. It is clear that virtue is a requirement for exaltation. Mormon helps us understand that both virtue and chastity are “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9). We simply cannot afford to be casual or get too close to the edge. That is dangerous ground for any daughter [or son] of God to walk. Source

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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.

As Sister Susan Tanner taught this morning, one of those principles is modesty. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, modesty in appearance is always in fashion. Our standards are not socially negotiable.

The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is very clear in its call for young women to avoid clothing that is too tight, too short, or improperly revealing in any manner, including bare midriffs. Parents, please review this booklet with your children. Second only to your love, they need your limits.

Young women, choose your clothing the way you would choose your friends—in both cases choose that which improves you and would give you confidence standing in the presence of God. Good friends would never embarrass you, demean you, or exploit you. Neither should your clothing. Source

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What would happen if we truly treated our bodies as temples? The result would be a dramatic increase in chastity, modesty, observance of the Word of Wisdom, and a similar decrease in the problems of pornography and abuse, for we would regard the body, like the temple, as a sacred sanctuary of the Spirit. Just as no unclean thing may enter the temple, we would be vigilant to keep impurity of any sort from entering the temple of our bodies. Source

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The word modesty means “measured.” It is related to moderate. It implies “decency, and propriety … in thought, language, dress, and behavior” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 2:932). Source

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The principle of modesty—the commandment that you should avoid a tempting manner or appearance—is fixed and eternal and will not deviate. …

“As I walk along the streets on my way to or from the Church Office Building, I see both young and older women, many of them ‘daughters of Zion,’ who are immodestly dressed. … The wearing of immodest clothing, which may seem like a small matter, takes something away from our young women or young men in the Church. It simply makes it more difficult to keep those eternal principles by which we will have to live if we are to return to the presence of our Father in heaven.” (New Era, January 1971, p. 5.)  Source

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Modesty in dress and manner will assist in protecting against temptation. It may be difficult to find modest clothing, but it can be found with enough effort. …

I do not hesitate to say that you can be attractive without being immodest. You can be refreshing and buoyant and beautiful in your dress and in your behavior. Your appeal to others will come of your personality, which is the sum of your individual characteristics. Be happy. Wear a smile. Have fun. But draw some rigid parameters, a line in the sand, as it were, beyond which you will not go.

The Lord speaks of those who refuse counsel and who “stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house” (D&C 90:5). Source

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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. Source

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[Your love for the Lord] shows in your countenance, in your modesty, in your desire to choose the right, and in your commitment to remain virtuous and pure. Source

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Every time we . . . stand up for modesty . . . we build the kingdom of God. Source

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I have been impressed with young women who were dressed modestly in a very hot and humid part of Brazil. They said, “Modesty is not about the climate. It’s about the heart.” These young women knew they were daughters of God. Source

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Be modest. Source

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“Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” is a call to each of you. It is a call to move to higher ground. It is a call to leadership—to lead out in decency, purity, modesty, and holiness. It is a call to share this light with others. It is time to “arise and shine forth.” Source

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Another helpful perspective on humility can be obtained by examining its antithesis—pride. Just as humility leads to other virtues such as modesty, teachableness, and unpretentiousness, pride leads to many other vices. Source

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Keep your dress modest. Short skirts are not pleasing to the Lord, but modesty is. . . .do not be an enticement for your downfall because of your immodest and tight-fitting clothes. Source

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Now is the time to provide the world with an example of decency and modesty, an example of virtue and cleanliness. Source

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How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? How will our young men learn to value women of God if we don’t show them the virtue of our virtues? Source

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Take particular care that your language is clean, not coarse; that your dress reflects modesty, not vanity; and that your conduct manifests purity, not promiscuity. You cannot lift others to virtue on the one hand if you are entertaining vice on the other. Source

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Jacob taught that the Lord delights “in the chastity of women” (Jacob 2:28). I delight in the chastity and purity of all women and men. How it must grieve the Lord to see virtue violated and modesty mocked on every side in this wicked world. Source

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The rapid, sweeping deterioration of values is characterized by a preoccupation—even an obsession—with the procreative act. Abstinence before marriage and fidelity within it are openly scoffed at—marriage and parenthood ridiculed as burdensome, unnecessary. Modesty, a virtue of a refined individual or society, is all but gone. …

The Book of Mormon depicts humanity struggling through a “mist of darkness” and defines the darkness as the “temptations of the devil.” (1 Ne. 8:23; 1 Ne. 12:17.) So dense was that moral pollution that many followed “strange roads” and “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” (See 1 Ne. 8:23–32.)

The deliberate pollution of the fountain of life now clouds our moral environment. The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing. Its worth is incalculable! Source

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What a great thing it is to decide once and for all early in life what you will do and what you will not do with regards to honesty, modesty, chastity, the Word of Wisdom, and temple marriage.

Brothers and sisters, stay on the straight and narrow path. No, stay in the middle of the straight and narrow path. Don’t drift; don’t wander; don’t dabble; be careful.

Remember, do not flirt with evil. Stay out of the devil’s territory. Do not give Satan any home-field advantage. Living the commandments will bring you the happiness that too many look for in other places. Source

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For me, when investigating, one sign that this was the true Church came because I felt I’d finally found a church that taught modesty and standards. I’ve seen with my own eyes what happens to people when they disregard commandments and choose the wrong path. I made up my mind, long ago, to live high moral standards. … I feel so blessed to have found the truth and to have been baptized. I am so happy. Source

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“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.” (Hag. 1:5–7.)

I have read this great scripture and continue to be impressed with how clearly the Old Testament prophet describes the conditions of today. Almost daily we read of those who invest for little return. We eat food so refined that the nourishment is lacking. We witness the drink that can never satisfy the thirst for those who drink; the dressing for style, rather than warmth, comfort, and modesty; the high wages of the wage earner today which still do not satisfy or supply his needs.

A noted historian several years ago summarized the reasons for the fall of Rome as follows:

  1. The breakdown of the family and the rapid increase of divorce.
  2. The spiraling rise of taxes and extravagant spending.
  3. The mounting craze for pleasure and the brutalization of sports.
  4. The decay of religion into myriads of confused forms, leaving the people without a uniform guide.

Our unconquered appetites and consuming drive for material possessions appear to be leading us on a course so often repeated in history. Greed, lust, and desire historically have only led mankind to waste, destruction, and suffering. Source

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I once heard a mother say that with all of the evil influences facing her daughters, she had to choose which battles to fight. And so she had chosen not to fight their dress standards. But modesty is a battle worth fighting because it so often affects more serious moral issues. Source

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I do plead with the mothers of Zion to undertake modesty in dress. We may like to follow the fashion, but let us follow it in modesty. The most precious thing that a girl has is her modesty and if she preserves this in dress, in speech, in action, it will arm, and protect her as nothing else will. But let her lose her modesty, and she becomes a victim of those who pursue her, as the hare is of the hound; and she will not be able to stand unless she preserves her modesty. – Elder Melvin J. Ballard, General Conference, April 1929

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Other resources:

Modesty

For the Strength of Youth: Dress and Appearance

Modesty in The Guide to the Scriptures

Modesty Matters

Modesty in True to the Faith

Modesty in the Topical Guide

Mom’s Commitment to Modesty

Modesty Checklist



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Modesty Is Bigger Than Clothes

There was a day when I was pondering modesty and I had what felt like inspiration from Heaven.

For the longest time, I struggled with understanding exactly the definition of the words “modesty” and “immodesty.” Everyone always said, “Modesty is more than just what you wear,” but no one ever said exactly HOW, other than also talking about avoiding other behaviors. The precise definition of divine modesty eluded me.

I feel that I now understand modesty more clearly, and I owe this understanding to the Spirit and to something a current apostle said a very long time ago while he was leading BYU. Elder Oaks said, “The principle of modesty—the commandment that you should avoid a tempting manner or appearance—is fixed and eternal and will not deviate.”

Why is modesty always taught in behaviors? “Don’t wear clothing that is tight, shear, or revealing in any other manner,” or, “don’t use vulgarity or tell dirty jokes,” or, “don’t buy expensive things that are more than what you really need.” Is it because what we do has an impact on others (not to mention on ourselves)? I believe so.

For one, when we behave immodestly, we break our baptismal covenant. How? Because, we become tempters and persecutors of those who are striving to live faithfully. Instead of bearing one another’s burdens that they may be light, we are adding to their burdens. And, all the while, we are ADVERTISING paths that lead away from God. Instead of speaking and behaving in the light of truth, we are lending our words and actions to the adversary, and we might not even realize we are doing it.

Indeed, spiritually speaking, modesty is the commandment that we should avoid a tempting manner or appearance. We would do well to embrace modesty without murmuring.

What are tight yoga pants or skinny jeans or muscle shirts worn in public places compared to the robes worn by celestial beings in the presence of God? What is a $5 million mansion compared to the mansions our Father in Heaven has built for the faithful? And what is a dirty joke or a vulgar word compared to the pure language of Heaven?

If we are struggling with a desire to behave modestly, we are struggling with our relationship with Jesus Christ. When someone feels strongly about modesty and about becoming a modest person, that is one of the most obvious signs that person is abiding in the love of the Lord. It comes naturally to the redeemed and converted and those chastised by Heaven. Modesty grows from the seed of repentance and experience with the atonement of Jesus Christ, and modesty is a distinguishing characteristic of the culture of Zion.

I know that it’s something I need to focus on in my own life.

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