An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Mormon Modesty

Modesty was not a big issue for little girls in my Utah childhood. I wore sundresses to Primary in the summer time and ran around our neighborhood without a shirt until I was 8 or 9. Sleeveless dresses were not an issue when I attended BYU in the ‘60s. But once I married outside the temple, I stopped buying sleeveless dresses to avoid advertising my un-endowed status to ward members.
Our daughters wore sundresses and sleeveless blouses as children, but by the time the eldest got to BYU a new policy was in place in Mormon society—young adults, even children should not wear any clothing that wouldn’t cover LDS garments. I’m not sure what motivated this policy—surely not conventional modesty since properly worn garments, while covering shoulders and mid-drifts, often reveal cleavage in bosomy females.
New Church emphasis on modesty doesn’t affect me personally since the ravages of age make me willing to cover every part of my anatomy that sags and wrinkles. I do know our Molly daughter, Lolly, refuses to let her daughters wear sleeveless dresses, but I was taken by surprise when 4-year-old Missy looked at photos of our son Wort’s wedding. Missy appraised Aunt Cookie’s beautiful bridal gown, frowned, and said, “She’s not modest!” True, Cookie’s shoulders were not covered, but her dress was not immodest by normal standards.
I didn’t know how to respond. All my grandchildren are being raised with religious views different from my own. And I support their parents in that right—so long as they don’t embrace a cult that does weird things like extending earlobes for greater spirituality.
Generally, it’s not a problem that we have differing religions practiced by members of our family. But now I’m concerned. We’re planning a family get-together in a few weeks. My non-Mormon daughters-in-law may very well wear tank tops or sundresses. I need to tactfully let Lolly know that her kids may say something offensive.
Teaching family standards that are quite different from mainstream views is fine. The trick is to teach children to respect those of differing views.

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Comments on: "Mormon Modesty" (2)

  1. The question I face in raising little girls is how to teach the concept of modesty instead of enforcing what could be arbitrary rules about what needs to be covered.

    I have to say that since we are in the middle of potty-training we are immodest a lot! 🙂

    • Cookie,

      Potty training and modesty–that can be as difficult as breast feeding a baby with a 2-yr-old flipping up your cover to show people at church or in the doctor’s office how the new baby eats. A sense of humor helps–a little.

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