Modesty. It’s one of those words with shades of meaning depending on how closely you examine it, not unlike the theory that time elapses more slowly the further away you get from Heaven. (If that last one’s too deep, check out Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schoeder.)
When I was younger, AKA before baptism, modesty was nothing but a word I read in Daphne Du Maurier books, or Little Women, an anachronism if applied to modern times. When I got to Berkeley, not that I heard the word a lot, it would have been an insult, something applied to Republican women, more so if they were Christian since Christians were so ignorant and provincial.
When I think back on my attire, what would be called and what I proudly acknowledged as “hoochie mama,” it had not a shred of modesty in it. That was the point.
In those days, I wanted, naturally, to be attractive to men. In fact, that kind of attractiveness to men, the hoochie mama kind, was the only kind I knew, having been raised in a largely secular culture. As my LDS church life progressed, there came a point where modesty required a dramatic change in my clothing, and I literally panicked thinking I would no longer be attractive to men. Since I wasn’t married yet, this spelled potential doom for my future. (The fact that I became more attractive to men once I was modest is the subject for another blog.)
My son’s prom date showed up in a beautiful, flowing, strapless dress which showed off her ample desirability to males. My husband and I both liked her immediately. She was a good sport about having her picture taken in the sudden raindrops and didn’t want to hang out with one potential group of kids that she thought might be smoking. What mother doesn’t love a girl who influences her son for good?
In all the pictures proudly uploaded by my friends on Facebook, not a single other immodest dress appeared. I was slightly embarrassed to post my own proud picture because I was afraid of being judged (the universal human horror) for showing my son’s prom date in less than celestial kingdom attire. And then I realized it doesn’t matter her attire because we strive for celestial kingdom standards, not that anyone will see them in a photo on Facebook. They are the same standards that allowed a returned missionary co-worker of mine to see the good in me despite the coarse language, hoochie mama clothing and frequently wanton values.
It’s so easy to judge, dismiss or ignore others when they don’t ALREADY have our standards. And maybe they never will have all of our standards, but they may still be stellar individuals with something to contribute to our lives. If I had been judged, dismissed or ignored by my co-worker, I wouldn’t be sealed in the Temple to my husband or have our children sealed to us. And if I had never chosen to follow the gospel path, my friend would still have seen the good in me, and I would have been changed forever by his love. We talk about missionary work all the time as though its about bringing people to the Church, but what about just bringing God’s love to people in general?
This young woman my son took to prom seemed lovely, both outside and in spirit. Maybe she will one day choose to dress more modestly and maybe she won’t. Maybe she’s a better person than half the girls at her high school no matter what she chooses to wear. Maybe it was just a date and maybe my son had to work a little harder to control his hormone-driven impulses.
Do I wish she’d been modest? Yes. Can I relate to a young woman wanting to feel appealing to her date? Yes. Can I understand what causes her to think strapless is what makes her appealing? Yes. Do I understand that people live the values they’re taught, and different people will define modestly differently? Yes. Do I think Heavenly Father wants me or my son to reject this young woman because she doesn’t live all of our standards? WWJD.