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Modesty in Dress
This page summarizes comments on modesty from several different authors. Click the links below to jump to the statements from each author.
Latter-day Saints believe that modest dress reflects commitment to a Christlike life and shows respect for self, for fellow beings, and for God. In their homes and in the Church, they are taught that modest dress has a positive effect on both self-esteem and behavior.
According to LDS theology, the body is more than a biological entity; it is a temple that houses an eternal spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17). Physical intimacy is reserved for marriage (see Chastity). Modest dress serves as a physical and spiritual guard against immoral behavior and its inherent physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Because modesty in dress cannot be reduced to a matter of particular styles, individuals are encouraged to use discretion to determine appropriate dress in varying situations.
Emphasizing the importance of modest dress, President Spencer W. Kimball stated, "I am positive that personal grooming and cleanliness, as well as the clothes we wear, can be tremendous factors in the standards we set and follow on the pathway to immortality and eternal life" (1979, p. 3).
Kimball, Spencer W. Faith Precedes the Miracle, pp. 161-68. Salt Lake City, 1972.
Kimball, Spencer W. "On My Honor." Ensign 9 (Apr. 1979):3.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Modesty In Dress
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
Servants of God have always counseled his children to dress modestly to show respect for him and for themselves. Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you. However, if you wear an immodest bathing suit because it's "the style," it sends a message that you are using your body to get attention and approval, and that modesty is not important.
Immodest clothing includes short shorts, tight pants, and other revealing attire. Young women should refrain from wearing off-the-shoulder, low-cut, or revealing clothes. Young men should similarly maintain modesty in their dress. All should avoid tight fitting or revealing clothes and extremes in clothing and appearance.
As Latter-day Saint youth, you can also show respect for the Lord and yourselves by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week. If you are not sure what's appropriate, ask for guidelines from your parents, advisers, and bishop.
(See For the Strength of Youth pamphet)
Dress and Grooming Standards
The dress and grooming of both men and women should always be modest, neat, and clean consistent with the dignity adherent to representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any of its institutions of higher learning.
Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church. Members of the BYU community commit themselves to observe the standards, which reflect the direction given by the Board of Trustees and the Church publication For the Strength of Youth. The BYU Dress and Grooming Standards are as follows:
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles and colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
For more information see: BYU Honor Code
What is immodest attire? Immodest attire is that state of dress (or undress) which flaunts a person's body and sexuality. There are four questions one can ask to determine if a particular outfit is immodest:
(1) Does the outfit create greater interest in the wearer by potential sexual partners? Most of us know that girls in two piece swimming suits (i.e., "bikinis") are more interesting to men than girls wearing modest suits. (See footnote 1) If more potential sexual partners pay attention to you because of your dress or undress, then you know you are being immodest. No one except a spouse has the right to arouse sexual feelings in someone.
(2) Does the outfit make members of the same sex more conscious of their physical inadequacies? If your dress causes feelings of inadequacy in others, then you know you are being immodest. It is not Christian conduct to make other people feel bad because they were not blessed with your physical bounties.
(3) Why are you wearing or buying the outfit? In reality, most of us know what is immodest attire. When we choose a two piece swimming suit over a modest one piece, we know why we are doing it. We want attention and appreciation for our body.
(4) Would the outfit cover temple garments, if you wore them? One of the purposes of the temple garment is to protect our modesty. If your outfit would not cover a temple garment, it is by definition immodest. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to wear such an outfit in special circumstances. On the other hand, wearing the exact same outfit outside of those special circumstances would be imodest. For example, it may be acceptable to wear a modest swim suit to swim, even though the swim suit would not cover temple garments. But it would be immodest to wear your swimming suit to go shopping at the mall or to a party.
(1) It should be noted that two piece swimming suits (i.e., "bikinis") are not allowed in the swimming areas of Church-sponsored colleges like Brigham Young University and Ricks College.
One of the hardest things for many of you is modesty. How can we apply the spiritual power of our baptism to the principle of modesty? We hope one of the things that makes you different from the world is the way you dress. Marcie Matthews, a Laurel from Chicago, Illinois, shares her story:
"1998 was a year that I was able to see the results of many Young Women lessons, talks, and advice come into play. I am an average Mormon girl. Being able to keep my life this steady and strong has not been easy. I make goals all the time to help strengthen my testimony and my standards.
"Recently we had a Mutual activity on the importance of modesty. Every lesson before I felt like I was a modest dresser, but I knew there was still something I could change--my shorts and the length of my skirts. It was the one weakness that I knew I had but had placed far behind in my head. Everyone wore short shorts, Daisy Dukes, and miniskirts, and I had bought mine with my own money. Then I heard the lesson on modesty. I went home wanting to go straight to my closet and throw away everything that was not modest so it wouldn't be there to tempt me. After, I told my parents. I guess I was looking for them to tell me that there was no problem in the way I dressed and then let me go.
"Later that night my dad told me he was proud of me and that he would like to buy me a couple of knee-length dresses for church. The next step was to go through all my clothes and give away everything. It was hard for me to part with my favorite skirts and the shorts that I loved so much, but I did. You will never see me in short shorts or short skirts again.
"I have never felt better about myself. I love being able to walk into the temple and church and feel like I am a child of God and am representing Him . . . by the clothes that I wear.
"I challenge every young woman to take this step. It will help you find out who you are and what you stand for. When we have to give up something that is a part of us, the blessings will pour in more than you can imagine" (letter in possession of Young Women office).
Marcie's great example epitomizes our Young Women theme. You know, the part that says, "We stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things"--and in all prom dresses.
For Sister Thomas' full comments, see Spiritual Power of our Baptism
Modesty in dress is one of the identifying characteristics of true saints. It is an aid in preserving chastity and an outward sign that the modest person is imbued with humility, decency, and propriety. Immodesty in dress is worldly, excites passions and lusts, places undue emphasis on sex and lewdness, and frequently encourages and invites petting and other immoral practices. It is an outward sign that the immodest person has become hardened to the finer sensitivities of the Spirit and been overcome by a spirit of vanity and pride. Low-necked dresses and those which do not adequately cover the body, for instance, are obviously destructive of decency.
Extremes of dress of any kind are of doubtful propriety. Costly and elaborate clothing in general is anything but indicative that the wearer has overcome the world and is walking humbly before the Lord. On the other hand old-fashioned somber, uniform-type clothing worn by fanatical members of some small religious sects is wholly unbecoming in our modern society. Such habits of dress indicate a lack of understanding of sound and true principles of modesty.
Speaking as moved upon by the Spirit, Paul counseled "that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." (1 Tim. 2:9-10.) In our day the Lord has spoken similarly: "Thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands." (D. & C. 42:40.)
Mormon Doctrine, p.510
When strong young priesthood holders see a girl immodestly dressed, most will not want to date her because her standards are not consistent with their eternal perspective. Immodesty in women cheapens their image. It causes embarrassment and loss of respect. It is not likely to win them the hand of a worthy, honorable young man who desires to marry a righteous young woman in the temple. You young ladies may have a hard time buying a modest prom dress. May I suggest that you make your own? You may need some help, but plenty of help is available. (See Womanhood: The Highest Place of Honor for President Faust's full comments)
(See Daily Living home page)