Readers’ Forum: Sept. 8, 2015

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Re: Modesty and Mormonism 

And thus, with the publication of Scott Zylstra’s inflammatory “Modesty and Mormonism” (Readers’ Forum – Sept. 1-7, 2015), The Universe has reignited the biannual debate about what kinds of clothing are appropriate on campus.

Here’s the thing about modesty, Mr. Zylstra: it pertains to your words, too. Modesty is widely recognized as the quality of being unassuming or moderate in speech and behavior, so when you use incendiary adjectives like “sickening,” “disgusting,” “nasty” and “embarrassing” to describe the way others dress, you are guilty of the very immodesty you ascribe so readily to them.

Furthermore, discussions about modesty center disproportionately on women. Where are the modesty police when men run shirtless or sleeveless about campus? Who questions the holes in men’s jeans the same way Mr. Zylstra questions the holes in women’s sleeves? If modesty, as former Young Women General President Elaine S. Dalton said, is “an outward manifestation of an inner knowledge and commitment” to the Savior, then the way we talk about modesty ought to reflect that same knowledge and commitment. We shouldn’t attack others, we shouldn’t dismiss them as “half-Mormons,” and we certainly shouldn’t insinuate that the members of the women’s volleyball team are vacuous because of the way they choose to dress for a sporting event.

Alexander Barton
Manti, Utah

Re: Modesty and Mormonism

Having recognized the apparent disparities in student perception of modesty, I can’t help but disagree with the Sept. 1 opinion about the same principle. First of all, modesty is not a black and white issue — at least not externally or globally. Saying that we have all been taught the same and therefore the expectation exists that we all view modesty the same is ridiculous. People have agency, meaning they can choose for themselves. Therefore, internally, perhaps modesty is black and white. I know what is modest for me. You know what is modest for you. The problem with modesty is when you know what is modest for me. Calling the behavior of an otherwise friendly and decent human “disgusting and disheartening” is not what the Lord wants us to get out of modesty. Standing on our ivory pillar and berating those who are not at our perceived altitude is also not what the Lord intended.

On a related note, I think it is foolish to generalize that girls only want to look good for guys. Elder Holland said that boys are capable of controlling themselves, so if I am distracted by a girl’s provocative clothing, that’s my own fault. Obviously, there are professional situations where tasteful clothing should be the expectation for both sexes. However, nitpicking what is and is not modest for everyone else gets us nowhere. As far as athletic clothing is concerned, to each his or her own. You just do you.

Will Daybell
Centreville,Virginia

Re: Modesty and Mormonism

A recent editorial expresses what I’ve found to be common and concerning thoughts on modesty. The first being that modesty is primarily about fashion choices. The Oxford English Dictionary defines modesty as “decorum, propriety; scrupulous sobriety of thought, speech, conduct, etc.; natural avoidance of coarseness or lewdness.” This paints a much broader and appropriate picture of modesty. Understanding that modesty is about decorum and propriety allows us to contextualize modesty standards. If I wore exercise clothing to church, that would likely not be modest, while wearing them at the gym or to go running would be completely appropriate. The mindset and behavior of the individual contribute significantly to whether an individual is truly “modest.” I know plenty of BYU students that dress “modestly,” but don’t act modestly.

Second, the assumption that women should dress a certain way because of men, whether it’s because men like or don’t like certain things or that women’s clothing tempts or distracts men, is problematic. Yes, the clothing that we wear has an impact on others and we should be aware of that, but we are all responsible for our own actions. Remember, modesty, like all spiritual guidance, is between each of us and God.

In essence, we should remember that modesty is much broader than where our hemlines fall and concerns the dress and behavior of men and women. Let’s all try to be a bit more truly modest.

Conor Hilton
Idaho Falls, ID

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