Thursday, November 21, 2013

A (Modest) Letter to My Daughter

You are amazing, inside and out.  How cliche, right?  But I know you love science, and you love learning about bodies, and you've figured out that our bodies are one big flippin' miracle after another.  How a body can provide nutrition and and eliminate waste, be ravaged by cancer and fixed by surgery, and how it can heal itself and create new life, even when that embryo starts in a petri dish (you are the very definition of a miracle, as an IVF baby).  I mean, even though you're only eight, we've had "The Talk" and you understand about eggs and seeds and anatomically correct body parts and where the baby comes out - and although this knowledge has given you pause at times, I know that you love knowing the truth.

Here is another truth:   Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are creative masters - I know how much you love art, and you are a masterpiece: we all are.  Because we were created in their image there is something about all of our shapes and body parts that are divine, they are perfect.

I want to talk to you about modesty.  I have pretty strong feelings and opinions about the issue and I don't always think that the principle of modesty is taught correctly.  Modesty is something that is being debated ad nauseum.  I could link to dozens of articles, of the ridiculous and outlandish or  thoughtful and articulate, and each have their rebuttals and counter-rebuttals.  But instead of talking about hemlines and cap sleeves and objectification and rape culture, I want to talk to you instead about one thing:

Don't ever consider what another person will think about you while choosing what you are going to wear.   I want you to wear clothes that are comfortable, that fit well, that make you feel good about yourself and give you confidence, that match your personality and that you like, and are appropriate for the activity.  Do you want to know what else you should think about while choosing your wardrobe?  Your Heavenly Parents.  You are their daughter and your body is a gift to you.  I want you to think about how your Heavenly Parents would want you to clothe your body.  You know they love you and want the best for you.  I truly believe you would want to do what would make them happy and proud of you.  So please, stand in front of the mirror and think about the opinions of the people who mean the most: yourself and God.

If you follow these guidelines, will your hemlines always match other people's expectations and standards?  Maybe not.  And I'm okay with that.  Because if you wouldn't mind wearing your outfit in front of your Heavenly Parents, then why would we worry about anyone else?

As much as your father is terrified of the day, your body is developing.  And one day soon you will have breasts and curves and even your monthly cycles.  When that day comes, as weird as it sounds, can we go out to eat and celebrate?  To celebrate being a young woman: to celebrate that it is not always pleasant, but it is always something to be proud of.   Also, other people may notice your body, especially if your genes bless you with more of a chest than your mother (ahem).  There is no amount of clothing that will enable you to avoid attention about your body.  So make sure you never seek after that kind of attention and make sure you ignore it when it comes your way.   When we give and seek physical attention, we are not seeing each others' spirits, seeing each other as we truly are, we are seeing each other as shapes and objects first - how Satan would want us to see each other.  It is not your job to avoid notice or to find a way to attract the appropriate amount of notice.    It is your job to be yourself and to please God.

You may have others teach you that your job is to be modest, because you must guard yourself and others from whatever sin your body may lead us all to.  Do not be ashamed of what your body is or afraid of what others may think of it.

In reality, modesty is behavior or appearance that is humble, moderate, and decent. A modest person avoids excesses and pretensions.  I want you to study the scriptures about what it means to be modest:

1 Timothy 2:9 "women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;"

Jacob 2:13 "And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are alifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they."

D&C 42:40 "And again, thou shalt not be aproud in thy bheart; let all thy cgarments be plain, and their dbeauty the beauty of the ework of thine own hands;"

 According to the scriptures, modesty is not dressing for attention or showing off for others or wearing costly apparel.  Does that also refer to fads and fashions?  Hmmm.  Further study from the Catholic Catechism, whose definition I love, provides more insight, "Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It guides how one looks at others  and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies. The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.  (

 So if modesty is about how we see others, does that mean the challenge of modesty is to see each other as Children of God no matter what they are wearing and no matter how our body reacts?  Yes!  God gave male and female bodies hormones that cause us to be attracted to each other and sometimes the sights of something attractive will arouse those feelings.  You will have those feelings!  Those feelings are not bad, they are not a sin, they are from God!  Lusting, the choice of having inappropriate thoughts and desires about something, is a sin.  So, if your thoughts are not appropriate in the situation, pay them no heed and move on.  Some think that men are the only ones that struggle with this challenge, some recent scientific studies have shown this is not true.    Shh, don't tell your dad, but this summer I was at the library walking through the parking lot when a man drove up on a motorcycle.  This man was muscular and handsome and my brain was thinking about what to cook for dinner that night when my body had a physical reaction and interrupted and said, "Hell-o Hottie!"  I could have chosen to keep thinking and to fantasize a bit - but I consciously made a decision to change the path my mind was on.  And the next thought I had was, "Hmm, how about chicken enchiladas?  Do I have enough salsa?"  This principle is probably best taught by Chinese Proverb of The Burden:
Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk across because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.  In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?”  The elder monk answered “yes, brother”.  Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?”   The elder monk smiled at him and told him ” I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”
I wish someone would have given me this advice when I was younger.  Perhaps it was when I shaved my head with Aunt Emily when she was going through chemo that I learned a lot about my looks (and how much we adorn ourselves for others' opinions), my body, and my relationship with God.  Please keep in mind that the ONLY important thing is to make sure you would be comfortable dressing and acting the way you do in front of your Heavenly Parents.  I promise you if you stay close to the Spirit and follow this one guideline you will be happy and you will be blessed. 


Your Momma

1 comment:

  1. I have no answers to your question about teaching your daughter about modesty but something tells me she's going to be just fine!