Modesty-A Call to the Women of the Church

Years ago, while serving in a RS Presidency, I wanted to invite the Young Women to join their mothers for a Sunday lesson on Modesty.  I felt (and still feel strongly) that mother’s are half, if not the majority of the problem, of making sure young girls are dressed to “fit in”.  Is anyone concerned that looking good is more important than reading your scriptures?  Sadly, at the last minute my plan was squashed, because the Young Women leaders decided to plan something else.  The Modesty lesson never took place.  As adults, we really need to band together and fight a war that has been going on for too long.  Satan has devised many tricks that aren’t so subtle anymore.  It is the support, the act of banding together, as well as placing our armor firmly into position that will finally win the prize.

Keep in mind, the following words are from the year 1917.

Dear Sisters,
We feel that there exists a pressing need of improvement and reform among our young people, specifically in the matter of dress and in their social customs and practices.  Our women are prone to follow the demoralizing fashions of the world; and some of the daughters of Zion appear to vie with one another in exhibitions of immodesty and of actual indecency in their attire, wholly forgetful of the precepts of the Lord and the counsels of his servants, and seemingly oblivious in this respect to the promptings and duties of true womanhood.
We are grateful in knowing that only a fraction of our people are seriously affected by the deadly contagion of Babylon; but those already infected among the Latter-day Saints are all too many.  The conditions call for prompt, determined, and persistent action, lest the standard of morality and spiritual health in our community be further impaired.
Your Brethren,
Joseph F. Smith
Anthon H. Lund
Charles W. Penrose
First Pres.

A Social Advisory Committee of the Relief Society, Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, and Primary Association was formed to “do all within their power to assist in the correction of the evils herein referred to”.  This is their report:
“Our women and girls should strive to understand the teachings of the gospel with regard to dress and conduct, and to live in accordance therewith.  In the guise of fashion, many false ideas of beauty have come among us, and the habit of ‘being in the style’ has caught and carried many of us much farther than we realized.  Let us remember that the body is a gift from God and that it should be kept sacred.  Our girls should be instructed and helped to recognize the value of and the protection that comes with modesty in dress and conduct.  Not one of them can afford to sacrifice such protection for the sake of fashion.”
RS Magazine, A Call to the Women of the Church, Jan 1917

Joseph F. Smith said, “It is almost past belief that there should be mothers who take pride in seeing their daughters go dressed immodestly, if not indecently, but there are such mothers, and their actions are astounding if not execrable  (means ‘utterly detestable’-I had to look it up)…We complain that our daughters go…half-naked before the public.  It is an outrage, and should not be tolerated by Latter-day Saints under any conditions…In this matter of dress and social conduct, then, the mothers have a deep responsibility, and their great organization—the Relief Society is a fit instrument to bring about reforms by having the mothers make the effort in the homes of the Saints.
Improvement Era, Dress & Social Practices, JFSmith, Dec 1916
Advice and recommendations taken from the RS Magazine:
“The dress should be made to cover the shoulder and upper arm; the round or V neck should not be extreme; and the skirt not immodestly short.  Very sheer material, while beautiful in itself, is not in good taste unless worn with underclothing which properly covers the body.

“Latter-day Saint women should be leaders in this movement.  [Auxiliary] Officers, especially should set the example.  Upon each officer and teacher rests an individual responsibility to manifest her willingness to dress according to proper ideals.  Each one should ask herself:  Am I measuring up, in this respect, to the highest standards of modesty and to my professions as a member of the Church of Christ?”

“Mothers who have persistently violated modesty and their own covenants…these mothers would naturally view with entire complacency the half naked condition of their daughters in public places.  But when these examples spread, and we hear good Latter-day Saint mothers defending such looseness on the ground of expediency, or common custom, it is time for public teachers and watchers upon the towers of Zion to arise and cry out a warning note.”

“We can refuse to read or buy books and magazines that exploit adultery and loose moral standards.  We can remain away from theaters and picture shows that portray vice and sin in glittering colors and suggestive references.”
RS Magazine, RS in its Attitude to Dress & Social Customs, Feb 1917
RS Magazine, Social Work:  Dress, Apr 1917

Isn’t it interesting that we still have the same problems today? Granted, their definition of “short” was showing the ankle, or perhaps knee. Can you imagine what they would think of today’s styles? The casualness of our society has colored the idea of “best dress”.

But all is not lost. I love seeing our clean, virtuous, young women sticking to their covenants, and I shout Hallelujah when I hear about them asking store owners to buy more modestware. Good for you!