Teaching Modesty to Children

I posted the following you-know-where:

I don’t have girl children, but I don’t let my boys wear tank tops or shorts above the knee. Here’s why:

(1) Generally, most LDS parents think that modesty rules should ‘kick in’ when their girls hit puberty or thereabouts. I think this can send a confusing message to (some) girls: all of a sudden, it isn’t OK to show your body at a time when what’s happening to your body is complicated enough. If I had a girl, she would wear garment-covering clothes from the beginning.

(2) Modesty rules should apply equally to boys and girls. No double standard.

Hence, my little boys, pretty much from birth on, wear clothes than would cover garments. Of course, it’s different if we are going swimming, etc.

To which Greg Call responded:

ead has become too unwieldy to have the discussion here, Julie, but I would like to hear more about your views on this. I have the (perhaps naive) view that little children are different than post-pubescent ones. Nudity is not all that rare in my house, and if my kids (1 and 3) don’t want to wear pants (in the house), I don’t make a big deal of it. I would think that an 11 year old would understand a speech along the lines of, “You’re getting older now. You need to wear pants all the time” (if they hadn’t already picked up the social cues). Of course, as a teenage boy I rarely wore a shirt during the summertime, indoors or out, so maybe I am simply cursing my kids with my own tendency toward immodesty.

Also, I’ve never understood the garment to be a marker as to which part of our bodies are permissible to show, and which aren’t. Of course, if you are wearing garments, their sacredness requires them to be out of view, but I never took this as an issue of modesty. Am I misunderstanding you? Do you have sources on this?

That thread is getting unwieldy, so I’m bringing the discussion over here. (At which point, Steve Evans says, “POACHER!” And he might have a case if that other blog would let you link directly to a comment instead of wading through the entire thread.)

First, Greg, my children rarely wear more than underwear in the house. My sense is that, with young children, there is no need to follow the rules of modesty among family. (I’m sure others would disagree, and that’s fine.) But, out of the house or if friends are over, everyone in our home wears clothes that they could wear if they were endowed. I’m not claiming that this is a rule that need apply to everyone in the Church, but it seems right for our family for the reasons that I gave above. I’m not sure that it is essential to define ‘modest’ as ‘clothes that one endowed could wear,’ but it seems like a simple enough shorthand that could save some arguments. But when this topic came up before, someone with teens cautioned me that I might be setting my kids up to hate the idea of going through the Temple if they hear this line too many times in their teens. This person may have a point. But I could see it playing the other way, too: my kids won’t have to change their habits to go through the Temple, which might make it a more appealing idea than it is for their friends who need to, in their own eyes, start wearing burkas.

I don’t have any sources on this. I don’t claim this to be the official position of the Church. But I do think that regardless of the specific modesty standards a family adopts, they should think about the gender implications of it and they should think about what effect it would have on their child(ren) if, one warm day, Mom and Dad announce that they can no longer wear what they are used to wearing.

113 comments for “Teaching Modesty to Children

  1. Kaimi
    April 6, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    I’ve thought about posting on this before, Julie. My approach has been different than yours. My boys wear shorts a lot, one of my boys likes tank tops, and my little girl has some sleeveless tops.

    (Of course, it’s sometimes a challenge to get them to wear clothes at all. Particularly my second son. He prefers to be in underwear or nothing at all. If I’m at the park with the kids, and I sit down for a second and then suddenly hear someone say “who’s that little boy running around naked?!?”, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s Kace taking off his clothes in public. Again.)

  2. Greg Call
    April 6, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for this amplification Julie. I’m glad to hear that your kids don’t wear pants either. And I certainly think you won’t err on the side of immodesty if you take the garment as your shorthand standard.

    As to your point about habituating your children, I’ll import my follow up comment on BCC (at the risk of incurring Steve’s wrath):

    “But aren’t the garments *more* meaningful if we have to change our lives to accommodate them? I know that for me, it took me a long time before I could get comfortable wearing a shirt to bed, which in turn made my covenants all the more present in my mind. I knew that I was different than I was before going through the temple. I felt like Paul: “When I was a child…”

    If people are rejecting the garment based on style concerns, I would think that the solution is better teaching about our covenants, not making children dress as though they had already made those covenants so that the covenants because less obtrusive in their life.”

  3. April 6, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Thus forcing me to import my reply (and I have no problem incurring Steve’s wrath)…


    I don’t know that they are *more* meaningful. Whatever your previous habits of dress, they still are an obvious physical reminder.

    Of course better teaching about covenants is the best solution. But from what I have heard and read, taking out one’s endowment is a quite difficult even strange experience for some members.

    If one is already used to the modesty requirements that the wearing of the garment requires, then that can help members make the transition to someone who is a “templed” Mormon. It seems to me that for some members the first step away from renewing a temple recommend is not wearing garments — at first casually and then habitually. It then becomes a barrier in getting back to the temple and thus becoming more comfortable with what takes place there.

    It would be interesting to see stats on how many endowed members never return to the temple (or only go back once or twice).

    Of course, there are always other factors — and perhaps one might question a member’s committment to the temple if he/she can’t make the sacrifice of wearing garments.

    However, because of its very physical, ever-present nature, it is a huge adjustment to make simply in terms of lifestyle for some people — let alone the covenant/religious aspects to the whole experience. Why not help young people become accustomed to and look forward to the idea?

    Where and when and how that should start — I don’t have firm ideas on yet.”

  4. Kaimi
    April 6, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    Well, there is the practical matter that temple garments may require replacing a significant part of one’s wardrobe. That’s a bad idea. So it’s probably good to start wearing garment-friendly clothing a few years in advance.

    But do garments really define the boundaries of modesty? If so, it’s an awfully strange definition. I mean, is it really true that exposure of my wife’s upper arms is immodest, while exposure of quite a bit of cleavage and upper breast isn’t? (And anyone who has seen women’s scoop-neck G’s knows that they dip pretty low and can leave a lot of chest/cleavage area uncovered).

  5. April 6, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    My wrath? Puhleeze. But I will say this:

    “he might have a case if that other blog would let you link directly to a comment instead of wading through the entire thread” — Julie, we do (and have for a few weeks). Next to each comment is the word ‘permalink’, which should be what you’re looking for.

    And I don’t believe that garments are indicators of the maximum level of permissible visible flesh. Yes, endowed members must keep them covered, but that’s as far as I’m comfortable taking it.

  6. Julie in Austin
    April 6, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Once again Kaimi helps us push the boundaries of our G rating . . .

    Seriously, though, what worries me is this attitude, from a woman announcing her engagement in May to be married in the Fall: “which means that I’ll have to wear all the sleeveless tops I can this summer while I still have the chance!” That’s the attitude I’m trying to avoid in my kids.

  7. Julie in Austin
    April 6, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, I see, you guys just did it BACKWARDS! If you click the persons’ NAME it takes you directly to the comment. If you click the THREAD TITLE next to their name, it takes you to the top of the thread. Makes perfect(ly no) sense.

  8. April 6, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    It depends on what you think of your wife’s upper arms, and if you think that by exposing them, men will leer and have impure thoughts about her, which I’ve heard is usually the case when women expose their breasts. (But hey, apparantly Nate leers at my clavicles, so to each his own.)

    I think it is widely accpeted that exposing certain parts of your body can be considered sexually immodest, and in our day and age, exposure of upper arms doesn’t fall into that category. There was a time when it was considered immodest to show your ankles, so women didn’t. I think to be considered a modest member of society, you go along with what the rules are in that society, and right now, exposed breasts are considered immodest.

  9. Carleh
    April 6, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    When we are in the celestial kingdoom (if we are), will we have to wear garments?

  10. Greg Call
    April 6, 2005 at 3:18 pm


    I agree with much of what you say. I suppose it’s your last sentence — when to start preparing a child for the transition — that’s the rub. I just want to preserve a real distinction (as Victorian as it may or may not be) between childhood and adulthood, and the notion that we should be raising our kids as if they were little adults doesn’t really appeal to me. Moving from Paul to Ecclesiastes: There is a time for running around half-naked, and a time to be clothed.

  11. April 6, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    I think it makes sense that if you click on a thread name, it takes you to the thread…

    But if you look at a specific comment, you’ll see “Comment No. X Posted by: So-and-So | April 6, 2005 04:08 PM Permalink” Permalink is the link for that specific comment.

    Thus endeth the dumbest threadjack in history.

  12. Julie in Austin
    April 6, 2005 at 3:22 pm


    That’s an interesting thought because I’m a big fan of preserving childhood. But my concern is this: I think that a substantial number of young women might feel ‘punished,’ or even more uncomfortable with their changing bodies than they already are, if they have to start dressing modestly when they hit puberty.

    I can see the advantages of preserving childhood in, say, keeping children away from sexually-oriented media they aren’t ready for. But are there advantages to dressing less modestly? In other words, how does what you propose enhance childhood?

  13. Julie in Austin
    April 6, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    No, threadjack continues.

    The permalink does me no good when I’m trying to figure out if more comments have been added since the last time I condescended to visit your realm.

  14. April 6, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    You can still figure that out too, Julie — comments at BCC are numbered just like here, and you can see recent comments like here, too — in fact, there’s not a lot of difference in the interface.

  15. Lisa
    April 6, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    “Why not help young people become accustomed to and look forward to the idea?”

    I think you can become accustomed to having to wear garments, but looking forward to wearing them? I live in a hot climate, and garments are incredibly uncomfortable and confining.

    I think it’s quite sad that people should feel that they are required to wear garments as a sign of their commitment to the church. It seems pharasaical to me. I know many people who wear garments who do not live Christ-like lives. I wish we could find another, less restrictive way, to remember our covenants daily (such as daily prayer), but I don’t get to make the decisions around here :)

  16. Kaimi
    April 6, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    I’ll agree with Greg. The modesty logic can be adapted in strange ways:

    -Kids should work for their living, from, say, age 3. That way, they’ll be used to it.
    -Kids should go to Priesthood and Relief Society from age 3, rather than Primary. That way, they’ll be used to the idea.


    We make a lot of adjustments in the move from childhood to adulthood.

    As far as the move from single to married, we also make a lot of adjustments. Let’s see, we

    -stop dating other people
    -MOVE IN with someone of the opposite gender
    -often, combine finances and such
    -sometimes move to new cities

    And with all that change — which we view as perfectly normal changes in the single-to-married transition — we think that sartorial shifts are going to be particularly difficult for some reason?

  17. Rosalynde Welch
    April 6, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Lisa, I’m guessing that most people don’t wear their garments as a sign of their commitment to the church: signs, by definition, are outward signals, and garments, by practice, are precisely the opposite. I wear garments because I covenanted to do so.

    Now, if certain church members squint and peer to see if others are wearing garments, and then make judgments on that basis, then that *is* sad.

  18. Julie in Austin
    April 6, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    Yes, Kaimi, I think that sartorial shifts might be particularly difficult for YW (I’m thinking of shifting from not-modest to modest (however a family defines that) not the shift from unendowed to endowed).

    Teen girls are known for having body image issues. Parents who decide that it is time for a girl to begin dressing modestly may exacerbate these problems. I think it also suggests that modesty is solely about protecting the body from the lascivious gaze of others, when I also think it is about respect for the body as God’s creation.

  19. Kaimi
    April 6, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    Who needs to squint and peer, Rosalynde? Just use x-ray goggles!

  20. Greg Call
    April 6, 2005 at 3:45 pm


    It does sound silly to say that letting kids run around half-naked enhances childhood. But I think there is value in allowing a child to do and explore what he or she wants (within certain parameters), without too much encroachment of adult concerns or wider social obligations. There will also be plenty of time for those later. As a little girl, my wife rarely wore a shirt. She was a tomboy and wanted to be like the boys in her (rural European) neighborhood. Maybe this didn’t necessarily enhance her childhood, but it was what she wanted, and I don’t think it proved harmful in the least.

  21. Lisa
    April 6, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    Rosalynde – thanks for replying to my post. I didn’t mean it to sound as harsh or flippant as it came across, but I do think that the tendency is to view garments as an outward sign of the faith. Garment wearers are not allowed to wear tank tops or shorts that rise too much above the knee. Therefore, garment wearers are restrained from wearing many modest, but garment unfriendly, clothes.

    I do think it’s an outward sign of faith to be sweating profusely in two T-shirts and long shorts during a long humid summer. And I think garment wearers recognize this, so that’s why many garment wearers check to see if the people they encounter are similarly inconvenienced.

    The requirement that you covenanted to wear the garments is of course the reason why you wear them. But what is the purpose of wearing them beyond obedience? Not that there has to be a purpose beyond that, but it’s such a sacrifice for some people to wear garments that it would be nice if there were a higher purpose (one could analogize garment wearing to the WoW, of course).

  22. April 6, 2005 at 3:51 pm


    Of course the modesty logic can be adapted in strange ways. And, yes, we do expect a whole lot of adjustments in the move from single to married [and perhaps we as a people could do better in helping with those adjustments — but that’s several separate conversations]. My whole point is that because so many other shifts are going on at the same time for most men and women who take out their endowments, that not also having to physically and psychologically deal with the demands that garments place on one’s wardrobe and sense of style and body is a good thing.

    I’d love to hear people’s opinions and experiences on when to start with the wear-garment-proof-clothes thing. As I said — I’m not sure of the when.

  23. Minerva
    April 6, 2005 at 4:02 pm

    Mesh, Lisa, mesh. It’s great stuff.

  24. Carleh
    April 6, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    I think that the concept of modesty should be introduced when kids become self conscious/aware about how they look. I see modesty as a way to escape the insecure selfishness that most people invest in their appearance. For most girls, I think this age comes right around fifth grade, and boys, well, I don’t know. PRobably around the same time, or not much later.

  25. Mary
    April 6, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    I’m with Julie. I want my kids to wear garment approved type clothes even as small children. Kids can be kids in sleeves. And I completely agree that boys should be held to the same standard as girls. I know that a lot of kids like to be naked when they are small, and when you are home, that seems okay and I think a lot of kids will phase out of the need to be naked (or near naked) as they get older and start to realize differences and start to be conscious of their body.

    I think it is about respect. I will respect my children’s bodies by keeping them covered. Yes, they might prefer or desire to be undressed but I will teach them that it is not just the future temple covenants that I hope they will make that dictates what they should wear but it is a sense of self, a sense of respect for themselves and for others around them. Dressing your children modestly, and dressing yourself modestly, also shows respect to siblings and parents within a family.

  26. Colleen
    April 6, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    In reference to the title of this thread… Why can’t we, as teachers of children, explain to them that modesty is less about how many inches above the knee their shorts are, and more about not bringing excessive attention to themselves by their appearance and behavior?

    While drawing all these wardrobe lines is necessary at times, especially with young teens, the rules need to be taught in the context of the real meaning of modesty, which I think is about preserving one’s dignity and respecting both self and body (like Mary said above). For Mormons the whole concept is oversexualized when the focus is on the scooped necks and shirtless boys. We spend so much time with our figurative rulers, but modesty is wider than that, something our children need to understand and live.

    Beyond skimpy clothing, modesty “issues” can also include pierced eyebrows, dangerous platform shoes, super-long fake nails and sweatpants with words stamped across someone’s behind. I don’t mean to call for vanilla teens — of course they need to express their individuality. But wouldn’t it be ideal if they could do so with an understanding of what true modesty and self-respect are?

  27. Wilfried
    April 6, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    BTW, talk about folklorization for what Mormon women wear. I read on an Islamic site the following:

    Question: ‘I see all types of people wearing head coverings, are they all Hijab?’
    Answer: No, many women belonging to different faiths and cultures choose to wear head coverings. Sikh women, for example, often wear a head covering which resembles a turban or use thin shawls to cover their head; some Christians (Mormons, Nuns, etc) also wear a small triangular piece of material which covers the top of their head; orthodox Jewish women wear wigs or hats; and Muslim women wear scarves that cover their hair and neckline. It is the Muslim woman’s head covering that is popularly known as the Hijab.

    Yes, indeed. But how is that small triangular piece of textile on Mormon women’s head called? Eldee-esjab? I noticed quite a few of our sisters have become pretty lax in wearing this. Shocking immodesty.

  28. Matt Jacobsen
    April 6, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    Colleen —

    I’d also like to be able to use the “don’t draw too much attention to yourself” part of modesty when teaching my children. But I feel like there is something missing. Won’t a teenage daughter just insist that wearing clothes that no one else is wearing would draw unwanted attention? If our child is incredibly cute do we tell them to ugly themselves up a bit so as not to stand out? Are red pants too attention-grabbing? Would this concept leak over into other areas of their lives, like not trying to be too smart or taking the lead in plays (or even not appearing to be too righteous)?

    It seems like we’re not so much concerned about getting attention — just the wrong kind of attention. The wrong kind of attention would be defined as, what, anything that is not uplifting to ourselves and others and God??

    I think my own household is pretty close to Julie’s. Our girls (6 and 4) wear just about whatever they want (or not) when at home. It doesn’t matter to us though if friends are over because a lot of time is spent in either dressups or leotards for dancing and gymnastics. But we are more strict when they go outside. It’s hard when inside play turns into outside play so quickly. And then the hot summers when a swimsuit is worn all day…

    Already at 6, our daughter is very interested in clothes that show her belly button. What do you do when friends give hand-me-down spaghetti-strap halter tops? We turned them into costumes to be worn at home. What do you do when friends give Lizzy McGuire posters? We put them up in the closet (don’t know about that, I think I want it out of the house).

    Our last family home evening lesson was on Samuel choosing David as the next king and that the Lord looks at the inside of a person not the outside. All this to teach that fashion and what one wears are not important to God, and that if we spend so much time thinking about them that we’re taking time away from more important things. I should add that God does care what we wear as far as it affects our relationships with others (distracting ourselves and others or becoming pornography and all that). If we simply lived as couples or even as families I see no reason why we couldn’t all hang around nude.

  29. Sara R
    April 6, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    Our house rules are like Julie’s. We started setting rules about it when my oldest turned 4 and it became difficult to find shirts that covered her belly. Why oh why do clothing manufacturers think 4-year-olds want to wear skanky clothes?

    I wrestled with the idea a lot at that time. She had a cute top that showed her belly. Should I let her wear it? Or would that be immodest? I finally decided that since she was such a stubborn girl at age 4, she just might still be stubborn at age 13, and I figured having consistent rules from the beginning was a good thing.

    I wound up adding a skirt to that shirt and made a cute modest play dress for her. Problem solved.

  30. Todd Lundell
    April 6, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    Does the no “double standard” bewteen boys and girls apply to swimwear as well? Seems to me that modesty is a particularly gender-specific issue. I basically agree with Heather that modesty is about social norms and the message your dress sends given the context. Though it is not necessarily about whether some style of dress causes impure thoughts. I think it is immodest for men to wear short-shorts for the opposite reason that I think it is immodest for women to wear them. But that is just me!

  31. April 6, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Um, I don’t think we only wear the garments because we covenanted to wear them. I think they partly serve to remind us, ourselves, of our covenant relationship to God. There are particular things they are to remind us of, discussed in the temple.

    Reminding us to be modest is part of their purpose. But as someone said earlier, this is more than just the clothes we wear. Funny thing, I am more careful about not showing my garments than about not showing the flesh they cover. My relationship with God, and spiritual experiences I’ve had and truths I have learned, are also things I should keep sacred and use discretion in sharing with other people, like my body. Partly the garment for me is a reminder to be in the world, but not of it. To be discreet about what I broadcast to the world, and about what I listen to from the world.

    I think something like all of this is in a way implicit in modesty (which as was remarked earlier, has even more to do with behavior than with dress).

  32. Geena
    April 6, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    Um, I first went to the temple 16 years ago and have been back at least twenty times ago. I did not make a covenant to wear the garment and I don’t know anyone else who did.

  33. Geena
    April 6, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    oopsie. Make that “I have been back at least 20 times a year”

  34. Ivan Wolfe
    April 6, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    I have the same basic policy that Julie does as far as my kids clothing goes (I have one boy and one girl – so far).

    Any argument can be used in strange ways – just because this can be done does not invalidate it.

    I could say that the argument (used above and elsewhere) But aren’t the garments *more* meaningful if we have to change our lives to accommodate them? could be used to say that Chasity becomes more meaningful if we start to live it once we get married, especially if we aren’t used to living it before, or that the Word of Wisdom becomes more meaningful if we become addicited to cigarettes at a young age and have to quit to go on a mission. [Well, on some level it would, but why do it that way? Wouldn’t it be easier to start keeping the commandments at a young age?]

    So, that tactic is not always the best way to refute another’s argument.

  35. M.J. Pritchett
    April 6, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    The base concept of modesty is to not call attention to yourself. One strand (the one we Mormons focus on the most) is to not call attention to yourself by dressing in a way that invites excessive sexual attention.

    The dilema for teenage girls (and their worried parents–Julie, be glad you’ve got boys) is that the socially appropriate way to dress is typically one that calls the some level of sexual attention to oneself. (Probably since finding and attracting a sexual mate is a big part of what life is about at that age–for both boys and girls, in most every age and culture.) What is socially appropriate, of course, changes over time and place.

    At least since the 60’s the church has encouraged a resistance to cultural change and has encouaged its youth to “stand out” by adopting dress that is distinctively prudish (“extreme modesty” according to the dictionary). I think extreme modesty captures the idea better than prudish.

    The idea is that our youth should be calling less sexual attention to themselves than their peers since our culture is out of control and what is socially normal today violates some absolute standard of sexual purity. It’s not enough to not call attention to oneself, our youth must stand out. Religiously motivated extreme modesty should trump conventional social modesty.

    The Muslim girls who wear head scarves in suburban America obviously have a more extreme version of the same conflict.

    My teen age daughters are willing to be modest in the ordinary sense (to not dress in a way that would mark them as excessively sexual among their peers), and generally, dress more conservatively than their peers. (There are only a handful of Mormon kids in the school.) Modesty is always part of the discussion when they buy clothes, and they view themselves as dressing much more modestly than their peers. But they are not always willing to dress in the extrememly modest way suggested in the Especially For Youth/BYU standards, and we have not gone to the mat to force them to. For example, they wear two piece swimsuits and strapless prom dresses.

    But the fact that the gap between the Especially for Youth standards and what is modest in their environment is (to them) large, does create a sense of alienation for them and for me as their father.

    Part of the problem is that we as parents share with our daughters a desire that they not stick out as social misfits (or feel like they stick out as social misfits). Where does social modesty (a virtue) stop and social insecurity (a vice) start? I’m not sure.

    At BYU-Idaho, where my daughter attended EFY last summer, “flip flops” are prohibited, so we had to make a special trip to the store to buy something “appropriate”. I think the no flip flop rule is about promoting formality in dress on campus rather than sexual modesty, but it is part of an effort at BYU Idaho to create a distinctive Mormon “look” as a foundation to a distinctive sprituality. It’s about modesty in one way, but in another it’s the opposite of modesty.

  36. Greg Call
    April 6, 2005 at 7:38 pm

    As the writer of the sentence you quote, I must agree that it isn’t a great argument. On the other hand, your counter-argument only works if one assumes that wearing non-garment-compliant clothing prior to being endowed is analogous to breaking the law of chastity or the word of wisdom. I’m not sure that is so, and it would take an argument, rather than an assertion, to convince me.

    Anyway, the general point was that I don’t think that the prospect of my children someday being a garment-wearing adult really requires me to have them start dressing that way as a three-year-old. All I’m really arguing for here is letting kids be kids, within certain bounds.

  37. April 6, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    I guess I’m pretty lucky when it comes to this issue. My kids are young teenagers and they’re all very modest on their own. My daughter has a sensory problem with some fabrics as well and all my kids are very particular about what clothes they’ll wear–my daughter wouldn’t wear denim until this last year or so. She’ll only wear very comfortable clothes. Won’t wear sleeveless tops/dresses or dresses with seams that’ll irritate her.

    I pretty much agree with Carleh though. I think it’s ok for small kids to wear shorter shorts, tanks, etc.

  38. Jarom
    April 6, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    First, I have to say that while I’ve been reading the blog for quite some time without posting, the intrguing juxtapositions between discussions of the clothing habits of toddlers and endowed members is perhaps the oddest mixture of commentary I’ve seen…very strange how this thread has evolved.

    On to what may be a naive comment, but seems to me something that the thread might be overlooking. In talking about, say, the wardrobe of a 3-year old girl, there’s a difference (it seems to me) in said girl waking up one morning and deciding to put on the sleeveless sun dress that grandma sent, and the parents of said girl picking out such a dress and putting it on so she’ll look “simply adorable” at the Primary activity. Because in speaking of modest clothing, there are really two horns to consider. Modest can, especially in the ways that many in the thread have pointed out, mean to cover the body to such a degree that men and women alike respect their own bodies and let people likewise know they respect the gift that our bodies are. But a meaning of “modest” that often goes overlooked when we talk about the charge to dress modestly is modest as opposed to attention-seeking. Colleen’s comment a while back (#26) hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that modesty is not just about sexuality but about refraining from following the trends of the world, whether we’re talking about clothing, excessive piercing, or what have you.

    Back to the 3-year old girl…I have no girls, but I would imagine that, in many many cases, they often don’t care what they wear (using my 3-year old son as a model, let me revise and say that they do care what they wear in terms of wanting to exercise their right to choose, but they don’t care mcuh about “fashion” or “trends”). Why is it that American suburban culture has the attitude that little girls look simply adorable in tankinis or sleeveless dresses? Because that’s what the grownups on TV and in the magazines wear. I often wonder if dressing toddlers in such fashions are an attempt to make them look more grown up rather than look more childlike.

    Note that this is markedly different than running around topless (boys or girls) on a hot summer’s day. And, to reference the contrast I started with, if I had a daughter who received a pair of short shorts as a gift and wanted to wear them one day, I’d have no problem with it in principle any more than I’d have a problem with my son wanting to wear a bucket on his head to church (we got some stares that day). Because little children need to experience making choices, to experience independence, and to experience individuality. But we don’t need to impose things on them. When parents are the ones dressing their children “immodestly,” however you define that term, they’re telling their children that it’s ok to follow the trends of the world. And it’s that type of behavior that will be much harder to change as they become teenagers. If you let them learn about making choices and, as they get older (I think someone above mentioned late grade school) help them learn about the consequences of choices and the responsibilities that go along with them, and start to help them understand what modesty is at that time, they are muh more equipped to choose to dress modestly on their own at the age of 14, 15, 16. But if you spend all your toddler wardrobe money (which I never agreed to have any of, anyway, but which my wife thinks is the most indispensible part of our budget) for the first 4 or 5 years of their life filling their closet with styles you’d never approve of 10 years later, how are you, when she wants the strapless prom dress merely because that’s what’s being sold in the stores and what all her friends tell her looks so great on her, going to explain the difference?

  39. Ivan Wolfe
    April 6, 2005 at 8:57 pm

    Greg –

    You’ll get no assertion or argument from me. I wasn’t saying you were wrong (I have yet to make my mind up on that) but that there’s always a danger in using that type of counter-argument, since no topic is ever perfectly analagous to another topic, even if they are similar. You always run the risk of the differences between any two sins/transgressions/possibly questionable behaviors undermining the nature of the counter-example.

    (I think I’ve been reading too much Kenneth Burke lately)

  40. Greg Call
    April 6, 2005 at 9:16 pm

    Ivan: Ok, this is getting a bit too meta-argument for me, but I didn’t make use of analogy at all. I simply suggested that it may be a good that the garment is disruptive to our lives, and that I think this was the case for me. I thought William Morris had a good reply to this, and I quickly retreated to my “let kids be kids” position. Kaimi raised the analogies in support of my general point, and I don’t really buy them either.

  41. Todd Lundell
    April 6, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    My three year old daughter wears lots of spagetti strap dresses and shirts that show her belly. But since she only wears clothes specifically designed by her mother, I figure its okay. I guess based on Jarom’s comment, my wife’s job as fashion designer for 2-6 year old girls is leading to the downfall of the American toddler.

  42. Kaimi
    April 6, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    That’s right, Todd, and I’ve been meaning to check that out. Sorbet, right? Do you have a link? An official site?

  43. Kaimi
    April 6, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    Oh, and I should add that Indigo wears clothes that her mom makes her as well, and some of her favorites outfits have been sleeveless. She also had a really cute rainbow-colored top (which she loved, and wore constantly until she outgrew it) and it was definitely a belly-button shirt.

  44. Ivan Wolfe
    April 6, 2005 at 10:02 pm

    Greg –
    Ok, this is getting a bit too meta-argument for me

    Like I said – to much Kenneth Burke on my part.

    It’s all good.

  45. Anita
    April 6, 2005 at 10:17 pm

    I’m thrilled to read the comments from Julie and Mary and others that suggest my Primary-age daughters are not the only ones in the church (although I think they may be the only ones in Sandy Utah) who had sleeves on their Easter dresses! We similarly thought to be consistent from the beginning and follow the guidelines in “For the Strength of Youth” about keeping shoulders covered, etc. My mother-in-law and others have expressed amazement that a baby sundress could be considered immodest, but for us it was easier to draw the line now than choose another time (age 12? puberty?) and make a big change. (I’ve heard of an idea, back to the original topic of teaching children modesty, that you sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with youth and as they do the actions see if they can touch their heads without showing their tummies, touch their shoulders and not touch skin, touch their knees and make sure the clothes come that far, and touch their toes without revealing their backside.) When one of our daughters was just four, we were at a stoplight next to a convertible filled with scantiily clad teenagers, and she exclaimed, “They don’t know about the Word of Modesty!” So that’s what we call it now at our house. And I am still amazed at how many teenagers in our ward haven’t seem to have heard of it :-) Incidentally, our kids all swim in wetsuit-type suits, so our son is as modest as our 3 daughters (but that has a lot more to do with my genetic tendency toward skin cancer than modesty). Like the Israelites following the Law of Moses that seemed restrictive and perhaps too nitpicky to some, I believe modesty is one of those modern tests to distinguish us from the world.

  46. Mark B.
    April 6, 2005 at 10:20 pm

    As Greg’s home teacher for a while, I can confirm that his wife, having put away childish things, always wore a shirt when we visited their home.

    I’m with Greg–I have often used Paul’s analogy about putting away childish things, and the move to endowment and wearing of garments marked a significant step in my life. Of course, having parents and older sisters who preceded me prepared me for that change. And, despite the heat (try Japan summers in all cotton garments), I didn’t ever have any difficulty in tossing out my short pants, or in wearing a shirt on the hottest, muggiest days.

    It helped that in 1973 there were no knee-length shorts, so short pants were one of those childish thing that I put away.

  47. Todd Lundell
    April 6, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    Anita, your post actually raised my hackles a bit because it reminded me of an incident that occurred in our primary recently. My daughter’s best friend (3 yrs old) wore a sleeveless dress to church once and one of the other girls in primary (5 yrs old) said to her “God says that we shouldn’t wear dresses without sleeves.” Whatever our personal beliefs about modesty, I am pretty sure God hasn’t explicitly created a “word of modesty” that 3 year olds shouldn’t wear such things.

    How do we teach our young children to be faithful to their own beliefs without being judgmental about the standards of others? It’s a difficult enough concept for adults to grasp.

  48. Anita
    April 6, 2005 at 10:51 pm

    Todd, that’s an interesting point because these issues come up constantly raising kids. (“Why is he smoking? We’re not supposed to smoke!” yells a child.) Somehow the fine balance between wanting our kids to keep the commandments and yet not condemn those who aren’t has to be achieved (I’m not saying sleeves are a commandment here, just in the general sense). We’ve tried to teach our kids that we have certain family rules and standards and the reasons behind those (scriptural, General Conference, whatever), and that others may have different rules in their families and not to criticize that. With modesty, it’s obvious at every family and ward gathering in the warm months that we are alone in the sleeve thing, but our kids haven’t (as far as I know) called anyone to repentance yet :-)

  49. Geena
    April 6, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    Here’s an ironic thought: little girls who go from womb to cradle to kindergarten to puberty to college in garment-friendly outfits…and end up cheerleaders at BYU, able to wear “immodest” clothing to help make money for the sports programs.

  50. April 6, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    Personally, I wear long pants all summer long, and a dark suit coat or sport jacket on Sunday, not because I’m trying to be extra modest — that’s just the way I dress. Consequently my gut reaction is to enforce a garment-appropriate standard for my 7 and 4 year old girls. However, after discussion with my wife, who is

    1. a girl, and
    2. infinitely wiser in the ways of children than I am,

    I have come to the conclusion that this is not a standard that we will enforce in our family at this particular time. Some reasons, in no particular order, and with no intention of changing anyone else’s mind (as I said, I am sympathetic to the garment-covering standard).

    1. It’s hot in the summer. Why should kids have to suffer if they don’t have to?
    2. There are plenty of cute styles that are not immodest on little girls, which nonetheless would not cover the garment. The pattern Kristen chose for the girls’ Easter dresses this year is sleeveless. The girls wore a blouse underneath their dresses on Easter Sunday, but only because it was cold.
    3. LIttle kids dress differently than teens, who in turn dress differently than adults. There’s no way I would be caught dead in the kinds of outfits my little Stanley runs around in, but they’re fine on him. As he grows older, the clothing styles he wears will change as well. Same holds for the girls (except I don’t wear women’s clothing).
    4. As homeschoolers, we make a special effort to have our kids dress in a reasonably stylish fashion. Homeschoolers stereotypically are socially backward, as is reflected in their attire. While we don’t spend very much money on the kids’ wardrobes, and certainly don’t dress them in the fashions of the day, we don’t have them in full-length dresses with petticoats either. No belly buttons, but if they have shoulder-baring sundresses, that’s fine.
    5. Our girls have a good appreciation for the idea of modesty in dress. They are quick to point out and publicly denounce examples of what they perceive to be immodest dress on others.
    6. They don’t wear garments yet, but their parents do, and they see our example every day.
  51. Rachel
    April 6, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    Oh, my, if you really want to bring up the double standard modesty issue the plagues sports, and girls sports in particular, then just read the thousands and thousands of inane editorials written to the Daily Universe (BYU’s student magazine) addressing that very topic. It is funny, though.

  52. Julie in Austin
    April 6, 2005 at 11:06 pm

    “How do we teach our young children to be faithful to their own beliefs without being judgmental about the standards of others? It’s a difficult enough concept for adults to grasp.”

    We’re in Barnes and Noble yesterday and my three-year-old sees another young child getting the lecture from her mom. So he goes up to the little girl, gets right in her face, and says, “You need to believe in Jesus and do what he tells you to do!”

    So as soon as someone figures out how to teach the gospel to children in a way that doesn’t result in them inflicting it on others like this, lemme know.

  53. joe christensen
    April 6, 2005 at 11:21 pm

    THis is sad…let children be children for [redacted] sake! No shorts for kids? No tank tops for little girls? [redacted] this makes me think you are all in a cult!

    [edited by admin]

  54. Vicki
    April 6, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    My first T&S comment…. I only have boys. They don’t wear tank-tops but shorts of various lengths are ok. My thoughts about tank tops aren’t only about modesty but also avoiding excessive sun exposure. I remember figuring out what clothes I felt modest in during my college years, before I was endowed. I tried wearing tank tops but felt too self-conscious, and immodest, in them. I felt comfortable and modest in medium length shorts. If my sons want to wear tank tops as they get older (the oldest is almost 5) I’m not sure what we’ll do. I think I’d discourage it but don’t know how much of a battle I would make it. If I had a girl, I believe I’d dress her in sleeves all the time (except for swimming) as well. I guess for me I think it’s important to teach kids modesty but not that they specifically need to wear clothes that would cover garments.

  55. Rosalynde Welch
    April 7, 2005 at 12:01 am

    Okay, so my strategy (so far) is just not to make it an issue yet. I don’t buy sleeveless things for my 4-y/o daughter, though I have on occasion dressed in her sleeveless things that have been given to us; I do, however, let her wear shorts in the summer (though no sexualized hot-pant styles) that would not, I suppose, be garment friendly.

    But I haven’t had any talks with her about modesty yet. In fact, I haven’t taught her any of the behavioral standards that separate us from others, like the word of wisdom or keeping the Sabbath day holy. Partly this is because she’s not interested yet–she’s exceptionally uninterested in styles of clothing, in fact, thank heaven–and partly it’s because I don’t think she’s cognitively ready for the “we do it this way, but we shouldn’t judge others who do it differently” concept. I’m guessing that somewhere closer to 6-7, as we begin to prepare for baptism, she’ll be better able to get this.

    At this point I’m just trying to lay the foundation by teaching respect and appreciation for bodies, for other people; teaching her the most basic doctrines; and mostly working on ethical principles like kindness,

  56. April 7, 2005 at 12:34 am

    I remember as a child going on vacation and seeing adults wearing shorts and thinking they were sinners. In my mind it was clear that kids could wear shorts but only bad adults wore shorts. This is sad to me.

    I don’t know how to react to this thread exactly. It disturbs me. I really don’t much like the way we teach modesty at church (not that I disagree with the necessity of modesty, I don’t) and I think Julie does a better job of talking about modesty than most. It’s just that . . . hum . . . I don’t know how to put this or how to pin down my discomfort with the way we talk about this . . . hum . . .

    I have a hard time having any discussion on modesty without feeling like the Taliban is breathing down my neck. It feels to me as though rigid systems of modesty artificially put the burden of sexual sin (evil thoughts caused by a glimpse of naked clavicle) on the shoulders of those being objectified, rather than those having the immoral thoughts.

    Because think about it, wearing immodest clothing itself isn’t the problem, the problem is the thoughts that immodest clothing might cause in someone else’s mind. Yet we don’t qualify it that way, we talk about it as though the clothing itself, or the wearing, or the body itself is the problem. But it’s not, the problem is in the minds of those who can not control their sexual impulses.

    Somehow to me, it seems that suggest that a child running around in her underwear is being immodest or that even a baby can be immodest, is to somehow suggest that this child is inviting someone to look at her as a sexual object. Just as some might suggest that a woman who bares her shoulder or her hair is inviting objectification.

    Certainly we must teach children how to dress appropriately in different situations, but to suggest that a child’s shoulder could somehow be immodest, is just wrong on so many levels. It seem far more important to me that we strive every day to teach our children not to objectify each other. To look at each person as our precious brothers and sisters, to see the inside that our Heavenly Father sees, rather than at the length of his shorts or width of her sleeve.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve only brushed the surface of what bothers me so much about this conversation. I’ll have to think about this some more and see if I can’t find the heart of it.

  57. Geena
    April 7, 2005 at 6:32 am

    I have an idea! I have an idea! (waving hand excitedly)

    Let all single members from puberty onwards dress and act like missionaries until they get married. Yeah, yeah. That’s it. Shirts and ties for men, long skirts and high-necked blouses for women, strict separation for the sexes, handshake’s-distance apart.

    I think that would solve whatever problem there is perceived to be.

    But, wait a minute. You mean elders (and sisters) actually have sexual thoughts anyway? Sometimes about completely-covered women/men? Or even stuffed animals? Or become excited even when a stiff breeze blows by? Maybe everything sensuous should be avoided ALTOGETHER. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that yet? Even food.

    And speaking of food, could that be why a large percentage of us are overweight? This is a “counsel” that is overlooked by the membership, so to attain some form of sensual pleasure we overeat–a heart attack waiting to happen. The lesser of two evils?

  58. Mary
    April 7, 2005 at 8:17 am

    Jarom, just wanted to say that I appreciated your comments and think they make a ton of sense.

  59. Todd Lundell
    April 7, 2005 at 8:33 am

    Kaimi (#42), yes the line Carrie does is Sorbet; unfortunately, they don’t have a website. The company is old school like that. : )

  60. pd mallamo
    April 7, 2005 at 9:00 am

    Some of you tread unsteadily that thin line that separates teaching from indoctrination. Indoctrination is worse by far than immodesty. It is a true evil. Many Mormon parents don’t know the difference, and their “cures” for the world become far worse than the disease. When there’s a nasty backlash Ma & Pa just can’t understand what happened. Duh! Rule one: Respect the child.

  61. Stephanie
    April 7, 2005 at 9:31 am

    With all due respect, I don’t understand how covering the shoulders and belly button of a four year old girl teaches her to have respect for her body. Why does respect for your body mean covering it up?

    I rejoice in having a healthy body, and I love to run, rollerblade, ride bikes, and do all kinds of activities wearing comfortable clothes, that, by these standards, are immodest. I’d hate for people to think I was evil and immoral for wearing tank tops.

    Maybe we can just all agree to disagree, and recognize that dressing your children demonstrates an individual clothing preference – not an issue of modesty.

  62. Seth Rogers
    April 7, 2005 at 10:43 am

    In my house, my three year old daughter is dressed modestly.

    Why? Because I said so.

    I don’t think she really needs much more explanation than that. I don’t need to sit down and discuss the merits of the “For the Strength of Youth” guidelines. When she’s old enough to understand the answers, we’ll have a nice little chat. Until then, mom and dad dress a certain way and so will she.

    This doesn’t mean that I freak out when she tries to go commando. I don’t spank her or put her in time-out and neither does my wife. But we firmly insist she put some pants on and we don’t relent until she does. Since we insist of a dress code now, there won’t be any problem transitioning when she hits puberty, namely because there won’t be a transition.

    I could go into all the reasoning behind dressing modestly, etc. But others have already done that. For me, it’s enough that the prophet has asked us to do something.

  63. MDS
    April 7, 2005 at 10:46 am

    “How do we teach our young children to be faithful to their own beliefs without being judgmental about the standards of others? It’s a difficult enough concept for adults to grasp.”

    This reminds me of the time my little brother, at probably around 3-4 years of age, announced to some family members that he hadn’t seen in church for a while “You’re not saints!” He figured anyone who was a saint would be at church, specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Luckily, we all laughed it off and no feelings were hurt.

  64. Todd Lundell
    April 7, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Seth, I dress my 3 year old modestly too. But I have a different definition of modesty than you apparently do. The question isn’t whether we should or should not dress modestly, but rather what modesty means, especially for a little child. I think its unfortunate that your post implies that those who don’t conform to *your* definition of modesty are somehow not following the prophet. For me, it is also enough that the prophet asks us to do something. But I have never heard him say to put pants on your three year old.

    However, I do think that sometimes the “do it b/c I said so approach” is the best one, especially when the reasons for doing something (like the way we dress our children) are complicated and perhaps arbitrary (certainly culturally influenced). I suspect your children don’t have a problem judging others childrens’ dress standards. They have rules they need to follow, but according to your post you don’t necessarily ground those rules in a deep morality until they are sufficiently mature to understand, which probably means they will be mature enough to respect others’ choices as well. I like that a lot.

  65. M.J. Pritchett
    April 7, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    I suggest that those of you with young children print out your posts and save them in your scrapbooks, so you can take them out again in 10 or 15 years after your kids have left home. My guess that most of you will be pleased with how well your conscientious early training has worked out. I hope the rest will have the good humor to be able to have a good chuckle about their youthful parenting idealism.

  66. April 7, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    “We talk about it as though the clothing itself, or the wearing, or the body itself is the problem. But it’s not, the problem is in the minds of those who can not control their sexual impulses.”

    Well, actually, the body itself is the problem, or at least one of them, insofar as what we really want to see is fewer bodies engaged in illicit sexual acts. Obviously, it is also a good thing if those who are subject to bodily temptations have the strength of mind to resist such temptations. But if the real aim is not necessarily to create strong, sexual temptation-withstanding minds, but to have fewer instances of people who fail to withstand sexual temptation, then a logical route to go is to remove and/or prevent instances of illicit sexual temptation in the first place.

    It’s not that simple, of course. We, quite properly, want both–not just because both are goods in themselves (strong minds and less illicit sexual activity), but because they support one another (a strong mind will be able to better communicate the importance of not contributing to an environment of temptation, and the absence of an environment of temptation will make it more likely that certain initially weak minds may develop greater strength). When it comes to enacting policy, we probably, unfortunately, have to prioritize, because the promotion of certain goods may not at the same time be compatible with the promotion of others. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t keep our eyes on both, and acknowledge both as valid to the best extent we can.

    Consider this in terms of aiding the poor. What’s your real goal? To create charity-minded people who will aid those in poverty, or to actually end as much poverty as possible? If the latter, the one of the several things you’re going to have to consider doing is taxing people and transfering their money to the poor, so they aren’t as poor anymore. The evidence suggests that the more you transfer money, the less charitable people are going to feel towards the poor. But the evidence also suggests that the more you rely on charity, the less total money goes to the poor overall, and the more actual poverty there is. Obviously both positions can be disputed, but fundamentally that’s where you are–and the same holds for the issue of modesty and sexuality. What do you want? Our young people to develop and rely on strong minds (with probably greater rates of temptation-succumbing along the way), or our young people do be prevented from succumbing to temptation (with consequent less development of temptation-resisting strength)?

    Me, I’m in favor of taxing people and making my children and others under my care and influence dress their bodies modestly. But I’ve been accused of being an authoritarian in that way.

  67. April 7, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    “In fact, I haven’t taught her any of the behavioral standards that separate us from others, like the word of wisdom or keeping the Sabbath day holy. Partly this is because she’s not interested yet–she’s exceptionally uninterested in styles of clothing, in fact, thank heaven–and partly it’s because I don’t think she’s cognitively ready for the ‘we do it this way, but we shouldn’t judge others who do it differently’ concept.”

    That’s interesting, Rosalynde. I’ve found my children responding (and responding relatively well, I think) to “we do it this way; others choose otherwise”-type statement from very early on; probably by age three or so. Your daughter hasn’t ever asked you why you go to church on Sunday, but her best friend (or whomever) doesn’t? We were addressing that one with Megan long before kindergarten.

  68. Seth Rogers
    April 7, 2005 at 1:00 pm


    Sorry about making it sound like Pres. Hinckley told us how to dress our toddlers.

    My remarks about general church dress standards was solely referring to the more “mature” members of the church. My point was that if you start early, you get a lot less flack down the road.

    That’s my theory anyway. I suppose it’s the province of a young dad to be a bit idealistic. So far however, my 3 year old hasn’t given us any trouble on this issue. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  69. Rosalynde Welch
    April 7, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    Russell, the closest we’ve come is the coffee her teacher drinks at the Presbyterian preschool she attends. Coffee has been making its way into Elena’s imaginary games, and I really can’t bring myself to tell her that Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to drink coffee even though Mrs. Pepple does. Having two strong and beloved authority figure in conflict like that will just confuse her, I think. So I’ll occasionally tell her that I don’t like coffee, if she offers it to me in a pretend game, but I don’t think I’ll introduce a moral element into the coffee conflict until a later time.

  70. April 7, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    For all of the talk about how important/valuable it is to avoid future confrontations by setting a standard early (even prematurely), it seems like the right thing to focus on is having the kinds of relationships with our children that will allow us to have meaningful discussions about personal modesty as they grow up, and as their bodies change, so that they trust and respect our opinions on the matter, rather than hope that the question of the boundaries of appropriate attire never comes up.

    It’s also worth mentioning that one can be immodestly attired while covering the garment. I bought Kristen a really nice T-shirt last year that she refuses to wear because it is too clingy.

  71. Kaimi
    April 7, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    Did the cookie monster get you this time? Or was that supposed to be from Eliza?

  72. April 7, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    Have you been drinking again, Kaimi? I don’t see any posts from a lame, faked ELIZA around here.

  73. A lame, faked ELIZA
    April 7, 2005 at 2:59 pm

    I don’t know what you’re talking about, Bryce Inouye. I’ve been here all along. Well, in between chatting with Brigham, and writing hymns, that is. And speaking in tongues.

  74. JKS
    April 7, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    “Having two strong and beloved authority figure in conflict like that will just confuse her, I think. So I’ll occasionally tell her that I don’t like coffee, if she offers it to me in a pretend game, but I don’t think I’ll introduce a moral element into the coffee conflict until a later time. ”
    I don’t think there would be a conflict and confusion. At least, I think the sooner the better. I have a 7 year old and a 5 year old and it isn’t any less sad to tell them that other people have different standards. My daughter is in first grade now. I’m now introducing TONS of things that I am telling her that her friends might do differently than her, so she doesn’t feel confused when she finds it out later.
    Consider if your daughter hears at church that coffee is bad. She’ll be confused then. It is better that YOU explain things to her so you can help her deal with it.
    My kids of course know smoking is bad because we taught it at home, church and they’ve seen those anti-smoking commercials with the scary black lungs. I recently told them that their Aunt used to smoke. And that smoking was like drugs that once you start it is hard to stop because it is like magic and makes you want it more and more (my daughter said, just like the white witch and turkish delight?) Yes! Exactly like that. So I told her that we were so proud of Aunt to quit because it was really hard to stop. I also said that she smoked for a long time and even though it was a bad choice, we still loved her.
    I try to explain to my 7 year old so she doesn’t hurt other people’s feelings, or feel like there is something wrong with her because she has religion and eventually it will come up. There are a few different levels of explanation.
    1. The rule in our family is we don’t ________ (drink tea, say bad words, wear shirts without sleeves, smoke, lie, yell, potty talk) or Our family does this (go to church, helps each other, etc.) Kids respond really well to learning that each family has different rules about what or when to watch TV, when bedtime is, whether they get a happy meal at McDonalds. I recently spoke to the school psychologist and she didn’t know I was religious and she started explaining about teaching values and it is important that you emphasize that in OUR family we are honest, or in OUR family WE choose not to do drugs, etc. So even non-religious people should be giving their children values and standards about the way things are done and what the priorities are. And kids start understanding that every family has different rules.
    2. There is the Heavenly Father has told us right and wrong. You know that he wants us to go to church on Sundays. Lots of people don’t go to church on Sunday. Your friends from school maybe don’t go to church. Lots of people don’t know that Heavenly Father wants them to go. And that’s ok. They can still be our friends. I have had to explain that lots of people don’t know about Jesus. Or lots of people don’t believe that Heavenly Father is real but I know he is real. Especially if they know people who are not active LDS, you explain that other people don’t know and they get to choose but they still make lots of good choices and we love them, etc.

  75. maria
    April 7, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    How do you think that Elder Oaks’ comment in conference this weekend (“And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.”) plays into this discussion?

    If young women who dress immodestly are pornography, then are young children who dress immodestly “child pornography?”

    While I personally don’t think it appropriate to extend Oaks’ comment to children, I’m just wondering if anyone else had thought about it in this context. And, actually, I have major issues with the original statement anyway, because I feel that it imputes blame for pornography addiction to women instead of encouraging men to take responsibility for their own thoughts and behavior. Am I reading too much into his statement? Given Oaks’ legal background and proclivity for precision, however, I am inclined to think that he carefully chose his words to convey his intended meaning.

  76. Sheri Lynn
    April 7, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    My kids saw a pediatrician today. I think the modesty lesson may have been too well taken. It took an awful long time for the doctor to get through their physicals, and my son was under the mortifying misapprehension that he’d be required subsequently to go to school in that hospital gown, and thus he was especially unhappy about the whole thing.

  77. annegb
    April 7, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    My neighbor never allowed her little girls to wear two piece bathing suits when they were tiny, never allowed them to show (their sexy, provocative, fat) little arms. I let my daughter wear a two piece if she asked, I let her wear cute little dresses without sleeves, I even let her buy a formal with spaghetti straps and very little back. I was concerned about it, but I felt that my denying those things to her would make them more attractive.

    When the prophet said for women to only wear one earring, my daughter whipped out the other one without a thought. She got to choose. She gets to choose what she wears and she chooses modesty more often than not. Well, never not, she gets to choose, and so far, so good. It was hard when she got older to let her, but it was the right thing.

    My friends’ daughters snuck belly shirts and tank tops and sexy clothes to school and changed in the bathroom. Her daughter just got married, two months pregnant.

    I think we have to pick our battles and really, sometimes it gets ridiculous. I think a little two year old with her belly sticking out of her two piece suit is precious, not sexy, and I don’t think she will get pregnant or leave the church because of it.

    There’s a very good book called On New Wings, can’t remember the author right off, but she tells about fighting with her daughter about a formal, one was beautiful, her daughter looked beautiful in it, but it was strapless. She refused to let her get it and regretted it later. Oh, let them be beautiful, it’s not synonymous with provocative. I have never regretted that beautiful dress with spaghetti straps, which my daughter on her own chose to cover with a lovely shawl. Let them choose.

    I heard a story once about David O. McKay watching a parade and somebody complained to him about the girls in bathing suits sitting on cars, saying, “do you see that?” And he replied, “I see beautiful girls.” If you make them feel like sluts, they will behave like sluts.

    Well, that was a book. I didn’t realize I felt so strongly.

  78. annegb
    April 7, 2005 at 8:06 pm

    Kaimi, I agree with everything you’ve said.

    Before I went to the temple, I wore tank tops and short, shorts. Afterward, I didn’t. No big deal. None.

  79. Minerva
    April 7, 2005 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for talking some sense!

  80. Antigone
    April 7, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    Sorry to be a random troll here, but your site was linked from another blog. I’m not Mormon, I’m Agnostic, and I’m highly confused: what exactly is disturbing about the human body? Why should any of me have to be covered up (short of the not-getting pneumonia thing)?

  81. Seth Rogers
    April 7, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve never engaged in blog poaching yet, but now seems like a good time. To be on the safe side, I’ll poach one of my own. I posted this reply on By Common Consent responding to the topic of female dress codes (although I think my remarks also apply to men):

    “I remember my stay at BYU as a single guy. There were a lot of beautiful young women on campus who were fully compliant with the basic standards and pulled it off with style. Yes, I did consider them very attractive … even sexy. Sorry girls, it’s just the way we’re wired, I guess.

    Contrast that with MTV’s Spring Break programming, and popular music videos. That was just trashy. Sure the exhibitionism gets the guys’ attention. But you’ve crossed a certain line where people are no longer attracted to you, but are attracted to your clothing (or lack thereof).

    Clothing should present and showcase a real person. Once the clothing starts distracting form the real message (you), it ought to be thrown in the garbage bin.

    Clothing is essentially communication to other people. Just as in conversation, you can’t focus only on your own thoughts and feelings. You have to be considerate of the listener/audience.

    “Is it comfortable?” is not the only question we should be asking ourselves when it comes to apparel. We need to be aware of the messages our self-presentation sends to the people we encounter. This isn’t about conforming to outdated or misogynistic notions. It’s about polite conversation.

    Really, immodest clothing is essentially the same thing as threadjacking. It hijacks the visual conversation you have with the people around you. Deep down, people (even hormone-driven guys) want to know who you are, what you’re thinking about, and what you represent. An immodest presentation basically intrudes itself upon the senses of the “listener” and draws all attention away from what you are really here to discuss. It’s just bad manners.

    Embracing your own sexual identity in clothing is fine. But when that clothing promotes only the sexual aspect of your identity, then you’re just engaging in deceptive and disrespectful conversation. For one thing, it obscures religious characteristics of your identity that are just as important as the sexual characteristics.”

    [end quote]

  82. pd mallamo
    April 7, 2005 at 9:53 pm

    Well, Antigone, I’m Mormon and I’m confused, too. This thread did not bring out the best in some of my brothers and sisters, I’m afraid. Freud would have had a field day here. You wouldn’t happen to be a shrink, would you?

  83. Seth Rogers
    April 7, 2005 at 10:04 pm

    By the way, I see nothing cute about my daughter’s tummy sticking out of her shirt. Neither do I see my daughter’s ankle sticking out of her pants leg and say “oh how cute.”

    I think toddler bikinis look hideous. I think a pair of overalls with a T-shirt looks a lot nicer on a toddler.

    Personally, I find the sight of women gushing over a 3 year old in a two piece somewhat ridiculous.

    Doesn’t the labeling of certain exposure as “cute” reflect something pathological to you?

  84. pd mallamo
    April 7, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    For instance, Antigone, see comment #83. Seth, go to bed.

  85. Seth Rogers
    April 7, 2005 at 10:43 pm

    You first.

  86. Jack
    April 7, 2005 at 11:31 pm

    My wife caught our little two year old running down the sidewalk today with nothing but her shoes on. It was the cutest thing…

  87. Antigone
    April 8, 2005 at 2:40 am

    No, I’m a Communication major. I’m confused about clothing “sending signals” and such. Yes, it is true that how we dress ourselves has a tendancy to have people judge us. But to me, this represents a flaw in the interpreter, not the communicator.

    Our bodies, to me, do not seem to be something that should be hidden away, nor should our sexuality be shameful. And honestly, little kids are mostly nudists. They dont like clothes. This has nothing to do with sexuality, this is about not knowing shame yet.

  88. Sheri Lynn
    April 8, 2005 at 8:50 am

    Antigone, do you concede at least that some people use images of minor children inappropriately? That there are men who will abduct and rape and murder a small child in part because his appetites were trained by access to child pornography?

    If you don’t draw some line, I don’t know how anyone can convince you that there is such a thing as inappropriate exposure of flesh–if ONLY because there are other people who DO use innocent, non-consenting persons for sexual purposes (be it simple voyeurism or active rape.)

  89. Seth Rogers
    April 8, 2005 at 8:51 am

    Any good communicator knows how to dress appropriately for different situations. One study estimated that about 80% of communication is non-verbal. Clothing is a deliberate, communicative choice.

    And yes, I actually agree that child nudity has nothing to do with “sexuality.” Sorry if something in my posts gave the impression that I thought otherwise.

  90. Sheri Lynn
    April 8, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Seth, unfortunately, we live in a world where SOME people are stimulated by unclothed children. A fawn is well camoflaged and does not call attention to itself as it hides from predators.

    I saw a 4 year old’s birthday party once, in a public place, and the child had LITTLE HOTTIE printed on the back of her very short skirt. Maybe Freud would have a field day with the fact that that disturbed me. Her mother too dressed like a tramp. I remember Elora McKemy and Morgan Nick too well to be happy with the message being sent, that it’s okay to think that children are just as sexually available as some of their mothers.

  91. pd mallamo
    April 8, 2005 at 9:13 am

    The other thing that’s going on here is that some of you are confusing the issue of taste with the issue of modesty. Truman Capote (God bless him) called good taste the highest form of intelligence and I agree. What you see all around you in popular America is more a cultural problem than a moral one. We’re all casual these days and it ain’t pretty.

    Then we have the slinky Oscar de la Rentas in Sacrament – no skin but lots of curves. Frankly, I love it – fashion, sensuality, modesty and faith, all in the same venue. I guess it depends on the ward.

    The men, unfortunately, are not so imaginative but they’re running the show. Go figure.

  92. Seth Rogers
    April 8, 2005 at 9:39 am

    You know, not agreeing or disagreeing with Sheri’s post, it did remind me of the kids in Japan.

    When I served my mission in Japan, it was kind of fashionable to put random English phrases on clothing. Thing is, the customers and sellers often had no idea what the phrases meant. The results were sometimes rather funny.

    Young children often had little English phrases printed on their clothes like: “Snot House” and “Brat Monkey.”

    The odd thing was that the labels usually fit the kids rather well … wierd.

  93. Todd Lundell
    April 8, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    Seth #83: “Neither do I see my daughter’s ankle sticking out of her pants leg and say ‘oh how cute.’ * * * Doesn’t the labeling of certain exposure as ‘cute’ reflect something pathological to you?”

    I suppose I am truly pathological then. I went to bed pondering your post and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t help but picture my daughter from the knees down, wearing her Hello Kitty slippers and with her pink pajamas inching their way up, exposing her ankles. Yes those ankles are cute. Not particularly distinctive, but cute.

    And her feet, all the toes are the same length so her feet look like little boxes attached to her legs. Very Cute. She also has no bum, so now that she no longer wears a diaper, she has a hard time keeping her pants up when she plays. That little one inch of plumber’s crack – very cute. Her belly, so full of life that it can’t hardly be contained by even the most “modest” of shirts; her little outie belly button that reminds me of my wife’s pregnant belly; the dimples on her cheeks when she smiles; her long eyelashes and big brown eyes; * * * The fact is, it is all VERY CUTE. And cutest of all is when she bolts from our arms naked before we can get her clothes on (the naked cartoons of Calvin & Hobbes were always my favorite).

    Yes, this thinking your child is cute is truly the pathology that comes from being a dad. But I prefer to endure my sickness (and make those around me endure it as well).

  94. Ashley
    April 8, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    Furthering the thought from #91 that there’s a confusion between taste and modesty–
    Modesty is about respect, which can be parsed into 2 components:

    1. Respecting yourself (which little children naturally do, at least my 7-yr-old and 4-yr-old daughters do–they love looking pretty, but they also love running around in shorts, T-shirts, swimsuits, etc., exercising their bodies and exulting in physicality).
    I personally think there are a lot of sleeveless summer outfits for women (think linen pants and a tailored top a la Ann Taylor) that are in good taste and look modest, though I can’t wear them as an endowed member. People who are dressed tastefully are almost always going to look modest, even though the cut of their clothing may not match up with our set standards of modesty.

    2. Respecting others. I plan to teach my daughters the standards of modesty as outlined in For the Strength of Youth when they are approaching the transition from Primary to Young Womens, and then I’ll let them choose what to wear. I suspect I will be very invested in their clothing choices for church meetings, because I want to teach them to respect others’ standards of modesty. I’ll tell them about the dress standards I had to follow as a student in Jerusalem, where ultra-modesty was required because we wanted, above all, to demonstrate that the LDS students respected their host country.

  95. Kaimi
    April 8, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    I’ll agree 100%, Todd. I feel the same way about my little girl. She’s cute when she’s wearing her little rainbow tummy shirt, just like she’s cute in her candy-corn shirt and I chase her and pretend to eat the candy corns on her shirt. She’s cute when she strips to her underwear to run and play in the water at the park. And she’s cute in her bright yellow church dress with flowers on it. I tend to think she’s cute as a matter of course.

    Not sexy-cute or adult-cute or sexual in any way, which is something that some commenters seem to be drawing from this. It’s not sexual at all — it’s just little-girl-cute, the same as little girls are cute in many other ways. Which is exactly as it should be.

  96. Sheri Lynn
    April 8, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    That is how it ought to be. I think we’ll have to wait for the Millenium however if we want to trust that EVERYONE who sees them will just think our little girls are cute. :sigh:


    Watch the missing child window on the lower right side of this webpage. Almost all of the missing children are little girls. Now maybe a large percentage of the missing were abducted by a parent…but not all of them by any means.

  97. pd mallamo
    April 8, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    Sheri Lynn – where on earth do you get the idea that little girls are abducted because of the way they’re dressed? You’re making a connection here that’s not at all valid, for two reasons: First, you imply that dressing a girl modestly will make her less likely to be preyed upon by pedophiles (not true); second, that the abused child, or her parents, are complicit in the crime because of the way the child is dressed – not only not true, but a variety of blaming the vicitm I’d thought the feminists from late last century had demolished. Additionally, the perpetrator is more likely to be a family member or close friend than a stranger – maybe even a church friend. I’ve seen it before.

  98. yossarian
    April 8, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    after reading some of these posts I am beginning to think that little girls should only dress in burlap bags and that parents should avert their eyes while they change their diapers.

  99. Seth Rogers
    April 8, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    And I’m sure they would look very cute in their burlap bags.

  100. pd mallamo
    April 8, 2005 at 10:47 pm

    Like I said, Yossarian, Freud’s freakin’ on this one. It all came out of the woodwork here. Next week someone (and I think I know who) can write an essay on marital sex – the good, the bad and the (gasp!) unorthodox. Stay tuned. It’s going to be wonderful.

  101. Sheri Lynn
    April 9, 2005 at 11:26 am

    Do you know a family whose little girl has been abducted and murdered? I do. It changes everything. The girl singled out for abduction is the victim of society-wide trends that make perverts look at children sexually.

    If you look at clothing styles being sold for children, and realize that child pornography is extremely easy to get, you know that it isn’t terribly difficult for men who start down the path to pedophilia to train themselves to have that appetite. I read a study that said that men can train themselves to be aroused by used tire ads if they use them sexually just half a dozen times. Is it surprising then that the availability of child pornography makes pediophiles? Please remember that I am echoing what our prophets have said here, that using pornography makes one a pervert.

    Fashion, the media’s portrayal of illicit sexual relationships, and easy-to-get and vile pornography make our society a factory of perversion. If you think that there isn’t a cumulative effect, then I don’t need Freud to tell me that you’re crazy. If that four year old with sexually-charged words printed across her bottom isn’t dressed that way to make her provocative, then what is the purpose of it? She’d be cute in more modest clothing. For some reason her mother wants her packaged like a commodity with labeling that emphasizes her private parts. You tell me why that is.

    It sickens me that some of you are defending a fashion that sexualizes young children with the fallacy of a false dilemma. It’s not either-dirty-words-or-burlap-sacks. Girls can be dressed beautifully without being dressed like prostitutes. No matter how they’re dressed, they need protection from the perverts who have, as far as I can tell, been ceded clear title to the streets and sidewalks, and won’t stop there if they think there’s a chance of getting away with what they want to do.

  102. Kaimi
    April 9, 2005 at 12:40 pm


    I don’t think anyone is arguing that little girls should be dressed in overtly sexual clothes. And of course it’s possible to sexualize little girls, through their dress, and of course that’s wrong.

    I’m not talking about little-Britney outfits or dressing my 2-year-old like a Hooters waitress. Or, for that matter, your example of the “Little Hottie” skirt. Yuck.

    Myself, I’m talking about normal shorts and skirts, bright little sundresses with matchy hats, a favorite Dora the Explorer shirt that happens to be sleeveless. I think that those are fine.

  103. pd mallamo
    April 9, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    [edited by admin, in accordance with T & S comment policies]

  104. Geena
    April 9, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    I have another question: what, exactly, about sexual arousal and excitement is wrong? I seem to sense a “slippery slope” argument on this thread, one where it’s best to cover up so that men’s thoughts can be controlled once and for all. On the other hand, men can go to the beach all they want and ogle (yes, boys and girls, that’s the correct spelling) any number of bikini- or one-piece clad women. If wearing sleeveless or spaghetti-strap clothing is wrong then so is wearing a swimsuit. And for those who say wetsuits are better and that’s all they dress their kids in, isn’t that just as clingy? Sometimes, that is even more sexy.

    So back to my question. What’s the real goal here? To force men only to be sexually stimulated (visually) by their wives? What about a guy who has no wife? Is it realistic to ask him to never look at a woman in a tube top, walking or in a photograph? Why?

    I have no problem wearing shorts, tanks, low-rise jeans or anything else. I like my body and don’t mind if others like and admire it. I am not stripping or posing nude anywhere. I go to school, go to work, go to the gym, go to a restaurant, go to church just like anyone else. And it’s insulting for anyone to say that I’m “walking pornography.”

  105. pd mallamo
    April 9, 2005 at 4:52 pm

    Then again, Geena, you’re not a tire.

    You started all this, Julie, and I’m betting that by now you got your money back several times over. Time to put this thread to bed!

    Over & Out Brothers and Sisters. Love Ya!

  106. Sheri Lynn
    April 9, 2005 at 10:26 pm

    [edited by admin, in accordance with T & S comment policies]

    Nothing in the world is cuter than a naked toddler. Yet what is fine in a family’s living room is NOT fine on a stranger’s computer screen. Nothing is stupider than the person who believes that everybody is going to see that naked toddler in a properly innocent way. That is why people are being arrested for owning pictures of that sort. And that’s how it’s going to have to be until the Millenium comes along to make all of this right.

  107. Jonathan Green
    April 9, 2005 at 11:53 pm

    [edited by admin, superfluous given redactions]

  108. Kristine
    April 10, 2005 at 7:34 am

    [edited by admin, superfluous given redactions]

  109. Sheri Lynn
    April 10, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    [edited by admin, in accordance with T & S comment policies]

    The deaths of these other children (well, it is reasonable to presume that Morgan is dead, but we do not know) profoundly affect me. My life is altered every single day by this. I was THERE when Elora’s little body was found and I was there when her parents went through the hell of being #1 suspects for months and months. I have been following the agony of Morgan’s family trying to find out what happened to their daughter.

    The bell tolls for me and mine just as it does for the little ones who have been harmed.

  110. Sumbody
    April 10, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    What are the GAs (and the bloggernacle’s) thoughts on beauty pageants, especially the “physical fitness in a swimsuit” category? Especially since at least one GA had a daughter win a beauty pageant.

    Check out Miss Utah in the Miss Universe pageant tomorrow. She’s a BYU student. Here’s her official pageant photo.


  111. Sumbody
    April 10, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Oops. I meant the Miss USA pageant…

  112. Steve (FSF)
    April 10, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    [edited by admin, in accordance with T & S comment policies]

  113. Julie in Austin
    April 10, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    We have a theory around here that after 100 comments or so, there is nothing new to say. I’m closing comments here.

    You can email your complaints to me.

Comments are closed.