Growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have been asked on a number of occasions about the way I dress; why I do or do not wear certain things and why it is such a big deal for Mormons to dress modestly.
I should preface this by saying that church members are not forced to dress in a particular way, and there is certainly no one in the Church enforcing specific necklines or hem lengths.
The Church has simply counseled its members on modesty as an important, faith-driven principle, contrary to the popular belief that dressing modestly is a silly, outdated, and old-fashioned cultural tradition. As members of the Church, we believe that modesty is not just about the clothes on our backs, but it is also an “attitude of humility and decency.”
For as long as I can remember, I have been taught that I am the daughter of a King; that God is my Father in Heaven, that He created me in His own image, and that He loves me, and all of His children, endlessly. These are a few of the fundamental beliefs of The LDS Church, and they are central to the principle of modesty.
In the Church, we believe that as sons and daughters of God, we have a spiritual heritage of deity. Dressing modestly is a way to recognize and honor this divine lineage. We also believe that our bodies are God’s sacred creation and that we should cherish them as precious gifts. Our bodies host our spirits. Our bodies allow us to create life. The human body is capable of some pretty incredible things, and when we recognize this, when we see our bodies as the gift that they are, we protect and respect them in how we act and dress.
The Church also advises that the way we dress can both positively and negatively influence our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions. In dress, grooming, and manners, we should strive to represent well our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His church. We are encouraged to avoid carelessness and aim for cleanliness and neatness. This shows consideration for our spiritual identity, and regard for ourselves and for others.
Our dress is an expression of our character and in many ways, our commitment to God. The clothes we wear can speak volumes about who we are, how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. We send a powerful message in how we present ourselves, and in the Church, modesty is about dressing in a way that honors our religious beliefs and covenants.
With all of that being said, here is the honest truth. I speak for only myself when I say that modesty has never been very easy for me, nor do I claim to be very good at it all of the time. I love high fashion and short shorts. I despise camisoles and cardigans. If I had a nickel for every time I tried on an off-the-shoulder blouse, I would probably have enough money to buy one. Shopping trips and morning routines have ended in tears a time or two, and that’s not even including prom dress shopping.
Like I said, modesty has not always been easy. However, it has always been pretty simple. My wardrobe options may be limited, I may have to spend a few extra dollars and take a few extra trips to the tailor, but what modesty comes down to for me, is respect. Respect for myself, respect for my body, respect for others and respect for my Father in Heaven.
I choose every day to dress the way I do, not because of a rule, because someone told me to, or because I think modest clothing is cuter than other options. Rather, I make the choice to dress modestly because my testimony transcends a few cute dresses. Modesty, to me, is less about the clothes I put on, and more about my willingness to prioritize my beliefs. Doing this, trying my best to honor God and Jesus Christ in any way possible, has brought me happiness. And no dress or blouse or pair of jean shorts is worth giving that up.