The Power of Modesty

Recently, in our ward, the young women had a fashion show. Our laurel advisor planned the entire activity, and it turned out really great. The fashion show was really laid back, cute, and fun. All of the girls modeled a school outfit and a Sunday outfit. We had treats, cute pom-pom flower decorations, and fun “runway” music. The entire night went really well.

As part of the activity, I was asked to speak a little bit on Modesty. I was grateful for the opportunity because I’ve been thinking about it. Here is the talk.

How many of you have heard that we need to be modest before tonight? [They will all raise their hands…]

So – you’re saying that tonight isn’t the first time you’ve heard about being modest?

Why do you think that the leaders/church make such a big deal about being Modest? I mean, you’re not actually doing something horrible, right? It doesn’t hurt anyone, right?

Not really.

In the for strength of youth, we read, “Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly.” – ALWAYS – This advice isn’t something new. I guess the Nephite young women also had fashion show activities where they heard about Modesty! … “The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act.” – Is this really true? Do we send messages to others by the way we dress? [At this point, I showed various pictures, and we discussed them. I showed a picture of a Punk Rocker. The discussion went a little like this: What kind of reaction is he trying to get? Do you think that he is really into the Republican Party?… Maybe a little anti-establishment. Do you think that his outfit says, “I enjoy Jeopardy and the Opera?” … not really. We discussed a few other pictures of people dressed in styles or uniforms. So…we can agree – how we dress will send a message to other people.

Think about the message you are sending? Is it, “I don’t care”? or is it, “I care wayyy too much”? Maybe the message you’re sending is, “I’m not sure what a shower is…”. While it isn’t right for us to judge others based on appearances, we still want to be sure that we are sending the right message to those who see us. Our appearance can even affect how we eventually see ourselves. We want our outer image to reflect what is on the inside.

“When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.” – Be a good influence. You have a lot of power. Choose to influence others in a positive way. How do you think that the way you are dressed may influence other young women? Young men?

I would like to bring up two scriptural examples of two very powerful women. The first is Esther. Anciently, there was a king – King Ahasuerus – who was seeking a new queen. So – he had some of his servants look throughout the kingdom to gather fair virgins. Esther was included in this group. [Pause here – and reinforce that Esther was 1) fair 2) a virgin. – sure was beautiful and pure]

The servants of the king gathered these women, and before showing them to the king, the women went through a period of “purification” – the scriptures explain, “Now when every maid’s turn was come to go into King Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, an six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)”…[12 months of purification! 12 months of “getting ready”!] …”And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head.”

Esther was beautiful and pure, and both her beauty and purity was reflected by how she appeared before the king.

As the queen, Esther faced a major challenge. One of the King’s men hated Jews and had persuaded the King to make an edict to have all of the Jews in the kingdom killed. Unknown to the king was the fact that Esther was a Jew. When she heard about the order, she was in a major dilemma – she and all of her people were sentenced to death.

She decided to have the people fast and pray, and then she would go to the king.

Oh – and another twist – she risked her life in “going to the king”. Then, the king had the power to have someone killed if they came to him without being summoned. She knew that she risked execution by going before the king, but it was all she could do to save her people. She resolved to face him, and she was prepared for any outcome.

The scriptures tell, “Now it came to pass on the third day, [of fasting] that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the kings house, …And…when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight.”

What was Esther wearing? Do you think that she was dressed modestly? Do you think that she went some extra lengths to make sure her appearance was at its best? Why do you think that she did? Why did it matter – how she looked or was dressed? Do you think that this possibly made an impact on the king?

Because of the beauty, purity, faith and courage of Esther, she was able to save an entire nation. Esther was powerful.

Here’s another story of another powerful woman – who had a power similar to Esther’s, but she used it very differently.

In the Book of Mormon was a pretty wicked dude – named Jared – who wanted to be king, but his dad was king. Jared was pretty upset by the fact that his father was in power. In fact, he wasn’t just upset, he was jealous.

Jared’s daughter noticed this. She wanted Jared, to be king, too.

The scriptures tell, “Now the daughter of Jared being exceedingly expert, and seeing the sorrows of her father, thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father.” So – guess, do you think that this is going to be a good plan…or evil? Continuing on, “Now the daughter of Jared was exceedingly fair….” – [How do the scriptures describe her? exceedingly fair. Hottie. Well, she talks to her dad and asks him why he’s so upset. She then asks, “Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?”

So – What is she trying to get her dad to do? She wants him to start a secret combination – what do you know about secret combinations? So – what do you think of Jared’s daughter now? Do you think that her plan will be good? Effective, maybe, but not good. She, certainly, isn’t fasting for three days and nights…

Here’s her plan, “And now, therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; and behold, I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say: I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king.” What do you think about this plan? Well – this is what happened, she danced for Akish, he wanted her, and her father asked for her grandfather’s head…

So…do you think that, when Jared’s daughter danced for Akish, she was dressed modestly? I think that we can safely assume the dance was pornographic. It would have to be…Otherwise, why would Akish think that murdering her grandfather would be reasonable.

Jared’s daughter was attractive and she knew it. She knew that she had great power – in her body. And she used this power to introduce secret combinations. Moroni tells us that these secret combinations, “have caused the destruction of this people.” Jared’s daughter used her power to destroy a nation.

We can see the stark contrast here – between a modest woman and an immodest one. Both were beautiful. Both were powerful. But in one instance, the beauty and appearance of a woman saved a nation. In the second, her beauty and appearance destroyed her people.

We have power in our bodies. We really do. We have the power to attract men. I didn’t want this talk to be all about, “dress modestly so that you don’t turn on men.” Because dressing modestly is about more than how it affects men. Dressing modestly will also affect you. You have the power to create human life. You have the power to become like God. You have many powers within you, so make sure that how you dress accurately reflects the beauty you currently have and the potential of what you will be. Keep your power sacred – like Esther did. As you do so, you will develop a true sense of confidence – one that is based on who you actually are rather than what you appear to be.

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8 Comments

  1. Kimberly

     /  February 23, 2011

    That was beautiful! How I wish this was taught to me when I was in YW-that we have power, and to keep it sacred. I think telling girls they have power is such a great way to help them see their bodies positively and to think about how they’re using it. Otherwise it just becomes boring drivel about wearing shorts that are this long and wearing shirts that have sleeves etc etc.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kimberly. When i was a young woman, modesty was – just as you said – all about how long shorts had to be, etc. As a teenager – that basically made me feel like they wanted us to be “frumpy”. I wasn’t exactly converted to the concept.

      However, as I’ve thought about it as an adult, I realize we need to let the girls in on the fact that they do have power. I think that we figure this out – one way or another. A lot of girls figure out that boys respond to short shorts, and it gives them a feeling of power and confidence. I’d rather the young women come to know that their power doesn’t have to be lustful, but it can be beautiful and righteous – like Esther. (does this make sense).

      Anyways – thanks for the comment! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Excellent talk. I have read a lot about modesty recently and have thought about it more in terms of my relationship with God then how I effect men. I also started thinking more about modesty in terms of “cost” and “labels;” this is something that I think has been missing from the modesty discussion and its reprecussions have caused me more stress and fret then needed.

    Reply
    • Thanks emily!

      I like how you think of modesty in terms of your relationship with God, “costs” and “Labels”. I mean, often being modest can cost you popularity. Immodesty can have even greater costs. I also like the idea of labels and modesty – that is such a pressing idea for the youth.

      When I was writing this talk, I was also thinking about modesty and what it means for married women – grown women – who have had children. Youth aren’t the only ones who have temptations regarding modesty. We are living in a pornographic culture, and it is hard not to get caught up in that. Additionally, our culture is obsessed with being youthful and sexy – even in your sixties. I sit and wonder, when is it okay to be old?

      I mean, I want to take care of my body, for sure. But is there a time when it is okay to look age appropriate.

      I struggle with this. I think that it is because we are surrounded by images of “beautiful” women – but their beauty is really less than skin deep and usually altered in some way. It makes me feel like less of a woman because I actually look like I’ve had kids! It is sometimes hard to believe that our appearance should reflect what is inside, rather than the other way around. I’m having a hard time verbalizing my feelings, but I guess I’m getting convinced that if I can understand that my power – even my physical power – isn’t based on being “sexy” but my beauty can come through my righteousness and even modest dress – if I can understand this better, then I’ll be more comfortable with who I am and what I look like.

      okay. long reply. I just can’t put my finger on it. soon enough I will. thanks for your comment. I totally think that modesty and what it means with our relationship with God, costs, and labels is giving us a lot more grief and stress than we need!

      Reply
  3. Angie

     /  August 19, 2012

    Amazing insight into teaching modest dress to young women and to me for the matter. Thank you for sharing. I

    Reply
  1. Blog Carnival for March 5th 2011 : Is This Modest?
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