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Moderns Myths About Modesty

I write a lot about modesty, mostly because it is a topic I’m experienced with and have a lot to say about.  There are a lot of myths about modesty floating about society and social media, so here I’d like to address the more prominent ones that I’ve noticed:

Dress Codes are Sexist

This one arises primarily because dress codes are much more detailed for women than they are for men.

A large part of this is because there are so many more options for women than there are for men.  When looking at dress wear and formal wear, women have choices about the color, fabric, sleeves, neckline, waistline, cut, hemline, and more.  Men can choose color and, to some extent, cut, but mostly men’s dress and formal wear look more or less the same.  Women’s dresses, on the other hand, have enormous variety.  Many of these varieties involve showing off a woman’s boobs, back, or butt.  When suits come with thigh-high slits or tops that threaten to fall off, then I’m sure men’s dress codes will become more detailed as to what is appropriate.

The other reason women’s dress codes are so detailed is that so many young women appear to not know how to dress themselves.  Take a look on social media and you’ll find numerous stories of a young woman sent home from school or a dance because of immodest clothing.  She or her mom or sister posts a melodramatic rant about what a sexist organization such-and-such school or church is.  Social media, without question and without fail, fawns all over the victimized teen and joins in in vilifying the evil sexist patriarchy.  The school’s only recourse (besides allowing anyone to wear anything) to events like this is to have a painfully detailed dress code so no one can claim they didn’t know what they were wearing wasn’t allowed.

In short, dress codes are not sexist.  They are very detailed about women’s dress because modern fashion has a lot of variety and encourages immodesty, and there is always someone who will try to exploit any and all loopholes in the dress code.

Modesty is Optional

“Bare shoulders won’t keep you out of Heaven.”  “Cleavage won’t keep you out of Heaven.”  These are types of comments I’ve heard and seen.  They are sometimes paired with a good message, that God looks at who we are and not how we look.  These comments, however, overlook the fact that modesty is a commandment.  For Latter Day Saints, in particular, it shows a lack of understanding of modesty, because immodest dress will keep you out of the temple.

Different Christian denominations have different views on what exactly constitutes modesty, of course, and I take no issue with that.  What strikes me as a dangerous sentiment is that God’s commandments are subject to our opinions.  We are not commanded to obey only those commandments that we want to obey or are convenient for us to obey.  We are commanded to obey all of God’s commandments.

Deuteronomy 30:8 says: “And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.”

Modesty may seem like an unimportant thing compared to other commandments, but willfully breaking any commandment makes us unclean, and “No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Alma 11:37)

Young Women Should Dress Modestly To Keep Young Men from Thinking Impure Thoughts

I don’t know where this one came from, but it needs to die.  I don’t have any personal experience with a teacher or leader teaching this, but others have, so I guess it’s a thing.

The reasoning goes, that young men looking at young women dressed immodestly will encourage the young men to think impure thoughts.  I think Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer said it well:  “I’m seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me think about sex.”  There’s not much young women can do in the face of that.

Additionally, we all have agency.  It is our own responsibility to choose the right, regardless of what people around us are saying and doing.

Potiphar’s wife bluntly told Joseph to sleep with her.  He refused her; nevertheless, she persisted for several days.  One day, she managed to get him alone and even grabbed his robe (or some such article of clothing).  He literally left the robe in her hands in his hurry to get away from her.  (Genesis 39)  Joseph had ample opportunity to commit sexual sin, but that did not excuse him.  He was responsible for his own actions even when Potiphar’s wife was actually throwing herself at him.  Young men today are similarly responsible for controlling themselves regardless of what the young women around them are wearing.

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Modest is Hottest

At first, I thought this was a fun and harmless motto.  It’s catchy, and reinforces the idea that you don’t have to wear a burlap sack in order to be modest.  We can dress stylishly and still be modest.

But as I thought about this more, I saw how it draws us towards the world’s standards and away from God.  What does it mean to be “hot,” after all?  It means to be sexually desirable.  If you are trying to look sexually desirable to the world, then you have missed the whole point of modesty, regardless of how much skin is covered.

We are supposed to be in the world but not of it.  As long as we buy into the idea that a woman should make herself appear sexually attractive whenever she goes out into the world, we are of the world.  When we are modest we can focus on more important things than our appearance: we can focus on eternal things.

Modesty is Just About Skin

Modesty doesn’t just include the number of square inches our clothing covers.

Modesty includes the cost of our clothing.  Do we spend more money than we can afford, or money better put to other things?  Do we buy certain items so we can feel better than others? Do we do we value our clothes and appearance more than we value others?  This attitude certainly draws us away from God.

Modesty includes our language and behavior.  Are we rude or disrespectful?  Are we arrogant or showing off?  If we are modest, we show kindness to others.  We are thankful and gracious when others help and serve us.  We are patient. We are willing to listen and to learn from others.  We are willing to admit when we are wrong.  Modesty means humility, particularly before God.

Conclusion

There are a lot of conflicting messages in the world about modesty.  It can be hard to sort through them all to find the truth.  That makes it all the more important to rely on God instead of our own wisdom, and God has commanded us to be modest.

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Best Non-Canon LDS Music

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Sunday services in the Latter Day Saint church always involves music.  We have a canon consisting of a hymn book and a children’s songbook, but that’s not the only music you’ll hear in our meetings.  Most Sundays include a special musical number, from the choir or someone asked especially for that Sunday to provide music.  Special music doesn’t have to be from the canon, and can be from Latter Day Saint or other Christian composers.  Here are my favorites of the non-canon music: the music I consider the most beautiful (in no particular order)

I Heard Him Come I learned this song as a youth and have loved it ever since.  This song helps me understand the love Jesus has for each individual, however lowly, including me.  Written by Jeff Goodrich.

No Ordinary Man – This song describes how not everyone was converted by Jesus’ miracles, inviting us to understand Christ’s divinity.  Written by the one and only and much beloved Janice Kapp Perry.

O Lord My Redeemer – This song is about the crucifixion and saving mission of Jesus.  My husband sang this song on his mission, and it has been special to him ever since.  Written by Jeff Goodrich.

No Other NameI just recently learned this song with my stake choir, and instantly loved it.  The text comes from the scripture Mosiah 3:17.  The link only gives a brief sample, but believe me, this song is beautiful and moving.  My favorite part is when the altos come in with “He can save me.”  Written by Lynn S. Lund.

I Know that My Redeemer Liveth – You might think the sopranos overshadow the other parts in this piece, with their soaring melody, but this song really is a complete package.  I love how it builds to a thundering finish.  Written by Joseph M. Martin.

He is Not HereThis is a relatively difficult choir piece to learn, but worth it.  I’ve sung both alto and tenor, and loved both.  This song gives me chills every time!  It’s about the discovery that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, but had risen.  Written by Russel Nagy.

The Garden – Okay, so I’m kind of cheating by including this on the list, since it isn’t a song you’ll hear in church, but, rather, is an oratorio, like Handel’s MessiahThe Garden is an Easter oratorio and is an allegory about the Atonement.  Written by Michael McClean.

My Servant Joseph – All right, I’m cheating again.  This is an entire album of songs about the life and work of the prophet Joseph Smith.  It’s so beautiful that I couldn’t choose just one song as my favorite.  Written by Kenneth Cope.

Invocation – I can’t say enough about how beautiful this song is.  (It just needs to be sung by someone who’s not me, since it’s hard for me to not go flat on a cappella pieces.)  Its text is from Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered, in my name, there shall I be in the midst of them, in the midst of them that love me.”  Written by Claudia Bigler.

I Would Exhort You – This is my favorite piece from Oakland Temple Pageant: And It Came to Pass, though the rest of the songs are good, too.  Moroni shows Joseph where to find the plates, and then exhorts him to study them prayerfully as he translates them with this song.  Text is from Moroni 10:3-4.  The link is for the whole show; “I Would Exhort You” begins at 37:20.  Written by Whitney Groo, Jr.

Go Ye Now in Peace – This song is special to all performers in the Oakland Temple Pageant.  After each performance, we’d get in a circle and sing this song.  At the end, we would segue into “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” from the hymnbook.  Even many years later, it’s still a very special song to me.  I don’t think the composer is LDS, but the importance of her song to many members merits its mention on this list.  Written by Joyce Eilers.

Those are my favorites.  What are yours?  I’d love to hear from other Christians as well about your favorite music for worship!

 

How Callings Work in the Latter Day Saint Church

I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile, ever since someone I know tried to convince me that bishops are like politicians, trying to gain more power and prestige.  I figure that other people probably don’t understand how things like that work in the Latter Day Saint church, so I thought this might be interesting to others who are curious.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as in any organization, different members have different responsibilities.  In the LDS church, these responsibilities are called “callings.”  Callings vary in level of responsibility and, I suppose, in prestige, from greeter (who greets people in the lobby), through bishop (pastor/minister/whatever you like to call them), and many more.

These callings work a bit differently than they do in other organizations.

We have a lay clergy, meaning people are not paid for their work in the church.  I’ve taught classes, organized activities, and performed music, among other things, and have not been paid for any of it.  The idea of being paid to teach Sunday School is very strange to me.  We see church callings as a type of service, both to the other members of the congregation and to Heavenly Father.

We don’t volunteer for these positions.  As I like to say it, we are “voluntold.”  Someone in a leadership role will ask us to take on a calling.  We can say no if we like, and sometimes people do, though it’s true that we are encouraged to always accept a calling.  Those in charge of choosing who to call for a particular position are expected to pray to receive inspiration for who to call.  Similarly, when extended a calling, we are to pray for confirmation that it is right.

The most qualified person isn’t always the one called.  People who don’t have teenagers are called to be with the youth.  People who have never been teachers get called to teach.  People who have never been administrators get called to lead auxiliary organizations.  You’ll hear a common refrain: “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies,” said by President Monson.  Moses was slow of speech.  Noah didn’t know how to build an ark.  Peter was a fisherman, not a priest.  Similarly, God teaches us what we need to know in order for us to do what He asks us to do.

We don’t get promoted for doing a good job.  Callings don’t work like your place of employment.  People don’t move up to more prestigious positions by gaining seniority.  We don’t strive for more “prestigious” positions.  In fact, a joke you’ll sometimes hear when someone has been called to be a bishop or Relief Society (women’s organization) president is along the lines of, “Should I give you congratulations or condolences?”

Generally, people are called to positions of less responsibility in order to gain experience before being given a “big” calling, but not necessarily.  It’s also frequent to go from being a bishop or president to being a teacher or having some other, smaller responsibility.  It all comes down to the purpose of these callings, which is to serve.  It’s not the bishop’s job to tell people what to do.  The bishop’s job is to guide and serve.

That’s what it all boils down to: we fulfill responsibilities at church in order to serve.

More On Grace and Works

I often worry about whether or not I’m good enough.  I know I mess up a lot.  I’m not as patient as I should be, I act rudely to my husband, I don’t always keep the Sabbath holy, I forget it’s fast Sunday, and on and on.  It’s really easy to put myself down as I think about all the ways I fall short.

That’s why my husband suggested I listen to this particular talk from the Saturday morning session of the October 2016 General Conference.  It’s titled, “Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It?” from Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy.

This talk was exactly the message I needed.  In this talk Elder Cornish showed that he cares about and understands the feelings of the members as we try to do the right things but just can’t.  If you have ever felt that discouragement, you should go read the whole talk.  Here I’m going to give some of the highlights and my thoughts as well:

“Sometimes when we attend church, we become discouraged even by sincere invitations to improve ourselves. We think silently, ‘I can’t do all these things’ or ‘I will never be as good as all these people’…Please, my beloved brothers and sisters, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing. We falsely judge our self-worth by the things we do or don’t have and by the opinions of others.

We sometimes compare ourselves to other members of our ward, believing that they are successfully doing all the things we feel we can’t.  I think it’s also important to note that we don’t necessarily know what other members are struggling with.  They may look like they are doing all the right things and that we can’t compare with them, but they make think the same about us.

Salvation isn’t a competition.

I also really struggle with the idea that I have inherent worth.  I think of my worth as being dependent on my productivity.  If I’m really smart or a great teacher or really good at keeping a family history, then I must be worthwhile.  That’s what goes on in my head.  Instead, I need to remember that my worth comes from being a daughter of God.

“If we must compare, let us compare how we were in the past to how we are today—and even to how we want to be in the future. The only opinion of us that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Please sincerely ask Him what He thinks of you. He will love and correct but never discourage us; that is Satan’s trick.”

This one is so hard for me to remember.  Discouraging thoughts about how I’ll never be good enough don’t come from Heavenly Father.  Those come from Satan.  Heavenly Father encourages us, rather than discouraging us.

Elder Cornish focuses on what direction we are facing, rather than on where we are.  If we keep trying to be like Christ, then that is enough.

“Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it!”

I really love that.  Heavenly Father didn’t send us here with the intent that we would fail.  Like every good teacher, He doesn’t set us up for failure.

“If we will sincerely repent, God really will forgive us, even when we have committed the same sin over and over again. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: ‘However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made …, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.'”

“None of us will ever be ‘good enough,’ save through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ, but because God respects our agency, we also cannot be saved without our trying. That is how the balance between grace and works works.

I forget this sometimes.  I don’t have to do it alone.  It was never intended that I do it alone.

I’ve bookmarked this talk, because I think I’ll be going back to it again.  I don’t always feel like conference talks are especially relevant to me, but this one feels like it was given directly to me, about the things I need to hear.  I know that the church leaders are inspired by the Lord, and knowing that helps me keep going.

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  –2 Timothy 1:7

Provo City Center Temple

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The Provo City Center Temple is on South University Ave. in downtown Provo, Utah.  Construction began in May, 2012, and was dedicated in May, 2016, after an open house to which all comers were invited.  It’s the 150th temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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There is a central tower capped with a statue of Moroni, with four towers, one in each corner.

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This temple was originally a tabernacle, not a temple.  A tabernacle is meant as a meetinghouse for the church. The tabernacle was heavily damaged in a fire in 2010.  In 2011, President Monson announced that it would be rebuilt as a temple.  The interior was completely redone, but the facade of the tabernacle was preserved.  The tabernacle’s pulpit was also saved.

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The landscaping around the building is lush and beautiful.

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I love this reminder of the purpose of temples: to unite families for eternity.

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A reflection of the temple in the glass wall of its neighbor.

Additional references:

  • History of the Provo City Center temple on LDSchurchtemples.com
  • History of the Provo City Center temple with lots of pictures on lds.org

Salt Lake City Temple

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Last summer, my husband and I made a trip to Utah, and we spent a day at Temple Square.  You’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty impressive structure.  The walls are 9 feet thick at the top, and 6 feet thick at the top. The angel Moroni statue on top is 14 feet tall.

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It’s even more impressive when you know a little of it’s history.  Construction on it began on July 28, 1853, only six years after the Latter Day Saints arrived in what we know as the Salt Lake valley.  The city of Salt Lake was planned around the location of the temple.

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The stone used to build the temple was brought here from a quarry 20 miles away.  The whole temple took 40 years to build.

There are many other buildings at Temple Square, as well as monuments and gardens.

20160617_113024    The temple and the Tabernacle, a meetinghouse for the members and the first home of General Conference.

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The temple and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

The words “Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord” can be found on every temple to remind us of the purpose of the temple.  It is a sacred and beautiful place where we can worship Heavenly Father, make covenants, and feel His power in our own lives.utah-june-2016-127

If you want to learn more about the Salt Lake temple, you can learn more at LDSchurchtemples.com

You can learn more about the purpose of the temple at LDS.org

Hymns in Common

Here follows a list of hymns that Catholics and Mormons have in common.  But first, a little background, because it amuses me to tell it:

My husband and I are historical reenactors.  We, along with our guild, portray the court of Mary, Queen of Scots, at Scottish games.  One of the things my husband and I do at these events is sing folk songs for our own amusement and for the patrons.  Since we don’t go to church on weekends with faire, we wanted to sing some hymns with one of our fellow reenactors.  He’s Catholic, and we’re Mormon.  So we had to figure out some hymns that we both knew.

So I called my mom to ask her to look in the hymnbook.  But she wasn’t home and couldn’t help me.   “Call your brother,” she said, so I did.  It must have sounded like a strange request.  I asked him to open the hymnbook to the index and start reading titles.  When he came to a title that my husband and I and our Catholic friend knew, we had my brother read out the lyrics to us and I wrote them down.

I’ve since created a songbook for use at faire with folk songs and hymns that we know or are trying to learn.  The hymns section began with that modest list.  Here I’ve expanded that list after some more research into LDS and Catholic hymnodies:

  • “All Creatures of Our God and King” Text: St. Francis of Assisi; Music: German folk tune
  • “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” Text: Theodulph of Orleans; Music: Melchior Teschner
  • “Angels We Have Heard on High” Text and Music: French carol
  • “Beautiful Savior” (Crusader’s Hymn) Text: Anonymous, 12th century; Music: Silesian folk song
  • “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” Text: Charles Wesley; Music: Anonymous; Lyra Davidica
  • “Faith of Our Fathers” Text: Frederick W. Faber; Music: Henri F. Hemy; Refrain: James G. Walton
  • “For the Beauty of the Earth” Text: Folliott S. Pierpont; Music: Conrad Kocher
  • “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Text: Charles Wesley; Music: Felix Mendlessohn
  • “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” Text: Lewis D. Edwards; Music: Samuel Medley
  • “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” Text: Attr. to Bernard of Clairvoux; Music: John B. Dykes
  • “Joy to the World” Text: Isaac Watts; Music: George F. Handel, arr. by Lowell Mason
  • “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” Text: Attr. to John F. Wade; Music: Attr. to John F. Wade
  • “Once in Royal David’s City” Text: Cecil Francis Alexander; Music: Henry J. Gauntlett
  • “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” (the Doxology) Text: Thomas Ken; Music: Louis Bourgeois, from Genfer Psalter, 16th century
  • “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Text: Joachim Neander; Music: from Stralsand Gesangbuch, arr. by William S. Bennett and Otto Goldschmidt

Songs that are not part of the official LDS hymnbook, but known among Latter Day Saints:

  • “O Come O Come Emmanuel” Text: Anonymous; Music: French tune, circa 1400s
  • “Be Thou My Vision” Text and Music: Ancient Irish hymn

Latter Day Saint official hymnbook and other music resources:  https://www.lds.org/music/library?lang=eng

Catholic Hymns:

This isn’t really meant to be an exhaustive list, but it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon.  What are your favorite hymns?  Share them in the comments below!