My Dear Boys,
I want to talk to you about modesty. No, don’t tune out. The principles and blessings of modesty apply just as much to boys as they do girls. I know you’re used to hearing that modesty is about the amount of coverage our clothing has over our bodies and maybe that isn’t an issue for you. But our gospel teaches us, “Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to glorify God in our body, and in our spirit.”
You see, modesty is an attitude and that means it must first start inside of us. I learned this best from Ezra Taft Benson who said, “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
Moroni reminded us that, “God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.” Modesty starts in our hearts and that is a struggle for both the natural man and the natural woman. We are all commanded equally to glorify God and as we do, we can be changed from the inside out. As we seek to put God first in our lives and, “fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings,” we will form a strong relationship with Him. As we develop a burning desire to glorify God and care about His commandments more than anything the world teaches, He will bless us with a yearning to show modesty in our dress, grooming, language, and behavior.
This doesn’t mean you can wear whatever you want until your heart changes because we still have standards to uphold. It does mean we place a strong focus on internal modesty in our home. As you show obedience to the Lord by dressing modestly, it will be easier to feel His spirit and come to know Him. We’ve all heard of downward spirals but this is like an upward spiral toward all that heaven has to offer.
I want you to practice the sacred and sometimes difficult art of being non-judgmental. It is so easy to judge an immodest peer but that’s only because you can see it with your eyes. An immodest heart is hidden inside the body and is so much easier to get away with without the glaring eyes of disapproval upon you. How could we possibly decide which sin is worse? Luckily we can’t and shouldn’t so we must leave that job to our God. But it’s a good reminder of how little we actually know about the imperfections of others and how unfair it is to judge some people so harshly just because their sins are visible.
You will never hear your mother tell girls they must dress modestly because showing off their bodies can put bad thoughts into boys’ heads. I think we can do better for both girls and boys. This technique of shaming girls into modesty teaches them to focus on the “reproach of men,” instead of glorifying their God. It doesn’t set the bar as high as it should be. Girls should dress modestly but they should do it to show their love for God. In turn God will enable them to be a true Christ-like influence on others’. It’s not that we don’t want to help their peers around them, because they will! It’s just that aiming higher to please God will enable them with God’s grace to influence so many more to such a greater degree for the right reasons. Instead of modifying behavior through a shame-tactic, they should be taught to act for God, allowing their very souls to seek modesty from the inside out.
And what about boys like you? What are you to think of yourself when you hear you are a victim of your biology throughout your life? That science proves you can’t control your thoughts around a scantily clad lady? I’m sorry but this science does not compute with my understanding of the INFINITE Atonement. Why don’t we, instead, teach you that with the help of your Savior you CAN control your thoughts, you are CAPABLE of overcoming temptation and you alone will be held accountable for your thoughts and actions, regardless of what others do around you. I want you to understand how the Atonement applies to you and this type of teaching negates its’ unlimited power. I can’t think of anywhere else in the gospel where we teach that other people need to choose the right because our biology limits us from making good choices for ourselves. Not in my Gospel. Not in my home.
Just for good measure, lets ponder on this truth (most likely, powerfully) spoken by Brigham Young: “If Brother Brigham shall take a wrong track, and be shut out of the kingdom of heaven, no person will be to blame but Brother Brigham. I am the only being in heaven, earth, or hell, that can be blamed.” So boys, if it doesn’t work in heaven, it’s not gonna work on earth. You must learn to rely on your Savior to help you overcome temptations and never rely on another person to remove them from you. They won’t always do it. And it will only change your circumstance, not your heart anyway.
And so my boys, I ask you to judge righteously your own modesty decisions as you also strive to follow the standards we uphold in the gospel and in our home. But I pray you always look inside yourself first and evaluate the reasons behind your choices in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. I want you to connect with God and understand obedience begins in your heart and extends outward. If you learn to understand and accept God’s grace in your life, you will have a powerful sphere of influence as others see your light shine through. The light of Christ beams brightly through those who truly know Christ. So aim higher than the praise of man and God will make you a mighty influence for good.