Scripture of the Month

For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

~2 Nephi 4:15



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Not to Teach Modesty to Young Women

photo from lds.org

I recently wrote an article entitled "Five Myths About Female Modesty" for a liberal feminist site. It addressed harmful ways we tell women why they should dress modestly. Since it was written for a broad, worldly audience, I did not explain each point from a gospel perspective. I thought this blog would be a better place to do so.

[Please remember that as much as I always try to back up my opinions with scriptural references, authoritative quotes, and other legitimate Church resources, these are still only my interpretations and should not be taken as official doctrine.]

The first point I made was that we shouldn't teach women that the purpose of dressing modestly is so men won't have inappropriate thoughts. We are only responsible for our own thoughts and actions, not other people's. We are counseled in the Book of Mormon to watch our thoughts (Mosiah 4:30) or they will condemn us (Alma 12:14).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland discussed this in his revered talk about sex,"Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments." Although it is in relation to sexual transgression, I think the principle also applies to modesty: 
In this matter of counterfeit intimacy and deceptive gratification, I express particular caution to the men who hear this message. I have heard all my life that it is the young woman who has to assume the responsibility for controlling the limits of intimacy in courtship because a young man cannot. What an offensive and unacceptable remedy to this problem. What kind of man is he, what priesthood or power or strength or self-control does this man have that lets him develop in society, grow to the age of mature accountability, perhaps even pursue a university education and prepare to affect the future of colleagues and kingdoms and the course of the world, but yet does not have the mental capacity or the moral will to say, "I will not do that thing"? No, this sorry drugstore psychology would have us say, "He just can't help himself. His glands have complete control over his life--his mind, his will, his entire future."
To say that a young woman in such a relationship has to bear her responsibility and that of the young man's too is the most discriminatory nonsense I have ever heard. In most instances if there is sexual transgression, I lay the burden squarely on the shoulders of the young man--for our purposes probably a priesthood bearer--and that's where I believe God intended responsibility to be. In saying that I do not excuse young women who exercise no restraint and have not the character or conviction to demand intimacy only in its rightful role. I have had enough experience in Church callings to know that women as well as men can be predatory. But I refuse to buy the feigned innocence of a young man who wants to sin and call it psychology.
Indeed, most tragically, it is the young woman who is most often the victim, it is the young woman who most often suffers the greater pain, it is the young woman who most often feels used and abused and terribly unclean. And for that imposed uncleanliness a man will pay, as surely as the sun sets and rivers run to the sea.
With that said, it does not mean women are entitled to dress and act however they want to without any consequences. Of course our appearances and behaviors influence both others and ourselves, and not just sexually. For example, when I stay in my pajamas all day, I'm less likely to be productive--and so is the rest of my family.

The "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet expresses this as well: "When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act" (p. 6).

Still, we are ultimately responsible for our own choices. Potiphar's wife continually threw herself at Joseph, yet he never gave in. When she grabbed his clothes, he ran away. He did not submit to her and blame her for it (Genesis 39:712). And Jesus "suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them" (D&C 20:22).

The second point was that we shouldn't teach women to dress modestly to "leave something to the imagination" of men. This idea upholds the view that women are objects for the pleasure of men to look at, even when we are covered, and condones men imagining inappropriate things about our bodies. It focuses on the interest and desires of men instead of the interest and desires of God.

The third point was that we shouldn't promote "modest is hottest." While well intended, this saying encourages dressing modestly to gain attention and approval from others, even if it's the right kind. True to the Faith counsels us not to dress with the intent to seek approval from others (107). Being modest for that reason is very shallow. Rather, modesty is an outward expression of a personal testimony, understanding, and an inward commitment to obey the commandments of the One who created our bodies and knows them best. It is not so we can be seen as more attractive or valuable than other women. We females should be less competitive with and more supportive of one another.

The fourth point was that we shouldn't tell certain women to dress modestly because people "don't want to see that," meaning physical features that society deems undesirable or offensive. It implies that women whom society labels as sexually enticing should expose their bodies for others to enjoy, and that those who do not meet that standard should cover up to save themselves from embarrassment and others from discomfort. While our bodies are magnificent creations and it is natural and appropriate to appreciate their beauty, their purpose is not for public display and gratification. Furthermore, beauty is subjective. Telling others to cover up to hide "flaws" reinforces the media's unrealistic and narrow standards of beauty, and that leads to low self-esteem and harmful behaviors such as eating disorders.

The fifth point was that we shouldn't teach women to be modest so they won't be viewed as promiscuous. We should not judge others based on appearances but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We should remember that those outside our religion do not hold the same standards as we do, so we shouldn't judge them according to something they don't know about or believe in. We should also remember that those within the Church, especially new converts, are at different levels of testimony and understanding.

We also need to consider the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. Clothing is not the only avenue of modesty. It also applies to our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions. The "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet advises us all to "avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior" (p. 7, emphasis mine). True to the Faith states, "Modesty is an attitude of humility and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior" (p. 106, emphasis mine).

It is unfair to judge someone's sexual behavior based only on their appearance. Often, immodest dress is the result of media's lies and peer pressure to look sexy and define our worth according to our desirability. If we want to get to the root of the immodesty problem, we need to address those issues instead of just spouting off cliches about modesty. Beauty Redefined is an excellent resource, and although it has a non-religious focus, was founded by two LDS women. 

Again, this doesn't justify us wearing whatever and acting however we want to. The "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet states, "When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval."

Since people cannot read our minds and hearts, what we wear, say, and do reveal to them who we are. If we want others to have positive, precise images of us, then we need to represent ourselves accurately through our clothing and life choices. However, in the end, we are accountable for how we choose to perceive others and should be careful in the judgments we make.

You may be wondering, "If all these concepts are wrong, then how should we teach modesty?" Here are better ways to teach why we should dress modestly:

1. To Stop Objectification
Although men are responsible for how they think about and treat us, we can help stop the cycle of women only being viewed and valued as bodies. We discourage ourselves and others from objectifying us when we put more focus on our character and abilities and less focus on our bodies. We invite others to notice the beauty inside of us and see us as human beings whose bodies are instruments for glorifying God (1 Corinthians 6:20), not ornaments for decoration. We show God and others that we know our bodies are precious, sacred gifts to be cared for respectfully.

2. To Help Each Other
When we were baptized we covenanted to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:8). So although modesty is not about being responsible for the thoughts of others, it is about showing courtesy and respect to each other as visual, sexual creatures. Just as it would be rude to flaunt a chocolate cake in front of a friend on a diet, it's not okay to purposefully entice someone with your body (unless it is your spouse). Of course we should look our best and our mates should be physically attracted to us, but we shouldn't encourage others to think about and desire us inappropriately. We should uplift our brothers and sisters and help them to "let virtue garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly" (D&C 121:45).

3. To Prepare for the Temple
The "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet notes, "Your dress and appearance now will help you prepare for the time when you will go to the temple to make sacred covenants with God " (p. 8). If we adhere to the standards while young (or newly baptized), it will help us stay close to the Spirit, keep us worthy to enter the temple, and make the adjustment to wearing temple garments smooth and easy.

4. To Be Moderate
The word modesty is related to the word moderate. When we find a balance in looking our best, we can both represent ourselves and the Lord appropriately and have more time and energy for more important matters, such as serving others.

5. To Be Obedient
Sometimes we don't always understand the rules God gives us. We can show our trust in His wisdom by obeying out of faith until we gain understanding. Perhaps the reason for something that seems insignificant to us--like the rule about one ear piercing for women--is simply to test our willingness to obey Him in all things. Furthermore, our bodies are gifts from God that Christ paid for, so we should treat them as He asks us to (1 Corinthians 6:1920).

The Bottom Line

Remember that teaching any commandment from a viewpoint of empowerment, self-control, and blessings is far more effective than teaching through shame, force, and negativity. It is also important to teach modesty properly to our young men. For more in-depth ideas, read my other articles on modesty. Also, check out this LDS modesty lesson created by Beauty Redefined.

Discussion: What are other helpful, positive ways to teach modesty to young women and young men?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Turn Discipline into Gospel Teaching Moments

Earlier this month, I was working in the office while the boys were playing in the bathtub. I heard suspicious activity, but unwisely decided not to check right away. When I finally went in, I saw foam and bubbles all over the boys, bathtub, and shower walls! It took me a second to realize what they had done: they used their baby body wash to make a bubble bath. Not a big deal, right? Easy clean up. But they had used the entire bottle that I had just bought! That soap ain't cheap, let me tell you. In fact, when we bought more last week, it had gone up in price, and I kicked myself for not getting it online when it was on sale. I reminded my son at the store not to use the soap for bubbles.

Tonight's setting was the same. I was in the office while the boys played innocently--or so I thought. When I went in to wash them up, lo and behold, another bubble bath. The good news is that is was nowhere near as big as the first and the soap bottle was still full.

My first instinct was to yell at them. Thankfully, I stopped myself and asked calmly instead, "What did I tell you when we bought the soap?"

"Not to make a bubble bath."

"That's right. But you didn't listen. So what do you think should happen?"

"Repentance."

That completely caught me off guard! But it reminded me that the whole purpose of discipline is to teach, not just punish.

"And what does that mean?"

"You don't do it again."

Someone has been listening to his Primary teacher after all. Sometimes gospel teaching can feel pointless when kids are being irreverent and not paying attention. Every Sunday I ask my son what he learned that day in Primary and he rarely can tell me. But this moment showed me things do get heard and understood and we shouldn't give up on teaching no matter how fruitless it seems.

"That's right. So what are you going to do next time?"

"Take a little bit of soap and wash myself!"

Very cute. We reviewed repentance and I let him choose his punishment for disobeying. I told him we would get a bottle of bubble bath to make everyone happy. Then when he said his bedtime prayer, I had him ask Heavenly Father for forgiveness. It ended up being a very valuable experience for both of us. I'm glad I didn't stick with my original urge that would have ruined the night for everyone. I hope I remember this moment next time I feel frustrated and turn it into another opportunity for gospel application instead.

Sharing Time: Share a time when you were able to use a disciplinary situation to reinforce gospel principles with your children.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Heavenly Music

illustration by Jay Gatdula
I have been on a worldly music diet the past few months in an effort to invite the Spirit into my home and heart--and my children's hearts. I've been listening to hymns and Primary songs on my iPhone and classical stations on iTunes and the radio. I'm currently without my phone, so Sunday I dusted off my old iPod mini and resynced it with only classical, LDS, and kids music. I have heard some new beautiful music that fills my soul and moves me. In fact, I have now even become a fan of opera!

Music truly is a heavenly language that has so much power to bless or curse us. The intense emotions I've felt recently while listening to such uplifting songs has reminded me of quotes from my Hymns of the Restoration BYU class (I highly recommend it!):

"There is no music in hell, for all good music belongs to heaven. Sweet harmonious sounds give exquisite joy to human beings capable of appreciating music. . . . Every sweet musical sound that can be made belongs to the Saints and is for the Saints." ~Brigham Young

"Music belongs to heaven, to cheer God, angels, and men. If we could hear the music there is in heaven, it would overwhelm us mortals." ~Brigham Young

"The very spirit of religion is breathed into music . . . . Never, indeed, do we feel so near heaven as when listening to the performance of some grand anthem, in which the angels themselves might fitly take their parts." ~ John Taylor

"The singing of our sacred hymns, written by the servants of God, has a powerful effect in converting people to the principles of the gospel and in promoting peace and spiritual growth." ~ Heber J. Grant

"[Y]our measure of greatness or just mediocrity, or less than that, may be measured by your answer to one simple question, 'What do you like?' Do you like pornographic pictures rather than pictures of great art? Do you like to go to vulgar shows rather than The Sound of Music? Do you love the sensuous music rather than to hear great symphonies or the work of the masters? You answer to yourselves and then see what your youth like and you will have the answer to their souls, for music indeed is the language of the soul, whether it be uplifting or otherwise." ~Harold B. Lee

"Hymns are often composed under great suffering or unusual ecstatic experiences which may be relayed to the singers and bring to them also joy, faith, and courage. . . . [The words] may add fervor and inspiration." ~Spencer W. Kimball

"Some of the greatest sermons that have ever been preached were preached by the singing of a song." ~Spencer W. Kimball

"Music is part of the language of the Gods. It has been given to man so he can sing praises to the Lord. It is a means of expressing, with poetic words and in melodious tunes, the deep feelings of rejoicing and thanksgiving found in the hearts of those who have testimonies of the divine Sonship and who know of the wonders and glories wrought for them by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." ~Bruce R. McConkie

"Good music, especially sacred music, makes things more spiritually understandable. It is edifying and conducive to understanding. It prepares emotions for response to promptings of the Holy Spirit."  ~Richard G. Scott

"As one who spends most of his time in the world of words, [I am] continually impressed with the power of music to comfort and counsel in a way that often exceeds the power of the spoken word." ~Neal A. Maxwell

"Enjoy music, not the kind that rocks and rolls, but the music of the masters, the music that has lived through centuries, the music that has lifted people. If you do not have a taste for it, listen to it thoughtfully. If you do not like it the first time, listen to it again and keep listening. It will be something like going to the temple. The more often you go, the more beautiful will be the experience." ~Gordon B. Hinckley

"Sometimes I feel we get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer." ~J. Reuben Clark

"The symphonic strains of scriptural music can give our lives lilt and tone, a way of tuning our lives by reference to a celestial scale. The melodies are the marching music for the traveler on the strait and narrow way." ~Neal A. Maxwell

"Why not go through your collection? Get rid of the worst of it. Keep just the best of it. Be selective in what you consume and what you produce. It becomes a part of you. . . .

"How wonderful is the music instructor who will teach children and youth to play and will acquaint them with good music in their formative years, including the music of worship. To have such music as a part of one's life is a great blessing. . . .

"You degrade yourself when you identify with all of those things which seem now to surround such extremes in music: the shabbiness, the irreverence, the immorality, and the addictions. Such music is not worthy of you." ~Boyd K. Packer (emphasis mine)

Challenge: Raise your standards for music and listen to that which brings the Spirit.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Knowledge: What It Is, Why We Need It, and How to Obtain It



Sacrament talk given on June 21, 2015.

My talk is a continuance of the month’s theme on Christlike attributes. When we think of what it means to be Christlike, we usually think of characteristics such as charity, mercy, obedience, and virtue, not knowledge. But the Doctrine and Covenants reveals that “the glory of God is intelligence” (93:36) and that God “comprehendeth all things” (88:41). Jacob in the Book of Mormon said God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Nephi 9:20), and Ammon said, “he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things” (Alma 26:35).

Knowledge and intelligence are not interchangeable words, however. Elder Bednar, in his book Increase in Learning (which I highly recommend everyone read), explains the hierarchy of learning.

Generally, knowledge refers to facts, information, and abilities obtained through experience or education. . . .
[The Prophet Joseph Smith said], "God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge." . . .
Understanding is the keystone that is erected upon the cornerstone of knowledge and precedes intelligence. Interestingly, the word understanding is described in the scriptures in relation to the heart. . . .
The word understanding as used in the scriptures does not refer solely or even primarily to intellectual or cognitive comprehension. Rather, when the Holy Ghost confirms in our hearts as true what we know in our minds, understanding occurs. . . .
Understanding is a spiritual outcome; it is a result. 
Intelligence is the righteous application of knowledge and understanding in action and judgment. It is the capstone that is constructed upon the cornerstone of knowledge and made stable by the keystone of understanding. . . . [U]nderstanding leads to righteous action. . . .

Intelligence is always linked to righteousness. . . .

Interestingly, knowledge is associated with diligence. Significantly, intelligence is linked to obedience. . . .

We might ordinarily think of doctrine as something we study, something we learn, and something we strive to remember. However, the Lord indicated in this revelation [D&C 101:78] that doctrine is something you and I should act in. Ultimately, the Savior is interested not just in what we know but [also] in spiritual intelligence--in how we apply what we know for righteous purposes. . . .

Intelligence is living in such a way that the doctrines of the Church are active in us--an active and integral part of who we are, and what we are, and what we do, and what we think.

Obtaining knowledge is the first step in becoming intelligent. It is important to know what type of knowledge we need to gain. D&C88:77–80 explains:

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
That ye may be prepared in all things . . .

We need not only heavenly knowledge, but also worldly, such as history, geography, politics, and culture. When it comes to secular education, there is not one right way to seek it. President Kimball said, “Some are inclined toward formal university training, and some are inclined more toward the practical vocational training. We feel that our people should receive that kind of training which is most consistent with their interests and talents. Whether it be in the professions, the arts, or the vocations; whether it be university or vocational training, we applaud and encourage it.” There is also the informal education we gain from reading, watching the news and documentaries, visiting museums and historical sites, attending cultural events, traveling, and talking to people.

Gaining an education allows us to provide for our temporal needs and to understand and help our brothers and sisters. It encourages us to discover and develop our talents, which we can also use to bless others and build up God’s kingdom.

In our efforts to seek wordly knowledge, we must be careful not to let it lead to pride and rebellion. Nephi warned: “When [men] are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:2829). We must balance secular learning with spiritual learning and obedience. Only then will we have true and righteous wisdom.

Spiritual knowledge will also help us in our educational goals. A few examples that come to mind are one man who became literate by reading the Book of Mormon, a young man who suffered a brain injury and relearned to read also by reading the Book of Mormon, and missionaries who learn their mission language through scripture study (like Elder Groberg in The Other Side of Heaven.)

The scriptures tell us how to increase our spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

  • Study the scriptures (2 Nephi 32:3)
  • Rely on the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:5)
  • Ask for divine help (James 1:5)
  • Serve God (D&C 76:57)
  • Seek out of the best books through study and faith (D&C88:118)
  • Attend church and learn from each other (Moroni 6:5, D&C88:122) [which can also be done through home and visiting teaching, and attending seminary and institute]
  • Keep the commandments (John 7:17), including the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:19) [by taking care of our bodies, our minds are clearer and stronger and better able to learn and retain information]
  • Fast and pray (Alma 17:23)
  • Be diligent and obedient (D&C 131:19)

It can be a daunting task studying the gospel, especially the scriptures. Elder Caussé promised, “God would indeed be unjust if the gospel were only accessible to an intellectual elite. In His goodness, He has ensured that the truths regarding God are understandable to all His children, whatever their level of education or intellectual faculty. In reality, the fact that a principle can be understood even by a child is proof of its power. President John Taylor said, 'It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it.'”

If you are having a hard time grasping the gospel, start with the primary teachings. It is important to have a strong foundation of the basic principles of the gospel to build upon. We must also remember to be patient with our learning, just as we are with our children’s. Knowledge comes “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). 

If we find ourselves losing knowledge and understanding, it is a sign we are being disobedient (D&C 93:39) or prideful and complacent (2 Nephi 28:30). The task to become intelligent like God takes a lot of work and perseverance, but it is absolutely essential to our salvation. Elder Rector, a former general authority, said,

Ignorance is expensive; in fact, it is the most expensive commodity we know anything about. Certainly we make many mistakes through ignorance. If it is a violation of a commandment of God which we have never received and thus do not know, then the Lord does not hold us guilty of the sin. “… to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) And in Paul’s words, “… where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Rom. 4:15) But even though we may not be guilty of the sin because of our ignorance, neither can we receive the blessing, which is predicated on obedience, without rendering obedience to that law. Therefore, we are denied the blessing through our ignorance. If it is a traffic law we have violated through ignorance, the penalty assessed us is exactly the same as if we had known. Also, if we stick a finger in an electric light socket, we will receive the same shock, irrespective of our knowledge of electricity. I repeat, ignorance is expensive. Particularly is this true since the Lord has decreed, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131:6)

We will receive blessings as we increase in knowledge, understanding, and intelligence:

  • We will have joy (D&C 42:61)
  • We will have happiness, peace, and lengthened life (Proverbs3:13) [because if we’re making wise choices, we aren’t putting ourselves in physical and spiritual danger.]
  • We will attract more intelligence, wisdom, truth, and light (D&C 88:40)
  • We will have power to overcome evil (D&C 93:37)
  • We will know gospel mysteries and our understanding will reach to heaven (D&C 76:510)

We are also promised that we will be able to take our intelligence with us into the next life and have an advantage over those who have not gained wisdom (D&C 131:1819). We can be glorified as our Father in heaven through becoming intelligent like Him.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

True Power in Christ Alone

Guest post from Jean Vogler of www.scripturesisters.com

These past couple weeks as we’ve been reading about Moses being tempted by Satan and ultimately casting Satan out, I thought of how this is a great witness to us that true power comes only through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I imagine Satan “weeping, wailing, gnashing his teeth,” and the earth trembling because of his anger, it brings to mind a very irate child, throwing one major tantrum because he can’t have what he wants. He realizes he truly has no power over us. So what does the child do? He uses fear to demand our personal power and freedom be given to him – fear of his anger or of his potential to destroy or embarrass (breaking things, making a mess on purpose, screaming in the store or kicking the dog). He may threaten (I’m going to run away!) or try emotional wounds (I hate you! You don’t love me.).

But there is not true power in these words and actions. It is only a strong (and quite frustrating) temptation. The only power the child can gain is from the parent that gives in. How did Moses ultimately defeat Satan? By calling (aloud) on the name and power of Jesus Christ to cast Satan out of his presence. 

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” And what is love? Verse 16 states it very plainly: God is love.

Satan could not stand up to the power of Christ, because he has no inherent power in himself. He had to go. 


Empower yourself and your family through the power of Christ, and stand tall against the fear Satan puts into our hearts. Don’t give in to the temptation to use fear as Satan does either, to rule over others in torment. Instead use the power of Christ’s love for us, shown through His beautiful and holy atonement, to teach and encourage and strengthen. 

Cast Satan out of your heart, out of your home even aloud if you need to! Then continually turn to the Lord to fill your heart and home with His spirit and love. Don’t leave any empty space for Satan to try and wiggle his way back in. Call upon the power of Christ through diligent prayer and searching the scriptures to fortify your life. Receive His true power in your life.