What a sweet experience it has been for the past several months to always have this thought on my mind: "If the Savior stood beside me." You need never wonder if He is there or not; the scriptures teach us that He is there--ever watchful, ever aware.
|painting by Liz Lemon Swindle
Our Savior does stand beside us--but I also testify that He will and does stand closer as we strive to turn to Him in everything we do! And what a grand blessing that truly is! We have the opportunity to determine the distance that He will be by us! I love knowing that He is always there--always there! I love knowing even more that every single one of us get to choose! We hold the ability to keep that distance small, or, if we choose, that distance will be greater.
As we contemplate this question, “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say?” or “Would I do the things I do?” may I add another verse to this song? "If the Savior stood beside me, would I wear the things I wear?"
What an unspeakable gift that would be if our Savior did walk physically beside us. His light would undoubtedly penetrate our hearts and His divine influence would fill us with a desire to be pure--inside and out.
My mom has always been a shining example to me of modesty! She made it easy for me to want to dress modestly because she dressed modestly! When I was in college, we had another typical freezing cold Utah winter, and summer was finally just around the corner, and I needed a new swimsuit. I was taking a heavy load of classes and didn’t have time to make the drive back home to go shopping with my mom. At that time I was dating a young man, and our relationship was getting more serious. I told him that I was going to go to the mall and look for a swimsuit. He decided to join me, and off we headed.
As I was going through the rack of the one-piece swimsuits, he was in a different section, and I didn’t think anything about it. But then he held up an inappropriate swimsuit and said, “Hey Jill, what about this one?” I started to laugh and said, “Oh sure!” But then I realized he was serious, and I said to him that I had never worn anything like that before, and I wasn’t about to change that now. He could not understand what the big deal was and kept trying to talk me into buying it.
I remember thinking to myself, "It’s very important to me, and I’m not about to compromise my standards for you or for anyone else."
Though this incident may have seemed insignificant to many, for me, it was huge. Through this small and simple experience I knew he was not the handsome prince for me. It was at that moment that I learned how much I not only cherished my modesty but also how much I protected it. I wanted a handsome prince, even a knight in shining armor, that would also protect my modesty, and therein protect me! In the book of Timothy we read: “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel…(which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
Through this small and simple experience I knew he was not the handsome prince for me. I learned how much I not only cherished my modesty but also how much I protected it.
Sisters, we have the grand opportunity, as women in the gospel, to be a shining example of modesty to every young woman and young man we know! More importantly, we have the grand opportunity as mothers and grandmothers to be a shining example of modesty to our daughters and granddaughters, to our sons and grandsons. We can be the pattern they follow as we walk daily beside them.
Sister Virginia U. Jensen said, “In our roles as wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts, we must stand firm as role models. Because we love them, we want to give our family members a strong, righteous pattern to follow. In everything we do and say, in how we dress, in how we spend our time, in all the choices we make, we demonstrate what we believe, and that becomes their pattern to follow.”
I recently listened to a beautiful young women named Lexi who lives in our stake. She spoke of the day her family was sealed in the temple. She spoke of her mom and her mom's loving example. I was touched by her testimony, but tears filled my eyes as she said, “I love the temple because my mom loves the temple!”
And Lucy Mack Smith records in her journal: “I retired to a grove not far distant, where I prayed to the Lord…that the true gospel might be presented.” I love that 17 years later, her son Joseph followed her example, her pattern, and her footsteps, as he, too, went to a grove to “ask of God.” He prayed for the truth because his mother prayed for the truth.
A sweet bishop in our stake shared a study as he spoke to his ward family. He read from a book, which was actually written by his father, William G. Dyer. The book is Creating Closer Families.
Quoting from this book, Bishop Dyer read: “…marvelous is the sensitivity of a little child, whose receptors are able to pick up all kinds of messages. One study of very young babies found that, if a baby were fed orange juice by a nurse who did not like orange juice, in a short time the baby would not like it either. However, if the nurse liked orange juice, so did the baby. Somehow, the nurse was able to communicate to the child her distaste for orange juice.” The author concludes this study by asking, “If a baby is sensitive enough to pick up from his nurse how she feels about orange juice through her subtle body actions, what messages do children receive from parents?”
And may I add, what messages do children receive from grandmothers, from aunts, from sisters, from young women leaders?
So why is modesty so important for us and for the young women in our lives? Why is it so important for us to be examples of modesty? There are many reasons for dressing modestly and many blessings for dressing modestly. My focus today is on three principles and doctrines which I believe are at the very heart of modesty.
GratitudeWhen we dress modestly, we express by our dress, and declare by what we wear, our gratitude to the Lord for this precious gift He has given us--our physical bodies.
When I asked my 17-year-old daughter why she dresses modestly, she answered me with this question: “Mom, if you bought me a brand new pair of white tennis shoes, would I show my thanks by going outside and running through a bunch of mud puddles? I would take care of them and try to keep them clean and white. This is how our bodies are. When I dress modestly I am telling my Heavenly Father that I am thankful for this gift He gave me.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson teaches, “A consecrated life respects the incomparable gift of one’s physical body, a divine creation in the very image of God. We must acknowledge that we have a duty to God with respect to this crowning achievement of His physical creation. Acknowledging these truths, we would certainly not deface our body, as with tattoos; or debilitate it, as with drugs; or defile it, as with fornication, adultery, or immodesty. As our body is the instrument of our spirit, it is vital that we care for it as best we can.”
I love the verses in The Book of Mormon that talk about the things that Captain Moroni did to defend and safeguard his people. The first thing he did was to outfit them with defensive armor. It is astounding to me that even though the size of the Lamanite army was “so much greater than the Nephites,” they did not dare come against the Nephites to battle because of how the Nephites were dressed, because of their protective armor.
|photo by Richard Healy
The careful preparations and precautions taken today in temple building is like unto Moroni’s preparations and precautions anciently.
Elder Scott D. Whiting said this of our modern-day temples: “By requiring exacting standards of construction down to the smallest of details, we not only show our love and respect for the Lord Jesus Christ, but we also hold out to all observers that we honor and worship Him whose house it is.”
If Captain Moroni was that watchful and attentive to the outfitting of his people and to the building of his cities to protect those within, if planners and contractors are that watchful and attentive to the building of temples to protect these sacred edifices, how much more watchful and attentive we should be to protect this precious gift the Lord has given us!
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, … The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17)
Is it any wonder that we as moms have to gear up for school dances because we know the work that lies before us? Though the salesgirl at the store would call the purchased dress a finished product, I would call it a shell at best.
We begin by covering the opening in the back. We tighten the shoulder straps, make the neckline secure, and add material to the bottom of short dresses to make them longer. We stitch the slit of long dresses down to the knee, and add a jacket to cover the shoulders.
And so like Moroni of old, or temple contractors today, we go to work, and "show our love and respect for the Lord Jesus Christ, but we also hold out to all observers that we honor and worship Him whose house it is."
To Have His Spirit to Be With UsThe second answer to the question “why is modesty so important” is simply stated in the sacramental prayers each week: "to always have His Spirit to be with" us.
As covenant-making and covenant-keeping sisters, don’t we want to do all we can to make sure that He is with us in the strongest and purest dose we are allowed? We would not want to settle for the watered down, diluted version of the Spirit in the days in which we are living. We and our children need all of heaven’s help we can get!
When we dress modestly, we are inviting the Spirit to be with us. Listen to this from For the Strength of Youth: “Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit.”
Having the Spirit to be with us can never be underestimated, for us and for our youth. Let me share these powerful blessings of having the companionship of the Holy Ghost as testified by Elder David A. Bednar.
While he was serving as the president of BYU Idaho, he and his wife met on a Friday night with 250 students at a leadership retreat. As they were concluding their time with this group, he asked them, "Are you willing to participate in an experiment with me?" The students agreed. He told them that the following Tuesday, then Elder Eyring of the Quroum of the Twelve Apostles, was coming to speak at their devotional.
President Bednar told the students: “We determine what an Apostle will say. We can pull things out of him if we are prepared. I can’t tell you how to prepare, but you prepare spiritually to come and be taught by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. As an outward manifestation of your inward preparation I want you to wear your absolute Sunday best.
"I don’t want you just wearing a white shirt, tie and Dockers. If you have a suit, you wear a suit. To you sisters--no khaki skirts and flip flops. If you’ve got a dress, you wear a dress."
Now, listen to this principle he taught them: "It’s not about what you wear. It’s about a representation of your inner spiritual preparation.” And then he asked those 250 to spread the word to the student body. He continues:
"Tuesday, I walked onto the campus of Brigham Young University Idaho with 12,000 students. The devotional was at 2:00 in the afternoon. Every young man was in a sport coat or suit. Every young woman was in a dress."
He said: "When Elder Erying walked in to the Hart Auditorium and he saw these kids, he turned to me and he said, 'What is this?' And President Bednar said, 'Elder Eyring, this is for you. This is our invitation to be taught. We’re ready.' And Elder Eyring began to weep."
What a perfect example to testify to us that the Spirit is indeed influenced by the things we wear.
We Are His DaughtersThe third and most important “why” is found in the first few words of the Young Women Theme:“We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us.”
Understanding who we are, that we literally are daughters of our Heavenly Father, can and will change our perspectives in marvelous ways! We will be less concerned about who we are from the outside in, and more concerned about who we are from the inside out. Sister Dalton, in speaking of her own righteous mother, spoke this powerful sentence, “She understood who she was and whose she was.” I love how she put that!
To be sure, as our young women come to know with certainty whose they are, they will be “prepared to make and keep sacred covenants” in the House of the Lord. They will be prepared to properly and appropriately wear the sacred garments of the temple nd receive the promised protection therein.
Of course the adversary knows the promised blessings of protection that come to us as we dress modestly. And so of course, he does all he can to combat modesty. Understand that this is his plan, and he is ever so subtle, and ever so sneaky.
In a talk by Sister Elaine Dalton titled “A Return to Virtue,” Sister Dalton speaks about being poisoned by degrees. She recounts the story of Lehonti in the Book of Mormon who was well positioned on the top of a mountain. Amalickiah, the enemy leader, tricks Lehonti into coming down from the mount, and then has him poisoned by degrees until he dies.
She concludes: “Could it be that this may be happening today? Could it be that first we tolerate, then accept, and eventually embrace the vice that surrounds us? Could it be that we have been deceived by false role models and persuasive media messages that cause us to forget our divine identity? Are we, too, being poisoned by degrees?”
An experience comes to my mind where the adversary was carefully and craftily poisoning me by degrees. My daughter and I went school shopping. As we went into the first store I remember being literally shocked at the length of the skirts and shorts. As we looked around I decided that we had chosen the worst store first, and that from here on out we would find exactly what we were looking for.
So we left that store and headed to the next. And to the next. And to the next. As we went from store to store to store, the shorts and skirts weren’t getting longer--if anything, they were getting shorter. By the time we reached the end of the mall we were empty-handed, hungry, tired, discouraged, and our frustration was mounting.
Could it be that first we tolerate, then accept, and eventually embrace the vice that surrounds us? Are we, too, being poisoned by degrees?And that’s when my frustration turned to justification. “You know,” I thought to myself, "those skirts we saw back at the very first store were really not that bad. At least they were longer than anything else we’ve seen all afternoon."
But before I had a chance to say these thoughts out loud to my daughter, I realized what I was doing and where these thoughts were coming from. I was being poisoned by degrees!
I thought “Oh! You almost got me! But no way! I’m not falling for it!” I don’t know what was going on in my daughter's head or if she had just had the same battle in her mind, but all of the sudden she turned to me with a renewed sense of energy and said, “You know what, Mom, I’m fine! I don’t need any new clothes. The things I have at home are just great, and I will make them work!”
Can I just say, as we left that mall our hands were completely empty, but our hearts were full! We headed for the car feeling like we had won! We didn’t know what we had won, we both just knew we felt like winners!
I invite us to always remember that our bodies are a gift from God, even a temple. I invite us to remember that these temples house our spirits, and how we adorn them will determine the measure of the Spirit that we have with us. I invite us to remember who we are and whose we are.
And when all is said and done, may we express by our dress, and even declare by what we wear, that we love modesty, because our Father in Heaven loves modesty. I witness that He does love modesty. His promises to us, His daughters, are sure.