Reconsidering Modesty Lessons

"Immodest" girl in the Children's Songbook?
“Immodest” girl in the Children’s Songbook?

Many leaders are reticent to do a modesty activity with 8-11 year old girls, but they aren’t quite sure why. If any of these reasons resonate with you, rest assured that modesty activities are NOT required in the Activity Days program, and you are not alone in feeling that this topic is best left for an older age.

  • Elder Boyd K. Packer, in speaking about the moral values of modesty and virtue, said: “The responsibility and the right to teach these sacred [things] rest with the parents in the home. I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the public schools, nor is it the responsibility of the organizations of the Church. The contribution of the Church in this respect is to teach parents the standards of morality that the Lord has revealed.” (TeachYe Diligently [1975], 256).
  • Modesty is not mentioned in any of the Primary Manuals except the Faith in God booklet. It is also not mentioned in the Gospel Principles manual (used for teaching new members the most important church doctrines). I think it is safe to assume that modesty is not “core doctrine” that you should feel like you “have” to teach.
  • With only a few dozen activities a year, doing a modesty lesson may convolute the importance of this principle. Consider what other principles you could teach your girls that may be more important.
  • Clothing guidelines are mentioned in “For the Strength of Youth,” which is meant for 12 and up, not primary children. (You’ll notice there are many sleeveless and short-skirted children in the Primary Songbook!)
  • If you choose to do a “hemline modesty” activity (such as “head shoulders knees and toes” or making modest outfits out of newspaper), you are only introducing your girls to a small part of the definition of modesty. (LDS.org defines modesty as “an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior.”) At this age, Activity Days participants are just beginning to learn the meanings of important gospel principles, so we need to be accurate in our teaching of these principles (not overemphasizing one small aspect of modesty).
  • “Hemline modesty” activities may accidentally teach our girls that the most important part about modesty is exactly where the lines of clothing on their body are, instead of teaching them that the line in their heart is most important.
  • Modesty is an abstract concept that can be difficult for even adults to grasp. It cannot be boiled down to lines on a person’s body, and when we try to simplify it, young girls may get wrong assumptions about parts of their body (such as thinking that showing their shoulders is inherently sinful).
  • Girls in Activity Days are at the prime age for bullying (7 and 10-12 are the peak ages). Teaching girls a lesson that focuses on outer appearance not only contradicts scripture (1 Samuel 16:7), but it encourages them to judge others and be wary of other kids who are not dressed the same as they are.
  • Phrases like “Modest is Hottest” introduce ideas about sexuality that are not appropriate for eight year olds.
  • At this age, girls don’t have as much control over their wardrobe as teens do. Imagine that an investigator or recently reactivated family with little money brings their daughter to Activity Days and you do a modesty activity. The girl becomes self conscious about her wardrobe and expresses her concerns to her parents. Her parents can’t afford new clothes for her. She’s now too uncomfortable to return to Activity Days in her normal clothes.
  • If you do decide to teach hemline modesty despite it being meant for older groups, please consider including this quote: “Remember that even as we teach and exemplify modesty, we never condemn those who choose short skirts or rainbow hair. Always we exemplify compassion and Christlike love for the individual while we remain loyal to the standards the Lord has set.” Sister Carol F. McConkie First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency
Should someone tell this girl she is sinning by exposing her shoulders and upper legs? (Also from the Children's Songbook)
Should someone tell this girl she is sinning by exposing her shoulders and upper legs? (Also from the Children’s Songbook)
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