Banning Banyas

In my wild and crazy youthful days at BYU, I once considering writing a satirical essay entitled, “An Immodest Proposal.” This was in the midst of the frequent debates regarding short-length, single-strap backpacks for girls, and tight t-shirts. The proposal was that BYU require all students to be nudists. This would have had many benefits: the lustful would quickly have to overcome their tendency to lust or face immediately public embarrassment; we would all much more quickly come in line as regards the healthful living prescriptions of the Word of Wisdom/; and you would avoid seeing pride creep into the community as a result of rich and sumptuous attire. Sadly, it remained only an idea in my head and was never fully written or published.

I mention this because I have recently learned that the one place in my life where I was part of widespread nudity has, in the interim, been closed to missionaries. I speak, of course, of the Russian bath-house, or banya. Many cultures have their traditional bath-houses and each its own “ritualistic” approach to the bath-house. In Russia, one sits in a dry sauna that is very, very hot for as long as one can stand it. Then, you take a dip in a bath filled with freezing cold water. While it sounds terribly unpleasant, it really is quite refreshing (and to hear certain people tell the story, one could get a “banya buzz” from doing it).

Of course, you did all of this in the nude. In Russia, which has roughly European mores regarding nudity, there are many public bath-houses. In these anyone can walk in off the street and start undergoing the banya process. They are segregated to some degree (most will allow coed private parties, but aside from that there are men’s days and women’s days with sex appropriate attendants). Nonetheless, you could potentially find yourself mingling with the literally naked masses if you so desired.

Generally speaking, missionaries valued banyas first and foremost as sites for baptisms. We had no fonts in Russia when I was there and banyas were the only places (aside from rivers and lakes) where baptisms could take place. Missionaries would rent the banya for a private party, get there a little early to make sure there were no naked dawdlers at the baptism, attempt to solemnize the area by replacing the vodka ads with pictures from the Gospel Art Kit, and start playing hymns on the tape recorders. Of course, renting the banya itself could be a dangerous proposition. In my first area, my trainer was looking for a new banya for a baptism, because the one we usually went to was out of our area and relatively expensive. So he made an appointment for us to scout out a local banya. What the receptionist failed to tell him was that we would be attending on a “women’s day” and that they didn’t think they would have to shut the place down to give us a tour. So we were ushered into the common sauna area where we were shocked by a sea of pink female flesh. I have never again given my shoes such intense scrutiny.

The secondary use to which missionaries put the banya was bathing. Every now and again, a group of missionaries would pool funds and go to a banya. Once again, this was a strictly segregated gathering: only missionaries and only elders or sisters. Once again, everyone was naked. This was not merely a matter of conventionality. As one modest/unlucky elder discovered, wearing wet clothing in the banya actually makes it hotter where the cloth touches flesh. However, in the banya, I think that there are other equally important reasons for the universal nakedness. As someone who has always been uncomfortable with my body type, it was strange how little I thought about my looks (or the looks of the other missionaries) in the banya. We were all vaguely pink (there were few missionaries of color in my mission), we were all sweaty and smelly, and we were all just there. That’s all you can really do in a banya: just be there. It is way too hot to attempt anything else.

It was a way to take the strangeness and otherness of Russian culture and become a part of it. Our mission wasn’t a particularly easy mission (although it was, apparently, easier than the typical Western European mission). Our Mission President frequently offered general counsel on combating depression. Sitting in a banya with your fellow missionaries made you a brotherhood in a way.

I was saddened to hear that counsel has been given to LDS missionaries in Russia to stop going to banyas. I don’t know the reasons for the revised counsel and I am sure that there were good ones. I just remember that my own reasons for going were good, too. As a stranger in a strange land, it can be reassuring to note that your companions are as lost, sweaty, and naked as you are. It can make them your friends.

Comments

  1. Nudity is a cultural not a gospel paradigm. Modesty has a lot more to do with attitude than the clothes and I can imagine (and have experienced in the school showers) modesty while being nude.

    I think it is an unfortunate event when we place our culture in direct competition with the gospel and ask others to not only accept the gospel but also accept American culture.

    I lament the decision to discourage missionaries from going to the saunas or other such places, it just creates another barrier between them and the people they are trying to relate with.

  2. Zhalko! It’s such a cultural experienc! I’m sure they had good reason—but now I won’t get to hear anymore funny banya stories!
    It reminds me that a few weeks back my OB was trying to convince me to go to a coed nudist natural hot springs, and telling me how sexual it isn’t–like a banya. ok- he freaked me out a bit.
    Are missionaries allowed to go to the banya in Finland? Is the new rule specific to one mission? or all the Russian missions?

  3. KW,
    I want to be clear. Missionaries and members did not comingle in the banyas (even in the relative Haight-Ashbury period of my mission). Some of the barriers are there for a reason.

  4. mmiles,
    I am now trying to figure out if OB stands for old boyfriend or older brother. In either case, creepy!

    I believe that it applies to all Russian missions, but I am getting this third hand. Please, if anyone knows more specifics, let us know.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    KW: “Nudity is a cultural not a gospel paradigm”

    Is that so? Seems to me that nakedness has always been mentioned in forbidden tones in the scriptures. Is that just cultural?

  6. a random John says:

    As a stranger in a strange land

    Are you purposely making a pool pun here? (The protagonist in Stranger in a Strange Land spends much of the book at the bottom of a pool).

    If I had to guess there was either one really bad incident that led to this rule or no incidents at all and it is just a new leader’s reaction to a culture he isn’t entirely comfortable with. I doubt that there was a pattern of problems with missionaries at bath houses.

  7. JC

    obstetrician!

  8. arJ,
    I agree it was most likely one or the other (and I suspect the latter). Nonetheless, I believe the leadership to be inspired, so…

    mmiles,
    That is much, much creepier!

  9. Going to bathhouses (segregated by sex) was a pretty established part of the Japan missionary experience as well. I wonder if it’s been banned there.

    I don’t understand the rationale behind this move. There’s nothing in Church teachings against same-sex semi-public nudity, is there? Was there something about missionaries in Russia going to banyas that was causing other problems?

  10. Really– they should ban the circus from the realm of cultural activities in the Russian missions–or at very least emphasize that missionaries should make sure it is not topless night before taking GA’s with them!

  11. a random John says:

    I should add that I am sure that there was more misbehavior in the MTC showers than in any Russian banyas. The MTC showers should be banned.

  12. a random John says:

    mmiles,

    I hope you don’t mean your obstetrician. OBs say some creepy things, but that would take the cake.

  13. it can be reassuring to note that your companions are as lost, sweaty, and naked as you are.

    And when you come out of the freezing cold pool, it is reassuring to know that, as the Declaration of Independence says, all men are created equal.

  14. Nick Literski says:

    A Russian family in Seattle operates a popular banya. While it’s a bit pricey, it’s a wonderful experience—far more than your typical American sauna. I couldn’t imagine going there during a “co-ed” time, though!

  15. My experience over the years leads me to agree with rJ in #6 – and that there is a good chance it was a really bad event caused by one or two missionaries. Sometimes those can have far-reaching political effects if not addressed immediately and harshly. If it was an individual leader’s squeamishness, it will disappear as soon as another leader doesn’t share that squeamishness; if it was one incident, it might take years and years and years.

  16. According to my sources, the MTC showers or the “tree of life” has been done away with. They were still there during my stay in late 2001, but I heard from other missionaries who arrived in my mission over the next two years that they had been removed. I think it is the general phobia of any kind of homoerotic behavior. Same rationale exists for the rule of not sleeping in the same bed as your companion.

    It surprises me that so many missionaries would even participate in this activity. Not because it is wrong, but because Americans (and I am assuming that most missionaries in Russia are) are at least ambivalent if not extremely anxious about public nudity. The MTC showers were an uncomfortable experience for me (for completely non-homophobic reasons) and I think that banyas would have been too. But there are obviously many who feel much more comfortable with it than I would have.

  17. arJ #11

    You beat me to MTC showers punch! I was more naked with more others at the MTC than at any other time of my life. The communal showers always made the emphasis on modesty in the dorms ring very hollow.

  18. “I should add that I am sure that there was more misbehavior in the MTC showers than in any Russian banyas. The MTC showers should be banned.”

    That’s why I didn’t shower for the five weeks I was in the MTC.

  19. Funny how things change. The Church’s own Deseret Gym in SLC required men (but not women) to swim in the nude back in the day. Now the MTC had taken out the showers?

  20. They did away with the MTC showers? What were they replaced with? Separate stalls? Weird. I didn’t realize this was an issue for anyone. Mormons are even more repressed than I thought.

    I did see some very odd behavior at the MTC, though. It was the first time I ever witnessed the phenomenon known as the “blue flame” first hand.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    I never went to the MTC; what homoerotic behavior went on at (apparently the old) MTC showers?

    I went to Colorado on my mission, so no banyas. But one time several other elders came over and we snuck into our apartment complex pool (indoors) and went skinny dipping in the dark. Just one of the crazy things 19-year old boys will do without a lot of direct supervision.

    Our issues with public nudity seem to have gotten worse in this country. When I was a boy, sometime in junior high they started making you take a shower after gym class, and you were forced to learn all about jockstraps and deoderant. But apparently they don’t do that any more; I was shocked to learn that the contemporary culture is that high school kids don’t shower after gym class! This makes for some really funky classes later in the day, I’m sure.

  22. #5

    Is that so? Seems to me that nakedness has always been mentioned in forbidden tones in the scriptures. Is that just cultural?

    Not always, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed at one point I believe….

  23. In Finland, where sauna is can be a semi-spiritual activity and a must for same-sex bonding, it came a surprise to everyone when the missionaries were no longer allowed to indulge. (I should add that the number of public saunas is very low, as most people have access to one in their homes or apartment buildings.) This happened shortly after I moved here, around 2001 or 2002.

    Missionaries did sauna with members (including at the biannual ward Elders’ Quorum sauna evening), and it was a sign of how long an elder had been in the land whether he went with a bathing suit (ick) or naked like all of the guys he saw in suits every Sunday. Finnish sauna, ideally, is an indoor/outdoor thing, with dashes into a lake or the sea, and the place our ward goes is magnificent.The elders still come and eat sausages and try not to watch the men of the ward and stake frolic about.

    It was generally believed that baptism numbers would evaporate (pun completely intended) when they were not allowed to sauna with investigators. The number have gone down some, but other factors are possible explanations.

  24. The only thing I remember about the MTC bathroom/showers is that I thought it was funny that my companion left the water running the whole time he was brushing his teeth and shaving and he was the one who was from the desert. I don’t even remember the showers.

    Some school districts actually prohibit showering. Odd.

  25. Pope John Paul the Most Recent published a fascinating discourse entitled “Naked without Shame” – which formed the basic foundation of his theology of the body. It’s fascinating because it repudiated much of what the Catholic Church taught through the centuries. I listened to it and thought, quite often, “That’s what I’ve been taught all my life.” (It hasn’t been widely received and accepted, which is another discussion in and of itself relative to what the Church teaches and what many of us believe.)

  26. A. Nonny Mouse says:

    As of several years ago (6-7) there were several dorms at the MTC that had stalled showers, but several that still had the “tree of life” style gang showers. It’d be easy for missionaries to only see the stall-type showers if they lived in one of those dorms. Based on the architecture of some of the larger, newer buildings (large, open shower areas in the middle of the floor), I’d say it’d be pretty hard and somewhat costly from a plumbing perspective for them to be converted to stalled showers…

  27. I cannot speak for the MTC, as I haven’t been there in a while, but the showers in the Smith Fieldhouse and the RB continue to be open. The nudity of the locker-room continues to be a threat to those sensitive souls among us.

  28. StillConfused says:

    Slightly off topic but is it disrespectful to ask for “low rise” garment bottoms. Sometimes differing waistlines can make for awkward moments.

  29. It wasn’t till I was at the MTC and saw a 300 lbs. elder taking a shower in the “Trees of Life” that I finally found some confidence in my own body. That said, it would be a terrible idea for someone who is not a missionary to see one naked.

  30. The sisters showers in the MTC always were stalls (as far as I know)–it seems we are more squemish than the Elders.
    I only knew one sister who was terribly squeamish about the banya as a missionary. I’m pretty sure female squeamishness is very rarely from homophobia or homoeroticism, and almost always body insecurity. It appears thoough, that when we were in a culture that was less body obsessed, those inhibitions went away.

  31. Jacob

    “It wasn’t till I was at the MTC and saw a 300 lbs. elder taking a shower in the “Trees of Life” that I finally found some confidence in my own body. That said, it would be a terrible idea for someone who is not a missionary to see one naked.”

    Did you mean to see a 300 lb person? or a missionary? and if a missionary (which is what I think you meant) why?

  32. I recently had the opportunity to enjoy an “FKK” sauna in Austria. It was not only naked, it was mixed.

    Gasp.

    But you have to believe me that these places are distinctly asexual. That, plus everyone was old and wrinkly. (Not me, of course…)

  33. SC Taysom says:

    Ronan, do you mean to suggest that nudity and sexuality can be separated? What a shocking concept! :) Seriously though, lots of Americans have trouble um, uncoupling, the two subjects.

  34. mmiles
    It was an elder who weighed 300lbs. And we were taking a shower in the mtc. The showers there are two poles with about 6-8 showerheads sticking out in different directions from each pole. We used to call them the “Trees of Life”.

    I’ve been trying to heal my pshycological wounds ever since.

  35. Re: MTC Showers

    I know that some MTC buildings have always been stalled showers. However, my understanding is that the conversion was made to all buildings. My sources could be wrong about this. Somebody ask the missionaries in their ward.

    Kevin,

    nothing homoerotic went on the old MTC showers (to my knowledge) and that is exactly the point. They did away with them anyway…not that I am mourning the loss.

  36. I couldn’t imagine going there during a “co-ed” time, though!

    Nick,
    But all-male IS your co-ed time!!

    In Guatemala the indigenous peoples built tuks (pronounced tooke), little tiny mud huts in which they would have ridiculously hot sauna/baths. They’d steam and sweat out all the dirt and then rinse off. It’s a lovely way to bathe but you’d smell like smoke afterwards. We did it a bunch of times (with shorts on). Good times.

  37. #18 KyleM … that’s why the MTC classrooms stunk! Did you increase your salt intake too?

    “It was a way to take the strangeness and otherness of Russian culture and become a part of it.”

    This is the same reason why we went swimming in rivers near waterfalls and went snorkling in my mission … we wanted to be immersed in the culture. We’d also engage in the kiss-cheek-kiss-other-cheek greeting. Sometimes we’d let our kiss linger a little longer on beautiful women.

  38. Nick Literski says:

    Rusty,
    Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I want to see those OTHER “co-eds!” ;-)

  39. lamonte says:

    JDC – Four years ago this fall my wife and I spent two weeks in Russia visiting her younger sister and family. It was an AMAZING trip with so much to see in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. But of all the experiences I had, our visit to the banya the night before we left was one of the most memorable. I’m normally quite prudish when it comes to exposing my bare buns to anyone, even a bunch of guys, but I soon got over it. It was exhilerating and I lost 3 pounds that night (I have a lot more to lose). And afterwords I slept like a baby! I can’t imagine anyone objecting to anyone – even missionaries – enjoying such a great experience.

  40. The good ol’ Tree of Life showers. My MTC district draped bedsheets across the entrance to the group showers, thereby creating our own sauna. We brought chairs in and spent countless hours in the middle of the night buck naked in our homemade sauna. Those were some of the most relaxing times during my 8-week stay at the MTC.

  41. A friend of mine from my district would lather himself up and go shower bowling (sliding on his butt into all the missionaries huddled around the shower trees, knocking them all over). Hilarious stuff.

  42. a random John says:

    What Rusty describes is what happened in my district. Well, that and clogging the drains to have several inches of water to do this in. I did not participate. I found it to be a revolting mix of immature and gay. Nothing against immature people or gay people, but it wasn’t for me.

    I have a hard time imagining that there was more weirdness going on with missionaries in Russian bath houses than in the MTC bathrooms.

  43. Nick Literski says:

    #42: random john:
    So, you have nothing against “immature people” or “gay people,” but a mixture of the two is revolting? ;-)

    Okay, seriously, I get the idea that you’re talking about your MTC district, and that you’re describing the behavior of immature 19 year old missionaries (is there any other kind of 19 year old?) as “gay.” You don’t *really* want to go there, do you?

  44. Especially when Steve has a man-bag.

  45. with a rat-dog inside.

  46. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    Sometimes I wonder what aspects of the Nephite/Lamanite culture we would culturally disapprove of, were we to somehow know of them. If the Book of Mormon describes a Mesoamerican area, as many believe, then I’m quite certain that they would have differing ideas on modesty, nakedness, and sexuality than us modern (American) Saints.

  47. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    However, I suppose that wasn’t quite the point of the post. I have heard of certain sauna experiences where one is both splash with icy water and is hit with wooden sticks during the experience; it is supposed to be a very relaxing and almost spiritual experience. I have never seen a sauna in such a way. Perhaps there is more to the old saying than meets the eye: Cleanliness is next to godliness.

  48. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 41

    FWIW, I can’t think of anything less gay than the “shower bowling” you describe.

    And what on earth is the “blue flame” ???

  49. Mike–

    Suffice it to say, the gasses emitted by flatulence are flammable.

  50. Mike, I had the same question, but I didn’t dare ask.

    FWIW, I can’t think of many things less mature than shower bowling – other than calling it gay. :-)

  51. Mark IV says:

    This thread sort of reminds me of an Aaronic priesthood class or YM campout. We are fifty comments deep, and I don’t think a single female has contributed.

    We’ve covered shower bowling, blue flames, and missionaries sneaking around at night so they can go skinny dipping. Can I just say that I love you all? Or is that too homoerotic?

  52. nmiles (#2, #7 & #30 – the obvious female comments) – I apologize for Mark’s oversight of your contribution to this thread – if you still are reading it. :-)

  53. Mark IV says:

    mmiles,

    I beg your pardon – what an embarrassing oversight. Now you know what secret works and combinations are carried out behind the closed doors of priesthood meeting.

    Ray, thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  54. a random John says:

    Nick (43),

    Do I really want to go there? No, not with you.

    If you haven’t paid enough attention to my comments on various threads to know where I stand on your pet issues to not take offense at my comment then you’re a less careful reader than I had thought.

  55. Nick Literski says:

    No offense taken, John. :-)

  56. Jordan F. says:

    I am definitely squeamish about public nudity. I always hated the mandatory shower after gym class. In the MTC, our dorm had two “handicapped” showers that had individual stalls with curtains. I always got up at least an hour before anyone else just to make sure I could use one of those rather than a “tree of life” shower.

    I am sorry to hear that the banyas have been banned, if it truly was a source of innocent enjoyment for missionaries. Had I gone to Russia or Finland, though, I probably would have felt extremely uncomfortable being nude in a sauna with other missionaries. Not because of homoeroticism or anything like that, more just because I have never felt comfortable being naked around other people.

  57. Jordan, I appreciate your frank comments and your “live and let live” attitude. Nudity is something of a taboo in our culture and I understand your reluctance to participate with others. I, along with some others here, see nudity and sexuality as two distinct issues. The fact that multi-generational families enjoy being in the sauna together in the buff is something that can only help bring about unity and improve children’s image of their bodies.

  58. The issue of sexuality and nudity is a fascinating one. My wife and I are WAY more open about these things with our children than our parents were with us, but we still encourage strict observance of the Law of Chastity and adherence to the standards of modesty taught by the Church. We draw a very clear distinction between what is acceptable within the confines of our home and what is appropriate in public.

    (Don’t read too much into that statement; we don’t live in our own familial nudist colony. And, yes, I fully expect some interesting responses to that sentence. And, no, this comment will never appear in any talk I give in church.)

    [I wonder if openly stating the expectation will keep it from happening.]

  59. It’s funny that it’s brought up. I was raised out of the US so that means nudity doesn’t mean anything sexual at all to me. My wife was raised in Utah, so she obviously doesn’t agree.

    I never cease to be amazed by america where watching shows about murder and cops and robbers and violence are just fine but show the possibility of someone being naked on TV and everyone’s like “ZOMG ALERT TEH CONGRESS!!” Likewise a movie can have hundreds of deaths, gallons of blood, a fair amount of obsecnity and it’s PG-13, but show a nipple and it’s R rating for you! I mean come on, everyone’s seen one, heck everyone’s got two, some even more. The whole juxtaposition is an endless source of amusement. My wife never understands why I laugh so much at it. But it is really funny.

  60. Ray, one of the things my wife and I have is basically an “open door” policy in our house. Kids walk in on us in the shower or changing all the time. All kids notice is that their parents are naked and okay with their bodies. We only hope that they will feel comfortable with their bodies as a result.

    When my oldest daughter was born I couldn’t change her diaper without feeling uncomfortable about seeing her “private parts”. I realized that the problem was me, not my daughter, and it had to do with the way I saw the body and its parts as objects, not a part of the soul. After a short period of time I got over my hangups. Going against the culture is tough (our Victorian ancestors even turned a woman’s ankle into a sexual body part), but liberating too.

  61. aye carumba.

  62. ronito, I agree completely. Our movie rating system is one of the stupidest aspects of our warped culture. I have less concern about the nudity in some R-rated movies than the sexuality in most PG-13 movies – although I follow the counsel to not watch R-rated movies simply as an outward sign of my acceptance of prophetic counsel. (That’s a separate issue for a separate discussion, so I don’t want to threadjck this one.)

    KW, we have exactly the same policy in our house. I could have typed your first paragraph without changing a single word. The only addition is that if a door is shut, a knock is required before entering. If it is locked, a knock is forbidden. If it is locked, and if there is an emergency, a raised voice or scream works better, anyway.

  63. Good to see you agree, Steve. (not “nay carumba”)

  64. If I ever happen to be naked (and drunk) in my tent and my children become aware, we typically handle it along these lines: One of my sons sees me and tells two other sons, who take a garment on their shoulders and backstep into the tent to cover my nakedness, all the while averting their eyes. When I eventually come around (with a vicious headache and my clothes on inside-out), I curse one of the sons of the son that espied me nude and reported it to his brothers.

  65. For some reason I’m now thinking of Dana Carvey’s stand-up routine, where he talks about his children’s “naked time!” Of course, the comment by gst makes me think of that same stand-up routine, only he says that his (Dana Carvey’s) old and senile dad who wants to participate in “naked time”! Thanks, gst!

  66. Eric Russell says:

    Since when does an appreciation for modesty mean that one is uncomfortable with his or her body? I don’t buy for a second that being or seeing more nudity is something that will “improve children’s image of their bodies” or make people “feel comfortable with their bodies as a result.”

  67. Really? Cause I don’t buy for a second that modesty does that either.

  68. Eric Russell says:

    ronito, I’m not making that claim.

  69. I’ve always believed that openness in discussing the topic combined with adherence to a moral standard is what produces the desired result – no matter how much non-gratuitous exposure is involved. (Gratuitous exposure is a different issue entirely. Please don’t make this a discussion of gratuitous nudity. I abhor that.)

    In case I wasn’t clear, I grew up completely comfortable with the body (my own and generically) without exposure to nudity; my own children are just as comfortable with limited exposure. I would never argue that kids need more exposure to nudity – that such exposure is necessary. My #58 didn’t mean to imply that, and I apologize if that was the impression.

    What I meant to emphasize is that public adherence to standards of modesty and the Law of Chastity don’t necessitate prudishness about nudity. We can be open and unashamed about nudity without encouraging it – and without sacrificing modesty and chastity.

    There is a natural tension between nudity and sexuality. It is a component of our collective mortality that is dangerous to ignore. I just choose to separate the two in private, controlled situations, which is why I enjoyed the Japanese bath houses whenever we visited them on my mission. They were invigorating and relaxing – and not embarrassing to me even though my parents weren’t “open” about nudity, at all. The key, IMO, is that they weren’t hyper-sensitive about it, either. I never once heard my parents denigrate the body or nudity or sexuality, because they simply didn’t talk about it. My wife and I, OTOH, talk about these things whenever they come up naturally, and our children are much like we were when all is said and done. Again, IMO, it’s not about the “quantity” of exposure (within limits and types) but rather the “quality” – or the lack of “negative quantity”.

  70. Last sentence should have said “rather the quality of discussion – or the lack of negative quality”. Sorry for the typo; really changes the meaning.

  71. re: Mark’s 51 – What would a woman want to contribute to the thread at that point? Let’s see, “Men can be such immature jerks.” Is that the type of comment you want, Mark? :]

    Now that the conversation has turned from the “tree of life”, “shower bowling” and the “blue flame” you might get more female commenters. Maybe not, if they already decided this is a thread for immature jerks and don’t read the new comments. :]

  72. Calling immature people jerks for simply being immature sounds rather immature, and jerk-y.

  73. Joshua A. says:

    One of the first things that God did for Adam and Eve was to make them clothes to “hide their nakedness.” You silly Greeks…

  74. Mi, I thought your comment was hilarious, especially since you added the smiley face – of which I am far too fond. (Consider this penance in advance for future uses.)

    Yes, Joshua, but who pointed it out and told them to hide? Who associated it with shame? (That’s as far as I will go with that discussion.) Whether you take the depiction as literal or figurative, it makes perfect sense to cover their nakedness as they leave their private paradise and embark into the world. I know clothes would be about the last thing on my mind if I were on a deserted island with my wife and I knew there was no way anyone else would ever discover the island.

  75. Joshua A. says:

    I’ll just go with the scriptures on this one…
    They didn’t know good and evil, and “were naked and not ashamed.” They eat the fruit, and it says that the first thing that they noticed once their eyes were opened is that they were naked. Then, a few verses later, God doesn’t ask them, “Who told you that being naked was bad?” He asks, “Who told you that you’re naked?” Then, when the dust of the many cursings settles, God makes them their garments of skin (or light, depending on your reading). Following, in the next verse (Gen 3:22), God says that they have become as God, “to know good and evil” (and I’ll leave it to a real Hebrew scholar, if there be one on this board, to discuss whether “to know” means that they already knew or that they could be taught–I won’t venture a guess). If, however, they knew good and evil and therefore recognized that their nakedness, at least before God, was cause for discomfort…

    Overall, I think that a plain reading of the scriptures speaks against nudism and nudism-lite. Interesting how Adam and Eve made aprons for themselves even before they knew God was coming… They were married, after all. Even had their mutual nudity caused an erotic reaction, that’s not a bad thing, right? No…Their eyes were opened and they recognized the good in clothing themselves.

    From a different point of view, think of it like the whole “secret/sacred” thing. Everyone knows (more or less) what you have under your clothes. Nonetheless, God has seen fit to clothe certain parts of our bodies. Certainly, the “philosophies of men” (Victorian prudishness, for example) has been intermingled with divine mandate and can be discarded. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Or, more specifically, don’t destroy the law in your zeal to cut down the hedge.

    Anyone with “holy envy” for Hanukkah want to help me explain what I meant with the Greek comment?

  76. Jacob (72) – You’re right; I did sound a bit immature and jerk-y. I should have said, “Men can be so immature. (And so can women.)”

    Having said that, this topic really could be addressed without any of the shower bowling, blue flame type comments.

    :] …so nobody takes offense because none is intended.

  77. whoinventedfreeride says:

    I find the topic regarding the relationship between sexuality and nudity extremely interesting. I think Mormons (including myself) can greatly benefit from an extended discussion of this topic.

    Anyway, after reading these comments all day, I want to add my two cents.

    I was raised in an extremely conservative LDS environment. My parents never spoke openly about nudity, sexuality, or even the anatomical differences between boys and girls. My mom is so steeped in her own Victorian upbringing, that she is unable to use words like “Penis.” Growing up, such anatomical objects, when addressed, were only addressed by their pet names, such as “wee wee.” To reaffirm just how seldom my parents addressed things of the body, I did not know anything about female menstruation until the fifth grade. To put this into added perspective, I had two older sisters, and I still knew nothing about this topic. It was only in my fifth grade maturation program did I finally know about such things. I can still remember that day, and let me tell you, it totally blew my mind. The teacher might as well have stood up and announced that Martians have just crash landed on earth. I was flabbergasted.

    Anyway, seventh grade rolled around and I began attending a junior high school that demanded all students to take showers after gym class. I know it sounds psycho, but the gym teacher required all of us to either shower after class, or bring in a note from our parents excusing us from public showering. Due to my extremely conservative upbringing, I was not looking forward to showering with other people. I found such a proposition extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. There was no way I was going to shower with a bunch of other guys, and there was no way in hell I was going to ask my parents for such a note.

    So time went on and I never brought a note to class. I was worried the teacher would stand by the showers and take roll of who was and who wasn’t showering. He never did. Nonetheless, after skipping the post-class shower ritual for the first week, I decided it wasn’t worth not showering anymore. Despite my embarrassment regarding public showering, going to the rest of my classes without showering was equally as embarrassing. As the next class came to a close, I took a shower with everyone else. Guess what? It was no big deal. If anything, it was strangely therapeutic. Showering with a bunch of other guys helped me be less self conscious about myself and more importantly, less anxious about being a teenager going through puberty.

    While still in junior high I began swimming competitively with a local swim club. I swam upwards of five and six hours a day. This is something I did right up until I went on a mission. Sometimes workouts were held in the morning and in the evening. After each work out, there was always a group shower. Most of my workouts happened at a public pool. In the pool locker room there was always a variety of both old and young men showering together. At this time in my life, I didn’t find anything about being naked in front of other guys personally embarrassing anymore. If anything, it continued to be therapeutic. We should never feel uncomfortable in our own skin, even when naked.

    Anyway, I went off to college, served a mission, came home, and a couple years later I was married. I held on to the law of chastity and was still a virgin as my wedding night approached. As I’m sure it is the case with most pre-marital LDS folks, I was excited to get married and very excited to finally have sex. I looked forward to a night filled with unabashed nudity and intercourse.

    And thankfully, on my wedding night, that did happen. However, I do remember a little hesitance on my wife’s part regarding her own nudity. Considering my own history of showering publicly with other guys ever since I was eleven years old, I was far too removed from any notion of personal modesty–even when it came to being naked in front of my new wife–to fully understand her plight. I was caught up in the “I’m about to have sex for the first time” moment, and forgot about my own nudity and how I was already desensitized to being nude in front of others. For a brief moment I was confused why my wife didn’t rip her own clothes that night and say something like, “alright, let’s get it on!” I have since come back to reality. I’m not saying her reaction was anything abnormal, but it did make me thing about how a conservative-Victorian-puritanical culture–a culture that is undeniably prevalent in our own church culture–can definitely influence our own sexual perspectives.

    I have since been married for over half a decade, and in that time I have enjoyed the fine experience of having my fair share of marital sex. In my youth I had never looked at porn, had never seen female breasts other than a few brief flashes here and there in movies, and (I’m a little embarrassed to admit this) I had never seen a vagina until the night of my wedding. As you may have guessed, I was really enjoying things right after we were married. At that time I was firmly convinced that sexuality and nudity were inextricably intertwined.

    But as time went on, I began to see for the first time that nudity and sex are related, but not absolutely related, only certain facets of nudity and sexuality are related. I believe this is a philosophical issue that is very important for Mormons to come to terms with. I’ll get to why this is so important a little later.

    As time went on, I began to see my wife’s nakedness as something beautifully human and not something entirely destined only to turn me on. At first, for reasons I’ve already established, whenever I saw my wife naked, I simply wanted to have sex. I don’t see this as something wrong or something I should be ashamed of or anything like that. It’s simply how things worked out for me. I brought this up to help illustrate the following: Because most of us (at least the people most likely reading this blog) have been raised in conservative-modest-Mormon-America we’re not very used to human nudity. Because of this, whenever we see nudity (at least this is the case with guys) we immediately think of sex, at least if we’re not accustomed to nudity. For some, it is finally in marriage that they can finally acclimatize themselves to nudity. At least this was the case with me. Now that I’ve had my fair share of sex, nudity doesn’t strike me the same way. I don’t think this is a bad thing, I think it is healthy and totally normal.

    So, where am I going with all of this? I’m sure those of you who have made it this far into my post are asking that question. Well it boils down to this: I can’t help but think that the current issue of pornography addiction among male members is somehow related to our ultra-conservative/puritanical roots regarding nudity. I can’t blame those who look at porn for not having any valid reasons, as I’m sure they’re extremely curious about the female body. Like I said, I had never seen the wonders below the female waistline until I was married. I can only imagine, that for some, curiosity overtakes them, and they resort to the only viable source of sexual information for men: pornography. I find it interesting that as much as our priesthood leaders talk about the evils of pornography, they never say anything else about it other than the fact that we all should practice total avoidance. I want to be very clear here: pornography is inherently wrong in the way that it objectifies women as nothing more than sex objects. This is the problem with pornography; it objectifies the sexual aspect of nudity. Pornography highlights the sexual nature of nudity while obscuring its other facets. I am by no means advocating its use by talking openly about pornography. It is absolutely wrong and offensive. However, we cannot ignore how pornography serves as a glaring antithesis to our unusual avoidance of nudity as religious Americans. This may be the key to why it’s so tempting for some.

    So, then, the question becomes this: would there be such a pornography problem among members if we were more accustomed and used to nudity? Maybe occasional mixed public nudity should be part of a normal life experience. Perhaps we as American Mormons find nudity as glaringly sexual because we lack non-sexual nudity in our day-to-day lives. If there is anybody reading this who has grown up in country other than the United States, especially where public nudity is more the norm that otherwise, or anyone who had an unusually non-Victorian upbringing, I’d like to hear their response to my posited relationship with modesty and pornography. Does the problem of pornography affect other cultures as much as priesthood leaders indicate it does in American Mormon culture?

  78. wifr,
    Great post. I am reminded of a recent study that said that more than 70% of cell web use in Saudi Arabia is used for pornography.

    I definetly think that there is a bit of romeo and juliet syndrome in it (meaning you want it because it’s forbidden). Why else would such a huge rate of pornography use exist in a land where women must wear incredibly modest clothes by law?

    Like I said I was raised outside of the US largely and because of that I got used to nudity as not being a sexual thing and see little wrong with it. I can’t say for sure about your hypothesis, but I do know that studies show that evangelical christian men view pornography a few percentage points higher than non-religious men. And certainly as a parent I’ve come to learn that the best way to ensure curiosity from my kids about something is to tell them not to do it and not tell them why.

    I have no qualms in deriding the puritan influences in Mormondom. I think they harm more than they help.

  79. Interesting article, but factually off: The traditional Russian banya has steam – it is not dry like a sauna. Also, the venik is very important to the ritual. Maybe missionaries have been discouraged from attending because of the appearance of flagellation in combination with nudity, or maybe the fact that in Russian folk tradition banyas were used for divination and seances?

  80. Here is one scripture that shows nudity in regular life by the first president of the church.

    John (21:7) Simon Peter, after hearing from his fellow fishermen in the boat that Jesus was standing on the beach, “girded himself, for he was naked, and threw himself into the sea” (literal translation).

  81. And let’s not forget Saul and his followers took of all their close and ran around prophesying.

  82. #76 Mi – I wasn’t offended. I just wanted to see if I could make an extraordinarily convoluted sentence that was also very brief. That, and since I participated in the “tree of life” stuff. . .

  83. Joshua A. says:

    As to the scripture in John: So Peter was working in the buff…And your point is what? That you think it’s okay to go to work naked? Actually, in certain occupations (and at certain times) I’m sure that it is entirely appropriate-an abalone diver in Cabrillo’s California, for instance. Not so much for a 21st-century accountant. A lifeguard isn’t going to dress the same for work as a lawyer. In Simon’s case, he would also be under an obligation as a devoted Israelite to wear sacred clothing, but was obviously not at that time–I would guess that this was because of a rabbinic ruling excepting members of the fishing profession from being dressed while they plied their trade. Interesting, though, how the author makes the specific point that Simon dressed himself as soon as he recognized to whom he was speaking, even though he planned on getting into the water.

    As far as Saul…What I’m reading (1 Samuel 19) only has Saul–who in very few cases should be held up as an example of the good and right–with his “close” off. Nor do I see anything about running around. Further, I’m struggling with the idea that a decidedly wicked (by this point anyway) man with the intent to murder in his heart was completely overcome with the Spirit to the point of true prophesy. More likely, Saul was severely unstable mentally. On the other hand…Even if we just took the whole chapter at face value, it demonstrates what? That the various religiously prescribed clothing can be discarded because a crackpot king–who was not in any way a religious leader–stripped down?

    Sorry, I certainly didn’t mean to spoil anyone’s fun in the banya. I’m just acting in my self-appointed role of “keeping it real,” and this thread needed a serious dose of that.

  84. I agree with Joshua that the example of Paul only illustrates the difference between the acceptability of “private” or “controlled” nudity and the unacceptability of “public” nudity. Having said that, I think the real point from that example, as it relates to the original post, is that a single-sex banya is very similar to Paul’s boat – a controlled environment where nudity is perfectly acceptable.

    Again, I can envision any number of scenarios where I could understand and support a ban, but the nudity within the banya is not one of them.

  85. I don’t know if its still allowed, but in the Korea Seoul Mission in the late ’80s, a popular P-Day activity was going to the mog-yok-tang, the Korean version of a bathhouse. Many older homes in Korea do not have bathing/showering facilities, so these bathhouses were all over the place. They were segregated, so no one considered them to be a problem. There were hot baths and cold baths, plus shower areas, both standing and sitting (a bit bizarre to sit on a small stool and shower). For the adventurous, one could pay extra for a man to scrub several layers of skin off with a loofa.

    There are several humorous missionary stories that come out of the mog-yok-tang experience. However, most are not appropriate for this forum. I can say that the Korean men were shocked at some of the physical differences between them and the naked Americans standing next too them. My favorite story was when one Elder was sitting in the hot pool, kicked back with his eyes closed. Next thing he knows, a Korean gentlemen is rubbing his chest hairs (definitely a novelty among the mostly hairless Koreans) and repeatedly saying “Happy Birthday” — the only English he knew.

    I echo the comments that such experiences create a sense of brotherhood. Besides my missionary experiences, having spent several years in the Army showering publicly with every type of person under the sun — the feeling is once-I’ve-seen-you-naked-you-must-be-OK. Nothing like showering with your boss, discussing the day’s business.

  86. IconoclastDX says:

    This discussion is especially interesting considering that we will all be naked in afterlife. If you know all things, there really isnt much of a reason to hang celestial textiles over your body – other than fashion, which doesn’t really jive with the economy of God Im familiar with. But who knows. Maybe you’ll have to keep a few loose fitting robes in the closet for going out.

  87. tildatiger says:

    Here’s a comment from a female, non-mormon, non-US citizen for you!

    I’m from Sweden, a country famous (or should that be infamous?) for its more relaxed attitude regarding nudity. Although the images your brains might be dragging up right now (probably influenced by “informational” films from the 60s) aren’t representative, it is true that Swedes in general are able to separate sexual nudity and non-sexual nudity.

    We have public bath-houses, public saunas, mandatory showers in school and all such things mentioned in previous posts. Naked children bathing in a pool in the frontyard is no problem. Nudity in television shows and films does not cause censorship or age restrictions, only sexuality does, and even then, violence is considered worse than sexuality (the only exception being sexuality coupled with violence or other unpleasantness, of course). So, I think we have our heads on straight.

    Or, we HAD our heads on straight, I should say. I’m responding to the question about obsessive pornography watching (reading? viewing?). Of course, there has always been curious teenagers and probably some bored husbands consuming such magazines and rental movies. With the introduction of wide-spread Internet porn, there was an explosion of porn watching, but then people seemed to lose interest in it (with the exception of some addicts, and of course, new teens). There is also, I should add, a whole lot of frank sex talk in daily papers and it is almost impossible to keep kids out of the loop. Sex education is absolutely mandatory, which has lead to many good things. But I don’t want to lose track of what I was going to say.

    Lately, I’ve spotted a subtle change in Swedish society. I think I can trace it to three sources: 1. The amount of American media gushing through tv-channels and other outlets (we’re bound to pick up ideas and notions).
    2. The fact that the Swedish population is no longer made up by an over-whelming majority of white, protestant, liberal, “genetic” Swedes, but is now very much a mix of cultures and religions.
    3. The pedophilia/rape scare that is part real, part pumped up by media.

    This change means that people in general are less tolerant towards nudity than they were just a few years ago, especially when it comes to children. I have to say, I found it ridiculous when I visited my cousins in Brazil and found that two-year-old girls were required to cover their “breasts” with swim-wear instead of frolicking naked or at least in bikini bottoms only. But if I take a hard look at myself, I know that I ask my 5-year-old daughter to put on a shirt, no matter how warm and sweaty she might be, if she leaves our garden to go to a neighbor and play. Now, I’m 28, so it wasn’t that long ago that I ran around naked as a 10-year-old, without anyone raising an eyebrow. I don’t want my children to have a different, more constrained childhood than my own, but I look around and realize that my kids would be the only shirtless 10-year-old girls in town, and I cant’ do that to them. So I’m reluctantly drawn into this backwards development, even contributing to it myself by involuntarily setting standards for familes around me with kids younger than mine.

    This process is taking place all over Sweden and as a twin process, porn is again becoming more and more fascinating it seems, as sexuality is pressed onto more and more displays of nudity. We’re probably never going to be just like Americans, thanks to afore-mentioned bath-houses, sex ed and such. But we are moving in the wrong direction.

    On a related note (and PLEASE be aware that this is only the sad, sad facts, NOT a display of overt or covert racism): Sweden has been plagued in the past few years by group rapes, mostly teen boys ganging up on singled out teen girls. Statistics show (and this is much used by extremist, neo-nazi scum trying to pass legislation against immigration into Sweden) that most of these rapes are committed by immigrants with roots in religions that sexualize nudity and make the female body a mystery.

    I’m not against religion, and I’m certainly not against immigration. I do, however, wish that people would see the relation between a more relaxed attitude towards nudity and lower levels of obsession with “the forbidden” aspects of sexuality, be it pornography, pedophilia och rape (please note that I don’t deem them all equally horrid).

    Wow, I REALLY don’t know how to keep things short! But there you go, my two dollars! :D

  88. The MTC showers were an uncomfortable experience for me (for completely non-homophobic reasons) and I think that banyas would have been too. But there are obviously many who feel much more comfortable with it than I would have.

    Why is this? When I was a teenager as well as in the MTC, same sex nudity was not the least bit strange. It was just part of showers after PE, showers and changing after swimming, as well as changing for any type of athletic event. Why do teenagers of recent years feel it strange to see others of the same sex nude.

  89. The communal showers always made the emphasis on modesty in the dorms ring very hollow.

    Do you consider showering with others of the same sex somehow immodest. This type of declaration is very strange to me. I repeat, when I was in the MTC I used the communal showers and there was nothing at all strange about it, much less anything immodest. My advice, “grow up, it’s just a body”.

  90. tildatiger, Thank you for that perspective. It was long, but it was valuable – and a good “outside” addition to the discussion. If you always are that articulate and reasonable, I would welcome hearing more from you on other topics.

  91. John Williams says:

    tildatiger,

    Thanks for your comment. Your viewpoint as a non-Mormon Swede is indeed interesting. I think you make some good points but I think there is a lot of value in modesty.

  92. #85, Seattle and Tacoma each have at least 1 mog-yok-tang for women. Do you know if they are common in other large cities of the US? A hot and cold soak and a body scrub leave you feeling like a polished marble and completely at peace.

  93. JonInLA says:

    #92: I haven’t actually looked around. Living in Los Angeles, you’d think I’d have checked out Koreatown.

  94. A Real Skinny Dipper says:

    I completely agree with #77.

    For a long, long time I had a problem with porn. One day last year I came across a “christian” Skinny Dipping website. A lot of things they said made something go “click” in me. I prayed about it and I came to realize that there isn’t anything wrong with chaste nudism. I have attended several co-ed nudist events with my wife (and with-out her) and we have enjoyed them a lot.

    Here is the main point – after a few months, I realized that porn was not affecting me like before. It seemed so fake. For me, joining in nudist activities has re-wired my brain – allowing me to see women for what they are and porn for what it is.

    I know the “church” probably frowns on any co-ed nudism, but I firmly believe that this is a culture thing and not a gospel thing.

  95. Wow! What an interesting discussion. In particular I was interested in the comments by Norbert (#23), who lives in Finland, and the girl from Sweden (#87). I served a mission in Finland and weekly visits to the sauna – nude, of course – were one of the highlights of my mission. They were refreshing, almost spiritual times for relaxing, bonding, and just enjoying life. They were also great times to get to know members, during the few times I had the privilege of using the sauna with church members (men). It was great.

    I had heard shortly after I left that missionaries now had to be clothed in the sauna, which is ridiculous, and then Norbert said that it has since been forbidden. This makes me truly and deeply sad, for it tells how the church views foreign cultures and practices, and how much it distrusts its members and missionaries. Sauna is a harmless practice that I believe is CRUCIAL for missionaries to be a part of in order to appear at least somewhat normal and open-minded to the Finns. Plus, it’s wonderfully fun and feels great.

    The comments from the Swede are fantastic, and show how lame our American hang-ups about nudity are, and show that our notions of rampant and crude sexuality and eroticism in Europe is probably wrong. On the contrary, their openness and level of comfort with nudity probably makes nudity in our American movies seem kind of silly, and probably contributes to healthier attitudes.

  96. I’m surprised no-one’s challenged the Adam and Eve comments. They all conveniently leave out / gloss over some key points:

    1) God created Adam and Eve naked. He did not give them clothes. Why not give them clothes from the get-go if nudity is “evil”? In fact, if nudity is evil, how could Adam and Eve be in an “evil” state and “innocent” at the same time? Possible rebuttal: they had no knowledge of the evil. But that still begs the question, why would God plant them in an evil state to begin with?

    2) What precipitated Adam and Eve making aprons? Yes, they felt shame. But who put the shame in them? The answer’s in the temple endowment. Hence God’s question: “Who told thee thou wast naked?” In other words, “I did not put shame over nakedness in you. Who put this thought in your head?”

    3) Yes, God gave them clothes. But this doesn’t automatically mean that nakedness is evil. Possible reasons for the clothes: For their comfort, since they now felt shame at being naked. For protection, since they’d now be among thorns and thistles and bad weather. So they would have a garment, to remind them of the atonement. I’ve got to believe the clothes were mostly for practical reasons, not for “modesty” reasons. Does anyone really believe it was it to hide their bodies from each other? They were married!

    And let’s not forget comment #19. Many years ago, the old Deseret Gym REQUIRED men to swim nude. So that this point isn’t lost, you’ve got to understand who used this pool. All of the general authorities in the first half of the 20th century – prophets, apostles, seventies …

    I’m also not a fan of the “sacred not secret” argument. Temples are “sacred not secret”, but do we throw a tarp over them? The sacred portion is on the inside. Likewise, the only one allowed “inside” of the sacred parts of me is my wife.

    In the end, there simply isn’t any authoritative, doctrinal writing that says that nakedness is evil per se.

    I don’t parade around in my skin, but at the same time I don’t believe my skin is evil. I’ll even go so far as to say that if I utter a prayer in my heart while I’m standing in the shower, God will hear it. He won’t hesitate to look down at me; and he’ll see my soul, not my skin. Isn’t that what we all should be striving for?

    Joshua A from comment #75 reminds me a lot of my parents. You know what they get? Girls who feel ashamed to look at their own bodies in the mirror, who won’t let their husbands see them naked after years of marriage, who still feel like sex is “dirty”. That’s really messed up.

  97. A few more scriptures:

    Isaiah 20:2 – At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

    Romans 14:14 – I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

    Titus 1:15 – Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

  98. As much as I hate to throw a blanket over this nude fest, modern prophets have given considerable council regarding dressing modestly. This does seem to involve wearing clothes. I don’t believe that people should be chiding others because of assertions that clothing is, in fact, appropriate.

    I don’t think we should hate our bodies either, but I don’t necessarily believe that hanging around in the nude is the only or best solution to that particular problem.

  99. Nobody said we should join a nude fest or not be modest. I completely agree we should.

    But that’s a very different thing than saying nudity is evil. Sorry, bodies aren’t evil. Adam and Eve weren’t evil before the Lord gave them clothes. My toddler’s not evil when he jumps out of the tub and goes zipping around the house in his pink skin. General authorities aren’t evil if they go for a dip in the Deseret Gym pool in the mandatory attire. You’re not evil if you bask naked in a sauna.

    You hit the nail on the head. It’s about modesty which, incidentally, doesn’t mean “full-body coverage”. Modesty refers to conduct and attitude. We carry ourselves appropriately and present ourselves appropriately. In Sacrament Meeting, that means in respectful, reverent attire. On the beach that means something that doesn’t flaunt your sexuality. In the sauna that can mean your skin, as long as your actions and attitudes remain modest.

  100. John, I’m a little confused. Are you saying it is immodest to bathe without clothing? We are talking about Banyas, saunas, etc., not church. Modesty has a lot more to do with drawing attention to yourself or “sexualizing” your body parts than it does to dealing with “nudity” per se. I would say a man is immodest wearing a tuxedo to church for example as he would be drawing attention to himself. A swimming suit may be modest in the right environment, and yet totally immodest in another. The Church News had a great article on modesty a couple of weeks ago which supports my argument.

  101. Folks,
    I don’t have a problem with your basic premises. It is the attitude that “Thanks to my upper-level/Scandanavian sensibilities, I am immune to the dangers of sexualizing nudity. Those who differ are clearly sex/nudity deprived perverts or sub-intelligent!” to which I object.

    Certainly modesty is about more than how we do or don’t dress.

  102. To John C. (#98),

    You are right that much has been said about dressing modestly. I don’t think that anyone here is saying that we should don clothing which is immodest.

    But… and I am really serious when I ask this… How do so many of make the leap from “wear modest clothing” to “no clothing is immodest”?

    I am all for modest clothing. And to say it another way, I am opposed to clothing which is immodest. When dressed, by all means, dress modestly!!!

    Yet, I have never seen anything in all church teachings or canonized works which says that it is wrong, immodest or immoral to be without clothing in the company of others.

    Back to my question, I would really like to see a response: To John C. (#98),

    You are right that much has been said about dressing modestly. I don’t think that anyone here is saying that we should don clothing which is immodest.

    But… and I am really serious when I ask this… How do so many of make the leap from “wear modest clothing” to “no clothing is immodest”?

    I am all for modest clothing. And to say it another way, I am opposed to clothing which is immodest. When dressed, by all means, dress modestly!!!

    Yet, I have never seen anything in all church teachings or canonized works which says that it is wrong, immodest or immoral to be without clothing in the company of others.

    Back to my question, I would really like to see a response: How do so many of make the leap from “wear modest clothing” to “no clothing is immodest”?

  103. Wow – I don’t know how my post got duplicated within its self. Sorry about that.

  104. I think it’s absolutely essential that we maintain the taboo against nudity, if only for one reason: I don’t want to see most people naked, but it would be an administrative nightmare to decide who was sufficiently attractive (or sufficiently non-repellant) naked to be allowed to walk around without clothes. So instead, we make both the beautiful and the ugly cover up; what we miss in artistic non-sexual nudity and the we gain in not having to gouge our eyes out.

    I’m sure this makes me a bad person.

  105. whoinventedfreeride says:

    Sam,

    When is this kind of thinking going to stop? Too many church policy decisions are made based on the premise you so conveniently pointed out, i.e., “what would or would not create an administrative nightmare?” Are we a church body, or a group of people that must be “controlled” from an administrative stand point?

    Moral notions of nudity and sexuality should never be based on what some administrator personally thinks (not including divine revelation, of course).

    Anyway,
    Just last sunday I was attending my new ward for the second time (I recently moved) and I had the misfortune of sitting through a third hour combined meeting (relief society and adult priesthood groups) about how we should take care of our buildings better. There could have been instances where the meeting may have been spiritually uplifting, should someone had prepared to make the meeting more spiritual, but it wasn’t. I felt like I was in kindergarden again, getting a lecture about not cleaning up properly. The topic of the meeting was obviously chosen as an “administrative” decision, and unfortunately, as far as growing in the gospel is concerned, the meeting failed, and was a waste of time. I don’t need someone telling me to pick up my kid’s Cheerios after sacrament meeting. If someone else isn’t doing that, well, then they’ve got more problems that just the fact that they can’t clean up after their own kids.

    Anyway,
    The church possesses beautiful truths that are sometimes left unshared with others because of overly conservative “administrative decisions.” Here’s a perfect example: When I was a priest attending church in Utah, it seemed like every other priesthood meeting was wasted with long winded lessons on the evils of masturbation. So there we were, all 15 of us 16-18 year olds, getting the same lesson every other week, when we could have been learning valuable lessons on the atonement–something that most of us would be preaching daily on soon to be served missions. But no, we didn’t receive those valuable lessons, because someone at the local leadership level made an “administrative” decision to preach about masturbation every other week. Because we all know, if kids don’t have lessons on masturbation crammed into their skulls week after week, an all encompassing church wide administrative nightmare will ensure.

  106. who…,
    Outside of the clear fact that most of what Sam wrote was intended tongue-in-cheek, your rant, while wildly off-topic, was fascinating. I am particularly intrigued by the Young Mens group’s fixation on masturbation. In my group, mostly they talked about missions and marriage, but wherever the spirit chooses to wander, I suppose.

  107. Dealing with administrative issues is part of belonging to a church – and a lay ministry makes it a part of everyone’s experience at church. Obsessing isn’t good, but acknowledging and addressing is necessary. I have seen much more addressing than obsessing in my years and travels.

    I’ll keep this to a short rant, since I’m running out the door to an appointment.

  108. whoinventedfreeride says:

    Sorry everybody, I didn’t mean to sound so aggressive, and certainly didn’t want to singe out Sam. I guess I just get too uppity with church policy decisions that are obviously based on an “administrative nightmare” contingency. Members should be more aware of how this functions on the administrative level. More examples of how I feel “administrative nightmares” have been avoided through policy: the current interpretation of the word of wisdom, garment design (it’s interesting to read about the history of the garment design; in some ways, it’s totally arbitrary), notions of sexuality….etc.

  109. whoinventedfreeride,
    When will what kind of thinking stop? Did you read what I said, other than “administrative nightmare?” I said, in essence, I don’t want to see ugly people naked. That has nothing to do with the Church, and next to nothing to do with this thread. And, essentially, I was thinking about certain people I’ve seen in bathing suits at the beach (my dad likes to say, Don’t these people have mirrors?). There was no social value in my comment, and an implicit and unapologetic rudeness toward fat people.

    Dude, this thread is about neekid people, not about Church administrative practices (and, besides, I was referring to state laws).

  110. Thanks, John. It was (mostly) tongue-in-cheek (although I stand by my aversion to seeing most people naked).

    who&c.,
    If the comment I just got posted shows up, it, too, was t-i-c. This is a little more serious: I’m sorry I said “administrative nightmare.” It was shorthand; I was trying to avoid talking about the problem (with the government) creating regulations that could be used to measure whether somebody was sufficiently attractive to walk around without clothes. That’s subjective enough that it would require an appeals process of some sort, and perhaps wouldn’t make muster under the Constitution (although “ugly” may not be a protected status). Etc., etc. But “administrative nightmare” seemed, to this tax attorney, an easier, less burdensome way of saying all of that.

    (And, FWIW, I don’t think I’d meet whatever attractiveness standards the Secretary of Good-Looking People set for public nudity, and I’m all right with that.)

  111. Okay… a note in advance… this is a bit long, and I apologize. My point in sharing this story is to point out that views on nudity are very deeply ingrained in our culture. Many active temple-going Mormons in America view nudity as immoral. Many active temple-going Mormons in Europe view nudity as part of every day life.

    This little tid-bit helps explain the early seeds of how my family and I (me, wife, and two kids) become active, temple-going Mormons in America who view nudity as part of every day life…

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Like many LDS/Christian boys in America, I was raised in a family where nudity was shunned and viewed as terribly wrong and immoral. We never talked about “those” parts of the body, and we CERTAINLY never exposed them to anyone, including other members of our family.

    There were times, growing up under my parents roof, that I did wonder about this, and silently I questioned what all the fuss was about. But I never voiced these thoughts, and I even felt a little guilt for even having them. Like most of us, I was very well entrenched in all the teachings I received at home and at church about modesty and chastity, and I believed, like most of us, that nudity was sexual and should be reserved for marriage and then only between a husband and wife.

    My freshman year at BYU I met a girl who was to challenged all that I knew and believed on this subject.. She was a casual friend, never a girl friend, and no, I never saw her naked. She was also from Sweden.

    I have no memory of how we got on the topic, but one day we ended up discussing how surprised she was to find that Americans were so uptight about nudity, and about how loose and casual the Swedes are about it. Some of the things she told me absolutely boggled my mind.

    For example, in grade school, there are no boys and girls bathrooms, only student bathrooms and teacher bathrooms. They have individual stalls for privacy like we do, but the boys and girls all share a common bathroom. In junior high when they have gym, there are no boys and girls lockers, just “the lockers” and everyone changes and showers together. Same in high school.

    At home it was the same thing, she explained. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters… nobody thinks anything of being naked in front of each other, and there is no embarrassment or squeamishness about it. It’s just life.

    She went on to say that their teenage pregnancy rates are much lower then in America. Pedophiles almost don’t exist. Rape is nearly unheard of. In America, she said, we create our own sexual problems by being so uptight about our bodies, and then we punished the people who have sexual problems.

    I was SURE she had to be making this up. There was no way it could be true!!! As further proof, she produced a photo book she had about life in Sweden. It was in Swedish so she had to read it for me, and while none of the book dealt directly with nudism, I recall very vividly a section of the book that talked about ice saunas… the tradition of bringing a portable sauna onto a frozen lake, becoming very hot and sweaty, and then jumping from it into a hole drilled in the ice.

    There was a photo of a family of five: dad, mom, teenage daughter and son, and younger daughter, all sitting in one of these saunas, all naked. They were sitting in such a way that not much was hidden from the camera.

    I stared and stared and stared at that photo, and even today I could almost sketch it from memory. What was shocking to me about the image, beyond a family having no shame of being naked with each other, was how un-sexy it was. Not only was it not a turn on, but I almost found myself wishing that the teenage girl, who has plenty good looking, would have been wearing a bikini instead. It was just too honest and open to be sexual.

    Now, had the girl been alone, and had she been photographed in just the right pose and with just the right light, then the image would have of course been totally pornographic. But as it was the best words I can find to describe it were: un-sexy and educational.

    A few months after this conversation I was in the library doing a research paper for my Freshman English class. The conversation with the girl from Sweden (I no longer recall her name) was still rolling around in my head, and I took a diversion from the research paper and looked up the key words “family” and “nude” in the library computer. The search led me to a thick book that had been written sometime in the late 70′s. I found a remote corner of the library (lest someone I know should see what book I had) and spent hours reading. It talked about how different cultures across the globe regarded nudity, but the section on which I focused was North America and Europe.

    It confirmed much of what my Swedish friend had told me. Europeans, it would seem, are much more relaxed about being naked, and Americans are very uptight. It did say, however, that this uptightness was slowly showing signs of shifting. It also said that a very small percentage of American families did chose to adopt a much more casual approach to family nudity, and it showed a photograph of another family, which like the one of the Swedish family, is still etched into my memory.

    The family was American. They were all in the bathroom. The dad was standing at the sink shaving, naked but for the shaving cream on his face and small towel over his shoulder. His daughter was leaning against the vanity next to him and they were having a conversation. She was also naked, and I would guess she was maybe ten or eleven years old. Her much younger brother was behind the father and was in the process of pulling up his underwear, and their mother was taking a shower behind a glass door which obscured nothing.

    They were so normal looking! If they had clothing on and I met them outside, they were the all-American family with two happy, healthy children. And yet at home, they all hung out naked in the bathroom! This was staggering to me, and shattered so many principles of right and wrong which had been drilled into my head since I was a small little boy.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Okay, the rest of the story has been clipped for length. Let’s just say that now, many years later, we have created a home in which nudity is a part of every day life. Our kids (daughter 8 and son 6) see mom and dad naked just about every day. They think nothing of it, as this is how it has been their entire lives.

    I should also say that my wife and I keep sex and intimacy completely to ourselves. Also, we are not naked for the sake of being naked – it happens during the natural flow of our day when we are showering, bathing, getting dressed, etc.

    I could tell you many stories about the benefits we have already seen in our children by adopting this “open door” policy. We have noted that they have a much more healthy and well balanced view of their own bodies and the human body in general. I could site specific examples, but I have already gone on long enough.

    My main points:

    1) Nudity does not automatically equal immodesty or immorality. Nudity CAN be perfectly modest, chaste, pure, and virtuous.

    2) Our views on nudity are largely shaped by culture and up-bringing, and often mingle with our religion. Two people of the same religion but from different cultures can have very different views about nudity.

    3) Before you judge, please take a hard look at your beliefs and ask yourself this question: “Are my beliefs as founded in religion as I think they are? Or has my culture played a role in shaping how I think?” Hint: answering this question may take years, not seconds.

    :-)

    Bryan

  112. See? this is what happens when you start the party with puritans.

  113. whoinventedfreeride says:

    Bryan,
    Great post!

    I’ll I can say is, “Amen!”

    I guess all we can really do is try to change these things in our own families. Perhaps our kids will be able to enjoy a culture where, through education, sexual deviations and issues regarding nudity won’t have such a strong social presence.

  114. whoinventedfreeride says:

    In light of everything that has been said, I think it’s interesting and enlightening to think about what Emerson said regarding Mormon culture. He called Mormonism “an afterclap of Puritanism.”

  115. Thanks to this thread, I have now become convinced that Zion will actually be found in that little piece of heaven on earth, Scandanavia. Also, it will probably be naked. And very, very cold. Thank you, internet!

  116. This whole exchange brings to mind the Monk episode that was on Saturday night at midnight. Sadly, it was midnight after a long day, so I don’t know how (or if) Mr. Monk overcame his instinctual dislike/distruts of nudists. Or, for that matter, if a nudist was the murderer.

  117. I have now become convinced that Zion will actually be found in that little piece of heaven on earth, Scandinavia. Also, it will probably be naked.

    Very good, John C. But I hope not! I mean, nothing against Scandinavia, but I kinda like the idea of Zion being in Missouri, as it’s closer to where I now live. :-)

    As for it being naked, well, who knows. Believe it or not, I actually LIKE wearing clothing… I’m just not opposed to the lack of it.

    Bryan

  118. I am still hoping for an answer to my question: How do so many of us make the leap from “we should wear modest clothing” to “no clothing is immodest”?

  119. That’s exactly what is bugging me, Bryan. I don’t believe that anyone here made that leap, but I have seen loads of arguments against it. So, I don’t understand why all y’all are coming out of the woodwork to defend nudity.

  120. I don’t understand the hangups about nudity and never have. Guess it’s just me!

  121. I aksed:

    How do so many of us make the leap from “we should wear modest clothing” to “no clothing is immodest”?

    John C said:

    That’s exactly what is bugging me, Bryan. I don’t believe that anyone here made that leap, but I have seen loads of arguments against it.

    My reply to John C:

    Are we reading the same blog? I did a quick find for the string “modest” on this page. The following posts seem to imply that lack of clothing equals immodesty: #17, #66, #91 who seems to assume we all know that nudity equals immodesty, and #98, which is the best example. There were other posts as well that did not use the actual string “modest” but which made the same point – I’m too lazy to go back and find them all.

    I like what you said in your post #101. Seeing naked people does not, as you pointed out, make one immune from sexual problems. What it can do, however, and I speak from experience here, is provide a safe, moral, non-sexual method to take the edge off human body curiosity that can and does (for some) lead to seeking out pornography or promiscuous behavior, which can and does (for some) lead to sexual problems.

    It is not a bullet proof solution. But it is a pretty good one.

    I also agree with you when you said, “modesty is about more than how we do or don’t dress”.

    Well said! I could not agree more!

  122. Bryan,
    The problem is, you’re asking a causal question and, like John said, nobody’s asserted that causal relationship. You ask how we’ve gone from “dress modestly” to “nekkid is immodest.” What if the two are independent assertions? That is, nobody has made any leap from one to the other; rather, I assert that we should dress modestly and, whether or not that is true, I also assert that being naked is immodest. In fact, the following seems a logical derivation:

    A) We should dress modestly;
    B) Being naked is immodest dress;
    –therefore–
    C) We should not be naked.

    Although I’m no expert in logical proofs, that seems to work for me, and to be a set of assertions/conclusions people could make. You seem to be suggesting, instead, that people are saying:

    A) We should dress modestly;
    –therefore–
    B) Being naked is immodest dress.

    Nobody has made the second assertion; you may (in the first example) disagree with premise (B) but, if you accept it, (C) follows. If you’re arguing that the second example is wrong, well, you’re right—it doesn’t make any sense, which is why nobody’s leaping out of the woodwork to defend it.

  123. Ok, Sam. I see your point in the logical arguments. Where it all breaks down for me, as you pointed out is in B of your first example:

    A) We should dress modestly;
    B) Being naked is immodest dress;
    –therefore–
    C) We should not be naked.

    It is not a question of clothing or status of dress at all. True, being naked does naturally mean being without clothing, but – the question is not about clothing at all, is it? I think we would all agree that when we are dressed, we should wear modest clothing.

    So, in light of your post, let me ask a new question:

    Q: Is being nude in the company of others inherently immodest?

    Some of the people who have posted here seem to believe that the answer is “Yes”.

    I disagree.

    I believe that one can be nude in the company of others and still be perfectly modest.

  124. Okay, that formulation of the question works for me. Answer: No (at least, not when it’s my 20-month-old daughter by the public swimming pool being changed into her swim diaper and swimsuit).

  125. (chuckles…)

    Ok! But now I am not sure if your qualification (at least not when it’s my 20-month-old daughter…) was serious or joking.

    Going back to the original topic of this blog… Prior to the ban, were missionaries who attended the bath houses being immodest?

    I would say “No.” Now that the ban is in place, of course they should not go. But like John C., I would like to know why the ban was put into effect. I am sure there was a very good reason, but I hope it was more of a reason then simply someone thinking, “What? They are NAKED? Oh no! This must stop! We all know nudity is immodest and immoral!”

  126. whoinventedfreeride says:

    Come on guys,
    I think the only real way to get to the bottom of all this, is to get naked, head out the the nearest beach, and construct hand written truth tables and Venn diagrams in the sand. Only then will we know if those arguments were valid, and true.

  127. The qualification was serious and joking, yes. That (and random diatribes agains seeing ugly people naked) are about as serious as I can take the topic at hand (see also the Monk episode I didn’t see the end of).

    I have a deeply-ingrained aversion to taking stuff seriously. And to ugly naked people. And, apparently, given the time I’ve put in on this utterly silly thread, work. But I’m going to repent of at least on of those aversions, at least until my day is done.

  128. Who,

    Let’s go! What beach are we going to? I hear Back’s Beach is nice this time of year. I live about four hours from Mazo beach, the only legal nude beach in the Midwest, but I have never been there.

    Or if we are in Utah, I have been to Diamond Fork Hot Springs and soaked au-natural in mixed company – that was a delight! (and very non-sexual too, I should add.)

    Name the time and place, and I’ll see if I can be there. I won’t pack a swim suit :-)

  129. whoinventedfreeride says:

    Bryan,

    Although I currently reside somewhere in the Northwest, as a youth I had the fine experience of enjoying the Diamond Fork hot pots on many occasions–in the nude of course.

    ahhhhh…good memories.

  130. Is nudity inherently immodest? Perhaps we could answer the question by asking our leaders that at the next youth swimming trip that the kids should go naked so as to avoid any immodest swimming suits.

    Wearing garments is to help us know the guidlines for nudity. I don’t think that this means that we can take our garments off and be modest.

    Just because something needs not to be out in the open doesn’t mean it is something we feel is shameful. We as a culture feel that there are many things that are too sacred to share with everyone. That doesn’t mean we are ashamed with it.

    Before we go praising European society in this area there are a few questions that need to be asked. How do they do as a society on chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage? Is pornography not a problem there or they just don’t call it pornography? When they are around each other nude, does lust not occur?

    There isn’t anything inherently wrong about nudity as we see from Adam and Eve but it was because of their fallen state that they needed to wear clothing. I think that we wouldn’t be able to handle it in our fallen state.

    In response to the original topic the Banyas were probably banned because of problems that occured in the mission there. That seems to be the typical pattern for many of the rules in my mission. A rule will pop up after there have been problems surrounding a certain item.

  131. So Jeff, do you oppose showering with other men at the gym?

  132. whoinventedfreeride says:

    Jeff,

    I’ll get back to you on that in just a minute. I first need to go and rid myself of these cumbersome cotton clothes. Some of my best thinking is done in the nude.

  133. no I don’t have a oppose showering with other men.

  134. Your previous statement #129 is only in the case of mixed gender then? So do you think of yourself as being immodest while being nude in front of other men?

  135. I think that mixed gender is a big part of the case as I wouldn’t shower nude with mixed genders.

    However in general I don’t go seeking to be nude with other men in other circumstances. Showering would be a case in which I could (not in mixed genders) as the activity requires that but not in other cases generally speaking.
    I go without a shirt while I’m swimming but I don’t go without a shirt elsewhere as that would not be wearing the garment properly. (there are some exceptions like in certain sports or so) It doesn’t matter if I was with only men or with women. We are given the garment to give us guidelines in this area.

  136. Jeff,

    I found your post (#129) to be incredibly curious. I hope you don’t mind if I pick it apart…

    JEFF: “Is nudity inherently immodest? Perhaps we could answer the question by asking our leaders that at the next youth swimming trip that the kids should go naked so as to avoid any immodest swimming suits.”

    ME: Ok, yes, I see. You are being sarcastic to make a point. (I do that often myself!) As others before me have stated, just because being nude is not bad does not mean we should all be nude all the time. Eating vegetables is a good thing, but we do not eat them every second of the day. (okay, not a great example, but it’s what I came up with off the cuff. Give me time, I’ll think of something better.)

    Plus, your suggestion completely avoids my question. Taking the youth from church swimming and advocating that we all be naked, would of course be a bad idea. But, (ummm…) we could start a long conversation on why this would be a bad idea.

    JEFF: “Wearing garments is to help us know the guidelines for nudity.”

    ME: Really? Wow! HOW did I miss this all the times I have gone to the temple and done initatories? Really, I am asking in all seriousness. The last time I went to the temple, which was about three weeks ago, I did initatories for about 20 names, and in all 20 instances, I don’t recall EVER hearing anything about this. I wonder, did I fall asleep all 20 times?

    Okay, maybe you were referring to something other then the temple ceremony? If so, please do share. I want to know where you got this little tid-bit from.

    Or is it possible that this is just your own opinion?

    JEFF: “I don’t think that this means that we can take our garments off and be modest.”

    ME: I am not sure that I understand you, but I really hope you are not saying that every time we take off our garments, we are being immodest. Please tell me this is not what you are saying.

    JEFF: “Just because something needs not to be out in the open doesn’t mean it is something we feel is shameful.”

    ME: I agree. But I don’t think this message is made clear to our youth. It wasn’t to me. When I was a teenager I was terribly embarrassed about my body, and the thought of being seen naked was terrifying to me. I had lots of questions about human sexuality, and I was very ashamed of my curiosity. The unspoken message that was pounded into my head was loud and clear: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT SEX OR NUDITY OR YOU ARE SINNING.

    JEFF: “We as a culture feel that there are many things that are too sacred to share with everyone.”

    ME: This is a very curious statement: “We as a culture…” I wonder if you could expound on this? Who is the “We?” Mormons? Americans? Humans in general? Also, are you suggesting that “culture” is right?

    That aside, you have indeed hit on a very deep subject here. And taken at face value, I agree. Our temples, for example, are too sacred to be shared with everyone. I’m referring to our actual temples into which you need a recommend to enter.

    Our bodies are also temples. And, I consider my body and the body of my wife so sacred that she and I only share them with each other.

    But, I think you and I might disagree on the definition of the term “share”. I am referring to sexual intercourse and anything like it. You are referring to simply looking at our bodies.

    This is how I feel about the human body in general: It was created by God. It is beautiful. It is pure. We aught not flaunt it, degrade it, defile it. Even people who Sam refers to as “ugly” are still beautiful in the eyes of God, and their bodies are still sacred and beautiful creations of God.

    Strutting about naked for the purpose of flaunting your body would, indeed, be immodest and immoral. But simple being without clothing is neither. I am NOT an advocate of “sharing” the human body with “everyone” as you said, Jeff. But, I find nothing in Church teachings, the scriptures, or the Temple ceremonies which teaches us that we need to cover and hide our bodies to keep them sacred. I see nothing wrong with occasional nudity in the company of others, so long as we behave in a chaste and modest manner.

    JEFF: ‘Before we go praising European society in this area there are a few questions that need to be asked. ”

    ME: Okay. Good idea.

    JEFF: “How do they do as a society on chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage?”

    ME: They are terrible at it, just like us.

    JEFF: “Is pornography not a problem there or they just don’t call it pornography?”

    ME: Pornography is a problem, just like here.

    JEFF: “When they are around each other nude, does lust not occur?”

    ME: Ah. Now here is something to which I can speak with experience. First, I’ll answer in general, then, more specifically.

    In general… your question seems to imply that where there is naked bodies, lust will automatically follow. This is a very common, and very wrong assumption.

    Most people in America will quickly associate lust with nudity because their exposure to nudity is limited to times when sexual arousal is intended or desired.

    Within marriage, this is good. A husband and wife closing the bedroom door and taking it all off signals the intent for intimacy.

    But… Hollywood, the media, and even marketing executives also know that if they flash just a little flesh in our direction, that we are quick to lust, and also quick to reach for our wallets.

    Teenage boys and girls also understand that skimpy clothing and tight swimsuits trigger certain thoughts and emotions. For them, ANY hint of skin or nudity is quickly associated with sex.

    The result: Most of us think like Jeff here… where there is nudity, lust will always follow. In fact, this association is SO entrenched that even good Christians will become angry if we try to sever the two.

    I know this will be hard for you to believe, Jeff, but it IS possibly for people to be naked around each other, even men and women, and NOT have lust be even remotely a factor.

    Specific example: (and I am making a long story short) I served my mission in France. One P-Day the branch in which I was serving had a beach party. We needed special permission to go to the beach, but as it was for a branch party, our President gave us permission. Well, as soon as we arrived, just about every child from the age of nine down took everything off and played in the sand and surf naked all day. Even more surprising… about half of the females in the branch went topless. These were active, LDS women and teenage girls! Nobody but us 4 American elders objected, and none of the men there that day got a bulge in their swim trunks.

    Lust and nudity, Jeff, do not always have to co-exist.

    JEFF: “There isn’t anything inherently wrong about nudity as we see from Adam and Eve but it was because of their fallen state that they needed to wear clothing.”

    ME: Umm, what?

    You say, “There isn’t anything inherently wrong about nudity”. I agree, by the way. But then you seem to contradict yourself and say “it was because of Adam and Eve’s fallen state that they needed to wear clothing.”

    First, please explain the seeming contradiction. Second, I would REALLY like to know how you came to this conclusion. Did you read this in the scriptures? In an Ensign article? Did you learn this in the temple?

    Or, once again, is it possible that this is just your opinion?

    JEFF: “I think that we wouldn’t be able to handle it in our fallen state.”

    ME: Aaahhhhh!! NOW we are getting down to the heart of the matter, aren’t we. We, as fallen mortals, simply are too week and too pathetic to behold the naked human form without falling into Satan’s trap of lust and sin. We are not to be trusted. We are too sinful and the human body too powerful to behold by our debase and fallen mortal eyes.

    Right?

    But wait, Jeff. Now you are confusing me. A moment ago you said, “We as a culture feel that there are many things that are too sacred to share with everyone.”

    I assume that, in this last quote, you were saying that the human body is sacred, right? If the human body is sacred, then why would it cause us to lust? Are you saying that God created an object which, when we look at it, causes us to sin?

    Please explain.

    Jeff: “In response to the original topic the Banyas were probably banned because of problems that occured in the mission there.”

    ME: Do you know this, or are you guessing?

    Ok – that’s long enough.

  137. Good point, Jeff. I think our instructions regarding wearing the garment are probably applicable to this discussion. Whether or not it applies to situations like showering, swimming, or banyas, it would apply to garden-variety every day nudity in the home, I think.

  138. John,

    I repeat what I said in reply to Jeff. Where and how do we know that Garments are given to us as a guideline for when we should and should not be naked? I fear you are adding your own meaning to the temple initiatory session.

    “The philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.”

    Why would wearing garments NOT apply to showering, swimming, or banyas, but WOULD apply to nudity in the home?

    That really makes no sense to me at all.

  139. Bryan, you seem to have thought long and hard about this. Jeff has a good point about Europeans not being great examples at keeping the law of chastity. My main objection to mixed gender nudity is if youth get used to seeing each other naked, won’t that lead to more promiscuity? Do you know of any scientific studies on this correlation or if there even is a correlation?

  140. Bryan,
    I believe it is a not unreasonable assumption to make based on the instructions in the temple interview regarding how the garment should be worn. I don’t remember the exact instructions, nor would I use them if I could, but I don’t believe it to be an unreasonable assumption (ie. I understand the instructions to be that the default is to wear the garment, not wearing being for special occasions). Obviously, none of this applies to the non-endowed and, further, the interpretation of those instructions is not set in stone. However, that is how I would interpret it, it is how I would explain it, and it is how I try to live it. You’re interpretation is obviously different and you have a right to it. However, I don’t believe that you can argue that the interpretation is entirely without rational motivation based on those instructions.

  141. Perhaps a good compromise is “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” – even if that governance takes different forms. It’s really not governing themselves if the resulting governance is a singular form.

  142. I too served my mission in Finland, in the early eighties.

    Yes, Finnish sauna practices seem weird to Americans. Yes, Finnish members did take sauna unclothed, and I’m quite sure they still do. They do restrict the practice to within the family, however.

    With that being said, I found Finnish attitudes toward the body refreshing. It’s been my experience that holding the body as taboo only gives the Adversary an opening. The members I had contact with all seemed to feel that the body was sacred, and I never saw one of them behave in a way that would degrade that sacredness.

    It’s interesting to note that I never saw an active member of the church dressed immodestly, the entire time I was in Finland. I wish I could say that about my experience here in the U.S. In addition, I never saw an active member who was pregnant outside of wedlock — and this in a country where such behavior is common.

    On the other hand, my wife and I once spent an interesting evening with a woman from a French territory who was the daughter of a branch president and who considered herself very active. She described to us what she wore to the beach — and let’s put it this way, it was about the same thing I would wear.

    When I was a missionary I did go to sauna with my companions, wearing nothing. It was encouraged by the mission president. I once taught a discussion to a non-member in that condition (interesting teaching at 180 degrees…). Things have changed, and not for the better. If this behavior had been disapproved by the Lord, it would have been banned then and now and we would have been teaching the locals not to do it. Since the Lord is the same, it is us who have changed. It was no big deal then, and it really shouldn’t be a big deal now. Making a big deal of such things tends to have the opposite effect of what was wanted.

    Do not get me wrong. I truly believe in modesty. I have taught my children to be modest. I have, first and foremost, taught them that modesty begins in the heart. If we measure modesty only in what is or is not worn, we have become like the Pharisees, who felt that outward observances would lead them to God.

  143. Eric Russell says:

    Bryan, if others can use the word “sexist” to describe any form of gender differentiation, then I think I’m perfectly entitled to use the word “immodest” to describe ostensibly amoral nudity.

    Mike, #119. Thank you. Case in point.

  144. On that cheery note, we are suspending this thread. Have fun!

  145. Thanks for the discussion John. I bet the other threads are getting jealous from all the attention this one is getting!

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