BCC Labs is always working on innovative ways of maximizing the upsides of your online Latter-day Saint information consumption, interaction, and generation experience. Studies have shown that the marginalization of insufficiently critical approaches to the theological exploration of appropriate ethical behavioral actualizations by means of negative sporting and humorous contumely are market desirable. Therefore it is with great excitement that BCC Labs presents to you its latest innovation: the Daily Universe Letter to the Editor, deconstructed by Science!

BCC Lab’s methods of examination are explained below:

The CtR ratio:
Often, a Daily Universe Letter to the Editor expresses outrage at some real or perceived slight. The CtR ratio measures the actual outrage expressed by comparing the rate of Curse (in which the aggrieved party wishes to shake the dust off their feet at their offender) to the rate of Repent (in which the aggrieved party wishes their offender would speak to the bishop, but does not wish for them to be condemned to outer darkness for an eternity of weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and poor hygiene).

The A grade:
The A grade tracks the presence (or the implied presence) of those accusations so common to the Daily Universe Letters to the Editor page that they hardly need be expressed at all. They also start with A.

The Scriptorendum:
This is the ratio of implied scripture to actual scripture quoted. Quotes from General Authorities only count as actual scripture if all of the following conditions apply: a. The quoted authority is the person who actually said the quote & b. the quote is cited OR the quote is of such a nature that everyone like totally knows its source.

The PPI index:
The PPI (Point Proven Internally) index tracks the number of times the letter accuses the offender of a logical fallacy or error of which the aggrieved is also guilty.

The Odds:
These are the odds that a given letter was written out of a given motivation based on actuarial tables buried deep beneath the earth that can only be found via the spirit of Steve BCC’s curelom.

I will supply you with an out-of-context quote from the letter itself, because it’s funny.

Below you will see the magic of Science at work explaining an actual Daily Universe Letter to the Editor printed in today’s edition of the Daily Universe.

Considerate clothing

To the women who think it’s acceptable to wear tank tops and short shorts out to tan in Helaman Quad, I submit the following:

“And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.” Dallin H. Oaks, General Conference, April 2005.

It is hard enough for the young men of the Church to keep a clean mind and a pure heart without you lying around half-naked right outside our dorms. Please be more considerate of not only the BYU Honor Code, but also of the spiritual well being of the men you date. We are doing our best to be worthy to enter the temple and serve the Lord as missionaries. Could you help us out by wearing modest clothing?

[Letter writer’s name]

[Letter writer’s place of affiliation]

CtR: 1/2

This poor young man is obviously distraught by the willful disobedience of those uncareful, immodest women. Their flaunting of the Honor Code by covering up their naughty bits, but flashing the occasional scapula, clearly indicates their disregard for the poor, innocent boy caught up in his uncontrollable urges. These clothing choices put the Devil’s little factories to work and women covering only 76%-80% of their body drive that economy. However, note his sincere desire to lead the women by persuasion and love unfeigned. BCC labs also feels for these deluded, misled harlots (ignorant Isabels, if you will) so BCC Labs feels that their chances at repentance should be good, but not too good.

A grade: C
There is an implication that Adultery could become a problem if the guys walking over from Wyview catch a view of Bathsheba sunbathing on the quad. Also, there is implied Apostasy for the young women who are selling their virtue for free by disregarding Elder Oaks’ Adomonition. Three capitalized A’s = Grade C.

Scriptorendum: .01
The letter writer is clearly no scriptorian. Off the top of my head, I can think of 10 or so verses devoted to harlots and hell in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes alone. All he has is a paltry quote from Elder Oaks. What? Has President Monson never talked about pornography? Get on your game, letter writer!

PPI: 100%
The letter writer demonstrates the pernicious problem of living pornography by discussing his own obsession with living pornography. If only there was some way to prevent this young man from deflowering himself with the visual feast before him. If the young women of Helaman Halls will not hear his cry and begin to let virtue garnish their shoulders, maybe we could all chip in and buy him some blinders.

The Odds:
The letter writer wrote this to impress a girl he is courting: 3:1
The letter writer is a member of the Honor Code Club at BYU: 5:1
The letter writer has Virgin Lips: 10:1
The letter writer was writing in behalf of a roommate who is struggling: 1000:1

Finally, your out-of-context quote:
“It is hard enough for the young men”

BCC Labs: Incentivising Content Management for the Coming Millennium
Next Project: Garments actually designed for women.


  1. The redacted writer, one Sam Speer from Ogden, Utah, is more than willing to put his name to this public letter. Is there a reason to protect him from being enshrined and mocked forever in a Google search for all to see?

    You’re welcome, Sam.

  2. Mark Brown says:

    Why do we care if writers for a TV show intend to mock us when we do such a good job of making ourselves look stupid?

    I pray that this letter is a parody. Alas, my prayers lack faith.

  3. Ordinarily I am the first to have sympathy for gentlemen navigating our hyper-sexualized culture, but you have to draw a line somewhere. I can’t help but think that this letter-writer missed the part of all those chastity talks where we’re taught that these feelings of sexual attraction to the opposite sex are normal and good. They just need to be dealt with appropriately.

  4. Eric Russell says:

    John, please evaluate one of mine.

  5. John,
    Nice analysis. You forgot, however, given the nearness of the end of the semester, to evaluate the odds that this guy is a freshman, in English 101, and needs to write a letter to the editor to fulfill an English 101 requirement. (If you watch closely, you’ll find the letters get stupider and closer to the parody line toward the end of every semester and, IIRC, English 101 is a likely reason.)

  6. S.P. Bailey says:

    Science rules. You brought back many fond memories of earnest, hormone-sick letters decrying the breast-enhancing powers of a well-placed messenger bag strap.

  7. This is hilarious John. Seriously, you must make a regular site simply devoted to these kinds of valuations. For we all know that the Daily Universe will provide us with plenty of material.
    Seriously, hilarious. Thanks for cluing me to it.

  8. This is SO much better than the Daily Universe police blotter.

    Awesome John. Just awesome.

  9. I don’t buy it Sam. I don’t think you need to search any harder for an explanation for this letter other than this one: it’s BYU.

    Eric, I really liked your letter, especially the allegation of racism. Did the letter have any effect? There should be a special award for any letter to the editor that achieves any measurable effect in it’s intended target.

    For example, if there were some observable change in the sunbathing practices of co-eds on the quad as a result of Speer’s letter, we should take that into account. Photographic evidence, of course, will need to be evaluated.

  10. MCQ,
    I could be wrong in general. And I never took English 101, so I don’t know that for sure. But having been a freshman boy once, and having known a couple others, I’m not convinced that the initial volley (such as this) is generally serious. I think the responses it gets are often (though again not always) serious, but something like this strikes me as fishing for reactions.

    I could be wrong. I don’t know the letter-writer; he could be dead serious. I’m just not convinced that it’s serious–it’s a little too close to the end of BYU’s semester.

  11. Cynthia L. says:

    I didn’t go to BYU, somebody answer a couple questions for me:

    (1) Does BYU have any outdoor basketball courts near the dorms?

    (2) Are men allowed to play shirts-vs-skins?

    I’m guessing the answer to both is yes. I think that’s something Mr. Speer should think about.

  12. Mark Brown says:

    Not only can you play shirts v. skins, but I have it on good authority that men can swim topless at the BYU pools. Who knows how many young women have had their mission plans derailed by that sight?

  13. Cynthia L. says:

    Oh, the humanity!!!!!!!!!

  14. Here’s hoping the Elder Oaks quote is either fabricated, or another instance of parody.

  15. V-Hall (the honors dorm when I was there) over looked the Deseret towers pool. Numerous times you could look up from the pool and see Nerdlingers gathered around the windows staring down at the pool.

  16. (for anyone who wonders whether the letter was parody or not… the blog suggests otherwise)

  17. I think you left off an important measure: does the letter start with the phrase “I am appalled…”? That was so common when I was a BYU undergrad (70s) that when Steve Benson and Pat Bagley jointly published a collection of their Daily Universe editorial cartoons, they laced it with actual letters-to-the-editor from the DU and titled the collection, “I Am Appalled…”. ..bruce..

  18. Here’s a related story.

  19. Kristine says:

    Please, the Oaks quote is, alas, all too genuine.

  20. Left Field says:

    An excerpt from one of my letters to the editor is actually included in “I Am Appalled…”

    I, however, was not appalled, but rather was offering insightful commentary.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Bruce, I used to have a copy of I Am Appalled. It was a great booklet. I lent it to a home teachee and it was never returned–Auggh.

    A couple of bits I remember was the girl who wasn’t allowed to take a test at the testing center because she was wearing pants. So she went to the restroom, took her pants off (she was wearing a coat), and was allowed to take the test–sitting there with nothing but panties under her coat. That was a classic.

    Another bit I recall was when the Ayatollah Khomeini swore death to anyone who walked on the grass, to an enthusiastic response of BYU students.

  22. [withdrawn]

  23. 22 – That girl at BYU is now a good friend of mine!

  24. The Right Trousers says:

    23: Is this comment some kind of DU letters-to-the editor parody? Because if it is, it’s brilliant.

  25. Society pitifully stumbles forward almost dragging it’s seven heads on the ground as it vomits the bile of sexual gluttony–and some are offended because an apostle dare declare that women should not objectify themselves.

  26. Jack (#26)

    That almost sounds erotic.

  27. Latter-day Guy says:

    “dragging it’s seven heads on the ground as it vomits the bile”

    “That almost sounds erotic”

    Uh… I guess, if that’s what you’re into.

  28. “she went to the restroom, took her pants off (she was wearing a coat), and was allowed to take the test–sitting there with nothing but panties under her coat.”

    “Society pitifully stumbles forward almost dragging it’s seven heads on the ground as it vomits the bile of sexual gluttony”

    Loving the comments so far.

  29. Sam Speer says:

    Personal Responses:

    1. Rory: Why thank you.
    3. Rebecca J: Of course they are. That is why they shouldn’t be abused and immoralized.
    11. Cynthia L: In this letter, I made no allusion that the young men don’t have their own issues. You made that allusion yourself.
    14. Please: Try looking it up on Or attending General Conference, perhaps.
    16. Ryan: Thank you. I’ve never had so many views on my blog.
    23. Natalie: Whether you believe Elder Oaks’ words are of divine inspiration or not is your own problem. Most Latter-Day Saints choose to follow the apostles as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators of the most High God.

  30. Welcome to the big leagues Mr. Speer.

  31. Cynthia L. says:

    Hi Sam, nice to see you here and that you are taking the criticism gracefully, all things considered.

    I know that you didn’t address the issue of men in your letter. However, I think that’s precisely the problem–in society it is never addressed. Women’s bodies are singled out for scorn in a way that men’s never are. I look forward to your forthcoming letter(s) on the scandal of pornography!! on display!! at the BYU swimming pool and outdoor basketball court. Actually I don’t look forward to those letters, because calling that “pornography” is ridiculous. Just as calling shorts and a tank top pornography is ridiculous.

    Please, Sam, I implore you, have some sense of perspective! Tank top and shorts is pornography? Really? Your words are not without consequence, and that consequence is that women are less free to live their lives, to be equals in our society. Because we have to be spending all our time worrying about whether the very existence of our bodies, which we didn’t choose the shape of, are causing inconvenience to anyone around us. Men can live their lives–they can play basketball! But women can’t. Because of people like you. Please realize the hurt your attitude causes.

    As far as your quoting Elder Oaks (and this is also a reply to #23), it is obvious that Elder Oaks’ comments are categorically inapplicable to a tank top and shorts. Your attempt to shoehorn it into such a use is absurd and manipulative (and, as already explained, harmful). Of course there exist some clothing items that could be considered pornographic to wear. I would put some “club wear,” for example, into this category. But applying it to anything that falls in the range of normal day-to-day American life, even if not strictly garment-conforming, is flat wrong.

  32. Sam Speer, nice choice of music on your blog. I especially liked that “Sanctus” setting. Good stuff.

    See? We’re not all meanies here. (That “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators of the most High God” comment *was* laying it on a little thick, though, don’t you think?)

  33. Cynthia L,

    Thank you for being the only one yet to use structured arguments on this blog. I actually agree with many of your points, however, some of them do not apply to the case at hand.

    I do not know, Cynthia, whether you attended BYU yourself. Everyone wishing to attend BYU is required to sign an honor code before they are admitted. This Honor Code has various guidelines as to what both men and women can and cannot wear, and all of the students are expected to abide by this code as long as they attend the university.

    If you bring my letter into this context, you will then see that there is no discrimination between the sexes; rather, my letter was directed at one particular group of people. This group is all female yes, but is not inclusive of all members of the female gender, simply the specific offenders in Helaman Quad.

    If you pay a visit to BYU, you may find young men playing basketball without their shirts. But their doing so is against the school Honor Code and is a direct reflection on these individual young men, not the male gender.

    The definition of pornography is basically anything that promotes lust. Tank tops and short shorts are found to do so; else why would we have an Honor Code? There’s nothing wrong with wearing your p.j.’s in your dorm, but wearing them in public is not permissible. That is why I have used Oaks’ words in reference to this matter.

    If you still feel I am unjustified in the connection of these two matters, then there is little else I can do to sway you. Thank you for your careful debate.


  34. Cynthia L. says:

    Sam, if your concern is a simple technical violation of the Honor Code, you ought to have produced a very different letter. Something along these lines:

    To whom it may concern:

    I believe some students may be in violation of the Honor Code by wearing tank tops and shorts that are shorter than regulation in the Heleman Quad. While this is understandable, on some level, because they are sunbathing, it does not appear to be in compliance with the Honor Code. Perhaps somebody should look into it.

    Best regards,


    Instead, you wrote an incendiary screed that demonizes women just for being women, and attempts to marshall the general authorities to do so. That’s really inappropriate.

  35. Women’s bodies are NOT pornographic. WE are not pornography. Even nude, we are not pornographic. WE are made in the image of God. These bodies are the temples of clay given to us by God.

    What people DO with their bodies, men and women, can be pornographic. But to call a woman “pornography” is belittling her, cutting away her value as a human being and a daughter of God. That is sacreligious.

  36. Peter LLC says:

    The definition of pornography is basically anything that promotes lust. Tank tops and short shorts are found to do so; else why would we have an Honor Code?

    Brother Speer, the Honor Code is not focused on pornography and certainly not in connection with dress and grooming standards. Here is the relevant passage on porn:

    “Involvement with gambling; pornographic, erotic, or indecent material; disorderly, obscene, or indecent conduct or expressions; or with other offensive materials, expressions, or conduct or disruption of the peace that, in the sole discretion and judgment of the university, is inconsistent with the principles of the Church and the BYU Honor Code is not permitted in student housing.”

    I’m hoping that things haven’t changed so much since I graduated from the BYU that tank tops are now considered pornographic materials.

  37. Dude, Sam. You need to find some release.

  38. Mark Brown says:

    I want to make just a couple of points.

    First, I want to very, very politely disagree with Elder Oaks. Or, more accurately, I’d like to let Pres. McKay disagree with him. On the occasion of the Days of ’47 parade in SLC, someone remarked to Pres. McKay how shameful it was that the parade honoring the arrival of the Saints in the valley now featured scantily clad and immodestly dressed young women as flag twirlers and majorettes. You could sometimes even see their panties! Pres. McKay replied to his interlocuter that he had seen no immodesty at all, only wonderful and beautiful young women. When we call a woman living pornography, surely we are describing at least as much about ourselves as we are about her.

    It is so easy to take potshots at women from the pulpit or in a DU letter. Can any man reading this thread imagine actually walking up to a living, breathing female and telling her to her face that she is living pornography? I would expect to be slapped or kneed in the groin, or both. If I said it within earshot of her father or brother, I would expect to instantly become the recipient of a well-deserved knuckle sandwich.

    Here’s my advice to Sam, or anybody else planning a mission, who still gets bucked off his little hobby horse by the sight of a woman’s shouder, clavicle, or knees: Get some professional help. You have some serious personal problems that you need to resolve before you go out into the world representing the church. In fact, it is fair to say that you have some serious personal problems that you need to resolve, period. If you can’t handle the sight of women in tank tops and shorts, what are you going to do a few months from now when you are called to a part of the world where women don’t cover up when nursing their babies, or when they answer your knock on the door wearing considerably less than a tank top? Man up, be an adult, and take some responsibility for your thoughts! Stop blaming others, and stop embarrassing us, the church, and yourself with your juvenility.

    If the priesthood means anything at all, it means that those who bear it have a special responsibility to treat the sons and daughters of God in ways that enhance their dignity. In my opinion, Lady Godiva ought to be able to ride down the middle of University Avenue at high noon buck nekkid and count on BYU men and the elders of Israel for respect. If any of them would degrade her because of her temporary misguidedness, it would be a direct insult to the diety in whose image her body was created.

  39. undercover brother says:

    A spy from the Cannon center reports that there is nonstop filth and smut on the TV. Something called Women’s March Madness is going on, and 64 universities from around the country have sent women from their university to represent them at this living porn-o-rama. These so-called ladies actually wear tank tops and shorts on TV, for all the world to see! I cannot even imagine the lust they are inciting in such places as Kabul, Riyadh, and Helaman Halls. Surely Moroni has seen our day, when wickedness shall abound. And right there on TV, on the campus of the Lord’s university! Even the elect have been deceived.

  40. Bruce, I used to have a copy of I Am Appalled. It was a great booklet. I lent it to a home teachee and it was never returned–Auggh.

    Yeah, I think my former wife has my copy. Or it may have just fallen apart; it wasn’t exactly high-quality binding. But I do regret not having it any more. At least I still have my copy of Saintspeak (as everyone can tell). ..bruce..

  41. #35 and # 36 Amen AND Amen!

    Sam said the definition of porn is anything that promotes lust. This is absurd. A person can drum up lustful feelings in his/her own mind while staring at a blank wall. To define porn so broadly is to dismiss actual porn for what it is. Can you possibly believe that women dressed in tank tops are the equivalent of Penthouse? This is what the Taliban believes, and it is misogyny.

  42. And thank you, Mark Brown. You are a real man!

  43. Observer says:

    Sam’s blog identifies him as both a husband and father, so he probably isn’t headed out for a mission himself anytime soon, and is likely an RM.

  44. Observer,
    That’s quite possibly worse. His poor wife! How can she let him out into the world?

  45. 44: Nah, he says he’s a future husband and father.

  46. “Man up, be an adult, and take some responsibility for your thoughts! Stop blaming others, and stop embarrassing us, the church, and yourself with your juvenility.”


    The majority of comments in this thread have focused on the letter’s impact on women; I think the impression of men the author seems to reveal is equally, if not more, tragic.

  47. Poor Sam, I feel bad for him – he’s just naïve. I mean, you can’t take anyone too seriously that thinks that writing a letter to the editor of The Daily Universe is a good idea.

    That said, I look forward to more research along the same lines from BCC Labs.

  48. Comment #39 is why I think of Mark Brown as my Bishop.

  49. Cynthia L. says:

    #45, Let’s try to keep it on the content of the letter and not the person. (I know, I know, the original post…but he wasn’t named there.) Now he’s been named, let’s not go down that path.

  50. I, for one, am looking forward to BCC’s next noted project.

  51. I agree, Scott B.

    The final paragraph of the letter seems to convey an impression of men at BYU as walking time bombs of immorality; all that is left to set them off is the sight of a little skin.

    What happens when BYU men end up in other settings?

    Heck, even at my office it is quite common for women to wear sleeveless tops or tank tops to work. If I thought my morality was their responsibility, where would that leave me?

    Maybe I should post the Oaks quote on the breakroom fridge.

  52. I think, after all this discussion (and many others like it), that we need to stop focusing singlemindedly on the impact of pornography on men, and shift our focus to the impact, not just of pornography but of our onesided approach to it and its harms, on women. People like Sam (who, to be fair, is not exactly articulating an unorthodox male LDS perspective on female bodies here) need to realize that, whatever the impact of women’s bodies on them, the way they articulate and frame that impact has a far deeper and more profoundly harmful impact on the spirits and souls of the women whose bodies they unintentionally scorn.

    The female body is treated as an object of male desire and pleasure in our society. It is a commodity. We objectify it and then wring our hands at the impact it has on us. One of the consequences is increasing permissiveness and acceptance of behaviors, fashions, and ways of speaking about and portraying women that reflect the objectification and sexualization of their bodies. The increasing societal acceptability of revealing dress standards partially reflects this trend. But so do efforts to promote modesty that take the sexual and objectified status of female bodies as axiomatic. A young woman, for example, might choose to dress “modestly” precisely because she refuses to treat her body as an object of male desire, and seeks personal fulfillment in ways that do not submit to the demands of a male-dominated sexual culture. Or, she might choose to cover her body precisely because she accepts what the wider culture tells her about her body, its wicked nature and influence.

    I have a daughter and I very much hope that as she matures she will choose to reject what the world tells her about her body and to dress modestly as a result. I’m terribly worried that this will be a difficult, constant, uphill battle. But I am more worried that she will imbibe wicked ideas about her own physical nature — that it is intrinsically pornographic and, for that reason, must be concealed from male view — and that this will motivate her desire to cover up. In my opinion, the fact that she dresses “modestly” in that case will not compensate for the more profound damage that has been done to her by her acceptance of the notion that her body is a form of pornography.

    Indeed, in terms of body image, sexual behavior, and overall social and psychological well-being, I am infinitely more concerned that she will take seriously statements that proclaim her body as inherently sexually stimulating and pornographic, than I am that she might choose to wear short shorts and a tank top to suntan — or (gasp!) even a swimsuit — in a public place.

  53. “Zoobie or Not Zoobie” is an old compilation of underground BYU newspaper reports and cartoons. I think I still have it around somewhere, but if anyone can find a copy it will keep you in stitches and tears.

    Tracy M (#36) and Mark Brown (#39):

    Amen. Those two comments are among the best I’ve read on the subject anywhere.

  54. Lady Godiva ought to be able to ride down the middle of University Avenue at high noon buck nekkid and count on BYU men and the elders of Israel for respect.

    Well, she ought to be able to count on them for respectful behavior. But she’d still be in violation of the honor code. Not to mention the law. Someone should probably report that.

    I think most women know how to dress in order to be sexually enticing. What they tend to forget is that those same articles of clothing will be sexually enticing even when they don’t mean them to be. And yes, men will be enticed by an ankle, if that’s what they’re into–that’s not the point. A woman doesn’t necessarily put on a tank top to entice a man. Often women wear tank tops just because it’s hot outside. But just because she’s motivated by temperature doesn’t mean men are going to stop finding her shoulders distracting. I doubt very much that men consider a woman’s motivation before getting turned on by her manner of dress.

    Obviously, a woman can’t be expected to cater to every man’s sensibilities–unless, of course, she lives in one of those societies where she’s required to wear a burqa. Ours, thankfully, isn’t one of those. I don’t think it’s outrageous to expect women to consider the effect their dress has on men, if only for their own sakes–not because they’re responsible for men’s lusts (or lack thereof) but because they probably want to avoid unwanted sexual attention. Even if a man is one of those super-human, Lady-Godiva-respecting elders of Israel, he’s going to have a certain response to a woman’s uncovered body (assuming he’s straight)–which he’s morally required to deal with appropriately, but he’s not going to be able to eliminate without chemical castration or psychologically destructive brainwashing. To say a woman can dress however she wants and whatever a man feels is his problem is insensitive at best.

    Every culture draws lines around appropriate attire and sexual behavior. Even in our sexually permissive culture, there is such a thing as “slutty.” Which is not to say that sluts are asking to be raped or otherwise mistreated–just that there is a point at which even the most enlightened among us will say a woman’s attire is sexually provocative and even inappropriate. In our culture, sexually provocative attire has become largely acceptable. Everything is so sexualized that the modesty counter-culture feels it necessary to cover the shoulders and arms of very young girls (as young as 2 or 3!) in order to protect them from the lustful eyes of men and boys. I think this is the point where both the culture and the counter-culture have gone off the deep end. It’s time to step back and get some perspective.

    If BYU has drawn the line at tank tops and shorts, then obviously BYU students should not be wearing tank tops and shorts. If men are turned on by women wearing tank tops and shorts, frankly, I’m not surprised. And that’s useful information for women to have, isn’t it? We can roll our eyes and think it’s only shoulders and legs, for Pete’s sake, but that doesn’t change the facts. We can say, “Well, my tank top is no more revealing than that form-fitting top that’s technically within the bounds of the dress code,” but that’s missing the point, too. Just because there is a vast number of things that turn men on that can’t always be predicted doesn’t change that men are turned on by x or y and that they’re turned on regardless of the purity and innocence of a woman’s intentions. Women should take that information and use it for what it’s worth.

    Men, on the other hand, should realize that in this culture, shorts and a tank top does not qualify as “half-naked.” For better or worse, that’s just not how we roll in 21st century America. Even in conservative Christian circles, shorts and a tank top can be perfectly acceptable attire–especially for pre-pubescent girls. They may very well incite lust among some men, but they just don’t count as slutty anymore–haven’t for about 50 years or so. You need to look at the norms of the culture–for about the past 50 years–and realize that where the FTSOY pamphlet draws the line is very, very conservative, and there are groups in our society that consider themselves very modest and wholesome and don’t draw the line that conservatively–which would indicate that maybe tank tops and shorts, as enticing as they may be to a lot of men, just don’t qualify as “half-naked.” They probably fall under that category of clothing that you need to learn to live with harmoniously. You’re not going to be at BYU the rest of your life. (At least I hope not.)

  55. Dude, I just wrote a blog. Does that count toward my quota?

  56. Oh, and awesome concept, John.

  57. Cynthia L. says:

    I don’t think it’s outrageous to expect women to consider the effect their dress has on men

    Here’s something that I think many have realized, but maybe needs saying explicitly. Those girls were obviously already taking into account the effect of their dress on men. WHO SUNBATHES IN SHORTS?? Nobody! That’s totally ridiculous. Standard, non-provocative, just doing the job sunbathing clothing in the US today is a bikini. (Trust me, I’m in socal, ok, I’m an expert. Actually the standard is bikini, but when doing the back you undo the strap so as not to get a line across the back, but we’ll set that aside.) So modest sunbathing in our culture would be a 1-piece bathing suit. These girls were wearing shorts and tank tops. They climbed a full two rungs up the ladder of modesty, and completely ruined their tan lines, out of courtesy to the men of BYU. And this is the gratitude they get? Sam, these women are telling you that you’re a 2-rung guy! (that’s analogous to a 6-cow woman, btw) Thank your lucky stars they thought so much of you and bent so far backwards (2 rungs backwards!) for you.

  58. Wish I’d waited a bit longer, so I could have included Rebecca’s #55 with Tracy’s and Mark’s.

  59. Well, you could also deduce from the way they were dressed that they were obviously NOT sunbathing–therefore their purpose must have been to inflame the lusts of their fellow students! But who’s to say, really? :)

  60. Steve Evans says:

    #56 -no.

  61. I am a little surprised here. Surprised, first, that the DU letter-to-the-editor was not in complete jest (when I was at BYU, such letters were usually sent as a joke by my friends, mostly as a way to see the intense reactions they would evoke from people, not unlike the reactions posted here). But also surprised at the intense response in the comments section here.

    Much has already been said by way of criticism of Sam’s letter/blog post, so I won’t delve too much into it from that end. Some of the criticism I agree with. However, I think some comments are missing the point of Elder Oaks’s talk and the point that I think Sam was trying to make. I don’t think either of them are making any kind of condemnation of women or demonizing their bodies. Rather, I think the point Elder Oaks was trying to make is to remember the effect our actions have on others. Elder Oaks didn’t say that “woman are pornography.” Rather, he says that a woman may make the problem worse for some struggling men by “becoming pornography _to_ some of the men who see you” (emphasis added). Note that the entire rest of the talk is focused on chastising men who _do_ see women as sex objects, and pleading with them to clean up their minds. This one line is, I believe, a simple reminder that our actions, including what we wear, have an effect on others, and in this case could negatively affect someone struggling to overcome a pornography addiction.

    So why should we care what kind of effect we have on others? Is it really my problem if Joe Blow (perhaps a bad pseudonym for this topic) can’t keep his mind clean when I do something perfectly lawful? I think that the apostle Paul gives a good illustration of this issue in discussing the propriety of eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8). He notes that there is nothing inherently wrong in doing so, since the idol is not actually real and the meat, therefore, is simply meat. But he doesn’t stop there. He then cautions the Corinthian saints to “[b]e careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” Then, as a great demonstration of his character, he resolves that “if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (1 Cor. 8:9, 13, NIV).

    The whole point of “modesty” in dress revolves around the effect it has on others. I think that this is all Elder Oaks was trying to remind us of, and I hope that this is all Sam was trying to do. I know that if I knew I was causing my brother/sister to fall, however much it was his/her fault, I would want to know, and I would want to correct things if possible.

    Clearly, we can’t pander to everyone’s whims or issues, but I think most of us know what kind of effect a little cleavage or a little extra leg can have on men, and I suspect most women who sport these modes know exactly what that effect is as well. I don’t think we need to act naive about this. If I had stellar pecs and chiseled abs with a good tan, I would perhaps avoid running outside sans shirt if I knew the neighbor women were drooling over me. (As it is, I have none of these assets, so I don my shirt when running more as an act of mercy for others). Sure, I have every right to feel the cool breeze on my skin and to try to get a tan, but if I know that I am causing my neighbor’s wife to fantasize about me, even though that it is completely her problem, I can guarantee you that I will be wearing that shirt.

  62. (Ok – I think there were about 20 comments that came in while I was writing the last post, so I apologize if some of my points have already been addressed)

  63. “if I know that I am causing my neighbor’s wife to fantasize about me”

    How would you know that exactly? A survey? Aren’t you really just saying that everyone should wear a shirt all the time just on the chance that someone might find you enticing? By that logic, both women and men will end up in burqas eventually. Nice job.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    $500 says JT is a man.

  65. Cynthia L. says:

    JT, your plea for reason and moderation rings hollow when the instance we are discussing is women being chastised for being over-dressed for sunbathing.

    Your words are like walking into a wedding reception in shorts and a tank top. There’s nothing wrong with your words, they are perfectly fine and reasonable, they are just unsuited to the environs. Put the shorts and tank top back in your dresser, and bring them out next time you hear people attacking someone for condemning the wearing of items from Fredrick’s of Hollywood to lecture at BYU. That is the time to tell people, hey, back up, maybe those lingerie-wearing girls should think about their effect on others.

  66. Steve Evans says:

    …and just just cuz the neighbor’s wife fantasizes about him.

  67. Just to defend Elder Oaks a little bit, his intended audience in that speech was “brethren who are caught in this addiction [pornography] or troubled by this temptation.”

    The words quoted by Sam were simply an aside:
    “And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.”

    He is not saying that women’s bodies are pornography, or even that they automatically become pornography by being uncovered. He is saying that some men–men who have particular challenges with pornography–will look at them as if they were pornography.

    The whole speech is made to encourage men with problems to stand up and start being respectable people. If he wants to encourage women to help, more power to him.

  68. I want to be a father like Mark (#39) and Brad (#53) and have my daughter grow up to be as insightful and well adjusted as Cynthia (32 and on) and Rebecca (#55). This issue is really important and this discussion exposes some deep problems in the way our society perceives women’s bodies and male responsibility for their own reactions to those bodies. I struggle with how to raise my daughter. Your insights help. Thanks.

  69. Amen, SteveP. As a father of three daughters, those comments you named were really helpful to me.

  70. MCQ (64) – You’re right, I wouldn’t know (but I might get the hint by all of the stares). The point I was trying to make is _if_ I knew the effect, I would probably change my course of action. But I enjoyed watching you turn the point I was trying to make into a cute little straw man wearing a burqa as it slides down a slippery slope into ultra-conservativism.

    PS – Rebecca (55) – I think you made the point I trying to make much more eloquently.

  71. Cynthia L. says:

    But Ryan, women shouldn’t have to wear burqas to “help” men, even “some men–men who have particular challenges with pornography.” Sam badly mis-applies Elder Oaks’ words when he uses them against women wearing shirts and shorts, in an occasion when it is perfectly appropriate to do so. It’s all about appropriateness to the occasion, that’s why men swimming “topless” at the BYU pool is not offensive.

  72. As it is, I have none of these assets, so I don my shirt when running more as an act of mercy for others

    I was wondering to myself when I first read this letter, would it have been more or less offensive if they had said, “Some BYU coeds are just too fat to wear tank tops and shorts.” Is it kinder to say you’re inflaming lust and looking like pornography?

    On a more serious note, I think some of the problem women have with statements like the one from Elder Oaks is that they’re trying to understand male sexuality through the prism of their female experience. Women know what it’s like to feel sexually attracted to someone, and they assume that it is similar to a man’s experience, but it isn’t necessarily the same thing at all. A woman thinks, “Hey, I’ve drooled over some guy’s chiseled abs, and it’s just not that big a deal”–which it really isn’t (sorry, guys). A woman’s sexuality is so much more in the mind and much less visually oriented than a man’s. The physiological response is also qualitatively different–which I think everyone knows, but tends to forget at convenient times. Obviously men can control their sexual responses–they do it every day (all day, as the case may be)–but that doesn’t mean it isn’t more challenging for them than it might be for women.

  73. I am having a hard time believing that this letter is anything more then a joke.

  74. #63: I made the same mistake.

    #72: Fully agreed.

  75. Cynthia (66), some of the comments were venturing outside of the realm of women sunbathing in shorts and a tank-top (which I agree is a little extreme for getting up in arms about), and into criticizing the point Elder Oaks was trying to make. My response was to those comments.

    Steve, I’m offended that you are only wagering $500 on my manhood. (I guess I shouldn’t have tried to be all-inclusive in a few of my statements.)

  76. Sam badly mis-applies Elder Oaks’ words

    I agree that the general tone of his letter was just over the top–which was why I initially wondered if it might be a joke, too. That’s what’s disturbing, when it turns out not to be a joke–a lot of men do struggle to control their sexual natures, and this is especially true of men overcoming a sexual addiction or something similar–so why trivialize that struggle by applying such strong language to something as (relatively) benign as shorts and tank tops in the context of “sunbathing.” If shorts and tank tops turn you on, that’s totally understandable, doesn’t make you a sicko perv or anything, and it would sure be easier if women didn’t dress that way–but if it looks like porn to you…you might have some problems that are bigger than the BYU dress code can solve.

  77. Not that I’m accusing poor Bro. Speer of having those problems personally, just saying he should work on his persuasive arguments.

  78. Eric Russell says:

    It seems to me that both Sam and the people attacking Elder Oaks are all interpreting Oaks’ words the same way. I guess their joint misapplication of his words is something they all can agree on, at least.

  79. Steve Evans says:

    JT, it’s not like I was offering someone $500 to castrate you. The BCC Castration Fund has already been earmarked for Connor Boyack.

  80. Can we agree that there is a problem with the following equation?

    (what women wear may have an effect on some men) + (perhaps we can be sensitive to this, though no need to overdo it) = (let’s all wear burqas)

  81. Cynthia L. says:

    I present for everyone’s consideration: the burqini.

    (no, I did not make up the word “burqini” they are very real)

  82. #68 –
    If Elder Oaks’ intended audience was the brethren who are caught up in porn, why did he make the comment to the young women that they contribute to the problem? Regardless of the audience, that comment just feels so wrong to me.

    It’s one thing to teach modesty, but quite another to say that young women are responsible for someone else’s perverted thoughts. That kind of blame shifting is responsible for so much damage, I am really saddened to see it perpetuated by Elder Oaks. If men are addicted to porn, no amount of modesty and good taste is going to prevent them from looking at real women as sex objects.

  83. Steve Evans says:

    #80 the PTB inform me that publicly announcing the BCC Castration Fund’s earmarks is verboten. I apologize, and can only say in my defence that Connor ought to be pleased — this is the first time, in my recollection, that anyone has publicly intimated that he might have testicles.

  84. #85.

    Oh my gosh. Now I have seen it all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  85. I admit that I have long felt Elder Oaks is a bit extreme in his comments about the way women dress. I remember one talk he gave as BYU President while I was there, and he complained about the coeds wearing jeans–something to the effect that he had a hard time telling whether it was a man or woman when coeds wore jeans. Although I never had the guts to actually do it, I considered referring him to several of my female classmates whose femininity was not in any doubt in my mind when they wore jeans. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of coeds in my ward whom I could identify at least a half a mile away solely by the fit of their jeans.

    In a similar vein, while I was attending BYU somebody actually did write a letter to the DU that said something similary to the phrase Cynthia includes in her model letter in #35 above: “Somebody should look into it.” In my one published letter to the DU, I assured the writer that I made diligent note of all the coeds I saw whose clothing was on the edge of the dress code, including short shorts and halter tops.

  86. #85, 86

    Sheesh, what passed for a dictionary in 1828?

  87. 83.

    Right, because Elder Oaks said “young women, YOU are responsible for other people’s perverted thoughts.”

    Obviously, he didn’t. And equally obviously, the lion’s share of the blame lies on the “some men.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t have restricted the effect of these immodestly dressing women to only some of the men.

    “Why did he make the comment to the young women that they contribute to the problem?”

    Um, because they do contribute?

  88. And for the as-yet-unconvinced, I give you Mormon version, Part 2

  89. Looking at the models, I’m actually of the opinion that the swimsuit doesn’t cover enough.

  90. Mr. Evans,
    Be nice. Don’t make me stop this car!

  91. 89 – Hmm. Sort of like driving through a neighborhood of mansions contributes to covetousness or walking into a bakery contributes to gluttony or walking into a jewelery store contributes to theft? You can’t always control what you see, but you do have control over your reaction to it. It would be really convenient to blame the girl showing cleavage for one’s perverted thoughts. That excuse might fly with Elder Oaks, but I don’t think it will with God.

  92. Steve Evans says:

    “As a matter of fact, there were a couple of coeds in my ward whom I could identify at least a half a mile away solely by the fit of their jeans.”

    Those are some big, big jeans.

  93. Bruce Rogers says:

    Kevin(in Post#22 above) tells of the girl at BYU who was not allowed to wear pants to take a test. He did not say when that was. Last Spring (2008) I walked across the BYU campus several times on one day and I noticed that every girl (without exception) was wearing denim pants, the same as the boys. I was only there for two days, to visit friends of mine on the faculty, so perhaps it is different at other times. I would like to know what others have seen.

  94. Latter-day Guy says:

    95, This was years back when girls were expected to wear skirts on campus. It hasn’t been that way for a while.

  95. Latter-day Guy says:

    like 1970s

  96. Bruce, you speak the truth. Kevin is describing the laughably absurd, actually-occurring culmination of a policy that has since been discarded by the powers that be of the BYU.

  97. mpb #52: “The final paragraph of the letter seems to convey an impression of men at BYU as walking time bombs of immorality; all that is left to set them off is the sight of a little skin.”

    I wonder if this isn’t kind of the logical conclusion of Elder Oaks’s approach. Even in the Church more generally, there is the common practice of not having a man and woman unmarried to each other work together too closely in a calling or ride unchaperoned in a car together or whatever. This all seems to point to a view of men as sexual trangressors waiting to happen. Of course I guess these practices don’t convey suspicion of just men.

    I know I’m far from the first person to say this, but it seems like perhaps by making rules and restrictions, we inadvertently sexualize situations that aren’t ordinarily sexual. “Ooh! A woman’s scapula! I’m now insane with lust!”

  98. Bruce Rogers says:

    Scott (post 90 above): thank you for the link to the advertisement about ‘modest’ swimsuits. I had heard about it, but never seen it. I am of the opinion that we should wear swim wear appropriate to the occassion. If there is a swim party in which it is expected that so-called ‘modest’ swim suits are to be worn, then a person should wear that or not go to the party. Likewise, if one attend a party in which others are in two-piece, then one would dress according. As long as the people abide by the legal laws concerning dress (every state has laws on indecency) then we should ‘judge not’.

  99. last week I was at the park with the kiddo’s.

    A woman with surgically enhanced breasts was there. She was wearing a tight tight push up bra and her chest was basicly exposed. She was covered up everywhere else except her chest. Her outfit screamed look at my breasts!!!!
    Is there something wrong with dressing like this? I would argue that yes based on scriptures, and GA quotes. Where am I going wrong in understanding Church modesty standards?

  100. @ 100.

    (awkward silence … crickets chirping)

  101. bbell (101)

    It depends on whether or not she was near Helaman Halls or has a testimony of the BYU Honor Code.

  102. Lady Godiva ought to be able to ride down the middle of University Avenue at high noon buck nekkid and count on BYU men and the elders of Israel for respect.

    Oh, man, she’d definitely have my respect! (I swear I can’t read this without thinking Mike Nichols and Elaine May–sorry for all you kids who have no clue what I mean.)

    And, I don’t know what it’d take to have the neighbors’ wives fantasizing about me, but, hey, my middle-aged ego could use some stroking. (Maybe a tank top and some shorts would do the trick.)

  103. A woman with surgically enhanced breasts was there.

    How could you tell? I mean about the “surgically enhanced” part.

  104. 93.

    Your metaphor is more akin to a man going to a porno shop, and the wares contributing to his lust. Silly stuff, when you put it like that.

    A more appropriate metaphor would be to have a wealthy man driving his shiny new porsche to church, and its contributing to general covetousness among “some” members of the ward. The ward member’s envy is not technically his fault (they should control their own hearts, of course), but he is contributing.

  105. Is there something wrong with dressing like this? I would argue that yes based on scriptures, and GA quotes. Where am I going wrong in understanding Church modesty standards?

    The strawman who is arguing otherwise exists only in your head.

  106. #100 – I’ll tell that to my Bishop the next time we are at the nude beach.

  107. Put more precisely, the fact (which all here agree on) that there does exist such a thing as modest (or immodest) dress in no way proves either that 1) female bodies are pornographic, or 2) that wearing shorts and tank tops to suntan in a public space is immodest.

  108. Brad,

    Is it a strawman? I have read many many criticisms of the Church modesty standards in the bloggernaccle over the years.

    Mark B. You are just going to have to trust me on this one.

  109. bbell,
    If what you’re arguing against is some random set of bloggernaccle comments you’ve encountered over the years, this thread is not the appropriate place to randomly show up and whine about the fact that some people in the naccle are not as conservative as you are. If you can’t point to an argument made in this thread that there is something wrong with the modesty standards themselves (since the entire point of this discussion is not the standards per se but the rhetoric we use to encourage or enforce them, particularly on women), then, yes, it is a strawman.

  110. Brad,

    Usually those criticisms involve a reference or 2 to Western European standards regarding nudity plus comments about prudish Americans. Ask Norbert about his wards menrichment activities :)

  111. And, my point in # 109 still stands.

  112. Again, go to the threads with the offending comments, and lodge your complaints there. Here, you are still attacking a strawman.

  113. Bro. Jones says:

    I am most attracted to a woman who is intelligent and has beautiful eyes. I would therefore like to request that my sisters in the Church play dumb and wear sunglasses at all times, so as to put a damper on my unbridled lust.

    Snarky jokes aside, I think it’s fascinating that there are only female models portrayed on the Wholesome Swimsuit page.

  114. #101 How and why a woman has breast surgery is her business alone. If she chooses to display them provocatively is also her business. If she is outside societal laws then have her arrested. But within those laws her right to dress as she pleases is absolute. You may oogle, like you seem to think she intends, or not, but do not make your discomfort her issue.

  115. Bro. Jones,
    I think that we can all agree that men swimming is an unwholesome, unseemly activity leading to amateur photography and possible drug use. It is God’s will that men don’t enter the water, for the devil rides thereon.

  116. Mark Brown says:

    bbell, did you go up to her and tell he that she is walking pornography? If not, why not? Follow the Brethren, dangit! :)

    Another poin that applies here that I don’t think anybody has mentioned is this: BYU now admits openly gay men and women. Has anybody considered that the sight of men swimming and lifting weights in the gym might be a problem for men who are gay?

  117. Steve (116) – I think you missed bbell’s point. No one is arguing that Enhanced Woman doesn’t have the right to pump up and display.

  118. JT #119, no I got his point. And that is exactly what he was arguing.

  119. To be fair to gay men at BYU, I’ve never seen shirtless dudes lifting weights in the gyms.

  120. Mark,

    Imagine the problems that shirts vs skins would cause our openly gay brothers who happened to walk by the gym at BYU.

    Brad, See comment #116

  121. The only implication of comment #116 for morality is that you should not shift the responsibility for your personal reaction to her body onto her. He did not say that the Church or anyone else should model dress standards on the example you described. If you’d like to get more specific in your critique of comment #116, I’m all ears.

  122. Steve (94)

    No, the jeans were tight enough that the girls had a very distinctive walk.

  123. Those Simply Modest suits are a lot cuter than the Wholesome Wear suits. I could seriously use one of those. Oregon beaches aren’t very warm, and I hate putting on sunblock.

  124. Brad,

    I am rejecting the idea that those that dress really immodestly for attention or for kicks somehow are not somewhat responsible for the ruckus that can result. If a woman or a man intentionally dresses immodestly then they are partly to blame for any adverse reaction if any.

    I do not think that immodest dressers should get a pass for their own bad behavior. I also do not think that those that cannot control their thoughts should get a pass either. But its a sword that should cut both ways

  125. S.P. Bailey says:

    The letter to the editor I would write if ladies wearing the “swimsuits” pictured in the links in No. 85 and 90 decided to sunbathe outside my window:

    Dear Editor:
    The human form is beautiful. And the shedding of excessive layers of clothing is one of the glories of spring! How am I supposed to appreciate (pure and chaste from afar) the glory of God’s creation with these abominable freak suits getting in the way? Don’t these women realize that they are responsible for my thoughts!?

  126. bbell,
    How far are you willing to go with the immodest person’s complicity in whatever follows? Do you think that a rape victim is complicit in their rape if they were dressed immodestly?

  127. John C. That is a really silly question. Talk about a strawman.

  128. bbell,
    All comment #116 did was challenge your assumptions that the woman presented herself in the way she did to “intentionally dress immodestly”, “for attention or for kicks.” It didn’t come anywhere near suggesting that the modesty standards of the church are wrong.

  129. Scott B., thanks for those links. I took the liberty of aggregating them here.

  130. I do not think that immodest dressers should get a pass for their own bad behavior. I also do not think that those that cannot control their thoughts should get a pass either. But its a sword that should cut both ways.

    Where we draw the line at a particular time and place between licentious and appropriate self presentation and dress (whether the line involves breast surgery or cleavage) is immaterial. To assert that a woman who insufficiently shields her body from the male gaze is purposefully soliciting sexual stimulation to the extent that she does not present herself the way he tells her to is to treat her body as an object not just of male pleasure but of male control. To treat her as equally complicit in his sin is itself a sin.

  131. Orwell, glad to be of service. We really need to get the word out about such travesties of fashion.

  132. Nonsense. Like I said people in the bloggernaccle have real issues with the church’s standards on modesty.

    My exp with modesty is that women attempt to enforce modesty standards far more then men do.

  133. The definition of pornography is basically anything that promotes lust. Tank tops and short shorts are found to do so; else why would we have an Honor Code? There’s nothing wrong with wearing your p.j.’s in your dorm, but wearing them in public is not permissible. That is why I have used Oaks’ words in reference to this matter.

    I’ve never been raucously turned on by a guy in a tee shirt and pajama/exercise shorts. For something to be hard-core p0rn, it has to include a sex act, and for it to be soft-core, you have to have full-on nudity. Neither the sunbathers, the basketball players, nor the lazy pajama-wearers fall into this category.

    I think excessive PDA is more distasteful than partially-clad sunbathing (though let she without sin, eh?).

    Having been an RA in Helaman, I can testify that the hormone levels are indeed raging, and there are some pretty crazy shenanigans that go on. However, though this is an offense in the “I’m trying to get attention” category, I think Mormon females as a whole are sexually repressed enough, and don’t need uptight men bemoaning their clavicles. In fact, I recall in our RA training that there were some provisions for what you could wear to sunbathe. You could always call up the Helaman area manager, Paul Barton, if it’s really that much of a concern. He is easy to talk to.

  134. bbell,
    if it isn’t an extension of your line of reasoning (that an immodestly dressed women is complicit in whatever happens after), then please explain how.

  135. Like I said, you’re free to take on any specific shortcomings in your fellow nacclers, but don’t show up on this thread, accuse people here of whatever it is that you’re accusing them of, then fall back on the “well, I just know that people in the bloggernaccle are X” argument to defend the fact that your claims have no substance. If you’d like to elaborate your charge of nonsense, take specific issue with any part of comment #116, or back up your claims that anyone here has expressed disapproval for Church modesty standards, please do so. Otherwise, shaddup.

  136. I have a little girl, and my view of modesty tied up in virtue and chastity has tweaked somewhat since I’ve become her mother and have been in an inner-city YW presidency. I wholeheartedly agree that modesty is an important principle to teach early and often in the arena of fashion, because I want my daughter to take herself seriously and to demand to be taken seriously because she will be a powerful woman, I am sure of it. Our wardrobe can sometimes communicate this.

    For me, as an 18-year-old convert to the church, I transferred to BYU fairly soon after being baptized. In retrospect maybe my v-neck shirts were a little low or my jeans a little tight. I wore these clothes not to be lusted after but because they were my clothes, and they were in adherence with the honor code and I had thrown out anything that wasn’t (too short, sleeveless, etc.). I found myself quickly resisting this notion that it was somehow my responsibility to cover myself up further because it would tempt the otherwise “pure in heart” well-intentioned male students that might glance my way. I started to think that I was supposed to feel like the one who was not pure in heart or well intentioned because of how ‘enticing’ my wardrobe was (BTW it wasn’t). I would have good-natured debates with my roommates about it. Eventually, I conceded the point and bought some new, more modest neckline shirts. I certainly didn’t want to be immodest or to be perceived as someone who did. But as I read this letter to the editor, it sets me back to the internal fury of those days — the days when I was fighting not only the perceived men’s opinions of my modesty therefore my virtue but also the women’s or the church leaders’ as well.

    If my daughter chooses to attend BYU, I hope that she will discard these notions entirely, because they are ridiculous and worrying about them will take up valuable study or having fun time, and I hope she’s strong in spirit enough to be confident with who she is and what she wants in the world and won’t get caught up in body shame or trying to fulfill someone else’s needs by what she wears or doesn’t wear. If she wants to socialize with girlfriends while rolling up her sleeves and getting some rays once the winter doldrums are past, more power to her. I hope that her college experience will be a wonderful learning and social experience, and I know she can do that without losing her virtue or her testimony. And I hope she laughs when she reads the letters to the editor. I always did. Loved the BCC lab analysis. Keep them coming.

  137. In that last one, I EPIC FAILed to use the html quote function right. The first paragraph was quoting Mr. Speer.

  138. Peter LLC says:

    124:Oregon beaches aren’t very warm, and I hate putting on sunblock.

    Good point. I always wear a wetsuit for the reasons you cite.

  139. Fixed, Portia.

  140. You may oogle, like you seem to think she intends, or not, but do not make your discomfort her issue.

    Evidently bbell must have done enough “oogling” (is that a cross between “Googling” and “ogling”? or is it simply a cross between “ooh” and “ogle”–where the object of the ogle is particularly ooh-worthy?) to detect the fact of surgical enhancement. But he can’t let us in on the secrets of detection? Someone call foul!

    And, I’m surprised that nobody has pointed out that the original letter writer should have learned better the art of creative argument (and selective fact-forgetting) from his great uncle Albert.

  141. Brad,

    Take a look at your last paragraph. That is academic sounding criticism of the LDS patriarchy’s teachings on modesty

    I am going to bow out now. I think you proved my point at least to me with your #137

  142. What point did I prove? Simple labeling something as “academic sounding criticism” of something does not make it so. Take your ball and go home if you choose. I’m completely comfortable letting what we’ve already written stand on its own.

  143. [bbell falls to the floor and refuses to get back up]

    Announcer: And it’s a TKO for Brad!

  144. @ 145.

    I dunno…bbell left on his own terms with a dramatic “Oh Huh!” and Brad was left yelling at an empty room.

    I call it a draw.

  145. Steve Evans says:

    Pretty poor academics, really.

  146. Peter LLC says:

    Pretty poor academics, really.

    You trying to start a monster thread on BYU grad students on welfare or somethin’?

  147. Porn

  148. Steve #147,
    No one claimed anything was academic, just “academic sounding.”

  149. I’ve always associated “shaddup” as being very academic in tone. Can you dumb it down, please, Brad?

  150. I wrote my thesis on the moral implications of shaddup.

  151. Haiku for Brad:

    Sounds Academic
    So Take Your Ball and Go Home
    Otherwise, Shaddup

  152. “back up your claims that anyone here has expressed disapproval for Church modesty standards”

    Um, isn’t one of the main objections being expressed here that people think it’s ok for someone to wear clothing while sunbathing at BYU that actually is against the honor code at BYU – which means it’s directly against the modesty standards of the Church **for that setting**?

    Brad, I respect you, and I don’t associate shorts and tank tops with porn, but bbell is totally correct when he says that there is a strong and obvious undercurrent of disapproval for Church modesty standards in lots of the comments in this thread. Perhaps not “general” standards, but certainly BYU sunbathing standards – and those are Church modesty standards in every meaningful way.

    Are you really arguing that there isn’t that tone in lots of comments here?

  153. Steve Evans says:

    That’s an outstanding haiku.

    “BYU sunbathing standards – and those are Church modesty standards in every meaningful way. ”

    Ray, you sure about that, man?

  154. Is it appropriate to have posts like this that focus on individual letters in the Daily Universe? That’s not meant in any sanctimonious sense; I’m asking.

    Poor Sam sent his misguided letter to the DU where he knew it would be read by mostly like-minded people and where he hoped it would actually change some minds. He meant well. He was probably too inexperienced to consider issues of gender equality, or messages about body image, or where his business ends. He probably didn’t think of how his missionary-mentality comments would live forever online, where there is no Zion curtain.

    On the other hand, this kind of crap at BYU has got to stop, because these people graduate and end up buying houses in my ward, and they show up at my house with Jell-O just as I’m yelling at my kids for spilling a bucket of paint on the carpet, and then after they sadly nod they go tell the bishop that child protective services needs to get involved. Also, their lawn looks better than mine. Anyone who’s been to BYU knows this mentality and that’s why the letter is hilarious and deserves mockery.

    Most importantly, the letter was voluntary put into public space, so it fair game for public comment. On the web, it’s a message to the world, and anyone can praise it or tear it to shreds. That’s how we do business in the intertubes, and if this is harsh, he should have known better. He himself started it by elevating the actions of others (the sunbathers) from a narrow forum (their own backyard) into a broader one (the Daily Universe), so maybe it’s just karma.

    It was all too easy to find out the letter’s author and drag him into the conversation. The police column in the Daily Universe is an anonymous target, but this is one person whom you can find and contact, and who will probably find the thread. Whatever the content of the letter, is it appropriate to highlight it here? Should this little guy get picked on?

    Maybe not. Maybe.

  155. Starfoxy says:

    One word that I think is missing from all of this is “polite.” Saying “Immodestly dressed women are partially responsible for the sexual thoughts of men who find them arousing.” Is wrong headed and makes women responsible for the chastity of everyone around them. Dressing inappropriately (where “inappropriate” can mean anything from immodest, to ostentatious, unprofessional ) is bad because it is rude. It is rude because it calls attention to oneself in ways that are not appropriate to the situation or it is disctracting.
    If dressing immodestly is wrong just because it incites someone to lust, then that means that me wearing a teddy to relief society is not wrong because there are no men there to lust after me. If dressing immodestly is wrong because inappropriate dress is rude then me wearing a teddy to RS is still wrong. I distinctly remember girls at girl’s camp who insisted that their clothes were fine because there were no boys around to be tempted.
    Another thing is much of the way we talk about dressing modestly frames it as something you are wicked for not doing. This contributes to the idea that women create men’s problems. Instead we could frame it as service, or respect, “I dress this way to show respect to the people around me.” In this way immodest women are not the cause of the problem, but modest women are actively providing help.

  156. Wait, so Brad telling bbell to put up or “shaddup” is a criticism of the General Authorities of the church? bbell, what haven’t you been telling us?

  157. Matt,
    You have to admit that at least 15% of the things said here will be more intelligent than 14% of the things that will be said in the Daily Universe.

  158. Starfoxy says:

    from a narrow forum (their own backyard)

    Wait wait wait wait wait.
    At my university we had a space we called the ‘quad’ because it was a large grassy expanse with four big campus buildings on each side. It felt much like a park and people would play frisbee or soccer there.
    I assumed that ‘Helaman quad’ was a similar sort of very public space. Am I to understand that ‘Helaman quad’ is rather the courtyard space of a dorm building? He’s griping about women sunbathing in shorts and tanktops there?
    Dude. That is almost like complaining that women take off all their clothes in the privacy of their own showers, the wanton jezebels.

  159. Starfoxy, there are not any private or quasi-private outdoor spaces at Helaman, if memory serves.

  160. John, I double-checked your math, and the numbers don’t lie. Truly, the Tender Mercies of the Internet are at work here.

  161. Starfoxy, I think that this is the quad he’s talking about:,-111.654224&spn=0.002424,0.005676&t=h&z=18

    All the surrounding buildings are the HH dorms. The university is up the hill to the southeast. Right there in the middle seems like the most natural place to sunbathe, as long as you cover up your actual skin.

  162. Ray,
    Yes, many here have expressed concern or frustration with the idea that shorts and tank tops for sunbathing is immodest (or at least pornographic). That’s not at all the same thing as criticizing the Church’s modesty standards. Even if it can be argued (and I really don’t know the details here) that it is a violation of the honor code, that does not make it a violation of the Church’s modesty standards. bbell began his “argument” about the bloggernaccle’s unrighteous attitudes toward Church teachings with a story about a woman who, evidently, purposefully enhanced her breasts and publicly flaunted them with a low cut shirt and push-up bra in order to tantalize righteous men. He then suggested that the people in this discussion (by which, I assume, he meant the people arguing against the notion that shorts + tank tops = living pornography) do not consider such dress standards to be immodest and are critical of the Church for teaching so. It’s rubbish, a huge, steaming, reeking pile of rubbish for which he refused (pun intended) to furnish actual evidence (other than vague recollections of past offenses or a suggestion that StevenP criticized the Church’s standards in comment #116 or that I did in an “academic sounding” sorta way in some paragraph somewhere).

  163. Matt, I can’t see anyone sunbathing in those pictures. What are google maps good for if you can’t see any illicit shoulders. Okay, so those are pretty similar to the public sort of space I was imagining.
    The (non-coed) dorms I lived in were all like these with rather private courtyards. Be-tanktopped sunbathing in one of those would be rather puritanical.

  164. Mark Brown says:

    I think the idea that tank tops and shorts are a violation of the dress and honor code is mistaken. Women obviously can’t wear them to class, but if they were playing soccer in the quad instead of sunning themselves, shorts and tank tops would be fine. If they were around a pool, swimsuits would be fine. The idea of somebody being offended by looking out his dorm window and seeing females in shorts and tank tops is ridiculous, and it deserves to be ridiculed.

    Please, somebody reassure me that there is not a section of the dress code that lays out rules for sunbathing.

    Brad, we are not fooled. We see right through your academic, secular liberal agenda.

  165. Not to make this long thread any longer, but I thought I would just mention one thing. Much of the criticism regarding any advocacy for modesty seems to stem around a disdain of the idea that a woman may be partially responsble for the naughty thoughts of a man. I look at it differently.

    Illustration: Let’s say I like to sing “Cats in the Cradle” ( by Harry Chapin as I walk down the street by my house. Unbeknownst to me one of the neighbors (the husband of one of the drooling, recently enhanced, low-cut blouse wearing housewives – this has nothing to do with the story btw) had a rough childhood with an absent father. Whenever he heard that song, it made him really angry, to the point that he contemplates calling his 80-yr-old father and saying “Raca.” Now I have every right to sing that song, and it is not my fault in any way if he goes ahead and spews out a dozen Racas his-father-ward. But if I know that that is the effect my singing has on this neighbor, I think it would at least be the charitable thing to do if I stopped singing.

    On the other hand, if I know the effect it has on my neighbor, and I continue to do it anyway, isn’t that at least a little bit selfish of me to flaunt my rights when I know it is potentially harming him?

    Brad – Your mom can take her ball and go home. And my shaddup can beat up your shaddup. Seriously, though, don’t you think you were a little harsh on bbell?

  166. “Seriously, though, don’t you think you were a little harsh on bbell?”

    I don’t think so, JT. There is no hyperbole or overreaction on BCC. Ever. Such an inference is nothing but rubbish, a huge, steaming, reeking pile of rubbish.

  167. Re: the google map, wow, what have they done with Helaman Halls?

    In my day the freshman dorms were are suffocating hotbed of holier-than-thou scheming controlled by the heirarchy of callings issued in the faceless, fungible student wards. Given that Mr. Speer’s letter was generated in that kind of environment, I give it something of a pass.

  168. JT, no. At worst I implicitly accused bbell of being stupid, or at least of making stupid arguments. He, on the other hand, showed up and started bandying about accusations about lapsed moral standards of people on this thread and in the ‘naccle. Maybe I took his accusations more seriously than I should have, but it’s hardly a first offense. To jump to the kinds of conclusions that his first comment did and then to defend those conclusions with blanket generalizations about people in the bloggernaccle is ridiculous. In other words, I stand by my overreaction. :)

  169. Brad (170) – “At worst I implicitly accused bbell of being stupid.”

    Fair enough. :)

  170. Yes, JT (#167), it would be rude. Just as Starfoxy said in #157.

    Dressing immodestly is tacky, rude, impolite, bad-mannered, unladylike, and gauche. But still, it ain’t the gal’s responsibility if a guy’s mind crashes to the gutter when he sees how hot she is. And vice versa. (Women have imaginations, too, believe it or not.)

  171. :) aside, if Ray and JT and I all think a longtime bloggernacler like bbell was treatedly harshly for insufficient reason, and are willing to say so despite the likelihood that you’ll treat us the same way, there just may be reason to consider the possibility that an apology is in order. Even if it’s a sideways self-aggrandizing HBO-style non-apology.

  172. JT, maybe it’s helpful to think about it in terms of “freedom to” and “freedom from.” For example, let’s suppose some girls want freedom to sunbathe where some boys nearby want freedom from the sight of women’s kneecaps. Often the two are in conflict, and I’m really not sure exactly how we balance them, but at some point restricting other people’s behavior for our convenience simply isn’t fair to them.

    While we’re imagining, let’s imagine a (modestly dressed) churchgoer who hates Christmas and sobs any time it’s mentioned or she sees so much as a decoration. Perhaps her father died on Christmas Day. The “charitable,” “polite” thing for the ward to do would be to eliminate Christmas–from music, lessons, decorations, talks, programs, activites, etc. And maybe that’s a solution worth considering. But it’s worth pointing out that it would be depriving other people of significant opportunities that are meaningful to them.

  173. JT,
    so you know, blanket generalizations regarding the relative righteousness of bloggernacle participants (or, at least, people with whom the accuser disagrees) are standard fare. In this way, we really aren’t that different from the Daily Universe letters to the editor page. It is just as tiring here.

  174. Kiskilili (174) – Agreed. No need to accomodate when clearly unreasonable.

  175. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE 154: “…isn’t one of the main objections being expressed here that people think it’s ok for someone to wear clothing while sunbathing at BYU that actually is against the honor code at BYU – which means it’s directly against the modesty standards of the Church **for that setting**?”

    Ray, I think that the setting and the activity are where Brother Speer’s argument really falls apart. BYU’s Honor Code (in practice) takes into account differing standards of what is modest for different public activities. These girls are not lounging by the administration building, or making dust-angels on the terrazzo of the HFAC. They are sunbathing in fairly tame attire. If they were to move a few yards and jump in a pool they would be overdressed; in fact, even lying by the pool they would be among the über-modest. For their location and for their activity, they are modest by any reasonable standard––certainly by any standard BYU is willing to enforce.

    Though there may be broader dislike of Church modesty standards in the bloggernacle as bbell claims (and I have no idea if this is the case), in this instance the girls in question are within the guidelines of the Honor Code’s reasonable application. So, until Mr. Speer or bbell are able to provide compelling argument to the contrary––since the girls haven’t actually violated the Honor Code––any disapproval would be directed toward Mr. Speer’s letter and his opinions of what constitutes modesty, not the Church’s standard.

  176. #172 – Emily, I have four daughters, and I hope and pray our overly-Victorian attitudes have changed radically by the time the youngest, at least, enters college. (There’s little chance it will happen in two years for my oldest daughter, unfortunately.) I agree with most of what’s been said here, and I’ve already said that I think reacting against shorts and tank tops is hyperbole (even at BYU, especially if they actually aren’t in violation of the dress code), but it’s claims at the opposite end like yours that make it easy to see why some people over-react.

    You said, “it ain’t the gal’s responsibility if a guy’s mind crashes to the gutter when he sees how hot she is.”

    With all due respect, it might be – and “how hot she is” really isn’t relevant in all cases. Your statement is a blanket extreme that absolves all women of all blame in all situations – and there are situations where “the gal” absolutely is responsible if a “guy’s mind crashes to the gutter”. I can think of some that wouldn’t be appropriate to even mention here, but I also can think of a very real example that is related directly to this post.

    If a female student at a college decides to wear nothing but a string bikini throughout the day, walking all around campus in the process, she is directly responsible for the thoughts that run through the minds of the guys that see her – and the fact that those thoughts generally will be in the gutter is a direct result of her choice of attire. More to the point, there is no reasonable argument for her to do so – other than, “I can do whatever I want to do.” That might be true, but adding, “and you’re a pervert if you don’t avert your eyes immediately and if you have any improper thoughts,” is irrational, naive and just plain stupid.

    Now, if any of the guys let their minds remain in the gutter, or if they then concoct fantasies about her, or they label her a slut, or they act on that somehow (for example, by catcalling or harassing her in any way) – then that is their responsibility, pure and simple. However, she bears direct responsibility for how her decision impacted their minds initially. That is true as long as we live in a world with sub-celestial beings.

    There really is a “line” in these discussions, and claiming there isn’t does nothing more than put ALL the blame on the men OR the women – since claiming there is no line simply hides the actual line on the extreme end of one side of the fulcrum – meaning it has to be either full nudity in all cases or complete and total coverage in all cases. That simply isn’t reasonable, so we have to establish SOME level of “modesty”.

    The issue is about where it is proper to draw the reasonable line, NOT asserting that a woman can do anything she wants without any responsibility or accountability. As long as at least two people are interacting, that will be true in just about anything that requires interaction.

  177. #177 – Well said.

  178. Mark Brown says:

    I, on the other hand, think it is bbell who owes John C. an apology.

    COnsider this:

    bbell: If a woman or a man intentionally dresses immodestly then they are partly to blame for any adverse reaction if any.

    John C. How far are you willing to go with the immodest person’s complicity in whatever follows? Do you think that a rape victim is complicit in their rape if they were dressed immodestly?

    bbell: John C. That is a really silly question. Talk about a strawman.

    John asks a reasonable question and bbell doesn’t even bother to answer, he just calls him silly. He also make accusations about unnamed people in the bloggernacle who don’t keep church standards.

    If you’re going to make accusations, be big enough to stand behind them. Otherwise, well, what Brad said.

  179. The issues raised in this thread get my blood boiling far more so than bbell’s occasionaly attempts to call the bloggernaccle to repentance. That said, I’m certain his intentions were better than my noisy responses gave him credit for. I doubt this issue will cease to boil my blood any time soon, but my disagreements with bbell’s arguments or claims here do not justify being a total jerk.

    For that, brother bell, I offer an unqualified apology.

  180. It was kind of a silly question though (and a straw man argument).

    complicity : guilt as an accomplice in a crime or offense

    bbell never said complicit. He said “partly to blame.” Plus the appeal to emotion involved in invoking a rape example is a cheap shot.

  181. Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t “guilty as an accomplice” a, like, pretty straightforward synonym for “partly to blame”?

  182. Thank you, Brad.

    Mark Brown, much as I often wish I could say what you say the way you say it, this time we’ll have to disagree. Sometimes I, and apparently others, are very uncomfortable with the general tenor of comments, and we’d like to express that discomfort in a general way, without being dragged into one of those chest-butting arguments that can’t be won because no matter how carefully you answer someone’s challenge, there’s always another challenge or ten. I really think that was all bbell intended to do — express general discomfort, not call the bloggernacle to repentance. Heaven knows I felt the same way but didn’t say anything because I didn’t want the treatment he got. Sticking up for a friend and for someone who said what I was feeling finally made me stick my neck out. Now I’m pulling it back in, and will go away.

  183. Eric Russell says:

    Actually, Mark, it was a pretty silly question. See Ray’s 178 for further light and knowledge.

  184. Ardis,
    I apologized because I was wrong — my treatment of bbell was out of line, and you were right to point it out. Your suggestion, on the other hand, that I had a similar attack planned for you and JT and Ray was its own brand of cheap shot.

    No one got taken out for expressing discomfort with the comments in a general way. bbell was (inappropriately) attacked for making a fairly specific accusation about the comments, for which he refused to provide evidence. If you believe that John C. or anyone here, myself included, who has taken issue with the sentiment expressed in the DU letter has done so in a way that conveys criticism or disapproval of the Church’s modesty standards, feel free to reprove with examples.

  185. The person who leaves his house unlocked when he goes on vacation, and returns to find a burgled house is “partly to blame.”

    The person who makes sure the coast is clear while his criminal friend steals into the house, and then goes on to sell the booty on ebay is “guilty as an accomplice.”

  186. Ardis, knowing bbell, there’s actually a fair chance he was indeed trying to call the bloggernacle to repentance. But such is his charm!

  187. Ryan, not quite. Those who are guilty as accomplices are also partly to blame, though the reverse may not be true as you point out.

  188. So the blame a woman bears for the lustful feelings her incompletely covered body induces in the minds of men is analogous to the person who forgets to lock his door?

    That sounds like a different degree of blame from the augmented-breasted harlots trying to monopolize the attention of righteous men with their cleavage…

  189. I used those examples to draw the semantic distinction between the two phrases in question–not to describe what kind of blame goes to a person in cases of modesty. So no, that analogue wasn’t intended.

    Steve Evans,

    You got me there!

  190. If what you mean by partial blame extends much beyond the example, then your “complicity” vs “blame” becomes a distinction without a difference.

  191. Isn’t it time to let this one go?

  192. Latter-day Guy says:

    Oh, c’mon HG. I thought you left this post ages ago! Why interrupt now?

  193. #194 – Niblet?

  194. Sam's Girlfriend says:

    Hello all–found this link on my boyfriend’s blog. I sat here and read every word posted. This letter was written out of frusteration with the girls around him, and as a voice for similar comments he’s heard from other guys. I am sad that it is considered such a scandal that he, along with other young men, *want* the young women around them to respect themselves. Young women at BYU have been asked to respect and uphold standards put forth by the Church, specifics on which can be found in pamphlets such as For Strength of the Youth (which short shorts and tanktops do, yes, violate as casual wear). The point of these guidelines is to teach young people to dress modestly in clothing that will compliment covenants they will make with their Heavenly Father, and the garments they will wear as a symbol of those covenants. The majority of young men in Helaman Halls are soon-to-leave missionaries who will, themselves, be entering the temple and making such covenants. My boyfriend expressed his concern about the young women’s choices in supporting (or not supporting) these young men and his worry about whether or not they understand how serious their influence can be (why he included the quote by Elder Oaks). The sarcastic and mocking responses, regardless of my boyfriend or his intentions or what he put into words, are a sad misunderstanding of this important and understated issue. This is not an issue of social norms, trends, influences, or a battle of the sexes, as many of the arguments are based on, but of somthing that is important and sacred. I understand that some of you are simply looking for a point to debate, and know nothing that is said can stop that. But for those of you who honestly had a question about my boyfriend’s letter, I wanted to clarify and ask for some respect.

  195. Sam's Girlfriend says:


    sorry for the typo

  196. I stand by my question (although I agree it is silly; I just think that bbell was being a bit silly, too).

    That said, I will follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Let’s close this sucker down.

  197. Mark Brown says:

    I am going to blatantly abuse my admin superpowers to re-open comments long enough for me to also issue an apology to bbell. Sorry man. I overreacted, and there’s no excuse.

    OK, comments closed again.

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