BYU’s Honor Code and Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

No cap sleeves, slit one inch above knee. Come to daddy!

Does the BYU honor code create or discourage sexual harassment?  Does the increasingly stringent focus on female modesty create or discourage objectification of women?  In both cases, women are often singled out and approached by total strangers who feel it’s acceptable to make comments on their appearance.  In the work place, this behavior may constitute creating a hostile work environment.  At BYU, we call it standing valiantly for right.

In employment law, hostile environment sexual harassment refers to a situation where employees in a workplace are subject to a pattern of exposure to unwanted sexual behavior . . . It is distinguished from quid pro quo sexual harassment, where a direct supervisor seeks sexual favors in return for something . . . courts have . . . recognized hostile environment as an actionable behavior since the late 1980s.

BYU’s Honor Code

Most colleges have an honor code.  Not many include a dress code because dress is not directly associated with honesty.[1]  University honor codes promote academic rigor by applying harsh penalties, including expulsion, if a student is found cheating.  This protects the university’s academic reputation.  The BYU honor code states that it prohibits sexual harassment as part of living a chaste and virtuous life.  An example of this would be repeatedly soliciting dates after being rejected.  However, the code also stipulates that students are required to “encourage others” in their commitment to live the honor code (which includes an increasingly stringent dress code).  This “encouragement” of others sometimes plays out in strange ways.

Modesty is the beam in the eye of the beholder.

A student who is hyper-vigilant for dress code infractions made by fellow students is supported by the system.  The standards office addresses all claims, seeking subjective “facts” to support the allegation, including witness statements where possible.  The anonymity of the person making the claim is preserved, and there are no negative consequences for a student making a false or unsupported accusations.  Students called to the standards office are required to prove their commitment to the code or to disprove the claim that was made.

Here are 4 real life examples from BYU:

  • When I was a freshman, an anonymous tipster said my skirt was too short, and I received a notice to report to the standards office.  I felt embarrassed and panicked; I hadn’t knowingly violated the school code.  Would this incident go in my file?  Could I be expelled or put on probation if they didn’t like me?  I talked to my roommates; every single one of them had experienced a call to standards at one time or another.  I wore the offending skirt when I went to standards, and they said it was fine.  I felt I must have some rights in this situation.[2]  I was irritated that I had been put through this, and I asked what would happen to the student who made the false claim, and they said nothing; they further advised that though my skirt was within standards, maybe I shouldn’t wear it again in case someone else reported me.  The onus was on me to prevent future specious accusations.  Nobody cared that I had spent several stressed out days and time and energy to report to the standards office for what turned out to be a baseless accusation.
  • A few years later, I discovered our apartment complex’s male RA standing in the bushes, peering into my roommate’s window.  When I asked what he was doing, he said: “I think your roommate’s fiance is in her room.”  I told him that if I ever found him looking in our windows again I’d call the police.  I knew they would see his behavior as unacceptable. [3]
  • Most will remember the skinny jeans debacle at BYU-I last year, in which a curvaceous female student was barred entrance to take her exam because the male testing center manager deemed her pants too tight.  She had gone to the testing center straight from a ward leadership meeting with her bishop, and her pants were not even “skinny jeans”; she was just a pretty girl being objectified by a stranger with enough authority to bar her from taking her test.
  • Some will recall last year’s Valentine’s Day note passed to a girl at BYU who was wearing a nearly-knee length skirt with leggings.  The note was a request for her to consider the impact her manner of dress had on other students.  It didn’t say anything about the impact of getting a note from a random creeper on Valentine’s Day about the fact that your covered knees are “having an impact” on so-called “others.”  What she was wearing would have been acceptable attire in a mosque.

These were just random female students, trying to study or take a test, who happened to be visible to male students who couldn’t control their own sexual thoughts and felt perfectly in their right to approach a stranger and ask her to take responsibility for their sexual reactions.

Exhibit A. Impossible not to sound like a jerk when trying to defend the dress code.

Let me clarify that many BYU students (male & female) agreed that these last two incidents were out of line, although there were also many who sided against the women.  The skinny jeans situation even created a policy clarification that skinny jeans were acceptable, which contradicted the flyer that had been distributed around campus telling women they were not true disciples of Christ if they wore the offending jeans (see image to the right).

In the early 1970s, BYU gave students pre-printed “Pardon me” cards to hand to fellow students whose clothing didn’t meet the dress code standards, but the school discontinued them soon thereafter.[4]  Perhaps we should replace them with cards boys can hand to girls that say “Sproing!  Your cute outfit just gave me a boner!”

The Corporate World

How would this play out in the workplace?  First of all, corporate dress codes, where they exist, are less restrictive than BYU.  Corporate dress codes are written to encourage employees to project a professional image, without reference to sexual motives.  There are  cultural disincentives to dress in a deliberately sexy manner (e.g. women have reason to fear they may not be taken seriously).

Sexual conduct is handled as a separate policy matter from dress code.  A male colleague approaching a female colleague to inform her that her clothing is too sexy or too tight would therefore be initiating a discussion about his own sexual reaction.  Most men in the corporate world wouldn’t touch that conversation with a ten-foot pole[5].  How this comment will be perceived by the female colleague is subjective.  Most women in the workplace would feel uncomfortable, particularly because it is an unwanted criticism and they have not violated any company policy.  Unless they are close friends with the male who approaches them, they may feel threatened by this interaction; they will probably feel sexually objectified and slightly creeped out.

If a woman complains to the HR department that she was approached by a male colleague who made sexual comments about her appearance, the HR team would investigate the complaint to determine if there is a pattern of unwanted behavior and to assess whether the complaint is justified based on what a “reasonable person” would feel in that situation.  Based on how most women would perceive being approached in this manner, the guy will probably be deemed to be in the wrong.  Because most courts side with complainants, large corporations take complaints of hostile work environment very seriously.  The corporation must be able to demonstrate in court (if the situation arises) that they have a strong track record of taking these types of complaints seriously.  Even if the complaint is resolved, being the subject of this kind of investigation will raise questions about this person’s ability to work with others; these doubts will limit his career potential.

Another concern happens relative to how men and women are discouraged from interacting.  If a man refuses to be alone with a female colleague in a professional work context (e.g. on a business trip or in an office for a one-on-one meeting), that man is the one who is bringing sexuality into the workplace and creating an awkward situation, one not recognized by the majority of professionals as a real threat (where there is no history of sexual misconduct).  Male employees are expected to treat female colleagues, subordinates and bosses as business professionals, not as potentially seductive threats.  As Tracy M put it in another forum:

“there is a cost to holding a normative line outside the accepted social and professional perimeters one inhabits. That cost might be absorbed entirely by you, or it might be projected into others- particularly, me (as a woman). When men refuse to work with women, whatever their well-thought out reasoning, historically, it reinforces the Old Boys Club, and progressively, it will (thankfully) more and more frequently, harm their own careers.”


I want to clarify that most of the Mormon men I know are perfectly capable of controlling themselves when they see an attractive woman, regardless of how that woman is dressed or whether they are alone with her; this was true even at BYU.  Most of them can handle seeing an attractive woman in the workplace without stuttering out some sort of unwanted creepy commentary or fleeing as if from Potiphar’s wife.  But those who are already prone to creeperdom are bolstered and given plenty of fodder for self-justification in the Mormon world, to their peril.  And by far, the biggest creepers I’ve met in the workplace have been Mormon men.  In one case, it even caused our company’s senior leaders to ask whether Mormon culture was creating the sexist and unprofessional behavior that had been observed.[6]

BYU Pamphlets could say: “So you’re a Standards Stalker.”

I suggest the following changes:

  • Dress standards have changed dramatically over time.  I suggest we move to principle-based standards that don’t dictate specifics.  Give them correct principles and let them govern themselves!  I know, I know, it’s not the Mormon way.
  • I would love to see the university do some research on the number of dress code complaints against men vs. women.  If the split is not 50/50, that seems pretty clear that something is unequal in the way the dress code is written and/or enforced.  That’s including beard and hair length complaints–probably 99% of the complaints against men.[7]  I would also like to see a study showing who made the complaint:  men reporting women, women reporting men, women reporting women or men reporting men.  I suspect a high % are men reporting women, which would be very telling if it is the case.
  • Let’s put the honor back in the honor code; students should be “on their honor” to abide by it.  When someone else calls you out for it, they are questioning your honor.  That’s certainly how I felt.  I suggest we settle this the old fashioned way, with duels on the quad.[8]  Would the standards committee be willing to act as second for some of these self-righteous weirdos?  I think not.
  • Tattling and whistle-blowing are perfectly appropriate for cheating, physically harming others or egregious ethics violation like quid pro quo.  But dress code?  Really?  Grow the hell up, people.
  • The standards office should track those who report so-called modesty violations to verify that they don’t have a pattern of harassment.  They should then educate those who make complaints how to manage their own sexual feelings and their own accountability.[9]  Maybe a pamphlet like the ones on Glee.  Or perhaps they could volunteer for Milgrams experiments in the psych department.  Let’s make lemonade out of these lemons.

We are told to be in the world but not of the world.  Are we preparing BYU students for entry into the workplace when we encourage and reward sexual objectification and social awkwardness?  Are we preparing our students for adulthood when we reward tattling as a way to solve problems?  Are we respecting women when we ratchet up the focus on modesty to the point that women whose intentions are honorable are singled out and treated with suspicion?  Is it a mistake to conflate a person’s honor with a dress code?



[1]  An exception to this rule is military colleges which do typically govern behavior on and off campus.

[2]  I didn’t.

[3] My experience working for a local college in Pennsylvania for 2+ years led me to believe that campus security typically likes to resolve things in-house which often translates into more leniency in order to keep things hushed up.

[4]  We must have been better at avoiding train wrecks back then.

[5] Insert tent pole joke here.

[6] The fact that I am a Mormon was cited as evidence to the contrary.  Good thing nobody asked my opinion.

[7] Although I did have a fellow student who was told his visible leg hair (due to not wearing socks) was indecent as “male leg hair is an extension of the pubic hair.”

[8] Or dueling quads:  a really vigorous scripture chase?

[9] Sing a hymn?  Perhaps not The Iron Rod.


  1. Re: your footnote #7, I think I remember reading that in Martha Beck’s Leaving the Saints, and – could I possibly be remembering this right? – that it was presented non-facetiously.

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this issue. It’s been on my mind lately as well, except in a hijab-modesty form (I live in the Middle East). I think your article has a lot of parallels with this one: Beard Memes and and the Proper Hijab Narrative. With just a few minor tweaks, a lot of those “improper hijab” infographics could be hung up in the student center at BYU/BYUI or used as a handout in YW. In fact, every once in a while the Letters to the Editor page in some newspapers here reminds me SO MUCH of the Letters to the Editor of the Daily Universe. There was one letter a while ago from a male student at a university here ranting about how some female students (accidentally?) let their abayas blow open when a gust of wind came by and how inappropriate that was (they are fully clothed underneath, by the way). I swear it’s one-strap backpacks all over again.

  2. Jessica F. says:

    I think the issue really is that modesty is still sexulaization and objectification of women’s bodies. I think that too often we think that in church we are doing better than the rest of society, but fail to see that we are just moving our objectification along the continuum. And that messages that say “you can only get a date if you wear this short shirk” is the same as saying “you can only get a date if you wear this mid calf skirt” It is not better, it is not even doctrinal. I really think that until we in the church choose to elevate how we talk about women above a telestial level than we will just be adding to these issues. Sadly Elder Scott gave a horrible talk at our stake conf telling men that they need to tell women to dress a certain way or that they will not be marriage material. UGH. I just wish I saw it going to a more healthy spot but it feels like in the last 10 years it has just gotten so much worse.

    I really think that we do not prepare people for real life. The world has moved past a 1950s america and yet the church has not. And I think we are teaching men objectify and women to be objectified. I have also come to the conclusion that the church also provides a really good opportunity for me to share space with my kids and point out that these issues just manifest themselves in other areas. We live in the UK, but last week my 9 year old daughter came home and said “there was this boy who was treating women like objects and not like people, I told the teacher and he had to write an apology note” I really don’t think I would have ever had that conversation at such a young age with my kids if it had not been for the glaringly obvious way we treat women in the church.

    I hope we change it sooner rather than later. It is really hard to sit and see and hear things happen that are just so wrong.

  3. Very thoughtful and well argued article. It amazes me to the extent that some take the code and turn it towards a covert opportunity to inform on others or somehow empowers extreme whistle blowing. These are not major infringements but personal interpretations but have a similar affect on the accused. It seems to me that BYU must have many delinquents among both faculty and students that are unable to judge between modesty, immodesty, and the need for women to wear a hijab. What makes it more insidious is the nature of informing, making the accused go through further interrogation of their lives based on the judgment of an unnamed person having not met their standards. Don’t even get me started on the beard policy, as a 40 something I’m still yet to be able grow a beard but nevertheless this means you can be honourable with a moustache but with beards it must be some cause of moral decay, it is just totally bizarre. Define form fitting? Can you tell if it is a male or female, then form fitting could be the problem. I am so surprised that BYU does not have any swimming pools, or is it acceptable there? If this is because it is a church school, and that is the reason for the code, why does not the wider Church require it? I’m sorry but it smacks of fundamentalism of extreme proportions. I am a white shirt, suit type of guy, conservative in dress and standards, not an activist of a particular ideology, but it seems to me to be patriarchy of the worst kind judged by those (normally student) who are so misguided that they lack any wisdom, self respect or apparent intelligence.

  4. The honor code at BYU has been disproportionately used as a punitive tool against LGBT students. There persists abuses that impact LGBT students, since there is a similar vigilante force out there making sure LGBT people aren’t holding hands, or kissing, or doing any minor show of affection that their straight peers are allowed. I know of one situation where a pair of straight young men were called into the standards office after an anonymous tip accused one of them of sitting on the others lap in the Wilkinson Center, and in fact they were guilty (of horseplay, nothing else). Another example is a young man who was actually violating the honor code, but his abusive lover was using the threat of reporting to blackmail him. BLACKMAIL! The system still has a lot of elements of the McCarthy era, not to mention the Taliban.

  5. There is a fundamental imbalance in personal responsibility inherent in the church’s position that women are responsible for creating men’s sexual interest or arousal. Add to this a policy that she is not only responsibly for arousing an average or typical male but ANY man even the most black & white thinking sexually repressed secretly misogynist mentally unbalanced zealot intent on turning the system against women. The church has lost it sexual compass to the Pharisaical worship of rule enforcement and covering shoulders and knees with loose clothing instead of teaching correct principals and self governance. We’ve gone from polygamy to prudish!

  6. This is anecdotal, of course, but in the year and a half I had a beard (and beard card) at BYU, 100% of the times when I was asked to show my beard card (theoretically, I was required to show it anywhere I was required to show my student ID, e.g., the library and the testing center, though my ID pictured me with a beard), the person asking for the card was male. Women took the picture ID as proof that I had a beard card, or didn’t care, but guys would ask–every time. Make of that what you will.

  7. John Taber says:

    I remember being harassed several times at BYU for having a stray whisker. The one time I really forgot to shave (I’d been sick for a few days) I was asked if I had a beard card, and I went home and shaved. The fashion at the time, though, (1994-96) included skirts that were way above the knee, or skirts with a long slit on the side that could cause the skirt to flap open while walking. (I saw the latter the most during Sunday meetings.) I also saw plenty of long sweaters over spandex, and women’s hair that was an odd (unnatural) color.

    That said, the only time I warned anyone was for tight pants. I didn’t report her, and I only approached her because 1) she was an RA and I thought she should be a better example, and 2) I was her home teacher.

  8. John Taber says:

    And before shoes without socks were allowed in spring 1991, I was asked a few times to lift my pant leg to show I was wearing socks.

  9. Loved your post and something that I have felt more strongly about since I began my senior couples mission. In the little white handbook: Girls – dress modestly ……………….. Boys – suits should be worn ……………………………….. Irritated is not a strong enough word. If a young lady has lived the church standards, been interviewed and seen worthy to go on a mission, she doesn’t need to be reminded that her breasts should not be popping out.

  10. Sorry, forgot to add that if it is thought that they do need reminding then just let’s remind the lads that we don’t need to see their pecs and six packs through too tight shirts either.

  11. I wonder if Jesus and past church presidents had a beard card.

  12. One nigh a few years ago my (either very recent or very-soon-to-be) fiancee, now wife, were spending some time in her apartment after a long day of packing and work. Moveout day was, I think, the next day.We were on the couch, probably spooning or otherwise cuddling. Neither of us were students, although it was BYU housing and following the honor code was a condition of our lease, though none of our respective roommates had ever been bothered by our numerous technical honor code violations, particularly as they related to staying in each others apartments past midnight. Both of us worked late shifts and late night was simply when we got to see each other. But this particular night, one of her roommates’ brothers was there as well. He’d looked at us disapprovingly as we reclined (gasp!) on the couch (miraculously we still kept our chastity until marriage). As 11:56 ticked on to 57, 58, 59, and then 12:00, Bro. Brother became noticeably more agitated, and on the strike of midnight he actually walked outside the girls’ apartments, leaving the door open, and stared at us. Just stared. Then he started clearing his throat, and finally helpfully told us “it’s past midnight, guys. Guys…” This went on for a few more minutes before I finally left in exasperation, making some kind of caustic remark to this person, who I’d never met before in my life. Presumably he dutifully stood outside that apartment for as long as it took to his sister to be ready, never dreaming to sit on those accursed couches.

    Anyway, that doesn’t really have anything to do with women’s dress standards, but I think it illustrates how the honor code fosters a mentality that encourages the over-zealous and the antisocial to police others in extremely off-putting, legalistic, and even threatening ways. Our churchwide obsession with telling women how to dress, especially funneled through an administrative channel like a student-run office using anonymous tips like the BYUs, is practically an invitation to harassment. It might not be the “Hey, baby…” variety but “I’ve been looking you over and here’s what’s inappropriate about you” demonstrates just as hostile a gaze. Mine is just an eye-rolling story, but I feel sorry for whoever’s there when Bro. Brother turns his wrathful eye, throat clearings, and who-knows-what-else on the girl whose skirt reveals her kneecaps.

  13. Leg hair…? AS PUBIC HAIR??! Good hell.

    Nice post, Angela, and thanks for quoting me. These are truly salient and pertinent questions to be pondering. I love the idea of turning honor into an actual principle and not a tattling dress code straw-man.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Agree, agree, agree, agree, and agree. The only thing I can add is that my sister was once reported and given the third degree in the standards office because, unbeknownst to her, her shirt had flipped up in the back and her granny underwear was showing. That someone (and I think we can safely assume it was a male student) would see that and automatically assume she had evil intentions is messed up on about ten levels. Posting anonymously because she is still mortified over the whole thing nearly a decade later.

  15. Excellent post. I have nothing to add except my booming cheers of agreement from the sidelines.

  16. it's a series of tubes says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my time at BYU, but this post is right on point. The “honor code” enforcement nonsense beggars belief. I could make a dozen comments, but here is an example from my own experience:

    (a couple of weeks before my wedding, the phone rings at my apartment)
    Me: Hello?
    Caller: Mr. Series of Tubes? This is _______ from the honor code office. Mr. High and Mighty in the office would like to see you regarding a report about you we have received.
    Me: What exactly is this regarding?
    Caller: I can’t tell you.
    Me: Seriously? You want me to come to your office regarding a report about me, but you won’t tell me what this is regarding?
    Caller: That’s right.
    Me. In that case, I’m not available.

    (Several weeks pass. I get married and return to school. The phone rings at our apartment.)

    Caller: Mr. Series of Tubes? This is ______ from the honor code office. As we see you were married in the temple, we’ve elected not to pursue this matter any further.
    Me: You’ve elected not to pursue what?
    Caller: Thank you for your cooperation. Goodbye.


  17. Anyone on the BCC staff up to translating this in Italian? I have a friend who’d like to share it with the YSA in Italy.

  18. I am almost afraid to ask…but what in the heck is a beard card??

  19. KC–When I was at BYU in the mid-90s, a beard card was required of any men who, for medical reasons (usually pseudofolliculitis barbae)–or religious reasons (there was a Sikh in the English grad program)–wore a beard. At the time I got mine, the procedure was that you made an appointment with a particular doctor at the health center, told him you had PFB, and he issued you a card to keep with your student ID. You also, I believe, had to renew it every year. I understand it’s more drastic now–you actually have to show proof of PFB if you want a beard card for medical reasons. I know, I know, those of us who were a bit rebellious and able to convince ourselves and others that we had PFB have ruined it for everyone else.

  20. A beard card is proof of permission to not be clean-shaven, either due to medical or other school-approved reasons, such as playing Brigham Young in a play. This requirement prompted many of us at the heathen university to the north to grow all manner of facial hair in preparation for the BYU-Utah football game. You know, just because we didn’t need permission.

  21. Antonio Parr says:

    I don’t disagree that the extremes of the BYU honors code folks are unfortunate, and would not want my loved ones to encounter some of the zealots described in previous comments. Nevertheless, I think that, respectfully, it is naive to be so dismissive of the value that our young people derive from attending a school like BYU where high expectations are the norm. I also think that the near-hostility towards the Church’s emphasis on chastity/modesty is misdirected. I salute the Church’s efforts to have men and women dress in ways that are not sexually provocative. I salute the Church’s efforts to discourage men and women from subjecting themselves to pornography. I salute the Church’s efforts to encourage men and women to wait until marriage to have sex, and then to refrain from sexual relations outside of marriage. I realize that, to paraphrase one of the above posts, the world has moved past a 1950’s world view and the Church has not. But in the context of sexual mores, that is cause for commendation and not criticsim.

  22. John Taber: You approached an adult woman about her tight pants because you were her home teacher? Did that do a lot to build a trusting relationship so that she felt safe asking for help if needed? So glad you were looking out for her spiritual welfare.

  23. Antonio except in those glorious 1950’s it was legal to rape your wife. So, forgive the rest of us for not thanking our lucky stars that we still don’t live in that moral paradise.

  24. Thank you H.Bob and RickH. (I love the football story, Rick!)

    I really don’t understand the deal with facial hair. I think it looks good on a lot of men. It is not a “modesty” issue is it? Ya know, cus it sure seems like men are not held to any modesty standards like women are. So how many bearded men would you say there are at BYU at any given time?

  25. Here is my personal rant…

    In the early 90’s I attended a summer program for high school student on the BYU campus. One day I had the privilege of waiting in line for lunch at the Cannon Center for about 45 minutes. Right before I got to the actual entrance to the cafeteria there before me appeared Peter Tuipulotu, who was a big star on the football team at the time, cutting in front of me rather blatantly. He was wearing a towel, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, and looked like he had just exited the shower.

    The woman punching lunch passes waved him through and then stopped me and accused me of “low-riding” my shorts to be able to get in to the lunch room. I was gob-smacked. She insisted that I lift my shirt to prove her wrong. Though I was not low-riding, and have never low-rided (low-rode?) in my life, rather than lift my shirt I asked how it was that the famous football player in front of me could enter wearing a towel and suggested that if I had to lift my shirt to prove I was wearing my shorts properly that he should also have to lift his towel to prove that he was wearing shorts properly as well. He looked back, gave me a huge grin, and then quickly walked away. The woman taking tickets was none too happy with me and again demanded that I lift my shirt. Desperate to get some food before my classes began again, and having waited in line an unreasonable amount of time, I did lift my shirt, proving that I wasn’t low-riding and she then kicked me out of the cafeteria because of my “attitude.”

    I am thankful to this beastly woman. Because of her I never even applied to BYU and am forever glad that my association with the University is limited to that one summer program.

    I think that the BYU “Honor” Code has all sorts of harmful effects on the wider LDS culture. This was reinforced for me a few years ago when a BYU professor in my ward bore her testimony regarding the evils of facial hair. We’d be better off if the dress and grooming standards were completely eliminated and we simply expected students to govern themselves, having been taught correct principles. It seems likely to me that the effects on women are even worse than the effects on men, but it is bad for everyone. We shouldn’t aim to make it equally bad for everyone, we should hope for something that is not harmful to the wider culture.

  26. JA Benson says:

    I am close to a woman who was sexually assaulted at BYU, by a RM BYU student. During the assault, he repeatably told her it was her fault because of the way she dressed. It is past time to get rid of the dress code and allow all “to govern themselves”.

  27. I have to wonder how much jerky behavior really exists at BYU, given how often the same anecdotes star in discussions through the years. It strikes me a little like the constant discussion of Mountain Meadows a few years ago — yes, almost anything you could say about the horrors of that event were more or less true, but the reason people kept harping on it was because it was just about the *only* well-documented incident of its kind to beat up the Church with. Yes, the guy who harassed Brittany Molina and the guy who barred the woman at BYU-I from the testing center were wronger than wrong … but the fact that we have to keep going back to the same few incidents makes me wonder, really, how widespread this behavior is, and why some are so eager to attribute such bad behavior directly to Mormon culture. Surely there are peeping Toms on every campus — that one peeping Tom excused himself by saying he was watching for Honor Code violations instead of saying he thought he heard someone call for help is no reason to attribute his behavior to his Mormonness. And the willingness — eagerness– to junk the dress code because you misattribute bad behavior to it naively leaps right over the good it does (Antonio Parr isn’t the only one who recognizes its value). There would be a lot of frying-pan-to-fire jumping if the powers that be took seriously all the juvenile suggestions and demands of bloggers.

  28. @Antonio

    Go to one of the schools the BYU devotees like to compare the school to (Duke, Notre Dame, UCLA, lol) and you will find most students seem to able to dress themselves just fine without an honor code which reduces adults to children with respect to dress and grooming. Sure, there will be some outliers but in the main most students at those colleges would fit within the general guidelines of a normal modesty environment. (I don’t consider a nekkid shoulder immodest.) Amazing how the students at “peer institutions” can figure out how to dress and groom themselves without a student run stasi to police their institutions. If you want to be proud of how BYU students behave, remove the honor code and let them behave according to the dictates of their own consciences. Then we can all be impressed or embarassed. Unlike the current crop of administrators of BYU, I have faith most of the students at BYU would do just fine sans the infantilizing honor code. I suppose the folks who run BYU do not share my faith in BYU students to trust them to figure out how to dress themselves. That is a shame. Or, perhaps they know something I don’t.

  29. marginalizedmormon says:

    @John Harrison–

    doesn’t sound unfamiliar; thanks for saying it–

    because of my negative experiences at BYU, none of my children have attended there, and I think it’s all for the better–

    it’s a first world problem, really–

    but it shows how ridiculously low religious culture can fall–

    I wonder when the ‘saints’ will cease to idolize the BYUs–

    Sadly, I couldn’t finish at the non-LDS college I loved and at which I had a remarkably good experience–

    the BYU door was open to me–

    and those years are the most sterile and unproductive of my life, in spite of the degree–

  30. Antonio Parr says:


    I have attended universities other than BYU, and they were remarkable institutions. Great administrators, great teachers, great students, and a genuine honor to study with them. You are correct that the overwhelming majority of the students dressed in ways that were indistinguishable from the way that my BYU peers dressed, and, of those who didn’t, their dress was not memorable enough for me to recall.

    Nevertheless, the level of sexual activity at these schools was significant. One night stands were not uncommon, and sexual promiscuity was often fueled by unbridled consumption of alcohol.

    BYU unashamedly promotes/demands adherence to the LDS vision of chastity as a condition of attendance, and its dress code is an extension of LDS teachings on sexual morality. Based on my own experience (and on anecdotal evidence), BYU in large part succeeds in its efforts to foster an environment where premarital sex is the exception and not the rule. This is a remarkable accomplishment, and hats off to BYU for investing so much of itself to achieve this level of success.

    That’s not to say that the BYU Honor Code or, in particular, the people enforcing the Honor Code are perfect. They are not. But the University deserves fifty pats on the back for every one kick in the shins, a ratio that appears reversed on many of the prior comments.

  31. Shades of Martha Beck…

  32. Great post Angela. This is a real problem — I think this post is most valuable in how it looks to the corporate world and discusses some of the effects that are possible as a result of the ethos developed in many by the honor code.

    Also, the idea that “innocent until proven guilty” is turned on its head in investigations of alleged honor code violations is of great concern. That an accuser can remain anonymous though he has brought specious claims that cause the accused real distress really is unconscionable.

  33. Antonio, you’re right that the level of sexual activity outside of marriage at BYU is significantly lower than at the other schools mentioned. I’m not convinced that this is a direct result of the Honor Code so much as it is a result of the values taught to most of these students before they even got to BYU. When I was at the University of Utah, we didn’t have an honor code that included dress standards or being in apartments after midnight. Yet I (and nearly all of my LDS friends) still managed to avoid fornication and even get married in the temple.

  34. Antonio, does Angela’s post in any way relate to the Church’s or BYU’s adherence to the Law of Chastity? I believe that Angela is “for” rather than “against” chastity. (Angela can correct me if I’m wrong.) This post identifies a problem that exists entirely outside of the actual Law of Chastity or adherence thereto.

    I can easily imagine a world in which Mormon students at BYU live entirely chaste lives without reporting on each other for exposed shoulders or a skirt that is supposedly an inch “too short.” I can imagine a world in which Mormon professionals in the workplace do not approach female co-workers and tell them that their clothes are too tight or revealing and therefore make them “uncomfortable.” (Angela is right that this would be a factor in creating a hostile work environment for the victims to the extent that a corporation did not immediately and credibly clamp down on it when it is reported.) Or refuse to go on a business trip with a colleague of the opposite sex or work alone in a conference room with an employee of the opposite sex. Big imagination, right?

    This post is right on in its review of these issues. The post isn’t about Chastity and is not criticizing the Church for teaching the importance of Chastity.

    This post is not an attack on the Church; it does not exhibit a “near-hostility towards the Church’s emphasis on chastity/modesty.”

    You yourself said, “I don’t disagree that the extremes of the BYU honors code folks are unfortunate, and would not want my loved ones to encounter some of the zealots described in previous comments. ”

    So you agree with this post. The content of the rest of your comments, therefore, is truly puzzling.

  35. melodynew says:

    This is a fantastic essay. Congratulations and thank you for producing it. I have been a single (divorced) woman in the church for 20+ years. And what impacted me most when I read the post was this:

    “Another concern happens relative to how men and women are discouraged from interacting. If a man refuses to be alone with a female colleague in a professional work context . . . that man is the one who is bringing sexuality into the workplace and creating an awkward situation . . . (where there is no history of sexual misconduct). Male employees are expected to treat female colleagues, subordinates and bosses as business professionals, not as potentially seductive threats.”

    Try being a divorced, healthy, well-dressed 30, 40, or now 50-something woman in the church. I’ll never forget observing people actually pause and stare at me and a married gentleman in my ward when we were having a conversation on the sidewalk OUTSIDE the church building. Others made comments such as, “How are YOU two doing today?” with obvious implication that something was wrong with us apparently standing too close or appearing to be too friendly during lively post-gospel-doctrine-class discussion. This is only one of many examples I could give.

    With due respect to both Ardis and Antonio for a few valid points in their comments — Frankly, this post is an accurate report of an ongoing, institutional problem — not just about BYU, but about some parts of LDS culture and behavior. I don’t see this as more blather about a few well-publicized cases. For me, it has been exhausting. And hurtful. And in my case, these are not college-aged saints. These are grown-ups.

  36. Clarification: For me, (the experience of sometimes being viewed as a “potentially seductive threat” in my religious community) has been exhausting and hurtful. . .

  37. A further point expanding on what I already wrote. I wrote I can easily imagine a world in which Mormon students at BYU live entirely chaste lives without reporting on each other for exposed shoulders or a skirt that is supposedly an inch “too short.”

    I should say, I can also easily imagine a world in which we teach Mormon youth that such reporting or policing is unacceptable and morally wrong. After all, it is objectively wrong. Why wouldn’t we teach them that then?

  38. Personally, I’m not against the rules per se; as mentioned, I had a beard card, which means I found a way within the rules of having something most of the rest of the populace didn’t (and roughly 50% couldn’t). I have a problem, however, with the way the rules are enforced much of the time, and also when the Mormon slippery slope of rule to commandment to “looking beyond the mark” takes place. Thus, beards are outlawed during the 60’s because they’re associated with the counterculture, then they’re ingrained in the honor code until they become more or less commandments to BYU students, then there’s cultural bleedthrough when temple workers or bishoprics or stake presidencies or high councilors aren’t allowed facial hair (usually by a BYU grad exercising unrighteous dominion), and then eventually you get zealots who have their facial hair removed via laser so there’s not even a hint that they might “sin” by growing a whisker. Okay, so that last is hyperbole–but I’m sure that’s on the horizon.

  39. Here’s something to ponder: We will stop losing YSA aged members in such large numbers the moment we stop acting like it’s still 1968.

  40. JA Benson says:

    It would be awesome and something really to brag about if we treated BYU students as responsible adults and they behaved as such. Perhaps that is the problem, we do not have enough faith in each other or ourselves.
    Melody, I agree. It is wierd. And it is hurtful. We lose so many of our single members and this element is part of the problem.

  41. Ardis,

    I think that is a little unfair. It is true that Brittany and the BYU-I testing center debacle are used often because they became very public, however, just going through the comments people give numerous examples that happened to them personally. I would guess that on a day to day bases most women aren’t harrassed about how they dress and that maybe a given female student may have something happen a couple times a year. However, it is also fair to point out that to have a signficant impact on a person you don’t have to be constantly harrassed. To make a vulgar analogy you only have to shoot one hostage to create a atmosphere of fear and intimidation. A few personal incidents as well as a clear culture of peer policing is probably enough to have it affect your emotional state and behavior. How many comments, Daily Universe articles or reports to the honor code office of you or someone you know have to happen before you feel like you are beng constantly watched, judged and evaluated by some random jury of peers. I don’t think number of incidences – high or low – is probably the best metric for deciding whether there is a problem for this reason. Though as Angela suggests it would be interesting to know the patterns of complaints etc.

  42. Roseanna says:

    Since I could ask just about any female student at BYU (or at least anyone in my circle of friends) and they would each produce one or more instances of this type of encounter happening to them, I feel like that demonstrates the extent of the problem. Sure, the girl who took a picture of herself and had a written note is used most often because it’s a strong example of this with lasting evidence. But I think this behavior is fairly widespread, and I’ve just graduated after 5 years spent at the university.

  43. Antonio Parr says:


    I agree that no human being should be viewed as a “potentially seductive threat”, and shame on anyone who has ever said or done anything to you to make you feel this way.


    1. On what do you base your guarantee that we will stop losing YSA aged members in such large numbers if we “stop acting like its still 1968”? Do you think that more socially progressive churches experience a greater retention rate of YSA-aged members than a more conservative church such as ours? And which 1968-like vestiges do we throw away, and which do we keep?

    2. My defense of the Church’s position with respect to chastity/modesty was more applicable to a follow up comment than to the OP. You are correct – I should have made that clearer.

  44. Q: “Does the BYU honor code create or discourage sexual harassment?”
    A: Probably neither in any direct way. But teaching respect for others discourages it generally.

    Q: Does the increasingly stringent focus on female modesty create or discourage objectification of women?
    A: What increasingly stringent focus on female modesty are you even talking about?

  45. Parker H. says:

    Snap quiz, kids:

    1. How long did the BYU-Idaho testing center director in question remain in his job after the incident mentioned above made the news?

    2. Who replaced him?

    3. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or didn’t even think to ask these questions, should we take your thoughts on this topic seriously?

  46. “Playing Brigham Young in a play” is an outstanding reason to be issued a pass to grow a beard. It is one of the three main justifications for exemption from the honor code: medical, religious, and theatrical.

    Consider what other honor code exemptions might issue on the basis of a “method acting” commitment to playing Brigham Young in a play.

  47. Your personal honor code should prevent you from attending a university with an honor code that you disagree with this strongly. As there are many fine Institutions that are not supported by tithing funds you should consider governing yourself and attending one. If many people agree with you it will send a strong message if not it will free up a spot for someone who appreciates the status quo.

  48. Geoff, there seems to be more and more discussion on female modesty (i.e., keep shoulders, knees, bellies, and even legs covered at all times) even down to 5 and 6 year olds (see the article in this month’s “Friend” that says the Holy Ghost told a young girl that trying on a shirt with spaghetti straps would be sinful). Wearing skirts that are “too short” is no verboten at BYU and EFY, even though promotional materials for the same dated to the early ’90s show girls wearing that very thing. One can look up BYU yearbooks that show young women wearing homecoming dresses that show their shoulders sans cap sleeves, but a girl wearing the same outfit to a youth dance will often be asked to go home and change or put on a coverup of some sort. And the young women in my stake are not allowed to wear shorts to Girls’ Camp (in Arizona, in the summer) because some of them may try to stretch the rules and wear shorts that are “too short” – even though there are no males around (other than the designated priesthood presence).

  49. This is what happens when the zealots take over. In Tehran the standards police stop “immoral” women on the streets and beat them with sticks.

    How can you defend any of this over-reach, Antonio, OMG?! I spent years at BYU and NEVER witnessed a young woman acting provocatively. I did, however, meet lots of young (male) jerks.

  50. sorry “…NOW verboten…” not “…NO verboten…”

  51. “Sproing!” ftw.

  52. one more correction – wearing skirts that are “too short” with leggings on underneath.

  53. Ardis, Just one person’s honest experience at BYU: I spent 5 years at BYU in the early 90s for undergraduate and graduate school. I never had any problems with the honor code or a staff member trying to enforce it. Neither did I know of anyone who had had such an experience. I had a total of about 12 different roommates during the time period (lived in a house with 9 other women), worked for BYU catering with numerous coworkers, and was a TA to many other students. I cannot even recall anyone having a conversation about problems with the honor code.

  54. gst,



    If you don’t like it you can leave! In fact, don’t come to begin with. Never mind if the way things are are the best they can be or not! Never mind the fact that your tithing dollars go to BYU, thus all members have some interest in it!

    While I personally voted with my feet (and some of my money), I find that sort of attitude to be exactly the opposite of what a university should embody.

  55. RickH,

    “Seems to be more and more” is a completely subjective term. “Miracle of Forgiveness” came out 44 years ago. Check out the modesty standard in that book and let me know if modesty standards among Mormons still “seem to be” more stringent nowadays.

    Sure, fashion trends are ever-changing. I am just highly skeptical of arguments based on likely spurious assertions about “increasingly stringent focus on female modesty” in the church.

  56. Left unsaid in this article is (a) whether a reputation of having a bunch of creepers will affect the ability of men from BYU to get jobs in the corporate world and (b) whether we end up teaching skills that harm both men and women professionally. I suppose it depends how much of the mission of the University is to prepare for gainful employment. One does wonder.

  57. Sharee Hughes says:

    Last night I watched a portion of the Miss USA competition and was appalled at the total lack of modest evening gowns among the 10 semi-finalists (including Miss Utah). Even Miss Illinois, whose gown had long sleeves, still showed an abundance of cleavage. The gown showing the least cleavage was worn by Miss Texas, who, interestingly, was the 6th finalist, the one chosen by viewers. The judges comments during the evening gown display, focused often (and admiringly) on how much skin the girls were showing, as if that was the most important thing they could do. Although I have often said that modesty is an attitude rather than a state of dress, I have to say that I found many of those girls to be immodest. Is this blatant sexual posturing what we want to show the world as representative of American women? The promotion of such immodest dress objectifies women.

    That said, I agree with those who feel BYU’s dress code also objectifies women. And I think that is wrong, just so wrong. As is the “guilty until proven innocent” attitude. Women should not be charged with watching over a man’s sexual reactions (well, maybe ‘watching’ was the wrong word there :-); perhaps ‘being responsible for’ would have been better). I don’t remember if it was on this blog or another that someone did a photo essay on the short length of some men’s shorts at BYU (or maybe it was BYUi–or both). There should be no such double standard. If the length of a woman’s skirt has to be measured to within a certain millimeter, so should a man’s shorts, although I think both measurements should be done away with.

    As has been stated, students on other campuses are able to dress appropriately without a police-state type dress code. The fact that these other campuses may harbor more promiscuity is irrelevant. However, it is appropriate that BYU’s honor code stresses sexual morality. But the time of day or night people spend in each other’s company has nothing to do with their morality. I sometimes think these rules were made up by those who had moral problems in their own youthful days and feel honor bound to prevent such mistakes in today’s young people by overcompensating regulations.

    When I lived in Hawaii, I wore two-piece bathing suits to church beach parties–so did everyone else. Nobody thought anything of it. I also wore mini-skirts back in those days (although not to church). When a student at Church College of Hawaii (I’m showing my age here), I’m sure I dressed modestly enough, although perhaps I would have been kicked off campus if the authorities knew that I wore just a long muumuu and a pair of sandals–with nothing on underneath. :-)

  58. Seems to me the real problem described in this post is not so much the honor code at BYU, the real problem is that there are some serious jerks among the 30,000 students at BYU. That is indeed unfortunate.

    But I have good news. There are also a lot of serious jerks in the business world so learning to deal with them at BYU is good practice!

  59. Geoff J: Evidence.

  60. Geoff, how’s this:
    “The Church has not attempted to indicate just how long women’s or girls’ dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing. We have always counseled our members to be modest in their dress, maintaining such standards in connection therewith as would not be embarrassing to themselves and to their relatives, friends, and associates.”

    – Policies and Procedures, New Era, August 1971 (
    Do I need to provide examples of how our discourse is now? Like maybe “Walking Pornography?”

  61. My defense of the Church’s position with respect to chastity/modesty was more applicable to a follow up comment than to the OP. You are correct – I should have made that clearer.

    Yes, that sounds like a good idea. In any event, as you said, you agree with the original post, which is good thing since it highlights a problem that needs addressing.

    One your first point, which aspects of the 1968 mind-frame do you think are still relevant today and should be kept?

    As to YSA, hopefully you are aware of the gravity of the problem based on the very alarming statistics. My observation is that we are pushing YSA aged people out of the Church as an inadvertent consequence of at least two main issues: (1) not trusting them to live as the disciples of Jesus Christ that they proclaim to be and instead prescribing how they must dress or act to “really” be a disciple (i.e. conform to a particular aesthetic preference that is set forth as normative though it is, itself, culturally determined and geographically/temporally specific–a way of dress/behavior that basically happens to reflect 1950s era business dress/behavior, hopefully minus the blatant misogyny, sexism, and racism of that time period’s business milieu); (2) our treatment of information about the Church’s history or policies, in many ways as a result of how Correlation has been implemented — the common issue, as you are undoubtedly aware, is that people feel “betrayed” when they discover facts that are now widely disseminated outside of the Church’s control (such as about Joseph Smith’s approx. 33 wives and circumstances surrounding some of the wives or racist comments by past Church leaders in their speculative efforts to justify the priesthood ban, etc., — amazingly, it can be something as innocuous as “finding out” that Joseph Smith translated probably the entire current Book of Mormon, i.e. minus the lost 116 pages, exclusively with the seer-stone-in-the-hat method of translation whereas the “church art kit” depicts Joseph Smith reading/translating directly from the Golden Plates in the process).

    The 1968 comment relates primarily to the first. Having allowed the “culture wars” of that time period to hijack or dominate our internal discourse going forward until the present day, we now have to account for multiple generations of people who have been pushed out of the Church when they were in the YSA age group as a result. Some because through such discourse the Church made it seem like only one political opinion or perspective is acceptable. Others because of a feeling that the Church does not trust them to lead their own lives of Christian discipleship based on their own moral judgments about whether capped sleeves matter to God. That kind of thing.

    As to “competition” with “progressive” or “conservative” churches, that whole line of inquiry isn’t remotely interesting to me. If we simply stood for Truth, regardless of how it happens to align with the particular temporally determined political moods/ideologies of a particular moment, then we would be neither “progressive” nor “conservative” as those terms are used and understood in contemporary American political discourse. I’m not interested in competing. I’m interested in developing discipleship in my own life and finding ways to promote Christian discipleship in others’ lives. Sermons about modesty might indeed be a part of developing such discipleship, to the extent that such sermons are Christ-centered and teach how modest dress (to focus on the one small element of what “modesty” means that we obsess with in the Church to the exclusion of its other applications and manifestations) relates to one’s self-respect and relationship with God.

  62. Thanks Cynthia. Well like I said, styles fluctuate and specifics of the guidelines change over time too. 1991 was just prior to the “Melrose Place” super-short miniskirt trend in the US so it is not surprising that some specifics adjusted in reaction to general fashion trends. In any case, it is still less stringent than the famous “no shorts while gardening” line from Elder Kimball. I think if anything, modesty trends in Mormons have stayed pretty flat since the 80s.

  63. Kristine says:
  64. Geoff, I’ve known you a long time so I’m surprised to see you basically denying that our modesty discourse is ever increasingly focusing on and policing female dress standards. The mere fact that many Mormons are obsessing about whether their babies are immodest if they wear sundresses (thus exposing shoulders) and that even babies need to dress according to the current definition of modesty so that when they grow up they can easily wear garments is a piece of evidence here. (As a data-point, it’s only been recently that someone decided that exposed shoulders were “immodest” and needed to be policed, including airbrushed out of classic paintings where angels attending Christ at his emergence from the tomb had bared shoulders under their frocks; yet Moroni hasn’t been airbrushed or the description of him as having an exposed breast (naked beneath his robe, which was open exposing his breast/torso) hasn’t been bowdlerized to comply with modesty discourse.

    Women bear the brunt of our modesty discourse. They are routinely counseled to dress modestly according to current modesty standards in order to help the young men control their thoughts and be worthy to serve missions. I think it strains reason to argue that this isn’t happening.

  65. Kristine says:

    “it strains reason to argue that this isn’t happening”

    ^^Yes. And it requires disbelieving a whole lot of women who are telling you it is happening to them.

    Ignoring what women say about their own experience is part of objectification.

  66. John F.,

    I am mostly arguing against the work “stringent” here. I think that the guidelines have become more specific, but doubt they are really more stringent than they were 30-40 years ago.

  67. Kristine says:
  68. Wonderful post, Angela. Just grabbing one point out of so many that you make so well:

    “The standards office should track those who report so-called modesty violations to verify that they don’t have a pattern of harassment.”

    When the filer of a complaint gets to remain anonymous and is never penalized for what might be called “false alarms,” there’s really no check on spurious complaints at all.

  69. Make that “I am mostly arguing against the word stringent”. And as Kristine points out, in addition to possibly being more specific it seems likely that teaching modesty lessons is becoming a higher priority in recent decades. But more prominent and more specific is not the same as more stringent. Sorry if that nuance is causing trouble but I think it makes a difference in the overall discussion.

  70. Kristine,

    Thanks for the Dialogue article link. I’ll read it and report back.

  71. it's a series of tubes says:

    If we simply stood for Truth, regardless of how it happens to align with the particular temporally determined political moods/ideologies of a particular moment, then we would be neither “progressive” nor “conservative” as those terms are used and understood in contemporary American political discourse. I’m not interested in competing. I’m interested in developing discipleship in my own life and finding ways to promote Christian discipleship in others’ lives.

    I wish I had something else to add here, but instead I’ll say simply: I like this. A lot.

  72. Kristine says:
  73. Antonio Parr says:


    1. I agree with portions of the original post. I don’t necessarily agree with it all. Ditto for the follow up comments. I certainly think that the issues are more complex and nuanced than suggested by you in your comments.
    2. My inquiry about retention rates of YSA-age individuals in other churches is relevant to the question of whether YSA-aged Latter-Day Saints are leaving in droves because of disillusionment arising out of issues referenced by you or whether the exodus of YSA-aged Latter-Day Saints is indicative of general retention rates for churched people of a comparable age in comparable circumstances. I suspect (but am not certain) that Latter-Day Saints do a better job than many of their Protestant/Catholic/Evangelical counterparts in holding on to young adults. So, a retention rate of 20% of YSA Latter-Day Saints in a world where only 10% of churched YSA-aged individuals remain active in their religious communities is not a disaster, but, relatively speaking, a success. Moreover, I have little doubt that there are some YSA who remain committed because of the conservative world view of LDS teachings and culture.

  74. Ardis makes a fair point about relying on the same Usual Suspects as evidence of how oppressive the BYU Honor Code is. These conversations pop up from time to time, with the same examples given, then commenters adding their own anecdotal experiences. I don’t doubt they are true, but it tends to give a very lop-sided sense of what’s happening. It’s reasonable to point out that those who haven’t had a negative experience are unlikely to speak up and say so.

    That said, I’m not sure it needs to be a widespread problem to still be worth addressing. I did not attend BYU, but it sounds like the standard’s office perpetuates a “guilty until proven innocent” approach. Furthermore, an environment where students are encouraged to report on one another’s subjective behavior seems…icky. At least, I wouldn’t last long in such an environment. I am frequently baffled that so many seem so willing to comment on the acceptability or appropriateness of another’s behavior. We seem to be a perpetually outraged culture here in the United States.

    The comparison to the corporate world is interesting. I wonder if a lawsuit against BYU would result in changes. I’m not familiar enough with the law to know if such a lawsuit would be feasible or with merit. If only there were any attorneys in the bloggernacle….

  75. Good Article and good points. I went to BYU for 3 semesters. I broke a few rules in the honor code (did not care who was in my apartment after midnight, girls in my bedroom, alcohol in my apartment(for cooking not drinking, I am a chef) Although I do not say it is ok, I never had anyone tell on me. I think the people that are causing these problems just have maturity issues and I am glad it is not the majority. Definitely agree that people that are turning people in should be kept on record.

  76. Regardless of the merits of the post, have we now descended to substituting “Taliban” for “Hitler” in a new variation of Godwin’s Law? I would only add that allowing anonymous accusations with no threat of disclosure may only encourage the (hopefully) relatively few creeps, as self appointed arbiters of the Honor Code, does seem to be problematic.

  77. Antonio Parr says:

    JohnF: I agree with you that the Church’s past treatment of its history has caused some serious pain in some very honest and sincere people, but am encouraged by what appears to be a trend towards greater openness about our beginnings. However, that is a discussion that should wait for another day.

  78. Yes, I only included that to show that I don’t think that “modesty discourse” is alone driving YSAs out of the Church, which you seemed to be assuming earlier. Of course this thread is not the place to discuss my second point. In my own comment I only discussed the first point relating to “1968”.

  79. Kristine,

    Based on those pictures (and not having read the article yet) it appears to me you are misunderstanding my position.

    My position is still this: I don’t believe modesty standards in Mormonism are actually more *stringent* today than they were 30-40 years ago.

    Mostly what I see is changing fashion styles over time which is hardly surprising. Seems like calves are shown a lot more nowadays than they were in those old-timey pics. The biggest style/modesty change in Mormonism in the last 30-40 years seems to be regarding shoulders. I suspect that change grew organically from the increase in temples and related increase in Mormons wearing temple garments. There is this idea that no one should wear clothes that wouldn’t work with garments floating around now that I don’t remember at all in the 70s and 80s. But in my opinion, the general guidelines of dressing modestly have long been about the same.

    So like I said, I don’t have a problem with complaining about modesty standards being more specific (and thus more invasive). I just don’t believe stringent in the right word.

    Why does this “increasingly stringent” vs “specific” nuance matter to me? Because if we really are trending toward increasingly stringent as a people then the end of that increasingly stringent path is Saudi Ariabian burkas and similar other horror stories stories The Church’s enemies like to predict about us. I just don’t believe we are moving down that path.

  80. Why does anyone ever put themselves at the edge of the code? As a man, in a university context (faculty at another university), my sense I’d be presumed guilty of sexual harassment or worse almost by the fact of the charge alone. So, I never ever have a student in my office (faculty at another university) without the door open. If there’s a student who seems to be trying to ‘use her wiles’–yes this happens to pretty much all faculty (male students doing it with women too), I have a pre-emptive chat with the chair, just in case my failure to respond positively and give the grade the student deserves causes the student to try an accusation, etc. That’s where safety lay. Why not do the same here?

  81. wow, all sorts of typos there…read generously…

  82. Bryan S. says:

    If only we could go back to the good ole days where women had to cover their ankles and weren’t allowed to wear pants.

  83. The hair on leg as public hair thing seems more rumor than truth. Are you sure it wasn’t a second-hand report?

  84. Kristine says:

    Geoff–I see your point, but I don’t think the distinction does as much as you’d like it to. Once you reduce women to a visual phenomenon and spend a lot of time telling them how important their appearance is, you’re already on the seesaw. If you’re lucky, you manage to rebalance at Vogue and The New Era, because the poles are porn and burkas.

  85. Thanks for the link to Ziff’s piece. The huge spike in the Friend modesty references from almost always zero to almost the same level as the New Era (also spiking) pretty much puts the “do we have a modesty” problem to bed for me. At least we can say we are more focused on younger and younger girls. Ick.

    Geoff – I think all the evidence shows two things that related directly to stringency of standards. 1) we have become more stringent about exposing shoulders. That use to be not a problem at BYU as photo after photo attests too. We know draw cap sleeves on angels. 2) The standards for length of shorts has become more strict though maybe only modestly more so. That is becoming more stringent by any definition.

  86. “Once you reduce women to a visual phenomenon and spend a lot of time telling them how important their appearance is, you’re already on the seesaw. If you’re lucky, you manage to rebalance at Vogue and The New Era, because the poles are porn and burkas.”

    The complex problems of modesty discourse succinctly and intelligently restated in two sentences. Now that’s a feat. Thanks, Kristine!

  87. math major, you are here. Spending time. QED.

  88. Kevin Barney says:

    Great post. I’ve practiced law in a number of Chicago law firms for 28 years. Each of these firms was very concerned with its diversity, and had large numbers of female professionals with whom I have worked. If a young graduate is not comfortable being alone with a woman (say traveling for a deposition), he simply will not get advanced to partner, and he may well be let go before even approaching that point. This kind of behavior that is lionized at BYU is simply unacceptable in a professional setting away from Happy Valley.

  89. mark england says:

    I suggest that every student start reporting everyone they see and overwhelm the standards office with complaints. This would paralize them and they would either shut down because they would not be able to process them, or, it would shut down BYU.

  90. Michael says:

    ” If a man refuses to be alone with a female colleague in a professional work context (e.g. on a business trip or in an office for a one-on-one meeting), that man is the one who is bringing sexuality into the workplace and creating an awkward situation”
    It seems to me that there are plenty of occasions where refusing to be alone with a female colleague on a business trip (e.g. riding in a car together for hours on end, sleeping in the same hotel room on a business trip) is the right thing to do.
    I am of the opinion that this and the many other posts in the bloggernacle about modesty are overreactions to a small problem. That is to say, the outrage is not commensurate with the offense. Sure, there are those that look beyond the mark, but there are also those that look short of the mark (does that work?).

  91. Mark,

    A little college civil disobedience at the Y would be a wonderful thing. I don’t think BYU students have it in them though. The Cheney protest is the last I can remember. Maybe there are other examples? Anyway, I like your idea. It would especially sweet if it was all complaints related to men’s modesty.

  92. I think a mistake that this article, and many commentators, are making is assuming that people are being creepy or judgmental because of the BYU Honor Code, and that removing/altering the policy would somehow change those same people to be what you want them to be. You are going to find the creeps no matter where you go, and they will use whatever they can for their creepy ways. The consoling fact is that their behavior will limit how far they go in life; it’s very self-destructing. I understand that a lot of people here have hurt feelings from the past, but you need to blame the offending individuals for their own actions and stop pushing it onto tens of thousands of other people at BYU (or wherever else) who you’ve never met.

  93. @Chris: If what you say is correct, why institutionalize policies that empower and embolden creeps? Regardless, I don’t think that simply suggesting that creeps will be creeps is good enough even on its own merits. And just today, thanks to someone posting a link here on Facebook, I sparred with someone who argued quite sincerely that passing anonymous notes to “inappropriately dressed” girls at BYU is a healthy thing to do (which should also counter others’ concerns in the vein of “this kind of thing never happened to me therefore it never actually happens”). The individual on Facebook made arguments that were lucid and backed by scriptures; he seemed not to understand when I and others suggested his behavior was creepy. Assuming I take his arguments in good faith, he is very literally a product of the system and not just some creep (although I’ll grant that he’s an outlier). So it makes perfect sense to criticize the system and not just the individual. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  94. What mileage does it get us to absolve the dress provisions of the Honor Code and its “guilty until proven innocent” enforcement through anonymous remaining informants of any blame in this situation and to put all the blame on sick individuals abusing that procedure?

  95. Haven’t been through all the comments yet, so apologies if it has already been stated, but I vote this comment for “quip of the decade”…

    Perhaps we should replace them with cards boys can hand to girls that say “Sproing! Your cute outfit just gave me a boner!”


  96. I have problems with the way modesty is addressed in Utah County. Especially with the extreme emphasis on looking good and how rampant the diet industry is engrained. It’s really annoying and hard to swallow.

  97. Andre7th says:

    Hmm, next time I’m at byu, I might need to get some of these to hand out to any offenders. (Or offended.),

  98. Michael, there is nothing wrong with riding in a car with a woman for business–even for extended periods of time. My wife did it all the time when working for two major New York law firms. (As an aside, I have always been proud of the fact that when my wife considered moving from one firm to another that a bidding war broke out for her services. She can justifiably take pride that she was valued for her professional abilities and accomplishments.) I have taken long business trips on trains, planes and automobiles with female colleagues and nobody thought for a moment that it was inappropriate. Somehow my wife and I have managed to traveling for business, pull all-nighters at the office and collaborate on projects for weeks on end with members of the opposite sex and still stay faithful to one another.

    There is a great scene in the movie This Is The End (in theaters now!) where Emma Watson, playing herself, shows up at a home where five male movie stars, playing themselves, are trapped during the apocalypse. Watson leaves the room and Jay Baruchel brings up the problem that he thinks is on everyone’s minds, namely the potential that one of them might rape Watson. The other actors look at him like he is some kind of creep. It works as comedy because it is creepy to instantly start thinking about a woman’s sexual availability because you find yourself suddenly alone with her. I’m not suggesting that Mormon men think about rape but a disproportionate clearly don’t understand office norms for working with females.

    Do people that work together have affairs? Sure. Could some percentage of them be avoided if men and women didn’t travel together? Maybe. But it is important to recognize it would come at a cost–and the cost would primarily be borne by women who were denied the chance to be staffed on many projects, be mentored by men in senior positions and gain the experience and relationships that matter in career advancement. Of course as a man it is easy to miss all of this, but imagine if you had gone to the best schools and did outstanding work in your profession only to find your advancement stymied because the overwhelmingly female management thought it was a bad idea to spend time alone with you in a professional setting. Having my career stunted because someone thought I (wrongly) might be a sexual temptation would be incredibly presumptuous, seriously insulting and a source of rage for me. Anyone who sees the mere presence of a female colleague as a potential source of sexual temptation is way creepers. I would without hesitation fire anyone who came to work with that attitude.

  99. I’ve been a member of the Church for three years, and, this is just my honest opinion, I think that geography has much to do with these conversations. I live in Central Texas, and as I said before, I’ve been a member of the church for three years, and I have never encountered a member over dress/modesty issues. That I know of, and based on the three different wards I’ve been in, I haven’t heard any complaints (covert or otherwise) having to do with modesty/dress in YSA. It’s pretty much understood that you dress appropriately, but it lacks that creepy overemphasis. Are there some people who push the envelope? Sure, but we don’t make a big hullaballoo over it. Pretty much, it’s not a big deal. It’s whatever. I’ve worn and do wear (up until next week that is, when I receive my endowment) sleeveless blouses when the spirit moves me, and no one makes a big whoop about it.
    I could be wrong about some of these issues being geographically based, and if I am, if this is something that’s all over, please tell me. I want to know because I’ve never encountered this before!

  100. That’s wonderful if you’ve never encountered it! Just be strong when you do. In my opinion, it’s no reason to reject the Restoration of the Gospel, though I concede that if you are an actual victim of ecclesiastical abuse on this issue, it might be a very hard obstacle to get past. But please try.

  101. I believe that the following article is instructive. Overreaching official makes modesty comment to young woman and is accused of sexual harrassment. Setting: Airport TSA checkpoint.

    It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Very timely post Angela!

  102. The “cute” standard girls strive to achieve with their outfits is completely subjective and often dictated by society. Do girls sometimes sacrifice modesty in the name of “cuteness”?

  103. Having grown up in the LDS church in the 70s I remember constantly being told that we as young women were responsible for whether or not young men were worthy to go on missions and that it was up to us to make sure that no lines were crossed in regard to “sexual sin.” This theme of “men are too base to control themselves” and “woman are just more righteous than men when it comes to sexuality” is one of many things that contributed to my decision to leave the church. As a single woman my home teachers could not visit me alone, but would have no problem stopping by to see a married ward member even if her husband were not around. The assumption being that because I was single I could not be trusted, and that men could not be trusted around me. Humiliating.

    Funny though (or not so funny, really) this issue is also being dealt with outside the LDS world right now–dad-s-got-this–192409505.html

    What is different though, is how most everyone quoted in the above articles can agree that the TSA agent crossed a line and his employer is apologizing. Not even close her in Happy Valley. The culture of the LDS church and specifically of BYU is that it is ok to treat women in such a blatantly harassing and humiliating way. And make no mistake, this is sexual harassment, objectification of women and it is disgusting.

  104. “Do girls sometimes sacrifice modesty in the name of ‘cuteness’?”

    Do guys sometimes concern troll in the name of “just asking questions”?

  105. I agree with the post on most of the main points, but it makes some assumptions that are, in my experience, completely baseless:

    First of all, having written a number of employee handbooks and corporate policies, any perceived violation of a dress code policy would ordinarily be taken directly to HR or the supposedly offending employee’s supervisor. It would not be appropriate or encouraged for any employee to have a conversation with another employee about a dress code violation unless one of them were the other’s supervisor or HR rep. It’s my understanding that this mirrors the BYU honor code, in that students are not encouraged or empowered to approach each other about violations, but are rather encouraged to go to the standards office. Maybe there needs to be penalties for students who feel the need to self-enforce.

    “Because most courts side with complainants, large corporations take complaints of hostile work environment very seriously. The corporation must be able to demonstrate in court (if the situation arises) that they have a strong track record of taking these types of complaints seriously.”

    That’s just plain ridiculous. Having been through a number of employment discrimination lawsuits, I can tell you that proving workplace discrimination, whether sex related or otherwise, is a steep hill to climb. There is no doubt that the blanket statement that “most courts side with complainants” is just false. Also, “a strong track record of taking complaints seriously” is unhelpful in court because such evidence is inadmissible to prove a company’s behavior in any particular case.

  106. MDearest says:

    This post is a brilliant addition to a growing body of discussions about our problems with policing modesty in the church. Over 100 comments by the end of the workday shows how inflamed this issue is. I’ve only been able to skim some of them, but I’m not surprised to see that a few commenters either didn’t read the whole post, or maybe disagreed with it and commented without referencing what they found unacceptable. Some of the questions and objections I am seeing raised have already been addressed in the Solutions section of the OP, particularly the question of what we do about the inevitable creeper types that exist in all human groups. There are good changes suggested there, that will be a start for us to allow normal, healthy men the freedom to develop further into decent guys and to perhaps educate the creeps on how to be better socialized.

    On the other hand, I think some of the the comments in posts about our modesty problems serve to hone the conversation into more productive places (and the Solutions section of this post is a prime example of productive) so in that spirit, carry on!

  107. melodynew says:

    Jacque, thanks for your comment. Precisely my experience as well.

  108. In the earliest stages of development in any organization that eventually matures, the majority of people drawn to organization building (or kingdom building, in the case of the early LDS Church) are explorers – risk-takers who chafe at rules and regulations and who thrive in a more chaotic atmosphere of unlimited possibility and loosely codified rules. They push boundaries and feel constricted by “security”.

    As organizations mature, they stabilize – and settlers begin to outnumber the original explorers. Settlers require safety, security and rules, and they fear, abhor or feel threatened by “lawlessness”.

    The LDS Church now is a fairly mature organization, and boundaries have been established to ensure safety and security from the threatening world out there. Clothing has been used to create a quick way to judge threats and recognize members of the tribe – and to protect the members of the tribe from outsiders who don’t share the same standards and, therefore, might hurt those members as a result of the different standards.

    People who say a woman who is dressed “immodestly” (however that is defined) usually aren’t worried primarily about that woman being harmed; generally, their primary fear is that that woman will introduce or attract an element that will end up harming them.

    I can disagree with the exact lines many members draw with regard to modesty in dress, so I can disagree with the specifics of the BYU Dress Code (and how it is enforced sometimes) – and even condemn some aspects of the culture such a code engenders, but I can’t castigate or condemn people for being settlers and doing what every one of us does to some degree or another – even the most passionate explorers among us.

  109. I think the questions asked at the end of the post are important and worth answering:

    “Are we preparing BYU students for entry into the workplace when we encourage and reward sexual objectification and social awkwardness?”

    No. That’s one reason I went to the U and have encourage my kids to do the same, although I think “encourage and reward…social awkwardness” may be overreaching here. How does the honor code encourage and reward social awkwardness?

    “Are we preparing our students for adulthood when we reward tattling as a way to solve problems?”

    Probably not, although if someone enjoys that sort of thing, adulthood offers plenty of opportunities for tattling on your neighbor or co-worker. I agree that the honor code should not encourage or reward anonymous reports. People have the right to confront their accuser and defend themselves against baseless accusations which could become harassment.

    Are we respecting women when we ratchet up the focus on modesty to the point that women whose intentions are honorable are singled out and treated with suspicion?

    This is the most important question, and I think the answer is obvious.

    “Is it a mistake to conflate a person’s honor with a dress code?”

    The fact is that those two things are not the same at most institutions that have both. Since a dress code has little or nothing to do with honor, and at BYU is not self-enforced in any reasonable respect, it should probably be separate. I’m not sure how important that is in the larger scheme of things though.

  110. I wish the honor code was more about honor. :/

  111. Horrifying.

  112. I think I’ll answer the same questions MCQ answered.

    “Are we preparing BYU students for entry into the workplace when we encourage and reward sexual objectification and social awkwardness?”

    A dress code doesn’t “encourage and reward sexual objectification and social awkwardness”. That is simply a false claim. There is a dress code at the public schools my kids go to and kids (usually girls) get sent to the office for not abiding by the dress code all the time. Dress codes are a fact of life everywhere — including in the workplace. They are certainly not a BYU specific thing. BYU prepared me as much for the workplace as did the state university I attended for grad school. So the answer is yes, BYU is doing well on the preparation for the workplace front.

    “Are we preparing our students for adulthood when we reward tattling as a way to solve problems?”

    First, it is false to claim BYU students have a lot of incentive or reward for tattling on other students when if comes to the honor code. My guess is that out of the 30,000 students the main tattlers are a handful of socially weirdos. So for the 99.99% of the others, this question simply doesn’t apply. But the reality is there are going to be socially weird people in your workplace too to learning to deal with them is useful education.

    “Is it a mistake to conflate a person’s honor with a dress code?”

    It is usually couched as a contractual agreement with the school. There is an honor issue to promising to do something then breaking that promise. The same sort of agreements are used in workplace employments agreements. Makes it easier for HR to fire people over these failures to keep the promises they signed on to.

  113. Geoff, you forgot the most important question:

    “Are we respecting women when we ratchet up the focus on modesty to the point that women whose intentions are honorable are singled out and treated with suspicion?”

    The question is a very leading one, but it still deserves an answer.

  114. Domi – Yes and no, about geography vs. church culture, it’s more complex than a simple answer. Yes of course geography plays an important role. Church wards I’ve attended in Pittsburgh or in Florida were different than in Idaho for example. Your logic is correct. But Ray’s comment is excellent and I can’t really add to it beyond just saying that if you study the history of the Church from a sociological point of view, perhaps from the angle described by Ray, you’ll see trends that point toward why this is such a vexing issue. I tend to also connect this issue with other issues in the church too – you have a divide that I think is becoming increasingly sharp between two distinct poles, with most people falling somewhere between these extreme poles of course: (a) traditionalists who are deeply concerned that changes in the church (cultural issues raised in this thread; or possible theological challenges; or doctrinal challenges, policy challenges, etc) could be taking the church too far away from the heart of what they think the LDS needs to be to stay true to itself and its calling; and (b) people who while wishing to honor the church and the gospel also are calling for some changes to be made within the church, be they changes related to culture as discussed here, or practices such as allowing women to gain ordination and the priesthood; or a wide array of other issues.

  115. Antonio Parr says:

    MDearest –

    I graduated in the 1980’s, and my friends were all ~normal, healthy men ~ who have gone on to become successful, contributing members of society. Some are leaders in their fields. All are fully integrated in workplaces, most of which are located where Latter- Day Saints are a minority. Healthy marriages, nice kids, various levels of Church activity. We all not only survived the BYU Honor Code, most of us would agree that the discipline required by the Code helped prepare us for the workplace (most of which impose a dress code).

    BYU is not the island of Misfit Toys. The social oddballs at BYU who are fretting over his/her neighbor’s hemline are the rare exception. Overall, the experiment continues to work, and the university routinely graduates brilliant, hard working, well rounded men and women. Kudos to BYU for providing a learning environment unecumbered by the excesses of drunkenness and sexual promiscuity that are all-too-often the hallmarks of otherwise outstanding institutions of higher education.

  116. Angela C says:

    BHodges – the pubic hair comment story was one of my male peers who was also nearing graduation in our program, someone I had several classes with. He was called to Standards because of an anonymous tip he wasn’t wearing socks, and he asked why that was a violation. This was what he was told. He shared this story the same day it happened. Of course it’s second hand (I’m not a man, so it wasn’t me).

    Geoff J – Examples of increasing stringecy: when I attended girls camp and a youth trip to the beach in the mid 80s, there was no rule against two piece swim suits. That charged to one piece being required when the FSOY pamphlet was reissued in the late 80s. Now the standards require females to cover swimsuits with both a tee shirt and shorts, including at girls camp. That’s more stringent, not just more specific. Try to peel yourself out of all those layers to take a sit down pee if you don’t think so. Next example, when I served a mission, knee length shorts were acceptable for pdays and exercise. Now workout pants must be capri length or ankle length for sisters. Those are more stringent requirements.

    Why not go elsewhere? I point out some good reasons in a different OP:

    MCQ – Apparently your corporate experience differs from mine. Both of the Fortune 500 companies I’ve worked at for the last 20 years have deep pockets, so they are extremely careful to avoid litigation. I’ve also been Head of HR at one time, and we had extremely low tolerance for this as I stated in the OP.

  117. I would like to see proof on the leg hair story. I just don’t believe it.

  118. Angela C says:

    Geoff J – “My guess is that out of the 30,000 students the main tattlers are a handful of social weirdos.” Mine too. That’s why correcting the weird behavior rather than encouraging it by treating it as normal or even desirable is a reasonable solution IMO. When the weird ones get to the workplace, they won’t be prepared, and frankly, they don’t reflect well on the rest of us.

  119. Not much BYU-I representation in the comments, so I’ll add my “anecdotes” (although, I hope that these quick stories will show that the more ‘famous’ stories are hardly just anecdotes- but a common experience in Rexburg).

    -I was called to the Dean’s office in 2006- three times over two semesters- for complaints about my wearing of “skinny jeans”. Mind you, these were Levi 511s- I wasn’t wearing “girl jeans”. I was one of 3-4 other guys who were all reported and called in, multiple times. I suspect that there were some people “out to get us” (obvious right? I mean, 3 times? Come on!). We were never told who was reporting us, or any details beyond “We heard you are cross dressing/wearing skinny jeans”. We were always treated as delinquents (or ‘guilty until proven innocent’, as mentioned above.)

    -John Dexter, the man who is (still) in charge of the BYU-I testing center (and who came to fame during the “other” skinny jean debacle)- approached me as I waited in line to take a test at the testing center to tell me that my hair “sure was coming close to the line of disobedience”. Rather than get into with him and get thrown out, I did my best to just ignore him, took my test, and after finishing asked to speak with him in his office. I was 25, and was sure I was mature enough to not get worked up and speak rationally to this guy about how he was out of line for commenting in public to me about my totally kosher hair. Well…so much for that- we got into it, him preaching at me, pulling out 3 different 1970s/1980s era GC talks about not treading too close to “the line”, etc. I accused him of priestcraft (at which point he wrote me up and reported me to the Dean, who called me via phone and just asked that I show respect for Brother Dexter, acknowledging that he can be a bit overzealous at times). It wasn’t a productive conversation, but he admitted that my hair was in accordance with the honor code, but he continued to insist that I would lose the spirit the closer I got to the line.

    -Again with the hair- my on campus boss came to me, and after prefacing his comments with apologies about having to just “do his job”, he told me that some students (plural) had been into where I worked and had reported me to the dean- the dean, after being reassured by my boss that my hair was “kosher”, asked my boss to still approach me and tell me that some students were concerned with the length.

    So, there are my “anecdotes”. I could list out a few more, and have plenty of friends who experienced similar things.

  120. Angela C says:

    Kris – Believe it or don’t. It’s an anecdote from over 20 years ago, unprovable then as it is now. The no socks rule was dropped. This is why having indefensible rules is a problem. The justifications people make up for them are utterly ridiculous.

  121. MDearest says:

    Antonio, I respect and agree somewhat with your position that protecting the BYU community standards is a good and necessary thing, though I would present it in different terms. I think perhaps you misunderstood my intent. I also went to BYU during the same timeframe that you did, so I know what it was like really — mostly normal, wonderful and admirable people, and the misfit creepers and modesty nazis, though the minority, were common too. I also have attended universities out in The World, and I have found that people were similar to what I experienced at BYU: Plenty of normal, reasonable, hardworking types with clean morals, and those with excessive drinking/drugs/sexual problems were in the minority, but common. The differences may well be attributed to what each institution attracts, and fosters or tolerates by its policies or lack thereof.

  122. This is why Mormon’s need to get laid. Or at least watch porn or something.

  123. i highly doubt the legitimacy of some of these “testimonies” by students under the heading “..real life examples from BYU”. We all know how quickly stories get passed around on the internet and turn into something that they definitely weren’t from start. Great article, but i feel these “Scandals” that are given as “Testimonies” are a lot less truthful (if at all) than they appear to be.

  124. Angela C says:

    John – yikes.

  125. DisgruntledActiveSingleMormon says:

    I saw this all throughout my time at BYU. The Honor Code was more about appearances and going Pharisee on everyone, thus ensuring that everyone was living right. I just never had the eloquent words to describe this and you did it beautifully. For that I thank you Angela C.

  126. Oops. MCQ is right that I missed one question. So here it is:

    “Are we respecting women when we ratchet up the focus on modesty to the point that women whose intentions are honorable are singled out and treated with suspicion?”

    This is not a BYU-specific issue. As I mentioned, my kids tell me that other kids (mostly girls) get sent to the office for dress code violations on a fairly regular basis at their public middle schools and high schools. The fact that girls are mostly the ones violating the dress standards in these public schools is interesting, but it is certainly no indication that women are disrespected. One could argue it would be disrespectful to not expect everyone to follow the dress code equally.

  127. Geoff-
    If the Honor Code only empowers a few socially awkward doofuses-.001% in your hypothetical (Daily) universe-then why not cut their goofy legs out from under them and ditch the Honor Code altogether? I did not attend BYU and my kids have tended towards way, way overpriced Patriot League and PAC12 schools so discussion of how BYU students are controlled is purely academic. For the record, I probably would not object if one of my kids attended BYU-even apart from the saving on tuition, but alas that does not appear to be in the cards and we delay some home improvement projects for tuition payments to obscenely overpriced schools. Did I mention Patriot League and PAC 12 schools are way, way overpriced?

    But, like you, I have faith in the Mormon kids who attend BYU and believe they would do the right thing absent the Honor Code and threat of punishment for violating it. Ending the codified dress and grooming standards and allowing the students to dress themselves might mean a little different look than what currently exists, but I suspect the 99.99% would manage to dress themselves just fine. Why do you think the BYU administration continues to push this kind of boundary maintenance in a way which deprives BYU students-most of whom are also adults-of their free agency? From an outsider to BYU but a complete Mormon insider, it appears the folks who run BYU think very little of the students who attend. Why do you think that is? Surely, the BYU administrative people who have to deal with these kinds of Honor Code violation reports have a skill set and talents that could be channeled into way more productive and beneficial endeavors for the school, no?

    While the discussion of how BYU polices its student body is academic in my home, most BYU students enter, or re-enter, the larger Mormon bloodstream at some point and bring their BYU training with them. That includes the socially awkward and normal BYU students’ opinion and reliance on the dress and grooming standards. The socially awkward occasionally find themselves in leadership callings and their awkwardness then becomes all of our problems, imo.

  128. Angela C,

    Yeah, the standards on bathing suits going to one piece variety is an example of the rules getting more specific. That thing about wearing clothes over the bathing suits must be a ward or stake specific deal though because they don’t have any such rule like that here in my area of Arizona.

    I think you have a point about the standards office perhaps being a little too efficient and tattler-friendly. I have no idea if it really is, but the stories in this post make it sound like they make it a little too convenient for frivolous charges to be made.

  129. rb,

    The honor code does not “only empower a few socially awkward doofuses”. The thing that empowers those doofuses, if anything, is making it too convenient for them to ring fellow students up on frivolous HC charges.

    The honor code itself serves all sorts of useful purposes, not the least of which is weeding out potential students who don’t want to live by such standards. BYU turns away many thousands of applicants every year as it is so some self-weeding is a good thing.

  130. Angela- I find your experience with modern modesty changes odd. I go to a BYU school, and there are plenty of girls here who don’t wear tons of layers over their swimsuits when swimming. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone where shorts or a shirt over a bathing suit where they wouldn’t anyways. Also, since when are sister missionaries not allowed to wear athletic shorts? At least a year ago shorts were still allowed at least, that was when I ended my mission.

    MDearest- I find your experience and my own decidedly opposite. I’m a native Californian. I was going to California schools for years, and all of my friends graduated from or are graduating from the UC and Calstate systems. As I said above, now I’ve transfered to a byu school. I can tell you honestly, there is a 100% difference in the norm between the two schools. I’m fairly certain it’s a school standard thing too, because I know a lot of students here who disagree with the rules, and a lot more whom would get into a lot of trouble without them.

    We have rules for a reason. Obedience is a virtue, and I think modesty is too. I do agree, however, that there’s a problem with the way both of these things are being taught. I don’t think it’s very Christlike to nurture resentment against a person for a false claim after a period of years, but of course, it’s also not very Christlike to harass people and hide behind the “honor code” afterwards.

    We are supposed to teach one another, support one another, and uplift one another. Tattling on someone behind their back with something that’s not even true is in no-way proper church function.

    On the other hand, I can sort of understand why the system is set up the way it is. The Schools don’t have the resources to really enforce a lot of their honor code principles, but they also have a certain standard that they don’t want to deviate from. They want to make sure the actuality of the moral environment remains exactly what it is reputed to be, and so they try to create a system that encourages students to “help” one another. The problem is that it’s implemented without the “spirit of charity” necessary to have it actually function.

    The main problem lies in the ways things are taught. People don’t always understand the reasons behind all the rules, so they make things up. Modesty is important? Couldn’t be about respect! Couldn’t be about communication or representation! It must be because those poor (insert gender here) can’t control themselves otherwise! Never you mind the higher law taught by the Savior Himself about chasteness of thought!

    A little less fear of confrontation, a little less pride, a lot more study of the doctrine and the scriptures, and a lot of these problems we’ve been talking about would start to go away.

    And honestly, I do think we’re getting better in a lot of ways. Getting worse too, but the next couple generations can work on those problems. Gotta take things one step at a time.

  131. Geoff – These are not middle school and high school students, they are college students or even grad students.

  132. writerteacher- if an adult doesn’t like a school that has a dress code, that person has choice to go elsewhere. There could be ways to implement it better, perhaps, but everyone is made known about the dress-code in order to be admitted.

  133. writersteacher11,

    I agree. Thus they can be held accountable for the agreements they enter into. Just like they will be held accountable for the employment agreements (including dress codes) they enter into at there future jobs.

    (Having said that, I think the real issue here is the Honor Code office might be too accommodating to student zealots so the complaint about that is probably not without merit.)

  134. *their*

  135. Clearly people do know what the code is and they can make choices. That’s a point which can’t be argued with. Whether changes are needed – and to what extent – that seems to be the big discussion, but awareness is not in question.

  136. I didn’t go to BYU myself so I’m kind of an interested observer in this discussion. I can’t say to what extent one person’s claim’s or another reflects reality at BYU. I was born and raised in the Church so I can comment some from that point of view.

  137. claims not claim’s.

  138. Geoff J, it’s not anywhere close to that simple. BYU has a monopoly on its product, so it’s really hard to tell kids to opt out when they want to have the best marriage options, non-alcohol environment, etc. Even for a student inclined to go elsewhere, family and ward social pressure is often crushingly emphatic that the student choose BYU (a friend here in CA was told by her bishop, also her orthodontist, while in the orthodontist office chair, that he would not take her braces off at the end of her treatment if she chose UCLA over BYU–didn’t come off as more than about 1/10 joking to her…). Not to mention the many, many parents who will literally financially disown a child for choosing a school other than BYU.

  139. Cynthia,

    I am a little confused by your comment. I didn’t say no one is ever pressured to go to BYU (or to church, or on a mission, or anything else). I know some people are. I don’t know what that has to do with the honor code.

  140. Cynthia, none of those things remove any of the childs ability to decide what school they want to go to. It might make the decision harder for some people, but part of being an adult is making the hard choices.

    The reason byu is such an environment for there to be such pressure to go there is in part from the dress and honor code. Most of the complaints I hear about are honestly from people either a) trying to fudge the rules or b) who outright violated a rule. The people who are actually maligned are more rare, but I do agree that there needs to be a system in place for them to adequately defend themselves. Some sort of balance in place against uncalled for harassment.

    That last bit I think most would agree on.

    In any case, I’m fairly certain the dress and honor codes aren’t going anywhere. A more valuable topic of conversation I think, would be on what we can do to encourage people to embrace more of the spirit of the law, We need to solve the problem of potential harassment and objectification, without simply decrying the law itself as Evil (which is not the case.) My own belief is that this will come from teaching correct principles in place of myth and opinion, and from a system that encourages people to take responsibility for their actions. Teaching people to take responsibility for how they view others and how they view themselves.

    I avoided going to a church school for a long time, just because I didn’t want to be surrounded by mormons all the time. I felt that people often don’t properly appreciate what they have when they live so sheltered from the world. I still feel that this is true, but I’ve begun to see the value of both the environment AND school policy.

  141. Kanderson says:

    I agree the modesty culture is objectifying and damaging, do I think all dress code should be done away with? No. I’d like them to adapt to facial hair acceptance, capris , self-policing etc (no reporting) But I like that there’s a standard to dress nicer on campus than in your apartment, what with campuses (even the heating plant) being like chapels and temples in the land being dedicated for building the kingdom etc…some can choose not to follow without fear of condemnation. (Ideally)

    I graduated from Rexburg and recently have moved back and some letters to the editor (and editorials) in the scroll have made me want to just die, esp the young man who recommended school uniforms (to help the ladies wear baggier clothes, I guess). Back in the day bednar said the honor code may have less to do with who is keeping it than how you respond to those who don’t. I think a little ‘the Lord looks upon the heart’ and Christlike love should be taught more and less pharisaical obedience.

    But I think the on campus problems are just a shadow of the larger issue of objectifying women. As a female accountant I one day want to be a finance clerk or auditor, and when I try to explain I think those callings can be done by women without the priesthood, most women are the ones that tell me I can’t because I would be tempting the bishopric members into sexual sin by working with them. I hate that at work men were ok being alone in the same room working on projects with me no problem without getting skeezy, but at church I’m a sexual temptation bomb waiting to go off.

    Ps after the skinny jeans debacle I went and bought tighter jeans, just to spite the Pharisees. May the shape of my kneecap drive them insane, I say.

  142. Kanderson says:

    PS I was one of those girls who liked the boys out curfew rules. With 7 girls in a small basement, the only chance of sleep I had was to use the curfew rule as an excuse to kick out the immature, flirting, obnoxiously loud boys out with a “blessings for obedience” line. They hated me for it, but I also had 19 credits and worked 30 hours a week, soooo… Yeah, I needed sleep.

  143. Kevin Barney says:

    Re: the leg hair being an extension of pubic hair rationale for a must wear socks rule, yeah, that was a thing during a particular slice of time in the 90s. I remember starting to hear about it from multiple sources at that time. I’m sure it was not “official,” but the pet idea of some gung ho honor code enforcement officer. One example among many:

    You youngsters are missing out on the classic honor code enforcement tale. In 1978 a woman came to the BYU testing center to take a test. BYU had made the testing center a locus of honor code enforcement, and since the woman was wearing pants (of “nice denim material”), she was not allowed to enter. So she goes to the bathroom, removes her pants, buttons up her overcoat, and is promptly allowed in. She wrote a(n infamously) scathing letter to the Universe asking why it’s so important to show her legs that taking a test in panties (!) is preferable to pants.

  144. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, and on the dynamics of working with women in a professional setting, sleeping in the same hotel room together is in my experience a complete straw man. I’ve never seen nor heard of such a policy.

    I happen to know that some leaders in BYU’s professional schools are concerned about this very issue. They have a huge motivation to want their grads to perform well out in the world, and they are aware that the awkwardness some of their male students feel in working closely with women is a looming problem for their budding careers. Don’t be surprised to see in the future initiatives in the graduate professional programs designed to address this issue.

  145. Angela C says:

    Kevin Barney – I have likewise never encountered in over 20 years of business any company that requires different sex colleagues to share a hotel room overnight. I’m sure it happens in the porn industry, but not sure where else.

    I am also aware that the BYU business department has had to address issues with wives of male business students requesting their husbands be exempt from working with females on group projects. These requests are denied by the professors because they are completely unprofessional and unrealistic in the workplace. If we could just apply that kind of common sense to the entire BYU campus and the standards office, we’d be on the right track.

  146. Angela and Kevin,

    This is also the single biggest piece of negative feedback the B-school gets about its students – that they often have problems with the men who have women bosses and colleagues. It is consistent and big enough issue that the B-school has a number of initiatives to address it. They take it straight on as they have found being subtle hasn’t worked. Among these is a systematic refusal to honor the above requests, special preparation for interviews and sessions in the curriculum to address the problem. Yet another piece of evidence of some of the negative cultural consequences of our patriarchal structure.

    I recommend this for a thoughtful reflection from a Mormon guy about how he “came by his prejudices honestly” and how they affected him in his early career.

  147. There’s an undercurrent going on here that I might as well comment upon. A rising voice of strong, intelligent women speaking up within the church, and I think this will be very healthy for the church. Over time there will be significant clashes and changes given that the church has long been dominated by while males. I look forward to seeing feminists – and also men and women of diverse cultural backgrounds too – call for reassessments of the way some underlying sets of norms (such as those discussed in this thread) are interpreted, and call for changes in some policies and practices. There will be disagreements. That’s for sure. But the church will be stronger of the long-term for it. I think the church could use a good dose of feminism.

  148. Is “baring false witness” no longer a sin as long as it’s about someone wearing “skinny” jeans?

  149. Rah – I learned a new word today, mansplaining.

  150. Mark B. says:

    If the moderators of BCC are going to allow insults against a prophet to stand, why not simply give up and join the DAMU?

  151. Kristine says:

    It’s gone, Mark. Thanks for pointing it out. Feel free to email the admins about stuff like that–we’re likely to see it faster that way.

  152. JennyP1969 says:

    What is it about our church that we think it’s proper, even encouraged in so many ways, to police each other? Where in the teachings of Jesus did He council us to point out motes in another’s eye….or their wardrobe? Where did He say that women must dress modestly? Where?

    He condemned those who did such things. I’m not sure He’d like attending BYU. And I seriously doubt He would endorse so many rules, and the pits they set up to dig for another. his beard and sandals would have to go, and cross-dressing is a big no-no too.

    The gospel is good news! It’s not a police academy, nor the military.

    My personal experience: I attended BYU — my dream college — in the 70’s. I was mauled by RM’s, and called horrible names for “taking the honor code so seriously.” Then hometeachers and fellow students often pointed out dress code infractions of the slightest degree. Loved my classes, my professors, home evening groups, and Devotionals. But this honor code thing was an interesting and troubling experience. My dad was laid off one winter, so I came home and transferred into a State college. There weren’t many members, so I dated guys who weren’t LDS. Not one tried anything with me, having the utmost respect for my beliefs. No one talked about hem lengths or gave lessons on immodesty. There was no policing each other. And I married in the temple! — imagine that….

    I loved my experience at the State school even more. We had an amazing Institute director (who never talked about modesty being a marriage requirement). And I truly believe Jesus would rather go to my State college, too. He could attend just as He is.

  153. >>The fact that girls are mostly the ones violating the dress standards in these public schools is interesting, but it is certainly no indication that women are disrespected. One could argue it would be disrespectful to not expect everyone to follow the dress code equally.<<

    @Geoff, that women "violate dress standards" more ought to clue you in the disparity of the standards and social expectations for women, not raise an eyebrow about the women themselves. Quite the contrary, it screams that women are being disrespected.

    We live in a culture that is so backwards women can't show the slightest bit of skin without it being considered sexual–even to the point where women who are breastfeeding are often asked to cover up. Men go through life doing normal human things and it's not seen as sexual – sleeping, showering/bathing, going to the beach, wearing underwear, etc. Women do any of those things, it's assumed to be sexual. A woman can't take a shower, can't sleep (unless she's covered head to toe), can't wear a bathing suit, can't so much as wear the clothes she chooses to wear without being seen as a sexual object. Part of the proof in this is how we respond to overweight or obese women who wear immodest clothing in public: We act put-out, disgusted, or offended that she isn't meeting our expectations of attractiveness, so we expect those women to cover up because they're seen as dressing sexually (by showing any skin). The LDS church perpetuates that debasing standard when it sets such a high value on so-called "modesty."

    Male skin = normal, Female skin = sexual. Without this double-standard, there wouldn't be these kinds of modesty discussions.

  154. Evan D. Wirig says:

    I was reading through these, and someone actually had the balls to equate the incidents here to Mountain Meadows and felt I needed to speak up.

    I currently attend BYU-Idaho and was here during the whole thing with the Testing Center. It was ridiculous (and Henry J. Eyring was an idiot for not immediately sending the emails to their PR department asking about this).

    The incidents brought up in this article are the ones that garnered the most attention (they were on national headlines, after all). However, these are not isolated like Mountain Meadows. They continue to happen.

    Let me bring up an often overlooked example:

    There are actually people who work in the Testing Center who aren’t complete idiots and jerks. However, they live in constant fear that if someone were to just THINK that what they are wearing is not Honor Code appropriate, they will lose their job. This happens more often than many realize. I don’t know about you, but that is creating a hostile work environment (not to mention a hostile educational environment).

    Things like this shouldn’t be tolerated by ANYONE, I don’t care who you are.

  155. Who is comparing this to Mountain Meadows?

  156. Evan D. Wirig says:

    Look at Ardis E. Parshall’s reply from yesterday.

  157. OK I see it, Ardis was implying that this was only being discussed as a means to beat up the Church. Something tells me the church has some interesting years ahead. The dress code discussion hints at larger topics related to gender roles. And that in turn hints issues such as preparation for the work place, adaptation to today’s society, and at diversity issues within the church. Yes, interesting years are indeed ahead.

  158. Thank you so much for this article… I had an issue one time at BYU- Idaho that made me feel really awkward and it was extremely uncomfortable to me to be put through it. I did the collegiate dance one semester for Irish Dance and we were practicing for the show that would be that weekend. After we performed the girl that choreographed the dance came to me and said that a couple guys were too distracted by me because apparently I bounced too much on top so they couldn’t pay attention to the dance! She told me to come back wearing 2 bras in order to be able to perform…. So I did. Unfortunately wearing 2 bras still wasn’t enough so I was forced to wear 2 bras AND they ace bandaged me on top of that so I wouldn’t bounce! It was completely ridiculous and embarrassing, not to mention uncomfortable, and I have not done any other dance programs since then. All because some guy had a dirty mind and that is all he could “look at.”

  159. Antonio Parr says:

    John Hatch:

    You write as if the challenges that women face in society as being perceived as sexual objects is somehow the fault of a small minority religion like ours that emphasizes modesty in dress and conduct. That if we were somehow to lighten up as a religion with respect to how we dress, then all would be well with the women in the Church.

    Guess what? If the Church were to abandon its emphasis on modesty, our wives and daughters and mothers and sisters and friends would still be perceived as sexual objects by a culture that has been inundated with that message by mass media and the porn industry and the advertising industry, only moreso because they would now be dressing in ways that satisfy the licentious expectations of those who are already predisposed to objectify them.

    If the extremes are burqas and bikinis, the Church does a commendable job of helping us find balance. I am grateful for the support that the Church gives me as a father as I strive to teach my children to resist the call of genuinely awful men who would try to tell them that their worth is no more and no less than their physical allure. That is the evil that truly threatens our children’s safety and self-esteem, and I welcome and depend upon the Church’s support in fighting that evil, by reminding my daughters that they are spiritual beings of eternal worth and potential, and are much more than how they are physically desired by others.

    As to the occasional overzealot at BYU, I never had any run-ins with them, but acknowledge that a handful exist. I would like to think that the University is continuing to mature, and that those who would strain at a gnat to swallow a camel are usually ignored, and that the folks in charge are focusing on the big picture, hopefully with wisdom and understanding. I would also hope that the ever-increasing challenge of being admitted to BYU is resulting in an increasingly intelligent and sophisticated student body, where people are astute enough to recognize the things that matter most, and are less likely to have the time or inclination to police dress and grooming compliance by others.

  160. John Hatch,

    Your argument is weak. There is a rule at the local public schools against wearing super short “booty shorts”. The fact that the girls break that dress code rule more often than boys has nothing to do with “the disparity of the standards and social expectations for women” as you put it. The rule applies to all students equally.

  161. Jessica H says:

    There is definitely a “spirit of the law” vs. “letter of the law” conflict with most of the established BYU. When I was a freshman living in the dorms, it was a rule not to show movies in public–you had to be in a private setting so as not to infringe on copyright laws. A friend of mine and I (a male and female) were watching a movie on his laptop with headphones in the common area (since visiting hours were over). I kid you not–an RA came up to us and asked us to leave the public area and go “to your car or somewhere where others can’t see your movie.” Really is someone going to sit behind us and guess what the actors are saying without sound? You just suggested that two unmarried single student watch a movie in a steamy car? That’s the best option you can suggest? Really, I was flabbergasted.

  162. Texas Mormon says:

    This article is an example of what I love to call “Pharisee Mormons.” Those who practice the religion but project their own, made-up, ultra-strict INTREPRETATIONS of the law onto everyone else. It is utterly ridiculous and a bastardization of the gospel, the same way the Pharisees did to the Law of Moses. As just as the Pharisees, these Mormons feel they are the keepers of the religion and feel like it is their obligation to force it on others. It’s not just dress but also things like:
    a. At what age you should be married. So many unmarried men and women in our church are stressing out at age 25 because they are “old unmarried.” So disgraceful they are made to feel that way.
    b. How soon after you get married you should be having a baby. If you want to have a honeymoon baby, that’s your business. Personally, I loved the 4 years I had to develop a great relationship with my wife before we introduced the hardest and most stressful job either of us would have–being parents.
    c. How many kids you should have. Just because you want 10 kids doesn’t mean that is the definition of “multiply and replenish.”
    d. Staying dressed up in church clothes all day on Sunday. You go ahead and be uncomfortable if you want, I’ll feel the spirit in shorts and a t-shirt just as much as you.
    e. What soft drinks you should consume. All those who have been preaching against Pepsi and Coke for decades were put in their place by the “official” church press release in 2012 saying there is no restriction on caffienated soft drinks.
    f. I could go on and on but I’ll finish with the stupidest one of all–a bishop who only allowed white bread to be served as the sacrament because white is more pure. I’m still speechless on this one…

    Sadly most of this goes on in heavily populated Mormon places which leads me to my favorite saying…”Mormons are like manure…when they’re all clumped together they stink really bad. But if you spread them out, they can do a lot of good.” It’s not only with Mormons but you get the idea.

    Start off by actually READING what the standards are and what the Brethern are saying. 9 times out of 10, you don’t even know what they said, you are misquoting it, or completely misinterpreted it. Once you actually read the standards, use the spirit to determine how YOU should live it, not how others should.

  163. Heheh. That’s a funny story, Jessica H. It serves as a reminder that zealotry and youth tend to go hand in hand.

  164. Angela C,

    I must say that you are strongly expressing a personal double standard. You say that the Honor Code objectifies women, while you insinuate more than once that men are nothing more than brainless, walking genitals. A man who asks a woman to dress properly cannot be automatically judged to be aroused. And if that is a concern to you, you have to admit that sexuality is instinctive, and each gender has triggers that cause arousal, even against the individual’s will. Dressing immodestly is a forceful imposition of unwanted emotions.

    “Young men, let . . . young women know that you will not seek an eternal companion from those that are overcome by worldly trends. Many dress and act immodestly because they are told that is what you want. In sensitive ways, communicate how distasteful revealing attire is to you, a worthy young man, and how it stimulates unwanted emotions from what you see against your will.

    “Those young women who do embrace conservative dress standards and exhibit the attributes of a devoted Latter-day Saint are often criticized for not being ‘with it.’ Encourage them by expressing gratitude for their worthy example. Thank them for doing what is pleasing to the Lord and in time will bless their own husband and children. Many young women have returned to righteousness because of the example and understanding support of a worthy priesthood bearer. Perhaps a group of you could frankly discuss your concern in an appropriate setting such as a Sunday School or seminary class. Will you begin a private crusade to help young women understand how precious they are to God and attractive to you as they magnify their feminine traits and divinely given attributes of womanhood?” -Richard G. Scott

    There you have it. An apostle is telling us to do exactly what you’re saying NOT to do. He even says that we ought to go on a crusade to help young women understand they ought not to dress immodestly. That’s strong language.

    I hope you will reconsider your overly-feminist views and understand the big picture here. While it should be done tactfully, a man who is encouraging women to be righteous is probably a righteous man. The skinny jeans example and the RA pearing through the window are completely inappropriate, but a private reminder is usually coming from a man who is concerned, and who lives in a world that surrounds him with images that are designed to cause him to fall from God and live as the Adversary would have him to live; that is, in complete misery. You think the advertising of bodies and sexualized culture we live in are targeting women and making them feel attacked and insecure. That is true, but it’s only half of the truth. The other half is that it is intended to destroy men. The world in which we live today has made morality a ridiculous challenge for both genders. Don’t fight against the men who want to respect you by encouraging you to respect yourselves and, in turn, men. Thank you.

    P.S. – Your comment about holding to the iron rod is disgusting. Your mind is in the gutter. Toodles!

  165. Note to Evan D. Wirig: I do not have balls.

  166. B. Lowry, it wasn’t clear from your comment, but are recommending the full Burqa or just the Hijab?

    I think Angela’s argument is that the dress provisions of the honor code are unnecessary. Mormon women who are disciples of Jesus Christ can be trusted to make appropriate choices in how they dress themselves. Compounding that problem is the way the current interpretation of the dress code authorizes or even encourages a random man to approach a woman who is a total stranger and tell her that, in his opinion, she is dressed “immodestly” or that the way she is dressed makes him “uncomfortable.” (If the latter is the case, then it is manifestly his problem and not hers; he is or should be in control of his own thoughts — that he thinks it is possible that his thoughts are her fault is a piece of evidence attesting to the dysfunction of our current modesty discourse.) Then, even further compounding this, the honor code office accepts and even encourages students reporting each other’s alleged “infractions.” Once such a report is made, the reporter can remain anonymous while the accused is investigated under a presumption of guilt until proven innocent.

    None of this is right, objectively speaking. It raises new concerns for me that you and others on this thread apparently don’t see the moral problems with this status quo.

  167. (Angela is not even “attacking” or “criticizing” modesty in dress — which is or should be only one small element of the concept of modesty, though you would never guess it by the way we use the word/concept in the Church — but rather this situation as it appears on the ground currently.)

  168. MDearest says:

    I like what John Hatch (18 June 7:53am) had to say and this is my takeaway quote:

    “Male skin = normal, Female skin = sexual. Without this double-standard, there wouldn’t be these kinds of modesty discussions.”

    FWIW this is not something that originated in the Church. It’s been part of the larger worldly culture for centuries. In the last half-century or so, it’s been in process of deconstruction by feminism in the world at large. That deconstruction is one of the main factors in creating the problems we’re having with gender issues in our more insular church culture. It’s worth a post of it’s own, and I don’t want to derail the original intent of Angela C’s brilliant OP: To fine tune the BYU Honor Code (which is a good thing) to change the institutional policies that support the Pharisaical modesty policing that’s encouraged for students to perpetrate on other students. (which is a bad thing, and far too common) Read the five bullet points in the last section of the OP. What a great improvement they would be if they were implemented, and we could be fine-tuning them.

    As another commenter said, the Church could use a good dose of feminism. I agree, and I hope that it would be thoughtfully applied, with a heart full of the Savior’s love.

  169. Can we please use some common sense here? There clearly is a spirit of modesty encouraged on the Church. Yes. No argument.

    But picture this for a moment. I’m walking along a downtown street (keep in mind I’m a guy) dressed in a business suit. A woman who is a stranger to me walks past me in business attire which may perhaps in some way violate the terms of the BYU dress code if this were a BYU campus. So I walk up to her and say the following:

    “Pardon me ma’am, your attire is unworthy of you as a woman and it stimulates unwanted emotions against my will.”

    She’d have every right to think I’m a creep if I do that.

    Do we really want to put LDS women through such treatment? Is that the spirit of the church?

  170. writerteacher11,

    You would be a weirdo zealot if you did that. Seems like everyone in this thread agrees with that. As I see it the problem we are really discussing here is not dress codes, it is weirdo zealots. Let’s all join hands and shout together, “Down with weirdo zealots!”. There, now we feel better.

    I think the point main ground level change that is feasible in all of this is the BYU HC Office could slow their roll when it comes to empowering and encouraging weirdo zealot tattlers.

  171. I have to say while this article brings up some really good points I can see the good in placing certain boundaries on a person’s manner of attire. After being in what I feel was a nurturing, supportive LDS home I went to University of North Texas, and by golly I still rebelled. I’d never been allowed to dress however I wanted, and every time I went to the gym it was in a tiny tennis skirt and tank top. Nothing came of it in terms of harassment or sexual objectification, but I think that PARTS of the Honor Code would have kept me reigned in until I got a bit more mature and didn’t care about rebelling for “fun”.

    I will say however that this anonymous Honor Code tattle-taling is ridiculous. What happened to “judge not that ye be not judged”? What happened to “first cast[ing] the mote out of thine own eye”?

    If any person is so bothered by trivial dresscode violations then they ought to consider some serious self-evaluation. Bottom line: Take care of your own shortcomings before considering others’.

  172. @ Ardis:

    Haha! Good to know! The point still stands, though.

  173. The idea that the aggressive modesty policing of women’s bodies arise primarily out of and reflects only a technical concern over their not fully complying with the terms of a contract is as laughable as it is stupid. Same with the notion that rules which technically apply equally to both sexes therefore don’t or can’t disproportionately burden one sex.

    Watching smart people make willfully disingenuous arguments fills me with quiet rage…

  174. Tell that to you boss, Brad. Dress codes in businesses won’t be going away any time soon.

  175. Geoff, Angela is correct that the behavior described in her post would be hostile work environment sexual harassment if done in the workplace. (The behavior of a man approaching a woman and telling her that what she is wearing is, in his opinion, immodest and/or makes him uncomfortable or is, in his opinion, unprofessional. This is hostile behavior in the real world. It would be reported to HR. The man might lose his job. Let’s teach our youth and young adults not to develop a practice of engaging in this kind of unsolicited modesty policing.)

  176. I agree, John.

  177. Rachel,

    It would have been much easier to ace bandage the offending eyes. Too bad nobody thought of that.

  178. A good start to taking down the power of the “weirdo zealots” is, it seems to me, the following principle:

    An LDS woman, or a female student at BYU, is deserving of the full human dignity and basic rights that a woman outside the Church or outside of BYU can expect to have protected.

    Women in the LDS Church should not at any time be made to feel dehumanized, objectified, or otherwise disrespected by anyone from within the church or any institution affiliated with the church.

    It’s high time to take a good hard look at ways to ensure full dignity, respect and basic rights to women. And yes feminism can provide input into this effort. Sometimes it can be difficult for male authority figures to admit ways in which they make mistakes that unintentionally (or intentionally perhaps) do objectify or disempower women.

  179. WTF does my comment have to do with business dress codes?

  180. Geoff – The point isn’t “should the church encourage modesty.” The point isn’t even “should there be some kind of dress code” (though some on the thread do feel there shouldn’t be one, and clearly I speak in the end only for myself). The real point is it seems to me deeper than that, which is why I’m interested here. It goes toward basic dignity and rights of women. I think you do recognize this in your comments.

  181. @Brad – “The idea that the aggressive modesty policing of women’s bodies arise primarily out of and reflects only a technical concern over their not fully complying with the terms of a contract is as laughable as it is stupid.”
    No, this could just be self-righteousness. It’s not necessarily discrimination.

    “Same with the notion that rules which technically apply equally to both sexes therefore don’t or can’t disproportionately burden one sex.”

    This is true, but what is true equality? Probably to shave all heads and make everyone wear single-piece jumpsuits. Then no one shows any skin and has not opportunity to be extreme in style or immodesty. It seems to me like the only reason that a rule which applies to both genders is disproportionately burdensome to one gender is because of conformity to fashion.

  182. Antonio Parr says:


    Your intentions are admirable, but establishing a universal maxim is easier said than done. One of the “basic rights” that a woman outside the Church has is the right to sexual expression. But at BYU, that basic right is curtailed for both women and men, where sexual conduct outside of marriage is forbidden.

    Moreover, while I agree with whoever it was who posted above that most students would dress in a BYU-compliant way even if there was no Honor Code, how would you handle someone who dressed in a way that was revealing/immodest in a more universally recognized way? That person, if told to go home and change into something more acceptable, may be left to feel “dehumanized, objectified, or otherwise disrespected.”

    It is hard to come up with “one size fits all” rules, and, as I have written previously, I am not only comfortable with, but also appreciative of, many aspects of the BYU Honor Code .

    The real challenge are the “weirdo zealots” — of course, I mean “weirdo zealots” in in the best sense of the phrase — but I think that they are few and far between, for the most part social outcasts who use the tattling opportunities as some kind of sad social outreach.

  183. Antonio,

    “Moreover, while I agree with whoever it was who posted above that most students would dress in a BYU-compliant way even if there was no Honor Code, how would you handle someone who dressed in a way that was revealing/immodest in a more universally recognized way?”

    Like they do at any other campus. You ignore them.

    Yes, it’s that simple.

  184. “This is true, but what is true equality? Probably to shave all heads and make everyone wear single-piece jumpsuits.”

    Ah, an old straw man. You can do better than that.

  185. Brad,

    Sorry, I misread your comment. I agree that weirdo zealots at BYU shouldn’t be defended by using the “contract monitors” excuse.

  186. Antonio – At no time have I advocated that the LDS Church abandon its cultural heritage or that BYU abandon its cultural heritage, which in both cases includes encouragement of modesty. I’d like to think that modesty can still be encouraged while respecting the dignity and rights of women. I’d also like to think LDS women have basic common sense about how to dress in the church and on church grounds.

  187. This is from the BYU honor code office website (
    Violation Reports and Privacy

    “Anyone may refer a student to the Honor Code Office for reported violation(s) of the Honor Code, whether the alleged conduct occurred on or off campus. The person submitting a report is asked to identify himself or herself and to provide information regarding the alleged violation that will assist the university in its investigation. Although the Honor Code Office (HCO) generally does not investigate reports given by anyone unwilling to identify himself or herself, the HCO reserves the right, in its discretion, to proceed with an investigation based on a anonymous report.”

    So maybe the idea of flooding the honor code office with anonymous reports of men dressed immodestly might not be as effective as some would hope. It’s worth a try, though.

  188. Geoff, what does it bring us to blame this problem entirely on “weirdo zealots” rather than apportion any blame to the dress provisions of the Honor Code itself (a major anomaly — virtually all peer institutions have Honor Codes that focus on honesty and integrity) and the modesty culture/discourse that authorizes the “weirdo zealots” to become self-appointed modesty police?

  189. @writerteacher11 – Then what is true gender equality on campus?

  190. @john f. – it’s a problem to blame the problem on the Honor Code itself because it is endorsed and enforced by BYU itself, a CES school.

  191. Mark it’s not that hard to respect the basic dignity of another human being. It’s not that big of a mystery. That’s ultimately what I hear the women asking for. They want to have their dignity respected.

  192. I can cite standard workplace and university policies that also do protect the basic rights of women (and men) if needed.

  193. @writerteacher11 – So, you mean, following the Honor Code. I was responding to Brad’s post that equal policies affect men and women to different degrees.

  194. @Angela C – I think you make some good points in your article, like how important it is that BYU students are prepared for co-gender interactions in the workplace and some of your suggestions on improvement, like discouraging/disallowing whistle-blowing by fellow students. My opinion differs, however, on the idea that the Honor Code encourages sexual harassment and should be changed.

    The Honor Code is endorsed and enforced by the school, which is a Church Educational System school, and therefore is upheld by church authorities, who are inspired of God. Until I moved to Provo to start college, I spent my entire childhood in Phoenix, AZ, where the climate makes justification of inappropriate dress a simple thing. Most girls in my high school wore shorts that were 1/4 length of their thigh, tank tops, tube tops, etc. Besides showing lots of skin, guys had major pants-sagging issues, and students of both genders had various extreme hairstyles. Essentially, the only rule relating to dress was that you covered from the top of your thighs to your armpits. This was the style, apparently.

    So where does it stop? If there are no specifics to the dress code, we’re left with a bottom line, like “You must cover your private parts,” but that’s about it. How can a school that is owned and operated by the LDS church condone dress and grooming that is inconsistent with the standards of the church? Further, how do you appropriately address an issue of immodesty if people are to live the spirit of the law?

    I agree with Geoff that the problem is not the honor code, and I agree with you that most men can control themselves when working with a woman. I think the problem is making it easy for individuals to report dress and grooming violations.

    On the subject of equality, this article seems in part to be aimed at exposing the unfairness of dress standards at BYU based on the number of complaints filed against each gender.

    In a recent visit to the BYU weight room, where dress and grooming standards are strictly enforced (for facial hair, at least), I walked in behind a couple where the young woman wore shorts 1/3 the length of her thigh. After letting them in without the blink of an eye, the weight room attendant reminded me that he had been asked in a recent meeting with his superiors to make sure every guy had shaved just before coming to the weight room. Is having a 5 o’clock shadow more or less offensive than wearing shorts well above the knee?

  195. “following the Honor Code” – I’m not prepared to take a stand on the future of the honor code, I haven’t studied it, nor did I attend BYU. It’s really best for me to let others engage in the honor code debate specific to BYU, my stance has gone beyond that.

    What bothers me is when people are treated in a disgraceful manner.

  196. John F,

    Well the good it does us to call out the weirdo zealots is it pinpoints the actual problem. Of course the BYU dress code is fairly conservative. BYU is famously a socially conservative place. Every student that chooses to go to BYU knows this. The BYU honor code (including the dress and grooming standard) has worked at BYU for many decades. The problems Angela brings up in the post are not due to the existence of a dress code at BYU. The problem is with empowering weirdo zealots. If those weirdo zealots were called into the HC office and given a tongue lashing or warning every time they brought in a frivolous charge against a fellow student I am confident frivolous charges would decrease. Heaven knows frivolous dress code accusations in a workplace wouldn’t go over well with HR or management so breaking these weirdos of that habit would be doing them a favor.

    Having said that, I spent years at BYU and never knew of a single soul who tattled or who got tattled on for HC violations. So I suspect this whole little debate is a tempest in a teapot.

  197. @writerteacher11 – Ah, well then, we agree on that.

  198. “Is having a 5 o’clock shadow more or less offensive than wearing shorts well above the knee?”

    Neither is offensive and the fact that you apparently think that one or both of them is/are is evidence of the broader problem.

    As to the dress provisions of the honor code being beyond reproach because they are part of a CES-school, isn’t that a circular argument? And, are you thereby saying that every such mundane policy that arises in the Church bureaucracy is a result of revelation or inspiration from God? He is really micro-managing us like that?

  199. Mark – Yes, we do. Regardless of how I may feel about the honor code itself, I don’t feel I have a the right to take a stand on it since I am not connected to BYU.

  200. BHodges says:

    “The BYU honor code (including the dress and grooming standard) has worked at BYU for many decades.”

    Well this really begs the whole question, though. This post is only one small thing highlighting problematic unintended consequences of the BYUhc. For example…

    Wait. Oh, I get it now. You’re straight-up trolling!

  201. The problem is not the existence of dress standards or a dress code, or even the particulars of this dress code per se; the problem is twofold:

    1) Enforcement of the dress code at BYU as currently constituted encourages, normalizes, and elevates to the status of righteous and courageous Standing For Truth behavior that is not just creepy and zealous but would in any other professional, adult environment be sexual harassment.

    2) In the case of female dress standards, the dress code is closely linked to and draws its social and spiritual currency and leveragability from a combination of a wider cultural gender discourse that sexualizes the (increasingly young) female form and a Mormon discourse of (female) body modesty that magnifies and deepens the hypersexualization of girls’ and women’s bodies and compares them (usually implicitly and occasionally explicitly) to pornography (which it also routinely compares to a toxic and soul-sucking, virtue destroying plague).

    It is simply not possible that someone telling a female BYU student that she is showing too much skin on her thighs or shoulders is remotely similar in terms of shaming, creepiness, harassment, and unprofessionalism as someone telling a male student that he isn’t showing enough skin on his face.

  202. The problem is not just frivolous complaints; the problem is that even totally non-frivolous complaints by male students about women’s dress (not the “she’s wearing a shirt with a swear word on it” variety but the “she’s distracting me with her clavicles and lower thighs and the space between her breasts” variety) are creepy, unprofessional, and harassing.

  203. @john f. – Why is a young woman let into the gym wearing short shorts (against the honor code), but I won’t be let into the gym because the last time I shaved was yesterday morning? Wouldn’t you say that’s a bit unfair? Apparently having a bit of scruff on your face is the more heinous a violation of the Honor Code because facility supervisors were given no such specific instruction on checking the length of shorts.

    The ONLY reason I care about women wearing shorts that are too short is that for all I know they don’t get called out for it (I see it every day in the gym from the same girl), but I can’t go a couple of days without shaving and still use weight room facilities or take a test.

  204. BHodges,

    The BYU honor code is not the problem. The weirdo zealots at BYU are the problem.

    Now why would BYU have more weirdo zealots than public universities? Well, the most obvious answer would be that there are tens of thousands highly devout religious young people there. About half about the people at the institution are so devoutly religious that they are willing to sacrifice years of their young lives to being full time unpaid preachers. So when you get 15,000 devout young preachers together in one place it is not surprising that a handful of them will be weirdo zealots. Hopefully with time even those weirdo zealots will mellow out too though.

  205. @john f. – Not a circular argument. It’s a policy in a church school (which I attend) and is maintained by inspiration, so I’ll follow it.

  206. “I see it every day in the gym from the same girl”

    Mark, sorry to be the one to say this but now you’re really starting to sound like one of the weirdo creeps at issue in this thread.

    I’ll just repeat that neither a beard nor shorts while working out at the gym are or should be considered objectively offensive in the least in the cosmic scheme of things. The fact that these are big issues under the dress and grooming provisions of the honor code is what makes this whole situation into such a farce worthy of the analysis provided by Angela in the original post. Her post identifies real-world consequences of living with/under such a code while at university and makes valuable, realistic, and practical suggestions of how we can move away from this dysfunctional practice.

  207. Antonio Parr says:


    People in the real world who come to the average workplace dressed immodestly are not ignored. They are fired. Not a bad idea to prepare students for the real world by not enabling behavior that could cost them their jobs somewhere down the road.

    Subsequent to BYU, I attended a top 20 university in my field. That University would not ignore someone who was dressed in a way that the University perceived to be unacceptable. Sure, the standards were different, but they were there, nevertheless.

    Most institutions/employers have expectations regarding personal dress and appearance. No question that BYU is on the conservative end of things with respect to such matters, but the differences are more quantitative than qualitative.

  208. “maintained by inspiration”

    So your answer is that, yes, God is micromanaging us like that. We are not given freedom and flexibility to create our own paths and structures and policies (and make normal, human mistakes in doing so) but rather everything done in the Church is straight from God?

  209. @john f. – way to take my comment out of context. We’re talking about the Honor Code here. It has been upheld by CES schools for decades. If it ought not to be part of the Church Educational System, it wouldn’t be. This sub-discussion is moot if you don’t agree with the Honor Code or if you don’t support the LDS church.

  210. Mark, it’s an unskilled technique to accuse your interlocutor of “not supporting the Church” because he or she is willing to consider that a particular policy or practice is ill-advised. Though it is a standard recourse, that does not make it an intellectually defensible one.

  211. @john f. – “I’ll just repeat that neither a beard nor shorts while working out at the gym are or should be considered objectively offensive in the least in the cosmic scheme of things.”

    I find neither offensive. And yet, I’m still kept from using BYU weight room facilities when I have facial hair, but the length of a woman’s shorts isn’t even considered.

    Also, please don’t attack my character. No matter how clever you think you are in saying what you did, it’s totally disrespectful and has no place here.

  212. it's a series of tubes says:

    We’re talking about the Honor Code here. It has been upheld by CES schools for decades. If it ought not to be part of the Church Educational System, it wouldn’t be.

    Mark – as a thought experiment, try replacing “Honor Code” with “priesthood restriction” and “CES schools” with “the Church of Jesus Christ”. Does that illuminate in any way why many find your line of reasoning unpersuasive?

  213. John F:” “The fact that these are big issues under the dress and grooming provisions of the honor code is what makes this whole situation into such a farce worthy”

    I think you are on really shaky ground with this line of argument. Dress codes are not remotely unique to BYU. Either the dress codes are enforced by a company/institution or they are not. Sometimes they are enforced. The fact that some people whine when they are enforced does not make their existence “farce worthy”.

  214. Evan D. Wirig says:


    “A prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such.” – Joseph Smith

    While the First Presidency, members of the 12 and the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Presidents sit on the Board of Directors, it does not mean that they are acting in the capacity of their callings.

    That being said, do you know where the main changes to the Honor Code came from and where the problems outlined originated? Regular students. Students that have long since graduated.

    What we’re talking about is the Law of Unintended Consequences. It doesn’t matter how well meaning their intentions were. The consequences of these rules have caused more harm than good.

  215. @john f. – You sound like you’re fighting against the Honor Code system, so I was letting you know that I will not argue with you. I also have no idea of your background, and made no assumptions about your affiliation with the LDS church or BYU. I was giving you an opportunity to share with me your views of these organizations.

  216. @it’s a series of tubes – 1. CES is the Church of Jesus Christ. 2. It sounds like you are suggesting that a code of values and morals closely corresponding to church standards is similar in some way to “priesthood restriction.” I think this is an error. It would be better to compare “priesthood restriction” to polygamy, civil rights, the Law of Moses, etc.

  217. *owned by the Church…

  218. Antonio there actually are important qualitative differences between dress standards or dress code at BYU and those you would encounter at virtually any other professional institution around out there, chief among them being that other institutions do not routinely and repeatedly and emphatically teach their girls and women an approach to modesty that compares and identifies their bodies with pornography and with the power to compromise the virtue of the men and boys that look at them, along with the fact that these institutions do not encourage people to confront their female colleagues and coworkers and accuse them either to their faces or to higher authorities of dressing in a provocative or distracting or alluring or immodest fashion.

  219. Mark, the fact that a disclaimer explaining that I am an active Mormon high priest who fully believes in and supports the Church’s own narrative about its Truth claims and sustains the General Authorities would be necessary here is evidence of our dysfunctional discourse. You apparently can’t discuss the issue on its own merits without such a disclaimer, lest you accidentally have a conversation with an anti-Mormon; therefore, I have given you such a disclaimer, though I am loathe to do it in such a discussion because it is or should be entirely beside the point.

  220. @Evan D. Wirig – Can a person not be inspired in some capacity other than an official church calling? To me, it sounds like what you’re suggesting is that all decisions and approvals made regarding CES schools are completely uninspired, since positions related to CES institutions are not an official LDS church calling. I disagree with this idea wholeheartedly.

  221. I’m all for respecting and honoring the church. And like I said I don’t feel I have the right to take a personal stand on the dress code policy itself. But attacking someone’s loyalty to the church if they raise an issue is problematic. Look at the name of the blog site you’re commenting on – “by common consent.” Read the section that talks about the name of the site, including Doctrine and Covenants. There are people who do feel they should be able to comment about church issues – including being critical even – without having their love of and loyalty to the church itself and their faith in God called into question.

  222. Not at all.

    But to delude yourself into thinking that 100% of the policies made in regards to the CES are through inspiration and revelation is dangerous. Not only that, but the positions such as president of the University is not a calling. Take Kim B. Clark, for instance. What he has done during his tenure at BYU-Idaho has been causing the school to go in a downward spiral. The only thing of merit that he can attribute is the Pathway Program, and even that is struggling.

  223. @john f. – This an incorrect interpretation of my intentions. I can’t “discuss the issue on its own merits without such a disclaimer (from you)” because I find the nature of your “discussion” argumentative.

  224. City Creek Mall is owned by the church. What if at some point in the future the mall struggles? What if not all Mormons like the fact that alcohol is served at Cheesecake Factory? Are they disloyal if they grumble?

  225. @writerteacher11 – Who is attacking who’s loyalty to the church?

  226. Mark – Please go to the “About” section of this blog and read about the nature of this blog including the verse within Doctrine and Covenants that is discussed. John is allowed to argue as far as I interpret things. Now, if he outright said something crude about a prophet or something like that, then I’m sure a monitor would take notice.

  227. You, Mark, to John. You keep on doing it. I’m tired of it have a good night.

  228. @writerteacher11 – I agree that John is allowed to argue, and I don’t see an attack of his loyalty anywhere in my posts. Why don’t you point it out for me?

  229. “This sub-discussion is moot if you don’t agree with the Honor Code or if you don’t support the LDS church.” – Calling loyalty to the Church into question.

    “I can’t “discuss the issue on its own merits without such a disclaimer (from you)” because I find the nature of your “discussion” argumentative.” – Doing it again.


  230. it's a series of tubes says:

    1. CES is the Church of Jesus Christ.

    Mark, I appreciate this response; it makes it clear as to how we disagree.

    2. It sounds like you are suggesting that a code of values and morals closely corresponding to church standards is similar in some way to “priesthood restriction.”

    Rather, I was suggesting that the existence of a practice, or the longevity of a practice, is unpersuasive to many as to the divine inspiration or approval of such practice.

  231. Geoff, taking the beard provision about the honor code, if I remember correctly, I’ve even seen you make observations about the ridiculousness of such a rule. If I am misremembering that from our years-long interaction on the blogs, please excuse me. But it seems to me that it is not only the weirdo creeps who make this an issue but also the content of the dress and grooming provisions makes this into a farce. It is a military dress code for a university that, aside from its ROTC program, has no connection to the military. Or, if it does, it is a very curious connection.

    It has been argued persuasively above that the dress and grooming provisions unevenly burden and sexualize/objectify the bodies of women. Work environments have dress codes that more evenly apply to both sexes and that relate rationally to the activity that is performed in the workplace. I am not aware of modern workplaces, for example, that prohibit beards. (Though this provision seems to have been adopted from the military during a time when it could be used as a litmus test to determine whether one opposed US involvement in Vietnam or had other “protestations” against the federal government, the connection there has long since disappeared as Vietnam and hippy protests are largely things of the past. Political demonstrators these days are just as likely to be dressed in Wranglers and a cowboy shirt or a suit (Tea Partiers) as in tattered clothes, long hair, beards, and round, psychedelic glasses.) Or, for women, that prohibit professional outfits that expose shoulders.

  232. Antonio Parr says:


    Respectfully, you are painting BYU with the most inflammatory language possible, and, in so doing, fail to accurately capture the culture of the University. I graduated from BYU in the 1980’s. My daughter graduated a few years ago. Neither she nor I would recognize the place if we were to rely upon your description as an accurate characterization of the atmosphere at BYU. For the most part, the young people at BYU come across as pretty balanced, in the way that my classmates at subsequent institutions of higher learning came across as pretty balanced. True, one is likely to find a handful of Honor Code vigilantes at BYU that won’t be found on most other campuses, but they are few and far between, and more of a nuisance than any kind of meaningful threat.

    As to whether men and/or women are capable through dress or grooming to create a temptation for others for which they are somehow spiritually accountable, that is beyond my job description. Mass media seems to believe that they can catch our eye with provocatively dressed human beings. Moreover, LDS prophets and apostles seem to think that we are each other’s keeper when it comes to such things, and you will have to draw your own conclusions as to whether these leaders possess any inspiration worthy of your attention on the topic.

  233. Antonio Par – I didn’t go to BYU but I do have nearly 40 years of lifetime experience in the Church. I agree with you here.

    If women are told “routinely and repeatedly and emphatically … to modesty that compares and identifies their bodies with pornography” then I’m completely unfamiliar with it. I have many friends and family members in the Church who are women and I’d like to think one of them would say something to me if this were happening. I’m a man so I admit to not being privy to what is said in teachings specifically to women. And I admit to not studying the literature in this area. But the language is inflammatory.

  234. Antonio, are you saying that Brad’s comment (June 18, 1:24pm) is an inaccurate analysis of the content of (or rather broader influences behind and meaning of) the dress and grooming standards portion of the dress code? Because I didn’t really see him providing a description of BYU itself or its environment or its student body, and he explicitly disclaimed criticism in general of the idea of a dress code, but he made an argument based on the contours of this specific dress code and its established application/interpretation through the office that enforces it.

  235. I have never seen the actual dress code. I have attended the Church for many, many years. If women are being taught to compare their bodies to pornography it would be a surprise to me.

  236. John,

    My take is that BYU is a private university and they can enforce any dress code they want. They could require mohawks on everyone if they wanted. If it got too weird their enrollment would drop. The current dress/grooming code seems to work for them and the applications keep rolling in so more power to ’em.

    “Work environments have dress codes that more evenly apply to both sexes and that relate rationally to the activity that is performed in the workplace.”

    BYU’s general modesty requirement are not all that different than most of the offices I have worked in over the years. I just don’t believe the BYU dress code is some horrible burden on women there. If some women feel it is, they can always choose to go elsewhere. Same goes for men who find the dress/grooming code too restrictive. But dress and grooming codes are not unusual at all. Hooters has one so why can’t BYU have their own too?

    “I am not aware of modern workplaces, for example, that prohibit beards.”

    That is moot. BYU is a private institution that is very forthcoming upfront about their dress and grooming standards. People go to BYU only after agreeing to the terms.

  237. writerteacher11, Brad’s comment was in part referencing Elder Oaks’ recent talk in which he used that terminology (that women can become “walking pornography” to some men based on how they choose to dress). But in addition to incorporating references to such comments within the Church, Brad’s comment even more pointedly was referring to how women are treated in broader society, implicitly noting the unfortunate irony that our own modesty discourse in the Church often plays into this very paradigm rather than rejecting it outright and striking our own course that would recognize the inherent human dignity within each woman independent of the attributes of her particular physical body.

  238. Mark, your heart probably is in the right place, but you are commenting as if you were a troll out looking for a fight – then responding defensively when someone swings back. If you can’t see that, it might be a good idea to walk away from this thread, read more threads here and try to get a feel for how conversations here go – then try commenting on another thread.

    Just a suggestion from someone who screwed up here when he first started commenting years ago.

  239. So I am misremembering your own incredulity at the prohibition on beards?

  240. (I am pursuing this line of inquiry because you feigned surprise/incredulity at my use of the word “farce” in relation to the content of the dress and grooming standards and their enforcement through the mechanisms under analysis in the original post.)

  241. I’m unfamiliar with the talk by Elder Oaks. The language of “walking pornography” sounds like something I would be disturbed by, be it from a church leader, a President of a University, or in this case both.

    Clearly I agree with the importance of recognizing “the inherent human dignity within each woman independent of the attributes of her particular physical body.”

  242. John,

    I don’t remember ever getting too worked up about the no beard thing at BYU.

  243. Antonio,

    ” No question that BYU is on the conservative end of things with respect to such matters, but the differences are more quantitative than qualitative.”

    It is both quantitative and qualitative at BYU.

    But again my point remains.

    You said “how would you handle someone who dressed in a way that was revealing/immodest in a more universally recognized way?””

    And my response was “Like they do at any other campus.” What I mean by “ignore them” is handle these outliers the same way as a less restrictive campus would (which is the vast majority of campuses).

    And when I wrote “ignore them” I was thinking of my two youngest. When one constantly teases the other he does it simply to get a rise out of the other. When the behavior is ignored, suddenly it is not such a big deal and being an irritant is not so fun anymore.

    I really think relaxing the policy and deemphasizing the policing of clothes and hair solves more problems than it creates. They will find that BYU as a result would not suddenly become Soddom and Gamorrah.

  244. @writerteacher11 – Well, since you’re still awake, I might as well direct you to my post at 1:57 pm (not sure if this blog displays local time or global time for everyone); not that I need to justify myself to you, however. Your accusation was off base. If you read through our whole conversation carefully, you’ll see that my intention, however john interpreted it, was to inform john (since he had already attacked my character) that I would not argue.

  245. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I remember wearing my short corduroy “OP” shorts and mid-rif ab-bearing T-shirt at my state University in my pre-mission year. Having read this post, I can be reassured that no sisters in my Institute Classes had the misfortune of finding my skin exposure as “sexual”. When I got back from the mission, short men’s shorts were out and knee shorts were in, so the “OP” shorts got sent to DI.

    I joke about the BYU zeolots I would meet at my school and back at my home ward and how they would ask me why I DIDN’T go to BYU, as if there was something wrong with my choice of academic institutions. (I would jokingly tell them that it was a matter between my Bishop and me!)I remember the SHOCK that at my school we had only FOUR Institute Wards instead of ‘hundred’s’ at BYU, that response would get soooooo old, when Four Institute Wards at a State University was GREAT! Considering that the LDS student population of the 30K student body was a small minority. Reading the opening post makes me shake my head at the funny business so unique at the church university that I MISSED OUT ON!

    Nevertheless, I do believe that if you go to BYU with the right attitude that there will be zeolots, rule-breakers, tattle-talers, look-the-other-wayers, self-righteous and generously supportive classmates there (as there are anywhere), you can rise above the funny business and have a good experience. It’s like the Zone Conference on my missions where we would be blasted for non-adherence to mission rules, and some of us were basically rule keepers and had to learn to not feel guilty about not being a good enough missionary based upon the message that was being delivered to the many. Not that I was perfect, but tried always to follow the spirit of the law. If you don’t learn to negotiate those idiosyncracies that are non-doctrinal culture at some point, you will have a hard time of lifelong activity in a ‘ward-family’!

  246. writerteacher11, it was in General Conference in 2006, I believe.

  247. John – I’ll have to look it up. That makes me quite sad to think about. Yikes. How completely inappropriate.

  248. @Ray – You make a good point and I appreciate your input.

  249. Mark – This is a “Mormon blog” where I expect common courtesy and respect to each other. That includes not calling loyalty to the church into question (I already stated my case and quoted your words back to you). If you’re just here to get into fights I’m willing to bet people will ignore you soon enough.

  250. writerteacher11, when you read the talk, you’ll see that in context it’s pretty benign, just a very unfortunate (one could say tone-deaf) choice of words or description that inadvertently gives full credence to the negative way “the World” uses and abuses and commodifies women’s bodies.

    I don’t doubt Elder Oaks’ best intentions and desires for all men and women in the Church to simply be righteous disciples of Christ. I just chalk it up to a poor word choice. (I allow myself the freedom to notice poor word choice, even when the speaker is a General Authority — I realize this is considered unorthodox or outright heretical by some.) But, as long as we’re talking about Elder Oaks, it is my understanding that the no-beards thing is his particular baby so it will be with us for the foreseeable future.

  251. I always felt like the rules at BYU were like the Law of Moses compared to the higher law we followed up at USU where we were not commanded in all things.

  252. I want to repeat what I believe to be a gem from this discussion: “Male skin = normal, Female skin = sexual. Without this double-standard, there wouldn’t be these kinds of modesty discussions.”

    Separate thought:
    “I think that PARTS of the Honor Code would have kept me reigned in until I got a bit more mature and didn’t care about rebelling for “fun”.”

    This comment about attending a Texas university and rebelling by wearing tennis skirts and tank tops made me wonder – Is there any part of the BYU Honor Code that sees itself as an extension of the dress requirements in “faithfull” LDS homes. IOW, is it part of the intention that Mormon parents know that BYU is a safe place where their child will be educated without the sometimes rebelious expiramentation that often accompanies the YA period of life.

  253. @writerteacher11 – It was common courtesy to make no assumptions about john f.’s affiliation with the church. Since this is a post about the BYU Honor Code, and I personally know many non-members who attend BYU, there is a good chance that some people reading this article and commenting in this forum are not members of the church. I came across this article because a friend linked it on Facebook, and all his non-member friends will see the link as well.

  254. I’ve already addressed this, it’s old, Mark, let it go.

  255. @writerteacher11 – You’re insufferable. Ray is right. I’m not ready for this forum – at least not when you’re here making false and petty accusations (and you act as though you didn’t read a single word I wrote in response to your posts).

  256. This isn’t a forum, for one thing. It’s a blog. There is a (huge) difference.

  257. @john f. – 1(c): a medium (as a newspaper or online service) of open discussion or expression of ideas.

    The comments section of this blog sure seem to me like a medium of open discussion. “By Common Consent (or BCC) was started in 2004 by a group of Mormons to provide a thoughtful, enjoyable, and reasonable place to post and discuss Mormon topics” (first line of the About section of this website).

  258. By the way, Mark, it was wise to make no assumption about your correspondent’s Church affiliation. That is, indeed, the polite way to proceed in society (though perhaps not as necessary on this blog, which is a Mormon blog; having said that, if you’re new here, it is still a good idea because it’s never a good idea to make assumptions about people). However, it seemed that this is not what you did. Instead, you made a comment that, it seemed, stated that one must not support the Church to be capable of such analysis of the dress and grooming provisions of the honor code.

  259. Mark, blogs are blogs and forums are forums, regardless of what Merriam-Webster says. I take it that when you said “forum” you weren’t using it in the technical sense but were just referring to a platform for discussion.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t ban myself. I would just chill out.

  260. @writerteacher11 – By the way, in regards to your post at 3:03 pm when you wrote “This is a ‘Mormon blog’,” I refer you to the 4th sentence of the About section of this website: “BCC is a place… for everyone, including those who are not Mormon.”

  261. Observing says:

    Elder Oaks’ talk was given in the April 2005 Sunday Afternoon session. After going on and on in the most direct way possible about the evils and horrors of p0rnography, he then very plainly told the women to remember that if they dressed “immodestly” they became p0rnography to the men who saw them. And, since we (lately) define immodesty as showing knees, shoulders, and perhaps even a small bit of cleavage, he indicted a very impressionable group of women with an evil and graphic accusation. An unfortunate choice of words, perhaps, but it has not been edited or deleted from the official transcription, so it stands today as quasi-scripture.

  262. @john f. – Good idea. Either way, is not the comments section of this blog a “platform for discussion?” I’m not trying to disrupt the flow of the discussion, but I feel strongly about being falsely accused, especially when it is done behind a no-name alias on the Internet. I apologize for any offense I have given you by my statement about your support of the Church or BYU.

  263. What were you falsely accused of?

  264. Of questioning your support of the church, which as you now know, was not such, albeit not the ideal way to approach the situation. Then writerteacher11 wouldn’t let me explain myself and pulled the fingers-in-the-ears-while-yelling “Blah, blah, blah: I’m not listening!” trick.

  265. Mark, please walk away. When a post becomes all about you (whether that is all your fault, all another person’s fault or a combination of the two), it’s a sign that something has gone wrong with the discourse. Better to end it while it is possible to get out than to keep digging.

  266. On a loosely related subject, I just put up a modesty-related post…

  267. john f. says:

    So you were falsely accused of falsely accusing? That’s very meta. Maybe you do belong around here after all.

  268. Jared Newman says:

    I’m attending BYU right now, and these issues of the honor code and modesty have definitely created, or at least fostered an attitude that is contrary to Christ’s teachings. One instance from this past year that comes into mind is when one of my good friends got pulled into the honor code office (and was found guilty) for telling a white girl (my friend is black) that his favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla. The honor code is certainly successful in holding BYU students to a certain standard of outward “honor,” but has undeniably created the opposite on the inside. Instead of the mentality of “judge not, that ye be not judged,” there is an attitude of “judge, for ye will (and are) be(ing) judged.”
    It’s time for BYU to move past a Law of Moses-esque Honor Code of the present, and amend it to reflect the higher law Christ instituted when he was on the earth. BYU students simply do not need these letter-of-the-law guidelines to live honorable lives. I know I don’t.

  269. Kristine says:

    Aw, Geoff J, you just posted that because I’m so cute when I’m mad, right? I’m not biting this time! ;)

  270. Yes, Kristine! Don’t let your adoring fans down.

  271. Rebecca says:

    Cultural Mormonism teaches it was Satan’s plan to force us all to “be good” (a load of b.s., but that’s beside the point).

    BYU forces students to “be good.”

    So the Honor Code is Satan’s plan?

  272. This is a fantastic article! I’m a current BYU student and I would love to see something done about this. I have never been called by the honor code office but I have had Mormon men tell me what was wrong with my clothing on numerous occasions, i.e., skirt too short, sleeves not long enough, shirt too tight, etc. I believed these clothes to be in accordance with Mormon modesty practices. I have also had a customer complain about me to my boss directly while I was working at a cash register on BYU campus because when I crouched down to get into a low cabinet they thought I showed too much of my back. I was just wearing a normal t shirt and jeans. Each time something like this has happened I have felt absolutely awful. I’m the kind of person that goes out of their way never to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Now I realize I shouldn’t be ashamed because of other peoples arbitrary opinions. Even with this new realization, I still think it is wrong for these kind of practices to be condoned by BYU, not to mention impractical because it is not how the real world works. Is this what tuition is spent on? Faculty calling women who may or may not have worn something inappropriate for a few hours? And to me the real question isn’t whether or not someone is following the honor code. It’s about whether anyone else has the right to complain about something that should never even concern them. A girl may wear a bikini to class and I still wouldn’t want to hear a word about it. Thanks for this great article! Your concerns and opinions are shared with many others!

  273. Taunya Gren says:

    The smiled upon harassment, double standard for women vs men and culturally lauded idea that “looking” righteous was more important than “being” righteous are some of the reasons I am no longer LDS. Not a BYU student by any means, but it’s not limited to just that campus. It’s church wide. I will serve God without the limitation and prejudice of dogma.

  274. Raydawn says:

    Reblogged this on Dear Uncle Dad and commented:
    I think this was written by a believing Mormon. My heart feels a little lighter now.

  275. Meldrum the Less says:

    I have not failed to notice that the “zealous wierdos” at BYU tend to be men bothering women. Is this correct?

    I suggest one change, that as far as the section on modesty in the BYU Honor Code goes, WOMEN POLICE WOMEN AND MEN POLICE MEN. It would be considered inappropriate for a man to file a report against a woman violating a modesty rule and visa versa.

    I realize this suggestion does not address the underlying fundamental problem. I acknowledge that women can be zealous and in some cases just as bad. But the frequency might drop enough to clear the air somewhat and it might work as a compromise until the more difficult root issues can be resolved.

    I think this worked once in my ward years ago. High Priests were getting indignant in ward counsel over the fashion choices of the YW. I suggested that the YW presidency counseling privately and discretely with the mothers of the girls involved be the ones to make these judgments and if they were not up to it then perhaps the RS could be brought in as reserves. The situation improved, perhaps not as much as some desired, but without the young girls being made to feel like criminals as far as I could tell.

    Men really do not have any business telling women how to dress, except maybe within the confines of some homes. In my family a man is taking a huge risk telling his daughters what to wear even if he has 100% of the support of his wife. Easier and better to let her deal with this one. I fix toilets instead, more in line with my natural inclinations.

  276. Rebecca: cultural mormonism is often wrong about many doctrinal points. That being one of them.

    As an example: the cultural enforcement of the dress and grooming standards of “showing too much back when reaching down” (Thanks Maddy.)

    The problem here is not with the Honor Code, or even the Dress and Grooming standards. The problem is cultural mormonism.

    This is why I will probably never move to Utah, even though so many of my friends and acquaintances live there. Cultural mormonism ruins actual mormonism.

    Or maybe I’m just weird for being a Californian instead.

  277. Oh yes, and another experience I just remembered and would like to add to my list even though it didn’t occur at BYU. For my 13th birthday I was having a party with all my family on a Saturday morning. While we were starting to eat cake my mormon uncle told me (in front of everyone) that he would feel more comfortable if I changed because my shirt was my favorite spagetti strap shirt. I was so humiliated that I ran back to my room crying and didn’t leave for the rest of the day. I was a very sensitive girl at that awkward stage of my life. All 13 year old girls are self-conscious enough already. My birthday was ruined and he never apologized. I forgave him for it anyways and moved past it. But he has done it since even though he saw how badly it hurt me. I really do think it is a cultural thing, however it shows the most at BYU because the crazies have an outlet to use to inflict their self-righteous judgements. It’s called the honor code office.

  278. Thought there are similarities, BYU culture is really not the same as Utah culture. Many out of staters, very often those attending BYU, tend not to be aware of the differences. For example, a woman in a random Utah Valley bookstore would simply not get called out for something like Maddy’s example that took place on campus. BYU has its very own special brand of crazy.

  279. I agree with some of the points in this post, but found the language rude, condescending, and a bit vulgar. Disappointing.

    I think the main issue is that the dress standards are somewhat vague. This is intentional; it is up to the individual to work out with God. Some people don’t like to wear skinny jeans, and some people do. We should try not to judge each other for our differences on dress and grooming, and certainly not do it publicly. Leave judgement (even on the issue of leggings!) to God.

  280. “The smiled upon harassment, double standard for women vs men and culturally lauded idea that “looking” righteous was more important than “being” righteous are some of the reasons I am no longer LDS. Not a BYU student by any means, but it’s not limited to just that campus. It’s church wide.”

    Taunya Green, except for the double standard for women, that’s hogwash. I have issues with the way modesty and appearance are handled too often, but that broadside is bogus.

  281. Taunya – Even if you have negative feelings about the Church and are no longer a member, it is in very poor taste to enter a “Mormon blog” frequented mostly be believing Mormons, and denigrate the religion as well as denigrate members of the Church. The site openly says that Mormons and non-Mormons are welcome to comment. I don’t see people asking each other some kind of litmus test to see who fully believes versus who may perhaps be an ex-Mormon or on the verge of leaving. But what you just did is the equivalent of entering any similar location (online or in-person) frequented mostly by Mormons, as they talk about the religion, and then basically tell them off. Are you also going to start going to Church picnics and softball games and tell off Mormons? There are ways of expressing your reasons for leaving and discontent without disrespecting beliefs and dignity of people.

  282. writerteacher11, in blog parlance that’s called “pissing in my living room.” Or something like that. But I didn’t see her comment as that big of a piss. It really was pretty benign, all things considered.

  283. Agreed, John. I’ve come to have respect and appreciation for this blog and the dialogue that takes place here. I’m new and won’t be able to keep up the commentary much longer as I need to work. But I know how important it is to maintain a positive environment in a place like this.

  284. I am glad this post was written. I think it illuminates the misogynistic and victim-blaming undertone that a small number of students employ when self-righteously blaming others for their own weird creepy thoughts. That being said, I’ll be honest, I never had a problem with the honor code. Yes, I dealt with judgy cohorts who wouldn’t dream of staying in the member of the opposite gender’s apt after 12:00 exactly. But, whatever. It was midnight anyway, it was probably smarter for me to leave. I worked grounds and dealt with blatant sexism there (even had a coworker inappropriately touch me), but I don’t think it was indicative of greater Mormon or BYU misogyny. They were just being immature, stupid boys. The mature (often married) men on my crew wouldn’t stand for it, and would defend me to their dying day. At risk of rambling, my point is this; I don’t think Mormon or BYU males are more sexist or creepy than others. I do think however that they use “modesty” or perceived lack thereof to justify their creepiness. Which does a disservice to us all.

  285. I know this is off topic a bit, but it was mentioned above and I think needs clarification. The Church did not issue a statement saying that caffeine is not prohibited. Strictly speaking, the statement was that Section 89 does not mention caffeine. The original statement did say it was not prohibited, but the PR dept issued a clarification the following day, presumably so members would not misinterpret the intended message.

    Personally, I don’t care if people consume caffeine–that’s their business. But don’t misrepresent the church’s statement regarding the issue.

  286. I know I probably shouldn’t ask, but:

    So, what, exactly, Mike, are you saying the Church’s position is?

    I got lost in the explanation.

  287. Angela C says:

    Meldrum the Lesser – I wanted to comment on something you said, bearing in mind that this post is specifically about how BYU culture translates into the workplace (contrary to some of the discussion that has broadened it considerably). You said ” as far as the section on modesty in the BYU Honor Code goes, WOMEN POLICE WOMEN AND MEN POLICE MEN.” My first instinct is to say why need anyone police anyone else, but I’ve modified that thought. This is actually what de facto happens in the workplace.

    Most men (minus a few weirdos who think it’s their God-given right to correct these harlots) are very aware of hostile work environment claims and will avoid them like the plague. They literally will not discuss a woman’s appearance, even behind closed doors, whether it has anything to do with modesty or not. The problem is that it also means some women don’t get feedback from male bosses at all about their appearance or demeanor to the point that it can hold the woman back. The type of feedback I refer to is along the lines of wearing clothing that looks dumpy or unflattering in meetings with clients, or having personal habits that detract from a professional image or even hygiene issues. It’s one reason many companies create female mentor programs.

    Generally speaking, women can give one another feedback about appearance in a work setting without being hauled in to HR. Obviously not if that feedback is perceived as a come-on or otherwise inappropriate, but women seem to feel less threatened when a woman tells them that they need to update their wardrobe or quit biting their fingernails in meetings or if a woman tells them the crotch of their tights is visible when they sit down. Go figure!

  288. The church’s “position” is that Section 89 does not mention caffeine.

  289. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

  290. I’m glad I asked, Mike. Thanks for the clarification.

  291. Ray, let’s try this. Last September the church issued a statement re caffeine. Here is a quote from the Salt Lake Tribune article:

    “On Wednesday, the LDS Church posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond [tea and coffee].”

    A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that “the church revelation spelling out health practices … does not mention the use of caffeine.”

    I’m sure you can see the difference those two statements:

    1. Section 89 does not prohibit caffeine
    2. Section 89 does not mention caffeine

    The first statement is closer–on the spectrum of “permissibility/endorsement or prohibition”–to endorsement than the second one. Most members I’ve talked to about this issue only seem to remember the first statement, not the second, clarifying one. It seems clear that the clarification was deliberate and meaningful.

    In other words, the church’s position is that there is no official position on caffeine. One of the comments above stated that the church announced that it’s position is that caffeine is not prohibited, when it’s position is only that caffeine is not mentioned in Section 89.

  292. In other words, the church has not endorsed caffeine, nor has it said it’s ok for members to consume it, as some members seem to think.

    On the other hand, I am not saying the church prohibits caffeine, or that I believe members who consume it are in some way evil. I’m simply saying some members are mistaken in their belief that the church has put its stamp of approval on their caffeine consumption.

  293. Make it so.

  294. Angela C says:

    I’d like to see the church prohibit funeral potatoes and red punch with cookies. They are neither good for the body nor the belly, but whatcha gonna do?

    What were we talking about again?

  295. I think we were briefly immersed in the law of Moses.

  296. I find male forearms really, really sexy to the point of being distracting. So BYU ought to ban short sleeve shirts on men and ESPECIALLY long sleeved shirts with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, which cause me to have all kinds of impure thoughts.

    Sheesh. My husband, to this day, doesn’t understand why I had no interest in attending BYU and why I am not encouraging our daughters to go there. As a male he was never subjected to this level of judging so he can’t understand why it is so hurtful to women.

  297. Sharee Hughes says:

    After reading a lot of the comments on this subject, I decided I was going to ask BYU why their Honor Code prohibits beards for me. Following is my e-mail to them and the response I received, plus my response to their e-mail:

    As a woman who has long been partial to facial hair on men, I have a difficult time understanding BYU’s beard prohibition. If a man is worthy to attend the Lord’s Temple wearing a beard, why should he be denied admission to BYU? Seems to me the temple is a more sacred place and, if the Lord has no objection to a bearded man worshiping in His temple, He likely would not object to a bearded man studying at His university. And don’t give me any of that crap about wanting BYU students to be clean cut. Clean cut means neat and tidy, not clean shaven, and a man can be neat and tidy in a beard. I would like an honest and LOGICAL explanation as it has bothered me for a good many years. It dismays me to think that you would not allow the man for whom the university is named to enroll–or even Jesus Christ Himself, as they had beards.

    Dear Sharee,

    Your recent email regarding beards has been directed to my attention. When students apply to BYU they are given the opportunity to review and commit themselves to the enrollment standards contained in the Church Education System Honor Code. Should a student choose to enroll at BYU they are expected to abide in their commitment to the principles of this Honor Code.

    In an effort to assist in clarifying what that expectation is, I share the following quote from a
    January 2012 devotional address given by President Samuelson, “In a similar vein, we are very grateful for the BYU Honor Code. As those familiar with our history understand, the Honor Code was instituted by student initiative and continues to be ratified and supported by our Board of Trustees. Some are confused by what they perceive as imperfections in the Honor Code. What they really do not understand is that it is not based on regulatory control by the administration but rather is a commitment of those accepting the opportunity to be part of the BYU community to live lives of honor. And, the expectation rightly is that each of us here will be self-policing with respect to compliance. We have all promised to live our lives in certain ways, which admittedly may be at variance with some of the slipping standards of the world. We have promised to be honest in all of our dealings, treat others and the institution with respect, and be personally responsible for all dimensions of our conduct and behavior. Some aspects may seem more important or relevant than others. But, like the Word of Wisdom (see Doctrine and Covenants section 89), living the Honor Code brings blessings that result from obedience to high standards. In our case, by signing our names we have promised not only our conformity but also that we understand the BYU standards of honor and willingly will live them. And, like the Word of Wisdom, the Honor Code is adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all [BYU students].”

    I hope this helps to resolve an issue that appears to have been troubling
    you for many years.


    Larry Neal Honor Code, Director

    My response to him:

    I’m sorry, Larry, but your response does not say WHY the honor code prohibits beards. I agree that it is important that there be an honor code and that those who choose to attend BYU should follow it, but shouldn’t there be some rationale to the regulations of the honor code. Having a beard has nothing to do with the “slipping standards of the world,” nor does it mean a man is not living a “life of honor.” If a man wearing a beard is worthy of a temple recommend, why is he not worthy to attend BYU? You have not answered that question.

    So far Brother Neal has still not answered that question.

  298. Perhaps it was the use of the word “crap” in your query. I’m not suggesting that Larry was offended by it (though he may have been), but rather that it taints your query and suggests that you don’t really care what the answer is.

    BTW, I agree with your position. I don’t understand how they can think that what’s good for the temple isn’t good enough for BYU, and facial hair has absolutely nothing to do with worthiness.

  299. Angela C says:

    Sharee – I suspect it was the use of your word “logical” and not “crap” that tainted your query. The response was absent logic yet full of crap.

  300. Mark from MI says:

    Larry Neal’s response sounds very much like the answer I got when asking that same question as a BYU student 30 years ago. It deflects attention from the purpose of the restriction and turns it into a demonstration of obedience. Comparing it to the WoW is new though, and I’m having a hard time following the parallels in blessings. I can’t say that after graduating that my beard and long hair have done anything to impede my ability to run and not be weary or walk and not faint.
    My experience there led me to conclude that the dress and grooming standards had very little to do with the moral development of the students, and quite a bit to do with the projected image of the university.

  301. it's a series of tubes says:

    That is an impressive non-response from Brother Neal.

    And as a shaved head, Van Dyke sporting bishopric member, I for one say – good on BYU for holding the line on this important matter! After all, it’s adopted to the weak and weakest of the students – and don’t we care about the children? Besides, think of the horrors that lie on the other side of the coin. For devotees of facial hair such as myself, it would be a shame if a few weak students used permission to grow facial hair as an excuse to sport massive Pharoah-style goatees. Imagine the shame that would be brought upon the institution, and potentially the soup bowls in the Wilkinson center that might be inadvertently ruined through reckless goatee-dipping! The safer course is the wiser one, I say.

  302. Sharee Hughes says:

    I think I’m going to e-mail Larry Neal again today, to see why he has not responded with something that really and truly answers my question. I belong to a neighborhood study group–a small group of old ladies who get together once a week for som sort of Gospel study. For about two years now, we have been studying Talmage’s Jesus the Christ (we’re almost done), and we also discuss conference talks and various other issues. When I told he group yesterday about my correspondence with Brother Neal and his non-response to my second e-mail, the 85-year-old sister who is the leader of our group said I should bypass Neal and instead e-mail the president of the university. So maybe I will do that. If nobody asks the questions, we won’t get any answers.

  303. Sharee, you might find a better answer in what Peggy Fletcher, reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune who explores controversial LDS issues on a regular basis, wrote on the topic.

    As Elder Oaks said, it’s a contemporary decision and one that may change in the future but hasn’t in the 42 years since he made that comment.

  304. it's a series of tubes says:

    Sharee, the Dialogue article that Kristine linked to on June 17 at 12:08 has excerpts from Dallin Oaks 1972 university address where he explained the rationale behind the facial hair restrictions. I searched, but could not find audio, video, or a transcript of the Oaks address. Does anyone know where it might be found?

  305. Sharee, I would recommend not harassing Larry Neal. I have no idea who he is but assume that he is at best a mid-level functionary who has no influence either way on the content of meaning of BYU’s dress and grooming standards (though, by the same token, I assume he is a zealous believer in and enforcer of that portion of the honor code). So it’s unhelpful to pester him with these queries. He is only at liberty to answer with a corporate response that has been vetted, probably generated, by PR people in that office of at the university level. He can’t tell you why he thinks the beard restriction makes sense, and he probably can’t even share with you the speculation of higher level bureaucrats or Church leaders as to how or why the beard restriction in some way relates to personal righteousness or even the honor and integrity that is usually the focus of such university honor codes.

  306. I personally believe the beard restriction is to promote kissing on campus.

  307. Lol, Mormon’s are so whack!

  308. Sharee Hughes says:

    SilverRain, I LIKE kissing men with beards.

    Thanks, O.D., for the link to Peggy’s Tribune Article. I noticed she quoted Carrie what’s-her-name. Isn’t she the same one who said Coca Cola wasn’t sold on campus because there was no demand for i? Wouldn’t put much stock in what she says. I’m going to try to find Elder Oaks’ address. But 42 years ago is not now and even then it was the unkempt look that was related to the drug culture, not neat and tidy beards.

  309. Yes, it’s still 1968 for many.

  310. Yes, I’ve heard some women like applying sandpaper to their face, or getting other people’s hair up their nose. ;)

  311. Figure out why temple workers have to shave their beards and you’ll be closer to the answer for why beards are problematic in the minds of the Church leadership than you’ll ever find in exploring why it persists for the men at BYU.

    Remember, BYU is one massive PR experience for the Church and there is a vested interest in projecting a specific image and inculcating the importance of that image into the lives of the students who attend there. So that is a public image for all to see.

    The temple on the other hand is at the heart of our doctrine and faith and is only encountered by the truly faithful. Why is it so important for a temple worker to be clean shaven?

  312. Hue Man says:

    “Why is it so important for a temple worker to be clean shaven?” An excellent question, and one for which I’ll have to ponder. Surely, in many cases, a temple worker is representing the Lord during actual ordinances. Other times, he is performing ordinances on behalf of the Lord. Beyond that, I’m not sure. And we don’t turn patrons away who have facial hair. And even Bishops can have mustaches if neatly trimmmed — just no beards, like the BYU code. This one has me baffled, and I’ve gone round and round with my immediate leader who’s a retired CES guy. I quarter no sympathy from him in my desire to have a beard:) Don’t leave me hanging O.D. – what’s the deal with no beards for temple workers?

  313. I tend to think Bishops having to be clean shaven is apocryphal and only exists where enforced by an SP who thinks it’s a requirement when, at most, it is a lingering vestige of an “Unwritten Order” of things that has been displaced by the new CHI. Does the new CHI specifically require that a Bishop cannot have a beard?

  314. There are only 15 men who can answer your question Hue Man. I’ve asked several temple presidents and none of them have pushed the question in their training in SLC so I still don’t know the actual answer. The answer has always been because that’s what the temple committee says. Who’s on the temple committee? Those same 15 men. I’m comfortable in assuming that it has to do with the same reason none of the male General Authorities have facial hair. Because beards are still considered by at least a majority of the First Presidency and the Twelve as an outward display of being unkempt or rebellious. They might never phrase it that way but I expect they think there is greater safety in saying you have to be clean shaven rather than having to parse what beard lengths are acceptable, etc.

  315. Series of tubes, the Oaks address is at; it was given in January of 1973, when now-Elder Oaks was then the president of BYU.

  316. it's a series of tubes says:

    Thanks for the link. Various documents that quote the speech have dated it incorrectly, which may have contributed to my inability to find it.

  317. it's a series of tubes says:

    Does the new CHI specifically require that a Bishop cannot have a beard?

    No, it does not, nor anything like unto it.

  318. it's a series of tubes says:

    Bob, the linked speech does touch on the beards issue to some degree (“we wish to avoid an appearance that has become associated with rebellion and rejection of values we hold dear”), but it is not the original speech offered by Oaks upon becoming university president. That’s the speech I am looking for.

  319. No, it does not, nor anything like unto it.


  320. It’s a series of tubes – I haven’t been able to locate an online copy of the Oaks speech, but it looks like the BYU law library has a print copy (, and if you call them (801-422-6657 for the circ. desk) they might be able to hook you up with a copy, assuming you’re not in the area.

  321. I remember listening to Elder Scott give a fireside in DC many years ago at the temple stake centre. He harped on about modesty. “Please sisters, please help us men by dressing modestly” were his words. I knew then, like i know now, that he was so wrong. I felt so sick when he said it. Then a guy got up in the congregation and spoke about how helpful it was when women dressed modestly. No one else said a word. I thought this was all strange. I know that if I heard that crap again today, I wouldn’t stand for it (back then I thought it was best to go with the priesthood flow) and I would call the apostle out as a liar for teaching ‘philosophies of men mingled with scripture’…

  322. Why would the Apostle be a “liar” rather than just someone who has lived in this environment in which this is the accepted belief his entire life and has not thought to question it? I would strongly prefer that Apostles would not teach that but would instead teach that women’s bodies are not objects that cause spiritual harm to men in their vicinity–and that men are responsible for their own thoughts and are capable, as agents who are meant to act rather than allow themselves to be acted upon, of suppressing bad thoughts should they arise–but I do not think it is possible, wise, or charitable to accuse them of being “liars” for teaching this particular received piece of “wisdom” that they have absorbed from their cultural and political environments their whole lives.

  323. “I would call the apostle out as a liar for teaching ‘philosophies of men mingled with scripture’”

    Then you would be wrong, since lying is very, very different than being sincere but wrong.

  324. Sharee Hughes says:

    Elder Oaks initial address as President of BYU, where he first mentioned the beard issue, was given in 1971. It was printed in the Dec 1971 New Era,

    I finally received another response from Larry Neal, who just quoted Carri Jenkins. So now I’ll just have to wait an see of President Samuelson answers me.

  325. Rob Perkins says:

    Beards and Temple workers? I asked the question of a Temple president directly, the day I was called to serve as a worker years ago. His answer, roughly, is that patrons, including the First Presidency, prefer clean shaven workers, and associate beards with rebellion or uncleanliness.

    My reading: This kind of distraction happens at an unconscious level and emerges as ill feeling or disquiet. It prevents a Temple worker from being a source of that sort of disquiet. It is entirely culturally based and near as I can tell, adapted to the preferences of patrons. Thus, a disquieted patron might have to put up with double-earrings or a beard from other patrons, but never from someone leading an ordinance. It makes sense; most patrons are retirees or elderly. Baby Boomers or older. You can look away from another patron, but the worker leading an endowment is the focus of attention for 90 minutes. Impossible to ignore.

  326. I don’t consider general authorities or prophets to be above criticism – even though we are taught not to criticise our leaders. Throughout LDS history, there have been many instances where they have lied e.g. Joseph Smith repeatedly lied about practising polygamy and polyandry. He also lied to his wife Emma (he married many women without her having a clue).

    It is not a truth that women are responsible for men’s virtue. It is a lie and it is wrong. If you teach this, you are a liar – even if you are senior in the church’s leadership. It is not uncharitable to mention this.

    I now realise that it is right to stand up to all leaders in the church who cause harm to the members (unpopular of course in our culture).

    The modesty narrative that comes from LDS headquarters harms women (it wasn’t very charitable of Elder Scott to say what he did to an entire congregation that day in DC) but it harms men too because it teaches them not to take responsibility for themselves and be grown ups.

    I’ve come to a point in my faith where I no longer believe everything that comes from the brethren. I see what they say as guidelines heavily influenced by their gender and many instances, nationality (usually American) and culture.

    I see them as trying to do right, but also getting it wrong. Just like the rest of us.

  327. You make a good point, KOA, but calling Elder Scott a liar makes your comments more emotional than is necessary.

  328. Mossbloom says:

    When I was at Ricks, the “weirdo freaks” were professors. I had one teacher tell us that when we wore our messenger bags across our chests, our breasts were too prominent and it was immodest. I was 18 and barely had breasts. Four years later I took a class there and was told by a professor that I had too much cleavage showing. He was actually really nuce about ut and just wanted to worn me, but it still crossed a line in my mind. I had given birth since the last time I had been there and my body composition had changed a bit, but I was wearing garments. I really feel that in both instances I was fully following the Honor Code. There wasn’t all that much I could do about the fact that I did, indeed, have breasts. I was tempted to complain about the bulge in their pants that was often at eye level when I was seated at my desk during lecture, but I thought that would be rude. Amazing how I could keep my thoughts to myself, hey?

  329. KOA, being a “liar” involves knowing something and saying something different. So, again, there is a huge difference between speaking something that is not true and lying.

    Perhaps the best example of this is people who are color-blind and those who are not. Two people can state, emphatically and with full conviction, that something is two different colors without either of them being a liar. They simply see that thing differently and are honestly explaining what they see. If, however, one of them claims to be seeing blue when he actually is seeing green, he would be lying.

    I have no doubt that the people you are calling liars are not lying – that they simply are seeing something differently than you are and expressing themselves honestly. From their perspective, your disagreement with them would be seen as the “untruth” – but, interestingly, I also am confident that not one of the apostles would call you a liar for expressing your honest disagreement with them. They might tell you that you are wrong, but I believe they would not call you a liar.

    Charity is an interesting thing.

  330. Great OP!! I wonder if the extreme set up to police and judge each other culture found at BYU is why the church culture at large acts similar? Bednar,Dalton, and the like all came from church schools. Policing/being policed was their experience. Now that they have true power in the church I feel that they are pushing the BYU honor code for the entire church culuture. Until the last 6-8 years the church culture had no problem with the unendowed showing shoulders/knees,beards were fine,sleepovers no big deal and don’t get me started on the whole 2 earring evil. Now, thanks to these Y grads all of the above mentioned are “a violation”. Not to mention that we as a church culture are now teaching our youth that they are responsible for others sins/thoughts or are a helpless victim that has the right to demand that others (women) be controlled and dressed a certain way. All of which is very very similar to the Y honor code which is a very very dangerous culture trend!

  331. I have to admit I haven’t read through all the comments, so I apologize if this has been mentioned or not.
    I had two big thoughts come to mind as I read through this:
    1. With Mormons, one of the ultimate goals is to go through the temple and receive their endowment. By doing so, from that point on, they’re asked to continually wear the garment, or “funny mormon underwear.” The garments are to be worn under clothing (obviously, because who wants their underwear showing?). Therefore, wearing clothing that won’t cover the garment will make you look like a weirdo who doesn’t know how to dress themselves. Maybe that should be the new “honor code:” Don’t wear clothes that wouldn’t work with the garment.
    2. Welcome to Utah “Happy” Valley, the county with the highest use of antidepressants…. And! (Gasp!!!) Pornography use. Okay, I don’t know if pornography is viewed more in Utah County than any other place, but it is used a lot. I get the feeling that a lot of people in Provo are always trying to be the Molly Mormon or Peter Priesthood. In short, they’re perfect and better than you and more holier than you too. Well, guess what? Life is hard and NO ONE is perfect. We all have difficult things to deal with. We all have our vices, so stop pretending you’re better Han everyone, just because you’re compensating to hide your sexual addiction, or whatever it might be.

  332. Dax, the sexual and modesty rhetoric has been around all my life, to some degree or another, from at least the days of Pres. Kimball. It actually has decreased in some important ways since then – even as the general modesty discourse has increased.

    Having said that, it’s interesting that the First Presidency all graduated from college somewhere other than BYU (and that is true going back to Pres. Hinckley’s time as president), and not one of them is a modesty-in-dress zealot.

  333. Ray…we will have to agree to disagree on the modesty standards are less stringent now belief. Perhaps at one time but as a church we are now demanding that girls/women cover much more than we did even 6 years ago.

    You are correct about Kimbal being one of the first to push for and enforce new modesty standards for the church culture as a whole. Hmmm what school did he attend? That’s right, BYU. As did all of the other modesty zealots/police.

    As you noted it is very interesting that those GAs that did not attend church schools are not pushing for church wide modesty police.

  334. “Ray…we will have to agree to disagree on the modesty standards are less stringent now belief.”

    I didn’t say that.

  335. it's a series of tubes says:

    Sharee – thanks for the link to the New Era with the excerpt from the address.

  336. As someone whose memories of modesty rhetoric go back to circa 1965, I can certify that Dax is dead wrong on all counts. (Is there ANYONE who will support his claim, for instance, that “beards were okay” six or eight years ago??)

  337. Rob Perkins says:

    It would be very interesting to me, Ardis, to see your summary of modesty rhetoric starting with 1965.

  338. Ardis….I do not agree that I am wrong on all counts regarding the many changes of modesty standards for the church culture. There are pictures of endowed BYU women attending formals in sleeveless dresses. (That was stopped thanks in large part to Kimbal also from Y) Before 6-8 years ago there was never an issue with nonendowed teenage girls wearing tanks and shorts let alone small children. Sleepovers were fine. Most importantly we did not teach that modesty was only about covering up girls/women in order to protect men. Or that men had limited responsibility for their thoughts if a female turned them on.

    These cultural changes began in force with the likes of Bednar,Dalton and other BYU grads. Perhaps what is happening is that those that attended church schools are trying to implement the “honor code” for the church as a whole because that is what they are comfortable with. That would also explain the shift from individual responsibility to “policing one another/being responsible for those around us” shift in teaching and church culture.

    Now for the beards perhaps I am wrong. I know you can not have one on a mission etc, but I’ve had 2 bishops with beards and a SP with a goatee. This was in the NE so maybe it’s a regional tolerance.

  339. Oh and Ray yes sorry I misread your post.

  340. Rob Perkins says:

    It’s a nice narrative, Dax, but I don’t agree that comfort is the entire cause why Bednar, Dalton, and others teach modesty the way they do. It’s necessarily more complex than that.

    Sleepovers and such became a problem with the rise of internet access, bathroom selfies, instant Facebook infamy, and an increase in parental permissiveness (perceived, if nothing else). Before then, sleepover foolishness didn’t leave the house. And though I don’t have a memory as long as Ardis’ with respect to dress modesty rhetoric, I can attest that Church leaders were teaching the girls to dress modestly for the boys’ sake at least as early as 1985.

  341. Yes it is a nice narrative that is my opinion regarding BYU’s influence on the greater church culture at large. Yes there were sporadic talks given about females modesty helping males in the church from the 70-80’s, but it was not one of the MAIN premises taught to YW as to why to dress modestly as it is today! That running narrative can be found directly in the Y honor code and the need to report those (women) that do not protect others (males) from sexual thoughts. Now the Y dress standard and policing attitudes are being applied to the church culture including to children as more and more students graduate from church schools.

    The honor code and micromanaged/policed world of church schools is not realistic to the real world. While beneficial to ease parents fears and MAKE kids choose the right it does not prepare them to be functioning adults when taken to such extremes. It is not normal to feel it is your right and duty to police and report on fellow ADULTS as the honor code allows. Especially when males are being taught that it is their place to determine and report on what a female wears and if he finds it appropriate. Can we say shades of Islam control and belief women are responsible for men’s thoughts? Of course this is just my opinion, but I do think that for many of these grads they do feel most comfortable in a setting that is similar to the the Y. There is a sense of safety for many in having so many rules. Many are so used to policing or being policed that they do not realize that they are doing it after they graduate.

  342. Dax, I’m sorry, but in my experience, the “6-8 years” is simply incorrect. Two decades ago I was a small child being taught in primary that sleeveless tops were immodest. Ten years ago I was a young woman being taught that it was my responsibility to help the men around keep their thoughts pure. I lived in many wards (military brat) across the south eastern US, and found these things common. I cannot speak for longer than 20 years ago, but this is most definitely not a recent occurrence.

    That being said, having never lived in Utah, I have never seen the level of policing that many are describing. Modesty (and the “walking pornography” aspect of it) being taught in Sunday School, yes. Boys occasionally told girls that they prefer modest women. But I never experienced a young man telling me that my outfit was immodest.

    I was ALWAYS furious at the double standard (why could my brothers come to breakfast in their boxers, while I had to put a bra on under my pjs before being allowed out of my room still makes me so angry I can’t speak). So it wasn’t the modesty of women that bothered me, but the immodesty of men.

    My second year at EFY, an outfit I had brought to wear to one of the dances was deemed “immodest”, and my counselors wouldn’t let me leave the dorm until I changed my clothes. It was the last night, however, and I had not other clean outfits. They were very sweet about, helping me find other things to wear, but I was DEVASTATED. My entire life, I had been brought up to believe that modesty was part and partial with faith and obedience, and I couldn’t stop sobbing at my perceived “wickedness”. (The outfit in question was a sheer shirt worn over a tank top, so you could see my shoulders through the fabric).

    I have cried so many times reading these comments, at the idea of what those girls must go through, being scolded not by kind, female role models, but authority figures, and complete strangers. And to find out you’re innocent after all, but still be told to change your attire? I can’t stress enough how devastating that would have been to me.

    Now, I believe men have control over their thoughts. We are to be modest, not because we are sexual beings, but precisely because we are not. I breastfeed (uncovered!) in church – I call it my “anti-p__* The more people (especially young boys) see the way women’s bodies are SUPPOSED to be used, the less they will be seen as sexual objects.

    But I still won’t let my daughters wear tank tops. They need to get used to the kind of clothing garments will require.

  343. Kay,

    So . . . you purposely expose your breasts in church so young boys will see them?
    Interesting approach.

  344. Yup. I walk into the primary room, lift up my shirt and then run away while cackling madly. My bishop has issues with it, but I consider my temple recommend a necessary sacrifice for the good of the young men of the church.

  345. Okay, why am I suddenly “GG”?

  346. I think Kay’s comments point out to how varied an experience one has in the church growing up. I was using the 6-8 years based on conference/YW talks. Also I was a military brat as well and was never taught that modesty was about protecting boys/men except in a very passing, occasional manner. Just goes to show how much of a difference a ward or group of leaders make.

    I think what a lot of people take issue with now is not how you or I define modesty, but that this new “honor code” style of modesty is taking away parents ability to teach modesty as they define it. Its fine that you do not let your daughters wear tank tops. That’s your choice and your home. I would like the same respect for my daugters. I do not want my kids taught that shoulders are sexual and we should judge those that show them as being unrighteous! What is happening is that like church schools, other people are trying to define what is considered modest for all YW/women. The power of the parent to teach what is “modest” in their own home and religion is being taking away by the push for a churchwide “honor code” of sorts. That is the danger with such lines in the sand.

  347. Dax, whether you agree or not, you’re wrong. Those sleeveless — strapless, even — BYU ball gowns date to the 40s through early 60s. At least as long ago as the late 60s, strapless and spaghetti strap dresses were barred from church dances. We were most definitely warned time and time and time again that skirts must reach the knee, that we shouldn’t wear two-piece swimsuits, that backless formats were immodest, and that sleeveless blouses were a bad idea for maturing girls and women, not because anybody had anything against bare shoulders, but because armholes gaped, exposing the whole front of the bra to view. Behavior like crossing ankles while sitting, and how to stoop gracefully to pick up something from the floor was a frequent emphasis — not because of some cultural nicety, but because if you didn’t pay attention to those things, yoe could easily and immodestly expse your underwear to public view.

    With the boys, the war against long hair was raging — today’s rhetoric about beards is nothing compared to the rage against long hair and all the rebellion and immorality it supposedly represented. I ave no idea what other forms of modesty and grooming they were taught in MIA or other church settings, but the anathema of long hair was preached so constantly in public settings that nobody could miss it.

    The specific details between then and now are different, but the constant emphasis on modesty was easily as rampant then as it is now. That you somehow think this is a recent phenomenon that can be traced to certain fairly recent graduates from or leaders of church schools betrays your youth and your unawareness of the world before you burst on the scene. Our culture is somewhat older than you are. Time has a way of giving perspective, and someday you, too, will be snarling at the young whippersnappers and yelling at them to get off your lawn.

  348. Laying a little history whooping . . . Thanks for that perspective, Ardis.

  349. Ardis…well thank you so very much for your history lesson! However have I managed all these years not realizing that modesty was a principle taught by the church? Wow! Thanks for informing this “young whipersnapper” of that fact! Now I can make it to the CK because of your kind and respectful insight and counsel until I get some “adult perspective and years behind me”!

    Oh if only we could all be monitored and policed!! Then we could all dress and look alike! We could squash any desire for independent thought, expression or personal revelation! Then we wouldn’t have to worry about being responsible for our own selves! Thanks again for your ever so respectful words!

  350. Rob Perkins says:

    Yeah… Dax, I think that you just put your foot in it, if you think she was calling for conformity and abandonment of thought.

    Ardis is correct; the modesty lessons we teach our youth today stem from wider American ideals going back to the 50s and 60s and earlier. Watch “Back to the Future” or “Pleasantville” for variants on how filmmakers in the 80s and 90s heaped a bit of mockery on the standards of that time. It wasn’t just Mormons.

  351. Delighted to oblige, Dax.

  352. That’s kind of you Ardis.

  353. Anytime, Dax. Anytime.

  354. Ardis..Mormon passive least it’s more entertaining than calling each other to repentance! :)

  355. Bless your heart, Dax. There isn’t anything especially Mormon about it, but bless your everlovin’ heart.

  356. This has certainly been entertaining.

  357. *golf clap*

  358. First off, I’ll mention the t-shirt I always wanted to print at BYU: “Honor Code Patrol. Snitching for Jesus.”

    And, I’ll say that I hated the dress code at BYU, and was regularly offended by it. (Seeing signs in the HFAC that said “leggings don’t make an outfit more modest” made me gag. Yes, leggings do make an outfit more modest.)

    I also taught at BYU, with long hair and a beard. It was authorized (I was visiting faculty), but I did always feel like I was being secretly judged. (But ultimately, that’s on me, and my own imagination.)

    > And by far, the biggest creepers I’ve met in the workplace have been Mormon men.

    Uh, no. But if you’re working in Utah, where a disproportionate number of workers happen to be Mormons, then the statistics will carry through.

    > I would love to see the university do some research on the number of dress code complaints against men vs. women. If the split is not 50/50, that seems pretty clear that something is unequal in the way the dress code is written.

    Uh, no. In western society, it is far less likely that a man will dress provocatively. You can cry about it being socially unjust, but it’s not the Mormon’s fault.

    > Tattling and whistle-blowing are perfectly appropriate for cheating, physically harming others or egregious ethics violation like quid pro quo. But dress code? Really? Grow the hell up, people.

    Yeah, I agree with this. I’ve been known to punish my kids for frivolously tattling. (Though there’s a line, here. Some things really need to be reported.)

    > The standards office should track those who report so-called modesty violations to verify that they don’t have a pattern of harassment.

    Yeah, they should, and anonymous tips should not be permitted.

    > We are told to be in the world but not of the world. Are we preparing BYU students for entry into the workplace when we encourage and reward sexual objectification and social awkwardness?

    Yeah, yeah yeah. These are horny college students we’re talking about here. Most all of us managed perfectly well to keep the dress and behavior codes, then transition into the more lax requirements of a professional workplace. Line upon line. In any collegiate discipline, we learn pedantic rules so that we understand basic concepts, before being allowed to discriminately break them where appropriate.

    Again, I really objected to the honor code, and all-in-all, had a negative experience at BYU. My kids will *not* be going there. BUT, the school is perfectly justified in establishing its own conduct standards. And anyone attending the school knows what he’s getting into. Plenty of other schools to attend, if you don’t want to comply.

    So: quit’cher’bitching.

    On a tangent: I did have a couple of run-ins with the standards police, though they where not related to the dress code.

    On one occasion, I let a friend use my Morris Center meal card. The card was confiscated, and I was summoned. I was called-down for being dishonest and dishonorable. I didn’t take it. I responded with a sermon on charity, and called the woman to repentance for barring Christian love and encouraging selfish behavior. I had chosen to give up a meal, so that my friend could eat: would Christ have done differently? I got my card back, and left without punishment.

    On another occasion, I was suffering from terrible knee injuries, and could barely walk. There where insufficient handicap stalls. So, I borrowed a friend’s faculty parking pass, so that I could access handicap stalls closer to the humanities building. This was discovered. Again, I was summoned (which was a hardship, as there where no handicap stalls near the review office, and I had to painstakingly shuffle a quarter-mile to get there). I was told in no uncertain terms just what kind of dishonorable low-life I was. No leniency. The parking pass was confiscated, and I was left with a black mark on my record.

    But in the end, it’s a policing organization. All such entities I’ve ever encountered, the world over, are prone to heady power demonstrations, petty displays of authority, and unbalanced or insensitive application of the law. Mormondom is no worse than anywhere else. What upsets us, I think, is our expectation that we should behave better than everyone else. And, in some cases, we do. I recently closed a round of funding for a media project, and the investor said “I feel good that I’m dealing with Mormons.” He was not a Mormon.

    But we’re human, after all. There are assholes among us. And systems designed to protect the masses will sometimes fail in being sensitive to individual needs. That’s axiomatic.

    So, we struggle on.

  359. Hey Angela, look at that, a man is telling you that you’re just “bitching” with all of this analysis of the dress and grooming standards of the honor code and that you should just stop it.

    Also, apparently he thinks that your observation that in your experience working in corporations around the world, “by far, the biggest creepers I’ve met in the workplace have been Mormon men” is not valid — you have not observed this. Because he says, “uh, no” and also “if you’re working in Utah, where a disproportionate number of workers happen to be Mormons, then the statistics will carry through.”

    Sorry Angela, your observations have been soundly refuted. Hopefully you’ll be quiet now and stop your bitching.

  360. I, for one, would like Angela to continue with her bitching. Quit trying to stifle her bitching JOHN!

  361. I DARE you to ban me. I insist that Angela stop her bitching about modesty and sexual harassment!


  363. She MUST stop bitching! True, the dress and grooming standards and the way they are policed and enforced are problematic but not because BYU students will be accused of sexual harassment if they treat women in the work place that way, because in fact THEY DON’T unless you’re counting Utah! But regardless, she MUST stop bitching about it.

  364. I think we can all agree that she should ‘stop crying about’ how socially unjust the rules are just because women are more likely to be accused of dressing up provocatively. After all, that’s not the mormon’s fault. To quote Kool Moe Dee:

    A guy with a hundred girls is a hero
    A girl with a hundred guys is a zero
    Don’t blame me cuz society made the rules
    (but I think they made them for me)

    That said, the bitching must continue. Such is my decree.

  365. Bryan S. says:

    Way to ignore every single point that was made and condense it down to one line: “Stop Bitching.” Then invalidate his whole post by disagreeing with it.

  366. Um I’m not disagreeing with him at all! Your beef is with John F. and his Nazi anti-bitching agenda

  367. You win. She can bitch.

  368. Just when I thought there was nowhere else this thread could go, I get an unexpected laugh.

    BCC delivers again.

  369. not so, Bryan. See my comment of 1:00 pm: “True, the dress and grooming standards and the way they are policed and enforced are problematic but not because BYU students will be accused of sexual harassment if they treat women in the work place that way, because in fact [despite your observation to the contrary in your professional experience in Fortune 500 companies around the world] THEY DON’T unless you’re counting Utah!”

    See, I’m backing him up and telling Angela to stop bitching. Or I was until Steve won that argument.

  370. Now that I go back and reflect on the thread, maybe it’s not such a good idea for Angela to keep bitching. Sounds pretty uppity if you ask me. I reverse my policy.

  371. I have to disagree Steve. She must continue bitching. We have to prevent BYU students from acquiring habits and behaviors that are unproductive and constitute harassment when continued in the workplace after they leave BYU.

    And, I now believe Angela that she has observed Mormon men acting like that in the workplace in her Fortune 500 experience.

  372. Antonio Parr says:

    I graduated from BYU in the mid-1980’s. None of my former classmates are the socially inept caricatures suggested by some in the preceding posts. All know how to interact with their female coworkers in a way that is professional and relaxed and congenial. Some have achieved astonishing success in corporate America, climbing the highest possible ladders in their fields, something that they could never have done if they were unable to interact with their female peers, subordinates and superiors. All of this talk about BYU men needing to be taught how to interact properly with women in the workplace flies in the face of my own personal experience.

    I have since been able to observe at least some of the next generation of BYU students. The ones that I know seem like well adjusted, socially skilled people who will do just fine in the workplace.

    There may be problems at BYU that need fixing, but teaching students how to live in the real world does not appear to be one of them.

  373. I agree, AP. I’ve seen no evidence that BYU produces lecherous man-children who cannot help but slobber at the sight of clavicles. Ridiculous. All of my classmates from BYU are, without exception, astonishing successes, climbing all sorts of ladders (the men) and interacting with females as if the females were men. This talk of BYU creating hypersexualized socially awkward creepazoids is completely debunked by my personal anecdotal data.

    John F., as a man, I know Angela’s either lying about having observed that or she just meant to qualify it with behavior observed in Utah. Her uppity bitching serves no purpose.

  374. Capozaino says:


  375. Mark B. says:

    I know you’ve moved on from beating up on Dax to doing more productive things, but I’m amused by Dax’s drawing a line between Pres. Kimball’s attendance at BYU and his alleged zealousness on modesty issues. I was quite certain that Pres. Kimball did not have a university degree so I looked it up. He enrolled at BYU in September 1917. One month (one month!!) later, he received notice that his draft notice was imminent, so he withdrew from school and went back to Arizona. He ended up never being called into the military, but he married Camilla Eyring and could not afford to return to the university.

    If Dax thinks that one month at BYU in 1917 somehow caused an over-zealous approach to modesty, I’ve got a bridge just a mile up the road that I’d like to sell him.

  376. sexy, Steve!

  377. it's a series of tubes says:

    How come Steve gets to post dirty pictures here?

  378. It really is very immodest. Shoulders, clavicles, and chest all brazenly showing!

  379. Mark B….can you please make sure it’s a covered bridge. I don’t want to see any shoulders accidentally flapping in the wind.

    Great clavicle pic by the way!

  380. Capozaino says:

    “shoulders … flapping in the wind”

    Way to kill the mood, man.

  381. You should buy Mark B.’s bridge. I’ve seen it. It’s real. And it’s spectacular.

  382. Mark B. says:

    It’s partially covered right now for some painting and other maintenance. But its shoulders are completely bare.

  383. Angela C says:

    Good one, Ardis!

    I apologize everyone. I have since taken a Midol and suddenly I realized that none of my experiences in over 20 years in business were real. My bad! Peace out, y’all.

  384. BYU Girl says:

    I’m so glad I found this post! I am in the midst of preparing for my first semester @ the Y, which includes gutting, re-styling, and analyzing the clothes in my closet. It’s not that I have any shamefully immodest clothing by LDS standards (no shoulder-showing, uncovered midriffs, Daisy Dukes, etc.), but my comfort level fashion-wise doesn’t 100% match BYU Dress Code Standards. I feel comfortable, chaste, and even beautiful in a relaxed-fit dress that reaches past my fingertips BUT hits above my knees. Ordinarily, I pair such a dress with dark leggings and am careful not to have clingy material.

    With that being said, I have become acutely aware of the objectification of women in the LDS subculture. Because LDS youth are trained from infancy to cover up, it becomes hard not to pass judgment when even the tiniest infraction of a modesty rule is made. Ultimately, wearing leggings with a dress that hits above the knee has become the LDS equivalent of a scarlet ‘A’. The issue appears to be the woman’s dress, but a case can be made for the condemner’s, well, condemnation. To be taught that exposing a shoulder or a hint of a lower thigh is some sort of sexual signal doesn’t prepare a person for proper social interaction. To a less socially-savvy person (i.e. the creepy guy who wrote the BYU student a note), these lessons on the technicalities of modesty train the brain to equate exposure with sexual desire. This is simply not the case with most women today. I understand that LDS women are not supposed to be “most women,” but focusing on the cans/can’ts modesty fosters a community of judgment and condescension (polite words for outright sexual harassment).

    Instead, like the author of this article, I would like to see modesty lessons taught with a focus on -wait for it- modesty. Modesty means possessing humility and quiet confidence in oneself. Rather than measuring skirt-lengths with rulers and scrutinizing the coverage of tankinis, girls should be taught to dress to enhance inner beauty rather than try to sell outer beauty. By focusing on the importance of an attitude of self-respect, girls will learn to make modest fashion choices for themselves rather than simply preventative choices to combat harassment.

  385. Chilangosta says:

    Why doesn’t one of these people just sue BYU for emotional damages for being singled out for subjectively “violating the honor code”? Sounds crazy, but if people really have this big of an problem with it, and nothing has changed in all this time, a legal challenge might be the best thing to get them to take the issue seriously. It’s certainly harassment in most people’s eyes to be hauled down to the office for alleged charges made by an anonymous accuser.

  386. I hate molly Mormons and peter priesthoods, all a bunch of Pharisees

  387. boobs are cool :)

  388. Sterling says:

    So you’re the type of Mormon who says “Grow the hell up, people.”? You undermine your cause by using coarse language. Your logic isn’t very good either.

  389. Another thing you need to look at as to why a man wouldn’t want to be alone with another woman is to prevent potential false accusations of sexual harassment or anything relative to that.

  390. Robert Spencer – when men in the church assume all women are potential seductresses, this is another form of sexual harassment. Again, if men take that attitude into the workplace, they will be seen as the unreasonable party. Why is it reasonable for men to assume that professional female colleagues are going to make false accusations?

  391. So a few weeks ago, I was thinking about this super funny movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy. In it, an African tribe without prior contact to the “civilized” world have their life disrupted with the arrival of a glass Coke bottle, thrown out the window of a passing plane. Chaos ensues, and you’ll have to watch the movie in order to find out the rest, but what I want to talk about is modesty and how society’s definition of it changes all the time.

    In TGMBC, the native women are never wearing shirts. Now, for those of you who are about to jump to conclusions and say that I ought to run to my bishop for seeing such a thing, keep reading. I’ve watched this with my family since I was very young, and there’s a distinct difference between this and pornography. I knew this for a long time, but I could never quite put a finger on why I knew this wasn’t porn.

    A few months ago, I was speaking to my friend Ashley about how sometimes I feel like screaming when people make me put on pants in summer, and she nodded sympathetically, saying something about how society kind of does this to itself. We start viewing the body as something strange, and something to be ashamed of.

    We weren’t saying everyone should be running around naked, just that people should wear things that made them comfortable, no matter the temperature. I wear shorts in the summer because, otherwise, I would probably pass out from heat stroke. It’s Maryland, it’s summer, I live seven miles from the Bay. If it’s winter, I probably will be wearing two pairs of gloves, not because I’m ashamed of my fingers, but because I’m freezing.

    I was reminded of TGMBC because of the fact that I never felt like I was being exposed to something terrible when I watched it, and now I know why. These women had their boobs hanging out because it is Africa and hot, and because they had babies and they needed to be able to nurse. They were topless not in an effort to turn each other on, but to be more comfortable. It was their purpose, and the way it was accepted and understood by their tribe, that made this not into porn.

    This might sound like a justification, but hear me out again. About four years ago, I got really sick from food poisoning. I believe I threw up over fifty times in under twenty-four hours. At one point in the night, I was sitting on the floor of my bathroom, half naked, vomiting into my toilet, with someone holding back my hair. Do you think I cared that I was exposed to anyone passing my door? I assure you, I did not care in the slightest. To this day, I don’t know who saw me like that, and I honestly could not care less.

    So for those of you who consider immodesty a capital offense, just remember, it differs in every culture, even within the church.

    For a final thought, allow me to recall a humorous story of an Elder. I heard it from a friend of mine, and I believe it to be true. This young Elder was sent to Australia, to teach the Aboriginals the gospel. The Aboriginals were great investigators, but they made the Elder slightly uncomfortable. Why? Because none of the girls wore shirts, and would often nurse in front of, well, anyone. They would all come to church on Sunday, prepared to hear the gospel, but, well, shirtless.

    The Elder was distressed! He wrote home, and his sweet mother quickly organized a clothing drive. The collected clothing was shipped to Australia, and the ward members were very excited to receive it! When it came to Sunday, though, the Elder was shocked. The women had come in their new clothes, but had cut holes in their shirts so their breasts were free! The Elder was dismayed, but the ward went on, just as cheerful as usual. The Aboriginals continued to nurse wherever they wished, without having to lift a cumbersome shirt.

    I attended BYUI for a year before ultimately deciding it was not for me. I loved my roommates, most of whom had completely different standards of dress than me. They never “corrected” me, or reported me, but I have known girls who have been told to go home and change in order to attend class or take a test. Such behavior is inappropriate and ridiculous, especially as some of the girls I know who this happened suffered from crippling shyness or even had had past eating disorders and was just getting to be proud of her body.

  392. Hello,

    Just the other day, I found this article written about the BYU honor code and how it affects Sexual Harassment. I found the article to be a very interesting because I am a BYU student myself. I get to the role the Honor Role plays in the lives of so many students each and every day. You posed the question of whether or not the BYU honor code creates or discourages sexual harassment. As a third year student, I can definitely sympathize with you and the view you hold towards the honor code. I am prone to facial hair and often spend most of my day studying on campus as I prepare to take the DAT this coming year to apply for dental school. I know how difficult it can be to adhere to the expectations that have been set. I am writing you because my somewhat unpleasant view of the Honor Code has recently been altered in a more positive and understanding way. I hope you will read this and understand me better, and maybe understand how the Honor Code really does promote goodness and prevent sexual harassment.
    First let me say that I admonish you for raising the concern for sexual harassment both on and of campus. You seem like a strong woman who wants nothing more than a fair opportunity to live and work in a comfortable environment without feeling objectified by those of either sex. I admire you for raising such a great question of whether the Honor code is helping or hurting student’s probability of becoming involved in sexual harassment. I know of so many people, myself included, that are concerned with same question. Being a male student, I don’t feel the weight and stress of dressing modestly as much as you or my wife do on a daily basis. However, I do know how the Honor Code has taught me correct principles and prepared me well to enter the work force.
    The Honor Code that has been put in place on BYU campus has received a lot of hype in the past few years; from the incident involving NCAA basketball star, Brendan Davies, to the more recent ordeal involving a female student accused of wearing an immodest outfit on campus and causing a negative effect on the men and women around her. You mentioned the latter story and how the note given to the girl requested she reconsider her attire. I am a friend of this girl and have known her for several years. Like you, I was very surprised to hear of the incident. It caused me to raise my own questions of validity when it came to the Code we were to live by as students at this University. I wondered if we as students were over stepping bounds by inviting others to live by a code that is supposed to be kept under the honor of each individual student. I then questioned if there was even any honor left at a University that claimed to be founded on dedication, decency, and morality. Just as you stated, “Let’s put the honor back in the honor code; students should be “on their honor” to abide by it.” It wasn’t until just recently that I realized how my view of the Honor Code was narrow and limited.
    You shared a story regarding a “curvaceous female student” attending BYU-I who was “barred entrance to take her exam because the male testing center manager deemed her pants too tight.” I had never heard of this story before but found the picture of the flier that you posted very interesting. The flier clearly states, “If your clothing or attitude does not meet the commitments you have made to live the Honor Code, will you please go home and prayerfully visit with your Father in Heaven and recommit yourself to be a true disciple and abide by the Honor Code that defines your commitment to be a disciple.” I shared your shock when I read this for the first time. It made me wonder if this flier was posted by those directly related to Honor Code enforcement, or students who wished to prove a point. I completely agree with you that the way these dress code parameters are enforced is often poor. If you think that this is a fair representation of what the honor code stands for however, I feel that you are misguided.
    In your article, you stated BYU’s purpose of having an Honor code. The code was set it place to instill values of virtue and chastity in each stundet. In regards to preventing sexual harassment, which you and I are advocates for, the Honor Codes intentions are sound. “The BYU honor code states that it prohibits sexual harassment as part of living a chaste and virtuous life.” Like you, I want the work force to be a place of trust and virtue. Would learning to live by a higher code restrict a person’s ability to prevent future harassment? I don’t believe so. I may be wrong by assuming that most of those who become involved in harassment in the work place have seldom had proper instruction in how to prevent such provocation. The purpose of teaching and asking students to observe these statutes is to assist in prevention and avoidance of such accusations and complaints.
    I have done my best for the past few weeks to look for the good in the Honor Code and have been amazed by what I have found. Shaving each and every day can be a hassle at times but as I focus on the why behind it, I realize it is in my best interests to follow the code as I agreed to do when I enrolled. All that I changed was my attitude. The habits we develop here will help us in the future as employees, parents and spouses. The why, is to help facilitate virtue and encourage students to develop honor and integrity. We should help students realize that by showing them the good that comes from keeping the honor code, not pointing out what we feel are its flaws.
    Not only can changing our view of the Honor Code help us understand the good that it was intended for, we will more fully keep our commitments to abide by a higher standard. We will facilitate a change in others and ultimately, prevent future mishaps in regards to sexual harassment. We can view the dress code as a restriction and a way to objectify both men and women, or we can look at it all in a different light- a more positive light. I won’t attempt to give you the doctrinal reasons for why we need a dress code but rather ask you what good it will do if we choose to observe it. Making the attempt to look at what we feel is burdensome and oppressive in a positive way may change our outlook and help us realize what good it can do for us. We cannot change the past or excuse the misbehavior of others, but we can look for the good and embrace it. The honor code may not be a fix all, but it is a great foundation of which we may build upon to improve our lives and prevent sexual harassment.

  393. It seems to me that the Church has stayed the same in requiring that its students at the BYU’s dress according to the standards of the church. While the system of enforcing these standards may not be perfect, you cannot deny the good effect of limiting the “one night stands” and pregnancy drop outs that so many other college’s are plagued with. My personal belief is that the writer has followed the worlds view, and the church has stayed the same. Who then should I believe? My wife and I attended BYUI, and I will be the first to admit that there are creepers. I would blaim how they are raised rather than their short stint at a church college. Many times I was just as disgusted and protective of my female friends as they were when there were undecent acts or words passed that degraded them. If you study anything the church teaches, you will know that every apostle and prophet has taught that men and women are equal partners in their families. My wife and I have found that we fit the stereotype of her being better with the home and kids and I am better working for the the physical needs of our family. I have in no way objectified her. But it seems if I find a girl more attractive wearing one outfit over another that I have violated some sexual predator law and should be shunned. The fact is that some outfits are more attractive then others. I am a man and find women attractive. That is not a sin. My wife is a woman and finds men attractive. Is she objectifing me when she says that I have nice arms? Its what God intended for us. God made women beautiful. I enjoy beholding my wifes beauty. Does that make me evil? I enjoyed looking at her before we got married, does that make me evil. Do not confuse the evils of a few “creepers” with the overwhelming majority of good men. And do not blaim the honor code for something that the world has changed and would want you to believe is okay.

  394. Mike Watkins says:

    Thank you SO INCREDIBLY MUCH for spotlighting this issue; a very talented and eloquent way that actually leads to many of the erroneous underlying principles in the “mormon society.”

    Yeah…give us a principle that we may govern ourselves? WHO DUH THOUGHT?? Doesn’t the LDS faith teach that? Isn’t it also taught to practice what you teach? So…when does that part happen again?

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