Drowning in Modesty Guidelines at Girls Camp

Trying out for a role in The Boyfriend? No, just packing for Girls Camp.

Marcel Proust said: “People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground.” That seems an apt description of the Girls Camp and Youth Conference modesty guidelines for Young Women that have emerged in some wards and stakes.

I have heard a few stories on the internet over the last few years about wards and stakes who have created increasingly onerous dress requirements for the YW, including at girls-only events like Girls Camp as well as Youth Conferences.  I naturally assumed this was a handful of crackpots in isolated areas trying to out-righteous each other for scraps of praise until last week when my sister-in-law shared with me that her stake is now requiring all girls to wear both a tee shirt and knee length shorts over their one-piece swimsuit to swim–at Girls Camp!*

I remember Girls Camp as a fun week in the woods at Camp Bayshore that always involved many non-LDS friends joining in the fun which was one reason our stake didn’t care if two piece swimsuits were worn; it wasn’t practical to tell the non-LDS girls they had to buy new swimsuits to participate.  We were told to be sure not to judge others based on what they were wearing, and that Girls Camp was about fun and sisterhood.  I can’t even imagine inviting a non-LDS friend to a Girls Camp that required them to wear a tee shirt and knee length shorts over a swimsuit.  While my own views about modesty guidelines are more relaxed than the average member, even the very orthodox members I know feel this is going too far.  Even endowed adults wear swimsuits for swimming.  Adding heavy layers of jersey knit fabric while swimming is hazardous.  Early swim costumes were woolen and “swimmers” didn’t so much swim as wade heavily around the shoreline with oversized beach balls (see picture). Swimming should be athletic and joyful, a time to feel weightless and free.  It should be a playful activity, not one weighed down with inappropriate heavy fabrics that don’t shed water.

Too form fitting?

I suppose it goes without saying that the boys usually do not have such restrictions for scout camp.  A couple years ago, my son was heading to Youth Conference at a resort in Malaysia.  The stake guidelines said that tee shirts had to be worn over swimsuits and suits could not be form fitting (they had to be at least “boy short” length).  My son was pretty unhappy to hear this because we were buying most of our clothes in our infrequent trips to the US, and he knew that wearing a tee shirt to swim would likely ruin it from the pool chemicals.  He carefully selected his least favorite shirt, fully expecting it to be ruined.  When he got to the resort, he found that the stake had only intended that the rule be applied to the girls.  However, when the Mormon kids showed up in their tee shirt-covered swimwear, the resort would not allow non-swimwear in the pool.  In a Muslim country, birthplace of the Obedient Wives Club, we Mormons had out-Muslim’d them.  The tee shirts were removed, and no teen orgy ensued, just good Mormon kids having fun in the sun dressed appropriately for the occasion.

I wanted to see how widespread these stricter guidelines were, so I conducted an informal poll.  There were 53 respondents:

General guidelines.  Only 17% said that they were told to just follow the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth.  22.6% required girls to wear full length pajamas with sleeves, prohibiting short & tank top sets commonly worn by teen girls in summer.

Tops.  A full 86.8% stated that tank tops or sleeveless tops were not allowed.  This restriction was definitely not in place when I was a teen, but we’ve already discussed in other posts that even small children are being policed for shoulder coverage in many wards.

Bottoms.  84.9% prohibited shorts that weren’t at least knee length.  Of those, 35.8% allowed only capris or longer, which is even more restrictive than garments.  7.5% were in wards or stakes that fully outlawed anything shorter than pants for girls at Youth Conference or Girls Camp.

Swimwear.  Perhaps it is not surprising that 100% stated that bikinis were not allowed (which are also outlawed at BYU, although as I pointed out was not prohibited when I was a teen attending Girls Camp).  13.2% required that girls cover their swimsuit with a tee shirt while swimming.  5.7% also required that they wear shorts over their swimsuit, and 1.9% stipulated that their shorts be at least knee length while swimming.

What’s with the heels?

A few of the participants also wrote in comments:

  • “In our stake it was no shorts. In August.”
  • “Our stake said no shorts on girls, but the boys can wear them.”  (11.3% of respondents specifically stated that the requirements for the YM were less restrictive).
  • “My girls were told knee length shorts for camp. We ignored that rule. Someone tried to hassle my youngest about it, but she told them to go talk to her dad about it (who just happened to be at camp). They chose not to.”
  • “In one ward where I was in the YW presidency the girls were harassed by someone in the stake YW presidency for not wearing a modest coverup when walking to and from the pool at camp. She made them go back to their cabins and put on baggy t-shirts and knee length shorts over top of their swimsuits. In that same ward, the YM posted pictures on the bulletin board in our building of several of the boys wearing nothing but hot pink booty shorts with one of the YW’s name on the butt. Apparently this was the attire of choice for most of scout camp. Everyone thought it was hilarious.”
  • “Our girls were told their shorts had to touch the ground if they were kneeling. I found this absurd I mean I get shorts should be long and people break the rules and this is one way to make sure everyone has long shorts BUT I don’t ever see YM having this test done.”
  • “This came from our Youth Conference Pioneer Trek this year. “Clothing must be modest at all times. No bare backs, midriffs or shoulders and no low cut fronts or backs. No shorts.””
  • “I attended a family reunion at the church-owned Heber Valley Camp last year. Prior to arriving, all attendees received fliers from the Heber Valley Camp instructing us that shorts and swimwear of any kind would not be allowed. The temperature reached the mid nineties every day we were there. There were no exceptions for the lakeside sand volleyball court also provided by the camp.”
  • “In San Francisco, no shorts allowed. No swimsuits. But my husband who is the stake YM councilor reported the boys [wore] shorts and [even participated in] skinny dipping fun. I’m livid.”
  • “I can handle having rules. But not having the rules the same is what makes me mad. No shorts at girls camp. Fine. Great. Then no shorts at a scout camp. No shirtless hikes.”

What is the message we are sending to our young women?  What is the message we are sending to our boys?  I have been a teenage girl, and the truth of the matter is that most teenage girls don’t view themselves as sex objects until someone tells them they are.  Often the person who tells them this is a parent or leader concerned about modesty.  Eventually they will also get this message from society at large.  The problem is that clothing modesty and immodesty are two sides of the same coin:  sexual objectification.  Giving girls more onerous modesty guidelines than boys is one way of giving them the message they are sex objects; a covered object is still an object.  What do girls do with this information?

  • Feel guilty.  Girls who never dressed with any sexual intention before being told they are sex objects may feel scrupulous and shamed by this information, worried that they are bad Christians for unintentionally causing temptation.  In particular, if a boy is sexually aggressive with her, she may blame herself for his actions, creating shame and depression.  This kind of shame can also lead to body dysmorphia.  When girls feel that their appearance is constantly on display and subject to judgment, they may develop eating disorders to cope with the lack of control they feel.
  • Use it as a form of power.  Girls who are sexually desirable can use their physical attributes to attract the best mates and gain soft power by manipulating men.
  • Shame other girls.  Girls who feel self-conscious can shame their rivals while hiding their own perceived flaws behind extra layers. People who live under weighty restrictions want to see others similarly restricted; it’s human nature.  It’s why female genital mutilation is perpetuated by women.
  • Internalize the double standard.  It’s almost impossible for our girls to not get the message that boys are more special and valued when double standards go unchecked.  It’s heartbreaking to hear my ten-year old daughter already noticing these differences.

Of course, modesty is really about context.  It’s all about what is appropriate to the activity.  Wearing a swimsuit in a pool shouldn’t raise eyebrows.  Wearing one to a parent teacher conference should.  The rank and file members I’ve talked with, and I’ve talked with many, agree these extra restrictions are going too far.  Some of them object to forcing children to wear garment-ready clothes, but even those who feel that’s a good idea believe that going farther than garment-ready clothes is going too far.  They are also alarmed about the double standard and the objectification of our girls, even before they hit puberty.  These rules are currently at the discretion of our local wards and stakes.  What can we do about it?

As W.C. Fields said “A dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live fish to swim upstream.”  Let’s be live fish!

  • Refuse to play.  We can choose not to support dress codes that are unequal, unfair and unsafe for our YW.  We can refuse to play by not sending our daughters at all or by sending them with common sense clothing that is appropriate to the activity.  If leaders want to go so far as to send them home, let them.
  • Bring these issues to light.  Until high level leaders address these issues in an official capacity, there are far too many zealous local leaders who get extra righteousness points for creating hedges about the law.  Zealots frequently go unopposed because of their high levels of investment in the church.  Sometimes they are individuals who have special pull in a geographic area due to familial relationships.  But allowing them to go unchecked comes at a cost to the overall church:  attrition, inactivity and lack of converts.

What do you think?

  • How do we welcome those of other faiths to join our youth for fun activities?  How do we combat attitudes that alienate those not of our community (and those within our community)?
  • How do we balance trust and respect for our youth with a desire to help them avoid sin?
  • What, in your opinion, is motivating the individuals who promote increasingly strict dress guidelines for the YW?  Why does this issue seem to be more prevalent among YW leaders than among YM leaders?  Have you experienced double standards between YW and YM?
  • Have you encountered these stricter-than-FSOY guidelines in your ward or stake?


*Expect them to pee in the lake and/or pool.  I don’t see how they are getting out of all those wet layers to use the toilet.


  1. Modesty is really about context. It’s all about what is appropriate to the activity. Wearing a swimsuit in a pool shouldn’t raise eyebrows. Wearing one to a parent teacher conference should.

    Right on. I’m a big supporter of Girls Camp–I go as a chaperone/designated mule every year–because I see it was a wonderful time for young women (including my daughters) to retreat for a while from the social and commercial pressures which inundate girls of a certain age. It frustrates me to sometimes see those pre-occupations nonetheless replayed at Girls Camp, only in reverse. Thanks for this thoughtful, challenging reminder to be wary of such, Angela. A first rate post.

  2. I will probably see this in perspective later but at the moment I am horrified and feel sick to my stomach that this is happening. Can I ask if the respondents from your poll were from a particular area.

  3. This year there was EFY in Europe. In a bishopric meeting, we read about the standards (beard, long hair etc.) of that conference. After reading the long list I told my brothers: “Then Jesus Christ could not attend !”
    They were shoked.

    Let’s teach our kids correct principles and see if they can govern themselves.

  4. Am I wrong in thinking nonsense like this arises in part because of our fetishization of “obedience”, which seems to incentivize overzealous leaders to invent new rules (for others) to be obedient to?

  5. Debs: The poll was in an online group consisting of church members from across the globe, with the highest concentration in the US and mostly women. Many have been or are advisers or in presidencies in the YW program. I didn’t ask demographic specifics in the poll, but as you can see from my two personal examples, one was in Malaysia (about as far from the US as you can get), and the other which I didn’t specify was in Centerville, Utah, just north of Salt Lake. It was the second one that prompted me doing the post, the fact that it was not just in outlying areas as I had previously supposed and was so geographically wide-spread.

  6. What shocking survey results. Excellent article, thanks.

  7. Our stake has a girls camp rule book thicker than the CHI. I kid you not. Includes a no ponytail rule. Because apparently ponytails are too sexy…

  8. My CES brother went to Disney World with his wife and 4 kids — paid for by his in-laws. A wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He couldn’t look anywhere but down — the women were so scantily clad. He got a headache because he was trying so hard to fight off his bad thoughts. His wife told him to keep his grumpiness to himself and not ruin their day.

    So…. this is what we create. Men who might as well be from Saudi Arabia, unable to view the human body without reaction and disgust. Disturbing.

  9. I have never been a member and I suppose other so-called non-Mormons find these Mormon blogs in Facebook news feeds like I do. What age is “YW”? I presume YW stands for Young Women? 18? 19? 21? There is nothing in your article clarifying what age this is that you are talking about, for these girls the administrators are imagining as unbearably sexy.

  10. Thanks for this eyebrow raising article. Wow, some people love to get carried away with rules. I was surprised when I went to camp as a counselor the first time – to the same camp I’d grown up going to – that a “no shorts” rule was added. My current stake has the knee length rule. I think it’s odd to be so overly strict at a girls only event. I’d love it if this post or your survey (or both) be sent to the YW General Board and ask them what they think of the additional rules some Stakes are adding. Might be interesting.

  11. Alison Udall says:

    I love this!!! So wish every Stake would be required to read this and discuss it when planning Girls Camp…. lived in a variety of wards over the years and these rules are increasing and getting ridiculous. We wonder why Girls don’t enjoy camping after these experiences of long pants (no shorts allowed), no open toed shoes in mid July in Ohio with full heat and thunderstorms. Geez.

  12. I think it is more common with the YW leaders because, unfortunately, we women just seem to love rules. My husband and I served as ordinance workers in one of the older temples with a long line of traditional rules, where we could walk, no crossing of legs, etc., but all these rules seemed to apply only to me, not him. I’d say, “Oh, you can’t do that” and he’d just look at me puzzled, he’d never heard of that prohibition. There was none for the men. They didn’t worry about such mundane things. Later we worked in another temple and nobody ever said a thing about crossing my legs only at the ankle.

  13. I enjoyed the article, until the author compared Female Genital Mutilation, to modesty guidelines and suggested it was perpetuated by jealousy, and women wanting to shame women. This was a flippant exploitation of a deeply rooted cultural practice, and the author offensively puts the blame for FGM entirely on the women. Disgusting.

  14. John Hajicek: young women are 12 to 18 though some activities start only at 14

  15. Where is a copy of “For Strength of Youth” in all of this. If it is what our Prophet and General Authorities support there should be no confusion.

  16. Excellent commentary on this issue. I attended girls camp as a leader for one day at the Heber Valley Camp in UT about 4 years ago. I was dressed in capris/sandals/t-shirt when my RS president came to pick me up. She told me I couldn’t wear that, that I had to change. I was frankly irritated. I was in no way immodest, I was a woman going to hang out with other women and girls in the woods. I could not see the sense in needing to wear long pants and closed toed shoes to a summer camp setting in 90 degree weather. I felt so sorry for the girls too, when I learned they were not allowed to swim at girls camp! So many stakes in UT vie to get into that camp…shoot if I were a leader, I would avoid it like the plague so my girls could actually relax and have some fun at camp!

    I think that, and hope that, eventually the Brethren of the church will have a change of heart where dress codes are concerned. Currently the church corporate offices and all of it’s affiliates throughout the world have a more strict dress code policy for women than men (from a business dress side – ie women can’t wear slacks to work). This gives many other local leaders the idea/permission that they should target woman and girls in their dress code rules as well.

    It can be very confusing for many leaders in our current pornified culture. They jump to the extreme of “if our girls are in NO WAY sexually attractive than all will be fine for both our boys (and men) and girls.” They think they are appropriately combating immodesty and unintended or inappropriate arousal by intentionally (or unintentionally) putting all the responsibility on the women/young women.

    What they are really doing is creating enormous amounts of hurt, shame, blame, etc on girls and giving boys a free pass. I believe in modest dress for women, because I want women to feel their self-respect, confidence, beauty, safety/comfort etc comes from anything but being a sexualized object. They dress to feel good about who they are without fear of becoming an object or praise or ridicule. It’s the women who have been duped by satan/media/culture that think their real and best value lies in their sex appeal and therefore try desperately to be seen as “sexy” at all times. Many of our lovely sisters are caught in this trap – just as many of our brothers (and sisters) are also caught in the trap of pornography. And the way to help these people isn’t to police them, judge them, and “crack down” on them with ridiculous rules. It’s to lovingly lead them back to a place where their self worth comes from knowing how much God loves them. (https://www.facebook.com/Shamedfilm)

    Sigh. I’m with you girl. I hope for an awakening soon on these issues. I pray that we collectively start to give men the benefit of the doubt – that they are actually capable of thinking of women in loving, respectful, Godly ways and stop thinking that they aren’t capable of controlling their sexual thoughts and actions. I’ve had MANY encounters over the years with boyfriends/church leaders/”Christian” men, who have made me feel dirty and small because they found me attractive when they felt they shouldn’t. I had done nothing wrong or inappropriate – but they all felt completely at home with putting the blame and shame on me. This kind of pattern of thinking and behavior has to change. We need our men to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions and show women the respect they surely deserve.

    So I say “down with targeting women/young women with overly strict or double standard dress codes”. Men need to practice modesty in their thoughts/dress/actions just as much as women.

  17. Abbie, I certainly don’t think FGM is only perpetuated by women (nor did I say so) but women often perform it as it was performed on them. My point was no more nor less than what Alice Walker famously said, quoting an African proverb: as one tree said to the other, I have seen the ax, and the handle is one of us. I said nothing about jealousy. On the contrary, the rationale of those who participate is complex. There is probably also the abused becoming abuser at play as well as a belief that it is cultural necessity. Is the comparison flippant? Maybe. If we can never use FGM as a parallel because it is so heinous I can see that point.

    I certainly don’t see mutilation and modesty as equal, nor did I state that they are, but women participating in undue female subjugation is troubling to me regardless the degree of that subjugation. FGM is a horrifying practice. I couldn’t agree more. Might some of the same psychological motivation apply here is the question I raise.

  18. I think that many local leaders see modesty retrenchment as a means of combating the porn epidemic among our YM. Yeah. That’s like throwing an ice cube on a forest fire.

  19. This is oft-repeated but not true: “The problem is that clothing modesty and immodesty are two sides of the same coin: sexual objectification.”

  20. When I was a teen we were “prohibited” from wearing shirts with writing on the chest. Seriously.

  21. LDSDad, can you please explain your statement? Why isn’t it true?

  22. As a youth growing up in the Church I felt like some of the girls whose families had more liberal standards about dress codes were driven out by the YW leaders who piled on the shame and guilt when they weren’t meeting ‘garment standards’. It reminds me of the scripture in Luke 12 where the Savior heals a man on the Sabbath. I think we need to be less concerned with silly rules and what people think and more concerned about loving people. If that isn’t what the Church is about, then what is the point?

  23. My ward had the opposite problem: not enough oversight.

    We had the standard rules about short shorts, sleeveless shirts and revealing clothing, but they never seemed to get enforced; at Girls Camp, in church every Sunday or at church activities.

    I followed the guidelines (both because they were the rules and because I don’t want to dress like that anyway), but few other girls did, and parents and leaders never tried to stop it.

    I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I felt left out. The behavior by teens and, by extension, their parents condoning the behavior, made me not want to go to church. So I stopped.

    I went to Girls Camp two summers and after that, I was done. With YW, with church on Sunday, with being a Mormon. All of it.

    Not allowing girls to wear shorts or open-toed shoes is ridiculous. By the time they reach their teens, girls (and boys) should be able to make their own decisions about how they dress.

    Setting up overreaching guidelines and making teen girls question themselves at a time when they’re already questioning so much and dealing with so many changes is a disservice, and it can prove detrimental.

  24. Enough about swimming pools — Angela, what is the appropriate attire for visiting the local cesspool?

  25. I attended girls camp in the 90’s. We were not allowed to wear shorts or swim. It was not lost on us as teenagers that the priesthood leaders could often be found wading in the river in their shorts. My current area goes to the Heber Valley camp and also can not wear shorts or swim. The YM went to camp twice over the summer- the picture posted online showed shirtless hikes, lots of swimming, and horseback riding (something the girls never do- perhaps they are worried for their hymens? *snark*).

  26. Thank you for this post Angela. This is just wrong. How disheartening that this is where we currently are.

  27. Karen, I suppose it depends on what you think that criminally imprecise phrase means. I think the author’s trying to say that teaching women about the way their dress affects men and boys, whichever way we encourage them to use this information, sends the message that the other things they do are not valuable or important. That’s not true.

    As my daughter grows, I’ll teach her that modesty in dress enables her to boldly (immodestly?) discover and declare truth and be listened to. Teaching her modesty is showing her how to become more than an object.

    What do you think that phrase means? In what way are modesty and immodesty both aspects of sexual objectification?

  28. I never would have dreamed of wearing shorts to girls camp. I doubt the subject of a dress code even came up. The weather was rather cold and there were many mosquitoes, biting flies and biting plants. We were old school and camped at primitive campgrounds. Modesty is a non-issue in these conditions.

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    One summer over a decade ago, a girl (either not a member or from a less active family) showed up at girls’ camp with a piercing in her eyebrow with a silver stud. The leaders had a cow and wanted her to remove the stud, but it was a brand new piercing, and if she removed the stud the piercing would heal over. So my wife, who was there that year, drove to a nearby town, went to a tattoo parlor, and bought a clear plastic stud of the same size, which was a compromise the leaders (very) reluctantly signed onto. Perhaps not quite relevant, but the OP reminded me of that story.

  30. While I’m sure that most girls have no perception of themselves as a sex object, there are plenty of 15-17 yr old girls that you can’t tell me DON’T see themselves that way. There are three or four of them just in our ward, very tight, very short, very lowcut. But, I’ve not seen modesty as primarily sex-related issue, but more as as state of mind…not calling undue attention to yourself. And it doesn’t matter who is around….even if it’s all girls.

    That said, many of the rules you stated are definitely overkill. So, I asked my 16 yr old about our camp rules. She goes to the camp meetings, she’s old enough to know the rules, so I dont police her when she packs….so frankly, I didn’t know the rules. She said that there is a no-shorts rule, so I asked my BFF (mother of Boy Scouts) about scout camp. She said our guys have the same rule and that it’s related to safety issues, mostly due to poison oak problems. (The boys aren’t allowed to hike shirtless, however, regardless of where they are) She can take capris if she wants, she chooses not to, for the same reason. They are not required to wear anything over their bathing suits while swimming, but their suits have to cover their tummies, tankinis are fine as long as there isn’t too big of a gap. They may only wear their suits while swimming, and they have to wear something over them to walk to the lake or change in the bathrooms when they get there. She never takes hers as they don’t have a pool, and she’s not much for swimming in icy cold pond water. She says if there’s a rule for sleepwear she doesn’t know what it is, but the mountains here are very cold at night, even in summer, so I suspect it’s a non-issue.

    As for the sandals, I’m sure that’s a safety issue. I was not allowed to wear open toed shoes when I went to girls camp about a century ago. Closed toed shoes while traipsing around in the wilderness are much safer. I guess it depends on how “groomed” your girls camp is. Ours is wilderness, they all stay in tents, only buildings are bathroom facilities and the “mess hall”.

    We do have several non members who go every year with our girls. They get the rule sheet (It’s only a page) and they seem to have no problem following the rules. I think most of them are swim-team friends with our daughters, so having a one piece bathing suit isn’t an issue…you can’t wear bikinis on the swim team either. If they have issues with the other rules, they haven’t voiced them to me, anyway.

  31. Also, it’s entirely possible the the no-swim no-sandals thing at Heber Valley Camp is a liability issue. I think you can’t judge their rules unless you know their motives.

  32. LDSDad<

    In what way are modesty and immodesty both aspects of sexual objectification?

    Obviously a huge range of actions–and rationalizations and justifications–can be incorporated into the term “sexual objectification.” But as I see it–and I see it, for whatever it’s worth, as 1) the father of four daughters, ages 17 to 7, and 2) as someone who studies and teaches about culture and power–the root of the term is simply this: to view a person or thing as an object (that is, as a static thing, not a subjective agent) defined primarily by their sexual identity or utility. Thus, a huge amount of advertising sexually objectifies women through their visuals: the sexuality/beauty/desirability of the featured women is a locked-in, uncomplicated, aribrushed given, employed to attract buyers and consumers. Pornography is, of course, the ultimate example of sexual objectification: the bodies of women are employed–without distractions like their agency or opinions or interests–for masturbatory utility, and nothing else. Much of the fashion industry sexually objectifies, and a great amount of literature and media. Is this to say that all of the above always needs to be thrown out in every case? No, because every bodily expression is going to have multiple intentions at work (with the likely exception of porn, I suppose), and so judgments have to be made. Still, it seems to me that this is what the words mean.

    So, what about rules regarding modesty? To the extent that their primary intention is to get girls and women to think about their state of mind, to relate themselves to their community, to give themselves respect, then I applaud everything about them (and in our home, we try to the best of our ability to communicate principles of modesty, for the sake of the integrity of our daughters). But to the extent that the rules in question become a fetishized retreat from any and all common-sensical appreciation of bodily reality–which is exactly what the sort of mad Victorian examples mentioned above to: honestly, what possible other reason could their be for insisting at a Girls Camp that shorts and t-shirts must be worn OVER swimsuits?–then yes, they are engaged in sexual objectification in reverse. Whether so stated or not, the only plausible explanation for such policies is that the girls bodies are being treated, first and foremost, as a source of sexual danger, as a cause for paranoia over bodily virtue. So, please, bring on the full-length burqas and chadors! Because clearly, as much as we love our Young Women, we obviously have to hammer into them that their bodies are a constant source of temptation and illicit behavior; so much better to make sure they never slip up and show a shoulder or bare midriff, ever, or else the men around them will be driven out of control. The possibility that these bodies are girls and women capable of action, capable of saying yes and no to men, capable thinking through and finding their own respectful place in whatever community they commit themselves to, just doesn’t enter into such “rules of modesty,” I don’t think.

  33. When I went to camp as a YW leader two years ago, our stake had the long pants-only rule. I knew I would be expected to set an example for the girls and wear pants. However, I was 7 months pregnant and since my last trimester occurred during all summer months, I did not buy a bunch of pants when getting my maternity wardrobe, nor could I afford to buy 3-4 pairs just for camp. I ended up just wearing capris for part of the time anyway, without asking permission, because it was all I had. Luckily no one said anything, but there are lots of situations where these “standards” get rather oppressive.

  34. The issues for me are:

    1) We have taken the concept of a dress code and are applying it immodestly in the name of modesty – meaning we are justifying more and more extreme dress codes in the name of modesty. “Immodest” doesn’t only mean “totally revealing”; it also means the opposite, “totally concealing” – and the space between the extremes is where modesty exists.

    2) We have lost almost entirely an understanding of situational modesty. Swim suits at Girls Camp is an entirely different issue than what we should wear to church or to school or to a job or in our own bedrooms, but we aren’t teaching those differences by teaching true modesty.

    3) We have narrowed greatly the principle of modesty by focusing the use of the word entirely on a dress code. We are ignoring over-spending and over-eating (and over-church-attending), for example, when we talk about modesty. Thus, we aren’t talking about modesty; we are ignoring modesty by talking only about a dress code – that, as I said above, is becoming more and more immodest.

    4) We are not applying a standard of “equality under the law” in our discussion of modesty with regard to clothing. We are focusing disproportionately on females and comparatively little on males.

    Modesty is, at the root, moderation “in all things” – and when we move from moderation toward an extreme (on either side and/or by focusing it only on one thing) and focus on only one group within our community, we are moving away from modesty, regardless of our intentions.

  35. You said no more or less than this…

    “Girls who feel self-conscious can shame their rivals while hiding their own perceived flaws behind extra layers.”

    So, you are saying…girls who are less confident in their bodies, hide behind layers of clothing, and desire to force others to do the same, because they are perceived as rivals, and want to shame them into wearing more clothing.

    Basically, you’re implying that only ugly/fat girls dress modestly. Nice.

    “People who live under weighty restrictions want to see others similarly restricted; it’s human nature. It’s why female genital mutilation is perpetuated by women.”

    You have a complete misunderstanding of the cultural practice of FGM, and you need to do some research. It’s not my job to educate you. You need to take responsibility for your own ignorance, and educate yourself before you compare the restrictions of modesty, to the restrictions of having a woman’s vaginal opening sewn shut.

  36. “Am I wrong in thinking nonsense like this arises in part because of our fetishization of “obedience”, ”
    Am I wrong in thinking that posts like this arise in part because of BCC’s fetishization of all things modesty? BCC has become the “modesty police” police.

    “The tee shirts were removed, and no teen orgy ensued, just good Mormon kids having fun in the sun dressed appropriately for the occasion.”

    Really? No teen orgy ensued? Are orgies typical among teenagers at public swimming pools? Perhaps I’m just not familiar enough with Malaysian culture for me to be astonished at the lack of orgies after removal of tee shirts at a public swimming pool.

  37. Abbie, just so you know, you’re only referencing one form of FGM when there are at least three, although given your comment, it seems like you’re quite comfortable assuming your interpretation of something to be the only existing one.

  38. Michael, I take it you’re a boy, the sex that gets to wear shorts to camp. I suspect that if you were a girl being forced to wear Winter pajamas in a tent, in TX, in August heat, you might want someone to speak up against the modesty police also.

  39. I grew up in Southern California, so twice we had Girls’ Camp at the beach. Shorts and swimsuits abounded, and (gasp!) even tankinis were allowed so long as they didn’t show any midriff. I was lucky.

    If the zealots mentioned in the OP would just chill out, I think we’d all be about a thousand times happier.

  40. GivensThree says:

    Abbie- you made an even worse implication than you said the OP made: you implying that girls who are self-conscious are ugly or fat. I’m neither ugly or fat but I relate to what Angela wrote.

  41. flower mommy says:

    Weird because they don’t have these rules for ward parties at the pool! And I live in Utah! Are these statistics real? Are you an active LDS member? I have never heard of these restrictions, only one piece swim suits, but like you at girl’s camp a non member friend was allowed to wear a 2 piece. We just already had one pieces so or wasn’t an issue. My 8 year old looks 12 so she doesn’t wear a two piece anymore. However when she’s 16 I won’t oppose it anymore. Also I let my girls wear tanks. Being modest isn’t just about being non sexual. It’s about self worth and respecting your body. Do we show off what we do in the temple? No it’s sacred and our bodies should be treated as.

  42. “Really? No teen orgy ensued? Are orgies typical among teenagers at public swimming pools? Perhaps I’m just not familiar enough with Malaysian culture for me to be astonished at the lack of orgies after removal of tee shirts at a public swimming pool.”

    By your mockery in this response, Michael, I take it that you agree that the modesty issue addressed in the original post is a valid concern — that local church leaders (bishops and stake presidents) in various places around the world are creating and enforcing upon young women stricter dress and grooming standards than those found in For the Strength of Youth, in the name of modesty, is that right? That at girls capm they have to wear t-shirts and shorts over one piece swimsuits (the one piece swimsuit being the FSOY standard and the t-shirt/shorts being the overly zealous imposition of these local leaders)?

  43. flower mommy, one of the points of Angela’s post is that she also thought these stories of modesty zealotry were isolated and limited but that she has recently learned that it is occurring in more places than just the handful of isolated incidents she had previously thought.

    In other words, it’s great that you haven’t encountered the problem so far in your local ward or stake. Angela isn’t implying that it is happening universally. But it is happening often enough that it is a real concern that should be discussed. BCC is as good a place as any to have that discussion. I too have heard many stories of this kind of thing independent of Angela’s experiences highlighted in the post. To me, these stories hint of unrighteous dominion on the part of the local priesthood leaders involved, though they likely think that by going beyond what is actually being recommended by General Authorities in sources like FSOY, they are being more righteous than even General Authorities expect them to be, therefore making them somehow better leaders. (Are they hoping this will be a factor in their “church careers,” leading to being called to higher callings at the Area Authority level and then beyond?)

  44. I now live in Europe and they don’t do girls camp here. I was told they used to do it, but so few attended that they stopped doing it. But where I used to live in the US, a rule was instated for girls camp, NOT scout camp, that the girls had to wear a life jacket when swimming in the lake. They said there were families vacationing there with three year old kids who thought it very strange that 150 teenage girls are wearing life jackets to swim in three feet of water.
    Yes, the rules are often created by someone, or some people, who are over zealous and over cautious. And yes, there is a double standard. There probably always will be. It is very unfortunate that the girls get the rotten end of it. But, if enough people speak out about this kind of stupidity, things will change eventually.
    Personally I do not have a problem with Boy Scouts. I DO, however, have a problems BSA and the church’s involvement. Most of my YM leaders were in the military and treated the scout troop as their own little army. They focused only on required merit badges, lifesaving and survival skills, but we never did anything fun. To this day I have NEVER used anything from ANY of those required merit badges. Most of the boys in our group did not get their Eagle and we are all fine. Those who did get their eagle were major pricks. But, these were the same kind of leaders who focused so much on the rules and making sure those were followed that they forgot it was people they were supposed to be helping.
    Remember, when you are in these callings, you are there to be an example, not a dictator.

  45. Tracy Grover says:

    1. you are all over reacting and
    2. What is wrong with just using for the strength of youth guildines and leave them at that.
    The Lord wrote them, and the leaders transcribed them.
    Trust, have faith in our youth.
    They will do stupid stuff, you did stupid stuff…. we all continue to do stupid stuff. If we make is so strict our children just want to rebel… who’s plan is that anyway.

    Love them, forgive them, be tolerant of the injustice, be an example of obedience ourselves and no murmuring in front of them.
    Love them and those that lead them. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve dealt with that…. in the end it’s all about choice and accountability.
    What would you have our youth concern themselves about more….. Following Christ or complaining about what other people do.
    We can’t change others behavior…. only our own.
    It will NEVER be Equal…… never. Be happy with what you have.

  46. “2. What is wrong with just using for the strength of youth guildines and leave them at that.”

    Tracy, that is exactly what Angela is asking in the post. What is wrong with the FSOY guidelines. Why are local bishops and stake presidents creating dress codes for girls camp that are stricter than the FSOY guidelines? And why are they doing it for girls camp, where there are no boys present except the priesthood leaders that we’ve apparently decided have to “chaperone” any event that women in the Church are doing? (Heaven forbid they create, manage, direct, and supervise their own activities, without a priesthood “chaperone” as if they were competent and professional adults in their own right.)

  47. Yes I would think the closed-toed shoes, and possibly the pants, even the pony-tails of one commenter, might arise because of a safety issue. I definitely think that the standard at camp should be For the Strength of the Youth, which may make it higher than at home (no bikinis, no tank tops or short shorts), but going beyond the mark in the name of modesty is just really stupid. But anyone who believes that girls don’t use their bodies as a way to make themselves better than other girls, to shame other girls, and make fun of other girls is truly naive. Just because there are very few men at girl’s camp,and no boys, doesn’t mean you just let the standards go.

  48. Note that BSA swimming regulations are a total pain too. So much so that we would never bother taking our YM swimming anywhere but at a city pool or a council camp. I do find it odd that Heber Valley Camp offers a ropes course though if the cost of maintaining safe facilities is the main issue.

  49. Is there really skinny dipping and shirtless hikes going on at YM events? Both are definitely against BSA rules and should be reported both to BSA leaders and to the church.

  50. Ugly Mahana says:

    Why presume that these requirements are promulgated by male leadership or male leadership alone?

  51. From stories I’ve heard, they’ve been dictated by bishops or stake presidencies over objections of local YW leaders (whose testimony/commitment to the Gospel was then questioned because of raising an objection to an idea by a “priesthood leader”).

  52. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    “The Lord wrote them, and the leaders transcribed them.” Wow. Should the EFY guidelines be appended as Section 139, or do they constitute a new book of scripture, altogether?

  53. It would have to be a new book of scripture altogether, don’t you think?

  54. It’s always fascinating to see commenters criticize a post for things not said in the post – and, in some cases, take an oppositional stance by agreeing with things in the post.

    I don’t mind the law, at all. I mind the hedges about the law.

  55. My stomach turns at the idea that we aren’t allowing the girls to learn principles and let them govern themselves. One person’s interpretation of modesty will not line up exactly with any other person’s interpretation of modesty, which is why these explicit rules cause so many problems for so many people. I think garment-ready clothing is a good concept, however, if I were swimming at the pool, I wouldn’t be wearing garment-ready clothing, I would be wearing swim shorts or board shorts, with the shorts’ style depending on whether it was for exercise or just to hang out. I would expect my daughter (I only have one daughter) would consider her swimwear accordingly. I would expect the same from my son, if I had one.

    I am not a fan of the double-standards. Any man is as responsible for his own thoughts, words, and deeds as any woman is responsible for hers. How absurd is it that a woman should be expected to worry about what men might think when no such consideration needs to be taken by a man? Sincerely, this teaches our young men the wrong concepts and principles about their relationships with women. It effectively makes women take more responsibility than they should have to for the actions other people take. Last I heard, we are not punishable for Adam’s sins and transgressions, so why should these young women be responsible for the sins and transgressions of any other person?

  56. I am a stake YW president. We have one rule: follow the strength of youth. Why? Because it is divinely inspired and the principles therein will keep them safe!

    How does that play out? We ask our youth what the needs of our young people are. We ask our youth what the purpose of the activity is. We ask our youth to pray about what they think is appropriate and to receive personal revelation. If this pattern is followed I have never once seen a young person be inappropriate in clothing, words or actions (and no youth ever complains because it is their choice, they choose to be modest). We must trust our youth that they are capable of doing the right thing; and we must trust that prayers are actually answered.

  57. The whole swimsuit and cover-up question just boggles the mind. You want them to wear t-shirts and shorts when they swim? Really? Because that is completely contrary to what FTSOY states which is what is referenced in the YM Camp manual:

    Church standards should be upheld at camp. Leaders are responsible to see that the standards followed in dress, music, and activities are in keeping with what the Savior would have his people do. (See For the Strength of Youth)

    Requirements in place at Heber Valley Camp is worth consideration given that it is owned by the Church and presented as dedicated to YW camps in Utah. But the regulations sound like they are more about the safety of the individual than they are about modesty:

    Click to access HVC_Young_Women_Camp_Guidelines_Current.pdf

    “Dress standards for safety and protection have been established as long pants (no shorts, and no capris), full length shirts (to cover stomach area) with short or long sleeves, and footwear that is comfortable and will protect your feet.”
    (Heber Valley Camp Area Seventy Council). Standards outlined in For the Strength of Youth should be followed.

    Apparently it’s important to remember that this is a mountain camp and therefore you have hazards that come with this that would encourage you to wear protective clothing:

    This is a mountain camp. There are ticks, snakes, stinging nettle, bees, and other
    mountain insects and plants. There are deer, mountain lion, bear, moose and elk. Although the mountain trails are marked, they are rough trails. When on the trails be alert and observe safe hiking practices.

    But then you find statements like this:

    “When attending a Challenge Course or Legacy Lake, for safety, modesty and protection wear crew neck tee – shirts that cover the stomach area, long pants, and sturdy tie up shoes.”

    Swimming apparently is not an option (likely for liability reasons but who knows maybe they just don’t want to have to deal with the swimsuit question)

    “No swimming, wading or swamping of canoes is permitted.”

    But apparently their standards are the same across the board:

    “Priesthood leaders should abide by all camp guidelines and dress standards. Dress standards for Priesthood leaders are the same as for Young Women. Priesthood leaders are to wear long pants only. Shorts and flip flops are not permitted.”

    How much of this is about modesty and how much of it is about safety? Really hard to say but someone running a camp at the beach in So Cal for instance might be getting the wrong message if they modeled their standards after Heber Valley Camp.

  58. I would like to describe the moment when it became fully clear to me how far off the rails we’d driven the modesty train:

    I was in a ward council meeting and we were discussing a less-active family that had had some relatives move in with them. A member of the committee reported, in a voice of indulgent derision, that one of the relatives who had moved in was clearly not a good influence, because “I mean, she wears tank tops.”

    That was it. No further explanation was given, and none seemed to be required. Saying that a young woman wore a tank top was all the shorthand we needed, apparently, to know what kind of person she was.

  59. OD raises an interesting point. Perhaps some of these over strict camps are misapplying a guideline from a specific camp with mountain hazards or whatever. The problem is they aren’t using their brains to determine what is appropriate in this specific camp. I also can’t imagine a scenario in which swimming wearing shorts and a tee over a one piece is a safe proposition. If a camp has leeches that’s not going to protect you. I can’t think of any scenario where that guideline has a legitimate justification.

  60. it's a series of tubes says:

    OT, your story is simultaneously mind-boggling and heartbreaking.

  61. Funny point after I did a little more research. Who knew the Church had 150 properties under management for YW Camp purposes? And not all of them are located in Utah, Idaho, California and Nevada


    Just another for standards purposes:

    Brighton Camp which is also owned by the Church has looser standards than Heber Valley and yet both are “mountain camps” just outside of Salt Lake City. Brighton is only intended for 12-13 year old campers.

    Check out the packing list (shorts and capris are allowed):

    Their standards say:

    Modesty standards as outlined in For the Strength of Youth are observed at camp. Wearing short shorts, tank tops, sleeveless shirts, short skirts, etc. are not acceptable for camp clothing. To ensure your safety, sandals are not allowed. (Flip flops may be worn but only when showering.) Socks must be worn with shoes. We recommend you wear comfortable, inexpensive and well-worn clothes at camp.

    My guess is each is managed by a local group and they interpret the standards as they see necessary for the site.

    Another insight, here are photos from various YW Camps from the LDS LIving magazine and clearly not all of them hold the same standards…


    I guess if anything we’re consistent in being inconsistent.

  62. I went to a family reunion at Heber camp just this last summer. Everybody in the family wore shorts and sandals at will. Camp managers didn’t care. So I don’t think the Heber guidelines are solely about safety.

  63. Several villages in Palestine have recently reported that their resident Pharisee is missing. Well, I believe we have solved that mystery.

    What so many Church leaders fail to realize is that these kids have choices—they can do something other than girl’s camp, EFY, youth conference, etc. And they will opt for those other choices if they are made to feel uncomfortable at a Church activity.

  64. Our Stake camp leaders backed off an initial rule of of t-shirts and shorts over swimsuits after several parents questioned its rationale and safety. Leaders then just suggested, but not required, that the girls wear the extra clothing. It breaks my heart to think that in the midst of all of these modesty rules, it’s possible that our young women are feeling more—not less— sexualized. They cannot simply swim and laugh and play and be girls.
    The irony is that girls camp has grown to be one of the biggest dispays of immodesty in the church—and I’m not referring to dress. In many wards is an exercise in excess, from gourmet food to custom shirts, themes, crafts, decor, daily gifts, awards, treats, handouts, etc., while the purpose of camp is often lost in race to be bigger and better than the rest.

  65. Wheatwoman says:

    Sheesh, I am never going to get my kids in bed. This past July, I attended camp with my daughter, who is now a third-year camper. The last time I went as a chaperone, this same daughter was a 6 month-old. Back in 1999, the stake was asking girls to wear knee length shorts, one-piece suits, no tank-tops, and no flip-flops. There were no guidelines for sleepwear. I didn’t complain then – it didn’t seem unreasonable. Here in Michigan, it’s stinking hot and muggy, but there are TONS of mosquitoes. So covering up in wooded areas is a really good idea, and the vast majority of girls did it. The small percentage of girls who wore short-shorts were punished by the dozens of bug-bites they had to endure. The leaders figured it was better to let the bugs do the teaching.

    Fast forward to this past summer. I received a long, detailed list of what my daughter could and could not wear – even during nighttime hours. No tank-short combos, no sleeping in underwear and t-shirts. Pajamas had to come to the knee and cover the shoulder. I slept in my garments in the 90 degree heat and I sure as heck wasn’t going to police what the girls in my cabin were wearing in bed because I think that’s creepy. But my daughter’s cabin was a lot stricter. One night, she decided to ignore the rules and tried to sleep in a jog bra and a pair of shorts. Her counselor scolded her, so she put back on her t-shirt and sweats. That really bugged me, and usually I complain about stuff like that. But I didn’t. I think we’re just done with youth activities. It feels like all of the focus is on how the girls are dressed, or how non-members dress, or how “the world” wants us to dress. Gaa! Enough!

    FYI, the ads for “burkinis”, as we call them in Dearborn, are a nice touch. I see these bathing suits every day at our public pool. I see them on women, teenage girls, and young girls. I also see them on my daughter’s swim team, and the girls who wear them come in DEAD LAST because of the drag or because they have to stop to adjust the headpiece to keep their hair covered. It’s a sad, ridiculous spectacle that has nothing to do with modesty or righteousness. It has everything to do with controlling female behavior. Something we know a little bit about :-(

  66. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    When I was in elementary school, our class would walk to the town pool a few times each year in the spring for swimming with the PE teachers. There was one girl in my class that did not participate because her religion (not sure what it was) somehow frowned upon wearing a swimsuit or swimming at all. I remember the last swim of the year, after watching her class having cool fun week after week, she ended up in the water in her school clothes, playing and having fun. It does not make sense to me to send messages that herd us into the same out-of-water restriction as that poor girl that I remember. Let the girls swim in swim suits and have fun. Also, shorts do not need to be knee length to be modest.

    One other side of the coin I would like to mention is that the ward I am in has had a tradition that after YW camp, the girls wear their camp shirts (with whatever logo was printed on that year) and the assorted clunky neck wear they created in camp to Sacrament Meeting. I find that to be a greater concern then camp swimwear. Not only does it take away the reverence of the meeting in a distractive nature, in points out the double standard that Young Men can never wear silk- screened T shirts to sacrament meeting if they are participating actively in the Young Men assignments they have.

  67. This was a great article! Honestly, those who make the girls overdress is ridiculous. You can set good examples and clarify what is modest without being so harsh. Trying to be extreme in righteousness actually creates unrighteousness through unrighteous dominion, creating commandments that are not commandments, and being self righteous/ judgmental. No one should care about anyone else’s sins, except their own. We weren’t given basic guidelines that throw out common sense and the Spirit. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense, you probably made it up. Seriously, if the temperature is over 90 degrees and there’s any chance of a girl drowning due to clothes being caught in the lake, then skip the extra unnecessary clothing. If girls are continually breaking the rules, send them home, keep them out of the activities, or really just sit down and have a heart to heart talking to them about why we keep the rules. Positive encouragement goes a really long way for young women.

    As well, young men should not in any way be given special treatment. Double standards create gaps and misinformation fills those gaps. It’s dumb to make the girls do something then flaunt that the boys even if they break restrictions (for the girls) are completely fine. What kind of responsibility and common sense does that teach boys? Oh yeah. Nothing. Leaders need to pray about what’s best for this generation and follow that, in sync with the guidelines of the church. Personally, I’m not a fan of guys walking around with their shirts off unless it’s in a pool. I get the modesty standards for guys too, because bare skin is attractive, why would it not be? Again, let’s use common sense and throw the better than thou righteousness out the door.

  68. RedPillLDS says:

    Men and women are not equal. So handling this issue with a kindergarten conception of equality is dumb. If we want strong families going forward (and I do) this is the wrong kind of lie to tell.

    That said, if we want to participate in modernity (and I do) making girls cover their swimsuits with shorts and a t-shirt is retarded on any number of levels. Should be laughed out of town.

  69. Some camps have a no shorts rule ( or no sandals) due to safety concerns. 90 degrees with humidity and 90 degrees without humidity are two entirely different scenarios. We do ask that girls not walk around in their swimming suits because appropriate attire while swimming is not appropriate attire for anything else at camp. That said, I agree that the above mentioned rules are excessive and misleading about what is modest behavior. There is an excellent article circulating on face book about the new pope and his view of modestly. It is fabulous.

  70. RedPillLDS, One correct statement (which nobody has refuted in their actual comments), followed by two hyperbolic and offensive (as in “attacking”) sentences is . . . ineffective, to put it as mildly as I can.

    Also, using “retarded” as a pejorative descriptor is highly offensive. It should be stricken from our vocabulary for being the slur it is.

  71. I see you don’t get it. End of conversation.

  72. The whole concept of girls camp is and was to build a stronger bond with the YL in the stake (attendees) and become closer with God. And its a great concept. But, making rules and regulations that are so obscene takes away from the desired outcome.

    Last time I attended was pure hell… I already dealt with all the two faced people in the church and was well aware of the double standards between males and females at that time. But then to throw in all the rules and regulations, backstabbers and all it caused me to say enough was enough. And stopped dealing with the church. I guess I was one of the troublemakers with the tank tops… KUDOS to all involved.

  73. The church owns our camp in the Santa Cruz Mtns, but I”m not sure if each Stake has it’s own rules, or if the rules our girls are given are the camp’s rules. But, I don’t find them excessive and my daughter says she doesn’t either.. I

    I have a 16 yr old niece (same age as my daughter) who went on a service vacation to build a school in Belize through a church member sponsored group. They gave her guidelines, one was that shorts should be at least knee length. This child is 6’1″ tall, she buys bermuda shorts, they do NOT make it to her knees, lol. However, they are about a foot from her butt. My sister asked if she should let her take them (worried that they would give her grief) I have my own beanpole daughter, so I told her to send them, it would probably be fine. No one said anything to her. I think that what is modest on one body, might not be on another, so some common sense has to be applied. Fortunately, in my niece’s case, it was.

  74. Michael… seriously dude, you need to understand the use of irony… I don’t think she was saying that she was really shocked that there were no orgies at the pool. Rather, she was saying that anything the leaders were fearing might happen in fact didn’t.

  75. Mike Taylor says:

    If you feel strongly about it, help educate people in your ward about it. I appreciate that there’s not a hard standard from the Church, which leaves modesty at activities to be decided by individual circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes that can lead to poor results when someone gets overzealous about implementation, but that’s the tradeoff you get rather than enforcing an overly careful standard on the whole church, so I think it’s the right approach. So lobby in your own ward. Regarding your mistaken lessons being taught, here is a suggested approach for combating those things, teachings you could use:

    1. Feel guilty. – Teach that women aren’t sex objects, and being asked to dress modestly is not about reducing oneself to a sex object or simply reducing sexual desirability. There are a whole host of other reasons for modest dress, such as showing respect for one’s own body, portraying a wholesome image, signaling a desire for respect from others, treating the body as sacred, improving your internal self-image, and also being a reflection of character to others. Make/teach a lesson about the distinction. This is easily within church doctrine and consistent with YW principles of divine nature, individual worth, integrity, virtue, etc. My experience has been that when you have a lay set of teachers, they sometimes may not understand nuance very well. The lazy way to teach a lesson on modesty is to simplify it to platitudes and sometimes unhelpful measures (not supported by official teaching). Those who have a problem with this should ask that a more nuanced message gets taught explaining how modesty is important and should be practiced at the same time that it’s not about being a sex object but quite the opposite–in fact my teaching in YM was that women are to be absolutely respected, dignified, and that they had a divine nature.

    2. Using modesty as a form of power. – Power plays are completely inconsistent with the gospel. Mosiah 23:7 teaches “Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another”. One message of the temple especially where everyone wears plain white clothing is to emphasize the idea that all are equal in God’s sight and we should be to each other as well. The consistency of clothing and color for all the women or all the men helps reinforce that idea.

    3. Shaming other girls. (when they don’t meet the standard) – It’s easy to show principles in scripture that we should never shame others. We should never put ourselves above others. “God is no respector of persons” and neither should we be. We are all loved of Christ, sinners and saints alike, etc. Also, “judge not unrighteously, lest ye be judged”. Shaming is a form of unrighteous judgment that is wholly inconsistent with the gospel. The teacher can find ways to teach modesty and try to do it in a way that’s inspiring rather than guilt-inducing. That’s always preferable.

    4. Internalize the double standard. – This is one area I might disagree with the author. The author had a problem with double standards… however, she didn’t really go into this much, I hope she’d agree with me (and science) when I say I believe there are genuine intrinsic differences here that make a different standard of modesty between men and women understandable. For example, see Haman, Herman, Nolan, Wallen “Men and women differ in amygdala response to visual sexual stimuli” in the April 2004 Nature Neuroscience journal. YW could be taught that men actually are wired differently than they are and furthermore that modesty is partially a function of current cultural norms; but nevertheless, modesty for men is still important as well, though there is a clear and obvious difference between a man taking his shirt off and a woman. Or a man wearing short shorts vs a woman. In our culture, women’s legs are viewed in a more visual way than men’s are. That’s partially a reflection of our culture but also intrinsic essential differences between male and female brains.

  76. Great post! Couldn’t agree more. As far as how to help balance things out I pray that we go back to teaching principles of things vs a checklist of outward signs of obedience with which to judge each other. Teach the true definition of modesty and the “approrpriate” time and place for all clothing and let us govern ourselves. Will there be mistakes, of course, but the message that we are sending to everyone is that females main worth/assets/point for being is first and foremost their sexual appeal to men and therefore must be monitored and controlled always. I have also found that other women often older, are threatened by the simple beauty that comes with being young. They then try to control that “threat” because they are insecure with their husbands or sons noticing the 17 year old girl. Instead of demonstrating strength and knowledge of their own self worth these “policing” women model for our YW insecurity, self body shame, and the belief that females main asset is their sexual appeal and hence are responsible for males thoughts and actions. News flash people, males are going to notice the 17 year old even if you require her to wear a burqa which it seems may come sooner than later depending on one’s location.

  77. It all started when the Fab Five at Michigan started wearing basketball shorts that reached to their knees. Before then, basketball players wore shorts that had an inseam that was 2″ or 3″ and kids all over Mormondom wore shorts that were the same length. Then someone decided that endowed Mormon adults could wear “shorts” if they were long enough to reach their knees, and suddenly shorts that were shorter than that became “short shorts” and were “immodest.” Back in the good old days, “short shorts” were “hot pants.” And Mormon girls didn’t wear them because they showed the beginning of the curve of their tush. But if shorts were long enough to cover that, they were fine!

    And guys wore cut off Levi’s that were short enough that their boxer shorts hung out. And, as you know, we all went to hell in a hand basket.

  78. questioning says:

    Not sure if this has been said, but ‘girls camp’ is held in some parts of Europe. I’m sure that the rules differ from place to place, depending on differences in local leadership etc.

    I agree with distain for a double standard – after all surely it isn’t men only that are meant to ‘let virtue garnish’ their thoughts.

    What people find visually unvirtuous sometimes depends ultimately on who is doing the looking and why.

    As the Lord said … He (or she) ‘that looketh upon … to lust’

    Clearly, the sin is usually in the eye of the beholder.

  79. “Michael… seriously dude, you need to understand the use of irony… I don’t think she was saying that she was really shocked that there were no orgies at the pool. Rather, she was saying that anything the leaders were fearing might happen in fact didn’t.”

    I think you need to understand the use of irony better. Sorry I wasn’t more transparent with my irony. I was mocking her insertion of “no teen orgies ensued” into the story. I hope she didn’t actually think the leaders were truly fearful of an orgy ensuing. Rhetoric like this attempts to get some cheap laughs at others’ expense and is not helpful for promulgating one’s argument.

  80. Sorry if this has been already addressed but I wanted to mention that “appropriate” attire in the mountains where some girls camps occur would be in, in my opinion, long pants and closed toed shoes. We hike and back pack a fair bit in our family and we always encourage our children to dress like this when in the outdoors. Our state has quite a bit of stinging nettle at the elevations where camps often take place and it makes sense to protect oneself from it, not to mention rattle snakes and uneven ground. Although it seems counter intuitive to wear long pants in the heat, there are light weight fabrics that breathe but allow for more protection. I would suggest that camps give guidelines and suggestions with explanations about why they are doing so but then allow the youth to choose for themselves. I would assume getting a bad sunburn at high elevation from wearing a tank top or no shirt at all at scout camp would teach them more about appropriate clothing than anything. Our children sometimes make poor choices about what they wear on some of our outings but then they reap the consequences and can learn from them.

  81. shazidaoren says:

    I have only two words for this: “American Taliban”.

    It is time we call American religious extremism for what it is.

  82. it's a series of tubes says:

    I have only two words for this: “American Taliban”.

    That tired trope remains as lazy and inaccurate as it was the first time it was uttered. Seriously, as a critic you can do far, far, better.

    On an unrelated note, I was pleasantly surprised to read this article on the Deseret News website today:

  83. Antonio Parr says:

    With all due respect to the OP, this is just the latest in a series of BCC posts regarding modesty, each of which seems to follow a common pattern Typically, the post begins with an account of an overzealous local church leader, followed up by dozens/scores of impassioned posts decrying the evils associated with female modesty. The extreme examples are typically quite extreme, and worthy of criticism. The impassioned posts tend to go overboard, and I am not sure that I have ever seen a consensus as when attire is sufficiently “modest’ to be appropriate. Too often, the posts are idealistic to a fault, where some of the realities of modern non-LDS cultural influences are ignored for the sake of lampooning LDS notions of sexual purity/modesty/etc.

    I don’t want the Taliban to dictate my daughters’ attire. But I don’t want Abercrombie and Fitch to, either. My Church experience in the Eastern USA has reflected an overall healthy approach to dress, where neither boys nor girls dress in ways that (a) cover themselves in a manner that suggest that the human body is a thing of shame and/or seem purposely designed to sexualize them. All I can say is “thank God for the Mormons”, as they are the rare community that seems to be committed to protecting our children from MTV’s (et al) desire to turn our children into sex objects.

  84. tubes, thanks for that link. It is wonderful – and it’s just as wonderful that the Deseret News reprinted it, being written by a Protestant pastor.

  85. Some of the comments talk about bishops and stake presidents (men) making modesty rules for women — but I think the dress codes for girls camp are made by women and enforced by women, aren’t they? If a man is involved, doesn’t he rubber-stamp whatever a woman has given him?

  86. Jessica, your statement about the dress code for female church employees in incorrect. There is now a few locations where women can wear pants. The Riverton Office Building (ROB) in Riverton, Utah is the first that comes to mind. Also, depending on their job, women are now allowed to wear pants in the Church Office Building in downtown SLC.

  87. I have not read all the comments, so please forgive me if this is repetitious. I went to girls’ camp this past summer in AZ and had to wear the long pants and closed toed shoes, too. But the reason behind that was for safety – poison ivy, bugs, snakes, plentiful elk, rocky terrain, and other hazards were plentiful. I would guess a big part of the rules were to help protect the safety of the girls, rather than have anything to do with modesty. Girls who run around in flip flops and short shorts might be cooler, but are also much more likely to sustain some sort of injury. Just my two cents.

  88. Just looking for clarification of a term. What are “booty shorts”? still giggling over the mental pic of a scout in any form of shorts in hot pink…

    “Out-Muslim’ed ’em”. ROTLFM(immodest)AO

  89. Meldrum the Less says:

    Who has time to read all of this? Sorry if this is redundant, (not likely considering the source).

    Modesty retrenchment is part of a bigger problem I will label over-conformity. It is a short-cut bate- and-switch philosophy that attempts to substitute something easy (like modesty) for the heavy lifting of teaching our children proper sexual /courting behavior. Just make the little snots wear burkas to girls camp and they won’t think of ever ……

    We share a constellation of problems with the greater society; divorce, perpetual singlehood, porn viewing, disrespect for women (and also for men), obsession with modesty etc. etc. All related to dysfunctional social institutions in our community surrounding dating, courtship and forming solid marriages. As these problems worsen a dysfunctional response will be additional over-conformity to outward easy pseudo-solutions like modesty rules.

    The solution is the development and improvement of integrity, character, strengthening the internal compasses of our youth.

  90. Meldrum the Less says:

    One more lick….

    “I can’t even imagine inviting a non-LDS friend to a Girls Camp that required them to wear a tee shirt and knee length shorts over a swimsuit.”

    I challenge you all to do more than think of inviting decent non-LDS girls to these activities. I am serious! Invite them! When they accept, let the over-conformity zealots find out just how ridiculous their rules prove to be. Turn current zeal for missionary work directly against the over-zeal of the modesty patrol.

    My adult daughter had quite a bit of trouble in the YW with what she called Nazi Mormons on a variety of topics including modesty. She more-often-than-not brought non-LDS friends to LDS activities for “protection” and she observed a marked improvement in the reasonableness of her adult leaders. “Mormon Nazis shape up around non-Mormons” was her slogan.

    This worked for her better than expected and might work for you. (Might not).

  91. “Just looking for clarification of a term. What are “booty shorts”? still giggling over the mental pic of a scout in any form of shorts in hot pink…”

    I don’t think it’s all that rare of an occurrence.

  92. What if all this talk of modesty is encouraging feminism? Nonsexy pool party ladies, having the power to make modesty rules… anybody else see a trend here? :)

  93. With all of the skimpy clothing that girls are required to wear these days (little options in the stores), it shocks me that anyone should take umbrage at the suggestion that modesty is sometimes required of them. The boy/girl comparison is ludicrous. Boys, and not girls, may have been allowed shorts at some of these events for the simple reason that girls’ wear is risqué (often revealing full legs and then some), whereas boys’ wear is knee length. If there is a double standard, it is in the direction of revealing too much of the young female, not the male. The author of the article deliberately ignores this and seems to like this double standard, which is, quite frankly, a blight on the modern fashion industry. Case in point: when was the last time you saw an American boy or man in a speedo? Whereas bikinis dot the landscape. Where have all the older feminists gone, who decry this sort of double standard?

  94. I’m also a little mystified by the references here to boys requiring shirts for swim, and girls going topless. I have never even hear of such a thing. In my experience, it has been universally the opposite. And if this universality were not so, why aren’t people here complaining about such modesty restrictions against boys? Have I happened upon a lesbian fantasy site here?

  95. “Have I happened upon a lesbian fantasy site here?”

    I would like to nominate Gerste for commenter of the year if the Niblets / whatever are revived. Someone, please, mark the last comment so it won’t be lost to history.

  96. This summer, instead of sending my 14-year old daughter to Girls Camp or EFY, we let her take a 3 credit, 8 day class at a local university. No modesty rules, no shaming, no exclusionary behavior. Just a teenage girl learning how to act like an adult.

    We’ve taught her that modesty in dress is all about making the right choices for the right occasion. Swimwear for church is not appropriate. Prom dresses for pulling weeds is equally inappropriate. If her leaders ever pulled the shorts/shirt/swimwear stunt, I’d have to ask them, “Says here in FSOY that one-piece is fine, two-piece is not fine. Where does it say that a three-piece is fine? If two is bad, isn’t three worse?” Lucky for us, we’ve got some YW leadership who try to focus on being a nice and well-rounded person rather than concerning themselves with how the outside of the vessel appears.

  97. Meldrum the Less says:

    Why last comment deleted:
    “Nazi Mormon” = literary immodesty?

  98. I wonder if the rules have more to do with safety than modesty. I know the girls camp “rules” vary not because the church isn’t true, but because it is true. The leaders in our areas prayerfully consider many things with girls camp, including clothing. Why? The safety of the girls is the reason; spiritual safety as well as physical safety are always considered. I know the long pants and shoes required at our YW camp were for safety. Flip-flops can and usually does equal lots of first aid on feet. Capris and shorts, not matter their length are not a good idea for hiking through dense shrubbery. We were in a high altitude and a forest. This area requires these measures. We’d hate for the girls to be hurt and try really hard to keep them safe. We ask that they wear sunscreen too and not stay in certain clothing, like swimsuits too long, because of sunburn risks. I would suppose areas in the world where the camps have varying rules are because of these reasons. However, I don’t know for certain, because I haven’t spoken with the leaders in your area. I would suggest you have that talk. There isn’t anything wrong with asking the leader why they are asked to do that and having a grown-up discussion with them. Posting an embarrassing and erroneous article on the internet won’t help to do anything, but confuse some and excite people to rebellion and contention in others. I understand there is a lot of foolish traditions in a lot of areas, which is why I am sure there is the handbook and so many manuals, but problem solving occurs with thoughtful, calm dialogue with the people who are in a position to help and change, if necessary. If you look at the camp manual, the goals for camp are as follows: The first point is to draw closer to God, the second point is to appreciate and feel reverence for nature, the third to become more self-reliant, the fourth is to develop leadership skills, the fifth is to respect and protect the environment, the sixth is to serve others, the seventh is to build friendships, and the last is to enjoy camping and have fun. There are lots of different goals for lots of different girls, so each girl can come away with something to help her improve her situation and life. Safety ensures that these goals can be accomplished. Have you ever tried to absorb knowledge when you have a horrible sunburn? I have. The only thing I remember is I couldn’t remember anything. I was too tired, sore, and miserable to think of anything but myself. That is something leaders try to avoid. Most YW leaders and priesthood leaders are just trying to help support what should be being taught in the home. They devote their time to the youth without pay or expectation of reward or gratitude. They do it because they love Heavenly Father and the youth they work with. Leaders, like parents, are human and can make mistakes for various reasons. However, that doesn’t mean that we shame ourselves and our religion by posting things that aren’t even completely factual. There are a million appropriate channels for this discussion, but I don’t feel like this is one of them, unless the purpose is contention not change.

  99. Thomas Parkin says:

    ” Case in point: when was the last time you saw an American boy or man in a speedo?”

    One of my grandfathers used to wear a speedo at the beach. That’s something that you can’t un-see. I’m a brownie with a little dog poo in it thanks to my grandfather and his speedo. Who is to blame? Probably me for going to the beach. Alternately, patriarchy, which seems to say those old geezers can wear whatever they want. What really fills me with anger and hatred is the double standard.

    Also! I wish they would require the young women to wear mouth guards when hiking. As many of us know from unfortunate experience, hiking often leads to tripping when in nature, and tripping sometimes leads to having one’s front teeth knocked out. Who is considering the young woman with her front teeth knocked out? What young man will have her now? There’s always dentistry, I guess. But are you going to be the one that confesses to using modern dentistry? Me, either.

  100. Heather, I think you hit the real point in your last sentence…

  101. it's a series of tubes says:

    Heather, if you can make a good faith argument as to why shorts and a shirt over a swimsuit WHILE SWIMMING is for increased “safety”, I’m all ears.

  102. “There are a million appropriate channels for this discussion, but I don’t feel like this is one of them, unless the purpose is contention not change.” The very faithful, orthodox members who have shared these experiences with me have felt either powerless to get leaders to listen to them when they point out that things have gone too far or have been told they just didn’t get the dangers of immodesty – at an all girls camp. Overzealous leaders (well intentioned and misguided) feel confident that they are on the side of right in building hedges about the law. If church leaders above them instructed them to just follow the FSOY while providing information about things like ticks and poison ivy that are relevant to some camps, they would back off. The most zealous members don’t care what the “average” parent thinks, just what they receive top down. Likewise, if members who have been concerned about these issues but been unable to get leaders to listen had some data about norms as I provided in the post, maybe they would be listened to when they raised their concerns. I can guarantee you that leaders in Malaysia were following what they believed were US-based norms as told to them by zealous members.

    There is a trend among members to think that any criticism or call for change is “contention.” That’s a misinterpretation of scripture. Silencing criticism is a knee jerk reaction in the church by many; why not instead use it to improve? Only the disengaged are silent, and it’s hard to say which came first: being disengaged or being silenced. That’s the point of the quote by W.C. Fields. Does the church really only want dead fish that float downstream (go with the flow) or living fish that swim upstream (sometimes pushing back against the flow)?

    Girls camp is for the girls, not the leaders. People not of our faith should feel welcomed at our activities, not like they are being sent to a Jesus boot camp with weirdos. Those that are most zealous about imposing rules to control behavior are the least effective missionaries because they lack the mindset of welcoming outsiders. If we don’t care about growth and our reputation, then by all means, let’s proceed down this path.

    My current stake does not do this (we no longer live abroad). Also my daughter is ten, not of YW age yet. It’s an issue that needs addressing where it exists. This post is intended to help people have those discussions.

  103. “It’s a series of tubes”, as I understand, that the situation to which you refer to was a one time incident, and as it appears, it was quickly resolved, and that situation was definitely an extreme taken too far, but if you really want to have a reason for wearing shorts and a shirt while swimming, look at surfers, wake-boarders, and other outdoors water sports enthusiasts. In that culture (which usually is considered the “cool” of water sports), it is considered taboo to not wear a rash guard with short sleeves at the least, and shorts, if not a full body suit. Why? to protect from the elements, impact injuries upon wipe- out, extreme sunburn from the reflections on the water, and the things in the water, as well as to remove much of the friction caused by “traditional” swimwear. Granted, I know that not all swimming is as extreme as these sports, but it does make a certain amount of sense in some situations, so I would not condemn it for all situations, as you seemed to imply. Furthermore, they may have been trying to cater to the area, as they were a stake in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country. They may not have known what would be appropriate for a pool in said community, and may have been trying to protect their youth from negative social consequences. I have rarely met a youth leader anywhere who did not have their girls best interests at hear. For this situation, I would suggest that everyone be less hasty to judge the intentions of the leaders of the youth in that stake, as you most likely have never met them or their youth and even if you had, most likely would not know what was on their minds and in their hearts when they planned the activity. Also, the church is perfect, the people are not. They may have made an honest mistake. Last I heard, everyone does. Additionally, addressing the no tank top rule, I do believe that the for strength of youth pamphlet specifically states that shoulders should be covered. Are you not preparing these young women the enter the temple? I have not been through the temple, but as I understand it, there are certain undergarments that you wear after having gone through, that you would not be able to wear in the intended manner if you were to wear them with a tank top. If that is indeed the end goal of young women’s, as the general authorities have said, then why would it be appropriate for these young ladies to wear clothing that does not prepare them for the covenants they plan to make? I would like to add that there have been studies done that prove that a trigger for many sexual predators, especially pedophiles, is bare shoulders, it is a dysfunction in the brain of those who are genetically pre-disposed to have such inclinations, so covering your shoulders actually can be a safety measure as well, for more than just sunburn. I would like to add that I am an 18 year old girl, and I do not feel like I am drowning in modesty standards anywhere, I never have. It sets us apart from the rest of the world and gives me opportunities to share the gospel that I would not have otherwise. I don’t dress frumpy, I am quite the fashion enthusiast, actually, and there is such a thing as modest fashion, and in many cases it is just as cute or cuter than its immodest equivalent. I feel that my modest but fashionable attire is an outward representation of my inward respect for myself and for the standards set for me by the Lord. I am grateful for a mother and young women’s leaders who have taught me appropriate modest standards, and I am grateful to the men whom I have met who appreciate modesty, especially those who openly express it. That is the kind of man I would want to marry, because to me that says he respects women, and admires a woman who respects herself.

  104. it's a series of tubes says:

    I have rarely met a youth leader anywhere who did not have their girls best interests at heart.

    Gracie, I don’t doubt the sincere good intentions of the leaders. My comments are focused on the outcomes.

    re: surfing – you’re proving my point. Appropropriate dress for a particular activity. The trouble noted in the OP is that in many instances, inappropriate dress for a particular activity is being required, under the false cover of “modesty”.

  105. Meldrum the Less says:

    Angela :

    Without change there is going to be contention and a heck of a lot more of it.

    Example 1: My boy, age 16 at the time, a big strong strapping guy over 6 feet tall, with beautiful long blond curly hair shows up to YM on a Georgia hot summer Wed night wearing cargo shorts and sandals. One of the overweight white shirts from the stake standing in the foyer informs him that his sandals are immodest. My boy hops out of the sandals and quick as a cat stuffs them down the front of the pants of the guy in the white shirt. Son smiles and as he runs barefoot past the large painting of Jesus, pointing out an nearly identical pair of sandals on His feet and sprints on down the hall. The guy in the white shirt demands that I discipline him. I tell him that I have to live with him and he is bigger than me and if anything he is in more of a position to discipline me. I suggest he give the sandals back and apologize, he refuses.

    Example 2: Same son at deacon age shows up in cousins ward in Utah and comes forward to pass the sacrament. He is wearing a blue shirt as allowed in our ward and everyone else wears a white shirt. Deacons president tells him to scram, threatening to put him in a snow bank. Bishop sees the contention and investigates, finding the boy in the blue shirt to be a relative of one of his counselors. Bishop decrees that an exception can be made for one Sunday but he is sure a white shirt will be made available to be worn by the next week. No less than 4 adult men with callings in various capacities show up increasingly a little more late for church during the opening song and announcements, they walk to the front and try to dismiss the boy in the blue shirt, each not knowing of the previous events. Each time the Bishop waves them off while the audience is increasingly fascinated at the unfolding drama.

    The last guy goes up on the stand during the sacrament song to squat at the Bishop’s feet and plead his case why a boy from Georgia in a blue shirt should not be allowed to pass the sacrament. My son decides this has gotten ridiculous and is distracting from the meeting. He simply walks out of the building and over to relatives house. After the sacrament is passed I leave quietly and we have our own church meeting which is rather interesting. Later that day an intense argument ensues when uncle rebukes my son for the episode threatening him with corporal punishment and son informs his uncle that wearing white shirts is not in the hand book and is effectively a local made-up rule. Uncle hunts and hunts for it in his hand book growing increasingly angry. Son suggests going through a 4 year stack of Ensigns nearby, might find it in there. Younger sons numbering 4 along with some other assorted cousins watch their father’s authority cheerfully dismantled by visiting much admired snarky older cousin. Guess who wears the blue shirt again the next week and sits on the back row? Family-centered church, eh?

    I could give you a dozen more examples, some of them bad enough they would get “moderated” off this gentle blog and I am telling you this is destroying faith and driving many people out. More needs to be done than blogging about it.

  106. I guided a group of YW into the high Uintas a few years ago. We had strict guidelines on footwear, attire and behavior that resembled many of the rules some of you are squawking about. Modesty wasn’t the issue for us. (Frankly, I’m too old to really care. They are all my daughters at this point in my life.) Sunburn, injuries, the health and comfort for the girls were the overwhelming concerns. Liability was an issue. Kids (and many allegedly adult leaders) are ignorant and naive about what the environment can throw at you. When you are hike into alpine conditions, sunburn is a REAL threat. In the past, I’ve seen YWs’ feet and torsos so blistered they could barely move.

    Incidentally, there was initially some grumbling from that group of city girls, but we had a great trip.

  107. A wetsuit is made from appropriate fabric for in water. Not so with street shorts and tee shirts.

  108. Gracie, you said you were 18. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Did you know that not more than 10-12 years ago it was not abnormal or immodest at all for nonendowed LDS girls/women to wear tank tops and have their knees uncovered. I know shocking isn’t it!! Yes a girl could show her shoulder at YW/mutal events even. Crazy! Scandelous right? Yet, the entire generation before yours still managed to make it to the temple and adjust to garments. Just like YM that go on missions somehow manage to adjust to wearing suits everyday even though they didnt wear them constantly before. Oh and the boys were responsible for their own thoughts…not the girls, what a concept right? See that’s what happens when we teach principles of why we do things and not just set outward markers of who is righteous and who is not. The individual gains a real testimony of the principal not based on social fear and cultural stigma but because they have a true choice on how to apply the principal. The OP is addressing the fact that we are removing even common sense and safety in a quest to control what females wear. What is sad is that in one generation the concept of what is modest has changed so much that shoulders and knees have become sexual body parts. Just thought you might like to know things have not always been this way.

  109. I am as fed up with the modesty stuff as anyone, but the complaints about skin protecting clothing sound like they come from people who don’t spend much time in the mountains. T-shirts, board shorts or wetsuits are increasingly common even on CA beaches as we have become more sun wary. If no one looks out of place on a CA beach in longer shorts and a long sleeved rash guard, I think the outrage about modesty rules might need to be more appropriately targeted. I was in the YW’s Presidency years ago and the Prez came up with the idea that we should have huge T-shirts at the ready in case a girl showed up dressed “immodestly”. I told her that would be humiliating and the offender would never show up at church again. Others agreed and the idea died. However, this same Prez drove the girls to Utah every year to see BYU and literally hounded everyone of them into college. People aren’t always one dimensional.

  110. anonforthis says:

    My friend was 11 years old and wore tank tops. She was very developed for her age and shouldn’t have worn them, but she did. Our bishop called her in and told her she was a slut. He did not say that she dressed like a slut, but that she WAS one. Years later she told me about it. At the time she was a virgin and didn’t even know what the word slut meant. It broke her heart, and she stopped coming to church. People shouldn’t judge others by what they wear.

    At camp…maybe have a list of advised clothing, if kids don’t comply, they learn by natural consequences. Kids and parents can sign that they have been advised and that they take full responsibility.

  111. “People aren’t always one dimensional.”

    Um, a different example might have made your point better.

  112. Meldrum the Less says:

    I have refrained from writing the several thousand word rant it would require to describe the horrible experience my daughter had the one time she went to camp with the YW in our ward at age 12 and the problems were not limited to modesty issues. I wish I had hired an attorney…. But it occurred to me that it would be more useful to parents of teenage girls to describe what she did the other 5 or 6 years in place of summer camp. I could kick myself for not mentioning this before.

    Daughter’s best LDS friend in late grade school developed precociously and found herself a 12 year old trapped in a 17 year old body. Her parents were rigid and got increasingly more strict. I am aware of rebellion, hatred, general disrespect, shop-lifting, alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity, In fact she threw herself at the few non-LDS boys in junior high who showed any interest in the LDS girls. This was extremely disruptive of the girls’ little ward posse. (Her outcome ultimately was not very good although she is married now and seems to be getting it together.) Her court ordered non-LDS therapist suggested a summer camp in Salt Lake for this troubled girl and at age 13 she recruited my daughter to go with her the first year. (This would have been about 10 years ago.)

    The camp was called “Be the Best You” and it was focused on the idea that self respect is the key to youth developing to their full potential and self respect comes through service to others. The way we understood the camp agenda, it was highly consistent with the principles of positive discipline. The girls spent most of their time serving at hospitals, rest homes, shelters, etc. along with some time for instruction and fun activities. It was mixed LDS and non-LDS although the LDS influence seemed to grow over the 5 years she went. I think most of the adults running it are LDS. It was held at the University of Utah, not in the mountains or woods in tents. It cost about $300-400 if I recall (and tacked onto a transcontinental plane ticket, that got expensive). But the girls earned most of the money.

    The director was this amazing woman named Barbara Jones who had a love and gift working with young women unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Think of the greatest YW president/ summer camp director and raise it to the tenth power. She also had this altered ego named Ma-weeda who made frequent appearances. As I recall (perhaps less than perfectly) Ma-weeda wore old cat-eye glasses, buck teeth, too much make-up and tacky cloths. She was an over-the top parody of the domineering, unreasonable adult figure that haunts the imagination of almost every teenager and she was roll-on-the-floor funny. I would pay money just to see what Ma-weeda did with some of the crazy new modesty rules. I think Ma-weeda taught the girls how to deal with unreasonable, over-zealous adults through humor and balance. Sending my daughter to this camp was many times more valuable than the monetary cost. The comparison with our ward camps was like comparing the stars in the heavens with dirt clods in your back yard.

    If your ward summer camp for girls is not meeting expectations for any reason, and not just limited to the modesty pogrom, I would give this camp a careful look. I would hope they are still around and on line. If you can’t get you daughter to earn the money and can’t afford it, I would seriously consider taking it out of tithing, it was that good. Seriously, I would surrender a TR to get a 13 year old daughter into this camp if that was what it took. You have choices and those years of youth pass too quickly and are too critical to waste them. I bet there are quite a variety of excellent options if you started looking around outside the confines of Fortress Mormon and this one is barely outside the gate.

  113. “I see your anecdote and raise you my more important one.”

  114. The article never mentions what the leaders’ reasoning was behind the added restrictions. Without this, it is hard to fairly judge, and I feel like all this article did was just that: JUDGE. The general air of the article seems somewhat like a rant about a rant, taking examples from an incredibly small sample size.
    Could it be possible that a YW leader who’s daughter had been raped and killed, would reason differently than someone without that experience? I feel like this article prejudged those who made such restrictions by not allowing them to have a voice in the matter. Instead, they were grouped and labeled as ultra orthodox, not allowing a voice for personal experiences or the way they were raised and what they perceive as normal.
    This article makes it seem like the problem is wide spread. Does this article represent the majority of stakes/wards guidelines? Or are we simply airing out the dirty laundry of a few stakes/wards for the world to see?

  115. I agree that rules requiring tee-shirts and shorts over swimsuits is over-the-top (pun intended) and extreme. As a former Stake YW President who has attended many Girls Camps (at least 14), I want to defend the closed shoe policy, however. In my experience, almost every accident involving a young woman at camp that required a trip to the emergency room was due to poor footwear. We had girls trip into fire pits, trip while running down hill, fall & seriously injure themselves and other incidents, all due to flip-flops, light-weight sandals, or other inappropriate footwear. We required tennis shoes or hiking shoes unless the girls were using the shower or at the beach (but the flip-flops had to be carried there). Today, there are better, toe-enclosed hiking sandals that would be fine for camp that weren’t available 7 or 8 years ago.

  116. Sam: “This article makes it seem like the problem is wide spread. Does this article represent the majority of stakes/wards guidelines?” From the OP, 13.2% of those surveyed lived in wards or stakes that require girls to wear a tee shirt over a one piece swimsuit. 5.7% further require knee length shorts over the swimsuit with the tee shirt. Additionally, 11.3% (a similar number when you look at it) said the girls had more restrictions than the boys.

    I’m not sure who you think reads BCC if you are worried about “the world” seeing it. My hope is that some YW leaders and parents of YW will see that this is not the norm and will raise these issues if the guidelines in their stakes go beyond the FSOY without any further explanation. I’ve given them the limited data I could gather for this OP to be informed when they raise the question.

  117. I have lots of stories on this subject. This one has always bothered me. Maybe a decade or so ago, we had a bishop brick that set crazy rules for our ward. Let me just say that most of the members in the ward were poor, often converts, and many struggle with activity in general. The boys were told they wouldn’t be allowed to bless or pass the Sacrament in anything other than black slacks. One of the boys ( who came from a poor family with a lot of tragic experiences) wore brand new black denim jeans and was sitting with the boys in preparation to bless the Sacrament. Before the meeting started, he was sent home to change before he would be allowed to bless. This young man went home… AND NEVER CAME BACK! Ever! Not just that day. He became an inactive member. How sad is that? Obviously he was already struggling with activity and instead of welcoming him to church, he was met with stupid rules that made him feel unwelcome. This story still hurts my heart, and I am reminded of so many other experiences I have had. On our church buildings it says ” visitors welcome.” but how welcome could a visitor possibly feel? This whole issue makes me sick!

  118. Meldrum the Less says:

    Once upon a time, Dax and Gracie…

    My mother-in-law, born in 1930’s, grew up in Salt Lake and went to high school/college with several of the general authorities’ daughters. I have seen shocking pictures of prom night of the time. Strapless gowns with nothing but skin from the head down about 16 inches. Bare shoulders and backs and inches of cleavage in front. Bare knees and flashes of lower thigh while swing dancing. Most of them lived at home and went to the University of Utah. But even at BYU, the same thing. And if you can believe it, some of those GA daughters drank coffee and tea which was against the teachings of the church but not considered that big of a deal. Yes, the GA’s let their daughters drink coffee and didn’t excommunicate them. Fast times they were.

    My grandfather, another generation back, knew J Golden Kimball a favorite GA and he used to drink.. (cough) whiskey! Can you believe it? J. Golden generally kept it a secret, sort of and his childhood friend President Heber J. Grant told him to knock it off, repeatedly. But he just kept repenting too damn fast.

    A favorite story: J Golden was sitting at a bar with a couple ounces of whiskey in front of him. A gentile approached him and said, “Hain’t you that famous Mormon Apostle? J Golden says ‘Yep.” And the gentile says, “Don’t you Mormons preach against whiskey drinking?” Golden answers again, ‘Yep.” Then how do you explain all this? J Golden replied, ” I’ve already repented of it.” And he downed the whiskey in one gulp.

    I think there are consequences to pretending the sugar-coated version of church history and the modesty over-zealotry might be another one of them. There were things we shouldn’t do and things we really shouldn’t do. We seem to have lost the ability to tell the difference.

    (I am not advocating coffee, tea or whiskey drinking by GAs or anyone else, for the record.)

  119. Meldrum for Less,
    Yup it’s sad how many things change due to people becoming scared of the outside world and then placing their standards on the church culture at large. I’ve seen the Y pictures of students in beautiful strapless dresses as well from the early 50’s. I always laugh when people say the “the Lord’s standards for modest dress don’t change” ummm ok sure.

  120. I am the only daughter in a large family. If I had restrictions like that at camp,I don’t remember. I never noticed what dress codes my brothers had at scout camp either and I didn’t really care. I think people who pay too much attention to these things (you) are the ones causing the problems. I moved from one state to another when I was sixteen. The rules were more strict regarding dress at girls camp in the second place I lived. We weren’t allowed to bring our swimsuits (there was no swimming there at all–the only water was a small stream that was about a 2 mile hike) and we had to wear jeans, not shorts, which I assumed was more to do with safety than modesty. Perhaps I was wrong, but that was how I interpreted it. I had always been taught in camp safety courses that the best clothes to wear while hiking are long pants to keep your legs protected from things like poison ivy and chiggers/ticks/mosquitoes. So if modesty was the intent, I wasn’t objectified by it. Perhaps other girls were.

    The point I’m trying to make is that my parents always taught me to dress modestly. They preferred that I didn’t wear sleeveless or strapless or too tight or too low cut or midriff-baring or super short shorts. I chose not to because I felt it wasn’t modest. According to you and your post, that’s because I was shamed into thinking that or objectified. Rather, I just didn’t want to. I never felt like it was sexualizing me or that I was ashamed to dress in a way I wasn’t comfortable. Why do all you knit-pickers have to make this about shame? If an LDS girl chooses to cover herself on her shoulders and down to her knees, according to you, it’s only because she was shamed into doing it. I disagree.

    You also offer no suggestions as to how YOU would teach modesty. I am now the mother of four boys and two girls. My daughter who is five has never been dressed in sleeveless or strapped shirts/dresses. She has always worn a white T-shirt or blouse under anything with straps. Of course, that is fashionable now and it wasn’t when I was a child. But I never made it an issue. I simply bought clothes for her that I wanted her to wear. If we received gifts from friends and relatives, if it was something I wasn’t comfortable with, she didn’t wear it. Although I truthfully can’t remember that ever happening. My boys aren’t allowed to walk around shirtless, even in the house. We’ve taught them to cover themselves. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to teach a young woman that a bikini isn’t the most modest choice of swimwear? Why is it wrong to teach them that a better choice would be something that covers her stomach and doesn’t expose her chest too low? I just don’t understand why it’s wrong to actually give more specific guidelines to modesty for both the boys and girls and that if I do that, it somehow sexualizes and shames them.

    I’m really tired of seeing this argument in LDS circles everywhere. The way you write makes you sound like you approve of 16-year-old girls wearing short, tight, strappy dresses that are low cut and revealing to a dance or a bikini to a pool party. I just don’t understand why you think that’s appropriate and that those of us who don’t are demonized for teaching our children what we find appropriate.

  121. August, fwiw, if you come back to check, I think you have badly misread what Angela meant in this post and are assuming things about her that are not true and not implied here.

  122. “She has always worn a white T-shirt or blouse under anything with straps. Of course, that is fashionable now and it wasn’t when I was a child.”

    Fashionable where?? Utah?

    And what Ray said.

  123. Fashionable meaning I see it all the time in Utah and Arizona on girls who are young, teenagers and women. When I was a child, you never saw it. That’s what I meant. And no, I didn’t misread what she wrote or what anybody else is writing on it. The whole point of the backlash against the modesty issue is that the only reason LDS girls dress modestly is because they’re shamed into it. Of course, this post was more about the unfairness between boys and girls, but that is not church-wide, That is limited to individual people and wards and branches, so i don’t know why there is so much anger about it. Like I said, I grew up with all brothers and never felt this discrepancy. So the people who do are paying way too much attention and making it a bigger deal than it is. Like Angela in her whole post. And all the bloggers blogging about the modesty issue cry foul but don’t offer any ideas as to how it should better be taught. So again I say, stop making it a shame issue and look into your own heart to find out why you have a problem with it.

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