The Logic of Job’s Comforters: Why We Keep Blaming Victims, Even When We Say We Don’t

Let’s start with the Job, the archetypal tale of the phenomenon I want to discuss. After Job loses his property, his family, and his heath, his three best friends travel long distances to comfort him. And by “comfort,” I mean, “do everything within their power to convince Job that he is responsible for his own misfortunes.” Job’s comforters are the world’s first and most famous victim-blamers.

But how did they get that way? Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are not bad people. They are scared little mammals struggling to hold on to an ideology that gives them the illusion of control. They have been taught, and desperately want to believe, that righteousness brings forth the blessings of heaven. But here’s the problem: one cannot logically believe the statement, “if someone is righteous, then God will bless them” without believing the corresponding statement that “if God does not bless someone, then they are not righteous.” Job’s friends are forced into becoming his tormentors by the internal logic of their ideology.

In formal reasoning, this is known as a “contrapositive,” or a statement derived by negating both terms in a proposition and switching the antecedent and the consequent. But you don’t need a course in logic to understand this. Human beings are natural logicians (although often not very good ones), and an intuitive understanding of contraposition is part of our natural capacity for cause-and-effect reasoning. If all dogs have tails, then something that doesn’t have a tail must not be a dog.

This phenomenon, I believe, is a key to understanding why so many people who sincerely believe that it is wrong to blame rape victims for being raped continue to do and say things that blame rape victims for being raped. Even those who reject the bare proposition—that women who are raped are at some level responsible for what has happened to them—often continue to hold on to an ideology whose internal logic requires this proposition to be true.

This is a clear implication in a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune by Peggy Fletcher Stack and Erin Alberty entitled “How outdated Mormon teachings may be aiding and abetting ‘rape culture.’” As it happens, I am quoted several times in the article, including one statement that is shaping up to be one of the most controversial things I have ever said: that I can trace what girls sometimes learn in Young Women’s lessons directly to what is playing out at BYU.

How shocking! Don’t I know that we don’t teach that stuff anymore? We’ve chucked all of the evil metaphors—the nails in the board, the chewed gum, the licked cupcake. It’s been years since anyone ever said that it would be better for a young woman to come home from a date in a pine box than “without her virtue.” And Miracle of Forgiveness isn’t even in print anymore. Why do I persist in dredging up the past?

What I mean by this statement is that, while we no longer directly say that women bear the responsibility for being raped, we continue to assert precisely this proposition by actively making other statements that require it to be true.

Consider, for example, the oft-repeated instruction to young women that they must dress and act modestly because men cannot control their sexual inclinations when they are in the presence of immodest women. Along with placing the enormous burden of controlling men’s sexuality on women’s shoulders, this statement embeds a contrapositive: that, when men have not controlled their sexual inclinations, it is because women have not dressed or acted modestly.

Or consider the positive statement that women (and men) should obey the principles of the gospel so that they will be safe from the world. We say this a lot. And every time we do, we also assert the contrapositive that someone who has not been safe from the world has not obeyed the principles of the gospel. We can see precisely this contraposition in the recent assertions by BYU supporters that, if women would just obey the Honor Code, they would not have to worry about being raped.

As well-intentioned as statements like this are, they often end up causing a lot of pain. Young women internalize them and blame themselves when they are the victims of sexual abuse. Young men internalize them and learn to see women primarily as sexual temptations. And some of those young men become bishops and stake presidents who judge rape victims by the contrapositives of the teachings they learned in their youth–many of which are still part of the curriculum that they supervise and teach.

All of this is just another way of saying that we are a lot like Job’s Comforters when we talk about rape and sexual abuse. We want to live in a world where we can prevent bad things from happening to the people we love. We want these things to be part of patterns that we can predict and control. When this turns out not to be true, we often continue to insist on the world we want instead of the world we’ve got–and this can lead us to blame and criticize victims at the very moment that we should be loving them unconditionally and doing everything possible to help them heal.

Comments

  1. True but not enough. We do want predictability and control and the contrapositive comes with it. But that’s not the whole story. We also think heuristically, we easily confuse correlation for cause, and we regularly make unintended consequence mistakes.
    There are partial truths buried in these arguments. It is wise to avoid dangerous places and people. It is overall a good thing to work hard and obey the commandments. In general, on average, much of the time, life will go better for you if you do these things. And if we deny that then we will be seen as nonsensical. At the same time, one does not predict the other. One does not cause the other. There is so much randomness, so many intervening events and causes, that both the “if then” and the “if not then not” are untrue.
    I think the unintended consequences are where we must pay more attention. I want to tell my children to stay out of dark places. (And I do.) But if I don’t say it just right, then they will hear that they are at fault when things go wrong (because that’s how minds work), and others will hear that they are justified or not to blame or somehow doing what comes naturally when they attack in dark places, and yet others will treat those rapists as less culpable because we shouldn’t have presented them with opportunity. The danger of those things happening–not just hypothetically but in real life–may be so great that I shouldn’t even say “stay out of dark places” in the first place. But that is a hard lesson for me, who wants to say be careful out there.

  2. Alpineglow says:

    Yes. We want so badly for things to be in our control. Sometimes they are; often they aren’t. And that is disturbing to us. But instead of surrendering to the atonement, we double down on the false (and–literally–Devilish) belief that others’ agency can be controlled. It makes us feel safer, but it is an illusion that keeps us from turning to the atonement.

    Re: YW teachings. We also do a marvelous job of teaching young women that their preferences and feelings should be secondary to others’ preferences and feelings. “Give every guy a chance. It’s so hard for boys to ask out girls. Don’t reject him or he’ll feel bad.” And we teach them to outsource their boundaries to the FTSoY pamphlet. And we never discuss consent with the girls or the boys. Hence, in addition to the predators out there, we create decent folks who have little ability to navigate complex situations in a way that is authentic and empowering and respectful. It’s all about “the rules” instead of communicating and understanding each other. And that bleeds into marriages in unhealthy ways too.

  3. Alpineglow says:

    To be clear, “the rules” are important. But they can become an incomplete substitute for important conversations and personal judgement. And sometimes they can be used as a tool of manipulation.

    My point: we need need train both men and women to value and communicate their own judgement and preferences, recognize when others aren’t respecting their agency, and also sincerely teach people about the limits of their control and accountability. And this is so much harder than handing out a pamphlet and telling girls that they are the guardian of virtue.

  4. Left Field says:

    “Give every guy a chance. It’s so hard for boys to ask out girls. Don’t reject him or he’ll feel bad.”

    Is that a thing? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that. Or at least it didn’t seem to be a thing back when I was single. If anyone ever says this, I would object to the implications of give “every guy” a chance and don’t make anyone “feel bad.” I would tell both young men and young women that they absolutely never have to go out with anyone they don’t want to, or that seems inadvisable in any way. You can always say no for any reason, and don’t have to explain yourself.

    But I also think that both young men and young women would do well to avoid being unnecessarily restrictive or superficial in who they’re willing to go out with. It’s not really a matter of not making someone “feel bad.” That sounds kind of superficial itself. I think it’s more a matter of not being too quick to judge. This might not be someone you’re initially attracted to. But you can consider spending a little time with the person and see how it goes.

  5. Daniel T says:

    “Don’t I know that we don’t teach that stuff anymore? We’ve chucked all of the evil metaphors—the nails in the board, the chewed gum, the licked cupcake.”
    1) #noteverysundayschool
    2) This doesn’t mean that the young women who are now at BYU haven’t already internalised these crappy conversation into their own belief system.

  6. Kevin Chambers says:

    Like many people here, I’ve done a lot on this world and been to many places. But one of the best random things I’ve done and places I’ve been is meeting and getting to know Mike at grad school and eventually realizing what he is sharing to us all. I am really lucky.

  7. Great parallel with Job’s friends. This is so key to understanding the phenomenon of victim-blaming. It doesn’t spring from a cruel source, but its effects on the victim are cruel. This is a good, non-threatening way to explain that and I hope people can read it and absorb without the usual defensiveness that can happen in these discussions.

  8. Chinita says:

    Left Field, it is absolutely a thing. At least was 10 years ago when I was single. I heard it more than once in settings like stake conference in my BYU singles stake, Relief Society meetings, and special firesides about dating. I believed it and ended up being incredibly unwise and getting myself into unsafe situations by giving a stranger my number after multiple warning signs, and getting in a car with a guy when my gut told me that was a bad idea. Thankfully the worst that happened to me was a couple of really horrible dates. It was a non-mormon adult mentor that finally got it into my head that my safety was more important than a stranger’s feelings. I’m so grateful to him. No one else had ever told me that, though I’m a absolutely positive now that my parents would have said the same had they known what I was being taught.

    This fits the pattern of well meant advice, “Don’t say no because you don’t think he’s hot enough” gets internalized as “give your phone number to strange men who lie to you on the bus.”

  9. Archie says:

    If this thesis is true, that traditional ways of discussing modesty and responsibility for behavior lead to culpability for being a victim blamer in cases of rape; then it’s also true that most of the posters on this site are apostates and antichrists.

    Offensive? Highly. So is the original thesis.

    If you’d like to call someone preaching modesty and unwise behavior a victim blamer, then it’s completely fair game to view people who publicly disagree with the church as an apostate. No nuance just aggressive labeling to belittle and win a debate.

    Except, teaching one should dress wisely, and act prudently is not victim blaming. And the vast majority of the posters here are not apostates — the tone does cause some worry though.

    It’s too bad so many here have adopted a fundamentalist hard line worldly view in a false consciousness induced balancing act to counter a perceived fundamentalist church view.

    Wrong side of eternity and all that…

    The most important thing to note is, many of us will never stop teaching our girls to respect their bodies and not dress in a way that condescends from their exalted destiny. We will unapologetically further encourage them to avoid becoming a show for lustful prying eyes. And finally, we will plead with them as always to avoid bad situations. We should not have to add qualifiers in every situation that point out the obvious– that rapists are neigh unto murderers and while murderers can indeed be provoked, culpability is always at the foot of the one doing the foul deed.

    No matter how much wisdom-shaming and prophet-blaming the world attempts to do, we will not be ashamed when the ultimate perpetrators are those who seek to gratify their lust for flesh or power. There is more time spent blaming so called blamers than stamping out immorality in our culture. The problems the world faces is a direct consequence of turning away from the Lord. And yet the primary focus of so much persuasion is not in turning hearts to God, but turning the words of God’s servants against themselves.

    We know it’s a lust of flesh and power that leads to so many of our social problems and the wisest among us (that’s you guys and girls) spend time pointing fingers at your own side.

  10. Villate says:

    Archie, I notice that you only plan to teach “our girls” to respect their bodies, etc. Do you see how boys fit into this, or is it only girls who need to watch themselves? How about we also teach “our boys” to respect girls’ bodies and their own bodies at the same time? Instead of making girls the guardians of virtue (whatever that means), let’s empower boys AND girls to make decisions based on their own consciences, not on what someone else might think. That’s where the problem is, I think.

  11. pconnor says:

    Michael – I hear and get the challenge you discuss. What I would sincerely like to know, is how do we teach the value of For the Strength of Youth/honor code/self defense/etc without it leading to victim blaming?

    Additionally how do we teach to not dig a pit for our neighbors/dress modest/be mindful and supportive of other’s weakness, without communicating the onus for the sin is on those we teach?

    I sense the key is nuance and subtlety, but even with the most skilled teaching, students can come away with the wrong message. My kids miss my point all the time ;-)

  12. archie says:

    Villate,
    “We should not have to add qualifiers in every situation that point out the obvious…” this would also apply to your question. The post is primarily in the context of dialogue to girls. I’ve never heard anyone in authority disagree or teach contrary to the suggestion of empowering boys and girls to make decisions inline with their eternal character. I don’t disagree with a word of what you’re saying. I also don’t think we should stop providing wise counsel to girls (and boys if you need that qualifier).

  13. Julie M. Smith provides some additional helpful thoughts on the Tribune article here: http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php/2016/05/20th-century-lds-thought-on-sexual-assault-some-context/

  14. “We should not have to add qualifiers in every situation that point out the obvious– that rapists are neigh unto murderers and while murderers can indeed be provoked . . .”
    Nope. You can’t have it both ways. “while murderers can be provoked” puts you right back into the contrapositive and you’ve told the young men and women that they are to blame. You at least have to add qualifiers in every situation, and I’m thinking that no amount of qualifiers is enough.

  15. Not a Cougar says:

    Villate, having been raised LDS since birth I can recount numerous lesson both during the three hour block of meetings and in Youth firesides and other Mutual activities, where we young men were clearly and exhaustively instructed that we were responsible for proper behavior and interactions with women, especially in a dating setting. Your experiences may have been vastly different than mine, but I honestly do not recall that I was ever instructed by any Church member, nor do I remember thinking or feeling, that a woman was responsible for keeping my sexual desires in line.

    I can’t speak to what the young women in my wards growing up were instructed in Young Women’s settings as I wasn’t there, but I do not recall a single Mutual activity or Fireside where the burden to ensure chastity of all parties was put on the young women.

  16. Villate says:

    Not a Cougar – I wasn’t active in the Church as a YW, so I missed out on all the lessons about chastity there. I didn’t realize I was responsible for men’s thoughts until I was a young adult. ;) As a YW leader in my adulthood, I insisted on having the YW and YM together for at least one of several chastity lessons. There was a surprising amount of pushback on it, but I persevered and we actually had a pretty good discussion about why it is important to teach girls and boys the same things instead of gendering the discussion. As soon as I was released, though, the new presidency went back to the old gender-segregated way. My daughter doesn’t go to church and my son doesn’t want to talk about what he learns in YM about sex, unfortunately, so I don’t know in detail what they’re being taught or what they (he) perceive about what they’re being taught. As RS President in this same ward, I have taught a few first-Sunday lessons on blaming and judging in general and one on sexual attitudes and behavior specifically. It was discouraging to me how quickly the women went straight to the old tropes about men being uncontrollable animals and women being saintly prudes. Their daughters had said similar things.

  17. Villate says:

    And the thing about pointing out the obvious is that it’s not always obvious to everyone. Indeed, I’m sure that no one in authority thinks that boys should be free of responsibility for their actions. The point is that when you ONLY talk to the girls about it, everyone thinks it’s ONLY the girls who need to think about it. We don’t realize we’re doing the contrapositive thinking until we’ve already done it, and often not even then. Obviously, this is not always the case in every ward, as Not a Cougar experienced (and good for your ward leaders, by the way). But it’s prevalent enough in the culture that I think it would be good to be more mindful about explicitly including boys in the discussion and maybe shift our focus to attitudes rather than behaviors so we can stop making assumptions about what “causes” bad things to happen.

  18. Not a Cougar,
    I don’t think your experience is that different than most YM in the church. The question I have, is whether you were ever taught that you were responsible for keeping a the young women’s sexual desires in line. Because every chastity/modesty lesson I ever had in YW was centered around us keeping men’s sexual desires in line, but no one ever told the YM in our ward that they needed to keep our sexual desires in line. I think the general thinking is that men are responsible for keeping their own sexual desires in line and women are responsible for keeping everyone’s sexual desires in line. That is the problem with the way we teach modesty. It should be about respecting God and respecting yourself, it should have nothing to do with the raging hormones of the 14 year old boy next door.

    And, completely off topic but,I remember having a lesson on writing letters to missionaries when I was 17 and there was a whole discussion on how important it was to word our letters correctly so that we didn’t arouse any sexual feelings in the missionaries. The things they told us to avoid were ridiculous. They were things like, don’t mention if you are currently dating anyone or planning to get married soon (I wasn’t allowed to write to my best friend who was a male missionary if I had gotten engaged? – which I never would have that young, but still), don’t bring up any experiences you had together if they occurred on a date, always include motivating scriptures in your letters. It was weird.

  19. Anon for this says:

    The era I grew up in was very much inundated with the message that it was girls’ responsibility to protect men’s virtue and priesthood.

    Lesson 9: Chastity and Modesty from THE LATTER-DAY SAINT WOMAN: BASIC MANUAL FOR WOMEN, PART A.

    “We are responsible for the effect our dress standards have on others. Anything that causes improper thoughts or sets a bad example before others is not modest. It is especially important that we teach young girls not to wear clothes that would encourage young men to have improper thoughts.”

    Lesson 19: Teaching Modesty and Virtue in the Home from DUTIES AND BLESSINGS OF THE PRIESTHOOD: BASIC MANUAL FOR PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS, PART A.

    “One contributing factor to immodesty and a breakdown of moral values is the modern dress. I am sure that the immodest clothes that are worn by some of our young women, and their mothers, contribute directly and indirectly to the immorality of this age. Even fathers sometimes encourage it. I wonder if our young sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before young men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered. …”

  20. Not a Cougar says:

    Villate, thank you for your response. My aim in my previous post was simply to point out that my experience has been that local YM leaders made it clear that young men were responsible for their own actions when interacting with young women (and other women I guess, not that we really ever contemplated intimate contact with older women!). It was in response to a underlying supposition on this topic that the Church does little to instruct young men about proper behavior regarding interactions with women. If that truly is the case, then I was and am completely unaware of it. If I’m an overly sensitive Don Quixote tilting at thoroughly non-existent windmills, my apologies, and forget I said anything.

    EBK, I seem to recall references to Joseph and Potiphar’s wife during lessons on chastity with the point being that, regardless of whether a young woman was willing, we were responsible as priesthood holders. As to your experiences with instruction on chastity and dress, I’m sorry that the instructors failed to emphasize the proper reasons for modest dress. As I imagine it was and probably is for most young men, it wasn’t a topic we thought too much about, as our regimen of khaki pants with white shirts on Sunday and t-shirts, jeans, and long baggy shorts were considered perfectly ok. It only ever aroused discussion when leaders would talk about whether our t-shirts had anything graphic or inappropriate on them (I had what I thought was a hilarious Mossimo t-shirt that I was asked to never wear to Mutual ever again). If bare chests and genital exposing waistlines ever become truly trendy (Zoolander 3, anyone?), I’m sure we would hear much more about male modesty.

  21. Sheila says:

    Just wanted to say how much I’ve appreciated Michael Austin’s posts (and commentary from BCC authors) on this topic the past few weeks. Voices of reason amidst the nonsense is really helpful when seeing exactly how much work there is to do in changing attitudes and perceptions within the LDS community.

  22. Just to add to Anon for That’s comments. Elaine Dalton said this in the Young Women Leadership Training that is very accessible in on LDS.org. In 2013. 2013.

    “We as women cannot do what needs to be done with the opposition so forcefully working on our young women without all the power we can access. And the power of the priesthood will help us keep these young women safe, will help us be safe. And so we talk a lot with our young women about virtue, why would that be? Because there is power in purity. And virtue is so absolutely being attacked in the world today so it is so absolutely critical for all of us to be as pure as we possibly can. Why? So that we can be worthy to have the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead with us: the Holy Ghost…and there is power in purity because without purity you can say ‘amen’ to that power of any man. That priesthood can be conferred on a man, this is true, they can be given authority but they cannot have power unless they are pure. So it’s very important for us to continue to talk standards, to teach them, and to encourage them, young men and young women, to be guardians of virtue, their own virtue and others because there are so many who say ‘It is not a young women’s problem if a boy is doing something wrong. If she is immodest, it’s not her problem if the boy does something wrong.’ Well it is! We have to take responsibility for one another, we have to help one another.”

  23. “As to your experiences with instruction on chastity and dress, I’m sorry that the instructors failed to emphasize the proper reasons for modest dress.”

    Let’s not pin this on instructors who taught directly from the manual. As others have pointed out, this is our doctrine, not rogue instructors.

    “As I imagine it was and probably is for most young men, it wasn’t a topic we thought too much about, as our regimen of khaki pants with white shirts on Sunday and t-shirts, jeans, and long baggy shorts were considered perfectly ok.”

    I think this highlights the problem. Men come away with the idea that modesty is not something they need to think about. Women come away with the idea that modesty is the number one most important thing about them. Men come away with the idea that modesty is important for women, and that being immodest means that they have done something wrong. Women come away with the idea that men can’t be immodest.

  24. Another part of the problem is that, culturally, we have redefined “modesty” to refer to exposed shoulders and skirt lengths — and this discussion is providing a good example of that. But modesty is something different than temporally specific preferences about what parts of women’s bodies are attractive to those making the rules and should therefore be covered up. Modesty is a way of living that ties directly into the broader notion of morality (also a word we’ve culturally redefined to mean just “sexual morality”).

    Do we teach the YM and YW that a stake president who drives a $100,000 Range Rover is being immodest? Of course not! But why? He is. And yet that same stake president will teach a young woman that modesty means she shouldn’t wear a sun dress because that exposes her shoulders and she will therefore (in his opinion) be “causing” young men around her to have “bad thoughts.” What kind of thoughts does his ostentatious and extravagant car and lifestyle “cause” in members of his stake who struggle to get by? If, in his logic, it makes sense to tell the young woman she is responsible for the young men’s thoughts when she wears a sun dress, why is he not responsible for the thoughts his material immodesty invites in his neighbors, co-workers, and parishioners?

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    John, you and I don’t regularly agree around here, so I wanted to note that you’ve raised an important point and I completely agree.

  26. Anon for this says:

    “A Style of Our Own”: Modesty and Mormon Women, 1951-2008 – Katie Clark Blakesley

    Elder Petersen gave a talk at the annual Relief Society conference in 1962, later published in multiple venues, where he charged: “What tempts the boys to molest the girls today more than any other one thing .. . is the mode of dress of our girls,” which included skirts above the knees, tight and revealing tops, and low-cut evening gowns. When “such sights are placed before their eyes, almost like an invitation, can you blame them any more than you would the girls who tempt them, if they take advantage of those girls?”

    I realize this talk was given over 50 years ago, but, sadly, the mentality persists.

  27. John Mansfield says:

    “Do we teach the YM and YW that a stake president who drives a $100,000 Range Rover is being immodest? Of course not! But why?”

    Why? Because we’re using euphemisms. We don’t want to be vulgar or titillating, particularly in conversation with young people, so we use broad terms like “cleanliness” and “modesty” and “morality.” The broad vagueness of the words is not an accident; in fact, use of these terms as euphemisms for sexual matters depends on the words also having other, non-sexual meanings. Those other senses of modesty are not the topic at hand, and to bring up money and cars is to change the topic to something else.

  28. pconnor says:

    I am less troubled that we talk more (not solely) to YW about modesty – because they have told me on numerous occasions that it is a hard thing for them at school and socially.

    I am also less troubled that we talk more (not solely) to YM about language, anger and pornography – because they (and statistics) have told me that it is a hard thing for them.

    Even the Savior tailored his message to the audience at times.

    Btw – out stake president did call out the $100k vehicle drivers a couple of years ago!

  29. pconnor,
    I think that the amount of time we spend talking to women vs men about the issue is only a small part of the problem. The large part of the problem is that we have different standards.

    From For the Strength of Youth:
    “Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance.”

    From this reading, many people assume that the rules we put on YW, do not apply to YM. In fact, I brought this up when I was a youth and the YM often wore sleeveless shirts for basketball, but a friend of mine got in trouble for wearing a sleeveless shirt to YW basketball. The answer I was given by the bishop was that according to FSOY, only YW need to cover their shoulders. I think when pointed out like this it seems that the inconsistencies are glaringly obvious, but in our culture we don’t bat and eye at men’s shoulders, but women’s shoulders are considered immodest and scandalous.

  30. My daughters have received more church instruction on modesty in dress than I ever did as a young woman (and I thought I received a fair amount). The modesty discussion has ramped up significantly over the last 20 years. It starts in Primary now. It’s in the Friend, with stories about little girls choosing not to wearing sleeveless tops. And there is a lot more emphasis on girls dressing modestly for the sake of boys and men than there was when I was a youth, maybe because of the increased awareness of pornography use and the idea that girls and women can “become pornography” by dressing immodestly (Elder Oaks, April 2005). I’m not aware of what’s in the manuals, but every talk/lesson/fireside/whatever I’ve heard since my oldest entered the youth program has at least touched on the idea that young women are morally obligated to avoid provoking impure thoughts in the minds of boys and men.

  31. Clark Goble says:

    EBK to a certain degree modesty standards are somewhat arbitrary. As such they change with time. I’m sure many people have read Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F Smith and laughed at his sermonizing on exposed ankles.

    I also think that we should emphasize modesty more for men. Further I think we err when we tie modesty so much to sexuality whereas there are lots of types of immodesty largely unrelated in any strong way to sex. (For example a person wearing large ostentatious obviously expensive jewelry is immodest in my book – and is a kind of immodesty warned of in the Book of Mormon)

    That said it is interesting that most wards I’ve been in don’t allow shirtless sports in church activities. That seems an example of modesty. I’ve heard in a few wards condemnations of boys and young men wearing pants too low. Again modesty.

    Part of the issue is that culturally we’ve sexualized women’s bodies much more than men. As such “rape culture” is part and parcel of how the media sexualizes women and women’s dress. One can see focus on modesty as opposing such “rape culture” or one can see it as enforcing in. Typically both moves are going on beneath the surface and beyond what we consciously think about. In addition, somewhat as predicted by psychologists, as women become more empowered in our society men are expected to do more and more to portray themselves to women as worthy of their attention. Often that includes a focus on stereotypical sexual characteristics. (Tight shirts showing off muscles, more attention to grooming, etc. — compare Hollywood stars of the 50’s with contemporary stars in terms of what’s expected in terms of appearance) To the degree this is a trend (and it’s somewhat overshadowed by competing trends of healthiness and counterculture moves) then this is something the Church should adjust to.

    Adjusting to these new sexual reality is part, but of course the bigger part is just being fair so that women don’t receive unintended messages that arise from the culture that determines what is or isn’t modest. Separating out the intended from the unintended is difficult. And most people don’t even try to think what unintended meanings their speech conveys.

  32. Clark Goble says:

    pconnor, I think what’s missing is a recognition of what tempts young women. That is so much focus is put on men’s sexuality by their environment whereas so little focus is put on women’s. While women tend to stay active at higher rates than men, I think that imbalance is a huge problem. Further while young men have a problem, more emphasis needs to be placed on their free agency. I know that gets harped at a lot with emphasis on avoiding problematic situations, pornography, condemnation regarding how women feel etc., but often the issues are much broader than our lessons suggest.

  33. I’m generally with you, and with BCC on this topic over the last few weeks. A few genuine questions though, that I’m still wrestling with:

    1. Is there such a thing as sexually provocative dress and is there any moral significance to it? If so, how do we go about teaching this moral principle to youth in the church?

    2. Are there behaviors that will (from a pure statistical standpoint) decrease the likelihood of being sexually assaulted? If so, how do we go about teaching those behaviors to youth in the church?

    I’m on the fence about both issues, honestly — I’m never sure what I think about any moral proposition, and I know nothing about sexual assault statistics. But I suspect that the answers to both of the primary questions is “yes,” and that the answer to the secondary questions is, “man, it’s complicated.”

    But I really do think that these are important questions because if the answers to those primary questions is “yes,” then it seems like we have an obligation to teach these ideas. But teaching these ideas seems rife with difficulty.

  34. Clark Goble says:

    John (12:43) Why do you assume expensive dress, homes and cars aren’t considered immodest? I sure hear them being called immodest. Again it’s always important not to extrapolate too much from anecdotes, but people flashing their wealth is usually taken as unseemly in our culture and certainly in Mormon culture. (Remember the backlash about that photo of Romney with money in all his pockets from his college graduation? Immodest was a frequently used word)

    That said, I clearly agree that this discourse of modesty ought be included in our discussion of modest dress. Again I think it often is. So garish or in your face dress is frequently looked askance at even though it often has little to do with sexuality. (Think discourse on tatoos, too many peircings, “goth dress,” etc.)

    As too whether or not shoulders should be bare, midriffs bared, etc. I’ll stay out of that discussion. Whatever gets decided upon will always be somewhat arbitrary. I’m not sure there is a good way to adjudicate. Added in are generational gaps as social styles change – beards as immodest being a good contemporary example after the relatively long period where little facial hair was what was socially acceptable.

  35. pconnornc says:

    Another point that shows that perhaps we are being equal but unequal in our focus (or is that unequal but equal?)

    We tend to culturally give our YM more rigid guidelines on Sunday dress and hair length – and we hit the topic regularly. Probably not as much w/ our YM.

    We also counsel our YM and YAM more heavily about courtship and their roles and responsibilities.

    I am not being dismissive of the root problem, but I want to make sure that we wring our hands appropriately.

    For the overall topic, I still struggle to see how we teach the importance of modesty/personal safety to our YW w/out hitting some of the “blame” issues identified. Maybe it is analogous to parenting, where we counsel parents extensively on being righteous parents, then when a child goes astray they rake themselves over the coals w/ “blame”. Maybe we keep the same messaging, but make sure we balance it w/ measures of “agency”? My worry there would be that, like w/ our parents, we probably do this w/ some regularity, but all the listener hears is part of the message.

    Combining both topics, I have had opportunity recently to talk specifically w/ my daughters about modesty/protection, but these discussions have also prepared me to add healthy doses of assuring them that a) it is not a guarantee, b) regardless of what they do, they are not accountable for another person’s agency, and c) my complete availability, compassion and support w/out judgement should anything happen.

  36. Clark, because our stake presidents drive range rovers and live in mcmansions.

  37. The report of the Mark E. Petersen talk (anon, 12:27) is the most straightforward and direct statement supporting rape culture in a sermon that I’ve ever seen. It is sick. It directly places the blame for rape on women if they are dressed in a way that Elder Petersen subjectively believed was “too provocative.” It’s not ambiguous at all. Such a girl shares the blame for her rape with her rapist.

  38. John F. (14:52 PDT) isn’t wrong about that. My stake president, who lives in a 4000-sqft house in a gated community and drives a $100k BMW 7-series, regularly shares garbage articles on his LinkedIn that could only be described as Prosperity Gospel advocacy. His wife, a gum-snapping, bubble-headed bleach blonde, frequently asks the working mothers in our ward why they can’t just quit their jobs and stay home with their kids.

    The Brethren may condemn the Prosperity Gospel over the pulpit at GC, but when it comes time for High Councils to submit names to Salt Lake to consider as Stake Presidents, it far too often seems to be the men of worldly accomplishment–and more specifically, of financial accomplishment–who get shortlisted.

  39. Clark Goble says:

    John, what percentage do you think drive Range Rovers to church? Mine doesn’t. I can think of only one SP I’d put in that category (he had a Ferrari he drove occasionally – but he wasn’t my SP) I’m not saying they aren’t out there. But I wonder how many there are. (I wonder what Romney drove to Church as a SP)

    I’ve also never quite been able to figure out what counts as a “McMansion.” (Especially in a community with lots of kids) Admittedly perhaps arguing over how much presentation of wealth is too much is akin to arguing over how much presented flesh is too much (for men or women). As I said there’s a certain arbitrary judgement behind such decisions. Even starter homes these days seem to have at least 3000 ft^2. Huge compared to 50 years ago. (I think it was the 80’s when size started significantly increasing)

    pconnornc, I’m speaking out of ignorance here. Do women get lectures over hair these days? I assumed pretty much most contemporary styles were seen as socially acceptable. Maybe the one style of half the head with a buzz cut? (Or for that matter even a buzz cut or a shaved head) In contrast while perhaps long hair doesn’t have the stigma for men it did in the 70’s or late 60’s, men’s grooming does seem to get a lot of comment. (Especially men not good about shaving – it’s not uncommon to hear people comment on the three day stubble if you go to church like that regularly) Utah might be more unusual in these judgments to men. (Which I’d add are often counterproductive to keeping young men in the faith) After all missionaries are kind of the ideal that gets pushed for people pretty regularly – especially young men. Vary too far from that ideal and even if it’s not always called immodesty it functions in a similar way.

    That said, from what I hear from friends, on blogs and so forth, the biggest offenders are Young Women’s teachers rather than the brethren on all these issues. I kind of worry when my girls hit that age. (I’ve already had a primary teacher say some inappropriate things to a five year old of all things who took off a flannel sweater revealing a shoulderless dress underneath. A five year old. To even imagine someone thinking of her as being sexually immodest made me more than a little angry – and it took a while to get her comfortable with primary again. She never would wear the dress again even with the sweater.)

    Maybe again I’m wrong, but often from the outside looking in there’s a lot more judgmental comments made within the Relief Society and Young Women than I typically see or hear by Elders or Young Men towards the young women. Perhaps some of that is indeed internalizing comments by leaders from decades ago. My guess is that something more complex is going on though.

  40. Then again, my SP in the Annandale, VA Stake was a guy who, despite his $200k/year Senior Executive Service job in the federal government, rode as a “slug” (casual carpooler) into the District every day. I’ve becoming distinctly aware, though, that the culture of the Church in around DC is very different from how it is in much of the rest of the country: most everyone is engaged in public service of some sort, or at least thinks of themselves as such, even if some are richer-than-Croesus lobbyists like Jack Gerard (former president of the McLean, VA Stake and longtime president of the American Petroleum Institute).

  41. Maybe again I’m wrong, but often from the outside looking in there’s a lot more judgmental comments made within the Relief Society and Young Women than I typically see or hear by Elders or Young Men towards the young women. Perhaps some of that is indeed internalizing comments by leaders from decades ago. My guess is that something more complex is going on though.

    There never have been nastier enforcers of sexist norms than “respectable” women who happen to fall on the “right” side of the line.

  42. There’s no need for the men to make judgmental comments about girls. Women have that covered.

  43. Clark Goble says:

    APM (3:23) but how many of the people in your wards see such behavior as immodest? I bet a lot do, which would prove my point if true. Most people I know would judge it as immodest. Doesn’t mean they don’t have the mantle of course. Lots of leaders are flawed and successfully follow the spirit despite their flaws. That type of immodesty is but one flaw (and perhaps arguably not even the most significant of flaws commonly held) So being immodest doesn’t mean one can’t hold positions in the Church.

  44. Terry H says:

    As to Job, when Michael speaks, I listen.

  45. Clark, it’s one thing to have flawed leaders. It’s another for the same flaw to occur over and over again throughout the Church, or at least the Church in the US–and it creates a massive cognitive blind spot.

    People who have experienced a great deal of worldly success 1) are going to assume that their success is due to their righteousness, because that is human nature; and 2) are going to have the sort of goal-oriented, linear thinking that births a million stillborn initiatives, because the work of salvation does not lend itself to the logic of the MBA.

  46. A(nonymous to protect my) J(ob) says:

    A couple of quick points:

    * I think it best to avoid over-generalizing about people who have experienced “worldly success.” It strikes me as highly judgmental and reflects the same kind of attitude that many commenters here have decried regarding the focus on the external markers of “modesty” rather than the internal commitment to such principles. How Christ-like is it to attack someone simply because they drive a nice car or have a larger than average home?

    * Kevin (May 8 @ 11:01pm) is absolutely right about Mike. He was a fantastic Gospel Doctrine teacher in grad school.

    * It has been alluded to above, but it deserves to be asserted clearly: all of the modesty/chastity comparisons (chewed gum, etc.) employed in the past (and, unfortunately, in many places still in contemporary Church discourse) are flawed for one key reason–they effectively deny the power of the Atonement.

  47. As to the questions raised above about teaching modesty and personal protection:

    Modesty is not a protection against being assaulted. These are two different issues. The first thing we ought to do is stop linking them together.

    We ought to teach modesty in dress as an aspect of personal modesty in all of our behavior, not just as part of lessons about sex. We ought to teach these lessons about modesty to both girls and boys.

    We ought to be generally much less uptight about sex. We ought to be serious about the law of chastity, but always avoid scaring people. Figuring out sex is scary enough for adolescents without the extra anxiety they learn from adults who are scared of it. Teach kids that sex is extremely powerful and important, but don’t scare them.

    We ought to teach about personal safety mostly as a common-sense practice of avoiding dangerous situations. We ought to teach youth, especially girls but also boys, that their personal safety is always more important than demands that others might make on them. We ought to teach that finding oneself in a dangerous situation – or even putting oneself in a dangerous situation – is not necessarily a sin, and even sinful mistakes can be fixed. We should teach youth that they have the power to avoid problems and protect themselves. Part of that power is the ability to seek help whenever they need it, knowing that they will not be blamed.

  48. Clark Goble says:

    APM, but that avoids the question. How common is it? I think people are assuming it’s more common than I think it is.

  49. Clark Goble says:

    Well said Tom. I agree completely.

  50. “How Christ-like is it to attack someone simply because they drive a nice car or have a larger than average home?”

    Read the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Eye of a needle and fine-twined linen and all that. Christ and the prophets called out the rich for owning nice things while others suffer. Repeatedly. How Christ-like is it to call them out on it? Quite frankly, it’s very Christ-like. It’s what he did.

  51. Therapist says:

    Michael,
    From my years of experience in working with sexual abuse survivors and perpetrators, the statements in your post are accurate. Those survivors who blame themselves and those who blame victims often do so because they feel that if they do the “right things, they can avoid being sexually assaulted or can prevent future assaults. Of course, there are precautions we can take that may prevent some sexual assaults, including being aware of our surroundings, using physical defense techniques if attacked, etc., but individuals and organizations must remember that the responsibility for rape lies solely on the perpetrator. No one wants to be raped. No one asks to be raped. No one should ever be blamed for being raped. When we blame the victim, we absolve the perpetrator from responsibility, which is precisely what most perpetrators want to do.

    The Church needs to eliminate from its manuals anything that teaches that sexual assault survivors are somehow responsible for being attacked. Flawed teachings in General Conference addresses and Church manuals that shift the responsibility of sexual violence from the perpetrator to the victim should be revised and revoked. The Church should show Christlike love on every level for those who have suffered or who continue to suffer from the psychological, spiritual, physical, and/or emotional wounds of sexual abuse. As professed followers of Christ, we should set a higher standard of compassion and mercy for those who seek to recover from the effects of sexual violence.

  52. A(nonymous to protect my) J(ob) says:

    I hesitate to respond to Tim (6:42pm) since it is somewhat off-topic, but…..

    I believe that you have missed the point that I was making. We should not judge people based on external markers–whether wealth, modesty, piety, or any other traits. Someone driving a 1974 Pinto is not de facto more righteous than someone driving a new Range Rover, just as attendance at church meetings should not be taken as an indicator of one’s worthiness, nor should the way a person dresses be the way that others measure his or her “morality.” One never knows what is in the heart of another person, hence the Savior’s counsel not to judge.

    Moreover, the teachings in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon are not as monochromatic as you suggest. Without belaboring the point, Christ did not inveigh against wealth in and of itself; it is not an absolute evil. Rather, He focused on the problems of pride and selfishness that wealth *can* (but does not always or inherently) create. To be sure, those with means should assist those who are in need when and where possible, and failure to do so should certainly cause self-reflection for those in that position. But to criticize those who have been successful financially simply for that fact alone is certainly not Christ-like.

    Separately, let me add my kudos to Tom’s post (6:08pm). Very well stated.

  53. ” So being immodest doesn’t mean one can’t hold positions in the Church.”

    Unless you are a woman who “dresses immodestly.”

  54. sirdidymus24 says:

    A few months ago, our stake Relief Society put on a “Women’s Conference” (a sort of “Time Out for Women”). (BTW, I am a woman despite my screen name) One of the classes offered was entitled, “If the Savior Stood Beside Me, Would I Wear the Things I Wear?” (it was based on this address from a 2013 BYU Women’s Conference. It’s full of a lot of the false and destructive sentiments and teachings that reinforce rape culture that have been discussed over the past few weeks. There are too many damaging quotes in it to share. It turns my stomach. http://womensconference.ce.byu.edu/sites/womensconference.ce.byu.edu/files/carolmcconkiemodesty.pdf) I was horrified and sent a lengthy email to the stake RS president detailing how the title and concept were harmful. I prayed for days as I wrote it. I included scriptures, quotes from General Authorities, therapists and news articles (including the “chewed up gum” story by Elizabeth Smart) that displayed the toxic shame created by our LDS modesty culture. I felt genuinely inspired to speak up and guided as I researched and pulled the email together. That afternoon, I received an email in return saying: “We had a request from a YSA sister in our stake asking for a class on modesty and dressing fashionably. […] So far we have 14.1% of sisters who have signed up for that class and of those, the majority of them are YSA or young married sisters. Obviously, this one YSA sister wasn’t the only one interested in this topic. This topic was never chosen to shame or make any woman feel bad. Our goal is to teach and let sisters govern themselves.” She ended with a quote from Julie Beck (ugh): “In the church we do not have dress police. We do not have dress code police. We are not responsible for policing each others behavior. Our behavior is between us and the Lord and the bishop, and he’s the one we declare our worthiness to – that’s the measure. We are expected to be a self correcting people. If the bishop wants to assign somebody to take care of talking about this or approaching it in a certain way, then that’s a specific. In general, that’s not our responsibility. We can lead by example, we can love, we can teach principles and we can be kind and we don’t reproach because we are all in a different place in our covenant keeping.” Her email made it clear that I was the one “reproaching” and I was clearly in the wrong. I feel sick for the women (GROWN women!) who attended that class and took it for doctrine. I asked around our stake and I know of no men who have ever had to endure a class about “modesty”–especially not one that equates what they wear to whether they have a testimony or not–in their Priesthood meetings.

  55. A few thoughts regarding the issue of women/RS being those who perpetuate the victim blaming…something like 1 in 4 women in the US will be subject to sexual assault over their course of their lives. ONE IN FOUR. With that much risk, you literally cannot make it through the day without figuring out a way to cope. Unfortunately, many women (and not just Mormon women) have chosen to cope by pretending that they can control whether or not it happens to them or their daughters. No one has any real incentive to change the story, because if they did, they would realize it’s going to require significant cultural changes. Keeping a sweater over that sundress (which, obviously, doesn’t work anyway) is a lot easier to fathom than dismantling the patriarchy and working to rid ourselves of our culture of violence.

    You can’t lay all of the trouble at the feet of Mormon women – perhaps they’re responsible for communicating these messages to YW/primary girls, but all Mormon women are participating in a church that is run by men (for good or for bad). We need to believe that if we just do what we can to keep the men in line/on our side/virtuous (dressing modestly so they don’t lust after us, saying yes to dates so that they feel valued and important, whatever) that they will then continue to support us, because they literally hold the keys for everything in the church. Mormon women may do much of the work, but according to the doctrine, we cannot be exalted without an entire system of men working to get us there, providing the ordinances and guidance that we need. So if it turns out that even if I wear a sweater over that sun dress, someone who is in a position of authority over me may still take advantage of that, then I’m never safe, and the priesthood can’t save me, which means my soul *literally* cannot be saved. No one wants to believe that. So if something terrible happens to you, it must be YOUR fault, because otherwise everything falls apart.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people walk around knowingly thinking these things, but I do believe that these types of thoughts are part of the under layer (along with our teachings on reward/punishment and how prayers are answered) of why people (men and women) are so scared to discuss these subjects and why they become defensive.

  56. Clark Goble says:

    EBK, I’m sure a Bishop who in the US refused to wear a tie would get in hot water too.

  57. Clark Goble says:

    To add, since I’d assume you’d see it as more wrong to drive a Ferrari than not wear a tie, the issue is one more of appropriateness. What you see as levels of inappropriateness aren’t always shared. While I think it’s immodest to drive a Ferrari to church, as I hope I made clear I don’t see it as that big a deal. Now were I the Stake President and asked a Bishop to stop driving the Ferrari to church because of appearances and he ignored me, then there would be bigger issues. Likewise were I as SP if I asked a Bishop to dress a certain way, and they were able yet refused, then that would be a big deal to my eyes.

    If a Bishop wore low riding pants with a loose belt so you could see his underwear I’m sure he’d be immediately released. Likewise if the Bishop regularly went around activities with his shirt off there’s probably be an interview.

    Now I *personally* think we make too big a deal about shoulderless dresses. However given that’s a social standard of appropriateness, just like leaders wearing a tie is, I’d hardly be surprised were people to react to it.

    As an aside, I think Americans have largely reacted to the 60’s overemphasis on dress (still persistent in LDS meetings) to the other extreme of being too slovenly. However since I’m in my office at work in gym shorts and a fleece jacket I’d probably be really hypocritical making such a claim.

  58. I’d love to have a Bishop who didn’t wear a tie, but then again, I wish we could just relax all around when it comes to what constitutes “appropriate church attire” and what doesn’t. But, I think all of us take comfort in having outward markers of the group people fall into. We like to be able to instantly tell if someone falls into a category of “faithfulness” or “orthodoxy” that we are comfortable with. I do this too. I instantly feel more comfortable around women at church if they are wearing pants or flip flops. I realize that’s not a good measure of their character, but I can’t seem to help it.

  59. “Likewise were I as SP if I asked a Bishop to dress a certain way, and they were able yet refused, then that would be a big deal to my eyes.”

    Why do you want that kind of arbitrary obedience to an individual’s aesthetic preferences to be a signal or factor in Gospel faithfulness? That really surprises me about you. I didn’t know that about you before.

  60. Clark Goble says:

    John, what I was trying to communicate is that it’s about social appropriateness. I think social appropriateness is arbitrary in its development. Do the reason we wear pants and ties are because horsemen dominated in the west rather than more southern toga wearers. The current style is arbitrary although it has that genealogy to certain roots that are historically accidental.

    However what now is socially appropriate isn’t arbitrary in the sense it’s a public relatively fixed meaning. Thus a person not abiding such measures of appropriateness are communicating something. It’s that communication that’s at issue. So my concern about immodesty in say dress in terms of low pants, expensive gaudy jewelry, expensive cars and so forth is what it is communicating. But again that communication is tied to audience. What’s appropriate in an upper middle class stake in Utah is almost certainly different from a poor ward and very different from say a ward in Samoa where different dress codes will typically be found.

    Put simply it’s about semiotics and communication and not arbitrary obedience. Again *for myself* I don’t care about a lot of the dress codes, but I recognize I’m embedded in a society where they have pre-existing meanings I need to navigate. In the same way that many of the phrases and statements we’re upset about have a meaning that have to be dealt with.

  61. What’s appropriate in an upper middle class stake in Utah is almost certainly different from a poor ward and very different from say a ward in Samoa where different dress codes will typically be found.

    The young women in the poor, inner-city wards and in Samoa are being subjected to the ideas about modesty prevailing in the upper middle class Utah wards. The upper middle class Utah wards’ decision that sundresses are immodest is being foisted upon the poor wards — so that 5 year old girls there are being told they’re somehow immodest if their shoulders are showing. It’s “standards.” But a stake president in charge of poor urban wards is still driving his range rover when he drops in there once in a while, at least in developed countries like the US, UK, Germany, etc. The relativism you seem to see isn’t playing out. The stake president isn’t being held responsible for his own immodesty in the poor areas or Samoa any more than in the upper middle class Utah wards. I really don’t think your argument is going anywhere in light of this practical reality.

  62. Clark Goble says:

    Again I’m making a distinction between “appropriateness” and “modesty.” The cultural relativism I brought up was more about type of dress. (Say wearing a white shirt and tie) That’s “appropriateness” not “modesty” which I assume is treated more broadly. So you’re taking me to be making an argument I’m not making.

  63. FWIW at one point in the early ’00s, all three members of the branch presidency in my Northeast hippie town student branch had full beards. Apostasy! Dogs and cats living in sin!

  64. Clark Goble says:

    My dad has a goatee when he was and but was asked to shave it off when he became a temple worker.

  65. I have seen what is called victim blaming on this thread in other contexts. I think in some ways it is mainly about fear. I watched it happen at work one day. Word that a man we worked with had died unexpectedly of a heart attack was shared. He was in his mid forties, as were most of the other men I worked with. Immediately the other men began making statements that distanced themselves from him and proved to themselves that this would not happen to them because: they did not smoke, they got more exercise, they ate more healthily. This whole experience startled me and made me think that our usual response is to assure ourselves that we are not at risk because we do not, then list the reasons.
    Would we have done the same as followers of Christ at the time of his crucifiction? I will not be crucified because I am not a Christian, I have not challenged the authority of our religious leaders, I do not break the Sabbath rules, etc.
    What is the correct response?
    A few years ago I gave a talk in church about the last days. I quoted Joseph Smith’s statement that the idea that all the Saints would be protected from the destructions of the latter days was false. LDS members, even the most faithful, would die. But that living the commandments, even if it did not save you from harm in this life, was the only hope for salvation.
    Have we taught false beliefs to both men and women? Yes, we have. I believe in teaching all people, especially the young who are not yet knowledgeable about predators, how to keep themselves safer. But safer is not safe. I believe we need to stress that. I also believe in teaching our young men and women that their bodies belong to them and that they should speak up, loudly if necessary, when anyone disrespects their rights, whether by word or deed.
    A little loud shaming of church teachers and leaders would not be amiss. I have had to resort to it before with a well meaning former bishop who asked intrusive questions and gave his unasked for opinion while I was entering the church building one morning. I turned the same question around on him and let him know I thought he was in error and I was judging him for it, just as he tried to judge me.
    Let me just ask the parents. Can you attend the YM and YW lessons where these ideas are being discussed? Can you use your time in fast and testimony meeting or when giving a talk or fireside to state your beliefs? Can you volunteer to be a fireside speaker to the youth on modesty and morality and their wider meanings? Can you provide the youth with a reason to live these principles? Can you teach agency and its consequences, both our own and living with the results of others, we’ll enough that the youth will understand how the world really works, not just a list of rules to obey? Can you speak openly about male and female sexual response and how they differ? Men are more visually driven in general. That does not make women responsible for men’s thoughts, only aware of how they work.

  66. I love to hear other talk about how we as members of the church must realize that we are here on this world to grow spiritually and everything on this world is simply a test to see if we will do all things God has asked us to. With regard to all the difficulty live has in store for each one of us we are here to grow. Though we don’t seek trials and temptations they come in all forms. Some will come because of other people free agency to hurt others. God allows all things things so that we will turn to Him to find comfort and peace even in times of great distress.
    We are not given a perfect life even when we are living a righteous life. God allows us to go through all kinds of things even in our righteousness. We as a Mormon culture have falsely believed that we will be given blessings for righteousness only. Now as I read and study the scriptures we see that God is a rewarder of righteousness. Job is rewarded in the end. The thing that is important to remember is that it is all according to God’s will. We are here to see what we will do even when we are obedient. We are to love God regardless of our circumstances.

  67. Katie @ 11:10

    My experience was similar. We had a young adult woman (19) working as a housekeeper for the Travelodge across the street from the public library and county courthouse. She was killed as she worked cleaning a hotel room. It rocked our small community. In conversation an LDS couple told me that they had heard a rumor that this young woman had posted her schedule on social media. I responded that we have to tell ourselves those kinds of things because if she could be murdered in broad daylight while doing her job and saving for college in a good part of town across the street from where people check out books and pay their water bill – then how could any of us ever be truly safe. It was a VERY awkward moment.

    Years later the murderer was caught in an unrelated crime. He did not know the deceased. When asked why he did it he said that he wanted to know what it felt like to kill somebody.

    This is human nature to believe that we are more in control of our environment and our own safety than we are. I personally find that LDS teaching exacerbate this tendency because we seem to believe that we can “call down the powers of heaven” in our behalf by honoring our priesthood and faithfully paying our tithing.

    The sexuality/modesty discussion is valid and I believe that it adds an additional layer of complexity to the victim shaming – but the shaming does not start there. I agree with Katie @ 11:10 when she says that it starts with fear.