The modesty definition is more than a code that governs dress standards. The modesty definition involves an attitude of propriety that is manifested in a person’s language, behavior, and grooming.
Modesty is an outward expression of inner strength. Referencing the subject of modesty, the apostle Paul taught that we should respect our bodies as we would respect the temple of God.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
How We Treat Our Bodies as Temples
If we were to enter a holy temple, we would be reverent, respectful and focused on spiritual matters rather than on worldly concerns. This attitude corresponds to the modesty definition: As much as would never disrespect or deface a temple, we would not tattoo, disfigure, carelessly expose or violate our body. Speaking to the theme of the modesty definition, a prominent religious leader, John S. Tanner, expounded on the symbolical similarities of our bodies and temples.
The paramount principle for all age groups–from toddlers to teens, from young adults to the aged–is to treat the body as a temple. ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’ asks Paul. (1 Cor. 3:16.)
… temples are profoundly sacred places. They are private, closed to the eyes of the world, reserved for those who have made solemn covenants; they are treated with respect and talked about with reverence. The Lord expects us to treat our bodies in the same way.
Likewise, our temples are kept beautiful on the outside. I spent many, many hours grooming the temple grounds–weeding, watering, planting flowers, doing all I could to make the exterior reflect the sacred spirit inside the Lord’s holy house. Surely the Lord expects us to groom and care for our physical tabernacles also–not as the world does, but in order that the Spirit of the Lord may find a sanctuary to dwell with our own spirits. This is the ultimate aim of modesty (“To Clothe a Temple,” Conference Report, Sept. 1992).
The Modesty Definition Pertaining to Dress
A modern-day apostle, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, wrote, “Modesty in dress is one of the identifying characteristics of true saints.” That is to say, true saints of God uphold the virtue of modesty because they know that their true value lies within their divine spiritual self.
Jan Pinborough, an editor for the Ensign and Liahona magazines, listed key concepts that affect the modesty definition as it pertains to our dress:
- I am a child of God. He gave me the sacred gift of my body for a specific purpose–to do His work.
- God wants me to dress modestly. Dressing modestly reflects my divine origin and purpose.
- Dressing modestly helps me focus on God’s purpose for me, and it helps others treat me with respect (“Everything Good and Beautiful,” Ensign, March 2003).
Modesty vs. Immodesty
The modesty definition does not allow for extreme dress, language or behavior. Again, Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that immodesty means “anything worldly that excites passions and emphasizes sex and lewdness, inviting immoral practices.” Continuing, he said,
Costly and elaborate clothing in general is anything but indicative that the wearer has overcome the world and is walking humbly before the Lord. On the other hand old-fashioned, somber, uniform-type clothing worn by fanatical members of some small religious sects is wholly unbecoming in our modern society. Such habits of dress indicate a lack of understanding of sound and true principles of modesty (MD, 510).
Clearly, the modesty definition includes dressing in good taste while not yielding to some of the world’s extreme standards of style. Here are some basic rules about modesty as it pertains to our dress:
Immodest clothing includes short skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, ‘Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence? (FSY, 14)
The Modesty Definition Regarding Language and Behavior
The Modesty Definition of Language. The modesty definition of language involves avoiding filthy, profane or irreverent language. Inappropriate humor, disregard for sacred things and language that fails to edify is not characteristic of a person who seeks modesty.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:18-20).
The Modesty Definition of Behavior. The modesty definition of behavior includes being consistently humble and reverent in our actions, and by respecting the law of the land and the people around us. Modest behavior is enhanced by participating in spiritual activities such as: prayer, keeping God’s commandments, fasting, and scripture study.
The modesty definition of behavior means acting in moderation and practicing self restraint. Partaking of drugs, alcohol or participating in sexual sins contradicts the concept of modesty and also the laws of God.
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