We have received much counsel regarding parenting from our church leaders in our recent General Conferences.
In Oct. 2010 Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Quorum of the Seventy said: “What the world really needs is courageous parenting from mothers and fathers who are not afraid to speak up and take a stand.” (Nov 2010 Ensign).
In Apr 2011, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles boldly stated: “Parents can and must correct, even chasten if their children are not to be cast adrift at the mercy of a merciless adversary and his supporters.” (May 2011 Ensign, p.100).
And then urging us as parents to do better and be better, Elder Lynn G. Robbins of The Quorum of the Seventy offered this promise: “...when your children feel of your love and see your behavior, it will remind them of the Savior and draw them to Him...” (May 2011 Ensign p.105).
Tonight I speak on assignment from our Stake Presidency regarding a topic that requires courageous parenting,correction and chastening. It requires us to be above reproach in the example we set. I speak tonight about the sacred nature of our bodies and how we choose to present them.
The apostle Paul understood the sanctity of the body. To the Romans he taught:“I beseech you therefore,brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” “...And be not conformed to the world.” (Romans 12:1-2).
In presenting ourselves in this manner, we must become a modest people. In For the Strength of Youth we read: “ Your body is God's sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.” (p. 14).
One of the first acts of mercy the Lord performed for the mortal Adam and Eve, was to “...make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21). In the last days, upon the return of the Lord to the earth, the prophet Isaiah records a beautiful, symbolic gesture : “...He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isa. 61:10). Clothing our bodies has always been and will always be of great spiritual significance to the Lord and so it must be for us.
Modesty is a foundational virtue of moral purity. Perhaps that is why the First Presidency gave this very specific, direct counsel:“Never lower your dress standards for any occasion.”(FTSY p. 15). We must be a modest people “...at all times and in all things and in all places” (Mos 18:9). Whether it be washing the car, a morning jog, accommodating fashion or surviving the summer months, the Lord expects a modest people. Even when participating in school sports and extracurricular activities, the Lord expects us to be modest. I have 3 daughters who have played high school tennis. As I have gone to their matches and have seen the revealing uniforms of their opponents, my heart is full of gratitude for a tennis coach who had the courage to take a stand and purchase uniforms that are modest and appropriate for the sport. Sometimes the difference between a modest or immodest uniform is simply a parent who has the courage to take a stand and ask a coach to consider modest dress standards.
The clothing we wear has a profound influence on our feelings, thoughts, and actions. This principle is portrayed in the account of Zeniff's people and the Lamanites found in Mosiah 10. Zeniff records: “And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land – thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.” (vs 5).
Now compare that to the description of the Lamanites in the very same chapter: “they had their heads shaved that they were naked; and they were girded with a leathern girdle about their loins.” “They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people.”( vs.8,12). There is a direct correlation to what they wore and the type of people they were. The people of Zeniff clothed their nakedness and lived in peace. The Lamanites exposed their nakedness and lived barbaric lives. Understanding this principle and how it applies to us will help us be vigilant in making sure that all of our clothing “invites(s) the companionship of the Spirit...” (FTSY p. 15). Even if no one will ever see it, all of our clothing is an expression of how we feel and act. Parents let us be particularly mindful of our young women who appear to be appropriately dressed on the outside, but if their underclothing serves as a worldly reminder, they are “at the mercy of a merciless adversary”. Again I repeat Paul's admonition “be not conformed to the world”.
Part of being a modest people is to dress appropriately for sacred situations. If apparel influences how we think and act, then how important is it to present our very best selves as we attend our church meetings and the temple. I recall a daughter coming out of her room one Sunday morning and asking her dad if her earrings were appropriate to wear to church. I am grateful for a father who taught his daughter that even earrings need to be a demonstration of our respect and love for the Lord. As we look in the mirror each Sunday morning, let us take time to consider our hair styles, shoes, neck ties, jewelry, and all clothing we wear. Are we respectful, clean and in keeping with the “grandeur of the sacred ordinance of the sacrament”? (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland) Certainly our Savior deserves our very best efforts in comely appearance and respectful attire.
I reiterate the promise of Elder Lynn G. Robbins: “...when your children feel of your love and see your behavior, it will remind them of the Savior and draw them to Him...” A mother who avoids tight clothing, low-cut shirts, and inappropriate hemlines, will teach principles of modesty to children who trust her and her teachings. A son who watches his father cherish modesty is likely to seek out and cherish a modest young women. We must govern ourselves and set an undeviating example for our youth. And then, when necessary, with all the love of a tender parent, let us chasten and correct. When I was 12 years old, my classmates and I were asked to bring a baby picture to school for the last issue of the school newspaper. I noticed that many of my friends brought baby pictures of them in the bathtub or with just a diaper on. Thinking that was the cool thing to do, I found a similar picture and asked my mom if I could use it for that purpose. She explained to me that that little body in the picture was the same body that I had as a 12 year old girl, and it was sacred and holy and should not be on display for others to view. It was such an small correction, but it had a tremendous influence on me. My mother had always exemplified modesty so I trusted her teachings and knew she cared and loved me.
How wonderful for a daughter to hear her father tenderly express that he loves her way to much to let her wear immodest clothing. She will likely have greater love and respect for him and for her own body. A mother who teaches her daughter about the importance of a prom dress that covers her shoulders so that she can prepare herself for the time when she will receive her endowment, is a mother who turns her daughter to the Savior.
Brothers and Sisters, I have learned much in my study and preparation for this talk. I have been chastened by the spirit and sought correction as my understanding of the sanctity of my body has increased. I believe that Isaiah's account of the Lord clothing him in the last days, with the garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness, is not just symbolic. I have envisioned that beautiful imagery in my mind, and I have hope that the Savior will do that personally for me. I know if that is to take place, I must clothe myself in robes of righteousness every single day. I join my voice with that of the Apostle Paul. “ by the mercies of God, ... [may we] present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God”.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen