#hearLDSwomen: Modesty Is Prioritized Over Safety and Practicality

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

At one of my mutual activities, all the young women were required to wear a t-shirt over their suits–regardless if it was a one-piece–while all the boys were, of course, shirtless. Any push back and we were not allowed to attend.
– Sarah A.


My daughter went to her adviser’s home for a Young Women swimming activity in a tankini that was quite modest but did technically have two pieces. She was asked to go home and change or wear a tee shirt over her suit because the leader’s husband was there. Same thing with girls’ camp and shorts, men may be tantalized by legs…
– Sherry Andersen


My exit interview was with the new mission president and he talked to me about the horrors of pornography and how male sexual response was 75% visual so I needed to be careful with how I dressed and acted around men. We didn’t talk about my mission experience at all. I barely even talked. It was all about pornography, my body, and getting married.
– Chloe M.


For one of our stake Youth Conferences, our kids were going to an Army barracks and experiencing some military-style training. On the supply list there was a note: “Everyone who attends must dress modestly. For those who don’t, we have a special pair of clown pants for you to wear.”

I found this to be atrocious. Intimidation and threats of humiliation is not Christ’s way to encourage people to make appropriate choices. I wrote an e-mail to the stake president, expressing my concerns. This email was carefully-worded, logically presented, and supported with quotes from different scriptures and conference talks about choice. I tried to point out, in an objective way, that if they want the youth to feel loved at and excited for church activities, fear, shame, and judgement would not achieve that. Instead, the modesty rules and the clown-pants threat would serve to make sure that only the kids who always attend every activity would come. Finally, I pointed out that they were visiting a hot place where they would be doing physically-active activities; surely dressing to be comfortable in the heat would be appropriate?

When the stake president e-mailed me back, he did not mention a single one of my points. Instead he said referred to the modesty section of the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet. He pointed out that the girls in the church have always been encouraged to dress modestly and that the young men who were also attending would not want to be distracted by immodest clothing. My sons and I decided together that they would not attend the youth conference after discussing the church’s unfair and unreasonable expectations for girls’ clothing.

I think what angered me the most was his refusal to seriously consider my objections. Instead, there was a quick reference to the “words of the prophets” and no acknowledgment of the real issue. But mostly it was the insistence of girls’ clothing choices influencing boys’ thoughts.
– Amy


I wanted to get a group of women together to exercise together once a week in the gym. It is too humid in the summer to meet at a park. They said yes on the following conditions: we had to have a discussion beforehand on wearing modest workout clothes, we had to have music approved by the bishop beforehand, and we had to have a priesthood holder in the building.

I asked if this included non-members that might want to join us. And I asked if the men that meet and play basketball also have to have the same discussion before they play ball.

It never ended up happening because it was just too much to get a few women together that just wanted a place to meet up and let their little kids run around the gym while they could do something active for themselves. I was bummed because I saw a lot of women that were craving a way to connect and I really felt like I had found a way. That was the beginning of me getting labeled a troublemaker. Sigh. I just wanted to use the gym.
– Anonymous


Pro Tip: See women and girls as whole people, not just a collection of body parts that need to be covered. Prioritize safety, practicality, attendance/participation, and the comfort of girls/women over arbitrary rules about how many inches of skin they’re permitted to show. Never tell a girl or woman that it is her job to dress to make men comfortable.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

You may also like...

18 Responses

  1. anon says:

    I hear you. Our girls camp has the usual no tank tops, no short shorts, no leggings rules. It gets very very hot, and these rules are ridiculous. There is nothing in the world wrong with shorts, tank tops or leggings. There are 5 men who come to camp to help. If they can’t handle seeing a leg or an arm, they should stay home. But I doubt these men care. It’s the SP’s rule.

    Last year, we combined girl’s camp with another stake, and when that SP heard the dress rules, he said “no, we’re not doing that.” Bravo.

  2. EmilyB says:

    Mormon boys and men who see these things happening are learning that Mormon girls and women can be subjugated and controlled via priesthood authority. Non-Mormon women who they pass in the street or see in the workplace as enjoying full freedom over their bodies to wear leggings, show full arms, and select shorts and skirts according to personal taste only intimidate Mormon men because such women are so empowered to dress themselves.

    No, Mormon men much prefer to date and marry girls who take clothing orders from their priesthood heads because it is a sign that their woman will obey their man in all things, right down to her daily underwear. Mormon men are used to subservient women, and non-Mormon women who choose their own underwear are just too independent for their tastes; Mormon men can’t handle that much empowerment.

    • DB says:

      Your stereotypical statements about Mormon men describe some Mormon men but not all of them, certainly not me and most other Mormon men I know. I completely agree with the sentiments in this post especially with the insistence on wearing tee shirts over swimsuits which is unsafe for swimming. I also feel that modesty expectations in the church are getting far stricter than they need to be. We don’t all disagree with you so please don’t treat all of us as if we do. No need to create divisions where there are none.

      • EmilyB says:

        Mormon men are ALL taught to marry in the temple. This means that they are instructed to only marry women who take follow underwear insurrections handed down from men and are underwear-compliant garment wearers. My statement that Mormon men prefer to marry women who take clothing orders from men is therefore accurate, because LDS men’s preference for temple marriages —> wearing garments = women taking clothing orders from men

      • EmilyB says:

        *instructions, not insurrections. WordPress doesn’t let me edit cell typos!

  3. anon says:

    As a Mormon man, the dress and grooming standards in the For Strength of Youth pamphlet are ridiculous, unnecessary, inappropriate, and offensive to any free-thinking person. We do not need a church to tell us how to dress. Shoulders are not sinful. My concern is that the strict standards have the opposite of the intended effect; that is, they teach or reinforce that women are sexual objects. Additionally, I doubt God cares about the length of our hair, facial hair, dyed hair, earrings, or those six inches above the knee cap. I hope the church tosses that silly little pamphlet, or at least that bishops stop thinking the pamphlet is the law of God.

    That example of using the gym, and how men can play basketball without being questioned, is perfect. And yes, I know plenty of Mormon men who think the dress and grooming standards are stupid antiquated tools to exercise control over people and should be discarded.

    Please, please, please, I encourage all people to point out to your bishop, stake president, and even YW leaders how terrible these standards are. For extra measure, in this I encourage civil disobedience. Dare them to kick you out of an activity, dare them to be the idiots who make a scene over a little flesh.

    • EmilyB says:

      Since a Mormon man conveniently showed up to double down on DB’s comment above, I must challenge this:

      “I know plenty of Mormon men who think the dress and grooming standards are stupid antiquated tools to exercise control over people and should be discarded.”
      —if this is true, why are we not seeing male voices defending women on social media or in the churches when these things happen? Why are men requiring us to dress according to male-imposes dress and underwear guidelines while millions of Mormon husbands look on in silence? Please show me ONE social media or blog post where an active male Mormon challenges the dress and grooming standards as antiquated stupid tools of control, let alone “plenty” of Mormon men.

      • anon says:

        Let’s don’t get silly here. I am agreeing with you that the dress standards are stupid. I am also sharing that plenty of Mormon men I know also think the standards are stupid. There are plenty of men defending women; I did in my comment above, and I do regularly in person at church and activities. Just because there are some obstinate priesthood leaders out there, and plenty of men who objectify women, doesn’t mean all do or that you don’t have allies in this fight. I am with you. I have no idea how many men look on in silence and how many stand up for common sense. All I have is anecdotal evidence. I have argued with my own bishop and stake president, so I understand how ingrained the prejudices are. But, there are men out there fighting for equality, decency, fair treatment, common sense, and respect for women.

      • EmilyB says:

        And my point is that in my lifetime in the church, I have never met *any* such man who was an active, temple-going priesthood holder. Ever. I know exMormons and inactive men who feel this way, but never did any LDS man in position of authority ever stand up for the agency of sisters to dress their bodies, ever. Instead, the trends illustrated by this posts have been the norm I have experienced my entire LDS life. So no these assertions are not “silly,” but truths that we have lived.

      • anon says:

        I never claimed the assertions of the treatment women endured was silly, but rather what was silly was your arguing against what DB and I stated that there are men who support you and other women. Your lived experiences are not the whole of all experiences, and I was merely trying to give hope that there are good men out there who see the problems and fight against them. We are on the same side.

      • EmilyB says:

        My point was: prove it. Instead of anonymously making claims about benevolent brethren that we have never seen exist before, start telling your fellow brethren—the leaders—to leave women’s bodies alone so that we can actually dress ourselves like big girls for a change and SHOW us that such men exist. I have yet to meet one temple-going adult Mormon woman who is allowed to dress herself as she wishes, so go talk to to your brethren about that or voice these feelings publicly instead of anonymously among women where it does nothing to help us, since we sisters aren’t allowed to do so—we don’t have the authority.

      • GinaC says:

        Translation: If you want us to believe you, don’t claim to be a unicorn and to have sighted other unicorns while keeping yourself hidden from view and anonymous. Instead, try identifying and showing yourself while showing us where the other unicorns are, because we haven’t ever seen any!

      • DB says:

        EmilyB – So if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that you don’t know of any temple-going man, who chooses wears temple garments himself and chooses to dress himself to keep his garments covered (long shorts, no muscle shirts, etc.), who objects to women choosing to wear temple garments and choosing to dress themselves to keep their garments covered. I do agree with that. I don’t know any active LDS men who object to women in the church choosing to wear temple garments and accommodating clothing. I also don’t know any active LDS men who object to women choosing not to wear temple garments. What women choose to wear is their choice.

        But you also seem to be saying that LDS women are required to wear temple garments and required to wear accommodating clothing, that it’s not something they choose for themselves. That’s a very different perspective from what I’ve experienced. I honestly have never known any woman who voiced that she feels that her agency has been taken from her and she is forced to wear underwear and clothing that she doesn’t want to wear. But I suspect that you and I live in different parts of the world and we know different people so maybe where you live LDS women don’t want to wear temple garments and feel they are forced to wear them and where I live they choose to wear them, or not.

        However, this is a whole different discussion from what is in the original post and from what anon and I have stated which is that we agree with and support what was presented in the original post. There is no need to lambast us for agreeing with and supporting what these other women have stated.

    • Rachel says:

      DB, I want to offer some insight about the “choice” to wear garments Yes, many active LDS women chose to wear garments. I happily chose to wear them for a few years. But sometimes garments aren’t always practical and it’s easier and healthier to wear different kinds of underwear (menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, UTI, yeast infections, how to wear different bras comfortably, etc). I have talked to countless women who felt like they needed to ask their bishop permission to wear a different kind of underwear during their period. I’ve known women who are prone to yeast infections and UTI’s who disregard the advice of their gynecologists and continue to wear garments because of their Bishops said so. I have told so many of my friends to wear what is comfortable and hygienic and that wearing different underwear for gynecological health isn’t showing a lack of faith. And so many of these friends have said “well, I need to ask my bishop first.”

      • DB says:

        Rachel – I wish you luck in helping your friends to choose what is best for their health rather than choosing to follow the dictates of their bishops. As Jesus taught the pharisees, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”

  4. Jennifer.miller211@gmail.com says:

    I took my daughter to a pre camp meeting from the Stake. Shorts were required to be knee length and we were informed from a super cheerful leader with a roll of duct tape, that any girl not meeting that standard would have duct tape added to her shorts. I was appalled.

    • GinaC says:

      Girl-shaming as an object lesson is pure evil! I have seen and heard of this WAY too often in the church! I know a man who works at BYU-Idaho as an executive right now but he started out as a seminary teacher. During his seminary teaching years, he kept janitor work shirts in his seminary classroom (because his father owned a janitorial services company) and would use them to shame the young ladies in his classes by making those girls wear the big, baggy janitor uniforms over their clothes if he felt their outfits were too revealing or tight. The implication: that the girls were “dirty” (ie: janitor-level dressers). I am still appalled and disappointed that he rose in the ranks and is now a church school administrator after treating LDS girls that way for so many years!

  5. Risa says:

    It’s almost like, hear me out, the church is sexist and patriarchal. I’m so glad I ran like hell so that my daughters will never be shamed for showing up to a church youth activity for dressing not up to the “standards” of a book written by white men born during the roaring twenties and where they have to worry about the sexual arousal of adult men.

    What children wear is for parents to decide, not some arbitrary man within your ward boundaries with no leadership or pastoral training who buys in shaming sex rape culture modesty standards.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.