Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cleavage Is Not for Consumer Consumption

by Anonymous

I did not see a girl displaying her “cleavage” until I was 19 years old.  It was a New Year’s Eve dance in our small community, and a young woman dressed in an outfit with a low neckline had joined us with her date.  I remembered the tremor that went through the crowd as we realized that one among us was dressed inappropriately, and we could sense the potential loss of virtue the immodesty implied.  It was a sad evening.  I could sense we had tasted of evil and that it would be easy to partake of it again.

On the other hand, my mother was modest, as were my grandmothers and mother-in-law.  Never did I see what I should not see.  They set a firm yet gentle standard of gracious modesty that I wanted to emulate.   They never expressed a desire to reveal to the world that which was most precious in them  as though it was a consumer commodity.

But I had to learn for myself, so I wore a sheer-top evening gown to a high school formal dance, and although I was “covered” with fabric, the sheerness of the upper part of my dress and sleeves was my own first entrance into the forbidden.  My mother warned me of the implications of my purchase, and it is only in my maturing years that I have realized how that decision propelled me towards evil.  I acted without restraint; I should have shown more personal alliance to what I had been taught all my life.  The dress should have stayed at the store, and I should have continued to shop until I found or could modify a formal to my standards.

As it turned out, the night I wore this dress was a disaster from the beginning.  I felt agitated and uncomfortable despite the many envious glances and comments I received.  In a small way, I had become a young woman experiencing a newly acquired reputation of “looser” morals.  When I received my first-ever kiss that night, it served as an ugly entrance into attention I did not want, but surely deserved, for having been less than true to my own virtue.

After that sad and terrible night, with my lesson hard-learned, I sought to engage in dressing modestly at all times and in all places.  It has served to keep me safe and keep me aligned with my inner self.

It is now a generation later, and women displaying cleavage are as prevalent around me as if it had always been in fashion.  Stores are not hesitant to offer the latest way to show as much as possible without “showing it all.”  My friends and neighbors show more and more as they emulate the trends of their peers.  And so the modesty of my youthful life is not the modesty of my older years.

I see girls and young women dressing now as their temple-attending mothers have chosen to dress.  I see cleavage in Relief Society, Primary, and when I go visiting teaching.  Gone are the days of visual safety within the confines of my closest circle of friends.  I fear the seeming innocence of a low neckline will cause pain, both now and in future generations.

“If Mom does it, why not me?  If Grandma does it, why not me?”  Surely, they will follow as you lead. At some point, I believe, you will mourn because someone you love will lose her virtue after following your example.

Modesty was encouraged in Christian circles long ago, and inappropriate dress was a challenge sufficient to merit space in the New Testament.  In his counsel to the saints, Timothy encouraged “women [to] adorn themselves in modest apparel.”[1]

From the beginning of the Restoration, modesty has also been encouraged in women.  When organizing the Relief Society in 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the sisters to “assist by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the female community.”  [2]

And in a turning of words to our possible condemnation, Doctrine and Covenants 25:13 indicates we are to “cleave unto the covenants,” but it clearly does not say we are to expose our cleavage.

Today, our general church leaders continue to teach proper principles.  Sister Elaine S. Dalton has recently said, “Virtue encompasses modesty—in thought, language, dress, and demeanor. And modesty is the foundation stone of chastity…. Being modest lets others know that we ‘cherish virtue.’”[3]

She continued by laying the contradictory choices before us. “It is a matter of the heart and being holy. It is not about being fashionable. It is about being faithful. It is not about being cool. It is about being chaste and keeping covenants. It is not about being popular, but about being pure. Modesty has everything to do with keeping our footing securely on the path of chastity and virtue.”[4]

I believe that our daughters need to be modest, but I also believe that they cannot truly begin to be committed to modesty until we cover up ourselves.  Thus, for change to happen, it must begin in our own closets.  I implore you to consider the cost of immodesty  to yourself, your children, and your grandchildren.  Purge your life of everything that might in the least expose your children or your neighbors your bosom.  It is our duty and our responsibility to live an exemplary life of modesty in dress and decorum.

And yes, there are many others ways to be immodest, including sheer fabrics to shorter skirts to too-tight clothing, and on and on.  But right now, let’s work on cleavage.  It’s not for consumer consumption.  It is ours to keep private and privileged as we seek to emulate the Lord’s command to “walk in the path of virtue before me.”[5]

[1] 1 Timothy 2:9, King James Bible.
[2] Joseph Smith, in Relief Society Minute Book, Nauvoo, Illinois, March 17, 1842, church History Library, 7.  Quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom, Utah:  Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2011, p. 12.
[3] Elaine S. Dalton, Stay On the Path, LDS General Conference, April 2007.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Doctrine and Covenants 25:2.