As promised, I’ve gathered my notes and tried to type up a summary of the fireside I recently taught (for both women and young women) called “The Beauty Paradox: The Surprising Relationship between Righteousness, Self-Image and Power.” The link to my quotes, references and study materials is here. Sorry, but there was no way to do this briefly and do it justice. Grab a cup of cocoa and settle in for a while.
There is opposition in all things.
For everything good and powerful and designed to bring happiness, Satan creates a counterfeit. He sets easy traps, and when we fall into them, we cannot enjoy what we wanted in the first place . . . the real deal.
Even when it comes to beauty.
People have many different opinions about beauty and modesty and self-image. Even among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve found that some take modesty standards more seriously than others. Some think that standards must be more closely followed and enforced, and some think that we should just teach general doctrines about the body and divine nature and stay away from specific standards. Some think that women and young women should not be held responsible for what men think about their clothing choices, and others would argue that females should be taught to dress themselves modestly with a better understanding of the inner workings of the male psyche. All these (and other) different approaches have valid points, but they make it quite difficult to teach principles of beauty and modesty without some serious inspiration. Luckily, my inspiration came one morning during my daily devotional time, otherwise known as a shower. After many weeks of study, the previous evening I had studied a talk by Sister Elaine Dalton where she taught about the principle of “deep beauty.” The ideas began to flow, and I literally wrote them with my finger on the foggy shower door in hopes of not forgetting them. When I finished, I wrote it all down as quickly as I could. This is what came into my mind that helped me organize all the principles I had been reading and pondering:
I know it looks crazy, but it truly gave me the direction I was seeking. I’ll start at the top, then left column, then right column.
Dictionary.com defines Beauty as:
“the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from  sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.),  a meaningful design or pattern, or  something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).”
The first of the three defined sources of beauty-satisfaction is what makes up SURFACE beauty. The last two fit more meaningfully in the category of DEEP beauty. Surface beauty is the element of beauty that Satan has latched onto and the world-at-large has bought into. Deep beauty is what God sees as beautiful and wants us to strive for.
Surface beauty is measured by outward appearances: usually by clothing, body, and makeup/hair. These are the elements of beauty most embraced by our media culture and most flaunted by those who try to copy it.
Clothing: (It’s important to distinguish that from here on out, any advice to young woman can and should apply to adult women as well, and vice versa.)
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke to mothers about their daughters and asked them to teach the following:
“Our daughters as well as your sons are coming of age in a world that openly embraces early, casual, and thoughtless promiscuity. Immodest, unchaste women are glamorized and all too often celebrated and emulated. While there are steps that we can take in our homes and families to minimize our exposure to these unsavory elements of contemporary living, your daughters cannot entirely avoid the blatant sexual messages and enticements that surround them. You need to have frequent, open discussions during which you teach your daughters the truth about these issues.
For example, they need to understand that when they wear clothing that is too tight, too short, or too low cut, they not only can send the wrong message to young men with whom they associate, but they also perpetuate in their own minds the fallacy that a woman’s value is dependent solely upon her sensual appeal. This never has been nor will it ever be within the righteous definition of a faithful daughter of God.”
Notice that he talked about sending the wrong message to young men. A Catholic blogger recently wrote an article called “The Death of Pretty,” in which he lamented the prevailing trend to abandon “pretty” in favor of “hot.”
“Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty.
By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.
Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently men view them differently as well.
As I said, pretty inspires men’s nobler instincts to protect and defend. Pretty is cherished. Hotness, on the other hand, is a commodity. Its value is temporary and must be used. It is a consumable.”
I remember talking to some young men that I taught in seminary and asking them if it was hard to fulfill and focus on their priesthood duties at the sacrament table if there were women and young women in the congregation that were immodestly/provocatively dressed. They vigorously nodded their heads to the affirmative, and the young women in the room were surprised by their answer. Now, some may be on different sides of the argument about how responsible a woman should be for the way a man views her. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I think we can probably agree on a few simple principles as outlined in the Proclamation on the Family. When the Lord sets forth the divine roles of women and men with regards to families, he proclaims that men are to “provide” and to “protect.” I think it’s very interesting that these same concepts are mentioned by the blogger as being naturally inspired by the virtuous and modest appearance of women. The proclamation also states that within our divinely appointed gender roles and interactions with one another, husbands and wives — and I think it’s safe to extend it to men and women in general — “are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” We can, and should, help one another to be our very best selves and to fulfill our divine roles as outlined in the Proclamation. While acknowledging that men are ultimately accountable for their thoughts and attitudes toward women, we can promote respect by showing respect for them and for ourselves. Modesty in dress is one way we can do that. Continue reading