My Personal Struggle with Modesty (Mormon Modesty anyway)

Aside from a few uncomfortable Before/After photos, photos taken at water parks, and maybe a handful taken in a tank top during a workout, virtually every picture you see of me on the internet I have capped sleeves and pants past my knees.

This is the Mormon version of modesty, at least the one I was brought up with: it is covering your stomach and cleavage when in a swimsuit, covering your cleavage and shoulders and stomach and thighs when in regular clothes, not wearing things skin tight or revealing (although, with all the mormons prancing around in yoga pants and leggings – myself included- you wouldn’t know that was a standard practice), not wearing things that express vulgarity or anything inappropriate (sorry, Italy, we can’t wear your ‘Sculpture of David’ shirts).  Basically, this (pants are allowed, this is just an example of the coverage expected): img_0235hoai9152

You can have some style and be trendy, but it is generally accepted to be as covered as possible, and leaving some of your physical features to the imagination.

Ok, you get it.  So what are my issues?? Well, like the next person I would LOVE to just sport my good shape (when I am in good shape) in revealing workout clothes or swimsuits. But now that Mormons are doing that too, it find it really difficult to justify why I choose to remain modest even though I don’t really have as strong of a desire to.  Maybe that came out wrong.  I WANT to please God, I WANT to cover my body, but I get caught up in the hype of looking trendy and fashionable, and well, everyone else is doing it, so…. I mean, c’mon, I go to the gym or watch workout videos, I follow fitness motivation posts, bikini competitors and the like, on a daily basis. I am CONSTANTLY exposed to this, and I catch myself WANTING to follow suit at the same time that I DON’T.

Lately, I have just been playing my workouts on a super small screen and setting it up with bluetooth headphones so I can just listen while I watch something on Netflix or watch my form in the mirror.

To make matters worse, Mormon moms everywhere are spending their days in skanky workout clothes because they just came from or are ‘getting to’ the gym, at some point during their crazy hectic day. So here I am, looking like I am about to remodel my house in my grubby t-shirt and cropped yoga pants (not much better I know), jealous that others are sporting the latest trends in workout fashion.

It is RIDICULOUS that I am even jealous of this. I don’t feel comfortable outside my fancy Mormon underwear, so I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable sporting these trends.  I have been guilty of putting clean mormon undies on my dirty sweaty body immediately after a workout because I wasn’t comfortable walking around without them.. A handful of times, I DID leave my house without them, and I felt like I was asking for trouble.

So then WHY is this temptation even a thing?!  Well, when you see other Mormon ladies walking around without their Mormon underwear, in these cute fashionable Lululemons, Athleticas, Fabletics, or whatever, two thoughts cross my mind, “Well, she’s a good person, and she’s not wearing them, if I got caught before or after a workout at the gym, people shouldn’t judge me, so I shouldn’t judge her…” or, if I don’t know them very well, “I wonder if she’s left the church, or doesn’t have a testimony, or forgot about the promise that if we wear them we will be protected from the adversary.”  Yes, I am guilty of judging. I actually have to convince myself to stop thinking about it.  It’s not my business, nor is how I live my life anyone else’s, but I would be lying if I pretended to be perfect and never curious about another person’s lifestyle choices.

I am not perfect, I do try really hard not to judge others that choose differently.  It is easier to ignore the clothing choices of Non-Mormons – actually, I never catch myself questioning their choices..  this is awful…  It really is only my Mormon friends that take a moment of my thoughts…  Ugh.  I feel like it makes me worse than them..  To have such an obvious struggle judging another… I already know I am no better than the next sinner.  I sin all the time, I disrespect my spouse, I make poor choices, I yell at my kids.. what does it matter if someone else chooses to wear a tank top all day and live outside their Mormon Underwear??  It really SHOULDN’T matter to me, I should always be more concerned about my own standards and focused on how to better live my life to follow Christ, than caught up judging anyone else.

When I DO stop and think about why I am uncomfortable with sporting the latest fashion trends, I realize I don’t really want people to question where my faith resides.  Unfortunately, I DO care what people think of me :/ Some of the time anyway…  I ESPECIALLY don’t want to put today’s trends and fashion above my Lord and Savior, even though a part of me still kind of does…  Maybe that’s why I wonder about others…  Ugh, get it together already!!  I’ve digressed…

Anyway, I have adapted to wearing my Mormon underwear under my workout clothes, I don’t run in the heat, and I don’t do workouts often that are so intense that having the extra layer would literally make me vomit, and when I do, I may not have them on, but I have to shower immediately after those workouts and they go right back on, so I don’t find myself in the ‘errand’ trap anyway…  You know the one, you workout, and you don’t have time to shower or change before an ‘important’ errand or two needs to be run…. and then you go an entire day without having jumped back into your G’s… (Garments or Temple Garments- the REAL term for Mormon Underwear).

After a while of this, I am sure other things begin to creep in that are questionable as far as standards go…  I know, because I have been there.  You let a few things slide, and then a few more and then a few more, and finally you are so far outside of the safe zone you forget what you were doing in the safe zone in the first place.  It is how I ended up dating a guy who eventually raped me and took advantage of me.  Not saying that letting some standards fall into a gray area will always lead to such a horrible outcome, but it certainly allowed for me to be in a position that compromised the next ten years of my life, and will continue to affect me through the years.  All the while, I wasn’t doing horrible things, I was still using appropriate language, I wasn’t drinking or smoking… I was just riding the line, staying out a little too late, wearing things a little too revealing, going to places that other Mormons (practicing anyway) were not, and watching things that definitely weren’t appropriate to watch in front of my parents, let alone my Savior.

So once I had that moment of clarity, the one where I decided to follow the Savior, allow His Atonement to work in me, repent, stay temple worthy, I KNEW that this temptation to skirt the line of modesty would creep up at me from time to time.  It was easy for a while, I had no desire to play with that line, having an extra 30-40 pounds makes it EASY to cover up.  But then I got my health together.  I started to look good, I started to see abs again…  I started wanting to skirt the line again.

My self-worth should be better than that, my desire to be modest should be stronger.  I wish it was. This is something that I need to be conscious of ALL. THE. TIME.  I committed to living my life for God, and this is part of the commitment I made. To HONOR my covenants and promises, one of which is to hold my Temple Garments sacred and wear them during every possible moment.  I made a CONSCIOUS decision to do this.  I am glad I did when I was all fluffy and it was easy, because I would have made a million justifications when I was fit and skinny!

I am still working on the yoga pants part…  I don’t see yoga pants as modest to be out and about in, especially if they are too tight and your nether regions are totally outlined for the world to see…  That’s when you have the wrong size by the way…   But I am sure with all my baby growing, I have been guilty of wearing a size too tight…  I am not perfect, I am still working on this…  And I will probably have to for a long time.  But like I said, this is my OWN personal struggle with Modesty.  I have an idea in my head of what it is supposed to look like. And back in the day, the Mormon standard was not to go out in curlers and to be fully dressed for the day.  Once upon a time, pajamas in public were considered immodest…  Maybe they still are…  I mean, imagine if we all got ‘ready’ for the day again, we always feel better when we do anyway…  How would that change things??  Again, I digress…

Modesty has always been a struggle for me, I always WANT to be modest, but I still get tempted and pulled in by the latest trends and fashions and sometimes WISH I could pull them off.  So I applied the same principles to my wardrobe that I did to my food when trying to get healthy… I have thrown out all of my workout tank tops, I won’t be taking any more pictures in just a workout bra and shorts, and even though I may still go to the water park in my swimsuit instead of changing there, I will try my hardest to stay as modest as possible.  The struggle is real.

**Update: I totally forgot to add this.  The BEST pieces of advice on the topic of wearing the Temple Garment came from my husband and an elderly couple and a friend’s mom I hold in HIGH Esteem. But my favorite went something like this, from the elderly couple, it was council given to them by a Temple President, “Wearing the Temple Garment respectfully is a matter of NOT finding excuses to take them off. But instead finding ways to keep them ON.”

***UPDATE 2: THANK YOU! To all those who reached out and bore testimony and love! I posted PART 2 HERE

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Jackson says:

    Hey Ashley 🙂

    Glad you posted this. Very insightful, but also a topic that easily becomes ALL or NOTHING.

    I had a very hard time myself, not recognizing that the way I live the Gospel, is not necessarily the exact way to live the Gospel. Even if my personal-favorite spiritual leaders supported my stance.
    It wasn’t until I had enough exposure to church leaders “providing conflicting advice” that it became apparent that D&C 58:26 is one of the purest scriptures we’ve ever been given. We truly should not be compelled in all things, and in all details.

    I don’t mean to throw stones. I know you certainly didn’t mean to either, but the following statement from this post is slightly Pharisaic (& don’t get me wrong, lol, I certainly have my moments)…

    “what does it matter if someone else chooses to wear a tank top all day and live outside their Mormon Underwear?”

    You have chosen to see that another member of the church is “CHOOSING to live outside their Mormon underwear”, but perhaps that’s not their intent at all. Perhaps their temple president sees the command differently than yours did. And yes, I have met two temple presidents that express those instructions differently, & experienced that different climates & cultures tend to focus on different guidance in regards to garment wear.

    My point is, women (& men) who don’t where their garments in the same environments you do, aren’t necessarily seeking to find excuses for not wearing them. They could very well esteem their own garments even more than you do.

    I don’t blame you or judge you for thinking out loud. In fact, I love learning from you. I’m on this journey, same as you!

    People could also argue that ratty t-shirts are a poor manner to dress a temple of God. There’s plenty of room for extremism in this world.

    Perhaps that person even has Christ-like motives:

    There are millions of moms out there struggling with their self image post-birth & worried that they’ll never recover from their first childbirth & that it could lead to marital problems (don’t get me started on awful husbands), or they don’t want to have a 2nd child because they feel ruined, etc (the reason isn’t important, the self image IS). And perhaps a mom who posts a post-baby shot of her abs inspires those women to have confidence & stay on track.

    While another woman might post a shot of her post-baby abs, hoping to collect 60 likes from men other than her husband.

    I think the question is “Where is my heart?”.

    It’s not my job to determine anyone else’s motives. It’s my job to make sure my motives are pure.

    I try to stay focused on the basic principles:
    – Does my garment wearing reflect my respect for God & Christ’s teachings?
    – Is Satan using tactics to simply make me feel bad about my garment wearing, so that I don’t have time to clear my mind for the work God really needs me to do? Or is this the Holy Ghost, calmly prompting me to improve my desires to serve God?
    – Am I still wearing these sexy gym clothes because I want to show off, or am I still stuck in gym clothes because feeding my kids, taking the time to play with them, running my side business, contributing to my charity, helping a neighbor move, and doing my visiting teaching was more important than what piece of clothing I have on? <- I find that in these moments where I am missing my own garments but faithfully serving God's desires, are the times I often feel an added protection of the Spirit, & that same spirit longs to have them back on as soon as appropriate.

    *I'm NOT suggesting a garment fast by any means.
    – I'm suggesting we all learn not to be compelled in all things.
    – I'm suggesting that we cease to judge our neighbors when they take more than 100 steps on the Sabbath, especially when we don't know what their personal motives are.
    – I'm suggesting that we have a duty to consider if the additional prep time we take, every time we change, just cost a starving child their life in another part of the world.

    We live in a world where half of it is on fire & yet ignored. What we do with our time matters to someone out there, every single minute.

    Great post! Thank you for being such a wonderful person & friend to my wife & I.

    PS – Sorry for the mini-blog!

    Like

    1. fitmomashley says:

      Love these insights! Well, we all do choose what we wear and how we dress, that’s why I chose that wording, I don’t believe it’s a happenstance type thing. We all get caught unprepared from time to time, sometimes all the time, by it is always a choice, subconscious or not. I loved your questions though! Great perspective! On a good day, when I’m feeling closer to my Savior, am more humble and teachable, I ask those questions and I’m not even slightly distracted by someone’s dress or appearance. Honestly, that’s the point isn’t it? If we are directing our thoughts at the Savior, bettering ourselves, and being teachable and humble, judgement doesn’t occur, just love and respect for others. It’s a matter of seeing through God’s eyes for sure. But like I said, I’m not perfect, I’m weak and totally on the fence about how I honestly feel about how I live my own standards. I do love the way I do because my strongest desire is to respect God’s Commandments and respect the temple he has given me, but I feel like you do in many ways. I’m still on this journey like everyone else. And those are simply thoughts and struggles I have in the moment. That’s not to say they are right, it is me, and it is my personal struggle.

      Like

  2. Amy Gerber says:

    I think it all boils down to what sign are we giving the Lord? What does our heart and intent show? Are we really willing to follow the guidelines of the gospel? (Based off https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-sabbath-is-a-delight?lang=eng). If He was standing next to you would you behave differently (out of embarrassment, guilt or shame?). I think if your intent is comfort or keeping yourself appropriate for your activity it says something different than if you really just want to be an exhibitionist. Great read, by the way. So loving your blog!

    Like

    1. fitmomashley says:

      Agreed! That’s exactly what I strive to focus on. The intent, where my heart is, and what the direct council from the Lord is. I get so caught up in my own worldly desires too often, then I get clouded with cynicism and intolerance. I’m trying to change my heart little by little, the desire is there, and so is the struggle!

      Like

  3. waywu2001 says:

    I’ll admit my thoughts on modesty are a bit different than others. I wish we’d move beyond the legality of it and treat it like we do other virtues. I believe Modesty is an eternal principle that we’ve cheapened by making it “what are you wearing”/”how much skin is showing” and nowadays it seems like “when” is a question too. When I look at the concept of modesty in the Bible and Book of Mormon, it’s more of a question of “How is your apparel/possessions making you feel?” Does it make you feel like you are better than others? Do you look down on others who do not have what you have? And that goes to one’s heart. If you’re super proud that you have a lean toned physique and look down on others who do not, I’d say that aspect of you is immodest whether you show off skin or not. If you dress or have possessions in a way where you are trying to provoke jealous or lust, I’d say that’s immodest too. Personally, I wish we’d give people MUCH more leeway on what they wear and when and focus on these aspects of modesty instead. That way, we’d also have a lot less judgment and less people feeling judged which hurts all involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fitmomashley says:

      I love this perspective, I think you’re right in the way we ought to be thinking of it. My post was really more about my personal struggle with the ‘dress’ aspect of modesty, but I totally
      Agree that we should be thinking of it more in terms of the whole of what modesty actually means.

      Like

      1. waywu2001 says:

        Thank you very much. I guess my point was that if we were to emphasize modesty as being of the heart, we’d be less likely to judge others knowing that we don’t know their heart. Also, we wouldn’t feel as judged knowing that others do not know ours. Presently though, it’s too easy to say (and we hear and/or think it often) “She’s not dressed very modestly.” or “There’s no way she could wear garments with that.” and 99.9% of the time, it does us or them no good to think like that.

        Like

      2. fitmomashley says:

        Exactly! My struggle is knowing that thought is counterproductive, having it, and then fighting it and feeling guilty and questioning things hay don’t pertain to my own eternal salvation or add to the quality of what is in my heart. It certainly doesn’t fill my heart with Christlike love.

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  4. As a convert to the church, I have and do go through this too. You’re not alone. However, since my endowment I feel naked without “them.”
    I always use the counsel of my husband and the Holy Spirit in regards to leggings as pants and working out.
    Hubby’s a runner – and sweats a lot (think dried salt spots) – so he has chosen modest running gear with other underoos.
    My working out is more stretching/short term sweating that doesn’t require accommodation.
    When I want to wear leggings, I go up a size or two and remember that every outfit (whether modest or not) is not right for every situation.

    Liked by 1 person

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