Modesty has to do with more than dress and appearance, said Sister Elaine S. Dalton during her 2004 BYU Women’s Conference address. It also includes actions, speech, thoughts, desires and a condition of the heart.
“When we truly know that we are daughters of God and have an understanding of our divine nature, it will be reflected in our countenance, our appearance, and our actions,” she said.
Sharing a story about a friend from India who was married in the Salt Lake Temple, Sister Dalton recalled how her friend's family were not members of the Church. As they walked the temple grounds in their native Indian attire “all eyes were upon them,” Sister Dalton said, but they “were not apologetic for their appearance even though it made them stand out in the crowd.”
Asking the young women of the Church to follow that example, Sister Dalton spoke of the power of having a personal knowledge of one’s worth that is ultimately reflected on the outside. And when it comes to appearance, she reminded listeners, modesty brings the Spirit into one’s life.
“When we understand modesty, we know how to be appropriate in any given situation. We know how to dress to run a marathon as well as how to dress to attend a priesthood ordinance. We understand that having young men wear a white shirt and tie to pass the sacrament is more, much more, than a rule. We invite the companionship of the Spirit by the small things we do that show not only our attitude but our understanding.”
Sister Dalton also spoke about the value of mothers teaching their daughters to be modest regardless of current trends, saying that doing so will help raise a covenant-keeping generation.
“As mothers, we simply must be our daughter’s protector,” she said. “We must start early. We must set the example as we dress to easily meet temple standards. We can teach these standards to our daughters and help them as they anticipate and prepare for their own temple attendance. We must never compromise those standards in order that our daughters might be popular or accepted by those with not only worldly standards but worldly intentions.”
Sister Dalton offered a list of suggestions to help daughters and young women be modest.
- Seek answers in the scriptures.
- Know the doctrine and teach it.
- Study the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet.
- Help them gain skills that will strengthen the bond between mother and daughter.
- Seek experiences with the Spirit like prayer, scriptures and listening to sacred music.
- Serve others.
- Don’t let them base their identity on designer labels.
- Teach covenant keeping and obedience above acceptance.
- Live what you know — be an example.
- Live the standards generously. Don’t teeter on the edge of the line.
Ultimately, being modest shows respect to one’s body and recognition that it is a gift from Heavenly Father, Sister Dalton said. Quoting “For the Strength of Youth,” she added that those who are modest have been promised by prophets with “greater wisdom and skill” and the ability to “bear trials with greater courage.”
“Our standards are clearly outlined for us and they carry with them infinitely great rewards,” she said. “Now is the time to ‘arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.’”