The call to arise and shine forth reminds each of us to champion the cause of virtue in the world—and modesty in dress is an essential element of virtue.
This speech was given on April 30, 2004.
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"When we speak of modesty, I am reminded of what Tevya, a character in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, said when he spoke of his beloved village of Anatevka. He said, “In Anatevka everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.” For me, that is the bottom line of any discussion on modesty.
Modesty is often talked of in terms of dress and appearance, but modesty encompasses much more than the outward appearance. It is a condition of the heart. It is an outward manifestation of an inner knowledge and commitment. It is an expression that we understand our identity as daughters of God. It is an expression that we know what He expects us to do. It is a declaration of our covenant keeping. A question in the For the Strength of Youth booklet really is the question each of us must consider: “Am I living the way the Lord wants me to live?” ([Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001], 40).
Like the people of Anatevka, do we know who we are? Do our daughters and young women know who they are? In speaking to members of the Church, Peter said: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). He clearly defined our identity. And his use of the word peculiar did not mean “odd.” It meant “special.”
In the Book of Mormon, the Lord’s chosen people are described in this way: “Ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers” (3 Nephi 20:25). Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve said, “Once we know who we are, the royal lineage of which we are a part, our actions and directions in life will be more appropriate to our inheritance” (“Thanks for the Covenant,” in Brigham Young University 1988–89 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1989], 59). Even the Young Women Theme reminds us that we are “daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us” (Personal Progress [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989], 6).
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.
Several years ago, a dear friend married in the Salt Lake Temple. She was a convert to the Church from India, and her entire family came for her wedding. They were not members of the Church, so they waited patiently outside for the wedding to end and the bride to exit the temple. They were dressed in native Indian attire and looked beautiful. When they walked onto the temple grounds, all eyes were upon them. The thing I noticed most was how elegantly they moved and carried themselves and how modest each was. They were not apologetic for their appearance even though it made them stand out in the crowd. They simply knew who they were and were not ashamed. I observed how beautiful they were. The women seemed almost queenly in their attitude and demeanor. In their actions, movements, and conversation, they were dignified and lovely. I thought how much I would like every young woman and woman in the Church to have that same attitude—an attitude of understanding something deeper on the inside that was reflected on the outside.
Our prophet has said,
Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth. [Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Responsibility to Our Young Women,” Ensign, September 1988, 11]
If our young women know this, they know much more than how to dress—they will know how to live. And they will have the courage they need to avoid the moral decline of the world.
The prophet Brigham Young desired that his daughters reflect their true identity..."