Aren’t We ALL Sinners, and Could that Be Why It Bugs Us so Much?

Recently, a “scandal” at BYU has topped several prominent news sources. Most of you have probably heard about it. If not, here’s a link where you can read about it. I’ve seen stories posted all over Facebook about it, and the near universal reaction has been ridicule, chastisement, anger, and shock towards the guy who wrote the note.

Here’s what I think:

First, the guy was unkind. He was most definitely insensitive and a bit condescending. He also misunderstands human sexuality—women should not be blamed for the unchastity of men. A man is responsible for his own unchaste thoughts, and blaming women for those thoughts is an abdication of responsibility. Feeling “unsafe” in an environment where women dress differently than you are accustomed to is something that we might just need to learn to live with, given the world we live in today.

However, the girl’s dress is technically a violation of BYU’s Honor Code. The Honor Code says that “dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee-length or longer,” and that “clothing is inappropriate when it is … form fitting.” Campus administration has repeatedly clarified that leggings are, indeed, form fitting and therefore against the Honor Code. From the looks of the picture, the girl’s skirt is only halfway to her knees, and she supplements it with leggings. By the strict definition of the Honor Code, she is in violation.

The girl signed the Honor Code. She read it, knows what it says, and agreed (with her explicit signature) to abide by it as a condition of attendance at BYU. It is a contractual agreement that she is obligated to follow, and she knows it. She may disagree with it, but that disagreement doesn’t negate or obviate her commitment, and her duty to honor her commitment.

However, I personally don’t care. She can wear what she wants—let her professors, roommates, and ecclesiastical leaders care. It’s not my place, as a stranger, to care. I think it would be untoward to walk up to a stranger and comment on their dress and grooming—unless it was a violation as severe as nudity, for example.

However, I think it IS appropriate for roommates, close friends, family members, professors, and ecclesiastical leaders to speak with those they feel are violating the Honor Code. While it may not be a stranger’s duty, the Honor Code itself makes it a duty to “encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.” In other words, while I may be presumptuous to approach a stranger and criticize their dress, I have committed to encourage others to live by their agreement. I think there is nothing wrong with approaching a roommate or a close friend and encouraging them to live by the standards they’ve agreed to, so long as it is done “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” In fact, I think we probably need more of that in general.

We all need to be more teachable. Today, we’re so easily offended that even the intimation that we ought to change our behavior makes us feel resentful. I think we should all stop taking offense so easily. Even if someone else is self-righteous and condescending, I think we could learn to respond with more grace. When someone steps out of their place and accuses us of wrongdoing, instead of lashing out with resentfulness, we can quietly examine ourselves and see if they’re right. If they’re right, we should change. Just because the other person was wrong to say something doesn’t mean what they say is wrong. We can and should be willing to accept instruction and calls to repentance, even if they are poorly or inappropriately offered. Only pride ignores truth that it knows to be truth because it is delivered in an unappealing way.

Also, we generally don’t seek vindication from others unless deep down, we feel we have done something wrong. The fact that this girl has turned to her peers for vindication is telling. Note: she didn’t turn to the Honor Code for vindication. She didn’t turn to the words of the prophets for vindication. She didn’t turn to the scriptures for vindication. She turned to public opinion for vindication. That leads to what I think is what is most interesting about this scenario.

We take cues from our peers. We all do. It’s how we moderate our behavior. It’s how we decide what actions are appropriate. Consider, for example, my experience a few months ago. There was a plate of cookies on the table. I didn’t know whom they belonged to, so I didn’t eat one. Later, one of my roommates returned home. I asked, “Are these your cookies?” He said no. I asked, “Whose are they?” He repled, “I have no idea,” and then he ate a cookie and went into his bedroom. What did I do? I ate a cookie. I had no more information than I had before. All I had was an example from a peer. His actions legitimized mine in my own eyes.

Many, many psychological studies show that we rely heavily on our peers to tell us what is right and what is wrong. However, what should we rely on? Public opinion shifts and changes, but the teachings of God do not. Rather than comparing ourselves to our peers, perhaps we should compare our behavior to the principles found in revelation (both ancient and modern).

Right now, the idea that standards for modesty are cultural artifacts that change over time is very popular and widespread. This may be true. But even if this is true, the prophets have still instructed us to be modest, and have defined modesty in terms very similar to what has been encoded in the BYU Honor Code. Maybe modesty isn’t about sexuality… maybe it’s about preserving the peculiarity the Lord’s covenant people. Maybe God simply doesn’t want us to dress like everyone else dresses. God is known for wanting a peculiar people, and that’s OK. And if that is true, then looking for vindication from the masses is not going to put this girl in the right—because vindication in these terms doesn’t come from public approval, but from the revealed word of God and the instructions of His servants.

Criticize the rationale we sometimes provide for the Lord’s instructions to be modest all you want, and you may be right. But faulty apologetics doesn’t make the doctrine or the instructions false. The instructions still stand, and are still being delivered by the mouths of the Lord’s servants, who are watchmen on the tower. And for that reason, there is nothing wrong with BYU’s modesty guidelines in the Honor Code. They aren’t too restrictive and they aren’t too narrow unless you measure them by the standards the world has handed us. And if we judge by the world’s standards, who is the master of our conscience? The Lord, or public opinion?

My final point is that I’m saddened by the BYU and Latter-day Saint community’s reaction to this note. Let’s assume that the guy was wrong to write it. Let’s assume he was condescending, self-righteous, and stepping out of his place. Even if that’s true, our collective reaction is simply wrong. Let me explain why.

Viewing pornography is a sin. Indubitably so. However, when one amongst us is outed as a pornography addict, how should we react? How would we react? I don’t think that public ridicule would serve any useful purpose. I don’t think that most of us would ridicule him, mock him, berate him, scold him, chastise him, etc. Most of us recognize that even as a sinner (and likely no more a sinner than any of the rest of us), he is part of our community and in need of the Atonement like the rest of us. We would want to embrace him with fellowship and love, kindness and persuasion, patience and forgiveness.

How is the sin of self-righteousness any different? It’s a sin, like viewing pornography. And how have we treated this anonymous individual? With the same scorn, ridicule, beratement, and mocking attitude that we would adamantly and thoroughly condemn if directed towards someone whose sin was viewing pornography. Why is it any different?

There is a difference, and it’s a telling one. When someone commits the sin of viewing pornography, it doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable with our own foibles. When someone commits the sin of self-righteousness (perhaps equally wrong), it does make us feel uncomfortable with our own foibles. So we’re unwilling to treat the latter with the same degree of tolerance, forgiveness, and love that we are willing to grant the former. We just don’t like feeling uncomfortable with ourselves and the way we live. Because we lean on public approval as our conscience on these matters (rather than revealed truth), we want to alienate from the public sphere those who won’t lend their approval.

Alienate, I think, is a key word here. We learn a lot in psychology about in-groups and out-groups. When a member of the in-group behaves in a way we don’t like, we want them to be part of the out-group. So we alienate them. It’s a natural social process. It’s analogous to a single-celled organism’s mechanism for expelling waste. If we can’t physically distance ourselves from an unwanted individual, we humiliate, ridicule, and berate them, and by so doing expel them from the in-group, and make them part of the out-group. Ridiculing someone turns them into the Other. It makes them no longer part of us. So in that sense, it’s one of the most effective ways to enforce the social boundaries of the group.

One of us did something dumb. A member of our community might have a skewed perspective on the world. And instead of responding with “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned,” we’ve responded with ridicule, shame, and scorn. The exact way a tribe responds to a group member that it wants to make into an outsider. It’s as if we’re all a little pricked in our consciences, as if we all feel a little threatened by this guy and his deviant behavior.

I propose that instead of engaging in this tribalistic cleansing ritual, we self-examine a little more. We don’t have to feel threatened by him, regardless of whether we’re in the right or not. We can afford to look inward, and see if we really are collectively failing to live by a particular commandment or principle. We can afford not to be offended, and to respond with more grace. We can afford to proffer this person the hand of fellowship, even though he’s a sinner. Who among us isn’t?

An additional danger in all of this is that we seem to assume that if the guy was wrong to write the note, then the girl must have been right to wear what she did. Why can’t both parties be in the wrong? She’s clearly in violation of the Honor Code, and so she’s clearly broken her written agreement to abide by it. It’s not my place to pull her aside and tell her that, nor is it any stranger’s place to do so. But that doesn’t make her behavior right.

Truthfully, of the two wrongs, I think hers just might be worse. Not the wrong of wearing what she did, but the wrong of turning to the public for vindication. In so doing she is riling up an entire population to verbally bully and ridicule the person who wronged her, as well as giving fodder to media critics of the LDS church and BYU. Anti-mormon critics are having a heyday with this, circulating it as evidence that mormons are sexist. I don’t think she’s considered these consequences. Rather than having a forgiving, self-examining heart, she’s initiated and participated in a public cleansing ritual of ridicule that has unfortunate, unintended consequences.

I say this not because I want to publicly chastise or ridicule her. That is not my intention in the least. I’m saying this because I think we all need to consider the cascading consequences of our actions. We need to all take a step back, and consider whether our initial reactions are always the right ones.

In short, the sin of self-righteousness is just one sin among sins. But because we are all plagued by conscience, we tolerate it much less than other sins. It’s possible to err in both directions.

37 thoughts on “Aren’t We ALL Sinners, and Could that Be Why It Bugs Us so Much?

  1. LDSP, I think you have some very good points about following contractual obligations and the evil of singling out sinners for ridicule. I also strongly believe in following the church’s peculiarities as well as striving to maintain unity among the saints, especially among those who have sinned against us. My favorite part of your essay is how you define LDS standards of modesty as “peculiarities,” rather than some kind of eternal moral standard. This is exactly how I see it.

    But I think it’s important not to criticize this girl too much. She didn’t actually single anyone personally out for ridicule. An anonymous person was extremely rude and blatantly un-Christian at BYU, and miffed, she complained about it on Twitter. She didn’t have any intention of publishing it broadly all over the world. That was the decision of online editors who picked the story up. The rude person’s name was not published. If she had published his name, that would be a different story. Rather, she publicly complained about a certain Mormon cultural phenomenon that is very prevalent and unhealthy. You might argue that complaining publicly about Mormon culture is not positive to the overall church image, and thus this girl is guilty of denigrating the church. But it could also be argued that we shouldn’t ignore our culture’s own problems and sometimes pointing them out is the best thing that can happen. It opens a dialogue and helps people like this rude person think about his unacceptable behavior within the safe confines of personal anonymity.

    People at BYU who anonymously police the honor code are in serious violation of the Priesthood. Only Priesthood leaders and authorized BYU personnel have any authority to bring up issues like this. This was unrighteous dominion. BYU is going to get burned again and again because we have too much of this kind of citizen policing and judgmental attitudes in our culture. I was at BYU and saw plenty of it. Thanks to this girl, we can talk about it, and maybe, just maybe, we can take a positive step forward from our sexually repressed, blindly judgmental attitudes.

  2. People at BYU who anonymously police the honor code are in serious violation of the Priesthood.

    I agree. Anonymous policing by strangers is inappropriate.

    Only Priesthood leaders and authorized BYU personnel have any authority to bring up issues like this.

    This is untrue. The Honor Code itself requires students to take an active role in encouraging others to live by its standards. BYU administration, including President Cecil Samuelson, have repeatedly asked students to encourage their roommates and close friends to obey the Honor Code, and to privately and gently talk with them when they habitually violate it.

    However, they have not encouraged strangers to be rude, unkind, and passive-aggressive about it. It is not a stranger’s duty. But that doesn’t mean that it is wrong for friends and roommates to kindly and gentle remind and encourage each other to live by the agreement. That itself is part of the agreement.

  3. She didn’t have any intention of publishing it broadly all over the world. That was the decision of online editors who picked the story up.

    This may be true. If that’s the case, however, my criticism of our collective response still stands. I’ve observed nothing but contempt for the guy who wrote the note—a kind of contempt we would not see towards sinners of other brands. It seems to me that the only way to account for why this particular sin (self-righteous policing of others) grates us so much more than others is because it makes us feel uncomfortable with our own behavior. Other sins don’t make us feel guilty about what we do—rather, the more people commit the same sins we do, the better we feel about ourselves. Also, it touches on an issue that many of us are already miffed about: the fact that we’re told by our Priesthood leaders and by the BYU administration how we should and shouldn’t dress. There is growing discontent amongst the LDS population regarding standards of modesty… many students and scholars alike would like the see “modesty” as a commandment disappear completely.

  4. LDSP, that is a good point about our negative collective response. Perhaps nothing good can come from this sort of thing because we all just get riled up about our unhealthy issues and criticism of church standards.

    The most positive thing I think could happen on the modesty front is if we were able to separate our standards of modesty from our notions of sexuality. We should follow the modesty rules more like Muslims who wear headscarves, or Jews who wear skullcaps: only as peculiarities and signs of obedience and faith. In a world saturated with pornographic imagery and revealingly clothed Gentiles, BYU’s naive little world of modesty and sexual propriety is completely anachronistic.

    We should follow church standards because they are commandments, not because they always make sense from a pragmatic point of view. We live a monastic religion, not always a pragmatic one.

  5. What I found interesting about her response is that she posted the picture of herself. If the dress is “clearly” a violation to you, it wasn’t to her: if so, she wouldn’t have posted her photo.

    Not that ignorance is an excuse. But it does suggest a better approach would have been geared to helping her see, specifically, where she wasn’t compliant.

    I’ve been away from BYU long enough that when I saw her outfit, I wondered where the violation was. I live in California and often see less modest attire at church on Sunday.

  6. If the dress is “clearly” a violation to you, it wasn’t to her: if so, she wouldn’t have posted her photo.

    Jim, it would be difficult to attend BYU currently and not know specifically what the Honor Code requires. I think the real issue is that there’s the “written” Honor Code and the “real” Honor Code.

    For example, I have a roommate who has girls in the bedroom at 2am. He says he’s in compliance with the Honor Code, because he isn’t being unchaste. When shown the written text, he says, “Yeah, but what I’m doing isn’t a BAD thing, so it isn’t really a violation.”

    That’s the general attitude here at BYU… as long as it isn’t a BAD thing, a violation of the Honor Code “really isn’t a violation,” the written agreement disregarded. From personal experience, this is generally how it is perceived. Everyone on campus knows the written requirements of the Honor Code, few people see them as binding.

    Also, it’s true: I see worse stuff all the time here at BYU. But that’s really the point… when we self-regulate by comparing ourselves with peers and what they approve, we will behave quite differently than when we self-regulate by comparing ourselves with revealed truth, scriptures, and our actual agreements.

  7. Ivan, I guess that’s what I’m saying, in a nutshell. But I guess some people would say that my comments are the same thing.

    But then again, I guess some people would say that anytime we criticize or comment on someone else’s behavior, we’re being self-righteous. Because the common assumption now is that we should be free from being told how to live our lives from anyone but the Spirit (we make some exceptions for the apostles at General Conference).

  8. I like the call for self-examination and for considering the best response, and I’m wondering if you could develop it more. Aside from individual self-righteousness, one might find threatening the possible development of a culture that condones sexual harassment. An instinctive response is the one you describe: ridicule until it is clear that sexual harassers are outside the bounds of group acceptability. I think most involved understand that such is not a very compassionate (nor, in this case, a particularly effective) solution, but there seems a loss for a better way to respond. What would be the best way for those not personally involved to counter this threat?

  9. I went to both Ricks and BYU and for the most part I had a good experience. However there was an attitude among some there that really bothered me. If you ever offered any constructive criticism of the place or if you voiced concern about some of their overreaching policies you got told, “You chose to be here you signed the Honor Code. Go somewhere else if you don’t like it here.” This of course shut down any worthwhile discussion on legitimate problems the universities had. I felt at times that the “You decided to come here. . .you signed. . .” argument was used to permit abuse and squash dissenting opinions. This same thing is happening to Brittney. This attitude legitimizes sexual harassment of women.

    I don’t think Brittney intended for this to become so public, but honestly she did not have any other recourse. Anyone in the administration she would have reported this to would have said, “You violated the dress code. . .you signed the Honor Code. You chose to be here you can go somewhere else if you don’t like it here.” Her harasser would get off without any consequence. He would perhaps would be silently commended for his courage in the minds of the administration.

    I bet you that there are a lot of folks at BYU that are just upset that by bringing this incident to light she tarnished the image of the university. Stuff like this needs to be brought out in the open. Exposing these sexist attitudes and policies is the only way they will be changed.

  10. If you ever offered any constructive criticism of the place or if you voiced concern about some of their overreaching policies you got told, “You chose to be here you signed the Honor Code. Go somewhere else if you don’t like it here.” … This same thing is happening to Brittney.

    Dissenting opinions are fine. Breaking her agreement is not. There is a difference between saying, “I think the Honor Code should be changed,” and simply not following it.

    She signed the dress code. If she doesn’t want to follow it, she can go somewhere else. Count me in the folks that say that. She’s free to disagree, and vocalize her disagreement. But she is obligated to follow the Honor Code, even if she disagrees with it, and she is obligated to encourage others to follow it, even if in the same sentence she expresses disagreement with it.

    That doesn’t legitimize the guy’s behavior. I think the guy was indubitably wrong to write the note. However, if a close friend of hers spoke with her gently and in person about it, I think that is perfectly appropriate, so long as the person doesn’t try to claim it’s related to chastity. The Honor Code is not sexist. Encourage others to follow it is not sexist.

  11. ldsphilosopher
    I reject your premise that she was in violation of the dress code. That is a matter of debate. Her leggings are not tight. Her legging are no different than wearing stretch pants which would not have violated the dress code had she been wearing a shorter blouse. You have proved my point.

  12. rk, perhaps your absence from BYU in recent years have caused you to miss the fact that BYU administration has repeatedly and emphatically clarified that leggings, such as what she is wearing, do not make a short skirt Honor Code appropriate.

    In short, the administration has clarified (publicly in forums, fliers, and on the internet) that short skirts and dresses (that is, skirts and dresses that end above the knee) are against the Honor Code, period. No matter what is worn beneath. And particularly so if leggings are worn beneath.

    The ambiguities you’ve described are not actually ambiguities.

  13. I don’t see that this woman is in violation of the dress code. For one thing she is not wearing a “dress”, but a long “tunic”. She is wearing cotton/poly “slacks”. similar to skinny jeans, which apparently, are not in violation on the BYU dress code. This is a modest outfit. period. The anonymous letter writer is a pervert, a sexual harasser and a creep.

    More than 20 years ago, someone dear to me, was assaulted in her apartment at BYU. As she fought with her attacker, he repeatably told her the assault was NOT HIS fault, instead it was HERS as she was “asking” for it. Why? Because she had worn a modest 2-piece swimming suit earlier that day.

    During the Christmas holidays my niece at BYU-I complained that whenever she wore a dress ( hemline to her knees) to class, someone man would complain to her that she was not dressing modestly. If she challenged him on his assertions, she would get the answer that her hemline should be at her calf. I told my niece, when it happens again, tell the man in question, “It is not my problem, that you are a pervert”!

    The problem I see here, is an obvious lack of personal responsibility on the part of a few men. Our Mormon society as a whole, has “Pharisee issues”. In our quest for the appearance of righteousness, we jump over the norm and go overboard. We fail in our quest for moderation, losing balance, which was what Jesus tried to teach us.

  14. We do have “Pharisee issues.” But I think we have a problem when, for example, telling people that they shouldn’t watch football on Sundays is less tolerable than people who ignore the Sabbath altogether. Or that telling people to dress modestly is less tolerable than wearing bikinis to the pool.

    My point is, “Pharisee-ism” is a sin just like any other. But it’s treated with so much more contempt that any other sin, because it’s a sin that makes us less comfortable with ourselves, rather than more.

    I see a lot of Pharisee-ism in the church. But I ALSO see a lot more accusations of Pharisee-ism than actual examples, and I see it (and those guilty of it) treated with much more contempt than sinners of other brands—as if suggesting that others might be sinning is a worse sin than sin itself. And that bothers me.

    For one thing she is not wearing a “dress”, but a long “tunic”. She is wearing cotton/poly “slacks”. similar to skinny jeans, which apparently, are not in violation on the BYU dress code.

    Source? Everything that I’ve heard from BYU campus administration over the past few years has been instructing us that outfits such as the one the girl is wearing are, in fact, against the Honor Code. Do you have an official source that says otherwise?

    Also, the guy may very well be a creep, as you say. But we don’t have to “exonerate” the girl in order to claim that. They can both be in the wrong. It’s not an either/or situation.

  15. Which is the greater sin, sexually frustrated Pharisee-ism, or cheating a bit on the length of your skirt with thick, black leggings underneath? It’s extremely hard for a girl to find a good-looking skirt or dress that conforms to LDS standards these days. I’m sure she thought that her chunky leggings would be sufficient, and how could she turn down such a cute outfit? Pretty girls should always get a pass on things like this. That’s human nature. How about being normal for a change? Girls melt our hearts, and we love them for their beauty. We want to please them, not demean them.

    This fellow should be happy that he gets such a potent sexual rise from something so innocuous. That’s the gift Mormon propriety has bequeathed to it’s men. He should enjoy it rather than having a sexual crisis. The girl is very pretty. She has a great smile, nice curved legs, and she looks wholesome and sweet with her chunky black leggings and long thick sweater. He should be asking her out on a date instead of condemning her.

    Sexually repressed Pharisees like him are going to drive simple sweet girls like these out of the church, as well as anyone else who has enough common sense and natural affection to recognize innocent, pretty modesty for what it is. What kind of church is this that it creates these kind of monsters, who speak in it’s name?

    This fellow is well on his way to being a porn addict, because he can’t deal with his sexuality. His perfect world of safe, non-sexuality gets thrown into inner chaos and turmoil anytime he sees a girl’s thigh, even when it’s covered with a legging.

    There is a serious problem here, and it’s not with a simple girl who cheats a little to try and make a cute outfit work modestly. It’s a chronic inability of LDS men to deal with their sexuality in a world saturated with sexuality.

  16. I’m NOT NOT NOT saying the guy was right in any way in writing the note. I full-heartedly think he was wrong.

    I’m not even saying that the girl is blatantly immodest.

    I’m not saying modesty is even related to sexuality.

    All I’m saying is that she IS in violation of the Honor Code. And that even though it’s sometimes difficult, she (and all BYU students) should use the Honor Code to evaluate their appearance, not public opinion.

  17. You are right Nate. Well said, but woman is question is not in violation of the dress code. I say babydoll tunic and pants

    ldsphilospher- Source?? I am a woman, I know women’s fashion. :)

    If you need an additional source see: a darling tunic top found at Macy’s
    http://www1.macys.com/shop/product/style-co.-sweater-cap-sleeve-cable-knit-tunic?ID=582503&CategoryID=260&LinkType=PDPZ1
    and cute cotton pant/slacks found at Chicos
    http://www.chicos.com/store/browse/product.jsp?maxRec=13&pageId=1&productId=570039530&viewAll=&prd=Cool+Cotton+Utility+Pant&subCatId=&color=001&fromSearch=true&inSeam=&posId=11&catId=cat40003&cat=&onSale=&colorFamily=&maxPg=1&size=

    You could put this ensemble together with boots, and it would be cute.

  18. I spent a good part of the 80′s at BYU and in a tunic with leggings. It was not a problem. If this is what BYU has become, I am glad my two oldest sons did not go there. It is time to pass out the mandatory burqua.

  19. Joanna, I think you realize that if you have any dress code at all there will be people who don’t like it. Your concern about leggings is just a different place to draw the line than others’ concerns about prohibitions on short shorts and mini-skirts. When I lived in Miami most of the women walked around the UM and FIU campuses in short shorts and mini-skirts and tank tops. Can we agree that such dress may not be appropriate for BYU?

    My only point is that wherever you draw the line you offend some people. This does not mean you can’t have some kind of line for BYU. Personally, I prefer the idea of some kind of line to the idea of no line at all. Will some people be offended? Definitely. They should not go to BYU.

  20. Since I cannot jump in the car and checkout the co-ed fashions at BYU-Provo or BYU-ID, I called one of my nieces who is currently at BYU-Provo and who previously attended BYU-ID. I emailed her the picture of the coed in question. She told me that she did not own a similar outfit, but said this was a common outfit worn by many women at BYU. She says her wardrobe consists of skinny jeans and sweaters. She also said currently a darling lacy see-thru top with a tank underneath is hanging on a mannequin in the BYU Bookstore. My niece says the outfit of choice of many men at BYU is pajamas or sweats. BYU is not as puritanical as ya’ll are making it out to be.

    My brother-in-law, who is currently home for the holiday, chimed in with either BYU needs to abolish the dress code or require a uniform. I agree.

    Geoff-Exactly. What is one person’s leggings/dress is another’s slacks/tunic. It is all semantics. I say teach them correct principals and let them govern themselves. I disagree that all hell would break loose. At the state university my son attends, here in the conservative south, most students are pretty modest, with a few exceptions. WHen I attend the synagogue, there is not a Sabbath dress code, except, the expectation that each individual decide what is Sabbath best, most of the congregation is dressed as well/modest, or better than your average LDS congregation with a few exceptions. Most religious people have a sense of decency. We need to stand for truth and righteousness by setting an example, but show charity and love to all and don’t judge. What other people do is not our business; instead leave it up to G-d and mind our own.

  21. . I emailed her the picture of the coed in question. She told me that she did not own a similar outfit, but said this was a common outfit worn by many women at BYU.

    So what? No seriously, so what?

    That’s my whole point: What is or isn’t against the Honor Code at Brigham Young University is not decided by public opinion or what people commonly wear. It is decided by campus administration.

    If the question is, “Is it against the Honor Code?”, the method of finding the answer to that question does not—I repeat, does not—rely on looking at what others wear, or what peers deem acceptable.

  22. Joanna, in general I agree with the idea that we should teach people correct principles and let them govern themselves. EXCEPT that we are a church with certain standards, and they happen to exist everywhere. You have to dress a certain way to go to the temple. Male temple workers can’t have facial hair. Missionaries have to have certain standards, both for men and for women. Bishopric members and stake presidency members and mission presidency members and general authorities all have standards of dress. And there are indeed standards for going to church. Young men are told to try to wear white shirts, belts and ties. Young women are told to adopt certain standards of modesty. So, in reality there are standards of dress that are meant to be followed everywhere in our church.

    What you are proposing is that we tell people what are acceptable standards everywhere except for at BYU, and that simply will never happen, nor would I be in favor of it. There is another solution, which is for people who don’t want to follow the standards to go to school someplace else.

  23. Wow, Nate. There is so much blatant sexism and objectification in that comment that I sincerely hope you’re being sarcastic.

    Jeff, kudos for logically fronting an unpopular opinion, both on the honor code violation and on theorizing as to why so many have such an issue. I agree.

  24. Sorry ldsphilosopher to have left the conversation so abruptly, I became ill and now I am back. Apparently this conversation made my head explode :)

    Exactly. The outfit in question is not against the honor code. Slim cotton slacks and a tunic top are quite acceptable. If it was, the woman in question would have had a professor or the standards office call it to her attention. Instead, it was some borderline-abusive controlling man, and it was none of his business. Just like the difference between p0rn and art; I can tell the difference between modesty and immodesty.

    Geoff- I understand standards, and I agree to them. I just don’t agree, that if BYU got rid of dress standards the appearance of the students would drastically change. I have great faith in the members; MOST of us would not dress any differently than we do now.

  25. If it was, the woman in question would have had a professor or the standards office call it to her attention.

    Simply not true. Most professors do not say anything about Honor Code violations, and if they do, it’s usually only severe violations that they address.

    Instead, it was some borderline-abusive controlling man, and it was none of his business.

    True, it was none of his business.

    Just like the difference between p0rn and art; I can tell the difference between modesty and immodesty.

    Modesty isn’t at issue here. The dress code does not simply say, “Be modest.” A business, for example, might have a dress code that says that everyone must wear business casual. Someone who shows up in shorts and a t-shirt may certainly be modest, but also be violating the dress code. The dress and grooming code at BYU is not synonymous with modesty. So whether or not her outfit is modest has no bearing as to whether or not it complies with the dress and grooming standards outlined in the Honor Code.

  26. Also, I think the note the guy wrote has completely muddled this issue. The guy who wrote the note accused her of immodesty, when she was really simply violating the dress and grooming standards. The guy who wrote the note assumes they are the same, when they are note. If he had instead not even brought sexuality or modesty into the note, and simply said, “Hey, you should follow the dress and grooming standards that define appropriate, professional attire here on campus,” he may have still been out of line, but he would have obfuscated the issue less.

  27. I think the disagreement between JA Benson and ldsphilosopher comes down to what I discussed in my writing class today.

    There’s a big difference between arguments about what actually is, and what should be. It seems ldsphil is arguing what is – and he has the facts to back him up. JA is more concerned with how the honor code should be interpreted.

    In essence, both of you are right, but you’re not arguing about the same thing.

  28. I disagree Ivan. The facts are ya’ll/you men do not understand woman’s fashion. :) Leggings are skin tight spandex kind of like heavy hose/tights. I agree they are not appropriate outside of the gym or the track. What this woman is wearing is cotton/poly slim pants tucked into a pair of sassy boots. If one can wear skinny jeans at BYU, they can wear slim cotton/poly pants too. The top is not a dress, but a tunic baby doll top. I am not saying she is pregnant, but maternity wear often has outfits like this. Perhaps you are acquainted with this look. I spent a good portion of the late 1980′s and much of the 1990′s dressed in this kind of ensemble. :)

    ldsP- if the professors at BYU do not manage the honor code violators, and there is all this confusion; then perhaps my brother-in-law’s suggestion of uniforms is the way to go.

  29. JA – you’re arguing something ldsphil and I aren’t arguing. That’s my point – you can’t disagree, because you’re not even arguing about the same thing. You seem to think that because you want the honor code to be interpreted a certain way, that’s how it is. Unfortunately, it’s not how it is. It is how it should be – which is what you are really arguing.

    But there’s a big difference between what BYU as an institution thinks the honor code for clothing is, and what it should. You don’t seem to recognize there is a difference. This is like you arguing that Romney (or whoever) is President of the USA right now because you are going to vote for him in November.

  30. JA, I honestly don’t think you can see from the picture whether she’s wearing cotton pants or leggings. I see outfits on campus every day *just like this*, and in each case the girl is wearing leggings. It’s a popular outfit right now, and leggings seem to be an indispensable part of it. And it’s against the Honor Code, plain and simple.

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