I saw a comment on the Internet about how there was a male dancer at BYU that had been reprimanded because he did his dancing try out not matching BYU honor code standards, specifically showing up with no shirt and in shorts.
A number of people (practicing but not believing Mormons) were commenting. Comments included the idea that the LDS Church had an immature attitude towards the human body and that it was dangerous and hurtful. Further, comments mentioned that there was a great inconsistency between being concerned about a violation of the honor code on a dance try out and then not being concerned over a man wearing a swim suit at the pool – which obviously covers just as much. One commenter (same one that claimed Mormons had an immature attitude about the body, I think.) mentioned that there was real danger in having an institutionalized inconsistency like this.
If I had a dime for every set of comments I see like this on the Bloggernacle or Facebook, I’d be a very rich man.
I think we have to be honest with ourselves here. These commenters were not merely criticizing the one incident. Had the dancer been unduly punished and the comments were solely about how the punishment was out of line with the violation, that would have been an understandable complaint.
But I just can’t see how these comments are anything but an outright rejection of Mormon cultural views of modesty as somehow immoral and thus in need of being stamped out of existence.
Mormons desires to encourage and (for those that agree and participate) live a certain set of standards about modesty. It was this cultural trait being criticized. I don’t recall the punishment itself (beyond a reprimand) even being mentioned in the comments, so this can’t be merely a case of feeling a particular incident was poorly implemented or too draconian in its punishment. There is simply no middle ground being left here. One must have these commenters views on modesty or one is immature, and not just immature – dangerous.
The attacks on the inconsistencies seem a bit more relevant, though still viewable from more than one angle. Yes, there is an inconsistency between restricting shirtless-short-dress on campus but then having no issue with swim suits at the pool.
But one could just as easily flip this around and say that the LDS church isn’t trying to be impractical, they are just trying their best to set a workable standard for their university that can easily be put into writing without the need for legalese. The fact that BYU allows an obvious exception for swim wear is proof that they are trying to acknowledge that it’s not about whether or not a man shows his bare chest. We could claim instead that this is just the institutional reality of trying to make a dress code for a Church owned institution that they know some other Mormons will look to for an example. Not too much one way or the other is the goal – so the cry of inconsistency was probably a given unless they are prepared to make their dress code either require all men at pools to wear shirts or allow all men on campus to not wear one. The choice to be “inconsistent” was perhaps the only realistic one.
Said the way the commenters choose to view it, it does sound like a dangerous institutionalized inconsistency. Said like the above, it sounds pretty innocuous and probably even a cultural trait worth holding on to for diversities sake if nothing else. Perhaps the way it is said says more about the commenter than then the original subject.
I’m not sure what to make of all this. People choose to see the world through certain moral worldviews and everyone else’s is, at least to some degree, immoral by definition. It is tautologically impossible to have ‘two equal moralities’ because if we did, we’d not view the difference as a moral difference in the first place. So there is no middle ground here and I don’t really see a way around this.
Those that choose to see the Mormon cultural and religious choices favoring old fashioned (tried and tested?) modesty as dangerous have every right to use their own influence to try to change the Mormon subculture to match their own personal moral views. They have every right to work towards eradicating all difference between themselves and Mormons that they feel are moral differences.
It does not, however, bode well for the concept of diversity if we can’t stop ourselves from moralizing on something this small. And it bodes even less well when we feel we must demonize those that differ from us on something this insignificant.