Beauty pageant shows Mormons missing the point of modesty — again

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The ultimate, grand, supreme winner at . . . modesty!

(Shutterstock)

The ultimate, grand, supreme winner at . . . modesty!

The ultimate, grand, supreme winner at . . . modesty!

The ultimate, grand, supreme winner at . . . modesty!

I’ve got nothing against the new Ms. Virginia, Bekah Pence. I just want to get that out of the way here at the beginning, because criticizing the sincerity of a fellow Latter-day Saint is not my intent. A returned missionary with a strong faith, Pence sounds like a lovely person inside and out.

But making modesty a “platform” in a beauty contest, as Ms. Pence did on Sunday, is about six different flavors of ironic.

The Deseret News reported:

The most important message Bekah Pence hoped to convey was that young women can be modest and still look glamorous.

“I’m a firm believer in not just being modest, but you can also be absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, not just beautiful,” she said. “I feel like girls don’t feel that way. They think that it’s a step down if you’re modest. They don’t think you can be absolutely gorgeous, but I felt that way. I felt like, ‘You know what? This dress is amazing, and I feel gorgeous in it — and I’m modest.”

Drop-dead gorgeous, glamorous, beyond beautiful. Really? Has our definition of “modesty” become so impoverished that we buy into every consumer message of the surrounding culture with the single exception of the one that says women have to show shoulders and cleavage?

This is not modesty. It’s never inherently “modest” to parade a body in front of a consuming audience, making that body and its clothing a prime focus of our attention. According to the pageant’s website, 25% of the judging is based on how a woman looks in a swimsuit, and another 25% on how she appears in an evening gown.

Whether the swimsuit is a one-piece or a bikini is not as important as the underlying issue that women are being judged for how they look and how they set themselves above other people in the public square — neither of which is the definition of modesty.

Recall that Pence said that modest clothing does not have to represent a “step down” in beauty and attractiveness. The message there is that a woman does not have to bare her breasts to be the most dazzling person in the room, the one everyone stops to stare at because of how she looks.

Looking good is not wrong, and neither is success. And I applaud women and men who stand up for their values in public. But that’s not the same as modesty, and Mormons need to stop using the word inappropriately. For an example of how very confused our modesty rhetoric has become, consider this snippet from yesterday’s tagline in LDS Living‘s coverage of the pageant win:

one-piece swimsuit commentAhem. Drawing “a lot of attention” to oneself, by whatever means, is not the point of modesty.

For an excellent, thoughtful, and positive exploration of modesty in the scriptures, check out Samantha  Shelley’s blog post from last week. (And lest you think I am unfairly picking on LDS Living with the above screen shot, note that this wonderful post came from the same site.) Shelley writes:

If you search “modesty” on LDS.org, part of the given definition says, “If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves.”

I’ve come to understand that “undue attention” refers to far more than simply a lot of skin showing. If we are using the clothes we wear to get attention, we are not being modest.

When you look good, you feel good—there’s nothing wrong with that. We should be “neat and comely” like the righteous people in Alma. But if our confidence comes from the way we look, we probably need to reassess what we value the most. Said Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy, “The Lord endows us with confidence as we practice ’charity towards all men’ and have righteous thoughts.”

I’ve no doubt that Bekah Pence is a charitable person who has righteous thoughts. But saying that the design of women’s clothing is “the most important message” she could convey with her platform is a missed opportunity for real charity, at best.

Maybe we need to separate the good word “modesty” from all this single-minded focus on appearance. It would help if we reserved “modesty” for what it actually means — not drawing attention to ourselves or regarding ourselves as superior to others — and used another word for our various judgments about skirt hems or the state of our sleeves. We could call that “discreet coverage,” or “chaste clothing,” or — my favorite — “vestal vestments.”

Anything but what we do now.

 

  • Eric Facer

    “They think that it’s a step down if you’re modest. They don’t think you can be absolutely gorgeous, but I felt that way. I felt like, ‘You know what? This dress is amazing, and I feel gorgeous in it — and I’m modest.”

    When asked what she would concentrate her energies on if she were to win the Miss America Pageant, she said “world peace,” right?

  • Britt Pixton

    Bravo!

  • Aimee

    Amen! I’m so tired of the spiritually rich and rigorous idea of “modesty” being reduced to the presence of a bedazzled cap sleeve. Perfectly put as usual, Jana.

  • I was something of a pageant girl in college. It was only with age I came to see the harm.

    With that out of the way, this is the post I wanted to write this morning. I have all the links laid out in my browser tabs and finished the outline, but you beat me to it and totally nailed it.

    Wonderful.

  • Fred M

    A lot of the word choices in the church are confusing. We say “modest clothing” when we mean “clothing that covers up your body appropriately.” We say “immorality” when we mean “sexual immorality.” And we say “I know” when we mean “I believe.”

    The condemnation of clothing in the scriptures is all about how much you spend, not about how much you cover. We might want to focus a bit more on that.

  • Joel

    Jana,

    Thank you for ending your solid point with the fair recognition that our problem may be insufficient vocabulary.

    Absolutely, modesty (humility) is a rich concept that we cheapen by equating the word with covering our bodies more than the norm. But that doesn’t mean that discretion about clothing isn’t also a worthwhile value.

  • Here’s a comment that is not going through to the site for some reason, from Megan:

    AMEN. This irritates the crap out of me. I wish the Mormon culture would stop using the term “modest” clothing when referring to apparel guidelines and start using the more accurate term of “church standard” clothing. Just because a particular article of clothing does not fit into the “church standard” box does not mean that it is immodest. Ok I’m getting heated- better stop now.

  • Listening Closely

    Jana;
    You begin your piece by stating you have nothing against Bekah Pence, the new Ms. Virginia. But you do have feelings against her because of your feelings against the LDS Church and if you didn’t you wouldn’t write to belittle her which your piece is doing. You leave no room for anyone to give the feelings of their heart if it is contrary to what you believe and you waste no time to belittle them. Here are some facts, when someone dislikes someone or something they don’t hesitate to attack them, or it. From what i read in your writings you are always on the attack to make it appear like it is so out of the realm of reality and only you can fix it. You quote church leaders but in most cases you take it out of context to make it meet your context.
    Of course you are free to do that but somewhere and sometime it is going to comeback to bite you.

  • Angel

    No, when I say “I know” I really mean “I know”. Please don’t tell people what they mean to say, that is rude.

  • Angel

    I agree with what you said about modesty. People of the church does only talk about modesty when they are talking about apparel. People do seem to forget that modesty is more than that but I’m sorry but you did seem pretty harsh on the girl. So don’t say that you didn’t mean to attack the girl because you did. If she read the article she would probably feel attacked.

  • Kerri

    Nailed it. Thank you. Jana.

  • Steph

    Heh. “Bedazzled cap sleeve.” Thank you, that’s my new favorite!

  • Carolyn

    There is so much picking apart of words in today’s society, who knows what to call anything anymore?Calling non revealing clothing “Modest” is fine. Not wearing clothes that let it all hang out is one way in which we are being modest. There is so much talk on how Mormons only focus on clothes and sleeve lengths as being modest, but what makes you or anyone know that that is all it is? What about the reasons behind dressing modestly? When I choose what to wear each day, my choices reflect my modesty.. It is only an outward expression of modesty. I show what I stand for by wearing clothes that don’t scream for attention by being too revealing or anything. So while it is not “modesty”, it is a big part of it. I’m sure the pageant girl wanted to show how you can be beautiful without showing so much. Good for her. As a Mormon I have always been taught and believed that modesty goes beyond skirt lengths. Wide assumptions about what we believe seem to be fair game on the internet…

  • Airi

    Perhaps she should have said “sexual modesty,” because even if she wants to stand out as well-groomed and beautiful, she is avoiding attracting a certain kind of sexualized attention. On a deeper level, as I read this article, I believe you are holding her to a higher standard than you are submitting to yourself. Do we really want to promote the idea that in order to be modest, you should try not to stand out at all? Ie, “Don’t be too accomplished, “Don’t be too intelligent,” or “Never blog and try to bring attention to your ideas!” If you held your own statements to the same scrutiny that you’ve held her well-meaning, under-pressure, timed statement to–analyzing and judging it for every possible repercussion and nuance it might contain–you might be able to convince me. As it is, I’m left feeling that your aim is the attention-grabbing sound-byte.

  • Gary

    Wrong. The prevailing definition of “modesty” in the U.S. is: “Modesty is a mode of dress and deportment intended to avoid encouraging sexual attraction in others.” That is from Wikipedia. (No, I don’t want folks to tell me how everything isn’t true on Wikipedia; in this case, I’m showing what most people think of when they hear the word modesty, or immodest, for that matter.) Yep, it’s not just Mormons. I wish writers would stop trying to fit one definition of a word and tell someone else that they’re wrong about how they use the word, especially an entire church! When we teach our youth to be modest in their clothing, we should tell them that’s not “sexing up” your outfit. If we take your definition of it, Jana, then the Amish would be immodest. What sinners!

  • Joel

    Angel,

    I’m curious. When you “testify” that you know, are you open to discussing how you know, or whether its reasonable to base the conclusions you proclaim on the evidence you have (including spiritual experience)? If so, cool.

    I’m concerned that we’re so easily offended. Many seem to believe that good etiquette requires people to honor bare assertions of knowledge with nothing more than a quiet smile — without any skeptical follow-up questions, disagreement about human capacity for such knowledge, or dissatisfaction with the answer “it’s too sacred to share.” I doubt Emily Post would agree.

    We speak boldly, declaring a message that belittles others’ religious convictions and sacred experiences (“I know I’m right” implies “I know you’re wrong”). And, yet, we have such thin skin whenever someone pushes back.

  • Citychicken5

    “If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves.”

    The above quote .. Is that why our young men are not pounded so hard about modesty? We want them to stand out and we want our young women to be quiet and cower in the corner?

    Let’s just applaude this young woman for accomplishing SOMETHING.

    Let’s just be supportive.

  • Charles

    I am surprised by some of the pushback against Jana’s piece here. Beauty pageants promote the exact kind of things we are looking to avoid when we talk about modesty, they are shallow and hollow, without depth or context. I thought the whole point of modesty was to promote that very fact. It’s not that lust and sex are evil, it’s just that we want lust and sex to be accompanied with respect, context and meaning. Love and true beauty cannot exist without context and meaning. Beauty pageants almost ignore context and meaning altogether. It doesn’t matter what kind of dress she wore, revealing or otherwise, the dress is not what we should be concerned about. We should be concerned with the messages we send as to what’s valuable and what’s important, beauty pageants send the wrong message entirely, and adding sleeves to your dress doesn’t help. This is how I read the piece anyway, and I thought it was spot on.

  • Holly

    So…It’s OK with you for someone to stand up for her values in public, just as long as she isn’t standing up for “modesty” in dress? And here’s another question…If a dancer practices many hours and then performs on stage in front of an audience, is that “undue” attention, and therefore, in your opinion, not “modest?” And lastly, you are misinformed about the breakdown of the judging. According to the Miss Virginia website here is the ACTUAL breakdown:
    25% Interview (takes place before pageant night)
    35% Talent
    5% On stage question
    20% Evening gown, which is judged on “beauty, poise, grace, and commanding stage presence”
    15% Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit
    Seems like you just made your numbers up. If not, I’ll be expecting to see that fixed.

  • Jeff P

    Wonderfully said Charles.

    A good illustration of Jana’s point is the fall show of any Haute-couture fashion-house (like Chanel)- the designers may not be showing much of the ladies’ skin or cleavage etc, but the clothing is generally the farthest it could be from being ‘modest’ – its meant to draw attention, make one an object of envy, admiration, or lust. On the contrary, athletes show a lot of skin and wear tight sports-bras, but I don’t see that as immodest, but rather as practical. It has to do with intention, and situation, not skin area.

    I think of modesty as: Are you using your body to make people of the opposite sex want your body? Or, people of the same sex wish they had your body? If so, you are not being ‘modest’ no matter how little skin or cleavage is showing. I’m sure this is a fine young lady. But, the goal of a contestant in a beauty-contest is, at its core, to do your utmost to make people physically attracted to you, or jealous of your appearance.

  • Janet

    I think this article makes a good point to be considered seriously but not as good a point as the quote by Shelly from the blog. The headline is Mormons, doesn’t say some, it is worded so that it sounds like it is universally an issue, sorry not all Catholic Priests are molesters and not all cops are racist and not all Muslims are extremists. Not all Mormons miss the modesty point and not all Mormons are speech writers and when you are young and learning you sometimes say things that dome out totally different than where your heart is. Maybe that is what happened with the headline, sorry if it didn’t read the way it was meant to and I took it wrong. Point taken?

  • Holly

    So, art, hanging in a gallery, is not immodest, but art, hanging on a model is? Fashion designers create art…wearable art, but art. Creativity does not make one immodest. In fact, the models, themselves are supposed to be secondary to the art in fashion shows, which is why they are usually all styled similarly. They are living mannequins, selling art. I agree that the intention is an important consideration. I think you are wrong about the goal of pageant contestants though. Many are young girls, who are trying to earn scholarship money, learn grace, and poise, and confidence to express their beliefs in front of others. A lot goes into the pageant before the actual pageant, like fundraising for charities, community service hours, In depth interviews, and development of performable talents. And no, I have nothing to do with pageants. I just don’t like seeing girls thrown under the bus, so I did a little research.

  • Jeff P.

    The Catholic and Orthodox Bible has a really fun, and relevant, story about this topic in the Book of Judith. LDS friends may not be familiar with her, but Judith would have won the ‘Miss Israel’ pageant of 300 BC. She knows she’s ‘hot’ and uses her ability to drive men into a tizzy, to save Israel. Judith shows up in chapter 9, and ch 10 has a lengthy description of her getting ‘dressed to kill’ (literally), abandoning Jewish modesty-rules, in the service of her God.

  • Holly

    Amen Janet:)

  • Holly, I assure you I did not make the numbers up; please follow the link above. Here is a direct quote from the website for the Virginia pageant system. Perhaps you can also provide a link to where you got your breakdown, and we can see where the discrepancy comes from. It’s possible that we are referring to different pageants, or that the rules have been changed. But I don’t think either of us fabricated numbers out of whole cloth, which is an irresponsible accusation.

    Must currently reside, attend school or work in Virginia at time of state pageant and throughout reign. Contestants under age 18 may fulfill this requirement through a parent or legal guardian.

    Age required as of the April 12, 2015 OR July 1, 2015 (national guidelines)

    Contestants whose age changes between these dates may choose either division

    AGES 20-29 – Miss
    AGES 16-19 – Teen
    AGES 13-15 – Junior Teen
    AGES 26-39 – Ms.

    25% Interview (round robin style)
    25% Swimwear
    25% Gown
    25% On-stage…

  • Dear Airi, thanks for your comment. It’s certainly true that we could take the meaning of modesty to such an extreme that we would never attempt to distinguish ourselves in any way. I don’t think that’s the point of modesty either, but you raise a good point that it’s important to be careful in whatever we do, whether it’s business or blogging or scholarship. Humility is certainly a lesson I need to be reminded of.

    As I said at the outset, this post was not intended to be a personal criticism of one individual, but rather a critique of the larger Mormon culture that has equated modesty with sleeve length and (along with the wider culture) taught young women that their physical beauty is of such vital importance. As parades of that physical beauty, pageants are not, in my opinion, a healthy vehicle for modesty in the traditional meaning of the word.

  • Old Guy

    A few comments:
    1. Styles and sensibilities change. Some aspects of the LDS “user’s manual” are left over from another era and need to be edited or edited out.
    2. One aspect I dislike is the idea that young women need to be “modest” so as not to inflame the passions of young men. (This assumes the “sexual” meaning of the word.)
    3. A less intrusive and broader approach would be more effective than the LDS method. We can teach children proper manners, judgement, and decorum without micro-managing and without *any* specific rules. In my view, a well-raised child knows how to dress and behave. Period.
    4. Most importantly, keep the big picture in mind. Ask *why* we require modesty. Is it a visible sign of submission to authority? Is it a visual symbol of certain values? How important is it in the scheme of things, and is it even worth fretting over?
    5. Finally, I don’t need church micro-managing my personal choices. I’m a grown man. My wife is a grown woman. We…

  • Nate

    I agree with Gary, Merriam-Webster’s secondary definition for modesty: “the quality of behaving and especially dressing in ways that do not attract sexual attention”. Who is to say that we can’t use the word in both ways (and be explicit about which way it is being used when necessary)? We do that with dozens of English words all the time. Also, trying to convince society to revert to ONLY using the original meaning of a word is a little bit like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. Better to just accept it.

    True, a beauty pageant is the antithesis of the first definition of modesty, but criticizing her not understanding the difference in the two definitions, and only promoting the second definition of modesty seems a little nitpicky. They are two different words (or have become such). Just accept her usage as she intends it.

  • Laurie

    For those who think Jana is attacking Miss Virginia, it would be well to remember the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

  • Amy Lynn

    We all have belly buttons & we all have opinions. At least she is trying to share her opinion in a positive way, & at least her platform wasn’t how to sit around & form opinions about everyone else’s life choices. Even saying “Flunking Sainthood”?
    Beauty pageants are not about “physical beauty”. It is about poise, grace, confidence & public speaking. A young woman who wants to fine tune this skill is no different than a young woman who wants to fine tune her 3-pointer shot on the court. Is the athlete being immodest if she draws attention to herself as she excels in her sport?
    I was a tom-boy so I participated in pageants & ball room dance to fine-tune my lacking feminine characteristics. It worked & I had more self confidence.
    And truthfully, tearing down, critiquing, or ridiculing her for promoting her opinion of “modesty” pretty much just looks like sour grapes. Just like a book-worm ridiculing the high school jock. Looks like…

  • Airi

    While I feel that using a well-meaning individual to make your point is a little like choosing a sacrificial lamb, I agree that there is much to be changed in the way we understand female worth. The pageant circuit sends some incorrect and even harmful messages. Thanks for being willing to respond to my comment. I appreciate you taking the time.

  • Old Guy

    @Amy Lynn
    Google gastroschisis and omphalocele

  • Baby doll

    we can always find fault in what someone has done or said. I agree with the spirit of this article, but am also proud that this Ms. Pence is doing her part in trying to be an example and stand different and as a light amongst the crowd of the world. We can always say something differently or wish mormon culture would change in their way of talking or thinking of things. But I applaud anyone who wants and tries to make an effort of change for the better. No one is perfect. Even at times when i try and make a difference it is imperfect because we ARE IMPERFECT.

  • Izzy

    Thank you for this article. Beauty pageants are about comparing and judging women based mainly on their physical appearance. That is not ideal if you’re trying to follow Christ and it’s definitely not modest.

  • Nan

    Well your animosity and ill feelings toward Jana are certain up front.

  • Eve

    Ironically, my strict Mormon dad would not consider a cap sleeve modest. Modest clothing is different in every culture–and in every family.

  • Sister Chromatid

    If you are claiming to “know” your that certain supernatural things are true then you don’t actually know anymore than someone claiming to know that a conflicting faith, superstition, or magical belief is true!

    Believing something strongly doesn’t mean that you KNOW it’s true… even if your indoctrinators would have you believe otherwise. Certainly you see this with Muslims, the FLDS, and any cult member who has gave up their life for their beliefs– your arrogance just keeps you from admitting that, as far as actual evidence is concerned, you don’t know anything more about “divine truths” than any one else.

  • Nan

    Quite frankly I don’t see how one could say that any participant in a beauty contest is avoiding any kind of sexualized attention since obviously the contestant has no control on the sexual thoughts of those watching. Parading around half dressed in an activity specifically set up for people to look at you is simply not a modest activity, even with the pretended modesty of a one piece bathing suit.

  • Nan

    From Merriam Webster
    Full Definition of MODESTY
    1
    : freedom from conceit or vanity
    2
    : propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

    I have found that the US citizens I know are fully aware of the full definition of modesty. Even 4th grade girl scouts recognized and commented on how modest another girl was not for the way she dressed but for the way she down played her part in things and built up what others did.

    Me I’m pleased to see writers who expand the vocabulary of people like you.

  • Nan

    Right BEAUTY pageants aren’t about physical beauty. Please provide some examples of contestants who were not physically beautiful. It’s idea of a woman pirouetting around in a bathing suit, an act that is nothing more than, look at me look how good I look, nattering on about how modest she that is just ludicrous.

  • Old Guy

    @Amy Lynn
    “I was a tom-boy so I participated in pageants & ball room dance to fine-tune my lacking feminine characteristics.”

    To see how ridiculous your entire post is, turn the above statement around:

    “I was a nancy-boy so I participated at muscle beach and bear hunting to fine tune my lacking masculine characteristics.”

  • Nan

    I agree there is nothing modest about a beauty pageant, and pretending that you are being modest by wearing a one piece bathing suit or an evening gown that covers your shoulders is nothing short of hypocrisy.

  • Dave

    I have a few thoughts on this topic:

    Modesty is an attitude of love, respect and humility. Any messages regarding modesty must include consideration of our thoughts, attitude, speech, behavior, and dress.

    Modesty must be taught to and valued by both boys and girls. We must, however, acknowledge that boys and girls have different challenges and strengths.

    Clothing is an outward expression of an inward sense of self. However, the inverse can also be true. How we behave and dress can also affect how we feel inside.

    We must respect other people’s interpretations of modesty.

    Everyone is responsible for his or her own thoughts or actions.

    Some people resist the concept of modesty on semantics alone. If you don’t like the word “modesty” used only to mean standards of dress, that is okay. Use whatever words reflect your thoughts. If someone uses a word incorrectly, please don’t judge them. In most cases, you may have a lot in common with their beliefs, just using…

  • As a modest fashion blogger (sorry, there is no better terminology for “modest fashion” that isn’t clunky) who actively tries to help girls dress modestly without forsaking style, I understand and even respect Ms. Pence’s intentions for this pageant. Do I think she was bit misguided and could’ve executed it differently? Perhaps.

    As a Christian who understands that modesty has more to do with humility than clothing coverage, I also understand and respect your position, Jana. Thank you for reminding us of the TRUE definition and purpose of modesty.

  • Pingback: The Cultural Hall (A Mormon Show in podcast form) – Mormon News Report, 16-April-2015()

  • Holly

    Yep, Jana, you are right. I was looking at Miss Virginia, and you are referring to Ms. Virginia. Sorry about that.

  • Old Guy

    “We must, however, acknowledge that boys and girls have different challenges and strengths.”

    No, we mustn’t. The Mormon church reinforces this idea only to train young children for adult roles that the Mormon church finds desirable. The same phrasing is used to rationalize denying adult women the more authority in the Mormon church. Non-Mormon families do *not* raise their children this way.

  • Holly

    Thank you, Dave. Spot on.

  • Doug

    I think there is another point and you are not going to like it. When women or men parade them selves to be judged on their physical beauty they debase themselves.

    It does not matter what they wear or don’t. They can be naked or clothed like Muslim women wearing a burkha, the idea that they allow themselves to be judged puts them on the same level as cattle. Cheap, mindless, sexual object for breading is what this really says. What a lot of men or women are thinking during these shows. “Dude wouldn’t you like to …?” as they elbow their friend next to them.

    Why would anyone let themselves be herded around like cattle in a stock show is beyond me. This is not about Modest it should be about Dignity and anyone that participated in such shows has neither.

  • Nicole

    I absolutely agree! If you look at some of those classy women in history, like Audrey Hepburn, you wouldn’t all their bare shoulders immodest. There are so many beautiful clothing pieces that are modest even though they don’t fall into the church standards for clothing. What makes clothing modest is the attitude of the person wearing them.

  • Will

    I also hate the name/categorization of “modest clothing”. Modesty is a character trait and a difficult and complex one at that! No item of clothing could be worn to deem one trustworthy, loyal, kind, courteous, etc. It’s not that simple. Unfortunately if you asked many if they were being modest, the first (and sometimes only) thought would be “What am I wearing?” and that would be the end of reflecting on that principle. The term “modest clothing” can lead one to thinking that they’ve mastered a principle just by wearing it clothing labeled as such when there is so much more to learn. I can just imagine the Devil giggling as he’s created a false Finish line in a race so many are running and the runners just stop once they’ve crossed.

  • Listening Closely

    Dear Nan,
    It is your interpretation of what I wrote that is not right. When someone says, “I think so and so is a nice person” and strive to make it sound like a compliment and then turn around and belittle them for what they think is not right and is pure “hypocrisy.” do you do this to others? If so then what you read is right in your mind and no one is going to change it. I have no feeling against Jana, she can write what she wants and think what she wants and do what she wants it is her choice. But on the other hand if I see something that she writes which is contrary to her own profession as a writer, I will express my feelings. If Bekah had been had been handicapped in some way or another would Jana gone out of her way to belittle her? Chances are no because we know what the repercussion would be. How easy it is to point fingers when you want to tear someone down. In this case it wasn’t just Bekah that she was tearing down but also the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day…

  • Fred M

    Angel–I didn’t mean to be rude. But unless you are actually an angel, you–like the rest of us humans–are going on faith, not knowledge. And that’s what makes it beautiful. We don’t know for sure! And yet we believe. Even if we have a visitation from a supernatural being, WE DON’T KNOW FOR SURE. We could’ve dreamed it. Someone could be tricking us. We could be crazy (do you believe everyone who “knows” they’ve seen God or Jesus or an angel actually has?).

    I realize it’s just a question of semantics, but I think it’s a very important distinction. One that I think our leaders make (unlike regular members, very few end their talks with “I know” statements, you may have noticed).

    I am a believer. And I look forward to the day that I will “know as I am known.” But that day hasn’t come yet.

  • Gary

    Totally agree. There are different definitions of modesty. Exactly my point. Jana writes a column criticizing someone for their correct usage of their definition of modesty by using another definition of the word. They’re related, but not the exactly the same. Take the word “jerk,” for example. It can mean a pull or twist, or it can mean a foolish person. Same word, different meanings. I would never call you a pull or twist.

  • Gary

    Agree with you, Nate, wholeheartedly. Basically different definitions, and both can be taught in the same lesson. I do think much of the talk about skirts being down to the knees and no bare shoulders has more to do with preparing young women for when they start wearing garments. And, with the missionary age down to 19 for them, they are barely out of Young Women’s when they are going to the temple. If they learn it early enough, it won’t be much of a shock and they won’t have to throw away some of their clothes.

  • Carrie

    I have known Bekah for about ten years. She is modest in EVERY way. Including that she does not draw attention to herself. She is very quite and unassuming. She wanted to share the gospel and talk about modesty in dress. This was her way to do it. There are 15 million of us. Isn’t it time to get over this judginess and realize that there are lots of ways to express faith?

    P.s. Personally I loathe Loathe beauty pageants.

  • Elaine

    Beauty pageants objectify women based on their looks regardless of whether their shoulders or cleavage are covered. Their existence devalues women’s accomplishments, intelligence and ideas, and make it harder for these dimensions to get attention.

  • Elaine

    But only the girls with high cheekbones and classic features and skinny figures have a shot at scholarship money, learning grace, poise and confidence. (One might argue that even without a beauty pageant, pretty girls already enjoy these advantages.) Of course they have to do all that stuff so that everyone participating in this can assuage their guilt that at the end of the day, people who are not blessed with conventional notions of beauty are disqualified and really they are ultimately judged on one dimension that has no redeeming social benefit.

  • Elaine

    Well, let’s hope Miss Virginia signs up to spy for the CIA and make her beauty useful!

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Fred, surely if you were called to testify as a witness to an event, you would be able to say what you “know.” You could also testify as to your inner mental state. I assume if you were asked as an expert to address issues within your area of expertise, you would be able to say you “know” certain things.

    Within our own life experiences, we come to know certain things, about ourselves, about our neighbors, about nature, about the organizations we live in. Most people don’t have rigorous training in laying out the reasons they “know” certain things, but that does not mean they don’t know them, just as surely and reliably as you know what you know in a professional sense. Telling people that they can’t know something is true, is one of the things that you can’t know, since you don’t know their experiences, especially their inner ones. Doubting other people’s knowing is something you might consider doubting.

  • Gary I’m hard pressed to think that trying to look “drop dead gorgeous” and score points for your hotness in a beauty contest meets even your own definitional standard (or wiki’s) of “avoiding encouraging sexual attraction in others.”

    That said, please note that even Wiki preceded your “definition” with the standard this-article-is-crap-and-needs-real-sources disclaimer.

  • The Miss Virginia pageant you refer to is probably part of the Miss American system. All the pageants I participated in (except Miss BYU) were in that system. It is one of the few that includes a talent portion at all. Over the years it has focused more on physicality, however.

    I did pay a bunch of college expenses from my winnings (Miss America didn’t give cash prizes). It was a motivator for some things, but I’m not sure it was overall a positive–even for those who placed. Most pageant are strictly strut shows.

    One possible exception is the Distinguished Young Women program (for high school seniors, one that I judge on occasion, formerly Junior Miss). It’s the only other I know that has a talent competition. DYW doesn’t have a swimsuit competition. It does have a fitness competition, but it actually involves clothed girls doing a very tough routine (one-armed pushups, v-sits, etc.)

    Overall, the girls are real scholars, with scads of AP classes and great credentials.

  • Joel

    Raymond,

    “Telling people that they can’t know something is true, is one of the things that you can’t know, since you don’t know their experiences, especially their inner ones.”

    Fair point. We should hesitate to make assumptions about the extent of another’s knowledge.

    But, surely, reasonable people can debate the scope of what is knowable, in general. How many stars are in the unobservable universe?

    Do you disagree with that?

  • Joel

    Raymond, Fred, anyone else,

    Earnest question: Does an “I know” testimony ever consist of more than a combination of the following?:

    1. Belief that proposition X is true, perhaps based on a source one deems authoritative (scripture, statement by a leader);

    2. Spiritual or mystical experience (like those catalogued in William James’ “The Varieties of Religious Experience”);

    3. Assumption that the spiritual experience confirms that X is true;

    4. A sensation of certainty;

    5. Life has been happy since the acceptance of X.

    Am I missing anything?

  • Jan

    Pointing out the doctrinal incorrectness of something someone has said in a public sphere is not an attack – it is a statement of clarification, and sometimes frustration. When dozens of Mormon women are re-posting Bekah’s words as if they are gospel truths, it is acceptable to point out the problem with those words when they are leading others to incorrect conclusions. By appearing in a public forum, representing herself as a public and religious figure to emulate, Ms. Virignia is accepting that her words have weight and there must be some accountability for that. Have we become too sensitive as a people to accept correction? Or is correction only allowed for those we disagree with?

  • Doug

    I am sorry you missed the point.

    You are still parading around like cattle. “Is this a good breeder Ma?”

    You are still encouraging impossible body images for most girls. “I wish I was as skinny as her.”
    You are still selling sex. “Man is she hot I wonder what ….?”

    Yet you and a great many others won’t believe. Wonder why UT is the number one tummy tuck place in the the States? Stop justifying what is clearly a bad idea.

    Do you see national beauty King pageants?

    Your wrong and you know it because your trying so hard to justify it.

  • Nan

    Perhaps YOUR interpretation of Jana is not right and your resulting accusations are are incorrect. You see animosity in Jana’s writing, I see it in yours. Even your response to me includes more basing of Jana.

  • Nan

    Her way of expressing her faith, sharing the gospel and talking about modesty in dress was to set aside her principles and parade around half dressed? Sorry but I can’t see her as some beacon of modesty by pretending that because her stomach was covered she was being modest.

  • Old Guy

    [Ed comment: This comment has been deleted for a personal criticism about the integrity and religious faith of another commenter. Let’s keep our discussion focused on the issues, folks. We don’t know the heart or inner life of someone else in the conversation, and we have no right to judge that heart.]

  • Doug, you need to read more carefully. I’m not only not justifying, my first comment was clear that even though I competed in pageants in high school, I see harm in them now.

    The comment you responded to even said, “It was a motivator for some things, but I’m not sure it was overall a positive–even for those who placed.”

    My comment was to note that Holly had cited the WRONG pageant. There are some differences, but few even have a talent competition.

    However, if you look at a competition that scores on scholarship (meaning school grades, test scores, etc.), service, accomplishment, talent, current events knowledge, and actual fitness skills (as opposed to hotness), the result can be a decent experience.

    Are there King pageants? Of course there are. They are called “sports.” You know, where men are judged solely according to physical prowess. And “success” where they are judged based on income. And on and on…

  • Correction: I competed in pageants in college. I judged the DYW, which is a high school senior competition.

  • Fred M

    Raymond,

    I think Joel’s response is my response. Of course, there are plenty of things we know, there are many circumstances in which it is totally appropriate to use the word. But there are certain things that are unknowable in this life. Which is the whole point of this experience! We can believe with all our hearts that Jesus is the Christ, but we can’t know it the way we know two plus two equals four. And belief isn’t inferior to knowledge–it’s just different–but we seem to treat it like it is.

    And it’s not just religious people. An atheist may say, “I know there is no God,” but I also think that what he/she actually means is “I believe there is no God.” Because that is unknowable!

    In the church we have created this “I know” monster which dominates our testimony meetings. It has become the rote way to express that one has a testimony. And I believe it actually cheapens the most beautiful thing about faith, which is that we don’t know, but we still…

  • Doug

    My apologies for misunderstanding. It seemed at first you were regretful but you also stated that you still judge these contest, and the part about scholarships seems to be a justification.

    Sports no. We don’t line men up just to look at them. Mind you my wife and daughters would goto the BaseBall game and “girl talk” about the cute players.

    If that were true, Hockey, boxing, and football would never had made it. There are a lot of ugly guys in those sports.

    Now beach volley ball I will agree there is to much skin on both sides.

  • Chad

    Matthew 5:15-16
    15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

    16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    I am for team Bekah on this one!
    We all want to stand out in some way. Semantics aside, I think Bekah’s definition of modesty sufficiently encompasses the intention of verse 16.

  • Modesty can be approached many ways: Jana chooses to look at it as “humble” or non-attention seeking. As pointed out above, there is more than one definition.

    Sexual purity and chastity is a constant battle in our world, since Adam and Eve.

    Many claims are immodest in their intent and scope. Some, as far as purity and the antithesis of sexual propriety, are very immodest in thought, action, or dress.

    I modestly suggest that that modesty can be taken different ways, and modest dress is the most attractive, as virtuous thought and action is as well.

    I bet Jana is modest in dress, if not thought. Good for her. Good for all of us when we are modest.

    And humble.

  • “Whether the swimsuit is a one-piece or a bikini is not as important as the underlying issue that women are being judged for how they look and how they set themselves above other people in the public square — neither of which is the definition of modesty.”

    Outward appearance is not what God is looking for. No one will be accepted by God by how they look.

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/2015/03/progressive-revelation-or-making-god-of.html

  • Doug

    You couldn’t get it more wrong.

    This has nothing to do with Modesty, but everything to do with dignity.

    No women should be treated like Cattle even if she signed up for it.
    No women should be objectified.

    Her message is insignificant to the one that using her body to get what she wants is ok. I think that is called prostitution. It is just sad!

  • You are right that this is not a universal problem affecting all Mormons. I’m sorry about the headline. I wish I could say that I didn’t write it, but I did and I am responsible for it. I don’t enjoy writing headlines, trying to keep them as brief as possible while also stuffing them with SEO keywords etc. It’s one of my least favorite parts of this job. Obviously I need to work harder at it, and I thank you for the reminder.

  • No problem at all, Holly. Glad we figured it out. Allison, I’m glad you’re part of this discussion and can speak from your own experience of having competed in pageants, both the positives and the negatives.

  • Well said. The young woman has a lot of integrity, and I admire her for it. Even though, as I have stated, Mormon culture has misunderstood the idea of “modesty” to our detriment, that’s not Bekah Pence’s fault. This post was not a personal criticism of her.

  • Laurie, I am going to have to remember that quote! I admit I am sometimes surprised when Mormons regard internal disagreement about issues as personal attacks.

    Like it or not, a “Ms. Virginia” is a public figure. That’s kind of the point of having a pageant — so the winner can be an ambassador to the world. And public figures are not going to be immune from criticism for their public choices.

    This is true of me, too. Not everyone agrees with me on this blog! (Understatement of the day.) But for me to automatically regard comments that express a very different opinion as personal or vindictive would be silly. A few of them are personal, certainly; I’ve had people tell me I’m an enemy of the Church, or that I’m money-hungry for writing a blog. (That one is so laughable it’s almost adorable.) But most of the negative comments here are not personal at all; they just disagree with something I or some other commenter said. That’s not personal. It’s called debate.

  • mari

    No, Fred, Joel, I’m afraid in this you are both wrong. It is promised to anyone who wants to know, that they will KNOW – Moroni 10:5, “… ye may KNOW the truth of all things.”

    I do appreciate your perspective, though. It’s important to be honest. If you don’t KNOW, then don’t say you do. I think a lot of people think they have to say they KNOW in order to be legit, when really they haven’t gotten there, yet. It’s okay to NOT know, as long as you are working on knowing…. which is what faith is.

    But some people DO know and it’s not cool to take away from their testimonies just because you don’t know. You know? 🙂

  • mari

    Also, Fred, Joel, and anyone else who thinks you can’t KNOW….

    The only thing that keeps you from KNOWING, is that you don’t believe it is possible. That’s not a bad thing. It, to me, actually shows some serious strength of character for anyone who continues on with just the hope that the gospel is true…. We all have different life experiences, and some of those experiences make it a lot harder to trust in what we can’t see, while other experiences make it impossible to NOT know….

    Just don’t knock anyone else for their testimonies, okay? 🙂

  • mari

    I disagree. I mean, YES, modesty is more than just what we wear, but NO, I don’t think the church on a whole is getting it wrong. My calling over the past almost 2 years has been in the Young Women’s presidency. I was in the Relief Society presidency for almost 4 years in a different ward before that, and I was the Activity Days leader for 2 years in a different ward before that. In each of those callings, the subject of modesty comes up quite often. Yes, there are usually general discussions about dress, but then the lessons move on to talking about what we do, how we act, how we present ourselves, how we treat others…. modesty is an attitude of grace and love.

    I don’t have a problem with a girl who wants to be in a pagent. Pagents aren’t the same as they were back in the day. It’s really NOT all about how a girl looks anymore. Of course they’ll be pretty and they’ll be healthy, but we’re not talking about the anorexic size 0’s up on the stage! (to be continued…

  • mari

    (continued….) No, not all size 0’s are anorexic, just so we’re clear.

    I think the point the naysayers miss here, is that so many young women think that in order to get ahead in this world, they have to dress and act immodestly.

    Bekah just proved them wrong.

    As far as those calling her immodest by participating in a pagent…. I don’t think so. This was a platform she could use to share her message, so why not take advantage of it? Now she is in the public eye, where tons of young women will be watching her, and she can use her position to do some good.

  • Doug:
    **It seemed at first you were regretful but you also stated that you still judge these contest, and the part about scholarships seems to be a justification.***

    Competitions vary, obviously. There is a continuum, obviously. I didn’t use scholarships as a point of justification, I used the aspects of the competition as justification. The DYW competition judges a variety of things, almost none of which have anything to do with beauty.

    Sports are a display of physical prowess. A fitness competition that is about actual skills (as I carefully outlined) is as well. Whether the competitor is “ugly” or not, makes no difference.

  • Joel

    Mari,

    I share your understanding of LDS doctrine. In fact, I believe I’ve quoted Moroni 10:5 about a 1,000 times over a two-year period.

    And I’m all for respectful netiquette. But I think your point is depressing. Are members’ bold proclamations of certainty so vulnerable to thoughtful examination, and so easily insulted in the company of civil disagreement about epistemology. It plays into a common perception of us that, like charming, naïve children, we’re afraid to defend the basis for that certainty. (See Book of Mormon musical.)

    I’m open to persuasion, if you want discuss it. I extend my honest question to you, as well. What do I misunderstand about “I know” testimonies; do they consist of more than the following?:

    1. Belief that an idea is true, based on scripture or statements by a leader;

    2. A spiritual experience;

    3. Assumption that the spiritual experience confirms the idea;

    4. A sensation of certainty;

    5. Life has been joyful…

  • trytoseeitmyway

    I can appreciate the objection to beauty pageants (a former contestant in them even writes here about the “harm” they cause) but, gosh, it’s hard to deny that young women across cultural boundaries pay attention to beauty and wish to be perceived as pretty or beautiful or gorgeous or what have you.

    If someone says, you can pursue your interest in being attractive consistently with our dress code … and we want to use the pageant form to demonstrate that,well, gee, I am not sure that deserves much if any criticism. It seems judgmental to me, and we try to avoid that, yes?

    But Jana notes that “modesty” and “our dress code” aren’t completely aligned, so maybe we’re conflating concepts. OK, maybe so. But we often see how the application of a principle leads to a desire to articulate clear standards. That’s not very problematic either, I don’t think.

  • Mari:***In each of those callings, the subject of modesty comes up quite often. Yes, there are usually general discussions about dress, but then the lessons move on…***

    Mari, can you point to a church produced lesson/article on modesty that focuses on something OTHER than clothing coverage? You say “modesty is an attitude of grace and love.” But FSOY says: “Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior.” The rest of that section, three paragraphs, is ALL about how one DRESSES, including, of course, how sexy things can “stimulate desires” in others (after referencing FEMALE clothing issues).

  • Mari:***Pagents aren’t the same as they were back in the day. It’s really NOT all about how a girl looks anymore.***

    Um…it’s MORE about how they look than ever. And not just “oh, a pretty girl,” but “oh, a pretty, nearly naked, plastic surgery enhanced girl.” Even Miss America, which USED to focus more on the talent/scholarship aspect (yes, some Miss America’s were accused of not being pretty enough) chose to compete by becoming more like the strictly beauty focused pageants.

  • Doug

    Alison you have taken a exit when you should have stayed on the interstate.

    Thank you for freely admitting that you are justifying your position with good grades, scholar ships, varying standards of Judgement. Also trying to equate athletic ability with strutting around a stage to have your butt and breast checked out as the same is another form of Justification.

    It seems to me that you really hate what you did. And your trying to avoid labeling it wrong. You got money for your looks, not skill, not intelligence, just the fact that your breast, waist line, and butt are most likely shaped better than the average women. You took advantage of that and used it to make money.

    So What! We all make mistakes. It is better to accept and say I screwed up than to justify.

    My harsh comments are to point out that it is beneath women to participate in such events. As it is for men. Beauty is subjective, beauty pageants are not.

    Women are better than cattle lets not treat them that…

  • kmd

    I also thought it was ironic that she believes she can be modest and drop dead gorgeous. Thanks for the post Jana.

  • Jennifer

    The beauty pageant scene has been a subculture in our country for decades. While you may not agree with this young woman’s choice of venue or platform for expressing her ideals and beliefs, it is a platform highly respected and accepted by many in our country and even the world and therefore a way to reach many with whatever your message may be. I understand your critique is more about the Mormon culture’s definition and use of the term “modest,” but it really does seem more of a critique of pageants in general and this young woman’s message in particular. She has a platform and a message. You have a platform and a message.
    That being said, I used to live in Pakistan and there is a branch of the church there. My very “modest” (by church standards) clothing was considered immodest by the women at church, so I had several Shalwar-Chamises made that covered my elbows and bottom. But I wore “pants” to church. Modesty is relative. In this woman’s case/platform it is relevant.

  • Doug:
    ***Thank you for freely admitting that you are justifying your position…***

    What exactly is the “position” you claim I am justifying? I noted a FACT, that various competitions judge DIFFERENT things.

    •••trying to equate athletic ability with strutting around a stage to have your butt and breast checked out***

    I equated athletic ability in one venue with athletic ability in a different one. I didn’t equate it to a swimsuit competition. You’d have to read my comments to actually know that.

    And, for the record, I’m not referring to my own pageant experience (which WERE beauty contests) but the ones I occasionally just NOW (30 years later).

    But, again, you’d have to read my comments to know that rather than just build straw men to tear them down and pretend your a feminist.

  • Chad

    I stand by my comment.
    Team Bekah all the way!

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  • Outstanding post, Jana. Thanks for pointing out the irony here.

  • Nan

    No Bekah did not prove them wrong all she did is present herself half dressed, dressed in a manner that doesn’t comply with her covenant, for everyone to look at. Just for people to look at not to swim or exercise, not because it was to hot or any other reason but for people to look at her body and see how drop dead gorgeous she is. All she proved is that yes women do have to dress and act immodestly to be heard and get a head. Sorry but I don’t find a woman in a bathing suit and high heels is strutting down a runway is person I’m going to pay much attention to when she starts blathering about modesty.

  • ModestyAlsoMeans

    As an passionate observer of all religions but not a church goer by any means, I must say you got your wires crossed in describing the Mormons. They may be strange, but they have this Biblical ideal down pat.

    From my visitations, I have seen they use the word “modesty” to mean this definition in the dictionary: “Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.”

    Clothing appropriately covering the body is what this means. My grandparents and many of my friends’ grandparents mean it this way when using the word.

    Modesty when referring to the body is often used in this way. Thus, it is quite quite modest as in modest sum of money, as in the definition you appear to be using.

    Modesty, as in unassuming or moderate, is hardly the definition old timer Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims or Jews use when actually employing it. This is one reason I cannot understand many relativist, new age church going Christians, who ignorantly misuse this…

  • ModestyAlsoMeans

    Sorry, meant to comment here. Browser woes…

    Thank you. At least, we have one thing we agree upon. At least, you Mormons don’t “hate” on other religions. It boggles my mind when so-called Christians go out of their way to criticize other religions. Let the truth or falsehood speak for itself–God will condemn and fight our battles. I feel the Bible is unequivocally enough for me, so that is where I differ from you in many ways.

  • Abby Roe

    Here’s my take as a socially liberal feminist… I love Modesty for my own reasons, and I wrote all about my own take on it in this blog post! https://medium.com/@aRoeHeart/modest-is-hottest-the-modesty-problem-2289f57a069

  • Steven Hill

    I have a real hard time understanding Sister Reiss. The tone of this post is an example. Somebody disagrees with her about an issue, they are missing the point. It doesn’t matter what the issue is. If someone disagrees with her, they are missing the point. From my perspective, she doesn’t appear to be able to take the attitude that intelligent people can disagree over issues. Just once, I would like to see her say something like, “Here’s why I disagree with this person” instead of the here’s what they don’t understand. Contrary from what I read in the tone of her blog, it’s possible to disagree with her perspective and that doesn’t make that person any more right or wrong than she is.

  • Listening Closely

    Steven, you make a very good point but you have to understand who and what you are dealing with. Many of these people, not all, don’t care what anyone thinks except themselves. Jana is an Anti-Mormon, no matter what she says. All you need to is read the introduction to this piece. She says such wonderful things about Bekah Pence and finish’s with the comment,”She sounds like a lovely person.” and then Proceeds to rip her for even thinking Bekah might be right in what she says. I compare this with how a person with a kiss on the cheek betrayed another person whom we all know. Remember in these people there is no rest from complaining so they can feel good about themselves. The Lord sets the program but man strives to destroy it. The Lord has His church but it doesn’t matter because these people know more then the Lord does. You see it when you read the different issues that they write about. it is always as you see it, destroy the person, destroy the idea, destroy the church.

  • Old Guy

    I don’t agree with everything she writes, but I think Ms. Riess is one of the more intelligent and reasonable Mormon voices. I would much rather have her, and people like her, running the LDS church than the current leadership. Mainly, I appreciate that she faces the issues squarely, and I can come here for straight answers. Despite your claim that “intelligent people disagree,” there are absolutes for “right” and “wrong” at times. If Ms. Riess is the one making the point, then you have to accept her statement that you’re missing it. Of course, you can always write your own blog if you don’t like hers.

  • Justin

    “We must respect other people’s interpretations of modesty”

    I couldn’t disagree more. We have to respect *people* period.
    Values, opinions, or interpretations are not always right or correct, and to be under obligation to subvert your own beliefs, at the very least for the context of the other person, because someone else believes differently is tyranny not tolerance. For example, I have no respect for the interpretation of modesty where little girls wear miniature versions of adult stripper costumes while dancing because “its not like they have anything to show”. I can still respect the mother who said that but hold firm to my conviction’s that such values are disturbingly wrong, even for her and her little girl.

  • Justin

    Your right. It is respected of the world and that’s a standard that is good enough for me.
    I was hoping to get a good look at her modestly sexy body but I can’t find any pictures of the swimsuit event online.
    I think her and other “drop dead gorgeous” sister RMs should doll themselves up for a *modest* swimsuit calender. They could use it to generate money for women’s scholarships and they could include quotes from general conferences so it helps spread the gospel to all the interested guys that would enjoy examining their chaste and virtuous bodies and curves.

  • Jennifer

    Oh my gosh! Hahahahahahaha! You are so FUNNY! I love it! Thanks! I am flattered at the attention you give my remarks with your wit and sarcasm while simultaneously taking my point and completely disjointing it. Impressive! I’ll bet you feel REALLY proud of yourself right now. Did you even read my entire comment?
    By the way, I hope you’re not staining your priesthood-white shirt with that drool.

  • Chris

    I agree that modesty is more than how much skin you show. I also totally support this girl in advocating showing less skin instead of more. Maybe her view of modesty is native or maybe she could use a term that better represents what she is advocating, either way, telling girls they don’t have to look like a porn star to be beautiful is a great cause.

  • Chris

    *naive, not native. Sorry.

  • Russ

    No good deed goes unpunished. I think beauty pageants are dumb, but if others like them, let them have their fun. Why single this Bekah girl out? She just tried to do something she thought was good while doing a thing she likes. I guess the things Ms. Riess likes are just more important.

  • Thank you! My thoughts exactly ♡

  • Jake

    I think you’re missing the point of what this young lady, and Mormons in general, are trying to accomplish when they use the word modest. This lady is in a beauty pageant, the only way to compete in a competition like this is to draw attention to yourself. What she is trying to say is that you do not need to show more skin to be more beautiful. The Mormons use modesty as a term to describe, specifically, the amount of skin you show off to the world. Not the amount of attention you attract. So what she is saying is entirely true. Modesty can make you even more beautiful. The word modesty could also be used to describe how one deals with the attention. No matter what a gorgeous woman dresses in she is sure to attract attention from those around her. So does that mean just by being beautiful a woman is being immodest? I would say no. She can still be modest by dressing modestly and dealing with the attention she gets in a modest way.

  • Christine

    I thought it was great that Miss Virginia stood up for what she believes in and urged the directors of the competition to let her alter the swimsuit and two dresses that were not to her standards. She is a beautiful woman in side and out. A wonderful role model for young girls of any faith watching the Miss America competition. I’m sure they noticed that she and Miss Idaho were dressed differently.

  • Mimi

    Jana-
    Seems to me that you are drawing undue attention to yourself with the manner in which you are voicing your opinion of Bekah Pence. Pot & kettle??? Members have way bigger issues to worry about than this.

  • T.Witt

    This article and this attitude really bugged me. This is one thing that is VERY wrong with Mormon culture. Great job knowing and understanding a deeper more advanced knowledge of the doctrine of modesty. HOW DARE YOU belittle and mock and make less of anyone who isn’t where you are on this topic. Why can’t we all be applauded for our movements toward becoming more Christ-like and helping people WHERE THEY ARE instead of making yourself feel better because you are holier than someone. STOP this trash talk when people are doing some good where they are planted. We HAVE to bring up our sisters as they take steps to be better according to their understanding and their place. This kind of judging sets the bad precedent that to be a member you have to be perfect. It is the worst lie ever told to Latterday Saint women.

  • T.Witt

    It appears by your comments that you are probably in the wrong church.

  • Wil

    How do you balance being modest and letting “your light so shine.” As a father of two daughters, I can say that Ms. Pence is inspiring others to be more modest. Also, I believe her when she said she felt inspired to participate in the pageant. If you believe her, that trumps all other limited judgements of her decision to be in the pageant.

  • JC

    This is how I was raised and how my children are being raised.

    And I most certainly am not Mormon, though I have found underlying similarities through my personal interactions with Mormons.

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