Elder Robert D Hales quotes are taken from his August 2008 Ensign article, “Modesty: Reverence For The Lord”
Elder Robert D. Hales said, “Imagine that you are watching a play. An actor comes on stage dressed as a clown but starts playing the serious part of the lead. You might react by thinking that this is inappropriate—there must be some mistake in the costuming or casting.
Now think of how inappropriate it is to go out into the world or come to church dressed in clothes that do not represent who you really are in spirit.”
Several years ago when going in for a temple recommend interview. The stake president informed me that he was speaking to every member that came in for a temple recommend personally. He said there was a very big problem with immodest dressing in his stake and wanted to make sure that every member attending the temple understood what was appropriate to wear and what was inappropriate. What he said next stunned me. He said, “A woman’s knees should never been seen in public.” He then challenged me to go to the temple and to listen to what was said in the endowment, and that if I did the spirit would reveal this truth to me.
I have since done a little research and studying on modesty and dress by the Lord’s standards and I have come to the conclusion that there are two ways of dressing. You can either dress in fig leaves or coats of skins. In Moses 4 verse 13 we read,” And the eyes of them both (Adam and Eve) were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” Then in verse 27 we read, “Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, I the Lord God, make coats of skins and clothed them.”
So what are fig leaves and what are coats of skins? ” Robert D Hales said, “In everyday living, immodest clothing such as short shorts, miniskirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire are not appropriate. Men and women—including young men and young women—should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low cut in the front or back or revealing in any other manner. Tight pants, tight shirts, excessively baggy clothing, wrinkled apparel, and unkempt hair are not appropriate. All should avoid extremes in clothing, hairstyle, and other aspects of appearance. We should always be neat and clean, avoiding sloppiness or inappropriate casualness. Our clothing is more than just covering for our bodies; it reflects who we are and what we want to be, both here in mortality and in the eternities that will follow.”
A fig leaf could be referred to any clothing that is tight, revealing, low cut, excessively baggy, or wrinkled. Anything that would make me want to hide from the Lord’s presence. As Adam and Eve did in their fig leaves. A coat of skins could be any clothing that would show our love for the Savior and that shows I know and understand who I am. A son or daughter of Heavenly Father. So I have tried to make it a goal that every time I pick up a pair of yoga pants, a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, a skirt, or even a pair of jeans. Before I putting it on my body I ask myselves is this a fig leaf or a coat of skins.
Let me give you a couple of examples from the scriptures. First I would like to talk about my favorite scripture heroine of all times, Hadassah. Hadassah was a young jewish girl, and during this time the jews were hated and not treated very well. And jewish females were thought to be the lowest of low and treated very poorly. So not only is Hadassah jewish but she is also an orphan. Now when Mordecai hears of his uncle’s death he takes Hadassah in and raised her as his own. Mordecai then gives Hadassah her Persian name Esther. Now what does Esther have to do with modesty? Well we know the king is looking for a queen and he brings in all these maidens to chose one to be his new queen. We read in Esther 2 verse 15 (when Esther) “was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her.” Verse 17 reads, “And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head,” Now Esther was given the opportunity to adorn herself to wear fig leaves if she chose too, but she required nothing. Why? Because she knew who she was (a daughter of God) and she was not going to give up wearing her coat of skins just for the chance to be queen.
What did the king and all those that looked at Esther see that they did not see in the other maidens? The companionship of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit radiated from her and penetrated all that came in contact with her. Now the Spirit can not dwell with those that wear fig leaves. Had Esther been a fig leaf wearer even part of the time her story could've turned out very differently. We know that Esther went on to save a nation (her people) from death. If she had not been humble enough to wear coats of skins her life and the lives of her people could have been lost.
Now let’s take a look at another women from the scriptures, Isabel. She is found in the Book of Mormon. Only five women are mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon and Isabel is one of them. So much is to be learned from her. She is a fig leif wearer and her life did not turn out so well. We read about her in Alma 39 verses 3 through 5. Now Alma is talking to his son Corianton here as we read, “And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel. Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted. Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the holy Ghost?”
Spencer W. Kimball said, “I know I’m not going to be popular when I say this, but I am sure that the immodest dresses that are worn by our young women, and their mothers, contribute in some degree to the immorality of this age … I wonder if our young sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before young men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered.” (Quoted by Dallin H Oaks in the December 1971 New Era, “Standards of Dress and Grooming”)
Now I am not saying that if we wear fig leaves we will turn into harlots. But what I am saying is if we give Satan an inch he’ll take a yard. If we give him a yard he’ll take two. Isabel didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, when I grow up I want to be a harlot.” It was through her pride of fig leaf wearing that kept her from feeling the Spirit. And without the Spirit in her life she became lost.
Have I always followed the guidance of my church leaders by not letting my knees show in public, or by avoiding all fig leaf clothing? No, there have been times when the cuteness of an article of clothing or how comfortable that clothing is has overridden my better judgement, or my laziness has kept me from dressing in coats of skins. Does my human weakness keep me from trying to do better next time. No, it gives me the opportunity to repent, to learn, and to grow.
When I struggle with fig leaves I always turn to my favorite heroine Hadassah. I think I admire her so much because our lives are so similar. Hadassah was a jewish female. Looked down upon, ridiculed, and disowned by some. I am the only member in my family and none of my family is happy with my decision to join the church. I am looked down on, ridiculed and even disowned by some family members for my decision. Hadassah was an orphan. Even though both of my parents are alive I feel spiritually orphaned by them. They want nothing to do with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and my whole life is in this gospel. So I am unable to share my life with them. Hadassah’s name was changed to Esther. I have been to the temple and received a new name. Esther married a king. I married a priesthood holder and king. Esther took on the heavy responsibilities that come with being queen. I also have many heavy responsibilities as queen of my home. Esther saved a nation (her people) from death. I am the only one at this time from my extended family that can enter the Holy Temple. I have hundreds of thousands of ancestors just waiting for their temple work to be done. I to have a nation to save.
This was a lot for Esther to bear. This is a lot for me to bear. But Esther did it by being true to who she was (a daughter of God) by keeping the Spirit with her in her wearing coats of skins and not fig leaves. I too can bear the burdens placed before me by keeping the Spirit with me in wearing coats of skins and not fig leaves.
I bear my testimony that I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true. I know that our church leaders speak truths that guide us back to our Heavenly Father. I know that my Savior loves me and everyone of you. I know He gives us these sacred guidelines on modesty, not to hinder us, but so that we can have the fullness of His love and protection at all times. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.