Modest, Garments, & Nudity within Mormonism – Part 2

Please see part 1 here
So, back to modesty. What is it really all about? I think it’s about avoiding pride. If we look at it this way, the admonition to be be modest in our dress has more to do with dressing so as not to intentionally draw undue attention to ourselves, being “free from conceit or vanity.” Wearing a swimsuit to church would be immodest, because it would serve to draw attention to myself. Going swimming in tuxedo would likely have the same result. It seems that it is all about our attitude in the clothing choices we make. The outcome we desire has an impact on the correctness of an action. If my desire is to wear clothing that is suited to the activity and location, that’s fine. If my desire is to lift myself up above others, there’s a problem. (Note, this is not dependent on other’s reactions, simply our intentions. This is a complex topic as desiring others notice us and our appearance are normal human desires, and I don’t believe they are sinful or wrong.)

If our attitude is what determines our level of modesty, I have a hard time seeing a problem with wearing a bikini to swim, or running shorts to run, or with going naked at a nude beach. Assuming one’s desire is not to impress others with how much better our body looks than theirs, the situation seems analogous. The nudity would not attract any undue attention, because others would be nude, and expecting to see nudity.
Non-sexual Nudity
What this implies is that there is nothing wrong with nudity per se. It can be non-sexual.
Now, anyone who wants to say there’s no such thing as non-sexual nudity has forgotten what it is like to be a kid. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen my nephew bolt from the bathroom, leaving a towel lying somewhere in his path, and running around the house naked. Why? Because he dislikes clothing. It bothers him. He hates shoes & pulls his socks off constantly. And if you leave him alone long enough, he’ll remove everything his little hands are able to.
For me, I’ve worked in a health care setting for years. I’ve seen naked body after naked body, and I can tell you that the amount of sexual tension in that encounter is entirely dependent on me. If I have it in my head that nudity is sexual per se, then every time I see a patient that’s going to be an issue. But if I get used to the idea that nudity is simply… nothing. It’s not anything. It’s a lack of something. It’s like zero, it’s the absence of numbers. It’s like learning that black is actually the absence of light.  It’s “clothlessness.” For me, at work, a naked body is simply, a body. A diagnostic tool. And, more importantly, a person… just without the wrapper.
Some of the most beautiful art ever created was of the naked form… seeing David in person was breathtaking for me. And yet, I have to remember that art is an imitation. As great as Michelangelo was, he cannot compete with the beauty that God has created in us, in giving us our bodies. I think it is tragic the way we have linked all nudity to sexuality, teaching even small children that there is something dirty about their bodies, such that they must be covered. They are beautiful creations. God said they were good. Who are we to argue with that, or to say that they need concealing or decoration to look appropriate? I have never understood the rational behind the Modesty (read: covering up) is a way of showing respect to our bodies/God.  I’m unable to think of an analogous situation. What else do we respect by covering/hiding it? The scriptures speak of our bodies as Temples… which we try to build at the top of a hill and use bright white stone, with bright lights to help it be seen.  Why don’t we build them like a bunker with a small barely visible entrance?
For me, I seem to have become a “nudist” without ever really thinking of myself as such, or participating in a nudist lifestyle. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the naked body. When I go to work and see nudity, it doesn’t cross my mind that it’s sexual in any way… because it’s not. (To be honest, the first few times it happened, there was sexual tension there for me. But that was due to my incorrect perception {Proclaimed jointly by the Church and the Media} that nudity and sexuality are joined at the hip).
Now, if I can be expected at work to not look at naked patients in a sexual way, there is no reason that all men shouldn’t have the same expectation in daily life. If I can do it at the office, why not at the beach? Or a pool? Hot tub? Party?? Home?
I am convinced that it is our own duty, individually, to choose how we react in any circumstance. Any good man, single or married, should be fully capable of walking through a room full of fully naked women without committing sin in his heart.  He should be able to see each one as a daughter of God, as a real person; even carry on a conversation with each one. It may be that he will feel some physical attraction to any number of them, even become physically aroused.  But I believe there can be no sin in this simple physiologic reaction.  It is what we do after that initial, normal response that determines our moral standing.
Now, I’m not sure how I feel about the whole social nudity idea in relation to Mormonism, but I am having trouble finding good scriptural reasons for its proscription.
Continue to Part 3…



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