I am not advocating or promoting nudism, nudity or justifying immodesty, that is not my intent or desire, merely to explore nudity and our cultural perceptions surrounding it as well as how that relates to standards of modesty.
Growing up in the church I have been taught that nudity is bad. It should be avoided at all cost, that only in private or with a spouse we should be naked. Clothing should not be form-fitting or revealing. There is nothing wrong with these standards, however it has effectively been taught that nudity is bad and that to be naked in the presence of anyone but your spouse is wrong and violates standards of modesty or the law of chastity that is taught in the church.
I have thought about this much over the last year or so and it has been interesting to explore the cultural understandings, both in my religious community and secular culture regarding the issue of nudity. Much of my contemplation of this issue has been focused on what is modesty? How do we apply this and what is immodesty.
When our family goes swimming for example our daughters will wear one piece swimsuits that would seem to contradict or go against the modesty standard as stated in the church pamphlet For The Strength of Youth which states “Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.” I have never seen a women’s swim suit that did not fit this description. One piece or two swimsuits are form-fitting, only cover the crotch for girls. They expose effectively all of the waste and shape and size of a woman’s breasts and hips, butt etc…. I have never seen a swim suit that did not match this description for girls. For boys being topless would be immodest for many yet when swimming this again is not a problem or considered immodest unless the are wearing a speedo or mankini, (ironic since a girls swimsuit is just as revealing as her underwear or more so in most cases especially between the legs). When families go swimming is it consider immodest or inappropriate to change together in the family changed room with family members of opposite or same sex? Is it only a issue of modesty if members of opposite gender are present? Or is changing together acceptable and not a matter of modesty at all? What about when a male patient goes for a prostate exam with a female Dr. is it wrong or immodest to strip down for his medical exam? Or a Pregnant woman to go for a vaginal and breast medical exam during pregnancy with a Male OBGYN which every one of my wife’s Dr’s were for each baby she has had.
It would seem that standards of modesty change depending on the circumstances you are in. For example a young woman wearing a swimming suit one piece or otherwise would be considered immodest at a social gathering of other LDS youth or any social gathering for that matter, unless it was a swimming event then it would be acceptable. Same can be said for a medical exam or families changing together for what ever event requires changing.
As I have explored this issue I have started to think about why we consider these things or even nudity in general to be immodest. What I have come to see or understand is that our standard of acceptable modesty depends on the environment or situation we are in. Modesty is not strictly defined within the church as some things like swimming suits or family and public change rooms are acceptable in one circumstance but not in others. This begs the question of where did these ideals come from? How are our perceptions and ideas of modesty formed within our culture? How do the views of other cultures differ from our own?
Public bathing is a practice that up until the advent of the private bathtub which exist in virtually every home in the developed world, was common practice where people of both genders, young and old, family, kids etc… would bath together and was common practice. Were these people being immodest? were they contravening God’s standards? Finish and Scandinavian cultures have been well-known for this practice lasting much longer in their public saunas than the rest of the developed world. Is this a culture of immodest people because this is accepted? There are still African tribes that effectively live naked and other native cultures around the world. Are these cultures immodest and do they contravene God’s standards? I supposed some would argue that they do but on that same note I do not see these people being in violation of this code of modesty. Standards of modesty are largely set by the cultures we have been trained and groomed in.
When I take the time to think about why in our culture being naked around others is frowned upon, looked on with skepticism and viewed as questionable moral standard by people in general I have thought about where this idea comes from. Nudism in the western world for example is often looked upon with skepticism about their true intentions while in many other cultures it has a very nonchalant and is even common practice with public beaches and other places. When you look at our culture we see very evidently how nudity is often portrayed. In film, books, movies, music, magazines etc … nudity is portrayed as something violent or sexual and in many cases such as depictions of violent rape, torture etc …. We are surrounded by and constantly immersed in a culture where nudity is something to be feared or sexually pleasured by. The idea of fat shaming runs rampant, woman are told that if they expose themselves they are sluts and just looking for attention. We are constantly taught, subjected to and indoctrinated that nudity is bad and it equals sex.
As I have explored this issue I am convinced more and more that this is not how God would have had it but it is a lie of the devil who has created a world where these things are programmed essentially from birth to be this way. I cannot believe that God would have us believe such things and live in such a way as to equate nudity with sex and thus we should fear and be ashamed of it. It just does not make sense. I have thought about this as I have read the scriptures and the story of Adam and Eve come to mind. When I think about that story we know that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, they were created naked. God walked with them in the garden while they were naked. They were naked together and it was not immodest. In Moses chapter 3 verse 25 it states
“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness. They were naked together before becoming man and wife This did not come till later in the story when they ate of the fruit and we hear what the devil told them before God the Father came back to earth to visit with Adam and Eve.
Moses chapter 4 vs 13, 15-17
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”
And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?
God did not tell them they were naked nor did he teach them such things were wrong or immodest, Adam and Eve made clothing only after being tempted by the devil. I am not trying to say that clothing is bad, there is nothing wrong with clothing and we are told to dress modestly within the standards of the church.
Teaching of modesty within the church have always been about not attracting unwanted sexual attention to ourselves in the way we dress, talk, and behave. Dressing in ways that draw attention to those parts of our bodies that are desirous in matters of sexuality is not modest, just as being the only one or one of few naked people in a room is not modest, as such things attract attention. When a group of people are naked together then is this immodest? When everyone is dressed in the same or not dressed in the same room are you attracting unwanted attention then? Using the swimming pool as an example in public pools men will often change being completely nude in the shower facilities or locker room in the change room out in the open, this is not only normal but expected and most of the time there is at least on other person present whom you do not know. I am sure the same goes for women though I have never been in a woman’s change room to observe if this is the same, but I am told as much. Why then is nudity acceptable in some circumstances and not others?
How then do such standards apply within our home and families? As you can see and acknowledge there are many situations where nudity in family is not thought of as bad, Or even with those not of our families or complete strangers regardless of gender such as changing together at public swimming pools.
What it boils down to in this bloggers humble opinion is that nudity is not immodest when in circumstances where it is expected, normal or otherwise not sexualized. Nudity does not have to be sexual nor does it necessarily mean or translate into immodesty. This does not mean that we should get together and hang out naked just for the hell of it (though I really don’t care if you did) but what it does mean that there are times and places where nudity is expected and normal and it is not immodest to be that way at all. When everyone is naked no one is naked so to speak. It is no longer immodest where it is expected or the norm. It is when it is not the norm that attention is drawn to it that we have problems.
Let me know what you think
And that is the Gospel according to Andrew