Families are strengthened when adults give the facts of life early, factually and without embarrassment. Children need to be taught appropriately about sex from the time they are babies, and young people need honest and direct answers to their questions about sex and babies. Children, teenagers, and young adults need to be taught by precept and example the importance of dressing modestly and appropriately for the occasion.
The subject of our Relief Society lesson last Sunday was the law of chastity. Since the teacher believed that class members did not need to be taught this law, she used the occasion to discuss the importance of teaching this law to our children and grandchildren. The first topic that came up was the importance of teaching children about sex from babyhood. A new sister in our ward said that she taught classes on how to avoid sexual assault and claimed that children need to know facts about sex before nine years of age. I was a little disbelieving at first, but I understood and agreed with her when she explained that even babies can be taught the proper names for the parts of the body and little children can be taught to dress modestly. When parents teach the facts of life reverently in the home, children are strengthened in their abilities to deal with the irreverence that other children deal with the sacredness of procreation process.
This sister's young adult daughter shared her conviction for early teaching and appreciation for the efforts of her parents. She highlighted the need for early teaching when she said that fifth grade students in her elementary school were experimenting with sex. Her words reminded me that my oldest daughter came home from sixth grade asking some very serious questions about sex. Some of her classmates had shared a description of the sex act with her, and she didn't believe them. She came to me for confirmation that they were wrong, and she became angry with me when I confirmed that her classmates were telling her the truth. She was angry with me because I had not taught her the facts of life earlier. I tried to be more diligent in teaching my other children, but I probably fell short of what I should have taught them.
Another topic of discussion that took a large portion of the class time was modesty of dress. A mother of a teenage son explained that she and her husband were chaperones at a school prom in recent months. Her son asked a young Catholic girl to the prom and explained to her the importance of wearing a modest dress. When he picked her up for the prom, she was dressed in a strapless dress but thought it was modest because she wore a shawl over it. The young man immediately realized that the dress was not modest and apparently said, "My mother's going to kill me!" The young woman spent the entire prom clutching her shawl and trying to cover her bare skin. This mother continued in describing the dresses of other young women of her acquaintance, all of which were immodest. She came to the conclusion that our young women do not understand the meaning of modest dress.
I remembered my efforts as a mother in trying to teach my own daughters to dress more modestly. I realize now that they didn't understand the importance of modesty or even what it means. Whenever I sewed anything for them, I encouraged more modesty, but I still didn't consider their prom dresses as modest. I usually redesigned the pattern in order to make the outfit as modest as possible, and I always added an inch or more when I hemmed their dresses to bring the hems closer to their knees.
I also remembered my own experience at a high school prom about fifty years ago. At the time I was in high school, prom dresses consisted of a lining of taffeta covered with ruffles and more ruffles of gathered netting with straps made of lots of gathered net. I remember that I felt quite bare in my dress because it was the most immodest thing that I had ever worn in public besides my swimming suit. All the other girls at the dance were dressed in similar dresses except one girl. Out of all the dresses at that prom, there is only one dress that I remember - including the one I wore. This young woman chose to wear a modest dress - a round and becoming neckline, simple and short sleeves, a fitted bodice, and a floor-length skirt - in a beautiful, medium blue. I was very impressed by this young woman and her dress and wished that I had been wearing a more modest dress. In later years I wished that my parents had helped me to understand how I could be more appropriately and modestly dressed. As a side note, this gorgeous young woman became Days of '47 Queen just a few years later. If I ever have the opportunity to meet this woman again, I plan to tell her of my respect for her modesty.
Another young woman in Relief Society shared with us how the bishop of her ward at college visited the Relief Society one day to talk about why it was important for the young women to dress more modestly. He told the young women that he had already spoken to the young men, but he wanted to talk to the young women also. He told them of the effect that immodest dress has on young men and how seeing too much skin on a girl arouses improper feelings in young men. He told the young women "Don't tempt my young men by dressing immodestly!"
I was very impressed when I read that the Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter spoke about appropriate dress and hygiene for young people. After his city endured the results of a recent flash mob of mostly young, African-American youth, Mayor Nutter told the marauding black young people, "Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer. Pull your pants up and buy a belt 'cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.
"If you walk into somebody's office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied, and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won't hire you? They don't hire you `cause you look like you're crazy. You have damaged your own race."
Children, teens and young adults are strengthened and better prepared to face the tests of life when they have been taught appropriately about sex and reproduction as well as the need to dress modestly and appropriately for the occasion. Parents and leaders can strengthen families and society by teaching modesty and the facts of life early, clearly and appropriately.