You’re the Bishop: Scenario #1

guestMormon 86 Comments

Welcome to “You’re the Bishop,” a new installment at Mormon Matters.  My name is Bishop Bill.  Once every few weeks I’ll post a situation that I had while I was bishop, and let you decide how to handle it.  Everybody gets to play, even the ladies out there.  After a week, I’ll add a comment with what I did in the situation, and how it turned out.  Let’s play!

I’ve changed some minor details in each situation to preserve the confidentiality of the person involved.  Other than the small changes, everything you read here really happened to me as Bishop.  I was Bishop for 6 years in a medium-sized ward in the southwestern U.S.

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So let’s start out with this week’s installment of “You’re the Bishop.”

There is a YW in your ward that is 16.  She lives with a non-member mother who does not place any restrictions on her.  Her father is remarried and very active and lives out of town.  The girl chose to live with her mother, so she can pretty much do what she wants.  But she has several good friends in the ward, and she craves he friendship and attention she gets in church.

She is VERY well endowed and wears very low cut tops to all church meetings.  One gets quite a view when talking with her.  As bishop, you are on very good terms with her, and she has come to you several times with problems.

[poll id=”95″]

Comments 86

  1. Ask a YW leader to talk to her so that you don’t come across as lecherous and pedantic at the same time.

    And here’s something you DIDN’T ask about: That photo on a site that you know is going to be visited by lots of people whose religious beliefs would discourage them from viewing material like that? Not cool, and kind of a violation of your readers’ trust. And whether you meant it to be or not, it looks like a pathetically transparent attempt to use sexual eye candy to increase click-throughs and viewership.

  2. (Throws this post against wall.) Maybe you knew I was going to do that, maybe you didn’t. If you did, then that means you posted this topic deliberately, purposefully — which means that you’re sitting there also deliberately, purposefully.

  3. #2—“it looks like a pathetically transparent attempt to use sexual eye candy to increase click-throughs and viewership.”

    Well, I certainly want to take advantage of the eye candy and increased viewership certain to come (and since this post is in trouble anyway) to tell MM visitors to go to The band Neon Trees, which is posted all over their opening website page, is a new all-Mormon band that Mercury records is heavily promoting. Check it out. (really). Son #2 is the guitarist.

  4. I don’t think I would do anything. She should benefit from being in church the same as anyone else. Drawing attention to her dress or making her feel singled out could discourage her from participating.

    A little cleavage never hurt anyone, but hurt feelings and shaming can cause a lot of problems in a young person’s development. Set a good example, generally teach modesty and let the young lady work it out between herself and the Lord.

    people tend to make too much of an ordeal out of a situation like this and often cause more harm than good.

  5. Blurg! We are having a poll plugin problem. So sorry! I’ll see what we can do to fix it, so in the meantime, comments only.

  6. I think a Niblets poll got sucked into this post by accident…

    If you’ve already got a good relationship with her, I’d simply ask her about it in one of her regular interviews. She knows some of the messages she sending (ie., I’m sexy, likable, etc.), but she might not be aware of the others (I crave attention, I don’t care about everybody else’s rules, etc.). I wouldn’t ask her to change, just make sure she understands those other messages she’s sending, and then talk about other topics. In other words, I wouldn’t make too big a deal about it, just a part of my discussion about her and how she’s doing. And I’d tell her how glad I was that she was in our ward and compliment her on how she contributes to it.

    Since the way the youth and youth leaders react to her (eg., reject or copy her) would be my biggest concern, I would also hold a bishop’s fireside for the youth on maintaining high standards for ourselves, but not presuming to set those standards for others. I’d use Sabbath Day observance and energy drinks as examples. “Judge not that ye be not judged”.

  7. #2 – not sure the eye candy value of this pic in general. Aren’t we competing with the entire internet, 33% of which is porn? Regardless, the pic is very clearly what the bishop in the scenario is seeing, so it does seem appropriate to add a sense of reality to the scenario. New poll idea: is this pic inappropriate?

    #3 – I’m not sure whether to be flattered by that, so I’m going to choose flattered.

    In response to the poll question – I would probably be hesitant to say anything to the girl about it, especially if I were an older male bishop. If I were an older female (as I am), I might say something in jest like “Va Va Va Voom!” or “Boom-chica-wah-wah.” But on second thought, that might give offense. As a teen, I remember a skeevy old guy once saying to me, “If your shirt goes up one more inch, I’m going to have a heart attack.” I was sufficiently grossed out not to wear that again.

  8. I used to get the YW president involved with her “church Sunday standards” talk. I feared that if I ever told a YW that she was showing too much that then I’d come across as a bit of pervert, as happened with a previous bishop in our ward. Plus the women know how to talk about clothing a lot better than the men do. They also can’t really come across as ‘looking too much’ unless they are gay, but that’s another MM issue.

    Actually, I remember now a 16 year old who was somewhat like this, problem was that when I or any man was sitting down she would actually lean over to give a hello kiss on the cheek but when there’s a lot of cleavage, well they kind off move around more when benting over! Her dad was a counselor in the previous bishopric and at the time in the HC and the entire family was very active but she was obviously in a rebellious stage. Several members mentioned the problem so the YW president started working with her. She didn’t change until she got her first full time job in admin at 18 and could buy her own stuff. Now she’s married in the Temple with a small boy, so maybe they just grow out of these problems too.

  9. #2 Heidi,

    it looks like a pathetically transparent attempt to use sexual eye candy to increase click-throughs and viewership

    Actually one has to click through from the front page to read the article to then see this picture -which isn’t very mormonish I’d agree with you there. Because of this I don’t think its fair to say that it some sexualized attempt to increase viewership.

    By the way if this guy or ‘guest’ here was really a bishop for 6 years he’ll know (as any ex bishop would) that this sort of story is actually one of the minor things that goes on in a ward or stake. When adultery or child abuse issues come up, then we are in the problematic and difficult areas. So I think its a good idea to start these conversations with this very minor issue to see what the readership response is like.

  10. i’d like to suggest another option. instead of pointing this out individually with her, why not have a yw or sacrament talk about appropriate dress standards at church. then again, some might complain about whether it is ok for men to wear a blue shirt…

  11. Unfortunately, the more I think about it the scenario of the hypothetical immature teenager with immodest clothing is less compelling and disturbing than the scenario of a hypothetical former bishop (who should know better) posting articles on blogs and including a sexualized image of a young woman (not porn, but definitely inappropriate by mormon standards). So I’m just giving my opinion about that scenario, not the original.

  12. People, people! I put the clip art in – I found it neither offensive nor titillating. It just fit the description of the scenario better than the other choices in google images. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  13. We have an adult woman, married in the temple with several children who likes to show her cleavage off at church every week. What do you do with her?

    As far as the teenager girl, I think it would be a good idea to have a YW leader talk to her. The way she is dressing can be very distracting for others, especially at church, and I think she needs to be aware of this. I also think she needs to be taught respect for the church and its standards. Modest dress is a part of the LDS belief system and she is attending an LDS church. I think it is important for youth to be taught respect for standards and to learn to follow them, understanding there is a reason why they are in place. If the YW leader talked to her and she didn’t change her dress, I would then have the bishop talk to her. I don’t think it is a good idea to just let it go. It can be done in a way that doesn’t make her feel bad. The way she is approached can make all the difference and can help her to understand better why she is being asked to dress more modestly.

  14. I’m a relatively new lurker here, and I just had to add my two cents to this post. I voted “do nothing.” The reason why is no matter who you ask to talk to the girl, she’s going to end up embarrassed, because it will come out that you were the source. My home teacher commented on the shortness of my skirt once when I was a young woman, and I was mortified. I think you’ll do more damage than good here. What is more important? Having the girl show up at church with a little cleavage or having her not show up at all because she’s been embarrassed by her leader? She’s in the Mormon church already — she knows how conservatively most people dress. She’s probably already had a million lessons about modesty, probably some of them aimed at her. Leave it alone and be happy that she’s showing up to church while living with a non-member mother.

  15. Andrea R.-

    I would agree with you, but I think it is important to think of all the people at church that may be making feel uncomfortable each week, particularly the young men (and older) as well as girls her age. It is uncomfortable for a lot of people to be around someone dressed like that. I don’t think it is fair to be more concerned about one person feeling comfortable while a lot of other people who interact with her each week feel uncomfortable. Why is her comfort more important than all the rest of the people at church?

  16. is less compelling and disturbing than the scenario of a hypothetical former bishop (who should know better) posting articles on blogs

    Hmmm. Problem here is with mormon culture, that believes that all Bishops need to forget all they heard and saw while they served. Fact is that ex-bishops remember everything, until old age sets in. Plus you will hear general authorities talk from time to time about the members they ministered to as well, so they certainly dont forget everything they did as Bishops or stake presidents.

    There is nothing wrong with talking about a hypothetical situation that’s based on ones past experience, imho.

  17. I voted for do nothing. We’ve had lots of investigators and then converts who came to church in outfits showing lots of cleavage, and as far as I can tell no one said anything to them. Why embarrass them? If they keep coming, they’ll get a sense for what the cultural standards are from their own observation, and over time they’ll adjust their dress on their own.

    If the young woman knows better but is doing it to be rebellious, I’d still rather she be rebellious attending church than not.

    And the perv factor in a bishop commenting too specifically on a teen girl’s clothing is pretty substantial, as several have mentioned.

    So I think either she’ll adjust it herself over time, or if she doesn’t at least she’s going to church and people can just put up with it for a time. I’d rather she be there than chasing her away.

  18. #19 Hawkgrrrl,

    People, people! I put the clip art in – I found it neither offensive nor titillating …so you aint prudish or gay.

    But on second thoughts to me it is a wea bit titillating. Maybe you could change it for something else? like a girl just acting rebelious?

  19. I haven’t read the comments,

    She is VERY well endowed and wears very low cut tops to all church meetings. One gets quite a view when talking with her. As bishop, you are on very good terms with her, and she has come to you several times with problems.

    As bishop, it is your responsibility to set the standard for the ward, and you cannot delegate this responsibility to others to do it for you, otherwise you look weak. Since the two of you are on good terms, then it is up to you as bishop to inform her that she needs to wear more modest clothing to church. It’s not really that hard to do.

  20. Kevin Barney-

    “I voted for do nothing. We’ve had lots of investigators and then converts who came to church in outfits showing lots of cleavage, and as far as I can tell no one said anything to them. Why embarrass them? If they keep coming, they’ll get a sense for what the cultural standards are from their own observation, and over time they’ll adjust their dress on their own.”

    I think there is a big difference between investigators coming to church and a 16 year old who is attending regularly. The “bishop” states that she lives with a mom who lets her do whatever she wants. Even though they may not act like it at all, teenagers like boundaries and having someone care about what they are doing. Having a mother who doesn’t care what she does makes it even more important for someone to talk to her at church and to let her know how her dress affects others. She is young and needs direction and good church leaders can make all the difference. Whether we like it or not, the way we dress affects the way others feel about us and what they think of us. If she is just being rebellious, then I still think someone needs to say something and not ignore her. Part of the reason she may be dressing that way in the first place is for the attention. If she gets positive attention in other ways, she may start realizing she doesn’t need to dress like that to get people to notice her.

  21. OK, we’re getting into some weird territory here. I have done far more google image searches for “teen cleavage” than ever before. I added a different cleavage girl, not as “sexy” as the other one. It seems to me that one’s actions might depend on whether you are dealing with Girl #1 or Girl #2 although both match the description given. Girl #2 looks like she could be Megan Fox’s understudy.

  22. I agree with Kevin Barney and had voted “Do nothing” previously. Seriously, folks. We see cleavage every day in the world around us. Seeing it at church should simply remind us that we are all in the world, possibly trying to do our best. It could be that the young person is doing it to try to get a rise out of strait-laced mormons, or is honestly oblivious to her social gaffe because she doesn’t sexualize her body image like others might, or simply cannot find clothing that she finds attractive that sufficiently covers her breasts. Or perhaps she hasn’t invested in “church” clothing for her wardrobe. Whatever the reason, it really doesn’t matter. You are responsible for your own sense of morality and no one else’s (except maybe your childrens’ while they are still young). Speaking in generalities and ideals might be appropriate for church policies and fireside talks, but singling out someone about it really isn’t.

  23. SteveS-

    “We see cleavage every day in the world around us.”

    That’s true, but if you want to attend a church that teaches specific standards, then you should respect those standards. The world isn’t teaching standards so we should expect to see all sorts of things out in the world.

    “or simply cannot find clothing that she finds attractive that sufficiently covers her breasts.”

    That’s just downright funny! It’s a good thing men can find clothing that is attractive AND covers their penis.

  24. Coming from a single parent family as she does, it may be possible that she has limited funds available to expand her wardrobe to clothing that might be considered suitably appropriate for church. I vote do nothing. If the problem was that she was exhibiting flirtatious behaviour that was causing offence or serious discomfort, then it may be time to tactfully address the issue. But the last thing you’d want to is to do something that may send this young woman running away from the church at a time she may well most need the structure and guidance in her life – over a top that’s a bit low. At some point she’ll be in a better position to consider her choices and make better ones with love and acceptance.

  25. Dan #26 –

    Yes, the Bishop is the leader and the buck ultimately stops there, but he risks a lot by confronting her on this. She trusts him and confides in him, but all that could easily be erased if she began to think that he views her in even the slightest sexual context. It wouldn’t matter what he said to her and how tactfully he said it, the fact is, by his bringing the matter forward it would be apparent to her that he is aware of her sexually. Just a small tweek in the nature of their delicate, seemingly daughter/father-like relationship could have devastating effects for her long term activity in the church. It’s far better, imo, for the bishop to oversee this by delegating to the female leaders in the ward. The worst that could happen then is she might be offended or embarrassed, but that is far better than creeped out.

    Hawkgrrrl – You’re good on the pic. Please, everyone, relax! We all have bodies. Aren’t we kind of over it by now?

  26. I find it interesting that many of the comments that discuss any of the “talk to her” options seem to assume the talk should tell her what is inappropriate.

    If I did want someone to talk to her, I’d probably send someone who’d have enough knowledge of standards and Mormon culturally accepted fashions to present positive dress choices. Teenage “gentile” girls teach each other fashion tips with words like “her dress would look so good on you.”

    It isn’t the dress that influences the change of behavior, but the approval of the dress. I’d be looking to positively reinforce the ward standards, not trying to negatively counter their violation.

    So, I’d probably delegate the YW leader to PICK a woman or two (perhaps a mother of one of the girl’s ward friends) to casually mentor the girl by praising people who are dressing appropriately and doing so in the girl’s presence. (I would not have anyone who had any official role speak to the girl because that would be embarrassing to her.)

    Positive encouragement before all other options.

  27. Jen #22,

    Why is her comfort more important than all the rest of the people at church?

    Because Jesus said to leave the 99 and take care of the 1 who is lost?

    Carlos #25,

    But on second thoughts to me it is a wea bit titillating.

    No pun intended, I trust?

    Raymond #32,

    Hawkgrrrl – You’re good on the pic. Please, everyone, relax! We all have bodies. Aren’t we kind of over it by now?

    zomg teh bewbies!!!111one

  28. Jen – “It’s a good thing men can find clothing that is attractive AND covers their penis.” Well, clearly the male clothing designers have different priorities about covering their naughty bits than ours.

    dmac – “Coming from a single parent family as she does, it may be possible that she has limited funds available to expand her wardrobe to clothing that might be considered suitably appropriate for church.” I think dmac is spot on and this is probably a case of white trash wardrobe. Also, for all you know her mom bought her the outfits thinking they were appropriate for church. I also think teen girls are often very unaware of their sexual appeal (especially if they are not sexually active) and would be mortified to find that some “old dude” was checking them out.

  29. I always hated how people just beat around the bush in situations like that. Why can’t people just be open and tell her tactfully that it’s a problem for everyone else and it would be appreciated if she respected her own body and allowed for others to do so as well.

  30. Jen (#30), I’m a guy and don’t have firsthand experience, but on a recent thread at fMh, a number of women complained about the difficulty of finding attractive modest clothing if you’re well endowed. Here’s one of the comments (but this was discussed several times in the thread if I remember right):

    I am a 36DD, and I basically have two options: either wear something with a lower neckline (a v-neck), and be popping out with cleavage, or wear something with a high neckline (a crewneck) and have the shirt stretch obscenely across my breasts. I have found some tops that manage to cover without making the girls more of a showpiece than they are, but these tops are few and far between. People frequently comment how much I seem to enjoy showing off my breasts, and I respond that i don’t really enjoy it at all, I just want to be able to buy normal clothes rather than tents. My sister, who is a B on a good day, and I will wear the same shirt and everyone will give me dirty looks for my immodesty. It is very frustrating!

    So maybe the young woman discussed in the OP really is well endowed and therefore doesn’t have lots of good options.

  31. #36,

    If it is a “white trash wardrobe” problem then the Bishop would have a more involved role to play here and should start helping the mother out with fast offerings so she can buy appropriate clothing for the girl. But then again he would find out about this from the YW president, the mother or maybe coming from the home teachers (if its done in their ward).

    Maybe there should be another choice to vote for, E: interview the mother.

    But in my experience all girls go through a stage of rebellion at some point although most would end up like this second picture wearing a small t-shirt, not with that push up bra of the original girl.

    #38 Why can’t people just be open and tell her tactfully that it’s a problem for everyone else and it would be appreciated if she respected her own body

    …..ah… because its a teenage girl? teenagers actually have different DNA to the rest of us and there’s no guessing how they will react. That’s why a wise Bishop will always delegate this problem to the YW president -she can take the criticism if it all goes belly up 🙂

    #35 , re #19. I thought it was clever though, as Hawkgrrrl’s comments usually are.

  32. Interesting discussion.

    Let’s hope the bishop in question is teaching all the youth, either himself or through the YM and YW leaders, about modesty and self control.

    My recommendation was to use the YW president to help in this matter, but I recommend doing so in some specific ways.

    First, I agree that we should be gentle with the young woman involved. That she is in church at all is a great thing, and she should feel the love of the members, regardless of what happens.

    Second, as well as teaching young women about modesty, we should teach them that the reason for their modestly is to show respect to themselves and their Creator. Telling young women not to tempt boys is the wrong reason to teach them to be modest. Boys (and men) must learn to control themselves in the face of all sorts of temptation. We should not place the burden of the women of the church “protecting” the boys from temptation.

    Third, in recommending the YW president get involved, I make the assumption that she and the young woman in question already have a positive relationship, and that perhaps they’ve even talked at this issue in the past. I would COUNSEL with the YW president about how she believes we should proceed and listen to her ideas. And if, in counseling together, we agree that she and the young woman should speak, I’d support that action.

    I would encourage her to speak delicately, and to offer practical assistance if necessary (perhaps they could go shopping together). And I would caution against chastising the young woman.

    Under no circumstances would I as bishop have this discussion with the young woman alone. The notion that the “buck” stops at the bishop, or that the bishop would “look weak” is silly.

    I would also work, as bishop, to minimize discussion of this young woman and her clothing; it would be the subjecct of a private discussion between the YW president and me, not a matter for general discussion at a ward council, for instance. I would also ask the YW president not to discuss it with her counselors (unless one of them is better suited to speak to the young woman).

    Of course, this is what I think I’d do. Were I the real bishop, I assume I’d also have a dose of the spirit to help guide me in that moment to know how to proceed.

  33. I voted for “do nothing”, too. If the bishop says anything, he’s a perv. Having the YW president say anything would depend on the type of woman she was; if any of the YW presidents I had said anything, it would have gone over way way way wrong and judgmental.

    Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe non-member Mom is selecting the clothes?

  34. 1. With so much scandal about the original picture, I think I’m a bit sad that I didn’t get to see the original?

    2. Maybe I’m just an immature 26 year old, but all the words you all use makes me giggle and snicker like a little school boy learning about the birds and bees for the first time. Titillating, cleavage, well endowed, and all the other innuendos give me LOLZ

    3. I voted “Ask the Young Women’s President to talk to her about her dress,” but like Paul, I have caveats.

    The most important thing would be conferencing with the YW President. She probably knows a bit more about the girl, sees her interactions with other girls/boys, sees her in class, etc. Ask her if she felt this was an issue. Bring up the issues discussed above, and conference to find an appropriate solution. I trust the YW President. She could incorporate many of the suggestions above, like working with the other girls, having a quick discussion with said-endowed girl, etc.

    This really isn’t something that a Bishop should be discussing with this girl. Not only does it make it sound kinda gross and old-man perv, but it’s something that should be discussed among females. The good bishop should DELEGATE.

  35. I vote for do nothing. I wouldn’t appreciate a bishop telling my child what to wear. It would creep me out to have some old man tell a 16 year old she’s showing too much. Now if the dad came to me and asked for help, I’d pull in the YW pres for help and talk to her together or have the YW pres do it alone, way less creepy.

  36. I think whatever YW leader in the ward is closest should talk to her. Might not do any good but at least you made her aware of concerns. She is a teenager. Whether she knows it or not and believes it or not she has things to learn. If it was as bad as the first picture posted, it needed to be addressed. If nothing changes after a heart to heart which includes a discussion as to why she dresses that way (who knows why), you did your part and you go away feeling good that she comes to church and you’re glad to have her there, cleavage and all.

  37. kuri-

    “Because Jesus said to leave the 99 and take care of the 1 who is lost?”

    Is she really lost or are expectations just not being placed on her at home? He did say the mother let her do whatever she wants and doesn’t place any restrictions on her. If her father does live out of town and is very active in church I think being made aware of the situation he might be willing to help her get the type of appropriate clothing she needs for church. Maybe having the bishop approach him and getting him involved is the best way to handle the situation.

    BTW, I’m all for going after the one who is lost, but I also don’t believe that Jesus avoided telling people what He expected because He was worried about making them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. There has to be a balance I think. Who knows, maybe within a few years she might look back and feel embarrassed about her dress and wish that someone would have said something to her instead of just letting her get away with it. Teenagers seem to remember embarrassing things about each other and bring it up later in life to one another. As I think about it, I think it is better to have her father get involved and have him talk to her instead. I don’t think doing nothing will serve her well and may hurt her in the long run.


    Thanks for bringing to my attention the issue of well-endowed women struggling to find modest clothing. I haven’t ever really thought about it before and it is a very good point. I have a friend who had a breast reduction surgery in junior high because of problems she was having with her back carrying such a heavy load around. I am sure there are a whole set of issues women like this have to deal with that I am not aware of. What I don’t get is why some women want to go out an purchase a 40DDD on purpose. Of course, modestly isn’t probably on the top of their list either. 🙂

  38. I actually witnessed a situation like this in a former ward. The bishop never did anything or said anything either in PEC or otherwise. The YW leaders did all the heavy lifting on the situation. Male leaders should stay out of how a teenage girl dresses.

    My exp in stake youth leadership is that the males want nothing to do with female modesty. The female leaders on the other hand are really vigilant.

  39. I get a kick out the perv factor everybody keeps bringing up.

    If a 40+ year-old man noticing that a 16-year old’s breasts are hanging out is so disgusting, then maybe the way she dresses is a bigger issue than I would have thought. And, if a girl is so freaked out that a grown man would notice, maybe that’s a very good reason for her to cover up.

  40. I’m really not keen to make women responsible for men’s sexuality, especially teen girls who are often not yet aware of their sexuality and are not exactly using their sexuality for power. We get into a slippery slope that ultimately leads to blaming the victim (the scenario in which women are blamed for men’s sexual behavior – the “seductress”). Then again, there are not a lot of lesbian prostitutes, so I suppose the age old stereotypes are based in something (women = sellers, men = buyers).

  41. Guest,

    Don’t you worry about all these ‘inapropriate’ and ‘a former Bishop should know better.’ The picture is great and compensates for yours. Moreover, all of them out there like the excitement of your little ‘bare’ intrusion that clashes with the dull pseudo-academia that hijacked too many blogs.
    My point of view is to avoid tackling this directly with the person as this may be very frustrating for B and YW particularly. As a Bishop you might feel inspired, and inspiration doesn’t always go in the sense of political correctness that settles in our polite
    Mormon communities. Who knows, this YW may bring up baptism numbers! (Some Bishops would be happy with just that). But if you love her, address the issue the way you feel right at the time and minded with the type of relationship you have with her. She may be a good friend of yours, which would be easier. She may be receptive to a lesson/fireside on the Temple and the beauty of the human body and its vase-function to the spirit. Whatever! Bishop has the keys, and the associated inspiration should guide when the issues arise.
    Keep them coming Guest!

  42. Church is a place for the holy worship of the flesh and blood of Christ. You wouldn’t want some other flesh to come and reorientate the general focus. On holiday in Italy, I noticed that women revealing much of their anatomy were handed a chale and asked to cover themselves as they wee entering a place of worship. Same in many religious sites. By wanting to be welcoming, non discriminatry and the friends of the people (as well as trying to be seen as beyond these issues), we may say nothing. People are usually thankful for higher standards as it underlines the sacred within us.

  43. Hawkgrrl, thanks for letting us know that it was your choice of picture. I think the story spoke for itself and did not need real teen breasts to illustrate it. If my bishop had posted on a blog that included this picture right next to his words, I might consider letting him know that I thought the picture was inappropriate. Did he want his ward members to have pics like that displayed on their computers and phones?
    I am sorry for Guest-Former-Bishop. I hope that I have not hurt hurt feelings or made him feel bad. This discussion is obviously a distraction from your original intent. However, I assume since his original question was EXACTLY about approaching someone and telling them that what they are “showing” is inappropriate that us discussing whether we should approach him or even you with your apparent lack of thought or awareness wasn’t too far off.

  44. #39 I was going to post a similar comment.

    1) Most comments here are assuming that the cleavage show is purposeful on the part of the young lady in question. What if she has just “developed” at a certain rate, and isn’t educated on the kinds of lingerie available that can provide her appropriate coverage and support? What if she doesn’t understand proper ways to dress and the females in her family are, for whatever reason, unable to help?

    2) More compelling, what if financial circumstances make it hard or impossible for her to shop for appropriate clothing? I remember in (non-BYU) college joining in snarky comments about a particular girl who frequently wore t-shirts with no bras and who was well-endowed. Finally a friend of hers took me aside and said, “Look, she’s from a single-parent home, her mom is on welfare, and she’s here at school on a full scholarship. She’s spending her income on school supplies and books, and she comes from a rough background, so she doesn’t have the disposable income OR experience to dress in a way that matches your sensibilities. Don’t treat her like she’s doing this on purpose.”

    Unless it’s ludicrously excessive, I tend not to judge women in the Church by their dress. As a man who gets very visually excited by women in stockings and modest dresses, it’s not my place to decide which of my sisters is or isn’t dressing “too sexy.”

  45. Oops. I meant “I am excited by visual stimuli” not “I get visually [noticeably] excited by women in church.” That’s a level of perviness beneath even me. 🙂

  46. Rather than have a particular “calling” talk to our sixteen year old sister (such as the YW President), it seems like the best approach as Bishop would be to prayerfully consider what person has an existing relationship (and thus possible influence) on the sister, someone who loves her unconditionally and has her “ear.” It night be a YW leader, it could be a friend in the ward. It could be anyone, really. This person with influence could be interviewed by the Bishop, and asked to help. I think we need to be VERY careful, as this type of intervention or attempt could send the message to the sister that she is not welcome, or could greatly embarrass her. I hope it would all be done carefully, lovingly, and prayerfully.

  47. #50 hawkgrrrl, I’m not sure if you were addressing my comment or not.

    I certainly don’t think girls/women should be responsible for men’s sexuality. On the other hand, I think it’s ridiculous to label me a perv (since I’m a balding 40+ male) if I notice a 16-year-old displaying her breasts. My teen daughters would notice her as well, and quite frankly they way they react (perhaps reject or copy her) is a bigger concern to me than the way the EQ or HP groups do.

    With teen girls, it’s usually pretty clear if they’re oblivious or strutting their stuff. If it’s the first, the YW leaders can teach her appropriately. If it’s the second, then the YW’s attitude would be the bishop’s biggest concern, and where it might lead her. The exposed cleavage isn’t the problem itself, but if it freaks her out that grown men notice her bosom, that could be a good thing.

    Also, there are times that if priesthood leaders say nothing (eg., allowing inappropriately clothed youth into dances), it can be taken as “priesthood” consent and undermine their YW leaders.

    Lastly, YW will accept from a man some things they wouldn’t from a woman. For example, there’s a lot of hugging among the youth these days, and the way the girls do it isn’t always good. The YW leaders could blab all they wanted, but it wasn’t until I, as a man, explained what breasts pressing against a young man could do to him that they got it. My girls now give “chaste” hugs. For YW who don’t have a father to do that for them, a bishop (in some cases) could fill that role in a very limited way, and that wouldn’t make him a perv.

    There are priesthood-holding pervs, no doubt, but they’re identified by their fixation, not the fact that they notice (or comment on) things.

  48. Bishop Bill here. Wow, what a firestorm Hawkgrrrl created with the photos! First some background. I am a real person, my name is not Bill, and I was a bishop for 6 years. This situation really did happen to me. Though I have changed some details to protect confidentialities.

    So, what did I do? Well, being on such good terms with the YW in question, I just informally talked to her one day in my office. I asked her if she could wear something that covered her a little more on top. She said she did not have anything else to wear, that these were her “Church Tops”. So I told her I’d have the YW Pres go shopping with her to buy new “church clothes”, and the ward would pay for it. I had a wonderful YW Pres, that the girls loved, so this worked out very well. The YW left my office excited about getting new clothes, and the YW Pres reported that they had a wonderful time shopping for clothes, something the YW had never done with her own mother.

    But I think what I did would not work for all Bishops. I’m a very outgoing person, love to talk to people, and have good “people skills” I think with this YW it came across like a good friend talking to her, and not some old man. But I could see it going very bad with a very uptight “older” bishop (I was in my early 40’s).

    Bishop Bill

  49. Martin – I wasn’t really addressing you specifically, nor did I call you a perv (not sure you said I did, but just to clarify). My real concern is that modesty talks are fraught with peril ideologically. The underlying assumption is that men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges and that women are responsible for male sexual reactions by covering their lust-inciting fleshy parts. There’s an ideological problem inherent that has historically led to things like:
    – women being called “witches” and burnt at the stake
    – women being stoned
    – women being forced to wear Burkhas
    – buxom Mother Eve being blamed for consorting with a snake in the Garden of Eden, leading to the downfall of man and her being cursed
    – women being excluded from the workplace
    – prostitution and porn being mostly male-customer industries; women being objectified
    – women being denied the right to own property and instead essentially BEING property

    It may be hard-wired into men (who have seven times the testosterone), but as a mother, I am hesitant to introduce the idea that my daughter is responsible to hide her attractiveness or that she deserves whatever consequences come her way. Men still have to be responsible for their actions. On that, I believe we can all agree. But as I said, modesty being primarily a female responsibility introduces this ideology. Clearly it is also a cultural issue with a history and breadth far larger than Mormonism.

  50. hawkgrrrl, it seems we were on our own separate tangents.

    I do like yours though. A quibble: all the results you listed come from men not taking responsibility for their own sexual urges, not because women were taught to take responsibility for their affect on men, right? There is a difference, especially since the men were in power.

    If person A and person B argue, and person B resorts to uncivil and provocative language and gets slapped by person A, who’s at fault for the slap? We’d all agree person A was, of course. Person A serves sentence for assault. But we wouldn’t think much more highly of person B, now would we?

    Mostly, I think we teach modesty to YW not just to be considerate to YM, but because of attitude/mindset of the YW. Girls want attention from boys, and getting naked gets them that. But we’re trying to teach them that that kind of attention isn’t what will make them happy in the long run.

  51. Martin – we’re in agreement! And sociological studies do indicate that there’s a physiological reason for the differences between men & women’s responses to stimuli, so I don’t want to discount that either. Men see a woman in a bikini and have the same types of thoughts that they have about “tools.” Girls definitely don’t think like guys when it comes to this stuff. There are so many ways that this messaging can get convoluted both to the boys (e.g. that girl has no self-respect, that girl is bad, doesn’t that look ugly, that girl is easy) and to the girls (e.g. she was “asking for it,” you don’t want to “cause” someone to go astray, sexy girls are bad, sex is bad, your body is something scary and powerful that has to be hidden or it will cause total anarchy).

  52. “…body is something scary and powerful that has to be hidden or it will cause total anarchy”

    Wow! I think it would be better if I never met this girl! 🙂

  53. Bishop Bill,

    Luckily it worked out OK. Good point about the ‘people skills’, most bishops don’t realize this until we’ve made a few mistakes. I thought that inspiration would always work out no matter what was going on.

    But I’d point out that being in your early 40’s you’d be considered ‘OLD’ by a teen. Anything over 21 is usually ‘old’ for that species!

    Hope you write more posts, especially these ‘what would you do’ situations. The discussion was very entertaining.

  54. bishop bill, I think you raise an excellent point. there are no cookie cutter solutions. what worked for you may not work for everyone. these situations should be done on a case by case basis.

  55. #34 I like your idea.

    #36 Having raised a teen daughter I can say that any of the teen girls “I’ve” met were very aware of sex appeal and wanting to use it. But yes, knowing that old dudes, as well as the young dudes they want to attrack, are checking them out can occasionally tame their desire to exhibit themselves for the young dudes.

    #40 re: DNA. LOLOL. I like that one! 🙂

    #41 Having temptation shoved in front of their eyes is somewhat unfair to them regardless. There’s a difference between having temptation out there and coming to church for a spiritual lift and getting temptation thrust under your nose.

    #50 Am wondering what teenage girls you know that don’t use their sexuality as power when they are dressing this way? Most of the ones I’ve dealt with are quite willing to use it for that.

    #59 Actually, porn has many forms, not just photos and women have troubles with it also. (However, this is getting a bit further from the topic so I’ll leave it at that…)

    Personally I would’ve wondered (but have already read Bishop Bob’s post) if the problems she had come to him for help with had anything to do with it. That would’ve affected, somewhat, how I’d’ve handled it.

  56. #65 — “Having temptation shoved in front of their eyes is somewhat unfair…”

    I suppose I can’t refute that, assuming some Laurel is waking on Sunday morning trying to sort how she can tempt the priests at the sacrament table.

    But I still hold (as Hawkgirl has also suggested) that it’s unfair for me as a male to expect the women of the church to protect me from temptation. That dressing modestly does also happen to help protect men from temptation may be another blessing, but it’s not the reasons we taught our children in our home for doing so.

    There are already too many messages sent (especially to the women of the church) that they have a responsibility to protect their children and spouses from evil, and to “bring them home”. In the end, each of us must find our own way home. That we have loving parents and families and church members along the way is great, but I cannot save you and you cannot save me. That’s a deal that I can only work with my Savior.

    Bishop Bill, sounds like you handled the matter well. Clearly your relationship with this particular youth made a great difference, and in my experience, that’s the key when working with youth.


  57. Teresa Marie: “#50 Am wondering what teenage girls you know that don’t use their sexuality as power when they are dressing this way? Most of the ones I’ve dealt with are quite willing to use it for that.” Well, I mentioned in #10 that I had a situation in which I was wearing something somewhat revealing and got some unwelcome old guy attention as a result, although I was never exactly Chesty LaRue. IME, teen girls who are not sexually active yet dress sluttily usually do so because of norms within their social circle (which may be school friends outside of church or family members who aren’t members or could even be what they see in stores or magazines or movies), or because they don’t really understand male sexual reactions enough to exploit them for gain. They may also be unaware of their attractiveness or have a distorted self-image.

  58. I’ve run into similar situations twice…

    Once on my mission. An investigator we were teaching had a tendency to dress in her “best” for church — which meant less clothing than usual. The elders asked us to mention something to her. We did, and the discussion embarrassed her terribly. She ended up getting baptized, but a few weeks later, she reverted to her previous style of dress. Again we were asked to talk to her about it. This time I said, “She’s a grown woman; leave her alone. She heard the lesson and now it’s time to honor her agency. If and when the Spirit prompts her to change, she’ll change. In the meantime, we should just be grateful she’s coming to church and participating.”

    The second time was when I was in the Primary Presidency in my ward. A recently reactivated couple was called to teach primary. The wife had a nose jewel. Someone decided it was their responsibility to let this good sister know that her nose jewel was setting a poor example for the children. She never came back.

    I think mentioning people’s appearance to them is unsavory and unloving. I’m pretty sure Jesus cares a lot more about the inside of the cup than the outside. So unless you’re that girl’s parents, my impulse would be to shut the hell up about trivial things like clothing and accept her for who she is — big bouncing boobs and all.

  59. So unless you’re that girl’s parents, my impulse would be to shut the hell up about trivial things like clothing and accept her for who she is — big bouncing boobs and all.

    I ♥ you, Katie.

  60. #69-“So unless you’re that girl’s parents, my impulse would be to shut the hell up about trivial things like clothing and accept her for who she is — big bouncing boobs and all.”

    The female in Bishop Bill’s post was 16, not an adult, and she lived with a mom who didn’t care what she did. If we decide to not teach teenagers things, at age do we stop? Having a gay son, I know as well as anyone there is a time to stop. But it ain’t 16.

  61. Holden, I understood she was only 16. And of course I’m not advocating “not teaching teenagers things.” If you want to teach a general lesson on modesty during Young Women one day to be sure she hears and understands the principle, I’m all for it.

    But when you single someone out like that — especially an adolescent young woman who is already struggling her body image and a desire to fit in and be accepted (because every adolescent young woman is) — you send her a message that in order to be fully loved, she has to be a “certain way.” You teach her that who she is isn’t good enough. And you further entrench in her the idea that her body is something to be ashamed of.

    Is it better to wear modest clothing than immodest clothing? Of course. But modesty has nothing to do with your neckline or hemline. It has everything to do with your understanding of who you are as a son or daughter of God, and the deep sense of self-respect and self-love that comes from this profound understanding. Immodest clothing is merely a symptom. Trying to correct the symptom without addressing the cause merely reinforces the negative self-image that perpetuates the problem in the first place.

    In my experience, the Spirit of God works on people to change and improve them on God’s timetable — not ours. Maybe God has much more important things for her to focus on than how much cleavage she’s showing. Maybe we need to love her and trust God to work in her life His way.

  62. Katie L

    I agree with many of the things you say. In one of my earlier comments, my suggestion was to talk to her, find out why she dresses that way, etc. I think someone has to address it once and then she does what she does. But to ignore it and not talk to her at all, doesn’t do anyone any good, IMO. Guarantee you in sunday school, the boys are not thinking about the scriptures, except if the book of the day is the Song of Solomon.

  63. This is yet another of thousands of reasons why I would never be bishop. I would have a very difficult time not staring at her thingys. 🙂

    “I’m really not keen to make women responsible for men’s sexuality, especially teen girls who are often not yet aware of their sexuality and are not exactly using their sexuality for power.”

    Amen and amen.

  64. Go visit the non-member mother and the YW at their house with your wife as a companion, and talk about how the age for serving a mission has been changed to 19 y/o. Share experiences about the mission field, and let he know that you think she has the potential to serve a mission and bring souls to Christ. Part of preparing is attending seminary regularly, teaching in the primary as a calling, and sharing the gospel with her friends at school. Your wife could then spontaneously share a few things about the “dress code” for sister missionaries. Hopefully, her manner of expressing her personality will self correct. Calling her as ward chorister right now might be a bad idea. Elderly women in the relief society will kick the bishop in the shins if he were to try anything like this.

  65. I would instruct all theYM in the ward to go talk to her more frequently, but to avert their eyes from her breasts when talking to her. They should maintain firm, rigid eye contact with her eyes and not let them drift down to her voluptuous curves. This will remove the reinforcement value from her provocative dressing. Talking to the Mother would just reinforce the rebellish behavior in both of them. She’d would insist that it is her child and she can raise her any way she pleases and it is not anyone else’s business. This also might escalate the daughter’s behavior and lead to carnal tainting of several of the YM in the ward. You can never be too careful around the non-members, you know.

  66. This is exactly why it isn’t right for teenagers to meet in private with male church leaders. How many reports of misconduct have to take place in the church before it becomes policy that leaders may not be alone in a room with youth? If she looked anything like the girl in that photo, no straight man would be able to keep from glancing at those mounds. Deny it if you want, but you’ll just be lying to yourself and internet strangers.

  67. I would have sex with her in my office if she was willing then I would secretly marry and get endowed to her before telling my wife.

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