Friday, July 12, 2013

Modesty, Mormonism and Booze

We came around a corner while leaving the beach and saw four young girls playing volleyball. They are pictured above. Each of them was wearing a bikini. I felt self-conscious taking this picture lest someone think I am a pervert, but it represented thoughts that had been congealing in my mind all week - thoughts concerning modesty, Mormonism and booze.

Mormons make a huge deal out of modesty. Especially when it comes to young women. They are taught from a very young age that they need to cover their bodies. Young girls are taught to not wear sleeveless dresses or tops because temple garments come just off the shoulder. They are taught to wear long shorts; the length of shorts should not exceed the width of a credit card above the knee (I kid you not). They are taught to wear one-piece bathing suits, etc., etc.  They are taught that they are responsible if they inflame young men's passions as a result of there "immodest" dress.

Justifiably, my daughters have complained that they were treated by the Mormon Church as objects. That they are no more than their bodies, and that their worth is judged on whether they wear shorts of an appropriate length. Girls judge other girls; boys judge other girls, deeming them sluts if they wear a sleeveless top. I kid you not. 

Being around the Koepke Family here on Maui has reminded me that there is a whole world of healthy attitudes toward life and religion outside the constrictive confines of Mormonism. I see Mark's nieces wearing two-piece suits, knowing that they don't give it a second thought. Why? Because it is normal. These girls that have all been raised in religious households, Lutheran and Catholic; yet they all appear to be totally comfortable in their bodies, the concept that they are responsible for what some random guy on the beach is thinking totally foreign to them.


Elizabeth, Nathan and Marina


Rachel and Elizabeth, Nathan and Marina

It is also a feature of the Mormon world to equate alcohol consumption with personal righteousness and thereby with personal worth. This latter concept is one that pervades Mormonism and Mormon culture, i.e., that one's personal worth is tied to how well one conforms to the rules and regulations of the religion (termed "righteousness" in Mormon-speak). And the more visible the rules, the more the judgment that occurs when these rules are not kept. Alcohol consumption is a prime example. Children are taught that this is bad, and by extension, those who consume alcohol are bad. Most Mormons will deny the latter statement, but this attitude is pervasive,particularly in areas that have large Mormon populations.

Joan, Neil, Megan, Sarah and Mark

Here again, the Koepke Family are far from being tee-totalers. And of course it would be a foreign concept to them to equate one's "righteousness" with alcohol consumption, let alone one's personal worth. They are church-going people, for the most part; and alcohol consumption to them is a normal part of life.


Sarah and Mark

Nathan and Mark

I have been grateful in many ways for this time spent with the extended Koepke family. One of those ways is the reminder I've been given that there is so much life, beauty and humanity outside the Mormon church and world where I lived for most of my adult life.

Joan, the matriarch, widow of a Lutheran pastor

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