Is modesty anything to do with the Gospel (no mention in New Testament) or is it just Utah Culture attached to the Church?Whoa. Seriously? First of all, we can't throw out modesty so long as we have the temple and the temple garments. When I was a YW, that was actually the biggest focus: get used to dressing modestly now so you won't have to throw out your old clothes when you go to the temple. I don't think that's really a great approach, but the idea that modesty is connected to the temple garment wasn't a bad thing to tell YW. (And it certainly sounds better than much of what Julie Smith's post at Times and Seasons was complaining about.)
So yes, there is no specific mention of "modesty" - in terms of length of clothes - in the New Testament. At least not that I'm aware of! :) And I'm not sure what it means to say something "is" or "isn't" part of the gospel. The basic faith-repentance-baptism-Holy Ghost definition is a perfect "definition," but it doesn't give a list of how to live it. A whole ton of things we do aren't in the scriptures explicitly.
But, the commenter does have a good question. How much of modesty is a result of Utah culture, or "traditional values?" I imagine the way we talk about modesty does indeed have a lot to do with our traditions. It's worth asking that question with nearly everything we teach in the church: how much of this is tradition? Where can I find it in the scriptures? What is the foundation for this?
So, what does modesty mean, at its root? And how does it relate to the gospel?
Modesty, as a word, not as a "standard," means moderation. We talk about a "modest house" as a home that is nice but nothing fancy. A home that is large enough for the needs of the person or family, but thing extra. I have the connotation of a home that is small, but not too small. The reason we might say someone bought a "modest house" is to say they were being responsible. They didn't go out of their way to spend more than they had.
(I think it would be fun to teach YW about modesty with the example of a house, and using it to show how our usual definitions don't really mean what the word "immodesty" means: can you imagine a house with its roof too short, its wood uncovered, and its foundation too high off the ground? :) )
We can apply the word "modest" in the sense of "moderation" to clothing, but does that really get us any closer to why it really matters? I mean, if we are just supposed to be "moderate," then we should change our clothing habits to be moderate in whatever country we live in or whatever style is popular.
I saw a clothing at for Macy's once that really caught my attention. It had a woman in a long black coat. It said, "Modesty forbids me shouting Look At Me! Fortunately, my clothing does that for me."
Immodesty shouts: look at me! The post at Times and Seasons discussed how we usually interpret this to be a problem of: look at me in a sexual way. But this ad was interesting in that the woman was completely "modest" by our definition of modesty. She was completely "covered up." But the woman was revealing her immodest attitude: I want to be the focus of attention, and my clothes will do that for me. Though "modest" by our For the Strength of Youth standards, she was claiming she had "immodest" clothing.
Now, I think the same coat could be worn by different people, some using it for a "modest" reason and some not! Modesty to me is a symptom of our relationship to God. Why would we seek to draw attention to ourselves? There could be a whole list of reasons! We could be selfish, wanting to brag or boast. We could be insecure, hoping to distract others to our body for attention. Lots of possibilities. But I don't think that it is always necessarily sexual. Women often want to draw the attention of other women, to brag about style or wealth. Could we also call that "immodest?"
What then does it mean to be "modest?" It seems to me that the scriptures direct us to be "neat and comely" - comely, translated, attractive. We should be nice-looking! We shouldn't try to look unkempt or too plain. Clothing is one more way that we can live a "consecrated life." What would it mean to be consecrated in dress? If we are dedicating that to God, then we are hoping to give glory to God by how we dress. We should look beautiful, because we are representing God!
Susan Tanner put it this way in her talk Sanctity of the Body from 2005:
Likewise, we would keep the outside of our bodily temples looking clean and beautiful to reflect the sacred and holy nature of what is inside, just as the Church does with its temples. We should dress and act in ways that reflect the sacred spirit inside us....
If we as Saints only made temples beautiful to show off to the world that we were rich as a church, that would be a problem! The beauty isn't the problem. Even the amount of money used isn't the problem. The important part is the attitude: we make temples beautiful to represent the important work that goes on inside them.
So I imagine the same should be the same for us. We hold to certain limits due to the temple garments, but modesty goes much beyond that. We have lots of important work to do, and how we dress will communicate with others. Are we drawing attention to ourselves out of selfishness? Can we dress in a way that our appearance is nice and attractive, but doesn't draw undue attention to our clothes let alone our bodies?
What are your thoughts?