Sunday, March 29, 2009
Treating our bodies as sacred, isn't all avoiding tattoos, and piercings. Just as we must be careful not to step off the narrow path to the tree of life to the one side, it is also quite capable to step off it to the other side. Indeed, tattoos and piercings may even be the lesser worry of the two extremes.
The more subtle danger is to focus too hard on how the body looks. That is not say we should not be attractive, but all things can be taken to extremes God did not intend. There is no shortage of references in the Book of Mormon correlating fine clothing with pride and wickedness. Costly apparel is the universal distinguishing feature of the Great and Spacious Building (1 Ne. 8), the Great and Abominable Church of the Devil (1 Ne. 14) and Babylon, The Mother of Harlots (Rev. 17).
The dual dangers here are pride from better clothes than those around you (which I shall not spend much time on) and immodesty, though they are more closely linked than one might expect.
Elder Holland said, quoting Halle Berry
Frankly, the world has been brutal with you in this regard. You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress [Berry] is reported to have said recently: “We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. … I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] … pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can’t get off of it.] … It’s really insane … what society is doing to women.” i
In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.”ii And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers” as Lehi saw,iii because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough.
Jeffrey R. Holland, “To Young Women,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 28
So many of us have an artificial distinction in our minds between what is immodest and what is pornographic, when in reality, it is a continuum. We think of pornography as something abhorrent that we would never do, and yet immodesty as a little thing. However, any distinction drawn is purely artificial. They are quite the same thing.
In some ways, the pornographic label is a poor one, because it seems far removed from personal experience, whereas in reality, it encompasses everything from the unspeakably degenerate, to what we think of as quite ordinary and every gradation in between. There are far, far more degrees, kinds and variations of porn than there are flavors of ice cream.
The problem with the label “pornography”, is that it sometimes leaves us worried about the things we are in the least danger from, and unconcerned about the things that pose the greatest threat.
It is only in the last few years, since about 1957 that the definition of pornography and of obscenity has been separate from definitions of biblical morality. In the United States, this legal redefinition happened because of the court cases, Roth v. U.S (1957) and then Miller v. California (1973). The result of all this is, that legally while any obscenity would have made something pornographic, as it is now, if there is any “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” it is not (legally) considered pornography. But even the Miller decision only attempted to define legally prohibited pornography, and not all pornography.
We can not live by the world's definition and still expect the Lord's approval. We may have limited influence on the world around us, but we need to show where we stand. So why bring this up here and not earlier when we spoke of pornography? It is only because of legal definitions that we have even begun to think of immodesty and pornography as fundamentally different things. They are not. They are simply labels and it is by manipulating labels that Satan tries to convince us that somethings are not as bad as they really are.
Elder Wm. Grant Bangerter of the First Quorum of the Seventy said:
And, of course, in doing these wicked things they suggest that it is not so bad anymore. Since so much of the world accepts these actions, if we resist them or speak out against them, we will be scoffed at. We will be called prudish, Victorian, puritan, and self-righteous, as if we had become the sinners. We will be accused of being evil-minded in our failure to appreciate the “beauty and naturalness” of the human body.
Ensign, May 1984, p. 27.
However, once you have made the decision to wear something (or look at someone) that is below your standards, your standards are already changing. What you consider normal, and ordinary is strongly affected by what you do and see, even and especially when you think you are aware of it.
The old maxim is, “If you don't look once, you aren't a man”. But our bodies do not need to see pornography in order to arouse inappropriate feelings. When we view something that is immodest, or suggestive, our bodies automatically react to anything suggestive. The reaction happens within milliseconds – faster even than the rest of our brain can even recognize what an image is. In other words, even before the rest of our brain can tell what we are looking it, it is already reacting to its sexual suggestiveness. Our bodies will begin to go on autopilot and unless our spirit counter-acts immediately, we progress toward a point where our spirits will not be strong enough to fight our bodies. It has only been in recent years that scientists have begun to realize that this physiological reaction (arousal) in our bodies long precedes conscious desire. In other words, your body is beginning to gearing up and get ready long before you realize it. That gives your body a significant head start over your mind, one you can't allow it to have.