Over the last few days, an Instagram/Twitter post from James (The Mormon) has gone viral. The post exposes a few critical comments on an open shouldered dress I wore to a New Years Eve party, a seemingly inconsequential choice of dress at the time. As I bought my dress, the only thing that I had running through my mind was whether or not James would think I looked pretty in it, not that it would soon become a topic of conversation across a national scale. When James posted his photo, it was met with a few comments of disapproval, albeit nothing that dug too deep by any means.
To provide some background context, I began falling away from the church at the age of 13, and stopped going altogether at the age of 16. I found that I was made to feel like a bad person for some of the personal decisions I was making, and did not want to be apart of something that admonished me for my mistakes, rather than embraced me for my efforts to be better. I abandoned the Mormon lifestyle for what I thought was for good, and never much cared to look back. Fast forward six years to when I met James, and through his example of treating me as a human and loving me for who I was, I reactivated my membership in the church through my own accord.
Now, despite the majority of the feedback on the, as one of my friends has called it, “dressgate” has been positive, I have felt quite sick about it all over the last few days. First of all, thank you to everyone who has defended me, complimented me, and reached out to remind me that God loves despite a dress I wore. However, the fact I have to feel reminded of that is a reason why many people leave the church in general, myself included. Even if the church has programmed you to think that way, it is time to break out of the default mode and love one another unconditionally. This is not to say to throw the concept of modesty out the window; I made the conscious decision to buy a dress that exposed my shoulders and that is a conversation between myself and God, and us alone. No one else’s input is needed. Everyone is at a different place. Your salvation is not at stake because of my choices. I have never been through the temple and do not own garments, so for me, while I now place more valence on dressing appropriately, I did not feel it a crime to wear that dress. And nor was it. There are so many more important issues at hand in the church than whether or not the un-endowed female member's shoulders are showing.
While it is amazing and exciting to see a shift in the culture along with a rise in the defense of Mormon normalcy, it pained me to see the rise of this positivity at the peril of those who wrote the original comments. The extent to which the women were castigated far superseded the extent to which they ever reached with me. Again, it felt great to be validated and I very much appreciated everyone’s support, however I can’t help but feel terrible. Many of the defensive comments prompted the original commenters to seek understanding before judging. Conversely, they were met with rude and hateful comments. Is this at all Christ like? How are we supposed to promulgate a system of love while simultaneously tearing down others? Just as they felt I was wrong for displaying immodesty, I felt they were wrong for shaming me. But does taking it to the extent of public harassment make it all right? Instead of seeking to understand and further educate someone on acceptance, the women were met with harsh reproaches, where I am sure some kind words would have done the trick. I thought I was rejoining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where we are taught from a young age to “love one another as thyself”… to “mourn with those who mourn”… and to “bear one another’s burdens.” Christ gave us the agency to choose; to choose what we think, to choose what we wear, to choose who we love, and to choose how we act. It is not our place to judge those who disagree with us, however tempting it may be. A cordial and open conversation on understanding and empathy is far more powerful than resorting to hate, and is something we should all seek to do everyday, myself included. To the women who were actually "slammed" with hateful comments, I apologize that this whole thing has been blown so out of proportion, and I am sorry you were not met with the same empathy I was met with. I hope that out of this whole experience we can all strive to be a bit more reminiscent of the name of the church we belong to, and recognize that it is more important to love one another rather than to judge one another, regardless of who they are, where they are, or whom they may be judging.