A speech given to BYU Idaho students about morality and modesty by Tad R. Callister, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, was given with the intent to inspire people to follow the church’s policies. However, after the speech was printed in the March edition of the LDS magazine Ensign, Callister's words have sparked a backlash.
During the speech Callister said the way women dress has an influence men's sexual thoughts.
“The dress of women has a powerful impact on the minds and passions of men, if it's too low, too high, too tight it might prompt improper thoughts in the mind of a young man striving to be pure," Callister said.
Natasha Helfer Parker, a licensed clinical marriage, family and sex therapist, said she thought the church was past these kinds of messages, which she calls hurtful. She said hearing the comments took her back to the 1980’s and that some of the rhetoric around modesty in the LDS church fits into "rape culture".
“I was so shocked to see this article in the Ensign,” Parker said.
She said Callister was right in saying that people do respond to the way others are dressed; however, to put that argument in the rhetoric of modesty is problematic.
“Instead of putting modest attire in the sense of dressing modestly for yourself, respecting yourself, being genuine in who you are, all of a sudden [modesty] becomes a message of 'dress for other people'.”
Parker believes people can be immodest in other ways than showing their body. She said attracting attention to oneself by wearing expensive clothing or not being genuine are forms of immodesty.
While rape is not condoned, people often use language that transfers the blame to the victim Parker said.
"In other words, 'It's awful that happened, but if she hadn't been wearing that skirt or if she hadn't been at that party...she wouldn't have been raped,'" she said. “I would hope that we could use the law of chastity in the Mormon culture as a blessing to people instead as whipping post or use fear-based approaches that induce shame rather than promote a healthy relationship with the divine.”