Editorial: The Dimensions of Morality

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“Editorial: The Dimensions of Morality,” Ensign, Mar. 1972, 81

Editorial: The Dimensions of Morality

One of the most overworked, misguided phrases of today’s permissive society is “Do your own thing.”

The do-your-own-thing philosophy touches almost every area of our lives as people accept the premise that everyone has the right to do as he wishes, regardless of consequences and as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. “It’s just another way of saying we have free agency,” a college student declared.

Is it? Can a person do anything at all, without having to answer to anyone? Not even to himself, let alone to his Heavenly Father? The right of free agency is one of the greatest of all the blessings of God, but good as it is, it may be turned to evil purposes. It may also be used to help us rise above the evils of the world, to emulate the life and teachings of the Savior, to become perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect.

Let’s look at one example of doing your own thing: the matter of dress.

“What harm is there if I wear short skirts?” a teenager asks. “It’s not a moral issue,” another declares. “I want my daughter to feel comfortable with her peers. If she wants to dress like them, that’s all right with me,” a mother states.

A photographer for one of the Church magazines recently had an assignment to photograph groups of teenagers for posters to be distributed and used Churchwide by missionaries. Several youth leaders were called, told the purpose of the photographs, and asked to line up teenagers who would exemplify Latter-day Saint youth. But when the photographer began taking pictures, he found that many had to be rejected because of boys with long, scraggly hair; girls in miniskirts; girls involved in sports activities wearing tight knit shirts and boys’ Levis.

In one of our wards the ward choir presented a lovely program of Christmas music at sacrament meeting. But the spirit and beauty of the evening were marred by the appearance of one young woman in the front row who wore a miniskirt.

For Latter-day Saints, what should “Do your own thing” mean? We have been told that where much is given, much is expected. As a person is baptized and confirmed a member of the Church, he is given the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we are listening to the promptings of the Spirit, rather than being concerned about what others are doing and wearing, we know what our “own thing” is. As one MIA leader has said, “When a woman asks if her skirts are too short, or if she can wear pants in the chapel, she herself knows the answer, if she’ll only listen to the Spirit.”

As a church and as a people, we declare that “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” (A of F 1:9.)

Believing as we do in continuous revelation, then, why do so many of us rebel against the admonitions of our prophets? Must we be told, “Thou shalt not wear miniskirts”? The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “I teach the people correct principles, and they govern themselves.” Listen to the correct principles taught by some of our prophets:

“Have your dresses neat and comely, and conduct yourselves, in the strictest sense of the word, in chastity.” (Brigham Young.) “It is surprising that many young women adopt extreme methods of dressing, under the mistaken impression that such will add to their attractiveness. Good men the world over admire the decently dressed girl or woman.” (President Joseph F. Smith.) “Girls should dress to enhance their natural beauty and femininity.” (President David O. McKay.) “We have always counseled our members to be modest in their dress.” (First Presidency, 1971).

Do your own thing? Yes, if it is in keeping with correct principles. Let’s not be afraid to adopt a style of our own, to free ourselves from the shackles of what is currently in fashion, regardless of its lack of propriety or modesty. “For the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor. 7:30), but our responsibility to be “an example of the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12) and to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44) remains, now and forever.