In this episode, I talk with my good friend and fellow life coach Zach Spafford about modesty and the new For the Strength of Youth guide. We talk about why this new guide is a step in the right direction when we’re speaking to our youth about modesty and living the Gospel. How we need to let go of some of the old traditions we were raised with when it comes to modesty and embrace a new way of looking at things. With examples from our own lives, this is a very interesting episode that you won’t want to miss!
Amanda: Welcome back to the podcast everyone! I’m here with my good friend and fellow coach Zach Spafford. Hey Zach, how are you doing?
Zach: I’m so good! How are you?
Amanda: Good. Now you’ve been on the podcast before with your lovely wife Darcy. She’s amazing. I love her so much. But maybe you should just introduce yourself again.
Zach: I’m Zach. Darcy and I are the hosts of Thrive Beyond Pornography which is our podcast and we help Latter-Day Saint couples who are struggling with pornography in their relationship at some stage whether it’s the beginning or you’ve gotten pretty far into making sure that pornography’s part of your life. Or not part of your life. We’re helping people who are looking to not just eliminate a habit but really recreate the relationship that they want and then Thrive Beyond Pornography in real and meaningful ways.
Amanda: Awesome! Well Zach and I are really good friends and we seem to have always had these really great discussions around different aspects of the gospel that we see that are so problematic for so many of our clients in different aspects.
So the topic that we’re going to talk tackle today together is modesty. Now full disclosure, we decided to do this podcast before the new For the Strength of Youth guide came out but I think it’s still going to be very applicable.
Zach: I wholeheartedly agree with that because I think that even though we have a new guide I don’t think people have really put enough thought into it yet and there will continue to be some trickle down of old ideas.
Amanda: For sure and so I’m in the Young Women Presidency in my ward, so I see firsthand how a lot of these things are happening in real time. I also am involved in some Facebook groups for young women leaders and so I see a lot of the young women leaders coming and saying, “Okay, now my girls are coming and saying, ‘Oh now I get to just do whatever I want and wear whatever I want’” and all this stuff and so I think really having this discussion is going to be really great for parents, young men and young women leaders, bishoprics and maybe even the youth themselves.
Zach: Well I’ve got a little tiny piece of the story that I’m going to tell you later but we met someone who is on the Young Women’s General Board. I’m going to tell you the rest of that story later because I think it’s a really cool story but one of the things that she mentioned when we spoke with her was that the seminary teachers and the people on the front lines of this, the people who are the the adult teachers of youth in our wards, but she was specifically referencing a seminary teacher who had come to her and said I don’t know how to discuss this because of exactly that sentiment which was, I can just do whatever I want now because it doesn’t say that I have to follow this rule and I don’t think that that’s the meaning of this and I’ll tell you more about our conversation with her.
But I think that we really have to be clear as the adults in the room that it doesn’t just mean, well, you can do whatever you want, right? Because you have agency, you always could have though, right? You always could have done whatever you wanted. However, is that driving you towards the person that you want to be, towards your values, and towards the gospel that you want to live and and more importantly than that towards your Heavenly Father?
Amanda: Exactly 100%! So maybe, for the people who don’t understand why the past guidelines we’ve been given around modesty have been problematic, we should talk about that first.
Zach: Yeah, maybe this is a good place to tell my story. I want to be really clear about this. I’m going to be speaking about my current Stake President. So I want to be really clear, I’m not trying to underbuss him. I’m not trying to say he’s totally wrong and I’m totally right. I want to be really clear and respectful of the culture that has been the culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Utah specifically but also possibly in other parts of the country and maybe even parts of the world. I want to be respectful of that because I think that this is where we were and many people are still there and so this is really about being willing and able to not just think beyond the rules but think more towards agency and spirituality in a new and I think more important and effective way.
Amanda: Yeah, and again I also want to be clear. Both of us are strong members of the Church. We love the gospel. We love our leaders. We’re not here to bash our leaders in any way, shape or form. But I think, and you and I agree on this, we have seen a maturing happening. President Nelson I think has been really instrumental in that. As a membership, as a church, we need to move beyond the checklist and mature into a more empowered integrity-based, agency-based way of living our lives and I think you agree with me on this that my belief is that many of us are feeling this calling of becoming life coaches to help the individuals adjust to that change.
Zach: Yeah I think that’s really important. I also think it’s important to recognize and just say upfront that you and I, we’re not speaking for the Church. That’s not our job. These are our opinions. These are our positions. I believe they’re well considered. But I also recognize that we are not speaking in any official capacity for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So all of those caveats aside, what’s the problem here?
Amanda: Okay so tell your story because we want to hear it.
Zach: Yeah so about a year and a half ago, our daughters came home and I think this story just encapsulates the problem in itself. Our daughters came home with a packing list for Young Women’s Camp and it said: no shorts, no tight pants, no tank tops. It was very proscriptive. It was like all of these really specific guidelines around what the young women were to wear to camp and our sons came home and I kid you not, this is a direct quote from their packing list: wear clothes appropriate for camping, right?
So I’m talking about this with a member of our ward and he says, Well, that’s for their safety and I’m like, Um, I think you’re incorrect there. But he could not think his way out of a wet paper bag. So I just dropped it with him but what I did do was I actually just had my Temple Recommend interview already scheduled and I said to a member of the Stake Presidency, We think this is a problematic way of addressing things and we’re concerned that this is what is being taught to our children. Not because we don’t teach them about how to respect themselves and respect their bodies but because what this message sends is a message that your body is dangerous and it’s not okay for you to be comfortable in your body, even if that means that someone else sees more of you than they think they ought to. This was really interesting. So, we get a call from the Stake Executive Secretary and he says, Hey, the Stake President would like to meet with you.
Okay, um, all right.
So he brings us in and he says, We checked around with other members of the Stake and we just don’t have an appetite currently for changing this rule. So Darcy and I proceeded to explain to him why it’s a bad idea to have this rule and we’re going to probably talk about some of these things more in detail here in a minute but we really were striving to convey to him that this way of thinking creates some really difficult meaning frames for the young women, right? If I have to control what I wear so that I can help the boys out so that they don’t think bad thoughts. Well, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing if a guy thinks you’re hot, he’s going to think the thoughts he’s going to think, right.
Amanda: And Teenage boys know you have breasts under your shirt whether they’re covered or not and guess what that’s what they should actually be thinking about. New idea I know.
Zach: So we offered our opinion to the Stake President and in part of the conversation he said, You know well the For Strength of Youth pamphlet of the time is the guideline and I said to him, You know that’s not doctrine, right?
Amanda: A lot of people do consider it doctrine, which is crazy to me. I mean I’ve had this discussion with so many people! No, it’s doctrine. Doctrine doesn’t change. The For Strength of Youth pamphlet changes consistently.
Zach: Yeah, if you read the one from the 1960’s you’ll be really surprised, but my point in saying that to him was, I understand what you’re saying in that the the brethren have offered this to us as a guideline, however I think it’s really clear that some of the language in here can become problematic if we don’t teach it properly and that was really the extent of our conversation. Although I will tell you that after that conversation, the Stake Presidency was speaking to our then Elders Quorum President who just happens to be our good friend and neighbor and he asked, Who are these Spaffords? And my friend said, Well they’re not Utah Mormons. To which the Stake President replied, Ah, there’s no such thing as a Utah Mormon. To which my friend replied, You know what I mean.
Which is simply to say that there is a culture that is purveyed here locally and in some parts of the country that is very much, these are the rules and we follow these rules and we look like this and we always will look like this. And I think it’s really important to recognize that this is a global Church and this is something that the person that we spoke to who’s part of the Young Women’s General Board said. She said, We have to stop creating rules for upper middle class white people. That’s a direct quote.
And really because for us I think all those rules might have made sense to a certain degree, but they don’t necessarily reflect the reality on the ground in every part of the world and that’s why, like you said, we did not plan to talk about this new For Strength of Youth guide, but to finish this story:
We ended that conversation and I pretty much felt like we were not listened to and that may not be true, I’m only speaking from my own personal perspective, I’m not trying to again, I’m not trying to tell you guys that my Stake President’s a bad person because he’s not. He’s a really good kind human. I just think sometimes it’s hard, especially when you’re in a position of leadership and very new to that position of leadership, it’s hard to think beyond what you believe is exactly what you’re supposed to do.
Amanda: Well and this way of thinking has been perpetuated for many many many many years and if again if you’ve been living, especially in Utah but in some areas outside of that and I mean I went to high school back East. I lived in Texas as an adult. I haven’t lived in Utah my entire life but it is very prevalent within the Utah community. I would say it’s still prevalent in some places outside but not as much.
Zach: Yeah I would agree with that. So fast forward almost a year and a half to the latest General Conference and the new For Strength of Youth guide comes out and I text the Stake President I said, Hey, Darcy and I would love to do a Standards Night on the new For Strength of Youth guide because these are the things that we talk about and we have been talking about this for years and you’ve heard us talk about these things.
Again, this is 100% on me, I’m not putting anything on the Stake President, but I did not get a response. And for me I felt like that meant that I don’t belong and it was a really hard weekend for me. I’ll be really honest with you. The thoughts of I should leave this church, I should take my family away from these people who do not value our ideas or position or thoughts, who are just willing to ignore us outright rather than be open to a dialogue and a conversation about what I believe to be the direction of the gospel, which is personal accountability, personal revelation and both understanding and living the principles of the gospel without necessarily making it all about rules specifically so it was a really very tough weekend for me.
Amanda: I’m so sorry that you felt that way. I remember we were actually messaging back and forth when they were introducing this new For Strength of Youth guide, really feeling so encouraged by the direction. You know we still I think both of us feel like there are still some parts that might be a little problematic but for the most part, it’s a really good direction.
Zach: I think it’s exactly the right step and so after that weekend I just decided I’m all in. It’s not about him and it’s not about what he thinks, it’s about me living the gospel.
So the following weekend, the weekend after Conference, we went to dinner with some coach friends of ours because we only ever hang out with coaches. That’s not true, but it kind of seems like it. We’re at dinner and we are talking about these things and we’re saying, You know it’s about taking personal responsibility. It’s about not just having a rule but living based on the values that you have and and we were just discussing that with this older couple who are also coaches or she’s a coach and we get up to leave and this guy stops us he says, Hey. Can I talk to you and we’re like yeah. It turns out that his wife is a member of the Young Women’s General Board and I’m not going to mention her name not because I don’t want it to seem like this is being endorsed by the church. That’s all, um, I’m just telling you this story so there it is, you do whatever you want with it.
And she says, “I’m so glad you’ve caught the vision of this” and I say, “We’ve had the vision of this, right? For us, this has been ongoing, right? And one thing she said was that they have been working on this for 5 years
She has been part of that committee for 5 years and they thought it was going to come out about two and a half years ago, this new For the Strength of Youth guide. But for me, and this is just my own personal thank you to Heavenly Father about this, for me that was a witness to me, a testament to me that I’m on the right track no matter what the Stake President does or doesn’t do and that my decision to stay and to be active and to be the person that I hope that I can be in all these interactions, that’s the right direction for me so that was really neat for me to be able to have that come full circle.
Amanda: That’s a really neat experience.
Zach: There’s lots to that story, but I think the point of this conversation, which is what is Modesty, because we sat down and we were like we should have a conversation about what Modesty is.
Amanda: Yeah, well maybe even say, we were at a LDS Life Coaches Retreat together and it was a couple months ago. There were a lot of coaches there and a lot of moms there that had been just taking their daughters homecoming dress shopping and so these conversations were coming up where like, Okay, I know that I need to think differently about this but I’m really struggling to figure out how do I have these conversations with my daughter and how do I not stay with the conditioning that I have had for so long about this.
So just a little history on my end. I grew up I mean I’ve talked a little bit about my parents just like they weren’t the best about talking to me about sex right? They still don’t want to talk to me about sex. They really were great parents. I have great parents but they really did conform to many of the checklists that were prescribed for so long and from the moment that I turned 12, I was expected to wear clothes that I would be able to wear with garments. So my clothing had to be garment ready and I remember we moved back yeast when I just turned 14 right before my freshman year of high school and I was involved in the show choir. And we were doing a cabaret and I was one of the dancers as well as singers and I came out on stage in a dress with spaghetti straps. Oh man I mean and I saw the look on my parents’ face and they were in shock and they were so upset at me and I could see it out in the audience and when I got home that night, it was like, How could you do that? What would you say if Jesus walked in or the Prophet walked in and I felt so horrible about myself instead of being really really happy about this wonderful experience I had being part of this great show and so it then proceeded to I had to go to my choir teacher and say I either have to drop out of the choir because I can’t wear this dress again or you’ve got to make it so that I don’t ever have to wear this dress again because it is not okay with my parents. We can wear our robes. We can wear something but I cannot wear this and her compromise was that she had a seamstress create a drape to go over my shoulders. There was one other girl, there were actually three girls in the choir that were LDS, the other two girls, their parents didn’t have a problem with it mainly because they weren’t from Utah. But there was one other girl that was not a member of our Church but she was very large chested and was uncomfortable showing that much cleavage and so for the next two years, because I was there for three years, the next two years anytime the choir wore that dress I wore this drape over my shoulders and it made me stand out even more and it was so awkward and uncomfortable.
But when I got married and went through the Temple, I had one shirt, one dress, and one pair of shorts that were all just slightly not garment ready. So I only had to throw out 3 items of clothing when I got garments and I felt really proud about that at that point. Now I see it’s kind of ridiculous but because I was making the choice because I was afraid of my parents’ reaction and not because I was making the choice from a place of agency.
Zach: Yeah, and my question is, what is that rule really given you like in terms of value.
Amanda: A lot of shame. It made me ashamed of my body and made me ashamed of myself. I think it contributed to my struggles with my sexuality in my teenage years, feeling it was problematic. And then leading into my marriage where we know it was problematic in my first marriage. So I think it has led to a lot of shame for me.
Now fast forward, I’ve got three daughters and I probably did some of that early on with them too right? But I started to see some changes but my daughter’s now I just ask, Are you comfortable? Is it appropriate for the occasion and if they’re comfortable and it’s appropriate for the occasion, I feel that conditioning coming back in where I want to say something and then I’m like, this is a me issue. This is not a you issue. This is not a clothing issue and I really have to rein it in myself and go Okay, what is actually at play here and it always comes back to me and my conditioning.
Zach: Yeah, and this to me is like, Okay well what were we trying to accomplish when we set up these rules because that’s what they are. They’re rules and to me, to be clear, and at one point I sent a text message to a member of the Stake Presidency because again at camp, one of the things that our girls came home with was that they had to wear pants and shirts to bed. They couldn’t wear a camisol or shorts to bed. And I said when are we going to stop offering rules for outcomes to our children and teach principles and let them govern themselves So to me this is like the idea that I that has been like rattling around in my brain for a lot of years is, it’s about principles and let them govern themselves versus what I think we have spent a lot of time doing which is rules for specific outcomes and unfortunately those specific outcomes become problematic, right? My daughter and all my older kids go to seminary, half our kids go to seminary and there are 4 of them, and they were discussing modesty at seminary and one of the girls said well we have to help the boys out and then another one of them did the well would you be comfortable wearing that if Jesus were here and I kid you not this was my oldest daughter’s response, Jesus is not a creeper. Because he’s not!
Amanda: Yes, good girl. So many times we’re offering these messages as a way to help the boys out and help them control their thoughts. I was listening to a podcast, I think it was the Q.More podcast with Rosemary Card, which I love, and she was talking about how there was a Ward Council where they were talking about Girls Camp and one of the priesthood holders was saying, Well they can’t wear leggings because that’s inappropriate, it brings up feelings in men and they’re like wait, it brings up feelings in men or it brings up feelings in you and if you’re having feelings about girls being in leggings, you don’t need to come to Girls Camp. That is a you issue that is not a them issue.
Zach: You remember that guy told you about that couldn’t think his way out of a wet paper bag? He told that same story at Young Women’s Camp to all the girls. He said, There was this girl who came to camp and she was wearing a swimsuit and it gave me the feels, maybe he didn’t say it gave me the feels but he was like it just made me uncomfortable, I think that’s what he said made me uncomfortable. Okay, well here’s the problem. This is the long term downstream effect of this kind of language and this kind of teaching, if we tell our young women your body’s dangerous and you have to cover it because it’s dangerous to people and they might have thoughts, feelings, or urges that you will be responsible for them. We are telling them that they’re responsible for the thoughts feelings and actions of other people and here’s a problem, and this is what we see often with what we do in Thrive Beyond Pornography is we find that there are wives who come to the relationship and they think I am in charge of the sexuality of my husband and I can control him I can control his sexuality. That’s a really, really interesting idea. I can control the sexuality of my husband and so where does that lead?
Amanda: Yes, they have to be the gatekeeper, right? They have to be the gatekeeper for their husband’s sexuality.
Zach: Yes, right? So what that leads to is lots of duty sex. Not a great deal of intimacy. Resentment in the long run and then and specifically in the work that we do. We find that they feel completely rejected when their husband chooses pornography and oftentimes their sense is, Oh I’m not enough for him, I’m not enough for him because he chose pornography and I didn’t do my job to manage his sexuality.
So this is the long term downstream effect of this kind of language and you may not quite see it. I know that many people don’t see that but I want to tell you that this has been our experience, this has been the experience of our clients and that may not be your experience but it is and has been a great deal of the work that we are doing is helping people just kind of claw back from this idea.
Amanda: Well and in the work that I do, I see so many women who 1) are being the gatekeepers of the sexuality. If I just let us be sexual we’re going to go straight to hell.
Zach: Um, no.
Amanda: That’s really the thought about it. If I just let it go, then it’s going to take us straight to hell. And then also so many body issues because we’re teaching women that their bodies are not okay as they are.
Zach: Yeah. Right? And that’s so sad.
Amanda: It’s so sad.
Zach: I don’t know if you notice this, if you’ve looked through the new For Strength of Youth guide, the word Modesty is mentioned just one time and it is in the appendix. It’s in the appendix and it references pages, I think it’s 24 and 25 and really what it is is your body is sacred and if you go through that the principle is your body is sacred and that’s what they’re teaching. To treat your body in a sacred way, treat yourself as though you are an eternal being and what does that mean? Well I don’t know what that means and I think this is going to be a really tough concept for a lot of people going forward, especially those who are used to saying this is what a good Latter-day Saint looks like. It will look different for every person.
Let me give you an example, my daughter before this new For Strength of Youth guide came out, came to my wife and said hey I want to pierce my earrings for a second time. Dun du duh right? And my wife at first was like no, you can’t do that and as she thought about it, she realized that the reason she was saying no is because she thought that she would be judged for it. That people would look at her and look at her differently because she was not following the rules and as she went through that mental gymnastics, she went back to my daughter and first she apologized and she said, Listen, I’m sorry that I told you no. That wasn’t really the right response. I want you to understand what it means to choose this. Some people will judge you but I also want you to recognize that this is 100% a decision that you get to make.
And that really has to be something that you decide based on who you want to be and how you want to live your life, not based on a set of rules that are basically arbitrary. And then she went ahead and did this and I think what you’re going to see when it comes to a lot of the ways that we have up to this point lived as Latter-Day Saints, there will still be quite a bit of homogeny. I mean people will kind of look the same because that’s how the world works. But I think if we’re not careful, we will be rejecting people who want to be with us spiritually because they look different and what we will see if we are very careful and we’re clear about what the purpose of the gospel is, which is love, we’re going to see people staying and looking different right?
Amanda: I hope so, I hope so. When it’s supposed to be based in love, but we’re putting rules and regulations that are arbitrary often in front of loving people, I think that’s a huge huge problem and I think that’s one of the things that we still need to work on in a lot of areas in our Church. Unfortunately.
Zach: Let me give you 2 examples. 1) we have a dress code here in the Stake for Stake Dances and it’s you have to wear a button down shirt or a shirt with a collar and a tie to Stake Dances. So they had a 50’s themed dance and this is when my oldest was like 13 or 14, they weren’t old enough to drive and the Stake Center’s not very far from us because we live in Utah but ah, he got a leather jacket and was wearing a white t-shirt and he kind of went with the theme not knowing that they would kick him out so he shows up with him and like 7 or 8 of his friends to this Stake Dance and they’re like, he must have been 14 because you can go to Stake Dances when it’s 14, so they’re like you can’t come in. You cannot be here because you’re not following the dress code.
And so all 8 of those kids, they just walked home to our house. They walked to our house and we had a party at our house but to me it was like you’re putting a rule ahead of what’s right.
And when we lived in Wisconsin, I was part of the Stake Young Men’s Presidency and we had this what we call Mormon Prom out there and every year they put on Mormon Prom so that all the Latter-Day Saint kids can get together in the two Stake, the north and the south stake, and anybody else who wants to come from Madison or whatever and one of the rules is you got to dress modestly and as we’re kind of going back and forth about this. I’m saying to the member of the Stake Presidency there, I’m saying these young women, if they show up, they’re in their best. They’ve done their best to get there and they have chosen to wear something that they believe makes them feel good and that makes them look good and that they feel good in and for us, so the rule was if your dress wasn’t long enough or you showed too much skin on top, they had shawls and skirts for them. And I said to him we are in essence saying to these young women that you’re not enough.
Zach: You’re not good enough to be here as you are and we’re not showing you love. What we’re showing you is discipline and this was really heartbreaking for me in part because it’s really frustrating to have these conversations with people who cannot see it.
You know they’re very much like no this is a rule I follow rules and I get that, I totally get that. I am a rule breaker. So I understand that I am not like that. If there is a rule and I don’t think that it makes sense or I don’t value it, I will try and break it at some point but I also think it’s important for people to recognize that maybe rules are good for me but maybe a rule is not necessarily the way that everyone needs to behave.
Amanda: And it’s not more important than loving people.
Zach: Right, and this was the problem because this member of the Stake Presidency, he was like we’re not going to let these girls who show up immodest ruin it for everyone else. I’m like oh you’re missing it. You’re totally missing the point and I essentially said I will not participate in that conversation and I think it’s unacceptable for you to ask the Stake Young Women’s Presidency to participate in that conversation because this is what I’ve told my daughters, if somebody comes to you and says I don’t think that you’re dressed in an appropriate way, their response to that person is to be, if you have a problem with the way that I’m dressed, you’re welcome to have a conversation with my father about it because it’s none of their business. I will tell you my girls dress probably more modest than anybody.
Amanda: Yeah, right I know. It’s so crazy. I mean I think you know clothes do send a message about who you are and how you feel about yourself. We’re always communicating messages about who we are, but from the outside we just get to love these people.
Zach: That’s our job.
Amanda: So, you know, I’m in the Young Women’s Presidency in my ward and we had a Stake Girls Camp this year and it was great. It really was but we agreed as a presidency and advisors that we will not enforce a dress code if they come out with one and they did, it wasn’t too bad. They did say no shorts but that was more of a safety issue, they didn’t say no leggings, hallelujah. They did say no shorts just because there are ticks and stuff so just as a safety issue but we even said with the girls, look if you want to wear shorts that’s up to you but just so you know there’s ticks up there so it would be wise to not but remember you are going to be camping in the woods. Dress appropriately and beyond that we didn’t care. We had a swim party a few months ago, half the girls came in 2 piece bathing suits, right? And I was like yes, they’re here. Yay! I’m so happy that they’re here and how fabulous is it that they are confident enough in themselves, that they love their body enough that they feel that it’s okay for them to wear that. I was overjoyed.
Zach: Yeah I so again me talking to the Stake President… Well so they came out with rules. Our girls did Moab this year. They did white water rafting down in Moab and they basically were told to wear a one piece swimming suit.
Amanda: Okay, how hard is it to go to the bathroom in the woods in a one piece bathing suit.
Zach: Yes, right? Ok so I fumed over this for a whole week. I was like ok do I have to go in and have this conversation with the Stake President again? Because this is not a good idea. This doesn’t make sense. This is a bad precedent to set. This is not a good thing and instead I did not call him, I called my friend who is part of the Young Women’s Presidency who happens to be my cousin like 1 generation removed all the way back to wild Bill Hickman who is a contemporary of Porter Rockwell
Really deep, right? It was one of those days where you pull out Ancestry on your phone and you’re like, who are my relatives and she was one of them. Anyhow, so I called her and I was like hey and this is what I’m hearing from my girls and I just want to understand what’s going on.
And I also want to ask? So first I said, I want to ask if you guys, I don’t care what my girls wear if you will just make sure that nobody talks to them about what they’re wearing because I don’t find that appropriate and she was like yeah totally and then I said so about peeing in the woods.
Which was exactly like, what’s more immodest, taking the entire bathing suit off or just pulling your pants down and go and pee and I was like this doesn’t make sense and she was like I was totally going to bring this up because I know I’m going to wear a tankini and I can’t imagine making these girls wear 1 pieces and it was just one of those things where I was like okay lights on somebody’s home. We’re making progress at the very least a little bit and you know I didn’t have to call in the national guard or yell at the Stake President or anything but it’s going to be slow and it’s going to be a shift and it’s not going to happen overnight and this is one of the things that we were talking about up at Bear Lake is that we have to be in there.
You know, these are the sorts of things in the ways that you agree that this needs to be done and I hope you agree because I believe it’s the gospel I believe teaching principles for self-governance which by the way that’s what you did with those Young Women. What did you do you said? Hey, wear shorts, don’t wear shorts, that’s entirely up to you, but here are the risks and they figured it out.
Amanda: Yep! They did. And some of them wore shorts, and that was totally up to them. We didn’t say dang thing about it because it’s not my job to nitpick every little thing that someone else is wearing or not wearing. We give them principles and we let them govern themselves.
Zach: Well and I think this is one of those things that’s tough for people who are institutionalists. When you’re in a leadership position in a large company. So I’ve been in a leadership position in a very large company. I worked for a company for many years and I had a job to do and that often looked like creating conformity within the ranks of the people who worked for me.
Unfortunately when we take that same mentality to the Gospel, what that means is we create rules based around our own personal opinions that don’t have anything to do with Doctrine or the Gospel, that we believe will bring conformity and by the way these rules are designed to help us live the principles of the Gospel even though they may not but I fully recognize the intent behind them which is a positive intent, and I fully recognize the fact that the people who were offering these good intended ideas were completely unaware of the way that it would turn out, the ramifications, right?
But I also think it’s really important, especially as a body of church members, as the body of Christ, as people who are trying to build the Gospel in essence, that we really be clear about what is actual Doctrine and what is just my opinion based on what I think this would look like.
I don’t know if you remember this, when I was growing up there were people who were like well we don’t drink soda because it’s got caffeine in it. That’s not the Gospel. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Gospel. There are people out there who were like, I’m not going to eat chocolate because there’s caffeine in it. I’m like you keep that one. All that chocolate, you send that over to me.
Amanda: And remember, we’ve quoted Joseph Smith a couple of times on teach them principles and let them govern themselves, right? And it was that way for a long time. It wasn’t until President McKay that we started getting a lot of these checklists.
Zach: This is my favorite because my dad remembers this, before President McKay was the prophet, keep the sabbath day holy was the principle and that meant…go figure it out and President McKay said, Well we don’t shop on Sunday, that’s what that means, and my dad was a deacon or a teacher and at that time you had like 3 different meetings. You would go to church and then you’d go home and then you’d go back to church. So between like priesthood and whatever the next meeting was, I think it was sacrament, they would go across the street and get treats from the bakery. The entire priesthood body. Not just my dad and his misbehaving friends. It was them and all their leaders and the Bishop was sitting there having scones or whatever with them.
And so I have a cousin who has talked about this with me and he basically said from that point through President Monson, he believes that was the rules for outcomes era of the gospel and it’s interesting, right? Because President Hinckley… I feel like I tell these stories all the time and if Darcy was standing here, she’d be like are you going to tell this story again.
But this is a really cool story. I think we’ve talked about it. So it’s hard because I know these people who are listening, they have never heard these stories but so we did a Youth Fireside for a Youth Conference for Ward talking about Pornography which is what we love to do and we do it for free.
So if you want us to do that, let us know.
Amanda: And they’re amazing at it, just FYI.
Zach: But yeah, it’s not that it’s not that conversation that you think people are going to have about pornography. It’s totally different and it’s fantastic and people love it. Even if I do say so myself.
But we were at this Fireside and we were talking about, you know, living values and understanding principles and making choices based on our agency and I brought up the earring story about my daughter and this guy was like Well do you want to know how that actually came about? I was like, Oh yeah, of course I do.
He told us a story about how when he was in a Bishopric in Iowa during his college years, they had a visit from President Oaks who came and sat in their correlation meeting and basically President Oaks’ story and of course this is all apocryphal, so again, don’t write the Church and be like these people are terrible. I’m just telling you the story as I heard it but he basically said we were getting a lot of letters into the church office building about how many earrings was the right number of earrings and that is when President Hinckley came out with one earring. That’s when that rule happened.
Amanda: That’s so crazy.
Zach: Well here’s what’s interesting, right? But here’s the thing, people want rules, people like rules. Do you know why we like rules? Because it’s easier to follow rules than it is to figure it out. It’s so much easier to have a rule. That’s like, wear one earring. If you wear more than one earring, then obviously you’re out of the Gospel, right?
And that’s essentially how that came about but here’s what’s really interesting, this is what I would like to have seen happen and again please don’t tell my mom that I’m criticizing the church because I’m not, just from a new angle, giving an idea if you will. What if President Hinckley had instead gone and in that Fireside where he said one earring, what if he had instead said, Hey, we get a lot of letters about how many earrings is the right number of earrings and the truth is we don’t know.
Because we want you to treat your body sacred and that’s an important part of the Gospel but is one earring too many, are two earrings too many, are 42 earrings too many. We don’t know because that’s not really the important part of the Gospel. The important part of the Gospel is that you treat your body with sacred intent.
And if you do that, you will know and you will be able to figure out when it’s time to get one or more earrings, if that applies to you and even though that makes you look different than maybe the girl who’s next to you, that doesn’t make you wrong and in some cultures wearing more earrings is important because it’s part of your culture. In some cultures having many tattoos is important because it’s part of your culture and that doesn’t mean that we need to run out and all get tattoos or get earrings. But it does mean that we have agency and it’s our opportunity to as I like to say what is it, Philippians where he says, It’s your responsibility to work out your salvation between you and the Lord with fear and trembling and if you look at the ancient version of that text fear means reverence, right? What he’s saying there is go figured out.
And what it may look like for you may not be what it looks like for the person next to you but what it will look like is genuine, honest ownership of your agency. Now of course had I been writing speeches for President Hinckley at the time, that’s what I would have written but it’s a different world.
Amanda: But that is also what we teach our clients. To be solid in yourself, in your choices, to look inside at what you really want and are these choices bringing you closer to the person that you want to be or not. To the relationships that you want to have or not. And if not then change it and what it might look like for you. It might look different for someone else.
Zach: And that’s the progression that you get to have.
So I have a client who is in her thirties and she’s never been married. She’s a great person. Wonderful woman. She struggled with Pornography. We worked on that. She doesn’t struggle with Pornography anymore. But she came to one of my open calls and she said I’m struggling with masturbation and it’s happening on her cycle, which is very normal for women, that’s a time when heightened hormones create a greater desire. And I want to note, if you look at the new For Strength of Youth guide, the word masturbation is not to be found at all. It’s not to be found.
Amanda: It wasn’t in the last one either. It was arouse feelings in yourself or others. But the word masturbation hasn’t been in there for a very long time.
Zach: Okay, so she came to me and she said well how do I stop this and I said okay, is it time to do that. Is that up to me? Is that something you actually want to stop? Masturbation is a part of the reality, the fabric of most human beings life at some point because of sexual development full stop. So the science behind it is really clear and my question to her is, it might be when you’re 5 it might be when you’re 35 that you decide that this isn’t no longer serving me and if it’s no longer serving you then that’s when you’ll stop and if it still serves you in some capacity, I don’t see anything in the literature that indicates that this is not an appropriate activity. I don’t see it. I could be totally wrong.
Amanda: Well again, it’s one of those things that you get to work out with the Lord with fear and trembling.
Zach: With reverence and understanding. And this I think is the thrust of this new For Strength of Youth guide and I know this started as a conversation about modesty because…
Amanda: Because that’s what we were originally going to talk about.
Zach: But really I think when I look across the breadth of this new For the Strength of Youth guide, it’s really clear. It starts with, let me teach you the Eternal Truths, let me teach you the principles and then it goes to, let me invite you to live those to the best of your ability. It’s not like well let me invite you to follow these rules because these are the right things to do all the time, every time and then it says, here’s the blessings that you may receive as you live these principles.
And then it gives you some questions and answers. But what I really like about this new For the Strength of Youth guide is that it says it’s a guide for making choices. Darcy and I used to refer to the old one as the how to judge yourself and your neighbor book.
Amanda: I know I love that so much.
Zach: But because that’s what it felt like and and I think you know the scripture on the very back of the pamphlet is, I think, really telling. It says look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not. What I think the Lord is doing there is he is offering us an opportunity to continue to grow.
Amanda: Gosh, I’ve got tears in my eyes. You guys can’t see it but I think we both
Zach: I was crying too. I had to stop there for a minute.
Amanda: We’re both crying because this is the work that we do with people and this is what we want to see in everybody’s life.
Zach: Yeah I 100 percent agree with that and if you’re a mom or dad or you know just somebody who talks about this with the youth or anyone and you feel like oh wow I have not taught it in the way that really now comports with your new understanding, it’s okay to just go down and apologize and just say hey listen I messed something up.
Amanda: Yeah, I think repair is one of the principles that we need to be teaching people in relationships. I know, especially in those early days, that I didn’t handle things well with my children.
I’ve talked about it I think before. I did not handle things well with my oldest son when it came to pornography and different things and I’ve had to go back and say I’m sorry, I didn’t handle this well and here’s what I think and believe now and I love you and let me know if you want to talk more about it and I think that goes so far.
I have so many clients who say, I have grown children and then they’re struggling in their marriage because of what they’ve seen from me and how do I go back, and I said you go back and you apologize. You just do.
Repair is so important and it’s so important for our youth to see us apologize and the changes that we can make in ourselves because then they know it’s okay for them to make those too.
Zach: Well, that’s the essence of repentance. Repentant is to change, to have a new mind. So if you look at the Greek root of the word which is metanoia, it means to have a new mind. It’s one of the meanings. But that’s the meaning that I take and if you think about it, what’s your mind if it’s not your thoughts.
And once your thoughts change, once your belief structures change, and you understand better than you have repented and that’s when you get a stand on solid ground and say hey listen I’m a little bit better now than I was. I used to suck more.
Amanda: Oh man Zach thank you so much for having this conversation with me I think it’s going to be so valuable for the people listening.
Zach: I 100% agree. I’m so grateful for like-minded people who can see beyond the culture and see beyond the ideas that we were offered and find, I think, greater and more valuable truths. That pearl of great price as it were.
Amanda: Yeah, so if you have listened to this conversation and know that you have some work to do, feel free to reach out to me or Zach and we are happy to help guide you in making those changes so that you can also not only change in yourself but guide your youth and your children to doing this in really the way that shows love and respect for yourself and for others.
Zach, why don’t you tell them where they can find you.
Zach: Yeah, you can find me at zachspafford.com or you can find me on social media at thrivebeyond_forcouples on Instagram. I’ll be honest with you if you message me there, you’re going to be talking to my wife.
And if you want to reach and you want us to come and do a Fireside or anything, whether it’s about pornography or about modesty or whatever it is, the new guidelines, we would love to do that. Darcy’s favorite thing to do is to do these kinds of events and although she’s never spoken in Church from the pulpit, she loves to have real discussions with real people and we would love to do that. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda: And the same goes for me as well because I think these conversations are so important.
Alright Zach. Thanks so much for being here.
Zach: Anytime. See ya.