Many of you, especially others of you in Provo, probably found yourselves scratching your heads this week over a viral story revolving around modesty and the BYU honor code. If not, let me tell you the now well-known Valentine's Day story of Brittany Molina, who that day was dressed like this:
Yeah, I know. I was confused too. Scroll up again. I couldn't quite see how her appearance would inspire unhealthy thoughts in men (but then again, I'm not the most qualified guy to judge that either). Anyway, clearly it seems like even if the young man was having issues with his thoughts because of what she was wearing, he went about things the wrong way. Definitely overreacted. At least she seems to have been a good sport about it and posted the picture, the story, and the note on Twitter herself, leading to its viral proliferation.
But anyway, while that story is at least to a degree amusing, the next one I have for you is not. With campus abuzz with Brittany's story, I became privy to another conversation about modesty that quickly turned into something quite different. A group of students was discussing how so many girls break the honor code by wearing immodest clothing. This led to a discussion of the evils in the world corrupting the morals we stand for, which led a discussion of how liberals are ruining the world. Ultimately, a conclusion was reached, half-jokingly, to "burn all the liberals, burn all the gays."
This isn't the first time I've heard such things said. And who hasn't heard the classic line of "stick all the gays on an island together" at least once or twice before? It usually doesn't bug me as much as it did this time, and I think the reason was because of their purported devotion to the honor code just a couple minutes before. I thought of the words of Christ when he rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:24-38, saying,
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Now, this passage is a little harsh. It is, honestly, TOO harsh for this situation. I am certainly not here to condemn these students to the same degree Christ condemned the Pharisees. However, I think there are some important principles here that apply. Perhaps what bugged me the most is that they were so passionate about maintaining that a skirt that is an inch too short violates the honor code, but apparently don't think that hate speech does. This is what Christ referred to when he spoke of those who would "strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." They made very public displays out of expressing their utter abhorrence for the breaking of tiny technical parts of the law of Moses, but were at the same time violating much more important commands, especially as regards the deeper, principle levels of the law. And that's how I feel we must be acting when we very publicly condemn girls for a few inches of fabric, but disregard what Christ called one of the "Great Commandments," to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you are deficient in love for your fellow men, then I don't care how modestly you dress--you've become merely a whited sepulchre or a vessel clean only on the outside; you "outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy."
Now, let me be clear: I am in no way advocating the swallowing of gnats! There is certainly danger in people pointing to others swallowing camels and using it to justify their own gnat swallowing. By all means I support the principle of modesty and adherence to those outward parts of the BYU honor code. But without clean inner vessels, you aren't really remotely living any code of honor. There is no honor in making degrading comments about others who are different from you. In April Conference of 2006, Pres. Hinckley spoke about the evils of hate speech, specifically regarding race, though it seems his remarks can be equally applied to any hate speech made based on differences in orientation, religion, race, gender, or any other factor. He said:
"Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ...