Friday, August 10, 2012

conversion and love

One summer when my mom was a teenager she had the opportunity to participate in a pageant about Christ’s life.

I don’t know what character she played nor do I know all the details (so I hope I don’t mess this up), but I remember her description of one particular evening during that summer that changed her life and leaves tears in her eyes every time she describes it (and mine too).

Part of the pageant was a reenactment of the resurrection of Christ and one of the nights as it was being acted out something struck a chord in her that had never been hit before.  As she sat there internalizing the reality of Christ’s resurrection and surreal love for her as an individual she remembers being hit for the first time that Christ was the central focus point of the gospel. 

Overcome with tears she went and hid in a nearby bush, partly overcome with the spirit of how she felt, but also a little bit mad that all those growing up years had been filled with somehow missing the point.  She had mistakenly been clinging to the thought that the gospel was all about not smoking or drinking alcohol…or what not to wear.  She had internalized that the gospel was made up of rules and regulations…standards to bring happiness.  But she had missed the part, the culminating central focus of the gospel: God loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us.  And He loves us so much that He gave His life for us.  And He set and example for us to love each other with a pure love and no judgment. 

Huddled under that bush with the music blazing in the background and tears streaming down her face my mother had her first real “conversion” to the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ where the central focus point is the Savior of the world and what He did for us, not all the fluff and rules she had clung onto so tightly. 

In the church I belong to we believe that God still reveals things to His children through prophets just like He did in times of old (Moses, Noah, etc.).  We have high standards to help us be happy.  We stay away from things that are not good for the amazing bodies He has blessed us with, we strive to prioritize family time and put our spouses first, we go to church to help remind us of what’s most important in life, and we seek to serve others as He would.  We are blessed with a Sabbath day each week where we can renew our covenants with God and ponder the big picture of life and what it’s all about.

We also have a precious gift called free-agency.  It can be a tricky one sometimes because it means we need to make decisions here and there that aren’t outlined to us from someone else…even our parents or a best friend we look up to.  We need to pray about things and learn to lean on God for support when sometimes it would be so much easier to just ask someone else what they think and follow their example.  And the trickiest thing about all that?  We need to help our kids understand that free-agency thing as well.  We believe that we should teach them correct principals and gradually let them govern themselves.  Make some important decisions all by themselves…and even let them make not-so-great decisions once in a while.  That’s how they learn.

But most importantly in the church I belong to we are taught to try our very best to love unconditionally as Christ loved.  To love someone who comes into church smelling like cigarette smoke or who runs through a drive-thru after church on Sunday just as much as our perfect-on-the-outside neighbor who we may relate to in every way.  Everyone has a different story.  Everyone comes from different backgrounds.  Everyone has been brought up differently.  But we are all children of a God who loves us and we should reach out to each other no matter how differently we live or interpret things and try our very best to love unconditionally. The Atonement is for each and every one of us in a very real, individual way.  And it is real.

I’m grateful for all the comments on that post yesterday because it gave our family a chance to sit down and have a great talk about how we live life.  We talked about what standards we have.  What kind of examples we want to set.  I told Elle I think she is wonderful and I’m so proud of all the good decisions she is making in life.  And maybe we could all use a little review of “For the Strength of Youth” because it gives us great guidelines from loving leaders inspired by an even more loving God :)

So many people asked what I think about the whole modesty thing, and I don’t think that matters for anyone else but myself and my family.  We have prophets and amazing leaders who give us guidance through the scriptures and general conference and church each week.  We need to search and ponder and struggle through prayer to have our own convictions with guidance from above and not let the decisions others make affect us and bother us if they are different from ours.  That’s what makes us stronger.  And that’s what will make our children stronger as they set off into lives of their own.

How I hope my children can have their own “conversions” to Christ just as my mother did on that hill hidden snugly under that bush so long ago. 

And how I hope that they will always remember that what matters is that we each live our lives the way we feel a loving Heavenly Father would be proud of us for.  And love others around us just as He would if He were right here with us. 

Because really, He is right with us…and He loves us as unconditionally as He hopes we will reach out and love others…with no strings attached. 

117 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Shawni - you have risen above the judgement of others - and let your children know how great they are. You have every reason to be proud of them, and of yourself. Even though you put your family out there for public perusal on your blog, you do not have to justify or explain anything you or your family do. God Bless.

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  2. Oh how I loved this post! This is why I read your blog there is always a sense of balance!

    I wish that for a moment we could all forget the superficial stuff and focus on the conversion.

    Shawni, you and your family are amazing. Thank you for all you share on the blog!

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  3. Thank you for this post- so many great reminders here. I applaud you for taking a high road. What a great example you are for not only your children but so many others who get to peek into your beautiful life!

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  4. nailed it.
    love you so so much.

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  5. Perfect, Shawni. You get things on such a deep and beautiful level. I'm so blessed to be your sister. And I'm so grateful you're navigating hard stuff with your kids ahead of me so I can watch and learn and have you there to help me in a couple years when my kids are as old as yours!

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  6. I'm not LDS, I have almost nothing in common with you except our gender and our - ahem - age. You, lady, are a champ. Have a fantastic weekend!

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  7. nailed it.

    love you so so much.

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  8. I think that a big part of becoming truly converted comes from having experiences, like your mom's. I have been thinking a lot lately about how important it is as a mother that I give my children good experiences so that they can grow their testimony. Parents supply the soil with which to plant the seed. I think if we as parents are more aware of the experiences we are giving our children than we will be better able to supply rich and wonderful soil that our kids can't help but grow and soar up towards the sun (son). You do such a wonderful job of giving your children good experiences!

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  9. Shawni, this was a beautiful post. I hope you know what an amazing example so many see you as. Personally, the only thing I picked up on out of yesterday's post was how happy and unified all of your children look, which I always admire. You have beautiful children and a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing that with us.

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  10. Two thumbs up. Hard questions, sticky situation. Beautiful answer. Keep up the good work.

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  11. I have been reading your blog for a very long time now, and this is the first time I have ever left a comment. I am a mom of two young babies, and all I can say is how much I love you and your family. What great examples you are to all of us! Thank you for letting us peak into your life and learn from you. There have been many discussions sparked between my husband and I about many of the topics you write about; which has in turn led us to the gospel and how we want to raise our kids in it. Thank you!!

    Kaitie

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  12. I love reading your blog. You have a wonderful, beautiful family. You are such positive, happy people and you all radiate the love of Christ. This was beautifully written. Love your sweet family.

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  13. I love this post! For me it just solidified the Relief Society lesson this past week in my ward about "conversion". I read your blog for the inspiration you provide to other moms out there that are just trying to do their best. Thanks go to you and your family for being great examples to all in so many ways. You are all amazing!

    PS...To Elle, I think that you looked beautiful on the first day of school but not because of what you wore. You looked beautiful because you know WHO you are! To me your testimony seems to radiate out from you! So SHINE ON!!

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  14. Oh my goodness when I read this post today I wanted to cry because I thought what I had said had offended you but then I read the other posts from yesterday and realized that I was (hopefully) not the one. I was just curious but you are right, it is between you and your family. I tried to joke in my comment and write it in a way that it was obvious I wasn't judging just wanted your thoughts. I do think your children area perfect example of modesty and so much else. I guess it is because people value your opinion so much that they would ask. Focus on Christ is a great way to redirect the concern some may have on the less important issues. I guess it was something I had noticed and was curious about because it was an issue that my husband and I had been dealing with recently. I do hope that I did not offend you, it was definitely not my intent (or to heaven forbid offend your sweet kids).

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  15. Stand up and applaud!!

    You are an inspiration, a great mom, wife, daughter, friend. We have conversations all the time about dress, but i realised from this post, that it doens't matter what others are going to think, if we as a family feel good about it, boohoo to anyone else who feels like they have to have an opinion!

    If you look at the countenance on the faces of every member of your family, you see, the light of christ in you all xoxo

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  16. What a beautiful blog post. I love hearing the conversion story of your mother. It reminded me of my own conversion and the beautiful gift that it is in my life. The gospel is about trying our best and knowing that in the end, none of us can "save" ourselves. The gospel of Jesus Christ is based on getting up each day, trying your hardest to be your best. In the end, we all fall short of our goals, we all make mistakes, and we all need the Savior to help us change and help us to return to His presence. It is a beautiful gift to understand what a precious gift the Savior has given to each of us through His Atonement. I know that I will try harder today to be an example of the Savior. Thank you for all of your great reminders to serve, love and care about others.

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  17. Beautifully put. Loved this post. Thank you.

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  18. I don't know you personally but gosh- give Elle an extra big hug tonight. She is gorgeous and radiates, even in pictures, an amazing light!

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  19. Well said!

    I am kinda shocked at the comments from your previous post. I really admire the mother you are and the way you live your life. Your devotion to Christ just radiates through all of your family and you share that with all of us. Thank you so much! I could not agree more your decisions are for you alone and nobody should make you feel like you owe them any explanation on the standards of modesty.

    For what it's worth Elle looked beautiful and that was the only thing that stood out to me in those pictures....I sure hope her feelings were not hurt in any way. I wish others had perhaps thought of how she would feel if she was reading the comments.

    Beautifully said, I admire you so!

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  21. Posts like this are why I read your blog. Like the one about blogs from a long time ago that I absolutely agree with. You inspire me to be the best mom I can be without making me feel crummy about myself or my life. You have an absolute gift and I appreciate what you give, from your heart that is full of good.

    I have to laugh about all this a little bit because I have 4 boys so When I read the post I was paying attention to Max's outfit and thinking "boys have it so easy- just throw on a t-shirt and shorts and you look good!"

    Thanks for your example and for teaching us all.

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  22. I love this! Thanks for putting it into such beautiful, simple words.

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  23. A.MAZE.ING! Seriously...amazing! I don't know that you could have responded to yesterdays comments any better and with more love than what you did. What a sweet story of your mother's first "conversion". This was such a great post I just want to pass it along to everyone. You are an amazing woman, mother, wife, neighbor, and friend. We are certainly lucky to get a glimpse into your BEAUTIFUL family's life. Thank you! Have a stellar weekend!

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  24. Thank you Shawni for the beautifully written post and more importantly - your spirit. I cringed a bit from the comments on yesterday's post - living in a non lds area (and referring your blog to many non lds friends:), having grown up lds, married to a new convert, with children who are lds and step kids who are non-lds, I get so sad when there are comments sent out that seemingly go against everything Christlike - and everything the gospel represents. Thank you for being an excellent example and reminding us all to focus on the important things:)

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  25. Dear Shawni,

    I adore your blog. I check it daily and I often find encouragement and ideas on how I could be a better mother to my 5 children. You're so classy. Thanks for what you do.

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  26. You are an inspiration, Shawni! What a beautiful and extremely gracious post and response.

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  27. Whilst I love reading your blog and never miss a post, I do feel that sometimes it seems like you believe that your opinions are the only ones. For example your references to the 'Saviour of the world' and 'He is right with us' etc. come across as sounding like the existense of God is definite and an actual fact rather than just a belief, which isn't in any way proven and so shouldn't be spoken about as fact. I'm not meaning to say that there is absolutely definitely not a God in this world, just that you seem to speak as if you are sure that He exists when there is no possible way that you can be. It just seems to me that you take religion a little too seriously and should maybe let your children just 'live' once in a while without everything having to be religious and with a spiritual purpose and governed by unnecessary rules of modesty and so forth, as you seem to be giving them a sheltered view of what the real world is like.

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  28. Thank you for this post Shawni.

    I'm really sorry for my comments yesterday, I didn't mean to sound like I was judging & I hope I haven't hurt you or Elle by my comments.

    Thank you for you & your family's great example:)

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  29. That is just it Kate Lilly, you CAN be sure. Lol.

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  30. I have to say, I read your post yesterday, and my first thought when I saw Elle was how proud I was that she could be so beautiful on the inside and out without flaunting herself. I honestly think that every time I see your children, and I love that they chose to be stylish in their own modest way. I read the comments yesterday and really was baffled. I admire every single person in your family. Jesus shines through you all! And that, really is the big picture.

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  31. I love this post! It is exactly how I feel about the gospel. I feel much more of my focus on Christ, treating people kindly and serving those around me the best I can. Because I KNOW that is what is really important and what our Father in Heaven cares about it. In fact when I read this post I wondered what new post you had put up after the first day of school one. Because when I read the first day of school one I didn't think at all about what they were wearing(beside the fact that they were so dang beautiful) and was so suprised at the judgemental comments. I love your example of your beautiful family and hope to have such great teenagers! My husband even loves your blog and we try implement alot of your ideas.

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  32. I want to add my support to your post and everything it stood. Thank you for sharing your opinion and voice and letting others be a part of it--that takes a lot of courage too! It has been a strength to me as I continue to remember the importance of walking the trail that I pave and remembering to follow the still small voice, the only one that really counts! You really hit it right on here.

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  33. I am wondering what is immodest about shoulders on little kids. Notice the strength of youth is for kids 12 to 18. I wish there could be less judging. My daughter is super tall and skinny like shawnis Elle. Short shorts on her would go to her friends knees. If I buy longer shorts they don't fit her waist. She loves skirts and we can't find long ones so she wears little dance shorts under. But even her friends judge her. Who is more wrong...my daughter or her friends that judge her...makes you think. My daughter is a great little girl with a sweet spirit no matter if her skirts are short or her shoulders are bare.

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  34. So, at first I was confused. I thought maybe you were referring to that Q&A you did a while back about Mormonism. But then I got to the end and saw that it was about the first day of school post. I went down and read through that one, and I couldn't figure out what was so controversial -- it just seemed like a standard documenting family milestone type post -- until I opened the comments. Wowee! I do not envy you, Shawni. And you responded with such grace and wisdom. You go girl!

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  35. Bravo. If my baby girl turns out as good as Elle seems, I will be thrilled. She is BEAUTIFUL and truly SHINES! :) Hugs to her! Thank you for all the wonderful insight you provide on your blog.

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  36. Beautiful. Love it. Thank you Shawni. I was so upset yesterday about this. I told Mindy yesterday you would have a very kind and perfect response today...and you did.

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  37. Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you for the reminder that at the end of the day all we're trying to do is be like God and Jesus Christ.

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  38. When I read today's post I first thought people were upset because she was wearing makeup. But, a sleeveless shirt? Holy Cow! I hope people reading your blog don't judge your whole LDS faith based on these comments. You make me scared to open up my door when you come knocking! What in the world would you think of my messy house and choice of clothing?

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  39. well said, I am not LDS and I think you and your family are a great example of love and kindness. I agree with you 100%

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  40. I never read comments, but I had to go back and see what all the fuss was about, because I simply couldn't IMAGINE what folks found wrong with your children's clothing! You and your girls are GREAT examples to us all...young and not-so-young! We live in Virginia Beach, and moved here from a small southern town. We were FLOORED by the immodesty of the girls when we first moved here, and it's still hard to swallow two years later! My point is, some folks need to get out of their bubble and see what TRUE IMMODESTY looks like. ;) You, my dear, are doing a FABULOUS job raising your children!!! <3

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  41. After reading today's post I had to go back and look at yesterday because seriously, nothing jumped out to me as immodest. I am a Christian, not LDS, and the nitpicking over these "rules" is exactly what Jesus talks about when he speaks of the hypocrisy of the pharisees. I think you alluded to it beautifully in your post. When you get so caught up in the rules, you lose sight of the very reason why God sent his son. It's not about sleeveless shirts people!

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  42. Shawni, you rock. I love you so much. Thanks for always blazing the trail for me. I'm do happy my kids have your kids as cousins to look up to, just as I've always had you. Thanks for always 'getting it' and putting things into perspective.

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  43. You are exactly right, that is what's most important. That's what this life is all about. It's so very true and I love how your testimony just shines through your post! You and your family are amazing and I definitely look to you as an inspiration and example--I think that's why people notice these things.

    I do think the "little" things are still important though. They help with the big picture... there are reasons for the guidelines--but I know you know that. I think the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is much more black and white than it used to be--but I love that it adds to study and pray about these things to help guide you (not just in dress!). Thanks for sharing!

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  44. I've already commented but I just keep thinking about this. You and your kids just returned from an amazing trip on the other side of the world where you were literally the hands and feet of Jesus, to the least of these. And yet people are chiding you on sleeveless shirts. That is the difference between the Gospel (or conversion as you call it.) and religion. Religion is all about the rules, serving others is at the heart of what Jesus was about. None of us will ever be good enough, or follow the rules enough to please God. That is why his son died on the cross. I'm amazed at how some in the LDS community make it so much about the rules and following the rules but are so quick to point out when someone among their faith is breaking the rules.

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  45. You are so wise. Thanks for posting this. I was heartbroken to read the judging comments yesterday. You are already brave to put your family out there for everyone to think they can critique. But I thank you because you are such a light and example. I have learned much through your mom's books and now your blog. Way to take the high road and remind us all of the TRUTH of the gospel, not sets of rules.

    Much love to all of you.

    Bobi
    http://westernwarmth.blogspot.com

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  46. I am nodding, nodding, nodding. YES! This is it. This is what it is all about.

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  47. First, let me say Shawni is amazing and her kids are completely adorable and modest. Now let me tell you why I won't let my kids wear sleeveless or short shorts clothing. I have 3 girls and 2 boys. My oldest was sexually abused at the age of 3 by her biological father. She is now 11. We have generational sexual abuse victims run in our family line. When we took the matter to prayer one of the things that was confirmed to us to do was have our children be as modest as possible. It isn't easy for my girls and I have to be very careful what I wear- no sleeveless exercise clothes for me. The description of how modest my girls need to be may be different than that of another family and that is okay. I would not expect anyone else to follow what we need to to help keep our girls safe. And if you have a similar situation as us with being sexually abused, your answers may be different than ours. I am not a better 'mormon' than anyone else, and I am not naive enough to think that this will magically protect my children, but I also know that I will take heat for it because I can't make you feel the conviction I have about this for my own family. Modesty is a sensitive subject and widely diversified on opinion. My ex was deep into porn and I never want to put another woman through what I went through when my hubby stared at their cleavage, so I am always covered on top but that is my experience, not a judgement. This is between husband, wife, child. Then God if needs be. Shawni, you are a spectacular light in the world and I appreciate all your posts and sharing your family with the world. xo xo,
    PS I am sure I am the only woman left alive who wears nylons to church :)

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  48. Beautiful post...thank you so much. And DITTO to Bobi Jensen's comments. <3

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  49. It's a fine, and hard line to walk -- I think. I tend to steer my teenagers to within the circle that the Strength of the Youth provides...
    Not judging you, if you can walk the line, more power to you. Just seems harder then staying within the circle. :)

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  50. I appreciate your response. I have read some of the comments yesterday, and a few from today. I think you have wonderful parenting ideas and that your family is a great example, and that you are brave for sharing openly with everyone. I didn't care for the comments of how your family and children are "perfect examples," because NONE of us are perfect. Jesus Christ is our only perfect example. I am the mother of one son (my oldest) and 4 daughters. We have modesty conversations all the time. On occasion my girls have chosen to be what I consider "questionably modest," even after lengthy conversations with my husband and I about being "obviously modest." The standards of our church ARE different than the standards of the world. As parents we can do our best to lead, guide and walk beside our children, but ultimately they have the freedom to choose (at least to some degree until they are out of the house, for us). It's an ongoing "conversation" and you have only just begun. Good luck!!

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  51. I knew you were going to get judgemental comments... I am so sorry you did! Your family is amazing and beautiful and I have Learned so much from you. The gospel isn't about sleeve lengths or modesty it is about the Savior and those comments weren't emulating Him that's for sure. Elle is beautiful and radiates so much light! Shine on Elle!!

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  52. To Lillian J. Banks - my heart goes out to your family - how horrible for your child to have been subjected to sexual abuse by her father. However, not to diminish the abomination - if someone has the tendency to abuse children, the child could be covered from head to toe and it would not matter. I know it makes you and your children feel safer - but do you honestly believe that a pedophile is more likely to attack a child if her shoulders or knees are showing? It is so not about that.

    I guess what I think is, that if someone belongs to a religious group and that group has rules in place about what not to wear, then you should abide by those rules. Unless they are just suggestions - or what I call "conscience matters" - but if they are rules then you can't really say you are a member of that religion if you don't obey all of their teachings.

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  53. I never write comments, but I read your blog every day. I am touched by your example and how you handled this situation. Thank you for your example today and always.

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  54. How you responded to yesterday's comments with such sweetness and grace is beyond me. It shows what an amazing person you are.

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  55. She looks fine.

    She is wearing layers on top for school. No cleavage. Layers ensuring nothing popping out. 118 degrees.

    Shorter shorts for a strenuous activity or athletic activity is fine. It's summer. It is hot. Wear appropriate to the activity.

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  56. I was one of the people that commented yesterday, and I tried to find an email so that I could write to you more privately, but I couldn't find one. After I clicked submit I felt horrible. I don't take back anything I said, because it is how I feel and I have had life experiences that have made modesty one of the most important gospel standards in my life. The problem is that with online posting you don't me, I don't know you and you can't hear how I'm saying what I'm saying. I truly want to understand you and your choices with your family. I want to be able to help my children and you have such a beautiful way of expressing things. I have loved your blog, you remind me a lot of my family and I want to have a relationship with my children like you have with yours. Your children radiate happiness in the pictures you post, and I wouldn't want anything to take away from the light of Christ that shines in them. People are always watching us, how we dress, and what we say. I really wasn't judging, like I said this online posting people input their own tone into things. I wanted to better understand, because I was confused. I loved your response and everything that it said. Like I said you have a beautiful way of expressing yourself. I am grateful for what my mother taught me about modesty. My husband is grateful for how I am modest. It has been such a positive influence in my life. I don't ever want there to be any question about where I stand on gospel issues, and the way I dress reflects that. Your family is beautiful and amazing, and like the rest of not perfect. :) But what fun would it be if we were all perfect?

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  57. Sherri Dew said, "The final judgement will be a breeze compared with what we put each other through here."

    I knew those comments would happen, it saddens me so much that they were so hurtful and vicious! Your family is such a great example to me and I have gained so much from your blog. I wish I could give Elle a huge hug because that girl radiates light so brightly I can feel it through my computer screen! Shine on Elle!

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  58. When I saw the photo of Elle & Max, it never crossed my mind that she was wearing anything immodest. I teach at a public high school and I would love if all of my students were dressed as her. When I saw the photo, I wished all high school students could return from summer with such an amazing experience. You have inspired me to take my boys on a missions trip before they leave home. I do have a question. . .I am not lds and I was wondering if you would be receiving the criticism if it was Max who was wearing the tank top?

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  59. What a grace giving post. Many of the comments yesterday reminded me of stories in the Bible where the pharisees get so caught up in their rules that they become totally blinded to the truth. Religious rules so easily become a way bigger deal and totally take away from the true gospel. Thank you for your words.

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  60. What a grace giving post. Many of the comments yesterday reminded me of stories in the Bible where the pharisees get so caught up in their rules that they become totally blinded to the truth. Religious rules so easily become a way bigger deal and totally take away from the true gospel. Thank you for your words.

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  61. What a grace giving post. Many of the comments yesterday reminded me of stories in the Bible where the pharisees get so caught up in their rules that they become totally blinded to the truth. Religious rules so easily become a way bigger deal and totally take away from the true gospel. Thank you for your words.

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  63. I have been a longtime reader but this is the first time I have commented. I am so glad you posted this and I agree that standards of modesty are completely up to individual families to decide what works for them without any outside judgement. Having said that, I was a little disappointed with the startling amount of anti-LDS sentiment that came out of yesterdays comments. I just felt worse and worse with every comment I read. I think that as an LDS community our modesty is very important to us (just as it is to many Christian and Muslim followers)and many people can pick us out because of the modest choices that we make. I was saddened to see so many call our religion judgmental and fanatical because of the comments of a small few. I think the vast majority of LDS people are very open minded and accepting of others but many want to paint our church and it's followers as archaic and bigoted. Unfortunately the comments of a few portray the majority in a bad light. Your family is amazing and truly an inspiration to the rest of us- I hope all my children can grow to be as wonderful as yours are!

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  64. Lovely! True Christianity has nothing to do with our appearance and everything to do with our actions. Those who find fault in others so openly and readily would do well to evaluate their own choices instead of others.
    Bless you and your wonderful family. I adore you and admire your efforts to share your talents and insights with mothers like myself that are continually uplifted by your good examples and true Christianity. Thank you!

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  65. oh shawni, you've already heard it all. i seriously had to go back to yesterdays post so i could see what you were talking about. i had NO idea that she even had a sleveless top on. hahaha! i have about a hundred things swimming around in my head that i could say but i'll choose just a couple.

    i think for the most part these woman were genuine in their modesty question. however, to some (LDS or not) it sounded very judgmental. sometimes these questions are better for email so that we don't confirm in ANYONES mind what some might be thinking of the LDS faith. we are NOT taught to cast judgments on anyone...EVER!!!! it is not for us to judge! we are taught to love and to be accepting.

    it is also SO important for EVERYONE to remember that no matter what religion we are, our individual actions weather good or bad do not define the religion that we choose to be apart of. we are all imperfect people just doing our best, especially as moms we need to be gentile with eachother it's such a hard job and we need all of the support we can get from one another. let's be supportive of eachother and choose to see the very best instead of looking for what's not perfect.

    shawni, i love you and the amazing way that you take on this hard life. you are so good and i just know that our heavenly father is SO proud of you! thank you for sharing you moms story with us it was so beautiful!

    now please make sure that your kids are dressed in your next post so we can steer clear of all of this nonsence. if you're going to have this many comments it's way more fun if they're all asking if they can pay your bills or take you out for ice cream.... hahaha! ONLY KIDDING! :) now let's go get some ice cream!!!

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  66. What a beautiful person you are. As are all your radiant children. Your post today had me thinking all morning about how I can more purposefully show my children my love for others and help them draw closer to the Savior. Thanks for triggering my day's reflections. I've started out motherhood later in life than many and am so grateful for good examples to help guide me along my path. Thank you.

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  67. After reading this I had to go back and read some of the comments to figure out what was going on.. wowzers!

    Way to handle that Shawni! Hope Elle wasn't too affected by what was said- and implied! Hope you weren't either!

    I love your explanation of the gospel, and I believe so many get caught up in the "rules" and nitty gritty and forget what this life and gospel is really about... What relief and happiness we will all have when we can let go of passing judgement!

    Thanks for writing! Sure love you and your family and the great example you are to me!

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  68. Shawni, you are an amazing Mom! Don't let one anyone else says or think affect you and your beautiful family! My little boys are super small (3 and 1),but I hope that I can teach them by example as well as you have your children. I hope that I can be half as good a Mommy to my two little boys!

    Thanks for being a tremendous example to me adn other Young Moms!

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  69. Your post today sums up, so beautifully and simply, what I feel is the truth of the gospel. I live in Utah, and in this very LDS state, it is easy to confuse Mormon culture with the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The two are not one and the same; while I feel one is pure and based on sacred knowledge and understanding of the divinity of Christ, the other is based on public opinion (very much malleable from city to city, state to state, ward to ward) and sometimes judgment.

    A primary leader (in which I am a teacher of my 8 year-old daughter's class) gave a lesson a few weeks ago on modesty and held up items of clothing, such as a one piece swimsuit, a sleeveless dress, and a tank top, and asked the junior primary (kids under 12) to yell out if the items were "modest or immodest". It was Utah in late July - 3/4 of the little girls were in sleeveless sundresses. Of course none of them understood the lesson or the rules, and my daughter, in a darling sleeveless sundress, was eventually pointed to and yelled out with, "She's immodest then - look at HER dress!" She felt horrible. My 10 year-old daughter had the same lesson later that day and found me after crying, saying how embarrassing it was that she was wearing a thick tank top under a skinnier tank dress and everyone had looked at her.

    This is not the Gospel to me and I would weep if this is what the Gospel appeared as to people outside our faith. My Savior, Jesus Christ, never spent a second making people feel like less. He saw beyond poverty, grime, disease, and sin and loved unconditionally. It isn't enough to talk the talk and say we do those things as well; in practice, it means not missing the forest for the trees. It means not getting caught up in details that are hardly indicators of the worth of a soul. A few centimeters of fabric on Elle's shoulders? Please. This is a girl who just spent a chunk of her summer vacation administering service to children in India, who appears to love and support her mother and siblings, and who is always smiling, cheerful, and involved in school and extra-curricular activities.

    If all people are seeing is shoulders and mascara, people are missing the boat in a huge way. We are above this - all of us, members of the LDS church and non.

    Cap sleeves alone will usher no one into the gates of heaven. I give you my highest respect, Shawni, for the admirable and Christlike way in which you dealt with this criticism. Your family is, to me, an excellent representative of people striving to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I would further hope that any person reading this blog who isn't a member know that the Mormon church is not defined by the small ideas of some of its members; rather, as Shawni said, it is defined by the love of Christ and his example.

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  70. Sleeves aren't going to protect someone from abuse.

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  71. Hey Shawni :) I miss being in your ward and feeling your light each week:)
    I loved this post and when you mentioned questioning Elle's modestly at the end I thought- "surely someone did not think her outfit was immodest..." but lo and behold- they did! You know how I feel on this topic and I fully agree with you that people need to worry about themselves. Really people does she really look immodest?
    Kudos to you for putting your lives out there for all to see (and apparently judge)!

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  72. I love this post Shawni! I admire you for your strength and willingness to put yourself out there. I am so grateful to have you as a friend and I know the intents of your heart are so pure and good! It is very interesting to me how everyone sees things through different lenses. It would be so nice if we could remember that we are all different and that we shouldn't cast a stone at someone who sees something in a different light no matter the religion or background.

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  73. Shawni, this was a beautiful post, even before I realized it was in response to some negative comments. You should definitely be proud of every one of your children, and I'm sorry that you had to deal with some unfortunate scrutiny.

    I'd just like to say that there was a delightful older lady in one of my wards who was the most compassionate, caring, talented, loving, and colorful person. Especially colorful because she loved to add streaks of color to her snowy white hair--pink, violet, lime. Guess what she did before her retirement? She worked in the LDS Church Headquarters office building, as a chef. She frequently delivered meals to President and Sister Hinckley. She loved to tell stories about cooking for him, and figuring out how to make his favorite dishes. Not once did she ever mention him asking her to change her hair color to something more "conservative." I'm guessing it was because he was concerned about larger problems in the world.

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  74. Just want to offer another supportive comment - you are so brave to display your life and thoughts on such a public forum (though I know there must be MUCH you keep private for you and your family only!). I hope you continue to do so, as I find great inspiration from reading your blog. I am not LDS and my life seems wildly different than yours, but your blog radiates respect and kindness, and that gives me hope and direction for my own life! Thank you, Shawni!

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  75. I've read your blog for a while and absolutely love it. Thank you for writing and thank you to your kids as well. What a sweet, loving and faithful family you have. (I'm sure you're not perfect, who is?). I love reading your thoughts here.

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  76. Your family is beautiful (inside and out)! They always look so genuinely happy and that is because they are obviously loved by good, good, good parents and are taught (and are doing) what's right.

    I love the gospel and am so sad that some people choose to judge so harshly, especially a beautiful girl who is filled with the light of Christ. I hope that my sons grow up and marry a girl just like your Elle (and hopefully they will be lucky enough to have in-laws like you and your husband).

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  77. Love your post. I felt bad that you seemed to have gotten bombarded by the whole modesty issue. You handle it with amazing grace. Tell Elle not to worry I wore tank tops when I was in high school and I still married a great return missionary and was married in the temple. Your family is an inspiration to make mine just as wonderful & real amidst all the crazy things in the world.

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  78. Hey, Shawni,
    This was honestly one of my favorite posts ever. I know the modesty thing seems to be on the forefront of everyone's minds lately. Mine, too.
    I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I've decided I feel about modesty the same way I feel about the Word of Wisdom. I think that, often, we are so focused on the "letter" of the law, that we totally miss the principle behind it, which is the most important thing. Make sense?
    You are amazing. You are raising your kids to know exactly who they are, and that is the important thing.
    Thanks for being such a great example, and being willing to share it!
    Ashley

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  79. People are not perfect, the gospel is perfect. And as long as we're striving to live the gospel, we are doing the best we can.

    If some people's biggest worries are what your children wore to school, then I wish I had their life. Life is hard. Judging people doesn't make it any easier. I think some of us need to re-read President Uchtdorf's talk and STOP IT!

    Thank you for the things that you share with us and for inspiring me and encouraging me to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and most importantly child of God.

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  81. Thank you Shawni for running you OWN race and inspiring your readers while you’re passing by. I am an east coast reader who was drawn to your blog because of your “I am a Mormon” video, beautiful pictures, entertaining stories, and reassuring notes of faith. I am encouraged to know that you have overcome so many family obstacles through faith. I also felt compelled to support your posting today. Your mom and sisters really set a sharing and accepting tone while discussing family matters through the Power of Moms’ podcasts. Everyone is so open and willing to share what works and does not work in regards to their families. There is no judgment, digs, or underlying tones. Everyone is sensibly supportive.

    You blog’s disclaimer reinforces this atmosphere,

    “I believe that mothers have power beyond just creating a positive, loving atmosphere in their own homes. As mothers we can join together and with synergy we can create a network of strong families. We have a powerful voice if we just raise it up enough to be heard. We are strong. We can change the world if we work to build up our own families as well as others around us. And what a great conduit blogs can be to bind mothers together and create that synergy. The goal is certainly so very far from creating jealousy or comparison.”

    I think people often make religion or motherhood a competition similar to beauty pageants, clothes, cars, and anything that is tangible. Maybe it is to reassure their beliefs or even their self doubts; however, what I see is that you are simply an amazing mom of many moms who keeps it real with your readers and teaches by just being. People are welcome to their opinions; however, we all know that judging others serves no constructive purpose.

    You, your mom, and your sisters thrive on empowering women to decide what is best for their lives and best for their families. It is truly touching that in this day and age women can share stories and encourage one another to keep going regardless of how we get there. This is what I take from your blog. Thank you for encouraging my faith by allowing your story to unfold as it may. I do not have children; however, when I do it is my hope that our family will run our own race through faith and continue to be inspired by others.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and congratulations to your family for surviving the first week of school!

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  82. I love your blog. I am not even a mom, but love to read how you give so much of yourself to others and how you are teaching your kids this as well. You inspire me and i love that you share your beautiful family with me every day. Great post. Well said.

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  83. Your grace and poise are impressive. You are an inspiration to be a better person.

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  84. You are seriously a very inspired woman! I love your post today.

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  85. What an amazing post, in and of itself. And what a mature, wise, slow-to-anger way to respond to comments that would have made me feel pretty prickly!

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  86. I love reading your blog. I heard you speak at a Time out for Women a few years ago and I felt like you spoke directly to me. Something about what you were saying struck a cord with me. I bought your book that you cowrote with your mom and read it in a day. My mother talked fondly of your mom when I was growing up and now I speak fondly of you. I have my own blog and you have inspired me in the way I write it.

    I think you are an amazing mom, who admits her faults and helps others learn through your example. I adore you and I have come to adore your family through your blog. You are all an amazing example of Christ like love and my heart soars every time I see the pictures of your family together, loving one another and serving others. What great examples you are to those out there in the world who need to hear what you have to say. You are amazing examples of Members of the LDS church. I am sorry that there is so many harsh words being spoken about Elle's outfit. I think she looked beautiful and radiated with a spirit of love, and that is not something that you can teach, that is something that that is absorbed into the soul. Thank you for your example to all of us.

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  87. Personally, we don't do tank tops at our house, however I can't believe people have the nerve to talk about it. Really, your choice. No judgement here.

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  88. Awesome, Well done Shawni. So many bible readings come to mind with how beautifully you managed the responses to yesterday's post. Thank you for leading by such a good example :)

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  89. I'm another one of those "I never comment on blogs" people but I just wanted to thank you (and your mum) for this post :) I've been struggling lately with what some may call a crisis of faith about the gospel and, as another commenter put it, the culture of the church. This post has reminded me of the real focus of the gospel and not the rules, regulations and guilt that is often associated with falling short and feeling judged by others. I heard a saying recently, "don't judge me because I sin differently to you" and it's funny how we often forget that we are all on different, personal journeys and that it's ok to be a square peg Mormon, we are all meant to be different. Thanks for being such a great example of what kind of mother I can be if I try, and for sharing what you do on this blog :)

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  90. Shawni and Elle - keep shining your light. It shines brightly x

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  91. People are so quick to criticize--I agree with the comment, "If some people's biggest worries are what your children wore to school, then I wish I had their life." Right on.
    I felt an impression from God the other day that was so strong I wrote it down (for myself): Don't seek the approval of others, for in doing so, you are seeking judgment.

    I'm so glad the naysayers can't snuff out your light.

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  93. I feel terrible that you had to insert that bit into your post based on yesterday's comments. The only thought that crossed by mind was "That is an adorable outfit & I love the color combo (I'm not LDS)!"

    She looks very modest in my view, and I wonder if she were placed beside a typical teenage girl, would people still believe her little bit of shoulder showing was immodest? I admire you, just from reading your blog, and I know you are raising some amazing children!

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  94. I can see why you wouldn't want to show much chest and/or legs, but shoulders? Not exactly a provocative body part if you ask me. Wearing t-shirts under lovely strappy dresses looks ridiculous and would be much better without.

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  95. Elle, I think you looked stylish and modest on your first day of high school!

    What is most unfortunate about this is that judgement was passed on a teenage girl on her first day of high school. It's unfortunate that the commenters didn't realize this prior to posting. I have no doubt that Elle is very popular at school and that a lot of the kids at her school read this blog. So not only has Elle's top been a discussion in the blogging community, but most likely with some of the kids at her school.

    I could be wrong, but I think there are controls you can place on comments. Either turn them off completely, which I don't think you want to do, or a setting you could use where you have to approve them prior to them being posted. Not so your family is portrayed in a perfect light, but moreso to protect your children from another situation such as this.

    I love your blog and your darling family! It is the only one I read thoroughly and take notes on. :). Thank you for sharing. I absolutely loved this post. Christ is the central focus of our church. Always has been. Always will be.

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  96. I had to go back and read yesterday's comments, because I thought I must have missed some risque outfit- seriously! You have shown grace and true Christ like-ness in your response, and as a mother of teen girls, I might not have been quite as kind. You continue to encourage and inspire me as a mother through your example.
    (I have to add, in all seriousness, that the irony of this controversy to me, is that when I saw Elle's first day outfit, I was actually impressed with how modets yet stylish it was. So it is all in perspective... maybe some of those other commenters have never had teen daughters!)

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  97. Shawni,

    Thank you so much for your blog. It always helps to put motherhood into perspective for me and remind me of why I love being a mom. You are the hugest example to me and I will be happy if I can achieve half of the unity you and your family have.

    I honestly didn't notice anything from yesterday's pictures except how BEAUTIFUL your children are. Elle is glowing and please tell her I think her smile looks great! I love Grace's personality and Lucy's sweetness. I hope to meet you someday so I can tell you and/or your family how much this blog (and other works of yours and your family) means to me!

    Thank you for your positive outlook, keeping it real, and letting us look into your life. I know it can't be easy sometimes.

    -Alicia-

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  98. Beautifully said and what a sweet experience your mom had. Personal conversion is so important for all members of the church!

    Just some food for thought...In my adult years I've been taught to refer to our agency as just that, not "free" agency. Free is something you get at no cost, but there was a cost. There was suffering and sacrifice endured by Christ so that we could have our agency. What a gift we've been given through Him!

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  99. I have been reading your blog for a while now and I don't usually comment but....
    I love reading your blog. I live in England, I am LDS but no longer attend church. Your children are beautiful. The only thing I saw when I looked at Elle's photo was how beautiful she is. I had to look back to see what all the comments were about. I am a new mummy of a 6 month baby girl. All I want for her right now is for her to be happy. I hope that I will be able to help her to make good choices. you are such a wonderful and inspiring family. I hope that I can give my little girl a little of the wonderful life that you give to each of your children. They are all amazing and you have every right to be very proud of each of them. Sending love from England. xx

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  100. Thankyou for sharing your family with us. I love reading your blog, it inspires me.

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  101. Well said!
    You are such a wonderful example of our gospel of Jesus Christ.

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  102. You get it Shawni, you really do. What a great post, so carefully and lovingly said. I also think that one of the reasons you must blog is to share your faith with others, and you're doing that! And you do so the best I've ever read. We need more women in our church who can speak out, who can share by example, and who can teach with love. You're doing awesome. Keep it up. If anything you made each reader who wondered what was up and then went back to read the comments (like myself) think a bit more about personal beliefs and how to teach them to their family. You've made us all think! And done it in such a classy way!

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  103. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog and appreciate you sharing your feelings and thoughts and children with the www.

    I only read a few comments on the "Back to School post", and noticed that many had been removed. Some made me cringe.

    On the other hand, in the past you have shared many thoughts and opinions on different parenting and family issues that I view in the same genre as modesty. Many people, who admire and respect you probably only wanted to hear your thoughts on the topic.

    I didn't post a comment on that particular post but it did cross my mind, "hmmmmm I wonder what their feelings are about sleeveless shirts."

    Of course, what you share with your readers is and always will be your prerogative.

    If you never share a thing about modesty, I will still read and appreciate what you do share. It has been a source of inspiration for me and I appreciate the time you take to share your bits of wisdom.

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  104. In an entire sea of comments, I have no idea if mine will even be read by you, but I wanted you to know that this situation and your response (which has nothing to do with the price of rice (you've heard that expression, right?)) inspired me to do something outside myself in the name of Jesus Christ that I had been holding myself back from doing because I was being judgmental.

    Thank you for being who you are. And thanks Elle, for being who you are. I love your family and your blog. You guys are wonderful :)

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  105. I like this post. I'm Jewish (modern Orthodox) and grew up in Gilbert. Not to be rude, but the presence of a Mormon church on every corner and essentially attached to every school is a little overbearing when you're not a member.

    This blog has really opened my eyes to the positive side of Mormonism.

    As for the modesty thing, we have very strict rules. (Girls/women must wear at least knee length skirts and cover their elbows, and married women cover their hair) so it is possible to survive in Arizona wearing clothing that covers a lot.

    However, even though I would never wear clothing like your children, I don't find their choices particularly immodest. Does anybody see what is advertised in stores for young girls now?

    Also, we have kind of a mantra here: "Judaism is not a religion, it's a relationship with G-d." I think it might be true for Mormonism as well.

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  106. WELL EXECUTED! I knew you would handle the situation with love and grace! Hope feel more love and grace as you share your amazing light with the world!

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  107. Well said, Shawni. And thank you for sharing your mom's experience.

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  108. Loved this post!! I love how you approached it and how you handled the scrutiny with such love and gentleness. Way to go. :)

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  109. I don't think I've ever commented before, but feel like I should. I love this post, and it touch me very much. I went back and read the previous post and some of the comments to it, and I was heartbroken for you and your daughter for the harsh criticism that arose from a simple post about back to school. I'm LDS and grew up in New England, and I know how hard it is to stand out as a latter-day Saint because of many things, including our modest clothing. I just want to say how much I appreciate your blog, and the examples of of you and your great kids! It's not easy putting yourself out there, and I think you handle this situation with love, grace, and eloquence.

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  110. This post reminded me of the talk by Larry Y Wilson from the April 2012 General Conference. My favourite talk from last conference!

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  111. Beautiful testimony. Thank you for choosing your words and reminding us all of the importance of the choices we make in our own families being that of the mom and pop. Thank you for also admitting that you may need to review the FSY again as a family. I too have wondered how you have addressed modesty in your home or how you would in the coming years as your daughters grew older- I hope it is something you do discuss in the future on your blog. Your family is such an example to so many- I am always looking to see how good families approach this topic in our world today. Arise and Shine Forth, right? But how?

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  112. I was just sent to your blog from Let Why Lead...beautiful post. Thank you for having a tolerant, understanding spirit. You are the type of person that gives me faith in the Church beyond the Gospel!

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