While Elle and Carson were here, before Max and Abby arrived, we had the opportunity to go back to church. It was our first time back in five months.

I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t over the moon about going back to church. I think we’ve had a pretty great gig with this home church thing.

But as we sat there in that pew, all masked with pews between us and anyone else (meetings are limited to 50 people in different time slots, there is no singing, just listening to the piano or organ playing the song, and only one talk), I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the act of gathering.

I was so grateful for the message that was shared (all about ministering and true love). I was grateful to be able to wave at friends and neighbors, our eyes smiling above our masks, for the camaraderie of the people in our congregation. That largely empty chapel filled right up with the thickness of the spirit.

I think my girls sure felt it too. Because it doesn’t happen very often that Lucy will actually initiate a back rub for her sister. Nor reach her arm around that said sister to try to put her arm around me too. And it also doesn’t happen much that the older girls aren’t rolling their eyes at their little sister’s antics. Ha!

Grateful also for the tender whisperings of the depth and power of love and kindness in the midst of so much confusion and division in the world.

Loved this little impromptu sisterhood embrace as we left the building, our hearts and spirits all filled up to the brim with love and gratitude:

Back home again without masks…basking in that precious togetherness that we knew wouldn’t last.

Loved that renewed deep gratitude I gained for church and so many other opportunities that were so easy to take for granted before this pandemic.

Similar Posts


  1. We are still in the throes of home church, and I love it! I also miss seeing everybody, and worshipping together:)

  2. I felt the same as you Shawni, I wasn’t that excited ti go back. We are back weekly. Each week I love it more and more. Just been together really made me realize how much I’d missed it.

  3. Non LDS here. Does Elle not have to cover her shoulders in church or is that just in your temple?
    Is there church laws against showing shoulders ?

    1. It’s after the do a particular thing in the Temple that they wear garments that cover their shoulders unless doing certain activities like exercising, swimming, dance, loving, giving birth, bathing… If the COJCOLDS wants her to cover her shoulders they should open up their Temple. I don’t know why so many people are always on this poor girl’s shoulders since the age of 16. Anyone watching college sports would see max doesn’t have his shoulders covered and he is moth and RM and married. Many photos posted here and no one ever said why aren’t Max’s shoulders covered.

        1. He is “both an RM and married” is what that was supposed to be. Autocorrect and bad vision, my apologies. Both of those things would put him in garments normally.

      1. Molly, we must have been replying at the same time because I didn’t see this until just now. Thanks for that link to help clarify as well!

      2. Can members of your church really dress how they choose?

        “Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back”. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/for-the-strength-of-youth/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng)

        This is from your church website. It tells young women the types of clothing that they “should avoid”.

    2. This is a really good question, and timely too because I was JUST listening to a podcast that addresses things like this yesterday. The simple answer is that there are no “laws” for those who haven’t gone to the temple, and after you go to the temple, like Kris said, you wear garments that you cover when you dress. We have a booklet for youth that has some guidelines outlined, and there is a section that mentions covering shoulders. My thoughts are that all my children are all old enough to make those decisions themselves by now. If you want to listen to that podcast I totally recommend it: https://overcast.fm/+UKfemv2xY I’d actually love to do a whole post on this some time because it makes for a pretty interesting discussion.

      1. Love the answer regarding your kids being old enough to make their own choices! Would absolutely love to see a post about this if you have time. It’s always such an interesting transition and I would love to hear about how you’ve navigated your kids getting older and making their own choices about this, and which things your family enforces and which you let them figure out for themselves. Also how your relationships with your married kids have changed- how do you navigate being the parents to kids in their early 20s while recognizing they’re in the married stage of life?
        Thank you!

        1. Shawni this is how I feel too. My oldest is almost 17.. she can choose. I’ve definitely seen the ‘eyebrows raised’ if she’s worn something they wouldn’t. It’s interesting to see as a mom!! I remember reading ‘ for the love’ by Jen Hatmaker ( highly recommend) and I can’t remember word for word but she said the hem line on a skirt or the correct words coming from a teen mean nothing if they don’t know Jesus. I loved that !! I’ll have to look up the quote lol
          I actually will be honest I wish they would change the For strength of Youth. It needs it!

          1. My heart aches to hear someone say that the Lord needs to change His For strength of youth booklet. He speaks to us through His prophet. Is it really so hard to live within the bounds the Lord has set?? There are thousands of adorable outfits that cover shoulders and aren’t too short so why not stay within His bounds? The For strength of youth booklet is there to bless all of our lives. We shouldn’t pick and choose which ones we keep. The Lord obviously feels that it’s important or we wouldn’t be taught that. We are like kites on a string and the string is like the commandments. We might look at a kite and think the string is holding it back from soaring into the sky but in reality it falls to the ground without it. The string actually helps it reach it’s highest height! Let us not counsel the Lord but seek to live within His bounds and reach our highest height! There is great peace when we follow Him and not the changing trends of the world.

          2. Heidi, yes but until they do change it, shouldn’t the members go by what’s in it? Not hard to cover up shoulders.

          3. Mom of 8.. it’s a pamphlet. One year the Lord decided girls should not be seen in public wearing hair curlers and another year it was fine. The scriptures say Jesus rose from the dead. They will always say that. Do you see the difference between doctrine and guideline? One changes the other doesn’t. In fact the garments themselves have already been changed. It makes no sense that people who are not old enough to get them should be dressing as if they have them on. Perhaps getting endowments should be based on age and not getting married or going on a mission or converting in adulthood past mission age? If Elle went through the Temple at 12, 16, 18 she’d be in them. No one is ever mad her brother shows his shoulders but she is constantly commented on no matter the activity. People have agency over guidelines for pity sakes.

      2. Why is there a decision to be made by your children? You just said it “mentions covering shoulders”. So you can decide to ignore that?

  4. Awesome! Our ward has had church every three weeks for a couple of months, but we are not going, yet. Unfortunately, they are singing at church and not everyone is wearing a mask. I am in UT. I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I do find it frustrating. So, we are sticking with home church for the foreseeable future.

  5. I don’t know why but this post, especially the photo of them with their arms wrapped around each other, left me teary-eyed. Nothing better than sisters!

  6. I have missed church so much, it was so nice to go back a couple weeks ago, walking into our building, sitting in those pews, I felt like I was home. I have realized these past months how much going to church on Sunday has meant to me and my faith, I can’t wait to go back full time, that along with not being able to go to the Temple has severely tested me, I can literally feel it. I hope this doesn’t go on much longer, I need my Sunday worship at my Ward building, more than I ever thought I would.

  7. I’m in UT and we are not meeting yet. My bishop said , when we do meet – it will be in small groups & no singing…so each stake could be different in UT depending on where you are- city or rural.

  8. “Human evolution led to five basic movements, which encompass nearly all of our everyday motions.” Meaning your workout needs just five exercises, one from each of these categories: push (pressing away from you), pull (tugging toward you), hip-hinge (bending from the middle), squat (flexing at the knee)

  9. Mom of 8 the For strength of Youth book has actually been changed and updated many times. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I for one have a hard time telling my daughter that getting a 2nd earring is defiling the body when nothing is said about Botox, fillers, breast augmentation, Timmy tucks, etc .. I have zero against them, I’ve had Botox but honestly some things need to looked at!

    1. Heidi, this is a very good point. Modesty/ defiling the body is often such a personal topic. I agree that a second ear piercing is much less of a problem than some plastic surgery and I have seen many lds teen girls with multiple piercings. I am not lds but that does not seem to be something the lord would be most displeased about.
      I am curious however. If the lds church has any stance on plastic surgery for cosmetic vs reconstructive purpose? I am curious to know how much there is keeping to the idea of being made in gods image.

      Thank you 🙂

  10. This is where I think parents are the issue and the same old entitlement issue comes up.

    No matter how we justify it , we as parents are picking and choosing, I 100% admit this of myself too. We let our kids wear tanks, short shorts, tiny bathing suits because A) they are cute & fashionable and we don’t want them to stand out to be the ones not. Take a minute to think about it it’s true. B) Plus we don’t want to another fight with our teens. So we say it’s a ‘ guideline’ and turn a blind eye.
    But don’t dare ask to date until you’re 16.. absolutely not, why? Because that’s the ‘ rule’.
    Am I wrong????

    1. Parent’s are supposed to be the ones pick and choosing. Not a committee that passes something along to be official. Do think the President during the last publication wrote the pamphlet himself? Covering shoulders is something you do to stand apart a bit. Probably more comfortable to wear if it’s not a tank top underneath but something with a cap sleeve. If you really want members from every country you are going to have to rethink. There are different climates and standards of modesty. What if the strength of youth suddenly said cover elbows. Would you in AZ?

      1. “What if the strength of youth suddenly said cover elbows. Would you in AZ?”

        Um, yeah… if I belonged to that church and that’s what their rules are? Do you just obey God when it’s easy and comfortable?

  11. I find it odd they are adults in the church at 8 deciding for themselves to be baptized or not but they can’t decide on clothing according to some of you. The child in this case currently is 20 and married. They changed the sister missionary dress rule because investigators were worried they would have to dress like the missionaries. If there was an investigator at church I’m sure they would be happy to see they don’t have to change their current wardrobe right away.

  12. on the topic of church and Elle and Carson, do they have a plan yet for sealing? Or is it just so up in the air due to covid? So many new things to navigate with the current state of things….

  13. I think the thing is, this is like telling your kids “hey, our church instruction book says you should avoid clothing that does not cover your shoulders, but hey, we know we can do what we want and that the church has no right to tell you what to wear. So if you, in your heart feel that you can wear clothes with your shoulders showing, go right ahead….” I think this sends the message to very vulnerable, easily influenced young people that no rules really apply to them.

    Some rules/instructions really have no point except to teach obedience. Allowing them to ignore guidelines from their church leaders (that really come straight from God, right?) lets them grow up thinking that other rules in life can also be sidestepped. Can your school tell you what to ? Can your boss? There is sometimes a dress code at school and at work. If you work there, even if you think the rules are silly, do you still have to obey them? Or can you just use your “agency” and dress “as you choose”?

    Something for LDS parents to think about..

    1. I liked your thoughts. I do think this is an interesting topic and maybe we should have a dedicated post about it. I love hearing others thoughts & opinions.

      I do think you have a point. If I’m honest I do think some of our rules are * out of date* I’m sorry but showing an extra inch of your shoulder isn’t a deal. Is it about obedience? Maybe, but people are still so judgemental about it. As I said in my last post too, how can I tell me kid that there is no 2nd piercing but we all know LOTS of LDS ( and non, but we are talking about LDS and the for strength if Youth standards) get boobs jobs, tummy tucks, Botox, fillers, veneers, tattoo eyebrows etc .. again I’m not against this at all but just because it’s not in the ‘ guidelines’ it’s seen as completely ok, but many would never themselves get a 2nd set of earrings , or a regular tattoo.
      I have a hard time saying they are guidelines when we also say anything that is published by the church and especially the first presidency are like modern day scripture. So are we turning a blind eye or justifying it ? I do sometimes. I know where I live the custom is to wear your prom dress to seminary graduation, many now have 2 different dresses, why? Because they know it would be frowned upon to wear their prom dress thats sleeveless, backless etc to a church seminary graduation. To me modesty is a whole lot more than a hem line or shoulder covered. It does not make these kids immodest or rebellious or anything like that, and I wish that since we are moving more towards ‘ home Centered /church supported’ that parents could help make those decisions without feeling judged.
      Just my .2cents!!

      1. I agree, Heidi. I am not LDS but I think if I were, and I truly believed that anything handed down by the church powers-that-be is coming directly from God, then I’d try my hardest to abide by the “guidelines”. And it’s not like it’s an addiction or something a person has to struggle to obey, it’s choosing clothing! Not that much of a “hard thing”.

        I do believe in agency. I think that things become a conscience matter when they are not specifically mentioned. Don’t defile your body. Ok well it’s up to each person to decide whether boob jobs, tummy tucks, ear piercings, etc defile the body.

        But it appears that shoulders showing IS specifically mentioned. So no agency necessary. Just don’t show them. And until God sends a memo of new light information to whoever in the church is supposed to disseminate it to the members – it’s still in the book. I would think that if it’s outdated and God changed his mind about it, he would have let his mouthpieces on earth know.

        Very interesting discussion!

  14. Non-LDS here with LDS in-laws I appreciated Shawni’s explanation of how the booklet for youth outlines guidelines, not laws. Guidelines are guides that suggest how something should be done. While the booklet for youth puts forth guidelines on dress that include the covering of shoulders, a focus on just the outward appearance and whether or not shoulders are covered misses the whole point of the particular guideline. The guideline is not there to legalistically dictate the dress standards but is there to help the youth grow in the virtues of dignity and modesty.

    The basis for dignity is that humans were created in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of any factors or reasons we can think of, individuals have inherent and immeasurable worth and dignity; each human life is considered sacred. What is modesty? Modesty is about revealing your dignity. It is the virtue that presents goodness in the proper way, making no display of talents or attainments and being humble about one’s importance. It encompasses all the internal and external movements and appearances of a person. God has given each person a natural sense and inclination of modesty and a healthy sensitivity to cover one’s body in order not to be viewed as an object.

    Teaching dignity and modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person. Each person is a unique entity of inherent dignity and worth because they are made in the image and likeness of God. This leads to a two-fold maxim:

    1. People are not to be used–We are not to objectify ourselves or others.
    2. People are to be loved—We are to love one another as God loves us.

    No amount of fabric in a gown or a suit can alone make someone modest. When you focus only on the outward appearance of another, or yourself, you are obscuring the essential value of a person because there is a lack of respect for the whole dignity of a person. It is in this sense that a focus on only the covering of shoulders (or any other body part) reveals not too much, but too little: that is, too little with respect to the whole dignity of the person; it incites the viewer to see only one aspect—the sexual values—as all that matters.

    Viewing the guideline that shoulders should be covered in a legalistic manner fails to take into account the whole-of-person approach to modesty that both reveals and encourages a respect for the dignity of oneself and others. Instead, in each manner of dress, speech, action, and thought we should instead ask how can we help to foster a civilization of love based upon the inherent dignity of the person?

    To live the virtue of modesty requires a conscious effort in the following areas:
    1. a person’s comportment which includes the manner of dress, manner of actions, motions, walking, gesturing, and touching;
    2. a person’s interior thoughts and imagination requiring custody of the eyes – practicing self-control in what we view – and a guarding of the other senses;
    3. a person’s manner of speaking. •

    In all of the years of following Shawni’s blog, I have only ever seen Shawni and her family members respect the inherent dignity of themselves and others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *