I became a “Mormon girl” (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which church is often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”) just after my seventeenth birthday. I had spent a lot of time observing the Mormon girls I knew so I could figure out how to be like them. Some things were obvious, although it took time to understand just why they did them.
For instance, the girls dressed modestly. They were fashionable and many were popular. One was prom queen and one was the captain of the drill team. They didn’t look stodgy or old-fashioned or out of touch at all. Their clothes were cute, but modest. I learned that both Mormon boys and girls were taught to be modest to show respect for themselves and for their Heavenly Father. God created them in His own image. Their bodies were gifts from Him. Those two facts motivated them to be respectful of that gift by not using it to gain inappropriate attention.
Mormon Girls Set High Standards
I also noticed that Mormon girls had standards and they lived up to them—even when no one was watching. That was particularly interesting to me. Most of the girls had thought it over, prayed about it, and decided they wanted to live to a high moral standard. One eighteen-year-old who taught my daughter the summer after her graduation told her students that she had been homecoming queen and the head cheerleader and had never once found it necessary to lower her standards in order to be popular. She wanted to be liked for who she really was, not someone who did whatever it took to be popular—even if it made her feel awful inside. Instead, she kept her standards and was popular while feeling great about herself.
Ann M. Dibb, an international leader over the Mormon teen girls’ program, told of encountering a girl in line at a store.
Ahead of me stood a young woman, about 15 years old. She appeared confident and happy. I noticed her T-shirt and couldn’t resist talking to her. I began, “You’re from out of state, aren’t you?”
She was surprised by my question and replied, “Yes, I am. I’m from Colorado. How did you know?”
I explained, “Because of your T-shirt.” I made my accurate supposition after reading the words on her shirt, “I’m a Mormon. Are you?”
I continued, “I must tell you that I’m impressed by your confidence to stand out and wear such a bold declaration. I see a difference in you, and I wish every young woman and every member of the Church could have your same conviction and confidence.” Our purchases completed, we said good-bye and parted” (See Ann M. Dibb, “I Know It. I Live It. I Love It.” October General Conference, 2012).
Mormon Girls Know Who They Are
Ann Dibb said this conversation stayed with her and she began wondering what she would put on a shirt that would express her testimony. She decided hers would say, ““I’m a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it.”
That’s the attitude I saw in the Mormon girls I studied. They were proud of who they were. They were rightfully proud of themselves, not in a boastful way, but in a quiet manner that reflected the hard work they’d put into deciding who they really wanted to be. They hadn’t made their choices based on peer pressure, a desire to be popular or to rebel, or a need to imitate a celebrity. They had turned to God and chosen to become the young women He wanted them to be. They had an assurance and peacefulness I longed to have someday.
These girls had goals and plans. While most teenagers I knew weren’t thinking much beyond their next date, or at the most, the college they wanted to attend, these girls were already making plans for their eternal lives. They knew who they wanted to be forever, and they knew what they had to do to get there.
They weren’t all at the same place in the process, of course. Some struggled harder than others and some went through rough patches. For the most part, though, these girls had something I wanted—an eternal plan for their lives. What was most right about Mormon girls was that they knew who they really were, and nothing the world could do to them would change that.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.