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Modest proms popular

Youth weary of teen pressure 'stand for truth and righteousness,' hold own dances

As high school prom season wraps up for another year, LDS youth have sought ways to enjoy this tradition without compromising standards of dress, music and morals, as well as without spending excessive amounts of money. One way young people have done this is through what have come to be called "modest proms."

These events, mainly sponsored by stakes and wards, have promoted dress and music standards and have been largely organized by the youth themselves, under direction of local priesthood leaders. Among them are these two recent examples:

ST. LOUIS, MO.

Keri Hemming of the Parkway Ward, St. Louis Missouri Stake, volunteered about a year ago at her high school prom. The now-17-year-old helped usher prom-goers to their tables. She left just as the dance was getting under way and saw one student drunk. She also saw the way some youth were dancing. "I didn't want to have that pressure," she recalled during a telephone interview.

Many of her LDS friends at Parkway South High School in Manchester, Mo., shared the same concerns. Keri decided to do something about it. She prepared a flip chart and last September presented it to stake leaders. At a tri-stake Halloween dance, she met with Young Women and Young Men presidents and her "modest prom" was in the works.

After months of meetings, publicity and planning — with a few frayed nerves — some 200 youth, mainly LDS, met April 9 at the stake center in Chesterfield. Keri watched, standing with local newspaper reporters, as modestly dressed youth streamed into the cultural hall for the dinner and dance. "I was really excited," Keri said. "I was kind of nervous. I was hoping everyone would have a good time and have fun. It turned out (to be) a lot of fun. It was great!"

The youth came from four stakes in the area, including some members from Illinois. They danced to music that was screened by Keri and her committee members for inappropriate lyrics. And the youth, because the St. Louis stake hosted the event, didn't have to pay a dime. Quite contrary to the high costs of proms today.

Dana King, director of public affairs in the St. Louis stake, described the evening's festivities: "They just had a great time. There were teens there who otherwise would have not gone to their prom. Keri wanted to make it available to everyone. Everyone felt like they were a child of God. No on felt excluded. The whole time everyone was dancing. There were no wallflowers."

The youth had "dance cards" and were encouraged to dance with several partners. And dance they did.

Afterward, word got out. The article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was posted at www.lds.org and Keri has heard from members from throughout the world — all praising her initiative and the event. In fact, one woman, a member living in Brazil, wrote Keri an e-mail. She told Keri she cried when she read the article and wrote, "I was so touched that an LDS youth would go to such great lengths to stand for truth and righteousness."

BRANDON, FLA.

In the Tampa Bay area of Florida, about 170 youth from five stakes took advantage of a "modest prom" held at the Brandon Florida Stake Center. Other stakes participating in the second annual, semi-formal, Junior/Senior Prom were Ft. Myers, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Lakeland.

Calling the dance a "huge success," Carol McKnight, public affairs media specialist in the Brandon stake said, "We had over 70 more youth than last year. It seems to be growing."

Photos were taken of the youth as they entered the building and then were dashed to a nearby business for processing. The youth were pleased to be able to take the photos home with them, Sister McKnight reported. Refreshments, including homemade cookies, were served and when soft drinks ran out, a quick trip to a convenience store replenished the supply.

With increasingly severe attacks on modesty and other moral standards among youth, Sister McKnight said the Brandon stake-sponsored activity was developed to give youth an alternative, but similar activity featuring modest dress, alcohol free refreshments and appropriate music.

The dance, which received local media coverage, was restricted to those 16 years old or older who are juniors or seniors in high school, but was open to members of other faiths in that category who were willing to abide by the standards. Sister McKnight said that made the dance a missionary activity, as well.

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