Mormon prom a modest good time

Skimpy evening gowns, dirty dancing not fashionable for this teen celebration

Saturday night marked a new sort of spring ritual for about 300 Chicago-area teenagers: a prom night free of hip-grinding dance moves, plunging necklines and racy song lyrics.

Billed as the region’s first-ever Mormon prom, teens from Hebron to Sugar Grove gently swayed under a sparkling disco ball inside a gymnasium in Naperville. A banner overhead read “Reflecting Eternity 2007.”

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“I think it’s really cool because when you go to school dances, it’s all kind of dirty dancing,” said Abby Holyoak, 17, of Rockford. “Everyone here has the same standards, so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s pretty much amazing.”

Lytal Morgan of Aurora and Kristina Palgen of Warrenville, both 18, came up with the idea at a sleepover in the winter. The teenagers are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Mormon Church

Given that the theology and practice of the Mormon Church violates essential Christian doctrines, Mormonism does not represent historical, Biblical Christianity, is not a Christian denomination, and is not in any way part of the Christian church.

“My friend and I were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what if we have like a Mormon prom?” recalled Morgan, who said she was horrified after attending last year’s Waubonsie Valley High School prom.

“People were hardly wearing anything. It was gross,” she said. “I stayed for like five minutes and left.”

To avoid any confusion, the black admission tickets to the Mormon event spelled out the dress code: “Sunday dress or better” and referenced a well-known church pamphlet that outlines conduct for youth.

Teens are asked to avoid music that “drives away the Spirit” and to avoid “positions and moves that are suggestive of sexual behavior.” Couples should keep enough space between their bodies to fit the Book of Mormon.

“Technically, the term is you have to be a Book of Mormon-width apart,” Holyoak said. “But actually when you dance, you’re like 10-12 books apart.”

Some teens at the dance avoided the issue altogether, choosing instead to stand in circles and snack on lemon bars and heart-shaped brownies.

Bernard Beck, professor emeritus of sociology at Northwestern University, said the Mormon prom reflects a societal divide.

Two paths

Some teens are pushing the envelope and engaging in risky behavior at younger ages, while other teens are experiencing a religious-reawakening.

“Young people are the battleground,” Beck said. “Kids themselves may want relief and are attracted by the idea they won’t be expected to take so many risks.”

Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the church in Salt Lake City, said such proms are beginning to “pop up,” noting a similar event earlier this month in Salem, Oregon.

“They are celebrations more in keeping with their own personal standards,” Farah said.

For teenage girls, finding appropriate dress is a challenge.

Morgan made her own dress, working on it Saturdays during a church sewing circle. She complemented the outfit with a pair of battery-powered flashing heels whose glow was just visible under the hem of her dress.

“I find when you wear modest dresses, it makes you feel more like a princess,” she said. “You’re not afraid somebody’s looking at you.”

That’s a standard Logan Black, 18, and a senior at Naperville North High School, said he appreciates.

“When you see someone scantily dressed, you do get feelings,” he said. “I am a lot more comfortable at a church dance than at a school dance.”

Chaperons abound

During the prom, adult chaperons stood or sat around the perimeter of the dance floor. Other adults watched the exits and parking lot closely.

One chaperon, Carl Blackham, spent part of the evening carrying around spare ties for the forgetful or mildly rebellious boys.

Female leaders were also ready with shawls for girls who arrived with shoulders exposed.

Three guys who walked into the church without the required neckwear were quickly corralled.

Sean Visick, 16 of Vernon Hills and Aaron Ahmu, 17, of Long Grove wore white-collar shirts and dress pants but no ties. Eric Gnigler, 18, of Mundelein likewise lacked a tie.

“I forgot to bring one,” said a sheepish Visick to Blackham. Gnigler wasn’t so pleased with the “kind of ugly” blue paisley tie he was given, but he put it on without complaint.

‘Clean’ music

The deejay was Bishop Jeff Duncan, a Naperville patent attorney, who spun tunes from a pair of iPods.

He generated his sets using a spreadsheet purchased from a Web site offering “clean” dance music.

“There’s a guy in Texas … with almost 2,000 songs that are certified as danceable and appropriate, so not a lot of gangster rap, not a lot of sleazy stuff,” he said, holding up a sheet that listed songs, some marked with F, for fast.

The teens rushed the dance floor when Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” came on.

Then what could be called a mini-Mormon mosh pit — a group of dressed-up young men bumping chests — formed when Duncan blasted Christian rocker Switchfoot’s 2005 single “Stars.” After Ricky Martin’s “The Cup of Life” ended, the teens shushed each other as an adult leader led the group in a closing prayer.

One more song — Michael Buble’s “Home” — and the teens headed out into the cool night air.

Landon Goggins, 18, of St. Charles and Kirsten Spears, 16, were off to the home of their friend Amanda Oscarson, 17, of Naperville.

Oscarson and Spears carried boxes of leftover treats. What were their plans?

“Cookies and milk,” said Goggins, laughing. “I have brownies too,” Spears said.

It was nearly 11 p.m., but this night probably wouldn’t go too late. Some teens, like Goggins, had church at 9 a.m. the next day.

Sidebar: Youth standards

  • Don’t listen to music that drives away the Spirit, encourages immorality, glorifies violence, uses foul or offensive language, or promotes Satanism or other evil practices.
  • When dancing, avoid full body contact with your partner. Do not use positions that are suggestive of sexual behavior.
  • Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient. Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach.
  • – Source: Source: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “For the Strength of Youth.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Sara Olkon and Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune, Apr. 30, 2007,

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 1, 2007.
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