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You’d rather be dressed in white: A Mormon convert's letter to her daughter about Miley Cyrus

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 5:21 p.m. MDT

Kayla Lemmon and her husband, Matt. (Natalie Lundberg Photography) Kayla Lemmon and her husband, Matt. (Natalie Lundberg Photography)

Editor's note: This post by Kayla Lemmon originally appeared on her blog, All Our Lemmony Things. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Dear daughter,

I saw something a couple days ago — something that deeply disturbed me. Chilled me. Something that made me sad.

And I thought of you when I saw it. You're not yet born, and by the time you read this there will be plenty more things that are worse than this that flicker on your television, and plague billboards, and websites. But I hope that maybe you'll read this blog, and maybe, just maybe, it can guide you along.

The other day, I watched a clip from the Video Music Awards. More specifically, I saw Miley Cyrus' controversial performance. I'm hoping this particular video won't go down in history, so I'm going to recap in hopes that you have no idea what I'm talking about.

Kayla Lemmon, center, on her baptism day.  (Provided by Kayla Lemmon) Kayla Lemmon, center, on her baptism day. (Provided by Kayla Lemmon)

Miley Cyrus was this girl in my head.

Miley Cyrus

But now she's this girl.

Miley Cyrus

And it didn't happen overnight. When my sister was growing up, Miley was a little girl's icon. A role model, of sorts. She started out in a cute and spunky Disney show and transformed into a lovely little teeny bop singer with wavy locks and a country twang. But when she came out on to that stage the other night dressed in nude undergarments, making obscene gestures and touching herself in inappropriate and suggestive ways, she was someone else. Someone broken, shattered and insecure. Her voice cracked and whimpered into the mic — but it wasn't about the music for her, it was about something else. It was about gaining approval and making a statement as to who she wanted to be. She had lost something along the way. Confidence. Confidence that comes from virtue.

Kayla Lemmon and her husband, Matt. (Provided by Kayla Lemmon) Kayla Lemmon and her husband, Matt. (Provided by Kayla Lemmon)

Now Mom, you might be thinking, Miley Cyrus is a star blinded by the lights of Hollywood. I'd never get to that point. Most people won't ever get the chance to strut on a stage and embarrass themselves in front of millions of onlookers. And my answer to that is you're right, but you're wrong with one thing. She might be a star, but she's still a woman. And she might have had millions of onlookers during those few minutes on stage that night, but in your lifetime, you'll have about the same. People watch you no matter who you are, so what will you show them?

I thought of you when I saw her on that stage. Not because I fear you'll be like that, but because we live in a world where that is almost expected now. As a woman, you're expected to dress "sexy." You're expected to care more about what you put on your face then what comes out of your mouth. You're expected to get validation by the number of boys who call you pretty or the number of text messages that pile up in your phone. You're expected to be a product of the world. But my dear daughter, you are anything but that. So is Miley. But she doesn't know it.

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I learned who I was when I was 19. And the biggest blessing for me, is to know that you'll hopefully know it much sooner. When I just turned 19 I was baptized. In a pure white jumpsuit I felt the best I'd ever felt up to that point. Coming up from the water, I looked like a drowned rat as every fiber of that suit clung to my skin, showing every imperfection and curve. But I felt beautiful. New. Virtuous. And I vowed to myself that I wouldn't let that leave me.

It's not easy being pure. I'm sure you know what I mean by that. You care about your looks and how people perceive you far before you enter your high school doors. Society teaches you that you have to be THIS thin, THIS pretty, THIS tall, wear THESE kind of clothes. I still have memories of a boy in gym calling me fat. That was YEARS ago in middle school. But it's in the back of my mind. You want to know why? It's because society told me that it mattered.

But what society fails to teach you is that beauty comes from a confident walk and a loud, happy laugh. Beauty comes when you show every boy who is interested in you that you love and respect your body — even more than you love him in that heated moment outside marriage. Beauty comes when you show others that you know yourself, you love yourself, and it doesn't matter who feels the same.

This is me, days before getting married to your dad, in my temple dress as I was trying it on.

Kayla Lemmon

It's before I had the experience of going through the temple. But you can see the expectation on my face, the way that I'm glowing in excitement for the coming week. This kind of joy wouldn't come if I had decided that I'm not good enough somewhere down the line. If I decided I needed attention from boys more than I needed to be kind, more than I needed my church. More than I needed to save myself for marriage. This kind of joy wouldn't come if I'd lost my way all because I wanted to be accepted into the world's arms. And that joy won't come to you either unless you choose a higher path. A path I'm sad to say the majority doesn't even WANT to take. And it's sad. Because they're all daughters of God, no more and no less than you.

Daughter ... turn your face to where you want to end up, and don't deviate. The world will tell you, just like it told Miley, that it's cooler to be "different," but the world's version of "different" means "rebellious," revealing," "attention-getting" and "vain." Sure, you should be your own person. Have your own style. Listen to your own music. Go for your own dreams. But don't sacrifice that special, divine nature within you while you do it.

I promise it'll lead you to a happy, full life. After all, it led me to your dad. And eventually, you.

This world is your stage, and people don't learn and grow and change from Mileys. They change from people who are kind. People who are smart. People who make others laugh. People who make others feel beautiful. They change from the one who is supremely different than all the others just because she chooses to not be the world's kind of "different."

I pray for Miley. I pray for girls and women all over the world who are indoctrinated with lessons of who they should be — objectified, simply because they've told themselves that's all they are. Objects.

You are not an object, my sweet daughter. You are someone's daughter, someone's future mother, someone's future wife, someone's caring neighbor, someone's teacher — someone's guardian angel.

And when you step out on the world's stage, viewed by millions throughout the course of your life, you are meant to be someone they remember simply because you are worth remembering.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company