There is a harsh set of scriptures in 2 Nephi 13 (Isaiah 3) that stood out to me as I read them recently:
“Moreover, the Lord saith: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet—Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and cauls, and round tires like the moon; The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers; The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; The rings, and nose jewels; The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty.” (2 Nephi 13:16-24)
If these verses are not applicable today, I’m not sure what in the scriptures is applicable to us. We have a world in which many live and die according to fashion. We place a premium on outward appearance – not that there is anything wrong with looking beautiful or handsome or taking care of our bodies; in fact, those can be important. What is condemned by Isaiah in these verses is covenant women placing external beauty above that of internal beauty, being “haughty, and walk[ing] with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes.”
What happens when the time comes that “the Lord take[s] away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments“? Is there bravery left without makeup and fancy clothes and accessories? Is self-worth tied to external looks? What happens when an accident disfigures or the aging process strips away some of the beauty of youth? Can the world still be faced with bravery? Do we merely have ephemeral beauty or do we have eternal beauty?
One of the problems with basing our self-worth upon the evanescence of fashion is that it is a changeable and weak foundation. It cannot and will not last. Eternal beauty is unchanging and lasting. Those who have true inner beauty, while they might or might not be physically lovely, recognize their value in the eyes of God. They understand that true beauty comes from goodness. True beauty comes from righteous living. Someone who understands her relationship to her Eternal Father, the Living God, faces life with confidence and with a bravery that does not come from fashion accessories; she faces life with a bravery that comes from the radiance of the Holy Ghost.
There is nothing more beautiful than one filled with the Spirit of God. Whether or not we are blessed with physical comeliness in this life, if we hold true to the gospel, we will be truly lovely, radiant beings in the life to come. We will be filled with God’s Spirit and power. Then, we will be truly, eternally beautiful both physically and spiritually.