In one of the strangest Fast Sunday testimonies I recall from my youth, a member of the ward spoke about his recent trip to Las Vegas (or was it Reno?) He’d gone down there with some other church members, and they had seen one of the shows. He went into the show somewhat naively, and was surprised to suddenly be confronted with on-stage nudity. The only part of the testimony I remember was him justifying staying through the show with something along the lines of, “…but it was tastefully done. And besides, the stake patriarch stayed and watched too!” (I wish I could go back and hear the whole testimony again, if only to understand why he felt the need to insert that particular story there…)
Up to that point in my life, nudity and pornography were synonymous to me. The idea that nudity could be “tasteful” or “acceptable” was a foreign concept and — as a teenage boy — a potentially awesome loophole. For better or worse (but probably better), the question was really just academic to me, since I didn’t have access to Las Vegas.
The next time the issue came up in my life was as a freshman at BYU in 1997. The school was going to present a Rodin sculpture exhibit. The administration deemed a few (three, I think?) of the sculptures offensive, and chose not to display them. This resulted in a BYU student revolt — which is to say, there were a few incensed letter to the Daily Universe (and a few equally incensed responses).
One of my roommates took a film class at the school. The professor showed a scene of a naked old guy. The professor commented, perhaps half-jokingly, to the class, “He’s not attractive, so it’s not inappropriate.” I think that sums up a common school of thought in the church — nudity is fine as long as it doesn’t turn you on.
So, my tastefully conscientious readers, I put the question to you — is there a place for nudity in the life of the (latter-day) saint? Is it always offensive to the Spirit, a net negative? Allowable in paintings that are at least 200 years old? Or are there uplifting and ennobling messages that can be conveyed through nudity? This isn’t a question about whether pornography is appropriate (we know the answer to that), but rather, to what extent all nudity is pornography.