Ever since Jenna was a tiny girl, her family could see that she spoke a language all her own. Whenever she described something that happened, she couldn’t help moving her body with each sentence, making the words seem bigger and brighter as they took on an energy unique to Jenna. Her movements were graceful and dramatic. No one was surprised when she started dance classes with her best friend Lisa and came home talking as if she had found heaven.
“I love to dance, Mom. I love it more than chocolate ice cream and more than the best birthday surprise!” Jenna declared.
“I knew you were a dancer at heart,” Mom said as Jenna spun around and threw her arms around her mother’s waist, swaying as they hugged and laughed.
Jenna and Lisa worked hard in dance class. They never missed a session, and they stayed after class as long as possible to work on new moves and perfect their technique, watching themselves in the mirrors that covered the walls of the studio. Their teacher was very impressed.
“I don’t do this very often, girls,” she said to them after class one day. “But I think you two could perform one of the advanced-class dance numbers we’ll be doing for the Christmas Showcase.”
Jenna and Lisa thanked their teacher and smiled with delight. When they were outside in the parking lot, they began cheering, hugging, and jumping up and down.
“We did it, Lisa! I can’t believe this! We did it, we did it!” Jenna shouted.
Lisa’s mom rolled down the car window. “What’s up, you two?”
“Mom, you aren’t going to believe this! Our teacher just said we get to perform one of the advanced dances for the Christmas Showcase!” Lisa was beaming as she and Jenna leaped into the car.
“Well, I’m not a bit surprised. I know you two will be wonderful,” Lisa’s mom said. “You’ve been working so hard.”
And they kept working hard. Jenna and Lisa found every possible opportunity to practice and perfect each leap and every twist of the head down to the exact timing until even the top dance students in their class were impressed.
“How are you feeling about the dance performance?” Jenna’s mom asked one day as they got in the car after class.
“Fabulous,” Lisa said, grinning.
“Couldn’t be better,” chimed in Jenna. But after they dropped Lisa off at her house Jenna grew quiet.
“What’s the matter?” Mom asked.
“I don’t know, Mom. I don’t want to seem like a goody-goody, but …”
“What is it, honey?” Mom encouraged.
“Well, we got the costumes today that we’ll be wearing for the advanced dance number, and they’re not very modest. Then when we rehearsed the dance in the costumes, I realized that the moves, the music, and now the costumes are not something I would want you and Dad or my little brothers and sister to see. I sure couldn’t perform the dance if someone like the prophet were there watching.”
As the words came out, Jenna’s eyes filled with tears. She had always been taught to listen to the feelings in her heart, and this choice would not be an easy one. “What will Lisa think of me? What can I say to our dance teacher?” she wondered.
“I’m so glad you want to do what is right,” Mom said. “Heavenly Father will help you know how.”
That night before bed, Jenna prayed that Heavenly Father would give her the courage to stand up for what she knew was right. She also prayed that she would know the right words to use.
During school lunch the next day she asked Lisa if they could talk. They went to a quiet place and sat on a bench.
“Lisa, I don’t know how to say this, but … ” Jenna’s voice was shaky and she was looking down at her fingers. “I don’t feel good about performing in the advanced dance number. It’s just too, well, too … ”
She heard a sniff from Lisa and looked up. Lisa’s eyes were red. “I’ve been thinking about how to tell you the same thing,” Lisa said. They hugged and cried a little more, then marched to their classroom with their arms around each other’s shoulders. It was good to have a friend who understood.
It wasn’t easy for Jenna and Lisa to talk to their dance teacher, especially when she said, “We’re dancing the most up-to-date dances from the top dance companies in the nation. If you want to be dancers, this is the kind of thing you have to be willing to do.”
It was even harder when their teacher announced to the class that there would be a change in the advanced dance number. There were sneers from some of the other dancers. But Lisa was right by Jenna’s side. And more importantly, they both felt Heavenly Father’s love and knew they were doing the right thing.
“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.”
For the Strength of Youth (2001), 15.
Illustrations by Julie F. Young