Saturday, January 22, 2011

White shirts are not mandatory

An interesting topic came up in a conversation with a friend about the the way people are supposed to dress for Church. I stated that outside of the temple and mission field, there is no formal dress code for church attendance beyond being being clean and modest. My friend said something about having to wear white shirts to pass the sacrament: one of my favorite misunderstandings in Mormon culture. I explained that there is no such rule. What does exist is a guideline in the Church's administrative handbook that reads:

"Ties and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance." (emphasis added)

I then expressed my opinion that far too much emphasis is being placed on superficialities like clothing to the detriment of the ordinance. "All across this Church people are making sacrament assignments and asking 'Who has a white shirt' when they should be asking, 'Who's a worthy priesthood holder?'"

I don't wear white shirts to church, only to the Temple. I'm not trying to avoid any assignments, I simply feel that there are some drawbacks to blind conformity, one of which is losing sight of the higher purpose of the Gospel. If I'm wasting my time sweating over whether or not I have a white shirt to wear to church then I can potentially miss out on the more important reasons for going.

I made the following point in a talk once:

"Be honest, have you ever asked someone why they aren't wearing a white shirt or the 'right' kind of dress? How do you think it makes a person feel when they're criticized for coming to church wearing the 'wrong' thing? As if it's a measure of a person's spirituality or character. What if that person is coming back to church after a long absence? The first thing that comes out of our mouths should be that we're glad to see them, not criticize their wardrobe. You do not lift someone up by talking down to them. Such criticism is shallow and it is not Christlike. We all know that. But so many of us insist on doing it anyway."