Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Dressing the Deacons and Teachers and Priests, Again

Dressing the Deacons and Teachers and Priests, Again

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 21, 2009

I could never have predicted that Aaronic Priesthood wardrobe would so preoccupy the Church throughout the 20th century (here and here for past posts). Yet here we are again, with a bulletin from the Presiding Bishop’s Office in 1954, with permutations of the issue that we haven’t seen before.

Proper Dress Emphasized When Passing Sacrament

We come again to the matter of proper dress on the part of those participating in the administration and passing of the sacrament.

When a young man receives the authority to participate at the sacrament table, he is old enough to recognize the essentials in proper dress for such a sacred service. For the most part, our priests are faultless in their dress when administering the sacrament. However, in a few instances, there is evidence that more attention to this detail is needed.

Our observation is that deacons and teachers are most likely to be careless in this respect. And yet, to place on these young men the full responsibility for improper dress is not the thing to do. Our deacons and teachers will obey the instructions of leaders if instructions are given. It is feared that, for the most part, little if anything is ever said by way of teaching them to dress properly when passing the sacrament.

Loud colors in shirts, sweaters, or sport coats are held to be out of order when passing the sacrament. White shirts are always proper. Coats may or may not be worn as the individual desires. Ties are in excellent taste when they are moderate in color and free from patterns out of harmony with this sacred service. While ties should be worn, there should be no required uniformity in either style or color.

In the final analysis, a young man participating in the administration of the sacrament should be dressed neatly and clean: His shoes should be polished, his hair combed, a neat tie should be worn on a white shirt. When a coat is worn, it should be without pattern of any kind and in subdued colors.

Our handbook permits “very light pastel-colored shirts.” However, this latitude seems to have been interpreted as license to wear almost any color or combination at hand. If we hold to the recommendation that only white shirts be worn, there can be no misunderstanding.

Stake and ward leaders are urged to make this matter a consistent project until proper dress, while participating in the administration of the sacrament, becomes a habit.

When our Aaronic Priesthood bearers know, in advance, how they are expected to dress when participating in this sacred service, they will come prepared, especially when participation is limited to those who are dressed becomingly.



  1. “Very light pastel-colored shirts”–Yea!!!

    I was in a ward once where one of the deacons wore these bright red suede shoes and this tie that was as bright as a beacon light that hung down to his knees. But he wore a white shirt so there was no problem in passing sacrament. A fellow deacon was not allowed to pass because he was wearing a light yellow shirt that looked great with his nice clean suit he was wearing. Hmmmm. Something seemed wrong to me.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 21, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  2. How interesting that this was an issue then too. I like the counsel on ties — I’m going to keep that in mind for when my son is deacon age. We see some pretty interesting ties on young men (and not-young men) in our ward.

    Comment by Tamary — October 21, 2009 @ 8:08 am

  3. This is an important document in the development of current liturgical rules. Thanks for sharing it Ardis!

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 21, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  4. “free from patterns out of harmony with this sacred service” Hmm… I guess Looney Tunes characters are out.

    And does anyone else remember a letter about tuxedoes being improper for blessing the sacrament? In my ward it’s inevitable on every Sunday following a big high school dance, but maybe that was just my parents pet peeve, and not a Churchwide thing.

    Comment by Clark — October 21, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  5. I hope I don’t thread jack this, but one of my pet-peeves is the missionary fad to buy old, 1970s era ties and wear around. I just think it looks awful and projects a wrong image. I like ties. I’m a bit flamboyant with my ties. I just don’t like the fad of the out-of-date ties.

    But to tie this into the post (no pun intended), I see the Aaronic priesthood wearing the ugly ties when they do the sacrament. I really wish the First Presidency would address that.

    Sorry about my rant, buy Tamary’s comment reminded me of it.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 21, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  6. I’ve added a couple of links at the top to past posts about deacons’ clothing.

    Church leaders have been talking about it for decades, and for just as long the young men have been testing the limits — and that seems true no matter what concessions are made or what specific dress is called for at any given time!

    Do you suppose that’s why vestments developed in the early church? Maybe in response to young Bro. Horatius and his fellow deacons of the Roman 2nd Ward, and their tendency to wear togas emblazoned with the colors of their favorite gladiators?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  7. I was born in 1954 and I never even owned a white dress shirt until I went on my mission in 1973. The same held true for my church friends. My father, the EQ president and bishop’s counselor, frequently wore colored dress shirts to church as did many other male leaders in my ward and stake.

    No one ever told me that a white shirt was required, I never heard it preached from the pulpit, I was never taught it in a lesson. The color of the shirt a man wore to church was a non issue in southern CA in the late 60s and 70s.

    Comment by KLC — October 21, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  8. I just got a really nice new coat. Ok if I wear it while I pass the sacrament?

    (And, whoever named that picture: can’t you tell the difference between a carnation and a rose?)

    Comment by Don Cherry — October 21, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  9. Well, Don, as long as you’re wearing that white shirt and tie under it …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  10. I’m just glad they didn’t have the sacrament back when I was a kid. Just think, no passing the sacrament on the Sabbath, thrown in a pit the next day, sold to the Egyptians on Wednesday, attempted seduction by Mrs. Potiphar on Friday.

    But at least she took that offending coat away!

    Comment by Joseph — October 21, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  11. Don, it may be a tossup between your new coat and mine.

    In reality, if they would just leave it at this:

    In the final analysis, a young man participating in the administration of the sacrament should be dressed neatly and clean: His shoes should be polished, his hair combed, a neat tie should be worn on a white shirt.

    we might all be better served. The more detailed the restrictions, the harder we will look for loopholes in the policy to exploit.

    Comment by kevinf — October 21, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  12. I’m just writing to complain that you went and posted that comment by Don Cherry–a lousy Canuck, no less–before mine.

    When it comes to clothes, he wouldn’t know refinement if it cross-checked him from the blue line all the way across the goal line. I could teach him a few things.

    Comment by Craig Sager — October 21, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  13. I like your third link, Craig. Unlike the sartorial examples posted by Don and kevinf, or recalled to us by that Joseph fellow (whose fashion sense improved, I am told, during his sojourn in Egypt), your third coat fits the bishop’s guidelines in that it is certainly “without pattern of any kind.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 11:14 am

  14. Oh, these newfangled linky things–I can’t interpret them.

    But here’s the coat.

    Comment by Joseph — October 21, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  15. The fact that we even have this discussion outside of very basic and general rules is just silly. Our leaders’ obsession with everyone looking the same (this goes beyond deacons and sacrament) is equally silly.

    There should be a requirement that any leader has to give at least 20 talks on Christian attributes and inner preparation for the sacrament for every talk that includes even one reference to the so called “uniform of the priesthood”.

    Comment by jjackson — October 21, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  16. when my son graduated from Primary, the Primary presented him with a tie to wear when passing the Sacrament. A Loony Tunes tie. He wore it on a regular basis and the kiddies got a kick out of seeing him wearing ‘their ‘ tie.

    I always go with the ‘best you have’ principle. A close friend once wore corderoy trousers with a dress shirt and tie when the trousers of his only suit split. The Bishop called him in, so he produced the ripped trousers and said ‘which would you prefer? These are the best I have, but if you want I’ll put the ripped suit trousers on’. Thankfully, we were spared that sight.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — October 21, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  17. Our bishop approached an adult and told him he could no longer wear colored shirts to church. They weren’t wild or offensive, just not white. Seemed like a little unrighteous dominion to me. Or did I miss the letter on the new dress code?

    Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog — October 21, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  18. There are usually two sides to every question.

    We could knock church leaders for sometimes clumsy, always changeable, sometimes unexplained calls for dress guidelines for young men administering and passing the Sacrament — but at least they have on their side an understandable and reasonable desire to have participants reflect the dignity and sacredness of the ordinance. They also have the established record of young men deliberately choosing to wear deliberately undignified clothing in the absence of instruction NOT to.

    And while we all have anecdotes of this or that young man who does not own a white shirt and conservative tie, there are relatively — *relatively* — few cases in the wards of anyone reading this post where young men cannot reasonably obtain one, whether through purchase or *gift by you*. Barring those few cases, and throwing in the occasional accident where a young man’s only white shirt is torn or dirtied at the last minute, what reasonable excuse can a young man have for NOT complying with the request that he wear a white shirt and conservative tie, as long as he has been asked to do so?

    Some fault church leaders, general and local, for making such a big deal of wearing a white shirt. Why is it not an equally big deal for a young man to REFUSE to wear a white shirt?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  19. My last Stake President used to chastise (yes, chastise) me every time he saw me because I didn’t wear a white shirt to church. This was five-to-ten years ago, when I was in my late 30s. I finally got tired of his whining and just gave in. Shortly thereafter, he made me a high priest. :-)

    If a man looks nice and dignified, what’s the hang-up with white everything? There are churches where people can wear jeans, and a lot of them look more respectable than some of the deacons who wear white. And don’t get me started on how some of the women (young and not) dress. When an organization emphasizes rules (white shirt for men, skirt for women), people ignore the important things, like dressing with dignity, in a manner appropriate for worship.

    Comment by Mel — October 21, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

  20. I repeat — why is it such a big deal for church leaders to ask adults to dress as adults, appropriate for dignified activities? why is it NOT a big deal for adults to refuse to so dress, or to act like they are being unfairly burdened by such a request?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  21. The color of the shirt a man wore to church was a non issue in southern CA in the late 60s and 70s.

    That seems to be my own memory as well — white shirts among the AP (including those administering the sacrament) were the exception rather than the norm (this was 1967-71 in San Diego). We had some pretty interesting shirts (and hair styles) among the young men. I really have no recollection of what the adult men wore. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — October 21, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  22. That said, I have no problem with asking the young men administering the sacrament to be neatly and properly dressed. Since much of my church service over the past 35 years has been in ward/stake missionary work, I often wonder how many visitors to our services are startled to see the sacrament administered entirely by young men. As far as I’m concerned, the more formal and neat those young men, the better. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — October 21, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  23. I repeat — why is it such a big deal for church leaders to ask adults to dress as adults, appropriate for dignified activities? why is it NOT a big deal for adults to refuse to so dress, or to act like they are being unfairly burdened by such a request?

    well, depends if the adult can afford it- if we impose dress standards which people can’t afford, then we run the risk of excluding them altogether.. I still stand by the best we have, whatever that be- as long as it is clean.Obviously ‘traditional’ church clothes are preferable, but they shouldn’t be the be all and end all- we need to be wary of heading down the Zoramite road.

    I knew one BP who kept a stock of white shirts in his office and if an investigator came to church wearing a casual football top (standard wear in this part of the world) he would call the investigator into his office, hand him a shirt and ask him to change. That’s waaaaay OTT, imho.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — October 21, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  24. I agree that re-dressing investigators is over the top, Anne.

    And I generally agree that “best we have” is the best way to go (I say “generally,” because I can hear someone revving up the keyboard now to say that his pink and purple striped jersey with the lime green tazmanian devil logo is his “best” because it is newest and cost him more than anything else he owns).

    I’m unconvinced, though, that in most of the wards where readers of blogs live, white shirts are out of economic reach of many (or any), and suspect that economic protests against white shirts are largely insincere.

    And I agree that it is Zoramite-like for a bishop to go ballistic if a deacon shows up not in white but still neat and clean and wearing dignified-but-colored clothing.

    Whenever the subject comes up, though, there is a certain amount of outrage by men (or their mothers) who have been offended by the white-shirt request and who seem to stand behind their refusal to wear white as if it were a sign of great moral courage and a defense of God-given right against the imperious demands of a tyrannical church.

    That’s where my question (the one you quoted in 23) comes in — if you have a white shirt, or can get one without difficulty, is it such a big deal to simply comply with the request and wear the dratted thing?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  25. I recently offered to help pass the sacrament when the AP were all out doing a pioneer trek. But was told “no” you don’t have on a white shirt. It is OK. I get it. I put on a white shirt when I plan to give blessings, go to the temple, or such. Why should we treat our weekly sabbath service with less respect. No one really cared until it came time to officiate in a priesthood ordinance.

    Truth be told, the rule is not equally applied in my ward. I was told I need one probably because there is no reason I could not put one on. Not every one who passes the sacrament is told they have to wear a white shirt. The gospel is about treating us as individuals according to where we are and what we are capable of. I’m capable of doing more than I am doing. Maybe I should step up to the plate. Now where is that white shirt?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — October 21, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  26. I think part of the issue is that white shirts are just plain boring. Sisters get to wear all sorts of nice colored clothing to church. We guys are told to wear boring white. On the other hand, I think there might be some benefit in telling men to wear white shirts. Many men can’t coordinate colors well enough to wear anything besides white. Even then, some guys show up at church with a simple white shirt, tie and trousers and still look bad. imho

    Comment by Steve C. — October 21, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  27. if you have a white shirt, or can get one without difficulty, is it such a big deal to simply comply with the request and wear the dratted thing?

    not at all, if only for the reason given by Steve (#26)!However, I’d add the condition that the white shirt needs to be clean and ironed :-)

    for the record, none of the investigators (to my knowledge) were baptised, but they got a freebie shirt as a momento of their visit.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — October 21, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  28. You mean the bishop didn’t tackle them as they left, retrieving the shirts to sanctify the next investigators?? Call out the Danites! This was a gross waste of ward funds.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  29. “I repeat — why is it such a big deal for church leaders to ask adults to dress as adults, appropriate for dignified activities?”

    Ardis, why is a white shirt more dignified than a non white shirt? Why is a white shirt dressing more like an adult than a non-white shirt? I have no problem asking all members to dress appropriately for worship but I don’t see how a white shirt enters into that request.

    And my irritation over this non-issue has nothing to do with money, convenience or moral courage, it has to do with it being silly and not worth our time.

    Comment by KLC — October 21, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  30. KLC, you misunderstand me. I’m not really championing white shirts or claiming that they alone lend dignity to the event. I don’t mind colored shirts or patterned coats or bright ties, or even sandals (but I don’t like the distracting, dirty-foot sound of clicking flip-flops).

    Rather than defending the demand for white shirts, I’m protesting the protest against them, or at least the part of the protest that so often claims that it’s wrong (not just silly, but immoral and wrong) for church leaders to request white shirts for those administering the sacrament. I think the protests are petty, silly, and wrong, and a waste of time. If it matters to your bishop or to an apostle that you wear a white shirt on those days when you’re scheduled to administer the sacrament, why not just wear a white shirt? How does complying with that request — even if it IS silly — diminish you? How does defiantly wearing a colored shirt (not that you said you did, KLC, but sometimes people do say they deliberately wear anything but white) magnify your personhood or your priesthood?

    That’s all I’m asking, because I find it distasteful to host a discussion attributing unrighteous dominion to church leaders who have done nothing worse than ask for white shirts in preparation for administering the sacrament.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  31. Ardis,

    I am a firm believer that the white shirt rule is silly, but long ago decided rather than offend anyone, I would just go ahead and buy some more white shirts, and not offend anybody. It just seemed easier, and although on a rare occasion or two that I haven’t had a clean white shirt I’ve worn something else, I vowed to not make it a big deal either way.

    Comment by kevinf — October 21, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  32. Thanks, kevinf.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  33. Ardis, you ask why we shouldn’t focus on the condemning the violator of the white-shirt-during-the-Sacrament rule, as opposed to the Church’s right to issue that rule. In my experience, there isn’t a lot of grumbling at the AP level over the wearing of white shirts. AP holders who show up in something other than a white shirt don’t seem to do it as some sort of refusal or protest against the white shirt rule. Rather, they just got up late, their white shirt wasn’t clean, and they threw on the first clean shirt in their closet. Voila. There he is at church, in a nice looking, but light blue shirt. He is simply being lazy or ill-prepared, in my experience. And you’re right that such a case should not be celebrated. In my experience, it’s absolutely not.

    I think the Church is within its rights to promote a certain clean and dignified look during the administration of the Sacrament — including the rule for a white shirt. Sure. But, with that bright-line rule, let’s have a similarly bright-lined rule for the rest of the time.

    Otherwise, we get what we have now: human nature takes the white shirt thing beyond the mark. And suddenly, the huffalump sitting there in Sacrament Meeting in the completely wrinkled white shirt (and tattered Mickey Mouse novelty tie) is considered acceptable. And somehow we’re more focused on the color of the fabric the investigator family is wearing that just walked into Sacrament Meeting for the first time, rather than trying to look past superficialities.

    Comment by Hunter — October 21, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  34. I actually don’t own a white shirt. I had two right before we moved, but they were both in pretty bad shape, so I took advantage of the move to toss them.

    That said, I’ve never had anyone ask me to wear a white shirt to church, passing the sacrament or not (other, of course, than on my mission; back then I owned 10 or 12 white shirts).

    Which is to say, at least in my experience, charges of unrighteous white-shirt dominion are, let’s say, overblown. Still, I find the implicit cultural need for white shirts dated and more than a tad silly.

    Comment by Sam B. — October 21, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  35. I liked this whole discussion better when those guys showed up with the brightly colored coats.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 21, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

  36. Well, at least no one is showing up to church in with that brightly colored toilet paper stuck to their shoes, just the white stuff.

    Comment by kevinf — October 21, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  37. You know, my brother used to always roll up his sleeves and it drove the bishop crazy. One Sunday, Elder Faust came in to see one of his grandchildren be blessed, and as he approached the stand, he saw the bishop pulling on my brother’s sleeves. Elder Faust said, “Bishop, give the boy a break,” and after that, Elder Faust was a favorite of my brother. :)

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — October 22, 2009 @ 5:49 am

  38. I rarely wear a white shirt to church. I’ve conducted sacrament meetings, given talks and administered the sacrament in…colored shirts! Several reasons for this. 1) I got so sick of white shirts on my mission. 2) I only own one white shirt. 3) There is a bit of a principle–and maybe it is a form of rebellion–but I feel that being a devout Mormon has absolutely nothing to do with the color of a shirt. I believe in the idea of dressing the best you can, and if that is a suit with a sharp looking blue and white pinstriped shirt on (which is one of my favorite looks, BTW) then power to you.

    We’ve talked about the issue of “unrighteous dominion” which I agree is greatly overblown and downright silly. What is bothersome to, however, is the idea of, for lack of a better term, “commandment creep.” In other words, people add to the commandments/ritual of the Church. I think issues such as this and the Word of Wisdom lend themselves to commandment creep. In an effort to “live the higher law” we add unnecessary requirements. I lived in a unite years ago where Elder Bednar had been bishop and later was stake president over it. The Bednar-legacy permeates. It is as though his successors in those callings feel an obligation of sorts to live up to some expectation. As a result, there is a heavy emphasis on the white shirts, etc. So a deacon is not allowed to exercise his priesthood because he is wearing a nice, clean light yellow shirt with his suit and not a white shirt.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 22, 2009 @ 7:42 am

  39. “How does complying with that request — even if it IS silly — diminish you?”

    Ardis, I’ve thought about your comments. I think when general guidelines calcify into rigid dogma it diminishes all of us. It takes our eyes off the mark, it pacifies us with false comfort for doing something that has no meaning, it replaces our efforts to understand and live more meaningfully with rote checklists that satisfy but don’t enrich.

    And like Steve C. said so well, commandment creep is hard to control once the culture passively accepts silly adornments to real principles.

    Comment by KLC — October 22, 2009 @ 8:18 am

  40. For any historical value it may add, I’ll note that my second mission president, Agricol Lozano, who began serving in that position in 1986, usually did not wear white shirts. He preferred yellow. He also had a mustache. From 1993 to 1997 he presided the Mexico City Temple, and I don’t know if his mustache was a casualty of that call or not. Apparently, he and his counselors in the temple presidency appeared on the cover of the April 22, 1995 Church News. If anyone who happens to be where such things are archived wants to take a look and tell us if he shaved, I would be curious.

    Comment by John Mansfield — October 22, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  41. You know, in men’s fashion, white shirts are the most formal. Maybe that’s why the need for the white shirt. The formality.

    That being said, I think light pastels and shirts with conservative stripes that would be considered “business dress” are also appropriate.

    Mainly, though, let’s teach the men and young men of the church (and the women folk as well) that church clothes should be dress clothes, and as such should be neat and clean and Sunday best.

    Anyone can do that. It doesn’t take a lot of money. It does take effort and care.

    Comment by Jeannine — October 22, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  42. Jeannine said, “Anyone can do that [wear their Sunday best, clean & neat]. It doesn’t take a lot of money. It does take effort and care.”

    I do not argue with this at all. I totally agree with the idea of encouraging folks to be clean, neat and dignified when coming together to worship as the followers of Christ.

    And as I stated above, I can support the white-shirt-only-for-the-Sacrament rule. I think what some of the commenters are discussing is the cultural tendency to multiply these regulations. My question remains: given this tendency of human nature (to multiply regulations), and if the Church is going to have a specific rule pertaining to white shirts during the administration of the sacrament ordinance, why not corresponding language in the Handbook that clarifies the white shirt thing? For example: “A white shirt should be worn by those officiating in the administration of the ordinance of the Sacrament. White shirts are strongly recommended to be worn during the administration of other other priesthood ordinances (i.e., blessings of the sick). Notwithstanding this, it is improper to perpetuate any teaching that white shirts are required for other participation in church activities.” Or something like that.

    I’d love to hear Ardis pop back in on this issue and Steve C’s “cultural commandment creep” on this clothing issue.

    Comment by Hunter — October 22, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  43. Way to put me on the spot, Hunter! :/

    This thread has raised so many competing principles, or at least ones that bump into and overlap each other. I don’t think we’ll ever reach consensus. Part of the reason for that is that white shirts, beyond merely covering the body and protecting from cold, are symbolic, and the meaning of the symbol is contested, stretching from unrighteous dominion to commandment creep to economic burden to socioeconomic marker to individual fashion statement to conformity to sustaining leaders to white=righteousness to I-don’t-give-a-flying-fig. If we disagree with each other, it’s probably in part because we’re talking about different symbolic meanings.

    I think the extremes on both ends are wrong (“I am the bishop and you WILL do what I say!” and “I’m going to wear my wildest/ugliest/most distracting shirt to show that bishop that he can’t tell ME what to do!”), but in between those extremes I’m in the don’t-give-a-flying-fig camp (as long, that is, as Keepa doesn’t become a forum for disgrunted people to whine about how unjust and hypocritical the church is for even raising the question — I don’t want to host that). The issue just isn’t worth a battle on anyone’s part, regardless of symbolic freight.

    My purpose in contining to post the dress code variations I find is far less about the specifics of dress than it is about the social habits these bulletins display. Sometimes the author’s tone is imperious, other times attempting to reason, other times extremely compassionate. They show a tendency in our past to go to extremes — dressing the deacons in matching bowties and white pants on the one hand, or irreverent cartoon ties and wild plaid coats on the other hand. They always show a tendency on the part of leaders to want the sacrament service to be reverent and dignified, and also the apparently universal tendency of teenage boys to indulge in whatever the current crazy fashion is. That all is what intrigues me and keeps me looking for more.

    Somewhere in this tug-o-war, we should be able to find some basic principles (neat? clean? not calling attention to oneself?) despite the variant ways that, over time, church leaders have tried to define and implement those principles.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  44. I try to look nice for church. I don’t wear anything loud. I wear coloured shirts and ties that go with them. I don’t do it to be wierd or to be rebelious. I do it because that is what I have in my wardrobe. Blue is my favorite colour, so I wear it quite a bit. I have a blue shirt and a blue shirt with thin white stripes. I also have a shirt that has a light blue pinstripe pattern on it with some yellow as well. It looks sharp. Would this be bad to wear? No. I have seen people wear bright pink dress shirts. I think that is a bit much. I also don’t wear my black dress shirt to church. It is a bit too dark for my taste at church. I do wear it from time to time at work and have gotten complements on it. I think it is all about being respectful when you are at a church service and not anything intrinsically “spiritual” with the colour white.

    Comment by J. Scott — October 22, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  45. What?! You reference “the variant ways that, over time, church leaders have tried to define and implement [these] principles”! What? My proposal isn’t a perfect solution that will carry the Church into the Millenium?! My idea is only one of a great many, in an ongoing dialogue?! I’m totally crushed.

    Anyhow, all kidding aside, Ardis, thanks for widening the lens a bit on this discussion. Good perspective, thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — October 22, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  46. If I understand Ardis’ question, it could be rephrased, “Why do some think its more noble to rebel against the bishop than submit to his counsel, even if his counsel is of no real significance?” I think this has been answered already (teenage pride, commandment creep, or perceived unrighteous dominion.)

    But what if the colored shirts distract from the ordinance of the sacrament. What if the loud ties and patterned coats make it difficult to focus on the meaning of the ordinance? I think the apostle Paul sums it up in Rom 14:13

    “Let us therefore not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or any occasion to fall in his brothers way.”

    Comment by Clark — October 22, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  47. Welcome to Keepa, J. Scott. Your statement that “It is all about being respectful” nails it as far as I’m concerned — a conscious choice to be respectful both to the ordinance and to fellow ward members. Respect can mean toning down one’s own wardrobe (avoiding the pink or black shirts), or toleration for mildly stretching beyond one’s own preference (bishops not getting bent out of shape if someone wears a white-and-blue-pinstripe dress shirt).

    Hunter, actually, I’d like to see your suggestion implemented — not solely in connection with the white shirt issue. Sometimes I think we need a handbook running down in great specificity all the commandment-creep issues and telling members to cool it. That would include the one about white shirts only at church (not just for those administering the sacrament, but for all men), and the one about women not opening (or is it closing?) meetings with prayer, and the one about cola drinks, and the one about dressing in your church clothes for the full Sabbath, and the one about all PG-13 movies are okay but no R movie is, and all the others. We could throw in the generals in heaven story, and the not valiant in the pre-existence canard, and whatever other false commandments and non-doctrinal “doctrines” we can’t seem to stamp out.

    Of course, such a thing would have to be updated even more often than the CHI, but at least members could point to an official statement whenever someone tries to impose a non-sanctioned sanction.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  48. Clark’s #46 is the comment this thread should end with. Thanks, Clark. Perfect.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  49. For what ever reason the first time I tried to submit my comment it disappeared into cyber space somewhere.

    Since then Clark #46 comment has made all of my points in a way more elegant and succinct fashion. I hesitate to try again, but alas it was my first attempt at being a commenter and and not just a lurker here, and I spent the entire time my little boy was at preschool crafting it so that time will not have been spent in vain (however you may consider misspent in vain after reading it) with your indulgence I’m going to try again.

    A member of my Stake Presidency talked about the white shirt issue in these terms: Anything that draws attention to the person administering the ordinance and distracts away from the actual ordinance should be avoided. Asking our young men to wear a white shirt is an easy way avoid distraction and keep attention where it should be focused.

    I think there also is something to be said for wearing a white shirt because the young man is representing the Savior in the preparation, blessing and passing of the sacrament.

    When it is a rule that is easy to obey and not obeying could possibly distract those who have come to partake, I think that young men should be encouraged and enabled to comply.

    However there are circumstances when it would not be easy if not impossible to obey this simple admonition, for example in the military, or in an area of extreme poverty but for the rest of us in the rest of the circumstances we should not get ourselves so riled up about this small thing asked, most of all because it attaches to such a big and important and most of all sacred thing.

    This same presidency member told a story of an interaction he had with his teenage son. Their family was from New Zealand and the members of the family had shiny black fabulously curly hair. The teenage son loved to tease his out into an amazing afro style do.

    The father had pleaded with his son not to wear his hair like that when he blessed the sacrament. He said he felt that the hair style was a distraction to those in the congregation waiting to partake of the sacrament.

    The son shot back to the father “Well I think you don’t want me to wear it like this because it embarrasses you, and anyway you wore your hair like this when you were my age.” At which point the son produced a school picture that of the father when he was about 15 years of age.

    Momentarily dumbfounded and angry all the father could think was why he had not burnt that picture before his son had become a teenager. He was also angry because what his son said was true. He was embarrassed by his son’s appearance on Sunday.

    Only when the father was able to strip his own pride out of the equation could they have a real conversation about the issue. When it really was just a matter of not wanting his son to draw undo attention to himself when representing the Savior when blessing the sacrament; (and not about bruising the fathers ego) was the father able to help his son understand.

    Now the son pulls all of that amazing hair back and it is bound at the nape of his neck in a very discrete dignified manner when he blesses the sacrament.

    I think if we understand and help the young men understand what business it is that they are about when they are participating in priesthood ordinances their difficulty (and ours) with obedience will diminish.

    Comment by Dovie — October 22, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  50. Dovie, thanks for taking the time to reconstruct your comment — that’s a grand way to start commenting here! Your story illustrates very well what I meant by disagreeing because we’re really talking about different symbolic meanings, whether it’s a hairstyle or a clothing choice.

    Another factor in clothing choice: At the moment there is a family with four young children visiting the library. They have obviously just been participating in a wedding, and are either the most naturally well behaved kids I’ve seen in a while, or else their behavior is being affected by the wearing of their Sunday best.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  51. I think 46 was an excellent comment. I think if we remembered Paul’s stumbling block scripture more often we would offend each other less often regardless of the situation.

    Years ago when I was YM President, I had been working for months to get a young man active again. When He finally decided to be active he was very active and very self-motivated. His first day passing the sacrament he hadn’t worn a tie. One of the other deacons freaked out and started to make a scene. Our ward didn’t have a full complement of deacons, so I was also passing, I queitly whispered to the freaked out deacon not to worry about it and that his fellow deacon would figure it out soon enough. Sure enough the next week the reactivated kid showed up in a tie, and to my knowledge nobody said anything overtly to him.

    I also like the commandment creep comment. We so often get hung up on our traditions to the detriment of the spirit of the meeting. Ina branch on my mission we had an older brother who always acted as usher. He would not allow the sacrament trays to pass outside of the chapel and instead waved the people in the foyer to come forward and partake by reaching in to the chapel. My first Sunday passing the sacrament in the ward, nobody warned me, and as soon as I tried taking the tray into the foyer, the usher admonished me in a loud voice distracting the whole branch from reflecting on the ordinance. I didn’t try it again, since I knew he wouldn’t budge, and it would be worse to disrupt the spirit of the meeting. Being submissive even when it feels wrong, is sometimes about not being a stumbling block as well.

    Comment by Steve G. — October 22, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  52. Oh and about #49 sorry so verbose… it’s just the stories… when something reminds me of a good story that helped me grasp a principle I can’t help but share it. I tend to be bothered by arbitrary rules and the white shirt thing bothered me until that story. I have a whole new perspective now about that and a lot of other little things that use to get under my skin.

    [Sorry for the delay in posting your comment — for some reason it was trapped in the spam filter. Relevant stories are always welcome here!]

    Comment by Dovie — October 22, 2009 @ 8:19 pm