Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Follow-up to “Dressing the Deacons”

Follow-up to “Dressing the Deacons”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 22, 2009

While I’m about ready to let it drop until something else really interesting turns up, I’ve just run across the Presiding Bishopric’s statement about pastel shirts that was mentioned in that recent post and might as well post it for the record. This comes from 1952:

Aaronic Priesthood Members to Dress Conservatively When Officiating in the Sacrament Service

We have observed, with growing concern, the wearing of loud-colored sport shirts and sweaters by our Aaronic Priesthood bearers while officiating in the sacrament service.

While it is recognized that we should stay away from a required uniform dress, yet it is felt that moderation in dress would be more in keeping with this sacred service.

Since President David O. McKay has suggested that more attention be given this detail in our work, we have sought his counsel and are now in a position to publish our instructions in this matter, which instructions have been personally approved by President McKay, as follows:

While we do not attempt to regulat the manner in which those who administer the Sacrament should be dressed, it is felt necessary to suggest that sport shirts of loud colors and patterns, sweaters and coats of the same class, or any other unusual form of dress be avoided.

The wearing of white or very light pastel-colored shirts is recommended for those who participate in the sacrament service. The wearing of coats and ties is always appropriate, though not obligatory. This is not a step toward formality — it is only a precaution against such dress as is not in keeping with the sacredness of the sacrament service.

Stake and ward leaders are urged to give this matter adequate attention in order that the administration of the sacrament may be impressive and appropriate.

I like it. It teaches correct principle and lets brethren govern themselves. It doesn’t define “appropriate”  with hard-and-fast rules, thereby giving little permission for officious “looking beyond the mark” by anyone.



  1. So what’s the current official word?

    Comment by Mark Hansen — October 22, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  2. I don’t know, Mark — I do *history*! (How’s that for a cop-out?)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  3. Well this is this talk by Elder Holland from 1995:

    May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers, and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and onto your missions.

    Comment by Steve G. — October 22, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Thanks, Steve.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  5. I would also note that Elder Oaks repeated Elder Holland’s words in General Conference last year.

    Comment by Justin — October 22, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  6. I’m just glad that the follow-up to “Dressing the Deacons” was not “Undressing the Deacons”!

    Now back to your regularly scheduled serious commentary:

    Elder Oaks stated the principle from which all the rest should follow:

    The principle I suggest to govern those officiating in the sacrament—whether preparing, administering, or passing—is that they should not do anything that would distract any member from his or her worship and renewal of covenants.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 22, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  7. Thanks, Justin — and Mark (after I finish guffawing).

    All this emphasis on “not distracting” makes me consider how our conception of the sacrament may be different from other churches’ communion services. With some (not all, but some), the vestments, the music, the dramatic posture of the celebrant, the lining up of communicants, all seems calculated to — well, not “distract,” but to focus attention on the ceremony itself, or the host, or the community. With us, while we’re expected to participate in the hymn and listen to the words of the prayers, the silence and the hoped-for unobtrusiveness of the deacons indicates that each member of the congregation (minus the poor mothers wrestling with kids) should be contemplating, worshiping, renewing covenants through silent prayer.

    Maybe that’s reason enough for deacons to conform for conformity’s sake, because anything unexpected under those silent conditions can create an unwelcome, interfering focus.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  8. Ardis,

    # 7, well said.

    Comment by kevinf — October 22, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  9. nice find, Ardis- thanks.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — October 22, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  10. Interesting find. And thanks for the comments above.

    Comment by Hunter — October 22, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  11. Another important find, Ardis!

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 23, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  12. Now if we could just get those slobs who show up at the temple in golf shirts and khaki pants to show a little respect for “the Lord’s house,” we might be on to something.

    Comment by Ray — October 24, 2009 @ 5:43 am

  13. Ray,

    In ancient times those who attended the temple came in the same clothing they worked in the field in, walked in the dust in, herded sheep or slept in. They entered the temple with the filth of the world on their clothing and were then washed and cleansed as part of the temple rituals.

    Those in golf shirts and khaki pants might be grown boys who were never taught the wear white shirts when they passed the sacrament…who knows? Or they might be average members who were at work (or at play)when they were impressed to serve at the temple-immediately. I cannot believe that the anxious spirit whose work gets done that day cares one lick about what their proxy wore prior to dressing in white.

    In temples where ceremonial clothing is provided, clean, white, holy clothing is made available to ALL who enter-not just those who arrive wearing their Sunday best.

    Comment by SisterofJared — October 25, 2009 @ 12:18 am

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