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Every Girl’s Crazy ‘Bout A Sharp-Dressed Man

By Hildie Westenhaver

Of all the churchy things I think about, the one that causes me the most head-scratching, the most furrowed brows is not polygamy, or mothers being told to stay home and raise their kids, it’s the white shirt.  As in white shirt, tie and suit. 

Not being a man, the white shirt thing has not always been on my radar.  But our last Stake President was a huge fan of the white shirt.  Anytime he spoke he mentioned how nice it was to see the men wearing white shirts.  It got me thinking, “what’s the big deal? What’s all the fuss about?”  Is a white shirt necessary so that everyone looks co-ordinated?  Is it just a common color of shirt that the Brethren figured everyone in the world would be able to find no matter where they shop? Is there some sort of deeper meaning, like a symbol of purity? (I don’t think so, since they are usually topped with a big, dark sportscoat.) 

If a man doesn’t wear a white shirt does that mean that the prayer that he gives in Sunday School doesn’t make it to heaven?  Of course not.  As long as the guy looks nice, does the shirt color really matter?  Are pinstripes really considered disobedient? I’m honestly asking because I have no idea.

Last week my daughter broke her foot.  As my husband got out his consecrated oil to give her a blessing I asked him if he needed to put on a white shirt.  He laughed, “it’s the priesthood that heals, not the shirt.”  That’s what I thought.  But that doesn’t seem to be the common consensus.

So what’s your take as a non-white-shirt-wearing woman?  Is it a big deal? Micromanagement? Symbol? Tradition?  You tell me.

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

111 thoughts on “Every Girl’s Crazy ‘Bout A Sharp-Dressed Man”

  1. While I was on my mission the elders were always told that the white shirt was the uniform of the priesthood and should be respected during church meetings and priesthood responsibilities.

    I have also heard that same type of thing said by my stake president and by general authorities (though never in an official church meeting setting). Though as I was in my teenage and YSA years I found that one could tell alot about a guy if he showed up wearing a colored shirt to church. I asked a guy once when I was used to him wearing a white shirt and then he showed up for several weeks in a colored shirt what the deal was. And he told me that it was an easy way for him to not pass the sacrament while not worthy versus say that he couldn't. Interesting.

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  2. My DH is a pretty non trad member who eschews suits. He's worn one about 6 times in the 21 years I've known him (4 weddings and blessing our two babies). So naturally he's a fan of the non-white shirt. Having lived all over the world, he just can't get behind the "need" for a white shirt. In Africa, Asia, the islands of the sea, in impoverished villages in South America…all these various locales where white shirts and ties are the last thing on the minds of the members have convinced him it's just a cultural tradition of modern, middle-class society. So every time we hear them mentioning the need for WS's, we wonder why. And I wonder how it'll impact my DS in another 3 years. Will he get to pass the sacrament if I can't convince him to wear the WS? (Perhaps peer pressure will aid me in that endeavor.) There may be a part of me that's just rebellious on this point, but I confess feeling less worried about shirt color now than I did 20 years ago after a youth of hearing the WS praised. I'm all for modesty, good hygiene, and appropriate attire for temple attendance etc. But I haven't become convinced of the necessity of the WS at church yet. Maybe your comments will enlighten me.

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  3. I don't know what the big deal is. I think it's probably tradition. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong in wearing a non-white dress shirt, tie and suit- the formality is the same, the respect is the same, and sometimes the fashion-sense is better. I do think the white shirt probably has a connection to the white we wear while doing ordinances (baptism and temple ordinances), so perhaps the men are encouraged to wear white when they are young Aaronic priesthood holders administering the sacramental ordinance? Then that training carries over to their mission, then their adult life?

    I do think some leaders focus too much on that one detail, but we've never had leaders like that in our ward (that I am aware of).

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  4. I think it's cultural, although I know some people do find symbolism in it. Which is fine by me, so long as they don't start assuming that men who don't wear white shirts to church are committing some grevious sin.

    I wasn't really raised with the idea that white shirts are mandatory (in fact, I don't think I even heard that view until I went to BYU). Funny story – my father is the bishop of a YSA ward. A few months ago, one of the other counselors was speaking to the ward and encouraging the men to always wear white shirts to church. During the talk he said, "As you can see, each member of the bishopric always makes a special effort to wear a white shirt to church." Unfortunately, he failed to notice that the bishop (my dad) was sitting right behind him on the stand dressed in a bright yellow shirt. Dad kind of looked up in surprise as people in the congregation started cracking up.

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  5. At the Second Coming, do you think Jesus will have a beard? We always draw him with long hair, too. I imagine General Conference during the Millenium–He's wearing a robe and sandals, and the 12 are looking Corporate America.
    Frankly, I don't care what color a shirt is as long as it's ironed. We have a couple teenage boys in our ward who wear their pants so baggy. I can't stand it. I mean, what's the point of the white shirt and tie and then with pants slung so low? (Did that just make me sound older than dirt?)
    And yes to the symbol and tradition–micromanagement, yeah, maybe that, too. But I'd say that is how we operate in the church–we have meetings to schedule meetings, for goodness sake!

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  6. From what I've learned, a white shirt is a symbol of purity. Not that a blue/orange/fuchsia shirt itself is inherently bad for wearing "to Church," (although the attitude behind the shirt matters more); I mean, for Sunday School, etc., just be dressed decently, LOL. But a white shirt is preferable for administering the Sacrament because it matters what we wear for other saving ordinances, and the Sacrament renews the covenants we make in those ordinances.

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  7. I think it is much more than cultural or traditional- it is symbolic, and as Marie mentioned it is the uniform of the Priesthood. It shows purity, worthiness and unity. Of course that doesn't mean if someone doesn't wear a white shirt he isn't worthy, definitely not (or that someone who is in white is worthy either, it goes both ways). Sometimes that is the case though- I've known men who wear non-white shirts to get out of Priesthood responsibilities, either because they simply don't want to do them, or because they aren't worthy. I also think it sets us apart from the world- we've never been a church that follows fashion trends, why would we start now? My question is, why is it a problem to wear a white shirt? When you can wear whatever shirt you want the rest of the week, why is it hard to wear a white one on Sundays? To me, it looks wonderful to see all the boys matching in their white shirts and the unity that shows among them, as well as with the other men of the ward. I personally think it's neat that it shows that all of them have the priesthood- there isn't a different shirt required for Melchezidek Priesthood or Aaronic priesthood- they are all in white, respresenting the priesthood. This has been really taught in my area, from family and leaders, so to me the concept of not wearing a white shirt is foreign, rather than the other way around.

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  8. One word, ANNOYING! The whole "white shirt is best" is simply a generational thing. The majority of people in my age group, early 20's, don't buy into it. They wear a white shirt or a colored shirt simply based on their preference for the day, not their worthiness.

    Also, the more diverse and internation we become as a church, I just don't think the white shirt theory can stand.

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  9. I understand the idea of the white shirt for deacons passing the sacrament: it's unifying, it's uniform, it makes them apart yet together.

    But otherwise? Whatever.

    I buy my husband white shirts, blue shirts, pinstripe; all manner of colors and patterns. I REALLY think it's a cultural thing.

    My husband told me that when he was at university, there were girls in his ward that refused to date men who wore colored shirts. That's freaking RIDICULOUS. I mean honestly.

    Insert EYEROLL here.

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  10. My dad was inactive while I was growing up, so my knowledge of men-related and priesthood-related things at church is shaky. I don't really care either way about shirt color. What I don't like is when it becomes such a big deal; the problem with emphasizing a white shirt over all colors is that then other shirts become a symbol of the opposite (ie, rebellion or sinfulness). That's why I don't like it. I do feel like it's a double-edged sword, because I do think people should be expected to take time to dress well for church. Even if you're wearing a colored shirt you can still look nice. In my experience from working with people living in poverty on my mission, they actually generally took good care of their appearance. They might only have one special shirt, but they would still dress well for Sunday. I don't really like hearing arguments about "poor members in other countries" being unable/unwilling to dress up for Sunday. Most of the ones I knew sacrificed to acquire at least one nice outfit and showed up each week looking well-groomed. I think that taking time to put on special clothes is a good way to remind ourselves that Sunday is a special day. At the same time, though, I don't think we need to elevate the white shirt to some sort of sacred status. We already have clothing that the Lord has designated as belonging to the priesthood, and it's not a white shirt.

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  11. My husband won't wear anything BUT white shirts on Sundays, despite my love of his pale-pink shirt. He says "as soon as the Brethren start wearing colored shirts, so will I." And I haven't pressed the issue.

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  12. I just asked my husband this question and he replied with the "uniform of the priesthood" reply. He learned this in his youth, and by the way he didn't grow up in Utah and we don't live there today. He never passes the sacrament – there are plenty of deacons on our ward to do that, but he always wears a white shirt to church. I don't think NOT wearing a white shirt has anything to do with unworthiness, but I respect my husband for doing it. I would never look down on a person if they wore a colored shirt. I think it's the kind of thing we shouldn't worry too much about.

    Also, remember that the Savior lived in a very different time than we did and his attire was always respectful of the period of time he walked the earth. I think the same applies to how we dress and act at church.

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  13. See, and I'm the opposite –what's the big deal ABOUT wearing a white shirt? I agree that wearing colored shirts does not equate unrighteousness, but I don't see how eye rolling and guffawing and freaking out over the white shirt suggestion is ummm…productive.

    President Hinckley asked women to take out their second pair of earrings. Some people did. Some people didn't. Did that mean they lost their Temple Recommends?

    We're often told to dress modestly, but does that mean women should avoid the tankini? Or just the bikini?

    Sometimes we're asked to stand during a congregational hymn. Some choose to, some choose not to.

    Many Priesthood Leaders have asked men to wear white shirts. Some do, some don't.

    I'd say this is a personal thing, but it should still be considered with some form of thought before choosing one way or the other, since it came with counsel behind it. Anything with counsel behind it should be considered, don't you think?

    Oh, and Rachey? I'm sorry YOUR generation doesn't buy into it. And frankly, I don't know what you are talking about, since I'm not THAT much older than you. 😉

    P.S. Anyone seen the thousands of African men wearing white shirts and ties? Just sayin'.

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  14. My husband always wears a while shirt, and I fully support him in that. Could it be an issue of obedience? Or perhaps a way to de-emphasize displays of individuality in the way we dress on Sunday- putting the emphasis more on what we are there at Church to do? I agree that we should never look down on someone for not wearing a white shirt, but I do think it shows a higher level of obedience and humility.

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  15. Tradition and serious micromanagement. Our stake is completely overboard on the white shirt. I wear grey, blue and pink shirts. With a pinstripe suit. Nobody looked twice at me back east (we had a high council speaker who wore a black shirt plenty). I am not a fan of the Pharisees approach. Frankly, I'm tired of our Church pushing our culture on the rest of the members, especially internationally.

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  16. What a great talk. Thanks Lo. I too feel that the whole white shirt is an issue of obedience. It's also about humbly trying to follow all the counsels of our leaders to the best of our ability and not get by with doing the least we can.

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  17. I guess I'm just uncomfortable with calling it the "uniform of the priesthood" since, like I said, we already have clothing that the Lord has told is sacred. I just spent a while searching on LDS.org, but I can't find the story that a general authority told about being questioned why LDS priesthood holders don't have a uniform like other clergy. He replied that we wear our "uniform" under our clothes, and that all worthy members can wear it because we all serve in the church.

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  18. haha! I LOVE this post. Because it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who thinks the whole white shirt thing is… um… ridiculous. (for lack of a better word.)

    I, for one, am certainly disturbed by the idea of teaching my son that a certain kind of shirt = righteousness. It strikes me as pharisaical and NOTtherightmessage.

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  19. I'm a white shirt advocate. To me the white shirt is like a single ear piercing. It's a show of obedience, reverence, and respect. Especially when participating in a sacred ordinance such as blessing and passing the sacrament. DH has been the YM president the last 4.5 years and these are some of the quotes he uses to teach the importance of wearing a white shirt while participating in ordinances (and shouldn't one always be ready to participate in an ordinance if called upon?):

    From Elder L. Tom Perry's "Raisng the Bar":
    "It also could include improving your physical appearance. A missionary is expected to dress a certain way, projecting a clean-cut appearance that includes an appropriate haircut; being clean shaven; wearing a clean white shirt, a tie, and a well-pressed suit—all the way down to a good shoe shine. Start now to prepare for a full-time mission by adopting the appearance of a full-time missionary."

    From Elder Russell M. Nelson, "Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting":"Those who administer the sacrament are to look their best and be dressed appropriately. White shirts not only look nice, but they are a gentle reminder of other sacred rites, such as baptismal and temple ordinances, at which white clothing is also worn."

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland "This Do in Remebrance of Me" : "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.

    That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. As President David O. McKay taught, a white shirt contributes to the sacredness of the holy sacrament (see Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 89)."

    PS My hubby wears a wide array of colored dress shirts to work each day, but only white to church.

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  20. I really dislike white shirts. And I dislike even more worrying that I may be judged for not wearing one. Whatever happened to "the Lord looketh on the heart"?

    I'd rather hearken to the counsel of Jesus when he said "judge not" than the fashion tips from "the brethren".

    And if Joseph Smith's vision of Jesus and Heavenly Father is accurately portrayed, they still aren't wearing business suits (even though I'm sure Heaven's technology is ahead of ours :))

    Maybe it's just me though since I also happen to think facial hair should be a choice rather than a condemnation.

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  21. I feel it's very much micro management. I grew up in UT and graduated from BYU but had never even heard of this being an issue until I moved with my husband to Missouri. Out there we had a very overzealous member of the bishopric who liked to police my husband's shirts and would always make some sort of a comment when he was wearing something besides white.
    I this it's fine to ask those passing the sacrament to wear white shirts, but to make an issue over an active highly participatory man's shirt color I think is a mistake. There are so many other important things to worry about!

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  22. I think there is actually something to it, and this is my opinion. What color shirts do the men wear in the temple? All we do in the Church points to the temple. The ordinance of the sacrament, which the young men pass, points to the temple. In addition, missionaries wear only white shirts. I have had my boy wear white shirts to church since he was young and I just don't see what the big deal is about going that way. My goal is to help him prepare for a mission. I also don't see any redeeming value in not getting him white shirts.

    (Just found this from Elder Nelson:
    "White shirts not only look nice, but they are a gentle reminder of other sacred rites, such as baptismal and temple ordinances, at which white clothing is also worn."

    I agree that it shouldn't be so much a thing that people start judging others, but I agree with cheryl. Our leaders have brought it up more than once, so I think it's worth noting. Just like women have been told not to dress too casually for the ordinance of the sacrament. It doesn't have to be Pharisaical if we approach it and teach it in the right way, imo.

    From Elder Holland:
    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.

    That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. As President David O. McKay taught, a white shirt contributes to the sacredness of the holy sacrament (see Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 89).

    I think it's easy to go to the extreme either way on this. We shouldn't be so caught up in it that we shut our hearts to people who dress differently than the norm, or even the expectation. But I think that we ought to be careful about dismissing outright something that our leaders have talked about more than once.

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  23. Oh Heather I love you, but "the garment is an outward symbol of obedience", not the Brooks Brother white button down. Let us please get some perspective. I have addressed this before and I will again because I believe it is one of the silliest issues that we at times deal with.

    Have the prophet and the Brethren stated that we should wear the white shirt?Yes they have. Is it one of the seven deadly sins if we do not? I think not.

    This is another case of getting caught up in the thick of thin things. Should our young men wear white shirts as they administer their duties? Absolutely! Should we allow young men to get away with not passing the sacrament or blessing it because they wore a light blue oxford that day? When I served as Bishop my AP knew that if they came to church wearing a colored shirt with the intention of getting out of passing the sacrament that they would have to have the worthiness discussion (is there anything more to you trying to get out of sacrament administration?)but when they passed that they were on there way to rich blessings as ministering angels.I always like it when they wear white shirts, slacks with Nike Basketball hightops! Chic!

    The white shirt is the preferred attire. If I know I am to speak or administrate an ordinance I wear one. If not I go to the terrestrial section of the closet and pull out the blue bengal stripe, tattersall, or even the (much loved by the Relief Society)pink oxford.

    Now that we have tackled this lets move on to "Is it ok to eat Hershey Bars or take aspirin with caffiene". Bring on the weighty matters!

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  24. haha…Jessica and I were posting at the same time. There you go. 🙂

    I also happen to think facial hair should be a choice rather than a condemnation.

    I have had two bishopric members with facial hair. FWIW. Unless you are at BYU or on a mission or with some specific situation, there IS a choice.

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  25. How about making a rule about no Looney Toon ties (or Mickey Mouse or Santa). That's a rule that makes sense that I could really get behind.

    My Stake Pres that loved the white shirts used to tell this story all the time: He was going to Primary Children's Hospital one day after work to give a little girl in his ward a blessing. As he was walking in he spied a General Authority (I think it was Monson, but I can't remember). The G.A. asked my Stake Pres. what he was doing there and when he heard the reply he looked at my Stake President's green dress shirt and said, "I wish I could wear a shirt like that to give a blessing."
    The idea being that the GA was being sarcastic about what my Stake Pres was wearing. After hearing this story, I think the GA really was serious. He probably was completely sick of wearing a white shirt and tie every single day and wished he could have a change.
    Maybe I'm wrong, but maybe I'm not.

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  26. Jessica and Lo: Thanks for the great talk and quotes on the subject.

    I know I'm happier when I don't buck the system, and just be obedient to counsel.

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  27. I never really thought about the whole white shirt thing until I got married. My husband is a white shirt wearing guy. His philosophy, "When I see the Prophet wear a colored shirt to conference, I will know it is OK for me to wear one to church."

    Do we judge others for wearing colored shirts? No.

    What it all comes down to is that the Gospel gives us agency. There are certain commandments we must live and abide by in order to be worthy. Beyond that it is between the person and the Lord.

    Take the counsel and do what you will with it and then answer to the Lord regarding your decision.

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  28. M&M – yes, I agree that facial hair is a choice, but that does not guarantee that you won't be judged for it by someone who mistakenly thinks you are disobeying the brethren. That's where the condemnation comes in, in my opinion.

    Jennie – so the GA thought his blessing wasn't any good wearing a green shirt? Even if he was being sarcastic, I think he is focussing on the wrong things.

    It's that kind of thing that makes me want to have "home" church.

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  29. Re: Jessica "One more thing…in the temple, the white shirt is certainly a part of the clothing of the priesthood, is it not?"

    It sure is a part of the beautiful temple ceremony. So why don't we just wear temple clothes to Sacrament meeting? After all, they're sacred, right?

    Sarcasm off: the temple is a holy place, and Sacrament meeting is not the temple. That doesn't mean that chapels aren't holy places, but pretending that one piece of clothing that we just happen to wear in the temple makes things "more sacred" is pretty faulty logic.

    For my part, I own exactly one white shirt, which is my temple shirt. Not only do I not look good in white, but I invariably spill things on myself when I wear a white shirt. I think I'd wear it if invited to participate in a baby blessing, but otherwise, I only wear it to/in the temple.

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  30. Bethany – you say you don't judge colored shirt wearers, but your words imply otherwise to me.

    "“When I see the Prophet wear a colored shirt to conference, I will know it is OK for me to wear one to church.”

    Do we judge others for wearing colored shirts? No."

    Your words say to me that everyone not wearing a white shirt is not following the prophet, no matter how you couch it in "free agency" speak. It's disappointing to me that people think that way.

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  31. FoxyJ–that story is from Elder Packer's book, "The Holy Temple" in chapter 6 (which also contains some great statements about proper attire for attending the temple, sacrament meeting, etc.) I find it interesting that Elder Packer and most every other general authority that I have heard comment on the subject has stated that it is not so much the color of the shirt that matters, but that individuals are dressing in a modest, appropriate manner in order to show respect for God and the ordinances in which they are participating.

    DH has worked for LDS Family Services off and on for the last 9 years. When he first started working there, the dress code for male employees was dress pants, white shirt, tie and no facial hair. At that time, he frequently wore light-colored dress shirts to church, his reason being that he couldn't stand to wear just white almost every day of the week. A few years ago, the dress code changed to allow male employees to wear light-colored/subtly patterned dress shirts instead of just white. But now that DH is YM president, he tries to wear a white shirt every Sunday to be a good example for the boys.

    Our current Stake Presidency feels quite strongly about white shirts, and while I think that this is a good guideline, I feel that it is and should remain a guideline, not a requirement. We all know that changing the color of a shirt cannot actually change a person's worthiness or reverence. I also remember a CES fireside when I was in college when the speaker stated that women should always wear pantyhose to church and should stay in said torture devices all day long to remind them what day it was. Until President Monson says that over the pulpit in General Conference, I choose to respectfully disagree. If he does, then I will swallow my pride and put them on, but not a second sooner!

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  32. Our Stake President has taught what he calls the "principle of non-distraction" for young men passing the sacrament – no Looney Toon or Mickey Mouse (Spiderman, Darth Vader, etc) ties – Anything that could cause someone to focus on the tie rather than partaking of the sacrament. I fully support that effort, and the young men of our stake normally wear very tasteful ties (I think there may be a few spares available in case one doesn't quite meet the principle.) And for passing the sacrament, I think white shirts are a reasonable request.

    As far as white shirts in general for the brethren are concerned, I'm ambivalent. The vast majority of men in our ward wear them, including my husband, and I have no problem with that. I was appalled, however, the day a brother got up in Testimony meeting and berated a couple of the young men who were home from college visiting their families and didn't wear white shirts to church. Maybe it's my Southern upbringing, but it felt far worse to me for them to be publicly denounced than for them to wear the non-white shirt in the first place.

    We have also had female visitors who wear pants or visitors of both genders who wear blue jeans the first week or two, but we welcome them anyway. So far they've all worked out how to get appropriate clothing within a couple of weeks.

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  33. Kerry found the right word: the hang-up on the white shirts is ridiculous. I'm glad my husband doesn't wear a white shirt every week. I switch my boy off between white, blue, and blue/white stripes.

    I'm a little shocked so many who have commented are so fervent about the white shirt. I'm better off not knowing. I'll do my best to continue to assume such people are few in my congregation.

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  34. Cheryl: "Did you not read Elder Holland’s quote in Jessica’s first comment?"

    Yes I did, and while I maintain my sustaining of Elder Holland and the other Brethren, I disagree with his idea. If we're that serious about choosing white as a sacred reminder of ordinances, then Mormons of both genders should be encouraged to wear white all the time. My wife wears white in the temple, and she wore white just like me when I baptized her. So is she being disrespectful or not inviting the Spirit by wearing something not white when she partakes of the Sacrament?

    I'd argue that she isn't, and by the same logic, that the Sacrament isn't any less sacred when blessed by priests not wearing white shirts. I've been in inner-city wards where kids blessed the Sacrament with great reverence wearing their "best" jeans and street shoes, because it was all they've had. And I've been in "Utah" wards where all the young men had white shirts and ties, but still looked like slobs (hair, shoes, posture), and were irreverent while passing the Sacrament.

    Sorry, but this just seems like an issue where we as a Church are wrongly focusing on a single, irrelevant thing when our efforts and thoughts could better be directed to higher things.

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  35. I agree that facial hair is a choice, but that does not guarantee that you won’t be judged for it by someone who mistakenly thinks you are disobeying the brethren. That’s where the condemnation comes in, in my opinion.

    In the end, part of being at church is learning to get along and deal with imperfect people. That means dealing with people who judge and learning not to judge. It can be a hard part of the journey.

    Johnna, I guess it can go both ways. I get a little puzzled as to the intense reaction against the idea of wearing white shirts. 🙂

    That said, I'm pretty sure we could enjoy being in the same congregation all the same. 🙂 (I hope!)

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  36. I'm completely unconvinced with the "obedience" claim. Don't we have enough already to show obedience? Temple and church attendance, WoW, LoC, tithing, callings, scriptures, missions, prayers, FHE. Seriously, claiming that wearing a white shirt is about obedience is a joke. As far "looking your best" argument, I look just as good (actually, better) than most of the guys in my ward who wear their yellowed white shirts and khakis.

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  37. For the record, I was referring to the temple garment. There have been a few good articles about it in the Ensign, as well as the information in Elder Packer's book, if you want to know more about it's relationship to the priesthood. I just went to the temple the other night so the wording of the ceremony is still on my mind.

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  38. I'm puzzled at the intense reaction on either side. If my bishop asks our young men to wear white shirts when they pass the sacrament then I'll encourage my boys to wear white shirts. That does not mean I'm likely to give a gnat's eyelash what color of shirt your kid or your husband is wearing. That doesn't even mean my kid always wears a white shirt. (But if you must know, one does and one doesn't and I love them both the same. I'm pretty sure God does too.)

    If I could send one message (not to any one in particular–but to anyone who is that worried about what I or someone else thinks) it would be this: I don't care what you wear to church or what you change into when you get home. I don't care how long your hair is or what's growing on your face. I don't care if your son wears a kilt to church (in fact I might even think that's really cool.) I don't care if you watch TV on Sunday. I don't even care if you drink caffeine. Get over it already.

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  39. Bro. Jones-

    "All they had." Good point; Like the widow's mite, the Lord accepts our best intentions, does he not?

    But what happens when people scoff at counsel and claim it's micromanaging their lives and how dare Elders of the Church suggest something so…simple?

    It just makes me stop and ponder when people get uptight about something so…simple. White shirt or not, it's not going to affect eternal salvation, true! HOWEVER, it WILL if the reasoning and decisions behind not doing something so easily attainable is thrown aside in the name of agency and individualism.

    Alma 37:6

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  40. Cheryl – I wear colored shirts not to dismiss "counsel" or be rebellious. Rather. I choose my clothes according to what I like and think looks nice. It's the implication that my worthiness or obedience is dependent upon my shirt color that I have a problem with.
    If they announce in GC that the Lord revealed white shirts as the new commandment, I'd be fine with it. In the meantime, why make me feel bad over something that's not doctrine?

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  41. I do not know why white shirts were chosen, probably something simple like it's more spiritual, it is the temple color and the color worn by heavenly messengers.

    But the study of color may get us thinking a little deeper about why one color might differ spiritually from another color. We are literally light beings; Chinese and Russian scientists demonstrated that acupuncture meridians transmit light within our bodies. This may be one explanation for healing with light. Many of you are familiar with the use of a blue light for jaundice babies but colored light and colored laser healing goes well beyond that.

    Assuming that illuminated acupuncture meridians pipe enough light into or bodies to heal, the color of our clothing becomes significant because they act as color filters blocking some colors while allowing other's to pass. We all know that color affects us emotionally, this concept might help explain why one dress color fits your mood today and another does not. I believe that color also affects us spiritually; D&C 84:45 equates light with spirit.

    White: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White

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  42. ooooooooooohhhhhh! DRAMA!!

    leave it to my girl jennie to stir up some strong emotions! i like white shirts. i like colored shirts.
    my husband is an impeccable dresser and wears both to church. he looks hot either way.

    no need to get our mormon panties all in a wad over this–can't we all just get along?

    hi five jennie!!

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  43. Faraday-
    A lot of things are suggestions in the Church. A lot of it is counsel. Suggestions and counsel from Priesthood Leaders (whether local or global) is not always Doctrine.

    I had a Bishop who told our ward (YSA) that we were not to use the words "butt" or "crap." People literally rolled their eyes because what the? Why would a Bishop think he could give us counsel like that? Who cares? But our ward had a language problem that didn't just stop with silly words –there was an overall sense of crass and rude behavior that needed to stop. When people followed the Bishop's counsel and changed their language, the behavior improved.

    But does that mean everyone in the world should do it? No, not necessarily.

    I think we all have examples where local leaders have counseled us to do things we would otherwise find odd, inconvenient, or at the very least, questionable. The White Shirt counsel just seems to be one that is widespread because THE APOSTLES have suggested it.

    But Faraday, if you have decided that white shirts are not for you, and you are comfortable with it, then why do you feel bad? I wouldn't. Like it's been said, wearing a white shirt does not equate righteousness, just as not wearing one does not equate unrighteousness.

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  44. cheryl — I don't feel bad about my decision to wear a non-white shirt. I feel bad about thinking that some at church may judge me for it.

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  45. cheryl — I don’t feel bad about my decision to wear a non-white shirt. I feel bad about thinking that some at church may judge me for it.

    Then that is on their own heads, no? Just like I shouldn't worry about what kind of shirts you wear, we shouldn't worry about when people are making a bad choice by judging us.

    Easy to say, hard to do, I know.

    BTW, I don't think that a discussion about this is necessarily evidence that 'we can't all get along.' I suspect we could put a lot of different pieces of counsel in the blank and get a similar kind of discussion. There is always variety in how people respond to counsel. And there is always potential for inappropriate judging and such on 'either side.' But I think it's not necessarily a bad thing to have discussions about topics like this…gives people different points of view to consider.

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  46. This is a very interesting site. I have never been here before. I linked here from a sister-in-law's blog. The topic kind of caught my eye. After reading everyone's comments I thought I would add my thoughts.

    The reference "to whom much is given, much is required." comes to mind. If the Lord knows that my personal knowledge should lead me to wearing a white shirt each week then I will be held responsible for not. The beautiful thing about the Plan is that only our Heavenly Father and Savior know each of us well enough to decide if we should be doing a certain thing or not. I had two piercings in one ear at the time that the Brethren came out with the counsel that women should have only one in each ear. I was young and I had my reasons for having it. I justified that I only wore small studs in that whole so it was fine. One week at church I heard a Sister in the ward speak to this very counsel in Relief Society. She said she had realized that it could be hard to follow large commandments if she could not follow the small seemingly un-important ones. That struck me. I realized that I knew the counsel and wanted my Heavenly Father and Savior to know that I was willing to follow their will no matter how small or large it was. I took out that earing 5 years ago. It is a reminder to me to bend my will to that of the Lord's in EVERYTHING!!! And to be sure I fullfill all of the requirements I personally have been given.

    Pray. Listen. Wear what shirt fits your spiritual place. Then allow all others the same privilege.

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  47. Bro. Jones–good point about women not having to wear white to church.

    I kind of think it's a generational thing. My 75-year-old father-in-law thinks that everyone should wear a shirt and tie to work. I imagine that the white shirt is, to the G.A.'s (and various other leaders), a step-up from the day-to-day colored shirts and ties that they imagine men wear to work every day.

    Of course, a lot fewer men wear shirts and ties these days. My husband is allowed to wear shorts to work, so any shirt and tie is dressing up to him.

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  48. I didn't read every comment, but it sounds like we need a guy to come in on the "pro-white shirt" side of things. Unfortunately, many people have taken the white shirt issue to the point of fanaticism ("Men should never wear anything other than white shirts"), and have given the rest of us a bad name. My thoughts:

    – The white shirt issue has already been addressed by Apostles in General Conference, (see Elder Holland's talk referenced above).

    – It's not a strict, black-and-white (forgive the pun) commandment. It's not a worthiness issue. Nevertheless, it is important enough to mention over the pulpit. Wearing a white shirt is a sign of respect for the Priesthood and the ordinances you participate in as one who bears that Priesthood.

    – Symbolism does matter. If you truly can't afford a white shirt, fine. Wear the best you can. I served a mission to Brazil, and know plenty of good, worthy Priesthood holders who can't afford a white shirt (though, it's amazing how many of them find a way, nonetheless). If you can afford a white shirt, why would you not?

    – Finally–I really hope to say this in a way that doesn't offend anyone–every time this issue comes up, whether on a blog or in deacon's quorum, the arguments I hear about why white shirts aren't important come across as rather self-centered, usually along the lines of:

    "It doesn't reflect on my worthiness."

    "I look better in a shirt."

    "I don't want to look like a cookie-cutter Mormon."

    "I just don't like white shirts."

    The point is that it's really not about us – it's about Priesthood service. If we can better serve as Priesthood holders by wearing a white shirt, even if it's purely symbolic, even if it's only to be an example to Aaronic Priesthood holders, why would we not do so?

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  49. Ha! I used the wrong kind of brackets on the third quote down on my previous comment. It's supposed to read:

    "I look better in a (insert color) shirt."

    Although, for what it's worth, I think that I do look better in a shirt.

    🙂

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  50. "…come across as rather self-centered"
    "If we can better serve as Priesthood holders by wearing a white shirt…"

    Matt's comments are exactly the kind of judgmental words that frustrate me. But I'm obviously self-centered.

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  51. Wow…quite the debate! I have never been to this site before but the topic caught my eye. I believe what men choose to wear is a personal decision. Here are a few thoughts that come to my own mind as I think about this issue. First, have you ever been in a room with thousands of men in white shirts and ties. I have and it is truly humbling and powerful. I don't think that if the shirts were any other color it would have been quite as spiritual. Second, it always warms my heart when my husband rushes upstairs to put on a white shirt and tie even to run across the street to give a last minute blessing. He even does the same if I ask for a blessing. It shows to me that he doesn't take the priesthood he holds lightly. Changing is a physical reminder that he is about to go and do something set apart and sacred. Third, I ponder sometimes why missionaries are asked to wear white shirts and ties. It removes a decision that would cause them to think more about what they are going to look like that day rather than what they are going to do that day! On Sunday we are not just "going to church" we are going to partake in a sacred priesthood ordinance. If wearing a white shirt helps my husband and boys pause and remember the holy priesthood that they hold, helps them change their behavior to that of reverence and respect then I am all for being supportive of that. Finally, ask yourself why you DON'T want to wear a white shirt. Do you take TOO much pride in what you wear at church. I have seen many woman too for that matter than look like they spent hours picking out the right accessories to their outfit rather than contemplating and preparing themselves to receive the sacrament.

    Just some thoughts…

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  52. Shirt color really doesn't matter, but cultural traditions do. And I think that's why most guys wear white shirts. I also think that's why most gals wear skirts/dresses (despite the fact that they make life difficult when you need to chase down kids in primary/nursery).

    There was one stylish couple in one of my married student wards that would always coordinate their outfits. If she was wearing a purple skirt, he was wearing a purple shirt of a matching/coordinating shade. I generally think guys look better in a colored shirt that goes well with their skin tone, but the coordination EVERY WEEK made me gag.

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  53. I have never, ever in my life heard this arguement before. I had no idea people judged others for not wearing a white shirt, etc. I am floored (and I grew up in Utah….. I guess I was just unobservant). I knew that you are supposed to wear them for missions/sacrament, etc, but again, I had no idea.

    Hmm. Not sure how I feel about it. I guess that I am glad that I get to wear a dress?

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  54. I am in no way the voice of reason, so I will make this quick. Are we really that tied up as members of the church, with the color of ones shirt. In side the Zion curtain the shirts seem more often to be white, however out side the Zion curtain shirts seem to take on some color. Can we make the judgment on any other individual as to wheather or not they will have the same blessing, or will be forwarded the same spirtual gifts as one who wears the white shirt? My understanding is that we do the very best that we can. If that is a white shirt then great if you do not have a white shirt then great! I would much rather you there in church sitting next to me in a shirt of color than not at all!

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  55. Topics like these can get you talking and thinking in circles. I don't know if any progress is made or if any minds are changed. Thankfully, the important things are faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple ordinances.

    For me, my standard is the 15 men I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. Even leaving what they have said aside, just take a look at them. They are conservative in dress and appearance. They are clean shaven. They wear white shirts. They are clean in their manner and their speech. They are my example…a primary song is instructive, "follow the prophet, don't go astray, follow the prophet, he knows the way." I believe that. Above and beyond listening to what they say, I watch them. And I try to follow their example. You won't find better examples on this earth.

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  56. Elder Christofferson's "Sense of the Sacred" would be a helpful addition to this discussion. It was a CES Fireside on Nov. 7, 2004. Googling will get you to it easily.

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  57. I can't agree with those who think this is some cultural tradition fondly remembered by those old guys in authority or some kind of symbol of eternal principles.

    I was ordained a deacon in 1966, served a mission from 1973-75 and graduated from BYU in 1978. In all of those years I can't remember a single talk or lesson in any meeting from ward priesthood to general conference that stressed or even mentioned the importance or the symbolism of a white shirt for priesthood holders.

    I wore all sorts of colored shirts as a deacon, teacher, priest and RM at BYU. My father in the bishopric wore some white shirts, some other styles, as did other ward and stake leaders.

    The first time I ever heard the white shirt mantra was probably in the mid or late 80s. This isn't some kind of eternal principle, it's probably the personal hobby horse of one or two senior general authorities that has accreted the heft of timelessness over the last two decades.

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  58. Just to be clear, I am eyerolling girls who refused to date a guy because he wore a color shirt. 'Cmon, that's silly.

    I had honestly never heard the white shirt thing until I was out of college–and I was raised mostly in Utah and attended BYU. I seems to me that the proscription is mostly aimed at boys under mission age. It appears that people have taken that and extrapolated it to all men in any position no matter what they are actually doing, which is fine, but it's not doctrine.

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  59. It's interesting that some seem to feel that white shirts are a step up from "week-day colored shirts," because I have always heard and felt that nice colored/patterned shirts were more formal than plain white. Unless you are wearing a tuxedo.

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  60. One comment near the end caught my eye. If men have a set "uniform" for church they don't have to give a second thought to what they wear. Probably most men don't anyway, but the commenter's parallel to women was interesting. Too often I spend time agonizing about my outfit, feeling like I don't look presentable, when I should really be spending my time making sure I'm spiritually ready to attend my meetings and take the sacrament. It's easy for me to get caught up in my outward appearance (because I'm unhappy with it) but I bet I will get more out of church if I prepare other ways. That's what I'm going to take out of this crazy debate – I doubt anyone is changing their stance on white shirts.

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  61. Kate: the talk you reference was posted above. Scrolling up will get you to it even easier.

    Regarding the white shirt as uniform of the priesthood idea, see this post for some historical background: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4385

    For the record, I wear white shirts all week and have no problem wearing one again on Sunday, even if it does have some ring around the collar and miso soup dribbled down the front.

    Maybe the wards in which this is an issue have progressed enough that a white shirt is a meaningful measurement of righteous, obdience or understanding of the gospel? I'm not sure, as it would hardly be foolproof. A disobedient sinner with limited understanding of eternal principles is surely spared a lot of grief by showing up in a white shirt–it makes for good camoflauge. "Ah, Brother So-and-So, he's always on time, shaves, wears a white shirt and doesn't sleep through his meetings–leave him among the 90 and 9 and go find the lost sheep!"

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  62. Excellent link, Peter. And I like the pro-white shirt quotes Jessica shared much earlier, too. I can see both sides. I suspect my son will likely wear white shirts when he passes/blesses the sacrament unless it's made clear by current leaders that it really doesn't matter. I think it looks good.

    I don't know that I have an opinion about what is "right" though, beyond our attitude about it is what is most important, and not condemning others for differing opinions.

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  63. I think it's interesting that everyone jumps to "being judged". Are we a little nervous about not following the counsel? I know I am each time I take a sip of my Diet Pepsi. But so far, my Bishop has let me keep my Temple Recommend.

    I don't think anyone has claimed it's doctrine, only what we've been counseled to do. And as for the thought that the counsel of wearing a white shirt is only directed at our YM, how can we expect them to follow the counsel if their parents/leaders don't? It's like keeping their room clean, if I, as their parent, don't keep my room clean, the chances of them keeping their room clean are slim. We lead my example. That's why my three-year-old can regularly be heard exclaiming "Oh, crap!"

    The real question is why do we choose to follow some counsel and not other counsel? (As I reach for my perfeclty chilled Diet Pepsi. Or maybe it's just me.:))

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  64. My husband always wears a white shirt to church. He wants to be prepared if he is asked to use the priesthood for any reason… like blessing and passing the sacrament.

    Can I go off on a female side of this??? My mother always taught me to dress my best for church. Now I see YW and adult women in plastic flip flops, come to church with wet hair, and wear nothing better than a cheap, flimsy t shirt. I get so IRKED! Is my annoyance with this casual attitude towards church justified? Should I get over it? I don't know. I'm not an old lady. I'm 27. Am I the only one who notices this stuff and is upset by it?

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  65. I agree with the idea that if leaders/parents don't set the example it is pretty pointless to try and counsel them to do something. I served as our wards YW pres for the last 3 years. Our stake president asked us as leaders to wear nylons and conservative shoes along with our modest and conservative dresses or skirts. Now I HATE nylons!! Especially in the summer, but when counseled to do so and set the example I became a believer. I think that both men and women have gotten either sloppy/ or completely over done in the way we dress for church! I had girls who would show up in a hooded sweatshirt, barely combed hair or wet hair, a skirt above the knee and fip flops! Hello!! Where was their mother when they left the house this morning? Oh ya…that's right…she was spending the last hour and a half making sure that she had her skirt pressed just perfectly to go with the perfect peek toe shoes that also go perfectly with her new bracelet and ear rings and all the while making sure that her hair will be just so!

    We NEED both mothers and fathers who will set a modest and conservative example of appropriate church dress. So fathers…if your son has been asked to wear a white shirt as a deacon, teacher, priest…you wear one too! If you have a missionary out in the field who is wearing a white shirt and tie…you should be too! You older men…all of the younger men look to you as an example as well…if they are supposed to be wearing a white shirt and tie…shouldn't you too? Why not? Whats the big deal? Or are we all caught in the pride of what we look like at church rather than what we are really there to DO. Partake of the sacrament and be taught the gospel!

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  66. Heather, I see your point about setting a good example. I completely agree with it for the youth (except the nylons. Only a man would make up a rule like that! Walk a mile in my nylons, President, and then let's talk!)

    I don't agree about the white shirt if you've got a son on a mission. Should men also wear a plain navy suit (no plaid or pinstripes) and a solid-colored tie?

    What if I've got a daughter on a mission? Should I wear a plain black skirt, plain blouse and frumpy shoes made for walking great distances?

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  67. Is my annoyance with this casual attitude towards church justified? Should I get over it? I don’t know. I’m not an old lady. I’m 27. Am I the only one who notices this stuff and is upset by it?

    Elder Holland talked about this. I think Elder Christofferson's talk gets at it as well.

    On the other hand, I think getting annoyed about it doesn't really do anything. When you are in a position to teach about it, if the Spirit directs, do so. But I think the best thing you can do if this is something that you feel is important is just quietly do what you think is appropriate. Sometimes a quiet example can make a difference. But at least for me, when I get annoyed, all it does it shut off my heart, ya know?

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  68. Now I see YW and adult women in plastic flip flops, come to church with wet hair, and wear nothing better than a cheap, flimsy t shirt.

    And yet they come.

    I had girls who would show up in a hooded sweatshirt, barely combed hair or wet hair, a skirt above the knee and fip flops!

    And yet they come.

    One could accuse the parents of these errant children for setting the bar to church attendance too low, but who would really want to?

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  69. Johnna, I guess it can go both ways. I get a little puzzled as to the intense reaction against the idea of wearing white shirts.

    That said, I’m pretty sure we could enjoy being in the same congregation all the same. (I hope!)

    Yes, we could definitely be in the same ward and enjoy it. m&m, please move here.

    I went back and read Elder Holland's talk last night, and it is a recommendation for deacons and priests blessing and passing the sacrament. So, all this opining about men needing to wear white shirts still sound Pharisee-ish. I'm just astounded, surprised, that apparently people are judging my husband and 9-year-old son for wearing dress shirts of color. It's definitely going to mess up my brain if I think my fellow ward members are thinking that way. Perhaps because I'm not in Utah, no one in my ward family is thinking this way anyhow. I'll cling to that. I couldn't tell you if the men in my ward are wearing white shirts or not. They wear shirts that are clean and ironed, in that style that means there probably are buttons hidden by the necktie.

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  70. Peter, and yet our leaders have invited us to raise the bar, to consider the sacredness of the ordinance of the sacrament. OF COURSE we would rather have people come, however they are, in whatever they are wearing. I'd rather see someone in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, which I have seen in my ward, or whatever. But that desire to be accepting doesn't preclude discussing counsel in appropriate situations and circumstances.

    There's a balance here, as with all things. We should never use the ideal to beat someone else up or in a prideful or critical way, but that doesn't mean that we ignore the ideal altogether. There needs to be room to discuss the ideals and yet be so full of love and compassion that people don't misunderstand.

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  71. except the nylons. Only a man would make up a rule like that! Walk a mile in my nylons, President, and then let’s talk!)—

    I had many leaders who chose to feel the same way. But my feeling was/is that although he is "just" a man, he is a man called and set apart by God to receive revelation for my stake so I choose to follow the counsel rather than question it.

    Peter–Wet hair, flip flops and all I was still grateful that they came to church. It is a matter of when you know better you should do better right? I know that my girls knew better they just chose not to do better. Like so many youth in the church…they know what is right. It is up to us as leaders and parents to continue to teach and set a good/better example for them to follow.

    As far as Jennie's comment in response to mine about parents then needing to wear the exact same thing as their missionary. That wasn't really my point. ( My sister served in Bolivia where they wore sandals and no nylons. ) The point is setting an example of following counsel when it is given. Your stake president may ask something of your stake and you should follow that counsel, my stake president might ask something different and I too should follow that counsel. My approach to this topic and any other counsel that is given is to not make my mind up right away, but to take the counsel and make it a matter of prayer to receive my own confirmation about it. I think too often we hear counsel and respond too quickly with either obeying or not obeying. Ponder, Pray, and then listen. If you receive and answer from the Lord that guides you to one side or the other you then have the peace of knowing that you are doing what they Lord would have you do, not what "just a man" would have you do!

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  72. If I may, I'd like to suggest that we are letting ouselves off the hook a little too easily is we are seeking to justify our insistence on white shirts by pointing to staements from general authorities. If we read carefully, we see that Elder Perry, for instance, asked that young men also wear well-shined shoes. Could we not just as easily focus on that? In my ward, the deacons all wear white shirts and ties, but most of them also wear sneakers or sandals or, at best, scuffed loafers. Yet nobody gives it a second thought, because we are fixated on the white shirt.

    We seem to be complimenting ourselves by saying that we are acting in obedience, but our obedience appears to be somewhat selective. I wonder why that is, and why we (apparently) feel good about it?

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  73. Speaking form experience the clothes make a difference. I wear a suit every day to work and I make 7.50 an hour. Every time someone comes in they talk to me with respect. At times when the owners are standing behind the counter with me talking to a coustomer they will quit talking to them and insist in talking to me.
    This dosn't change the fact that they are the owners and I am a desk clerk. It gives the empression of athority.
    Who amoung us would go to a doctor that dressed in tie die t-shirt, shorts and sandals. The clothese don't make him any smarter it just makes people think his. 😉

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  74. I was in a stake conference in my distant past where Mark E. Peterson was the visiting Apostle. The issue of long hair and beards was a big thing back then. He said the reason the brethren wore beards in the early days in Utah is that they were on the frontier and didn't have barbers. He went on to say the reason not to wear them any more was because they were associated with the peace and love hippie movement. He also said that he understands peer pressure. That's why all the Apostles wear white shirts. I suppose now that has been codified.

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  75. Claudia – so now that facial hair is not an indicator of counter culture, we should be ok with it right?

    I've always disliked peer pressure. Maybe that's why I wear colored shirts sometimes.

    I just can't picture Jesus in a white shirt, tie, and suit with a clean shaven face. Apparently, Joseph Smith couldn't either. Why aren't we gettting peer pressure to look more like Jesus rather than the men who are His servants?

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  76. Faraday–His servants bring Christ's words and counsel for our time…apparently Christ would have US follow the example of His servants now.

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  77. Heather — how is it apparent that Christ wants us to follow the clothing example of His servants? I think I missed that one in the scriptures…

    I don't recall Christ or anyone in the Book of Mormon mentioning clothing except for the "costly apparel"=pride stuff.

    I don't mean to be argumentative. I just believe the whole white shirts thing is a man-made idea.

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  78. I am all for individualization but I think there is something to be said for uniformity — are we not commanded to be one? So this doesn't mean we wear a uniform on sunday but present a common appearance of reverence. I love that i can spot missionaries out on the street by their attire, I love that I feel that continuity as I attend church around the world. I certainly judge or view men in my ward differently who wear various colored shirts. I think white shirts are a symbol of purity and historical considered "the most formal" dress. There is something timelss and so untrendy abotu the white shirt.Yes you can be righteous and good no matter what you wear. As time change and church becomes a very casual association for many- it think there is something to be said for dressing up for church.

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  79. I hope the sisters here will not begrudge a guy's opinion on this. Because it really bothers me how militant people get about the white shirt thing.

    So many Mormons follow cultural practices and folk beliefs as if they were canonized doctrine, and exert sometimes not so subtle pressure on everyone else to conform to many things that simply have no basis in the Scriptures, which are the only set of rules that everyone is expected to follow. All else is negotiable and subject to change.

    Example: banning caffeinated sodas because of the WoW prohibition against “hot drinks.” Lots of Church members think coffee and tea are prohibited because of the caffeine. This is a folk belief that has no basis in doctrine or fact. Another example: teaching that R-rated movies (in the US) are off-limits solely because of the rating; this pseudo-doctrine was adopted almost instantly after Ezra Taft Benson gave one speech decades ago and is now virtually unquestioned amongst American LDS. It has never been a requirement, but countless members treat it as one and reflexively recoil against any suggestion to the contrary (I'm not saying there isn't good reason to avoid R movies, but let's think for ourselves, please). Example: we must take the sacrament with the right hand, the “covenant” hand. This myth has no basis in Scripture or Church teaching. Example: the current “policy” and belief that facial hair is not appropriate for temple workers, despite the fact that for decades prophets and apostles officiated in the temples with full beards. There are lots of other examples.

    Many Mormons get too worked up over any departure from these or other LDS cultural practices. I think this is the result of a generation or so's worth of an increasingly strong drumbeat from Church HQ that stresses obedience, obedience, obedience, but seems perhaps a little less concerned, comparatively speaking, with discussions of just what should be obeyed and why, and what is left to individual discretion. Fifty years ago Hugh Brown of the First Presidency told BYU students that the Church leadership didn't care so much what they thought as that they should actually have thoughts. When was the last time we heard anything like that from senior Church leadership.

    For some reason I will never understand, since Pres. Brown's time the cultural trend in the Church has been to almost deify the First Presidency and the apostles and to adopt even their personal preferences as if they were God's commandments to be obeyed as part of “following the prophet” or “sustaining the Brethren.” This was not the case 50 or 60 years ago at all. I've heard the whole white shirt = purity and Uniform of the Priesthood thing ad nauseam. But face it, folks, that is nothing but a cultural preference. I respect and sustain the General Authorities but they are not deity. My temple covenants are not with them. White shirts may be their personal preferences. So are no beards on temple workers. These things change all the time. I marvel at the creativity of members who spin so many stories to justify why even the personal sartorial suggestions of two or three of dozens of General Authorities should be used as a badge of faithfulness. The pressure to conform is strong because so many Church members say “well if you can't follow the prophet in little things how can you follow him in the big things?” Apart from being a complete non sequitur, that's serious guilt and manipulation. No wonder so many outside the Church think we are a bunch of zombies. It has become easier in the Church to go along in order to get along, without ever appearing to question anything. This doesn't mean the questions or differences have disappeared, merely that it has become less socially safe to voice them. This is not a good thing.

    Some have said it is a wonderful and even a “powerful” symbol to see all the ranks of the priesthood assembled together in white shirts and ties, whether in small or large groups. Personally I think it's much more powerful and true to life to take inspiration from seeing the priesthood and the Church as a mosaic of an infinite variety of colors, talents, capabilities, just like God made us. Face it, there is a lot of pressure to conform to lots of “unwritten rules” in formal LDS settings; sometimes it can get pretty stifling. I think the “white shirt rule” tends to reinforce that.

    Now, I have no problem with wearing white shirts per se. I have them and wear them myself sometimes. If a few of the General Authorities like them as “gentle reminders” of the sacredness of an ordinance, great. My issue is with the strong cultural tendency in the Church to adopt personal preferences of General Authorities as quasi-canonical obligations, to hint that guys who don't comply with those personal preferences are disobedient and resisting priesthood authority (which I see a lot of in this string above), and in some , to refuse to allow participation in priesthood ordinances solely because a shirt is not white. To me, this is the kind of straining at a gnat that the Savior warned against.

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  80. Johnna, you wanna come to my ward? — there's a house for sale just a street over…. I'm too cheap to move to CA. 🙂

    I think what has been said about the focus on young men and white shirts is worth noting, because most of the direct comments about this have been related to young men administering the sacrament.

    I also think there is room for people to interpret talks like Elder Christofferson's and Elder Holland's (to the women) in their own way. There is room for our Christian freedom here, and we ought to leave that space, white shirt or not, suit or not, ________ (fill in the blank) or not.

    As Johnna said, no one needs to feel like they are going to church and having someone judge them. Church should be a safe place where we give each other the benefit of the doubt, where we assume that everyone is doing their best and working on their relationship with the Lord. It seems to me, though, that with things like this issue, the judging could end up going both ways.

    We ought to give one other a bit of a break, imo, all around.

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  81. A thought I just had…when I worked in the temple, we were given explicit instructions not to say anything about what people were wearing when they came to the temple. That implies that there might be some things that probably weren't appropriate or ideal for people to wear to the temple. But the point was that it was not our place to make that call or to say anything to anyone about that. I think that is a worthwhile pattern to consider.

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  82. After all is said, the question could be…why isn't someone choosing to wear a white shirt? I think there are a whole range of reasons why not. In the end, many of those could be justifications.

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  83. I love and honor many colored shirted men in my congregation, and I can certainly testify that plenty of wolves wear white shirts. But I will explain why, in college, I was one of those women who pecifically watched for the white shirt in guys I dated. I didn't demand it, but I did consider the lack of it a flag for consideration and possibly discussion. I knew a lot of great guys who didn't wear one, but the white shirt was all too frequently a great indicator of general attitude and awareness:
    –did the guy watch for and yearn to follow apostolic counsel without being commanded in all things?
    –or did he bristle at somoebody telling him what to do in a small matter?
    My view was that humility was one of the most important ingredients for marriage, and a man's willingness to take even small cues from the apostles was one of the best indicators that he might follow them in the much more important matters of financial and moral questions, without bristling and self-justification.

    Shirt color could never define a marriage decision, but in that single setting, you have only so many cues to follow in determining how/where/on whom to spend your dating energies. Appearance has always been and will always be one of those cues. After reading the above discussion, I will definitely be printing this whole page to illustrate this very point for my sons and daughters.

    Eliza, Jessica, M&M, Cheryl, and King of Texas, KUDOS to you for having the courage to say what you did, no matter who says you're judging. We ARE to be constantly discerning right from wrong, and we ARE to judge righteously. This does not mean condeming blue shirts, but it does mean discerning how something as stupid as a shirt MAY indicate a very casual attitude toward obedience, if not an outright rebellious one. Jay and Faraday, you illustrate this perfectly.

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  84. Jay and Faraday, you illustrate this perfectly.

    I was pretty much with you until this. I think we should avoid specific judgments of anyone, because we simply don't know hearts and we don't know where people are.

    I can think right now of a person I know who, by appearances only, would maybe be judged as someone who is casual about obedience, or rebellious. But what a mistake it would be to think that of her. She has a heart that is good, and is exerting much faith and effort in her life against very, very difficult trials. She has borne some of the sweetest and most moving testimonies I have heard.

    I will always hold to standards (even non-doctrinal ones) in a pretty straightforward way. I've just sort of always been that way. But the older I get and the more I get to know people, the less I want to jump to judgment and instead seek to have a heart full of compassion. And seeing as my life is as of late in many ways less than ideal (I don't attend my very early ward meetings for health reasons, for example), I would hope that people can have compassion for my less-than-ideal, less-than-the standard life.

    Life is a journey for all of us, and we each exercise our agency in different ways. And God is merciful to those who trust Him. He can take each of us line upon line, from wherever we are. He knows our hearts, and judges us accordingly. I think that we often don't give each other the space to be mortal and to learn by our own experience and to learn to lean on God however we approach that, even if that means that people may do what we think (or even what we know) is less than ideal.

    In short, I think we can judge righteously (although I don't think we often really understand what that means) without condemning others.

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  85. Today's the Day — Wow, you read a lot into shirt color. I really don't think that I illustrate outright rebellion. I'm pretty tame — even currently serving in the bishopric. I'm glad my wife wasn't like you – she looked to the person inside the clothes.

    By all means continue to "righteously" judge people by shirt color and teach your kids the same. But what happens when one day your daughter brings home a blue shirt guy? I hope you'll accept and love him even in his unworthiness.

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  86. Okay, kids, let's settle down. Obviously white shirts aren't that big of a deal or they'd be mentioning it over the pulpit in General Conference. Which they aren't.

    I think the conclusion is that some good people wear white shirts. Some bad people wear white shirts. Some good people wear blue and pink and stripey shirts. Some bad people wear blue and pink and stripey shirts.

    Let's all make a deal not to judge anyone on their shirt color. Because it's just a shirt. Repeat after me, it's just a shirt.

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  87. This topic hits with a very close-to-my-heart topic in the church in general: Do you have to look like a conservative middle-class American to be a righteous church member, no matter where you live in the world and what your cultural traditions are? The white shirt is one area where it comes up. The beard (especially at BYU, but not limited to that. A guy in my ward was told by the bishop that he couldn't hold a calling unless he shaved his beard!) is another one. And a few years ago, the comment by President Hinkley on piercings was the one that made me think about it hardest. At the time I had a nose ring (a tiny delicate sapphire stud), 3 earrings (small silver hoops) in one ear and 5 in the other, and a belly ring. And yet I was a righteous, church-going girl with a strong testimony. When the prophet said "take them out" I did. But it really made me wonder, do we have to look a certain way to be a member of this church? I think we could do a lot more as a church to be accepting of people if we didn't force them all to look alike.

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  88. I want to apologize to Jay and Farraday for my last comment. I regretted it the moment I rashly hit "submit." There are no excuses for my own obvious lack of humility here. I'm sorry.

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  89. Ummm, my husband has a beard, moustache, and wears a stunning blue shirt to church. He's a high priest and he is SO lovely. Sigh.

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  90. *raising hand*

    It's the first thing that came to mind when Elder Oaks started talking about Sacrament meeting, LOL! And I think his quote from Elder Holland was great, i.e., it's not a requirement, but it is great wherever possible.

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  91. Coming to the discussion late, male, and having only read about 85% of the comments here, but:

    elizabeth-w "Is it possible they keep track of what Seguallah’s talking about?!"

    I think it's possible, but perhaps more likely that they are simply in tune with the issues ordinary church members face, large and small. I also think it's proof that revelation for little things does still exist. 🙂

    Speaking more generally,

    Even if culture is an important factor, so what? Temples and meetinghouses are built to match local architectural styles, why not encourage culturally appropriate dress? In my experience outside of church – in my culture – if I'm with a coworker and we're both wearing suits but everything else is different, the one with the white shirt, more conservative tie and hairstyle, and/or clean face is usually perceived to be the authority figure.

    In the end, the golden rule for me is to follow my local leadership. I don't have a problem with the attitude that says "I like colored shirts better, so I'll wear them," in the absence of specific counsel. I do have a problem with the attitude that says "the Bishop asked us to wear white shirts, but that's stupid so I won't." I'm not accusing anyone here of either of these attitudes. The Brethren obviously don't want to make a Church-wide hard-and-fast rule. I think many local leaders do with good and varied reasons.

    I have a Stake President and Bishop who encourage white shirts based on the "uniform of the Priesthood" argument. Dress and grooming guidelines for all members are even posted on our bulletin board. I don't know the reasons for it beyond what it says, but I do know that a major focus in our stake is unity. In a world that focuses so strongly on diversity and individualism, some local leaders may be inspired to instruct their members to do things as a show of solidarity and/or brotherhood – as a symbol of their willingness to work towards Zion. It may sound silly and small, but so did the brass serpent. Look at the results.

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  92. Hello,

    I have also noticed that a white shirt embellishes a persons look. I think one reason is that white resembles purity and also because it enhances our smile since it is white. The white matches a smile and makes it stand out making the person look happier and more attractive. My girlfriend told me she is crazy about men in suits so obviously I gotta start wearing them more often or invite her to church with me.

    Thanks,
    alex

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  93. Mark E Peterson must have forgotten that Heber J Grant ordained him while sporting a goatee. I grew the Heber J. a couple times while I was Bishop and threw it at my stake president a couple of times. He just shook his head and smiled.

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