Ergo the White Shirt and Conformity

A lot has been written about the oppressive symbol of the white shirt in the Church. I wish to offer a more positive view of this article of clothing.

Like the clean-shaven face, the white shirt has come to symbolize the oppressive nature of the LDS Church to some members and, in many cases, former members. In particular, some women claim to be stifled by the strong patriarchal structure of the Church. In fact, because of their own dispositions, probably are.  I would venture a guess that most active church members do not feel this way.

Firstly, the white dress shirt for men is as much a convenience as anything. When wearing a suit or jacket, the white shirt goes with anything, almost any tie and reduces the need for color matching. Men, in general are more inclined this way. Most would rather not be bothered worrying about whether a certain tie goes with a certain shirt.  For women, this may be a different story. I know for me, I have to ask my wife if a certain shirt and tie combination look OK, when I wear a colored dress shirt. Unless, of course, it was already decided in advance.  🙂

But, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I have come to see the white dress shirt at Church as an important symbol that can be incorporated into my Sunday worship.  Elder Russell M. Nelson gave what was for me, the most reasonable explanation for the wearing of the white dress shirt I have heard.

In the 2003 Worldwide Leadership Training, he said this while speaking of the Aaronic Priesthood administration of the Sacrament:

“White shirts not only look nice, but they are a gentle reminder of other sacred rites such as Baptismal and Temple Ordnances at which white clothing is also worn.”

I like this idea. In fact, it was a wonderful revelation to me on how simple things can be connected together to form a chain connecting us to the Savior. Sure, it is a same subtle thing, but, it was a reasonable explanation for the rationale of the white shirt. Not required, per se, but a “gentle reminder.” And, I don’t always wear a white shirt on Sundays, but most of the time I do, for this reason.

Early in my church career, so to speak, I was Deacon’s Quorum Advisor. I saw how the colored shirt could also be seen as a subtle sign of rebellion.  When a Deacon didn’t want to pass the sacrament on Sunday, he would usually do one of two things. Either arrive to the chapel late after the meeting started (whether his family was there or not), or wear a colored dress shirt. I have seen the other members of the Aaronic Priesthood pull this trick as well. Perhaps it was the only clean shirt he had? After a while, you see a pattern. I also see this was some older brethren as well who tend to be “reluctant servants….”

One of my friends, who almost always wears colored shirts on Sundays recently started wearing white shirts as his son is now serving a mission.  When I asked him why he did that, he just said, “It seemed appropriate to me while he is out in the mission field.”  I thought that was a nice gesture honoring his son’s service to the Lord.

Comments

comments

118 comments for “Ergo the White Shirt and Conformity

  1. KLC
    July 23, 2010 at 8:38 am

    So only men need the gentle reminder of a white shirt? Count me as unconvinced Jeff.

  2. LuluBelle
    July 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

    So should we women wear white blouses every Sunday too? I’m not convinced either. Sounds like another arbitrary rule put in place to , um, hmmm, just to show “obedience” to … um, hmmm, church leadership, I guess? ‘Cuz help me out here, I can’t imagine that the savior cares a twit what colored shirt someone wears to church.

    • James Humberg
      March 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Only if you white blouse Mormon women, refrain from wearing a bright pink, or black bra under your white blouse! Careful what you wear! Van Heusen was not a Mormon, and neither were his shirts!

  3. alice
    July 23, 2010 at 9:10 am

    So, conforming to the gentle reminder to wear a white shirt because you’re fashion deficient, because you need to be reminded of sacred rites in which you cannot participate unless you’re wearing white, because patriarchy does not stifle women who are not stifled by their own personal inclinations or because reluctant or unwilling servants need to express rebellion by doing something as offensive as wearing colored dress shirts is not evidence of conformity?

    I think I missed something.

  4. Yet Another John
    July 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Whoa, I think you touched a nerve there, Jeff!

    For me the white shirt is mainly a matter of convenience. As you mentioned it goes with anything (I am style deficient) and is one less choice I have to make in the morning.

    • July 18, 2015 at 12:25 am

      First…I am a Disabled Veteran U.S.C.G. 1969-1978. I suffered a massive bleed inside my head, when an aneurysm ruptured and damaged 25% of my brain!

      I moved to Spokane, WA. in 2006, and was in the ward for three weeks when the Stake President spoke in our ward. Afterwards I walked up to him and offered him my hand. Unfortunately for me, I had a raw neck, and wore a loose fitting colored Hawaiian shirt. Pres. Latten literally shouted me down, with this comment, “Do you own a white shirt?” I replied Yes, and he in a gruff voice told me to “Wear it!”

      Now I remember back in the 80’s when a particular Church President was getting along in age, and it was suggested, that the Aaronic Priesthood should wear white shirts one Sunday to honor him while passing the Sacrament…THAT IS Exactly HOW ALL THIS BROUHAHA STARTED! Now it has reached, that “Mormon Fairy Tale” status, that neither has credence or Doctrinal Support!

      President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “If anything taught at church does not conform to the four standard works, then it need not be obeyed!”…See “White Shirts!”

      Now about all this hype about white…Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Khruschev, Idi Amine, Mao Tse tung, and Hirohito, all murderers, wore white shirts! Now if white is suppose to make me feel holy or more righteous than my neighbor, then let me wear a pleasing color and a contrasting tie!

      There will be a lot of White Bread Mormons with white shirts and Recommend in hand at the Pearly Gates, who have done as this President did to me a Handicapped Person, being told…You ain’t welcome here! You’ll have a Hell of a better time in the other place!

  5. KLC
    July 23, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Convenient? The only white shirt that looks really good is a quality, 100% cotton one that has been sent out to a laundry to be pressed with lots of starch. How convenient is that? The convenient white shirt you see on most men at church is cheap poly blend wrinkle free that is thin, fuzzy and dingy from being washed too many times.

  6. Chris
    July 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Great post, Jeff. Although I am certain that the Lord loves it when we attend Church whether our shirts are white or not, the words of Elder Nelson remind me that we can remember our baptism and temple ordinances when we wear white. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Yet Another John
    July 23, 2010 at 10:25 am

    KLC,
    Ease up, I’m not wearing the white shirt for your convenience, but mine!

  8. Andrew
    July 23, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I remember when my wife went through the temple for the first time. At the clothing rental counter I asked, somewhat jokingly, if I really needed a tie (my Dad uses a one-piece jump suit which has no tie). The guy escorting me said emphatically “yes”.

    now I wear a white shirt, but its more habit, and on occasion I’ve worn different color shirts. But like the tie in the temple, it’s more a cultural norm that people ascribe doctrinal reasoning to. (see the above quote from E’ Nelson). It’s not that the white shirts aren’t supposed to remind us of covenants, it’s that that is not their primary purpose. And yet, due to cultural flow we tend to assume it is. And the result is that people come to view the pseudo-truth as eternal doctrine, and sinful to go against. And when Jeff Spector steps up in its defense you know things are serious (hehe jk man).

  9. jmb275
    July 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

    @Jeff
    I see nothing wrong with the idea of wearing a white shirt to church to symbolize important covenant making activities. I enjoy symbolism and appreciate the reminder. For me personally, it doesn’t bother me. I wear white shirts some weeks, and blue shirts some weeks. And some weeks I don’t even wear a tie ::gasp::.

    However, I think we’re missing the mark here. I don’t think exmormons or anyone else would argue with the idea you’ve presented. Clearly it is, once again, the cultural tendency to elevate such practices to rule/commandment status that is so bothersome.

    You’ve pointed out the problem so well here:

    I saw how the colored shirt could also be seen as a subtle sign of rebellion. When a Deacon didn’t want to pass the sacrament on Sunday, he would usually do one of two things. Either arrive to the chapel late after the meeting started (whether his family was there or not), or wear a colored dress shirt. I have seen the other members of the Aaronic Priesthood pull this trick as well. Perhaps it was the only clean shirt he had? After a while, you see a pattern. I also see this was some older brethren as well who tend to be “reluctant servants….”

    The white shirt has become a mechanism for reading and displaying one’s righteousness, or lack thereof.

    In any case I’m cool with it.

  10. DrPepper
    July 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I like the bit about your friend honoring his son with the white shirt. Pretty cool.

    A colored shirt at Church, though, is a sign of rebellion only because there is an over-blowen rule in place regarding white shirts. Same could be said for multiple earrings or tatoos. Behaviors that could reasonably be deemed innocuous self-expression are now immediately signals of rebellion against the Lord’s servants. The immense gravity connected to shirt choice and earrings would be comical if it weren’t heartbreaking. Just more ways for us to judge eachother.

  11. SingleintheCity
    July 23, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I’m sorry, but a white shirt these days is seen as something worn by nerds and old people. You do not need to wear a white shirt to pass the sacrament. Go to any single’s ward, most guys are wearing colored shirts.

    • Darek swave
      November 11, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      nice i like a sea of color shirts to church.

  12. jks
    July 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

    It’s just a shirt. It’s just a cup of coffee. Is it really that hard to live like this–wear a white shirt and don’t drink coffee? Christ atoned for my sins, am I really going to nitpick over the little things? The little things do mean something sometimes.

  13. Nick Literski
    July 23, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I don’t know that I’d consider the white shirt tradition “oppressive,” so much as “obsessive,” i.e. obsessed with the appearance of righteousness. Of course, if the wearer’s character and conscience aren not pure, this tradition gives a whole new meaning to “whited sepulchres.”

  14. July 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

    My father sometimes wore non-white shirts when he was in his first bishopric. My favourite was a burgundy-coloured shirt with a black silk tie that he wore under a very smart black suit. The overweight dowdy alpha female of the ward with her ugly flowered dress and twenty years’ outdated haircut (every ward has one) told him it was extremely inappropriate for a Priesthood leader to dress in such a manner. He kept right on wearing what he liked. His appearance was never showy, and it was always smart and clean, better than most of the men in the ward.

    Debates over what colour shirt God cares you wear are as stupid as railing against flip-flops in General Conference.

  15. DrPepper
    July 23, 2010 at 11:12 am

    jks — Speaking of Christ, I don’t think a person could read the Gospels in the New Testament and not come away with a clear appreciation that this white shirt nonsense is bullcrap.

  16. CS Eric
    July 23, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Every four years (at least) we have the Sunday School lesson about the selection of Saul to be Israel’s king. “…for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” And we talk during that single hour about not judging a book by its cover, and other such nonsense, and then we completely show the truth of that scriptural pronouncement by assuming that a man who is wearing other than a white shirt, or who is sporting facial hair, or a woman with more than one set of earrings, or anybody with a tattoo is automatically a “reluctant servant.”

    If the farthest anyone’s rebellion takes them is to wear a blue shirt or two sets of earrings, then I think that person is doing okay. I wear a beard, and normally wear other than a white shirt to church. It doesn’t matter, because I am the organist for sacrament meeting, and play the piano for primary. I don’t need to have the priesthood to completely fill either calling–heck, I don’t even need to be a member of the church to have either of my callings. Of course, both of those callings are more about competence than worthiness anyway.

  17. July 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Singleinthecity (11),
    Actually, that’s not true. Hipsters wear short-sleeve white shirts with ties. Everybody in D.C. (especially politicians) wears a white shirt. And, though it’s not universally necessary, a whole lot of i-bankers and attorneys, at least in New York and Chicago, wear white shirts. (I can’t speak to other major cities–I’m assuming most Silicon Valley financial and legal professionals don’t, and I’ve never lived in Boston.) It’s not universal, of course, and most i-bankers and attorneys who wear white shirts are wearing shirts of far higher quality than most Mormons on Sunday. And I rarely wear white shirts (and only if they have French cuffs), but anybody who thinks that only Mormons wear white shirts hasn’t been in a real city–or watched C-Span–recently.

  18. Thomas
    July 23, 2010 at 11:48 am

    “It’s just a shirt. It’s just a cup of coffee. Is it really that hard to live like this–wear a white shirt and don’t drink coffee? Christ atoned for my sins, am I really going to nitpick over the little things? The little things do mean something sometimes.”

    Turn that around, and ask who’s really nitpicking: the people who object to the multiplication of Mosaic laws, or the people who multiply them. This is the kind of thing about which Paul “withstood [Peter] to the face, for he was to be blamed.” The farther we move our attention from Jesus Christ and him crucified, and multiply observances that must be kept to be a Good Mormon, the more openings we create for cracks in our faith. He who defends everything, defends nothing.

    (N.B. I almost always wear a white shirt to church, and wearing a light blue one on occasion is not an act or rebellion.)

    • freeman
      November 14, 2014 at 4:32 am

      president joseph fielding smith warned about the white shirt and tie many years ago and the sectarian emphasis on vestments… he also warned that if we are not careful we will go down the same road to apostasy as the millenial church did

      the white shirt and tie never were and are not now the uniform of the priesthood… humility and righteousness are

      • Jeff
        March 22, 2016 at 11:24 pm

        I like that. Thanks very much for stating this. According to the church website, Sunday best varies by the individual. White shirts and ties are respectable, but I have seen lots of men wear colored shirts too. Sometimes I like to wear white and other times I like to wear my cowboy shirt. However I always have on a blazer jacket, dress pants, and dress shoes, so I feel the shirt I wear is just a small part of the bigger picture that I made an effort to dress up decent at the very least.

  19. Brother Q
    July 23, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I remember attending an area priesthood meeting in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena around 1980, where President Kimball spoke. It was about half full, and it seemed like everyone was wearing white shirts and ties (it was nearly 100 degrees- very few suit jackets). It looked awesome, and I remember (at age 18) feeling like I was part of some important gathering, almost like an army, but an army for good. There must have been 50,000 priesthood holders there. Wearing a white shirt can mean a lot of things to the person wearing it, and to others. I really like wearing a white shirt to church, wearing my “Sunday best.” It helps set the day apart. It feels special to me. I don’t care what other people choose to wear, but I feel entitled to my feelings about what I wear. I like seeing my four boys all dressed up in their white shirts and ties. It has nothing (in my mind) to do with patriarchy or judging other people. I hope people don’t judge us for our choice to wear white shirts on Sunday.

  20. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    “Whoa, I think you touched a nerve there, Jeff!”

    Yep, and most people don’t seem to really read these posts all that well. Especially when I said, NOT REQUIRED and others things that leave the whole thing open. I also said that I don’t even wear a white shirt every week.

    “I don’t think exmormons or anyone else would argue with the idea you’ve presented.”

    Read the comments again… 🙂

  21. Jana H
    July 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Our Seattle ward does not observe the no white shirt, no pass Sacrament rule. My convert husband who was a member for a year before he succumbed to even buying a white shirt (let alone wearing it every Sunday) frequently passes the Sacrament. The guy that usually blesses always wears a taupe/light tan colored shirt every week.

    But, I definitely appreciate the perspective of the OP, since I used a similar point when explaining the white shirt tradition in the church.

  22. Bro. Jones
    July 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I’m with #2 and #3–I’ve got no problem saying that the white shirt is symbolic of our temple attire. Fine. Let us then encourage our young women and sisters in the church to wear white dresses or blouses as a similar symbol. And if we’re not going to do that, explain to us why that would be so.

  23. Rigel Hawthorne
    July 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    “my Dad uses a one-piece jump suit”

    Maybe for the really lazy men with no inclination to fashion, a one-piece jump suit could be designed for the Sunday block. The upper half white, the lower half black or brown, with a stretch belt sewn in, with latching buckle. Since the tie is ‘necessary’, it could be sewn to one side of the collar and secured with a spot of velcro after the one-piece is zipped up.

  24. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    What seems lost in the conversation is this, “he said this while speaking of the Aaronic Priesthood administration of the Sacrament”

    I said I like the symbolism, that’s it.

    No more, no less. Funny, how these things seem to go.

  25. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    “Maybe for the really lazy men with no inclination to fashion, a one-piece jump suit could be designed for the Sunday block”

    I thought most guys sleep in their Sunday clothes so they don’t have to rush to get ready in the morning…… At least sometimes it looks that way. 🙂

  26. Steve
    July 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    O.K., let me ask the key question.

    Is the white shirt something that God desires or preference that some General Authorities like to see in meetings?

    Or, stated another way, is it obedience to God or to the opinion of men?

  27. Jessica
    July 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Umm, how come nobody is addressing the fact that wearing white is not absolutely necessary for baptism? You see it in church magazines from time to time, pictures of people in remote and impoverished areas being baptized in whatever clothes they own. The missionaries are always wearing whites, but then white pants and ties were on their packing list, I am sure, and not borrowed from the Stake Center the way we westernized folks can do. And who among us (who has served a mission, at least) has not watched an investigator emerging from the waters of baptism with their black underwear showing clearly through their wet whites? It doesn’t make them any less clean (although it may make all of us a little more emabarassed).

  28. July 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Steve,
    Why on earth is that the key question? That is, why does everything have to be a binary God’s will/opinion of men? Is there any reason we can’t meet certain cultural expectations, expectations God presumably doesn’t care about, because it’s the appropriate social thing to do? (Put differently: God has never asked that we not burp loudly in the middle of the sacrament. So is the fact that most of us don’t obedience to God or to the opinion of men? Dumb question, right? Right.)

    Although even if it were a relevant question, it assumes what nobody has said: that wearing a white shirt evinces obedience. In my 30+ years of Church membership, the only time anybody ever asked me to wear a white shirt was for two years on my mission. So when I wear a white shirt, I’m not obeying anybody. And when I wear a shirt of any other color, I’m not being disobedient to anybody. I may be internalizing or rejecting cultural norms, I may be following or not following unwritten rules, but “obedience” doesn’t factor in.

  29. mcarp
    July 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Jeff, when you shave (and stay that way for a year), I’ll go back to wearing white shirts. 😉

  30. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    mcarp,

    I did in 1985 for 18 months. does that count?

  31. Nick Literski
    July 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    #24:
    What seems lost in the conversation is this, “he said this while speaking of the Aaronic Priesthood administration of the Sacrament”

    I said I like the symbolism, that’s it.

    Jeff, your rationale raises a “chicken or the egg” question. Do you truly believe that LDS leaders decided one day that every LDS male should wear a white shirt to church meetings because it would symbolize their baptismal and temple covenants? I honestly find this entirely unlikely. I think, rather, that many LDS leaders of a certain generation matured within a corporate/business culture where white shirts were expected/required, and thus came to habitually associate a white shirt and tie with “respectable” grooming. Believing it was wise to create a respectable image for their church, they successfully imposed this grooming onto LDS culture by their example and teaching. Then, as subsequent generations began to reject reliance on mere “tradition, certain LDS leaders chose to justify the practice by re-framing it as a symbolic representation.

    Sadly, I don’t believe any of the LDS leaders who came up with that tradition intended it to become a semi-independent barometer for judging the righteousness, loyalty, or obedience of LDS men. That particular distortion could only have evolved from the sort of (secretly insecure) self-righteous men who leap at trivial observances to prove their “spiritual superiority” over others.

  32. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Steve,

    “Or, stated another way, is it obedience to God or to the opinion of men?”

    It’s neither. It’s only a symbol and it’s only meaningful if it is to you. Otherwise, it’s just a shirt.

  33. Clark
    July 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I wear colored shirts to church occasionally, and agree with #28 that this is nothing more than cultural conditioning-. That said, if white shirts suddenly became mandatory, I’d wear them without hesitation. Adam learned that knowing the “why” behind the command isn’t usually known and isn’t necessary for obedience.

    It’s such a small gesture, considering the saints that were asked to settle the “Big Muddy,” or even donate to budget, building fund, temples and others in addition to tithes and fast offerings. Those that would leave the Church over shirt colors and earrings are straining at gnats.

  34. Nick Literski
    July 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Clark, do you know anyone who left the LDS church over shirt colors and earrings?

    • James Humberg
      March 23, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Here is someone who was driven out of the church by Stake and Ward leadership, and I have a letter from SLC from Dallin H. Oaks stating that he would help me with my problem with our Stake President, and as a matter of health, for my wife’s mental disability, we have been diagnosed by my wife’s Psychiatrist and told to stay away from our Ward and Stake until both are released, and new leadership has been installed.

      It is sad when White Bread Mormons with White shirts & Recommends and with Ward and Stake presiding callings get so high and mighty as to pick a fight with the handicapped, elderly, or non conformists, to think that they are doing God a great service by weeding out the under class with actual diagnosed disabilities. If you go up to my last letter about this subject, I explained succinctly, how this new unwritten rule of white shirt wearing, is just a Gospel contrivance, and a Gospel Hobby as stated by Pres. Joseph F. Smith, and need not be adhered too by the membership! And if Spencer W. Kimball were able to see what was going to happen because of a Leadership’s well intended but misguided “BRAIN FART”, to start the white shirt ball rolling, he would have jumped out of his deathbed and called someone onto the carpet and told them to stop this contrived honoring of him on that fateful 1988 Sunday’s sacrament service! So now we all think that Christ will be wearing Van Heusen and Pierre Gardin, under his Red robes when he comes for the last purge of wickedness on this earth, and there will be a few very surprised Card Carrying, White shirt Mormons that will be burnt with the wicked, for their persecution of the righteous in this church!

  35. July 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    But Nick (31), is there any reason why symbolism can’t be grafted on after the fact? The fact that Christians have taken the egg, originally a non-Christian symbol of spring and rebirth (at least according to Wikipedia) and changed the symbolism to represent the rebirth of Christ doesn’t, in my opinion, diminish the impact or value of the grafted-on symbolism.

    Moreover, I think your Man in the Gray Flannel Suit explanation of the prominence of white shirts probably isn’t an accurate description; it looks like these questions of the mandatory nature of white shirts predates the post-WWII professionalization of a lot of America.

    That said, I’m not a big fan of the white-shirt-as-symbol theory, mostly because I don’t buy it as a good symbol. But the fact that it may have been introduced as a symbol after the fact wouldn’t, IMHO, cut against its symbolic nature if I thought its nature were symbolic.

  36. mcarp
    July 23, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Jeff, 1985??? Sorry, the statute of limitations has expired.

  37. Clark
    July 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    @34 I’m just saying it would not be a great sacrifice, for me, to switch to a monochromatic wardrobe.

  38. nightwalden
    July 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I a man who loves fashion. Yet if I dressed the way I want to at church (fitted, bold colored shirts with equally bold ties) then I would not be invited to be of service to others as often. I would miss doing things like the sacrament, assisting with blessings, etc. simply because people would ask someone else instead of me. I wear a white shirt to church every week, granted it’s a high quality, fitted white shirt that I launder and iron. I choose to set aside my own desires to dress the way I want in favor of my desire to be of service to others.

    I just accepted that in the church there are assumptions made when men choose to wear clothes other than a white dress shirt. I have chosen to adapt rather than rebel against the culture. But I think both are acceptable choices.

  39. roryjean
    July 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    For being a world-wide church, doesn’t the whole starched white collared shirt thing seem a bit ethnocentric? Yes, in Western culture, a starched white church is about as formal as you can get, but there are so many different cultures with different ways of dressing. I just get annoyed when culture is treated like doctrine.

  40. Jon
    July 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I am uncomfortable with the white shirt convention because, for me at least, it taps into the symbolic notion of white as pure and non-white as less pure. I understand the value of the symbol in the abstract, with whiteness calling to mind light and cleanliness. I love Isaiah 1:18, where we are invited to have our scarlet sins rendered white as snow, our crimson to become wool (ultimately, in a strikingly counter-intuitive image, through the blood of the lamb).

    But, sadly, the symbol does not resonate in the abstract. For me, the association of whiteness with purity too easily evokes assertions of so-called whiteness of skin as superiority over other pigments. I wince every time I hear whiteness held up as a symbol of purity because it taps into a deep cultural context of hurt and oppression. I would love to divorce the associations and view the sea of white shirts at church without wincing. I can’t.

  41. larryco_
    July 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Nice post. Sometimes we overlook the connection between clothing and religion. But it’s there. When I see a man with “the collar” I immediately identify him with his faith, as I do when I see monks, whether Catholic, Buddhist, or other. I think white is a nice touch.

  42. alice
    July 23, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    #38 “I just get annoyed when culture is treated like doctrine.

    Precisely! And nicely put as well.

  43. Paul
    July 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I think that the next thing the brethren should do is make sure all Aaronic Priesthood holders wear white briefs (or boxers) all the time and not colored ones. It is a more powerful analogy than a white shirt, and is the next logical step for separating the good from the bad based on clothing choice. If you ever wore non-white underwear, please think of why you didn’t find a better way to live. It could be added to the new DTG, or the parents could sign off on it separately. 🙂

  44. jks
    July 23, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    DrPepper & Thomas, didn’t Jesus ask someone to sell everything and give it away and then come and follow him? Perhaps if the guy had done that Jesus would have handed him a white shirt to wear since he had no other clothes. Does it matter?
    I think the problem is when we decide that a certain fashion statement is more important than following Christ.
    Of course it is all cultural. The desire to wear the “preferred” color shirt is just as cultural as the request by GAs to wear a white shirt. Why is it that it seems important to fight against the church culture but not your own?
    I realize that this idea might be abused (righteousness assumed simply by dress) but since our society DOES intentionally dress to express oneself why would we want to dress to express something we don’t want to say?
    So if a man wants to dress in a different color white shirt and it “says” something, I’m sure he knows what it says to different people, just as you dress in a certain way on a job interview based on the job.
    (Friend of a friend got a job in Antarctica based on wearing a Superman shirt to the job interview. He got tons of flack when he arrived in Antarctic without having brought the shirt that everyone had heard about).

  45. July 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I think, rather, that many LDS leaders of a certain generation matured within a corporate/business culture where white shirts were expected/required, and thus came to habitually associate a white shirt and tie with “respectable” grooming. — except, in that particular culture light blue shirts are treated the same as white shirts. Something that executive fashion consultants have noted is that the LDS culture has a different metric than the business culture. Just FYI.

    I just accepted that in the church there are assumptions made when men choose to wear clothes other than a white dress shirt. I have chosen to adapt rather than rebel against the culture. But I think both are acceptable choices. — yes, and it has to do with the witness we bear by our clothing.

    there are so many different cultures with different ways of dressing though formal western business wear has spread all over. Though that doesn’t require white.

    The advantage to white shirts, which I used to wear every day until I switched jobs, is that they are the easiest of the alternatives to wear, day in, day out.

    Of course it is all cultural. The desire to wear the “preferred” color shirt is just as cultural as the request by GAs to wear a white shirt. Why is it that it seems important to fight against the church culture but not your own? I could not have said it better myself.

  46. DavidH
    July 23, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    “The desire to wear the “preferred” color shirt is just as cultural as the request by GAs to wear a white shirt. Why is it that it seems important to fight against the church culture but not your own?”

    This assumes that the cultural pressure to wear white shirts is at the request of the Brethren. The quotes in conference relate to white shirts to administer the Sacrament. I see no quotes where the Brethren, as a group, have requested or recommended that men almost always wear white shirts to Church.

    Bear in mind, I acknowledge in advance that some of the Brethren probably do think that, and counsel that, just as some (but not all, and not the Brethren as a group) think and counsel that all men should be clean shaven or all Church music should be from the hymnal. Or, for that matter, that manner years ago, many of the Brethren (but not the Brethren as a group) counseled that evolution was not compatible with the gospel.

    If there is a statement being made by wearing a nonwhite shirt, it could also be a statement simple enough to mean that the Church counsels only that a person dress in his or her Sunday “best” to come to church, and that the man believes that his nonwhite shirt is part of his Sunday best.

    Interestingly, mormon.org (presumably expressing the views of the Brethren as a group) states the following about dress at church:

    “You’re welcome to wear any modest clothes that you feel comfortable in. But just so you know, most men wear suits, sport coats and shirts and ties, and women wear dresses or skirts. Children also typically dress up.” No color is mentioned with respect to shirts most males wear, although in the accompanying picture, all the men are wearing white shirts.

  47. July 23, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Personally, I like white shirts

  48. KLC
    July 23, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Please, don’t dignify this silly little fetish with claims to “culture”. Whenever this topic comes up in the bloggernacle people speak of it as if it were a revered and symbolic 500 year old tradition passed down from father to son.

    This isn’t culture, this isn’t tradition, it is a 2 decade old fashion preference, witness Elder Nelson’s reference to white shirts looking nice, born in the hot house of Utah religious one-ups-manship, masquerading as deep doctrine.

    40 years ago in my ward as a teenager the bishop wore non-white shirts, his counselors did, the stake president did, high councilors did and no one thought anything of it because no one cared what color your shirt was when you attended church. Only in the last 20 years has this preference taken on trappings of significance for a small but influential group of misguided zealots trying to grow their hedges about the doctrine bigger and taller than anyone else’s.

  49. July 23, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    I had to think twice to decide if it would be appropriate to share the following comment, but I believe it will be all right. And, I hope it conveys the refreshing mixture to which I was treated, of humanity, dignity, decorum – and engaging humility . . .

    A few years ago, I was invited to lunch by two gentlemen visiting my region from Salt Lake City. One was a friend whom I had not seen in years, and the other was a General Authority of the Church whom I had not met previously, but whose name most of us would recognize with appreciative respect. We were to meet at an unpretentious but very decent chain restaurant, on a Saturday.

    I pondered just a bit about what to wear in order to bridge the likely gulf between how most people would be dressed there, and how my hosts would have to dress. I settled on a fitted, dark grey dress shirt with subtle pattern, but no tie; nice-casual slacks and a corduroy sport jacket.

    Arriving before my hosts, I gazed around the restaurant and felt uncomfortably over-dressed. In a few moments, in walked my friend and the General Authority. They were in dark suits, white shirts and ties, and stood out like mis-matched brilliant dental crowns in a mouth of otherwise slightly yellowing teeth (keeping, here, with the restaurant analogy). Even from across the room, there could be no doubt that these were the folks I was supposed to meet.

    As Elder _________ approached, I reached out my hand to introduce myself, but his question came first, through a self-amused smile that was at once apologetic but unashamed:

    “Do we look like Mormons?”

  50. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Rick,

    Thanks for that story. I don’t think that many of the GAs take themselves as seriously as some think.

  51. Jeff Spector
    July 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    “Personally, I like white shirts…” and I cannot lie…….

  52. Eric
    July 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    If there is a statement being made by wearing a nonwhite shirt, it could also be a statement simple enough to mean that the Church counsels only that a person dress in his or her Sunday “best” to come to church, and that the man believes that his nonwhite shirt is part of his Sunday best.

    Exactly, in my case. I dress for church as I would if I were going to a job interview in my occupation. It’s what I feel best wearing in a dress-up situation, and it’s as simple as that.

  53. Nick Literski
    July 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    #44:
    except, in that particular culture light blue shirts are treated the same as white shirts.

    Steve, was that true in the 1940-50s, i.e. the time period when these men were most likely habituated to the white shirt?

  54. Ralph
    July 24, 2010 at 3:23 am

    I was always taught that we wore our best to church. As a white shirt that is properly maintained (ie no marks, ironed, etc) looks clean and pure, to me at least, it is my best shirt. If it starts to get a little ratty from over waering and washing, then it isn’t my best.

    I remember a friend of mine who was a surfer when he was baptised at 18 years old. He didn’t have a ‘formal’ wardrobe. So he went to church in his best tank top, cut-off jeans and thongs (Flip-flops I believe for all you yanks) and was still allowed to pass the sacrament. As time went on and he earned more money, he upgraded his wardrobe until he had tie, shirt, suit and leather shoes. He has been bishop and he held strongly that to pass the sacrament all a person needed was to be worthy and wearing their best clothes – ie not necessarily a white shirt or suit, etc.

  55. LRC
    July 24, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Well, it appears that the official “powers that be” have definitely decided that there is, in fact, a uniform of the priesthood: All of the good priesthood-holding boys in the new Duty to God videos are wearing white shirts and ties, except when they’re shoveling rocks: http://www.lds.org/dutytogod/materials.html

  56. Jeff Spector
    July 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I wonder if anyone has ever complained about wearing white in the temple?

  57. July 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Ah, and 55 comments later, you all missed it — You can’t be judgmental and self-righteous if someone wears colored shirts, because then the garment line isn’t visible.

    Come on folks.

  58. July 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Oy!

    Jeff, great post, and I’m right with you.

    I did not interpret Elder Nelson’s comments as commandment (nor Elder Holland’s nor Elder Oaks’). Custom, yes. Symbolic, yes. Neat, yes.

    The reason I gave young men when I was in a position to do so (including my own) is that as Aaronic PH holders, they should be as invisible as possible in the sacrament ordinance. Because when we serve we do it to help others, and not ourselves, we sometimes are willing to be more restricted than we otherwise would be. For the same reason, men I know (including myself) who have worn facial hair for years have shaved in order to serve in the temple.

    Can someone be faithful and still wear a non-white shirt? Of course! Can someone be faithful and still wear a beard? Of course! But if shirt color just isn’t that big of a deal, then why not wear a white one?

  59. July 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Many opinions on this, but the majority seem to support my way of thinking, which of course is the best and most correct way to view this.

    I’ve not worn a white shirt to church in several years.
    The top button is never buttoned.
    The tie is always lose.

    Reason? I like it that way. I don’t care for convention. I get compliments from my daughters. I get compliments from my wife. I’m rebellious. I’m also a conformist (I wore a tie, didn’t I)

    I’m glad that most of the replies here prove that I’m right. I’ve always kinda known it, but the fact that I’m a non-white-shirt wearer proves it.
    Thank you all!

  60. July 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Steve, was that true in the 1940-50s, i.e. the time period when these men were most likely habituated to the white shirt?

    I don’t know, it was true by the 60 and 70s and Dress for Success.

    And it was true of senior managers at that time.

  61. MH
    July 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    So Jeff, I have a request. Can your next post be titled “Ergo the Beard and Conformity”?

  62. Ralph
    July 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Maybe I should wear what Moroni wore (JSH 1:31) when he met with Joseph Smith. A white robe and nothing else!

  63. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    July 24, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    how about all white suits with white shirt and white tie, those were big in the 70’s

  64. Jeff Spector
    July 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    “Can your next post be titled “Ergo the Beard and Conformity”?”

    Definably will flunk that one.

  65. Matt A.
    July 24, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Re: #58

    “But if shirt color just isn’t that big of a deal, then why not wear a white one?”

    Well, I don’t like wearing white. I don’t look good in white, as it does not work well with my complexion. I have a number of really nice colored shirts with interesting patterns on them that look good on me. Some purple, some gold, some red. I like the way I look in them.

    So, I guess I would say that the shirt color is a big deal. I want to like the way I look and I don’t think I am out of line for wanting that.

    Oh, and I count my beard and no-tie policy as part and parcel of that argument. 😀

  66. Rick Smith
    July 25, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Aren’t white shirts simply the modern day Pharisees’ fringes?

  67. July 25, 2010 at 7:59 am

    66- Only if one wears them to demonstrate his own righteousness. If, instead, one wears them out of respect and reverence, and in an attitude of service when participating in priesthood ordinances, then no.

  68. Rick Smith
    July 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Yes, and I’m sure that some Pharisees also wore fringes out of respect and reverence. But, that doesn’t change the culture around the wearing of the fringes (or a white shirt)–it becomes a point of pride to some and a stumbling block to others. Half of the comments in this thread (and, indeed, the original blog posting) stated that “good” purpose of wearing white shirts was to signal righteousness (or coloured shirts are a sign of rebellion, which is the same thing).

  69. Jay
    July 25, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Some observations from Hugh Nibley:

    “The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism… the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.”

    Defenders will say that the apostles who urge white shirt wearing do not intend what Nibley criticizes (e.g. it’s only a “gentle reminder”). That’s fine. But at the local level where such “proposals” are enforced, and as has already been pointed out, regardless of apostolic intent the white shirt becomes a way to judge who is and isn’t righteous and obedient. And that moves us all in the direction of ruling by appearances. Hmmm.

  70. Dan
    July 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    This practice is so pharisaical. Perhaps, we as a people, shouldn’t give others the occasion to stand out with an oddly colored dress shirt only to label them as rebels. If we spent more time worrying about our own relationship with the Father and not get caught up in all the outward stuff, then our chapels would be more full of people who are genuinely interested in worshipping God.

  71. Arnster
    July 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Is this really a big deal?

  72. KLC
    July 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    For several months now in the CTR 8 class I’ve tried to impress on the children the importance of taking the sacrament with their right hands.

    It’s convenient, since most people are right handed if everyone takes it with their right hands it is easier for the deacon passing the sacrament to anticipate where to extend the tray. And that convenience makes the deacon as invisible as possible, making the ordinance less about him.

    I reminded the kids about their own baptisms when the person who did the ordinance raised their right arm and not their left to the square and I explained how in the temple many other ordinances also use that same hand. I told them that taking the sacrament with their right hand is a gentle reminder of those ordinances where the right hand is used.

    I also asked them to consider that Christ died on the cross for all of them so taking the sacrament with their right hands is the least they can do to honor that.

    And yet many of them persist is taking the sacrament with their left hands. It is sad to see rebellion in children so young.

  73. July 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    “And yet many of them persist is taking the sacrament with their left hands. It is sad to see rebellion in children so young.”

    You’re kidding, right?

  74. Arnster
    July 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Does the CTR 8 class manual instruct “importance of taking the sacrament with their right hands”?

  75. Jeff Spector
    July 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    It seems as thought the point I made about the colored shirt being a subtle sign of rebellion has been very well proven by the nature of some of the comments.

    If shirt color really doesn’t matter, which in many ways it does not, why so much of the “anti-white” rhetoric if not subtle rebellion?

  76. Matt A.
    July 25, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Rebellion against silly, nonsensical rules (right handed sacrament, white shirts, no beards, etc) that have no basis in doctrine, and that are purely cultural? I fail to see a problem with that.

    By all means, if it is a personal symbol to you, run with it and I will rejoice that we can worship together. Just don’t make it into a pseudo-doctrine that everyone is expected to adhere to (subjectless imperative there – not referring to any particular person).

  77. Jeff Spector
    July 25, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    “Just don’t make it into a pseudo-doctrine”

    I think that is the point. It is not a doctrine and the only ones who seem to be trying to make it so are the ones who have been complaining the loudest about the wearing of a particular colored shirt. It was suggested that it might have significance to some (and I said to me) as a “gentle reminder” and the critics took off from there. But that not even I wear a white shirt every week.

    The right handed sacrament thing was an attempt at ridicule and the no beard thing only keeps you off a mission, out of BYU and unable to work in the Temple.

  78. KLC
    July 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Jeff, hardly an attempt to ridicule, more like an attempt to illustrate the absurdity of white shirt doctrine by comparing it to a right hand sacrament doctrine. Both can be justified by convenience, by appeals to symbolism and appeals to dignifying the ordinance of the sacrament; both can cast non adherents as rebellious or proud. But only one of them gains momentum year by year as some kind of doctrine of the kingdom. And that is my answer to your question as to why objections could be anything but subtle rebellion.

    How about supreme irritation that something so meaningless seems to be gaining traction in our culture? How about real concern that we are creating pharisaic extensions to the gospel that can do no good and may do harm? How about sadness that a church that quotes its founder as saying he taught correct principles and let the people govern themselves could stray so far from that wise counsel over something as ridiculous as the color of a shirt and then try to make grandiose pseudo doctrinal symbolism to justify their pettiness?

  79. Jeff Spector
    July 26, 2010 at 6:05 am

    KLC,

    “Both can be justified by convenience, by appeals to symbolism and appeals to dignifying the ordinance of the sacrament; both can cast non adherents as rebellious or proud.”

    I would tend to agree with you on the Pharisaic elements that can creep into our practices, but in reality, it comes mainly from the members themselves, striving to live the gospel to the fullest of their understanding. Much in the same ways as the Jews embellished their own worship in order to be more pleasing to God. In rare cases, do the leadership actually insist on a particular practice in an absolute way.

    “How about supreme irritation that something so meaningless seems to be gaining traction in our culture?”

    You are entitled to your opinion on this as being meaningless. That being said, it is simply OK to share that opinion as “I don’t see the meaning and I wear any color of shirt I please.” But there is no need to ridicule someone who might find a small, subtle, gentle meaning to it. By calling it a doctrine when it is not simply is confusing to others and leads to needless arguments. I realize that some members think that every tradition, practice or superstition held in the church today has some basis in its doctrine, but they do no harm unless they decide to preach that. which I also realize that some do. But, it is our duty to expose that kind of false doctrine when it happens in a kind way. Not getting all over someones case because you don’t like white shirts.

  80. Dave P.
    July 26, 2010 at 7:55 am

    White shirts as a uniform haven’t bothered me so much as people who think they shouldn’t ask those not wearing a white shirt to administer the sacrament because, where I grew up, a lot of people couldn’t afford white shirts so they simply did the best they could when it came to church. If I ever get the chance to ask people to help administer the sacrament I’d intentionally ask those not wearing white shirts or ties first just to show that the clothes don’t matter nearly as much as the proper attitude and priesthood worthiness.

  81. KLC
    July 26, 2010 at 8:36 am

    “I realize that some members think that every tradition, practice or superstition held in the church today has some basis in its doctrine, but they do no harm unless they decide to preach that.”

    Jeff, if that were true in the case of white shirts we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If that were true I would have never responded. If that were true you wouldn’t have written what you originally posted. You talked about deacons rebelling by not wearing white shirts. If your ward didn’t preach only white shirts for deacons passing the sacrament how could they rebel in the first place? You quoted an apostle relating white shirts to baptism and temple ordinances, how is that not creating a basis in doctrine?

    The only reason I speak up about this topic is because it has already become something that many many wards and leaders in the church ARE preaching about. Wards say that no one can administer the sacrament without a white shirt. I have read of instances where leaders in the church are calling a white shirt the uniform of the priesthood, how is that not preaching?

  82. Mike S
    July 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Whether it is a “doctrine” or not, the mere fact that there are people who actually forbid a deacon from passing the sacrament unless they have a white shirt on speaks volumes. People hide behind the fact that many of the things we talk about aren’t “official” doctrines or practices, but reality is what actually happens.

    Agreed, the “white shirt” is a minute thing, but it is extremely symbolic of the judgmental practices that have unofficially risen at the local levels of the Church.

  83. Thomas
    July 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    On balance, I see Mormon culture as being a solid enough protection from a disintegrating world that I’m reluctant to see much problem with its rules, whether significant or trivial. Paul warned against excessive ritual observances, but frankly, I don’t see too many harmful effects resulting from people blithely accepting rules about the number of earrings, shirt color, facial hair, etc. If the choice is between too few rules and too many petty ones, too few rules makes a much bigger mess of your life.

    There are two cases where I see Trivial Rules (“TR,” for lack of better shorthand) as being destructive: First, there’s the case where they may come to be seen as insurance against damnation. In some cases, people may — because of their proud adherence to the trivial rules — be blinded to their failures with respect to the weightier matters of the law, straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Like all insurance, spiritual insurance may create the risk of moral hazard: Because people see themselves as being “covered” by virtue of their good Mormonism, they may take greater spiritual risks in more universal matters. It happens, but probably not as much as people who don’t like the TRs in the first place would think.

    The other problem with TRs is that they focus our attention on the authority of the rulemakers: If we are being judged by the degree to which we obey commandments, which otherwise don’t seem to make much sense, because they come from people who are supposed to have divine authority to issue commands in the name of the Lord, then that makes critical the question of whether those men actually have such authority. In some cases, Mormons obtain burning testimonies in the affirmative. In other cases, it doesn’t work out that way, and crises of faith result, some of which result not only in people leaving the Church, but — because Mormonism tends to incline people to think in all-or-nothing terms — has the effect of tearing down people’s faith altogether.

    Whether the marginal utility of a one-earring rule or other TRs outweighs the marginal cost of the occasional case of destroyed faith, is up for debate.

  84. Doug
    July 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I wear whatever color shirt I darned well please when I’m just going to park it on a pew in Sacrament. If called to speak or otherwise “officiate”, then I go white.
    Sometimes I wear my frat pin on my suit lapel so I can truthfully answer, “Yessir, that IS a PLEDGE PIN…ON MY UNIFORM!!!” (LoL).
    Since Weight Loss Surgery (and the subsequent weight loss), I had to buy an entire new wardrobe. I’m more aware of fashion now. To me, a colored shirt can set it off just right at times.
    I once got a bit of flak for wearing a blood-red, long-sleeved, collared shirt (with black tie) to the temple. Never mind that I would be out of it in five minutes and in temple clothing. I responded to the temple worker, “Dear brother, I recall that the Savior, when he descends, is supposed to wear a red robe as if it were dipped in blood. However, I’m certain that no one here today will confuse me for Him.”

  85. DrPepper
    July 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    “I think the problem is when we decide that a certain fashion statement is more important than following Christ.”

    It’s interesting how I agree with that statement 100% and reach an entirely opposite conclusion from yours.

  86. DrPepper
    July 26, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    (that was for jks#44)

  87. I'mouttahere
    July 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Truth is…I wish it were true,(the “Church”) I’d go naked to church if the prophet said to. White shirt?? Big deal. But it’s not true. No worries!

  88. July 27, 2010 at 1:01 am

    You’re kinda eager to go naked there buddy. I wouldn’t do that, even if the prophet said to.

  89. Mike S
    July 27, 2010 at 8:18 am

    My fundamental problem with the “white shirt”: At the end of the day, our goal on earth is to touch the divine. This is true of any religion – LDS, Catholic, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, etc. My goal in my life is to draw nearer to God, which can only be done on an individual basis.

    While there have always been various “churches” on the earth to help facilitate individuals connecting with God, at the end of the day, they are just institutions. The LDS Church is an institution. It hasn’t always been on the earth in it’s current form despite our claims of a “restoration” (ie. with correlation committees, RS, Sunday School, etc.) To the extent it helps people get closer to God, it is extremely useful. Being born into the Church, it has helped form the way I approach God. I have learned many truths in the Church.

    My problem with the whole “white shirt” issue is emblematic of a much larger problem. A great crust has grown around the core mission of the Church – that of approaching the divine. Small personal opinions about things that have nothing to do with this mission get elevated to de facto doctrinal status. They then unfortunately become a touchstone for someone’s relationship with God. If someone doesn’t follow these peripheral things, the unwritten assumption is that they are in “apostasy”.

    Examples: While Christ, JS and others drank wine, etc., one leader decides around the time of Prohibition that “not a drop” is ideal. This gets built upon to the point where today drinking the same glass of wine that JS drank is near to “apostasy”. Similar with the white shirt, earrings, tattoos, Coke, home teaching, etc. There are good intents behind all of these, but at the end of the day, they are artificial constructs that have been set up in the Church as proxies for someone’s relationship with God. They have nothing to do with someone’s relationship with God and are NOT eternal principles.

    At the end of the day, and in my own opinion, this is what is holding back missionary work. People want to touch the divine. People love the message of eternal families and divine authority. People want to believe in God. To reach God following the LDS path, however, entails that they also buy off on all of these other silly artificialities that have absolutely nothing to do with God or eternal principles. And they have become a tremendous detriment. I think that until we have leadership that is willing to jettison many of these peripheral things, that we are going to continue to stagnate in our growth.

    The obvious answer is that these are all little things that people just need to “get over”. If they are such little things, then why do we make them into such big things? Or why don’t we get rid of them all together? Instead of talks about being accepting of all types of people, come as you are, etc., why doesn’t someone simply give a talk in General Conference with a blue shirt on?

  90. PC
    July 27, 2010 at 8:32 am

    “Subtle sign of rebellion…” Shave that beard! Then, we can talk about subtle signs of rebellion. How dare anyone with a beard argue that white shirts can be used as a “subtle” barometer for judging another’s level of rebellion? Are you not rebelling by judging the rebellion of another? I’m fine with you deciding to wear white to church and you quasi-satisfactorily state that you do it for the sake of symbolism until the final 1/3 of the post… the final 1/3rd of the post simply demonstrates your own bigotry by daring to call other members of the church “reluctant servants.” Obviously, this presupposes your state as being unreluctant, n’est-ce pas? Motes abound, unfortunately. Good for you! Wear white if it makes you so happy… The days that you don’t wear white must be days when you are feeling a little “reluctant,” eh?

  91. Jeff Spector
    July 27, 2010 at 11:20 am

    PC,

    Nice guy.

  92. Jeff Spector
    July 27, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Mike S,

    “And they have become a tremendous detriment. I think that until we have leadership that is willing to jettison many of these peripheral things, that we are going to continue to stagnate in our growth.”

    Or could it be that more and more members are just getting sucked up into the ways of the world. But, it makes one wonder if the reaction is so strong to these little, unimportant, but subtle things that can be useful to some, how about the really big things? I know your hot button is the WoW and you can’t seem to get over the what was then was then and what is now is now.

  93. Dave P.
    July 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    #92

    His and mine both.

  94. Jen
    July 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I love it when I see men and young men wearing white shirts to church. To me, it represents respect and unity and I appreciate it. I figure if I have to wear nylons and a skirt, or even just a skirt without nylons it can’t be so bad to have to wear a white shirt. And to be honest, I wouldn’t mind if women were asked to wear a white dress every week, it sure would cut down on the time it takes trying to figure out what to wear every Sunday. 🙂

  95. Mike S
    July 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    #92 Jeff S

    “…Or could it be that more and more members are just getting sucked up into the ways of the world. But, it makes one wonder if the reaction is so strong to these little, unimportant, but subtle things that can be useful to some, how about the really big things?…”

    I don’t know that it is getting “sucked up into the ways of the world” per se. Whether we like it or not, the Church has to exist in society. The current members of the Church have to live in the world. We send missionaries out into the world to try to recruit more members. There are many non-doctrinal things that set Mormons apart from the “world”, officially and unofficially. Some of these are beneficial in both spheres – work ethic, families, dedication, etc. I think we should emphasize things in this category.

    Some of these, however, can be seen as more of a hindrance, with the color of someone’s shirt being a simple example. Other non doctrinal practices that conflict with the world are things like the policy of allowing civil marriages followed by a sealing ceremony in countries outside the US, but banning that inside the US. There are 2 ways to approach these areas: 1) “stick to our guns” and say that anyone who disagrees with the written and unwritten practices are “sucked up into the ways of the world” or 2) accept that they aren’t really a fundamental part of the Church but just an “add-on” and change them.

    In my opinion, we should change many of these things. Why should we have any potential stumbling blocks for members or investigators to prove a relatively meaningless point? In non-doctrinal areas, why not follow the accepted societal practices as they change and evolve over time? It’s not “giving in” to the world, it’s merely letting people be members of the society in which they live while also feeling like they are accepted members of the Church.

  96. Geoff @ A
    July 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I have worn coloured shirts most of my church life. In some wards/stakes this is acceptable and in some it is judged to be a problem. In the late sixties early seventies I had a Stake apresident in London who always wore coloured shirts, and was liberal in many other ways. Some of the American temple missionaries were agast at the long haired types who had temple recommends in his stake.

    A few years ago we moved wards and I tried wearing a white shirt to see if I was treated differently. I was.

    I was in California during the Prop8 business and after that wanted some way to differentiate myself so no one would mistake me for a conservative gay hating member. I went back to wearing coloured shirts for this purpose. It is very intimidating to be the only non white shirt in a stake p’hood meeting.

    To me the white shirt represents both those who are ultra conservative, those who just haven’t thought about anything, just blindly obey, and I guess some who have thought and choose to conform. It requires a concious choice to wear a coloured shirt, in my area of the church.

  97. jks
    July 27, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Dr. Pepper, yes it is interesting that we agree that it is just a shirt. Just now I have gotten around to analyzing my husband’s shirts and I don’t think he usually (ever?) wears a white one to church. He doesn’t pass the sacrament and I don’t think anyone talks about it. I don’t think he even thinks of it–he never mentions it to me. I would hope he thinks of it as “just a shirt” so if he had a particular calling and was asked to wear it he would. But I don’t know.
    My son has a blue one. I intentionally bought him a non-white ones the past few years thinking that it would make the white one seem a little more exciting when he is told to wear it next year as a deacon as part of the “uniform.”
    My two year old has a little suit pants & vest & white shirt. It is so cute. He has occasionally shown up with the vest & shorts instead (last clean item) or just a Tshirt and sweats. Last week my husband brought him to church without shoes which made the nursery walk to the field a little awkward when they brought him to me wondering what to do, but I managed to not get mad at my husband. It’s just shoes. No one is judging him for his shoes, but it would have been nice if he’d worn them.

  98. Jen
    July 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    #96-

    “I was in California during the Prop8 business and after that wanted some way to differentiate myself so no one would mistake me for a conservative gay hating member.”

    So, because someone wears a white shirt to church they are a conservative gay hating member. I’ll remember that next time I see someone wearing a colored shirt, it will help me differentiate between the tolerant and the non-tolerant. Thanks so much for pointing that out.

  99. Jen
    July 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    *non-tolerant should be intolerant

  100. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    July 27, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    This is pretty entertaining. Kind of reminds me of the “15 pieces of flair” schpiel from that movie Office Space.

  101. Ralph
    July 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I never saw the white shirt as being ‘oppressive’ or a uniform of sorts. What I see it as is making us equal. We see in the scriptures warnings about things like this. In the Book of Mormon when the people prospered they began to wear fine apparrel to emphasise their wealth – which is pride. It came to an “I’m richer than you” scenario with the wealthy flaunting it in their clothing and accessories.

    The white shirt I see as keeping us all on the one level. However, in saying that, I do not see a plain coloured shirt as being distracting or proud. But wearing a $1000 suit that is obviously expensive and using that to show how rich one is, I have a problem with, because that does come down to pride. So to me it’s more in the attitude of what and how one wears their clothing not what colour it is.

    In the end its all about being modest (in this case I mean appearance of, not sexuality of) in what we wear, not just at church but everywhere. Case in point – my uncle is a millionaire (but I get nothing of it). All through his life he wore a tank top and shorts and thongs (again flip-flops for you yanks) and drove a beat-up falcon. Only at home did he have expensive things like gold-plated taps, etc. That was his wife’s doing. No one would pick him for a millionaire because of the way he dressed and acted. He had the ‘bloke from down the road’ look and attitude. He also is not and never was a member, that’s just his way/choice of life.

    BTW, for those who have problems with the prophet a few years ago giving guidelines on tattoos and ear-rings, etc see Isaiah 3:16-26.

  102. Matt A.
    July 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    @99

    The way I see it, I don’t believe equality requires conformity. In fact, I would go so far as to say that regardless of how strictly one attempts to make people conform, those who think they “have” will find a way to lord it over those they think “have not”, making equality through conformity a losing prospect.

    You do bring up a good point about the quality of clothing. It illustrates how, despite the suit/white shirt combo, people can and will differentiate themselves based on the quality of what they wear.

    The inequality is based on attitude, not substance, as you said. The attitude is what needs to change, and we need to, as a group, start accepting each other, being honest with each other, and caring for each other without judgement.

    I think that focusing on the substance (color, style, whatever) is easier than focusing on the attitude, but ultimately is ineffective at producing a real change among us. The more emphasis that is placed on the external, the more people will judge by the external.

  103. Matt A.
    July 27, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Oops, meant @101, not 99. Apologies! 😀

  104. Mike S
    July 28, 2010 at 7:31 am

    #102 Matt A

    I agree with your comments on the focus on substance vs attitude. It is not strictly black and white, but the LDS Church very much values external things: color of shirt, beard, number of earrings, minimum percentage paid in offerings, box checked for home teaching, not missing a single Sunday meeting, using the right hand for the sacrament, having the correct counselor sit on the correct side of the bishop, having the right instrument for music in meetings, etc.

    One of the things that has very much attracted me to Buddhist principles is the focus on the inside – what you are and not necessarily what you do. You truly examine your thoughts and feelings and principles and refocus your mind around them. Actions then follow – but the essence is the attitude and who you really are at your core – not what you look like on the outside.

  105. Scotland
    July 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    #83 ” don’t see too many harmful effects resulting from people blithely accepting rules about the number of earrings, shirt color, facial hair, etc”

    Speaking as someone from a different culture and having lived in the US previously, I must say that we refer to this doctrine of suits and white shirts as ‘corporate america’….brigham youngs greatest fear was that the members of the church would accept the words of the leaders of the church without gaining a testimony of these things for themselves. The church in the US has incorporated aspects of it’s culture just as the church in scotland has incorporated aspects of it’s own culture…I can see how the church in ancient times apostazised due to the diversity created by these cultural differences…experiencing the church in these two and other cultures just highlights this to me more. I wonder how many time the leaders of the church are expressing their own opinions based upon there own up bringing rather than the actual churches stanse.

  106. Guest
    February 19, 2014 at 6:58 am

    When the Savior returns I don’t think He will be wearing an expensive suit with a white shirt and a colorful tie… nor will his face be clean shaven. I don’t think His head will be buzzed either, nor do I think He will be wearing polished tassled loafers.

    I wonder how many of us would shun Him if he came unannounced to our ward this Sunday because of His appearance. Probably many of us.

    We can see in the New Testament the importance of clothing and rituals to the Jews… who proceeded to reject the Savior of the world and nail Him to a cross.

    Also, many of the references to pride in the scriptures are associated with clothing but yet members of the church continue to wear fancy, expensive clothes.

    I know of seven very well dressed church leaders from our stake who have been excommunicated. They looked good on the outside but apparently their hearts were not right. What about us? How are our hearts?

    Seriously, what would happen in the church if at the next General Conference President Monson wore a blue or gray shirt? And no tie?

    Really, it is all silly and Satan has a hand in it.

    The Lord has said to wear simple, modest clothing… that is all if I am not mistaken.

  107. Jeff
    April 22, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    As much as brethren in the church talk about white shirts and ties, about 50% don’t even know how to dress up properly. I see so many baggy pants with their white shirts and ties and high tops that as much as they rail on me wearing my light blue shirt, they dress like their still in primary. Biggest lesson brethren need to learn about judging other brethren comes straight out of Matthew 7. Cast the beam out of your own eye before you help your brother with the mote in his eye.

  108. free man
    June 26, 2015 at 4:32 am

    all cults have a uniform and we are a cult, too, because we have the uniform of the white shirt and tie

    the great apostasy was fueled by things such as the wearing of a uniform and there is an apostasy now and the white shirt and tie is part of it

    don’t believe me?

    than read president joseph f smith’s comments on how the wearing of the white shirt and tie uniform takes us down the same road to apostasy the early saints traveled

    what has the lord said we should wear in the standard works, the measuring stick by which all teachings are judged?

    he says we should wear modest, simple clothing… and that is all

  109. emily
    June 16, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Have you ever thought maybe the young men wear colored shirts because they aren’t currently worthy to adminster the sacrament and dont want to have to explain that? Or maybe they just like colored dress shirts more than white. It isn’t a sign of rebellion and I think its ridiculous to use that term. If anything it would be a sign of obedience to not administer the sacrament unworthily.

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