A style of our own

Stephen MarshCulture, LDS, Mormon, Mormons 16 Comments

Whenever I heard about a “style of our own” I thought back to Moroni’s robe and David O McKay’s vision of the City of God.  When I mentioned that I got accused of just wanting clothing that let me see into the bosoms of others, and a friend quipped up that he was interested in a dress code that banned underwear.

But seriously, why aren’t we dressed like the angels, why don’t we encourage men to go unshaven, to reject “the great unisex conspiracy” that C. S. Lewis said came of the devil and resulted in the apostasy of shaving?

There are three reasons generally given:

  1. Our dress bears witness of what and who we are and we should not bear a false witness to the world of who we are by dressing inappropriately;
  2. Our dress provides us with a brand image that is valuable and that communicates;
  3. Our dress communicates inwards — people are affected in how they act by how they dress.

That may be, but all of those assume that we are forced to abide by the styles and conversation of the world.

Why not have a style of our own that abides the styles and conversation of the celestial world instead?

Comments 16

  1. Stephen,

    Your post title reminds me of an LDS-themed cassette tape my parents had called “Our Own Kind of Music”. OK, but I prefer Tchaikovsky and R.E.M. to de Azevedo, Julie or Lex.

    Now, if you mean by style “clothing style” we could be on to something.

    Orderville, Utah produced its own clothing line which worked until the Nevada silver mines opened up and the teenagers could buy the new-fangled blue jeans with the money they earned mining. Then the social system went into a nosedive.

    Even if a style of our own were attractive, how do we deal with teenagers’ desire to be trendy?

  2. Isn’t the issue that we live in a particular culture and so we have to worry about what we communicate?

    I halfway wonder if ancient angels didn’t appear as they did because of the expectations of the era. Today we still expect them to appear in robes simply because our expectations that they’ll appear wearing the garb of 2000 years ago. Personally I think it would be funny to have a vision of Jesus where he appears in a dark suit and tie.

    In any case the problem of “styles and conversations of the celestial world” entails that there is only one style and conversation there – which I doubt. I suspect deeply that a celestial being who grew up in the beginning of the 21st century would prefer a style different from those raised in 1850 and those raised in Roman occupied Palestine.

  3. I once asked my Teacher’s Quorum what would you do if your Sunday best was a clean pair of jeans and a blue work shirt instead of a white shirt. At first, they looked at me like I was crazy, because they had been brought up in the white shirt and tie era. That was what they thought was best. I reminded them that in some parts of the world, a white shirt and tie was not affordable to some. Should they not come to Church? Not administer the Sacrament?

    After some discussion, they finally understood the difference between wearing your best clothing to Church and having to have a white shirt. That might be preferred in our culture but it was not a requirement to be worthy to administer the sacrament.

    On another note, what always cracked me up about teenagers was that in order to be different in their “style,” they all conform to the same style!

  4. I’m sure many people in heaven wear nothing at all. What styles are in heaven is a silly basis for what we should wear here on earth.

  5. Stephen,

    Interesting topic. I too have wondered about Joseph Smith’s description of Moroni, particularly the fact that Moroni didn’t seem to wear an undershirt and goes about barefoot; both attractive options to me (although certainly not for others). Perhaps we need to do a bit more covering up because we don’t all have Celestial Bodies yet? 🙂

    Like Clark, I have tried to imagine Jesus appearing in conformity with today’s dress code. I imagine him speaking at General Conference wearing a power suit and clean shaven. But for some reason I like the white-robed, bearded Jesus I’ve grown up with a lot more. The fact that he dresses differently makes him special to me.

    On Saturday, as I was getting donuts with my girls, we saw an arab man dressed in traditional arab dress: brilliant white robes, with a white head covering. He really stood out in an impressive way, I thought. He was reading a book in Arabic. We introduced ourselves to him and he said he was from Kuwait. His good-natured demeanor matched his clean-looking dress. He stood out to me as a special person. Perhaps because he was dressed more like the angel Moroni than I was in my jeans and sweatshirt?

  6. Post

    Note I’m skipping the theology of the garment of light, which Moroni was surely wearing and which Adam lost in the fall, rendering him naked.

    But “a style of our own” was my first response to encountering the BYU dress code, though I’ve thought of it since, especially in light of David O McKay’s vision of the city of God.

  7. Why are the Amish dressed the way the are?

    They aren’t dressed like angels and they aren’t dressed like the early Christians at the time of Christ. They aren’t even dressed the way Amish people dressed in the late 1600s.

    They’re dressed the way Amish people dressed whenever some social force within their community acted to halt further fashion development. It looks like that happened sometime in the mid-1800s and for the sake of argument, let’s say it happened in 1850.

    If that’s the case, you might say that the Amish haven’t changed their appearance since 1850. The reality is that not changing is actually a change. Back in 1850 Amish people looked more or less like regular, conservative people of that era. That’s not what they look like now at all; now they look like a people with a distinctive, traditional costume. By not changing their appearance, their appearance has changed.

    There is nothing wrong with that. The Amish’s dress (1) bears witness of who they are, (2) provides a brand image, and (3) communicates inwards. But the meaning of all three of those have changed while the dress has stayed the same (e.g., who they are, their brand, and what is communicates is different than it was in 1850).

    LDS missionaries are on that same trajectory, just one century behind. When they dressed the way they do now back in the 1950s, missionaries looked like regular, conservative people of that era. Today, however, that has already started to change. By not changing, their appearance is changing.

    If LDS people want “a style all their own,” they needn’t adopt Moroni’s angelic designer label — they only have to stay the course and wait another 50 years.

    Missionaries in the future
    To future eyes, will Elders look like this? There’s nothing wrong with that, but not changing is a change.

  8. It seems though that Mormon style changes rather rapidly. Just look at the photos of GAs and the corresponding expectation of what proper grooming and dress is.

  9. It seems though that Mormon style changes rather rapidly. Just look at the photos of GAs and the corresponding expectation of what proper grooming and dress is.

    Are you being sarcastic, Clark? I have a chart of the Q15 from 1964 and another form 2005 in front of me. The only difference is that in 1964 there was a lone outlier: Richard L. Evans actually had a mustache and a light-colored suit. (Was he some kind of Communist?) 😉 Anyway, the current group have conformed 100% to what was already established then as the look.

  10. What saddens me is how much time and effort are spent trying to convince men in the Church to wear white shirts. A friend of mine was visiting his grandmother’s ward in the Layton. As he was sitting in sacrament meeting, he looked around an noticed that he must have been the only person there who was not wearing a white shirt.

    I remember on one occasion my stake president, who do admire, went on and on in a stake priesthood meeting about how essential it is to wear a white shirt. It made me sad because here was a great man, capable of teaching and inspiring the priesthood holders of our stake to do and be better, and instead opted for yet another lesson about the “dress code”.

    For some people the dress and grooming standards, the standards on media, and the word of wisdom and law of chastity compromise the entirety of the Gospel. To me it is no wonder why so many exit the Church when they are in their late teens too their early thirties. Such a course is just shallow and leaves one feeling spiritually unfulfilled.

    Will it ever change? Perhaps. I think that the general authorities do their best to provide uplifting spiritual teachings, but it will require many members on the local level to change their outlook. To focus on more important things than the color a shirt or the presence of a goatee.

  11. As someone who regularly wears a beard (although I’ve shaven recently), let me say this: I don’t care what color shirt I wear to church.

    I typically wear white shirts–although sometimes it’s cream or blue. No one ever says anything. My brother, gentile that he is, never wears a tie. In fact, except on his mission, I can’t remember a time when he ever wore a tie. I’m sure he has, but I can’t remember when. He doesn’t shave (sensitive skin), but it’s the tie that really gets him. He wears whatever shirt he feels like (although it is always a button up with a collar). At the temple, and he goes frequently, when asked, “would you like a tie, brother?”, he reponds, “no, I already have as much of one as I need.” He’s never had anyone insist that he wear one in the temple, so I don’t think anyone can say that every Sunday is more important.

    Personally, I don’t really care what people wear to church, as long as they show up and are dressed. Naked would be a problem, for a variety of reasons, of course, but pretty much anything else is okay with me*. I think if one has nice clothing, one should wear it. If you don’t have it, then wear what you do have.

    As for a unique style, as long as we don’t start watching some of the campier sci-fi flicks for inspiration, I’m cool with looking for something unique to call our own. Frankly, it’d be kinda sweet to have a more outward expression of our faith.

    *Minor exception: Sisters really shouldn’t wear revealing clothing to church. Here’s how I think about it: if you are wearing garments, then your clothing shouldn’t have any chance of showing your garments, even by accident, not at church. That means when you are standing up, sitting down, bending over, leaning forward, etc. If you aren’t wearing garments, then ask someone who is if a particular outfit is appropriate. Simply put, it will be distracting to someone. Maybe not to me. Maybe not to anyone you think of, but someone will find it distracting from the spirit. It might be a 14 year old boy or a 44 year old boy, and while he shouldn’t be distracted by it, the women should be more careful.

  12. Back when I wore garments, there was hardly an article of clothing I could find where I didn’t get G-peak– that included long sleeve tops with a neckline to my collarbone, or even pants. It’s why I grew to dislike them, and then stop wearing them completely.

    As for the white shirt rule: I think it’s truly weird. While I’m all for dressing appropriately for the occasion (including one time when I was in Europe with a BYU alumni group and I was the only one in our group dressed up for a symphony while all the other Mormons in my group were in windbreakers, fannie packs and sneakers), why does a white shirt become the litmus test of “appropriate church attire”? Sometimes it’s our Mormon cultures rabid ideal of conformity that goes extremely overboard.

  13. Lulubelle: You almost got it: in Morland, there is no self-correction to the over zealous.
    Chris’ comment was the closest to home: think of how much time/energy is Wasted on the cultural never-never land that leaders would have us inhabit. I also agree with J Hamer.
    In the LDS church, there is no (or at most ambiguous) separation between culture & ‘doctrine’; leaders undoubtedly KNOW THIS, and it is a conscious decision to leave it the way it is. SHAME ON THEM FOR DILUTING THE TRULY IMPORTANT ITEMS: Love for God & neighbor; Mercy-Compassion, Kindness, Honesty, Repentance & Forgiveness.
    Leaders have Sacrificed focus on the Basics of Christian living for the pecular aspects of Mormonism.

  14. Mormons believe that authentic Christianity vanished a century after Jesus and was restored only through Joseph Smith. Considered a prophet by Mormons, Smith revised— and in his view corrected— large sections of the Bible in the 19th century. The Mormon scriptures include the Old and New Testaments, but also include books containing Smith’s revelations.

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