Monday, July 13, 2015

All that Glitters, Part 5:
Appearance of Gold

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
—Matthew 23:27-28

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Some months back, a vivid dream came in answer to prayer:

I was visiting the LDS church building of my youth, hoping to find other followers of Christ. The building was under extensive renovation, and most parts of the church building were not functional or in use, due to the construction debris and demolition. Though the inside of the building appeared to suffer from long neglect and unfinished construction, the outside was beautiful and well kept.

As I walked around inside the building, I finally found one room in which there were people. In this room there were stalls, out of which emerged perfectly beautiful people, completely covered in gold leaf. Their hair, skin, and entire bodies were covered in gold. It looked as if it had been sprayed on the people while inside these stalls. These people reminded me of living statues, much like Moroni on the spires of LDS temples. 

Though these people possessed impressive beauty with their gold covering, they could not function—for if they moved too much, the gold would crack and peel off.

I left that room and headed through the foyer into the chapel. I found it dark, completely gutted, and filled with rubble and destruction. In the chapel, I also found a few followers of Christ, standing and staring in wonder at the destruction of the chapel. They were dressed very plainly in jeans, boots and flannel shirts. The small group included men, women and children. Their plainness offered a striking contrast to the beautiful gold people in the other room. Their rough manner of dress would be very out of place at an LDS meeting.

As I walked outside the building, I discovered the church was recruiting models to be sprayed with gold. A sign stated that only the most perfectly proportioned and beautiful young men and women were permitted to apply for the modeling jobs. They would be sprayed with gold every Sunday, put on display to attract others, then go back to their normal lives and occupations the rest of the week. They were there for show.

Gold Leaf

One of the most interesting properties of gold is its malleability. As the most malleable of all metals, it can be beaten into sheets only a few atoms thick. A thousand of these sheets stacked together would equal the thickness of a single sheet of typical printer paper.

Gold Leaf Adorning the Temple Ceiling
When gold is beaten this thin and applied as decoration to other objects, it is called gold leaf. The process of applying the gold is called gilding. Gilding has been applied for thousands of years to furniture, pottery, fixtures, sculpture, books, even people. Though the appearance is impressive, what’s underneath may be quite unremarkable; wood, ceramic, base metals, leather, even paper can be gilded. 

Likewise, architectural gilding has been used for centuries to give a more opulent appearance to building finishes. It is still quite commonly used to adorn the interiors of LDS temples.

Though the gilding process produces a beautiful appearance, the gold surface is incredibly thin and often quite fragile. Gilding is no substitute for pure gold. 

Keeping Up Appearances

When Moroni spoke to the latter-day readers of his book (that's you and me), he said the following:
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. 
And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. 
For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? 
Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not? (Mormon 8:35-39)
One of the hallmarks of false religion in the Book of Mormon—both anciently and in prophecy about our day—centers on the clothing worn by the religious. It’s variously called, “very fine apparel,” “costly apparel,” “precious clothing,” and the ever-popular, “silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen.”

Because false belief often partners with costly apparel, I’ve always been pleased that my white shirts come from discount stores, my suits are inexpensive, and my shoes are not particularly nice. Similarly, my dear wife shops the sales and only buys what’s cheap to clothe our family. I actually took comfort in our inexpensive clothing because I believed it meant the Book of Mormon warnings couldn't apply to me (or, frankly, to most people I know.) Whew, dodged a bullet there.

Yeah, right. 

That false notion fell apart one day when I realized what Moroni actually saw. 

You see, I always thought he had toured around our times in vision, looked in on all the various non-Mormon churches and religions, and called them out on their hypocrisy. He actually called them pollutions! That’s harsh!

But wait. Have you ever been to church services that are NOT Mormon? Have you visited other Christian churches? What do they, for the most part, wear?

When looking at all those who espouse a belief in Christ in our day, Moroni took pains to describe, repeatedly, the “fine apparel” of those who had “polluted the holy church of God.” 

So…if you drive from church to church on any given Sunday, what's the best-dressed congregation you’ll see? Friends, it ain’t the Catholics. It’s not the Baptists, Methodists, or Pentacostals. 

No, the Mormons win the “fine apparel” contest by a mile. We do look good! Moroni saw...US.

“White Leaf”

When I was preparing for my mission at the missionary training center, our branch president taught us one Sunday about the priesthood. He spoke of worthiness, faith and authority required for priesthood ministry. Then he added one more thing. “Elders,” he said as he pointed to his clothing, “THIS is the uniform of the priesthood. Whenever you perform a priesthood ordinance, you should first make sure you are wearing the uniform.” He was, of course, wearing a dark business suit with a white shirt and conservative tie.

I believed him, and for the next 20 years I strove to always put on my “priesthood uniform” before blessing the sick, performing an ordination, or even giving a father’s blessing. I thought the white shirt was an integral part of priesthood power. After all, no deacon is “worthy” to even pass the sacrament if he’s not wearing the correct white shirt. 

It’s a standing Mormon joke that colored shirts for men are somehow less “appropriate” or “worthy” than white shirts, even when accompanied by the requisite dark suit and conservative tie. I know of a bishop who believes he can tell which men in his congregation struggle with pornography each week, based on the color of shirt they wear to church that Sunday. Seriously.

Of course, we’re just speaking of a thin layer of cloth and a cultural tradition. Priesthood is in NO WAY dependent on clothing. And yet, we’ll send our young men home to change before we’ll let them touch the sacrament in a shirt that isn’t white. Later, we’ll send those same young men on missions, where they will not be allowed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ without a white shirt and tie. 

Runway Sunday

Similarly, we inflict our cultural expectations on women in the church. Depending on the area, a certain look is expected for women attending LDS meetings. In suburbia USA, it can be defined as “dressed to the nines.” Perfect hair. Perfect makeup. Perfect figure. Perfect dress. Heels, jewelry, and accessories to complete the package. If you don’t attract attention, you’re not doing it right. 

This image of Babylon doesn’t merely result from social expectations; it’s actually taught at Relief Society meetings on dress and grooming (or so I’m told by sisters who attend the meetings.) At BYU, where appearance is also an unhealthy institutional obsession in the honor code, the sabbath fashion show is commonly called “Runway Sunday.” 

Salt Lake City has been rated by Forbes magazine as the “Vainest City in the Nation” based on the fact that it has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the U.S. It also leads the world in spending on cosmetics, skin care and hair care, with TEN TIMES the spending of other cities of comparable size. Appearance is a VERY big deal in Mormondom’s capital.

Coincidentally, Utah also leads the nation in Anti-depressant prescriptions, with nearly double the national average.

Inspecting the Troops

Elder Russel Nelson of the Twelve recently visited a mission where a friend of mine lives. The missionaries were instructed to prepare in the following way to meet with the apostle. Those who didn’t take these steps would not be allowed into the meeting:
  • Get their suits dry cleaned
  • Get a haircut
  • Shave just before the meeting
  • Wear a tie that an apostle would wear
There was no mention of spiritual preparation. They just had to look good. Damned good. (Yes, that’s a play on words.)

Appearance is so deeply ingrained in missions, that I know of a young lady who was refused baptism because she had multiple piercings in each ear. The mission president simply wouldn't allow her baptism unless she removed the other ear rings and let the holes close. I wouldn't believe it if I didn't personally know the people involved. 

And perhaps you're familiar with the recent convert who wasn't allowed to serve a mission because of a visible tattoo. When laser removal failed, he underwent painful surgery and had the tattoo literally cut out (leaving a nasty scar) so he could present the right appearance while preaching Christ and Him crucified.

Contrary to the word of the Lord, we're more invested in the gospel of appearance than the gospel of repentance.

Gilding The Lilly
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. (3 Nephi 13:28-29 and Matthew 6:28-29)
An undue emphasis on appearance endangers us in several ways:

  • It becomes a substitute for actually worshipping God.
  • It encourages uniformity in thought and culture, leading to a “membership” groupthink mentality of “us” vs. “them.”
  • It provides a false standard by which we judge our own righteousness and that of others.
  • It engenders a false belief that God only accepts those who look or dress a certain way, and that improving our appearance improves our standing with God.
  • It convinces us that priesthood power—and even faith—are predicated upon our clothing.
  • It shows that we love the "adorning of our churches" more than we love the poor, who are made to feel unwelcome among us if their clothing does not meet our standards.
  • It deceives us that, because we look good, we are good. 

Moroni seemed quite shocked at this behavior. Christ, in speaking to a similar group of righteous-appearing people said:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23:27-28)
Neither gold nor garbage are improved by gilding, “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

Perhaps we ought to be less concerned about appearances and more concerned about hearts.

Stinking Bishop

A few months ago, a relative of mine showed up to teach his elder’s quorum wearing a T-shirt, jeans and flip flops. He taught the lesson as if nothing were amiss, then concluded by telling his brethren that he dressed that way because he wanted them to focus on the message, not the messenger. 

He later found out that half the elders quorum was jealous that they weren’t dressed that way. Regardless, I thought it was a gutsy move.

But, perhaps even gutsier, was the project undertaken by Bishop David Musselman of Taylorsville, Utah. He engaged a professional makeup artist to transform his appearance to that of a disheveled, scarred, filthy, homeless man. With dirty, ragged clothing and a crutch to complete the ensemble, he showed up to his own ward sacrament meeting in November, 2013. Wishing passers-by a Happy Thanksgiving, and asking for food and money, he received varied reactions from his ward members, none of whom recognized him. 

Some offered him help. Some refused to acknowledge him. At least five asked him to leave the property. 

And then this dirty, scarred, disheveled old man hobbled to the pulpit and gave a speech. He thanked those who had helped him and acknowledged their kindness. He expressed a desire to donate back to the ward some of what he had received. He asked where the bishop was, and looked around expectantly. 

When nobody could locate the bishop, he removed the disguise, to the absolute shock of all present. Many had judged and condemned their own bishop by his appearance alone. Many were ashamed. 

Angels Among Us

Let’s not underestimate the value of what Bishop Musselman taught us all that day. 

Anyone who has received the LDS endowment has been taught that angels come among us without revealing their true identities, to observe conditions generally, see if we have been true and faithful, and to return and report to the Lord. 

Do not expect them to come in business suits or fashionable dresses, presenting themselves as people of importance, or objects of envy. No, the more effective way to reveal the contents of our hearts is for the angels to come among us disguised as strangers, “different,” and perhaps even unattractive or loathsome. How we react to them tells them all they need to know.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)
Getting Naked

And so, here’s the point:

Our fine clothing doesn't make us fine people. A business suit is NOT the "uniform of the priesthood;" it is the uniform of babylon. And being the best-dressed religion on earth is NOT proof that we honor God. We offend him.

God loves us all, regardless of appearance—because, in the end, we’re all poor, and desperate, and naked, no matter how we may try to appear.
Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (2 Nephi 9:14)
For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:5)
The only way to prevent this burning is to see ourselves HERE and NOW in our true, naked state, so we may repent while there’s yet time:
And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. 
And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4:2-3)
As long as we hold ourselves to a false standard of righteous appearance, we’ll never look in the mirror and see what we truly are. 

In the dream, when I met the gilded people, I carried small gifts in my hands. I asked for something in which to carry the gifts, but the beautiful, golden people couldn’t offer me anything, because they couldn’t allow their gold to crack by moving to offer me any help. They had no interest in receiving the gifts themselves.

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 
—Revelation 3:17-19


  1. This is beautiful, Adrian. Even when our clothes don't wear out we eventually throw them away out of boredom or a shift in fashion. We should focus on becoming better in our hearts like you say.

  2. My daughter attended her first girls camp last month. There were classes on hair styles, make up color, and of course fashion!!! She was surprised to hear some of the girls being told to wear tight fitting clothes to accentuate their curves. They pointed out the different shapes of the girls by having them stand up. My daughter felt pretty awful for the girls with those pesky undesirable shapes. She said she could feel their embarrassment as they stood up and had their features pointed out. What a great lesson. I am sure those girls are so much closer to God now. Or at least they will be ... right after they marry a return missionary in the temple, which is their "only priority over the next few years!!"
    Good grief

  3. We wear clothes to look the part. We manufacture "spiritual" experiences to convince ourselves at church a lot, but it's not the real thing. Not even close. Profound. We must repent.

  4. As a woman I resent having to wear a dress every Sunday. Never had to in any other church. Plus, when street people come in, I wish I wasn't in a dress. I used to be homeless and I know the mentality. You don't trust dressed up people. You just don't. I know those people are horribly uncomfortable. Do my best to make them feel 'normal.' Still, though, wearing a dress on Sunday mornings makes me feel like I'm going to the office on a day I'm supposed to be relaxed and welcomed into the Presence of my Father. Maybe one day I'll just be like "Sorry couldn't force myself to wear a dress this morning. Really care about my heart today more than my looks. Thanks!"

    As a convert, I'm so waiting for the day I get into "trouble" over something like this... well written article as always!

  5. Every time I put on a collared shirt I think of this verse:
    "They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men."

  6. When Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse to choose one of his sons to be King over Israel, Samuel was impressed by his first son, Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” vs 6

    7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

    8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”

    9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.”

    10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.”

    11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

    12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” Samuel 16:7-12 New International Version (NIV)

    Even the Lord’s anointed Prophet was ready to settle on Eliab, based on appearance alone.

    In the early days of the Church, Joseph would assign some Brethren to go to an area and organize a ward and call a new Bishop or change Bishops in an existing ward. The Brethren would ask the members to vote for who they thought would be a great Bishop. The person receiving the highest vote was then called and sustained to be the Bishop and then the new Bishop would usually choose his two Councilors from those who received the second and third highest votes. Now, Bishops and Stake Presidents are called in quite a different manner, and we are told that they are “called of God”.

    We are raising a new breed of Mormons now whose familiarity with callings are based on appearance, or how much tithing they pay, or how well they tell "inspirational stories", but for the most part do not edify the soul or bring the personal changes necessary bring us back into God's presence. How I long for the fundamental doctrines of the restoration and what the Prophet Joseph Smith restored.

    You have nailed this so well Adrain; you breathe a breath of fresh air into the stale, stuffed white shirt environment that “supposedly attends to our spiritual needs”. May God continue to bless you in your efforts. Keep up the good work. AB2

  7. What was the question you were asking in prayer which this vivid dream was an answer to?

    1. It was when we were facing church discipline and I was struggling for a more sure witness that I wasn't making the biggest mistake of my life by allowing them to remove my church membership.

      There were actually three major vignettes to the dream. What I've shared here was the first one and part of the second.

    2. Ah I see. That is a wonderful gift to have been given.

  8. Adrian,

    Thanks for this.

    I think I actually heard "priesthood uniform" in the Manti stake.

    Ironic that Elder Perry identified Mormon 8 (at least part of it) with the LDS church.

  9. I remember that I did not own any dress clothes when I was baptized at 18. I was dirt broke. I scraped and saved for months to be able to buy some dress clothes. I took seriously church leaders' admonitions to wear our "Sunday best." After all, I reasoned, if I was willing to go through great lengths to wear a military uniform, why not do at least as much for the Lord? I never gave a blessing without wearing a white shirt, tie, slacks, and shined shoes. I would wear church clothes all day on Sundays. I'd always wear a suit to the temple. After all, President Packer taught that we should be dressed so that if our host appeared, we would not be ashamed.

    And then one day the Lord visited me in a night vision. I noticed that I was indeed ashamed in his presence, but not because I was sleeping in my underwear instead of a suit, but because my soul is a filthy rag compared to his perfection. That experience opened my eyes in many ways. First, I realized that the Lord is far, far, far, more concerned with what is inside of us that what is outside of us. Second, I realized that anyone who even think that somehow our clothing would make us more worthy to be in Jesus' presence had never been there before.

  10. I suspect that "Sunday best" is a tradition that is many, many, many generations in the making. When I visited Boston, I seem to recall a tour guide saying something to the effect that most people had two sets of clothes. The one would be worn all week long doing the farm work, and the second would be worn only on Sundays. Once the daily clothes had completely worn out beyond repair, the Sunday-only set of clothes became the everyday clothes, and a new set of clothes was procured for Sunday.

    If this is true, it would likely imply that, for the majority of people, their Sunday clothes were only special in that they were CLEAN. (See Alma 1:27 and D&C 42:40). (Because ain't nobody gonna go do farm work all day during an east coast summer wearing 3 or 4 layers of clothing.)

    And I don't know that we can actually blame them for thinking that "Sunday best" was a good thing. We get the impression from certain stories in the Bible that special clothing is appropriate for special ordinances and ceremonies before the Lord. (e.g., Joseph's coat of many colors, the Lord commanding Moses to anoint Aaron and dress him in special clothing, and maybe David's coronation? Maybe others.)

    And what of the humble soul who says in their heart, "I love the Lord with all my heart. I will wear my best clothing, humble though it is, to honor Him." I can't imagine that this person has offended the Lord. (Again, speaking of poor farm folk here whose best clothing isn't a three-piece suit that cost them several hundred dollars.)

    And when everybody is a poor farmer, or when you're living in a Zion society that has all things in common and there are no poor among them, I don't think that someone who has a special set of clothes that they honestly only wear to honor the Lord will incur his wrath.

    In principle then, our clothing itself is not the problem. It's our hearts.

    Am I right with the Lord? How many hundreds of dollars have I spent on my clothing? (Or laptops, or iPads, or smart phones and data plans, or Netflix for the last 4 years, or my cable TV subscription, etc., etc.) And how does that amount of money compare to the time and money that I have spent in helping the needy, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, ministering to the sick and afflicted, looking after the widows and orphans, and freeing the captives?

    Could I look my Lord in the face and tell him that my heart has sorrowed with my brethren, and that in all their afflictions I am afflicted?

    No way. This anonymous commenter is a filthy hypocrite.

    The point of all this is that I just don't want people to think, "Yeah! Suits and dresses are inherently offensive to the Lord! Boo!" and "Yeah! Jeans and flip-flops will make me righteous! Yay!"

    What Moroni was trying to convey was that we love our clothing and our buildings (and a GREAT many other things) more than we love the poor.

    By the way, none of this is intended in any way to contradict the call to repentance that the Lord has given us through Adrian. Just to say, "Whatever you decide on for your Sunday dress, you better hope it doesn't fill you with shame when the Lord appears. If you've got questions about that, take it up with Him."

  11. Adrian

    I agree with the basic premise of your your post. I think it is well stated and needed. However, I do have a few misgivings as I don't see any allowance for any type of dress standard.

    I understand that one who is homeless, or with out extra means, cannot dress to meet many standards of propriety. And as for myself, I’m enjoying a little more relaxed expectation of strict dress codes. (Example: I have not donned a pair of pantyhose in years. And, the knee highs that cut off the circulation in my legs, have also gone by the wayside.)

    However, as a society, doesn’t our lack of decorum in the casual way we dress express a lack of respect in some settings? Dress codes have diminished to the point of being excessively sloppy, immodest, and lacking common sense and it has no bearing on finances. There are plenty of $100.00 jeans with 100 holes in them. You don’t have to be poor to dress like you are. If a dress code is not outlined in some cases, heavens knows what folks would show up in. ( have you seen some of the “so called Walmart shopper videos?)

    There is no doubt, I would rather show up at church in my bathrobe and slippers, however, I would not feel like I was being respectful to whom I was going to worship, regardless how much he loves me. And my clothing is certainly not selected to cover up my sins.

    Aside from the “fine apparel” bells and bangles of Babylon that I see some women wear, my concern is more focused on a lack of covenant keeping in some of their attire. I believe if you make an agreement, then keep the agreement rather than putting a personal spin on how garments are worn, just to be fashionable. The Church has been most accommodating in the many choices offered. In fact, they may have gone to far to accommodate in order to satisfy Babylon clothing styles.

    Years ago, there was no dress standard for those participating in preparing and passing the sacrament. My boys wore colored shirts (pastels), often no tie and a couple of their friends did not wear socks with their loafers. Now, I don’t think that this was any great sin, but things have changed and I happen to appreciate seeing boys dressed in the “Uniform” as you called it. My attention is not diverted to a poka dot shirt (so to speak) when being offered the sacrament. I can more fully concentrate on my personal worship. I appreciate that.

    Of course there are exceptions to clothing rules. I know there are areas in the Church where the boys feel lucky to be there because of distance traveled or financial circumstances, let alone have to follow strict dress requirements. Missionary dress standards have relaxed according to the areas they are assigned, which I think is a wise move.

    Recently I was attending a sacrament meeting in an very rural area when 8 men came in just to take the sacrament wearing construction work clothes. They had been laying a pipe line in a neighboring community. I was thrilled that they felt comfortable enough to join in the service no matter their attire and I’m sure many others in the congregation felt the same way.

    Perhaps this all sounds prudish and I’m certainly open for correction. I just don’t know how the Church or other organizations can maintain a certain level of respectful dress without a spoken or assumed dress code. It seems like we are talking about a tight rope balancing act to me and I don't know the answer.
    What say ye?

    1. Kathryn, to me the question is one of "where do these standards originate?"

      Ideally, people would dress in clothes to honor the Lord because they love him. In other words, the dress code would come from within, instead of being imposed externally. People wouldn't choose their Sunday attire because they're concerned with how they compare to all the other women in the ward. Nor because the bishop has guilted them into wearing a white shirt and tie.

      Zion won't arise from societal and cultural expectations. It will come because we have come to know the Lord for ourselves, and we have shown our children that they can know him too.

  12. I read this post and had a laugh.
    A few months back I heard about this bishop and I said to my wife that I was going to go to church in a coloured shirt and jeans when I teach gospel doctrine. I said that I guarantee someone will say something judgemental. To my surprise nothing was said the whole 3 hour block! My conclusion, the members in my ward in New Zealand must be a bit more liberal then I give them credit for. I have been called as a High Councillor for a few months now and I was thinking of trying it out again the next speaking assignment I am given in my stake.

  13. Some of the comments have spoken about honoring the Lord by wearing better clothing than we otherwise would.

    I realize this is a long-held tradition in our culture. But did it originate with God? And does it please him? These are questions worth pondering.

    Picture this: You show up at your best friend's house for a visit, wearing a suit, tie, white shirt, shined shoes. Or a dress, heels, makeup, jewelry, hair, as the case may be. What is your friend's reaction?

    "Wow, you look good! Where are you going?"

    "No, I dressed up for you! To honor you!"

    At this point, what is your best friend's response? Is your friend actually honored? Or does your friend wish you wouldn't go to all that trouble, and you felt you could drop in anytime, as you are, and be accepted?

    Reminds me of the time I walked into a class late in high school, wearing a suit and tie. The teacher says to the whole class, "Wow, Larsen. Who died?"

    Turns out it was my good friend's mother, and I had just come from the funeral. Needless to say, the teacher had quite a bit of apologizing to do.

    But all that aside, how do we get away from the idea that God wants us to dress up, or is honored when we do so?

    Some of the most profound worship experiences I've had in the last year were with groups wearing jeans, shorts, and casual clothing. With God, it's a "come-as-you-are" party.

    I believe upgrading our clothing to interact with God gives us a false impression of ourselves and drives a wedge between us and God. Let's shed the pretense that something on the outside of us makes any difference at all.

    1. "I believe upgrading our clothing to interact with God gives us a false impression of ourselves" -- This is probably totally true for many, even the vast majority of us. For others, it may truly be a symbolic act of devotion. It's really hard for me to judge exactly what is in others' hearts.

      And, btw, I still don't mean to detract from the original message, which I wholeheartedly sustain.

      But it seems to me that, once again, the correct answer here is to examine our own hearts and take it up with the Lord. For some, His response might be, "You need to repent of your worldliness and vanity." For others, it might be, "You are doing fine. Don't worry about this right now." For still others, it may very well be, "I appreciate the sincere sentiment of your dressing up for me, but I'd rather prefer that you don't. Let's instead just make sure that others feel comfortable."

      At the end of the day, we all need to _know_ that what we're doing is acceptable to the Lord. Otherwise, following Adrian's exhortation is likely just as damning as following any other mortal. (Even if he's right, which I think he is.)

      I think I'll go pray about this now. :)

  14. I like what Anon July 15 said: “In principle then, our clothing itself is not the problem. It's our hearts.”

    The individual who dresses casually or poorly can have a "To Hell With You" attitude as well as a “Humble one.” A fellow in a suit and tie can have a “Humble heart” as well as a “Look At Me” attitude. We have no business judging the man in a suit and white shirt any more than we should be judging the man who is poorly dressed because we really don’t know their hearts.

    I believe that a blanket attitude that suggests that upgraded clothing is a pretense that covers a vain heart is no more valid than casual clothing shelters a righteous heart.

    I’m reminded of a old friend who owned the second largest cattle ranch in Arizona. I have not met a more humble, unassuming gentleman. I know from one of his children that he kept 6 to 8 missionaries in the field at all time, his other contributions to others were huge. You would have never know of these facts from his own lips. He lived in a beautiful home but was attached to an old Ford truck with rust on the door panel. I trust his heart was with the Lord, whether he was in that old truck or in his Sunday suit.

    I think it’s interesting to hear how Zion is perceived by individuals. The idea of “no poor among us” can be taken as: The rich will be lowered to the level of the poor so all things will be equal. Or the idea of “no poor among us” can be taken as: We will all have the finer things of life. The blessings of wealth and abundance will shared by everyone because our hearts are pure rather than the failings of the Book of Mormon people whose pride and greed got the best of them .

    As an artist, I would hope that my creativity contribution would benefit the whole and that Zion will not stifle the creativity of those who make beautiful things, including clothing. I love jewelry and wear a watch band that was handmade by a lovely Indian woman I met at a flee market. I think of her often as I examine the workmanship of her hands. I wear a scarf that was made by a woman I met in China. When I wear it, even to Church, I think of her wonderful talent in creating the beautiful design. I wish I could tell her how much I love it and appreciate her creative gift.

    A person sitting in the next row at Church could assume that my heart is in the wrong place, that I wear these items to be showy and vain. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Adrian, I really do get your point and I agree with your basic premise. And there is no doubt the messages in the Book of Mormon address these issues because they saw our day and it is a warning to us. We are living the reasons for the warning. Thank you for the reminder and call to repentance.

    However, I have to look at myself first, my heart and my motives and then mind my own business. I, for one, have to stop judging the “Peacock” that just sat down in front of me, texting on her phone, covering her legs with lotion, and dabbing perfume behind her ears. The results of her behavior, downfall, or salvation is between she and the Lord.

    By the way... I won’t be wearing my bathrobe and slippers to Church anytime soon. Is it my heart... or is it my pride... that will just not let me? Hmmmm.

    1. Kathryn, you make some excellent points. Thank you for these timely reminders.

      And no, I won't be wearing my bathrobe and slippers to church anytime soon either!

  15. I recently noticed one of the kids passing the sacrament hadn't tucked his white shirt in and hadn't cinched his tie up. When he came to our row I quietly mentioned the unrestrained shirt to him. He said, "I know" and did not tuck it in. Later I ran into him in the hall and explained that instead of worrying about his shirt being un-tucked per se I was trying to alert him in the event that he had somehow forgotten to tuck it in—you know, like only a friend would let you know if there was a booger hanging out of your nose. He seemed relieved that I was interested in him rather than criticizing him.

    Over the years I can remember several inactive folks and several investigators feeling positively shy about attending worship services because they didn't own any Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes. One of my heroes is my first-grade teacher who happens to live in my ward and refuses to wear a dress to church!

  16. The way that the majority of the LDS dress for sacrament meeting in the U.S. is quite different than what others Christians wear as shown in that photo above. Both are clean and modest, but the BOM directly references the LDS with their fine clothing and all the clinking accessories. I used to wear fitted knee length skirts, high heels, fashionable blouses, chunky jewelry, full makeup, curled hair. The Lord told me that it made others uncomfortable. Now when I fellowship with other local Christians I wear plain slacks, a top, and some matching shoes. Not a bathrobe and slippers. Some wear sleeveless blouses. The pastor wears a casual checkered button down. The guitarist has on shorts. There is absolutely NO attention on clothing because it draws no attention - it's not fancy or sloppy. All the attention is on praising God.

  17. Adrian, I just want to say that this really resonated with me. I'm an atheist, ex-Mormon, and a regular reader of your blog.


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