Saturday, August 13, 2011

White Shirt

I do not wear white shirts to Church. I can count the number of times I've worn one in the past year on one hand. OK, on one finger!! Interstingly enough, this subject came up in Presthood class last week, and I was very outspoken about it. Gotta defend my rebelliousness!

I find many advantages to NOT wearing a white shirt:

1.) They look better. I'm into color. Combine one of my colorful shirts with a snazzy tie from my massive collection and you've got COLOR, baby!!

2.) You get noticed. Everyone comments on my clothes. :) Nobody comments on a white shirt.

3.) You don't get called on. If you want people to leave you alone at Church, just wear a colored shirt and a loud tie - works every time!

4.) You can express yourself. I express my mood with my shirt/tie combinations. Sometimes I coodinate them with the program I hand out for Sacrament Meeting (that's my calling - to make the program). These I print in full color, of course, and often I make my outfit match the colors on the cover (how gay can you get, right!), which is always a fabulous photo or piece of religious art .
But the truth of the matter is that there is a serious side to this white shirt business. I mentioned it on another blog recently, and I'd like to share those thoughts again here.
Doctrine and policy. There is a difference. Doctrine is revealed truth, and policy may or may not be. For example, one of the revelaed priesthood duties of a deacon is to pass the sacrament. That is doctrine. However, there is no requirement that the deacon has to wear a white shirt and tie to do so. That would be policy proscribed by local leadership. I would personally rather have a deacon pass me the sacrament in jeans and a t-shirt than for that same deacon not to feel worthy to come to Church because he didnt have nice clothes to wear. I don't think God cares about his clothes.

Sometimes in the Church we allow policy to get in the way of or over-shadow doctrine, and I try to make sure I don't do that myself. But I realize it can and does happen.

I really meant what I said here. Too often in the Church we get hung up on the minutia of policy and ignore the underlying doctrine, or worse - ignore the feelings and needs of others. The other day I got a call asking me to pick up a brother for Church who had just recently been baptized. He is a fine young man, recently divorced. When I picked him up he had on jeans, a t-shirt, and Nike sneakers. I'm certain he doesn't have anything nicer to wear, although he is not poor at all and has a lovely home. This is simply what he wears to work every day. Society has gotten a lot more casual in their dress standards, and many people I know go to work in very casual clothes now- even to fancy corporate offices. They don't even OWN a dress shirt and tie! Anyway, I cringed when I saw him, hoping in my heart that no one at Church would say something hurtful, or take it upon themselves to lecture him on proper Church attire. So far, that has not happened. I have a better than average Ward I guess, and I'm really grateful for that. But there have been times in the past when things have not gone so well. The point is, no one should ever have to worry about what they wear to Church. God "looketh upon the heart", and so should we.

So back to the white shirt thing - there is no official doctrine that says men must wear a white shirt to do anything, except in the Temple, where white clothing is actually part of the ceremony. This is just tradition in the Church, or local policy. If anyone out there has been holding back I would encourage you to break out the stripes, the checks, and the solid colors and make it KNOWN that white shirts do not make one worthy or unworthy - they simply make one BORING!

So let's officially make September the month of the "WHITE SHIRT REBELLION"! Go to Church every Sunday with a colorful pattern on your chest and a smile on your face! Let them see your true colors, folks! MoHo's unite!!

P.S. Take my "White Shirt Poll" located in the side-bar.


Kim Mack said...

I am in agreement, yet again. My oldest son got a new suit a few years ago and I said he could get some shirts as well. He went with color. When he put that blue shirt on, as opposed to the white one he had worn for many years, I was astonished at how dang handsome he looked. Color is awesome.

Neal said...

Amen sister!! :)

Another point - women can and do wear colorful clothing to Church all the time. So why are men relegated to the Zombie White Shirt Protocol of Fashion?? Its ridiculous.

Its even more ridiculous when a leader tells a young man he can't pass the sacrament because he doesn't have on a white shirt. What the ???!!! That's when I have to bite into the pew in front of me and hold back the Fist of Death!

Brian said...

I'm in agreement with you, Neal.....the white shirt protocol seems to me just another example of the conformity that is expected in the church. And it really has nothing to do with one's spirituality. For me, I feel more spiritual wearing clothes that seem right to me. As long as I'm not being immodest, I don't see a problem here.

Kelly slash FindingMyWay said...

Our stake has gotten out of control on the "policy" in recent years. We have had special meetings where the stake president has asked the women to wear nylons. It became a very serious topic and women were feeling shunned if they didn't wear them. C'mon folks! And my own husband was called in and asked by our bishop to shave his facial hair, that he had had for years. The bishop even said, "this will not affect your membership, and I will not request this again, but it's something the stake feels very strongly about." Out of obedience, of course he started shaving his face. It feels great now to be free-thinking people! My H shaves when he feels like it and stopped wearing white shirts quite some time ago. I stopped going to church altogether. :) Anyway, yes... wear what makes you feel comfortable. If I ever went back I would love to wear pants... but I'm still at a point where I'd feel ashamed to do so. Plus I don't want to go back. Great post, RN!

Gay LDS Actor said...

After a steady 2-year diet of white shirts and conformity on my mission, I promised myself I would never wear a white shirt to church again, and as best I can remember, I never have in the 17 years since I've been home from my mission.

Even as a missionary, just to keep my sanity as far as individuality went, I would wear somewhat outlandish ties (which was easier to get away with because I was serving in an area of Europe where they are much more liberal with their tie and suit choices).

I remember my distict leader in the MTC chastising me for wearing a somewhat flamboyant tie saying that he didn't think our future mission president would approve of it. I remember being very upset at him for his comment, and it only made me want to wear the tie even more just to annoy him (not very Christ-like, but that's how I felt).

I also dyed my hair once when I was out in the field. Nothing terribly outlandish, but a very different color than my normal 'do. I remember my mission president's reaction the first time he saw it. He gave me a curious look and said, "I see you changed your hair color," and I said, "Yep," and that was all that was ever said about that. I don't think he was thrilled, but I always admire him for not making a big deal about it.

I only own one white shirt, and the only time I ever wear it is when I have a film audition for a lawyer- or businessman-type.

I distinctly remember in a singles' ward I attended yesrs ago, I was told by the sacrament coordinator that I couldn't bless or pass the sacrament unless I wore a white shirt. I remember feeling confused and hurt because I didn't see what my personal worthiness had to do with the color of my shirt (or my hair length or whether I had a beard or whatever) nor was I aware of any doctrinal reason why I couldn't wear a colored shirt.

Being the rebel I was, I simply refused to wear a white shirt, and for as long as he was the sacrament coordinator, I never blessed or passed (which was secretly okay with me because I never really enjoyed passing (although I did like blessing)).

I love wearing colored shirts and coordinated ties (some still a bit flamboyant). It makes me feel like I'm expressing my individuality in an environment that often pushes conformity and, frankly, blandness. I feel I'm better off for it, and I often get compliments on my outfits to boot. I think Mormonism can use a little more color and vibrancy sometimes, and I'm just trying to do my part. ;-)

Neal said...

Brian - I agree totally. Really, modesty should be the only consideration when it comes to Church clothing.

FMW - Good post! I think your Stake Pres. should be slapped. (just kidding!) Make him wear nylons for a while and see if the policy changes! LOL! I do know some leaders that have had facial hair. I had a Bishop once who had a mustache the entire time he was Bishop. Again, it has nothing to do with worthiness.

Gay LDS Actor - I'm so proud of you for going all color! Hurray ! I'm not the ONLY one in the Church!
That sacrament coordinator was so wrong. What upsets me most is to see that happen to the youth. It can really do damage when they are singled out for anything - clothes, hair, piercings. Youth are very sensitive to criticism from adults and can have their self esteem crushed quite easily. I remember a young man in one of my wards who had longer hair and was criticised for it by a leader; and it just tore him apart. He was in tears. He was a good kid and didn't deserve that. None of these external criteria determine worthiness.

Kelly slash FindingMyWay said...

I just read something from a friend on Facebook that said something like "Whew! The Stake Pres. lifted the complete ban on FB last night. But I will be deleting a bunch of guys from my account that aren't my family." I'm telling you, this SP is a wonderfully amazing man (I have many personal experiences with him that prove it) but he's WAY OFF BASE a lot of times. What is wrong with "suggesting" to people that having friends on FB could possibly lead to an online affair.. and to "be careful." But NO... he BANS everyone from using it completely. I'm getting angry. I'm glad I don't attend my meetings anymore because I'm at a point where I'd get up to the pulpit and set some people straight.

Don't get me wrong, I know that there are people who have faltered by using pornography, or by starting an online romance, or by not wearing nylons (wait!!). But to take away computers completely, or to ban FB from someone's life... c'mon! Let them govern themselves. Suggestions are better than outright banning. In my humble opinion.

White shirts. Nylons. No facial hair. No online entertainment. What's next?? No vehicles because they might drive us to meet someone who is "inappropriate??" Geesh.

Stepping off soapbox now.

Neal said...

FMW - Sorry you have such paranoid leadership in your area. I'm happy to report that our Stake does not ban FB, but is educating its members on the positive use of technology, social networking options, and how to keep themselves safe in the cybersphere. They even offer classes on FaceBook setup, security and privacy. I also post a monthly FB tip in the Sacrament program. This is a much more progressive approach. Educate, provide resources, and then let the people govern themselves.

emerdean said...

Finding - thank you for vacating the soap box. I will now take it over for a few moments...

This whole white shirt thing really irritates me for several reasons.

I remember being a Priest a hundred years ago when those orange/red shirts were popular. I got to church one day and two of my buddies were wearing theirs and so I went home and put mine on so that we would be matching when we blessed the sacrament. It was fun. I liked blessing the sacrament and it was not distracting (at least for me) to be wearing red when I did it...
Today, in that same ward building, the rule is that the sacrament may neither be blessed nor passed by one who does not wear white. My son used to like to pass. Now he has latched on to what I perceive to be the "unrighteous dominion" aspect of this (see D & C 121: 34-40) and has chosen to not only not wear a white shirt to church, but to simply no longer participate in church. Obviously there are other things going on for a 17 year old than being compelled to wear a white shirt - but the rigidity of the leadership has turned into a stumbling block for this very kind hearted, bright young man who is not interested in double talk from people who claim to be doing righteous things.

This makes my son's father's heart break.

In the grand scheme of things, I realize that we each are "polished" by being tumbled against each other's rough points. I hope that I can help my son to recognize that that is what is going on.

Another part of my experience has to do with my beloved Home Teacher. He has walked beside me for years as I have traveled a lonely road through disfellowshipment toward reinstatement in the church. He was in the Bishopric when I was disfellowshipped and when I was reinstated, and refuses to wear a white shirt for any church function except for going to the Temple. He led meetings in grey and beige shirts - sometimes pale plaids. His style is not flashy - he just likes conservative non-white. The higher ups finally stopped harassing him when he reportedly made something like the following statement to the Stake President: "My father wore white shirts for years for all of my youth when he was functioning as the Branch President of our unit. Even when he was having sexual intercourse with his secretary while he was at work and was throwing me against the walls in our home and was disrespecting my mother in various ways he was wearing white shirts while he was functioning as the Branch President. After divorcing my mother, he married the secretary and has since been sealed to her in the Temple... The color of my father's shirt had nothing to do with his purity and I don't believe that the color of my shirt has anything to do with mine. Feel free to release me if you would like to since I will not wear a white shirt while carrying out the responsibilities of my calling." They left him alone.

So much unnecessary damage done as people learn to follow the "right" inspiration. Matthew 23:27 comes to mind... The real relationship for each of us is between me/ourself and Christ. It is our job to resist the temptation to be distracted by others who do not realize that priority. Also, it is my/our job to rely on Christ to deal as fairly with me/us as I/we deal with those people...

Soap box vacated.

emerdean said...

And what's this "you can't use Facebook" thing? I just organized a very successful family reunion/cousin party with my Facebook account...


Neal said...


Timely and telling posts, as always. Thanks for your thoughts and support.

Neal said...

Ah-haaa! I found it! I finally found the quote I've been looking for.

This is from the General Handbook of Instructions, Book2:

"Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are RECOMMENDED because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, THEY SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church."

emerdean said...

Neal - your quote makes me cry.

So much "collateral damage" in terms of immature souls lost to this silliness.

Surely God will make this right one day.

Neal said...

Surely He will. My heart aches for you in this instance because of your personal closeness to this issue.

emerdean said...

I cut and pasted the excerpt from the church handbook and sent it Dennis. He asked that I post his response here on your blog, Neal:

"This instruction from the General Handbook of Instructions is exactly how I have viewed my wearing of a white shirt every since I joined the church. I did not own a white shirt or tie for the first four months I was a member of the church. Not one individual in the ward said anything to me. When the Spirit prompted me to get appropriate clothes for church, I obtained what I thought was appropriate a white shirt and tie, eventually a suit and I have done it because I wanted to for over fourteen years now. I consider it a small thing I do to express my inward convictions of the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Weary not in well doing

Duck said...

My brother served as a Bishop (almost 7 years) and on several High Councils and had a full beard and mustache through all those years of service. My father has often ridiculed my brother (and, last weekend my brother's son because of his beard) for his facial hair. I get REALLY perturbed with this kind of behavior, and tell my father so: the important thing is what is in one's heart and not what is on his face or on his back, i.e., a white shirt and conservative tie. I hope you get what you wished for, many colorful shirts and ties in September.

emerdean said...

Matthew 23:24 comes to mind...

Also pictures of Joseph F Smith with a rather ugly (IMHO) beard are floating through my head. Christ is always pictured with a beard... When I see pictures (well, paintings...) of Christ at the Last Supper, he wasn't wearing a white shirt OR tie. Let's see a Deacon show up to Sacrament Meeting expecting to pass while wearing a caftan!

Come on, people.

The bottom line issue for me as a parent and as a person comes to whether or not we seek the Lord's individual will for us and the test is measured by how much we are willing to give up of our individual will for the good of the whole - in particular when there are "fledgling" souls who are involved.

Are we actively seeking to be openly rebellious because of our spiritual immaturity (ahem, ahem, Neal) or need to make a point?

Where is the place for lively dissent? Certainly there is place for exaggeration when a point needs to be made, but the thinking man and woman will seek to prayerfully comply with the will of God in such acts. I believe He will provide the way for our point(s) to be made - as well as His.

BTW - I love you Neal and I would give just about ANYTHING to see you greeting the people in your Sacrament Meeting in drag.

emerdean said...

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."