Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Getting Dressed for Church

On the Meridian Magazine site, there’s an article about modesty and the way that young women dress for church.

It’s really interesting to read, because it stirs up a number of deeper topics, many of which can get quite controversial.

First of all, I agree with the general sentiment. There are a lot of young women in my ward (and, from the letters in response, my ward isn’t isolated in this) that show up to church wearing clothing that’s simply too revealing. You want details? Read the article. They pretty much captured what’s going on.

There’s some debate as to what to do about it, though. It went all the way from “Call them out, send ‘em home, and make ‘em change!”, to “At least they’re still coming to church…”

I think that it reveals some things about us as a people that run much, much deeper than even the vague issues of modesty. There are some underlying beliefs that we express or reflect by our clothing. And some of them aren’t exactly pretty.

First, we equate clothing with conformity. We’re wearing uniforms, essentially. There’s some variety with what is allowed, but the bottom line is that we’re wearing uniforms.

Men have to wear white shirts, ties, and dark suits. The hair is short, and facial hair, while allowed, is frowned on.

For women, long skirts or dresses, usually pretty much pastel or not to loud.

If a man shows up to church in a blue shirt, or even without a tie, his commitment to the gospel and his testimony could well be in question. Young men are taught that in order to pass the sacrament, they have to wear a white shirt and tie. Why? Because the white shirt represents purity.

But it’s ok, if the teenage priest who’s blessing the sacrament got a bit frisky with his date the night before. He’s still eligible to participate. As long as he’s got a white shirt. It’s more important to represent purity, than to actually be pure.

There’s a woman in our ward who doesn’t like to wear dresses. She wears pants to church every Sunday. She gets more strained looks than the young women showing their midriffs over their skirts. Yet this lady is completely, modestly covered.

Second, we equate clothing with respect. Why do we wear our best clothing to church? Because it shows respect.

Respect for who?

I have a hard time imagining that the same Lord that dined with publicans and sinners, who told us to clean the inward vessel first, cares how nice my clothes are when I arrive to worship Him.

If someone were to arrive at church wearing jeans and a T-shirt, would that make them any less receptive to the spirit?

Weren’t the ancient Nephites caught up in who was wearing the finest clothing as they worshipped?

“And it came to pass in the *eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.

“Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.

”For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.

”And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.” – Alma 4:6-9

Now, I’m all for modesty. I think that’s very important. I think in today’s oversexed world, it’s a good thing to keep some things private.

All I’m saying is that let’s be very careful how we judge those that don’t dress the same as we do.

Mark Hansen

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