White Shirts

Recently, my wife and I had temple recommend interviews. We had our interviews with the bishopric Sunday, and with the stake presidency Tuesday night. When leaving the interview Sunday, we were told that if we are not in our Sunday best dress, we would be turned away.

So, in my interview with the stake presidency, I was wearing a light blue shirt and tie, with khaki slacks. After the interview concluded, I was told that “the brethren have told us to remind all priesthood bearers to wear white shirts at their temple recommend interview”. A white shirt? Seriously? Will I be turned away if I am not in a white shirt? Will I be prevented from attending the temple, because I cannot renew my temple recommend, because I was not in a white shirt at the interview??

Now, in my opinion, that is an abuse of authority. My worthiness to attend the temple does not have any bearing on how I am dressed in the interview. It only has to do with how I answer the questions in the interview itself, of which pornography is not specifically listed.

This is not the first time in this stake that I have been told I would be turned away, if I am not dressed according to the standards of my local leadership, and wearing a white shirt. I have been called as a teacher in elder’s quorum. During January, I wore a formal chinese shirt to church to celebrate Chinese New Year beginning Monday. It also happened to be the day I was teaching my lesson. Of course, I explained to the quorum why I was wearing such a shirt, and that I like to show my outward expressions of celebrating other cultures. Well, I guess a counselor in the elder’s quorum presidency was not happy with me.

A few weeks later, I had my PPI with this elder’s quorum counselor. At first, it started well. Then, the questions started getting weird:

Do you say individual prayers every morning?
Do you say individual prayers every evening.
Do you say family prayers every day?
Do you pray before your meals?
Do you read your scriptures every day individually?
Do you read your scriptures every day with your family?
Are you having weekly family home evening?

This line of questioning went on and on for about 15 minutes. I thought it was strange, personally, but I guess this is a personal priesthood interview. Maybe this is how they are supposed to go. When I served in the elder’s quorum presidency, I certainly didn’t handle them this way. I was more interested in how the elder was coming along in general with his family, and how the families he home teaches were doing. My interviews never went longer than 10 minutes, if I could help it.

This interview went approached an hour.

After the line of questioning, I was then told that our previous stake president, who has since been released, issued a line of rules that all members of the stake needed to follow. Some of these rules were:

  1. No drinking caffeine.
  2. No watching television when you travel.
  3. You must be in Sunday best dress attending temple recommend interviews.

The list went on. He began to tell me this list contained some 30-45 items of things we were expected to follow as members of the stake. I thought it strange that the stake would be so anal retentive on rules and regulations. So far, the interview wasn’t going well. It was just strange. Then, in my opinion, it took a turn for the worse.

He started getting nervous. His voice was shaky, palms were sweating and he was avoiding eye contact. He was about to tell me something that he didn’t want to, but had to. What could it be? It turns out, by me wearing a chinese formal shirt to church, to celebrate Chinese New Year, this caused quite the ruckus with the quorum presidency, and likely the bishopric. In my interview, I was told that when I am teaching, I must be in a white shirt and tie. I am not allowed to wear any other shirt. While he appreciated my celebrating another culture, if I were to show up to church without a white shirt, on the day I was to teach, I would be turned away, and told to go home and change before I can come back.

Needless to say, I was offended. I was upset. Now, for the first time in my life, I understood what it must feel like to to leave the church because someone offended you on your choice of clothing. As odd as it sounds, if I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I would have turned away. I would remain home, and not attend church for some time. However, I have a testimony of the truths taught in this church, and I have too much respect for my family to not set an example for them. But I felt that pain.

What is it with white shirts and our church? I understand the symbolism, and I can accept that when performing ordinances. But, attending meetings or interviews? I thought the important thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ was just that- the gospel. Last I checked, white shirts weren’t part of that gospel. Unless, of course, we’ve gone back to living the Law of Moses. Now, I understand the need for best dress on Sunday. I even understand why missionaries and positions of leadership are asked to wear white shirts. But, I don’t understand it for the general population.

What is it about white shirts that is so important? Why will I be turned away from teaching a lesson if I am not in a white shirt? Why will I be denied renewing my temple recommend if I am not in a white shirt? I’m not trying to kick against the pricks, I just don’t understand the importance of white shirts. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

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One Response to White Shirts

  1. Rachael says:

    I was in a stake like this for awhile in Everett, Washington. A really great man who wore a beard to hide bad scars was denied his temple recommend and released from teaching young men because he refused, humbly and politely, to shave. We were told all the ways we break the Sabbath by the Relief Society president during a sacrament meeting and I swear I heard something like the amount of steps we could take on Sunday was mentioned. Moving and then later a change of leadership all over the stake was the only answer.

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