Summertime & Suit Coats

Some years ago, when I had just started in the bishopric, I was conducting sacrament meeting on a hot summer day. We meet in a storefront chapel with no air conditioning, and it was warm in the chapel. I think I was the only bishopric member there, and we had a visitor from Frankfurt who was sitting on the stand. As I stood to announce the speakers after the sacrament, he leaned over and handed me a note. It said that I should announce that brothers could take off their suit coats if they wished. I just stared at the note for a minute for two reasons: first, my Finnish was terrible at the time and spontaneous announcements were a bit of a trick. Second, I was not wearing a suit coat myself. 

So I got up and said, in broken Finnish, ‘He said that if you don’t want your jacket, then take it off.’ There were a few chuckles, but nobody did anything. The only person wearing a coat who removed it was the visitor from Frankfurt.

I will confess to having a negative attitude about the suit coat generally. As a school teacher, I don’t wear one to work, and in my professional culture they are associated with administrators. In my mind, they are less a symbol of piety and more a symbol of authority and social hierarchy — demanding respect rather than showing respect. I keep mine at church on a coat rack near the bishop’s office. I put it on for sacrament meeting when I am on the stand and the weather isn’t too warm and take it off immediately after. I find it useless and uncomfortable.

That notwithstanding, I am worried about church culture in which a priesthood leader thinks that he needs to give people permission to take off their coats in hot weather. I’m hoping to hear that this is rare.

Comments

  1. adam e. says:

    It’s not a church culture to give permission to take off suit coats. It’s traditional etiquette. It’s probably part of what Boyd K. would call the unwritten order of things. But since traditional rules of etiquette are generally ignored these days, most of us don’t care whether anyone takes off their suit coat.

    I noticed a similar oddity in General Conference when one of the speakers referred to “Sunday best” as if it was some doctrinal dress code that everyone should have been aware of and striving to follow. I’d heard the term before, but I assumed it meant, for boys, “slacks and a button-up shirt and tie, immediately removed upon returning home. (the tie may be removed immediately after the last meeting at church)”

    These are traditions of our fathers, things of an unwritten order, that we just don’t care about as much as they do.

  2. I think it’s less about the leader thinking he needs to give permission, but more about his understanding that as the presiding authority at the meeting people are looking to him for guidance. He recognized that people were hot, understood that a lot of people were looking to him as an example, and “gave permission” for them to remove their coats if they wanted. I know a lot of people who would sit and sweat in their coats if the presiding authority was still wearing his. . . one thing about us Mormons . . we are ready to suffer a little and grateful for the opportunity. :)

  3. I would love to see that priesthood leader announce that the women could now remove their pantyhose.

  4. Chris Gordon says:

    Not rare, unfortunately. I’m always a bit surprised by how, contrary to your example, how many paean brethren obediently (and with a look of relief) peel their coats off as if they’d been waiting for the authorization. (Although honestly, I’m sure that some of them were in that fun period of male oblivion and the announcement caused them to say to themselves, “Wait a tick! It IS hot in here! I think I’ll take my coat off.”)

    I have no idea where if ever any “doctrine” or policy about the need for men to wear coats came from. I think there’s just a generational thing to it. Used to be that if you weren’t wearing a coat you couldn’t consider yourself dressed up, where these days anything above jeans will do. In my ward council the HPGL and I are consistently the only guys in there not sporting a coat and do rock the occasional non-white shirt. No one says anything or even looks askance, fortunately, but it did give me pause when I got the calling.

    I did come across sort of a cute situation once where the building A/C got stuck on too low a setting and everyone was freezing except for the men who were decidedly over-dressed for the winter. The bishop got up mid-meeting and apologized for the A/C and encouraged the brethren to take note of their shivering companions and perhaps lend their coat.

  5. In my mission in Sao Paulo Brazil (in the early 2000s), there was an explicit rule that we could only remove our suit coats if the presiding authority had removed his, be it Sacrament Meeting or Zone Conference.

  6. Here’s my favorite suit coat story: One time on my mission, the Elders came to our apartment for district meeting. It was summer and ridiculously hot. I said, “Elders, you can take off your jackets.” The junior companion looked relieved and quickly started shedding his jacket. But the senior companion put a stop to that. “Sister X,” he said, “You are NOT priesthood authority.” Sheepishly, the young elder put his jacket back on while I sat there dumbfounded.

  7. Kristine says:

    Amy, ftw.

    Also, WHAT is up with the standing up at the pulpit and then ceremoniously buttoning the top button of the jacket??

  8. On my mission I had to translate for a district conference. This included the pre and post meetings with a 70, the Mission Presidency, District Presidency, etc. I was especially nervous because the 70 (in addition to his native German) was fluent in English and Russian and knew how well (or poorly) I was doing the whole time. It was hot. The 2nd day of the conference I didn’t wear a jacket. At the end of the final meeting, the 70 thanked me for my translating. He then said “I’d like to ask you a question: Why aren’t you wearing a jacket?” To which I started “Well, it was really hot today and” at which point I was cut-off by an obviously irritated 70 who in an irritated and loud voice said “Don’t you think the rest of us are hot? We’re all wearing jackets!” It was a bit scary as a missionary to be yelled at by a 70 and for years afterwards I was incapable of going to a church function without a jacket from the emotional scars. (I’m only being slightly facetious)

  9. Chris Gordon says:

    @Kristine, when standing most guys think that coats look better buttoned (but PLEASE stop with the buttoning of the bottom button!), but it’s also not as comfortable to sit while buttoned and can cause all manner of scrunching. So, sitting down = no buttons, standing up = buttons for lots of guys. It’s also a very handy nervous tick for those who need something to “do” in order to get comfortable at the mic. It’s right there with shuffling papers around, adjusting glasses, and making an inane joke. :)

  10. @Bryan and Geoff, I had similar experiences on my mission in Brazil–the mission is a particularly fertile breeding ground for these unwritten-order-of-things non-rule-rules. Our mission president told a story from when a GA visited his stake when he was stake president, and how after insuring that every priesthood holder had a suit coat and was bringing it, he had personally instructed all priesthood brethren to keep their coats on unless the visiting GA removed his. It was a hot day (there are lots of those in Brazil) in a non-air-conditioned chapel, and the GA gave permission for everyone to remove their suit jackets, but left his own on. No one moved. The GA asked my mission president why, and was told they’d only take them off if the visiting authority took off his own. Apparently the GA smiled, said the brethren were ready to hear “real doctrine”, and taught something really profound. I ate up the anecdote at the time I heard it, but in retrospect it seems like another somewhat off-putting example of how appearances are still our biggest determinants of apparent righteousness.

  11. Jacob M says:

    Since so many have mentioned the mission, that confirms for me that we can blame this mentality on the mission and some of the more ridiculous rules we had to abide by.

  12. Mark B. says:

    Yeah, if we smoked while conducting meetings, we could keep busy by flicking a bit of ash off our cigarette rather than by buttoning the jacket.

    With the new environmentally-minded leadership in the Presiding Bishop’s office, I expect that the air conditioning in the buildings will be set at a higher temperature so we don’t feel we need to wear a coat to keep from freezing. And then we’ll shed the coats in summertime, like that day in 1961 when all American men stopped wearing hats.

  13. geoffsn–“To which I started “Well, it was really hot today and” at which point I was cut-off by an obviously irritated 70 who in an irritated and loud voice said “Don’t you think the rest of us are hot? We’re all wearing jackets!””

    To me, this is the height of ridiculousness–instead of responding “why don’t we all stop being uncomfortable for no good reason–I’m taking mine off too” he in effect said “hey, why aren’t you being miserable with the rest of us?.” Silliness. Abject silliness.

  14. Mark B. says:

    One of the big changes Pres. George W. Bush (or should that be spelled Busch) made when he became president was that men had to wear suit jackets at work in the West Wing. Ah, the weightier matters of the law.

  15. Sam Brunson says:

    As a law professor, I wear a jacket and tie on (almost) any day I teach. (When we’re significantly below freezing and my jacket won’t fit under my warmest coat, I sometimes wear a sweater instead.) And, after spending some time in Italy recently, can I say that, if I had the money (sadly, I don’t), I’d wear nothing but tailored Italian suits. All the time.

    But to your point: I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone at church men permission to take their coats off. In meetings I’ve been at, men wear their coats, take them off, or don’t wear them in the first place as they will.

    And Kristine, what Chris said. The Art of Manliness explains that, allowing for certain exceptions, “A suit should always remain buttoned until one sits, when it usually becomes necessary to unfasten the jacket. Once one stands again, the jacket should be refastened.”

  16. Sunday I visited a ward where the bishop conducting the meeting wore a yellow jacket and cream-colored slacks. Seeing him made me feel happy about summer.

  17. My understanding is that, in the days before deodorant, taking off one’s suit coat had the effect of releasing one’s body odor for all and sundry to enjoy. Therefore, it was considered proper to ask permission before removing the coat.

    Also: Both Reagan and Bush supposedly refused to enter the Oval Office without a suit coat on. Not sure whether they demanded this standard of their staffs as well.

  18. When I was a missionary in the hot & humid southern Philippines in the 70s, we weren’t required to wear suitcoats while proselyting – except on Sundays, when we went to church. Since after church we’d wouldn’t go home first, but head directly to our proselyting areas, we’d end up wearing the suits all day long. The dozen or so elders were probably the people in the city of a million people who were wearing suits. None of the local members even owned a suit.
    A couple of months after I arrived, Pres. Hinckley (then an apostle) & the mission president visited our city. They came to the local sacrament meeting in the non-air-conditioned, 2nd floor space the church was renting in the business district downtown. That afternoon, when Elder Hinckley met with the missionaries at a local hotel, one of the first things he did was joke about the hot weather, take off his suit jacket, and encourage all of us to take off our coats too.
    A few days after he left, the entire mission was informed that we were no longer required to wear suitcoats to church on Sundays. Though none of us had complained about the prior rule, we all appreciated the change.

  19. Re # 15, this rule of thumb only makes sense if you’re wearing a reasonably well fitting suit. It is meaningless if you’re wearing an off-the-rack Mr. Mack suit that you haven’t even tried to have tailored to fit you.

    But, Kristine, it’s just a men’s fashion thing and not a Mormon thing.

  20. “As a law professor,…”

    As a punkass poli sci professor, life is much more simple. Of course, I have never been mistaken as manly.

  21. The only thing about this that is church culture is the amazing number of participants in this discussion who think it *is* church culture. It is not — it is the culture of the world where men normally wear suits. I’ve heard similar announcements in law offices and court rooms and board rooms and conference rooms, any place where a degree of formality is the norm. It’s akin to a hostess signalling that her guests should begin eating by raising her own fork, or where a military leader might cue his men to relax by saying “smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em” or in any other setting where people take their cues from someone of slightly higher status, however “status” is defined by the setting.

  22. Ardis, I agree, but, like so much else, I think this is something taken from the surrounding culture and magnified and distorted by the church culture.

  23. Since leaving the mission field I haven’t been in a church setting where suit coats have been required. While I was a counselor in my EQP, we were instructed by the SP to shave and make sure we wore a white shirt and tie to all EQ meetings which I complied with.
    But now that I”m not in an EQP I can tell you if I was instructed that a suit was required to attend a meeting, I’d just blow it off.
    The “uniform of the church” falls under the category of unwritten order of things which falls dangerously close to false traditions of the fathers.
    The problem with the unwritten order of things, is like they taught me in my EMT training about documentation: “If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.”

  24. 22
    @Brad
    Come on Brad, You know that church culture never magnifies and distorts things from the surrounding culture. I challenge you to find a single instance on this blog where such a thing is discussed.

    Where is my @#$ sarcasm font anyway?

  25. re # 21, that is exactly right Ardis. It is simply a reflection of the fact that somehow formal business attire (ironically no longer worn in a large segment on the business world with investment banks and old-school law firms, as well as the board rooms of some giant corporations, being a few hold-outs) became religious vestiments for Mormons. The peripheral etiquette rules associated with such attire came along with it.

    As a further irony, even though men’s clothing is still dictated by what was worn in IBM’s boardroom circa 1950s and at investment banks and Wall Street law firms today, my sense is that such “professional” attire is not broadly considered acceptable for women at church. So, if a woman tried to wear the type of business suit she would wear to attend a meeting of the Board of Directors at a corporation to Church, members at Church would disapprove of her sartorial upgrade, even though such specifically business/professional attire is the required uniform for men in the Church.

    This is reflected in the missionary context as well. Elders’ “uniforms”, although actually unique to Mormon missionaries (virtually no one else in modern society wears a short sleeve white shirt and tie with wool, Mr. Mac quality suitpants and Doc Martins or similar shoe), are meant to evoque this “professional” attire whereas such business professional attire is not the model for Sister missionaries’ uniform. This appears to follow more of a casual college student look, drawing heavily from the catalogue of Anthropologie or Nordstroms.

  26. Mark Brown says:

    I know, from having been personally told by a visitng GA, that at least some of the brethren are astonished at our determnination to play Simon Says.

  27. #26, how quickly some forget just how much more influential President Packer once was…

  28. Our Arizona Phoenix mission president made us wear coats any time we were likely to see members or investigators–so, pretty much, always. I got heatstroke a couple times. Not sure about nylons for “las hermanas,” but they always had cars. So, I got the feeling the sisters had it better than we elders did. They usually had apartments with swamp coolers, too. & There was that time when a sister called me, late night, because she thought their wonky swamp cooler was possessed. No lie. Sadly, I didn’t exhibit much sympathy.

  29. “wool, Mr. Mac quality suitpants”

    Mr. Mac makes clothing out of wool? I thought they only made polyester suits.

  30. Jim Donaldson says:

    To document what Ardis said, I spent many years practicing law. It was unthinkable to appear in court as a lawyer without a suit coat. The judge would ask you first thing where yours was, if it wasn’t on. It was a sign of respect, I suppose, for the Court. In our pre-depression unairconditioned courthouse, the judge could, and some times did, in the hottest days of summer, grant permission for the removal of jackets (but I can’t recall any lawyer ever asking). So it isn’t just a Mormon thing, I think it is part of the larger culture, at least that part that honors old traditions, like the church does from time to time (See women and skirts and dresses).

    I was once told by the elders in our ward that the “rule” was that you have to wear suit jackets between October and April conference, but that you could leave them off between April and October conference, except for church meetings. I suppose such rules have the shelf life of an individual mission president, but it seems logical in a place that can get hot.

    In our inner city ward, the number of men in jackets during meetings includes the bishopric and the few others who are used to wearing jackets to work. No one else does. Lots of white shirts and ties, but no jackets. The building is air conditioned so heat isn’t an issue, and if one chose to remove his jacket, no one would notice. There is no requirement that sacrament officiators, prayer-givers, or speakers wear jackets. It could potentially be a status thing, but I don’t think so, it’s just people doing what they usually do. We have a ward that is unusually status blind, I think. It is one of the reasons that I’m lived most of my adult life here.

    I most often wear a jacket because it seems natural to me to do so, at least for sacrament meeting, but then I rarely wear a white shirt, because, well, … I’m just like that.

  31. Scott Armstrong says:

    (19) You identify one of the great paradoxes of Mormon culture: We’re really into appearances, yet we often don’t look very good.

    The baggy suits have got to go.

  32. Ardis and Jim, that’s the exactly the problem–the unwritten order of things is pretty much just the 50s/60s white middle class American culture that most GAs are familiar/comfortable with, what they bring from their predominantly business/law background. But especially internationally, where non-American leaders and mission presidents eat up talks like Pres. Packer’s “Unwritten Order of Things” and then ascribe sacral importance to things like suit jackets, you get fun experiences like the ones people are mentioning from their missions. Saying these things aren’t church culture because they’re reflections of the culture of the world is an oversimplification, because that’s not how most members interpret it–GAs do it, therefore it’s doctrine. That’s why crazy things like this exist: http://www.followtheprophet.net/2011/03/30/president-monson-to-deliver-commencement-address-at-dixie-state-college-on-may-6/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FollowTheProphet+(Follow+The+Prophet)

  33. #17: check this out: http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/02/that_bush_oval_office_jacket_t.php

    I agree it is an American / corporate cultural thing. That’s why nobody changed in our ward: they wouldn’t recognize the cultural cue for what it was.

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    In my current suburban ward in the intermountain Mormon corridor, maybe a third of the men wear a jacket to sacrament meeting. I usually don’t. Many men, including myself, rock shirts of various colors on a regular basis. No one bats an eye at sandals or flip-flops on women and YW. Maybe the fact that it was 118 degrees a few days ago plays in to this.

    Full disclosure – I wear a suit and tie to work, every day. And I like it. Such is life in biglaw.

  35. In my dad’s mission, the old mission president always required jackets. When the new mission president arrived, he looked around and said, “My goodness, it’s hot! Why don’t you guys take off your jackets?” When no one moved, he said, “Go ahead, take them off!” What he didn’t know was that the elders hadn’t been ironing their sleeves for months. They looked awful. Ha ha ha. But yeah, you’re right, people should be able to take off those jackets. In fact, I’m all for banning them because they seem to cause the problem of always having the church too cold–the men run the heating and cooling systems while the women freeze in their skirts.

  36. As a punkass poli sci professor, life is much more simple. Of course, I have never been mistaken as manly.

    I am similarly punkass, but I choose to wear a tie and jacket (sometimes suit, more usually sport) to class every day anyway. It’s at church that I dress down.

  37. Russell.

    I think I was ruined by my 3 years at BYU-Idaho. Faculty were required to wear ties.

  38. i get why leadership is asked to wear suits…men really do look more professional and capable in them. And I want to think of my leaders as professional and capable, especially when I hand them a tithing check or when they ask me to do something I’d rather not do.

    On the other hand, I didn’t wear a suit when I was a teacher, and I don’t wear one now as a YM leader, because I *don’t* want to give off that professional vibe. I have the same opinion about missionaries being required to wear suits in settings where it’s inappropriate. They look like faith-management consultants.

    BTW, I’m loving BCC’s recent modesty and clothing posts.

  39. “faith-management consultants.”

    Ha!! Though I’m not sure I agree. I’m with Fowles in thinking that we’re generally not well dressed. Certainly not well tailored. More like faith IT guys.

  40. “As a further irony, even though men’s clothing is still dictated by what was worn in IBM’s boardroom circa 1950s and at investment banks and Wall Street law firms today, my sense is that such “professional” attire is not broadly considered acceptable for women at church. So, if a woman tried to wear the type of business suit she would wear to attend a meeting of the Board of Directors at a corporation to Church, members at Church would disapprove of her sartorial upgrade, even though such specifically business/professional attire is the required uniform for men in the Church.”

    Exactly right, john f. Once I was getting dressed for church and was bored of all my church dresses, so I put on one of my suits. My husband said, “Are you going to wear that? It doesn’t seem very churchy. It looks like you’re going to work, not to church.” Me: “Yes, um, unlike what you’re wearing, honey??!!” He definitely had a point though, relative to our current sartorial culture.

  41. “More like faith IT guys.” FTW.

  42. As much as I’d like to say it’s not cultural, I think it is. There’s a portion of the Mormon membership who really do believe in the “unwritten order of things.” And, unfortunately, try as the church might to dissuade some of those unwritten orderers, the mentality still prevails.

    I’ve seen and been apart of several discussions, for instance, where YM are judged if they don’t have a white shirt on and are excluded from passing the Sacrament (even though the CHI states otherwise), and several have noted that not wearing a white shirt is “sending a signal” that they are either (a) unworthy or (b) not wanting to participate. This then has a trickle down effect where mothers (my wife, for instance) firmly believes that our 5-year old needs to be wearing a white shirt and tie to church, or to the EFY standards where white shirts are differentiated from colored shirts (colored shirts can be worn to the dances or other activities, but white shirts are to be worn to the church services).

    I think a significant portion of average members couldn’t give a rip about what color shirt men wear, but there is also a significant portion of the membership who see the GAs and missionaries sporting white shirts, so that standard is applied to church and that’s what has to be worn.

    Thank you, IBM, for setting that standard.

  43. During a quarterly priesthood meeeting a couple weeks back our SP gave “permission” to remove suit coats. Years ago While in the MTC a couple of elders from my district and others removed their coats before the meeting started and were directed to put the back on, at which point the MTC president then allowed anyone who was hot that they could remove them and said that come November coats would be required at all time.

    What a relief it was to get to the mission field and deposit my suit in the mission home until it was time to go home.President abhorred the fat polyester ties, but only on rare ocassions wore his coat. Long sleeve shirts were a rare occurence also.

  44. Kristine, I recently noticed it on lawyer tv shows too. Have men been doing it my whole life and I just didn’t notice it until a couple years ago? Sit down, unbutton, stand up, button, sit down, unbutton, stand up, button.

  45. Yes, jks, this has been going on for probably close to 150 years.

  46. Jenny in NC says:

    My husband doesn’t own a suit jacket. I don’t wear pantyhose. I didn’t realize we were breaking any unwritten rules. And we are both life-long-pioneer-stock members. Are we clueless or what?

  47. No, you’re just fine.

  48. I don’t own a suit either, Jenny. Let’s start a Facebook group for people like us.

  49. I look forward to the day when ties are no longer necessary.

  50. observer fka eric s says:

    “My understanding is that, in the days before deodorant, taking off one’s suit coat had the effect of releasing one’s body odor for all and sundry to enjoy.”

    Um, pit farts still occur with or without removing a jacket. It’s best to keep the pits closed in proximity to others, lest a Speed Stick rotten onion waft escapes.

  51. “I’m hoping to hear that this is rare.”

    Ime, it is rare. Usually, nobody thinks to remove their coats where I’ve lived. If they are wearing them, they generally don’t imagine taking them off.

  52. @Amy, I have a transcript of a missionary meeting where President Gordon B. Hinckley invited the elders to remove their suit coats, then invited the sisters to remove their hairspray. ^_^

  53. Mark B. says:

    I remember a General Priesthood Meeting, one warm October in the Tabernacle, where President Hinckley commented on how hot it was and invited the men to take off their jackets. As I recall, he led the way and there wasn’t any hesitation among the men there.

  54. You’d think this was as compelling a question as if we should wear our birthday suits or not to church. We were brought up that when you go to church and worship the Lord you wear your “Sunday best.” We like that tradition, so we keep it, but we were also taught that our best my not be someone else’s best. Each person decides what their best is. As far as to suit or not to suit, lots of ladies think there is nothing as sexy as a guy in fine tailored suit. However, nobody wants to jammed in the pew with the brotha who’s sweating profusely, so can’t we all just use our better judgment. PS: Since we aren’t the ones who brought it up, WHY IS THE CHAPEL ALWAYS SO COLD? If someone could let the Brethren know that black people don’t really like the cold that would be great (How many black people do you see running around Alaska?). Approach it as sort of a missionary tool. If the chapel felt like room temperature and less like a igloo, each ward might see a bit of a spike in black membership. Yes, we know we are stereotyping and no, we don’t care.

  55. More like faith IT guys.

    I WISH we could dress more like the IT guys at my office. Shorts and T-shirts all the way! (Granted, I work in an office full of fairly anarchic software developers, so most attempts at setting a standard much higher than that are doomed…)

  56. Sistas, I was convinced the air conditioning was always on max to punish the brethren like me who don’t wear suitcoats, and the sisters were simply collateral damage. Then I was convinced it was to keep me awake as the usual suspects bore their testimonies every month. But then I had a stint in the bishopric (in order to force me to wear my suitcoat) and I was introduced to the secrets of the kingdom: 1) it’s actually warmer on the stand, so you don’t notice so much 2) the air conditioner only has two states — on and off. Only the maintenance guys can set the temperature, and they set it as low as possible so nobody will call them and tell them it’s not working.

  57. What Sistas in Zion said.

    “Sunday best” is the common AMERICAN vernacular to say that you wear your best clothes to church. If that means your best clothes are your pressed Wranglers, spiffy western shirt, and a bolo tie (hello, Wyoming), that’s what that means. Even people who don’t go to church use the phrase to specify that they’re wearing their best clothes. I’m surprised someone has never heard it before.

  58. #56. Martin, thanks for the enlightenment. We plan to get busy hooking one of our single sistas up with the maintenance guy. The other alternative is asking for permission to sit on the stand where it’s warmer, but they might think that we are offering to give a talk, so we’ll stick with somebody marrying the maintenance man.

  59. What y’all need to do is move into a ward like mine where you have hundreds — yes, literally hundreds — of folks in their 80s and 90s. I think our building’s air conditioner has the settings “hotter than Hades” and “Bessemer process” in consideration for the oldster comfort. I do know that the temperature difference between my head level when I’m standing to teach and the head level of sitting class members is something like 30 degrees — they’re sitting there in relative comfort, and the sweat is just pouring down my face and back all the time I’m teaching. I don’t take handkerchiefs to weepy movies, but I certainly do take them to Sunday School.

  60. Kristine says:

    Do women wearing power suits also do the stand up sit down button button button thing? Maybe I’m just jealous because I look so stupid in a suit and thus have no tension-release mechanism when I stand up at a pulpit, and end up speaking 500 words/minute for the first few minutes…

  61. Oldster comfort, ftw.

  62. I read the Sistas’ comment and thought to myself, “I *do* wear my birthday suit to church. I just usually wear a couple of layers on top of it.”

    No, but seriously. Our air-conditioning is brutal. I’m kind of skinny, and for the last several years I have had to wear a sweater under my suit jacket all summer, just to endure Gospel Doctrine in the gol dang Relief Society Room. There is something WRONG WITH THAT. So if my black brothas and sistas could use a little skinny-white-dude solidarity on the temperature front, sign me on up.

  63. In our ward, the AC has yet to be turned on in the chapel this year. People have been making jokes about it in their sacrament meeting talks for over a month. Last week, a deacon almost fainted from the heat. You can always put more clothes on if it’s too cold, but I already don’t wear a suit to church, and I think the removal of any more clothing would be frowned on. I’m thinking of bringing in a large electric fan this Sunday, and finding a seat with an electrical outlet nearby. It’ll make me the most popular guy in the ward.

  64. Researcher says:

    “it’s actually warmer on the stand” (comment 56) Having recently been released as ward organist, I can vouch for that. It’s particularly awful during pregnancy, with the heat from the organ and all the lights, and the little heat-generating unit inside.

    One argument for air conditioning: it can be beneficial to people with certain medical conditions. One of my kids has heart and circulation issues and tends to overheat quickly (you can easily pick him out of a crowd; he’s the one with the heat rash) so we tend to set our air conditioning at home cooler than we would otherwise, and appreciate buildings that run a little cool.

    Are there any HVAC guys reading this post? (Do engineers read BCC, or just lawyers and literary types?) Is it particularly hard for some reason to heat or air condition a chapel? It seems like the buildings my family and I have met in over the past 15 years have struggled mightily with the HVAC systems. Things are usually too hot or too cold, and you never know which to expect, except for the excessive heat on the stand.

  65. I’m not an HVAC guy, but I’m an engineer. I think the reasons those spaces are hard to get the right temperature are several.

    1. Trying to get by with the least cooling for the space, to save on the cost of the installation. So that means it takes a while to change the temperature of the building.
    2. The fact that the main load during meetings is body heat, and the number of people in the building changes tremendously before, during, and after the 3 hour block. So if you had a setting that was comfortable before meetings started, with the increased load of lots of bodies you’re going to need it set cooler, then after the people all leave you need it warmer again. This is aside from differences in illumination during the course of the day.
    3. The variety of people’s comfortable temperature when taking into account old people and young, fat and thin, people standing and moving around vs. those sitting still, etc. You can’t possibly keep everyone comfortable with a single setting.

    I’ve always worked with guys and they usually prefer temperatures cooler than women because women have lower metabolisms, generally. So I would usually keep sweaters, jackets, and even gloves at the office for those summer days when the guys crank the a/c way down. =)

    My ward building is usually too hot for me, so I crank the a/c way down in the car before and after meetings.

  66. In my (Australian) ward it is rare to find anyone wearing a suit coat outside of sacrament meeting. (the chapel is always freezing and the rest of the meetinghouse far too hot) and ties are generally loosened, if not lost, in time for Priesthood. Similarly it is not uncommon for the sisters to be wrapped up tight during sacrament and then left carrying around shawls and wraps the rest of the day,
    I have never once seen anyone even consider they need permission to decide what level of clothing is appropriate for their comfort.

  67. Peter LLC says:

    It’s at church that I dress down.

    Same here. I keep the good stuff in the closet to wear on occasions when those around me are more likely to appreciate my fine-twined linens (not to mention the harlots!).

  68. People fail to appreciate the utilitarian benefit of the suit coat as a tool for leadership – specifically the bishopric. Where else am I going to stuff those tithing envelopes that get handed to me throughout the 3 hour block? Inner suit pockets are the perfect size and they allow for a certain discreetness that walking around with a large stack pouring out of my front shirt pocket wouldn’t. The only other option would be to place them in the shoulder / messenger bag that has all of my books or a portfolio but I would worry about setting them down in a classroom and leaving them there. Maybe it’s time for cargo pants with big pockets on the leg? :)

  69. Norbert says:

    Alain, have members transfer their tithing into the ward’s account electronically like we do.

  70. Glenn Smith says:

    #53 Mark B.

    Pres. Benson did the same thing circa 1990/91
    I rarely wear a suit so it’s always jacket off for me.

  71. Shirt, tie, no jacket, is a combo only appropriate for children. If a setting demands a tie, it demands a jacket. This principle has nothing to do with religion.

  72. adam e. says:

    And the people were astonished, for gst taught as one having authority.

  73. adam e., it is because I am not one of the scribes. I am, as Norbert might have guessed, an administrator.

  74. #3- Amy
    I would love to see that priesthood leader announce that the women could now remove their pantyhose.

    I once served in a Stake Relief Society presidency where the president required us to wear nylons to every meeting (including Enrichment). Her reasoning? It will be too tempting and distracting for the Priesthood if we did not “cover” our legs. I refused to abide by the rule in the summer and was fired (ok- they called it “released) from the calling.

  75. My wife’s mission had a rule that the sisters had to always wear nylons (even in the summer humidity of Missouri). So she convinced her Mission President that nylon footies fulfilled that obligation.

  76. It is my theory that the whole suit thing is a throwback to the Anglican Church, which required in the 19th Century full suits for its ministers as well as other 19th century conventions, such as referring to men with their middle initial. I think things will change. Elder Oaks appeared from the Philippines in a video link in GC with his shirtsleeves, and President Benson took off his coat in Priesthood Session.

    And then there’s that great quote from Joseph Fielding Smith criticizing the practice of requiring priests and deacons to wear white shirts as “sectarian.” (I wish I could find the quote today.)

  77. Elouise says:

    Clothing and what it means to different people is a fascinating subject, methinks!

    When I went on my mission ( spring,1961) hats were required for sisters. After much searching, I found a foldable cloche, which I never wore thereafter. I remember only one sister who wore a hat on the mission. I think hats must have gone out as a missionary item by Summer 1961.
    One sister did come out that season, in a HUGE red hat that must have been lifted from the Ascot Opening Day scene in “My Fair Lady.” The same sister, the day after arrival, asked what time the fashion houses in Paris opened; she wanted to get down to a showing before hitting the tracting trail. That same sister, when six months later she received a telegram instructing her to transfer to another city, wired back that she could not transfer because she had finally found a hairdresser that could do her hair to her satisfaction. Our gracious, super-kind Mission President narrowed his eyes at the telegram and told the Mission Secretary to get on the phone and instruct that young lady to be on the train that very night!

    In the large English Department for all my years there, 98% of the men wore dark suits (often threadbare), white shirts and ties. A couple of the men, however, wore tweed jackets with leather-patched elbows, colored trousers, highly interesting shirts, and Italian shoes. Grumpy types said the white shirt & tie majority were clearly General Authorities in training, whereas the snappy dressers had already declared themselves not interested in that particular advancement.

    On the issue of men buttoning the bottom button upon rising–to me it has always been a clear message: “Getting down to business now.” Sort of a modified “Now hear this!”

  78. Glenn Smith says:

    For Bob #76
    Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol 1, p.103

    For example, let us consider the ordinance of the Sacrament. It became the custom in many wards throughout the church to have the young men who passed the Sacrament all dressed alike with dark coats, white shirts and uniform ties. This could in time lead to the established custom of dressing them in uniform, such as we see done in some sectarian and other churches.

    Found at Mormon Discussions, just posted today.

  79. Dr Horrible says:

    As a southerner, I just wear a seersucker suit in the summer. Solves the “too hot” problem.

  80. They never mentioned this rule in my baptismal interview. Thus, I do whatever.
    This typically implies doing whatever I feel like unless its a 70 or above. Its a culture thing, though I feel it would be nice if our culture were viewed a little less objectively like we do with others already.
    I try to show additional respect when occasion permits. But just like every prayer isn’t given on my knees, so I don’t wear a retarded coat unless obligated.

    Now the mission field, as many have attested, was a completely different story…

  81. Mark Brown says:
  82. Personally, I wear a suit to Church every week, but then I’m a big guy and it just looks a lot better. :-)

  83. @LJY 74
    Wish I could get released for not wearing nylons. Since I’m a guy, maybe if I WEAR nylons……
    @Josh B. 80 Trying to show additional respect.
    I had this conversation with my dad. we’re going to the temple tomorrow to have my adopted daughter sealed to us and he called to ask if he should wear a suit to the Temple. I told him that I understood it would be hot, but that even though I wear colored shirts to church and to go home teaching, etc. I always wear my suit coat to the temple. The bretheren asked us to look our best when we go to the Temple and even though there are lots of brethren who will wear just a shirt and tie, it’s important to me to wear my suit to the Temple.
    In fact the Temple is pretty much the only place I wear my suit anymore.

  84. There are handbooks for these types of things, you know.

    Esquire
    GQ

    +1 to the seersucker suit… Snazzayyyy. Please say you wear a light white fedora with it… Please…

  85. Steve Evans says:

    Unless your last name is Matlock or Belloq no seersuckers should be worn.

  86. Fwiw, if I am traveling, have unexpected time and want to attend a temple (which happens rarely, but occasionally), I show up in whatever I have with me – and, on one occasion, that was jeans and a polo shirt. I explained my situation to the brother at the desk, and he simply thanked me for coming to the temple in my spare time.

    I have shown up at stake meetings dressed in slacks, a colored shirt and a tie (and on a couple of occasions slacks and a polo shirt) where every other male in attendance was wearing a suit and tie – since I unexpectedly had to be at work later than normal and had to go straight to my church meeting. I’m not going to keep a suit and tie in my car for such rare situations, and everyone just shrugs and accepts it – even those who don’t like it. I get a few comments once in a while (“Came stright from work?”), and I just smile and nod my head.

  87. I want to put in a plug for seersuckers, especially with suspenders, white bucks and a straw boater hat. Bonus points if you can manage to carry a mint julep with you wherever you go.

  88. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, only if you talk like Foghorn Leghorn.

  89. Well I say I say.

  90. Steve Evans says:

    look out for chicken hawks.

  91. Our local unwritten rules go beyond suits. For example, deacons wearing white shirts should not roll up their long sleeves. Also, I’ve heard that our previous “no denim at church” rule has been expanded to no denim on Sunday. (I imagine this ties back to that old song Devil in a Blue Dress. After all, what color is denim? Blue!) Other helpful suggestions include no Sunday naps and no cooking large meals. I’m fuzzy on the large meal thing. Does “large” mean a lot of dishes or a lot of food? Does a small family get to eat a comparatively hearty meal while a large family should just eat crackers or cold cereal? The crackers idea would help keep everyone’s Sunday best clothes clean and they wouldn’t need to roll up their sleeves in order to do the dishes.

  92. Norbert RE: have members submit tithing electronically. When half your membership pays in cash because they most likely are paid in cash you’re just grateful they are living their covenants. Some probably don’t even have a checking account.

  93. Roger,

    Obviously, the next step for your ward is counting steps. You don’t want to take too many of those on the Sabbath…

  94. Melissa says:

    Our ward places an extreme emphasis on Sunday dress for the menfolk. Now, I don’t want the Deacons passing the Sacrament in cutoff jeans and Lakers t-shirts, but the Sunday uniform is almost fetishized. Our YM president recently spoke in SM and told an anecdote about a teenage boy whose (very, very poor) family had very recently been baptized. The boy had received the priesthood and shown up for his very first Sunday to pass the Sacrament, but he came to church in a dark red dress shirt. Rather than be thrilled that his young man had made all the choices that brought him to that moment, he told the boy he couldn’t pass the Sacrament without a white shirt. So the boy quickly went home, changed into a white shirt, came back and participated in passing the Sacrament for the very first time. It was told as a testament to this boy’s dedication and obedience, but all I could focus on was the ridiculousness of the demand. It all smacks of pharisee-ism to me.

    Of course, I have been known to wear very nice slacks to church (which drives my Bishop nutty), so perhaps I am really just a heretic.

  95. All of this reminds me of the old saying about how if you are moving into a new ward and don’t want a hard calling, show up your first day at church in a blue shirt with no tie. Facial hair and a couple of off the wall comments in Gospel Doctrine should cinch the deal

  96. No. 8 Was that native German 70 Manfred Schuetze by any chance? Just curious…

    Apart from that, once again, it seems ridiculous both that there is a notion that someone else needs permission regarding their clothing from a priesthood leader, nor that people would WAIT for permission. However, after a conversation today with my parents about clothing, and the Church’s involvement in trying to tell people how to dress, I realize it’s simply a generational issue that won’t go away/improve until, urm, the older generations are not in charge anymore.

  97. “…until the older generations are not in charge anymore”. Interesting thought, though I think the older generations are always in charge. I wonder what the younger gneration will be commenting on when you/we are the “older generation?

  98. Kent, that’s probably true…there will always be an “older” and “younger” generation. And I’d guess with each generation, there will be some change. I just think certain things that rub us the wrong way right now are generational issue that’ll be washed away as they cycle through a few generations, fading with each new one. And the same will probably happen as we get older and try to cling on to certain views.

  99. Late in the game:

    I was an intern at a chemical engineering company in the early 60s working in an old plant in Jersey City just across the river from Manhattan where the company headquarters were. Each summer they held a meeting for the interns and their bosses. Now, in Jersey City there was no air conditioning, it was an old, grimy chemical plant, mostly unused. I came to work every day in chinos and a short sleeved shirt. I, of course, forgot the day of the meeting and quickly hustled up a tie, at least.

    We got to the banquet room of a really ritzy NY hotel and the room was a sea of black and blue suits. I was the only shirt. I could have died and felt extremely uncomfortable. I still do to this day some 50 years hence. I cringe at the thought of being the only one in that room with short sleeves and white.

    On my mission we wore jackets all summer long sweltering in Vienna. But in the Civil War everyone wore their heavy wool shirts and uniform jackets while marching in the summer heat.

    But the real kicker was when we picked up our daughter from her mission in Panama. We went to a stake conference near Panama City and the mission president spoke. It was 90 degrees, no breeze, open walled building with fans. No one wore a jacket except the mission pres who wore a blue suit. He wore it the full two hours and spoke for a half an hour. What a gigantic pair he had. Maybe he wore ice packs under his arms.

    Dressing the same is a deep seated message that we belong to the same group. When we look at someone who has the same dress code we have, we recognize them as being on our team, on our side. But thank Heavens for casual dress. I go to work in Hawaiian shirts and blue jeans. I put on a suit and tie for church lest they understand how non-conformist I am. (Actually, too late, why bother… Well, see the part about the intern dinner and blue suits.)

  100. Late in the game:

    I was an intern at a chemical engineering company in the early 60s working in an old plant in Jersey City just across the river from Manhattan where the company headquarters were. Each summer they held a meeting for the interns and their bosses. Now, in Jersey City there was no air conditioning, it was an old, grimy chemical plant, mostly unused. I came to work every day in chinos and a short sleeved shirt. I, of course, forgot the day of the meeting and quickly hustled up a tie, at least.

    We got to the banquet room of a really ritzy NY hotel and the room was a sea of black and blue suits. I was the only shirt. I could have died and felt extremely uncomfortable. I still do to this day some 50 years hence. I cringe at the thought of being the only one in that room with short sleeves and white.

    On my mission we wore jackets all summer long sweltering in Vienna. But in the Civil War everyone wore their heavy wool shirts and uniform jackets while marching in the summer heat.

    But the real kicker was when we picked up our daughter from her mission in Panama. We went to a stake conference near Panama City and the mission president spoke. It was 90 degrees, no breeze, open walled building with fans. No one wore a jacket except the mission pres who wore a blue suit. He wore it the full two hours and spoke for a half an hour. Maybe he wore ice packs under his arms.

    Dressing the same is a deep seated message that we belong to the same group. When we look at someone who has the same dress code we have, we recognize them as being on our team, on our side. But thank Heavens for casual dress. I go to work in Hawaiian shirts and blue jeans. I put on a suit and tie for church lest they understand how non-conformist I am. (Actually, too late, why bother… Well, see the part about the intern dinner and blue suits.)

  101. Indiana says:

    #64: (Do engineers read BCC, or just lawyers and literary types?)
    I’d argue that separating engineers out of the category of “literary types” by default is silly, but that’s just me nitpicking. (My husband is a mechanical engineer and one of the brainiest guys I know…when he’s not making immature jokes in Sacrament meeting. The mature jokes are much funnier…)
    Anyway, I’m enjoying the suit jacket/pantyhose discussion. My husband’s big on his suit jacket…mostly because he keeps the pockets full of things to keep himself entertained. The problem in *our* family is my mother-in-law who consistently badgers my husband about his nicely-trimmed facial hair. When I insisted that 1) it looks good on him, 2) it’s kept well-groomed, and 3) no one’s ever given us flack about it at the temple, she pointed out that temple workers aren’t allowed to point out our cultural faux pas like women’s trousers or men’s facial hair. If this is true, surely we should stop insisting upon it if we can’t even chide people for not following the conventions?

  102. Sam Brunson says:

    Kent (95),

    All of this reminds me of the old saying about how if you are moving into a new ward and don’t want a hard calling, show up your first day at church in a blue shirt with no tie. Facial hair and a couple of off the wall comments in Gospel Doctrine should cinch the deal

    YMMV, of course, but it doesn’t work, at least not everywhere. In New York, I had a high counselor who always wore black turtlenecks. In Chicago, a high counselor with a beard. Etc.

  103. My husband informed me yesterday that it’s said in the Priesthood manual that priesthood holders must wear white shirts when available. Since I’m apparently barred from reading this (and I’m pretty sure he has no idea where it is)–can someone say whether or not it’s there, and in what context?

  104. #102 – What is this Priesthood manual of which he speaks?

  105. I should have added that such a requirement is not in the CHI anywhere. The closest is for blessing and passing the sacrament, but it says only that white shirts and ties are “recommended” given the “dignity of the ordinance” but “not required as a mandatory prerequisite”. It says those who participate should not be required to “be alike in dress and appearance”. It also says Bishops should use discretion when talking about the recommendation to young men, which tells me it shouldn’t be a blanket injunction given to everyone as a group.

  106. So in other words, it’s mandatory for Bishops to use discretion on this issue. Unfortunately, too many leaders perceive as discretionary the mandatory requirement to use discretion.

  107. Kristine says:

    Indiana (100)–Even if we can’t publicly chide people, we can derive a great deal of self-righteous pleasure from private judgment!

  108. Ray–the Aaronic manual.

  109. Chris H. says:

    The Aaronic manual is a sub-section of the CHI. I believe it is one of the on-line sections.

  110. Chris H. says:

    http://lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/aaronic-priesthood?lang=eng

    I do not see any mention of shirts…though, I just skimmed it while watching a baseball game.

  111. Funny story about Ralph Rodgers when he was serving as a mission president in the South Pacific. On the way to the mission home from the airport after picking up a fresh batch of missionaries he said, “boy it’s hot today Elders let’s take off our coats.” The sweating Elders complied after which Ralph said, “Elders it is such a hot day let’s take off our ties too.” The new missionaries thinking they’d hit the lottery for mission presidents quickly removed their ties. Next Ralph said, “Elders I’m still hot,” and then he removed his hair piece and threw it on the dash. Oh that all of us had Ralph Rodgers sense of humor and lack of pretense!

  112. Sam Brunson says:

    though, I just skimmed it while watching a baseball game.

    That seems like the ideal way to read the CHI. But in my searches (and, for that matter, actual reading), Ray’s citation is the only reference I can find to white shirts.

  113. Chris H. says:

    Elder Oaks gave a rather over the top endorsement of the white shirt in a few years ago. Compared it to temple clothing. It was awesome. I do not really care. My wife says this is because I am a slob. She may be on to something.

  114. roberto says:

    Since I am now blue collar at work, church affords me an opportunity to wear a suitcoat and tie, unless its hot then no coat. My sweetheart once “asked/told” me to wear a “priesthood white” shirt to a meeting. I suggested to her shirt color was no barrier to priesthood worthiness or the ability to perform in church functions. She was not happy with that answer. I have fond memories of my high school girlfriend’s Dad wearing very pink shirts to church in the 60’s with matching ties. Wow did he get some looks! But he looked good.

  115. roberto says:

    Another memory, leisure suits in the 70’s! Very popular among the High Priests group in our ward. Generally worn open fronted to show off the white belt….that oftentimes matched the shoe color.

    My dad related the story of how he and my Mother would drive to my Grandmother’s home in Utah to go skiing. While there he and Mom would dress in ski clothing, before going to sacrament meeting, in order to not have to change for the slopes. He was investigating the Church at that time and said no one ever mentioned their dress at the meetings and he never realized it would be frowned upon by most of todays members of the Church. ( this was in the 50’s) He was later baptised into the church and said the welcoming nature of the members was one of the reasons he joined.

  116. What I’ve said previously notwithstanding, I like the idea of a white shirt to administer the sacrament. That hasn’t been true always for me, but I like linking it to baptism in that way. None of us fret about needing to wear white to perform a baptism, because we get the symbolism. I feel the same way about the sacrament now, and it definitely was a change of view for me.

    What I don’t like is extending that very narrow, symbolic instance to a broader, general “uniform of the Priesthood” application.

  117. KaralynZ says:

    The problem in the US is they air-condition to the comfort level of all those middle aged men in heavy suit coats and the sisters FREEZE ALL YEAR LONG.

    There is NO reason to keep the entire chapel air conditioned to 60 degrees, it’s a waste of money and stupid.

  118. Today: lime green Oxford shirt, Americana tie (because it goes with the shirt and because I am a patriotic socialist. Kacky slacks. No coat. No socks. Olive Crocs.

    Screw you, bourgeoisie culture!

    I feel better.

    Chris H.

  119. I bowed to conformity and wore a white shirt. But I did wear my Gerry Garcia tie.

  120. Today my husband agreed that our future male heirs can wear colored shirts until they get the priesthood. Despite the fact I’m having a girl, I happily dream of shirt and tie combos in my sleep.

  121. I remember a story, but I can’t find the source. Perhaps someone here will recognize it. My memory is fuzzy, so take this with a grain of salt. I think it was Thomas Monson who told the story.

    He got a pink dress shirt from a family member for Christmas and didn’t have any idea where he would wear it. He decided to wear it to the office on a Saturday when he had some things to do–hoping not to see anyone. To his embarrassment, he ended up in an elevator with the president of the church who only smiled and said, “Nice shirt, Tom.” He never wore the shirt to work again.

  122. I wore a blue long-sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up yesterday.

  123. Glenn Smith says:

    #3, #74, #75
    lds.org on new sister missionary dress code:
    “””When do I wear nylons or tights? You are not required to wear nylons or tights; however, you may wear them, especially in colder weather”””
    If optional for missionaries, they must be optional for other occasions.

  124. Elder Holland “This Do in Remembrance of Me”

    May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers, and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and onto your missions.

    That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. As President David O. McKay taught, a white shirt contributes to the sacredness of the holy sacrament (see Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 89).

    I like that idea.

  125. Walter Weinzinger says:

    I wear a jacket when I’m wearing one of my older white shirts with yellowed armpits. That way I can wear my white shirts a lot longer before having to by new ones. My suit (notice the singular) is pretty much only for job interviews and funerals.

  126. Larry Anderson says:

    Pres. McKay often wore an all white suit, shirt, and tie to meetings.

    I have cut down on tie expenditures by only wearing white ties, as it matches every outfit.

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