In the colonies, the locals quietly rebel against imperial attire

Every Ward has their white shirt rebels. You know, the dodgy guy (like Rusty) who refuses to wear a white shirt. They are, however, outliers, freaks, rebels. But not in the Mormon colonies, it seems.

In my Euro ward today I counted only about three white shirts among the brethren and they were all worn by the American expats. Either the colonials have not received the memo that sacralizes the American corporate uniform, or they are quietly rebelling.

We had green (me), striped, blue, pink, check. Even the Bishop looked dapper in his blue shirt and cream jacket. He’s from Africa too, which made this particular attire look doubly cool.

There were also a lot of beards, goatees and “Abbruzzese’s.” Oh, and there were women in trousers. Blimey! Message to Coruscant: the Outer Rim is in meltdown. Send the Stormtroopers immediately.


Two serious points:

Seth R. has a good post on the white-shirt-and-tie as a “ministerial vestment.” I’m very almost persuaded, but there’s still a touch of “dress like white man” about it.

Walter Van Beek has an excellent recent Dialogue article on the Church-as-Empire meme. In an ironic historical shift, Europe is now the colony (at least in the Mormon world). According to Van Beek, there are signs that the colonies are occasionally resisting (American) cultural mandates from HQ.


  1. Oh, and there were women in trousers.

    I think this is by far the most scandalous among the things you mentioned. There is a woman in my ward who wears trousers, and she is spoken of very harshly.

    I read that Van Beek article when it came out, and shared it with quite a few friends. I have a good English friend who said he could very much relate to it. Did you feel the same way or do you think the Netherlands experience differs significantly from the English experience?

  2. I think the English Saints are a little happier to follow the SLC line than their Continental cousins, although I do think Van Beek overstates the “Dutch rebellion” somewhat. By and large the Church is pretty much the same. Higher leadership alway wear white shirts (where “white shirts” are taken to be symbolic of many other things).

  3. Ronan: Did you experience the co-ed campouts that are described in Van Beeks article, and which my English friend describe?

  4. Kind of. YM/YW camps were often held at the same time in the same general area. We would always try to sneak off and meet the girls. Verboten, though.

  5. “Almost thou persuadeth me to wear a white shirt” eh Ronan?

    To be honest though, the abject failure of our young men to adquately fold their collar over their tie (on the back of their neck) seems, to me, more cause for alarm than combining a well-tailored olive green shirt with a dashing charcoal suit.

    But do make sure that the color of shirt works well with your complexion. Some people simply were not designed with pink shirts in mind.

  6. Lovely dark olive shirt. Looked good.

    I should note that the YM were all wearing whites.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    When I was in seminary, we went on an infamous coed seminary camping trip to Nauvoo one weekend. We kids, boys, girls and all, even slept in the same big tent together. I’m sure some parent hearing about such a trip today would be mortified, but it was experiences like that that kept me interested and involved in the church as a teenager.

  8. If the Church is the Empire that makes President Hinckley the Emperor. And who is Darth Vader? Why, President Packer, of course.

    It all fits together…

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    “Dallin, you are my son!”


  10. Mark Butler says:

    Sometimes I think it rather odd for people to complain that the Church has a culture. The Kingdom of Heaven is a civilization after all. Who ever heard of a civilization without a culture? In most cultures, people like to demonstrate the acquistion of higher standards and ideals, even by symbolic means such as the way they dress. So where did the cult of anti-culture come from?

    Isn’t a cult a practical synonym for a religion? If we each go our own way, even on simple things like clothing, aren’t we in the process (symbolically) of discarding our own culture, and ultimately our religion? Where is the esprit de corps in each doing his own thing?

  11. “We are the borg, you much assimilate…”

  12. Olive green dress shirt? That’s nothin’. Out here in our small colony (which actually was a colony of England ’til 49 years ago), we had a family visiting (maybe they’ve moved in?) our branch. The guy is from Sweden, I think, and for the second week in a row I’m seeing a sea-foam green Polo shirt. How wild is that? :-)

  13. Blimey! Message to Coruscant: the Outer Rim is in meltdown. Send the Stormtroopers immediately.

    Classic! That caused me much loud laughter, but I repented, so its ok.

    Sometimes I think it rather odd for people to complain that the Church has a culture. The Kingdom of Heaven is a civilization after all. Who ever heard of a civilization without a culture? In most cultures, people like to demonstrate the acquistion of higher standards and ideals, even by symbolic means such as the way they dress. So where did the cult of anti-culture come from?

    From every congregation located outside of “Zion”. You’re comment assumes that the culture and dress of the Wasatch Front was predominant in the pre-existance.

    I agree with the concept of wearing Sunday best to church. And I would expect what constitutes Sunday best to be different in Africa, Asia, Japan, etc., etc., rather than the white shirt and tie as priesthood uniform concept that prevails today. If we don’t need to wear a crucifix to demonstrate our beliefs to the world, I hardly think we need to wear white shirts as a similar symbol.

    If Ghandi showed up in his best sheet to sacrament meeting I would hope he would be greated with respect and welcome, but alas, I doubt it. (Especially since he’s dead, that would be kind of freaky!).

  14. I think I’d be a little nervous having undead-Ghandi sitting next to me. It just seems like it would be an awkward conversation.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    Would Zombie Ghandi still be non-violent? Where would he get requisite brains for his zombie diet?

  16. I read something a couple of years ago, in the Ensign or Church News or somewhere, about church members in West Africa in two different wards who would meet outside church between meetings to exchange shirts, so that they could share a single white shirt and both manage to be properly atired for worship services, even though they were too poor to afford a nice white shirt for everybody.

    Now that’s some dedication to the uniform, and way out in the colonies, no less. I think the story held them up as a great example of faith and dedication. Does anybody else remember seeing this?

  17. I’ve been dressing my Jr. Primary-aged son for church in a navy polo shirt and khaki pants or shorts, though it makes him look like underaged staff at a golf resort. Last week, he came out of his room wearing a white Hane’s undershirt with his church pants.

    “What’s the matter, buddy? Couldn’t you find your church shirt?”

    “Y’know, Mom, my teacher said that guys at church should wear white shirts.”

    “Uh, I think he meant white shirts with collars and buttons. Like Daddy wears” I started to look through his things, trying to remember if he has a white button down or polo. All his clothes are hand-me-downs from my Presbyterian neighbor.

    “Mom, this is a white shirt. It’s really good to wear a white shirt.” I’m looking through the clothes on the back shelf now, things I had set aside as too large for him when they arrived. I’m not having any luck.

    “Fine, we’ll go buy you a white shirt this week,” I say, giving up. “How about wearing your blue shirt this week?”

    “No, I want to wear a white shirt.”

    “Okay,” I say, thinking his Primary teacher deserves whatever he gets in this case.

    I forgot to shop for a buttoned white shirt in the days after. He put on his cruise director clothes without comment this morning.

  18. Jon in Austin says:

    Props to all the Star Wars references and one negative brownie point to Jared E for the trekkie (even though it was relevant) reference.

    You know you’re a true geek when you’re arguing with a fellow pathetic waste of flesh which is faster: Warp 9 or traveling in hyperspace…

  19. Mark Butler says:


    That is not my assumption. I believe that in some matters it is not so much what the culture specifies (white shirt, tie), but that it specifies it, and that people honor it, and that it is a symbol of something worthy and of good report, and that it builds social unity and fellow feeling.

    Most societies do this by the follow the leader principle. If the Savior lived among us and dressed a certain way, don’t you think many (male) Christians would emulate him in that respect? The style thus propagated then becomes a symbol of both his leadership and the common consent to follow it.

    It reminds me of a scene in Chariots of Fire where one of the runners, a certain Lord Andrew Lindsay was instructing the others on proper etiquette at an event where the Prince of Wales was present: “Protocol, Monty, Protocol, he is here to show us what may be done and more essentially what may not be.”

  20. Mark,

    You’re reminding me of Maoist China. “Wear what the Dear Leader wears.”

    “Sunday best.” Let’s keep it at that rather than make it a sacrament that members of the Kingdom in Bangalore and Burundi dress like Americans. Stories about African Saints swapping shirts so they can wear the White Man’s uniform are, frankly, grotesque.

  21. Mark said: If the Savior lived among us and dressed a certain way, don’t you think many (male) Christians would emulate him in that respect? The style thus propagated then becomes a symbol of both his leadership and the common consent to follow it.

    Then why all the fuss about long hair and beards?

  22. The above was just in fun — it was not meant to be snarky! Whenever I ask my husband to shave his beard, goatee, moustache or whatever facial hair he’s got that day, he always throws the “But Jesus had a beard!” comment back at me!

    And Ronan: re: Sunday Best as pertaining to the existing culture — couldn’t agree more! Last week a family decked out in colorful saris (not the belly showing kind) and salwar kameezes looked gorgeous!

  23. Meems,
    I once heard it said that if Moses or Jesus came to church today, they would be wearing a white shirt, tie, and dark suit. Presumably, they would also shave and cut their hair.

    Oh, and never, ever apologise for being snarky.

  24. Actually, “grotesque” (21) is the wrong word. Got carried away there. Sorry. (Chris Hitchens often uses the word “grotesque” and I like it.)

    It’s very impressive that the level of devotion to the Church and the priesthood compels people to go to such lengths. I just wish that in Africa they weren’t American cultural lengths.

  25. Ronan – This is a great subject and I’m glad you brought it up. I totally agree with your premise that “Sunday best” should be the standard rather than requiring a white shirt. But then I think about school uniforms and how, in my opinion, they help students focus on the important things, like learning, rather than on the unimportant things like “How do I look?” My grandaughter attends a magnate school where they require a uniform of sorts, not a strict uniform but a general rule about color and contrast. I wonder if dressing in a uniform way at church helps us focus on the reason we are there rather than on “How we look.” OK now that I’ve gone through that mental exercise I agree even more with you, the standard should simply be Sunday best. I do think a white shirt is best for some – the bishop and counselors, the young men (and anyone else) who admninster the sacrament. Just my opinion.

    One final comment, you mention that you like the word “grotesque” because Chris Hitchins uses it. I hope that doesn’t mean that you like Hitchins! He’s grotesque and boorish, once again, in my opinion.

  26. I like Hitchens’ rhetorical style.

    I’m all for school uniforms. But let the schools decide what that uniform is to be.

  27. Gandhi’s pauper rags involved more self-conscious affectation than any white shirt ever did.

    My mission president back in ’86 wore yellow shirts with cufflinks and had a mustache. I kind of liked that; I was the missionary and he was the mission president; we each had our role and didn’t encroach the other’s.

  28. I personally wear white shirts about 50% of the time. Yesterday I looked dashing in a dark green shirt.

    My 6 year old also seems to feel pressure to wear a white shirt. He keeps asking for one cause his soccer buddy in his primary class wears one.

    I have 4 sons and none of them ever wear white. They wear black, Blue, orange or green.

  29. I don’t know about this “Sunday best” stuff. That would mean women wearing nice pantsuits instead of faded denim skirts.

  30. Interestingly, during a ward council meeting that lasted nearly two hours yesterday morning, my bishop revealed that wearing a white shirt “is part of your priesthood calling.”

    My bishop is rather fond of adding such doctrines.

  31. Is there any official guidance out of SLC re: men wearing white shirts specifically, or does one need to extrapolate from photos and Ensign articles (see post #17)? The status quo amounts to a de facto uniform (at least for the men). Certainly “Sunday Best” does NOT equal “Conservative Western Business Attire” in most cultures, even ours, anymore.

    Whether that’s good or bad, I dunno. Would y’all go wild and start breaking the Law of Chastity if polo shirts and khakis were worn on Sunday morning??

    I suspect the white-shirt tradition will quietly drop away sometime (maybe under future leadership), especially if the Church continues to borrow ideas from the Evangelicals. (You saw it first here!!!)

  32. Mike,
    Elder Holland spoke in GC about white shirts as the best attire for those officiating the sacrament. Too lazy to find the link.

    I think the argument goes that:

    1. White is a symbol of purity
    2. Symbols of purity serve as a good worthiness reminder for those officiating in the priesthood
    3. Thus, those involved with the sacrament should wear white shirts
    4. And, besides, white shirts are plain and non-distracting. Passing the sacrament in an orange shirt would detract from the seriousness of the ordinance
    5. Furthermore, if we are going to ask boys to be mindful of 1-4, the adult men should set the example

    It’s a pretty good argument, actually. Remember, priests from other religions have their vestments. This is ours. It’s the fact that “ours” = Conservative Business Attire that can jar with other cultures. Certainly there are other appropriate ways to promote and symbolise the sanctity of priesthood service.

  33. Mark, I see where you are coming from, and like Meems, I don’t mean to come across as snarky (as my referrences to Zombie Ghandi attest!).

    I guess I just favour more of a “United Nations/Salad Bowl” approach when it comes to Sunday dress, rather than Salt Lake mandated American fashion.

    Lets take this example to the extreme (just for fun!), and assume that the gospel was restored in Africa, rather than upstate New York. A young Kalahari bushman, seeking answers to his questions about life and religion in general goes off into a grove of trees and has a vision of God the Father and the Son, and what follows is the full restoration of the gospel as we know it, only it is centered in Botswana instead of Utah. Now, 200 years after the restoration, converts across the world put on their best loin cloths every Sunday as they head off to church to worship.

    Like I said, this is the extreme example, but I still think it makes my point. What the bushman was wearing was specific to his culture, but I don’t think the case can be made that it was essential to his restoration experience, or the truthfulness of the gospel message he recieved.

    Again, I’m in favour of Sunday best, but I think that should be dependent on the underlying culture of the members in any particular corner of the world. Indeed, I think something is lost when their cultural form of dress is replaced by uniform western attire.

  34. The white as symbol of purity is a fun one. It is, I believe, what lead many wards, back in the day, to only use white bread for the sacrement and cut of all the crusts before use.

  35. Eugene V. Debs says:

    In my experience in the darkest reaches of redneck, east-of-the-Mississippi America, white shirt and tie wearing is pretty hit and miss. Although, as mentioned above, the presence of intermountain west expatriates and/or people holding degrees from a permutations of BYU will increase the number of men wearing “the uniform of the priesthood.” These people are also often employed by corporate America or are members of the armed forces–people used to dress codes of one sort or another. The working class members who have not been in the service are the least likely to wear white, though some of them do. This suggests to me that the white shirt and tie is valued by the GAs because most of them come from corporate and/or military backgrounds. They have been trained that a “uniform” look is good, and they take that training into their churchwork. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but since Jesus never went to Air Assault school or Wharton, I don’t think he would see the short-hair-and-suit look as a necessity.

    A related issue here are the dress standards for youth and young adults. Corporate America and the military frown on things like body piercings and tattoos as well. This may explain the curious correlation between the restrictions on body modifications that the infamous Hooters restaraunt requires their waitresses to abide by and the advice a typical young women’s leader would give to a girl thinking about getting a nosering.

  36. Stapers,
    Now I know I’m an apostate. I always go for the pieces with the crusts. Chewier. Especially good on Fast Sundays.

  37. Eugene,
    Hooters girls are unmodified? Wow.

  38. You know though…

    From a purely practical standpoint, the classic, long-sleeved, button-up white shirt is almost never a bad idea.

    The reason is, it looks good on anyone.

    You may think that shade of blue looks awesome. But it may wash your face out completely. Likewise when it comes to matching the tie with the shirt and suit.

    White is a safer choice for anyone who isn’t sure of what they’re doing.

    Oh, and the suit looks aeons better than a guy wearing slacks, tie and shirt only. With the suit, you get to wear all this fabulous rich fabric which compliments your shape very well.

    With the shirt-only option, Elders Quorum tends to look like the Hitler Youth really let themselves go (but without the baseless youthful enthusiasm that allows the missionaries to pull it off).

  39. D. Fletcher says:
  40. Thomas Parkin says:

    I started wearing white shirts this time back to the church. It seems like the thing to do. – and, really, I’m 41 years old now. The feelings that caused me to wear denim jackets and sandals to church in an earlier, also very active era of my mormonism now seem distant and adolescent. Not wearing the white shirt, for me, would feel like a statement. Wearing it less so. I’d feel much more like I was swatting at gnats and possibly swallowing camels not wearing it, etc. For me, part of growing up has been the realization that people are, in most important ways, in needs and desires, similar rather than different,- the differences being questions of degree rather than of real substance. So that tokens and demonstrations of difference no longer carry the emotional weight that they once did. I find that I’m every bit as much myself as I ever was. (I do miss my big black boots.)

    But, whatever. Our bishop, even out here in the boonies, has a moustache. I’ve seen a young man in the temple with neck length hair and a goatee. And no one really taking notice. I still think being clean and, in a general way, moderate, demonstrates much more of the heart, and in return effects the heart more than cultural particularities. I’m far more concerned with whether or not I exhibit the image of Christ in my countenance than whether or not my coat and shirt are exactly standard – and I look, gently, for the same image in others. When the inner light isn’t present, the unifrom might exhibit a form of godliness in those denying the power thereof …



  41. Eugene V. Debs said “These people are usually employed by corporate America or are members of the armed forces – people used to dress codes of one sort or another.” In my ward we typically have a number of military officers who are on a three year tour of duty at the Pentagon. I’m puzzled by the fact that many of them don’t seem to own a suit. I blue blazer and a pair of dockers is all I see them in at church – and the dockers are definitely not new. They usually wear a white shirt but it’s not necessarily a rule. When I see them at the slug line (a local term for a system of transportation that would take too long to explain) they are often in the most grubby clothes I ever seen. I’m assuming they have a uniform at the office but they show up for work (probably before a morning work-out) in anything but a uniform.

    I wonder if the white shirt is just an easy way to remain conservative without a complex rule. Certainly there are “conservative” looking shirts with stripes or colors but there are also shirts that are a bit too colorful or a bit too loud on the stripes or patterns. Rather than trying to set a limit and define what is too outlandish, wearing the white shirt is an easy rule to follow.

  42. About the white symbolizing purity thing…

    This symbolism is also culture-specific. In Chinese culture, white symbolizes death.

  43. D. Fletcher says:

    Ties look better with white shirts. It’s the same principle as hanging art on white walls in museums — the white acts as a neutral base for something much more colorful that gets the emphasis.

    White shirt may be the Mormon uniform, but it’s also the smartest choice, design-wise, for a suit and tie.

  44. Steve,
    Right. Also, remember “whited sepulchres”?

  45. Would Zombie Ghandi still be non-violent? Where would he get requisite brains for his zombie diet?

    Whole Foods.

    And the zombie Gandhi only destroys those who mistakenly put the “h” in his name after the “G”, rather than after the “d”.

    Regarding dress codes, whenever I’m prompted by someone to do something different with my clothing, I find my mental indexing always pulls up Isaiah’s 3 years au naturale and Moroni’s condemnation of us in Mormon, chapter 8:

    39 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?

    Last I checked, my shirts — white or otherwise — had no life.

  46. White shirts make a man look good. White shirts are classic and never go out of style (unlike my striped shirts, or blue shirt with yellow tie circa 1998). They look crisp and professional. Wearing white to the face makes a person look more tan. (see also Lou Junod )

  47. Jamie Lee Curtis says there’s nothing sexier than a man with a white shirt and a khakis. But I don’t think she meant with a tie, or a big belly.
    I wonder if we’re really sending the message that we think we’re sending through the missionary rule and unofficial church dress code. I think to much of the world, the missionaries look kind of weird, and the white shirts are a nice warning from a long ways away so that the missionaries can be avoided.

  48. white shirts are plain and non-distracting. Passing the sacrament in an orange shirt would detract from the seriousness of the ordinance

    What I don’t like about this argument is that it seems to assume that white shirts simply are non-distracting by nature, as if this were not simply a matter of culture. Consider that a white tie would be much more distracting than an orange tie!

    I’ll bet investigators sometimes find the sea of white shirts to be distracting.

  49. Mark Butler says:

    Steve M. (#43),

    Yes, however white symbolizes the state after death for the righteous in our culture too. And whatever association white has with death certainly does not keep Asian brides from wearing almost exclusively white dresses in Western style wedding ceremonies, so I am skeptical about the white == bad thing. It certainly is associated with funerals, but funerals aren’t altogether bad either, although there is a strong tradition of mourning (to the point of pretense in my opinion) in the Confucian East.

  50. “I’ll bet investigators sometimes find the sea of white shirts to be distracting.”

    I’m tellin ya. This is why a man really does need to go with a suit once he has a paying job. It doesn’t need to be one tone either. I go with a navy blazer and grey slacks just as often as my brown suit and pants.

  51. Seth R, sartorial prophet of the bloggernacle.

  52. I got my wife to go to church with me for the first time in 8 weeks yesterday. She’s been struggling with her belief, and it was a major victory to have her there at all.

    Unfortunately, our bishop spoke in sacrament meeting, and he chose to go on and on about the proper attire for church. He specifically mentioned denim jackets, sandals, and that women should always wear pantyhose. Of course, my gorgeous wife was wearing a nice skirt and shirt, a very nice short (colored) denim jacket, and dressy sandals with no hose, so she felt a little self conscious after that. She got all teary eyed and just wanted to go home, although she stuck it out. Thanks Bishop – for focusing on the really BIG problems in the ward.

    Maybe instead he should have talked about how church shouldn’t be a freakin’ fashion show every week, and that it’s a little obscene for people to wear $2,000 suits and $800 shoes to church. Sandals were fine for Jesus, but apparently my wife shouldn’t bother coming at all if she’s going to wear them.

    Luckily the lesson in Sunday School was all about Pharisees.

  53. Lee,
    That’s awful, mate. Sorry about that.

  54. Lee,
    Could you provide that feedback directly to your Bishop ?

  55. Mark (#43),

    Certainly the influx of Western culture has had an effect on the Chinese. In big cities, I don’t think wearing white at a wedding is a tabboo for most Chinese brides.

    However, if you travel to the countryside, I don’t think you’ll find a lot of farmer’s daugthers wearing Western-style white dresses on their wedding day. Red would probably be the more standard color.

    In any case, my point is that the white = purity symbolism is not universal across cultures. While this symbolism may be an appropriate reason for wearing white when blessing the sacrament in the United States, I’m not convinced that the reasoning would hold up if presented to a group of members in Gansu, China.

    I don’t have any problem with wearing white shirts. I just don’t think the perception of it representing purity is universal.

  56. Oops, that comment was directed to Mark’s in #50, not #43.

  57. Lee’s comments mirrors an experience my family had. As a rebellious teenager struggling with his testimony, my brother had a member of the bishopric publically pass a note chastizing his dress and ordering its removal down from the pulpit during sacrament meeting. The poor venue for criticism, however legitimate (I can’t recall the offending item) became a turning point in his rebellion and one of the last times he entered a church. The rebellion was my brother’s decision alone, but when those leaders make such a big issue about clothing they leave themselves open to legitimate criticism regarding their perception of the Lord’s priorities.

    I’m not a Utah farmer; I often wear suits to work, and a white shirt and tie don’t feel like my Sunday best, they feel like meetings with important client/investors. I seek to wear appropriate clothes that shouldn’t distract other’s/my worship of the Lord. This past Sunday that meant a nice pink buttondown with a pale blue check. For those of us with infants/toddlers they also minimize drycleaning, an important consideration if I am to maintain my family’s self-reliance.

    Ironically, my wife occassionally wears pants, perhaps the only woman in our ward who does so. But, she rails against the recent proliferation of flip-flops amount the 20-something crowd (our ward has University of Washington student housing). Each of us has our hangups. I draw the line at concert t-shirts and nudity. Please, no nudity, our membership does have a weight problem after all.

    Finally, Lee M when I give our new daughter a blessing in a few weeks I’ll wear the full suite + white shirt just to annoy the member of the bishopric who always makes the snarky comments to me – and I will admit it here, part of my motivation is that it is such a VERY nice suit (the dress for our daughter has one of those huge trains – it should protect me from the dreaded “blow out”. Heaven knows I am a shallow person.

  58. Thomas Parkin says:

    Ugh, Lee,

    I’m so sorry. My wife isn’t a member, so it is easy for me to project myself into your shoes. If she came, with me all hopeful and anxious, and she all anxious and a little on her heels, and that happened… Really, I think this needs to be brought to the attention of your Bishop. It may be an occasion on which he gets to examine himself – something that even Bishops can use a little more of.


  59. Mark Butler says:

    White may not be a universal symbol of purity. However, it should be, for a couple of reasons. Does anyone imagine the Lord of Hosts wearing anything other than a white robe in his exalted state?

    Also, white is produced by a spectrum of all pure colors (wavelengths) in proper balance, so it is not just a symbol of completeness and harmony, it is equivalent to that state in natural, physical, and metaphysical fact.

    Have you ever noticed that most pure substances(particularly organic ones) are either white or black? That is because they equally absorb or reflect all wavelengths. The rainbow is white.

  60. Seth R, sartorial prophet of the bloggernacle.

    No, that’s giving me way too much credit.

    Although I do think you ought to try to find an opportunity to use the word “sartorial” at least once a week.

  61. Does anyone imagine the Lord of Hosts wearing anything other than a white robe in his exalted state?

    Sure. Why not? We are not talking about Gandalf here or Sauruman fracturing his whiteness into many colors.

  62. Thomas Parkin says:

    In fact, at the second coming He’ll apparently being wearing red. Yes?


  63. For some reason I always thought it was purple. Hmm.

  64. Mark Butler says:

    Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ will be wearing red in his coming in glory. However, by all accounts, he usually wears white. The Temple seems as informative as any.

    Of course, if I had to divide the Godhead up into three different colors, it would definitely be the the Son red, the Father green, and the Holy Ghost blue. And it should be well known to all that additively red + green + blue is white.

    Note that on a spectrum green sits in the middle, with red on the right hand and blue on the left (from “their” perspective looking back at us). Red for the Son should be obvious, Green for the Father because it is the classic symbol of life, fertility and moderation (only the Father is married), and Blue for the Holy Ghost to balance out the other two.

  65. I knew it! Heavenly Father is the Green Man!

    However, by all accounts, he usually wears white. The Temple seems as informative as any. 

    Oh, come on! The Temple drama reflects our conventions as much as anything. Is God really an old white man with a beard and a baritone American accent? Maybe he is, but just because that’s how the BYU Film Studio depict him doesn’t mean it is so.

  66. Mark Butler says:

    Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
    Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
    I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
    For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.
    (Isaiah 63:1-4)

    Of course this may be all metaphorical – if the judgment upon the wicked is finished before his coming in glory, he may be back to white again when he actually appears.

  67. Mark Butler says:

    Actually I think of the Most High more as young man than an old one. Can’t imagine looking grizzled after the resurrection. Nor wearing largely green as a matter of habit either. What kind of man wears all one primary color as a general practice? (special purpose uniforms excepted)

  68. Oh where are you on this one, D. Fletcher????!

  69. I don’t think there’s anything eternally significant about wearing the color white. I’ve never considered it anything more than a custom.

  70. Mark Butler says:

    I have always thought that wearing one particular color or pattern was a symbol of some particular tribe, clan, or tartan. As the Lord God in heaven represents all nations, tongues, and peoples is seems quite appropriate for him to wear white, which is the union of the glory radiated by all colors put together.

    It is also almost a thermodynamic inevitability – anything raised in thermal energy in this world glows first red, then orange, then yellow, then white. Something white hot looks white because it is thermally radiating on all visible wavelengths. That is balance. A laser, or a tuned resonator is the opposite – designed to produce one wavelength only, for some special purpose.

    Our perception of musical timbre and harmony is related. What kind of orchestration leaves certain notes out of the score? And do not instruments with lots of harmonics (string, wind, etc.) have a more pleasant timbre than a pure tone (a sinusoid)?

  71. I’m not sure productive it is to debate what color of clothes God wears. Even if it were possible to conclusively prove that He wears white, I don’t think that necessarily has any implications about the type of wardrobe us mortals should have.

  72. Sorry…first sentence should be “I’m not sure HOW productive it is to debate what color of clothes God wears.”

  73. Ronan, can I wear a white shirt if I want to, or will that piss off the natives?

  74. We natives don’t give a damn what y’all wear.

  75. Correction.

    Never, ever, wear white socks to church or we’ll dump all your Postum in the English Channel.

  76. That is, Ronan, what if, for me, my Sunday best is a pressed white shirt. Sorry, I’m “white man” like that. Guess I should be ashamed. Is it going to piss you off and cause a post like this if I happen to wear a white shirt every Sunday? Or do people just get pissed when other people tell them they should wear a white shirt too? If that’s the case, then what happens when someone else says that a white shirt is grotesque “white man’s attire”? Are these not equivalent: (1) telling someone who is not wearing a white shirt to wear a white shirt; (2) telling people who wear white shirts that they are evil imperialists?

  77. John, you say some strange things sometimes, my good pal.

  78. Ronan, I was responding to your # 21 and thought that it was a serious point. Sorry to have said something strange.

  79. OK. Read #25 for the retraction on “grotesque.”

    Your questions are only strange because I think that the consensus view on this silly thread — Mr. Butler excepted, bless him — renders the answer rather obvious:

    Wear whatever you feel best reflects your “Sunday Best.” For you, that’s a nicely starched white shirt. For others, it may be something else.

    The End.

  80. John F,

    I don’t think it matters what sort of nasty things Ronan might like to do to you. Your white shirt will protect you.

    I’m sure I could find an EFY talk verifying this fact…

  81. Seth, mate, THAT is classic.

  82. Seth, John Bytheway once took a BB right to the chest and it bounced right off his wrinkle-free Van Heusen button-down. I kid you not. This was memorialized in one of the “Tennis Shoes Amongst the Nephite” books.

  83. john (77), I think at some point you’re just going to have to accept the fact that someone, somewhere is pissed off at you (and blogging about it) ALL THE TIME, and just go on about your business.


  84. Lee M. 53

    Your bishop probably chose to speak on dress standards in sacrament meeting because many youth were dressing sloppily, and because sacrament meeting was the one place that he could speak to both the youth and their parents without planning a separate meeting – and because he preferred to speak in general to the youth and their parents rather than single anyone out in a private meeting. His mentioning a few items that matched your wife was coincidental, and he mentioned them because if the youth would take care of those items, they would take care of their sloppy habits.

    You might want to mention to your wife that those particular items of attire in her case – unlike in the case of many youth – were not symbolic of sloppiness. Your bishop would probably be please if the sloppy youth looked as good as your wife.

    I think that you should mention your wife’s reaction to the bishop, who will be anxious to make amends.

  85. I’ve been debating the white shirt question with myself for a long time. On the one hand I’m not fond of associating righteousness with color, or rewarding superficially conforming behavior. (Each time I encounter the “purity” argument I point out that’s also an argument for white suits and shoes. I’ve yet to have them continue the purity argument.) I’m also partial to variety, and like colors and stripes and checks and discreet plaids.

    However, the argument for white shirts that resonates most with me centers on the absence of social signaling in a white shirt (at least in my American wards). When men wear white shirts, I don’t know if they have one dress shirt or twenty. Someone could wear the same white shirt every week and no one would ever notice. Wearing any other color or pattern every week would eventually stand out, and make it obvious that they had only one (or only a few) shirt(s). For that reason I like to wear white because it best shields those who have no choice but wearing the same shirt every week. Our wearing different shirts every week is a luxury that signals our affluence and creates division.

    Right now I’ve struck a balance between showing solidarity with my one-shirt brothers, and resisting the Pharisees who think white shirts (but not white suits!) symbolize purity: I wear a non-white shirt every third or fourth week.

  86. Matt speaketh wisdom.

  87. Matt, I like your idea a great deal. I wish that when the sisters were counseled to dress “modestly,” there could be a little more emphasis on dressing without ostentation, instead of merely ensuring that no hint of sexuality is telegraphed by one’s clothing.

  88. Does ostentation, Kristine, seem to you a problem area among the sisters that needs more attention, or is it just a good teaching you always enjoy hearing preached?

  89. I like the idea of Sunday best for everyone, whatever that may be, and nobody should blink or notice no matter what anyone’s Sunday best might happen to be, even if the Bishop shows up in a frogman suit or the RS president comes in a Carmen Miranda fruit-decorated hat. Think of it as a contest for who can best fail-to-notice the most alarming or outlandish attire that occurs.

    I think clothing is something we really shouldn’t notice at all. Ditto with tattoos, piercings, hairstyles and facial hair. Everyone should wear their Sunday best, and whatever anyone wears, the rest of us should assume is their Sunday best.


  1. […] P.S. A shout-out to Ronan over at BCC for providing the inspiration for this post. Take a cue from the Brits. Those folk know how to dress! […]

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