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.