Skip to content

093: White Shirt Phenomena

White ShirtToday I talk about “The White Shirt Phenomena”.  This is a great issue to use as a backdrop for our as a culture creating rules, believing they really are rules, and in the end there being no rule that exists.  This applies to dozens of private interpretations we make within our culture and how we impose those on others to create hard and fast rules where none have been given.–%20Boyd%20K.%20Packer.htm


24 thoughts on “093: White Shirt Phenomena”

  1. Just listened to the White Shirt one. Yep….lots of this swirls around. In my ward, if the young men do not have a white shirt and tie on, they don’t participate in the sacrament. The bishop enforces this conformity (which, owning to his keys, it is his right to make this choice).

    It has never been a problem because the boys DO have the financial ability to own a white shirt and tie. But, I have always found it interesting that this is enforced as a standard which, if not complied with, will preclude participation completely from the ordinance.

    1. My only comment back to your Bishop would be that the “handbook of Instruction” councils against not allowing a young man to participate due to his attire.

      1. I try NOT to judge this Bishop, nor do I know his total reasons for this rule. It seems strange, however, that we do have such “pseudo” rules. When they are enforced, I choose not to judge. I have noticed such rules, and that is that.

        Sometimes these additional “rules” can hurt people, and when that happens, it is concerning. For example, I’ve seen additional “rules” created during church discipline situations. The General Handbook gives VERY specific regulations on what a disciplined member can and can’t do in the church,…but I’ve seen bishops and stake presidents take it to an extreme, setting out additional harsh and exacting rules about behavior, far beyond statements on worthiness, for a person to even be considered again for reinstatement.

        I’ve never understood such an approach. I confess, I always thought the handbook was a book of suggestions. I’ve seen it disregarded and “expanded” so much that it is hard for me to accept that it applies.

        I generally have accepted that a bishop or stake president could do just about anything they wanted as long as they could justify “morality” or “enforcing morality”,…and that was that. To question them was unwise.

        I am thoroughly enjoying these podcasts. They are very eye-opening!

  2. Pingback: MD Podcast: White Shirt Pseudo Doctrine | Wheat and Tares

  3. One step further, I am a returned senior missionary from Europe. Our Mission President said at our Zone Meeting “good to see you in the uniform of the Priesthood”……..of course a suit and white shirt…uniforms have very potent psychological meaning ..not all positive either.
    Not being an American I detest the churches passion for the business corporate model, in dress as well as function.
    My son was almost stopped from blessing his baby because his white shirt had thin faint coloured stripes in it!
    If we only concentrated more on less lecturing and more on conversion we as the church might do better

    1. Hebrews 5:1-6

      Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
      5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
      “You are my Son;
      today I have become your Father.” Ps 2:7
      6 And he says in another place,
      “You are a priest forever,
      in the order of Melchizedek.” Ps 110:4

      My comment: Christ is the final High Priest. As he still lives no High Priest is needed after him.

      Christ certainly did not wear a white shirt and tie. His hair might have been long. He was probably did not shave either. God declared him worthy.

  4. Great stuff and keep it up.

    I usually wear a white one with my dark pinstriped suits but I like to mix it up. Sometimes I’m relegated to pick from the last few still clean 🙂

    It shouldn’t matter but I know it does to some members of my Ward Council. But for me it’s a reminder to stop worrying about the minutia and pseudo-doctrine and focus on the work, not conformity for conformity sake.

    That poor High Priest group leader chastised about not wearing a white shirt.

  5. In the late 90’s as a priest I would occasionally bless the sacrament with a black shirt and white tie my bishop never said a thing but certain members of the ward let it know threw gossip to my parents that they didn’t care for it at all.

    1. Just as there were many pharisees among the Jews, we may still find Pharisees among the Church today at times. While wearing a white shirt is proscribed for the sacrament it is not a hard and fast rule that we should risk offending another over

  6. Dear Bill, a late comment (I only just discovered your podcast!)…
    This is an issue that has vexed me over the years. As a teenager I was riding down the road on my large and loud motorcycle wearing black leather pants (too hot in Hawaii for the jacket) when I saw that the back door of the sedan beside me was nearly open – and a young child sat in the seat next to it. I was alarmed and tried to alert the driver (the mom I presumed) to the danger. She looked at me, seemed to gasp, and sped up. I sped up to catch her and again gestured to the rear door. She slowed way down. Finally I gave up, furious that I had been judged by my appearance in that way – especially when the stakes were so high. What if her child were injured because of her shallowness?
    With later, more mature reflection, however, I realized that appearances do count and that all of us have to make some judgements based on how things look at first glance. We could not function otherwise. The truth is that my “outlaw” appearance distracted this mother from my benevolent intentions and I had to admit that I bore some of the responsibility for that.
    I believe this is just the kind of thing that Paul referred to when he cautioned us that we take heed lest by any means our liberty become a stumbling block to those that are weak. I may know that I can sit at meat in the temple of an idol and not be defiled, but someone else seeing me there may have serious doubts about my faithfulness and sincerity. They shouldn’t, but they might.
    I tell my kids when they arrive at the table wearing a hat: “let’s take our hats off – not because it’s a commandment, but because it might be a distraction to others. We know we can pray just as well with a hat on”.
    You and I know that the white shirt is just a tradition in the Church and I don’t think it’s wrong to spread awareness of that fact – I do so myself! But I guess I was just waiting through your (otherwise excellent and very interesting) podcast to hear you say that in spite of the offenses that you and I have received over the years, it is but a small thing after all… an inconsequential annoyance. And if “to the weak [we become] as weak that [we] might gain the weak” it is a small price to pay.
    Keep up the excellent work, brother!

    1. Thanks for this response. I agree with what you wrote though I will continue to forge the path from a different angle. I continue to wear the colored shirts to show that we each must be careful of judging the outside. God looketh on the heart and I will stand with those who don’t fit the cultural mode. I validate your perspective but ask that others respect my path as well. I am showing that a good mormon can wear a pastel shirt.

    2. I see your point by where do we draw the line, because so many things could be a distraction. Pin stripped suits. I can’t stop staring at the lines, I miss the message. His baldness is so mesmerizing I don’t remember is talk.

  7. Christopher Taylor

    Great podcast. Need to add any facial hair to the same category. Are bishopric members given a specific dress code? Often I see members shave and switch to white shirts when they’re called to the bishopric.

  8. I lived in a ward with a bishop who wanted to go the extra mile in that all male teachers of the youth had to set the proper example for them – white shirt, suit jacket and clean shaven.

    I shaved and put on that coat… for Christ.

    I now look at that with questions, including, what would Jesus do? Maybe we need to clean Him up too so He can set the proper example we strive for? Put our pictures of Jesus in a white shirt, clean shaven and cut that straggly hair and top it off with a fine wool suit (sheep’s clothing?).

    There, Jesus is up to date, up to snuff, up to our newer better standards with what we expect of our youth and temple workers whom He should be the utmost example for. Alma 31…

  9. Bill, I defended so many disconnects for years, things Jesus would not do or recommend for his church, members or anointed leadership, even practices and commandments which go against Christ and contradict other leaders and contradict Joseph Smith and challenge other real provable truths (vaccines, domestic violence, etc…).

    After all, who was I to question and risk my salvation over petty questions, errors or disagreements that would certainly all be settled or clear up and be explained in the next life if I was just obedient enough… After all, obedience and not questioning were the 2 Great Commandments which will get you excommunicated for not following.

  10. I have a young friend who was actually taken home by a Bishopric member and told to change his shirt or he would not be allowed to participate in the sacrament. The young man went in the house and refused to go back to church for many months. So sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *