Question: Why are men encouraged to wear white shirts to Sunday services in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

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Question: Why are men encouraged to wear white shirts to Sunday services in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Introduction to Question

Male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to wear a white shirt to Sunday worship services.

Why is this? Should Latter-day Saint men follow this encouragement?

This article seeks to answer this question.

Response to Question

The Church’s Official Policy Regarding This

We would do well to first restate what the Church’s policy is for boys that pass the sacrament.

Those who administer the sacrament should be well groomed and clean. They should not wear clothing or jewelry that might detract from the worship and covenant making that are the purpose of the sacrament. If the bishop needs to counsel a priesthood holder about such matters, he does so with love. He also takes into account the person’s maturity in the Church.

The general handbook had previously stated that “[t]ies and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate.” It no longer says that.

All we are required to do by official policy is be well-groomed and clean. We are not required to wear white shirts. That said, there are still special considerations to make that should encourage us to submit to leaders that have encouraged us to wear white shirts.

The Conveying of Sanctity in the Ordinance of the Sacrament

Wearing a white shirt for those that prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament can certainly signify the sanctity and holiness that the ordinance holds.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

In that sacred setting we ask you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to prepare and bless and pass these emblems of the Savior’s sacrifice worthily and reverently. What a stunning privilege and sacred trust given at such a remarkably young age! I can think of no higher compliment heaven could pay you. We do love you. Live your best and look your best when you participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.


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).[1]

President David O. McKay taught:

I am not going to say much about the dress. We are not a people who look to formality, certainly we do not believe in phylacteries, in uniforms, on sacred occasions, but I do think that the Lord will be pleased with a bishopric if they will instruct the young men who are invited to administer the sacrament to dress properly. He will not be displeased if they come with a white shirt instead of a colored one, and we are not so poor that we cannot afford clean, white shirts for the boys who administer the sacrament. If they do not have them, at least they will come with clean hands, and especially a pure heart.


I have seen deacons not all dressed alike, but they have a special tie or a special shirt as evidence that those young men have been instructed that “you have a special calling this morning. Come in your best,” And when they are all in white, I think it contributes to the sacredness of it. Anything that will make the young boys feel that they have been called upon to officiate in the Priesthood in one of the most sacred ordinances in the Church, and they too should remain quite, even before ethe opening of the meeting.[2]

Parity with Other Members of the Church

Another reason to wear a white shirt is to establish a feeling of parity and equality with other members of local congregations. We come from diverse economic and social backgrounds. Having every male member wear a white shirt may establish a sense of connection or parity with others. This is certainly one of the beauties of temple ordinances is that we all wear clothing that is similar and this can powerfully symbolize the scriptural truth that all human beings are equal in worth before God.[3]

Scriptural Reasons for Wearing a White Shirt?

The scriptures do not have any explicit injunction to wear white clothing when performing ordinances or attending church. That said, there are other solid, scriptural reasons to follow this encouragement from Church leaders. Wearing white shirts can help us in being a peculiar people so as to encourage interest in the Church and thus success in missionary work,[4] to follow the injunction to keep ourselves unspotted from the world,[5] practicing meekness/lowliness of heart/humility/easiness to be entreated before the leaders of the Church that have asked us to do this,[6] following the commandment to receive all the words and commandments of the prophet as if from the mouth of God in all patience and faith,[7] and being anxiously engaged in a good cause without God compelling you to do something by explicit revelation.[8]

Conclusion

While this may be one of those encouragements from the Church that we roll our eyes at from time to time, it is till one that, if we follow it, can have delayed but still meaningful and beneficial consequences for building up Zion in these latter days.

Notes

  1. Jeffrey R. Holland, “’This Do in Remembrance of me’,” Ensign 25, no. 11 (November 1995).
  2. David O. McKay, Conference Report (October 1956): 89.
  3. 2 Nephi 26:33
  4. Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9
  5. James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9
  6. Moroni 7:44
  7. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5
  8. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29