“Is there a dress and grooming standard for temple attendance?” Ensign, Feb. 1993, 29–30
David S. King, president of the Washington Temple and a member of the Kensington Ward, Washington D.C. Stake. The answer is most certainly yes. In temples the holiest of revealed ordinances are performed, and temple standards—including the necessarily broad, flexible standard for dress and grooming—are consonant with that sacred purpose.
Persons who adhere to appropriate standards of dress and grooming condition their minds to a greater appreciation of the temple experience. This extra effort helps highlight the temple’s uniqueness, whereas inappropriate dress or grooming may betray one’s unconscious indifference to the temple’s special sanctity. Temple service provides opportunities to enjoy the things of the Spirit; doing so requires our worthiness, prayerful commitment, and other careful preparations.
This is not to imply that we must be “all dressed up” in order to enjoy a spiritual experience. We are not always able to control the circumstances conducive to such an experience. But when we can control them, we should—as much for the benefit of others as for ourselves. Would we not dress appropriately for a formal soiree at a presidential mansion or royal palace? Does not a visit to a holy temple, where the Lord has promised that his glory and presence would enter, deserve greater consideration? (See D&C 97:15–17.)
The Old Testament is replete with evidences of the importance the Lord places on proper attire and grooming for those officiating in sacred temple ordinances. (Lev. 8:5–10, 12–13 offers one example.) Cleanliness—presumably physical as well as moral—is mentioned often in the Book of Mormon as well as in modern scripture. (See 1 Ne. 10:21, 1 Ne. 15:34; Alma 7:21, Alma 11:37; Hel. 8:25; D&C 38:42, D&C 42:41, D&C 88:74, 86, D&C 133:5.)
We can reasonably conclude from such scriptures that the Lord would have us show special care in our attire and grooming as we prepare to enter the temple.
Priesthood leaders have handbook instructions available to them regarding temple dress. They are instructed that those who go to a temple should wear clothing suitable for entering the house of the Lord. Casual clothes and sports attire should be avoided, as well as ostentatious jewelry. Inappropriate attire and jewelry can detract from the temple experience. The Lord’s children are equal before him and should appear so, especially in his house.
Church leaders, recognizing that fashions go in cycles, are sensitive to the rich cultural diversity within the Church. For example, they have recently held that clean, neatly trimmed and managed beards and long hair for men—as well as certain other fashions that to some might seem “trendy”—are acceptable for the temple, provided they are not inherently offensive or vulgar. In the tropics, certain attire that in the northern climes may be considered extreme is not only acceptable but mandatory. Proper allowances must be made for these differences.
Having reached this conclusion, however, we still face the unanswered question of what to do with temple patrons who reach the temple inappropriately attired. Suppose the members of a righteous family, having traveled a long distance at considerable expense, arrive at the temple to receive their own endowments and sealings but are informed that they are inappropriately dressed. Are they to be turned away, as the Zoramites, who were cast out of the synagogues because of their coarse apparel? (See Alma 32:2.) Should their failure (perhaps the result of misinformation or other human errors) to meet the temple’s standards of dress deprive them of their eternal blessings? Of course not.
After carefully considering this very question, Church leaders have announced a ruling that preserves the need of an expanding church to both respect temple standards and accommodate itself to the demands of Christian love and understanding. The rule holds that the responsibility for teaching temple patrons about dress and grooming standards must rest upon the priesthood authorities who issue temple recommends. It is at the family, ward, and stake level, not at the temple, that the proper foundation for temple conduct and dress must be laid.
Once a patron arrives at the temple in good faith and with a valid recommend, temple authorities are not to pass judgment on that person’s worthiness nor upon the appropriateness of his or her attire and grooming. Attire that seems inappropriate to those of more conventional tastes does not constitute grounds for refusing admission to the temple. Every faithful member, regardless of attire and grooming, is entitled to a satisfactory temple experience.
In the final analysis, there is a dress and grooming standard for temple attendance: that which is appropriate, suitable, “neat and comely” (Alma 1:27), congruous with the sacred nature of temple service. The standard is not definitive, but it is sufficiently clear. The Lord does not command us in all things (see D&C 58:26), but expects us to use our agency to make righteous, commonsense choices guided by the Spirit. Our sincere desire to respect the sanctity of the temple will lead us to appear acceptable before the Lord—both in our grooming and in our attitudes toward others whose tastes may differ from ours.