Why isn’t the same standard of dress required of us all whether we have been to the temple or not?

“Why isn’t the same standard of dress required of us all whether we have been to the temple or not?” New Era, Apr. 1977, 47–49

“Since girls are required to wear dresses of a certain length and with sleeves after they have been to the temple, why isn’t this standard of dress required of us all whether we have been to the temple or not?”

Answer/Sister Ardeth G. Kapp

It would seem that there should be a certain consistency about appropriate clothing whether we have been to the temple or not, and it is my opinion that there is. However, the difference is in the increased responsibility that comes after a person has been to the temple. Accepting the privileges and blessings of wearing the temple garment also brings sacred responsibilities. But first let us consider the part of the question for you who have not yet received these blessings.

I would like to begin by sharing a few personal thoughts with you. On my first visit to the temple I discovered, to my surprise, that going to the temple was not so much something I had to start but rather something I had been in training for, preparing for, and qualifying for through past performance. This experience required no relearning and very little adjustment. As I look back, it seemed more like a familiar, coming-home feeling. There was no need for adjustments in wardrobe, habits, attitudes, and conduct that might have seemed strange or different. And so it is my opinion that there is a great advantage if your wardrobe does not require adjustment or getting used to after you go to the temple.

I am reminded of the year our high school basketball team took the state championship. During the practice period before the final game, to avoid even the slightest adjustment, there was an attempt to make every detail, as nearly as possible, like the situation the team would face. The playing floor would be different, but every other possible detail that could be controlled was considered—diet, uniforms, position on the floor, rest, etc. As I recall now, even the coach was encouraged to wear his familiar green argyle socks because everyone was used to them, and the team wanted every imaginable advantage with minimal adjustment or difference when it really counted. They wanted the coveted award, and no detail was too minor to consider during the preparation time.

We are now in a preparation time. After going through the temple the guidelines are more specific, but it is important to set a safe standard for yourself now. A delightful story told by Elder Hartman Rector provides a vivid example of this principle.

“In my experience, I have found that it is very dangerous to fly just high enough to miss the treetops. I spent twenty-six years flying the navy’s airplanes. It was very exciting to see how close I could fly to the trees. This is called “flat hatting” in the navy, and it is extremely dangerous. When you are flying just high enough to miss the trees and your engine coughs once, you are in the trees.

“Now let’s pretend the navy had a commandment—‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane in the trees.’ As a matter of fact, they did have such a commandment. In order to really be free of the commandment, it becomes necessary for me to add a commandment of my own to the navy’s commandment, such as, ‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane closer than 5,000 feet to the trees.’ When you do this you make the navy’s commandment of not flying in the trees easy to live, and the safety factor is tremendously increased.” (“Live above the Law to Be Free,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 131.)

I have often wondered as I have seen little girls in two-piece swimsuits and revealing dresses at what age their mothers will attempt to reteach and retrain their tastes. How will they teach a new standard concerning what seemed acceptable at one time. If the first standard might be like flying into the trees when compared to a more rigid standard at a later date, it seems that the risk factor of the first is tremendously dangerous. It would be wise if young people would choose to accept as their standard of modesty in dress that which will, at a later date, allow them to wear the temple garment with no adjustment. However, that is a personal decision, and we must not stand in judgment since everyone is an agent unto himself.

It is well to consider, however, that the clothes we choose to wear often reflect where we are headed. For example, the destination of one who is wearing a ski outfit, a swimsuit, or a formal dress would seem rather obvious. And while regular clothing is not quite so obvious, you can still by your choice remind yourself daily and suggest to others who are observant and interested where it is you are headed.

And now concerning the responsibility for those who have been through the temple. May I quote:

“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity. … With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation, a promised blessing is pronounced contingent [dependent] upon the faithful observance of the conditions.” (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, Bookcraft, 1962, p. 100.)

It is an understanding of the commitments made and a knowledge of promised blessings for those who keep their covenants that make the standard of modesty so very, very important.

Until you have chosen to accept the temple endowment with its attendant blessings of wearing the appropriate clothing, the responsibility of keeping that part of the body clothed which is covered by the garment is not the same as it is before having accepted the responsibility. But at all ages we are counseled to dress modestly and appropriately and have “a style of our own” as suggested by the title of the booklet written by President Spencer W. Kimball. And so it seems clear that there should be a certain consistency about appropriate clothing whether or not you have been to the temple and received the commandment.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

“But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” (D&C 58:27–29.)

  • Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency

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