I Have a Question

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    Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

    Is there a dress and grooming standard for temple attendance?

    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.

    How can family members avoid contention when the possessions of a deceased relative are divided up?

    Thomas B. Holman, professor of family science at Brigham Young University, and bishop of the BYU Sixty-second Ward, BYU Seventeenth Stake. It is not uncommon to hear of family members who bicker during the settlement of a deceased parent’s estate. Disagreements arise, tempers flare, and things are said that wound deeply. Not only might the discord damage family relations for generations, but the deceased family member is not shown proper respect.

    The following four measures can help prevent such contention long before a family member passes on. First, a carefully written, legal will forestalls potential disputes by specifying how the testator’s possessions are to be divided. Attorneys and financial planners are an important resource in such planning. Another measure is to label possessions with the names of the intended receivers; this greatly facilitates later distribution.

    A third idea is for the parents to begin giving away items that are of more use to the recipient now than later. For example, a parent’s treasured dresser is probably more useful now to a son with a young, financially struggling family than it will be years later after that family has accumulated home furnishings. Bequests that children refuse can be donated to Deseret Industries or another worthy charity or secondhand store.

    Fourth, and most important, children should be taught to love one another. King Benjamin said: “Ye will not suffer your children [to] … transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another. …

    “But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.) Love, service, and other gospel values eliminate seeds of contention such as selfishness, covetousness, disrespect, and greed.

    Siblings and other relatives, too, can plan ahead for harmonious estate settlements. It is difficult for family members to broach the subject of a loved one’s imminent death, but such discussions are generally more helpful and productive while emotions are calm than is dealing with estate matters in time of grief.

    Of course, friction and strife will not enter into the picture at all if family members recognize that memories are more important than possessions. As one good friend of mine said: “Many possessions are important primarily for the memories they evoke rather than for their material value. And since memories are more important than possessions, we ought to write down memories in journals or family histories and preserve them and not worry about possessions.” The Savior expressed similar sentiments: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

    “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:19–20.) What greater treasure can we lay up than pleasant memories and uplifting stories of those who go before us?

    When the time comes to divide up an inheritance, some families have found one or more of these ideas helpful: Reduce the chance of friction by scheduling the estate settlement at a time that allows family members sufficient time to recover from the death and funeral. Allow only direct relatives to take part in the settlement. Spouses, grandchildren, and other interested parties usually need not be present, nor should they, through direct relatives, bid for possessions.

    During the distribution of assets, the executor or presiding family member might remind those present of the primacy of family bonds and the relative insignificance of material things. Respect for the deceased and sensitivity to one another’s tender emotions, unique needs, and differing values are also important.

    Contention in such matters is best avoided if all heirs and beneficiaries heed the Savior’s admonition that because “the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who … stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another … , such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11:29–30.) Certainly such quarreling should be done away with when family members meet to divide the possessions of a deceased loved one.

    My husband serves in the military and is often called away from home for long periods. How can we nurture our marriage and family despite his absence?

    Daniel Krum, senior chief petty officer, U.S. Navy, and a member of the Virginia Beach Fourth Ward, Norfolk Virginia Stake. Many occupations take the spouse away from home for long periods of time, but this is especially true of the military. The absence of a spouse can place strains on a family that test its very fiber. The spouse may be surrounded by friends while away and still feel lonely and depressed without the intimate support system that only a family can provide.

    Firsthand experience has taught me that it is indeed possible to preserve strong family ties during separations. Since right after my marriage, I’ve been called to sea duty with the navy many times; and though those absences have been painful for my family, our ties have continued to strengthen. Recently I traveled more than eight thousand miles from home, having embarked with only four days’ notice. It was more than two months before I received mail. During that time I reflected a lot on the blessing of having a happy marriage in spite of the separations that lead some military couples to divorce or estrangement. You may find the ideas I came up with to be helpful in your situation.

    1. 1.

      Preparation for absences, whether short or prolonged, is crucial to keeping family ties alive. Both spouses should try to meet the emotional, spiritual, and material needs of their family long before the spouse leaves home. You may want to let priesthood leaders and others know of your concerns so they can watch over your family with extra care. But there is still much that you can do.

    2. 2.

      Resolve any marital rifts or family difficulties, even minor ones, immediately. You may not get the chance to do so if your spouse has to leave on short notice. Before my last departure, my wife, Barbara, and I were unable to solve a minor family crisis with one of our children. I sought the help of members of our ward, and their calls and visits helped my wife and child get through the rough time.

    3. 3.

      Since a military spouse’s time at home is usually short, plan ahead as a family to make your time together extra special. In our family, we may celebrate birthdays and other occasions late or early, having worked out the details by mail sometimes months in advance. Fathers and sons’ outings, daddy-daughter dates, interviews with my children, and overnight “getaways” with Barbara help keep family spirits high. As parents, you may wish to call a family council and plan other morale boosters suited to your family’s particular needs.

    4. 4.

      Family church participation and temple attendance provide the necessary gospel foundation for the family. A family’s spiritual unity, once established, can be a bond virtually impervious to the pains of even the severest trials. As the saying goes, “Families that pray together stay together.” Besides prayer, include family home evening and scripture study among other testimony-building activities.

    5. 5.

      Material preparation can entail setting aside reserves of money, food, and other commodities as well as doing home repairs and taking care of maintenance items before they pose problems.

    6. 6.

      Great benefits come to a family from participating in regular correspondence by mail. Mail is the lifeblood of military personnel. Care packages, videotapes, and audiotapes add an exciting dimension to mail call, but letters—whether romantic, humorous, or newsy—can nurture family ties in profound ways. Try weaving gospel messages into your letters, and consider bringing up family problems and concerns with your absent spouse. The forethought going into a serious letter addressing family issues can work wonders. Many times Barbara and I are amazed at how in tune we are, our thoughts crossing in our letters. Through the years, our love has flourished through letters, and we’ve grown more sensitive to our family’s needs.

    7. 7.

      Personal growth is another key to maintaining strong family ties. With a vital part of their support system missing, separated family members can be vulnerable to the vagaries of grief, depression, anxiety, and frustration. Avoid that by taking advantage of opportunities for growth. We can turn our isolation into a time to draw closer to the Lord, turning to him in all things. Barbara and I take one day at a time, seeking the Lord’s help. We use the time to overcome personal weaknesses and to grow spiritually so that we are more attractive to each other when we’re reunited.

    Though it is never easy to endure the absence of a loved one, we can grow from the experience, for with the right perspective and the Lord’s help, we can see things optimistically and be one as partners in marriage as well as in our testimonies of the gospel.