“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?”
Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency
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, going to the temple seemed like something familiar—like coming home. 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.
We are now in a time of preparation. After going through the temple the guidelines are more specific, but it is important to set a safe standard for yourself now.
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 free to choose for 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 and the blessings that come with it 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 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)