What you wear and when you wear it may have a lot to do with your spiritual comfort.
Imagine you are in a courtroom. All of the attorneys and officials are dressed in their finest clothing. Then the judge enters wearing a T-shirt and shorts!
You certainly are more likely to take the judge seriously when he dresses to fit the occasion. The way the judge is dressed says a lot about the climate of his courtroom and about the type of behavior expected there. Similarly, the way you dress may say a lot about you.
Throughout the world, there are climates and seasons. And with these climates and seasons comes a need to dress according to the weather—to stay warm in winter, to cool off in summer, to stay as dry as possible when it rains. Few of us question the need to dress appropriately for these situations.
Cultural climates can also influence proper dress. For example, when I lived in the Pacific Islands in the 1950s, the older a person’s clothes were, the better dressed the person was considered. Clothing, like antiques, gained value over time, and patches were evidence of individual character.
Fashions set a climate, too, dictating what may be in or out of style at any particular time. Fashion probably has more influence over what a lot of people wear than many other factors.
Just as there are all these other climates, I believe there are spiritual climates, too, and that it is important to dress so that you’ll feel comfortable in those climates. I have always felt that it is infinitely more important to stand approved in the eyes of God than to stand dressed in the latest fashion.
Is what you wear important? I believe it is. It’s easy to go to extremes in dress—not only in wearing whatever fashion dictates, but also in assuming that one style covers all situations.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
In the tropics, where it gets extremely hot, I know a mission president who told the elders they did not have to wear their jackets, with one exception. On Sunday, during meetings, he told the missionaries they should have their jackets on. He felt this was appropriate in maintaining proper respect and in inviting the Spirit to be present.
When our children were very young, my wife and I encouraged them to change clothing as soon as we returned home from church. If they didn’t, we knew they’d soon get their clothing dirty. But as the children got older (usually around eight years old), we asked them to stay in Sunday dress for the entire day. Although this policy may not be for everyone, we feel it has helped a lot in our efforts to honor the Sabbath.
There are many examples that show that people tend to act according to the way they are dressed. I believe that’s a good general rule to follow. On page 8 of the booklet For the Strength of Youth, published by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, we read the following:
“Servants of God have always counseled his children to dress modestly to show respect for him and for themselves. Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you.”
The booklet also warns against wearing immodest clothing: “If you wear an immodest bathing suit because it’s ‘the style,’ it sends a message that you are using your body to get attention and approval, and that modesty is not important.
“Immodest clothing includes short shorts, tight pants, and other revealing attire. Young women should refrain from wearing off-the-shoulder, low-cut, or revealing clothes. Young men should similarly maintain modesty in their dress. All should avoid tight fitting or revealing clothes and extremes in clothing and appearance.”
Then this counsel is given: “You can also show respect for the Lord and yourselves by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week. If you are not sure what’s appropriate, ask for guidelines from your parents, advisers, and bishop.”
Dressing modestly is a mark of spiritual maturity. You should already be developing this kind of maturity as you prepare to go to the temple. Learning to dress modestly now means you will have fewer dress or style conflicts when you finally receive the privilege of wearing temple garments.
The scriptures also give us advice about clothing. They indicate that costly apparel can be a source of evil pride (see 2 Ne. 28:13). They tell us that the main purpose of clothing is to cover our nakedness (see Mosiah 10:5). They indicate our responsibility to provide clothing for the needy (see Jacob 2:19). And Alma 1:27 tells us that the good Church members “did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.”
But the scriptures also talk about being clothed with righteousness, light, charity, and glory (see D&C 29:12, D&C 45:44, D&C 65:5, D&C 84:101, D&C 85:7, D&C 88:125, D&C 138:30, Moses 7:3). This says to me that what we are is much more important than what we wear.
I think it is significant to note that when the Savior appeared after his resurrection, he was simply attired. “They saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe” (3 Ne. 11:8). Here was the Master of Creation! He could have worn anything he desired, but he chose a plain, white robe.
This teaches me an important lesson. Just as we can be too casual in our clothing, we can also be too pompous. The Savior’s presence brought dignity and honor to the situation. He didn’t need to impress anyone by what he wore.
In the temple, this also holds true. Each person dresses in white. It is the right clothing for the spiritual climate. It adds to the sacred beauty of the setting. And it reminds us that there is no social status before our Father. What distinguishes our souls is their righteousness, and to be clothed in righteousness is what matters most of all.