Being the tourist and vacation Mecca that it is, the Orlando area is favored with a large number of restaurants — some of them very good. Thus far, we’ve eaten at a couple of thoroughly enjoyable ones.
On Tuesday night, going by a tip from the concierge at the place where we’re staying, we took our son and his wife to a nearby place called “Ciao Italia,” a ristorante Italiano where I had the best Vitello Alla Marsala (veal marsala) that I’ve ever tasted. And, at her suggestion, the group of us went with a friend to Bosphorous, a Turkish restaurant, on Wednesday night. I thought it was absolutely wonderful, as (from what they said) did the rest. Except, to an extent, for my wife. Truth in advertising: She enjoyed it, too, but not as extravagantly as I did, and she thought it was somewhat overpriced. Oh well. As I often say, De gustibus non est disputandum.
And now, responding to absolutely no noticeable demand for my opinion about them, on to other matters:
I really don’t care whether women wear pants to church on Sunday. Not at all. Dressy pants are increasingly (in fact, nowadays, pretty completely) acceptable for women in our culture, and they’ve long been accepted, even preferred, in certain others. Had a woman worn a wear a pair of pants to sacrament meeting in my ward when I was presiding as bishop, I wouldn’t have noticed. In fact, some almost certainly did. As I say, I don’t care. I would just be happy to see such people in church.
I’m not, however, among those who don’t think it matters at all what one wears to church. The way we dress affects how we feel. On one occasion, before I was married, I was out driving in West Los Angeles for our family construction business on a weekday, dressed in my usual tee shirt and ragged Levis. Suddenly, a call came in for me to stop by to look at something in the baptistry of the Los Angeles Temple. I tried to get out of it, but they needed me there immediately. It was a normal functioning day for the temple, too, and I had to pass by the recommend desk in the usual fashion. It felt profoundly awkward. On another occasion, in a distant country, the president of one of the very small temples asked me if I wanted to have a tour inside, at a time when it was closed and I wasn’t dressed for the temple. It was a kind offer, and, having no other chance to enter that temple, I said Yes, even though I felt conflicted and strange about it. Walking through the celestial room dressed in street clothes was, again, extremely odd, and, on the whole, I really didn’t like it. Dressing up for the Lord has a psychological effect, I think, and — although it can also be an occasion for showing off, for attempting to allure the opposite sex, and so forth — can get us into the proper mood for worship. It helps to mark worship time and worship space off as separate, distinct, sacred.
With regard to the pants-in-church demonstration, in particular: I am troubled by any mention of politics in church — even when the political view expressed more or less agrees with my own — and I’m more than a bit uneasy about ideological statements in church, about using sacrament meeting (or any other worship service or worship setting) as an avenue for “agitation,” however gently it may be expressed.
That said, I’m sympathetic to many of the issues that faithful Mormon feminists raise. I could easily see some changes being made in these regards. Some changes, however, would require direct, explicit revelation — and, although I certainly don’t dictate to God — I’m not holding my breath for them.
Incidentally, I also see no particular reason for white shirts attaining quasi-uniform status in the Church, although, having served a lot in bishoprics, on high councils, and as a bishop, I’ve acquiesced without any resistance when I felt that the presiding authorities preferred white. It’s not an issue that I think worth contention. (Prior to that series of callings, I typically made it a point to wear a striped or colored shirt to church. I know, I know: Daring rebellion. But I never gave any speeches on the topic, or sought to call attention to my wildly unorthodox pinstripes. And now I own so many white shirts that it would be silly to refuse to wear them.) One of the most moving sacrament meetings in which I’ve ever been involved took place adjacent to an archaeological site in the remote Guatemalan jungle. No white shirts, no ties, no slacks, no piano or organ, no building, just mud and prayer and the simple ordinance of the Lord’s supper.
Many years ago, when I was called to serve on the Church’s Gospel Doctrine Writing Committee, I went up to the Church Office Building to be set apart by a member of the Seventy. We arrived a bit early, and went over for lunch at the then-ZCMI mall. It was a blistering, blistering hot summer day, and, as we sat there watching Church employees walking by at lunchtime, all dressed in black suits and white shirts and ties, I couldn’t help but think of priests scurrying about in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, and of ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed in black coats and big fur hats in the heat of a Middle Eastern sun at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In those cases, for no particularly good reason that I can see, the clothing styles of medieval Europe — traditional nuns’ habits are also, in many cases, simply a normal medieval woman’s garb — or of, say, seventeenth-century Warsaw have somehow become frozen in time, arbitrarily made sacred. They’re not biblical. They’re not divinely ordained. They just stopped changing. Nobody else in Salt Lake that day was wearing a black suit. Even well-dressed businessmen were in light sport coats or, more commonly, no coat at all. And I worried whether we were developing our own version of the Vatican curia.
To compound my sins: I have no problem with facial hair. I wore a beard through graduate school, and rather liked doing so. And I’ve sported a mustache since before my wedding. (I was thinking of shaving it off at about the time that I was called as a bishop, but, when I was called and the stake president didn’t require that, I decided to keep it on through my tenure as a way of quietly demonstrating the option. Again, no speeches, no ideological manifesto. And, as it turned out, the man I called as my first counselor — supremely able and committed — also had a mustache. That certainly wasn’t a factor in his calling, but it pleased me.)
Just before my wife and I moved to come up to the faculty at BYU, our stake presidency in California was changed. The new stake president was, it turned out, a stickler on dress and grooming. I have an irritating story about that, and I might tell it, someday. (It didn’t involve me.) But here are a couple of slightly amusing ones: He came to our ward conference, and informed us that President Kimball had received a revelation indicating that white shirts were the uniform of the priesthood in the latter days. (I immediately wondered where I could read the text of this revelation, or even anything about it.) “But,” he said, “some of you are impoverished graduate students, and you don’t have the money to go out and buy white shirts.” At this point, I expected him to go on to say “So don’t worry. It’s not essential. When you have some money for it, buy a white shirt. But, in the meantime, serve, and keep the commandments. Specific clothing is of secondary importance at most.” But no. He advised us all to borrow the money if we needed to, so that we could come to church dressed in the Lord’s uniform. I remember regretting that I was already wearing a colored shirt, because I would have liked to go home and put one on. Then he spoke in Relief Society, and advised the sisters to wear dresses when going visiting teaching and, even, if possible, when on welfare cannery assignments. There were lots of graduate students in our ward, and a sister who had just returned from an extended residence in East Asia commented that many Asian Relief Society sisters wear rather elegant pants suits to formal functions, including church. “Well,” he responded, “they’re new in the Church, and they’re still gaining the spirit of the Gospel.” When I heard that, I confess that the thought crossed my mind that the spirit of the Gospel surely involved more important things than wearing a skirt to church. Finally, at the stake conference that was held the very week we moved out, the president again explained that white shirts and clean shaven faces were the uniform of the priesthood. And, afterwards, I noticed that every single volunteer helping to take down the chairs was wearing a beard and a colored shirt. The properly clothed and groomed Elect, by contrast, were chatting in the foyer and outside on the walkways.
Oh well. So much for the weightier matters of the law.
Posted from rebel headquarters deep in Orlando, Florida.