The Mormon Stained Glass Masquerade

Growing up if you wanted to go to church all you had to do was put on a polo shirt and a pair of nice jeans. In the parish I went to while in high school shorts and a t-shirt were acceptable. Sure, it wasn’t always that way. If you look at pictures from the pre-Vatican II Church, the faithful were always dressed up. Even the priest dressed up nicer back then!

But I’m digressing….

The point I was trying to make was that up until a year ago, I never had to worry about what I’d wear when I go to church. Now, as a Latter-day Saint, I spend the week trying to decide on a tie to wear next Sunday (I’m thinking pink).

There are some benefits to this: I’m finally learning how to tie a tie, I am getting used to having to dress professionally for once I graduate.

But there are some downsides, like if I forget to do laundry and I’m out of clean shirts, I rather not go at all than go dressed in jeans and a nice yet not professional shirt.

Can anyone see the problem with this?

Now is when you say, “But, Andy, you can come in jeans and whatever you like as long as you come!” Can I? Maybe if I come a couple times like that because of oversleeping, but if I show up in a casual button down shirt and jeans every week, there will be problems. Maybe it won’t be confrontational, but there is this understanding in LDS culture that if you’re part of the Church long enough that is how it is done.

“But, Andy, we’re supposed to come in our best possible. After all, if we go dressed up nicely for work or a date night downtown, why dress-down for Jesus?” Look, I get that. I really do. I’m a Catholic (and possibly Eastern Orthodox) at heart so I get it. And gathering together for worship before God in liturgy deserves to go nicely dressed. That’s why I think the garments and clothing for the temple ceremonies are so important. That is our high liturgy. Sacrament meeting doesn’t serve that purpose.

Icon of the pharisee and the tax collector

I have no problem with being well dressed for church, but the problem comes when the culture makes it so that it is semi-required and makes it seem as if you are somehow less faithful or less of a good Mormon if you don’t go dressed up. The Book of Mormon gives a harsh warning about this in 1 Nephi (my reading of the text suggests the great and abominable church is not the Catholic Church, but materialism).

This leads me to the video below (and the title of this post). Do we put on our own stained glass masquerade?

Every Sunday we come in our Sunday best and well groomed (well, that part may not apply to me), we try to put up this appearance as if we’re good perfect Mormons. But inside, we know we aren’t perfect. We fail. We have our struggles. But in our classes, in our sacrament meetings, do we reveal that side of us or do we put up a front? Can we, individually, one by one, start removing our own masks as a way to tell others, it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to not be perfect, it’s OK to just try?

How often do we realize that when we pass each other the sacrament in our pews that we are assisting our neighbor, our family member (isn’t that what a ward is?), be healed and work towards our goal of communion (personally, I prefer the Latin, communio) with the One who gave us life? When we pass the sacrament to each other (one of my favorite things about Mormonism), what we are really saying is, “Let me help you, let me walk with you on this journey.”

So in our classes, in our ward families, let’s remember that we are there to strengthen and walk with one another as we make our way to building Zion. It’s only by being our authentic selves and accepting others in our family that we can become that body of Christ we see in the Book of Mormon and Acts. It is only when we put aside our stained glass masquerade that we can be the body Christ wants needs us to be.


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